Archive for the ‘Eating Together’ Category

Thunder and Sweat

Dinner in Brooklyn (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

In Brooklyn, sweat. And rain. At first, just heat lightning flaring between clouds. Flashes wrinkling through the undulating branches of the tree against the window. Anette and I sit on the couch drinking red wine out of real wine glasses for once. The fan makes the sweat prickle on our skin. On the stove, eggplant simmers with cut tomatoes, garlic, onion, chorizo, basil, oregano. I am insane to have even lit the stove, to want more heat in the apartment without air conditioning. My shirt is damp and stuck to my skin, sweat mats my hair across my forehead, mascara dripping on my cheekbones. Still, I can’t help but hold my face over the steam and scoop up a bite of tomato and eggplant, soft with hints of wine, balsamic, and sugar.

This has been a long month. The stultifying heat of July reaches record highs, the heat smothers my brain. I don’t write. Instead I lie on the floor and watch Nip/Tuck, my laptop propped on my legs, drinking water to quench some insatiable thirst. My throat still dry. I make involved to do lists I can’t begin to address, call landlords, pay bills, paint my toenails. I lose myself in this heat.

I feel it here, I say, and sweep my hand across my collarbones. My stress, like a prolonged caress, an ache of inactivity, of stuff.

Let’s take a walk and buy another bottle of wine, Anette says. We hope the air is cooler outside. The sky flashes. It’s just heat lighting. It’s fine, it’s fine, my heart beats. I am so afraid of lighting. Outside the breeze is like a bigger fan, but the air is already wet. By the time we get to the edge of the building, thunder grumbles loudly, close. Just to the bodega on the corner, Anette says, but already I’m turning back, I can’t, I can’t, I reach for her hand to make her turn around with me, but I grope air. » Continue reading this post…

Kale and You (a post by Josh)

Kale and potatoes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

You sit in your apartment, thinking that it’s too cold outside to leave. You don’t understand why North Carolina and New York are the same temperature, or so says weather dot com. It’s not bad, just too many layers to put on before heading out to the grocery store to pick up the last ingredients for your dinner tonight. It’s probably been at least two months since you have seen all of your old roommates together in one space. This dinner is the first of hopefully many gatherings making your friends companions – those who break bread together.

In your cabinet sits the olive oil, salt, pepper, potatoes, and vegetable stock that you need. Your refrigerator cools off the vegetables that you’ll use tonight – some mixed salad greens, goat cheese and tomatoes, as well as some kale from the local organic trade post.

The CD player ekes out soothing notes to fill the room as you return from the grocery store – for some spices you’ve wanted to get anyway. You take off your coat, turn on the stove light, and get ready to start the game of chopping, tossing, mixing, sautéing, baking, plating, and enjoying. First it’s the potatoes – they have to get oiled up and herbed down so that they can sit in the oven for at least forty-five minutes. Then it’s the water for the pasta. You think, starches are always a good thing for dinners. Not always, but for big parties, for sure. Next it’s the kale. You pull out the new cookbook your grandmother thoughtfully gave you for Christmas. Normally you don’t follow recipes, but tonight you think it has to be special. » Continue reading this post…

Something From Nothing: Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

Onions and garlic (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I wish there was a tiny chorus of approving gourmands that lived over my left shoulder and gave me a round of applause and a miniature pat on the back from each of their sprinkle-sized hands every time I verged on the brink of culinary genius. Like when, after two months of mediocre results, I finally manage to make perfect foam with my espresso machine for four days in a row (right now! I’m drinking perfect foam! Isn’t it exciting?). Or when, on the spur of the moment, I add a layer of strawberry jam between two layers of ordinary yellow cake with vanilla frosting. Or when, coming home after a long day of work, I despondently shrug my shoulders at the mismatched food in my pantry, only to throw the mess together into something delicious half an hour later.

But there are no invisible gourmands. It’s just me and my mouth and occasionally my roommates, who I make eat bites of my food as they walk past on their ways to something probably very interesting.

Can I clap for myself?

Luckily, I have a partner in crime – the other half to my half-full pantry – and together, we are very good at making something out of nothing. The other day, we were sitting around, kvetching, drinking green tea with ginger and honey, and realized that it was dark (no hard feat in winter Brooklyn) and we were hungry. This is kind of how the conversation went:

Me: “I’m hungry.”
Her: “Let’s make food.”
Me: “I don’t have anything.”
Her: “Me either.”
Me: “I have potatoes and blue cheese.”
Her: “I have lettuce.”
Me: “Ok, we’ll figure it out.”

The result being that we scrounged up a salad with peppery greens, blue cheese, canned beets, almonds, and a dressing of oil, cherry flavored balsamic vinegar, lemon, Dijon mustard, and honey. » Continue reading this post…

For Better or Worse (a post by Josh): Ginger Tart with Pear & Mascarpone

Mascarpone tart (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My grandparents have been married for fifty-one years and two days. That’s more than twice my age. That means that they got married in 1958. They’ve been together since 1949. About a week ago, on their anniversary, they came over to my house to celebrate. When they were over here, they told me stories of how normal weddings took place in the town you grew up in, not some travel vacation. And the reception wasn’t anything too big, sometimes even punch and cookies in the basement of the church (where all weddings took place). Today, it’s kind of funny to think of getting married and asking everyone to just walk down to the basement for some sugar cookies. Maybe it’s just an indication of the times, or one of those competitions things we have here in America (my wedding’s going to be better than yours, see: MTV’s Super Sweet Sixteen).

Either way, they came over to my house three days ago and we were going to have a big thing for them. We wanted to make this year special. Why 51 and not 50? Honestly, because I was in Paris last year, eating baguettes, cheese, and duck and running around the Seine. So, this year the whole family was together and we were going to celebrate!

We had the whole thing down. The Kaplans would bring a salad. Nancy would cook her famous chicken and dumplings (I’ll try to steal the recipe from her soon enough). And I was delegated to dessert. I think I’ve got a reputation in my family for making dessert. That’s okay with me, I’ll have to say.

So my task was to now make something good enough to satisfy the 10 people of my family while also making it special enough for my grandparents’ anniversary. I thought: carrot cake? » Continue reading this post…

Better With Butter: Aunt Lynda’s Corn Puddin’

Mountainous mashed potatoes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The first thing I said when I woke up this morning was: “No more butter. Please don’t make me eat any more butter.” And then, because there was nothing else to eat for breakfast, I stuck a square of macaroni and cheese topped with a dollop of tomato puddin’ in the microwave.

If you’re unfamiliar with tomato puddin’, let me enlighten you on how it’s made. Two cans of chopped tomatoes are mashed with five pieces of white bread and one cup – yes, one cup of sugar. This concoction is then baked until all the natural health benefits of the tomatoes have been removed. Also good to know is that according to my family, this dish counts as a vegetable. Just some trivia.

Christmas in my family is predominantly loud. This year, though the pair of almost-octogenarians presided over only two braches of the family tree – my mother, father, me, my two brothers, my aunt, her husband, her two daughters, one daughter’s husband, his two children, her three children, and a dog – the decibel level was impressive. Everybody’s stories needed to be told at the same time, their recipes recounted in maniacal tones. The children seemed unable to have as much fun if someone wasn’t screaming and the camera’s shutter clicked so often the room began to resemble a disco rave.

I love my family very much. But I am a quiet person, and it takes a little time adjusting to the chaos of the (almost) entire Cohen clan. Fighting passionately about the rules of Mexican Train dominoes, telling the story (again) about that embarrassing thing you did at your baptism (like poop your baptismal dress) when you were a few months old, or belittle other family members’ sports teams as creatively as possible. It’s very Norman Rockwell, but a little louder and with less pastel. » Continue reading this post…

Come Together (Right Now, Over Me, Ba-da-da-da-dum)

Thanksgiving (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Americans love Thanksgiving. There’s feasting and family, paper turkeys, historically elusive pilgrims, ticker tape, brisk winds, tryptophan, and faintly ringing jingle bells making promises of an even bigger and better shabang to come. Maybe it’s an inborn gluttony or a cultural draw to symbol and spectacle. But maybe, through a delicious twist, a singularly American holiday is one in which pride, that cornerstone component of the (quotation marks necessary) “American Dream,” is replaced, at least hypothetically, by thankfulness.

Thanksgiving traditions are fierce and hard to kill. More than Christmas dinner, the Thanksgiving meal is scripted. There may be variations on a theme, but the melody is always turkey, stuffing, green beans, potatoes (both plain and sweet), bread, cranberry, and gravy. Last year, when I proposed to make an ancho-chile rubbed turkey from a recipe I found in Gourmet, my youngest brother said, “You’re going to ruin Thanksgiving.” Motivated by that vote of confidence, I made the turkey anyway, and was surprised when he announced over dinner that it was the best turkey we’d ever had. Of course, after seeing the “I-told-you-so” look on my face, he quickly recanted the statement.

Thanksgiving in my family doesn’t follow a specific formula, per se, but there’s always a menu-related tug of war between tradition and innovation that starts about a month before the event. Green beans bathed in butter, garlic, and roast almonds or ascetically blanched and served with salt and freshly ground pepper, Southern-style cheddar biscuits or jalapeno-studded cornbread or Pillsbury rolls from one of those popping cans, cranberry relish or cranberry jelly or cranberry salad, stuffing with chestnuts or croutons, mashed potatoes, potatoes au gratin, and the piece de resistance – where to begin on the duel-inducing differences. Brined, baked, slow-roasted, deep fried, basted, barbequed, stuffing in, stuffing out, salt-rubbed, herb-stuffed – if the turkey makes it to the table without a death in family, there’s more than enough reason to be thankful. » Continue reading this post…

Bringing It Together in a Four-Foot Kitchen: Chicken Mole Wraps

Bushwick kitchen (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

On my silence, let me say this: Moving boxes, painting walls, working 8-hour days, and scouring a city for an extension cord or two is time consuming. I’ve barely been eating, much less writing about eating. Rice with ketchup was about as gourmet as it got. (Moment of silence for the sadly defunct Gourmet.) But all that is changing. I’m moved. My walls are orange. My clothes are hanging. My desk is bigger than it’s ever been. I am ready to go buy groceries.

Well. I was ready to buy groceries. And then I realized that I don’t know where to buy food in New York City. Think about that for a second. One of the biggest, most delicious cities in the country. And there’s not a normal grocery store for miles. Sure, there’s Whole Foods, if you want to spend $8 on an eggplant grown in a local, sustainably organic hydroponic cave. Or Trader Joe’s if you want a fist sized, shrink-wrapped head of lettuce you can only buy after waiting in a twenty minute line. There are specialty shops in midtown and unmarked bulk bags in Chinatown, ethnically-themed markets and bulgar-tempeh-tofu kingdoms, but all I really wanted was a comprehensive grocery store that wasn’t going to break the bank at item number three.

And then I thought – maybe I’m being a little too suburban right now. Maybe this is the chance for my foodie self to show some mettle. So I’ll buy the giant log of goat cheese for $5 at Trader Joe’s and my Illy espresso at Whole Foods. And I’ll buy my rice and nutmeg in Chinatown and my meat from the store down the street called “Meat.” I mean, it just takes time to grocery shop. And it’s not like I have to finish unpacking any boxes or commute to work or do the dishes. » Continue reading this post…

Eating in German: Schwabian Potato Salad

Opa on the Eichland (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I grew up speaking in German, and I grew up eating anything but. Schnitzel, sauerkraut, bratwurst? Never. If it was puddled in butter, wrapped in gravy, or leaking grease, my mother did not make it. I remember her once exclaiming about German food, “It’s all so heavy! They even cook the peas in cream!” So I grew up eating couscous and bulgur, slow-cooked stews, stir-fry, and salmon. But not a single Spätzle graced our table.

This was all ok with me. My father is from Germany, so my rare cravings for Würstchen and Läberkäs were satisfied on our trips to the country every two years or so. And while my brothers seemed never to get enough schnitzel (seriously, never enough), I was maxed out on potatoes by day three.

Still, some of my strongest (and fondest) childhood memories center around German food. My grandfather owns a piece of property on the Schwäbische Alb, a low mountain range in the South of Germany comparable to the weathered Appalachians. Every available Pfister would gather, and we’d have a bonfire and roast as many types of wurst as Aldi and Lidl had on sale.

There would be loaves of fresh, crusty bread, potato salad done in the German style with vinegar, oil, salt, Kräutersalz, and onion, Fleishsalat (strips of bologna mixed with mayonnaise, gouda, eggs, and pickle), cucumber salad, and beer – lots of beer. For the kids, there was süsser Sprudel and gelber Sprudel, both sweetened types of seltzer water.

Eichland Eating (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The grown ups would sit around the fire and gossip, while we cousins ran around the woods building houses out of bark, moss, and small stones for elves or catching crickets in the sunny neighboring field. Bocce ball was popular with everyone, and for some inexplicable reason, the kids fought over the right to mow the lawn with a rickety, unmotorized push-mower with scissoring blades. » Continue reading this post…

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