Childhood games, Adult spirits (a post by Josh)

Ice cream ingredients (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’ve been feeling too old these days, so I’ve decided to play a game. It’s a lot like that childhood game “Simon Says.” Just this time, I’m getting rid of socially constructed masculine dominance, and making Lyz, Simon.

Lyz says: Read Fergus Henderson

I inter-library-loan it in my College’s library and get both of his books. I fall in love with the second one, published in 2007, Beyond Nose to Tail.

Lyz says: Make ice cream

I decide that I want to make a dessert from Henderson’s book, so why not choose ice cream.

I choose Honey Brandy Ice Cream, realize Lyz didn’t say this, but I can’t help myself. It’s five o’clock on a Friday afternoon, and I’ve been working since ten with a lunch break. I should put my books down, put on comfortable clothes, and do what every spring semester senior does: start to have a beer or two.

But wait, I don’t want to. More than anything, I’ve been caught up in Henderson’s recipes, and readings on Southern food for the past five hours, now I have to complete one. Since I chose to make this ice cream, I have to run to the store and pick up the brandy and heavy cream. Then back to the apartment and instead of dinner preparations – oh no, those can wait – I start to make my dessert. Before I can get anywhere beyond compiling all of my ingredients on the counter, I have to decode the metric system back into US measurements. Grams? How about tablespoons, Fergus? Oh, the whole world uses metric? Right, I forgot about that. » Continue reading this post…

Because the Only Conceivable Thing to Do When It’s Snowing is Eat Snow

Virgin snow (Eat me. Drink Me.)

Well, it’s snowing again. And once again the bitter, endless winter kicks our hopes of impending spring in the shins. I am tired of walking through slush, shivering in my coat, walking with my head down and shoulders bunched, shuffling over ice, trudging through drifts, and ruining all my shoes with salt. I am ready for short skirts and sandals, lazy ambling, sunshine, popsicles (that are not my numb toes), rooftop barbeques, green leaves, summer reading, and happiness.

Winter, winter, please be over soon.

Alas, until that beautiful day arrives, I’ll content myself the little joys – slippers, hot soup, mulled wine, candlelight – and eat the snow that spites me.

I’ll admit that when I woke up a few days ago and soft snow was drifting down and settling like ganache on the tree outside my window, I smiled. I thought of snow angles and snowmen and snowball fights, and my personal childhood favorite, snow ice cream. Snow ice cream is simple. Milk, sugar, and vanilla folded into powdery snow until the consistency rests between crunchy virgin snow and wet slush. It should be delicate and still light, but softened by the milk and vanilla. It is cold and sweet and good.

Snow ice cream (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

So on that morning, I pulled on a pair of boots over my pajamas, stuck a hat on my head, and trudged out into the cold to find some clean snow in my industrial-looking Brooklyn. Though not as good as rural Pennsylvania snow, New York snow is not too bad, just a little metallic. It’s still lovely to watch fall, and since playing outside no longer appeals to me quite so much, I’ll settle for bringing a little of the beauty of falling snow inside and eat it as I snuggle underneath my blankets and wait for winter to be over. » 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…

On the Insides of Eggs (a poem!?)

Eggs in a row (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The perfection of four egg halves, which had previously been

two whole eggs, broken open on whole grain toast, hummus,

cilantro, the sting of salt, pepper, hidden red chiles.  The morning,

expansive, deceptive winter sunlight warming inside the windows.

I’ll clean them soon, I think, and return to my book – a cataclysmic look

at the apocalypse and a world of rats.  I eat my eggs.  The three men

with whom I share this space are somewhere behind their closed doors,

and I am alone with the contested floral carpet, the drum set,

the hookah still set up with last night’s coal.  I remember the eggs

before I broke them, mysterious and round, one brown, stolen

from my roommate, the other white, the last of my own eggs.

One egg cracked the second it hit boiling water, a filament of space

furrowing inside the shell.  But broken open, on the whole grain toast

with the hummus, the cilantro, the salt, I can’t tell which egg is which,

and each bright yolk reveals itself the same. » Continue reading this post…

The Man for Me: Boiled Belly & Lentils

Boiled pork belly with lentils (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

“An ox tongue in brine […] or a bucket of cabbage salting in the corner of your kitchen, what could be more reassuring?” says Fergus Henderson, author of The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. My new culinary grail is a celebration of all those animal bits that are so often overlooked in the western kitchen like tripe, ears, feet, tongue, and brains. Seeing as unusual cuts of meat have been on my mind lately and since they are so conveniently sold at my local grocery store (and my new best friend the butcher’s place), this book came along at a time in my life when there were too many trotters and not enough recipes for them.

I never read recipes. This has gotten me into a lot of trouble on occasion. For instance, when halfway through making dinner, I get to the part of the recipe that says, “chill overnight.” Or when I’m canning zucchini and see the words “mix” and “rest for ten hours,” I assume, foolishly, that the recipe means mix all the ingredients and not just the zucchini and salt, at which point I must cancel dinner with my friends to make zucchini relish out of a bowl of sloppy zucchini mess.

Even when I read through my food magazines, I read the headnotes to recipes but leave the recipe to skim only if I end up cooking the dish. Reading recipes seems so boring.

But not with Fergus.

With Fergus, each recipe is lovingly related, as if we were old friends cooking side by side in a small, stone kitchen somewhere in the English countryside. For example, in his recipe for Saddle of Rabbit, he writes: “Serve the rolls with a salad that captures the spirit of the garden, made up from, for example, scallions, baby carrots, radishes, peas, fava beans (if in season), rocket (arugula), and chopped parsley (and a subliminal caper if you feel so inclined—I do!). » 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…

Eat Late, Even Great

Diner fare (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Carlisle, Pennsylvania, nestled in that sweep of country where the chain gang of American cuisine settled, is not what could be called a diner’s paradise. Like roadside crosses in the Bible Belt, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Red Robin, Olive Garden, Panera, and every iteration of the Chinese Buffet dot the landscape with neon signs and trademarked logos. If it sponsors a commercial with glistening stacks of ribs, steaming bread, oozing chocolate, delightful-seeming, hunger-inducing, mouth-watering, wallet-trimming images on late night TV, you can find it in Carlisle.

Every now and then a gem tumbles through town. A quaint café, an Indian restaurant cum hookah lounge (!), a sushi place. But these wonders come and go, ephemeral delights squashed under the heavy-handed thumb of reliability and seven dollar margaritas. Many of my friends have done their time waitressing at Chili’s or Red Robin, and we’ve been known to indulge in a stack of short ribs from Texas Roadhouse without feeling bad at all, but when I think about where I want to eat when I make the journey back to PA, my first thought is always for the diner.

I did a lot of theater in high school (and I was in band – ok you can make fun of me now). After every performance, the whole cast would go to the Diner for scrambled eggs, buttery toast, French fries, fried mushrooms, bacon, pie piled with whipped cream, omelets, and hash browns. The Diner was for special occasions like that and conversations which just itched to be held late at night – crises of prom dates and friend fights, gossip mongering, life debriefs. Of course, after we left high school, we learned to appreciate a beer or two, and after you’ve had a few beers, any occasion is a special occasion. So now, when we see each other on holidays or opportunely timed visits home, the diner is where we often end up after a round or two at the G-man. » Continue reading this post…