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…

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…

Leftovers Regifted (a post by Josh): Biscuits

A Christmas scene (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It all started with leftovers. Not those things that sit in Tupperware containers in the back of your refrigerator for too long, growing mold because you didn’t want to eat the same thing on Monday as you did on Saturday. Maybe that’s just me. But it did all start with leftovers. The type that isn’t prepared. That one ingredient that you buy for one recipe but the recipe only calls for about a quarter of the container, so now you’re stuck with a lot of buttermilk. That’s what happened to me, at least. And during the holidays, of all times. What joy!

If you caught it in my last post, the one about half moon cookies, the recipe called for buttermilk. I don’t really know much about the stuff, and neither does my family, it seems. “I think it’s the healthiest milk there is,” “It’s all naturally fat free,” “I don’t know if anyone just drinks it,” “Doesn’t it make all yogurt?” I don’t know if any of that is true, but I do know that I had too much buttermilk to try out a big, tall, brimming glass of the stuff. So I decided to reduce (my quantity of buttermilk), reuse (it in another recipe), and recycle (again, reuse it).

The cookie culprit (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It was Christmas morning and the scene was set. The tree was outfitted with lights, blinking, and presents stuffed underneath. Coffee was brewing. My brother was headed in from Charleston. My sister, her husband, and my nephew were on their way out to our house. My moms were reading on the couch. I was in charge of food.

I walked down the stairs, opened the fridge to find some inspiration and what did I find? Buttermilk. I moved it out of the way, in search of the eggs, but then, with all clichés in mind, it hit me. » Continue reading this post…

A New Half Moon, but Not Like Twilight (a post by Josh): Black & White Cookies

Half & Half cookies (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I have a few things to confess. The first is that I haven’t completely abandoned this blog. I know that it seems like it, since the last time I posted was about five months ago. There are a few reasons for that, for sure, but maybe no excuses. I can’t say that I haven’t been cooking since then, since I surely have. I also can’t say I haven’t been writing since then, because it seem like I’ve written about three hundred pages since that time. What I can say is that a few things have changed since August. I finished my southern culinary tour, I moved into a new apartment, I ran a half marathon, I gained a serious affinity for Kombucha and turkey curry salad, and I finished my penultimate semester at college. So where does that leave me? At home, thinking about my last semester at college, and a little uneasy. So what do I turn to? Writing, but of course!

The other big thing I have to confess is: the inspiration to start back writing was both coming back home for the holidays, and (don’t judge) watching Julie and Julia. It’s not that I fell in love with that movie, but it’s that I realized that writing and food really are what I live for (I think that might be a line imbedded in that movie somewhere).

Dropping the dough (Eat me. Drink Me.)

Baking cookies (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

So what do I write about, to get things started one more time? I could go back to where I left off and talk about canning strawberry jam with my grandmother in Gretna, Virginia. Or I might be able to talk about that one article in Gourmet that inspired me to write a whole post, without posting it. Or maybe, I could talk about the fact that my dream job came crashing down the day Gourmet died. » Continue reading this post…