Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Kidneys were in his mind as he moved about the kitchen softly, righting her breakfast things on the humpy tray. Gelid light and air were in the kitchen but out of doors gentle summer morning everywhere. Made him feel a bit peckish.
The coals were reddening.
Another slice of bread ad butter: three, four: right. She didn't like her plate full. Right. He turned from the tray, lifted the kettle off he hob and set it sideways on the fire. It sat there, dull and squat, its spout stuck out. Cup of tea soon. Good. Mouth dry. The cat walked stiffly round a leg of the table with tail on high."
Thursday, November 11, 2010
If we needed it
“The novelty has worn off,” she says, trying to tiptoe around the subject because the subject is related to me. She’s cutting up cauliflower for soup and we talk about what makes a person eat more in winter, what makes a woman moan more eating than a man, what constitutes hibernation and what constitutes love.
The novelty wore off for me years ago, I think. What’s left is adoration of something we both saw like staring into the sun. What she thought was clever I thought was a joke and what she thought was lovely is lovely. And will always be, for all of us, for anyone who’s chosen to eat with my brother, which means my family, which means our hands, volatile, like burning potatoes or men, hot in each others’. Circling the meal, lifted to the heavens or the ceiling, depending on which is closing in on us that day, and a chorus of the word “Amen!” rings out among us, because we are hearty people even without God.
I think that no one can love a person without understanding what peril they grew up in, which is another way of saying their family. Whether they ate with their eyes clenched counting in the corner, or never ate for all of the fighting, or ate slowly, thinking of how to tell their mother who it was they loved. Whether they can tell anything about olives from oil to oil, whether their mothers were reluctant bigots in response, whether they ate with one hand while clubbing their father over the head with the other for being so thickly kind as to marry, so wretched. The first winter I starved was over my lover and I didn’t eat but he didn’t sleep and we both emerged that spring, groggy and accidentally nourished. And alone, from trying to give each other what we thought we needed, forgetting that people are well-versed in orchestrating their own survival. Alone from the necessity that glowed above our every meal, the last lightbulb we stripped from his apartment before lying down lastly in its mealy darkness.
If we roamed each other it was like feral animals in a countryside, stealing from fields whenever the moon sat a night out. Thievery is a harvest all its own. Bounty is not what one has, but the knowledge of what one could acquire at a moments’ notice, if they found it was desperately needed. “I could come up with five hundred dollars in a day if I needed to,” my brother bragged to me once. Then, before I could say he was bragging, “Anyone could.”
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
The last of the Harrisburg meals varied from poor British Isle fare, like Welsh Rare'bit and baked roots, to Feudal lord-sized lamb burgers from a small farm in Lane County. By that point, we were broke and dinner came down to whatever remained. On the final day of our stay, we were scraping ingredients from the corners of cabinets, half-cans of beans, sprouting potatoes, picking the scanty produce our garden yielded, including raspberries for pancakes, looking for eggs in the hen house and getting brutalized by Stew, the rooster. I woke up one morning and he was a man: innocently, I brought them out a plate of compost, and the minute I pulled back the chicken wire, Stew was lunging at me, talons first. My hair caught on the gate, and I was stuck screaming, switching him with a stick to assert my dominance. By the time Robert came to the back door, I was fleeing across the lawn, trailed by a rooster with murder in his eye. "Kick him," Robert said. "Kick him so he knows who's boss!" So I turned, the rooster at my shin, and kicked him. He fell back on his tail feathers for a moment only to jettison toward me ten-fold -- and now I'd kicked a rooster.
I got back to Brooklyn a week ago, early in the morning, and then slept for three hours. When I got up, it appeared the auto-drip had broken in my absence, so a house guest made some cowboy coffee in a sauce pan. When she poured it into mugs, the grounds floated at the top for a second but she assured me they would sink, and at worst, I'd strain a little through my teeth. We sat on my fire escape, drinking a great, deep, smooth cup of dark Italian coffee, smoking a cigarette, and I couldn't have been happier to be anywhere else. For those first few days, almost all of my friends were gathered in 260 Gates, between three apartments, and returning to Brooklyn is like returning to my wildest dreams only no dreaming. Gab and I met Matthew on the sand in Brighton Beach, where he lives now, and swam, and afterward picked out things from a Russian deli -- they're so good at boiling and stuffing! Beef and carrot dumpling, the bottom of which is soft, white chicken, cabbage rolls -- including tarragon soda, and then had a sheet picnic on the beach. It was July 2nd, but there were four firework displays going on along the bay, one right there on Coney Island.
Then I started working full time, running the little health food store I've worked at since I moved to Brooklyn, just for a week while my boss visited his family in the Dominican Republic. Early one morning, grabbing my coffee next door, I met a spry, sharp elderly Israeli man wearing Nike Dunks, a cowboy hat, and using his iPhone. He asked me if I was from Virginia, said I looked like I came from an intellectual family, that I must have known growing up that I was loved. He asked if he could bring me lunch while I worked. At noon he came in, poised but dragging his leg slightly. He set a warm paper bag on the counter and took out two sandwiches: a garlic bagel full of lamb kabob. "I get this every day," he said. "The bagel from the coffee shop, and the lamb from the Arab place. They make my favorite salad," an item that he also produced from the bag, one for each of us: tabbouleh, tomatoes, onion, green cabbage, purple cabbage, lettuce, parsley, onion, a good pickle. "Whatever you don't get from the tomato," he said, "you get from the onion. The calcium and all of that." At the end, a golden brown filo dough pastry that looked like a delicate ball of fishing wire, filled with dates, honey, and walnuts. He told me about New York real estate, about kibbutz in Israel, about Turkish coffee and his boyhood. He brought me this lunch for four days.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
The Lone Ranger
For almost two months I've been on a farm in rural Oregon. The night before I left Brooklyn, several friends jimmied a Bon Voyage feast, which included removing the top from my kitchen table and placing it on a smaller one in the living room, for more sitting room, cross legged. The meal in full is listed below, but does not include the detail that Lina bicycled home from Morton's Steak House at midnight with Oysters Rockafellar on a bed of rock salt, a slice of carrot cake, and a tall beer with an old man on the front.
Roasted black Brussels sprouts & turnips (broiled to a tender crisp by moi et Lily.)
Mashed potatoes w/ raw red onion and raw garlic (Robby)
Wheat penne w/ stir-fried beets, red peppers, & coconut meat (Matthew)
Sesame rolls w/ broiled tomato & mozzarella (Matthew)
Bits of duck (Jen)
Wine & whiskey
For our first week on the Harrisburg farm, Robert and I had a stove but no burners, so we cooked all of our meals on a grill outside our house. If anyone had been there to witness us, we may have looked trashy, cooking eggs in our underwear, but when a tree falls in the woods, is anyone there to point and laugh? There was also a pipe missing under the sink, so all of our water went into a bucket sitting below, and there was no shower so we washed our hair with an old wok. We bought a heap of Session Black (the cheapest of the good dark beers, and by Hood River's Full Sail) and would drink two or three at the end of the day aruond our smoldering coals. Finally, thanks to Lonnie Sexton, we got elements for the stove, and have cooked a number of reputable feasts out there in grass seed country. Below are some notable meals, which have more or less been repeated to some varying degree, denoted by GRILL or STOVE.
Salmon cakes w/ dill & yellow onion
Salmon cakes on biscuits
Spinach & garlic on biscuits
Roasted potatoes & yellow squash scrambled w/ eggs
Roasted potatoes, herbed & olive oiled
Roasted yellow squash
Leeks from the garden
Roasted garlic & olive oil w/ bread
Baked polenta w/ cayenne & cream
Roasted potatoes w/ dill
Salmon cakes w/ green onions
Mango salsa & chips
Spinach salad w/ apples & walnuts, lemon, salt, pepper
White fish w/ toasted bread crumbs & lemon & garlic
Rogue Valley Mocha Porter
A heap of broccoli & chicken thighs
Homemade biscuits & butter
Chicken thighs smeared w/ ground mustard, dill, wine, olive oil & vinegar
Roasted potatoes w/ herbs de Provence
Pan o' nachos, w/ refried beans, black beans, onion, garlic, Irish cheddar, salsa
Bok choy salad
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
This afternoon, outside my window, there is the bluest sky & only a wisp of cloud, cashew-shaped, rushing nowhere. Barefoot, I trot to the mailbox in my winey sweater & the slip I slept in, leg exposing & breezy. How many birds are singing today, "The sun! The sun! How long have you been sleeping for? You are washing all over me & boy, am I warm..."? Oh, & the drooping snowdrops I mistake for little white crocus heads peeking through the soggy earth & lacey remains of snow. Walking through mud like molasses all over my boots & the paws of Nicola's dogs. I had to take my scarf off. Some thing is hovering around us all, some thing unassuming & cleansing. It is Spring. We are coming upon a transition from the short shivering days into a time of thawing & growing, a "springing of the leaf".
As the ground is beginning to wake from the inside out, we find this happening to ourselves also. Can you feel your roots uncurling & your stems spiraling towards the warming, mother sun? We have been blanket bundled for months. I have been wearing three dresses, an oversized flannel, at least one sweater, thermal leggings, high woolen socks, lined boots, several scarves & a hat that at one time belonged to my neighbor, all at once & since Novemeber.
The air is beckoning us, "Be as light & free as you can see in me!" I desired fruits all day, the soft juice of them & their uplifting energy. We walked for an hour, the woods were full of little walkers & Nicola keeps reminding me that we do not live too far from the beach. The turn of the earth, the return to lengthy days, the sun taking the place of all our artificial blankets, that mud the flower heads have to poke through! Rainage is bursting at the seams. My sister is flitting around like a fairy becoming more & more in love with that boy. That constant laughing I hear on the wind. Joanna Newsom's new album.
Rejoice in the rejuvenation! Get yourself to some woodlands, or the scents of them at least: juniper or pine or cedar or cardamom. Get citric with the grapefruits & limes & mandarins. Whirl around in calendula & neroli. The hyacinth girl fresh out of the rain. Dandelion tonic, roots & all, good for wishes & detoxifying the liver after those nights made long with wiskey & heavy foods. How many layers have you been buried beneath this past winter season? Finish off the dregs of your hibernation, the first day of a new season is in a few weeks, my friends. Soon will be the bustle of blossoms & brooming for Spring Cleaning.
In the midst of all this reverberation, there is a lurking. Remember that April showers bring May flowers. Along with the temperatures fluctuating, we are just waking up & susceptible to all the elements, "... true spring fever occurs when a cool spell is followed by sudden warmth & our bodies are slow to catch up". We must wear our rainboots even when dancing in daffodils. So, if you are feeling a little under the weather, take this potion from my medicine cabinet to keep the spring fever at bay, full of warmers (ginger & cinnamon) & immunity stimulators (ginseng) & godly nectars (pear!). So delicious you won't need that spoonful of sugar.
Umbrella & Wellies Elixir
(makes 1 quart)
3 cups apple juice concentrate, unsweetened (100% juice), or juice some yrselves!
3 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
20 drops Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) tincture
Cut pears into quarters & combine with apple juice, ginger, cinnamon, & nutmeg in a blender. Blend until smooth; chill. Pour into glass, add 20 drops of Siberian ginseng tincture, stir. Drink 3 times daily. *This type of ginseng is a good, but slow worker. If you are ailing, take this in your drink for 3 weeks, rest for 1 week, then repeat if necessary.*
Ps/ If you gave up Siberian ginseng for Lent & need that special stimulation, I suggest adding some moonly nectars (wiskey!) to taste.
When Adrian and I started cooking together, we were eighteen, and I realized the very first day I must have never eaten breakfast before. Every memory was an empty, extending space, and I was pleased, that being a time in which I very much wanted to follow her lead. So we made oats with fried eggs on top, which I had never had, even if it turns out I had sat down to breakfast before. While we cooked, she told me things about food, things I may have found out either way, but who's counting. She told me. Showed me flaxseed, kept her spices in a cloth-bound box under the sink, used turmeric all the time, and to this day I've never told her I think it's the blandest spice. I don't think I thought of it till I moved back to Baltimore.
Even now, after a year's worth of ardent, solitary cooking, I watch for cues. When I visited her in Brooklyn, she had gotten a mortar and pestle, so I thought of the thousand reasons I needed one. This is a good reason, the kind that comes after you've grown accustomed (read: weary) to the custard of winter, breakfasts of pumpkin and bananas:
Spice Cabinet Oats-and-Eggs
-1/2 cup rolled oats
-1-2 tbsp ground flaxseed
-1 cup unsweetened hemp milk
-1-2 tbsp almond butter (to taste)
-Dash each ground nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves
-1 cardamom pod
Cook the oats in hemp milk on medium heat with all spices except cardamom. Remove from heat when finished.
Stir in almond butter and flaxseed.
Grind cardamom pod and stir into oats. Add more hemp milk if necessary
Serve with eggs on top--any kind of eggs will do, but it's nice if they're cold and the oatmeal's hot, or you have an orange to eat with everything. It's best of all if they're part of a leftover omelet, and the man who brought it to you at the restaurant slipped you his phone number. Not because you're going to call, but because (Adrian told me one day two springs ago, a bad day for her & so I left flowers on her bed) "It's so nice, being seen."
Monday, March 8, 2010
All winter long we took westbound busses downtown to play folk songs on freezing street corners. We were The Messengers: Austin, Peter, Ezra and I. It started when they showed up in front of the office building I worked in at the time. They were wearing matching dark glasses, harp racks, guitars. They stood on the sidewalk outside my window singing “Gloria” until my boss told me to make them stop. Running to the door, I bumped into a table of merchandise and a large bruise spread instantly across my thigh. When I reached the sidewalk, I lifted my hand to silence them, but Peter instead handed me a tambourine. It was a sunny November afternoon, and the whirring cars on
I hit the tambourine against my leg and started dancing. They asked me if I wanted to go out and play with them that night. The bruise from the merchandise table grew and deepened. It happened to lie in the exact spot where the tambourine hit for the next few months, and thus never fully healed.
We played for quarters and dollar bills until midnight, picked up transient back-up singers, saw players, Coke-bottle tubas. We gathered crowds, crud, displaced street kids who told us we were taking their spanging spot. It was freezing all winter. We’d play until we couldn’t feel our fingers: “Sister Ray,” “House of the Rising Sun,” everything by Brian Jonestown Massacre. At midnight we’d stop by Voodoo Doughnuts under the
We were The Messengers. Ezra’s family was Jewish. Every second Friday that winter his mother would serve a Sabbath meal after we got home from busking. She would wait for us, sometimes until eleven. We’d come through the door clanging, a case full of cash, and then join them in the dining room: The Messengers and Ezra’s family. His mother cooked four-course meals: stuffed grape leaves, homemade yogurt, empanadas, winter greens, challah, olive tapanade, vegan white cake with black coffee. The meal would last two, three hours, and we, The Messengers, would make doe eyes at each other from our seats wondering if we’d ever been so happy.
At a later date, on the couch in the coffee shop, I said to
You have a few great nights with a group of people, and the following few months you spend together are in pursuit of those nights. Often, and thankfully, they are usually the only ones you remember. Sometimes you stay together just because of those two or three nights, waiting for a new event to deliver the old feeling. New isn't always bad, but we often miss it being so fixated on one previous moment. We miss it, possibly forgoing a great thing that could have been. Or maybe that was it, and it never happens again.
The last time we played together, it was just beginning to get warm. All winter long, we had thought, if winter can be so sweet, just wait until summertime! It turned out that the prospect of sun was deceptive. As winter receded, so did our attention spans, and so did the buckets of doughnuts and The Sabbath and the holiness and the homemade challah. It was late May. I was seventeen-years-old. We played for a couple of sleepy hours on the bank of a vintage clothing store in a nice neighborhood. We made three dollars, and then wandered around a chain supermarket and spent the money on pink-frosted sugar cookies, hot jojos, deep-fried jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese from the deli counter. After eating all of it around a picnic table at a neighboring park, we felt sick.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
In line for the bus, I ran into and officially met Young Peter, who works at Okay Natural Foods. Not wanting to be presumptuous but not really minding, either, I sat down next to him for the ride home. When he saw me pouring something into my water bottle around the end of the Turnpike, he asked, "Is that Emergen-C?"
"Emergen-C is like, two-thirds sugar."
"Are you saying I was better off with the gin?"
"God no," he said. "There's lots of sugar in gin."
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
When you are quite broke (and pray tell, when you are wealthy, too) it is good to eat slowly. The food seems to be more plentiful, probably because it lasts longer. And no matter how sunk you are, nothing seems so grim if your head is clear and your teeth are clean and your bowels function properly. I find that during times of particularly feeble means, by inviting friends to dine with me, the larder multiplies like on the shores of Galilee. So when I say to eat "poorly" I mean "in the manner of the [ ]."
First, make a list of your personal staples. Buy two of everything. For me it's almost always: vegetable stock, chicken stock, coconut milk, a pound of walnuts, a pound of rice (white if I think I'm in the pan-Asian mood, brown if I'm a wholesome American), 12oz wild rice or quinoa, a dozen eggs, whole peeled tomatoes, black beans, kidney beans, spinach, kale, carrots, onions, garlic, lemons, good coffee to last me two weeks. I almost always have a couple cans of wild-caught salmon for making patties. What I have constantly in the cupboards, using little by little, is salt, pepper, paprika, dill, cayenne, cumin, turmeric, curry, and bay leaves. Also: soy sauce, vinegar, mustard, honey, butter, good olive oil, herbs growing on my window sill. On a whim I might add to the list: a fresh beet, three potatoes, butternut squash, asparagus, whole milk, a hunk of fancy cheese, oatmeal, a lamb shank, white fish, oysters, a can of Jyoti saag or curry dumplings. I never spend more than eighty-dollars a month on basic groceries, though of course there are always the late night runs for beer, gin, and ice cream. That's up to you though. Some needs exceed means. For instance, at the bodega last night, the man ahead of me in line asked for his Colt 45 and a pack of cigarettes on credit. "I get paid on the 18th," he said, and the clerk said OK.
A trick is to never buy snacks, not really. And avoid juices, sauces, and spreads except where the desire burns hot. Same for crackers and bars and chips. It makes a great deal of difference. Decide on a few non-perishable versions of things, like what to buy canned or frozen. I buy mostly organic, and it's often only a few cents more per item. A nice hunk of beef can be a great friend in tough times. Ignore specialty vegetarian products and go straight to the basics.
Then learn the simple tricks: a whole baked onion with goat cheese and rosemary, eaten with a fork; egg-drop soup; double-garlic greens; Spanish black beans; red beans and rice; hot-and-cold salad; a heap of of everything sauteed in a pan (burger, veggies, coconut milk, spices) into what Chanelle calls, "rubbish"; huevos rancheros; honeyed carrots; lettuce wraps; fritatta; kale and white bean soup; mashed potatoes; salmon cakes; a simple sauce of a couple peeled and squashed tomatoes, with onions, garlic and lots of olive oil, stewed slowly and put on anything--though the tomatoes are best if you squash them while stewing. Carry nuts in your pockets. Don't forget to peer in dumpsters or ask your local grocery store for expired things. My stepmother spent a weekend once teaching me how to make soup that would last until next Saturday, lasting twice as long (I swear) when you invite someone over to eat it with you.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
"Oh! Sorry," a girl says, jangling open the door to OK Natural. I've got a pile on the counter of things yet to be purchased, and Jon and I are talking about vegan cookies or why his mother won't buy quinoa. Jon asks her why she's sorry and she explains, "It feels like I barged in." She wanders around the store and I tell Jon, that coming down those steps, and bursting in with the bells, it sort of always feels like barging in here. I tell him I'm feeling sick and he gives me an Umeboshi plum, and encourages me to keep drinking the sample tea, it's late in the evening and "We have to throw out what's leftover anyway." I buy a kombucha, too, and a black bean enchilada that's nondescript but filling. Jon tells me about his girlfriend, how he used to date her current roommate and her former roommate, eats blue chips behind the counter and marvels at how hot the salsa is. He goes to put some things away in the back, while Peter and the cat watch the front.
Daikon radishes, Peter tells me, when he sees me reading a macrobiotic cookbook. And tempura--have you ever had tempura? We're all afraid of fried foods here because we use low-quality oil, but not tempura. If you order it in a restaurant, they'll serve it with daikon, because it balances the oil. One time, I was on a Greyhound bus feeling very meditative, and I had to get something to eat at a rest stop. So I chose corn chips, because there were only three ingredients, corn, oil, and salt. And I was eating simply, so I ate the chips. When we got off the bus, I had to get something to cut the feeling these chips had left, and remember, I'd been so meditative, I hadn't talked to anyone one the bus. So I found red radishes in a market, and thought, daikon, radish family, and bought three bunches of them. And they did, they cut the oil.
I make a note of this to myself, half-laid out over the book. In case of oil. Drinking twig tea, my feet cold in my boots. This is what I've found a thousand times since I began thinking about food. Little rules or notions or tomatoes that have fed people before me, that feel comfortably worn when I try them on for size. Don't put cream in your coffee at night. Don't be afraid of garlic. Don't be afraid of anything, in fact, and if in being unafraid you cut the nerve in your finger, blame the dull blade and move on. If it's numb forever after that. It will be the part of you that knows most instinctively how to cook, being passed on from some old recipe.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
The hostess brought out a strawberry cake for reasons I didn’t understand. Everyone climbed out of the pool to circle around the patio table, on which she’d set a stack of plates. The cake gleamed in the mid-afternoon sun. It was thickly frosted and double-layered, sitting in a skirt of yellow cream, collared with berries no bigger than my thumbs. Up until that moment, I had been patting my hair dry, waiting for a moment to leave, but I couldn’t now. I wanted the cake. The hostess tore the tab from a roll of thin chocolate cookies she’d tucked under her arm and passed those around. The pool water heaved from the sudden abandon of bodies. I ate my cookie and waited. But soon the boys slouched back to the hammock, picking at their skin in the sun. Girls flattened on concrete, turning out their bathing suits for a better tan. I sat down, listening only for the word gateaux, but it never came. I watched the cake disappear under evening shadow, untouched.
At night I’d wake to the house shuddering from thunderclaps and have to peel the bed sheets from my sunburn, and get up to shut the window. Daybreaks outside
A day before, the entire family met me at the
Even in the earliest moments of waking, there were formal greetings and departures—whether we were hung over or foul smelling, bonjour, bon nuit, a kiss on each cheek. The mother was stark and darkly featured. She looked like the Mona Lisa, and I froze up in her presence, as I imagined one would by the painting. (The painting, I eventually saw in
Geraniums sat in clay pots on the windowsills of each stucco prefab in
The mothers, in general, were toned, had firm skin and hair, and were very tense, with the exception of feeding times, when they became radiant: radishes with pats of unsalted butter, blocks of sweet, brownish pâté (usually duck), roasts under thin gravies, pasta with bacon, cubes of raw beef skewered for thirty seconds in a fondue pot of boiling water. Most produce came from a farmers market the father took me to on Wednesdays. A ladybug landed on my arm while we were picking out lettuce, and he told me they were called “beetles of God.”
Before I’d left home, I had practiced eating slower under the impression that the French ate at great leisure, disgusted by the way American’s inhaled food, to which end I was always the last to finish, while the family drummed fingers on their cleaned plates. Half of the dinners were served on the veranda, while the other half were served by the television which sat on a lazy-Susan on top of the fridge: Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Nanny and a Belgian soap opera were standard fare, and sometimes, on these nights, we had dinners of fries, hot dogs, and beer.
For parties, the parents would buy us a case of Rickard, make reservations for dinner in town, and then come home at dawn asking if we’d had a nice night. Only the Americans would get drunk and the French kids would mock them. The young men were sexless, bare-shouldered and they left their laundry on the stairs for their mothers to do. The girls my age were coy, and often wary when speaking to me alone. They invited me to movies, and took walks around the artificial boat lake in their neighborhood. There were house spiders the size of teacups which caused the daughters to scream, and the fathers to spring forward on their sinewy legs, an auto magazine rolled in their grip. The fathers loved patting their daughters’ hands or hair, saying, Ma fille, to which the daughters would respond darkly, Oui papa, ton fille.
The mother gardened in her underwear, and when the flashfloods came, hundreds of tiny snails flushed from the gutters and all family members ran outdoors, shrieking, to collect them in plastic vats. Plupluplu, the mother said, noticing my confusion. She made a gesture like running water. “What?” I said. Plupluplu. Inside they boiled the snails from their shells, while, lawn chairs and parasols tossed about the lawn in the storm.
We spent my last night in their neighbor’s backyard over the grill (the other teenagers were watching a dubbed Jaws III inside) and when the parents asked me what I would remember most from my time in France, I listed a few things, and then raised my glass high and said, “And the wine!” because I knew it would make them laugh, and it did. Contrary to myth, they were a warm people, but sometimes they couldn’t understand a thing I said, or I them, and we’d just gape and wince and I’d feel no warmth at all.
It was the day before that I’d been sitting by the pool, waiting for someone to cut the strawberry cake. The effects of my longing could still be felt, baffled as to why no one had served it. This strong, sensual desire blocked by an inability to communicate was the moment that exemplified my experience of
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
My life, before we all dispersed for winter break, was quite the introduction to slovenly living. With an emptier fridge and fewer bookshelves, we could have been bohemians, evenings beginning with the usual rummaging through spare sheets, gold sneakers, rolls of paper towels, for my old black heels, since forgotten in the early hours of New Years Day in some Brooklyn dive. Old-money-now-no-money, weary glamour eating bits of bean slop out of cups in the backs of classrooms, dreaming of sushi and champagne.
With the end of the semester, inevitably, came sleeplessness, frozen fingers, a feet-deep swamp of belongings my boy and I had to wade through to make it to our mattress, and the deep-rooted, fuck-all frustration that comes from the severe lack of real, hearty meals. Against everyone's better judgment, it was out of this pure, raw need that I planned a dinner party in the midst of finals. I wanted to gather together a group of favorites and feed them, fill them with the fresh and heavy, leave them feeling fat and happy. The menu was grilled asparagus, shake-and-bake chicken, hasselback potatoes and Mezgaldi onions.
It was a disaster from the beginning: we'd double-booked the dorm kitchen and the stove top with some club's ethnic dinner, a crowd of girls drunkenly deep-frying pork chops in a vat of sizzling oil and Jack Daniels, who drowned out our jazz and banter with hip-hop and screaming. My friend Dan said it best, as we waited quietly beside our prepped ingredients for an hour for the counter to free up, looking ruefully at our platter piled high with breasts, "Raw beef looks GOOD, raw chicken just...I don't want to sink my teeth into that."
In the hassle over sharing the oven, the potatoes came out undercooked, the onions too sweet, and the asparagus cooled thirty minutes before I completed the rest of the dinner. The chicken was the fall-back savior- rolled in beaten egg, rubbed with flour, paprika and chipotle, and gently simmered in butter, it came out gorgeously tender, flavorful, juicy. A dish, that, for all its name, is neither shaken nor baked, is easy, cheap, and without fail a wowzer, as any spices in the flour turn out equally delicious. But we were a harried group, hurried, bored and hungry for too long, and I was left with the need for a gluttonous, rich meal still unsatisfied.
But I'm a brothel madam, a matron in an apron, a beefy-armed boarding house mistress with two sinks worth of dirty dishes and half a handle of vodka under the desk. My countertops are continuously covered in wine glasses, coffee mugs, a huge tray of baklava that draws people in like flies, and I'd one night left to entertain.
Pepperoni rolls are cheap, easy lovers, sleazy greaseballs slicked with charm and butter, hiding heart attacks in their back pockets. The recipe promised me a real crowd pleaser, the-bang-for-ya-buck where the kids wouldn’t know what hit ‘em. On our worn kitchen counter, one long stretch of bread dough rolled out with a dented can of pork & beans, rubbing it down with buttery fingers, the sprinkling of the elusively named “Italian seasoning”, and then layers of pepperoni and shredded mozzarella, both straight from the packet. Apart from the butter, spread liberally from my imagination, this felt like blasphemy, but it baked slowly, the dough rising, the however-manufactured cheese oozing out of browning corners until I forgot, and waited with a crowd of watering mouths behind me, to tear off a piece of melting cheese and meat. I sliced thinly and served the pieces up hot with a smile and a cup of warm marinara sauce. They don't call me Grandma Claire for nothing.