Tuesday, December 28, 2010

James Joyce Eats

"Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencod's roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.

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

Lily Eats

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

Lily Eats

Following "How to eat Poorly." What I have and will always have

Taking inventory of my cabinets: Two falafel veggie burgers, two cans of wild salmon, or maybe one of tuna, a tin of baby corn--some coconut milk, some matcha powder, an entire spice cabinet and still no mustard seed, all the ingredients except cooking sherry for the soup my father used to make. I used red wine in Oregon and it was just as well except for indisputably savoring of a substitute. Roommate's stocked seven types of rice and I have wheatberries. There's a struggle to remember what Age told me to eat to ease cramps, except I know she said NO SOY, you're enough of a woman already. Lemon pepper my father bought for me because he uses it on everything in spite of my protests that if I wanted lemon and pepper I'd settle both those issues separately. I want applesauce. Bagels I feel bloated after eating but can't throw out at work night after night. Buckwheat groats I soaked and dried to make the world's blandest cereal which really only means you've got to jazz up the milk. Which is made of almonds--and almond butter, and raw almonds, and roasted, and I remember my babysitter telling me on videotape she wanted me to eat so many teddy-o's I'd turn into one. But I just watched Noah carefully and threw down my spoon when he was finished, figuring what was good enough for him was more than enough for me.

Sherry's vegetable soup and her box of zucchini and tough lettuce and apples that are either good or mealy depending (I'm convinced) on whether or not it's raining. One frozen banana. Teas, all kinds of tea, honeybush, Earl Grey, rooibos, loose and bagged mate, chai, double chai, twig, Mendocino Farmer's Market BLend with whole red clover blossoms, teas with silly names like "Evening in Missoula" when it's really just Chamomile & friends.

Precocious butternut and acorn squash. Ziploc baggies of chopped spinach and diced tomatoes I bought from a farm in Woodbine and froze for the winter. I skipped class to go there after I got so angry I ripped the handle off my car door, and for once Noah was more nervous than me about breaking a rule while I kept telling him it was okay to eat apples as he picked. Standing in piles of rotted mash that smelled like cider and I thought of a book I read as a kid. Emily feeds the rotten apples to the pigs and they've fermented and the pigs get drunk and we picked so many apples I was sure I'd make a pie or apple butter. But we just ate them out of the fridge, all three of us all week and at first it seemed gradual but really it was fast, and they were gone. The fall's been that way, till it got hot for three days and ruined things out on the counter and the fruit flies came back.

Each bag has a cup of tomatoes though, I told Sherry, so now we'll have local tomatoes all winter. The spinach is just as much as I could cram in.

Three garlic bulbs with cloves at various stages of decay. Half a bosc pear in a tupperware with no lid. A knot of ginger with suspiciously clear skin and a drawer full of onions onions carrots, in case the guinea pigs ever find their way to the fridge and must move in there. Everyone must survive anywhere, sometimes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Since Sherry moved

It's been a lot of mornings of mixed ingredients, and incredulity. Look at what we have doubles of, I say. Nutritional yeast, vital wheat gluten? Who else? A note to tell me to eat the sushi she wrapped in toasted nori and left in tupperware. Makeshift muesli we both eat, pushing our glasses up, with raw oats and hazelnuts and cinnamon and (what we call) milk I make in the blender with almond butter when we're out of raw almonds. A friend drunkenly sleeps in his boots on our living room floor while I spill reconstituted goji berries and buckwheat groats in the kitchen. A mother who can't get going and a father who won't quit. Noah is abruptly living with us, so scarce, barely taking up half a shelf in our hall closet. Eating raw cauliflower for breakfast and bowls of brussel sprouts for dinner. A kind of vegetable-rich squatting, all three of us drinking coffee late into the night and sleeping like shaking or devastated or excited toddlers. We eat like we're anticipating something, all of a sudden three people curled into the table I used alone for so many months. We buy coconut oil with his leftover food stamps and I use it to cook or to keep my face from drying out and think of how Tita uses almond oil on her lips in Like Water for Chocolate. Bismarck and Liliana the guineas hide under their pink igloo when I walk through Sherry's bedroom. A giant bale of hay arrives in the mail, and she says, "Gotta feed the piggums," but it seems to me like the rest of us, they half-eat their food and half-inhabit it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Adrian Eats

Don't Look a Gift Lunch in the Mouth

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

Lily Eats

Hot Flashbacks, early July

Age--It's February 19th--so in less than ten days, Noah will fly to San Francisco to begin his walk. So last night, we ate. In an "industrial-chic" restaurant hidden in an affluent block (just past the overpass, all of a sudden, we're wealthy). Val works there.

We started with a pint-box of different breads. A sesame white loaf, a wheat sliced a 1/2 inch thick with an almost black crust. Good, talking butter. Noah got the oyster stew--sweet oysters, leeks, and cream. No potatoes, no anxious seasoning. I ate one huge oyster from his bowl. And I with my sweet potato soup--with sage butter and cornbread croutons. We ordered our meals and our waiter had to come back and say, I'm so sorry sir, we're out of the scallops. So Noah changed his order, and by way of an apology, our waiter had someone bring us the cherry glen (is that a place, you think?) oven ricotta. A ramekin with an apple-golden raisin-onion compote, flavored with rosemary, and a browned cut of ricotta cheese on top, served with nut crisps.

Mushroom-Leek Mosaic (this is what I mean by "chic"--a meal isn't a meal, it's a mosaic)--a bit of sweet potato puree with brussels leaves, raw clover, faro, kale, garlic, and of course tender, meaty mushrooms. It wasn't MFK-style, because the vegetables weren't treated as vegetables--they were treated better than most people. And Noah's replacement meal. The oven blackened sea bass, it came to us smiling, it was like the Roald Dahl description of the perfect hunks of white fish he ate poached in Norway. Only I thought that wasn't real, thought it was like Turkish delight, and when you find out what it really tastes like, you wish you only read about it. But this. Fingerling potatoes in some tangy white sauce, pea shoots, and olives. The whole fish and his backbone, gutted and stuffed with mint sprigs and lemon wedges. He ate the whole thing, complimented the jaw meat because he'd heard it was supposed to be very good. Ate the crisp skin but left most of the skeleton organized as the day it was born.

After, I ordered a macchiato (Starbucks bastardized the word but you've been to countries that are real. Espresso with a tiny bit of steamed milk and a drop of foam on top, no bigger than a double espresso, and mine came with a heart poured into its dainty face. A dish of coarse amber sugar which of course I didn't use.) Noah got a plain espresso, which was perhaps the best I've had, in that wonderful and rare way where an espresso is unabashed, doesn't mind tasting like espresso and not sharp coffee. If you don't like it...well, you've got very little wild animal, you know? If you can't take the heat, order hot water.

No, I'm just being a prick now.

We ordered the honeyed pear for dessert (whole, stem intact, skin creased with poached sugar) which came on a bed of milk chocolate mousse, bergamot syrup and pine-nut granola. The restaurant was slowing down, and Val (who expedites the kitchen) had time to come and talk, one dish in each hand, a chocolate wafer like a flag sticking out of both. "That's right," she said. "You didn't order ice cream and I wasn't okay with that, because we have the best ice cream in the world." She explained that one was malt ice cream, or, in her words, "improved vanilla," and the other was cocoa sorbet--which Noah and I decided is easily one of the more unique things we've ever eaten. It was dark, so dark you almost couldn't follow it where it was going, icy where it could have been creamy, with an orange flavor that matched the chocolate in strength. It tasted like eating an orange and baker's chocolate in a blizzard.

So a peasants' breakfast then:
Chop some basil and scoop a little butter and throw it into a cup of water with 1/2 cup quinoa. Reduce heat once it's boiling, when it's cooked almost all the way, throw in a 1/2 cup of chickpeas. When quinoa's done, add the juice from 1/4 lemon, 1/4 or so of an avocado chopped, and a teaspoon of capers (who'da thunk? I happened to have them lying around.)

The next morning, Noah told me, "The thought of that meal will sustain me when I've run out of quinoa, and I'm eating bricks of 2300-calorie emergency rations." I gave him The Old Man and the Sea to take on his travels, a copy I actually gave him a few years ago when I used to call him "the marlin," but took it back from him when I decided to release him into the water one time or another. How good to see things floating that we thought would end up on our plates. Smiling, and not stuffed with mint.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Adrian Eats

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
Homemade guacamole

Salmon cakes on biscuits
Scrambled eggs

Pork burritos
Grilled toast

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
Sourdough rolls

Salmon cakes w/ green onions
Mango salsa & chips
Spinach salad w/ apples & walnuts, lemon, salt, pepper

White fish w/ toasted bread crumbs & lemon & garlic
Sautéed asparagus
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

Hot Flashes

1. Brooklyn

"It's barbaric to put just soy sauce on something," Dave explained. He had driven to Baltimore to make the trip back up to New York with me--everyone was leaving and we begged off of me taking a bus. "I have this idea that I can cook, when really I just put soy sauce and whatever vegetable I have and tofu in a container and stir it all." He said you have to balance the soy sauce with something to make it a decent thing to eat, and that's what he had done, and I can't remember what he used anymore. We leaned back into our seats, at a rest stop somewhere along the turnpike, and agreed about broccoli rabe. His car reminded me of one my father used to drive, and by the time we got to Bed Stuy, we were exhausted but not tired.

2. No Shit Bonnaroo

In Tennessee I ate things I couldn't digest, which is a certain breed of strategy. Lots of peanut butter on lots of bread and Jesse told me to eat with my face to the plate if it was too messy with my hand. "Here," he demonstrated, "I mean, it's not the same as eating with one hand and wiping your ass with the other." Fifteen of us stopped to eat together, still hours from Manchester, and ordered of Canadian bacon and our waitress's name was Susie Q. Dustin leaned in quietly and told Alix and I, "Until we get back to Baltimore--no one's Jewish and no one's gay."

Susie Q. No joke. We all squeezed each others' legs under the table but looked straight from the waist up, and drove through Chattanooga side-swiping the air as it grew hotter.

3. Beyond Eugene

Noah had a third a jar of peanut butter left, so he figured he better not buy anymore. For my first meal in Oregon, we stopped at The Rodeo in Junction City, ate sandwiches made indisputably, almost obscenely, of meat, threw our peanut shells gleefully to the ground. We caught a ride to Harrisburg just by asking someone directions. "Harley like the motorcycle," he introduced himself, talked about the eleven hours he'd been driving alone and the skate park nearby and how they don't even bother with a school field trip to the Shakesepare festival in his hometown, because everyone goes during the summer, anyway. What makes a small town tick.

In the week prior to our visit alone, the only two bars in Harrisburg went out of business. "It says something when the bars shut down," Adrian said ominously. She read my tarot cards on one of the first nights of my visit, and Noah's cards one of the last. His reading was sandwiched between two feasts: Age's dinner was salmon cooked with dill, onions baked with cheese and butter, asparagus to a T, a salad I assembled and a dressing Noah obsessed over. Our breakfast was easy-bake biscuits that I worried would stick together, and Noah manning three burners like a navy captain. Cursing, the bacon too long for the pan, peppers-and-onions done long before the starchy potatoes softened, eggs with cheddar and tomatoes, everything done at roughly the same time . "It's like the rest of my life," Noah said of his tarot. "Either you'll crash and burn into absolute oblivion--or everything will go really well."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lily Eats

What's nearby and what's not far away

"Living in New York made you a better driver," Noah said.
"I didn't have a car in New York."
"I know," he said. "But you're more aggressive now."

If that's true, it's an aggression borne of making much more frequent mistakes, with much more dire consequences, and having to live with the results. So now it's a year and a half later, I've got no feeling left in the tip of my right ring finger, I'm arguably an even better driver, and without a doubt, a much-improved cook. It could be that all of this originates in my Brooklyn-bred ability to Man Up, or, as Adrian once referred to the required grit, "Go be Diane di Prima."

Di Prima slept in public parks, made love to junkies and fifteen-year-olds, fathers and sons, took her clothes for the day out of a dry cleaner's, one ticket at a time. I was never quite ready to be her, but we have a shared enthusiasm for feeding ourselves, whatever that means.

Say that it means relying on a food processor that I know in my heart is too small to complete the task for which I mean to use it. Raw carob cookies, which need some form of sugar, and since I can't boil water to soak the dates (because I've arbitrarily decided, in spite of the cheeseburger with french fries I ate last night, I'm going to honor the rawness of this process) I have to soak them for thirty minutes in room-temperature water. The trouble is, I bought these dates around the same time I signed the lease on this apartment. (Which incidentally, is up in August, and it's maybe the same ballsy New York influence that saves me from panicking at having no concept of where I intend to live come September.) The dates are still rock-hard after almost an hour of soaking, but I dump them with the allotted amount of water into the food processor. When I flip the switch, I get a real-life reenactment of the trickle-down theory, and date-water (much like benefits to taxpayers) spews out of any seam or crack it can find. I notice this when a stream of it hits me in the stomach, and after two more tries, I conclude that I never trusted Reagan anyway, and just use the syrup from the bottom of the pitcher, setting the date chunks to the side.

This is significantly less liquid than I am supposed to be using. I add the cocoa powder (because, even though I'm honoring the rawness of this recipe, I've arbitrarily decided to use cooked cocoa powder instead of raw carob) and almond butter, and what I've got is essentially a mass of date juice and almond chunks in an otherwise Sahara-like desert of cocoa. I directly forsake keeping the recipe raw, and take inventory of all moistening agents present in my kitchen. I add almond milk and stir. And add more. And it's about the right consistency now, I assume, but I take a taste and am immediately confronted with the absence of enough date-mash. It tastes a little bit like Baker's chocolate. So I add agave, lots of agave, till it tastes like something I'd want to eat, and not something I endure because (son of a bitch) I cooked this.

It's at this point that I notice the French Press. I check the remaining coffee--I used the pot three days ago, and I've grown very accustomed to peering in and finding patches of blue mold sprouting on the surface--but it doesn't seem to be contaminated yet. I pour most of it into the bowl, and stir, splashing more coffee and chocolate and coconut flakes, right, I added coconut flakes, around my kitchen. My feet are now sticking to the floor, and I've got dustings of brown powder on my gut, since I decided, in observance of my 91-degree apartment, to assemble these cookies in a bra and shorts.

Of course I don't even want the cookies. I've finished making them--rolled them up into little balls, which I then doused in more coconut, and ceremoniously garnished with a single almond each. Put them in the refrigerator because the author who says you can eat them at room temperature is from Northern Canada, for Christ's sake, and doesn't have to confront heat as not only a comfort issue, but an alterer of all alterable matter.

I leave them in my father's apartment in a tupperware container. After one day, he asks me to take them away and leave him just a few.

"Give some to your buddies," he says, my father being the kind of man who sees anyone as a potential "buddy," and certainly someone to share with. "I ate three of them yesterday, which I don't need to do." With a kind of routine cuteness, my father finishes every meal with "something sweet," which he searches his kitchen for absently, as though this is the first time in his life that the notion of dessert has ever occurred to him.

For lunch I assemble a salad of white beans, radishes, romaine, and balsamic vinegar. Then the avocado on Wasa crackers with cumin. And a Roma tomato, cut into wedges with olive oil and sea salt. I think of my father, how he didn't "need" three cookies, and eating my tomato, consider how easily I could eat three more just like it. Consider that two years ago I wouldn't have trusted my own attentiveness to know what it was I wanted to eat. (My ring finger was stitched up, but there was permanent nerve damage.) Maybe I wouldn't have even trusted my hand to be light enough with the olive oil.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lily Eats

Letter to Adrian

Make no mistake--I'm still eating. Last night, I cooked for the girl I'm going around with and a girl who I'm such friends' friends with. Delicata squash stuffed with cinnamon-baked apples. Raw kale salad with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and brown rice miso. Polenta simmered shapeless in vegetable stock and baby bellas. And then antipastis Alix and I picked out, preciously, too excited to stop: Green fat olives, sundried tomatoes, organic mozzarella, pesto-asiago bread. Val is a health-head who can't be in the land of our cigarette smoke without commenting, and Alix was wild-eyed, just having woken up from a two-hour nap that should have been eight. The cat, Domino, was the only creature totally comfortable, and when she became curious about my plate, I shredded some squash and left it low for her to pick at.

It's the first meal coming back into this groove. For a while, we forgot how to cook in Baltimore--for the slow, sharp winter months we only knew that we couldn't be home for long, and we couldn't stand outside. So we established ourselves as regulars at a cafe humming with colors and a tight-knit staff who tell us what's what. When I craved something outside of myself, I ordered taco salad, and Jill just shook her head in refusal. "No, you don't want that," she told me.

But now it's getting warmer, though if spring in Baltimore gets any more maudlin they may as well stick a feather in its cap and call it January all over again. It's getting warmer and, uprooting ourselves from thawed ground, we realize we have hands again. We realize that when we eat we're the ones eating and so we may as well make something of it. We've been using up refrigerator leftovers--Alix and I ate leftover bagels from my job with vegan cream cheese and California veggie burgers. "Something," I said. "Something tastes ever so slightly of garbage."

But there are moments of our old triumph. Sleep has become sporadic, a habit, kind of like flossing. In some twenty year olds there is a terror that if you go to sleep, you will miss something. So we've been catching it where we can, and in the silence following a nap, Alix came to the side of the bed and woke me saying, "Lily. There's chocolate cake, Lily," and I came to the kitchen thunder-headed and still dropping with sleep, to a triangle of plain chocolate cake and a glass of water, and I'm learning (for these moments) how to say Salud in as many languages as I can find.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adrian Eats

The Lobster Roll

Fine food is not exactly a virtue on the East Coast. They've got more pressing things to deal with, which is to say big coats, long nights, and generally making the world spin. Usually the quality is bad but the heart is good, and there is little more to ask for. You cannot think about food here, you must imagine it. There is no point to comparing the coasts. The bottom line is that there are things which are thrilling to taste and touch in New York, and they are usually filmy, fatty, and full of cornstarch. According to location, fantasies appropriate, shape-shift, and sometimes you are struck with visions of the perfect lobster roll.

Even the sound of it is surreal. The pliability of a doughy roll and the red armor of that wild crustacean, together on a bed of coleslaw. Lily came to visit last week for a couple of days. It was grey, and the air was heavy, wet, but not very cold. She wore a hat because she shaved her head again, but I went without stockings. We walked from Bed-Stuy to Red Hook, and then all around the south leg of Brooklyn. I told her I'd been thinking about lobster rolls again, though I'd never had one -- that creamy meat on a creepy shore seemed just right. She said she'd give up being vegan for a weekend just to dine with me. As we entered Red Hook it began to rain, and we walked slowly. We smoked about one cigarette an hour until we reached the waterfront where the old trolleys are parked and rusting. The ocean was chalky and flat. I bought a lobster roll from the counter at Fairway and we sat in the protected plastic awning, side by side. From our bench we could see the Statue of Liberty, the soft rain, Hoboken. Lily's perfectly culled digestive tract about to give up everything for a moment of charity and sisterhood with me.

It was no more than a Wonderbread hotdog bun. A pile of pink lobster meat mixed with paprika, mayo, who knows what. Underneath it was thick, crunchy cole slaw, a whole heap, and with lots of fennel. Then potato chips. Our feet were damp. We traded off, one bite at a time. It was delicious, the best thing. The meat was so creamy and sweet, and the cabbage was real -- scooped up with the dark orange chips. We both kept looking at each other with shared gastronomical peace. Outside it could've been the Oregon Coast, except for Lady Liberty, who was closer to us there than any other point in the five boroughs.

There are only two ways to get to Red Hook: in on Van Brunt St, and out on Smith. The BQE really made a world out of it when Robert Moses engineered that last leg of the expressway which snips off the neighborhood perfectly. Trying to find our way out later, we ducked into a sandwich shop and asked directions of two cops standing in line.

The cop looked at me blankly. "Oh, I don't know. We're not from around here -- we're from Brooklyn."

"Wait, no, I mean, we're in Brooklyn," the second cop said. "But we're from the other part of Brooklyn, you know?"

"You got dat right," said another man with a phlegmy, gravelly laugh. "It's a different universe ova' heah!"

Everyone laughed except for the cops.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chanelle Eats

We are pleased to present guest-writer, Chanelle Bergeron. Chanelle is is a poet and retired competitive swimmer. She is nebulous, as is her poetic wont. Her verse has been said to be a nebulizer, in that it delivers a fine and delirious mist inhaled as a relief for asthmatic constitutions. She frequently conspires with other officials of The Corresponding Society, has participated in a meadow of related happenings, and her work is featured in Correspondence No. 1, 2 and 3. For some considerable time she did reside in a teepee. She is an autodidactic student of botany. (Bio from The Corresponding Society).


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)

2 ripe Anjou pears, peeled, seeded & cored

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.

Lily Eats

Confessions about Turmeric

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

Adrian Eats

The Sabbath

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 Division Street drowned out my pleas for them to stop. I was laughing, my arms gone limp. My boss watched from the window. I suddenly didn’t care. I could do this until dark. Austin and Peter played louder, dancing in circles, but they had changed the lyrics: A-D-R-I-A-N, Aaaadrian.

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 Burnside Bridge, and pay for a five dollar, ten-gallon utility bucket of day-olds: grape flavored, maple and bacon, Butterfinger. We’d take the bucket to a twenty-four-hour coffee shop, purchase coffees all around, and take a seat by the window that faced the train station. We’d continue digging through the bucket: butter horn, blueberry, Fruit Loops stuck to the frosting. Austin and I sat on the overstuffed couch and talked until three, happy to let the conversation go on forever. The nights felt endless, the talking never lost its pleasure as long as we didn’t move from our spot. There was a feeling of holiness, of being in exactly the right place, our teeth sunk into cake. The coffee shop was in Portland's Chinatown, where all the methadone clinics are, and we'd hand out doughnuts to the homeless people waiting in the bus mall. We’d catch the night-owl busses home, and one of us always ended up stuck with the empty bucket.

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 Austin, “You never know when you’re in the thick of something."

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. Austin jumped around the table shaking a maraca, trying to get us excited, though it only darkened the mood when no one stirred. We ran into a friend, and he tagged along, using Austin’s guitar to play Bob Dylan songs, but half-heartedly. We were bored of those songs. They weren’t even the ones we liked to play.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lily Eats


We ran into Ray Ray at the farmer's market. He was overseeing four or five trash cans, filling rapidly with compost that people brought from home--in five-gallon buckets, tupperware, whatever they had. Eggshells, banana peels, all the concealed textures of winter. Ray handed Adrian and I each a "Buddha Box" that played chants at different pitches, and we marveled at how if you put one in your back pocket, you could think it was coming from far away. "Lina thought she was hearing singing from a mosque," Adrian told him, "until she realized the noise was following her up the stairs with you."

So we wandered around the stalls at Ft. Greene. Heated tents filled with kimchi, oysters sold off of a wood-slatted table, hydroponic lettuce that Adrian jumped at. I got kale--"though, A, I'm not sure it'll work, it's not the right kind"--a carrot big as two of my fists, Yukon golds, we said goodbye to Ray Ray by the food scraps.

Adrian had to get to work at the Karrot, so Lina and I went to lunch at Zaytoon's. We tried to avoid it ("It's what we always do," she said, and I though, I've been to New York only three times in the last year) by going to Maggie Brown's instead, but the wait was an hour long. So we sat over our friendly neighborhood lentil soup, with dark cumin and squeeze-your-own lemon wedges, and it was halfway through the basket of hot pita that we realized neither of us would have room for the sandwiches we'd ordered. They came out and we felt lame or unnecessary or foolish or still hungry even if we weren't hungry--so we took a few token bites, and Lina biked to work, and I set back to their apartment with the spare keys Adrian had given me.

The lentils weren't what I was used to. They were red, and I wondered if the discolorations were normal, before telling myself, it's probably like tempeh. It's fine. I boiled potatoes in two small pots, worried that they'd overflow if I tried to cook them all together. Chopped vegetables on a white cutting board stained with avocado Adrian and I had eaten earlier with melba toast--onions, carrot, a cucumber because Adrian had no zucchini. And half the food drained, the other cracking on the stove, two or three tablespoons of tomato paste, a quick run into Adrian's bedroom, to jump on her bed, throw my torso out the window, and pick thyme from the herb garden on her fire-escape.

When the boys arrived, the oven was preheating. There were some sharp pounds at the door, I opened it to four men I haven't seen in at least as many months. Who I knew would be coming, and still I was so surprised to see, I just said, "Adrian's not here." (As though, what? I wasn't going to let them in?) "That's fine," they said, and charged in, immediately took over the living room. Sweeney grabbed a book off the shelf and someone said something about how the apartment smelled nice. I thanked them and retreated to the kithen, half-mashing undercooked potatoes with a fork, till they all announced they were going out as quickly as they came, to the hat store.

Greg stayed behind--I guess he already has a hat--and asked me two or three times if he could help with anything. Something about not knowing any measurements, or the distance between anything in Adrian and Lina's kitchen, kept me from accepting. Instead, he read sporadic passages to me from a book about Russian Freemasonry, the description of an elaborate initiation ritual which was agonizingly concrete until he got to the part where the novice had to drink from "a cup of evil." Buried alive we get. Paddling we get. A cup of evil? I shredded the kale from its stalk, chopped it finely, streaks of dirt beneath it on the cutting board.

They returned from buying caps, already stealing each others' instead of wearing their own. Adrian back from the Karrot, the food was in any way hot by now. I finished up with the Corresponding Society rushing around me to start their meeting--my hands deep in a soup pot filled with kale, since there was no bowl big enough. Minced garlic, olive oil, a little bit of lemon juice. The shepherd's pie resting on the front burners of the gas stove. Everyone helped themselves onto enormous plates, because there were no human-sized ones, and anyways, we've all got to be giants once in a while. The pie was bland, but no one said anything, except me, and then Adrian and I told each other how it was silly to blush over a thing like that. She'd told me the meal she cooked for me the night before was bland, too, and really, we both know that doesn't mean anything. Still I felt like I was standing over the onions again, my face firing, trying to explain how it tasted different when I made it in Baltimore. "It tastes like potatoes, and lentils, and tomato," she told me. What bland? "If you meant that it's not spicy, then no, it's not."

But the kale is satisfying in any condition. Because it's vital. Because it feels nourishing to eat a thing raw you'd always thought you had to steam to hell and back before it was digestible.

Raw Kale Salad
1 bunch kale
2 cloves garlic
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of coarse sea salt
juice of 1/4-1/2 lemon (to taste)

-Rinse the kale leaves thoroughly. When clean, tear all leaves off the stalks into a bowl.
-Chop or rip leaves into smallest pieces you can manage.
-Add olive oil (1 Tbsp at first, more later if you need it), garlic, and lemon juice.
-Massage for up to five minutes, add sea salt, massage to distribute.
-Serve at room temperature if you have ten hands reaching into the pot, but chilled if you can ward them off while it refrigerates.
I ate a little bit, less than everyone else. Even Sweeney ate three servings, trying in earnest to become full with no meat. In the end, though, he said he needed a fried chicken sandwich, and that was that. "I think I'm allergic to all these vegetables," he said gravely. The meeting went on in the next room, I tried to entertain myself play-cleaning the warm kitchen, but I'd been at it too long. I sat on Adrian's bed, pulled the door shut, and smoked out the cold window, writing about what I wanted, and what that meant about me. Till Adrian herself popped in, red hearts all over a white dress, and asked me to help her in the kitchen. I put candles in a ring around a cake that Dave made, decorated like a NY-style black and white cookie. Too many candles at first, because Adrian miscounted and bought an extra box, I smoothed the extra holes out with a butter knife while she zested lemons into the tops of martinis. Since they had decided not to drink, "except a warm-up," until the meeting was finished, I supposed the gin marked the end. Dave stood at the doorway, growled effectively at Sweeney that he just couldn't come in the kitchen. Till I walked out into the wood paneling, and turned the lights out on their conversation with no warning, and Adrian had to re-ignite a few candles with the cake already in front of Sweeney before he could blow them out.

And the rest of the weekend was the vortex I remember. More gin and less vermouth, I almost walked into traffic and after Dave pulled me back, he apologized. "No," I said, "thank you." Not wanting to say, If the people around me would only let me, I'd walk into nearly every car I see. I told Mary Kate that I remembered sitting on the grass with her, and someone else, maybe Robby, while she ate vegetables out of a tupperware container. Hugged Robert Balkovich with no reservations and told him I love Fleetwood Mac now. Made coffee Sunday morning in Adrian's turquoise leggings and a yellow Pratt t-shirt she'd used to be a lion for Halloween.

And if anyone knows yet how I am about goodbyes, it's the New Yorkers. I walked all the way with them to breakfast, stood outside finishing my cigarette, while the waiters rearranged the diner to accommodate so many tired poets, and some fully awake, and one still drunk. Stood there with them, hugged everyone on the sidewalk, and told them to give my best to the few back inside. I walked back with no breakfast, and I was starving by the time I reached Lina's to collect my things and say goodbye. I ate half a vegetable kabob sandwich, screeching about polyamory and driving cross-country, one foot always a pivot for me to jump up from the table.

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?"

"Yeah," I said. "I figured, I drank gin last night, I drink Emergen-C today. It balances out."

"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."

We entered Baltimore at an odd angle, and we both sat marveling with no idea where the hell we were. It's funny, and I don't know which city it speaks to. How someone goes to New York for the first time, and someone goes back to New York after a long time. And they both come back to Baltimore and don't recognize a single thing until they're on the sidewalk again, with their brother's face saying, I guess this looks right.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Adrian Eats

How to Eat Poorly

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

Lily Eats

In pictured

"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

Adrian Eats

The Strawberry Cake

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 Bordeaux were hot and dry. I would wake up sweating last night’s dinner, and feel sunlight, listen to the father pulling away over gravel in their old Saab on his way to work, murmuring to their black lab. I never would have known the storms from dreams if the sister hadn’t mentioned it when she offered me Coco Puffs that first morning. Coup de foud. She pressed her lips together not knowing what else to say, kissed both my cheeks, and left me on the veranda without a spoon.

A day before, the entire family met me at the Bruges train station, each offering to carry one of my things. I turned to the mother and tried to say “I’ve been awake for forty-eight hours” but I used the verb “to wake-up” instead, and she gave me a curved smile. Their house was cool inside, and from their kitchen table I could see stars rising in the still-blue sky out the front window. They stood around me while I clutched the baguette and the strange, gray butter they’d offered as a sandwich. “In America, bread is sliced,” I said. They looked concerned. I couldn’t remember the word for slice, and we volleyed words, growing louder and louder until the father said, Tranche! and the brother reached out, chopped my baguette in two, spread the mousse, and showed me to my room.

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 Paris: a tiny canvas under a high ceiling, blocked by the digital camera flashes of a thousand Japanese tourists. I did not freeze up.) Grocery shopping with the mother one day, I froze in the produce aisle, remembering only the word for “avocado” after she’d asked me a question. J’aime des avocats.

Geraniums sat in clay pots on the windowsills of each stucco prefab in Bruges. Walls were rarely painted or varnished, and kitchen floors were often bare concrete. We had dinner at the aunt’s house outside of Saint- Émilion, and ate enormous pepper quarters sopping with olive oil, pork loin, and watercress. All the framework and beams were exposed except for the bedroom where the grandmother slept: is it your mother, or your husband’s? I kept asking. Every time she told me, she rolled her eyes thinking I didn’t understand for her accent (Pardon?), but I really just didn’t understand.

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.

was not divided in grids, but nebulous, and the sidewalks were cobblestone. The only way to navigate was to have been born there, which I was not. At dinner parties, family friends spoke at great lengths about their regional history, and which vineyard each wine came from, and which region each cheese was found when the plate au fromage was served. On weekdays, everyone left work or school and two hours for lunch together. Afterwards we sipped tiny cups of Turkish coffee around some table, eating chocolates or wax-coated canellas.

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 France. Though I never felt such a strong desire to eat something ever again, it fashioned my relationship to food, deepening one of my senses by having lost access to another.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lily Eats


I had woken up early to give Nick a ride to work, but he had decided to walk. Wanting to avoid the idle feeling of a girl just playing records in some man's apartment while he's at work, I felt my way to the kitchen (it was light out already, but early, and I am young). It was nine o'clock, and I knew Ian wouldn't wake up for some time. About an hour, I guessed, judging by the mornings when he'd stumble into Nick's room, mountain hair and cigarette, and we'd three prepare for our different days, sunlight from 25th Street ringing against the turrets.

So there was time. I started with coffee, brought as a gift from my job, finely ground, the bean to convince me that coffees lighter than French roast could be worth a damn. We don't always want to hear that there are worlds beyond mud or water. I threw the old filter out with immediate renewal. As with all percolators different from my own, I walked blindly and purposefully into the measurements, probably adding more coffee and less water than I should. But you know the song: How you hit the START button and the scent is in the air at once. Like it's already brewed and been waiting for you to catch up.

I began a survey of the larder. I knew it would have to be almost all protein to start the morning; I had reached a point of no-oats-no-more. But the eggs would have to come last, they'd cook almost instantly, and there was so much time. So, with half audacity, half leisure, I picked up the odds and ends of breakfast where I felt like it. From a blue box, I found a block of cheese with mold sprouting on the north side, and grated a zealous amount onto the cutting board. I scrubbed out several pans that had seen better days and would probably see worse. The avocado appeared unredeemable, but what's brown is not necessarily bad, and I salvaged a fair pile of it, once bits of the rotting pit were separated. I couldn't tell if the brush was to scrub vegetables or dishes, so I washed three potatoes in the balls of my hands, palming away the dirt and setting them to drain beside the sink with plates.

I had made my peace that a sweet onion and can of diced tomatoes were to serve as seasoning. It wasn't ideal, but sometimes we all go to war with no shoes. And I reasoned there was plenty of pepper and our waking taste buds to improve what was lacking. But searching for a bowl to begin scrambling eggs in, and wondering whether or not I should fry bread, there appeared to me a whole shelf of faded spices. Cayenne that had lost its kick. Rosemary at the bottom of the jar. Grocery-store basil, which always means basil that smells like a pizzeria and not an herb. And an unsealed baggie of oregano, which I revived by crushing it between my fingers. This is how you settle an argument, I thought, sprinkling it over the potatoes while they drank up olive oil faster than I could pour.

Ian stumbled in around then, surprised at the meal nearly awaiting him, and I said, Sure, I'd love a cigarette. We talked for a while over the chilling coffee, about how the perfect housewife cooks and swears, and the liquid from the cheese that wasn't going to cook off the eggs no matter how long I let them go. That didn't taste so bad once you accepted it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Claire Eats

We're pleased to announce another guest post today. A true out-of-towner (for our purposes, someone who doesn't live in Brooklyn or Baltimore), world traverser and tea aficionado Claire Phelan has contributed a piece to What I Ate Where. She usually keeps her own court at http://everythingisruinedforever.tumblr.com/ but we've happily procured one of her stories.

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.