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Category Archives: Food

Year of the Pig/Year Of The Challenges

Can I show you something a minute?

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Know what those are?

Those are fresh pork wontons.

But not just any fresh pork wontons.  Those are fresh pork wontons that were made by my own two reckless and foolhardy hands.

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I used a recipe from the cookbook I told myself I’d delve into more this year; there’s also a batch of sauce using the Sichuan chili oil I made the other week to go with them. I made only half the recipe but still have about 75 little nuggets of pork and ginger, most of which got sent to the freezer for longer-term storage and future use.  But one tray of them is waiting for Alex to get home from whereever he is, at which point I will probably jump up grinning at him wildly and say “oh hi great let me turn the water on sit down this will be ready in about ten minutes eat this.”  And best of all, I think out of the entire batch, there’s only one that might have a little bit of a structural integrity and leaking issue.

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Behold the rewards of overconfidence, spare time and a $2.99 pack of wonton skins.

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Adventures In Condiments

So one of the first recipes I wanted to tackle in the Chinese cookbook was a staple condiment – a chili oil, which is made by simmering dried chilis and a dried whole orange peel in simmering peanut oil.  It’d be shelf-stable, it’s good as a seasoning for dipping sauces for dumplings, and it’d use up some dried Thai chiles I somehow had in my pantry.

The only problem was that I had to actually grind most of the chiles – finely.  Well, that is, the actual grinding itself wasn’t the problem; I have a coffee grinder that I use exclusively for grinding spices (protip – to clean out a coffee grinder, throw in a handful of plain white rice after and grind that into a powder, then dump out the powder and wipe the rest of it clean).  Three passes with the grinder, one handful at a go, gave me the amount I needed.

The problem came with the fact that grinding chiles produces clouds of dried chile smoke as a side effect; and even though I had two fans going and let the grinder sit for a good long moment before opening it, I still ended up coughing and hacking and dry-heaving in my kitchen.

I also came very very close to wiping my eyes with my bare hands.  This is never a good idea with chiles; I once somehow got jalapeno juice up my nose and had to spend the next several minutes with milk-soaked Q-tips shoved into one nostril to quell the fire.  Today I can tell that I somehow must have rubbed the corner of my mouth.

….This chili oil damn well better be good.

Well THAT Was Easy

…So, uh, I think I may have the next job lined up already.  We’ve done the deal verbally, still waiting for the paperwork.

Job hunting is never fun for anyone, but for me it’s especially fraught because the first time I ever really had to devote attention to such a search was right after the financial collapse of 2008/2009.  Before that I sort of stumbled into both a day job and all my theater gigs pretty quickly; my very first post-college job came via a call from my university’s internship office that came the morning after graduation, and I just stuck with the person helming that particular project for the next eight years.  Then I kicked up the theater career and signed up for temping, and got easily placed in spots for about ten more years, with one gig lasting four years alone (and it probably would have gone on even longer if the economy had lasted).  So the first time I ever tried to deliberately look for a job was in 2009, when such a search usually dragged on for months and months while your savings dwindled and your debt soared and you were living on ramen.  That…was kind of a scarring experience.

So I was girding my loins for a very, very lean year while I was searching – only to have this come along in under a month.  And I realized that my last job search was also comparatively quick.  It’s given me food for thought – and the space to dream a little bigger.  I’m still going to stay put at this new place for a good while (even when it’s fast, job searches suck), but I’m also seeing that this is letting me turn my attention back to “hey, you were going to try eating out more” and “ooh now you can get wonton skins, didn’t you want to use that cookbook more?”

Part of the idea behind the Year Of Challenges was just to get myself out and moving around more – because that’s how you find more connections and more things to involve yourself in out in the wider world.   Life doesn’t have to just be a slog to your job and then a slog home, and I had forgotten that.

Case in point – I was looking for a place to see one of this year’s Best Picture nominees, and discovered a little teeny community space up in Greenpoint was showing a couple.  I went out to one last night – it’s a tiiiiiiny theater space, which they also use for art galleries and video gaming contests, with an equally-cozy coffee house as well.  There were only four of us there for the movie, so the guy behind the concessions counter came in to offer us all a free glass of wine as well, for the heck of it.  I was intrigued enough by the space that I chatted with the staff for a few minutes after, even suggesting a couple films.  But it got me thinking, as I was heading home, that if I ever wanted to launch some kind of a local movie event, they might be down with that….

I mean, I’m still a train, two busses and about fifteen bucks in a cab away from doing that.  But the fact that I even was thinking along those lines is a sign of hope that I haven’t felt in a long, long time.

When To Yield To A More Comfortable Challenge

So today is the first Saturday of the month.  Which means that the Brooklyn Museum is going to be doing its “First Saturday” event tonight; the museum will be free all night, and they’ll have lots of special events planned.  This is also something that I was challenging myself to attend each month this year.

I am going to throw in the towel on this challenge for February and blow it off.

Hear me out though. I’ve had something of eventful couple days; my heat failed on me right when the polar vortex was chilling everything down, I’ve had a couple of interesting developments at the old job (upshot: I’m staying on an extra month for….reasons), and I had kinda-sorta-maybe a super promising job lead.  So for three days I’ve been pingponging between confirming details about one job before dressing up to meet someone about another job and then coming home to let in the super before running back out to notarize something and picking up insulating stuff on the way home, stopping at a place to print my resume, and…yeah.

So this morning, when I had the urge to take my first cup of coffee back to bed, I gave in and did so. And stayed there.  I did not get out of bed until about 1 pm and I am still in pajamas three hours later.  Clearly, leaving the house and being social is not something I want to do today.

….I am going to leave the house briefly, though, because I’m going to do something else instead.  Sometime yesterday, as I was in between everything, I had the sudden thought that “….I really want cake.”

More specifically, I wanted to bake a cake.  Not a super-fancy elaborate thing with lots of frosting and filligreed decorations or anything, just….an unfussy, plain cake, something that would last in the house about a week and people could cut slices off casually as the need or craving arose.  Something that can live inside this.

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I’ve never had a proper cake tin in my life.  I’ve also never really needed one; but I spoiled myself a little in November, since I was baking a ton for a friend’s Friendsgiving dinner, and went out in search of Things To Easily Carry Cakes In (When You Only Have A Lyft).  The shop I went to had a major sale on proper cake tins, though, and while I would have told you I was getting this “because the handle is practical”, I really got it because it looks so….homey, like it’s the kind of thing that belongs to someone who bakes a whole cake every week just because it’s nice to have cake hanging about the house.

And – well, who says I can’t be that person?  I’ve already been starting to think in terms of simple weekly cooking plans, partly for economy and partly for simplicity; make like a single quiche and a couple of soups to last me all week, and each dinner is just mixing and matching a slice of the quiche and a soup, or a soup and some green salad and bread, or the quiche and a salad….yadda yadda.  For dessert, I was thinking I’d just make do with cookies or some fruit or something.  But…cake would also work too.

So – instead of the Brooklyn Museum, this evening is going to be all about baking something simple and chocolatey and homey and cutting myself off a slice and tucking the rest of it into this and then having that waiting for me as a reward over the course of the rest of this week, and I think I kind of need that.

State Of The Kim: Of Resolutions And Rejuvenation

So I’ve recovered from the employment shock a bit, and I think I’m going to be okay.  I dove into job-hunt mode for a few days and have stashed a whole ton of irons into the fire, I have a bit of a game plan set into motion and I even have the promise of some temporary income streams coming in that will sustain me for at least the next two or three months.  In fact, the prospect of the next two or three weeks potentially being “downtime” actually sounds…attractive, instead of being a cause for blind panic.  I’m still going to be browsing job postings every day, but I’m also going to be going on long walks with my camera, checking out local museums with “free weekday” deals, and Marie Kondo-ing the hell out of a couple closets.

Best of all – since most of the challenges I set up for myself in the Year Of Challenges  don’t involve any cash outlay, I can stick with it. Maybe temporarily tweak a couple of them and make up for it later.

In fact, let’s check in on how I did in January.

  • Visit a New Neighborhood: ….Er, I haven’t just yet.  I may save the “January” plan for the first week of February to distract myself from the first couple days of “oh crap I don’t have a job to go to today”.
  • Eat lunch at a restaurant in my neighborhood:  I think I can be excused this. I may also have to put this on hold for a couple months, and double up when I’m in funds again. But there’s a fish sandwich place that opened up on my actual block last week that I have my eye on as the first visit.
  • Reading Challenge: now, this is interesting. I initially signed up and planned to do the Penguin Books UK Classic Reading Challenge, thinking that there was going to be a specified list of books they’d mapped out for the month.  But when two weeks elapsed and I never saw any notice about that, I finally just scoured my own bookshelves and gathered a little stack of Things I’m Meaning To Read and dove into that instead.  But then just when I was finishing the first book….I finally got an email from Penguin, with January’s title on their Classics challenge.  And….so I read both.  I think I may just keep going at that rate – one from my own stack, then one from Penguin.  This first month, the first book was Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis – an unusual construction, sort of like a cross between Memento and Benjamin Button, but with Nazis.  (I have made total hash of that description, but trust me, it’s applicable.)  Penguin suggested Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! which was…alright, but a little too hand-over-heart embrace-the-salt-of-the-earth for my taste.  But – that’s double the success rate on the reading challenge.  Go me!
  • Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturday: Yep, did that. Didn’t avail myself of any of the special events they have each time, but I rarely do anyway; I tend to prefer to visit some of my own favorite corners. Although I was drawn to a couple quirky things on display; there’s a retrospective of the museum’s feminist art collection there, and one of the pieces was a series by the artist Wendy Red Star, who found a series of five photos taken of Crow tribe chiefs in the 19th Century at a time when they were visiting Washington DC to negotiate land rights. Wendy Red Star’s work is a series of extensive notations on each photo, describing some of the symbolic elements of each chief’s attire and giving details about their lives.
  • Chinese Cookbook: ….So, I’m cutting myself slack on this for this month. My grocery list for the next few weeks is going to have to be trimmed and simplified, so I don’t quite have the money to spend on some of the specialty ingredients I’d have to buy for this (a shame, as I had my eye on making wontons).  However, there are some recipes that can be made using regular supermarket fare, and I just need to find those and then re-launch.  However, I have another cooking challenge I’m going to add to make up for it:
  • NEW Soup Cookbook Challenge. I also have another overlooked cookbook, this one concerning simple seasonal soups; it’s written by an actual monk, sharing recipes from his own kitchen at his actual monastery, so there’s also an intrinsic frugality there.  I’ve used this one a little more – but there are still quite a few recipes I’ve never tried.   So I’m also going to dive into that one over the course of the coming year.  Brother Victoire-Antoine also helpfully organizes the book with a separate chapter for each month of the year, so I can keep track.  (Coming up in February: mostly bean and vegetable soups, mostly French.  I’m down.)
  • Five Photos every weekend: Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.  We’ve had a couple of BITTER cold weekends, but I’ve still stuck with at least picking up the camera and trying to find photo material indoors.  Also, I’m not so hung up on the “five photos” part as I am on the “every weekend” part; one weekend I only took three photos, but at least I took photos.  Last weekend I also signed up for a “photo walk” with a local photographer and birder; it was a friendly group of people who’d gone on walks with him before, and me, so the focus was mostly on people just diving in and taking pictures.  Exactly what I needed.  He led us on a ramble through some of the residential back corners of Coney Island, finishing with a stroll down the boardwalk back towards the subways. And I found a wealth of subjects…
  • Hike: According to my Fitbit the walk around Coney Island Creek counts as a hike, so there.
  • Craft Projects: I finished something!!! I have been working on a throw blanket for a couple years now; I’d had the yarn salvaged from a more complicated throw blanket kit I’d purchased some years ago, started, and decided I didn’t want to fiddle with it.  But that left me with a couple oddball balls of yarn that wouldn’t really work in other things; it’s a weird sort of fuzzy yarn, really lightweight and fuzzy, so not suitable for a garment. But the quantity was just enough for a simpler lap blanket, which is finally done and gracing the living room. img_5439

(Repost) September’s Process

(This is a rerun of something I wrote in 2014.  I still have nothing more to add when it comes to my reaction to the anniversary of 9/11.)

Ask the farmer to transfer the tomatoes from their box to a bunch of bags. Wince as he packs the bags too full; they’ll crush easier. Carefully tuck them into the cart, and start home, wincing again as you hit each tiny rut and bump in the sidewalk.   Grab a bag of ice as you pass the deli on your street.  Wince again, and add a groan, when you get home and realize that what with the cart, the bags of tomatoes, and the ice, you’re going to have to make more than one trip up and down the four flights of stairs to your place.  Sigh and get to it.

My local farmers’ market has a “canners’ special” each year – a bushel of tomatoes, sold cheap to those wanting to put things up. I’ve been picking up a box every year since about 2011 – it seems to be just enough to last yearlong, with about a dozen cans of tomatoes and a couple jars of fresh tomato juice each time, and the process is messy and annoying enough that I only do want to do it once.

A few years ago I got into the habit of scheduling this ordeal for the anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks.

Clean out the sink first.  You’ll need an empty sink for the dishes after, and you’ll also need it for the ice water bath when you’re peeling the tomatoes.

Weigh out your tomatoes, laying them into little clusters on the dining room table – six pounds each. Save aside the ones that crushed on the way, to make tomato sauce and salsa to keep in the fridge right away.  Throw out the couple of fungus-y tomatoes that managed to sneak into the bushel.  Fetch enough empty jars from that top shelf in the kitchen, and dig through the pile of canning supplies trying to find enough lids.  Steal a couple from the teeny jars you have in the closet.

Dig out the big stock pot you got from your cousins 20 Christmases ago. Tuck in the first of your canning jars, and fill the whole thing, jars and all, with water.  Set that to boil while you dig out the other two big soup pots – fill one with water, and start that boiling while you fill up the sink and dump in part of the bag of ice.

Different cabinet now – dig out the big mixing bowl and balance a colander on top.  Shuffle the bowl and pans around on your counter while you’re waiting for all the water to boil.   It’s already getting hot.  Look at how many dishes this is already using.  Sigh.

Canning is just complicated and frustrating enough to lure me from the thoughts I’d otherwise have this day; it’s busywork, keeping me at a low level of distraction and giving me something else to be cranky at.  It also gives me an excuse to shut myself away from people.  But it’s not so intricate that I can’t recover if I do, despite myself, slip into memory.

I was in New York City that day; I was on “standby” with my temp agency, dressed and waiting just in case they got a last-minute call so they could send me right out.   So I was at home that morning, and I lived close enough to the Towers that I heard the impact of both planes as they hit.

The reason I was on standby, though, was because the day before I’d missed a call from my agency asking if I was available for something starting on the 11th.  By the time I called them back, they’d already given it to someone else.  It wasn’t until the evening of the 11th that I remembered that my agency had a lot of clients in the Twin Towers – so it was very possible that if I’d taken that job, I’d have been one of the people in the Towers that day.

Drop the first few tomatoes into the smaller pot of boiling water.  Realize you forgot to set a timer, curse and do so.  Wait.  Start madly scooping tomatoes into the sink ice bath when 30 seconds is (sort of) up.  Wait thirty more seconds – more or less – and grab a tomato from the sink, juggling it in your hands a little.  Still hot.  But the skin is fortunately slipping off.  Peel it over the colander and dig out the tough core with your fingers, dropping skin and seeds and tomato goodge into it as you do. Crush the meat in your hands and dump it into the second pot.

Notice, as you reach for a second tomato, that you’ve squirted juice onto the side of the fridge.  Swear.  Try to dig the peel off the second tomato.  This one’s more stubborn.  Swear again.  And then again when you squirt tomato down your shirt front.

Look at the remaining tomatoes in the sink, and then over at the 14 pounds you haven’t even gotten to yet.  Swear again.

Sometimes my not having been in the Towers feels like a copout.  We hear a lot from the First Responders and their families; the next of kin of the victims; the military.  We don’t hear as much about the experiences of the ordinary schlubs like me – people whose experience with 9/11 was only in coping with the city’s aftermath.  I didn’t know anyone in the Towers, I wasn’t there myself, no one I know died.  What’s my problem?

But even if no person I know died, the place was badly wounded.  For three months I tried to ignore the smell of smoke hanging over everything – the fire at Ground Zero was still going, and that meant that something was still fueling that fire, and I didn’t want to think too hard about just what that fuel may be.  I also tried to ignore the “Missing Person” posters that blanketed every single wall and bulletin board and lamppost with their futility.  And the shrines in front of each police precinct and firehouse, a small pile of dead flowers and burnt-out bodega candles clustered against the side of the building near a taped-up few pictures of smiling cops or firemen.  You saw these things ever once in a while before, of course, when one guy or another was killed in action.  But this time it was every precinct that had one, every fire house that had one.

The president and the mayor were trying to tell us all to go about our business and get back to normal.  But there were some long and lingering signs pointing to the fact that things were not normal.  Not at all.

The pot full of jars is boiling, so start simmering the crushed tomato on the stove and start fishing jars out of the pot, carefully dumping the water back in.  Dole a spoonful of citric acid and a spoon of salt into each jar.  Get the idea to tuck sprigs of oregano into a couple jars and clip some off your oregano plant in the window.

Ladle the tomato carefully into each jar.  Swear again when you overfill one and have to scoop some out.  Wipe all the jar rims.  Start to wipe the counter while you’re at it but then realize you’re just getting started so why bother.  Screw the lids on each jar, holding each one gingerly from the heat.  Grab each jar with the funky tong thingies you got just for canning jars, praying you don’t drop anything as you carefully lower them back into the still-boiling stock pot.

Set the timer for a half hour when the stock pot’s full.  Consider sitting down for a bit, but sigh and start peeling the next pile of tomatoes.

Even in the weeks immediately after the attacks, I found myself more angry at other Americans than I was at the attackers.  My friend Colin and I had a discussion shortly after, about “what would you do if Osama Bin Laden was in this room right now?”  And honestly, the most I would have done is smacked him like Cher did to Nic Cage in Moonstruck and asked, “what the hell was that?”  Even today, I can’t entirely escape the thought that Bin Laden and the attackers were not sane.  I would no more blame them for acting while under the influence of extreme religious fundamentalism than I would blame a rabid dog – neither knew any better.

However, our country did know better when we started a war under false pretenses with the wrong damn country, one which we are still fighting today.

Even worse are the politicians who preach platitudes about supporting the brave first responders who risked their lives during the attacks – but then turn around and cancel bills meant to give those first responders support for their health care.  Or the regular people online who blanket Facebook and Twitter and such every September 11th with Photoshopped pictures of the Twin Towers and eagles and flags and the “Never Forget” slogan in sparklefont – but then go back to slagging New Yorkers as “libtards” the very next day.  Both those camps are people who are exploiting the worst day of my life to make themselves look good to others, and I have very little patience for that.

The person I got the angriest at, though, was a man who came up to me on the street two days after the attacks.  I was standing near my neighborhood’s local mosque, and he was walking past and saw me there, came over to me, and nodding at the mosque, said, “so this is where the snake pit is, huh?”

Never before in my life have I been as angry as another person as I got at that man.  “This is a HOUSE of WORSHIP!” I roared at him.  “HOW DARE YOU!”

“It’s a SNAKE PIT!” he shouted back; but he was backing away from me.  We shouted back and forth at each other a few seconds more, him calling the mosque a snake pit and me scolding him for his prejudice; but he was backing away down the street and finally just ran off, driven off by my rage.

And it was pure rage. Rage which still comes faintly back to me when I write about that moment these many years later.

Carefully lift the processed jars out of the stock pot.  Worry at one that hisses a bit.  Check the lid; it’s a good seal.  Resolve to keep an eye on it anyway.  Top up the water and drop in the next round of jars.

Carry the jars over to the window by your oregano.  Linger there a few seconds each time you do, to catch the breeze for just a minute before returning to the hot kitchen.  Fiddle again with that jar you heard hissing.  Hear one of the jars clink in the stock pot and run back to make sure it didn’t break.

Food was one thing that helped me cope during those first few weeks.  Cat food, mostly.

I got into a bad headspace after a week; I didn’t have work right away, and so I was stuck with nothing to do, which left way too much time for me to let myself get caught up in endless mental rabbit-track loops replaying what had happened.  I’d either sit in my apartment in a weird fugue state, or do things like lock myself in my room and stay awake for 48 hours reading Lord Of The Rings cover to cover.

But while I was in a bad mental place, my cat Zach was not.  War or peace, political strife or good days – it was all the same to him.  All he cared about was food – Zach was an enormous glutton.  And two hours before his dinner, he would start asking after it, with his loud and strangely nasal “Miaou!”s.  In the weeks after the attack, his “Miaou!” was the only thing loud enough to finally pierce the voices in my own head, and rouse me to get up and off the couch and give him a scoop of kibble – and oh, wait, while I’m up I maybe should get a sandwich or something, shouldn’t I?….

And so while Zach ate and I numbly nibbled, I thought about how Zach didn’t care what had happened; all he cared about was that he was alive and he wanted to stay that way – and that I was alive, and it was my job to feed him.  I had a responsibility to keep him fed – and while I was at it, I had to keep me fed too.

I was alive, and I had to keep living for the people who couldn’t.

Chop the tomatoes that crushed on the way home.  Dump them into a Tupperware container with the not-enough-to-fill-a-jar tomato meat and stick it in the fridge to deal with later.   Mix up the skins and seeds in the colander with your hand to finish straining the juice.  Empty the colander into the trash.  Drop the colander in the trash as you do. Swear again.

Get that really big measuring cup and measure the juice from the bowl.  Just over two pints; dump the water out of the tomato bath pot and dump in the juice.  Bring that to a boil while you get two more jars.  This time it’s easier to fill the jars – it’s all juice.  Much more pourable.  Save the extra aside.  Seal those up too and set the juice jars inside the stock pot.   These get fifteen minutes; take a very deep breath, summon your courage and grab a paper towel to start finally wiping down the countertops and get going on the dishes. Pause halfway through to get a rocks glass from your “bar” in the living room.

Food was a place to start living again.

I’ve always been an active cook, but I picked it up after the attacks.  Especially the canning – it started as a whim, making jam and then liqueur, and then when I moved to Brooklyn I tried canning a couple pounds of tomatoes just to see if I could.

I now routinely make jam and applesauce and pickles every year, mainly just to cope with the bounty I get from a CSA; when I know I can’t eat something fast enough, it either gets canned or frozen.  I hate to waste things, so this kind of canning is more salvage; I’m stopping it from going bad so I can have it on hand to use in something.  Someday.  At some point.

Tomatoes are a little different – it’s the only thing I can as a planning-ahead thing.  I cook a lot of Cajun and Italian food, and tomato soup is one of my comfort foods, so tomatoes are a staple, and this is my big annual stocking-up.  I boasted to my mother once that I haven’t had to buy a can of Del Monte or Contadina from the supermarket in four years.

There’s also something comforting about that big stockpile; about opening the hall closet where I keep all my canned stuff, and seeing those jars stacked up.  It’s a bounty – the means to make a years’ worth of some of my favorite foods whenever I choose, and knowing that because these are really good tomatoes, it’s also going to be really good food.

But it’s also a promise and a commitment and a celebration.  It’s my own declaration that I’m still here, several years on, to eat those tomatoes.  And share them with others who are also here.  Canning on September 11th each year is my way of celebrating that I’m here, and signing on to stay here.

Bring the juice jars over to the windowsill, and finally turn off the stove.  Leave the last pot to soak, measure out a bit of vodka and dump that into the glass with the balance of the juice.  Forgive yourself for having to look up how to make a Bloody Mary.  Finish mixing it and bring it to the chair by the window with a heavy sigh.

Look at the jars of tomatoes.  Twelve of them this year, a neat row of jars with swirls of orangey-red. Twelve meals’ worth of future soups and chilis and jambalaya.

Think about jambalaya a moment, the play of the smoky Andouille and sweet pepper on your tongue.

Take a sip of your drink.  You overdid it with the vodka a tiny bit, but the blinding freshness of the tomato comes through.

Feel the breeze through the window, a relief after the hot kitchen.  Look out the window.  You’re looking east, so you can’t see the sun, but the sky is colored for sunset anyway, the blue tinging to pink and lavender.  Sip your drink again and look at the sky.

Then back inside to your home, one which you’ve filled with friends whom you’ve fed with tomatoes in years past.  Remember one meal, all of you sitting around the kitchen table and laughing.

Look back out at the sky again, thinking of them.  Thinking of life.

You are alive.

 Breathe.

Appreciative Audiences

Posted on

(This has nothing to do with movies!  I’m actually writing about the rest of life for a change!)

I like to cook, and I like to bake.  This has always been the case, since my friends and I were bored as kids and our parents would suggest we make cookies.  Or I would “help” Mom with dinner.  Or maybe it was simply gluttony – in seventh grade I had a social studies class about immigration, and the teacher proposed that maybe we could have a class party where we all brought in some food from our family’s heritage.  “Oh, you like to cook?” she asked me, when she saw my face brighten.

“I do,” I said.  “I like to cook because you get to eat afterward.”

My challenge, though, has been an adult lifetime of single dining.  I had a live-in boyfriend for a couple years in my 20s, and I’ve had the occasional dinner party, but other than that I’ve been forced to cook only for myself – my roommates usually have kept radically different schedules, or are on special diets, or just are used to making their own dinners and don’t want to impose on me.  So I’ve gotten into the habit of automatically scaling down any recipe I see for “serves one” or “serves two,” or I get ready for lots of leftovers that clog up the fridge, especially when I get bored with “oh god that bean soup again I’ve been eating that for five straight days no more”.  

Desserts are the biggest challenge – I would love to have a slice of cake or a piece of pie sometime, or make a fudgy batch of brownies, but…not if I’m the only one eating it. I’ve had to toss out half-eaten cakes that went hard, or pies that went moldy.  It did force me to expand my dessert repetoire into things like créme bruleé or mousse, but sometimes you just want cake, you know?  I finally broke down and got some wee little cake pans and tart tins, and have been collecting recipes for “smash cakes” in search of “single-serving recipes”.  But I’ve missed being able to just cook with abandon.

…I have just had a roommate move in, though, that may change things somewhat.  We got on very well when he came to check out the place, and his sister and brother-in-law came to help him move in and I got on very well with them too.  And a couple days after he moved in, when he was still in the settling-in stage, I was heading into the kitchen to get something started for dinner – and paused.  “…Hmm.  If I made a double batch of what I’m making, would you eat it?”

“What are you making?”

“Just some chicken tetrazzini to use up some roast chicken I made.”

“…What’s chicken tetrazzini?”

“Chicken meat, mushrooms, peas, pasta in a cream and cheese sauce.”

“Huh.  Okay, sure.”

And – he liked it.  I mentioned my cooking-for-one woes in passing, and that this was a refreshing change.  About an hour later, he gave me a thoughtful look.  “…So you like cooking, huh?”

“…yes, why?”

“How would you feel if….okay, I used to have like movie nights at my old apartment,” he said, hesitantly.  “Just like…a bunch of people coming over and watching a DVD or something.  How about I could get that going again, with you inviting some friends too if you want of course, and if you were interested in us cooking something then – ”

“YES.” I said, grinning.  I didn’t even let him finish.

The guy doesn’t quite yet understand what he has unleashed.  But when he sees that I have whipped up an entire eight-course Thai spread or an entire dessert table, he will.