I forget to use a fork

21 Sep

I’ve always been very physical with my food. As a child, I would dig into my plate with my hands. My mother would always raise a disturbed eyebrow and wag a finger at me for failing to use my fork or my chopsticks. But I loved pushing my fingers into a bag of rice, my small hand surrounded by hundreds of little grains, each cool and smooth to the touch. I enjoyed feeling the rice, cooked, sticky, the ultimate comfort food, as I portioned each round bite-ful, all without the use of an intermediary utensil.

Rice.

Image via Wikipedia

Although the relationship between my fingers and my food has matured, I let myself revert back to my tendencies as I dip my finger into a freshly made batch of whipped cream, delicate, cloud-like, a trace of sweetness dissolving onto my tongue. Or run the pad of my fingertip across a wooden spoon coated with perfectly balanced homemade mayonnaise, chunky cookie dough, rich molten chocolate, a delectable complex pan sauce, tangy key lime pie filling. Exquisite. The initial taste from my fingertip is almost more enjoyable than the finished product as it is a small but significant part to my cooking process. When a satisfied mmm escapes from my pursed lips, I am pleased. My food is ready, my finger told me so.

fresh whipped cream

Image by fotomele via Flickr

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Foreword to the rest of my writing

21 Sep

What follows is some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read. This is what I want to write and accomplish, who I want to be…

Foreword to The Gastronomical Me

People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way others do?

They ask it accusingly, as if I were somehow gross, unfaithful to the honor of my craft.

The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happen that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it . . . and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied . . . and it is all one.

I tell about myself, and how I ate bread on a lasting hillside, or drank red wine in a room now blown to bits, and it happens without my willing it that I am telling too about the people with me then, and their other deeper needs for love and happiness.

There is food in the bowl, and more often than not, because of what honesty I have, there is nourishment in the heart, to feed the wilder more insistent hungers. We must eat. If, in the face of that dread fact, we can find other nourishment, and tolerance and compassion for it, we’ll be no less full of human dignity.

There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk. And that is my answer, when people ask me: Why do you write about hunger, and not wars or love?

– M.F.K. Fisher

Procrastination/Improvisation

16 Sep

My years of schooling have provided me with plenty of opportunities to learn material across a multitude of subjects, but the things that I’ve managed to master are procrastination and improvisation. I procrastinate on everything from homework to laundry. I had a particularly difficult time focusing on statistics, which did not have much to do with my whining stomach, but I took it as the opportunity to engage in a more enjoyable activity.

An exchange with my roommate after making the decision to cook (procrastinate):

“Baked or mashed?”

“Potatoes?”

“No, brains. Yes, potatoes… Baked or mashed?”

“Mashed.”

“Do you eat pork?”

“No, I’ve never touch the stuff, are you kidding? That’s gross.”

“Are you serious?”

“Is bacon considered pork? What kind of a stupid question is that?” I promptly forgot that he eats bacon on an absolutely disgustingly regular basis.

I paused.

“… So you can eat pork chops?”

Dinner comprised:

boiled potatoes, butter, milk, garlic and salt. Broccoli. Pork chops, salt, pepper. And for the pan sauce… apple cider vinegar, chicken broth, Pinot Noir, maple syrup, brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, cranberry juice, red pepper flakes.

Improvisation.



Quote #2

16 Sep

1. the path is not straight.

2. mistakes need not be fatal.

3. people are more important than achievements or possessions.

4. be gentle with your parents.

5. never stop doing what you care most about.

6. learn to use  a semicolon.

7. you will find love.

– Marion Winik

Semicolon

Image via Wikipedia

Surf inspired tropical tacos

15 Sep

I am viciously sore today. My alarm clock blared at 6:30, even before the sun could rear its head and yell in my face. Reaching for the snooze button had my weak arm muscles screeching. I have a bruise on my right breast that looks like a freshly delivered black eye, red, purple and angry. My face was hot and enormously sensitive to the touch. This is what a school morning after surfing for the first time is like.

The rental guy picked out a surfboard that towered a good four feet over me; apparently the bigger the board, the easier to surf with. My arm felt incredibly stubby as I tried to tuck the behemoth under it. Walking three feet with it was hard enough, and seeing me struggle, the guy chuckled and mumbled, “not even at the water.”

The wetsuit clung to the body like a too-small latex glove and left nothing to the imagination. My food loving curves were quite visible, and I patted my tummy sympathetically as it tried to suck itself in. I was so embarrassed. My surfing companion said that if I didn’t like the experience, it would be the one time I surfed, that it was an experience that need not be repeated if so desired. I struggled with even his shorter board and waddled several blocks to the beach.

It was an unusually gorgeous day in Pacifica, which was unfortunate for my face, hands and feet because I had promptly forgotten to coat them with sunblock during the hurried packing and the stressful journey west. I strapped a velcro anklet on, which made sure that board and I would never be more than a few feet apart. After a quick tutorial, I was in the water, pushing the board forward, and after some time wiggling my way onto it. With no food in my stomach, my arms became very tired very quickly as much of my day consisted of laying on the board and paddling. I fell off constantly, got knocked over by waves frequently, and sat on the board a few times, rode waves on my stomach a few more times, and got very close to getting on my knees once. I had a group of twelve-year olds snicker at me as there was quite a bit of audible struggling on my part to get back on my board every time the ocean decided it would be cute or funny to see me fly off, or “wipe out” as the language goes. My arms were too weak and shaky to support me to a full stand up position, but despite all of it, I was still pleased with my limited progress. I had the board crash into my face twice, and I swear that a watery fist rose out of a wave and punched me in the cheek. And yet nearly the whole time I was in the water, I was laughing and flailing happily; it was the best fun I had in so very long.

After hours of “surfing” we were both starved and trekked out south along the coast in search of a taqueria long ago once visited by my surfing companion. A half hour after departure, we were in Pescadero and sitting in a shabby Mexican place, waiting hungrily for our tacos. Although not the best fish tacos I’ve ever had, they sat in my stomach contently and served my appetite well. And who can complain about bottomless tortilla chips and pico de gallo?

The trip had me hungry for more tacos. So today, I decided to create a taco loosely based on Pescadero’s taco and my favorite EVER taco, which will be most definitely revisited in a future post. This is what is called a tropical taco– panko-crusted shrimp topped with a “tropical” pico de gallo, avocado, a sprinkle of cheese and a squeeze of spicy lime juice. My roommate calls them my specialty.

Tropical Taco Take 1

You’ll need:

Shrimp
24 medium shrimp, cleaned, deveined and uncooked
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons oil
1-2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
vegetable oil

Tropical salsa
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 white peach, chopped
3/4 cup fresh pineapple, chopped
half of a red onion, chopped
1 jalapeño, deseeded and chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
juice of 1-2 limes
1 teaspoon sugar
salt
pepper

12 medium yellow corn tortillas
2 avocados, sliced
your choice of shredded or crumbled cheese (cotija is great)
a few slices of lime
chili powder
1-2 serrano chiles, sliced at an angle

Set up the marinade in a medium bowl by mixing the ginger, garlic, brown sugar, oil and red pepper flakes. Add the shrimp and leave for 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop up all of your salsa ingredients and mix them, adding more lime juice, salt and pepper by taste. Leave the salsa so the flavors can meld for the rest of the marinade time.

Pour the breadcrumbs into a wide bowl or deep plate. Put a saute pan on a burner at medium heat and add a good amount of oil, since you will be pan-frying, a little less than a fourth of the way up the pan. Pour the marinade out, leaving the shrimp. Dip each shrimp into the beaten egg, then move them to the panko to be coated. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp in batches. Flip when the panko on the fry side down is golden. This takes only a minute or two on each side. Move the cooked shrimp to a plate with some paper towels. Repeat for the rest.

Microwave the tortillas six at a time in a ziplock bag for 40 seconds. Divide them into six stacks of two tortillas. Add four shrimp to each stack. Spoon a little more than one tablespoon of the salsa onto each. Add a fourth of an avocado on top of that, then sprinkle with your choice of cheese. Take your lime slices and dip the edges into the chili powder and serve these on the side of the plate as well as the serrano chiles.

Squeeze the chili powerded lime wedges onto your tacos. Garnish with serranos, and enjoy!

Sorry for the shitty picture… we were pretty impatient and starved.

K. (via missallaneous)

15 Sep

I know what this is like–an abysmal response to an artfully constructed text message so that all of my comments, ideas, questions can fit into those 160 characters… only to be met with such an unsatisfactory letter carelessly spat out. Did they even read my text? Do they care how hard I tried, how much I want to see them or how important my message is!? -tear-

K. You know what’s not happy? When people reply to a text message like this: Now, admittedly, being concise is not my strongpoint; eventhough poetry training taught me to value brevity. And I do. But I’m kiasu and like to make the most of my 10cents per text, so my text messages are like an everyday poetic endeavour to squish the most meaning I can into the least amount of characters. But it’s just kinda sad when you send an extensive text on the cu … Read More

via missallaneous

Did it again

11 Aug

I bought another cookbook, and I’m swimming in them. My next project is to get through these books, exploring recipes and cooking for an audience I usually don’t cook for or ever care to: myself. My actual practice of cooking has always been about making other people happy. Food is what makes me happy, but I owe it to myself. If I ever want a restaurant, my skills had better be honed, my passion genuinely ignited, and the only way to do that is to spend some quality time in the kitchen, alone, for me, self cooking, I am my chef. This is especially true since I am facing the fact that my housemates will be finding other places to live.

On a lighter note, my newest cookbook is Big Small Plates, by Cindy Pawlcyn. It isn’t a newly published one, but I adore the concept of small plates, and finding this book was like uncovering the secret to culinary happiness and fulfillment. Look at this gorgeous cover!:

And I discovered in this moment that it is an autographed copy. Holy. Crap.

Potato-Leek Pancakes with Sour Cream and Chives, Roasted Artichokes with Tarragon-Basil Dipping Sauce, Spiced Ahi Tuna Sticks, Dungeness Crab-Sweet Potato-Corn Fritters, Asparagus and Shiitake Spring Rolls, Smoked Duck Spring Rolls with Sweet-and-Sour sauce, Miso-Glazed Beef in Lettuce Cups, Baked Goat Cheese and Tomato Fondue, Salmon Halibut and Scallop Ceviche with Coconut, Braised Portobello and Porcini Mushrooms with Spiced Flatbread, Rabbit Tostadas with Cumin-Scented Black Beas and Lime Creme Fraiche, Mini Duck Burgers with Shiitake mushroom Ketchup and Chinese-Style Mustard, Fried Green Tomatoes with Spicy Remoulade, and that’s only the beginning.

This is too good to keep to myself. Screw cooking alone. Someone should come over and cook with me. Who wants to?

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