Posts Tagged 'books'

DFW, heartbroken

I respect DFW far too much to try to wax poetic here, so I’ll keep this short. More than anyone else I have read so far, I felt like he was finally perfectly articulating existing. For me, he was the voice of our generation and my friendship-dealbreaker reading test. When I heard about his suicide, I finally understood what it meant to deeply regret what could no longer be expected. I can’t describe how much I envy those who have yet to discover Infinite Jest and understand Federer.

just like how people look like their dogs

Did you know that Chris Ware looks just like a character out of his books? Not only that, but he acts like one too. I saw him with Art Spiegelman at a talk at the JCCSF, which has a fabulous lecture series. Definitely see Art Spiegelman sometime — he is hilarious.

Just queued up at on the SFPL request list: Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes (both Ware and Spiegelman are huge fans of him), Black Hole by Charles Burns, and Blankets by Craig Thompson. Also Battlestar Galactica Season 2 Disc 2. Have I told you how much I love the library?

Refrigerator raid: Mark (Special Cookbook Edition)

Not bad for a postdoc.

Name: Mark
Age: 31
Location: Cambridge, MA
Occupation: Scientist
Grocery shops: once every three weeks
Cooks: once every two weeks
Eats out: every meal
Favorite condiment: ketchup, Inner Beauty hot sauce (other habanero sauces close behind)
Favorite beer: anything cask conditioned or Harpoon IPA
Favorite takeout: pad thai
Grossest thing in there: when the potatoes soupify inside and become a loose bag filled with nasty smelling liquid and then you pick them up and the bottom sticks and the skin tears and the nasty liquid pours out. I have smelled nothing worse in my whole life. Not in there now, but once upon a time…

There’s Bolognese sauce he made in there. Cheeses on the top shelf: “Some good gruyère, 2-year-old yummy Manchego from Cardullo’s in Harvard Square, and some other random things but all good steady mild/dry/salty/sharp stuff. I don’t really do blue cheese.”

Not pictured: A LOT of chocolate all around Mark’s apartment.

My favorite part of Mark’s apartment is his cookbook shelf:

Totally awesome

This, this (and by extension, this), this (one of the many things I miss about the Boot), and — just nine minutes ago — this:

Totally NOT awesome: this. (Fucking terrible, in fact.)

So awesome you don’t even know: Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. (In fact, why didn’t I know sooner?) For anyone who likes stories (telling them, reading them), writing, art, semiotics, communication theory, and, oh yeah, comic books.

Fall finally makes an appearance

But there’s (just a little) time yet for some Red Hook action:

Everyone goes on about the huaraches and tacos, but I have to say, these might be my favorite. Best tamale I’ve ever had in NYC. And god, I LOVE maduros.

Other recent highlights:
– Aquavit, which has made it into my top 5. If you’re a fan of bright, clean Scandinavian flavors (or bright, clean Scandinavian furniture design), this is the place for you. Oh, and there are those meatballs too. Unlike Franny’s, the check holds only pleasant surprises.
– Queen’s Hideaway, which impresses with its price point but disappoints with incredibly slow, inattentive service. (I guess you get what you pay for. Or don’t pay for, more like.) If you don’t like your food salty (sometimes inedibly so), this is not the place for you. Good ideas, imperfect execution, but I’ll definitely go back. There’s just something that feels right about it. And if I ever move out of Fort Greene, Greenpoint is where I plan to hang my hat. (Though by the time I get around to it, I bet I’ll be priced out of the hat rack.)
– Black bean soup, which is the first thing I think of when I make stock from the gleanings and leavings of a roasted chicken. I think I hate Whole Foods’ beans though. Soup is the first thing I ever made that showed me how magical cooking can be — all that flavor, coaxed out of ostensibly inedible bones, and the whole most definitely more than the sum of its parts. So much more.

Listening to:
– Animal Collective’s “Strawberry Jam”
– Stars’ “In Our Bedroom After the War”

– (like everyone else I know) Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Bonny Wolf’s Talking with My Mouth Full: Crab Cakes, Bundt Cakes, and Other Kitchen Stories. If you liked Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, you ought to read this one as well. I’m inspired to cook something from every single one of the essays in this book.

Alone in the kitchen

I wanted to write about this book yesterday but decided it merited its very own post and more attention than I could give it in the wee hours of the morning. Quite simply, it is one of the most engaging food books I’ve read this year (the others being Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle), and while not necessarily life-changing like the others, it’s stuck around in my head the past few days. Specifically, these essays about what people cook and eat when they’re alone made me think about what I cook and eat when I’m alone. And while I had expected this to be full of empowering manifestos for the solo diner, it turned out that most people eating alone are lonely. At one point I found myself marveling over just how many of these stories were about post-breakup eating habits.

And I’ve been thinking about that too. My most memorable period of party-of-one cooking and eating was in my first year in Italy (so many of these essays also seem to deal with being a hungry stranger in a strange land, not unsurprisingly) and also dealing with (or reeling from) the implosion of a relationship (the double-whammy seems to be the most common thread, of course). And that’s about as personal as I’ll ever get here. If you don’t consider the minutiae of my eating habits personal, that is.

That first year, before I had any real friends or any real life to speak of outside of knitting and feeling sorry for myself in the ugliest apartment I’ve ever lived in, I indulged in some serious alone-time eating habits. I already have the tendency to take a new food discovery or flavor I love and run with it, but there’s some special comfort in returning day after to day to the same thing when you’re feeling sad or lonely (at least one author in this book agrees), and so I found myself eating, for weeks at a time:

– a chicken thigh (the butchers in my small Italian town always sold the entire leg, so there was thigh AND drumstick), divested of skin and poached. Poaching meant barely covering the leg in cold water and adding maybe half an onion, a carrot, and celery stalk, bringing the pot to a boil and then turning it off. Through trial and error, I discovered this yielded the most succulent, flavorful result — especially if you let the chicken rest in the water until the whole thing was cool. Eating the chicken while still hot was generally a mistake, since the flesh was not only seized up from the heat, but inevitably it wasn’t as thoroughly cooked and needed to be dropped back in after a bite was taken out of it. That and it was dang hot. Oh, but I left out the most important part: I would pull all the flesh off the cooled, cooked leg and shred it and then drizzle the best olive oil I had in the house over it, sprinkle the chicken copiously with Maldon, squeeze a little lemon juice on, and then attack it with gusto. I hardly ever ate it with anything else.
– black beans (just like Jeremy Jackson! Whose essay made laugh out loud right from the opening. Laugh and run around making everyone else in the room read it too.), made into a soup with the liquid from the poached chicken (fortified with more aromatics/mirepoix) and lime juice and buzzed for just a little bit with the immersion blender. When I could find cilantro, that was added too. Usually some chile pepper and nearly always a dollop of yogurt. I would usually alternate these two things, the chicken and the black bean soup, so that I would always have chicken-y cooking liquid for the beans and wouldn’t be eating so much chicken (which seemed sort of unhealthy).
– pa amb tomaquet (just like Paula Wolfert! There must be something universal about eating-alone foods). My version required picking up a loaf of the pane di campagna (which I think they called pane dell’acqua or something like that) from the good bakery (there were so few, strangely, and yet so many butchers in this town) on Via Pollenzo and a perfectly ripe, juicy-to-bursting tomato from the town market. I would lay thick slices of the bread in the oven to toast, ideally till they reached 97% dryness. I would then take a thick end slice of tomato and scrub the toasted slices all over (but only on one side, unlike Wolfert), drizzle olive oil on it, sprinkle Maldon on it, eat. Repeat with another slice. This was largely inspired by this book, though I remember a New York pa amb tomaquet phase when I read about it in a John Thorne book too. They tasted totally different though.
– boiled potato. Preferably a floury one. I would just fish out the spud once it was done (too many times before it was done, even), break into it and inhale the earthy, mineral-scented steam wafting up from it, and then drizzle olive oil on it and sprinkle Maldon on top. (Methinks I see a pattern.) This is probably the saddest of the eat-alone foods, but it’s definitely the one I love most.

Weirdly, it’s not until I’m at my happiest that I cook up a storm for myself. Who knows why this is? Maybe it’s a tiny act of rebellion, a show of self indulgence to NOT eat a square meal like I was taught to. Or maybe it’s another way of pitying one’s self. Either way, just thinking about these is stirring up a craving. I can’t wait for a poached chicken thigh night.

You should definitely, definitely read this book. Especially you, Joyce. Now I want to know what everyone’s eat-alone food is. What’s yours?

Off the Hook

I [finally!] made it out to the Red Hook ballfields yesterday afternoon, and what a glorious afternoon it was:

Somehow I’d persuaded myself that Red Hook was too much of a pain in the tochus to get to, but yesterday the MTA god must have smiled upon us, because we made the G-77 transfer without breaking a sweat (or only breaking a sweat because it was 87° out there).

One thing’s for sure though, the Red Hook trip requires a crew, because there’s just too much to try. I will be back. And I plan on going as often as possible, since this year might be their last.

Recent discoveries:

  • A Voce’s duck meatballs are overhyped. They’d make a good meatball sub, but really, Frankies 457 classic ‘balls are what I’m craving.
  • My ice cream hero has been biographied.
  • Saw “Memories of Matsuko” at the Japan Society as part of the NYAFF and the Japan Society’s JAPAN CUTS. I don’t think any movie has made me weep so much — and this is an irreverent musical about a dead bag lady, no less. I must own it. And you must see it.
  • My new favorite food blog. And yeah, you can bet the Reynaud book is coming soon to a bookshelf near me.

Bowled over

  • By Setagaya’s shio ramen — absolutely worth the wait on line (though is it really fair that they subject the noodle-starved queue to a video loop of ramen-making?). The noodles, as noted by many, have a wonderful chewy snap to them (the Taiwanese would say they’re “Q Q”), and superfatty slices of pork and “salt taste egg” perfectly complement both noodles and the good-to-the-last-drop broth. I don’t know why the manager of this place bothers comparing their product to Momofuku’s. Their ramen specimens are worlds apart. Both are tasty, but there’s a sort of messiness and Americanness to Momofuku’s. Actually, here’s an apt comparison: Momofuku’s ramen is country ham to Setagaya’s prosciutto di San Daniele (I was going to say culatello, but I don’t think it goes that far. This is not ramen perfection, but ramen as tradition and in a purer form). I’m also very much biased by the fact that my last visit to Momofuku was pretty disappointing — they absolutely need to put the noodle bar in a bigger joint (as they are planning to do) or find some way to deal with all those covers. The noodles suffer, otherwise. Mine were flabby, the broth tepid. I will say, however, and without reservation, that I think David Chang deserves all the press and accolades he’s been getting these last few years. Ssam Bar hits all the right notes.
  • And by Will Eisner. The Brooklyn Public Library (GAP branch) happened to have A Life Force sitting out on display, and I’d been meaning to read Eisner for a while. I’m definitely going to get my hands on the whole trilogy, you can bet on that.

Annual pea-shelling shot

Third year running, and still I can’t get enough:

You know what? New York peas are as good as Italian peas. Especially when you start shelling and eating them as soon as you walk away from the stall at the market. And they’re also good this way:

I riffed on another Sunday Suppers at Lucques (I am loving this cookbook) recipe. Goin calls for orecchiette, but I like my carbonara with bucatini. And just plain ol’ bacon without the addition of pancetta (since, let’s face it, I’ve got a lot of bacon to get through), since I’ve not found a guanciale source in this town. I like her pea and pea shoot idea, though, and kept that. Unfortunately, I had about five minutes to enjoy dinner, because I got an 11th hour call from my brilliant, extremely good-looking, and artistically virtuosic lawyer friend Jeremy to go see Bright Eyes at Town Hall (and really, I can live with choking down my pasta in record time if it means seeing

special guest Ben Gibbard play “405” and “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”.) Thanks, Jeremy! I owe you many dinners.

I have been tearing it up on the book front:
David Mitchell’s “Blackswangreen” and Martin Amis’s “The Rachel Papers” are both worth your time. God, Amis is kind of a douche, isn’t he? But I like him anyway.

Also worth your time:
Panda Bear’s “Person Pitch” (but dude, how unrewarding was the Animal Collective/Danielson show at South St. Seaport? I think it’s because I made the idiot move of standing in the front amongst the rowdy youth)
Peter Bjorn & John’s “Writer’s Block”
“Knocked Up” — I heart Seth Rogen.

A life-changing book: getting off the corn

my sister just finished michael pollan‘s omnivore’s dilemma, which i had immediately foisted upon her after i read it myself. while she also cares about what she eats, she tends to be more of a skeptic when it comes to the muckraking (fast food nation, for instance, didn’t really stir her into action, since she felt it was all stuff she heard before. and neither of us really can handle eating fast food anyway).

we both agree that corn’s stranglehold on virtually ever consumable (whether edible or not) is scary. and we’re both boycotting it however we can. an interesting email she sent today:

i think if we lived in the US, it would be almost impossible to avoid all
these random corn products [including this, which might just prove to be an extra roadblock in weaning ourselves off corn]. i have never even seen a butcher in st. louis
that wasn’t connectred to a grocery store. the reason the EU bans all these
preservatives and fake food flavouring is that they don’t have any economic
reason to need to sell/move it, whereas its within the US’s ‘best interest’
to develop these crazy ways of using corn.

by the way, this doesn’t make me want to shop at whole foods either. i
bought a chicken at the butcher’s on saturday and split it up into
different cuts, made stock out of the carcass/scraps, shredded the meat i
got from making stock. can you believe that meat/stock from the chicken
has been used for about 12 meals? check out what i’ve made with it since
saturday. then again, it was kind of a big chicken (and it cost €7)

3 x homemade chicken noodle soup

4 x some indian curry (using stuff from the spice box)

3 x salad with chicken, pecans, pumpkin seed, cranberries, apple, and
balsamic vineagrette dressing

1 x chicken leg (thigh and drumstick) with soy/honey/green onion reduction

1 x chicken leg to be used tonight.
if you’ve not already read OD and you eat, well, anything, i urge you to pick it up straightaway.

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