I’m on the edge. This story got me there, this one (which I could only read part of) almost pushed me over. Superbugs and industrial slaughterhouses are facts that live in my brain now and they reside there with images from Food Inc., essays by Michael Pollan, and all the other tracts and screeds I’ve read indicting America’s meat industry. My brain isn’t the problem; my brain is convinced. If my brain had its way, I’d become a vegetarian tomorrow.
Good morning! Like my bed-head? That’s me at this very moment trying to plan tonight’s dinner menu. I’m having a few friends over this evening and I’m in Phase One of the process: figuring out what I’m going to make. Usually I keep this process to myself but today I’ve decided to share it with you in the hopes that maybe you’ll get something out of it. By the end of this post, I’ll have my menu set.
This weekend I experienced an existential crisis. “What am I doing with my life? Why am I doing it? Where is this blog going? How does this all end?” At some point I realized that after nine years of blogging about food, I’ve been putting the emphasis on the wrong place. After all, we’re all so fixated on what we put into our bodies–millions of food blogs focused on beautiful pictures of the food we eat–and no one out there is documenting what becomes of the food we eat. Isn’t that just as fascinating? Can’t that be just as beautiful?
At the grocery store, you may have noticed, you can’t buy skinless chicken thighs that have bones. You can buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs or you can buy chicken thighs with the skin and bones still attached. If you want your chicken thighs to have bones and no skin, you’ll have to remove the skin yourself.
Which is precisely what I did, the other day, when I made that unbelievably good chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives. I just yanked that skin right off and there it sat on the cutting board, looking like flabby detritus destined for the garbage can, or Buffalo Bill’s chicken skin cloak. But then I had an idea.
Look, I’m going to level with you. These are pretty pictures I took last weekend, on a Sunday morning, after I’d made coffee for myself and read the Sunday New York Times and decided I wanted some breakfast. In the refrigerator, I had leftover English Porridge from April Bloomfield’s cookbook, with its great salty sweet kick. Instead of heating it back up, I thought: “What if I turn it into pancakes? Oatmeal pancakes?” Seemed reasonable enough.
There are three kinds of people in this world: people who eat salad before dinner, people who eat salad after dinner (aka: the French) and the strangest group of all, people who eat salad on the same plate as dinner.
I grew up in a “salad before dinner” family. On those rare occasions when we’d eat at home, mom would toss together some iceberg lettuce, sliced red onion, and cucumbers with Seven Seasons red wine vinaigrette and serve it up in white bowls. There was a ritual to all this, a sense of structure that echoed the structure we’d find when we went out to dinner. The Olive Garden did it this way. So did T.G.I. Friday’s.
I’m 33 years-old, soon to be 34 (get your gifts ready, we’re talking 2/18), but no moment has made me feel older than the moment I found myself, on a Friday night, spending hours on E-Bay looking at flatware. “How did this happen?” I asked myself when I realized what I was doing. “I used to be a vital young person with my whole future ahead of me and now I’m comparing forks and knives on a computer screen when I could be out there shimmying to the sounds of hip young musicians like The Jonas Brothers!” After I calmed myself, though, I accepted my new role as senior citizen. In fact, sometimes I feel like my whole life has been barreling towards this moment. I grew up loving “The Golden Girls.” I had more fun eating bagels with my grandmother, as a teenager, than going to concerts with my high school friends. Maybe searching for flatware on E-Bay on a Friday night has always been my destiny.
And now a funny story from L.A.
For his birthday, I decided to take my 91 year-old Uncle Jerry out for lunch to his favorite spot, Fromin’s Deli in Santa Monica. It’s a pretty traditional deli with lots of character: salty waitresses, corned beef sandwiches, black and white cookies at the register. We were sitting at a table near the front, despite the fact that Uncle Jerry would’ve preferred a booth (there was a wait), and chatting about Craig’s movie and, later, Uncle Jerry’s experiences in World War II. As we were getting up to go, the man next to us said, “You’re leaving? I feel like I know you guys. You’re talking about the film industry, and you, you’re talking about the war.”