A Literary Feast

Posts by Attempted Blogger

Epazote: A Rhoda No Longer

Posted on August 19th, 2013

It’s only my first summer as a backyard gardener, but I’m already anthropomorphizing my plants. I think of the tomatoes as the Mary Tyler Moore of the backyard plot — perfect, pure, sweet, and understandably popular. An informal poll of my social group indicates that most people (including me) would give up nearly anything — cheese, chocolate, even gluten — before submitting to tomato abstention. They’re just that lovable. If my precious heirloom tomatoes are Mary Tyler Moore, then the nearby potted epazote plants are the equivalent of Rhoda, Mary’s spunky (and underappreciated) best friend. Epazote doesn’t get much in the way of summer lovin’. It’s never had a glossy layout in a culinary magazine and, unless you’ve worked in a Mexican restaurant or…

Worm Castings and Cat Pee: Journal of a Newbie Gardener

Posted on May 17th, 2013

My one adult experience with gardening occurred about 8 years ago. We were living in an apartment complex a few miles away from where I went to college. Each unit had a small plot of dirt in front of it which most of our neighbors filled with cheery aster mums or hyacinth bulbs. For ours, I decided on a row of fun (and functional) pumpkin plants.   Unemployed and in need of a project, I nurtured the pumpkins from seed to plant with loving care. Eventually they flowered and, the very next morning, the complex’s maintenance crew came by and mowed them down with a weedwacker. We left the plot barren for the remainder of the time we lived there and never returned to…

La Dolce Vita, Deep Fried

Posted on March 18th, 2013

I hate planes and suitcases, so I’ve never been much of an international traveler. But I did see the better part of Italy and Greece on a whirlwind Mediterranean tour back in the 1990s. When I tell people this, they usually share tales of their own travels: their honeymoon in Rome, sightseeing in Florence, a memorable walking tour of Pompeii… Of course they also talk about food: the arrabiata from a back alley trattoria, the little cafe with the flaky sfogliatelle, the beauty of a classic margherita pizza. I smile politely and nod, but I wouldn’t really know. Sadly, I went on the french fry tour of Italy. The trip was organized through my high school and run by one of those educational touring…

10 Justifications for Eating Out: A List of New Year’s Anti-Resolutions

Posted on January 21st, 2013

The new year is, for most, a time of self-improvement. It’s a time to break old patterns and cast away faults. A time to grow and change. But that’s never really been my style. I don’t jog, I don’t diet, I sometimes spend entire Saturday mornings watching 90210 reruns and…I’m okay with that. I often say that nothing tastes better than a plate of food cooked by someone else and, by god, we all know it’s the truth. I unapologetically love restaurant meals — from grubby diners to fancy cafes. But even I hear that inner neurotic voice, the one that whispers: A good homesteader would cook and bake from scratch, and not lust after that incredible lentil soup from that little cafe. Why…

Big Night

Posted on November 24th, 2012

I once read a scathing restaurant review that began, “This is basically the bad Italian restaurant from Big Night.” I put the movie in my Netflix queue, where it sat for six months before I decided to watch it. Big Night is an intimate film about food, art, family, and business told through the story of two restaurants: one good, one bad. The good restaurant — aptly named the Paradise — is run by Primo and Secondo, Italian immigrant brothers. Primo is the (quintessential) chef’s chef: gifted, cantankerous, and obsessed. His younger brother, Secondo, handles the business side of running the restaurant. The Paradise has just a few tiny tables and only one waiter. However, the food that appears on those tables is something…

Tending to a Case of Grad School-Itis

Posted on August 16th, 2012

I found it in an antique store and, at $19, it was a steal. It’s big and heavy — made of thick glass — and has a shiny aluminum top. There are images from the world of leisure painted all over the sides: tennis racquets, bowling pins, a sailboat, and even a dapper golfer raising his club in mid-swing. Flanking the sailboat and golfer are recipes for classic drinks like “Whiskey Sour,” “Side Car,” and even the “Bronx” — a mouthful of vermouth that allegedly set the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous off on a 17-year bender. It’s vintage, alright. It’s also the perfect replacement for the flimsy metal cocktail shaker that came with my Groupon-purchased online bartending class. That’s right: I enrolled in an…

Cult Classics

Posted on June 25th, 2012

I sipped my banana milk and stared up at the mural on the wall. Underneath a heading reading, “Is this progress?” was a painted chart showing the incremental evolution of ape to human, ending with a soldier armed with an AK-47. A monkey (bearing a striking resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman) looked on, extending his arms in animated gesture. Above him a speech bubble read, “Don’t blame me!” I elbowed Mr. Max and pointed to it. “Pretty funny.” It was eight days into our vacation and we had finally built up the courage to have breakfast at the Yellow Deli. Locals had told us that the Deli (which is really more of a cafe) was owned, operated, and staffed by members of the Twelve…

Making Pancakes

Posted on May 13th, 2012

We had an electric griddle when I was a kid. It had a cast iron top with bright orange trim, and you plugged it into the wall. It was hefty and unwieldy, made in the days before cheap plastic manufacturing overtook all but the most expensive kitchen tools. It lived stored sideways in the back pantry, near the cast iron frying pans and the seldom-used china set. It was probably my grandmother who bought it. “Spend good money on an appliance,” she would say, “and it will last.” And she was right. Like the other kitchen items she purchased — the giant freezer, the beefy microwave, the sturdy bread maker — it was still in use well into my high school years. She didn’t…

What The Dickens

Posted on April 19th, 2012

It’s easy to tell that a tangelo is a hybrid of the tangerine and a pomelo. Like Brangelina, the title itself is sufficiently descriptive. What you may not know is that many of the ordinary varieties of citrus that we know, love, and slice up for breakfast are also hybrids — the unlikely kin of disparate citrus varieties. The common grapefruit, it turns out, is actually the bastard child of a pomelo and a sweet orange. The versatile lemon? That’s (at least according to some recent studies) the result of the union of a sour orange and a citron. Even a regular old orange can trace its lineage to a pomelo and a mandarin — they think. Scientists are still a little fuzzy on…

Hunting For A Woodless Veggie Burger

Posted on March 16th, 2012

Even if you’re not livin’ la vida vegetarian, it’s hard to go wrong with a veggie burger. Despite being invented in the 80s (the decade that brought us poprocks and fried mozzarella sticks), veggie burgers have successfully made the transition from food trend to…well, just food. I’d love to maintain foodie cred and say, breezily, that I have a fabulous from-scratch recipe that I make with ingredients plucked fresh from the garden. But while the mind is willing, the flesh is weak — and that weakness is named “Boca.” Up until recently, I was totally cool with frying up one of those frozen suckers in olive oil and dropping it on a bun with some ketchup, LT&O for the occasional instant dinner. So what…