Since this is my last column, I have thought a lot about what to write. I wanted to do something special. Something that was joyous, that celebrated the end of the year and the end of my college career. I was thinking about layer cakes, or something that requires a blowtorch. What changed my mind was the quiet arrival of the first asparagus.
By my standards, lemon bars are a rare cookie, a two-layered combination of shortbread and custard-like lemon toping. They seem to appear mostly at potlucks or church picnics. For all that they seem to be a favorite of the pre-baby boomer crowd. They’re incredibly easy. I discovered this when I made them myself.
Last night, I was having supper with my folks and long-time family friends Bonnie and Will. The conversation turned eventually to chickens – specifically, egg-laying hens. Bonnie has had a flock of hens for several years, and typically has several dozen beautiful, fresh eggs in her refrigerator as a result.
Soft pretzels don’t seem to belong to the realm of the home kitchen. They pop up in gas stations or malls, where they can be drizzled in cheese that strongly resembles melted plastic. But there I was, having a snack of cheese and crackers, and thinking about how the crackers really resembled the flavor of soft pretzels.
I’ve been thinking about chocolate mousse for a while. It’s so classically elegant, and looks gorgeous when it is served in a goblet or glass dish. Not only does it look good, but the smooth chocolate taste is wonderful. I thought it might be about time to try it myself, rather than looking at dessert menus at restaurants.
I like to think that pie holds a special spot in every American heart. It’s strewn about our popular ideas of American history, from Thanksgiving tables to “Little House on the Prairie” scenes.
We reach for disposable pie tins and prepared piecrusts in the grocery store, but pies baked like that are a far cry from pies baked a hundred years ago.
The daylight hours are getting longer by the minute, but it’s still cold enough to keep me in long sleeves and pants most days. In turn, I find myself thinking this is still the perfect weather for good, hot soup, or specifically, my mother’s excellent cabbage soup, swimming with winter vegetables and spicy flavors.
Lately, I’ve been drinking strawberry milkshakes. Perfect, creamy, strawberry milkshakes. There’s something really lovely about coming home and finding out that the ingredients I need are, in fact, already in my refrigerator. My grocery list typically includes mundane things like milk, eggs and noodles. Strawberries are a treat, and I’ve been craving milkshakes ever since these shiny red babies came home.
My little brother came home from college for spring break, so naturally I made chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate chip cookies are hardly a secret. The basic recipe for chocolate chip cookies is on the back of most packages of chocolate chips. The beautiful thing about them is how many people find them delicious. Put out a plate in most places heaped with chocolate chip cookies, and they’ll disappear with alacrity.
This is what late morning on a Saturday looks like: I’m standing in my kitchen with the radio tuned to “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me,” which NPR bills as an, “oddly informative quiz show.” My hair is a tangled mess, and there’s a mostly-empty cup of hot chocolate getting chilly at my elbow. I’m peeling potatoes, half-listening to Peter Segal’s voice on the radio and thinking ahead to the potato leek soup I’m having for lunch.
Yesterday, I baked blueberry coffee cake for two reasons – I really like coffee cake, and I really love butter.
Butter isn’t trendy. People don’t often write about butter. Seriously, run a Google search on it.
People write about peanut butter, or stabbing people with butter knives, or wondering how people in France manage to eat butter and stay skinny. The phrase “bread and butter” pops up over and over, with two meanings. One, a pair that goes together perfectly. Two, it’s a daily occurrence, commonplace and maybe a little bit boring.
I love traveling, although I’m less interested in sight-seeing than in those I’m visiting. I like to ask them to show me their town. When people show me why they love a place, it’s easier for me to love it, too. Almost invariably, this means eating out at their favorite restaurants.
Rhubarb is a strange food. Really strange, I mean, because we can only eat the ruby red stalks. The giant leaves of the plant are poisonous. It’s difficult to picture the circumstance in which someone looked at a rhubarb plant and said, “Well the leaves will kill you, but maybe the stalks won’t.”
I’ve been obsessing over carrots again. Part of my day was consumed in combing through the indexes of cookbooks for carrot recipes. Many of them looked enticing: herbed carrot soup, carrot cake, curried carrot pie with coconut crust. I read through the lists of ingredients and tried to picture the taste and texture of that particular meal. There are so many choices that it was difficult to make a decision, and I went from hungry to very hungry. In the end, I went with a mix of roasted winter vegetables with a ginger soy sauce kick.
On my first romantic Valentine’s Day, I received a necklace with a heart and a box of chocolates. It was very clichéd and entrenched in traditional gender roles. Still, I have to confess that I did love the chocolates. I loved the truffles so much, in fact, that I learned how to make them, and this year they are my Valentine’s treat to myself.
Every year before Valentine’s Day, my mother bakes dozens of cookies. She invites friends to frost and decorate them. This is a tradition that began before I was born, and will last long after I graduate from college and head out on my own. For now, I’m happy to be a part of a tasty tradition.
I was going to try something new tonight. Something a little fiddly, maybe with almonds and cream. Something sweet, because it’s February.
This morning, I woke up with the desire to make waffles. I didn’t have anywhere to be in the early hours, and it was snowing hard enough that leaving the house was an iffy proposition. This kind of morning calls for a decadent, toasty-warm breakfast.
Every year in late autumn, my parents put up a couple hundred pounds of potatoes. That’s right, a couple hundred pounds of potatoes are sitting in their basement right now. Kept cool, dry and dark, they will last for the majority of the winter. I have always loved this because no matter how bitter the cold was, we could always bring up some potatoes and make oven fries.
When I cook for my friends, I try not to limit them to my vegetarian tendencies. I have no compunction about asking them to grill up some lamb or slice raw chicken to small pieces because I am quite likely to burn everything.
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