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.
At this point in January, there’s not much left to look forward to when it comes to winter weather. We’ve long passed the first snowfall. The holidays came and went. Only weeks of cold weather and snow remain. One small but bright spot of joy is the rich, fatty foods that seem most appropriate for these cold times.
I discovered scones when I was in high school. My mother and I had stopped at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor. I didn’t know what scones were at the time, but I knew they were delightful as soon as I tried one. Sweet and light, a cross between bread and cookies. They were a miracle, and I wanted more.
It’s been above freezing for a couple days, but it’s still January in Michigan. Winter is the time of year to trot out hot, filling dishes – the kind of dish that does more than fill your tummy. Winter is the time for convivial foods that leave you with a sense of comfort and happiness. For me, the perfect food for that is soup. What’s been on my stove these past couple days is a wonderfully thick rice and lentil soup.
I used to have all sorts of trouble when I tried to bake a cake. It would sound so easy – go to the grocery store, buy whichever flavor of cake mix sounded appealing, mix in two eggs, stir in some oil and bake. Yet every time I attempted to make cake from a mix, I managed to screw it up in inexplicable ways, the cake sank or the cupcakes refused to separate from their wrappers.
I came across my favorite holiday cooking gadget at a summer garage sale. It is a strange contraption, a sort of round aluminum tube with a twist-handle on one end and a series of metal disks with punched out shapes for the other end. When I found it, I recognized it immediately as a cookie press, used for making spritz cookies, also called butter cookies. Spritz cookies are perfect for winter holidays – attractive, fairly small and extremely addictive.
Exams are tough. High stress levels from difficult exams, lengthy review sessions and presentations to prepare mean students are running ragged. Eastern Michigan University’s Pre-Vet Club came up with a solution to help calm peoples’ nerves: the Puppy Room. The Pre-Vet Club brought puppies and dogs to EMU’s Science Complex on Dec. 16 to interact with students.
It’s the end of the semester, and I am feeling overwhelmed. The last couple weeks are always a rush of papers, presentations, and exams and it’s difficult to make time for real meals.
Minestrone soup is one of my greatest triumphs. It is the one single vegetarian, non-dessert, fills-me-up thing that I introduced to my mother, and it changed her entire outlook on deeply vegetarian soups. Well all right, it just changed her outlook minestrone, and only the style of the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. It’s still a wonderful feeling when I walk in the door and I find out that she’s making “my” minestrone soup because she thinks it will be good for lunch tomorrow.
Petie the Dog (PTD) Productions’ presentation of the play “Jigsaw” is lively and lighthearted. The play was written by Dawn Powell in 1934, but has not enjoyed much popularity over the years. The Midwest premier run took place at Ypsilanti’s Riverside Arts Center, 76 N Huron St., on Dec. 5 and is running through Dec. 14.
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