I’ve lived in Chicago for almost four years now.
I’m leaving soon, probably. A bit of a panic is beginning to set in, or maybe not a panic, but an urgency, the urgency to do and see and taste everything I can of this city before I leave it. Last weekend, for example, was the first time I went to the zoo. And before that sad and awful visit, before we saw the ambling rhino and the life-sick ostriches and the sad apes, we ducked into a greasy spoon, and even though I’ve lived here for four years, it was only then that I had my first Chicago hot dog. Continue reading
I love food. And I can really put it away because I’m always hungry, always feeling underfed.
It’s been more painfully acute these past weeks because I’ve been trying to cut back. The weather is warming up and girls are walking around in tiny little things. Lots of pale skin touching sun for the first time in months. I wonder if it’s too much to ask of them, of us, to put on something so small after so much time under cover. You’re going to wear that?, I ask myself in the mirror, making a catalogue of real and imagined flaws. Short shorts, skirts, sundresses: creases, dimples in my skin. Yes. Yes I am going to wear that. So I start to watch what I eat.
Then the hunger sets in. For the past two weeks I have felt transcendently hungry. I’m not complaining: after a while the hunger starts cycling back to something that feels like fullness again. But then. Then I start to crave things that baffle, things that better-fed versions of myself would never, ever want. Continue reading
I never order shrimp at restaurants. For the longest time my mom went around telling people I have a problem with the stuff.
And I let her. Because I do. I have a problem with shrimp. It’s not that they have juicy heads that gush brains, or eyes that stick out on stalks, or that they feed on detritus. It’s not that they’re cute, though they are. It’s that most people who cook shrimp don’t cook it right, probably because they are scared to death of demanding too much of the people they are feeding. The number one way to mishandle shrimp? Shell and devein them before cooking. The worst thing you can do to good shrimp is to do too much.
Any person who knows her food will tell you that the flavor in a shrimp is in his head and shell. So that stuff that mom’s throwing away, the supposedly nasty stuff we can’t eat, is precisely what makes shrimp taste like, well, shrimp. When I see what could have been a succulent, flavorful piece of meat split open in the back and curled up into a tight fetal ball, its proteins exposed to too much direct heat, I feel… wrathful.
Writing for the blog there’s this wall I hit, again and again, the roadblock to ever making a true record of my cooking.
It’s the problem of food photography. Bad pictures ruin good blogs. It’s just true. Because bad pictures, especially bad pictures of food, are an immediate sensual assault on the level of, well—forgive me—hardcore porn. Aggressively scatalogical, just plain nasty porn. (I’d argue here that the production and consumption of nasty XXX porn comes from the same impulse that produces and consumes nasty food porn, but I’m aware of my audience.)
This fact has pained me. It’s not that I can’t be bothered about pictures. I can. I am. It’s just that the foods I like best are, for the most part, pretty ugly. Brownish, yellowish curries. Black vinegar noodle soup. Stuff coated in fermented shrimp sauce. It’s all delicious, really, but no one needs to see that stuff. That stuff is private. Continue reading
Posted in All Posts, International Food, Sides, Soups & Stews, Vegetarian
Tagged canon, chickpeas, curry, digital SLR, Indian food, porn, ugly food
I have some complicated, maybe irrational feelings about fusion cooking.
My first response is not to trust it. The worst restaurants in Evanston are these doglike, pandering places that label themselves Pan-Asian or Pan-World, that will give their customers practically anything they want however they want it. One place, opened recently, serves chicken drenched in sauces from all over the globe, kind of: Thai peanut, Italian Alfredo, Japanese teriyaki. Customers can choose one, or choose all. The philosophy is have it your way. The result is that nobody leaves happy.
With these trendy new places the word fusion is code for “We’re willing to make it if you’re willing to buy it.” And more often than not, “Please think we’re cool.” Naturally this is bad for the form. And despite the worldly, progressive sheen of the word, I think it masks a certain kind of fear. It’s the fear of serving food that’s simple, food that rejects gimmick, fear of saying to the precious customer, “our food is good enough the way it is.” Continue reading
Then there’s the warm weather.
It’s been beautiful for three days. There’s a part of me that thinks, something’s gotta give, right? But people on the street are smiling at nothing in particular. Grinning at dogs, beaming at, like, infants and bare branches and unbloomed tulips. I even saw the pan-handler in front of Potbelly’s get some love.
And walking to the bookstore today I got whistled at for the first time in… for the first time in a long time. I’m telling you. Weather.
Weather that brings about a change in my taste, my desires. This is right about when I start waxing poetic about crispy, fresh, vegetable-y things. Not that I couldn’t totally kill a juicy undercooked burger right now, but in general I’ve been thinking about something else. Continue reading