Dark Matters

I’m tired of hearing “it’s a matter of taste.”

Is it? Or is bad taste one of those things — like porn, pain and excess — where you know it when you see it, when you feel it? I’ve been circling this question for years, and each turn is another uncomfortable opportunity to interrogate my certainties. I don’t have many. But in my brief adulthood I have armed myself with a few inflexible convictions on matters humble in scale — e.g. the perfect pizza temperature, the ideal noodle doneness, the barbarity of certain phrases (looking at you, “as well as.”)

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In Defense of Shortcuts

I can be a pretty big snob when it comes to taking shortcuts in the kitchen.

Or, more accurately, not taking them. My kitchen is stocked with ingredients, with component parts. No supermarket sauces, no store-bought stock, no cheats. (Sriracha, Smoque BBQ sauce and Hellmann’s mayo I exclude from this.) This isn’t thanks to some puritanical, pseudo-scientific health kick. It’s just that I’m a bit of a control freak, and rather thrifty — and meals taste better and cost less when you make them from scratch. I won’t even use the slow cooker, fearing lack of control over the seasoning. For better or worse, this is the true north that has, till now, guided my value system as a cook.

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And she’s back

So ends the 2 year silence.

It’s been a cruelly long absence, and I can’t account for it except to say that I have been happy and healthy in the sunshine — and so, less eager to share my mind. My thoughts have grown smaller as I’ve grown older. They turn to lunch, to dinner, to loved ones and their troubles and triumphs, to the mundanities and minutiae of meeting deadlines and making time for exercise and folding fitted sheets.

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A Kind of Nourishment

Do you know what time is?

In Thailand this question was put to me often. Now, before you go accusing the Thai of philosophical heavy-handedness, know that the askers of this question always, always meant to ask for the time–what time is it?–but their muddled English sometimes achieved a kind of unintended profundity, if you were looking for it.

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A Good Thing

So here’s a good thing:

Skin-on fatty pork simmered with ginger, soy sauce and rock sugar until the skin is supple and shiny and the meat falls apart. Before my grandmother died, we had this all the time. Now, less. Chinese women of her generation believed that eating a small hunk of pork fat each day was the secret to a long life. Chinese women of my mother’s generation believe in eating as little meat as possible, and fill in the gaps with French pastries. Go figure. Guess which view I have more sympathy for.

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No Apologies

Reader, I fear I’ve grown rusty in this business of writing you.

Twenty days. Yikes. To break such a silence begs a certain gravity of prose, doesn’t it, but I find myself in an easier mood this evening. I could tell you what I’ve been doing, that I’ve been going through old pictures. That I started raising fragrant herbs and lusty pink orchids and this vague, green indoor palm that I’m not so sure about. Or that I’ve been painting and lifting, drilling and dusting, watering and washing, been spending entire days on my hands and knees these three silent weeks.

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Cold Noodles

Too tired to cook. Too humid. Too hot.

I’m sorry. It’s been a week–I have been surviving mostly on Frosted Flakes and take out. Went out for a Subway sandwich last night. I brought it home and ate it in my dark bedroom, right now the only livable space in my apartment. I left Chicago in good weather and came back a few days ago to find my place sweltering hot and smelling like ripe, days-old garbage. The air is thick in this city: heavy, wet. When I went to bed it was still too hot and too humid and I dreamt of the dry summer heat of Los Angeles, and of central air.

But last night, patting bits of oxidized lettuce off the floor with a mustardy napkin, I decided I’d had enough of the mopey shit. And like Hemingway after his oysters, I began to feel happy and to make plans.

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