October 31, 2010

For the cook who liked to cook

The cook we had that year was a Polish woman named Anna Ostrovick, a summer cook. She was first-rate—a big, fat, hearty, industrious woman who took her work seriously. She liked to cook and to have the food she cooked appreciated and eaten, and whenever we saw her, she always urged us to eat. She cooked hot bread—crescents and brioches—for breakfast two or three times a week, and she would bring these into the dining room herself and say, "Eat, eat, eat!"
"Goodbye, My Brother," John Cheever
Anna Ostrovick would have been pleased: Not two minutes after finishing this story, I found myself measuring out the ingredients for chocolate cake—which I will proceed to eat, eat, eat very shortly.

October 28, 2010

Pork is illuminated

"The demand for lean pig meat--'the Other White Meat,' as it's been sold to us—has led the pork industry to breed pigs that suffer not only more leg and heart problems, but greater excitability, fear, anxiety, and stress."
--Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
Now that's a case for fatty pork if I ever heard one. Maybe some from Porchetta.

I was pretty disappointed to hear that JSF was working on a non-fiction follow-up to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close...but so far, it's not that bad. I still wish he'd written another novel instead, though—especially now that it's ingrained in me the fact that farmed animals in the U.S. produce "roughly 87,000 pounds of shit per second"...

October 26, 2010

no love for gluttons

"Once, long ago, she had broken off an engagement only because she had detected in the young man's eyes a look of sensuous bliss as he ate strawberries and cream."
--"The Picnic," Mavis Gallant

Geesh. What a food prude.

October 17, 2010

a day like any other

"It is unacceptable, all the stunned and anxious missing a person is asked to endure in life. It is not to be endured, not really."
--Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, Lorrie Moore
"I have a poor memory. By this I mean that much that has happened in my life I've forgotten--a blessing for sure--but I have these large periods of time I simply can't account for or bring back, towns and cities I've lived in, names of people, the people themselves. Large blanks. But I can remember some things. Little things..."
--"Fires," Raymond Carver
The only thing I hate more than missing a friend's birthday is missing a friend. A thousand little things like breakfast tacos, lemongrass, and Rilke are everyday reminders of how much this friend is missed; how easily a person's absence can be a veritable presence in one's thoughts. To this friend, all I can offer by way of apology (with a little help from r.carver) is: I may have forgotten your birthday, but I can remember some things: little things that tie us together, on this day, like any other.

October 10, 2010

fruit tart inferiority complex

"That was lovely," she said. Rose had never heard such an admission of grateful pleasure from her. "Lovely," said Flo and sat remembering, appreciating, belching a little. The suave dreamy custard, the nipping berries, robust peaches, luxury of sherry-soaked cake, munificence of whipped cream.

Rose thought that she had never done anything in her life that came as near pleasing Flo as this did.
--The Beggar Maid, Alice Munro

I think I could subsist on fruit tarts for days on end without tiring of the little guys. Just thinking of the three components is enough to kick the salivary glands into full gear: (1) glazed, fresh fruit (ideally of the berry variety), (2) cold, smooth custard, and (3) a crumbly, sweet shell/crust. Individually, each would make a fine dessert, but once all three are combined, something magical takes place, and a paragon of pastry is born. Nevertheless, one would hope that familial bonds are infinitely more pleasing than mere foodstuffs (delicious as they may be). Poor Rose.

October 5, 2010

strange sandwich

He ate the whites of his eggs first...the least delicious part of his breakfast...then he carefully mashed up the peppered and mayonnaised yolks and spread them delicately on his toast. He ate with careful relish, his maimed hand curved lovingly around the rationed food as though to defend it from some possible aggressor.
--Clock Without Hands, Carson McCullers
Defend those eggs and toast! But would you defend a peanut butter, tomato, bacon, and onion sandwich? Later on, this mysterious sandwich is mentioned, and though it sounded strange at first, the more I think about it, the more I'm intrigued.

Tangential flashback: I have a distant memory of walking into the kitchen to discover my father gleefully adding a fat dollop of Skippy peanut butter to some hot noodles and cucumber...I think it was his emergency recipe for ma jiang mian (sesame noodles). Hmm, maybe there's method to this savory-peanut-butter madness. Fictional Southern characters are doing it, non-fictional Chinese dads are doing it...maybe I should do it, too.