When I was a kid, we always had at least two or three packages of crackers in the pantry for snacks and quick lunch prep. There would be my mom’s ruggedly healthy Ak-Maks, a box of kid-friendly Wheat Thins, and a plastic sleeve of rice cakes (to this day, I like to spread a couple with hummus and call it lunch).
White flour is like a ghost: if we don’t think about it, we’re fine. But when we do start to think about it, we get a little creeped out. Oh, it might not look like we’re scared of it when we wolf our restaurant bread baskets or take forkfuls of cream cheese-frosted carrot cake, but when we start to think about that powdery wheat product on its own, some serious flourphobia rises to the surface. Together I’m hoping we can make it through this. That’s right, together: I have flour-fear issues, too.
A few weeks ago I ate horse. On purpose, while a scandal erupted in Europe regarding the presence of horse DNA in frozen meals and processed meat products. Traveling in Mongolia, my husband, Garrett, and I wanted to eat like locals. So we ponied up to a table in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, scanned the restaurant’s menu, and ordered horse meat soup.
Our first bite of the thin broth wasn’t bad—slightly salty, with a hint of pepper. Not four stars, but serviceable. We stirred, and up popped hunks of yellowish fat, goopier than Vaseline, meant to bestow some flavor. Then we found the meat.
Believe it or not, there are some days when I welcome a lunch that smells like sweaty gym socks. At least that’s how Alex Greene, cheesemonger at Valley Shepherd Creamery, described the creamy, pungent block of Hudson Red he cut for me at the New Jersey cheesemakers’ Reading Terminal Market outpost in Philadelphia. But my days of stinky lunches could be numbered. The washed-rind, raw, cow’s-milk stinker is one of many that could be making its way onto the endangered species list — that is, if the government has its way.
“Un pincho de tortilla y un café con leche, por favor.”
It was an almost-daily order. The café near my little casa in Madrid had the best tortilla española around. And with a cup of espresso with milk, I was a happy girl. My options at such cafés were usually limited because I was a vegetarian. I had underestimated how difficult studying abroad in meat-loving Spain would be. I usually had two possibilities: tortilla española and gazpacho. As winter was approaching in my time in Madrid, the chilled gazpacho was not usually served, so tortilla was my go-to dish. MORE
For the last 11 years, I’ve lived in the same apartment in Center City Philadelphia. It has many admirable qualities, including good neighbors, giant closets, and a dreamy location. The one thing it does not have is any outdoor space. This means that when summer rolls around, I have two options when it comes to making classic grilled dishes. I can borrow access to a Weber or I can find a way to fake it in my kitchen. MORE
In August, Table Matters will be launching a series of digital wine guides called Planet of the Grapes. Stay tuned for updates.
There are powerful wines and hedonistic wines. There are oaky wines and wines bursting with fruit. There are thrilling wines and profound wines. There are wines with beautifully-designed labels and wines with cute, easy-to-read labels. There are expensive wines and wines you keep in your cellar for decades.
Muscadet is absolutely none of these. MORE
I am from New England stock. (I’m tempted to call us “hearty New England stock,” but the truth is that my immediate family skews more to the side of thin, independent, and quiet weirdos. Which is its own New England archetype, I suppose.) But a childhood in New England means that certain things are in my bones: Foliage and crisp apples in the fall, cross-country skiing in the winter, fiddleheads and mud in the spring, and in summer, shell-cracking lobster dinners. To me, lobster isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime rarity or even a particularly high-class food. It’s a treat, certainly, but not the epic, caviar-level foodstuff some people make it out to be.
In the many years since our revolution, we Americans have turned our backs on so many British influences—the royalty and pageantry, big hats and bows, pearls and plaids, clotted cream and smoked herring, Spice Girls and Phil Collins. Good riddance to all of it, you might say. But what about elevenses? How did we let that one get away?
Elevenses, in case you don’t know, is a casual break for tea or coffee and a small treat at, yes, 11 o’clock in the morning. And although elevenses sounds like it comes straight from nursery school, it was once standard practice for people of all ages in Great Britain.
There is an old Pennsylvania Dutch saying: weeche Waffle sin Dudelarwet ferlore, which means “soft waffles are love’s labor lost.” In the Pennsylvania Dutch universe, there is probably nothing worse than a soft waffle, a bedroom euphemism for male dysfunction. So ingrained are waffles in our culture that less-than-perfect specimens are ready objects of contempt.
When I was very young, I was entirely preoccupied by the color pink. I wanted all my clothes to be pink, played only with my Strawberry Shortcake doll, and longed for my meals to be exclusively pink. My parents responded to this phase by dyeing my pajamas pink, buying me a pair of inexpensive Strawberry Shortcake sneakers, and serving me a dish of strawberries with nearly every meal.
These days, I’m not nearly so mad for the color pink. In fact, the only vestige of my early obsession is the fact that come strawberry season, I go a little berry crazy. I buy pounds and pounds and make jams, purees, tarts, pies, salads, and dressings.
I recently received a sample of a rather eye-catching bottle of wine. Included in the shipment was a news release. It invited me to celebrate the wine’s “bold new label,” which was “sure to grab attention at the next summer barbeque.” It also informed me that the wine was both “fun and unconventional” and that it “reflects the Wild West experimentation of the Paso Robles AVA.”
As recently as 15 years ago, peanut butter was nothing but wholesome. It was rubbed on Mr. Ed’s teeth, slathered on sandwiches, tucked into lunch boxes across the country, and stuck to celery and covered with raisins for “ants on a log” (a treat that always sounded more awesome than it tasted). Peanut butter was the protein-filled glue of childhood and a pleasant, nostalgia-filled comfort food for adults. Dammit, peanut butter was America.
Beer and pretzels. Specifically, a big American stout and some hard and salty sourdough pretzels. This is my perfect food pairing. Why? Well, because I think they taste good together. It’s as simple as that. Okay, maybe it has something to do with the rock salt on the pretzels complementing the rich chocolate malt in the stout, but that’s not what I was thinking the first time I grabbed a bag of pretzels to munch on with my beer. A great deal of fuss is made over trying to pair foods with beverages, with the fine-dining world establishing stipulations about what should and should not be consumed with particular dishes. But does it really matter? For craft beer enthusiasts lately, it certainly seems important. MORE
When I was growing up, the one good thing about coming down with the flu was the guarantee that there would be pudding. My mom firmly believed that it was good for tender stomachs and since it was made with milk, it offered enough nutrition to get us back on the road to recovery. She’d alternate between a basic stovetop rice pudding and vanilla pudding from a packet.
For years, I thought puddings and custards were only good for those sick days when you needed something slightly sweet and easy to slurp. However, thanks to Faith Durand and her new book, Bakeless Sweets, my eyes have been opened to the many possibilities that exist in the world of puddings (as well as in panna cottas, jellies, and fluffs). MORE