Monthly Archive for January 2010
You could say that my first truffle-making experience unfolded under duress. It was December 23, 2008 and our flights to Minnesota had been scratched, a blizzard socking in the midwest. Our chances of flying out the next day—the day (Christmas Eve) of my family’s traditional Christmas celebration—were fading fast and the prospect of driving several hundred miles along a snowy interstate sounded both exhausting and terrifying. Kevin, valiant hero of mine that he is, assured me he could manage the drive, that we would leave the next morning at dawn, that we’d make it to Minnesota just fine—and in plenty of time to partake in the celebrations.
I had my doubts. And my tears. And my hyperventilation. I was a mess. In short: not my proudest moment.
Well, would you look at that? It’s Saturday! Again! It sort of snuck up on me, the week whisking by in a whirl of work, but now that it’s here, I’m ready to embrace it wholeheartedly. There are groceries to stock up on, recipes to make, a book club book to finish, people to see, couches to be sprawled upon, photos to be snapped. And, of course, both days, there is a lunch to be had. A lunch not eaten at my desk. A lunch not spooned hurriedly from a reusable container. A lunch right at home, eaten with Kevin and created in our kitchen.
Can you tell that I prefer the weekend lunch to the weekday lunch—to put it mildly? It’s like Saturday morning versus Monday morning. Or July versus January. No contest: weekend lunch wins. If it’s not a mishmosh collection of cheese and fruit and flatbreads and nuts, it might be a bowl of soup or, more often, sandwiches.
If there is one silver lining to living in the midwest at this time of year, it’s the food. The job description is otherwise entirely unappealing and completely unglamorous. To fit the bill, you must: sustain yourself on artificially heated air; layer yourself with fleece, wool and flannel beyond recognition (at all times when out-of-doors and at most times when indoors); ignore the lack of daylight for two-thirds of each day; lather your pasty limbs with moisturizer and your chapped lips with thick films of balm (all of this, of course, to no end); dream incessantly of days when the mercury will rise above the 40-degree tick mark; torture yourself by subscribing to Travel + Leisure (or, worse, skimming the recent vacation photos posted by your Facebook so-called-friends).
Confronted with this list, I struggle to find the upshot of my midwestern winter existence and, repeatedly, return to the homey, comforting dishes that are standard winter fare. For my money, it’s the only perk.
Last Sunday, we woke up with plans to try out a new bake shop in our neighborhood for breakfast. Visions of puffed muffins and sugar-dusted scones and fat slices of quickbread dancing through our minds, we pulled open the blinds and set to excavating the protective gear required for a mid-January walk (even of only a few blocks) in Chicago. Somewhere along the line, Kevin had the good sense to consult the current air temperature and we were downright offended to find a stark, round zero staring back at us.
As in zero degrees.
Without so much as a discussion of let’s-brave-it-anyway or a-brisk-walk-could-feel-great, we began peeling off our coats, unwinding our scarves and unloosing our fingers from their mittens. Breakfast, it seemed, would be served right there at home.
It’s been one of those weeks. On Sunday night, I let a pot of lentil soup bubble too long. So long in fact that the would-be soup reached the point where the deepest layer of lentils fused themselves to the pot (my very favorite pot, it should be noted). Kevin braved the grocery store on Monday night but it had apparently been ransacked over the weekend, leaving his success rate with the ingredients on his list hovering at around 50 percent. (Out of chicken? Really?) On Wednesday, the bacon for the B.L.T.’s blackened and the popcorn for the movies singed, which nearly ruined the night, but there was more bacon and more popcorn and, really, any Wednesday night that involves B.L.T.’s and the movies can’t really be that bad. Last night, I gently toasted some walnuts on the stovetop and then turned off the flame. Or I thought I turned off the flame, until a waft of the unmistakable scent of charred walnuts proved me wrong.
So let’s turn back the clock to these graham crackers, shall we? Actually, we’ll have to flip the calendar back to December—all the way back to the last decade. Simpler times. Or, at the very least, more successful times in the kitchen.
Hello! To 2010, to Chicago (it’s good to be back home for a change!), to the blog after a mini-break, and, of course, to you. Speaking of you? I have a favor to ask. Will you allow me a recipe-free post? Oh, don’t worry, there will be food. Of course. But no recipe. Recipe ideas, aplenty, dreamed up while on vacation, but in the craze of back-to-work and the haze of post-holiday-blues, I haven’t had time to turn those ideas into reality. Soon, though, soon. So, what do you say? Deal? Deal. You’re so kind.
Where was I? Two-sided conversations carried on by one person are exhausting (when you’re the one doing the carrying). Ah, yes, I was about to tell you about our long-weekend in Arizona, which we spent mainly in the Phoenix area, save for a quick drive to Sedona.