Eat Me. Drink Me.

Why We Eat. Why We Drink. Why We Write.

Month: August, 2010

Christening

by lyzpfister

Finally, a beginning.

Last night, I was talking with my roommate about the bedbugs.  It’s still almost shameful to say, even though they are an epidemic in New York – apparently the whole country.  The people I tell, I laugh and say, Oh, it’s fine, I’m just spending a fortune in laundry.  But the bedbugs have brought out the worst in us.  They have robbed us of our time and stolen our sanity.  We bicker over little things and act selfishly because we can’t think otherwise.  But mostly, we haven’t made our new apartment home.  And somehow, it’s worse to expresses these fears than to suffer them in silence.  But now you know.

We were in the kitchen, and I don’t remember why, but I wanted to know the secrets of making rice.  My attempts always leave a thin burned layer of grains stuck to the bottom of the pot.  I think of them as sacrificial grains.

Eulas started telling me his method for cooking rice – water to just cover the rice, cooked to boiling, heat turned low and covered while the steam works.  Then Sarah – I’ve perfected my rice recipe.  You need lots of time, at least 45 minutes.  We debated rice cooking methods, discussed the merit of steam, water to rice ratios, pot types, rice types, and lids for half an hour.  As the last few words were said, we began to separate; silence pushing us back to our rooms.  We could make rice now, Sarah said.  I’ll make beans, Eulas said, and with relief we drew together again in the kitchen.

We cooked and talked – about something, I don’t even remember – as the music of cars and neighborhood children clashed outside our window.  The redolent smell of cumin and pepper and the kitchen’s warm lights.

We ate rice and chickpeas at the table that still only has two chairs – I brought out the desk chair from my room.  Then we thanked each other and went to bed, since it was already eleven o’clock.

Reclaim the space, I keep saying.  Make it home, and they will go away.  (Also, spray a lot of poison and they will go away.)  I didn’t sleep much last night, waking up with phantom itches and fears, but my kitchen is christened.  And the bedbugs, they too shall pass.

Sarah’s Rice
1 cup brown rice
2 1/3 cups water
¼ bouillon cube

Place rice and water in a small pot and bring to a boil.  When water boils, turn heat as low as it will go and cover with a lid.  Cook 45 minutes or until grains are tender.

Eulas’ Chickpeas
1 can garbanzo beans
½ red pepper
handful cilantro sprigs
½ yellow onion
1 garlic clove
¼ + cups water
salt
black pepper
cayenne pepper
white pepper
cumin
paprika

Simmer everything together in a covered skillet over medium heat until tender and water is evaporated.  You may use a plate to cover your skillet if you don’t have a lid.

Serve chickpeas over rice.

Not Cooking

by lyzpfister

There is a point where what you don’t cook means something too.  Every day at work on my lunch break, the hectic rush to Starbucks, the deli, money spent.  Two weeks into moving and I still can’t make myself at home in the long kitchen – so new and full of stainless steel, without character or enough space to chop onions.  The fridge is smaller than me, there is no order to a glutted smash of plastic bags, yogurts, mustard, glittering cherry tomatoes in clear cases.  Yesterday I threw away spring onions, cilantro, lettuce, and cucumbers.  Forgotten in there.  Mom says, try Paxil.  But what I need is to christen the kitchen and to write again.  I miss those anchors of sanity.

What is there in cooking that saves me?  Stability: the heft of a knife handle in my hand, the rhythmic grind of the blade rubbing salt into a garlic clove.  Creativity: the unexpected sour hit of feta on spinach wilted in bacon grease.  Safety: fried eggs.  Escape: a pinch of berbere spice.  Comfort: pasta and basil, chorizo.  My eyes closed, eating tacos.

I am fearless in the kitchen.  A mistake is almost always fixable and sometimes leads to something better than what I had in mind.  I try to approach life this way – the best things unfold before me despite my efforts.  When I cook, it reminds me of the goodness of a greater plan.  When I don’t cook, I forget.  And I worry, about success and failure, jobs, getting a roommate, making phone calls, painting, finding time for yoga – as if I were picking apart the goodness of a whole orange and eating only pith.

Then I remember the soup I froze for bad times. Tuscan bean soup, thick with potato and butternut squash, smooth, sweet carrots cut through with the bitterness of kale.  Tucked into the soup is the love of standing over a stove in July’s heat wave, patience as beans soaked, as they melted into nothing like butter in a hot skillet; there is the organization of a recipe, my hands that have touched everything – and some amount of foresight.  The soup is like a balm.  I have that anyway.