Eat Me. Drink Me.

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

Month: December, 2010

This Is It

by lyzpfister

We finally turned the heat on yesterday.  There was snow and it was a struggle, since so far we’ve been doing well with slippers and puff vests.  It’s not that we’re cheap, it’s just, well, masochism is so in this season.

But warmth is nice.  From me, warmth elicits all my fuzzy tendencies, like doing other people’s dishes, talking for a long time on the telephone, and baking pie.

So I spent the day making pie (and watching Netflix and sending emails and packing for vacation).  After Thanksgiving, my mother sent me back to New York with a bag of apples grown in Adams County in South Central Pennsylvania.  Our traditional Thanksgiving pie is always made from these apples, which are harvested in the fall and sold at orchard stands lining the hilly back roads.  My apple pie recipe is really my mother’s, and what makes it so good is based largely on those fresh, Adams County apples.  And a lot of brown sugar and butter.  The pie is requested at most family gatherings, and for a long time, whenever she traveled back home, she flew with an apple pie in her carryon.

This pie has truly traveled the world.  After my study abroad semester in Australia, two friends and I went to New Zealand to farm.  Our second night in Christchurch happened to be Thanksgiving and this was the first time any of us hadn’t been with our family for the holiday.  So we found a grocery store and bought a rotisserie chicken, a few potatoes, a packet of powdered gravy, a bag of salad, biscuit mix, a bottle of red, and a few apples.  Back at the hostel, as Emma and Dan boiled and mashed potatoes, prepared biscuits and gravy, I made an apple pie.  We sat at a small table with our improvised feast and gave thanks.  And then, when we were done with dinner, we sliced up the apple pie and played cards late into the night.  I think of that Thanksgiving often, almost every time I make apple pie, how we created a feast in a New Zealand hostel in the middle of summer, how we were family for each other.  And then I think about how, the next day, we carried around the leftover pie mashed into a Ziploc bag and ate it with plastic forks at bus stops.

I make this pie at every opportunity, especially when the weather turns cold.  Something about brown sugar and butter is comforting.  The other night at dinner, I was telling some friends about the apples in my apartment and the pies I had to make before I left on vacation.  Someone joked, “Well you can make a pie for us.”  So I did – we left the restaurant, sliced apples, made crumble and crust, and while the pie baked, sang Christmas carols by a still-undecorated tree.  An hour from start to finish, and we sat around the table for hot apple pie with ice cream.  “Cool party trick.”

Since, I’ve baked three more pies.  Two of them my roommates and I demolished and the third is for a friend I’m meeting in Las Vegas.  Incidentally, she’s one of the friends from my New Zealand Thanksgiving.  And I think, this is what it’s like, on my way to see family, schlepping along food, my symbol of love.  And I feel a little like my mom, sitting in the plane, an apple pie in my carryon.

Apple Pie
(makes two pies – trust me, you’ll want to make two)

2 c flour
2/3 c vegetable oil
1/3 c milk
pinch of salt

Mix with a spoon until ingredients come together.  Roll the dough between your hands until smooth ball forms.  It should glisten with oil and feel a little wetter than normal pastry crust.  Separate into halves and press evenly into pie dishes.

Approx. 9 apples; preferably from an orchard, but otherwise store-bought baking apples are fine; use a variety
Plenty of sugar
Splash of rum or vodka

Peel, core, and thinly slice apples.  Douse liberally with cinnamon and sugar – I wish I had an exact measurement for you, but all I can say is, add “enough.”  My conservative guess would be ¾ cups of sugar.  The apples should be coated with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  The best is to eat an apple slice and taste for sweetness.  Don’t forget that there will be sugar in the crumble.  Add a splash of the liquor; mix.  Pour filling into pie dishes.

2 sticks butter
approx. ¾ c brown sugar
approx. ¾ c flour

Blend butter, sugar, and flour until a coarse crumble forms.  Again, the measurements are not exact.  Best is to taste a butter crumb and to make sure you add equal parts brown sugar and flour, however much you decide to add.  Distribute crumble on pies.  Bake in a 425˚ F oven for 30 minutes or until crumble is lightly browned and filling bubbles.

Dinner Stroll

by lyzpfister

Our apartment’s fire alarm is hyper-reactive, erupting into warning cries at just the intimation of heat.  This means that when I cook, I spend almost as much time running back and forth between the two alarms with a long wooden stick and disengaging them with a well-aimed prod, as I do standing in front of the stove.

I do a lot of walking in New York in general, so the fire alarm situation is nothing out of the ordinary.  The other night, I met a friend for dinner after work.  We were meeting at 6:15 and I was done with work at 5 – so rather than wait around uptown, I walked the thirty or so blocks from SoHo to 6th and 20th.  I like to walk casually but with purpose, separating myself from the throng on the city streets.  Everyone is stressed in New York, even the tourists, who must somehow subconsciously feed off everyone else’s frantic energy.  To set yourself apart from this and still be in it is an almost elevated feeling of peace, like every commercial where there’s that one guy standing there while the rest of the world blurs by like water.

I like the introspection that comes along with walking – the mind’s mimesis of wandering feet.  And especially walking in New York, I have these moments where I thrill that I live here.  It’s a very special moment, to know where you are going, to know that after you leave your bank on Broadway and 10th, you can wander generally South and left (I actually do all my directions this way; I’ve mastered North and South, but I find East and West a little elusive), and you can pick up a bottle of cheap wine at the Broadway Liquor Warehouse, check on a new milk frother at Sur la Table and finally end up at your favorite pasta shop on Grand and Mulberry for fresh egg fettuccine and next door, a slab of Sicilian black pepper cheese.

I feel most connected to places in which I’ve walked.  Maybe this is why I’ve felt more at home in cities where I haven’t spent more than a few months total – Bremen in Germany, Melbourne in Australia – than in the town where I grew up.  It’s when I have the map in my feet that I think of a place as home.

I’ve had the last two days off work, and it’s luxurious.  I love running errands without a time constraint, and I tend to get more done when I don’t feel pressured to do as much.  I’ve also cooked a lot.  I had leftovers from Thanksgiving still – a whole pumpkin threatening collapse, chicken livers from a walnut and apricot stuffing, plenty of fresh herbs, shallots, and lots of other fancy things I don’t usually keep in stock.  And so, in between the Laundromat and the post office, I found time to make a pumpkin-turkey soup, roasted pumpkin seeds, and pasta with liver-butter sauce.

Cutting liver is unpleasant, like slicing a squeegee or hearing the accidental squeal of a piece of chalk across a board.  You can feel liver resisting the knife.  And badly prepared liver is ungrateful.  It is grainy and dense and dislikes being chewed as much as it didn’t want to be cut.  But good liver – good liver is my truffle.  Buttery, earthy, deep and graciously forgiving.

Learning to love liver is much like discovering a place.  At first, unknowable and a little off-putting.  Resistant, careful of its secrets, but approached with persistence, patience, and the desire to understand, yielding to the chef’s knife, the walker’s feet.

I cook the way I walk, a destination in mind but a less fixed route for the travel.  This way, I keep myself open to learn the secrets of a city or of a dish that harried preoccupation never reveals.  And so, as I run from one fire alarm to the other, I think, it’s not so bad; I know the secrets of my hallway well.

I can’t take credit for this recipe, so check it out here: