Eat Me. Drink Me.

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

Month: May, 2011

Southern Comfort

by lyzpfister

I miss the South.  I miss warm grits melted with cheese and dotted with firm, pink shrimp.  I miss slow cooked greens and fatback and sweet and crumbly cornbread.  I miss excessive hospitality and humidity and conversations dotted with those little “bless her heart”s.  Oh God, I miss sweet tea.

Though the South is not everything.  I live in the North because I like it more.  Because I need the throb of city life and stripped-of-sugar sass.  I need fast-paced and driven.  And I really can’t stand pastel.

But what I love about the things I love about the South is that they’re things that for the most part I can bring to Brooklyn.  People I love, weather I like, food I could eat until I become obese.  Dinner parties.

Jamie and I sat on the back porch, with late afternoon sunshine across our shoulders, dipping strips of fried eggplant and chicken gizzards into buttermilk garlic sauce and drinking Firefly (sweet tea vodka for those of you never blessed).  I had just dismembered two chickens, which really meant I had torn apart two chickens with my bare hands (it’s a learning curve) and the pieces were soaking in a salty brine upstairs.  We were lazy, off of work, waiting for the third member of our party to join us.  Absolute laziness.  My morning had been spent lying on a towel in the backyard, sunning my pale and pasty legs, reading the last five pages of at least three magazines, and working on poetry.  I asked Jamie, “Do I look tanner?”  “No,” he said.

We spent a few nice hours sitting in the backyard until at seven, we thought we should start dinner.  I remembered having told people we would eat at seven.

Jamie pulled chicken from the brine and rinsed it in buttermilk and dredged it in flour mixed with jerk seasoning, cayenne, and salt.  I started washing greens and chopping bacon.  Ben arrived; I handed him a bowl of unwashed greens.

There emerged, like a picture: biscuits rising next to the stove, corn cobs steaming, a pan of greens and bacon simmering in potlikker, hot oil with a glassy surface, ready to bubble over chicken.  We played Gillian Welch and Allison Kraus and other twangy things, clinked ice in glasses.

The meal, at 9:30, finally coming together.  We set the small wicker table outside in pitch dark.  We lit some candles, heaped up chicken, biscuits, greens, and corn.  Plenty of paper towels.  That fried chicken, crackly, salty, and so moist on the inside it ran with juice, was the best of my life.  I could have eaten the whole piled high plate by myself.

We sat in the almost dark, feeling the day’s heat radiating from the concrete below us, laughing, talking, gossiping – that is Southern too.

Doomsday Dinner

by lyzpfister

I figured I’d go out with a bang.  Something simple and celebratory that said, “Good food is a good life” and “I’m really tired from work” at the same time.  It was time to dig through the pantry for cans unopened, vegetables unused, ideas unexplored.  I found harissa.  I thought: cinnamon, sweet potato, collards.

I played Adele very loud at the inconvenience of my neighbors.  I sang along even louder.  I thought, I have yoga-d, I have showered, and now I am cooking in the warm light of my kitchen.  This is as ready as I’ll ever be to meet the hereafter. Assuming the hereafter is upon us in the next twenty minutes.

I remembered that when I was doing yoga, the rooster crowing at five in the afternoon was a sign.  A frantic and unheeded sign.  But now, with the sweet potatoes softening in a bed of onion, garlic, cumin, harissa, and cinnamon, I remembered also that the rooster starts to crow at three in the morning and crows, like sick clockwork, seven times in a row every nineteen minutes apart, until late in the afternoon.  And by the end of the day his crows are like death throes, implausibly persisting croaks.  And before, I had felt the rain to be ominous, wet foretaste of horror.  Now, it brought a cool evening breeze through the window and a calming patter.  I remembered that I like rain.

I snapped open a bottle of Weihenstephaner, my right now favorite wheat beer.  The apocalypse postponed itself, I think to give me time to really taste crisp wheat and honey, blue sky, the remembrance of bananas.  I remembered that I don’t like bananas.

Two tortillas grilled on the gas stove’s open flame.  Collards just simmering into a spicy tomato-laced harissa sauce.  Crumbled feta.  Everything wrapped in the tortilla.

I ate and drank and waited.  And as rain calmed away into cool spring night I forgot to wait and simply sat, listening to the sound of children playing somewhere on the sidewalk and lovers whispering carelessly over a bottle of wine, birds twittering, the rooster crowing his death groans.  And as I forgot the fear of fire rain splitting the sky in half and earthquakes and floods, I remembered what I had always known, that the only frightening thing about death is the time we waste in worrying about it.

A Good Last Meal

Heat olive oil in a skillet.  Soften one yellow onion, chopped, and two large cloves of garlic, minced, in the oil.  Add ¼ of a medium-sized sweet potato, cut into cubes and sauté until sweet potato is almost soft.  Season with 1 tsp cumin and salt.  Add 1 tbsp or so harissa paste and enough water to cover the base of the skillet.  Cook until sweet potato is soft.  Add 1 tbsp tomato something, be it salsa, paste, or sauce and a splash of rice wine vinegar.  Simmer briefly.  Add a bunch of collard greens, washed, trimmed, and ripped into chunks.  Cover the skillet with a lid and simmer until collards are soft.  Stir frequently, adding water or olive oil when sauce begins to stick.  Season to taste with salt.  Heat two corn tortillas over gas burner (or in a skillet if you have an electric stove).  Top with collard-potato mix and crumbled feta cheese.