Eat Me. Drink Me.

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

Month: June, 2011

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

by lyzpfister

What a surprise it was to stand under the tree in the backyard one morning and look up at little misshapen berries, turning the first blush of ripening pink.  We’d moved into the apartment last September, after the last of any berries had already fallen from the tree, and being inexperienced botanists, had written the tree off as just another rambling Brooklyn shrub that managed to make it to adulthood, to spite polluted rain and urban sprawl.  But here it was, growing berries.  Fat and dark purple, like stretched-out blackberries.  Armed with a berry and a leaf, I tried to look up the fruit online.  Searches for “ugly blackberry” or “black berry growing on tree” turned up nothing.  In hopes that it wasn’t poisonous, I ate the fruit.

The flavor was sweet and ripe, almost like bubblegum and so full of juice it burst open like a water balloon as I bit into it.  After waiting a few hours without experiencing any death-like symptoms, I went outside and plucked berry after berry off the branches and ate them straight from the tree.  I was reminded of being twelve, of standing along the fence in my childhood garden and grabbing raspberries, blackberries, and currants from bushes and stuffing them straight into my mouth.  When I couldn’t eat another berry, I’d pick a container full and freeze it, so that as fall approached, I could still sit in front of the television, popping frozen berries in my mouth.

A berry is never as nice as when it’s picked directly from the bush, and even nicer when its unexpected.  Mulberries, say my neighbors, are what’s growing on the trees.  I had always imagined mulberries to be sour, prickly things.  I don’t know why – I’ve never even eaten anything mulberry flavored nor even seen a mulberry live.  And now I have more mulberries that I know what to do with, so every morning I step outside and shovel a new, ripe batch into my mouth.

As I lay reading in my hammock today, I stared up at the sky through the mulberry leaves and spied a bunch of grapes intertwined in the bush.  And in the corner of the fence, a crabapple tree.  What bounty in Brooklyn!

Inspired, I jumped up from my hammock, brushed away a nap just about to settle, and walked to the plexi-glass wrapped liquor store down the street.

Last summer, my grandfather and I had bottled raspberry and blackberry liqueur with fruit from his garden.  We spent our mornings picking fruit and measuring cubes of sugar and rum and our evenings sampling finished bottles from our experiments the summer before.  He reminisced about his childhood and we talked about our family and how it has grown.  He is taciturn, my grandfather, and for us to sit for hours in the kitchen washing berries, was simply an excuse to be together. He sent me home with a few bottles of raspberry liqueur, a box of German kandis sugar and a book of recipes.

I bottled my first liqueur today.  I didn’t use a recipe, just asked my hands to remember how many raspberries I’d funneled into each jar, how much sugar, vanilla, and rum.  And with every mulberry I dropped into the glass, I thought about how proud my grandfather would be that I was bringing Germany to Brooklyn.  And how much he’ll like chatting over a glass the next time I see him.

Summer in the City

by lyzpfister

Oh yes, summer is here, at least unofficially.  At least, I’m sweating enough to call it summer.  With every snatch of breeze that thinks about coming inside, I lean closer to the open window.  At least, until the mosquitoes eat my face.  Oh yes, it’s summer.  Time for salads and goat cheese, basil, mint, and buckets of water with ice cubes and lime.  Or even better, fancy little cocktails with wild tea vodka, strawberries, mint, lemons, simple syrup, and soda water.

It feels like summer vacation every time we sit outside in the backyard.  Two tiki torches light up the freshly raked dirt where someday soon there’ll be grass.  There’s now a little string of Christmas lights up and always candles burning after dark.  Just enough light to eat by at night.  Perfect light when your dinner is strawberry-rhubarb pie and cocktails.

There’s been rhubarb at the market these last few weeks and the strawberries have finally started smelling like strawberries.  I had been wanting to make a German-style rhubarb tart, but the dough is yeast-based, and being me, I had failed to read the instructions more than ten minutes before my pie friends were about to come over.  And as I always come, back to my favorite crust recipe: 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, a splash of milk, a pinch of salt.  So easy and foolproof.  Effortless like the summer night.

We sat in the backyard, talking as the pie baked and easing out of our stoic poises as the temperature dropped to something comfortable.

Oh, the gooey mess.  Four people, one pie, and a few scoops of ice cream.  Demolished.

And much the same my summer days go by.  I go to work, I come home, I cook a little, sit in the sun a little, try to do yoga when I can, try to stay hydrated so I don’t die.

Yesterday for dinner, Anette and I assembled another of our fabulous conspirator meals.  As she tossed together a Greek-style salad: lettuce, arugula, tomato, cucumber, feta, red onion, and olive tapenade with dressing as simple as olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper, I grated sweet potato and mixed it with egg, breadcrumbs, chopped onion, rosemary, thyme, and oregano.  I added a few teaspoons of semolina to make my mixture stick together, then formed little patties and fried them.  We sat outside and declared it a perfect summer dinner.  Greek salad and sweet potato fritters dunked in a sauce of sour cream, mint, and garlic.

All winter I said, “Oh how I wish it was warm.  I promise not to complain once this summer if only the weather gets warm.”  And I haven’t complained.  Just said, very declaratively, “It’s hoooooot.”  And I won’t complain.  So summer, summer, bring it on.  I’ve chosen my weapons.  They are: lemons, yogurt, mint.

Rhubarb Pie

Mix 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, a splash of milk, and a pinch of salt together in a large bowl and roll into a smooth ball.  Add more flour if the mixture feels too wet.  Detailed pie crust instructions can be found here.  Press dough into a pie dish.  Wash and cut rhubarb into 1 inch chunks, and quarter strawberries.  To the fruit, add: 1 ½ cups sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tbsp flour, juice of ½ lemon.  Toss well to coat.  Pour into pie dish and bake in a 375° oven for 1 hour or until crust is browned and fruit is soft.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.