Eat Me. Drink Me.

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

Month: August, 2012

What I Learned in Brooklyn

by lyzpfister

tacos with roast chicken and habanero salsa

They may not be authentic or conventional. But as long as they’re made with 100% corn tortillas (preferably pressed in the back of a tortilla factory in Brooklyn), they’re real.

When my friend Akiko asked what I wanted her to bring me from America, the only thing I could think of was real tortillas. Not big, floppy flour mats, but small, imperfectly round discs with traces of char.

I’m not a taco Nazi, and I think there are many ways to build a beautiful taco. Often, I don’t even think it’s necessary to include traditional taco ingredients. In Germany this is hard to do anyway, since The Great Cilantro Hunt is a time-consuming task and limes are not, as they were in Brooklyn, ten for $1. But we make do with what we have – and though the tacos I made a few weeks ago on burrito wraps were good, these tacos, with the Brooklyn tortillas Akiko brought me, were great.

habaneros

brooklyn-berlin tacos: roast chicken, habanero salsa, red cabbage slaw

roast chicken with garlic and herbs de provence

Roast Chicken

Before I decided to make tacos, I actually started to make roast chicken with vegetables and herbs de Province. Right after I got the whole pan ready, I thought, but I have these habaneros and I have these tortillas – and herbs de Province or not, I decided to make tacos. Though it might not sound like a great combination, this chicken was so moist and delicately seasoned that it didn’t compete at all with the spice and vinegar of the taco toppings. Now that I think of it, though, the lemons I used instead of limes (no limes at the grocery store today… thanks, Germany) might have been a nice bridge between the two flavors.

Preheat oven to 500°F (260°C) – my oven is an old model and therefore not the strongest; if you’re working with top-notch appliances, you can roast on a lower temperature. Place 1 whole chicken in a shallow baking dish. Rub with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stuff the inside cavity with 2 carrots and 2 onions, cut into 2 inch chunks. Scatter remaining carrots and onions outside the pan (you might want to cut up some extra – these turned caramelly sweet after roasting and I wish I’d had more…). Make 6-8 slits in your chicken with the tip of a knife and stuff with garlic cloves. Season chicken liberally with herbs de Province and maybe another round of olive oil. Place in oven and roast for approx. 45 minutes or until skin has crisped up and chicken is cooked through but not dry.

roast chicken with garlic and herbs de provence

red cabbage & green pepper slaw

red cabbage and pepper slaw

Red Cabbage & Pepper Slaw

In a bowl, combine ¼ cup thinly sliced red cabbage, 1 small green pepper, 1 green onion, and 1 small tomato (all chopped). Add ¼ cup rice wine vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil, and 1 tsp sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir. Make this while your chicken is roasting so that the flavors can blend together.

habanero salsa

Habanero Salsa

Finely chop 1 habanero (you might want to cover your hands with plastic wrap or be prepared to burn for the rest of the day) and 1 small onion. Onions in Germany can be very small, so if you’re in the US, you might want to only use ½ an onion. Your habanero to onion ration should be around 1:2. Add the juice of 1 lemon and plenty of salt. Stir and allow flavors to meld.

I also added sour cream and feta cheese to my tacos. But most important, corn tortillas, re-heated in a skillet – or even better straight over the flame if you have a gas stove.

from Tortilleria Los Hermanos in Brooklyn

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Anger Cooking/Comfort Eating

by lyzpfister

Don’t even ask me how my day was. Don’t do it.

My roommates asked – and twenty minutes of ranting later they said, “Well, look how… peeled those potatoes are.

And it’s true. They were quite thoroughly peeled and then quite thoroughly chopped. And the onion made me cry. And the eggplant never saw it coming. And I beat the yogurt and lemon juice until it never knew it had been two separate things.

I threw the pan in the oven and sat down. We talked about not me. I took a breath.

My vegetables took an hour to roast (in the way things never really go exactly like you had in mind), but my roommates and I sat in the kitchen. We talked it out. And the aroma of roasting vegetables crept into the kitchen. Soothing.

I heaped the vegetables onto my plate because being angry makes you hungry and sat down to eat, even though I wasn’t even very angry anymore. Just a little bit exhausted.

It took one bit to realize I’d confused the paprika for chili. My mouth burned. A just on the cusp of too much burning, there with the sweetness of onions and rich eggplant, the homey, comforting potatoes. Like the residue of my anger, not overwhelming, not too much for me to bear – just present, just persistent.

Things I’ve Never Done

by lyzpfister

spaghetti carbonara

I don’t think of myself as a particularly brave person. I don’t have stories about skydiving in New Zealand or bungee-jumping off bridges. I’ve never lived in a third-world village or gone on a solo trip through some really high mountains in a country whose language I do not speak.

I was having dinner with a friend a while ago, and he asked me, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?”

I said, “I… don’t know.”

And I honestly couldn’t think of anything, with the exception of a few stupid stunts I’d pulled in college. And those were stories which, though funny then, would make me seem like that person now. So – no.

My life is lame, I thought. I should pack up my bags and go to Nepal or live with the Massai for a year or go ice fishing with the Inuits. And learn Yupik. Probably I should learn Yupik. Or something.

But is that what it means for me to live an interesting life, a brave life? Is living bravery on a smaller scale still as brave? Is it relative?

People tell me I’m brave for having moved to New York, for then having moved to Berlin, without knowing (in various combinations for each place) whether I’d find a job, an apartment, friends… But I don’t think of these moves as being brave things. They were just things I had to do. So I did them.

If I don’t feel compelled to go skydiving, does that mean it’s cowardice not to go?

I’ve been thinking about these questions as my life in Berlin settles into place. I’m getting comfortable. Comfortable in my routine, in the way I understand myself and who I am here. But I’m happy. And the feeling I felt before I left New York, that anxious, twitching itch like a circus troupe stuck in my gut – I don’t feel that now.

Berlin

I don’t want to believe that living a brave life is dependent on where you are – and how exotic it sounds. I want to believe that the daily practice of bravery can sometimes be simple and small and that only we can rate its worth.

My version of bravery is this: asking for enough money for my work , standing up for the things I need, allowing myself to fall in love.

spaghetti carbonara

I could add eating raw eggs to the list – though I’m sure my mother would say that this isn’t bravery, jut a bad idea.

I want to talk about spaghetti carbonara, which until recently, was something I’d never done before. Partly because my mother has instilled in me a pure terror of eating raw eggs and partly because the idea of having to quickly transfer hot noodles into raw eggs and mix in some other stuff with just the right rhythm before the eggs curdle and you’re left with nasty pasta egg stuff kind of scared me.

Spaghetti carbonara is simple – it’s pasta, eggs, ham, cheese, and pepper. The only thing that makes it slightly complicated is the technique – the order in which you put it together, the quick wrist flicks that turn raw eggs into silky, rich sauce.

spaghetti carbonara

As I stood at the stove, however, separating egg yolks from white and listening to the sizzle of fatty pancetta cubes crisping up, I wondered what I’d been afraid of. There was nothing to it but a little prep and a little confidence.

Is this bravery? I wondered. Can bravery be so little as to cook something you’ve never cooked before – something which you were afraid of, though in the scale of fears it was a small fear?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But for right now, the circus troupe is still. I don’t want to go swimming with sharks and no, I don’t want to learn Yupik and live with the Inuits. I like my life. I like where I am and what I’m doing. So for now, spaghetti carbonara and other small braveries will have to do.

spaghetti carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

(for 2)

Set a pot of salted water to boil. In the meantime, heat ½ cup cubed pancetta in a slip of olive oil on medium-high heat. When the pancetta has crisped up and slightly browned, remove from heat. Drain the drippings from the meat and reserve. Set the pancetta aside and allow to cool slightly. In a bowl, whisk together 3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg. When your water is boiling, add pasta – enough for two people – and cook according to package instructions. Prepare: ½ cup grated pecorino cheese and 1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper. When the pasta is al dente, drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water. Add pancetta to eggs, then add pasta and cooking water to egg mixture. Using two forks, toss the pasta to coat. Gradually add pecorino, tossing pasta until everything is one beautifully luxurious melted cheese, egg mess. Add pepper and salt to taste and give it one last, loving toss.

*A side note on semantics: I realize it’s a bit of a bold move to conflate “a brave life” with “an interesting life.” I look at it in this sense: an interesting life is one in which an individual makes brave choices on a daily basis. And yet, when I think of an interesting life, I tend to think of something more glamorous than what I’m doing, and therefore much harder than what I’m doing, and therefore requiring more bravery than what I’m giving. So really, the semantics are personal and wide open for debate. Discuss.

spaghetti carbonara