Eat Me. Drink Me.

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

Category: Eating Together

Bringing It Together in a Four-Foot Kitchen (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

On my silence, let me say this:  moving boxes, painting walls, working 8-hour days, and scouring a city for an extension cord or two is time consuming.  I’ve barely been eating, much less writing about eating.  Rice with ketchup was about as gourmet as it got.  (Moment of silence for the sadly defunct Gourmet.)  But all that is changing.  I’m moved.  My walls are orange.  My clothes are hanging.  My desk is bigger than it’s ever been.  I am ready to go buy groceries.

Well.  I was ready to buy groceries.  And then I realized that I don’t know where to buy food in New York City.  Think about that for a second.  One of the biggest, most delicious cities in the country.  And there’s not a normal grocery store for miles.  Sure, there’s Whole Foods, if you want to spend $8 on an eggplant grown in a local, sustainably organic hydroponic cave.  Or Trader Joe’s if you want a fist sized, shrink-wrapped head of lettuce you can only buy after waiting in a twenty minute line.  There are specialty shops in midtown and unmarked bulk bags in Chinatown, ethnically-themed markets and bulgar-tempeh-tofu kingdoms, but all I really wanted was a comprehensive grocery store that wasn’t going to break the bank at item number three.

And then I thought – maybe I’m being a little too suburban right now.  Maybe this is the chance for my foodie self to show some mettle.  So I’ll buy the giant log of goat cheese for $5 at Trader Joe’s and my Illy espresso at Whole Foods.  And I’ll buy my rice and nutmeg in Chinatown and my meat from the store down the street called “Meat.”  I mean, it just takes time to grocery shop.  And it’s not like I have to finish unpacking any boxes or commute to work or do the dishes.  It’s just time.

And then I thought – stop complaining.  Start cooking.

In honor of my new neighborhood, I decided to make a chicken mole.  The Bushwick/East Williamsburg area where I live is a low-income, half Hispanic/half Hipster neighborhood where the closest grocery store to the right sells organic celery root juice for $5 a bottle and the closest grocery store to the left has bars on the door.  Bravo is an exciting little store – you have to dig through the Oreos and Ramen, but there are tons of great things I’d never find in my suburban grocery – like chicken feet, cow’s feet, pig’s ears, cans of octopus in olive oil, corn husks, coconut water, and the entire line of Goya products.

I kept the pork neck in mind for later, but picked up a jar of mole (a thick chocolate chile sauce), some onions, and cilantro to add to the spices I had at home.  Thinking that my kitchen’s inaugural meal had to be shared, I called my neighbor to see if she’d want to help me cook.  Being a like-minded spirit when it comes to eating, she hopped over from her apartment two doors down bearing a bag of tortillas, incidentally also from Bravo.

The kitchen was certainly small, especially for two bustling people, but soon the smell of onions, cumin, and coriander turned cramped into cozy.  We glanced at a recipe for chicken mole I’d found, but ended up playing it by ear with amounts and procedure.  Some garlic would be good?  Ok.  More salt?  Ok.

I unpacked a half-gone bottle of Captain left over from those wild college days, and we drank sips of chilled rum out of vintage green tumblers while we added dashes of this and that to the skillet, and the sounds of chicken sizzling in oil mingled with the footsteps in the apartment overhead, a drum, a plane taking off from JFK.

“This is how you’re supposed to heat tortillas,” Anette said as she threw them over the gas burner on the stove.  “I lived with a Mexican.”

I chopped cilantro and cut up a few limes as we tasted our mole.  It was good – and had a nice, lingering heat, but it was lacking a little punch on the tip of the tongue.  I rummaged through my spices, figuring that out of the hundreds of random bags and bottles I’d find something suitable.  Remembering an excellent sausage pasta I’d made earlier that was both sweet and spicy, I added a liberal dash of Berbere spice and honey.  Berbere is an Ethiopian spice mix which usually contains chile peppers, ginger, cloves, coriander, allspice, rue berries, and ajwain, and my honey was from the Tennessee mountains.  And on top of that, I’m German-American and my cooking partner is from Norway.  That, my friends, is New York in a nutshell.

I probably don’t need to say so, but our mole was good.  We each had two tortillas stuffed with warm, freshly cooked rice, the spicy, sweet, rich chicken mole, lime, and cilantro.  As Anette said on her way to a second round, “I’m so full, but that is so delicious, I don’t even care.”

So my kitchen is christened.  My skillets and spatulas have a home, the brie has its place in the corner of the fridge as does the flour, and all the knives have gotten a good sharpening.  I live with people who like to eat and like to cook.  They might still sigh when they trip over that big box in front of the door – but I’ll just give them a taco and tell them it’ll all be cleaned up soon.

Inaugural Chicken Mole

The inspiration for this mole came from the May 09 issue of Bon Appétit.  But since we didn’t measure anything, I’ll just sort of lay out the groundwork for this recipe – feel free to make it your own.  Ended up getting about 9 burritos out of this guy.

2 chicken breasts
Vegetable oil
1 bouillon cube
Orange juice
1 yellow onion
Handful ground almonds
2 cloves garlic
Cumin
Coriander
1 jar Dona Maria mole
Handful golden raisins
Oregano
One-ish tablespoon of honey
Dash of berbere spice
Salt
White rice
Lime
Cilantro
Flour tortillas

Sauté chicken in oil until cooked through and nicely browned.  Meanwhile, bring about one cup (maybe even one and a half cups) water, bouillon cube, and orange juice to a boil – add chicken and simmer.  In a skillet, sauté onions until translucent.  Add almonds, garlic, cumin, and coriander.  Remove chicken from broth and shred it finely.  Add broth and jar of mole to the skillet with the onions and mix it up until the consistency is thick but fluid.  Think less wet cement and more mud puddle (is this a bad comparison for food?).  Here’s where you get to exercise intuition, since you’ll have to add a combination of broth (so don’t add all the broth at once) and olive oil to the skillet to get the right consistency.  Anyway.  When the consistency’s right, add the raisins, oregano, honey, berbere, and salt.  Guess I should have mentioned that all this time, you should be making some rice.  Throw your tortillas over the burner for a few seconds and then top them with rice, mole, lime, and chopped cilantro.

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Eating in German (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

Relatives

I grew up speaking in German, and I grew up eating anything but.  Schnitzel, sauerkraut, bratwurst?  Never.  If it was puddled in butter, wrapped in gravy, or leaking grease, my mother did not make it.  I remember her once exclaiming about German food, “It’s all so heavy!  They even cook the peas in cream!”  So I grew up eating couscous and bulgur, slow-cooked stews, stir-fry, and salmon.  But not a single Spätzle graced our table.

This was all ok with me.  My father is from Germany, so my rare cravings for Würstchen and Läberkäs were satisfied on our trips to the country every two years or so.  And while my brothers seemed never to get enough schnitzel (seriously, never enough), I was maxed out on potatoes by day three.

Still, some of my strongest (and fondest) childhood memories center around German food.  My grandfather owns a piece of property on the Schwäbische Alb, a low mountain range in the South of Germany comparable to the weathered Appalachians.  Every available Pfister would gather, and we’d have a bonfire and roast as many types of wurst as Aldi and Lidl had on sale.  There would be loaves of fresh, crusty bread, potato salad done in the German style with vinegar, oil, salt, Kräutersalz, and onion, Fleishsalat (strips of bologna mixed with mayonnaise, gouda, eggs, and pickle), cucumber salad, and beer – lots of beer.  For the kids, there was süsser Sprudel and gelber Sprudel, both sweetened types of seltzer water.

Aichland Eating

The grown ups would sit around the fire and gossip, while we cousins ran around the woods building houses out of bark, moss, and small stones for elves or catching crickets in the sunny neighboring field.  Bocce ball was popular with everyone, and for some inexplicable reason, the kids fought over the right to mow the lawn with a rickety, unmotorized push-mower with scissoring blades.  We never left the Eichland, the Land of Oaks, until late at night and not until someone had brought out a guitar and started a round of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”

Bocce Ball

Then there were my uncle Helfried’s tacos.  I know, tacos are not German.  But when you get a gaggle of Very German people together who have only heard that Mexico is a country by hearsay, and you let those people make tacos – tacos become German.

Friedel, as we all call him, is a legendary cook – though incidentally also the cook who elicited the peas and cream exclamation from my mother.  The beef filling he makes is simply simmered with oil and a Maggi taco seasoning packet (shh), but so silky and rich and deliciously bad for you.  We make crêpes instead of tortillas or taco shells, which used to be impossible to find in Germany (I had an uncle who once took back boxes of taco shells in his suitcase after visiting us).  The crêpes, slightly sweet, soak up the juices from the meat and other typical taco fillings, like tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream, and cheese, making them messy, but wonderful things to eat.

German Tacos

And how could I talk about eating in German without talking about Kaffee und Kuchen?  No matter what you’ve eaten or when you last ate, you will, at 3 o’clock, stop what you’re doing, go home or to a coffee house and have a cup of coffee and a slice of cake.

My grandfather lives in what the Germans call a Hof, a small cul-de-sac lined by houses.  We can’t walk in or out of the Hof without my grandfather’s neighbor, Emma, sticking her head out the window for a little chat.  Wilson-style, our only interactions are through that window, and we aren’t entirely sure if she has legs.  On more than one occasion, Emma has passed us a home made cake through the window to eat for Kaffee und Kuchen.  Her signature cake is a cheesecake made with Quark, a creamy curd cheese, and mandarin oranges.  The taste of that cake and the smell of coffee still filters through my memory and the yellow-brown curtains and onto the ageless dining room table in my grandfather’s house.

Kaffe und Kuchen

For quantity (and baking brilliance), however, no one rivals Annagrette Weber, a woman to whom the phrase, “No more cake, please,” means nothing.  On a recent visit to Rolf and Annagrette’s house, Annagrette said, “Oh, I was feeling tired today, so I didn’t make that many cakes.”  My mother and I heaved a sigh of relief, only to round the corner to find the table decked for four with one chocolate cherry cake, a fruit torte, a linsertorte, a butter cake, and lemon-quark bars.  “You have to have a piece of each.”  Yes, Annagrette.

In the spirit of Annagrette, I’m going to try to eat as much as I can of as many different things as I can.  And maybe by the time I leave, I won’t just be speaking in German, but eating in German too.

Schwäbischer Kartoffelsalat (Schwabian Potato Salad):
This recipe was one of my grandmother’s.  It’s incredibly easy – the south German take on that hot-bacon-chives-vinegar business you’ll find if you try to look up German potato salad online.  The tricky thing, though, is that one of the central (er – only) seasonings in this dish is sold strictly in Germany.  Which makes this recipe hard for you to make at home.  The spices used in the Kräutersalz are as follows: salt, parsley, dried onion, pepper, oregano, dried garlic, celery seed, and rosemary.  So you might be able to recreate the seasoning following that list and using your mortar and pestle – or you can mess around with some spices of your own.

Cook potatoes in boiling water, then peel them, and slice them thinly.  Coat them with vegetable oil – mom says, “Don’t be skimpy” and gives you a hard look.  Add vinegar, sugar, salt, 1/2 cup or so of vegetable broth, and Kräutersalz to taste.  My grandmother used to use white vinegar thinned with water, but my mother suggests using seasoned rice vinegar, since it’s already so mild and has a bit of sugar in it – and American potatoes aren’t as sweet as German potatoes.  Allow potato salad to cool before eating.  Or don’t, and eat it warm.

Opa on the Aichland

I Came to Picnic (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

4th of July picnic

When the sun is shining and the weather balmy, I enjoy nothing more than packing a picnic basket and a blanket and heading into the great outdoors to eat.  I love eating outside, and since the sun has been generous this summer, we’ve had dinner outside almost every day.  There’s something special, however, about a picnic.  A picnic requires planning, preparation, and packing.  First, you must decide where to go and what to make.  You have to decide whether you’ll be close enough to transport warm food or if your brie will melt before you get where you’re going.  You have to figure out how many utensils and napkins you’ll need, since you can’t just run back to the house to grab them, or which container will work best to sneak red wine into the 4th of July Celebration in Washington DC.

Putting together a picnic basket is one of my favorite pastimes.  Much of this is probably due to my love of cheese and cheese’s conduciveness to being transported in a basket.  But there are a number of other delicious dishes that lend themselves to picnicking – some that aren’t specifically intended for such a meal.

A few weeks ago, Dickinson College (right around the corner from my house) hosted its annual Bluegrass on the Grass festival.  My dad packed up our lawn chairs while I modified a dinner of salmon cakes with fennel slaw for transportation.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m not very good at frying things (a great loss), so my salmon patties were less patties than hunks of salmon spiced with lemon, chives, and cayenne and threaded through with grated zucchini.  All for the best, however, since this made them easy to stuff into buns then packed tightly in aluminum foil to retain heat.  I packed the fennel slaw with grainy mustard, mayonnaise, and more lemon in a Tupperware and then threw some Ritz crackers, brie, and leftover chocolate-marshmallow no-bake bars in the basket for good measure.

A delicious picnic, I might say, accented by bluegrass plunking through the warm night.  Even the rustling wind preceding rain turned into a friendly shake as we sipped hot, milky coffee out of a thermos.  Around us, hundreds of other happy eaters with bins of pretzels, take-out Thai, or ham sandwiches swayed in time to Cats in the Skillet until the first fat raindrops began to fall.

Picnics don’t have to be in the midst of a crowd or backed by music or be complicated in order to be delightful.  One of my favorite picnics involved a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, and some string cheese.  An old friend, who I don’t see often, and I were hiking around one of the trails in Pennsylvania – one that, growing up, I had never known about.  We had just climbed past a waterfall to the top of the mountain, and at its peak were a series of cliffs with perfect hand and footholds for bouldering.  We’d race each other to the top of different promontories or dare each other to go higher, and then at the summit of one giant rock with a flat, sloping top, we sat in the crisp January sun and looked out over Cumberland Valley, eating the food he’d packed in his backpack.

A picnic brings a new dimension to what food already accomplishes – drawing people together.  When we experience a change of locale, a new scenery that doesn’t have to be as stunning as a bird’s eye view over the mountains but can be as simple as a big, shady tree, we experience our food in a new way as well.  That strawberry is fresher, sweeter, richer.  Or perhaps we have just become more aware of its taste because our senses have been heightened by our new surroundings.  Vision and taste awakened, we begin to see our picnic partners in a different light as well.  We really listen, because our bodies are alert to the changes.  We cannot slip into the unremarkable safety of our everyday encounters.

Maybe this is a highly romanticized view of eating outdoors.  I will accept that criticism.  But I will also defend my beliefs that changing our eating routine keeps us aware of what we eat and who we’re with.  It keeps our relationships from stagnating.

A Picnic Guide:

Sandwiches make great picnic centerpieces, and I’ve been doing a lot of sandwich experimenting lately, so there should soon be a blog post with plenty of ideas.  If you don’t feel like making whole sandwiches, just pack a baguette, pita, or crackers and bring cheeses, hummus, tapenades, or cold cuts.  I like to have snack-y veggies and fruits on hand, like cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, melon, or berries.  Small Tupperware containers make it easy to pack coleslaw or potato salad.  Other pre-packaged items, such as chips, salsas, and dips are easy sides.  Most hot meats will still taste good cold, like chicken wings, baked ham, or turkey.  These are great to shred or slice and make into salads or sandwiches.  The options really are endless, especially if your destination isn’t too far away, and many entrees can be modified to become picnic-friendly.

Here is the recipe for an eggplant tapenade that I made recently for the aforementioned 4th of July celebration in Washington DC.  It even got good reviews from a non-eggplant eater.

Eggplant and Sun-Dried Tomato Spread:
(Adapted from Gourmet July 2009)
1 head garlic
6 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 1/2 lb eggplant
1/2 c oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped basil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 400 with rack in middle
2. Cut off and discard top of garlic head to expose cloves.  Brush with olive oil.  Wrap in foil and roast until tender, about 45 min.  Cool to warm, then squeeze garlic cloves from skins into a small bowl
3. Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch pieces and toss with 1 1/12 tsp salt in colander.  Let drain 30 minutes.  Squeeze eggplant with a kitchen towel to remove liquid
4. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute eggplant (in batches) until tender.
5. Add eggplant to garlic and mash together.  Stir in sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, basil, lemon juice, and 3/4 tsp pepper.  Season with salt and drizzle with tomato oil.

Define: Seasoning (a post by Josh)

by lyzpfister

I don’t know about you, but the most vivid memories I have of my grandparents revolve around the dinner table (dinner, supper, lunch, whatever you want to call it). Usually there would be a giant wooden table joined by eight or ten or twenty chairs, plates and sets of silverware. I would show up and talk with my family for a bit, then we would extend our visit over the table, passing food dishes as we passed our life updates. There was never too little food, no matter what my grandparent’s economic situation may have been. Come to think about it, I never thought about it because there was always so much food. A turkey, mashed potatoes, beans, beets, green beans, onions, biscuits, corn, sweet potatoes, you try and name it, and I’m sure I’ve seen it on the table at some point.

The meal would progress, and we would slow our talking and our movements and the dishes would sit in the same place for extended periods of time. The sun would set and we would speak of dessert. People’s responses were usually “Oh how could I?” which could be either taken as “Oh how could I eat any more?” or Oh how could I not?” My grandma usually tended towards the latter and would serve up a heaping piece of pumpkin pie or chocolate pie topped high with baked, homemade meringue. We would get up, stretch, feel the bulk of our plates in our stomachs and resituate to the couches and continue talking. Really, our meals were part II of our visit.
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Shame. Boat-loads of Shame. (a post by Josh)

by lyzpfister

We talk on this blog a lot about what and how we cook – be that a cake, egg-in-a-basket, or throwing something down on the grill. Usually, we tell you about the good times and about how amazing and mouth watering food can be.

But get this: I mess up. A lot, actually. The best way to learn, they say (that ever present “they”) is to mess up. But the thing is – you have to learn from that mistake. Cliché? Yup. More than anything, it’s a big cliché that has a lot of truth wrapped up in it.

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Holidays Are for Eating (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

There’s this thing we do in my family which is our way of letting each other know that one of us is in the way of the other. The key to understanding this action is that there are absolutely no words involved. Say, for instance, that I’m standing at the silverware drawer, putting away the knives and forks, and my mother needs a skillet from the cabinet that’s directly behind me. Instead of saying, “Excuse me, could I grab a skillet from the cabinet directly behind you,” she maneuvers me out of the way with her hip, grabs the skillet around the still open silverware drawer, and leaves me wondering what happened as I find myself four feet away from the drawer with a lonely spoon dangling from my fingers.

This is normal.

Imagine that times five hundred. This is Easter.

Holidays at my house revolve around food, which means that holidays at my house happen in the kitchen. This Easter, my four other family members plus Elisabeth, a German TA from Gettysburg College, swept through the kitchen in a psychotic, gyrating mess attempting to make a cohesive dinner appear. I was in charge of the menu–molasses and rum rubbed ham, roasted potatoes with caper butter and breadcrumbs, green beans, caramelized pearl onions and grapes, cheddar biscuits, and the coup-de-grace, fennel and lemon glazed cake (which, of course, my younger brothers wouldn’t eat, citing the cake’s “cabbage” content).

Being in charge of Easter is an interesting change of pace for a former holiday peon. One year, you’re the kitchen multi-tool, you peel potatoes, trim green beans, and of course, put together deviled eggs which are always made and never eaten. The next, you’re telling someone else to wash and cut, boil water, and watch as your mother takes charge of the deviled eggs, while you now make sauces, crumble spices to just the right proportions, and prepare the ham. Being in charge means you pretend to be much more organized than you really are, and believe firmly that you are (yes, you are) good at multitasking cooking times and micromanaging a set of underling chefs. You are under a lot of pressure. You could Ruin. Everything.

As I rush between glazing the onions and making sure the biscuits aren’t being burnt and figuring out when, exactly, I need to put the green beans on the stove, my mother offers me this helpful comment: “Chef Ramsay would say, ‘Get your kitchen under control.'”

This is a hard thing to do when usually, you cook for one person and you make one dish, and suddenly today, you’re cooking for six and making six dishes all of which have to be on the table at exactly the same time. This is stressful. Especially when you’re also trying to solve the mystery of why everyone needs to simultaneously be in the same corner of the kitchen.

There are moments, however, in this frenzy, when everything is exactly where it needs to be, and I have time to lean against the kitchen counter and breathe in the smells of sherry, sugar, and spices mingling in the crowded kitchen. I take a sip of champagne and watch my family flurry around me in time to the accordion-infused Amélie soundtrack playing in the background. It’s good to be home and good to be together.

And then a pot of water boiling on the stove is overflowing and my father is trying to fix the espresso machine and Molly the beagle is running across the kitchen floor with a stick of Very Expensive Butter.

Miraculously, through this chaos, we put everything on the dining room table in time for a two o’clock lunch, the butter and a few burnt breadcrumbs the afternoon’s only casualties. Lunch is quiet compared to the cooking. Maybe we’re all tired from running around or maybe we’re savoring the flavors on our plate, but maybe the celebration of Easter is more of what goes on in the kitchen and less of what happens at the table. Perhaps we’re most ourselves when we’re hip-ing each other around the kitchen, when we’re helping each other find the sharpest knife or the rum, when we’re loading and unloading the dishwasher or tasting things before they’re ready. I realize that what it means to be at home for me is not how perfect the end result is but that we’re able to laugh at the messes and miracles of the process.

Someone brings up our Easter egg-battling tradition, a game my parents’ Bulgarian exchange students taught us in which two people grip their selected eggs and on the count of three smash them against each other. The person with the unbroken egg is declared the winner and challenges the next player. This year, Elisabeth and her indestructible egg emerge as the undisputed winners, and when the game is over, we laugh at the bits of eggshell scattered around the room. This, too, is what it means to be home. To sit, to laugh, and to let the eggshells lie until they need to be cleaned up.

In Defense of Eating Together (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

It’s Spring Break season for colleges across the country, and gaggles of students are discarding books in favor of sunscreen, fleeing the ravages of grades and midterms for salt water and sand, leaving irresponsible drinking behind and adopting a more well-rounded schema of poor decision making.

So that was a gross generalization.

For the past three years, however, I have done the absolute opposite of that stereotypical tanning and headed north to a snow-wrapped, fireplace-boasting cabin in Deep Creek, Maryland. My friends and I spend our days reading, watching movies, lounging in the hot tub, and listening to the soothing voice of Rodney Yee guide us through Relaxation Yoga. We also do a lot of cooking.

This year, our menus have included jambalaya, huevos rancheros, chicken noodle soup, baked ziti, goose steaks, home made pizzas, and literally millions of chocolate chip cookies. Today, we’re working on an exceptionally complicated batch of bourbon-banana bread pudding.

My favorite part of cooking at the lake house (because it’s definitely not the two-burner kitchen or the randomly-equipped pantry) is the sense of camaraderie I feel jostling around whoever is washing the dishes or chopping carrots or stirring a simmering pot of ragout. Everybody makes his or her way to the stove at one point or another while dinner is being made–to talk, smell, taste, or make suggestions for the next night’s meal. The kitchen is an intimate space where even silence is shared.

There’s an aphorism that goes, “The family that eats together, stays together.” I would take that one step further to say, “and the people who cook together become family.” To make a meal with someone is to acknowledge a basic, shared need. And to expose our needs to others is to admit that we rely on them and trust that they will provide what we need. Families share food, shelter, and clothing. What is Spring Break at the lake if not sharing what we have with each other and caring for each other’s needs?

Cooking for a large group of people also means eating with a large group of people. Dinner at Spring Break is when the Xbox gets turned off (do boys ever grow out of this?), job searching is put aside, and headphones are unplugged. We gather at the table–sitting all week in the same seats we picked out our first night–and begin the ritual feasting.

Dinner is a rowdy affair–Andy makes a joke, Howell laughs too loud and spits his drink back out, while Idris makes a sly, amusing comment that only Liz and I manage to fully hear, while Kevin interjects an inappropriately timed quotation from True Lies in his best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice. The roles switch, the scenes are enacted again, dinner progresses. It’s amusing. It’s incomprensible. It’s crazy. But I like it.

Food brings people together in a way that not many other things can. And good food sears the memories created with those people into our minds. There’s a reason the smell of cinnamon and brown sugared apple pie makes me think of my mother in the Fall or the taste of sangria reminds of that one time I sat philosophizing in a tapas bar for hours with a good friend.

This is our last year coming up to the lake. We’re almost all seniors now and will be moving around the world to find other lives. It’s frightening to move from comfort to insecurity, but when we sit together at the dinner table, we remind ourselves that wherever we go, if we invite people to share our meals, we will never be alone.

I guess what I mean to say is that sharing meals makes me feel closer to the people I love. It strengthens new friendships; it makes me see strangers differently. When I cook for people, I am sharing the part of myself that says, “I care about you,” without using any words.

We have a tradition in my house of holding hands and issuing a rousing chorus of guten appétit while we shake our held hands up and down. I suggested this on our first night at the lake, and to my joy, this tradition became one we adopted every night during Spring Break. It is, after all, a family thing.

 

Oh Sweet (Second) Home (Savannah) (a post by Josh)

by lyzpfister

For the past few summers, I’ve worked as a backpacking leader, tramping around the Appalachian Trail with rising college freshmen for entertainment and for some cash. This is all fun and dandy – I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend a summer – but the breaks in between the sessions (24 hours a day for eight days) don’t come soon enough sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong here: I love hiking. I love being with new people. I love cooking in the woods. But I think what I miss the most is the ability to pick up, go some where beloved, and chow down on some good food. I want to say, I can cook a mean gourmet-backcountry-meal. I just love eating fresh crab from the Georgia coast more.

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Why We Eat. Why We Cook. Why We Write. (a post by Josh and Lyz)

by lyzpfister

One afternoon, two years ago, as Josh and I stood in my kitchen, munching on bagel chips and goat cheese, we came to the unsettling conclusion that our life plans were almost identical. We were both English majors, studying creative writing at Davidson College, both wanted to go to culinary school, and both wanted to enter careers that somehow combined the two.

“Weird.”

“Yeah.”

Since that discovery, we’ve been cooking together, sharing recipes, and arguing about the merits – or demerits – of everything we eat. And since that conversation, we’ve also come to realize that we share many of the same philosophies about eating, cooking, and writing – and how each of those elements influences, and also shapes, our lives.

My own love for food writing came from an unlikely source, the lavish and loving descriptions of feasts in the Redwall books, a children’s series created by Brian Jacques that chronicles the epic lives of a loyal band of mice, badgers, and otters as they battle an evil contingent of weasels and foxes. I read and reread mealtime scenes in Redwall, imagining the taste of Mossflower soup, the smell of fresh biscuits with butter and honey, hotcakes, and nut bread. Brain Jacques, my first food writer.

After Redwall, I started reading my mother’s cookbooks, her back issues of Saveur, even the recipe section in Southern Living. Although I grew up in a home that consistently had good food and freshly prepared meals, I first discovered my passion for food by reading about it. That progression, from reading to cooking, and now to writing, may be unconventional, but for me, reading, writing, and eating are invariably intertwined. I read to understand my culture, I write to understand myself, and I cook to understand how it all relates.

– Lyz

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For me, there wasn’t a Volta, a change in time, an epiphany when I decided “I must cook,” or “I must write.” To be honest, I’m still grappling with what those terms really mean. Do I cook for people, do I cook with people; my conundrum seems to sprout from prepositions and their implications.

I did, however, stumble into cooking first. Living in a house with an apartment upstairs provided interesting sets of people residing directly above me. My family went through a couple of different residents, until Michele moved in. She ended up staying for eight years. Also a personal chef, nutritionist and dietician, food was a strong part of her life. After a few months of coming home from school to aromas of butternut squash soup, orange chocolate soufflé, and pumpkin spice cookies, I ventured upstairs with a question about cooking pasta and came downstairs with a stack of Bon Appetit. Finding myself increasingly curious about food, I would fit in an episode of Good Eats on the Food Network after waiting tables all night, find a recipe from one of the Bon Appetit and take to the kitchen. In the morning my mom would ask why she dreamt of scones, pies, and cookies all night, until she’d see the platter on the back counter.

“Oh.”

I write for both of us when I say that food is more than nourishment for our bodies. Food is something we need to share in any way possible. “Companion,” after all, means “those who break bread together.” We all eat to live, and some of us live to eat, cook, and talk about it later. That’s why we’re here. Well, that–and because we like how it tastes. Eat me. Drink me.

– Josh

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This time she found a little bottle on it, (`which certainly was not here before,’ said Alice,) and round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words `DRINK ME’ beautifully printed on it in large letters. […] Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words `EAT ME’ were beautifully marked in currants. `Well, I’ll eat it,’ said Alice, `and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I’ll get into the garden, and I don’t care which happens!’ – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland