Eat Me. Drink Me.

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

Category: Fish

The Nontraditional Easteralist or Curried Easter

by lyzpfister

The smell of frying fish and mangoes shocks the apartment as Sigourney drapes slips of catfish into a hot skillet. We’ve dragged ourselves out of bed for the third time today and this time, the effort seems to have paid off. Last night was a late night. An Easter party, whose connection to Easter seemed to veer toward the irreverent and bunny-themed took up the latter part of our night and the majority of the early morning. There was dancing, neon gin and tonic, and an Easter breakfast haloumi sandwich from the still-open or maybe just opened döner place by the train station.

This isn’t usually how I spend Easter. First of all, I’m usually still in bed at six. Secondly, I’m usually not roaming around the streets of Berlin with a pair of lopsided bunny ears haphazardly thrown together from a paper towel roll and some tape. Usually, I’m with my family. I make everyone dye Easter eggs, I cook an Easter feast, we unwrap baskets on Easter morning, and at Easter lunch we smash eggs together like our Bulgarian guests taught us once.

I guess this is what happens when you decide to uproot your life and move across the world and across the ocean. You make new traditions.

So our Easter feast this year is a roast Jamaican fish and mashed potatoes. There’s not an egg in sight. There’s no ham, no quiche, no rack of lamb. Just me and Sigourney and rap music and a roasting fish.

I love having visitors. Showing people around makes you more aware of the positive qualities of the place where you are. When you have to convince someone else they’re having a good time, you often end up having a good time yourself. Even though Berlin has been a bit moody this week (As Sigourney said, as it started to snow, then hail, then be sunny, “This weather is on its period.”), I’ve really loved watching someone else love my city and know that to some extent, I am responsible.

We’ve eaten well, and like all good Berliners, taken as many meals as possible outside, no matter what the weather. We even tried to picnic one day – from the apartment on the fifth floor, the bright sun tricked us into thinking that the weather would be balmy. But as we stepped outside, the sky turned overcast, and even as we walked to the canal, we pulled our jackets closer. We were the only people crazy enough to sit outside, much less picnic. And though our food was delicious – an Asian-inspired noodle salad and grilled chicken, bread, cheese, nutella, and salami – let’s just say we didn’t linger. We walked quickly past the swans, skimming the water and nipping each other, past the line-less ice cream truck, and back up to the warm fifth floor where we had a cup of coffee.

I could think of this Easter fish as just another good meal. But it’s Easter. And I have a tendency toward traditioning. By which I mean, I’m the one who makes us dye Easter eggs every year. I’m the one will never be too old for an Easter basket. I’m the one who insists on making deviled eggs even though no one eats them.

In reality, though, all traditions are tidal. They are broken and created as families shift shapes, through marriages or divorces, children being born, children moving out. Every moment is the possible beginning of a tradition. Which means we should always surround ourselves with people we love and imbue our actions with kindness.

“Happy Easter,” Sigourney and I say to each other, and eat our fish.

Jamaican Strawberry and Pepper Roasted Fish

Preheat the oven to 420ºF. On a baking sheet rubbed with olive oil, arrange a halved pepper lined with strawberry slices. Combine 1 cup mango nectar with chili, paprika, cumin, curry powder, oregano, salt, and pepper. Set aside. In olive oil, sauté 1 chopped red onion, 1 tomato, 1 clove garlic, and 4 large chopped strawberries. Sweep the fish (any white fish will do) through the mango sauce and pan fry until lightly browned on both sides. Add about half the sauce and a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the skillet. Remove the fish from the skillet and arrange in the peppers. Top with the sautéed vegetables. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Curried Mashed Potatoes

Boil 5-6 peeled, small/medium potatoes until soft. Drain off water and mash hot potatoes with ½ cup milk, 2 tbsp butter, and the other half of the mango sauce.

Welcome Home, Berlin

by lyzpfister

It’s been a long time, I know.  But I just haven’t had the inclination to write.  I’ve been doing other things – like moving out of New York, studying for the GRE, hiking in Colorado, making a beautiful assortment of to-do lists – and really, I just haven’t been inspired to write anything.  I’ve felt like every time I sit down to blog, I devolve into blasé maxims: food is good, food is love, food brings people together.  And I think all these things are true, but eventually, it’s boring for you to read – and boring for me to write.  I needed something new.

As I sat at my new kitchen table in Berlin, I was reminded of an entry I wrote long ago about sardines on toast.  This blog was begun as a class project almost three years ago, and when I first started blogging about food, I felt that every entry should be thoroughly researched – a blend of fact and memoir – though if you read through those early posts, they sound stilted.  The missing element, my advisor said, was spontaneity.  That day, I had a simple lunch – toasted baguette, butter, sardines – and the food was so good and unadorned, I immediately felt inspired to write about it.  I’ve written about the sardines and the writing since.

I think I keep coming back to that moment because it encapsulates an essential truth about both food and writing.  That both are acts of some skill rescued by intuition and a certain amount of receptiveness, and that sometimes a lesson is felt rather than explained.

Driving down the streets of Berlin from the airport to my new home, I felt both terrified and excited, thinking at the same time how wonderful it would be to grow attached to these streets, and yet, how different they were from my Brooklyn streets.  What possessed me to do this?  Why leave a place I love for a place I don’t know with streets that don’t belong to me and straight-edged buildings that all look the same?

And yet, every place looks all the same at the beginning.  Davidson was a sea of brick and white pillars, Brooklyn a slew of bodegas and graffitied grates, New York noise.  I came to love these places and the people in them until every detail – the worn dirt path cheated across the corner of the lawn on the way to the library, the brothers’ bodega with fresh, cheap cilantro, the bodega with the case of Polish specialties – was a disparate marker of my place.

I remembered this sitting at a kitchen table, the place where I feel the most safe.  And I don’t wonder that my first meal in Germany is one that represents, for me, inspiration, openness, and new beginnings.  And safety too.  Because I think that no matter how exciting this time is, how thrilling it is to feel the streets go from strange to mine, it’s also absolutely terrifying.  Food will always remind me that if I can feel the goodness of a single moment, the bigger piece will also be ok.

It’s good to be back.

Sometimes We Eat Our Disney Friends

by lyzpfister

My evening commenced on the couch with a copy of the New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and the smell of lemon and garlic emanating from the oven.  I’ve been craving fish recently and I wouldn’t wonder if I’m overdoing it – snacking on fresh French bread with butter and sardines this afternoon and this flounder for dinner and baccalau soaking in the fridge for tomorrow.  It’s just so good.  So clean and comforting when outside is so cold and mean.  This recipe is incidentally not from the Times cookbook; I made it up out of my own little head.  I just feel like cookbook reading and cooking are the perfect components to perfect evenings, and so I mention my couching as a prelude to this delightful fish.

Lemon and Garlic Baked Flounder
1 flounder filet
1 yellow onion
1 plum tomato
5-6 mushrooms
5-6 okra pods
3 large cloves garlic, smashed
½ tsp capers
1 tsp fresh oregano
juice of ½ lemon
generous splash of olive oil (1/4 cup?)
red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350°.  Rub the flounder with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place it in a shallow baking dish.  Chop onion, okra, tomato, and mushrooms and add to flounder.  Smash garlic with the edge of a blade and add, along with capers and salt, pepper, oregano, and just a dash of red pepper flakes.  Squeeze the juice of half a lemon (or a whole lemon, if your lemon is stingy) over the vegetables and fish and top with a generous chug of olive oil.  Mix as best as you are able, without breaking the fish.  Or even better, take the fish out, mix the vegetables and then arrange the fish back in the dish and artfully cover with the vegetables.  Place dish uncovered in oven and bake approximately 15 – 20 minutes or until fish is done.  I wish I could be more exact on the time, all I can really say for sure is that I had just finished the “Appetizers” section in the New York Times Cookbook.