Eat Me. Drink Me.

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

Category: Meat

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

The Best Things Come in… Well, You Know…

by lyzpfister

 

I like little things. Maybe this is because I myself am little. Or maybe it’s because there’s something absolutely endearing about holding a button-sized penguin in the palm of your hand. Penguins. I don’t know.

This is also perhaps why I find tapas particularly appealing. They are small. Though messy, you can hold them in your hands. Also, they are delicious.

For a long time, my favorite restaurant was a Spanish tapas place in Bremen called Aioli. I was thirteen the first time we were there – my family and a group of college students doing a summer study program with my parents. We sat wedged together at a big table, sneaking bits of fried octopus and potato slices, anchovies, dates wrapped in bacon, marinated eggplant slices. Picking food from platters family style, because that summer, we were like family. The restaurant was snuck into the Schnoor viertel, one of the oldest sections of town. Like everything in the Schnoor, where the roads were as wide as a handspan and the buildings all falling in on themselves, we could never find the restaurant again if we were looking for it. Just every now and then, we’d turn a corner and its friendly yellow façade would be waiting there to welcome us inside, promising fresh sangria heaped with fruits, dim blue lights, wooden tables, and slathers of garlic.

I once told a friend of mine about this favorite restaurant. Apparently, he spent the entire conversation under the impression that I’d said “topless restaurant.”

Oh, tapas, tapas, tapas.

I made tapas with a friend from work this week. I’ve never actually made tapas before, just happily stuffed my face with them whenever I got the chance. But making them is lovely – and possibly the best sort of meal to cook with someone else who knows how to cook. We worked well together in the kitchen, each of us tackling different tasks, cutting what needed to be cut as we found it, simultaneously seasoning, adjusting burners, snacking.

And it was hard to stop snacking – whether it was on the tomato sauce growing fragrant on the stove, or bits of chorizo before they were swum in wine. We snacked on prunes and dates, olives, and wheels of roasted vegetables. And when we finished making all our tapas, we sat at the tiny kitchen table and snacked some more until our snacking made a whole meal.

Patatas Bravas

 

 

Halve or quarter a handful of assorted fingerling potatoes (as many as you think you’ll eat). Toss them with olive oil, salt, and cracked black pepper. Arrange on a roasting pan and roast at 375 F° for about 30 minutes or until the outside of the potatoes are beautifully crispy and brown. Sprinkle freshly chopped parsley on the potatoes about 15 minutes before you take them out of the oven. While your potatoes are roasting, prepare the tomato sauce. In a skillet, sauté 2 medium onions, diced, and 2 cloves of chopped garlic until translucent. Add 1 can/jar of tomato sauce, ½ cup chicken broth, ¼ cup of rice wine vinegar, and a handful of halved green olives. Add a small handful of flour to thicken the sauce. When the sauce begins to bubble, turn heat to low and allow to simmer. Season with a healthy tsp of sugar, black pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Allow sauce to reduce until thick – add more chicken broth (or water if the sauce is too salty) if it gets too thick too quickly. Don’t rush the sauce – it takes time for all the flavors to melt together. Serve the roasted potatoes with the tomato sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Roast Vegetable Antipasta

You can make this at the same time as the patatas bravas, since the oven is set to the same temperature (375 F°). Slice 1 zucchini and 1 small eggplant into medallions. Halve a red pepper. Toss the vegetables with olive oil and place them on the roasting pan and roast until soft. The peppers take a while – half an hour – the thinner slices of zucchini and eggplant maybe only 15 minutes per batch. Thinly slice the vegetables and set aside in a bowl. In a skillet, sauté 1 small, slivered onion with 1 tsp honey and a pinch of salt until translucent. Add to sliced vegetables. Add 1 large clove finely chopped garlic, a slip of olive oil, salt, and black pepper to the vegetables in the bowl. Toss. Allow to rest so that flavors can blend.

Beautiful, Beautiful Bacon

by lyzpfister

I miss bacon.

There is no bacon in Germany.

There is speck. There is pork belly.

But there is no bacon.

Bacon is what love is made of. Bacon is salt and fat, gnawed-upon muscle with crunch. Lips licked of grease and an old-timey taste of applewood or hickory. Bacon is hot Christmas morning and hungover brunch. It is the marriage of egg and potato hash, the slash of red on a diner’s cream plate. Bacon is being fed in bed and being too small to reach the stove. Bacon is getting your hand smacked for stealing strips still hot and popping. Bacon is burning your tongue. Bacon is burning your tongue again. Bacon converts vegetarians or is what vegetarians dream of even when they don’t dream. The scent of it sinks into clothes like the damp whiskey smell of campfire seep. Like a hazy summer morning on the East coast. Without bacon there is no baked beans, there is no avocado sandwich, there are no dates wrapped in bacon blankets set on a plate in a restaurant in Seville, next to tiny octopi in oil, olives, and chopitos. Bacon is the what I make for you because I like you and the what you make for me because you like me. It’s also the what I make for myself when no one’s looking. Germany, oh land of beers and brats, oh land of cheeses and sausages, spätzle and baked breads – what I wouldn’t give for bacon.

We Have to Finish the Sausages or Else It Will Rain

by lyzpfister

I learned a new saying today. Apparently, the Germans instill in their children a fear that if they don’t finish all the sausages, the next day’s weather will be rainy. Clearly, in Berlin, the children have been slacking.

A Fish Out of Water Springs Back In

by lyzpfister

I wonder if I can run some water over it, I said, as I held the fish in my hand.

Then I realized what I’d said.

And truthfully, I can’t say for certain whether I said this or thought this, since, living alone, one develops a lingual fluidity. Since there’s no one there to hear what you say except yourself, the words you say aloud and the words that stay inside your head reach exactly the same audience. Which means, you may quietly slip into insanity without noticing that it’s happened.

I often find myself speaking out loud as I’m unchaining my bike in my building’s courtyard. The courtyard is a gray space between my apartment, where it’s ok to talk to myself, and the outside world – where it’s not. There, in that small patch of stone and weeds and rows of bikes which in winter always look a bit brittle, it’s as though a switch flips in my mind, one that says, hey, it’s not ok to talk to yourself out loud anymore. Of course, I usually say that sentence out loud. It’s followed by: Um, you just said that out loud. Then: Wait, you just said that out loud too. Followed by: Ok, you really need to stop talking to yourself out loud. Ad infinitum.

I’m hoping to curb this habit now that I’m a working woman once again (isn’t that a lovely phrase?). Every day, from 9-6, I sit inside a neo-industrial building near Checkpoint Charlie and write advertisements for a company’s online marketing department. Then I bike home and write more. (Perhaps the slip into insanity has already occurred?)

What’s nice about actually going to work – versus schlepping myself to a coffee shop for five hours where I pretend to write – is that it forces me to interact with people for a large portion of my day, where I apparently fulfill an unmeasured daily public communication quota which prevents me from talking to myself. Bonus.

What’s also nice about work is that cooking once again becomes a way to unwind, instead of just something to do to fill my long and empty days. (This is a melodramatic – I’ve actually slipped into a comfortable Berlin lifestyle. I guess what I really mean is, when I don’t work, I waste a lot of time. Which is, I think, a euphemism for I play a lot of spider solitaire.)

I ran my fish under cold water. I don’t know what kind of fish it was – fish species never made it to my German vocabulary list – but it was smaller, silvery-brown with black speckles and a soft, white underbelly.

It had little fish eyes and a little fish mouth which reminded me of my elementary school cafeteria lady. Like the Gestapo, she’d patrol up and down our neat, seated child-rows on the cafeteria floor and every so often would point to her sour mouth and say, It takes twice as many muscles to frown as to smile. Look what you kids have done to me.

I roasted the fish simply, with tomatoes, lemon, garlic, and fennel, lots of olive oil and cracked black pepper. While it roasted, I thought quietly to myself, like most sane people do, read a bit, wrote a bit, did the dishes. And it was nice to know that the things I did were done because they had to be done in the two hours I had between the end of my work day and going out to meet someone in the evening. Schedules. I love them.

Though really, I’m not sure how long I’ll love this being busy thing. When I’m not, I say I miss it. When I am, I only want a break. It’s all that green grass. Yet, somehow I manage to make it work – there is only one of me and what I have done is what I have done and what I didn’t do mostly doesn’t matter since it wasn’t what I chose to do.

For now, I’ll be content with the productive bursts I feel in my few free hours, enjoy the experience of sitting in front of the oven, watching a fish roast, watching tomatoes and lemons leech juice. And of course, taking my leftovers to work and knowing my lunch is by far the best.

Roast Fish with Tomatoes, Lemon, and Fennel

Finely chop 3-4 tomatoes (depending on size), ½ of a yellow onion, and 2 cloves of garlic. Add a healthy splash of olive oil, ½ lemon’s worth of juice, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. I made this faux-bruschetta the day before, which I think really allowed the flavors to intensify. But I don’t think you have to do that if you don’t have time. Preheat the oven to 410* F. Place 1 whole fish (scaled and gutted) in the center of a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and rub with salt and cracked black pepper. Stuff the fish’s cavity with the tomato mixture and spoon the remaining mix on top of the fish. Nestle some coarsely chopped fennel around the fish and garnish with fennel fronds and lemon slices. Roast for about 30 minutes total, flipping at the 20-minute mark, until the flesh is white and the tomatoes have sunk into little, shriveled knobs.

The Appropriate Emoticon for a Butchered Chicken is :o

by lyzpfister

Cutting up a whole chicken always seems to involve dangling it by some appendage. Grip the chicken firmly by the leg and lift it in the air as you slice your knife into the jointGrab the wing and pull it away from the body… Holding the chicken by one leg, place the tip of your knife…

It makes me sad for the chickens – not that they’re dead, but that in death, they must weather the ignominy of me ungraciously hefting them into the air by their prickled-skinned legs and hacking away as their naked little chicken bodies twirl away from the tip of my knife…

I will admit: I am an ungainly chicken partitioner. Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes I dig out the lower piece of breast with my fingers because I can’t figure out how to get a knife into that strange curved dip of bone. I can never remember where the drumstick ends and the thigh begins or whether there’s a better way to cut along the ribs. And then there’s all that dangling.

I try to do my butchering in secret, so that no one else must see the shame of what is really all that the connotation of the word butchering implies. I like to have my guests walk into the kitchen with the pan of Nepali chicken curry contentedly bubbling like the La Brea Tar Pits on the stove. The dinosaur extinction scene is just too painful to watch.

Speaking of pain, I’ve been thinking about emoticons recently, and how I think they’re a necessary function of modern communication. For a long time, I was resistant to using them, and I think I’m still a bit of a prude. My faces never sport noses, or stick their tongue out, and though I sometimes use the winky-face, I find it vaguely pornographic…

I had placed emoticons in the same category as “LOL” or “OMG” or “ROFLMAO” (I mean, OMG, what a string of letters – it takes me longer to work out what that means than to dissect a chicken) without thinking about the function they play in communication. Two important factors in modern communication (primarily text, chat, and some emails) are speed and truncation. You need to get the point across as quickly and succinctly as possible. With one parenthetical flourish, an emoticon imparts an emotional tenor which would otherwise have to be expressed in a sentence or two. For instance, Can’t make it tonight, I have the flu, the cats have attached themselves to my upper thigh, and Gregor Samsa just turned into a giant cockroach, but I really really love you and we should definitely hang out later this week becomes Can’t make it tonight : (

You might say, it’s just lazy, not to explain how Gregor Samsa ended up in your living room. Partly, it’s a matter of phone bills. Mostly, it’s a matter of medium. A text is not a letter. A text is a means to make plans, convey brief bursts of emotion, find each other in a crowd. A chat is quick communication – you don’t have hours to formulate your thoughts, nor do you have a person in front of you whose facial expressions you can read or whose vocal intonation you can hear. Without the ability to analyze a person, emoticons become necessary in order to quickly convey sarcasm, sadness, glee, humor, etc. without losing the conversation’s thread.

Using emoticons is not lazy, but a skill. It takes finesse to know which pieces of speech are necessary and which can be replaced. In fractions of seconds, we take entire sentences, dissect them, and reassemble them so that they fit within a character-limited space. Of course, I doubt many people think about this process, especially many of the generation born with a cell phone stuck in their little baby fists. I can see how on some level, if you’ve never learned to communicate in complete sentences in the first place, there’s nothing behind an emoticon but a vapid, blank space.

I’ve been told my conversations are discursive. As I sit here wondering how I’m going to get from emoticons back to chopped up chickens, I’m wondering if this habit of mine might need to be curtailed.

But listen. Communication, whether written or spoken, involves arrangement and rearrangement. Our brains are processing how to say what we end up saying all the time – and depending on the medium we choose, recombining the same message in different ways.

Think of a whole chicken as a segment of meaning. Your medium is Nepali chicken curry and your limitation is the size of a frying pan. So you cut the whole chicken apart into pieces and reassemble it so it fits snugly in the pan. It might have lost something (it’s dignity at the tip of my knife…) along the way, but its all still chicken – though in a format suited to the purpose. And emoticons in this analogy? I suppose you could say that’s the human touch – the way you puzzle the chicken pieces together, tucking wings under thighs, filling in the gaps so that the chicken still feels whole.

TTYL : )

Bulgarian Crepe Tacos

by lyzpfister

The beauty of leftovers is that they allow for the most unusual of cultural combinations. See, for instance, Bulgarian crepe tacos.

If, like me, you made too many Bulgarian meatballs (see last post), never fear, you don’t need to eat Bulgarian meatballs three days in a row – you, too, can pretend you’re Sarah Palin, confusing Bulgaria for France and France for Mexico. Sweet, beautiful, cultural cacophony.

Crumble leftover Bulgarian meatballs in their tomato sauce into a skillet and heat. Add a chopped carrot to the tomato and cucumber salad. Cut up some cheese (I found a fingernail piece of hot chili gouda). Find some lettuce. Put the sour cream on the table – you should still have some leftover from the sour cream/lemon/garlic/cilantro sauce. And make crepes. Flour, milk, and egg, thrown together in some measure until the dough is the consistency of a runny nose. I’m sorry, I know that’s unappetizing – but it’s winter, it’s a pervasive problem, and it’s the only comparison I can think of right now.

So wonderful. So easy to throw together. Like the joy of eating those Bulgarian meatballs for the first time. Resist making a bad Madonna pun. Eat another taco to keep from talking.

Turn Around, Bright Eyes

by lyzpfister

“But you have a Kochgefühl,” – a feel for the kitchen – Sylvia says to me when I tell her I don’t think I’ll ever be as good of a cook as my mother.

I’ve been saying things like this a lot lately, loosing the leash of my inner Thomas. Will I ever be a great writer? Should I even be writing? Are my dreams too outlandish? Should I just settle for some mildly literary career – if I can even find a job to begin with? Am I interesting enough? Am I pretty enough? Do I blink too much?

It’s exhausting, to doubt this much.

I’d been speaking with a friend recently about job searching and how incredibly despondent it makes us – the longer we look, the more depressed we are, and the more despondent, depressed, and desperate we are, the less likely we’ll be to get a job. Cruel, cruel circle. What we need is a turnaround. The German word for this is Wende, a word I find incredibly beautiful. It floats, a gentle turn, like a child tucking into his shoulder as he falls asleep. I stand by this interpretation of the word, even though in a historical context, the word Wende is fraught with the political and emotional turmoil following the fall of the Berlin wall.

But maybe that element isn’t too irrelevant to the metaphor I’m about to make. Because I think a Wende often begins with a sharp and incisive moment whose total import may or may not be apparent immediately. Sylvia’s comment was like an incision into the boggy doubt-world I’d been swirling around myself.

Of course I can cook. Maybe I’m not as accomplished as I might be someday, but I have a feeling for food, the way ingredients fit together. I am a cook.

Maybe I don’t have the accolades and collection of published pieces I’d like, but I have a feeling for words, the way they fit together. I am a writer.

The best adjective for doubt is insidious. It sneaks into the way you think about yourself, what you know about who you are, and wedges the heft of this knowledge apart like kudzu creeping up the side of a house. Breaking doubt apart is difficult, much like the removal of invasive plants. Though often, when you start to pull one strand, another cluster falls away.

The other night, I decided to invent a recipe, something I haven’t done in a long time. I’ve forgotten to rely on myself, my Kochgefühl to guide me in the kitchen. Sylvia had sent me home with a packet of Bulgarian seasoning, whose actual contents are unknown (lots of Bulgarian on the package, little, ahem, no English), but which is probably sharena sol (love the internet) – a blend of summer savory, thyme, basil, and lovage – along with her Wende-provoking comment.

I decided to make meatballs – something not usually in my repertoire. I sat in my little kitchen, chopping onions and garlic, guessing which herbs and spices to add, improvising a tomato sauce, deciding at the last minute to make a garlicky sauce with an almost forgotten open tub of sour cream, cilantro, garlic, and lemon.

As I watched this meal come together, I thought about doubt and its artificiality. Of course we have limitations. Of course we’re not flawless. But we each have unique sets of skills and capabilities defined by and defining a knowledge of who we are and what we need to be complete. What I do, I do because it is me. When we doubt, we undermine this knowledge of our selves.

In the days since my Bulgarian meatballs, I feel as though multiple doors on many fronts have been opened at the same time. Maybe Susan Miller saw it coming – but I prefer to believe that good things come, not to those who wait, but to those who cease to doubt. Open mind, open heart, or as Popeye said, “I yam who I yam.”

Bulgarian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Combine equal parts ground beef and ground pork with salt, pepper, paprika, Bulgarian seasoning*, cumin, 1 finely chopped onion, and 1 finely chopped clove of garlic. Mix thoroughly and thoughtfully and chill for 30 minutes. While meatball mixture chills, heat olive oil in a skillet. Sautee 1 chopped onion and 1 chopped clove of garlic until translucent. Add 1 can diced tomatoes, turn heat to low. Add splash of white wine, Bulgarian seasoning, cumin, sugar, salt, and pepper and simmer until flavors meld. Form meatball mixture into small patties or balls and cook over high heat in batches, with a small bit of oil in the pan to keep from sticking. When meatballs are cooked all the way through, nestle them into the tomato sauce. Serve over bulgur with a side of cucumber and tomato salad (cucumber, tomato, red pepper, garlic, lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper) and a sour cream, garlic, lemon, and cilantro sauce which you’ve made at some point while the meatballs are chilling in the fridge and the tomato sauce is simmering on the stove.

*If you can’t find this in a store, I would suggest combining the following dried herbs to achieve a similar taste: oregano, parsley, mint, basil, thyme

Love is Wherever You Find It

by lyzpfister

Warm murmur, glasses clinking, candlelight, the smell of herbs and browned butter, a room full of people crammed around a long, improvised table, a whole roasted turkey. Thanksgiving in Berlin, beautiful.

Jamie and I have spent all morning cooking. Turkey with herbs and butter and apple cider gravy, bratwurst, apple and cranberry stuffing, celeriac and potato mash, carrots glazed in sherry, green beans in toasted walnut vinaigrette, cranberry nut rolls, roasted sweet potatoes with sage, kale and Brussels sprouts salad, apple pie, pumpkin pie… All of the good things Thanksgiving means. Elisabeth comes home around one after a long day at school and a quick shopping trip for some last minute menu items, and begins to set up the living room. At three, a quick pick-me-up (vodka/muddled orange, mint, brown sugar/goji berry smoothie), and back to work. We sneak finger-fuls of gravy base at regular intervals, dance around the kitchen to tacky party pop with whisks, improvise baking dishes from cake pans, toast with cans of champagne.

Our guests arrive between six and seven, I slip into my party dress, purchased at a vintage store last weekend in Paris, wipe flour from my face. We work through until eight – the last minute touches to a big dinner party – adding the olive oil to a dressing of Dijon, shallots, garlic, and sherry vinegar whose flavors have been melding all day, pouring pan juices into gravy base, shrieking at how good the gravy is, grating parmesan.

Everyone is seated at the table. Elisabeth and I make a toast, piles of food behind us. I look around at the table of people – new friends and old – and remember why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, no matter where I am or who I’m celebrating it with. It’s about sharing what you have, being together, being thankful, loving, and allowing yourself to be loved.

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.