Eat Me. Drink Me.

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

Tag: fennel

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.

Welcome Back Berlin Fritters

by lyzpfister

I rode my little Hercules down Bergmannstr., and as I did, it started to rain, skinny drops that snuck under my scarf. But even with the rain, all I felt was joy to be reunited with my bike, my little Hercules. I forgot that I need to find another job, need to meet more people, am still so new somewhere. I pedaled through the rain, a route that is familiar to me now and realized, I have stopped comparing Berlin to Brooklyn. Because coming back, even after having been in New York, in my own beloved Brooklyn, feels like coming home.

Sweet Potato and Fennel Fritters

(for 2)

Coarsely grate 1 sweet potato, 2 carrots, and ½ fennel bulb. Add 1 finely chopped onion and garlic clove. Season with nutmeg, Jamaican jerk seasoning (optional), salt, and pepper. Add 2 eggs (3 if mixture is still too dry) and enough flour so that you can form patties with your hands that don’t fall apart. At least ¼ cup – but I didn’t really measure, so I don’t really know. Sorry. Generously cover the bottom of a skillet with vegetable oil and heat over high until hot (water sprinkled on the oil will sizzle). Slide fritters into hot oil and fry on each side until light brown, about 2 minutes per side. Dry on paper towels. Top with butter and aged gouda. Or you could top with crème fraiche and parsley, which is what I really wanted to do, but couldn’t, since I didn’t have the foresight to pick up those things from the grocery store, nor did I want to walk down and then up 5 flights of stairs for a trifle.

 

My Life Without an Appendix

by lyzpfister

It’s not so bad, really, to live without an appendix.  It was nice, sometimes, to take walks with my appendix, to run errands with my appendix, even to have lunch with my appendix.  But it wasn’t really until my appendix was gone, that I realized what it was to miss my appendix.  I took walks, I ran errands, I ate lunch, and yet, I felt a hole, an appendix-shaped hole, right where my appendix used to be.  It’s been a few months now, since my appendix was taken from me, and I feel a little solace, looking at the three small scars on my belly where at least something was given to me in exchange.  I’ve grown to like those little scars, to like them almost more than I liked my appendix, since when I had it with me, I didn’t pay much attention to my appendix at all.

I’m alone in Berlin now.  It’s strange how, when there were people in the apartment, all I wanted was to be alone and quiet and now, when I’m alone and it’s quiet, all I want is someone else.

This morning, I sent my mother off to the airport at six, and fell back into a cautious sleep.  When I woke up, the apartment was already a different place.  It was more silent, heavier; I was afraid of the sound of my voice.  I’d never paid attention to my mother’s breath, but now that it wasn’t there, I knew what it was to miss her.

I am not comparing my mother to my appendix.  How grotesque.  I’m only saying that we often spend more time clacking after what we don’t have rather than listening for the presence of the things that are with us.  Our lives are in a flux of having and not having and almost always, what we have we will at some point lose.  It’s only perspective, to think I have, rather than I have not, I won’t have, I don’t have anymore.

So, I have: walls of books, two shelves of records and a record player that works, a little red bike, calm in which to work, big windows, walls around me and a roof above me, and somewhere outside of these walls, though I can’t see them or hear them, people who love me.

Ella Fitzgerald kept me company as I made myself dinner for myself.  Yet there was something soothing in the familiarity of being at the stove, in hearing Ella’s voice and singing with her, in the rhythm of the chopping, that kept me thinking, have, have, have.

Pasta with Fennel and Onions

Set a pot of salted water on to boil.  When it’s boiling, throw some pasta in the pot.  In the meantime, heat olive oil in a skillet.  Sauté one thinly sliced onion, one thinly sliced fennel bulb, and a minced garlic clove with salt, pepper, and a little bit of sugar until the onion and fennel are soft.  Add a handful of chopped basil and a chopped tomato.  Maybe some more olive oil.  Let it simmer just a bit.  The tomato is like a new kid on the playground – it takes some time to make friends.  Weeks and years, sometimes, until a friendship forms.  With the tomato, though, it’s not so long, maybe six minutes.  Throw in some capers and toss everything together, the pasta and the onions and fennel, no gentle friendships here, and garnish with shaved parmesan.