Hand to Mouth

misadventures in eating

Archive for August 2006

DH Lawrence: not just a pervert. (Well.)

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There’re two tiny boxes of Brown Turkey figs in my refrigerator right now and they’re tiny, each of them teardrop shaped and wearing faintly brown and green skins, soft and sweet and succulent when I’ve caved and split them in four from the bottom and opened them like a blossom with a pink and beating heart. They are faintly sweet and wonderful, and of course every time I see them I think of that awesome, totally non-pervy poem from my favorite totally pervy author slash lunatic.

And of course, the least pervy lines from it are:

But the vulgar way
Is just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite.

Every fruit has its secret.

The fig is a very secretive fruit.
As you see it standing growing, you feel at once it is symbolic :
And it seems male.
But when you come to know it better, you agree with the Romans, it is female.

The Italians vulgarly say, it stands for the female part ; the fig-fruit :
The fissure, the yoni,
The wonderful moist conductivity towards the centre.

Yes. I can’t wait to read this shit at somebody’s wedding.

Written by lshen

August 29, 2006 at 9:12 am

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Food Network saves lives!

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Dear Duke University:

I know I give you guys a hard time — in fact, the other night, I found a notebook with your hideous logo emblazoned on it but torn between the thought of buying more school supplies or just taping scrap paper all over the cover, clearly “cheap” won over “less ugly” — but I’m just saying. When you guys end up in the sports pages, it’s for stuff like this and when UNC ends up in the sports pages (granted, for our football team) it’s about how food can build team relations and make life awesome.

Like I said: I’m just saying.

Kiss Kiss, Linda.

Written by lshen

August 28, 2006 at 9:19 am

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The living history of our dinner tables.

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Yesterday, the Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library were having a book sale and after raiding the biography section for David McCulloch’s John Adams I made a beeline for the room of cookbooks.

I’m preoccupied with cookbooks regardless, but used cookbooks, especially, seem to me a primary source of understanding the history of location.

There were, in the tiny basement kitchen where dozens and dozens of well-used, well-loved, and some ignored cooking manuels were stored, mountains of Junior League cookbooks: for Chapel Hill, for North Carolina, for Raleigh, for Fort Lauderdale, Fla. I thought about the gray and blue-haired ladies of good breeding gathering their favored recipes, changing them slightly, adding or subtracting, so that even as they showed off their kitchen prowess the food was still their own true secret. I thought about women in patterned peasant skirts laughing as they stapled corrections into the front of the Chapel Hill Junior League cookbook. I thought about the coffee and flour stains on the pages of these books, the way they’ve all been well-fingered and loved and used.

There were a small stack of vegetarian guides, slow cooker books, encyclopedias, books specializing on recipes, locations, ethnic cooking. It’s like peering into the private lives of people to know what they eat, how they eat, and how often they eat it. Food is about love and memory and in many ways, longing, and the cookbooks surrendered to the book sale are in many ways as intimate as a diary.

But the absolute treasure for the day was a copy of The New Basics, published in 1989 by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, battered and dog-eared with scraps of newspaper still stuck in between the pages, dotted with Sharpie notations and obviously stained with God knows how many ingredients from how many recipes pulled from it. But the best part is the broken spine of the book — the Post-It notes in the front pages, with indecipherable notes made about individual recipes.

It’s sitting my desk right now (partially hidden beneath a Wake County Public Library copy of Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl), next to my Montreal Starbucks mug as Kate Campbell croons about the New South and nothing’s ever been such a perfect trifecta.

Written by lshen

August 26, 2006 at 2:50 pm

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Ten things I know are terrible for me and substandard eating but I cannot resist because they’re delicious.

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(10) Tater-tots. Oh God, drenched in ketchup.
(9) TGIFriday’s spinach and artichoke dip, freshly microwaved.
(8) Golden Corral’s cheesy hash browns. (I know, okay! I didn’t say I was proud of this shit!)
(7) Hidden Valley ranch dressing.
(6) Salt and vinegar potato chips.
(5) 5 yuan takoyaki in a back alley out behind Wang Fu Jing, fearful of E coli every moment I was swallowing that delicious, sizzling hot delight.
(4) Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwiches.
(3) Anything from Burritoville. (God, why do I love you so>)
(2) Chili dogs.
(1) Cheeseburgers from the Cook Out on Walnut Street.

Written by lshen

August 20, 2006 at 7:43 pm

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“That looks disgusting! I’ll have two.”

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I’m a believer in the No Stomach Parasite Shall Defeat Me! school of dining and travel, two things which I spend most of my discretionary income on — and any that’s left over is obviously left to my excreable taste in entertainment (read: my Wall Street Journal subscription and my fascination with books about food, including but not limited to A Cook’s Tour, The Man Who Ate Everything, and obviously the best book ever written The Spice Book, which is about two decades out of print). But the point is, I’m going through my vacation photos from Europe now and all I can think is, “Oh, no, no, that stomach parasite totally defeated me. Dear God how it defeated me.”

Written by lshen

August 17, 2006 at 2:52 pm

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It’s been less than 24 hours and I’m already hungry.

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As much as I am glad to be back at home, I already miss the food. I spent a lot of time in New York eating, and — less than a day later — feeling the sting of not having Kalyustan’s on my way home from work and Bagel & Schmear on the way to the subway. I’m going to miss every bodega between Park and 2nd except for the Halal Deli at 28th, because (a) they never had flowers and (b) nothing in their refrigerators were actually refrigerated. My last three days in the city were unendingly gluttonous, lunches at Burritoville in Midtown and dinners at The Farm at Adderly, where they make some of the best french fries and vegetable pave I’ve ever tasted, but have made some truly regrettable decisions regarding their cheese plate. (Yes, Gary the owner, you read that correctly: for all I loved your Farmer John burger on the English muffin (so clever) and your homemade pickles and your intoxicatingly good Swiss Chard, bok choy mixture beneath the vegetable pave, never, never serve the cheese which earned the nickname “baby diaper” again.) I ate, in Palisades Park in New Jersey an astonishingly huge meal of Korean bulgolgi, which was great until my gastrointestinal system decided to go on strike in frustration. And almost every weekend, I could be located at the Evergreen Shanghai Restaurant where I always ordered the same four things and always loved it without fail in that faintly disturbing way that fairly reeked of zealotry usually engaged by evangelical Christians or people who are really big jetBlu fans. New York is justly called a U.S. mecca for domestically-bound foodies, and I’m sad to be away from food gods again, south of the Mason-Dixon.

Total withdrawal can be averted of course with the consideration that the South opens doors for food that’s unreasonably insulted by New York eateries: barbeque, Brunswick stew, hush puppies — the kind that are still hot and popping with the lard in which they were deep fried, pulled-pork barbeque, and many other celebrations of the humble pig and its not so humble spareribs.

Obviously, this would work better if I wasn’t sitting on my couch in my pjs drinking Diet Coke with Lime, but it’s one of those step-processes. Mourn the baba ganoush first — find the roasted pig later.

Written by lshen

August 17, 2006 at 2:31 pm

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