There’s a passage from Charlotte’s Web that plays in my brain each year, as the wind begins to shift and the pumpkin spiced novelty foods first rear their nutmeg-scented heads:
The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone,” they sang. “Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.” Continue reading
I don’t have an emotional attachment to sufganiyot, the Israeli jelly doughnuts that are traditionally served on Hanukkah. Maybe that’s why I’ve never attempted to make jelly doughnuts myself—or maybe it’s more that I’ve always had a fear of frying. Remember, the miracle of Hanukkah is all about burning-hot fuel—and I’m accident-prone enough even when there’s no 370-degree oil in the vicinity.
Isn’t it funny how notions of sophistication change dramatically from decade to decade? In the ’90s, high-end restaurants fell hard for chocolate lava cake. In the ’70s, suburbanites thrilled to tiny skewers, melted cheese, and wife-swapping. In the ’60s, pre-Friedan-era housewives thought that drinking Heineken with dinner would fill the yawning chasm in their souls, or so Mad Men has led me to believe.
And in the late 1890s, a Swiss maître d’ named Oscar Tschirky won over a room of Gilded Age socialites and robber barons with a cutting-edge appetizer that was, essentially, just chicken salad without the chicken. (Tschirky also may have invented Thousand Island Dressing and Eggs Benedict, which mostly makes me think that he was in the pocket of Big Mayonnaise.)
There will come a time, not too many months from now, when I will be convinced I’d rather voluntarily watch football than eat another apple. (As I write this, the man I married is watching one football game on mute while listening to the play-by-play of a different football game. No jury would convict me, right?) Currently, farmer’s markets are bursting with end-of-summer produce as well as the first Honeycrisps and Macouns of the season. But before long, the tomatoes and eggplants and berries will fade into memory, and the only decent produce around will be the sort of stuff I associate with my shtetl-bound ancestors: potatoes, cabbage, and, yes, pile upon pile of apples, the only fruit around these parts that makes it through the winter intact.
So yeah, I know I’m going to get sick of apples at some point. But my friends, that day is not yet here. Continue reading
Pro tip: don’t declare that your blogging delinquent streak is over right before you move. Sure, we only had to lug all of our possessions about two miles, from one segment of stroller Brooklyn to another—but the ensuing weeks have been so filled with unpacking, organizing, and arguments regarding things I never in my life thought I’d even have an opinion about (paint colors! Lighting fixtures! Are you miming shooting yourself in the head with your index finger yet?) that I’ve hardly had any time to cook, let alone write about that cooking on the internet.
Before we left the old place, though, I did mark the occasion—and a certain long-suffering spouse’s birthday—by baking something special. Did all of our wine glasses make it to the new apartment unscathed? No. Did this pie? Yes.
A serious question, worth serious consideration: Why don’t we eat cranberry sauce, like, all the time?
I get why other foods are slotted into the once-a-year special guest category. Latkes, as we all know, are a real pain in the ass to form and cook, with the grating and the squeezing and the frying and the draining; so, I would imagine, are tamales, which is why assembling them has become an annual tradition for zillions of Mexicans and Mexican-American families. You don’t throw together an incredibly labor intensive dish like these any old day—you save them for capital-O Occasions, both to justify the work they require and to lend the event where you’re serving them an extra air of celebration. Continue reading
Five years ago, I met a boy in Madrid. That sentence—true as it may be—makes our origin story sound a lot more romantic than it actually is. Our eyes didn’t lock from across the floor of a crowded flamenco bar; I had no rose in my hair, and he had none clutched between his teeth; we didn’t spend hours holding hands and whispering sweet nothings to each other, dwarfed by the shadow of the Reina Sofía and, like, a matador. We didn’t, in fact, even start dating until several months later, when we’d both returned to the city where we actually lived: loud, dirty, less-than-exotic New York. Continue reading
Is anything else as gloriously retro as a pineapple upside-down cake? The very name invokes visions of Betty Draper in an A-line dress, covered by a tiny, impractical apron, proudly brandishing a golden-brown, can-born concoction that she didn’t actually bake herself. (Justice for Carla!)
Even the origins of this cake are kitschy: apparently, it entered the American lexicon only after some genius at Dole figured out a mechanical way to slice the tropical fruit into perfect, even rings. Replace the humble apples of a French tarte tartin with the processed, sugar-soaked slices sold by a capitalist supercorporation, and boom: pineapple upside-down cake. Hell, it may be even more American than apple pie. Continue reading
Almost exactly one year ago, I put forth this blog’s very first recipe. It was old-fashioned; it was fairly simple; it was, by all accounts, not much to look at. But it was also satisfying in a homey, comfort-food sort of way, the way only something that’s homemade (and looks it) could be.
Which brings me to our 52nd (!) recipe: a dessert presented in Nonnie’s cookbook as “Cooky Shortcake,” a name that reveals just about nothing. Is it a cookie? Is it a cake? Is it short? The answers, in order: no, yes, and yes. Continue reading
And so it’s come to this: And Such Small Portions’s very first jello mold.
Well, sort of. When I picture a jello mold, I see this: a shapely mound that stands independent and proud on its very own platter, shiny and semi-transluscent and filled with some sort of canned fruit, quivering softly in the light filtering through a brown-and-yellow glass lampshade. I don’t picture a tupperware filled with blue gloop, gloop that’s been folded together with an heroic amount of whipped cream to create something that’s sort of like blueberry yogurt, but richer and less… good. Continue reading