Finding My Chowder — Part 2

Corn Chowder

Corn season on the East Coast is ending, sweetness flying off cobs to hole up for the winter and be retrieved -- if we are lucky -- for our next warm time. Still, there's an autumn corn-ucopia to be had. The few farm stands that remain open are stocking swollen cauliflowers and glossy leeks, hard parsnips, more and still more carrots. But the late corn in their coolers, tassels limp, allow us a final chowder. Brooklyn kids from the '50s rarely saw corn on a cob. Canned corn, even dairy-free "creamed style," was considered lazy roughage, so … [Read more...]

Finding My Chowder — Part 1

cannedlunch

  I don't know where she was born, and I don't know her real last name. When I say this to friends or even to party strangers, they quite rightly raise eyebrows. My late mother lived to almost 90. What kind of adult son would have been so profoundly uncurious? As of now, I've found no record of her before her marriage to my dad -- no marriage certificate, either. Her maiden name is "Browne" on the photostat of my birth certificate, but she told me later that that was not the case and offered another one -- also, as it happens, … [Read more...]

Cooking Alone

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Writers, even on Facebook and Twitter, are solipsistic. Writers burrow, like moles or voles, in whatever dirt we find ourselves to make some kind of momentary home. Because cooking is a form of writing, as eating is a form of reading, I've always felt most comfortable and free when I'm cooking in a tunnel, for myself. Solo menu choices narrow to a slim juggle (no whole turkey tonight), but the ego of one's appetite has the final say. First question: What do I -- I! 80 decibels -- want to eat right now? Too bad there's no microwavable … [Read more...]

Potato Bravo

YukonGold

Potatoes soak up words exactly as they soak up butter. Mash them in, stir them in, whip them in, makes no difference, they disappear. Descended into a silken maelström, language dissolves, and no amount or quality of writing can resist the potato's absorptive, neutralizing nature. Thoughtful or ardent spud poems are doomed in advance. Moby Dick was really the Great White Potato. My strategy here is to keep everything away from the brink because a single, recent kitchen victory -- stirring potatoes -- needn't go far. The only better ones I … [Read more...]

Pasta Vazool: The Conclusion

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    A Note to My Readers -- Part 3 In learning to cook, I find that I am learning to think, in recipe form. That's different from cooking per se, because a recipe is communication, a medium that's supposed to outlive a Tweet, or a chef. It's also not supposed to hurt you: Place the unopened cans — yes, unopened — in a pot of boiling water, perhaps on top of a washcloth so that they don’t rattle. Cover the pot and simmer for two and a half or three hours, taking care to replenish the water as needed to keep the cans submerged: … [Read more...]

Vazool

Brooklyn '50s street scene

A Note to My Readers — Part 2 His name was Harry. Don't think English king; instead, it's from the Yiddish "Herschel," although his three brothers, three sisters and many friends called him "Hashel." When I stared at my freckled, rusty-skinned dad as he watched Gunsmoke or smoked Chesterfields while having his cup of Chock full o'Nuts, I often thought of the Irish name Dinty Moore, the hash that came in a can. I'm watching him now as he drives the Buick Special -- bottom of the line, only three portholes -- on his weekend rounds through … [Read more...]

What Cooking and Writing Have in Common

Writing blocks

A Note to My Readers -- Part 1 When I was a youngster, I thought writing blocks were cubes with different letters that I could arrange into words. I'd do it horizontally, left to right, just as I had learned to print letters in penmanship class, or I'd do it by piling the blocks into towers and read the result from top to bottom. In that case, I'd have to lift the whole pile each time I added a letter, and if the word were too long it would topple. To prevent that, I tried to fashion my words from the bottom up, but I'd be stumped. What's … [Read more...]

Learning To Cook: Meatloaf

meatloaf jewel

Neither my brother nor I can recall sitting down to eat meatloaf when we were Brooklyn kids.  But we must have, because we share a childhood "meatloaf ghost." "It had something red and burnt on top," he told me on the phone. "But I can't remember anything else about it." That must have been tomato sauce or, more likely, ketchup -- probably Heinz in our conventional household. We have no idea how the ghost's corpse tasted. I wouldn't blame Mom's particular meatloaf for that. No matter how good the food she gave us every single night … [Read more...]

My First ‘Out There’ Recipe, or Why I Am Not Elizabeth David

Lettuce Soup. For vegephiles. To my friends Meredith, Sasha, and Daphne.If you can score a real head with dirt still on it, or harvest your own -- I know, lets out most of my faithful correspondents -- or just pretend with what's left in the fridge, this recipe will make your lettuce almost sumptuous. And, unless you're an Asian cook, chances are this will the first time you've put heat to this particular leaf.Ingredients: that lettuce, and it can be a few days gone, because it will still throw its faded lettuceness into the broth; garlic … [Read more...]