From feminist dudeblog No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz comes a brief take on something I really really really hate — the idea that there is Boy Food and Girl Food, one being authentic and ribsticking and devil-may-care, and the other being prissy, punitive and repressed. With videos!
I have previously expressed my puzzlement at the bizarre gendering of food. Men like Big Portions, did you know? And meat! Women like teeny portions and gourmet food and vegetables, possibly because they are always dieting because our sizeist culture is under the impression that if you’re not size zero you’re worthless as a person.
Holi is a spring holiday celebrated wherever Hindus are.
The main day, Holi, also known as Dhuli in Sanskrit, also Dhulheti, Dhulandi orDhulendi, is celebrated by people throwing scented powder and perfume at each other. Bonfires are lit on the eve of the festival, also known as Holika Dahan (burning ofHolika) orChhoti Holi (little Holi). After doing holika dahan prayers are said and praise is offered. The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape that youngPrahladaccomplished when Demoness Holika, sister ofHiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Holika was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of godVishnu, escaped without any injuries due to his unshakable devotion. Holika Dahan is referred to asKama Dahanam inSouth India.
Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar monthPhalguna(February/March), (PhalgunPurnima), which usually falls in the later part of February or March. In 2009, Holi (Dhulandi) was on March 11 and Holika Dahan was on March 10. In 2010, Holi was on March 1 and Holika Dahan was on February 28. In 2011, Holi was on March 20 and Holika Dahan was on March 19.
In most areas, Holi lasts about two days. One of Holi’s biggest customs is the loosening strictness of social structures, which normally include age, sex, status, and caste. Holi closes the wide gaps between social classes and brings Hindus together. Together, the rich and poor, women and men, enjoy each other’s presence on this joyous day. Additionally, Holi lowers the strictness of social norms. No one expects polite behavior; as a result, the atmosphere is filled with excitement and joy.
Every year, thousands of Hindus participate in the festival Holi. The festival has many purposes. First and foremost, it celebrates the beginning of the new season, spring. It also has a religious purpose, commemorating many events that are present in Hindu mythology. Although it is the least religious holiday, it is probably one of the most exhilarating ones in existence. During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw colored powder at each other, and celebrate wildly.
Doesn’t that sound like the best thing? And timely! For Holi I made lamb korma, a dish I’ve become fond of as part of my ongoing learning-to-like-lamb project. I used this recipe, which is pretty spot-on except the part where you brown the lamb. Meat for korma is not browned as it’s supposed to be left with very little structural integrity, a vehicle for the cream. I used Craisins instead of raisins as usual, and next time I hope to figure out how best to grind almonds so they don’t become almond butter. Also all the lamb shoulder at the market looked really rough and fatty, so I used shoulder blade chops, and threw the bones in the pot while everything was going.
One of those elemental things. Meat, fruit, almonds. Delicious and festive with dal and rice. Next year I’ll throw a party with a million more Indian things and we’ll all pelt each other with tempera paint, it will be amazing.
I tried reading this out loud to my husband but couldn’t get through it because I was dying so hard. He did not laugh because he is a functional human beng who doesn’t read the comments on articles about PETA and therefore doesn’t understand how FREAKING DEAD-ON IT IS.
See that false burrito. See it swaddled in tinfoil on the desk in the bowels of that great tower, a bundle of meat and sauce in a place long ago ceded to silicone and copper. The stooped man eating that peasant…
Colcannon, like mujaddara, is a thing that made me rue all the bleak days before I discovered it. Like mujaddara, it is cheap (and has almost no ingredients). It’s easy to make, and it is delicious all out of proportion to the effort you put in. There’s also the “no, seriously” factor, because it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be very interesting or good and then people’s faces change when they take a bite.
Unlike mujaddara, however, it might not be very good for you. It pains me to admit this, and for a long time I defended my colcannon habit by saying “LOOK AT ALL THE CABBAGE IN THERE!” And there is a lot of cabbage; there’s also a gut-bomb of glucogenic white starch and, more critically, a ton of butter. Colcannon is basically an excuse to eat butter. I am not entirely sold on the idea that butter is unhealthy, but my capacity for self-delusion is legendary.
Colcannon comes from Ireland and it is basically cabbage and an onion element mixed up with mashed potatoes. I understand that in Éire they make it by boiling cabbage and potatoes until they disintegrate and then moosh them together with drippings of some sort. This says a lot about the reputation of Irish cooking.
I do not make colcannon that way. It’s such a rough, peasanty dish that treating it gently and reverently pays dividends. Also it’s important to remember that cabbage, like most crucifers, loves having the shit burned out of it. It becomes savory rather than sulfurous, and it maintains crunch within the potato matrix instead of being homogenous and squishy.
So here’s how it’s done, and you should make some pretty much immediately.
Shred up a bunch of green cabbage, as if you were making coleslaw, and thinly slice your onion element. Leeks are traditional, but regular yellow onions work fine. (Red onions will make your colcannon an icky color.) Melt butter in a big, deep skillet — how much is up to you but keep in mind that the butter is the point — and get it hot enough to start browning a little, then put in the cabbage and onion element and let it all fry. Don’t move it around too much, you want the cabbage to catch and brown in places. It’s done when it’s thoroughly cooked but still has a little snap.
Meanwhile, peel, slice and boil your potatoes. You have to peel them, I’m sorry, and when they’re done you kind of have to put them through a ricer or a food mill. If you don’t own these things (nobody actually owns a food mill) then you’re permitted to use a potato masher but NOT BY GOD THE SQUIGGLY-LINE KIND. Those things are terrible. A grid masher will work, but a ricer is best. You want these potatoes really suave, light and not lumpy.
Then you stir the riced potatoes right into the pan with the cabbage and onions and mix well, and add a little hot milk or cream if it looks too stiff. Salt and pepper, and voila!
You can eat your colcannon as it comes, or you can spread it in a casserole dish and bake it so the top gets crunchy. I like to cover the baked kind with a layer of Irish cheddar cheese or politically dubious English banger sausages. You can also let it sit around so it kind of seizes up, then make it into little cakes and fry in more butter or bacon grease.
Mostly it’s excellent by itself, one of the best things in the world to eat on a cold night, and I recently discovered that it is possible to make a pretty version with red cabbage and sweet potatoes, that doesn’t even need all THAT much butter.
As I get older, I’ve become one of those insufferable “less is more, let the ingredients shine” cooks. Or maybe it’s less because I’m ancient and more because now I live in Los Angeles, home of easily-accessible, cheap, spectacular produce. Whatever the reason, I used to just pile on the flavoring agents and now I realize that a good result is mostly a matter of salting things correctly. I’ve even backed off the garlic some.
There’s one exception, though, and that is smoke. I touched on this in the last recipe I posted. If I want a smoky effect in what I’m cooking — and I usually do in the late fall — I will go apeshit. Bacon, chipotles, smoked paprika, smoked sea salt, all of the above, please. These things are all smoky-tasting, obvs, but they have different critical qualities — greasy/meaty like what billowed out of the smokehouse when Pa was putting up a deer in “Little House In The Big Woods”, sweet-fiery-adobo, slightly petrochemical. Even the realm of pimenton is pretty vast and I own three varieties, all different. I dump in as many carcinogens as I can get away with and it usually makes me happy indeed.
In this spirit, a recipe.
Smoke Monster Red Beans
A few slices bacon, roughly chopped (or olive oil, if you wanna go veg)
A big onion, a couple of celery stalks and half a red bell pepper, all finely chopped
Half a head of garlic, minced (maybe I lied about the garlic)
Big pinch each of dried thyme, dried oregano, and a bay leaf
A teaspoon or more of smoked paprika
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed (if you cook the beans from dried this will of course be much better but it’s a PITA)
1 can crushed tomatoes with juice
Chopped chipotle peppers in adobo to taste, and some of the adobo
A little chicken or veg broth
Smoked sea salt or regular salt
Fry the bacon in a big skillet over low heat and remove it when it’s mostly crisp. (Or heat some olive oil, either way.) Raise the heat to medium and saute the onion, celery and bell pepper in the grease until the veg are soft and translucent. Add the garlic, herbs and smoked paprika and stir-fry for a couple of minutes, then add the beans, tomatoes, cooked bacon, chipotles, and enough broth so it doesn’t look dry. The idea is to create a stewy thing that can simmer for awhile without scorching. Turn the heat to low, stir once in awhile, and cook until the tomatoes have broken down and everything is homogenous. This will take more salt than you think because kidney beans are sweet. And if it’s still too runny, you can hit it with a potato masher so the beans squoosh and thicken it up.
Serve with white rice and stewed mixed greens. If you’re completely insane you can stew the greens with a smoked pork hock, but there may be such a thing as going too far with this.
recipe: almost instantaneous smoked-oyster chowder
Because Costco has six-packs of smoked oysters for like $6.50 right now, and because this is the kind of thing you can throw together out of pantry staples after staggering home from the bar and everyone will be impressed. (Smoked paprika is a pantry staple. It IS. So is fish sauce.)
Recipe serves two hungry people or maybe three less-hungry ones. Toast and a piece of fruit alongside please.
2 tbsps butter
Half a small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Big pinch dried thyme
3 cups low-salt chicken broth, veg broth, or water
1 tin smoked oysters
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce, maybe more
Half-and-half, cream or whole milk to taste
Chopped parsley and/or chives
Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Open the tin of oysters and drain the oil from it in there too. Saute the onion, the paprika and the thyme gently for a couple of minutes, until the onion gets soft and translucent but doesn’t color. Add broth, fish sauce and oysters. You can chop the oysters if you want. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cream, garnish with parsley and/or chives, taste (it might need more fish sauce). Serve immediately.
This makes a thin soup. If you want it thicker, saute a tablespoon of flour with the onion. And if you hit it with an immersion blender, you can call this soup a bisque.
I'm only using this picture because Ariel reminds me of several people I know
We went out on the boat and for awhile everything was bitchin-groovy, we were going a good 12 knots up and down big swells, spinnaker was billowing, the guys were yelling at each other in the clipped, jargony boat-talk that I’m not sure is entirely necessary.
Then the wind stopped. We were becalmed for a long time, an hour at least. I made jokes about us having to eat one another, and about how it was almost time to dump the horses overboard. Finally I poured some of my beer over the side and said “There, Poseidon, help us out bro.”
"That’s actually a good idea," said M.
"Or Oshun, or La Sirene, or whoever else might be around," I said, and it was a joke.
Then I thought oh holy fuck La Sirene and I was really really ashamed. But something in my brain told the rest of my brain to be quiet and the rest of me to just sit and watch the water for awhile, and so I did.
It was hot. The “ocean blue” was every color but blue. I watched it and unfocused my eyes. The water looked like a waterbed with a garish tie-dye hippie spread, or unset Jell-O, or the regular, fractal veils of the beginning of a really great psilocybin trip. It began to look more and more like its own thing, or a million things at once, not just a whole bunch of salt water in one place. Sometimes when the sun shone through the whitecaps I could see clumps of kelp in there, looking like the hair of drowned people.
I asked La Sirene for something awhile back; I dumped the milk over my head and everything, and at the time I had a pretty good idea about what that favor might be, but it turned out to be exactly the wrong thing to ask for. What I really wanted was to be the mermaid, get some of that graceful, mysterious feminine potency that I have always felt I lack, and, yeah, maybe get some love too. Not a lot, just a little, of the right kind of love.
La Sirene, as it turns out, is not interested in shit like this. In fact, she despises it. She’s a “if you have to ask how much it costs you can’t afford it” kind of gal and she abhors weakness. So instead of a mermaid, I got a homunculus. A horrible golem, made by me and my sick mind out of the words of others, years’ worth, passing opinions nobody else caught, KFKD made sleeky-sleek and vaguely clammy flesh. This critter has been riding on my shoulder, waking me up damn near every morning with the opposite of a siren song, its little landlocked clickety-clack gravel voice, its fingers snarled in my hair. “Hey, girl. Remember how you’re just so boring and desperate and inconsequential and the things you like are bad, and your values suck, and you don’t like things that are good, and people think you’re a joke? Important people? Remember how you’re the wrong shape and you have the wrong kind of face? Remember how the phone doesn’t ring? Remember how you deserve it because you’re not the mermaid, you’re a lump, you’re earwax, you’re a hangnail, you’re less than nothing, who do you think you are?”
This thing, as much as I hate to admit it, is more beautiful than not, and of course my solution is to try to make friends with it and I fail. I fail badly.
Something occurred to me then: It hates and fears the ocean. The opacity, the fundamental impermeability, how it isn’t the same thing for very long ever, how you can’t point at it and say “That, that’s how that is”. Also it is full of things that might find a little shoulder-riding homunculus delicious indeed.
I didn’t want to be the mermaid at all; I wanted to be the ocean. Why hang out with homunculi when you can have whales, and sharks, and sea lions that would be the most amazing thing in the world if they weren’t so ordinary, and little French racing sailboats that go fast-fast-fast, and cargo freighters the size of small housing developments, and that funny dinky cat-rigged ketch we saw, and the jumping silvery fish…
I laughed out loud and the guys looked at me funny, and I swear to God the wind kicked up right then and we glided back to the marina on water that looked like a mirror, a huge peridot scuffed up with sandpaper, a black-and-white hell-meringue, a buffet for pelicans….
"Food is best with little adornment if the ingredients are really good"
God I hate that trope. It just smacks of the worst kind of bourgeois sanctimony. Go fuck yourself with your organic whatever, Grandma.
I went to the Sunset Junction farmer’s market and bought a dozen eggs for four bucks from a couple of weary Ventura County Mayans.
These eggs. Holy shit. Just pick one up and you can tell that it is a Real Thing. Big, heavy, irregularly-shaped, kind of grubby. Demands attention.
I watched a bunch of Jacques Pepin tutorials about how to make the perfect omelette, and I did my best to make an omelette out of these eggs. Two eggs, tiny pinch of salt, butter, that’s it. My omelette came out funny-looking. It also made time stop when I ate it. Just a perfect, perfect thing.
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”—Bruce Lee (via juamp)
Was this. Except not really. That bit with the pig’s feet, and roasting the neck bones?Who does that shit? I’m sure it’d be delicious if gelatinous, but I’m opposed to recipes that require me to ask the butcher to do things. My butcher is a long-suffering 5’5” Honduran with little English who just unloads the meat into the cold case. I can’t ask him to track down neck bones for me, or split pig’s feet; his life is difficult enough.
So instead I made a plain old beef stew, with plain old chuck roast, out of the ingredients listed in that recipe. I had an abundance of poetically delicious pears to get through, and the flavor combination sounded so peculiar I had to try it. I figured that it would work very well or be inedible; there isn’t any middle ground when you’re talking about ginger, pears, and rosemary you stole from the neighbors’ yard in a beef stew.
Also, the market did not have juniper berries. I substituted a quarter-cup of gin. This was an excuse to buy gin.
So how was it? Great! Autumnal! Reminded me of Cooking Ice And Fire. It didn’t make any sense until the pears went in, and then the whole thing sang with mysterious whispery breaths of things resinous, camphoraceous, deliciously inedible. I thought it was a huge success, with goat cheese mashed potatoes.
It’s an ugly fucker. It reminds me of a teratoma. (Don’t look that up. Read Margaret Atwood’s short story “Hairball” instead.)
So I got this hideous, spiky, scratchy thing sitting in the middle of my chest, and every night and most mornings I take it out and try to pare it down, remove the inconvenient messy bits and the hair and the crud (losing a lot of the substance in the process but hey, that’s part of what I’m going for). I carve it into a sleek, immaculate, fragrant projectile to pitch right the fuck at you as hard as I can. I hope it stings at least a little. It’s hard as a rock. Gotta be careful slicing it, make sure your knives are sharp.
Have a heart.
Or you could make soup out of it. I’m going to continue to pretend I don’t give a shit what you do with this, any of this. Soup. Yeah, soup’s good.