Practice
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“But humans are Nature’s great ad libbers and revisers. Diversity is our delight.” Diane Ackerman



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“I often feel guilty when writing recipes. To capture what one can of elusive, changing experience... and imprison it in a chilly formula, composed of cups, tablespoons, inches and oven temperatures, is like robbing a bird of flight.” Richard Olney



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Appendages
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Meatballs with a pistachio butter sauce, next to half a head of roasted green cauliflower
Sunday, March 14, 2021
I often mix up “persevere” with “preserve” as if some characters quickly traded places, while an “e” proved to be shy after all. I think, as I shuffle towards the sink on my way to the stove, about this—these subtle and key movements of letters, and of feet. My feet finally settle once the meal is set in place. The meat’s exterior has browned, the cauliflower’s inside has turned tender, and the butter’s warmth has enriched the ground nuts. Those flavors are held captive in my mouth together. Words would allow for their escape, yet the right ones are not are not on the tip of my tongue. Maybe because they exist somewhere only accessible via a step out towards the unfamiliar. One way or another, I will stay persistent in search of these words, for the sake of preservation. 

King trumpet mushrooms halved and bathed belly down in buttery miso broth, over creamy pulled chicken, with lemony, bright pink red cabbage dusted with roasted then pulverized cremini mushrooms
Friday, February 12, 2021
It began with the necessity to use the overabundance of mushrooms, which went on to prompt a craving for chicken. Instead of using the mushrooms in a sauce for the chicken, I thought. touse the chicken in the sauce for the mushrooms. It ended happily after braising the mushrooms and pulling apart the chicken. I wish I could recount a better story, one with more imagination but mine has been lacking and limited. Thinking far beyond next month has proven arduous for many weeks. But more concerningly, drawing upon the tales I should know from years ago generates a blank page. These ingredients fill me up on this day, but I am still left empty of anecodtes, unable to perform my greater role as a storyteller.  

Cod baked in Savoy cabbage leaves over shredded Brussels sprouts
Thursday, February 11, 2021

This meal, and the many previous, did not start with a cheese plate or end with dessert, but rather a savory and sweet thank you. The repetitiveness is not bothersome, nor does it lessen the ritual’s resonance. The reverse happens. Gratitude in one instance creates an awareness of where else it should be. Like the codfish tucked into the veiny, green layer of Brassica, those spots may be hidden but they’re there—actually everywhere. The real bother is when they’re found just to be ignored. 

Chicken hearts and kidney bean casserole, salad of raw and roasted beets and carrot with goat cheese, olives and. adressing mostly of balsamic vinegar and orange juice
Wednesday, February 10, 2021

It has just occurred to me that I forgot to add the beet greens. They simply did not cross my mind while I sliced their roots and halved the chicken hearts. Not even all the trouble I went through of scrubbing the dirt off each individual leaf—it was really on there—could remind me. In retrospect, I’m not sure how they would’ve fit in. Added into the mix of raw and roasted beet slices just to throw off those two types of crunch? Mistaken for the leftover Swiss chard stems I softened before stirring in the kidney beans, just to increase the dish’s density? Yet the dish somehow still lacked their presence. Here the beet greens now lay at the bottom of the fridge. Not to be forgotten, but one day remembered. 

Radicchio salad made unlike before, next to crispy ground lamb over mashed kidney beans
Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Ground lamb mixed with lots of cumin and za’atar and black pepper and placed in a wide pan with hot, melted pork lard, a softened, sliced yellow onion, six minced garlic cloves, and thin circles of a purple carrot. That was scooped over a kidney bean purée. A silky, dusty rose colored purée in which all that matters is the flavoring added to the water the beans boil in after their overnight soaking. I normally add olive oil, onions, smashed garlic cloves, bay leaves, salt and, this time, za’atar. And I probably added too much of each (that is not a regret). The remaining empty space on the plate will be occupied by a salad of mint leaves, chopped pistachios, a dressing of kwark and an egg yolk mixed into leaves of radicchio di Chioggia. Quiz me about food favorites and I will not hesitate to recite the name of that chicory. I’ve loved radicchios for a long time and eat them frequently. By no means do those two facts prove that I know them in full. Only recently did I become aware of how they are uprooted from the soil and transferred to water then withheld from sunlight to finalize their color and form. No wonder they’re so bitter, they had a cold and dark upbringing. Radicchios are wrapped up in more complexities than I could ever grasp. And as a result, they will always remain a stranger to me in many ways. But my infinite love for them will get me closer to the core of what makes them who they are. 

Pan fried headless Mackerel with roasted Brussels sprouts and kale in a fish sauce glaze over a herby yogurt with sliced and quartered cucumbers
Friday, February 5, 2021

Sometimes I don’t think of the kitchen as a kitchen but simply a space guiding my movements. Pulling me in different directions, at varying speeds. I gave up my pursuit of dance many years ago, but acts of cooking have since come to replace it. I go on my tiptoes with hands up above to reach the salad spinner. soI can wash the kale before dousing it in olive oil and adding it to the pan of half-roasted Brussel sprouts. I plea to peek through the oven, holding onto the door’s handle like a ballet barre, to guage how much water the leafy greens need to release. I shuffle from left to right, from stove to sink, flipping the fish while stirring the sauce. I know my limits but with each move I stretch further, all the while trying to not hurt myself. Often when making a move, I forget how important it is. toknow where my head is at. In a dance class, you get used to watching your own behavior in a mirror. You lock your gaze in one direction but eventually realize you must let it go in order to really pull off the move. You have to trust that your body knows what to do. And only then, will you hit your mark. 

Safflower semifreddo with orange shortbread which, if you close your eyes, serendipitously resembles Milk Bar’s cereal milk soft serve with cornflakes
Thursday, February 4, 2021

It could’ve been pink peppercorn instead of safflower, lemon instead of orange. But over time, desires reveal themselves. And in time, decisions must be made to create memories which amount to lives. Tonight, we celebrate all the decisions made in a life of fifty-two years thus far. We do so by taking delight in simultaneously melting a frozen cube—of heavy cream steeped with safflower, whipped and then folded into heated then cooled egg yolks whisked with sugar—and thereby letting the memory of this day soak in the mouths of our warm-blooded, zestful bodies. 

Roasted chicken legs in sesame oil, orange zest, ginger, lots of Aleppo pepper with cold spinach almost like how Grand Sichuan does it and cucumber slices in cool milk
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

There is a man. He is tender and likes to ponder. He’s repetitive as if he’s rerunning a script in his head. He’s stuck—stuck on doing things his own way, stuck in another era, stuck on a feeling he can’t shake. He likes a good story and embellishes his recounted life to be one. He is too generous to everyone except himself. He’s not picky, yet he has his tendencies. and he has an irreplaceable way of making you and everyone at the table laugh. Then there is a woman. She knows what she wants and is prone to impatience. She thinks about the effect before initiating the cause. She is determined to get to the bottom of things and her determination distracts her to her detriment—either because of its overwhelming abundance or her own recognition that she’s not abiding by it closely enough. She can seem chatoic but is evermore present, seeing and hearing more than you’d think. Despite having spent many years with both this man and woman, only in the past year have I been able to understand them as previously described, and then some. It’s a strange thing to reacquaint yourself with those who raised you after growing up on your own for a little while. Just the thought of that may not go down easy for most. For me, it turned out to be an essential act, like keeping the stems on. the wild spinach leaves before blanching and cooling and tossing them with grated ginger and rice vinegar. Cold spinach next to cold cucumbers and hot chicken. It has been alongside meals like this one that I’ve come to individually know my dad and my mom in ways I wouldn’t have been able to recognize as a child or witness from far away. I’ve lost count of how many Tuesdays it’s now been that I’ve cooked dinner for either one of them. Besides wanting to experiment in the kitchen any opportunity I got, cooking dinner for my dad and then my mom turned into a way for me to return their care, to have them really see me as an adult and to be even more proud to call these two people my parents. 

Rib eye steak with a salad of radicchio, endive, purple carrots and yellow carrots
Monday, February 1, 2021

This bite won’t sit right in my stomach unless I hear you say it. My hunger for the words goes deeper than the dish, the bowl full of complementary colors. My satisfaction is parallel to yours. It’s not the sweet dessert I’m already craving, but just this spoken phrase. And the longer you hold your tongue, the longer you leave me holding my breath. 

Chicken thighs in coconut milk, curry, lime, and ginger, alongside a salad with cilantro, scallions, sesame seeds, roasted almonds, a warm dressing to take the edge off the stiff leaves of raw green cabbage
Saturday, January 30, 2021

Take your places, the show begins in a few minutes. No names on place cards needed after all these weeks of practice. We have our rhythm down. I start curled up on the floor, others on the couch. Our backs, leaning on rounded furniture, arched over each of our own bowls. Comfort is in the curves. It’s in the warm, smooth sauce from the chicken gliding into the cabbage. It is in the smile after the first taste. Our gazes, tempted by the entertainment displayed on the rectangle, extended upwards when our arms rest. The routine finishes after about an hour or so. We call this piece, TV Dinner. 

Pan fried sea bass, red currant compote, whole roasted cauliflowers smeared in a tahini and cardamom rub
Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Four mouths to feed. Two hands. One cook. What are you making? You’ll see. Truth is, I don’t want you to see it—me—in progress. Please sit over there, while I stand in the kitchen. I must notice how thin the skin of this onion is that I slice. I must listen for the sizzling behind the closed oven door which could commence at any moment. I must feel how much resistance there is when I stir tahini with olive oil, hot sauce, lemon juice, grated garlic, cardamom, salt and pepper. I must inhale the nutty and fishy aromas to salivate for the red currant compote I wouldn’t have thought of if I had been under your gaze. One cook. Two cauliflowers. Four fish. Fish drowned in butter then lemon juice. A quarter of a cauliflower toppled over, just missing the puddle of warm, soft, gooey red currants in more butter, lemon zest and black pepper running off the fish. Alright, dinner is ready, you may enter! You say thank you, I say sorry. For keeping you away from something I love. For shielding you from something so beautiful. For blocking your curiosity. I want you to see it, but you can’t—my process has become too introspective. I no longer know how to let other cooks in. Perhaps that’s why I keep trying out new kitchens. 

Chicken meatballs in beet tomato sauce over red cabbage that turned as dark as squid ink noodles
Monday, January 25, 2021

The sauce—olive oil, butter, a diced yellow onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, a beet and something else—is seething. Blend it in a second, for thirty. Just to put it at ease while the cabbage—red, with red onions and a shaved orange carrot—is desaturating. I guess now is a good time to spice up the meat? Salt. Black pepper. A couple of garlic cloves, as many as I feel like peeling, grated. Smoked paprika. Masala. The zest of a large orange. Two anchovy filets from a jar. Anchovies, don’t get me started. Don’t dare me to fathom life without them, without their ability to school any dish. Why would you tease me? No meal would ever be the same. Each would miss that thing, whether they know it or not. Don’t make me go there. There’s never a good time to go there. At least let me eat first? 

Lightly pickled Hollandse Nieuwe diced and thrown together with thin circles of cucumber, shaved fennel, fried scallions, whole leaves of parsley and mint, dill, chopped pistachios, all smeared in yogurt, minced anchovies, lemon juice and under half of a broiled little gem head of lettuce
Saturday, January 23, 2021

How are you? On the verge of tears at every sunrise. Barely staying afloat. Circling but at least moving. Seeing hope on the horizon. Deeply hungry for the unknowable. Ask me again later, now’s not a good time. I’m absorbed in thoughts of herring—what to do with this cherished fish? A question which gives rise to a flood of answers, all genuine and plausible. Raw then pickled? Fried then dressed? Roasted then torn? It can feel suffocating to be under the pressure of time while going through all the options that surface. Choose one. I want to serve all of them! But can’t. I can’t overwhelm receivers by sending all these ideas to the table. I can’t let it all out. I’ll protect the other responses and thereby my composure. I’ll let the herring rest in salt for a few hours then transfer them to a cooled down, spiced vinegar before dicing them and casting them into greens. How are you? Fine. 

Poppy seed crusted salmon with sautéed shreds of Savoy cabbage mixed with an herby yogurt dressing and chopped roasted almonds
Friday, January 22, 2021

I wish some would survive my tongue longer than the idea of them orbits my head. Cumin and chocolate have been aging up there for months. I check up on them regularly, to see if they’re still getting along. They are. Poppy seeds on salmon? Oilseeds to return the lost layer of oily skin? A newer exploration, but prospects are quite promising. Even when I don’t care to know, my mind lands me back on these unions. Stop that already! I’m no longer captivated by that idea! I want it out of my system. This circular thought misguides my attention. To break the cycle, their forces must ultimately join so they can then fade away. 

Roasted red snapper, latkes of celeriac and parsnip, Romesco sauce
Thursday, January 21, 2021

This meal was excellent, but I wouldn’t try to reproduce it in the same way again. We sat in dim lighting around a low table, a setting which demands an abnormal posture for eating. Before our bodies could further its decay, the fish was deboned then served as an ungracious pile of flesh over a stiff stack of carbohydrates—two root vegetables that were shredded and then bound together by protein and fat. My stance on this meal constantly shifted during its conception and consumption. But my final analysis is: the balanced flavors were impeccable, yet unsavory in disposition. I didn’t know that’d be the exact result when buying the fish at the market or while it was roasting in the oven. I’m removed enough from the meal’s begninning, middle and end to now assess it as a whole. 

A handfull of crispy chickpeas with two handfuls of mint, parsley and scallions all dressed in creamy avocado and topped off with toasted sesame seeds
Monday, January 18, 2021

Two avocados mashed into oblivion with kwark, white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, za’atar, pepper, worcestershire sauce, lime juice and zest. Chickpeas soaked and boiled a few days ago, today refried with slivers of scallions in duck liver fat. Leaves of fresh mint and parsley and sesame seeds placed on top. I’ll make this again tomorrow. It won’t be very nearly perfect—“that’s a rotten thing to say!” Nor should it be. If it were perfect, then it wouldn’t be allowed to change. It would become the stereotype which everything else gets compared to. It would discourage negative perspectives in an effort to converge them all. How dangerous it is to be perfect! And they say cooking is dangerous. Well, if cooking were a trade in perfection, I’d rather be rotten. 

Green fish curry over roasted rings of kabocha squash
Thursday, January 14, 2021

I remember it vividly. Diced yellow onions. Sliced green peppers. Big scoop of curry powder. Salt. Grated ginger. Four big bunches of spinach, boiled and chopped. Chicken stock. Cream. Cod. I remember it fondly, too. It had just the right amount of heat to be cooled down by the touch of cream. Each taste not as savored as the next. But, I know the last bite was awful. Maybe because it needed more salt, while the spice level left me frustratingly thirsty. More often than I’d like, that last bite is stored best in my memory. See, I write these recipes down but my memory keeps updating them for me. It is there that they fade as better if they were good, or loiter for longer if they were bad. Water may rinse out the bad taste in my mouth, but it won’t erode its memory. 

Quartered red beets roasted then tossed with some balsamic vinegar, the juice of a quarter of an orange, big pinch of salt and olive oil, served over shredded smoked mackerel stirred with sour cream, lemon juice, lemon zest, black pepper, worcestershire sauce
Saturday, January 9, 2021
She’s having the beets and smoked mackerel. But haven’t you had enough of what she’s having? You know, copying doesn’t always feel well-mannered. If it must, then the original would be better off as anonymous to you and your memory. “I’ll have what she’s having.” An uttered phrase which perpetuates an implied etiquette that should be discarded with the fish bones. I for one am tired of cliched flatteries disguised as displays of admiration, of indecisiveness cured by imitation. To make a choice is to know what you want from what’s presented to you. What good does it do you to choose what someone else chose? Or to drool over what is not on the menu tonight but could be tomorrow? That all being said, I highly recommend the beets and smoked mackerel this evening. It’s an inpsired pairing, one stuck in my head probably since I saw “Smoked Beets” under appetizers on the same menu where “Mackerel” was under mains. I think you’ll take quite a liking to it, like she did. 

Beef sausage patties with sage and garlic, slow cooked Swiss chard and red onions, soft scrambled eggs with loots of ground black pepper, a bottle of hot sauce on the table, cheese sage scones, softened butter on the side, butternut squash pancakes and tea or coffee
Saturday, December 26, 2020 We gather here today, after all those nonconsecutive hours of thought about the contents of this table, to share a mere few minutes of ingestion. Let’s eat. Say, if we add in the exhales of words in between the inhale of eggs plus some prolonged moments of silence, well then those minutes could turn back into hours! The hours of our very own one-time only, PG-rated, live-action entertainment. Sorry, our subtitler is occupied at the moment, which puts you back at the kids table for this scene. Play with your fork while you puzzle together words. Be sure to miss the point of the story. If you must speak, do not do so with your mouth full. Try to divide your attention equally between what goes in and out of mouths. One-hundred and twenty minutes later, wonder how different your meal might have tasted, had a different set of words been pronounced. 

Slow cooked chicken scooped into leaves of butter leaf lettuce, topped with a limey crème fraîche, mint, cilantro, scallions, carrots, cucumbers and radishes
Monday, December 21, 2020
On Thursday, but lettuce, crème fraîche, tomato paste. Probably more onions and garlic, if you see it. The chicken on Saturday, I think it was. And just an hour before serving on this Monday, can you get the limes if they have them? Limes I would’ve remembered on Thursday had I known this is what tonight would bring. Sort of like knowing at this point that the last word of this entry will be ‘tomorrow’. If this were a Thursday from many weeks ago, limes would’ve been at the top of. mylist. Gosh, to think there would’ve been a list! But that’s not how things go anymore, I cannot tell you how they will go. Tomorrow I will tell you about tomorrow. 

Semi-smashed garlicky chickpeas under cilantro, mint, scallions, cucumbers and sesame seeds with a tahini, lime sauce
Sunday, December 20, 2020
This again. Again, not because I remember it tasting good. Again, because I know you liked it so much. When did I serve it last? I don’t know. What was that expression on your face after one bite? You know. Soak the beans overnight and boil them for an hour, again. Pick cilantro and mint leaves off their stems, again. Serve tahini in a dressing, again. Toast sesame seeds, again. Slice circles off of a cucumber, again. Grab two plates out of the cupboard, again. And again. I’ll make this again. Not because it was that good. Again, because each time I’m making it better for you as if you’re here with me again. 

Chicken-celery-celeriac pot pie with sides of shalloty green beans and a green salad with just anchovies and a lemony dressing
Friday, December 18, 2020
Would you believe me if I said that the meat from twelve chicken legs, half of a bulbous celery root, four of its bright green stalks, lots of fresh sage leaves, salt, black pepper, many cloves of dried garlic, some white wine and a bit of milk could all fit into a 10-inch wide, 1-inch high pot? You are going to have to believe me because now it’s all hiding under a not-so-pale crust. A delicate layer of flour, salt, butter, water and sage that will briefly protect complex, symbiotic innards. Which are composed of what exactly? Normally, I would’ve tried to conceal that from many, as I knew the moment the surface was pierced, all capacity to wonder would be spoiled. But after all, you’re hungry and, admittedly, so am I. In the absence of bread, let us crack this crust. 

A thick soup of cauliflower, white beans and a leek served with crispy leeks on top 
Monday, December 14, 2020
Roast the cauliflower at some temperature between 150°C and 200°C. Soften a chopped leek in butter over the dimmest flame your smallest burner can sustain. Simmer the stock to warm it thoroughly. By multitasking like this, you grant yourself some time to leave the kitchen. Don’t stand by the oven and try to witness the cauliflower turn brown. Because if you do, it won’t. Don’t stir the leeks continuously, never giving them the chance to rest. Because if you do, they won’t. Don’t stare at the stock anticipating a bubble to break through to the surface. Look away, it will do you some good. I guess you could go back to your computer and phone while all those tasks carry on in the background. Refresh your feed, while you get hungrier. Later you’ll return to heat olive oil in a small pan over really high heat. Only then will you not be able to take your eyes off the leeks so that they don’t burn. Right now, do you know where your attention is? How long has it been there? Has that been too long? The cauliflower has been in the oven for over an hour, I think it’s done. Shove the crispy florets over the yellow onions, leeks, leftover white beans, stock made this morning and a dash of heavy cream. Let the pot’s content cool before transferring them to a blender and then reheat them before relocating them into a bowl. While you direct your gaze towards the movement on yet another screen, intake spoonful after spoonful. You can go back for seconds if you’re still hungry or stop when you’re full, but know that eventually, you will have had enough. 

Chicken thighs, halved shallots, quartered garlic cloves braised together in red wine with a salad of sautéed chicken hearts, roasted slivers of purple carrots, crispy red onions and torn cale tossed with pomegranate seeds and warm vinegar
Sunday, December 13, 2020
Isn’t it instinctual at this point? Start at the fish vendor, take a left for the chicken, then a bit further for beef, and end your route at the vegetables. Buy a bouquet of kale. The whole thing will not fit in your fridge, but it will last for multiple meals. Some of it will sit on your plate tonight next to the chicken, the thighs of two birds and the hearts of many. Hearts, the cheapest kind of fuel. During the drive home, wonder why you never bought them before. After putting the manual vehicle in reverse to park, wonder how it is that you made it this far without understanding the gears of this car you steer. Turn the key and open the fridge door. Before you automatically pour the oil into the pan, break your habits of thought. Ignite the gas on your stove and realize that you can know how to do something without really knowing what it is you’re doing. 

Split pea soup, again. But better this time. 
Monday, December 7, 2020
Defy the queue and go back to the previous song. In a pot with a volume greater than five liters, fry up the bacon. Try not to let it stick to the base of the pot. How many times have you heard this? Clearly not enough. But it’s stopping you from hearing that the heat under the pan is up too high. Turn that down a little bit. Remove the bacon before shuffling in the diced yellow onion and two shallots. Carefully cut a carrot. Pause! This time there will be leeks, two of them. Thinly slice them before giving them a spin. Then drop the green loops into the pan, covering one allium with another. Get back on track. You can take it from here. You know it well. Listen long enough and you’ll hear that lyric in a new way. Carry on chopping with your right. Stock then hock and sausage after carrot before celery. Herbs, peas and so on. Let the pot simmer until the peas have broken apart. Remove the meats and mix the rest in a blender. This version is next level. Did the song end? Start it again. You’ll get sick of it eventually but right now, you can’t fathom such a thought. Repeat again next week. 

Raw herring rolled around pickled white asparagus, cod poached in crushed tomatoes, garlic, saffron and bay leaves served over puréd roasted celeriac, next to roasted cauliflower
Saturday, November 28, 2020
I’ve caught a stomach bug that’s eating me from the inside out. I can feel it but you can’t see it. I don’t know how to get rid of it. It must’ve come from the herring, the raw herring that I sliced in half and rolled around a quarter of a stalk of pickled white asparagus and some diced white onion. Words can be painful but they suffer in describing pain. How do I say, it’s emptying my hunger, stealing my satisfaction. I guess I could’ve gotten it from the belly cut of codfish that we poached in a simple red sauce. But who am I kidding! I’ve had this for weeks. Even though I desperately want it gone, I’m getting used to living with this bug. The worst symptom is this gut feeling that I’ll eventually be swallowed up entirely. Like my plate this evening.  

Split pea soup
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Here we sit inside, cold as if we were out, wishing we were hot instead. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a fireplace? To see our heat source? To sit in front of heat that doesn’t come from a metal radiator controlled by a wall-mounted touchscreen in the other room? Did you brown the surface of the ham hock over the flame yet? A while ago, I read that focus means fire place in Latin. Today, I re-remembered that after overhearing a verbalized wish for a fireplace. Tonight for dinner, in place of a fire, a pot of blended green peas, with chunks of the pork knuckle and crispy bacon, split in two. One half to warm you from the inside out, the other to warm you from the outside in. That’s the only way to feel at home. Home, focus on that.








Overview
Research
Practice
Index