When I was in the 4th grade, my lunch table mates had a habit of taking the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that their mothers had lovingly prepared, (trimmed of crusts, devoid of frights like gloppy grape jelly) opening them up, arranging some potato chips over the filling and smooshing the sides back together again before eating them. I don’t have a single other school lunch memory to draw from. I don’t remember if I ever ate a Sloppy Joe, if my school district considered pizza a vegetable, or whether my mother packed apples or cheesy poofs (likely the former, drat) in my lunchbox; I also can’t remember the name of a single person at that table. But I have a have a crystalline impression, unmarred by time (and, frankly, the current brand of early senility that has caused me to need 20-odd minutes to recall the word “unmarred”), of the odd delight that was those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; I remember their crunch and I remember how they tasted.
January, 2012 Archive
Without a doubt, the very best part of fried chicken is the battered, seasoned, gold-tinged and impossibly crisp exterior. But, as far as I’m concerned, the tender chicken within is no distant second. The best fried chicken recipes have you soak the uncooked chicken in a salty/sweet brine of buttermilk and seasonings for at least day, resulting in meat that’s decadent long before it hits the fryer. Wouldn’t it be great if the insides could garner the same gushing their pretty skins do?
Yesterday morning, at last, I handed in my cookbook’s edits. And I know, you’re thinking, “but I thought you already handed your book in?” and I had. Copyedits, which come back six weeks later, are like closing costs (or so I understand) when you buy a house. You think you’re all done and just have some papers to sign/designs to approve and then wham! Comparatively, writing a book is a cinch. Writing is like splashing bright paint all over a giant white canvas — look at all of those lovely words all lined up! Aren’t they darling? Copyedits are like measuring the space between each mark of paint and having to answer questions like, “This splatter is .25 inches from that splatter, and you call it a ‘blue splatter’ but this one is .5 inches away and labeled ‘splatter, blue’. Was this intentional?” There were about three of these questions on each of 390 pages, and yet despite the fact that this work consumed the last 21 days of my life, I frequently wanted to HUG this poor copy editor who managed to wade through my blather and find small adjustments that made sentences sing. She is a saint.
At last, I have a new recipe for you in the heavily neglected category of Russian food. How could this have happened, you ask? Are you not married to a Russian? Does your son not respond to the question “Would you like to go to the library?” with “Da!”? Are you not still in love with all of the Russian food you’ve encountered in your (holy wow) 8 1/2 years of courtship? And the answer is very simple: I needn’t cook Russian food because my mother-in-law does it so well.
I hadn’t meant for this soup to be so quintessentially early January — that would be, virtually fat free, dairy free, gluten free (miso dependent), vegan and the very picture of healthful do-gooding. It’s about one cube of tofu away from earning a halo or at least being surrounded by singing cherubs. In fact, if you advertised a soup to me with all of those qualities, I’d probably run in the other direction because I am a dietary heathen, and I love butter, even if overdoing it in December now requires it in moderation. For the rest of time.