If you’re anything like me — someone who begins each workday with grand ambitious to be startlingly productive, but finds themselves at 4 p.m. most days aimlessly clicking random links shared on social media, trying not to nod off onto their keyboard and wondering if there’s maybe any chocolate anywhere? — you may have found yourself a few weeks ago on that day’s viral food content du jour, an enticing recipe for tater tot waffles.
I have a lot of feelings about lunch boxes, none of them especially genial. But as this teeny tiny person that I only just recently brought home from the hospital, barely able to utter a “beh” and now able to fill a 2-hour car ride back from a beach house with all the words every uttered (hm, wonder where he gets it) begins kindergarten this week, and will do so with a lunchbox in hand, I’ve realized that the only way to move forward with my grouchy feelings about lunch boxes is to air them here, in this town’s square, and then move on.
If I were forced, because it was my job or something terrible like that, to come up with some sort of World Cup of Pancakes ranking system, it would go something like this: rumpled bed sheet-like pancakes > flat, round disc pancakes. Pancakes with fresh fruit, baked and leaky within > pancakes without fresh fruit inside. Pancakes recipes that instruct only “mix everything” > pancake recipes that make you separate wet, dry and other ingredients. Pancakes that I can decide to make on a whim and have on my plate in just over 20 minutes > pancakes that will find me still ladling, flipping, turning over a hot frying pan with 2/3 of the seemingly interminable bowl of batter still to go 20 minutes later.
I came down with a Man Cold* and laryngitis** this week and it’s totally cramping my game, or it would be, if I had any. It’s pretty clear what the cold expects of me I’d like to it leave: loads of sleep, little activity and probably some bad reality television. But as I keep interpreting this as: go to a bookstore event, go to another great talk, take laptop to Genius Bar, watch my wind-up bug go… — essentially my rule for this week has been, if it’s a tightly-packed enclosed space a few degrees too warm with zero air circulation, I’ll be right over! — I shouldn’t be surprised that on Day 6 of this mess, I’m still a pill to be around.
I am likely the last person in New York City to learn about Blue Sky Bakery muffins, and it’s all my fault because I wasn’t paying attention. Why would you, really? Most coffee shops don’t sell muffins worth noting. You can only audition so many flavorless, greasy, tight-crumbed, massive metallic-tasting muffins before not even looking in bakery cases when you go in for your morning fix. Four year-olds, however, are not suspicious — they are insistent. So, one morning over spring break (something you dread when you’re in preschool, live for in high school and college, and I’m sorry to admit, lightly dread again as a parent), when I tried to make the most of our more leisurely mornings with excursions, we got in the terrible habit of splitting one of their fruit-filled bran muffins each morning and by the end of the week, we were so addicted that I had to make them at home.
My brunch arsenal, the dishes I’ve made enough times that they no longer cause any furrowed brows — a core entertaining principle here at House Smitten Kitchen (sigil: cast-iron skillet) — is as follows: bacon (always roasted in the oven, I mean, unless you were hoping to mist yourself with eau de pork belly*); some sort of fruit salad (either mixed berries and vanilla bean-scented yogurt or mixed citrus segments, sometimes with mint and feta); buttermilk biscuits; a pitcher of Bloody Marys, a bottle of champagne and a couple carafes of freshly-squeezed grapefruit or orange juice, blood orange whenever available; something sweet (our current favorite) and eggs. As I dictated years ago, everything that can be made in advance should be, thus pancakes, individually fried slices of French toast, omelets and even eggs baked in ramekins, adorable as they may be, are verboten. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and it’s always the worst.
Deep in the Julia Child archives, past the boeuf bouguignon, onion soup, jiggling aspics and the patently untrue yarn about the chicken that fell from the counter, mid-trussing, and was dusted off and put back into use with a remark about “nobody’s in the kitchen but you,” there are recipes so low in butter and bacon that they hardly fit the stereotype of French food as gluttony, as are thus rarely mentioned. A good lot of them are in From Julia Child’s Kitchen; published in 1975, it contained recipes and kitchen wisdom that came from episodes of her PBS show. Gentler to novices than her Mastering the Art of French Cooking classics, the recipes were probably more familiar to American audiences, things like leek and potato soup, sauteed chicken breasts with tarragon and tomatoes, and, here, a riff on deviled eggs that I am making my mission to rescue from obscurity.