Last week was not my week in the kitchen, friends. I had great, ambitious designs on a rhubarb meringue tart that would be pink and pretty with a scalloped tart-shell edge and a meringue that looked like piped roses that had toasted petal tips. But as the week went on and as various really non-torments in the greater definition of the word but nonetheless tormenting to me mounted — thin curds, too thick curds, beige (you know, the color of pink rhubarb + multiple yolks) curd, slumped tart shells, wet meringues, useless broilers, blowtorches so close to empty, they emit the useless wisps of sleepy dragons, refill canister AWOL — my enjoyment of the project plummeted. But, because I’d like to teach my kid one day that he should follow through and finish what he started, I did, and lo, it was good, you know? Maybe I’m just not a meringue pie person and I forgot? None of this matters because the finished pie slid off the plate flopping face-down into the open fridge as I tried to put it away and then, as I crouched on the floor in front of the open fridge scooping fistfuls of meringue and curd into a garbage bag and questioning my life choices, my son walked in and asked what I was making for dinner.
This recipe is nothing new. It was first published, as far as I can gather, in 1896 in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer and has since been fussed over and had its virtues extolled by more food writers, newspaper dining sections and food bloggers than it has not been. It’s the equivalent Proust’s Madeleine/Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread/Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie*/Hey, Did I Tell You About The Time I Killed My Own Dinner? of modern food writing.
But even if I’m not going to be making an unprecedented mark on the home cooking conversation today, it would be a glaring omission not to share it here as well because there’s so much that’s very important about it. The first is the book it hails from, the late, awesome Marion Cunningham’s Breakfast Book. Do you know anyone who just got engaged/about to get married/just moved into their own apartment/thinks they want to start cooking/trying to drop a hint to their significant other that certain meal shifts are up for grabs? What better place to start than at the top of the day, and this is the book everyone — yes, girls and boys — needs on their shelves. It covers all bases. It makes people happy. These are respectable cooking goals.
For someone who doesn’t garden, lives pretty far from farms and couldn’t even keep a couple herbs alive on her kitchen windowsill, I take zucchini population control pretty seriously. Sure, I don’t have to lock my car door in August, I don’t have a CSA dumping boxes of it unceremoniously on my porch and then running away like a thief in the night, and it’s been a long time since I lived in a house with bats in the backyard, but I get it. The problem is real. We all must do our part.
But zucchini is pesky. It’s not like tomatoes, which are like the prom queens of the summer farms, perfect no matter how you dice, slow roast, scallop or sauce them. I never have enough tomatoes and they’re usually gone for the year before I am done with them; the same can rarely be said for zucchini. It can be a little slippery when cooked, weepy when raw. It’s hard to get it roasted or grilled to a crisp. Sure, it’s good battered and deep-fried, but I have a theory that my Rainbow flip-flop would be too. I’m not going to test it, though. I’m sure you understand.
Last week, it was pointed out to me that among the 750 recipes in the archives, there is but a single recipe that utilizes broccoli. Just one! (It’s a great one, though.) For comparison, there are 11 recipes that use cauliflower and 26 with mushrooms. What terrible oversight could have led to this? I buy broccoli (and its friends) approximately once a week, year-round but this wasn’t always the case. I never disliked broccoli — I’m not this guy — but it wasn’t until my toddler took a great interest in chomping down on huge florets, raw, cooked, or three days old, that it became part of our regular rotation.
Please understand: this is not one of those stories about how preciously advanced my toddler’s tastes are, how early he took an interest in foie gras and how he turns his nose up at white flour pastas, preferring farro. Oh no. It is, in fact, the opposite. Let’s say you called me on the phone day — you know, presuming we lived on a planet where people still spoke on the phone — and said “My toddler! He eats nothing but macaroni and cheese and graham crackers! How do I get him to eat vegetables?” I would respond, without blinking twice: “Fritters.” Except my enthusiasm for fritters is so great that it would come out “FRITTERS!” in the background, I’d be doing jazz hands, and in my head, there would be Rockettes singing and high-kicking to this tune that I promise to never sing for you in person that goes, “Fritterrrrrrrrs! Fritters are the answer!” Let’s definitely never speak about this part again.
If this site could have a single prologue, it would go like this: It all started out so innocently. Because doesn’t it always? I wanted something simple but got carried away. A search for a lasagna I could love became a Mount Everest of a Lasagna Bolognese; a hankering for a great game-day snack became a mash-up of Welsh rarebit and pull-apart rye bread; and a hunt for a quiche that could serve a crowd became a 4 1/2 year vendetta until I triumphed over those 137 square inches of buttery flaky shell. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic. I’m likely scaring away people who just wanted something simple to cook (I promise, the next recipe will be so simple, you might, like me, weep and wonder where it’s been every rushed weekday night of your life thus far.)
In this case, I started daydreaming about the place where a simple crepe would intersect banana bread and from there, I couldn’t stop. Well, I had to stop for a week because my book’s first pass pages came back (guys? It looks so pretty, I can’t wait to show you) and when they dragged it from my apartment (I, um, wasn’t done yet), I found that my cooking mojo had left with it. If you’d like a delightful recipe for banana flatcakes (what I affectionately called the first flop), I’ve got one. Then, I was so low on groceries, I had only the exact number of eggs I needed for the recipe, and like something out of a bad comedy skit, I managed to smash the egg on the outside of the mixing bowl, all of my hopes of getting this recipe to you in a reasonable frame of time dribbling down the side and puddling on the counter. (If this ever happens to you, promise me you won’t leave the kitchen in disgust, if only because cleaning up that egg an hour later is only going to double your grump.) Then my son demanded the last speckled banana, the one I’d been saving to try the crepes again (the nerve!), and it was a few days before the next batch were ripe enough to use.
I am, if little else, the queen of excuses right now.