Did you know drinking buttermilk is a thing? I wasn’t aware until a few years ago when I took a baking class and remarked to the teacher that buttermilk is pretty amazing in baked goods for something that smells so rancid and he told me that his mother drinks a glass of it warm every afternoon. Like, by choice. I may have said something polite but as I didn’t get the nickname Deb No Poker Face Perelman for nothing, I doubt anyone missed how revolted I actually was. I have little doubt that I acted equally maturely in high school everyday when I friend of mine would get not a normal drink, like ice tea or lemonade with lunch, but strawberry milk. You know, the bright pink stuff that smelled like a melted Jolly Rancher. Why on earth would you drink strawberry milk if you could have chocolate milk? And yet, inevitably, here we are.
This began pretty harmlessly; my husband told me recently that whatever magic they roll buffalo wings in (basically: a lot of butter and Frank’s hot sauce) was unquestionably one of his favorite flavors on earth. (I put the jar of Nutella in the cabinet on notice.) A few days later, I spotted an ode to buffalo wings in the format of caramel popcorn and sent him the link, joking that I’d probably regret it. I shouldn’t have joked. It quickly became clear that to know that this popcorn existed and to not make was an act of cruelty; why so mean, Deb? Is writing a cookbook, running a website, occasionally cooking dinner and mashing up sweet potatoes for the little sweet potato really a higher kitchen calling than buffalo wing popcorn? And so I made it, but it looked rather sad and lonely in the bowl by itself so then I made some blue cheese dressing on the side with celery to dip into it and, lo, it was wonderful and the story should end here.
Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday, I may look forward to stuffing, green bean casserole and all the pie the way normal people might anticipate Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day, but there is definitely a point — let’s call it right now — when I’m about at capacity with fresh fun ideas for soft orange vegetables and clever new ways to swim foods in puddles of rich sauces. Also, I still need to eat.
As I shuffle towards the finish line of this family-expansion project we began so long ago that it’s become a running joke* there are days when I honestly do not understand why human beings need to gestate beyond 37 weeks. I mean, pretty much the minute the doctor estimated this kid to be 6 pounds, I concluded “it’s cooked! It can come out now, right?” and imagined our 4th of July, baby snuggled in wrap, beer in one hand, medium-rare burger in the other and, lo, it sounded pretty grand to me. Because, of course, we know from experience that’s exactly what the first weeks of having a newborn look like. Fortunately, there are other days when I wake up and feel almost like a person who does not have feet in her rib cage, when by some miracle, I’m able to swim a mile, find some forgotten dress in my closet that actually fits with dignity, and cook things we can pass off as dinners, present and future, and this is one of those days so let’s frolic in it.
Let me get the possibly obvious out of the way: I, Deb Perelman, unapologetically, shamelessly, unwaveringly love Chex Mix. Sure, the last time I made it to the letter I was in high school and decided to have a party where we’d invite boys too (yes, I was as cool in high school as you’d expect) and it seemed so strange to me, this aggressive mix of steak sauce, spices and butter, but holy moly was it good.
Here is how I’ve made hot chocolate for most of my life: heat some milk in a saucepan, add a bit of unsweetened cocoa and sugar and whisk. Form lumps. Be unable to break up lumps. Get frustrated, try again, this time slowly slowly slowly whisking milk into cocoa and sugar, hoping to form something of a cocoa roux. Heat mixture until steamy and drink merrily, trying to ignore faint background of chalkiness. Hooray for cocoa?
And now for something completely different: a new entry in the much-neglected seafood category on this site. I know this didn’t get past most of you, that is how not-so-secretly fish-averse I am. Sure, I’ve come around to mussels, to oysters (but only with the iciest champagne, please; I’m fancy); I’ve been known to make some limited advances in the areas of shrimp, lobster, halibut and tuna. But for the most part, my seafood appreciation level is pitifully low. Lest you think that I delight in this — proudly flaunt my “FISH-FREE KITCHEN” apron as if it were some sort of culinary triumph — the truth is that it feels like a failure. It bothers me. I fight it. I do not always win.