My mother’s standard party donation is a boule of pumpernickel bread with the center scooped out and filled with a spinach dip that includes water chestnuts because, of course. The sides are cut into fingers that remain attached at the base (as “severed fingers” would be unsettling, yes?) and can be torn off when the urge comes to swipe one through the center. The urge will come often, so I try to position myself in any room that the boule is not. Nevertheless, I hadn’t considered that there were other approaches to party bread until I came upon this 1998 recipe for one in Taste of Home, the belly full of dip forwent for a multi-pronged attacked of butter, cheese, scallions and poppy seeds, all toasted until melted and crisp.
Sometimes, I think the internet is trying to tell me something. Well, most days, many things, such as why nobody should ever, ever click on a certain VMA performance (which is like begging me to click, only for me to run away with my hands over my eyes. Why would you do that to me, internet?!), why this lady should be all of our new heroes, the effect of mirrors in grocery carts and also maybe where tiramisu comes from? So much stuff, people. But sometimes, the message is a little more pointed, such as the time a few weeks ago I was checking out a tres leches cake recipe for research on a likeminded popsicle and the sidebar suggested that maybe I might consider making zucchini crisps instead?
For as long as I have written this website — yes, even longer than it has been since I told you the wee white lie that Paula Wolfert’s hummus was all I’d ever need — I have known how to make the most ethereally smooth, fluffy, dollop-ing of a hummus and never told you. I have some nerve. But, in my defense, I had my reasons, mostly that I knew if I told you how to make it, I’d be able to hear your eye rolls through the screen, they’d be at once so dramatic and in unison. From there, there would be the loud, synchronized clicks of “Unfollow!” “Unfriend!” “Hide these updates, please!” and the under-breath mutters of “Lady, you have got to be kidding me.” Because, you see, the path between the probably acceptable, vaguely grainy but borderline good-enough hummus you probably have been making and the stuff that I dream about sweeping cold, sweet carrots sticks through — the January version of fresh strawberries and whipped cream — has only one extra stop but most of you will argue that it’s at Cuckoo Farm: you see, you must peel the chickpeas.
I think we should all go to a party. And we should all eat this. I know, it doesn’t look like much. I am sure you’ve seen cheese spread on a slice of baguette before. It probably looked prettier than this too; less blue, more smooth. But please, lean in anyway, because I have to tell you: this is brilliant. And I can’t believe I’ve gone most of my life without knowing about it. Don’t let it happen to you.
I know what you’re thinking; you don’t even need to say it: It’s time for a fritter intervention. A frittervention? Here, I’ll go first: My name is Deb Perelman and I have a fritter problem. And I really do. I pretty much want to fritter all the things, all the time — broccoli, zucchini, apples, parsnips, an Indian medley, leeks (here), and potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, I actually have to hold myself back, and try to evenly space my fritter episodes throughout the year, so not to pique your concern about my fritter consumption. It’s not easy because no matter how many times I talk it out in a circle of understanding peers, I fear I will still think that fritters are the answer to most food dilemmas, most of the time.
Seeing as I’ve already admitted that I’m kind of a terrible host, I might as well let the confessional continue and tell you that I’m a terrible traveler. Oh, I don’t mean that I kvetch and whine the whole time (though you might want to ask Alex if he agrees, now that we’ve taken six flights and visited five cities in eight days together!), I just mean that I never do any of those really great things those really smart people writing really quite logical articles suggest, like keeping the amount of stuff you bring down so that it will fit in one of those bitty suitcases you can stuff into overhead. I don’t roll my clothing to prevent wrinkles or have my most important items in my carry-on so I won’t be at a loss if my luggage is. I never have one of those scarfy/pashmina things to use as a blanket/pillow/tent of warmth on the plane or train, nor do I remember Vitamin C, hand sanitizer, eye masks, earplugs or to eschew caffeine for purer forms of hydration, like water, and I never, ever remember to pack a wholesome homemade snack.
So, the problem, if there could be one, with having a slight obsession with making homemade version of snack-aisle favorites — goldfish crackers, oreos, graham crackers, pop-tarts, ice-cream sandwiches and the like — is that people quite often think you’re crazy. And if you’re me, someone who already delights in things that most people find awful — dicing vegetables, fitting every dish in the dishwasher (triumphantly humming the Tetris music) and, apparently, dotting the eyes of cheddar goldfish with the pointy end of a meat thermometer — you probably don’t need any help convincing people that you’re nuts. Sadly, when people don’t think you’re crazy, they might be suspicious you have some sort of Sanctimommy/Down With Cheetos-type agenda, but I no more fuss in the kitchen to make others feel bad if they lack the time or inclination to than the woman walking down my street right now with flawless, flowing locks and $300 skinny jeans is there to make me feel bad that I am currently in possession of neither, sigh.