In my fantasy recipe-writing league, I’d cover everything, a million questions you hadn’t even thought to ask yet. Every recipe would work on a stove, slowly braised in the oven, on a grill, in a slow-cooker, a pressure-cooker, on a train, in a car, or in a tree. You could make the vegetarian carnivorous, the carnivorous paleo, the gluten-full gluten-free, the sour cream could always be swapped yogurt which could always be swapped with buttermilk, or milk and lemon, or soy milk and vinegar. We’d find a way to put kale in everything. You could use flat-leaf parsley instead of cilantro (because cilantro is the devil’s herb, naturally) or none of the above, because green flecks = grounds for dinnertime dismissal. We’d make food that your picky spouse, your pasta-eating kid, and your pesky fad-dieting house guests would applaud at every meal, and all of those promises made by food writers greater than myself in tomes more epic than this blog of food bringing people together for the happiest part of everyone’s day would be made good on at last.
Fortunately, for like nutritional balance and all that boring grown-up stuff, we did not entirely subsist on double-chocolate banana bread for the last few weeks, tempting as it may have been. We’ve also been making chicken fajitas like it were the early 1990s and they were all the new rage again.
For the last three summers, I have had “fresh corn crepes” on my cooking wish list. I was mesmerized by the idea of mixing roughly chopped kernels of the ridiculously sweet bi-color corn we get around here with eggs, milk, some melted butter and salt and cooking them thin and lacy in a pan. What I didn’t have was a clue of what I’d do with them, you know, besides just eating them. Whenever I thought about them, I fell down a culinary philosophical rabbit hole — Why not just put corn on a plain crepe? Does a recipe require a reason, a bigger purpose? Did this need to be done? Was it going to raise the bar somehow on crepes or was it just cool that you could do it? I have found myself at a handful of restaurants lately that have me questioning all the things I love to do in the kitchen (namely, mixing disparate things to make a new thing I think would be quite delicious) because I felt that they were innovating for the sake of innovating, and not actually making a grander version of anything while they were at it. Oh, you cannot imagine how dull the inside of my head has become. The worst outcome of this was that I never made the crepes, despite still wanting to very much.
I’m not a summer person. Is it uncool to admit that you sort of hate sweating? Probably, so it’s a good thing you already knew I was a dork. New York City summers seem to be endless strings of heatwaves, and humidity so thick that even 82 degrees can feel like 105. Being pale and freckled, I seem to go through my body weight in sunscreen each summer, and still burn. Inside, the window air-conditioner units are always buzzing and always too cold; I consider summer something I must endure until my real love — crunchy fall leaves, cardigans, apple cider stands — returns in late September.
I am embarrassed by how long it took me to discover carnitas, or “little meats” that are usually braised then roasted, and are as far I quickly became concerned, the very best thing to pile on a blistered corn tortilla. I had my first one just a couple years ago. I was pregnant at the time and protein-rich foods were ten times as delicious as they normally were so when I became obsessed with having another, and then another, I chalked it up to baby madness. But that kid is now two, and my carnita fixation has gone nowhere. (And no, people, I’m not pregnant. In fact, I’m pouring whiskey into my coffee as we speak, just like I always do after preschool drop-offs.)
I would not say that previous to the last year, we were not taco people. I can think of several carnitas that have brought me nearly to tears (and definitely to tears when they stopped delivering) and we’ve been doing an egg-tortilla thing for years. But at some point in the last six months, I got bit with the taco bug bad and now I can hardly think of anything else to eat. Saturday afternoon and the toddler is napping and suddenly we’re hungry? Black bean tacos! Nothing but a couple zucchini in the produce drawer? Roasted zucchini tacos for dinner! I’m about thisclose to becoming the sort of person who puts peanut butter and jelly on a taco. The taco has become the answer to all questions.
Abruptly, and likely surprising nobody more than my husband, I have decided to be a Good Football Wife this year. Finding it impossible to summon any actual enthusiasm for the game but refusing to fulfill the sitcom wife-cliché of grumbling about my husband’s Sunday afternoon routines, in the past, I’ve mostly tolerated it. But with months of cold and/or wet Sundays ahead of us, I finally came to the realization that football season is the perfect excuse to embrace some much-needed Lazy Sundays. A morning bagel, park and farmers market run routine segues nicely into an afternoon of bumming around, or you know, however the person at hand defines it. For Alex, football, with the requisite pre- and post-game Sports Shouting episodes. For Jacob, removing books from the bookcases one by one, then attempting to stand on them to reach higher shelves, so he can remove them too. He naps, we replace the books, he wakes up and starts again. Ah, Sundays.