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.
It’s been over six years since I mooned here over a lost dumpling love. Dumplings are kind of a fixation for me; I am unwaveringly convinced that small pockets of food wrapped elegantly in a thin dough are among the universe’s most perfect foods; portable and petite, servings easily scaled, I dare you to find a nutritious food not improved by an adorable doughy package. The vegetable dumplings that I used to get at a chain of otherwise average west side Chinese restaurants were my all-time favorite; before they changed the recipe, I regularly rerouted my day to stop there for an order, and a beer. (Sidebar: Can we talk about how delicious a cold beer in a glass is with potstickers? No, different conversation, huh? Onwards!)
One of the things I love about my city is the way we jump at the chance celebrate local events as unofficial, illogical holidays, just because. I get redorkulously excited about the Mermaid Parade, as well as the dapper sea of white uniforms all over the city during Fleet Week. I still haven’t convinced my (Russian! it’s in his blood and everything, I tell him) to do a Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge with me on New Year’s Day, but I did get him to stand on a center median of 14th Street looking west on Wednesday night at 8:16 p.m. (along with such a confusing cluster of people that a second crowd formed to scratch their heads at us) to catch a glimpse of this season’s Manhattanhenge. The events are random and even a little absurd, but NYC is no place to miss a chance to let your goofy flag fly.
I think that if we’re going to continue to be grand old friends, you’re going to have to admit that you at least occasionally wish you could have potato salad for lunch any day of the week. That you think it’s kind of lame that potato salad is relegated to backyard barbecue indulgence; packed up in Tupperware, saved for 3-day weekends, eaten with apology to the swimsuit you’ll wear the next day. If nothing else you might admit this so that I can feel my habits are less cuckoo. You’d do that for me, wouldn’t you?
Spring arrived while I totally wasn’t paying attention. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen these days. Over the winter, this was hardly a discomfort but now that we’re getting glimpses of the warm weather to come, I’m finding it harder to look out my kitchen window at these people walking down the sidewalk with their sandals and short sleeves and a pep in their step and an air of freedom around them I can sense even from four flights up and not feel consumed with envy. The other day, as I wearily approached round five of something I was stupidly convinced I’d nail on round one, I saw one of these not-sweating-it-out-in-a-shoebox-kitchen types carrying a bundle of tulips and I had to close my eyes for a minute and imagine myself somewhere I’d rather be. And then I walked out of the kitchen and went there.
I had a shaved raw asparagus salad last month for the first time and was fascinated by it. It was tossed and tangled with olive oil, salt, pepper and a gratuitous amount of Parmesan cheese and while all of these things were wonderful, I felt they only interrupted the deliciousness that was the raw asparagus. I decided immediately that I had to make a pizza out of it, where the asparagus could be as uncluttered as possible.
A few times a year, I go on a Dinner Intervention, which might sound a little more gentle than it is. It sounds like a “Honey, I was thinking I’ll do something different with dinner this week” but in reality it is more of a “Gah, I am so sick of take-out and fobbed together meals! I’ve had enough!” wherein I throw down the proverbial spatula and demand we do better.