If taking cubes of chicken and other things chosen for their ability to hold up in a deli case and suspending them in a thick dressing of mayo and seasonings is the winter coat of chicken salad, this is the cardigan, which is to say, I hope everyone is as happy to see it as I am. I live for cardigan weather.
I am never a better citizen of the sidewalks of New York than I am when I have a newborn, or at least the variety we’ve been assigned twice now: those that can only be calmed by long walks in the stroller. And so we stroll, even though it’s unforgivably hot out, even though we rarely get out of the apartment early enough to enjoy those brief parts of the day when there’s an actual shady side of the street to hover on, even though we really don’t need anything else from the Greenmarket or anywhere else, we make up excuses so we have somewhere to go. On the best of days, we see people that we know and the neighborhood feels like something out of Mr. Rogers (although his is notably absent of the guy who yells outside my apartment all day about his superstitions and the clouds of secondhand decriminalized smoke we wade through). We bumped into my son’s old preschool teacher a few weeks ago, someone who likes to cook almost as much as me, and she said she’d recently made a big batch of caponata and had been having it with everything — for breakfast with an egg, in sandwiches for lunch and even with pasta for dinner and I thought that sounded absolutely brilliant. I just needed to learn how to make caponata.
I have several stuffing-related confessions to unload today:
My first stuffing love was found at a friend’s house, when her mother served us an apple stuffing from a Pepperidge Farm mix that is no longer made, I presume because it’s not 1989. My god, did I nag my mother (who wasn’t terribly keen on packaged foods, meanie) to make it too. Sometimes she’d cave, though never often enough, but it didn’t stop me from growing up thinking that the dreamiest stuffing includes tart apples, celery, lightly caramelized onions and herbs, a dream I was repeatedly denied as a child and yes, I’m requesting a very tiny violin.
Someone pointed out to me a few weeks ago that this site has not a single recipe in the archives for egg salad. However, unlike the time I realized the broccoli archives boasted but a single recipe (and quickly sought to populate it) or the time I accepted that a quickie from-scratch homemade chicken noodle soup deserves a place in every arsenal, the egg salad-shaped hole in the archives went unnoticed less due to editorial oversight and more because, well, you know: egg salad; it’s pretty dull. Could anything be more uninspired than an amalgamation of smashed-up hard-boiled eggs and the dreaded mayonnaise? I mean, have you seen the yellow, flavorless mounds of dubious origin and assembly date most delis scoop onto a slice of bread and try to pass off as lunch? It would hardly make an enthusiast out of you. Or anyone.
I know you all think I must be immune to this, but I go through phases of Down With Cooking all of the time. Sometimes, I’m just extra tired. Sometimes, the food outside the apartment is way more tempting, as it has been since we’ve moved into a new neighborhood full of intriguing sandwiches, hummus joints and more new flavors than I could pack into a year. Other times, I lack inspiration, or worse, an appetite as I did through that needling first trimester. I have cold cereal for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly for lunch. I fib my way through it on this site, plugging in recipes I have backlogged and sticking to simple things like snacks of pickled grapes in hopes that if I do not force it, it will come naturally back to me. I fear cooking becoming a chore, though I know even this worry is a luxury exclusive to people who share blocks with six eateries.