Look, I know it’s prime resolution time. I realize that outside the 10 percent of you who have understandably succumbed to the explicit demands of the polar vortex with salted caramel brownies, the remaining 90 percent of you out there are swearing off carbs, gluten, fat, sugar, things that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food or things that even had a mother, while sweating off the holiday’s demons on stationary bikes. (Although I’m sure no matter how bad you may think things got over the holidays, surely none of your children announced at preschool’s circle time that his mommy was going to have a baby, which was news to you? Which led to you having to make an awkward joke about too many cookies in December? Nope, surely none of your angels would do a thing like that. Not unless they wanted to go to boarding preschool next year, right?)
Hello from 30,000 feet! I wrote this on my 23rd airplane flight since November 2012, but here’s the part where you can be certain at last that I’m as weird as you already suspected: I still love flying as much as this guy. How could I not? At the time, there were perfect white puffs of clouds below us (I always call them Simpson’s Clouds, because they remind me of the ones in the show’s opener) and the sky above the clouds, as always, was piercingly blue. The day before, it was snow-sided mountains down below, and before that, circular fields inside perfect grids, fern-like trenches and mosaics that stretched to the horizon. That I also get to hang out at awesome bookstores and meet really nice people who indulge me (but really shouldn’t, lest I feel encouraged) by laughing at my terrible jokes only makes it more fun.
Is everyone on vacation without you? Are your social media feeds one big blur of the freckled faces of people you once thought you loved basking in the Caribbean sun, showing unintentional contempt for you, back here, shivering and damp? Do your so-called friends in warmer climes gush about pea tendrils and new artichokes while your local market has shriveled roots that last saw the unfrozen earth in October? Of last year? Maybe, just this one time, an exception should be made and a tidy, brief pity party would be acceptable. I have just the elixir.
Prior to November, what I knew of stuffed cabbage rolls were limited to the Jewish/Eastern European variety, which I make the way my mother-in-law does. I hadn’t given it further thought because as far as I was concerned, it was never broken, and needed little improvement, and when there’s little room for me to tinker in the kitchen, I quickly lose interest. But if I had, it might have occurred to me that cabbage, being one of the ultimate peasant foods, has probably been wrapped around meat that’s been ground and then stretched (always budget-minded, those peasants) with other ingredients and cooked in a sauce in a zillion different ways over the centuries. And oh, the fun we might have been having this whole time.
If you have a thing for chocolate, the world is your oyster. On this very site, 86 of the just over 800 recipes boast a significant chocolate component and entire sections of bookstores will be happy to fill in any cravings I missed. If you have a thing for bacon, the internet would be overjoyed to find you places to put it, zillions, even, although I’d proceed with caution before auditioning a couple. But if you have a thing for something slightly less of a prom king/queen ingredient, say, tiny white beans, well, it can be tough. It’s not there are no uses for them, it’s just that when you’re very much in love, there are never enough ways to be together. And if you’re me — someone who sometimes ups and makes a mega-pot of white beans just because you feel like it, presuming you’ll find things to do with them later — you sometimes end up scrambling, yanking down nearly every cookbook in your collection but still coming up bereft of uses outside the well-trodden soup-and-salad territory.