For reasons I cannot adequately put my finger on, if you show up to a potluck or picnic this weekend with carafes of freshly-squeezed lemonade, you will be welcomed and adored, but if you show up with the same carafes of freshly-made pink lemonade, people will actually freak out. Why is pink lemonade so much more exciting than the pale yellow that accurately depicts the lemons from which it is derived? It’s a mystery to me as well but I — a person who does not own a single pink garment and likes to consider myself immune to pastel-tinted charms — will always reach for it first.
For someone who is patently terrified of all the offerings in the deli case pasta salad universe — the tri-colore, mayo-slicked, sugar-sweetened, canned tuna-flecked, curry powder-ed, and dotted with green peppers, raisins or ohgodboth — I sure spend a spectacular amount of each summer trying to come up with cold pasta preparations I’d find agreeable. I know that there’s one out there I could love and could love me back, but although a few attempts have gotten me closer, and even temporarily sated, my perfect picnic pasta salad eluded me.
In the past, I have made the argument that all sorts of absurd things, from fruit crisps to slab pies, pizza, salade lyonnaise, risotto, stuffing (!), latkes, cookie bars and even shamelessly decadent cakes rolled in brown butter and cinnamon sugar deserve inclusion in the first meal of the day. You might say I have no shame at all. I might say that I cleverly rail against the narrow confines of that which we know as breakfast. You might say I’ve gone too far this time, but I’m going to do it anyway: I’m going to make the argument that breakfast popsicles deserve to become a thing.
The last time I incubated of future generation of my family, my OB’s office — a place you cumulatively spend a spectacular amount of time over the course of 40 weeks — was diagonally across the street from the Upper West Side Shake Shack, and I only ate there once. I understand if this means we can no longer be friends; I am personally embarrassed to know this about me too. Where were my priorities? I have spent years mourning this missed opportunity to not only eat a weekly Shackburger but to have made better use of my last weeks of kid-free leisurely lunches for years to come. The reason is even less sympathetic: I didn’t like hamburgers, or so I thought. They were so thick, so dauntingly large and one-note, so soft and damp inside, I couldn’t for the life of me imagine what made them popular.
Almost exactly 5 years ago, in celebration us both signing contracts to write cookbooks, I met a friend* for lunch at a burger joint called The Stand on East 12th Street, and we finished the meal with something the menu declared a toasted marshmallow milkshake. I don’t remember a thing about the burger, but I do know that pretty much every conversation I had in the weeks that followed went like this: “The weather is so nice today!” “It would be perfect for a toasted marshmallow milkshake, don’t you think?” “How is your son sleeping these days?” “Did I tell you about this toasted marshmallow milkshake I had? Let me tell you about this toasted marshmallow milkshake I had.” “Can you believe this Deepwater Horizon mess?” “Toasted marshmallow milkshake, toasted marshmallow milkshake toasted marshmallow milkshake.” You could argue it had some impact on me.
Regarding the ever-present stacks of cookbooks around the apartment, my mother joked to me on Sunday that I should open a library. She’s probably right. I don’t think that a week goes by that I don’t* receive at least one new cookbook and I hardly know where to dive in. And don’t get me wrong, I too swoon over the currently in-demand aesthetic of vertically oriented, dimly lit photos of reclaimed weathered barnwood tables boasting sauce splatters and variations on kale on matte pages bound in jacketless books. It’s just that they’re all starting to jumble together.
Psst. I know what everyone is really hoping you’ll cook this weekend, and I’m sorry, it is not that kale salad. Okay, maybe not if these people are gluten-free, or opposed to butter, burnt sugar and stretchy yeasted breakfast treats. You probably shouldn’t make this for anyone on a juice cleanse or auditioning a paleo lifestyle. And now that I’ve ruled most of the people on this earth out, maybe I should stop talking about “everyone” when what I really mean is me.