Pen & Palate: Mastering the Art of Adulthood, with Recipes
by Lucy Madison and Tram Nguyen
I have a tendency to overcomplicate things. For a casual basketball-viewing party, I might throw together a simple vegetarian chili to feed the crowd. And of course, I would need something to go with that chili, so I’d decide to make cornbread. But not just any old cornbread. I would want to bake the most authentic, delicious, pedigreed cornbread recipe known to man—something to impress my friends (who, to their credit, couldn’t care less about such things). But then there’s the problem with tracking down an “authentic” recipe. My people are from Southeast Asia, and my experience with American quickbreads growing up was mostly limited to those paradoxically greasy-yet-stale pucks they call biscuits at Popeye’s. When you’re trying to recreate food that you have no history with, it can seem like an almost insurmountable task.
There’s a great little Middle Eastern market in my neighborhood where I go to stock up on fresh pita, whole spices, and spinach pies. A few months ago, I threw a jar of preserved lemons and pomegranate molasses in my shopping basket. I’d never used either ingredient, but I had vague Nigella Lawson/kitchen goddess-related aspirations and she uses them a lot in her cooking. I took the lemons and molasses home, envisioning exotically-spiced poultry and complicated tagines in my future. Maybe I’d start referring to eggplant as “aubergine.” Maybe I’d even stop hating eggplant.
In just nine easy steps!
There are many things I do not enjoy: pretzels, awkward small talk, hugging strangers (I don’t know you), hugging people I love (unnecessary–a firm handshake should suffice), and desserts most of the time.