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.
In just nine easy steps!
Hiiiiii, I am back from my honeymoon and pale as ever. How is that possible when I spent 14 days basking in the Italian sun, you ask? Well first of all sunblock, because I have an Irish complexion and one must protect that shit or else, and second of all, I spent most of my honeymoon in the ideal state, which is to say curled up with a book, a glass of wine in hand, safe from the sun. I mean sure, occasionally I took my book to a lawn chair in front of some rolling Tuscan hills, but even in those circumstances I managed to fashion a hat for myself out of a sweater, or find an umbrella under which to hide. It was great. I ate so much pasta. I drank a million glasses of wine. I discovered my favorite new snack (more on that below). And finally, after two weeks of intensive research—by which I mean partaking in the above activities—I came up with a very official and super scientific list of fun books to read this summer. Do you need a great summer read or two? Do you consider “summer reads” to be books that are funny and entertaining but also sometimes depressing and possibly super upsetting? What about books about alcoholism? Good, these picks are for you! Read them while you eat some dip—inspired by a really great riff on papa al pomodoro I ate while on vacation—and drink Tram’s excellent summer cocktail. Do you have additional summer book recommendations for me? Leave them in the comments! Read more
It’s a testament to the infectiousness of Colwin’s enthusiasm that her recipes seem appealing even though the food she described was often unappealing to the point of being categorically gross – and she knew it. Her favorite foods include mashed vegetable fritters, meatloaf, steamed puddings, and the jelly that surrounds cold leftover meat, spread on toast and eaten for breakfast. Her enthusiasm for fermented Chinese black beans is boundless, and in several of her recipes these salty, pungent beans are combined with cheese, or yams. “A cold steak sandwich is sort of disgusting, but it is also sort of wonderful,” she confesses, after specifying that this sandwich must include the hardened cold meat drippings, plus butter, because “this is a recipe for people whose cholesterol is too low.” And “Chicken salad has a certain glamour about it.” In a chapter titled “Kitchen Horrors,” she includes a recipe for something called Suffolk Pond Pudding, a suet-heavy British dish that a horrified guest describes as tasting “like lemon-flavored bacon fat.” “I ate almost the entire pudding myself,” she gleefully reports. It’s also refreshing to read a cookbook written by someone who unabashedly confesses to having made baked chicken and a particular creamed spinach casserole literally every time dinner guests came over — for years.
This essential weirdness translates to a sense of unlimited permission, which might be why Colwin is especially beloved to people who, like her, specialize in writing non-expert, enthusiastic reports from the front lines of cooking trial and error – in other words, food bloggers. Indeed, some of them see her less as influence than as a sort of spiritual ancestor.
-Friend of the blog Emily Gould on Laurie Colwin.