This week I noticed that the sky was dark blue by the time I entered my classroom. The days are shorter, and this is what happens in November when you teach an evening class: the building is quiet (we are in the basement), the lights brightly lit, the wind battles against our solitary window. It may as well be the middle of the night.
On weekends, as I comment on student papers, I take breaks in my kitchen. When I eat alone I stand by the window and look at my neighbor’s garden below. I can stand there barefoot for a long time, staring into space. My father finds it annoying (he’s a man of the earth, grounded and very present, though restless if he doesn’t have something concrete to do), and he often comments, “What are you thinking about, Sanaë? Tu as la tête dans les nuages.” The truth is I like to recharge by being alone. I can’t imagine a more pleasant Sunday morning than this one: daydreaming by my window, eating a slice of bread with salted homemade butter. The pipes clang and the apartment sweats from overheating, and I reach for another piece of bread. There is apple pie resting on the counter from last night, the crust still firm. The crumble has lost its bite, but there’s enough spice in the apples to have me hunting for pieces.
Illustration by Daniel Strongwater
At the end of the summer, we took a trip to the great state of California. We started in San Francisco and ventured down the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles. We drove from SF to Big Sur to San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara, to Los Angeles. We even drove north to Napa Valley. We drove approximately 500 miles. And, along the way, we ate and we drank as much as the California Republic had to offer in 9 days. We ate dry farmed tomatoes, figs off the trees, pig ears and chops, cuban and japanese food, sandwiches, tacos and croissants. We drank plenty of coffee and wine; Anchor California Lager, and some of the world’s greatest cocktails. We embarked on a culinary road trip. We hope you will join us for the ride.
The kitchen is a windowless and narrow structure, an airplane aisle barely, with earthquake proof cabinets. But we fit easily, the women in my Japanese family are small, two hands can enclose my grandmother’s waist, and my mother was once called plancha in Argentina for her flat front and behind. We are in Tokyo, in the quiet residential neighborhood of Meguro, on the thirteenth floor, renamed 12A by my superstitious grandparents. We speak Spanish to one another, and if there are a few quibbles in Japanese between my aunts, everyone talks with a smooth argentine accent. My grandmother sits in a corner of the living room, her naked feet propped onto an electric foot massage. She stares at her many plants that have overtaken the balcony like a voluptuous jungle, while my grandfather rocks on his leather armchair and watches TV.
Carrot Almond Cake
Breakfast: Banana Bread
(Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book)
I still remember when I first baked banana bread not so long ago in a west Philly kitchen. The recipe was from a Tyler Florence cookbook. I’d never tried banana bread before, but I had a handful of overripe sweet-smelling bananas that crumbled in my fingers as I unpeeled them and I didn’t know what to do with them. I’ve eaten bananas prepared many ways: chopped into fruit salads or Greek yogurt, caramelized with butter in a pan, poached in coconut milk. But it always struck me as strange to cook them in a cake. That is, until I tasted banana bread freshly baked, still warm from the oven, so moist its consistency was of challah French toast, with the occasional pop of a nut and pocket of molten dark chocolate.
Illustration by Forsyth Harmon
Piece by Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn
The Horrors–Still Life
I. Soul Food
This bubbling stew pot is my attempt to mend us, for what we need is soul food. We have misplaced our soul. We think this happened around the same time we stopped eating together at our dinner table. Our table, carried from house to house to this our present nest, is made of a solid English oak that promised longevity. It is scratched and marked with felt-tip pen of nearly forgotten homework assignments after dinner. This is a table to be used but we have neglected it and let the room get cold like an outhouse.
My soul food will drag it back to the core and sooth our nerves. Sooth my nerves because I will have something to do with my hands, some sort of distraction from the anarchy of our soullessness. You will set the table, he will light the candles, our visitor will wait and sit and tell us stories that will make us laugh and make you glow, again. We will have our roles and each will sigh in relief when we feel that soul food warmth in our bellies returning to us a little bit of our togetherness again.
It’s difficult to not become slightly enamored with the eggplant when you peruse Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. His eggplant is a crowning piece, resplendent and as he coins it, “mighty.” This is a sensuous, regal eggplant, proudly dressed in a purple casing. Smooth and glossy with firm skin and a spongy, creamy interior, its shape reminds me of womanly curves. When I think of eggplants, though, three images come to mind: ratatouille, the decadent eggplant chunks hidden in the falafel and shawarma from L’As du Falafel, and the Japanese ginger soy sauce dish my mother always prepares. The eggplant is my favorite component of a ratatouille. At L’As du Falafel it is deep fried and swelling with oil and spices: the pieces melt in your mouth like the best jamon iberico. My mother sautés eggplant with copious amounts of fresh ginger for a spicy finish, and serves the dish in a delicate porcelain bowl.
I recommend soaking eggplant pieces in cold water for ten minutes to remove the bitter flavors. Soaking it in salted water also prevents oxidization (I do the same with cut apples), or if you like you can sprinkle salt on the slices of eggplant, wait a half hour or so, squeeze some of the liquid out, and rinse. I’ve had a few bad days with the eggplant, when its deceptive skin hides a browned interior. You’ve probably mostly seen large emu-egg shaped eggplants, though they do vary in color and size. Their coloration ranges from white and light violet to darker purple shades. There are the small round eggplants, the medium-sized Italian kind, or the Japanese, which are narrow and slender.