06/05/2013 Kitchens by Sanae



 
 
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.
 

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Banana Bread

 

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.
 

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03/05/2013 Three Courses by WK

Illustration by Forsyth Harmon
Piece by Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn


 

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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.
 

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02/07/2013 the purple egg by Sanae


 
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.
 

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01/17/2013 Small Kitchens by Sanae


 

 
We say that New York kitchens are small. They require gymnastics of the body, elbows tucked-in, and backside bumping is inevitable when there are two cooks. True, they are often these narrow, somber, rectangular spaces that look more like hallways for minuscule people than actual feeding grounds. In Philadelphia I was spoiled, like a queen in my kitchen overlooking a vast green garden (not mine, but still) I could juggle many pots and roll out the largest and thinnest piecrusts on the massive counter space. My roommates and I would cook three at a time without stepping on one another’s territory. Fried eggs with toast, walnut tomato pesto, apple-cheddar pies. Last year was a little harder, but there was enough room and even a window overlooking New York rooftops. We had a somewhat functioning oven, a sizeable fridge, and four efficient burners. It got cozy and we took turns, like going to the bathroom. Then I moved to Brooklyn, and I found myself breathing again, twirling in the kitchen, walking with actual strides rather than the one-step forward shuffling I did in Chelsea, my hips hitting the counter by accident, my shirt always splashed wet from the sink.
 

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Illustrations by Hugo Yoshikawa

 
She follows me around the kitchen, tracing my steps but offering me enough space to move about. I like that she follows me, it instills my actions with purpose and Margot has the look of someone who is impressed. I rinse the rice, scrubbing with my hands until the water goes from milk-white (Margot’s skin!) to clear. The color of bathwater before my mother bathes. I cut loudly, chop, chop, careful to keep my fingers clawed so I don’t slice any extremities and embarrass myself. Then I whisk the salad dressing, and I beat until I feel the work and heat in my shoulders. The dressing looks like mayonnaise. The cooked fish is dry and hard under my thumb. No, who cares! Mother not here to scold me, parents on their getaway.
 
We are sixteen, but there’s no age for this. All men should tend to kitchen matters!
 

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