Every once in a blue moon I wake up bright and early and certain that the best thing in the world to eat—nay, the only thing in the world to eat—would be a cinnamon sugar doughnut from the Lower East Side’s Doughnut Plant. This morning I whizzed over the Williamsburg Bridge while the sun was still creeping over the horizon, slid my car into a no-parking zone on Essex Street, and leapt out with my nightgown only slightly peeping out of my trench coat. The place smelled exactly how I imagine Willa Wonka’s factory would smell, and between the big grin this plastered on my face and my crazy lady flasher chic, I visibly alarmed the normally impassive Hungover Harriets working counter. Which rendered the entire venture even more of a delicious caper. One bite proved enough–doughnuts pack such a powerful speedball of fat and sugar that more would’ve sent me in Belushi’s footsteps–but, man, did I love that bite. All rise for Her Eminence, Lady Doughnut Sunday.
I admit it. Sometimes sandwiches entail more of a commitment to bread than I’m willing to make. As much as the food lover in me rolls her eyes, I go through phases in which I’d rather limit my consumption of refined carbohydrates to the occasional serious dessert—caramel sea salt tart trumping tuna on rye in my book. But there’s a fuck-you element to a sandwich that I simply can’t deny, a glorious mobility that no other foodstuff can provide. It’s not like you can hold a salad in one hand while you steer your getaway car through the night. It’s not like you can slurp soup during a seaside hike. And it’s not like you can stow last night’s leftovers in your pocket to munch while ogling the dog run on your lunch hour.
My inner Frugal Fanny kvells over such economy—how yesterday’s lamb can be repurposed with a sliver of asiago cheese, a sprig of parsley, a layer of fig jam spread liberally over rosemary focaccia; how you can pack your vegetable and protein and fat in one sweet-and-savory punch. There’s a universe unto itself that a sandwich invariably comprises. You can feel free to improvise wildly because, no matter how baroque you get, the worst possible disaster will be contained to a single casualty and between two slices of bread. God knows I never would have happened upon the winning combination of roasted pork, pickled peaches, lemon, fresh mayo, habanero sauce, and chopped cilantro had I been trying to please anyone besides myself. So never mind the Bullocks, man. Sandwiches are just so punk rock.
(This missive was repurposed from a little ditty I wrote for Put a Egg On It, a zine so punk rock that it foreswears online content.)
My mom, like many people who baked a lot when they were children, is the reigning queen of breakfast food. Alas, the quality of her cooking falls off as the day progresses, a fact I’ve always chalked up to her lifelong preference for sweet carbohydrates though she denies herself them. When I was a kid, she earnestly munched salad after salad while she fed the rest of us vague casseroles and overboiled vegetables. Except in the morning. Then my whole family feasted upon cinnamon challah, fried matzoh (as we half-Yids referred to matzo brei), and the world’s most wonderful pancakes: golden brown, subtly flavorful, delicate and yet sturdy enough to serve as the perfect conduits for maple syrup and butter—which is all most of us really want in a pancake. By the time I was 10, she’d showed me how to make them at least three times but I developed a very selective amnesia when it came to the recipe. Because my sister and dad were not as gaga about them, pancakes were one of the few things my mom made just for me and I was not about to let anything intrude on that experience.
So it’s not a surprise that, as an adult, although I typically adore cooking for myself and others, I’ve always quietly been hunting for an excellent pancake maker. It’s also not a surprise that I find that goal so elusive. Pancakes might seem easy enough but Proustian enterprises never are nor is anything remotely Freudian. In this as in so many other ways, childhood is sticky. Continue Reading →