Live from New York

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NY, I’m back! Thanks for the warm welcome and my welcome back snowstorm.

It’s been a long time. I’ve missed blogging, but the last few months have been crazy busy with me moving across the country. The good news is, I’m so much closer to the source of information I need for more recipes. The bad news is that I’m currently kitchen-less and commuting several hours a day, so the actual cooking may have to wait.

I miss my kitchen. It wasn’t the best, and I had my issues with it, but at least it was mine. My parents have a kitchen of course, but I just can’t get comfortable. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes.

While I wait for my new home to be ready, I’m doing some research. I have a recipe that I’ve been promising to post for months, but it’s just not where I want it to be. I tried it out on a couple of friends. They liked it, and I agree it tasted good, but there was just something missing. I’ll find out and post it the right way soon, I promise. I do have a bunch of other recipes I could post, but I need to refresh my memory on actual measurements. Of course, this requires that I make all this food, so for my friends in the NY area, be prepared to be a taster.

Here’s a taste of what’s to come (though not necessarily in this order):

1. Sos Pwa Frans (Green Pea Sauce): I know, the name leaves a lot to be desired, but it is what it is. It tastes really good, especially if you can get your peas from Haiti.

2. Whole Turkey: I may have missed the boat on this one. If so, you may have to try out the recipe next year.

3. Haitian Oatmeal: You’ve never had oatmeal until you’ve had it Haitian style. It will probably change how you feel about this particular food.

4. Rice and Peas: One of my favorite ways to eat rice.

5. Fried Plantains: easy but oh so good!

I have a list of twenty or so more, but I think this is enough of a teaser for now. Plus, now that I’m in NY, I’ll be trying out recipes I was too afraid to try out in Seattle (and bugging my mom and aunts for the secret recipes they have as yet declined to share). As soon as I get my kitchen back, I’ll keep the recipes rolling in.

Same Old Stuff

Have you ever experienced a time where none of your favorite meals sounds appealing? I’m in a mood this week where all of my usual standbys and favorites seem boring. From carbs to veggies, nothing that I can think of to eat sounds remotely appealing.
Since I still have to eat, I find that this is a good time to do three things: 1) eat things that are really healthy but that I might otherwise find unappealing, 2) try new dishes, cuisines, or restaurants, and 3) vow not to eat the same thing more than once a week.
The first two are pretty easy to follow; being unable to follow the last one is how I end up with this problem to begin with. When I love a particular food, I’ve been known to eat it everyday until I just can’t look at it again. My sister likes to warn me to switch it up to avoid having to give up one of my favorites when my body rebels at having to eat the same thing again. It’s good advice that I often don’t follow. The good news is I’ll have a whole list of great new recipes to try. The bad news is that there are some really good ones that I may have to put away for a while.
What are you eating this week? I’m very open to ideas!

Super Bowl Party

I am a fan of football. I don’t get to watch a lot of games, but I keep track of what’s going on during the season, and I am always guaranteed to watch the Super Bowl. Since I’m going to be watching anyway, it’s as good a reason as any to have people over to watch with me.

Super Bowl parties were sort of an annual tradition growing up, but mostly because it was an excuse to get people together. Whenever my family was hosting, my siblings and I would plan for all the American food that seemed to go with the big game (pizza, wings, sandwiches), but my mom would always insist that we couldn’t have a party without the necessary Haitian staples (which included rice and beans at the very least).  So the “kids” would pile up to watch the game and eat American food, and the “adults” would come over for the Haitian food, but never actually watched the game.

New York never struck me as a place with football fever, but I remember clearly the 1991 game (Giants vs. Bills) game where everyone was talking about it in school and I was asked who I was routing for and I picked the Giants mostly because I had a friend who said I knew nothing about the game and she was routing for the Bills (I wanted to prove that I, too, liked football). I attended my first Super Bowl party that year, became a lifetime Giants fan, and watching the Super Bowl became an annual tradition. For me, though, a Super Bowl just isn’t a Super Bowl without a party, and a party isn’t a party without food.

When I first moved to Seattle, I kind of expected the love of football to be greater than it was. Maybe it was because I was new, or maybe it was because no one realized that I could possibly like football, but I ended up watching the game alone that year. The next year, however, the Giants were playing and since I couldn’t be in NY, I decided to revive my position as hostess and get a bunch of people together to help me cheer them on.

Now that the Seahawks have had an amazing season, I am finally seeing love for football shine in Seattle. There’s so much excitement in the air, and this year’s party should be loads of fun. I’m busy menu planning, and at least some of these recipes will end up on this blog. Maybe I’ll include Haitian food to honor my mom’s tradition, but whatever I include, I’m hoping it will tingle the taste buds. Go Hawks!

Life’s not Always a Party

dinner for one

My posts so far have been about dinner parties and the food I tend to serve to my guests. Part of me thinks it would be great if life was always that much fun, but the reality is that I can’t have large dinner parties every day (or even every week). So what do I do when I don’t have other people to feed?

My parents (like most Haitian parents I know) were not the biggest fans of eating out. I can’t say I blame them: the food my mom could make at home usually tasted better and was less expensive. Unfortunately, though I am usually pretty selective about what I eat (so at least it tastes good), I’ve adopted the more American mentality of eating out.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who doesn’t like to cook. She says she ends up snacking a lot (rather than eating a proper meal) because it seems easier than having to cook for herself. I’ll admit it, there is something that feels easier about either eating out or eating something that requires no forethought (like a bowl of cereal). But just like I can’t eat party food every day, I know it’s better for me to put some thought in to what I’m eating most of the time.

I wish I loved cooking for just myself as much as I love cooking for others, but the truth is often seems like much more work. I don’t like leftovers most of the time, and there are a lot of fresh ingredients that aren’t scaled to the single-serve audience. I don’t like to waste food unnecessarily, which means I have to get really creative with what I’m making for the everyday meal.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a grocery store that catered to the single person who wanted to cook for themselves (but that wouldn’t charge you double the price for half the product)? While I’m waiting for someone to turn that idea in to reality, I do believe that it is possible to shop (and cook!) for the individual—it just requires more planning.

Eating is generally a social event, and I do love a good crowd. However, there is something particularly satisfying about caring enough for yourself to put in the effort to make a meal that only you will get to enjoy. I’ve also realized it’s better for my budget and my health to stay in more often than I go out.

It’s still a work in progress, but my goal is to be better about treating myself to good home-made food more often. Next week’s post will include a recipe for one of my favorite solo recipes.

 

 

More to Wine than Manischewitz

red-wine1I have a confession: I don’t know much about wine. This was mostly a non-issue for me before moving to Seattle because most of my friends and family in NY didn’t know about wine, either. When I moved here, I realized how much serving wine was actually a part of the culture; having people over for dinner generally meant having wine to serve them.

In keeping with my philosophy that what goes in my mouth should taste good, I’m mostly a fan of picking up brands that I think I’ll find tasty. We could argue that knowledge gives you a different sense of what tastes good, and maybe once you’ve had a really good wine it’s hard to go back to bad ones, but ultimately it’s still just a matter of preference (of course, with my limited knowledge, I wasn’t really thinking about the fact that wine can be used to enhance the flavor of a meal). My mother’s preference was for Manischewitz.

I know what you’re likely thinking, and I wouldn’t entirely disagree. I’m sure most wine enthusiasts would be appalled by this, or the fact that it was actually occasionally served to guests at parties (either that or White Zinfandel), but no one ever seemed to be bothered by this. To be fair, wine (or alcohol in general) weren’t standard parts of the meal. They were very occasional and usually precipitated by someone asking if they could bring something. If someone mentioned wine, though, someone was likely breaking out a bottle of Manischewitz.

With that background in mind, I was at a severe disadvantage when I moved. Most of my guests would offer to bring wine, but I like to make sure my guests don’t have to worry about bringing anything which meant I wanted to be the one to buy the wine.

At one of my very first dinner parties here, I did the unthinkable and actually brought out a bottle of White Zinfandel. In my mind, this was the classy wine, and definitely a step up from Manischewitz. The bottle went untouched as several of my guests (who apparently don’t like showing up empty handed) had all decided to bring a bottle of “real” wine. I was thankful (if slightly embarrassed) for the lesson and to my guests for deciding to bring the wine, anyway. I also realized I was going to have to learn a thing or two about wine.

How do you go about picking your wine? I’m betting that most people aren’t taking long wine classes or even doing massive internet searches for how to pair wine with a meal. I still don’t know much, but at least I’m no longer serving the undrinkable. While I’ve also usually got a bottle or two of wine on hand, for the most part, I’ve decided to let my guests bring the wine, and focus on the things that I do know.