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Melons in the Midwest

18 Jul


Dear Emma,

Honeydew melons remind me of you and of childhood. They flash me back to Stringtown Grocery with its gas-lamps and Amish ladies selling peaches, apricots, Muscatine melons and honeydews in bulk. Then rattling home in the “way-back” over country gravel roads, pretending that we were driving the car backwards while dust filtered in through the cracks in the van.

Our friendship, which spans the whole of both of our lives, is so engrained in my own history that I can’t help but be reminded of it all the time. Especially while standing at the grocery mulling over melons.

xoxo, Zoe

I worked briefly at a French restaurant in Milwaukee. During my two-month tenure of 10 shifts a week, I would wake up every morning, fling myself out of bed and immediately fall over. My feet were tingling stumps, an odd combination of numb, swollen and on pins and needles.

The evening kitchen was manned by a chef, a true Frenchman with a growling accent, a cloudy disposition, and an allergy to any politesse. The female servers were salopes and his male kitchen help had an equally endearing nickname (dumbfu*k). Though I made less money, I preferred working lunch shifts because the Frenchman was at home in bed.

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Fancier Mac n’ Cheese

7 Apr

Dear Zoe,

When we were both still living in Brooklyn and I was mostly eating beer and ice cream for dinner, I remember you suggested I try Ramen. I believe I thought that would be too unhealthy (as though I were in a position to complain) but you suggested that I could add healthy vegetables, like frozen spinach and mushrooms and peas and green onions.  Add a little Siracha sauce (was it you or Caroline that liked to call it Hot Cock after the rooster logo?) and you’ve got a lazy meal fit for a queen.  Nina and I applied this genius to the other college stand-by: Macaroni and Cheese. Continue reading

Wild Fruits, Tame Table: Jellies and Jams

27 Jan

Howdy Gals — So, before we came to London I had these deluded hopes of finding the place covered with blackberries like Seattle – don’t ask me why, maybe because of the great lakes? When we got here there weren’t any blackberries, but milkweed, mint, chicory, and black walnuts grow everywhere in London. Best of all there’s wild grapes – tiny sweet clusters on their sprawling vines that choke out the trees like bittersweet. It turns out that those same wild grapes were good news for the medieval Norsemen that came and settled along the North East Coast of Canada a thousand years ago. According to one of the Old Icelandic Sagas I’m reading in class, they found so many grapes here that they named the country Vinland. I’m pretty psyched about that, as you might imagine.

Wild Cherries from Prospect Park

People v Picket Fence is all about taking the restaurant out of brunch, poaching your eggs at home and sitting as long as you please with your friends in your living room, with the bill already paid. When it comes to one essential component of the breakfast table, I find you can cut out the grocery store too, with more pleasure than trouble.

I’m talking about jams, jellies, marmalades and spreads. I love jam. Toast to my mind is a jam vehicle, and I tend to notice whether the diner’s little jam dispensers with the specially-sized pockets that fit exactly so many of those square jam packets with the peel-off-tops contain raspberry, grape, or if I’m really unlucky – nothing but apple jelly. Spreads tend to be  expensive items Continue reading

Some like it hot; some are Londonites.

28 Sep

Zoe, you told me I would like Canada, but that’s cuz you lived in Montreal!  London is … something else.

I asked my boss, who was a semi-celebrity chef in Toronto for some years, where I could get a good bite to eat out in London. His response, and I quote: “HA HA HA.”

He then went on to describe the places that were the best value for the dollar.  In other words, there is no good food in London*, only better and worse ways to waste your money.

I mean, I grew up in Minnesota, which is no Texas, but the ‘HOT!’ salsa we bought at the store in London has zero hot peppers in the ingredients.  Mild doesn’t even begin to do this salsa justice.  It’s closer to flavorless, like drinking tap water in St. Paul: you can sort of vaguely taste something, but it’s not right.

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