What Are You Going to Eat?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Many people have asked me what my first meal is going to be when I’m done. I still don’t have an answer to that (what I want seems to change daily), but it’s made me think about all the meals I like, and what my favorites are.

The last chapter of How to Cook a Wolf is called “How to Practice True Economy,” and in it, M.F.K. Fisher writes about “half-forgotten luxuries and half-remembered delicate impossible dishes.” She offers ruminations on and recipes for things that aren’t available due to wartime shortages, but that are still beautiful to think about.

“Such impossible delights are necessary, now and then, to your soul, and your body too. You can cope with economy for only so long…. Sit back in your chair, then. Drop a few years from your troubled mind. Let the cupboard of your thoughts fill itself with a hundred ghosts that long ago, in 1939, used to be easy to buy and easy to forget.”

So in that spirit, here are a few meals I’ve been thinking about…

I might take a trip to Carrboro and go to Neal’s Deli for a sandwich— pastrami or smoked turkey with avocado are my favorites so far. (And I’ll see if my friend Kristy wants me to pick up something for her and bring it over, so we can have lunch together.)

At some point, I will go to Foster’s Market for a Greek Grilled Cheese or a Ham Bagel.

I might go to Elmo’s Diner for biscuits and gravy and home fries, or blueberry pancakes, or french toast.

If I were in Princeton, I’d go to Hoagie Haven for a #1 with everything, and I’d take it over to the Woodrow Wilson school and sit in front of the fountain and have a picnic with my friend Leslie.

If I were in New York City, I’d get a knish from a street vendor.

If I were in Washington, D.C., (and if the building had’t burned down —I don’t know if you can still get food there) I’d go to Eastern Market for breakfast and get a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich with a side of home fries. And a glass of milk if I were feeling virtuous, or a coke if I wasn’t.

While I was in DC, I’d also go to Teaism at Dupont Circle and have ginger scones and a cup of chai and a bowl of granola with milk, and I’d sit upstairs in their beautiful little room that feels like someone’s secret attic.

And then I’d go to Firehook Bakery and get a chocolate espresso chew cookie.

And I’d see if I could talk anyone into going to Thaiphoon with me for some crispy duck.

If I were in Arlington, Virginia I’d go to the Quarterdeck and get a crab cake sandwich. (And I would hope that someone I was with got the all-you-can-eat crabs, so I could have one … or two.)

If I were in Seattle, I’d go to the Ballard Locks and watch the boats go through, then stop on the way home and sit outside and eat fish and chips at Ivar’s.

If I were at my Aunt’s on Lopez Island, I’d go to the bakery in town and have a cinammon roll, then hope there were crabs in her crab pots. And I’d hope my mom was with us because she likes to to pick all the crab first, so she can eat it all at once, and she’s so nice she picks all the crab for everyone, so everyone gets to eat it all at once.

If I were in Orchard Park, New York, I’d have my parents cook a beautiful, thick T-bone steak (what my sister-in-law refers to as the “Fred Flintsone steak”) and twice-baked potatoes and Caesar salad and a vegetable (fresh, sweet corn-on-the-cob in the summer, or stuffed zucchini or squash in the fall or winter, or asparagus in the spring). And it would be twice as good as anything you’d get in a restaurant, for half the price.

And the next day, I’d see if my mom would make us breakfast—eggs and biscuits and fried apples and potatoes and bacon and sausage, with honey and butter and homemade jam for the biscuits—and it would be the best breakfast you’d ever had. For the rest of your life, if you were given the choice of going out for breakfast or having my mom cook, you’d want my mom to cook. (And this is why she can never get out of the kitchen—she visits people for the weekend and they have her cook. It’s a curse.)

But enough with the travelling, here’s what I’m looking forward to having in my own kitchen.

  • homemade pizza with mozarella cheese and pepperoni (and maybe sausage, and mushrooms, and onions…)
  • a giant bowl of popcorn, popped in a pan on the stove with oil, salted, with a little bit of sugar and enough powdered ginger to give it a nice kick
  • my neighbor Breadman Ron’s brick-oven bread with butter or cheese, and olives from the Whole Foods olive bar
  • Buffalo wings with blue cheese dip, and carrots and celery on the side (but I’ll wait until Jeff and Kelly get back from Germany so Jeff can have some)
  • Marion Cunningham’s Perfect California Hamburger with Didi Emmons’ steakless steak fries and Better Homes and Gardens’s coleslaw
  • a ham and cheese and mushroom omelet, with cheese grits on the side
  • roast chicken with mashed potatoes made with olive oil, and chicken gravy, and kale, sauteed in olive oil with garlic and red wine vinegar
  • banana-pecan pancakes, made with a little bit of whole wheat flour and a lot of chopped pecans
  • my friend Katie’s chocolate chip scones
  • a sesame bagel with cream cheese and nova lox trimmings, and a granny smith apple, and a glass of milk
  • yogurt with honey and grape nuts and a banana (or walnuts … or both)
  • a bagel with bacon, egg, and cheese
  • a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato
  • toast with peanut butter and wheat germ, and a soft-boiled egg, and a grapefruit
  • a Special sandwich with salt and vinegar potato chips and a root beer (this meal will get its own post … you need to see it to believe it)

And believe it or not, all of those are things I eat on a regular basis on my $3 a day budget. Which I am very excited to get back to.

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13 Responses to “What Are You Going to Eat?”

  1. Ellison Says:

    Ahh, your mother’s cooking. I’m dreaming of a mystical cookie right now! Mmmmm. Does your mother know how famous she is? And I’ll go to Elmo’s with you for biscuits and gravy in April! They just don’t do that very well in WI!

  2. Heather Chin Says:

    Hm, quite possibly my favorite post of yours thus far! I love the travelling ideas, the homey nostalgia, and the your-own-kitchen entries. I’ve added DC’s Teaism to my list of places to visit. =) And a version of your mom’s breakfast to my list of things to cook!

    If you do come to NYC, a knish will only set you back $1, too!

  3. Sharon Says:

    Yum, I am already looking forward to your $3 a day or more project.

    And I really think you have the stone soup strategies down with your $1 a day project :-). Your menus are a treat for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.

    Have you or you and your Mom thought about doing a cookbook of your favorite frugal family recipes?

    On your next trip to Seattle, you might also enjoy Poppy’s. It’s based on the thali style of dishes from India. Some of the dishes though are more asian or european cuisine oriented though.
    Here’s a picture of an autumn thali platter:


  4. I believe it! I feed (and diaper 3) and have tolietries for my family for about $2 per person per day.

  5. Jeff Says:

    Oh thank you thank you thank you for holding off on the wings until we get back. I still remember the killer batch you made in SF, the best I’ve ever had (better that those from the Anchor in Buffalo). And I’m with you on Hoagie Haven (I’d have studied for the SAT if I’d known about Hoagie Haven) and popcorn popped in real oil. (Hey, popcorn could have been a cheap indulgence.) And, good golly, Dungies in the San Juans. Anything but pork and potatoes…

    Becky, you need to get on the Food Network. (Have they called yet?)

  6. Sukie Says:

    That whole post was pure Food Poetry. Beautiful.

  7. Chip Says:

    Glad to see you giving some love to the grilled cheese, but take my advice and ditch the tomato.

  8. lessisenough Says:

    Hey, Chip, do you have a picture from Halloween of you in your grilled cheese costume? I’d love to post that.

  9. sugarpunk Says:

    Ooh, we should do a local blogger thing. I live right down the road from Foster’s. Lunch?

  10. lessisenough Says:

    Local blogger’s lunch at Foster’s sounds great!

  11. Tom Says:

    you realize this list was wa-a-a-a-a-a-y too long.

    as in “can you tell that after 30 days i’m really, really really hungry?”


  12. lessisenough Says:

    Not true! There are just a lot of things I like. And I’ve been thinking about it for days because everyone has been asking me since about day 4 what I’m going to eat when I’m done.

    (Also you’ll notice they’re mostly breakfast items — the steel-cut oats have been good, and filling, but I miss my yogurt and grape nuts.)

  13. kcn Says:

    Ivar’s is definitely good in Seattle, but if you were at the Locks I’d say, cross the street and try the Totem House fish and chips. Totally incredibly good! They cook it after you order it, so it’s fresh and hot and wonderful.

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