Category Archives: Denglish Dines

Denglish Dines and Bids Adieu


Dinner alone is one of life’s pleasures.  Certainly cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest.  People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone.  A salad, they tell you.  But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam.

-Laurie Colwin, Alone in the Kitchen with at Eggplant

This year is an experiment not only in living in Germany, but also in living alone.  Up to this point, I’ve been lucky enough to jump from parents to roommate to roommate, and so finding myself in an apartment all to myself in a foreign country was a bit of a shock to the system.  It has its perks, to be sure – I can cook and make mistakes without spoiling dinner for anyone but myself, no one gives a flip if I make deviled eggs for dinner and graham crackers with peanut butter and cinnamon for dessert, I can leave laundry on the ground to my heart’s content and listen to hokey folk music like it’s going out of fashion (or like it ever was in fashion) – but also, there’s a downside, like that time I made a sauce from a roux for the first time and immediately started crying into my plate because no one was around to care that I made a sauce from a roux.

Never before has my life so resembled generic and tasteless clip art. The box of tissues on the table is an especially nice - and accurate - touch.

 

Anyway, tears aside, here’s a few of the tastier concoctions that have been on my table lately (although I’m not giving you the secrets to my graham crackers with peanut butter; that one’s staying in the family):

  • Ginger-Honey Chicken Wings with Coconut Rice from Big Girls Small Kitchen – first time cooking meat, oh, since Joe was here.
  • Pad Thai from my man Mark Bittman – Beth and I made this in celebration of the new Asian grocery store that opened up in Bingen (so cosmopolitan!), but when we asked the grocer for rice noodles, he tried to give us a bag of noodles… shaped like rice.  We also made spring rolls… or spring wads, as they turned out to be.
  • Asparagus, Mint, and Lemon Risotto from Jamie Oliver – or variations thereof, as asparagus is still hard to come by.
  • Eggplant and Chickpea Baked Pasta, because when I’m at the grocery store, my mind works like this: “Oh, eggplant.  That looks good.  Oh, chickpeas.  I like those.  Hey, pasta, I want that.  Mm, cinnamon, that’s real tasty.”  And then I end up with a bag full of rhymeless, reasonless groceries.

While we’re on the topic of food, my old stomping grounds, the Special Collections Department at the U of A, just put out the first issue of their new journal, Arkansauce: The Journal of Arkansas Foodways.  Read the whole thing online, or write to dfworrel@uark.edu for a copy of your very own.

With that said, Denglish will be out of commission for the next week or two – I’m off to Berlin for a schmooze-based Fulbright conference, then to Copenhagen for herring, then a bff from back home is visiting.  That’s two weeks of having company with dinner; while elated, I hope I remember how to converse.

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Denglish Dines and Also Goes to Parties

Life here can be so weird.

Half a year ago and half the world away, I entered my house back in Little Rock one final time to a surprise send-off party.  Then, out of pure shock, I promptly exited the house.  At any rate, the life of the party was not me, oh no, but Kyle, who attended from Connecticut via video chat.  He said he felt like a dismembered child, whose limbless, digital state necessitated that mom carry his face around when he wanted to move.  He was especially lucky in securing a spot right by the cheese dip, so he could watch family members catch Velveeta dripping off their Fritos all night long, the lucky dog.

Ol' Legless also acted as photographer for the night, thanks to Skype features.

But oh, how the turntables have turned.  Saturday night was my chance to act the part of skyped-in dismembered family member.  This weekend marked my dad’s 50th birthday, so naturally a running-themed surprise party complete with personalized water bottles and race bibs was in order, and I would, of course, be doing a great disservice to my readership if I failed to talk about it, seeing as the partygoers make up roughly all of my readership (for you stray passersby out there, 1) you’re lost, and 2) to understand this, you have to know that my dad runs.  A lot.  So much so that in my mind, running ten miles sounds like a walk in the park, even though I myself couldn’t manage half a mile if pressed).

Now was my time to shine as Skype photographer.

And I may have been legless, but I wasn’t useless.  As the aunts prepared the house for my dad’s arrival, I got to shout out directives like “Look for birthday candles in the drawer!  No, not that one!  No no!  The one over there!” while gesturing wildly, if futilely.  And then I got to look at my younger cousins’ tongues in great detail as they watched themselves make faces at the camera.  Luckily for me, I was situated not by the crock pot, as Kyle was, but by the drinks, which provided ample opportunity to sneak pictures of priceless moments like this, my grandma sporting a sweatband pouring herself a glass of blush:

and moments like this one, my grandpa tickling my cousin’s baby, who I haven’t even gotten to meet yet:


and of all the people I care about most having a perfectly good time:

and of the men in my life, which makes me so happy and seem so conspicuously absent:

Happy birthday, Dad!  Wish I could have been there.

But things go on here, and I continue to devise ways to amuse myself, which brings us to the second installment of Denglish Dines. As I mentioned earlier, my life here can be so weird, and that extends to food too.  I came home from school yesterday to find that I had no staples – no bread, no meat, no cheese, no eggs, no vegetables – nothing from which to throw together a normal meal.  But like heck I’m going to the grocery store, and so I was forced to fashion something out of the hodgepodge of ingredients I do have, which turned out to be a dinner that, if submitted to Allrecipes, I’d call “Lori’s Tropical Dream Curry” or some such.

So check it:

I never claimed to be a food photographer. Just a skype photographer.

Rice boiled with coconut milk, garlic, and ginger (inspired by this chickpea curry); curry sauce made with yogurt, more coconut milk, and cinnamon (just be sure to turn the heat down way low or it’ll curdle); fried garlic and ginger crisps (inspired by this fried rice), and mango slices cooked until tender and slightly brown (inspired by the mango that’s been hangin’ out in my crisper).  Aromatic, slightly sweet, with just a bit of crunch from the fried sprinkling of garlic.  Why I have coconut milk and mango but no eggs, I cannot explain.

Just another part of life being weird here, I guess.

Denglish Dines: The First Installment

As promised earlier this week, here’s my first edition of telling you what I’m eating on Wednesday nights, now officially titled “Denglish Dines” (a title not approved of by the boyfriend, who, when I ran the name by him, only whined “Lori, why does everything have to be alliterative with you?”  Dear, don’t dispute that my diction is downright my decision, and your dissension only makes me more determined).  Alternatively, depending on how you feel about alliteration, this could be titled, “Why I’m Not a Food Writer.”

So, Beth came over, which was a nice change from no one coming over ever, and we attempted a recipe found at The Pioneer Woman, Savory Tomato and Feta Crostata, which is fancy-speak for girly pizza.

Essentially, it’s  a flour and basil crust, filled with cottage cheese, feta, egg, and oregano, and topped with tomatoes “layered in concentric circles,” “concentric” obviously being the operative term.  It was mediocre, we both decided; better than the rice we enjoy every other night of the week, but not exactly the aromatic Mediterranean dish suggestive of Grecian sunshine and sea breezes we were hoping for.  The flavors just weren’t coaxed out to their full potential: the fresh basil in the crust was lost in a dusty poof of flour; the cheeses didn’t pack a punch.  “Needs onion,” I mumbled through a mouthful, but that’s not a critique unique to this recipe, it’s just what I say about most foods.

So much for "decoratively crimped edges."

By no means a failure, but my favorite bit may have been discovering that the only way to buy basil at my grocery store is in a little pot, so I walked the whole way back to my house with my nose buried in the basil pot.  So earthy!  So alive! So refreshing, like the first whiff upon walking into Ozark Natural Foods!  Such a world away from the cold, gray German winter, so suggestive of Grecian sunshine and sea breezes!

But, like all good things, my basil pot too had to come to an end, and a scraggily one at that.

Wait, did I say the best bit was the basil pot?  I take that back, for the best bit was watching Sense and Sensibility during the chilling/cooking/cooling periods this recipe calls for (what a diva a crust can be), and by “watching Sense and Sensibility,” I clearly mean googling pictures of the guy who plays Willoughby, because really.

I mean, really.

Also, he’s married to Emma Thompson, which makes me love her and hate her all the more.  They even met on the set.  I bet HE didn’t mind that Sense and Sensibility is alliterative.

Anyway, tonight’s recipe is found below, and remember, it’s best when served with an unseasonal fruit salad (I just couldn’t resist those strawberries), complemented with a markedly mediocre wine, and followed by a handful of cheap sugar wafers. Continue reading