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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.