Blueberries and oysters? Chocolate and cauliflower? Blue cheese and rhubarb and pineapple?
If taste buds could cringe, then mine were recoiled into a wincing mess when I first learned about these flavor pairings. For those of you who have been eating at El Bulli or The Fat Duck or Alinea, this is all old news. For me, though, it was definitely an invitation to walk on the wild side.
To help wake up my outdated taste buds, my friend, Frankie, linked me up with Food for Design, where chemists and chefs and some overachieving web designers are putting together a provocative, highly entertaining website. With just a few minutes of clicking, creative and courageous cooks can find some very unusual food pairings.
Laughs are few and far between for anyone who works in that tough corner of the food world where food security, public health, and urban development issues intersect. Fortunately, the dynamic duo of Dallas Penn and Rafi Kam have been making short, sharp, and extremely funny documentaries about shopping and eating in urban neighborhoods, including this short on bodegas, those infamous corner stores.
If one of the outer circles of hell were reserved for hoarders of kitchen tools, then yours truly already has a place reserved for her to peel and scrape, slice and dice for all of eternity. Fortunately, in my current incarnation, I can write about my habit so that you, dear reader, can choose more wisely.
With two new entries on my “What’s this?” page, I share some simple yet useful utensils for cooks who actually cook.
I’ve also added my latest favorites: a book on traditional Japanese packaging, paper-mache bowls, and a staple from my pantry. All are short and sweet.
For those who love both poetry and pork, the recitation and the recipe, Dongpo Rou’s silken layers hold a potent blend of both. This famous dish of Hangzhou, a city tucked near where the Qiantang River spills into the Yangtze Delta of eastern China, is named for its creator, the celebrated Chinese poet, Su Shi. Also known as Su Dongpo, he gave his name to the much-loved dish.
Stories are still told of how he forgot his simmering pork while playing chess or of the misunderstanding among his servants when he called for pork with wine. He was thinking a nice cup of spirits; they were thinking boozy stew. I like to think that while the pork belly simmered gently in wine and soy sauce and spices, the poet-cook composed or recite an afternoon’s worth of verse.
Once a month or so, my mother sends me a box from home filled with food. The last one, timed perfectly for lunar new year, included a batch of rice cakes. Before I even saw them, though, I knew there was treasure buried somewhere deep beneath her homemade peanut brittle, gingery mustard pickles from the last greens in her garden and bags of candied coconut used as packing material. The distinctive green-tea aroma of banana leaves had emerged as soon as the packing tape was cut.