One of the first cookbooks in my collection is also one of my favorites: Polish Heritage Cookery. I came across this heavy tome at a quirky bookstore that once lived on Polk Street, before a fire ravaged the floors above and water rained down upon its randomly, precariously stacked books. The store’s hours were irregular, and those who paid in cash received half off new cover prices. While it was the absolute last place a claustrophobe would want to spend time, Books and Co. was heaven for lovers of books about art, history and food. It epitomized the browsing experience at its most enjoyable.
A recent breakfast at T-28 Cafe in the Outer Sunset reminded me just how good a cup of hot, strong milk tea tastes on lazy weekend mornings. Although the richness of a well-aged pu-erh or the emerald sweetness of a spring shin-cha give me great pleasure as a tea drinker, neither have a place in my heart like down-home milk tea.
As we draw smaller and smaller circles around our food community, we often forget the power of recipes to connect us to each other.
Nancy’s â€œBenz Cakeâ€ recipes in her baker’s shorthand.
Recipes in the personal sense. I’m not talking about the results of a keyword search or a formula in that latest best-selling cookbook, not the pasta-of-the-month at the back of a magazine or the marketing copy on the back of a box. Along with vegetables grown by farmers with real names and faces, a local food system includes dishes with memories of people we actually know.
Okay, enough with all the pho.
I think it’s time for folks to try some other Vietnamese dishes. There are hundreds of snacks and soups, both in Vietnam proper and in Little Saigons around the world, but for reasons I’m still trying to understand, both restaurateurs and diners settle into predictable menus.
Savory bits of shrimp, mung beans and scallion oil top little steamed rice cakes.
Learning the true shape of our food sometimes comes as a surprise. The challenge of carrying ingredients across time and distance plus the reality of everyday cooking has transformed the look, feel and â€“ most importantly â€“ taste of many foods.
That dry, yellow powder known here as turmeric is certainly one of them.