Celery Leaves Define Purpose
Celery smells like rain. Long fibrous stalks tapering to leaves, green and fresh like the essence of grass after a downpour, mixed with the ozone from an approaching storm. One after the other. When we stop thinking, resigned to restless days that trap minds behind doors and closed windows, where inner turmoil loses its way to never-ending pitter-patters against the rooftop, the storm fades from downpour to drizzle and soon we no longer hear anything. Tomorrow will give us the opportunity to dig a hole in the backyard and bury the compost, a growing bag of celery leaves and apple cores and onion roots. This is where we grow squash and chives in the summer. But in the off chance the rain doesn’t subside, the celery leaves shall escape their tragic fate from farmer’s market to cutting board to compost, and instead join meal prep in a new wealth of options: minced, chopped, left in whole-leaf form, tossed in a stir-fry or soup or sauces. A natural course of action. A possibility. A decision.
Twice Cooked Pork Ribs Skeptic
Skepticism regarding: boiling and then frying and then boiling again the baby back ribs because what is the purpose of the pan-fry, the signature browning from the sear, the savory counterpart to caramelization, if it’ll be written over after the second boil? Why not just boil and fry, or fry and boil, or step away fully hands-off with the meat sitting in a stainless steel pot, marinating in caramelized sugar and soy sauce and five-spice powder–and surely the pressure cooker tenderizes with more fidelity than any hand gripping a wok handle over an unevenly heated stovetop? Sometimes the right way is not the correct way is not the efficient way is not the path of least resistance. Carry on then, use the peanut oil and not the extra virgin olive oil for frying, a friendly suggestion transmitted via telepathy rather than through voice, because the recipe needs finalizing, more trial and error, an extended deadline, fewer egos and assumptions and notions of correctness. Not that we’re not ready, or that we are.
Cooked and Cooled Potato
A one-pound potato, thinly sliced on a mandoline, generates a lot of leftovers. Best eaten the next day, once cooled. Think about all the resistant starch, the prebiotic goodness waiting to nourish a capricious microbiome. And the sautéed onions, their past pungency equivalent to sticking your tongue on the terminals of a nine-volt battery sizzled away, now sweeter the second day after a nap in the fridge, the soft, mild, and docile accompaniment to creamy russet potatoes. Should the frozen ribs defrost while deciding on a meal made of only leftovers? We can put together a feast of the untouched kimchi and yesterday’s sautéed potatoes and some quick scrambled eggs to supplement a protein source. Save the ribs for dinner or tomorrow, when we will start from scratch with freshly chopped vegetables and end with piping hot dishes on braided kitchen mats. Cooking something new means abandoning the old–the potatoes might sit in the porcelain bowl, under a tightly stretched sheet of plastic wrap, potential unrealized, gentle sweetness unappreciated, forever.
Slip slivers of ginger in the stomach cavity, under the fin, between the slits cut across the body. Scallions for color. For a mild, white-fleshed fish, this may be enough to counteract the fishiness. Supposedly bulging, plump eyes mean freshness–recently caught, recently killed. If they’re dull, sunken in, glazed over and the butcher snatches up the first fish without providing a chance to inspect each eyeball, ask for a discount and buy extra ginger, a gamble of sorts because, at some point, no amount of ginger and sauce can counteract the breakdown of trimethylamine oxide. Ten minutes after steaming, heat oil in a pan and pour it over the dish. This retains heat, binds flavor, and adds richness to lean flesh, best served immediately. Who could’ve known? “Best-effort” cooking admits defeat; fish-that-sat-over-ice-for-too-long prevails. No amount of ginger could have salvaged the old croaker. Revealed only when no one touches the fish at the dinner table.
Tomatoes are Fruits
Scored with x’s on the tops. Boiled until the skins fall off. Now they are good for cooking: five peeled, boiled-on-the-outside, raw-on-the-inside tomatoes, sliced into quarters. In the second iteration of cooking, they simmer in a pan until a sweet, chunky sauce remains. A dash of salt enhances the flavors of even the most unripened bits of tomato, a fruit picked green and transported in trucks and treated with ethylene gas until it obligingly turns red. Guess they can’t all be perfect; the sun doesn’t evenly hit every surface of every plant. The peeled skins join a pot of simmering chicken bones and carrots, extracting an extra dimension of tang and fiber to the broth. What a shame it’d be to turn the vine-ripened tomatoes into sauce too–a bright red rather than the muted red-orange indicative of waxy, gassed Roma tomatoes. We eat the vine-ripened ones raw. Bite into them like apples. Sweet and juicy and refreshing. Even if they could make a better, richer, sweeter sauce, why bother entering a scenario of unknown variables when the currently simmering chunks already taste decent. It never hurt anyone when they didn’t know about the grass on the other side. Getting silly notions that it could be greener.
Research from Some Elite University revealed that couples who harbored doubts about marrying their spouses were two and a half times more likely to divorce or at least report less marital satisfaction compared to their counterparts who reported no doubts. In other words, take misgivings seriously, tune into the soul and listen to the heart which wavers with scientific precision, envision life and its future–does it align with expectation and goal? Read this study while separating egg yolks from whites for tiramisu, heating the custard over a bain-marie because last time, the eggs curdled–a learning experience, but first and foremost, a mistake.
Artwork by Sarah Shields