Hopes and Plans and Iron Skillets

Growing up, the cast iron skillets always hung in the same place. The forks were always on the right of the spoons, and there was always butter sitting at room temperature next to the honey and coffee for morning breakfast preparation. There was always milk in the refrigerator — the type changed over the years from whole to skim to soy to skim back to whole — and I could always count on some flavor of yogurt. We never ran out of flour, and there was always some type of seasonal fruit in a while bowl on the island. Growing up, my kitchen was a sort of rock, a foundation, a steady horse that always gave me what I wanted and always supported my creative outlets in front of the stove and in the oven.

Living in the City, a year and a half has taught me, has completely shattered my ideas of what a kitchen should be. Maybe it is the fact that my kitchen now is half the size, if not smaller, than my childhood’s. Maybe it’s that food is more expensive now, or that I have to buy it, period. It might be my lack of cutlery, or the fact that some of my utensils are still packed away from my first move into the city (see: I have now moved four times in under two years). Whatever it is, I find myself going out much more often. Almost to the point that I feel like I am throwing away money into the open doors of every restaurant. I have to concede that going out to new restaurants to see what other people are doing with food that I know and love is extremely important to foster your own voice in the culinary arts (you must read to be able to write, or so they say), but when I find myself going out at every opportunity and cooking only when I feel like I am sinning against my own craft it turns into a problem: lack of creativity.
So, to restart the my writing on this blog, and tie myself to stove (where I know I belong), I am starting a challenge. At least four meals at home a week (breakfasts and lunches included). I’ve made plenty of promises I haven’t kept in the past, but hopefully this isn’t one of them.
To a month of cooking at home, and returning to my childhood kitchen.
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Sun and Produce

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As we rolled down an open freeway in Brooklyn or Queens with the sunrise sprawling out before our sleepless eyes, we blasted Notorious B.I.G.’s Goin back to Cali and listened to the lyrics mimic our lives “we got the 7:30 flight.”  We started to question the idea of staying up all night for 7:30am flight, but by 11am San Francisco time, after a smooth and restful flight, we were satisfied: we made it to the west coast.

My friend, colleague, and cohort in Unfamiliar Suppers headed west for one reason: to cook. Or rather, to cook, eat, catch up with old friends, run on the beach, soak up much need vitamin D, explore new neighborhoods, listen to live music, gather produce from vendors and gardens, and drink Tecate. That last one wasn’t foreseen, but turns out it happened more often than not at our suppers.

Why west, though? Why not south? Or even to Texas? Back in December of 2012, I wrote a blog on what may be called the first Unfamiliar Supper, well the first proper one at that. A dear friend in San Francisco so kindly mentioned it to all of his friends and got them excited about it. My last words on that social media monster, Facebook were “name a date, I’ll hop on a plane.” A month later, I had bought a ticket for Lexie and myself, and we had one gig in our planner: The last weekend in March we would be cooking for Alex, Max, and his house.

The rest started to fall into place over the upcoming weeks – turns out my university has quite a large chapter of alumni out in the Bay Area, and most remembered liking or at least standing my cooking. Now that I had made it semi-official with a whole Supper Club, 25 people signed up to eat a four course meal the last Saturday of the month, in Berkeley, at one of my kindest, sweetest friends from college’s home.

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The last meal, a Sunday brunch, became – in my mind – one of the most memorable Easters in my memory. Fourteen lovely ladies gathered around a table, chowing down on three courses and enjoying the festivities of Bloody Marys and each other’s company.

Over the next week, I’ll delve into each of those Supper’s ups and downs and pigs’ heads. Until then, consider this scenario from a New Yorker in the middle of winter. How happy would you be?

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News Flash

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Dear ones dressed in Santa hats, lighting menorahs, checking your emails religiously, and oh-so-thankful that the world hasn’t in fact ended,

I am cooking another supper. The location has yet to be determined, as have the guests. The only thing I know is the menu.

What I need to know from you all is: are you around these holi-days, and would you like to feast with me in an unfamiliar place with mostly familiar faces?

If you’re interested, send a quick note my way (e.g. Hi bud, I’m here until the 24th, and get back the 28th. Thanks brosef). Also, let me know if you want to bring a special someone along with you.

Peace, Latkes and Apocalypse-Blocking Eggnog,

hamlet, U.S.