Category: Food

Notes from the New Normish

Hi, we’re alive and fine. My privilege is as evident as ever, as my daily routine of isolation with Kat resembles what Maria called “an extended snow day,” mostly but not entirely without snow. I hurt for the sick and grieving; I worry for the essential and vulnerable; I watch Bon Appetit and experiment with vegan baking; I do my internet job and I watch out my window and wait. Here are some things that have held my interest in the last little while.

  1. As mentioned in asides, I read too much about menswear online and off these days. My favorite habit is to bargain-hunt for clothes from Japan on eBay, prance around the living room in them to aggravate Kat, and then secret them away so I can buy more. But the emergent result is that I’ve learned a lot about things I might have disdained ten years ago. I don’t have any special interest in James Bond, for instance, but Matt Spaiser’s blog about the tailoring of the films has taught me a ton about men’s fashion in the last sixty years. His post on how Cary Grant’s suit in North by Northwest (1959) went on to influence Bond’s costuming is a great example of the dry clarity of his writing.
  2. It seems like I’ve never written about Porpentine Charity Heartscape here before, which is strange, as her work has loomed large in my view and admiration for… seven years? Eight? Her work in writing and game design blends the sweet, the filthy, the transgender and transhuman, the pure and the skin-crawlingly cute in a way I find singular in every sense. If that sentence doesn’t hint at some content warnings, then I hope this one does. But that boundary is very much worth braving if you are so emotionally equipped. Her recent story “Dirty Wi-Fi” on Strange Horizons is a good introduction to her prose and perspective.
  3. Despite my limited dabbling in microelectronics, I can’t follow many of the technical specifics in this review of process and call for aid on a final, perfect Super Nintendo emulator. But the SNES was a system that still informs my design and aesthetic sensibilities, twenty-seven years later, and I respect the author’s work very much. The most striking quote to me:

    “I can tell you why this is important to me: it’s my life’s work, and I don’t want to have to say I came this close to finishing without getting the last piece of it right. I’m getting older, and I won’t be around forever. I want this final piece solved.”

    What an extraordinary thing it seems, to me, to know what your life’s work is. I hope one day I do.

I often consider locking all the older entries on this blog

But that would prevent me from making deep cuts like this: Mitch McConnell spoke at my college graduation. I was very young and very tired when I wrote that entry, and McConnell, though well into his career, was not quite the architect of enormity he has since become. Elaine Chao spoke too, and it’s amusing to me now that I called her a “fervent liberal.” I wonder what I’ll have to laugh at fifteen years from now.

This came to mind because earlier this week, McConnell got harangued at a restaurant in Louisville, and because when I read the story I realized it was a restaurant I know. I feel compelled to explain why I find this amusing as well: the Bristol is maybe the worst place you could pick to eat on all of Bardstown Road.

It’s an iceberg-salad, sirloin-well-done kind of place, where everything costs about twice and tastes about half what it ought to. It’s also right in the middle of some of the best food in the city, and for that matter in the state. McConnell is among the most powerful living humans and a multimillionaire; he could afford to eat every night at Jack Fry’s, 80-odd years old and still killing it, or get the farm-to-table prix-fixe menu at Lilly’s, both within a few blocks of the Bristol. Those were once-a-year treats when I was digging myself a debt hole there back in grad school. McConnell could have thrown a stone and hit someone’s baked brie or lamb burger at Ramsi’s Cafe on the World, or turned the other way for a thick, crispy Louisville-style pizza at Impellizzeri’s, which still has an hour wait every night. He could have had the most delicate fish I’ve ever tasted at Seviche. He could have gotten his teeth stuck on the candied short ribs at North End Cafe. For fuck’s sake, he could have gotten better food at Burritos As Big As Your Head.

But he went to the Bristol, possibly because none of those other places would lower themselves to seat him. And he got overcharged for probably a tasteless beer and a milquetoast burger that would recoil from the notion of spice. Forgive me if I hope someone spat in it.

This post is mostly an excuse to make myself hungry thinking about how good it smells just to walk past open doors on that street, and how fond my heart is of that place and time. Lynn’s Paradise Cafe isn’t there anymore, or Nio’s 917, or Twice Told, and neither are most of the friends I used to sit down to dinner with. But Louisville is still home to much of my family and to a lot of restaurants that punch way above their weight. You have to really love something to make it that good, in a small city. If food is a way of feeling, then I think taste is a way of caring, and in at least those little ways, our little lives are better than his.

More cooking stuff

I have these two recipes in text files on my desktop, which is dumb because I can’t see my desktop when I need to use them and I am separated from my desktop by three hours and a mountain range. Both are extremely healthy and require a sophisticated palate to appreciate.

Dirty Chicken
(so named by Kara & co on True Blood night; brought to us from Kentucky by Monica)

1 cup shredded or cubed mozzarella
1/2 cup cheap ranch dressing
1/2 cup hot wing sauce (yes, you can buy this in bottles at Safeway)
8 oz cream cheese
1 10-12 oz can chicken (like canned tuna, only… it’s chicken)

Mash up in a glass or ceramic bowl. Microwave for three or four minutes, stirring every minute. Eat with chips. Serves party.

This next one is what I made for months when I wanted potatoes until I discovered an amazing secret recipe for perfect french fries, which I am not going to link to because it is too awesome. MY THIRD-BEST POTATO RECIPE: I HEREBY BEQUEATH IT.

Boiled Fried Potatoes

About 8-10 new potatoes, either Yukon gold or red
3 Tbsp butter
Kosher salt
1 Tbsp thyme
1/2 tsp white pepper

You need a seasoned cast-iron skillet for this because otherwise they’ll stick like demons.

Mash up a tablespoon of the salt and the thyme with a mortar and pestle. Scrub the potatoes and chop them into 2-3 little discs per potato, cutting off the ends so both sides have an exposed surface. Place the potatoes in a single layer on the skillet, add just enough water to cover them, turn the burner to medium-high and add the mixed salt and thyme and the butter. Then wait for the water to all boil off.

When it’s gone–you will know because the tenor of the hissing sound has changed and the bubbles look different–turn the heat down to medium. Continue to fry the potatoes, flipping once and moving the interior potatoes to the sides of the pan once the first side is golden and crusty. When both sides are golden and crusty, add more salt and pepper, then eat. This serves about two hungry people.

NOTE: You can substitute olive oil for the butter but it’s not as bad for you.


Maybe everyone already knows this, but whenever I make a cream sauce for pasta, the recipe calls for heavy cream and I never have any on hand. What I usually do have is sour cream, which works way better! The taste and texture are great, you don’t have to reduce it, and it combines with olive oil more easily. You can splash in a little milk or water if it’s too thick.

(Awesome things to sauté and toss in said sauce: garlic, shallots, tomatoes and shrimp or smoked salmon.)

Lamb Pseudotagine with Raisins

(Imagine there is a succulent picture of an orange-yellow-brown lamb dish in a skillet here, because I forgot to take one.)

I’m writing this down because it’s something I synthesized from whatever came up when I typed “lamb tagine raisisn raisins” into Google and I don’t want to forget it. It was really good. Thanks again, cast-iron skillet! (Thanks for the cast-iron skillet, Mom.)

We used a package of little loin chops for this, but the originals say shoulder or leg would work fine too, and since it’s marinated I don’t doubt it. Serves two and a half.

1 lb lamb of some kind
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
Pinch of saffron threads
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp tomato paste
Salt and pepper

Toss this all around in a plastic container or bag, seal it and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. You can probably get away with a couple hours if you’re in a hurry.


1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 sweet onion, halved and sliced radially
3 more cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups stock of some kind
2 carrots, or 2 cups baby carrots, chunked
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup chickpeas
1 cup golden raisins

You also need a cast-iron skillet with an oven-safe lid. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Put the butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and melt. Put the onions in and brown, then toss the garlic in just long enough to toast it. Add the stock, cumin, carrots, and cinnamon. Get the lamb out of the refrigerator and put it in, keeping it on the heat just long enough to get it white on both sides; the whole dish should be simmering.

Cover the skillet and put it in the oven; cook for 1 hour. Remove the dish and add raisins and chickpeas, stirring around a little bit so the raisins will flavor the liquid. Cover again and put back in the oven for 30 minutes.

Now you’re done! We had this with couscous, but you could do rice, of course, or put some chopped and peeled potatoes in when you add the carrots.

Leonard was here for a week! It was great! I didn’t blog about it because I was too busy hanging out with Leonard. Leonard didn’t blog about it because he apparently spends two weeks out of three on airplanes, to the point that travelblogging has become passé. The world demands Leonard.

Kara and I tried to show him the good side of the city: we ate at a lot of restaurants, played a lot of games, climbed a waterfall and discovered that happiness comes in gourds. Leonard also fixed my stupid hard drive (twice!) and helped me find a new grip on a game design problem that’s been bothering me for months. I can only assume that when Sumana visits in November, she will improve my gas mileage and teach me how to get free money from the government.

By the way! Kara and I are dating, in case you care but are not on Facebook. It is also great! Dating, I mean; Facebook is mostly okay.


This is mostly for my own records. The correct way to rejuvenate your roommate’s leftover half-steak (kept in a Ziploc container overnight) is as follows: slice thin and put it back in the container, splash a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil on it, seal the lid and shake around to coat. Let marinate for ten minutes. Dump on a piece of foil and broil in the toaster oven for a couple minutes more. Sandwich with farmer’s market lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise between halves of crusty roll from the bakery down the street. Ride the flavor horns.

Sumana, you should probably stop reading here

What you have to understand about the Burger King Loaded Steakburger is that I had no choice in the matter. The moment I spied it billboardwise, during the long drive west, I was gripped by the same potent mixture of revulsion and lust that came upon me once in college, when Jon and I first saw the commercial for the Bacon Club Chalupa. We turned to each other, then, eyes wide and desperate, like two men drowning who each believe the other can swim.

Neither could.

So it was only a matter of time before I ran out of excuses for not planting this particular meatbomb in my face. Leaving the drive-thru not ten minutes ago, I left steering to my nervous left hand while my right fumbled through wrappers. The first thing I saw was the edge of the patty, protruding a full inch beyond the hapless bun like a beckoning pseudopod; the second was the utter absence of traditional dressing. There is no pickle here, no tomato. The bastards have delivered a sullen daub of gray potato and onion shards instead, and they have somehow transmuted lettuce to bacon. The rites involved are none I care to imagine.

The sandwich is not good. I stress this even in the full knowledge that it will accomplish nothing; those who weren’t going to eat it won’t, and the rest of you will have no more agency than I did. But like any Lovecraftian narrator, I am bound to commit these desperate words by sheer force of narrative. I must write of its taste, like barbecue Spam fried in motor oil. I must write of its texture, which is also like barbecue Spam fried in motor oil. I must tell you how it sits in my stomach e’en now, heavily roiled, plotting its course downward with the slow cunning of a brain-damaged tiger on spelunk.

Taco Bell recently reintroduced the Bacon Club Chalupa. Should I even have time to post this missive, I cannot imagine that I will outlive it long. The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some crispy flatbread, sliding deep-fried fingers up to caress the latch.

“Categories: okay seriously korea”

Hillary has pretty much the best title ever for her personal journal, but today I’m plugging her food blog, Kimchi for Beginners. It meets the GramazioRichardson test of always making me hungry, except it doesn’t have recipes. Not that I make the recipes in Leonard’s or Holly’s blogs nearly as often as I want to.

What Hillary’s blog does have is the clever thing where it sneaks in glances at Korean culture from a unique perspective. I wish I’d been anywhere near as responsible a documentarian on my two international trips. Maybe I should try living in Canada? I understand they do startling things with ketchup and mayonnaise.