Thursday, December 20, 2012

Seeking Comfort... In Food And Friends

Since the tragic, shocking, heart-breaking shooting last week, I've been feeling like so many human beings: hopeless, deeply sad, super pissed. I have stewed about what I could do to try and make a difference, making me feeling more morose.

It certainly didn't feel right to be plugged in to my usual social networking community. Tweeting about what I was eating would have been beyond insulting to the memories of those victims, to the little children and the grow-ups who died trying to protect them. Each time, I see a new photo of one of those poor, sweet children, it stabs me in the heart. How can I post Facebook photos of a batch of English toffee?

So, I stayed away. Or, I tried to. When I did check in on Twitter, it was awash in links to anti-gun petitions and more sad, sad news that was hard to read. And then, on Sunday, there was another shocking loss. Poet Jake Adam York, the brother of my friend, Joe, died after having a stroke. He was just 40 and such a bright spirit. If I lived near Joe and his lovely wife, Kathryn, I would make them a casserole. The universal sign of sincere sympathy.

Cooking -- and eating -- always brings me such comfort. A way to show I care and I love to share. So, I made cookies. I took myself out to lunch, to be surrounded by the happy buzz of conversation, a scene that made it seem as if anything was possible. Don't you love how food brings people together? That feeling of community is what I love about connecting online, talking turkey and bacon and barbecue, cookbooks and delicious blog posts and controversial lists.

Maybe dissecting every bite and photographing each dish might be over-the-top, but there's another way of looking at things: There's nothing wrong with a little diversion. I'm not going to stick my head in the compost and ignore what's going on in the world. But maybe talking about food can be kind of like a balm. Like that casserole I long to deliver to my friends, an edible gesture to show I care.

I will not forget about those sad stories, the loss so many families must face. But I'm slowly indulging my need to connect with that online food community. Will I see you there?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Best Bites of 2012, Part 2

Let's call this batch the home cooking edition. I made a promise to myself to try more new recipes this year, but it's so easy to fall back into comfortable old habits. I do not like following recipes, which makes it difficult to learn new tricks.

Yet, I love to be shown how to do something. That means everything from watching Jacques Pepin make a terrific chicken dish at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic and recreated it back home. His recipes make you look like a hero. (Wish I had a photo of JP and me, but that's me with Marcus Samuelsson at the event instead!

The most fun I had, though, was watching my friend Takako make sushi, family style. Takako spent the better part of June living in our spare room. She's the friend of a friend, who happens to live in the neighborhood. Takako is 73 and she met my friends Trinity and Robert a few years ago while hiking in Spain. She lives in Osaka, a retired school teacher, who once taught Yu Darvish, a pitcher on the Texas  Rangers. He was naughty.

We went shopping at Uwajimaya for fish and produce, but Takako had brought rice with her from Japan. She showed me how to cut up the fish, season the rice, make platters that looked pretty. We placed it all in the middle of the table and she showed us -- me, John and Claire -- how to assemble our own hand rolls. It was a lovely meal.

I also loved the time Claire's friend Izzy came over for a fried chicken lesson. When I asked her to pick up some lard, she brought Crisco. Close, but...

What were some of your most memorable meals this year?