(Julia Turshen [@turshen on Instagram] was offering food writing classes via Instagram Live while everyone’s at home due to COVID-19. These are my responses to her prompts.)
Prompt(s) for Thurs. 3/26: “When was the last time someone cooked for you / you cooked for someone? What were the dishes?”
I vaguely remember seeing a video of Anthony Bourdain (RIP) cooking something in a deep roasting tray (potentially some type of stew). He explains, in between covering the tray in foil, that there’s a misconception that food lovers like him cook these elaborate meals at home when in reality, he’d like nothing more than some hastily put together food that comforts the soul rather than excites the mind. One can get overstimulated from carefully tweezer-ed microgreens and post-modernist sauce splashes I suppose and I can certainly attest to the fact that after hosting a pop-up, my cravings skew Halal Cart rather than Haute Cuisine. Even better is being on the other side of the kitchen in the rare moments that someone else cooks for you at home with whatever’s left in their fridge. It’s a moment I miss even more now when I’m on day 26 of my quarantine and cooking 2-3 times a day.
The last time I remember someone cooking for me was Thursday February 27, two nights before Hidden Apron’s only pop-up before going into lockdown. Josh and I were prepping and while I shelled shrimp, he asked if I wanted some chicken wings to snack on. No fancy three-courser, no hunk of grass-fed meat roasted for 24 hours in a contraption that probably needs a mortgage, just wings fried in hot oil seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon. Cooking for other people is certainly a source of joy for me but having someone else cook for you is a luxury we take for granted. The release from the mental energy it takes to think up a dish, calculate ingredients, time the stove, clean up afterwards, and all the minute steps that happen in between is the sort of escapism us overthinkers could use when life’s thoughts don’t seem to cease. Those wings were shatteringly crisp, salty enough to make me crave a beer, and sour enough to cut through the guilt and fat. I miss being fed but even in the best of times those moments were rare. More than being fed, I miss cooking for someone other than me.
The last time I remember cooking for someone else, was Sunday March 15, one night before I went into my own lockdown. I saw my girlfriend in what would be the last meal we’d have together in a while. No fancy plating amidst romantic candlelights, no delicate fish lain on top of creamy risotto. Just supermarket bread warmed in a skillet topped with crispy eggs, followed by raviolis bought in Union Square cooked in butter. If being fed is a sort of escapism, then feeding someone else is a reminder that escape can only last so long in a world where we belong to each other. It’s easy to read the news and see each person walking outside as potential vectors for disease and the only salve is to also see them as the very people to bring comfort in these trying times. We are each other’s keepers in more ways than we are each other’s demise: doctors and nurses frantically keeping patients breathing through the night, grocery store clerks ensuring families are fed for one more week, a next door neighbor being the only connection a lonely octogenarian has to the outside world.
I miss the comforts of being fed and of escaping what sometimes seems like a dreary and confusing world. But even more so I miss being able to feed others. To be the nourishment for someone else beyond the confines of my own four walls.
Lemon-Pepper Chicken Wings
Apparently one does not simply “fry chicken wings”…
In other words:
The Josh Reisner Method
– Brine your chicken wings for 12 hrs. in a large container with a blended mixture of: peeled ginger, garlic, jalapeño, scallion scraps, 1.5 c. shitty soy sauce, 4 qts. water, 1/4 c. sugar, 1/2 c. salt.
– Drain over wire rack then cook for 30 mins. at 275F in oven.
– Fry in 400F oil.
– Season with a blended mixture of: 1 stick butter melted with juice of 2 lemons, mushroom powder (opt.), soy sauce, xanthan gum or flour (opt.). Season further with salt and cracked pepper.
The Errant Diner Method
– Fry wings in super hot oil (since I don’t have anything to measure the temp..)
– Drain on paper towels then season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.