Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How To Cook Dinner When It Is A Million Goddamned Degrees

1. Before you leave the house in the morning, put a large glass jar full of water and dried beans where it will get sun all day. (If you are lucky, your roommate will move it to follow the sun as the day goes on.)

2. When you get home, after you have showered, put on boxer shorts and a ribbed tank top, and had three glasses of sun tea, carry your rice cooker (preferably a large one with a vented top) to the back porch, and plug it in. (If you are not lucky enough to have an outlet on your back porch, run an extension cord.) Add the beans and a bunch more water. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the beans are done (the skins split when you blow on them, and then are soft through).

3. When the beans are done, add raw rice, chopped garlic scapes , whole cumin, whole dried chipotle peppers, and salt. Let them cook.

4. When the rice is about cooked through, stir in chopped fresh green beans (or snow peas, fresh peas, etc).

5. Let cool. Eat, still in your underwear, in front of an open screen door with the ceiling fan on high. Follow with lemon sorbet.


I also cook in the crockpot on the porch sometimes. And last night, we got takeout. What do you when it's too hot to breathe, let alone make dinner?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Gravy Tasting

The Table is Set

We had a gravy tasting the other night.

As a vegetarian and gluten-free household, we don't eat normal, wheat-thickened, chicken-juice-based gravy. But gravy is good. Gravy is smooth and fatty and comforting. Gravy is biscuits and gravy at a two AM diner, gravy is that one Thanksgiving that actually felt like a Rockwell painting, gravy is birthday dinners and everything right with the world.

I grew up in a household where gravy was never from a can or jar or packet. This was not because my mom was some sort of anti-packaged-food zealot; it was just because gravy is idiotically easy to make. You take the the broth from under your turkey, you make a roux, you add the broth and some canned chicken broth. This was always done while the family was frantically carrying the last few dishes to the holdiay table, and while my dad was pouring ginger ale into our fancy glasses and my brother was lighting the candles. It was not a moment of stress. Gravy was just the last thing to get made.

But I was worried about making vegetarian gravy, actually. I was worried that using this method would never produce gravy that tasted like gravy; I was worried it would taste like vegetables instead. Not that I don't like vegetables...but that's not gravy. So I was in Whole Foods, and saw some instant gravy packets. I picked them up, went home, and announced to the family, "We're having a gravy tasting tonight."

"OK," they said.

The gravy tasting was held outside, because it was hot and sticky, and because I love nothing more than to grill things. We gathered around our new backyard table in our deck chairs that I trashpicked off the street.

The accompanying dishes were:
Grilled Snowpeas Grilled Broccolini, Small Potatoes, and Marinated Summer Squash

Snowpeas, cooked in tin foil on the grill
Grilled Broccolini
Grilled New Potatoes
Grilled Marinated Summer Squash (this one was a palate cleanser)

However, what you really care about is the gravy. I had four different varieties. All but one were vegan and cholesterol free; all of them were gluten-free, vegetarian, and a lot healthier for you than regular gravy. Here are the brands:

gravy brands

The brands are:
#1: Road's End Organics Golden Gravy Mix, purchased at Whole Foods Columbus Circle, makes one cup of gravy
#2: Road's End Organics Savory Herb Gravy Mix, purchased at Whole Foods Columbus Circle, makes one cup of gravy
#3: Orgran Natural Gravy Mix, purchased at Fairway in Red Hook, Brooklyn, makes a lot of servings
#4: Pacific Organic Mushroom Broth, purchased at the Park Slope Food Coop, makes 4 1-cup portions of gravy (or some mushroom soup).

Directions for the first three were identical: boil water, add powder, let thicken five minutes, serve. For the fourth, I melted butter in the pan, added an equal amount of cornstarch, let it cook for a moment, and then added a cup of mushroom broth. The thing to remember (and which I always forget) is that cornstarch roux has much less holding power than flour roux. This amount of broth probably could have handled 4 tbsp each of butter and cornstarch before it got too thick.

And here is what they looked like, cooked and in their bowls.

Numbers 1 and 2 Numbers 3 and 4
Number 1 on the right, #2 on the left Number 3 on top, #4 on bottom

Numbers 1 & 2 had started to congeal unpleasantly by the time they were served, about 5-10 minutes after cooking. When stirred, they became a good consistency again...until they set up again. Number 3 remained a good consistency throughout. Number 4 was quite runny, because I only used 2tbsp each of butter and cornstarch.

So, what was the verdict?

Very, very mixed. None of them were prima facie disgusting. Number one had the Boy, who grew up in the South, singing about how we needed to make biscuits and have biscuits and gravy RIGHT THEN. However, that was the closest we got to an endorsement of the bunch. Number 2 tasted just like #1, only with a bunch of store-bought "Italian Seasoning Blend" dumped in. Not bad, and decent with the broccolini...but not gravy. Number 3 tasted like precisely nothing; no bad aftertaste, but no substantive taste at all. Number 4 tasted like mushrooms; the Boy compared it to mushroom soup. However, even he (the biggest mushroom lover in the bunch) was dissastisfied with its gravy-potential.

Unfortunately, we cannot whole-heartedly endorse any of these. If you're a vegetarian who has been craving those biscuits and gravy of your childhood, Road's End Organics Golden Gravy Mix will make you feel like a meat-eating kid again. But, apart from that, there isn't much going on here.

However, I'm wondering about the Orgran mix. (Partially because I still have most of the bag in my cabinet, and I dislike throwing things away.) As I said, you need a lot of cornstarch roux to make a gravy come together, and rice flour can sometimes produce an unpleasant grittyness. But one tablespoon of the Orgran mix turned a cup of water into a thick, brown gel. Granted, it didn't taste like anything, but it definitely has thickening power. My next gravy experiment will probably be to take vegetable broth (Imagine's No-Chicken Broth is the store-bought house favorite, or I make my own) and thicken it with the Orgran mix. Maybe then I'll have found a gravy worth eating.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Culinary Highlights of My Honeymoon, Part 1 (of 10 or so)

I was originally going to do my honeymoon food review all in one piece. However, Bazu's recent updates from her trip to Puerto Rico, while making me desperate to get on a plane, also reminded me that posts with lots of photos take forever to load in my RSS reader. On the off chance any of you have the same problem, I'll be doing these a few at a time.

In any case:

Culinary Highlight #1: Breakfast on Amtrak #97, the Silver Meteor, Between Jesup, GA and Jacksonville, FL

departures board, penn station

We had boarded the train the afternoon before in New York, and were about half way through our twenty-seven hour tour of the Eastern US from the comforts of an 8 by 4 bunk. It was the early dawn, and we were bleary-eyed from a night spent trying very hard to sleep in a single bunk...and then giving up and splitting up onto two bunks. We stumbled into the dining car to make sure that we got that breakfast we had paid for with our sleeping compartment tickets, before they stopped serving.

welcome aboard

My memories of the meal are almost hallucinatory, blinded by exhaustion and the rhythm of the train rocking slowly along its path. It was not yet eight. The light streamed through the train car windows, and the flat rural landscape of South Georgia tore by us at seventy miles an hour. We sat alone at a table together. I drank hot tea with two lemon slices and a sugar. We were in a small hum of sleepyness and love, and we ordered breakfast.

wife's breakfast on the silver meteor

The Wife ordered the 'breakfast scramble,' which came with French toast. She asked for them not bring the French toast, but they forgot. Luckily, I was able to extract them for my own purposes. The Wife describes it as "actually decent...cheesy without really noticing the cheese...and the potato was sooooo soft, it almost melted...and whatever the sausage was was decent, and the egg was ok, but the potato was sooooo good."

I ate her French toast. If you like your French toast dry and not too eggy, than it was perfect. I really enjoyed it. I had ordered an abomination called "The Continental," which came with a lousy croissant, cereal and milk, yogurt, and very bad fruit salad. The French toast was the good part.

We stumbled back to the room again, which had been helpfully made up by our steward, looked out the window for a few minutes, and then fell asleep until Deland.

Nota bene: on the way back I ordered the Southwest Omlette. It was much better. And the Wife was right about the potatoes being excellent.

southwest omelette

Be A Man (A Feminism Friday Post)

I caught a rerun of an episode of Top Chef this afternoon. If you've been watching, it was the one with the barbecue challenge, where the cute southern dyke got eliminated. Towards the end of this episode, Howie and Joey get into a little argument. I'm not a fan of either of them; Joey uses the fact that he's from New York City as if it inherently means he's better than everyone else. Granted, New York City is AWESOME and INHERENTLY BETTER THAN EVERYWHERE ELSE. But you, mister, you are a schmuck, and there are lots like you here. You are un-awesome. Howie, on the other hand, is merely nothing special. He has screwed up pretty seriously in two of the four episodes so far, so I'm guessing he's no great shakes. Also, he was the first to trot out the "I'm not here to make friends" trope, which I find boring and insufficient. Both of these guys are big beefy white dudes, probably Italian, based purely on looks.

Right after they leave the judging room to wait to find out who has been eliminated (both were ranked in the bottom four), Howie and Joey get involved in a detailed argument about the meaning of masculinity. (OK, they don't think that's what they're doing. But, dude, it so is.) Joey has just said in front of the judges that Howie should go home, because of a previous (serious) mistake and because he was in the bottom four again. Between them leaving the judges room, the editors have inserted a clip of Joey saying "My blood flows red, and competition brings out the animal in me." When they get back out to the waiting room, Joey yells at Howie to "step up and be a man."

What, precisely does "be a man" mean here? Cooking is simultaneously a feminized field (the proper domain of the housewife, the private sphere par excellence, the location in which to be barefoot and pregnant), and a masculinized field (knives, fire, people yelling at each other, military metaphors, a lot of cock-measuring, pun intended). So clearly, to "be a man" is to force the act of being a chef into that masculinized field, to abolish the gender ambiguity. Joey is attacking Howie for being insufficiently aggressive. In front of the judges, Howie apologied for his work being not very good and vowed to do better. This was too feminine for Joey; he wanted Howie to be aggressive, defensive--to enact a sort of violent masculinity.

Howie responds to Joey in equal volume, and with an equally aggressive tone of voice. He says to Joey, "You've been blaming everybody else for your bullshit. Shake somebody's hand to be a fucking man. You be a fucking man." Here, he argues that masculinity is not about aggression. It isn't about being mean enough or loud enough. Instead, it is about responsibility. Joey does not take responsibility for his mistakes in cooking; his statements in front of the judges, and in general, show a disregard for the opinions of others. Howie is willing to admit his mistakes (his inability to get one of his proteins plated in an earlier challenge, for instance) and to own up to them. This, in his opinion, makes him more of a man than Joey. If he had been eliminated, he says "I woulda been a fucking man about it, but you wanna bitch like a little girl" about the possibility of elimination. At this point, Joey recedes into an adolescent sulk, and we cut back to the impossibly beautiful Padma Lakshmi leading the judges.

I think that Howie's version of masculinity is the better; I also think it 'wins the argument,' for lack of a better term. In any case, Joey gives up. But I also think that's the problem of Joey's masculinity--it only works if you get people to acquiesce to it. When Howie says, "no, MY masculinity, asshole!" Joey can just go, "whatever, dude." It's like how Eddie Izzard says--when someone yells "Bloke in a dress!" at you, they don't cope well when you say, "yeah, and?"

What do you think--about masculinity and kitchens or about this season's Top Chef?

(The Feminism Friday concept comes to us courtesy of Thinking Girl. Why not reserve some space in every week for a little gender revolution?)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Apology and Meme

I'm back again from the Real World. Sorry about the hiatus. After getting back from the honeymoon, I collapsed into "Get! My! Life! Together!" Mode. My summer to-do list is pretty formidable:

1. Write and present paper at National Women's Studies Association conference, End of June
2. Write paper for Middle Eastern Studies Association (draft due October 15, but best to get it done now)
3. Start my field seminar reading and preparing for my first field exam in January (for those who aren't academics: you know how all your college professors had read the same 200 books? That's what a field seminar is for.)

1. Figure out how to make enough money to get by without stipend this summer.
2. Sell all the leftover wedding and other crap on Craigslist, Amazon, Ebay. (Freecycle whatever is left at the end.)

1. Clean the freakin' house.
2. Garden a lot.
3. Preserve local and organic veggies for use in the winter.
4. Watch a whole lot of CSI.
5. Blog like a lunatic.

So far I'm doing reasonably well: the NWSA paper is just about ready to go, I'm slogging my way through incredibly boring books, I've got twice the usual babysitting which is fixing the money thing, the process of blanching and freezing veggies is proceeding apace, and there are about a million CSIs (both Las Vegas and Miami; the original is a better show, but Miami is both beautifully shot and stupid beyond my wildest dreams, so it's a different sort of pleasurable) sitting on the TiVo right now.

Now it's time to work on the blogging thing. Bear with me. I'll probably do a post every day or every two days or so until I'm done with the posts I have in the queue.

In the meantime, bazu tagged me like a MILLION YEARS AGO to list some favorite blogs. I thought for a while about what I should do. A really high percentage of my readers here are foodies, I think; however, my personal blogroll is pretty evenly split into three categories: politics, feminism, and food, with a small subcategory of blogging about the academy. If anyone is interested in what academics I read, I'll be happy to share, but for now I'll post two each on politics and feminism, and one food blog.
  • Informed Comment. To be terribly blunt, if you aren't reading Juan Cole, you probably don't have a good sense of what is happening in Iraq. I mean, unless you are reading 3-4 Arabic newspapers a day and have a background in Iranian and Iraqi history. In which case, you're probably set. I don't always agree with Cole's analysis, but the sheer facticity of his blog makes it really necessary. Every day, he starts out his posts with a body count of Iraqis, Americans, and others killed in Iraq. I think we need that wakeup call, and I think we need it every day.
  • Abu Aardvark. Marc Lynch writes mainly about the Arab media these days. His analysis of media, public spheres, and American-Arab relations are pretty excellent. This is a little more wonkish than IC, but, hey, I'm a doctoral candidate, I'm SUPPOSED to be a wonk.
  • Koonj. Shabana Mir is an extremely smart writer. Her discussions of religion, academia, and motherhood are powerful and sensitive. She is posting less frequently than she used to (due to the very real politics of being on the academic job market), but everything she writes is still worth reading.
  • Bitch, Ph.D. Are you a woman in academia? Then get over there. All the snark you can handle, and a lot of very good writing about motherhood, the politics of women's bodies, and bras.
  • Tigers and Strawberries. Barbara's recipes for Indian, Southeast Asian, and Chinese food are incredibly useful if, like me, you love the flavors but can't quite figure out how to get them at home. She is very methodical in how she writes, which is an absolute blessing. Also she has a cute baby who she posts pictures of a lot. (I'm realizing I'm writing about babies a lot. Hmm.)
OK! Back to the CSI watching and green-bean-blanching. It's a good life.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


A few weeks back, the Princess (remember her? Probably not; no one was reading this blog back then. Back to the Cast of Characters with you!) and I were on the bus to the library. I had started talking, why I don't know, about lizards.

lizard on rock

"I don't yike yizards," the Princess said. She hasn't yet mastered the [l] phoneme, although she is much better with [r] than most three-year-olds. (Linguistically, they're related. It's been a long time since freshman linguistics, so I can't tell you more than that, but I'm right.) The problem is, this is addictive. After a while you start asking her if she wants orange juice or yemonade, or telling her that the yibrary is two blocks away. "Yike" for "like" has become a common substitution in the house, if one is trying to be particularly cute or make a point.

"Why don't you like lizards?" I asked.

"They are scary and yucky and they taste bad," she said.

They taste bad?

The Wife and I just listened to a fascinating episode of Radio Lab while driving around Miami earlier this week. Radio Lab is an excellent combination of geekery and good audio production, made at WNYC, our hometown NPR, and available--for free--through iTunes and probably various other means of obtaining podcasts. Anyway, they were talking about the notion of the self, and how humans come to have it, and one of the things they talked about was how we have the ability to come up with abstract concepts. So we can look at a red thing, and understand red as separate from the other properties of it. We can put elements together--for instance, we can see a bird, and see a baby, and imagine a winged baby, a cherub.

I wonder if this isn't how we imagine food. We are able to assign qualities to it, in advance of tasting it. When someone says something tastes like cloves, I can imagine it, to a limited extent, because I can separate out the "clove-taste" element of a clove, as separate from the shape, the texture, the unpleasant sensation of biting down on one unexpectedly in your pumpkin pie, the way they feel when you push them into an orange. If someone tells me that a new food is bitter, or sweet, or floral, then I can think of it, and I know what it tastes like, maybe, a little.

How does the Princess know lizards taste bad?

What qualities is she able to assign to them, from her understanding of lizards? She has only seen them on television, and at the children's museum. Is it the smell? The fact that they are scaly? The fact that she is a little frightened of them?

camoflage lizard

Me? I don't know what lizards taste like. Everyone says chicken, but I think that's a lack of imagination. What I do know is I love the little lizards that seem to be everywhere I look right about now. I first saw a wild lizard the first time I went to France; they lay sunning themselves on the deck near the pool, just like we did. They are all over Florida, fast ones, ones with brown heads and black bodies and ones with speckles and even some green ones. They make this place seem magical. I love to watch them scurry away from our footsteps, to see them become still and hope I don't see them.

I yike yizards. Someday, I'll have to convince the Princess.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I Got Married.

I guess she really is The Wife now, huh?

(That's me doing the dipping, and her laughing and desperately hoping my first act of marriage is not to drop her, on the roof of our reception space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.)

The wedding was last Saturday, and it was fabulous. There were friends. There was family. There were explosions of drama--exes meeting, crazy relatives being crazy, lost cabs, flowergirl fits, etc. There were freight elevator rides, walks along the Brooklyn waterfront, and a solid hour of silence and singing and me crying the entire. freaking. time.

Oh yeah. And there was cake.

The blue things: cupcakes from Crumbs. The orange things up front: sweets from Sukhadia's. The assorted things in bowls--chocolate covered raisins, Lindt truffles, etc. The white thing up front: a gluten-free buttercream-iced vanilla cake (I let her pick) from Mr. Ritts in Philadelphia, where our family is from.

The food decision that the Wife and I made that defined the entire wedding for us was the decision to have all the food be vegetarian and gluten free. As I talked about in my ontology of eating post, we both have very good, very different reasons for eating the way we do. I have a strong ethical conviction that eating meat is bad (and she shares it partially), and she has a strong ethical conviction that eating gluten is bad for her (and I share it totally, for her). So there wasn't any meat laying around, although there was some cheese, since I still eat it; there wasn't any gluten served except in the form of cupcakes for the guests. (A gluten-free wedding cake was just too darn expensive.)

The problem is that no one liked this decision but us. My mother-in-law kept asking what we would serve the guests who don't want to eat gluten-free. An aunt of mine let us know that, since we asked for dietary restrictions, several of my family members eat meat, "though they'd be OK with fish."

God forbid if they knew that we almost served vegan cupcakes. (We did get a dozen from 'Snice for our vegan guests, and almost used them for all the cupcakes...but the vanilla ones looked healthy, and we knew that would scare someone off.)

Before the wedding, I wrote out a little list of what I wanted our wedding food to be about, in declining order of importance. It went like this:
  • Pleasure. I want the food to rock. I want it to be amazing. I want to eat so much my dress breaks from the strain of all of it. I want leftovers.
  • Politics. I want to not kill any animals for my wedding. I want what we eat to be as sustainably sourced as possible. I want Long Island wine and upstate goat cheese.
  • Convenience. I want not to have to deal with how it gets to the reception space. I want someone else to serve it so none of my bridesmaids have to.
  • Making People With No Sense Of Taste Who Are Scared Of Food Happy.

And you know what? We did it, in declining order of importance. Most of the food came from Tiffinwallah, which is the newest branch of the masterpiece that is Chennai Garden. The wine came from Vintage New York, which only stocks local wines, and the flowers (though not the goat cheese, sadly) came from the Greenmarket. All of it got delivered, and we hired a staffing agency to serve it to us.

And we ordered a goddamn gluten-free vegetarian lasagna and a bunch of roasted potatoes from Fairway for everyone scared of food. Because I may be pissed, but I can't hate them entirely.

So we ate fantastically, and in celebration. I spilled curry on my dress and we have about a million bottles of Standing Stone Riesling and San Pelligrino and very decent $8 sparkling wine waiting for us at home. We danced with each other, with our fathers and mothers (and even one grandfather) and wore fabulous dresses and did I mention I cried?

And you know, I think we convinced our families in the end. At the rehersal dinner, my dad turned to me as he ate his spare ribs and said, "It was very nice of you to allow your guests to have meat tonight." And he meant it. (The best part? The Wife and I had just chosen the restaurant. Dad was footing the bill.)

This is how we teach our politics. We live joyfully in them. We bring our spirits prayerfully or powerfully or however we are moved, and we are models for how we live the world we want. You want to convince people gay weddings are not Teh Evil? You send them to one, where they can witness two people joining together and see what is there at the base of it. (And we got married using vows from the 17th century, 'promising with Divine Assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful wife.' Suck on that.) You want people to begin to eat a less dead-animal-filled diet? Fill them up on sukhi bhaji and grilled asparagus. You want to teach people how to party? Just party, man.

People keep saying things to us or our parents like, "It was the best wedding I've ever been to." "Now I really want to get married." "Quaker weddings are so amazing." Maybe they say this to all brides, I don't know. But I feel like this is a kernal of some change we have sent out into the universe, and I think I can watch it grow.

(All photos in this post copyright Closed Circle Photo. The photographer is not only a brilliant, brilliant lady, but a close personal friend AND my ex-girlfriend so don't touch her stuff. I mean it.)

Monday, May 07, 2007

three meals from the brink

Apparently I'm doing threes lately.

Look, my wedding is on Saturday. (Note to self: EEEEEEK!) Over the course of this week, I'm going to blog about it a lot--about my bachelorette party, about the catering decisions, and of course about all the fun femme details. And then when it's done, I'm pretty sure I'll blog from my honeymoon road trip from Key West to Savannah. (Got ideas for good veggie or GF places along A1A? We'll be needing them.)

But for right now, a brief look into my life...and dinners.

Dinner #1. Sous-Chef.

I'm the A-chef in the house. I cook a lot, I cook impulsively, and I'm bossy as hell. So when it's me and the Boy in the kitchen, I'm in charge. Chop this, I say. Get me that. No, finer. Do we have any of this? Stir the pot, I have to mix something. And he's good natured about it, and an excellent sous chef.

But I am le crazy right now. To the max. And so I'm letting the Boy take his turn as A-chef, every once in a while. And if he's smart, he picks the one cuisine where he is the acknowledged master: Mexican food. (Really, I don't think that's fair. Just because I don't have a food-professional Mexican grandma to call doesn't make me bad at cooking Mexican food. Hmph.)

There is something satisfying about being a sous. You aren't responsible for anything other than your single task. You cook the thing, you make it right, you don't screw it up. There's no big picture. Being a sous chef is about being in the moment, and letting everything else fade away.

chile relleño, rice and beans, chèvre
Chile relleño; arroz y frijoles; queso de cabra (that's chèvre for most of us)

The chile is stuffed with textured vegetable protein (we buy a bulk GF version at our food coop) rehydrated in tomato juice, sauteed tomato, and chopped ricotta salata, battered in beaten egg whites and cornstarch, and shallow-fried. The beans are pintos, which are more authentic than black beans for most Mexican cuisine, and they are sauteed with cooked rice, chopped shallots, and cilantro. The chèvre is just because who doesn't love chèvre?

2. Dinner #2. Peace

I live with a celiac. I know stomach distress. And I had it. The work. The pressure. Knowing everything I had to do between then and the wedding: the two papers, the problem sets for statistics, the interview for next semester's TA job. Learning how to walk in heels, doing seating arrangements, making sure someone can deliver the Indian food, getting to the Greenmarket to order the flowers. My digestive track gave out on me. Fix us, Emily, it said.

shoes, books, snap peas
Wedding shoes; homework; dinner

It's steamed white basmati rice, steamed snow peas, and wheat-free tamari with garlic and ginger. It was filling, and calming.

I'm doing other things to try to keep my body going over this next stressful patch. I'm hitting the probiotics hard: yogurt, kombucha, and these fabulous candy bars with lactobacillus in them that they sell at Whole Foods. I'm also cutting out uncultured dairy nearly entirely; like most human beings, I'm at least a little lactose intolerant, and I don't want to give my body anything additional to deal with.

Dinner #3. Impulse.

I walked in the door from class. I was in a good mood, cheerful about the impending wedding, the fact that it wasn't quite dark yet, and being done with a little more work. My Wife looks up at me from our couch, smiles, and says, "I just watched Alton make macaroni and cheese. Can we have it for dinner?"

I was in a good mood. "Sure," I said.

I then noticed that we were nearly out of, well, food. So I sent the Wife to the Yemeni bodega down the street for a half-gallon of milk (W: "The guy at the store thought I was you. Although I should know what to say to what he said." Me: "What did he say?" W: "Kay hai? Something like that?" "كيف حالك؟" "Yeah, that." "You say بحر.") and went through the cheese drawer. Turns out we had some really old gruyère and a little bit of cheddar. We also used up our last bag of Tinkyada spirals on it; I couldn't make extra like I usually do.

mac and cheese
Gruyère Mac and Cheese

This is actually a simplified version of my regular recipe. Boil pasta in one pot. Meanwhile, melt 2 tbsp butter in a large saucier, sauce pan, or something big enough to hold all that pasta once it is boiled. Add 2 tbsp cornstarch (wheat flour is ok, if you do that sort of thing). Let it brown slightly. Pour in...some milk. I didn't measure. About half a half-gallon, whatever that is. Whisk. Once it starts thickening, add a whole bunch of diced or shredded or crumbled gruyère and whatever other cheese you have in the house that won't taste nasty with it. When the cheese is melted through, dump the pasta into the sauce. Turn the heat off, stir, and pour the whole thing into a casserole. Run it under the broiler until the top looks crispety-crunchety. Makes many fewer servings than you would think, because everyone takes seconds. In fact, it's so good the blogger forgot to document it before she took her own serving.