South Carolina’s pollen layers (a-choo!) means spring’s here. Though I love my soups, it’s time to move on from the warm dishes. That means going out with a bang, an explosive one. Last week, I visited my friend Ryan in Cayce, South Carolina. Ryan loves all things with Asian cuisine, especially hot and spicy soups. His favorite kind is called a hot pot, an incendiary bowl of starches, spices, and flash-cooked proteins. After spending spring break sick and resting, a eye-opening pot of spicy broth and potential salmonella sounded amazing. Hot pot has all kinds of detox agents, healthy agents, and secret agents.
Come mid-terms (or rainy days), and most of the college kids like me will be in a state of delirium. It’s a punch-drunk, confused, and vacillating feeling between self-assured and sheer depravity. This no doubt comes from sleeplessness and a constant nagging stress in the back of the mind, but some of it may come from diet. The square-meal during that time might be bagged cheese slices, with Diet Coke and canned soup. It might be that box of Goldfish from Costco that’s been sitting around for the entire semester, with the fish getting as stuck in school as we might be.
My favorite snack during exams? Granola. The program above says the simple combination of oats, fruits, and nuts was “popularized by hippies; commercialized by Kellogg’s.” It apparently inspired Grape Nuts cereal (though I can’t say I grateful for that). I make mine late at night, when working in the kitchen takes on a new magic for me. “Midnight granola” is a fantastic study break that fills up the house with smells of maple, toasted nuts, and anticipation (for snacking and for tests). I’ll make at least four batches during finals season, gifting some to friends, putting some on yogurt, or throwing chocolate (or butterscotch) chips into something that at least seemed relatively healthy. It’s open to experimentation and invention, much more than racing through flashcards or bagged cheese. It’s also something we all grew up with, and according to this New York Times piece, it’s something we’re carrying with us into the future of food.
Best hippie food around.
While in Argentina, I kept a daily journal. Most of the time, I recorded day to day conversations or odd things college kids would do (like one guy who popped open a beer can during the first silent moments of a test). I also used this small journal for sketching (scribbling) ideas. The late-running cafés and cafecit0s (espresso at any hour) were great creative boosts (“French food is fabulous and Argentina is awesome”). These journals are fun to look back through for some inspiration for future restaurants (pipe dreams) or quick recipes (pie dreams).
On this page, I found a duck confit recipe (no drawings though), but more interestingly, there’s about a 1001 ideas for sauces on this list, with some I’d love to try for shrimp and grits:
- sauce aux champignons, apios verdes (a mushroom glaze sauce with green onions), using a demi-glace. This could be a really rich thick brown sauce for the shrimp.
- dried shitaake mushroom and thyme toppings
- tige dege na=a Malian peanut sauce. This’d be great for a shrimp sauté with some tomatoes and green onion.
Time to get cooking.
This brings two of my favorite things together: veggies and 1960′s pop music. This song was meant for the Beach Boys’ ill-fated SMiLE album, a collection of songs that was their answer to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. This song has a special guest on it. In addition to sticking tacks on piano hammers or making sea gull laughing on tape, famous vegan Paul McCartney did all kinds of weird recording tricks; here, he provided the crunching. It’s a pretty sweet metronome.
With New Year’s resolutions wearing thin, I think the song has a mantra is a good bit of encouragement when diet and exercise seem so last year: “I’ll sleep a lot/eat a lot/brush them like crazy. Run a lot/do a lot/never be lazy.” For a guy who’d eat two steaks for dinner then sit in his house’s sandbox, Brian Wilson has some positive advice here. That lyric’s a decent to-do list. Musically, this song is more chopped up than cole slaw. They recorded this in several parts, and using the magic of editing, the song makes a complete whole with very distinct parts. A little like a salad, you could say.
Never be lazy.
On music, and food:
“Ne Pas Mettre Crayons Dan Votre Bouche”-don’t put crayons in your mouth. That’s what the sign of school rules said. The café this sign hangs in forms a significant part of my college education, especially when it comes to rules.
Fast & French is the corner café I always wanted, a place that’s got a crowd of regulars, character, and scrumptious ‘noms. Two artist partners founded the café around the philosophy of controversial art which grew with the support of the Charleston community, which kept it from closing in 2005. The owners say this much: “where there is art, there is community-where there is community, there is art.”
How could this not be the best place ever? I now live right around the corner from this simple but fascinating French diner, but that wasn’t always the case.