Who doesn’t love chocolate covered pretzels? Exactly.
Many thanks to the kind people at the Mars company who dreamt up this delicious combination of chocolate, pretzel and candy shell (though, I could do without the candy shell). Many thanks to the kind people in New Jersey who stock this delicious candy. And many thanks to my hero (according to First Aid, 20th Anniversary Edition, page 327) for finding them.
Forgive me father, for I have been MIA. Medical student In Action. I have neglected my friends, I have neglected my health, I have neglected my laundry, but most importantly, I have neglected you.
For nearly three years I diligently blogged about food. Food in the restaurant, food at home, food in France. I had a rhythm and we found our groove. Slight bouts of writer’s block were cured with fresh walnut rolls from the nearby boulangerie or a flare-up of egos in the restaurant. We were happy together.
And then med school rolled around. I wasn’t any less happy, but my entire universe had lost its focus. No more random quests for dried mango in Paris or new pizza to try in Seattle. No more time to make dinner or chefs to complain about. I was a study machine. And I didn’t know how to relate that to you. I loved every minute of my first year of medical school (just as Scott). But you are no place for musings on pathology or physiology. You were born out of a passion for pine nuts and pain au chocolat.
And I’m fine with that. You aren’t a pensieve (don’t hate me for quoting the ‘Potter) for every random thought that enters my mind. You have a purpose in this life. A food-driven, restaurant-inspired, chef-centered purpose.
Nothing goes better together than strawberry jam and chunky peanut butter. Slather it on sandwich bread, cut your masterpiece in half diagonally, place in Ziploc bag, and you have heaven on Earth waiting for you for lunch.
The stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth-ness of peanut butter is perfectly paired with the smoothness of the jam. Peanut butter tastes best when warm–it’s smoother, its wafting aroma excites your taste buds, and it balances the cool, straight-from-the-fridge-ness of the jam as they waltz gracefully on your tongue. And how could you forget the crunch of the peanuts contrasted with the semi-whole pieces of strawberry? Magnifique.
So, naturally, when I was faced with the opportunity to buy “Strawberried Peanut Butter M&Ms” at my local Walgreen’s I jumped at the opportunity, after first confirming that my cashier was a fan.
Peanut Butter M&Ms are delightful on their own merits. No wafting aromas or perfectly smooth stickiness to send the arachibutyrophobics running for the hills. The peanut butter is salty and crumbly. Not worthy of a partnership with strawberry jam.
And the strawberry? Like eating shampoo. But the flavor is short-lasting and quickly overpowered by the chocolate and pb.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Peanut Butter M&Ms. But I don’t like them masquerading as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There were no excited taste buds or waltzes in my head. No perfect pairing of sticky and smooth. No memories of school lunches and Ziploc bags with diagonally cut sandwiches. Only a craving for classic Peanut Butter M&Ms, hold the shampoo.
This is an unopened bag of Tostitos. Apparently they are now 20% fuller. Woulda liked to have seen them before…
Eating can transport you to a different continent. The smells and sounds…and taste of the food can temporarily remove you from the urban grind and trick your tastebuds into believing you are on the beach in Italy, if you’re lucky. Or you can swap one metropolis for another and pretend you are eating in Delhi.
But just as in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, we are not restricted to north, south, east, and west for our food travels. Sometimes food takes us backwards, rarely forwards.
The soup my dad made on Passover reminds me of my grandmother. The peanut butter and jelly cookie I ate reminds me of the cafeteria in elementary school.
And the root beer float I bought last week reminded me of a time I never knew…1950s America.
The root beer float was invented some 110 years ago by a man in Colorado, but it enjoyed its heyday in the 1950s at soda fountains across the country. And there I was in 2009. Big orange umbrellas, the bright tables near the parking lot, the jukebox inside the restaurant. Sure, it was big on the kitsch factor. But rightfully so.
Four of my seven roommates from Senior Year were reunited yesterday for brunch, arguably the best meal of the day and the sole reason holiday weekends exist.
We braved the heat and the early morning and ventured eerily close to where the numbers end, but it was worth it because my friend Chris was manning the kitchen at Prune and the food did not disappoint.
Fresh Ricotta with Honey, Pinenuts, and Figs
Chickpeas with Poached Eggs
This post is dedicated to my college roommate, Neta, who puts up with my incessant food photography…among other things.
There were two of them. Crumpled against the fence of a neighboring townhouse on East 92nd Street. Her head was rested in her hands, he had a cigarette in his mouth. And I could tell you their story without missing a beat. Their chef’s whites gave them away. The cigarette didn’t hurt, either.
They had just come off the line after a grueling 10, 11 hours at work. They prepped through the morning, grabbed family meal at 4–though he was always behind on his mise en place and only ever managed to sneak in a few bites of lunch. The first guests started rolling in and the pace didn’t let up for hours. And then they broke down their stations, wiped down the counters, and finally caught a breath.
I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And only last night did it really sink in just how much I miss it.
My year in the kitchen was quickly overshadowed by rote memorization of bacteria and viruses, muscles and nerves. My late nights working the line have been replaced by midnight cram-fests and early morning study sessions. My chef’s jacket is now a white coat. And I’m no longer measured by my knife skills and speed. It’s now communication skills, empathy, and professionalism.
I miss the rush of the restaurant. The nights I was so tired I could hardly move. The smells, the sweat, and the speed.
I miss the kitchen.