Saturday, March 15, 2008
House-sitting in the Haven
This week Andrew and I had the good fortune to house-sit for a few days in New Haven. More even than looking at people's bookshelves, do I love looking in their pantries. And this pantry was so simple --and yet resplendent with ramekins, and glass coffee cups and the like-- that I think I had pantry-envy. Really, it's a beautiful home. (Thank you, D. and S.!) And in-between all the toil and trouble of watering plants and, ah, making sure the couch was in fine condition, we ate pretty well, too. Though we went out for most of it (ogling the goods at a Japanese fish market, eating paninis at Nica's, oddly disappointing crumble-less Lithuanian coffee cake at Claire's Cornercopia, touted slices at Modern Apizza), one home-made meal was particularly good.
Just as the sun was setting yesterday we made, by the grace of Andrew's genius, something kind of like Egg Foo Yung. Brussel sprouts and onion, garlic and shrimp, eggs and honey, oyster sauce and dijon mustard - all collided in this dish. The exotic meal, the dinners out, and perhaps staying in someone else's house, using someone else's pots, reminded me that I definitely have a comfort zone I like to stay within when cooking.
It's just that, well, I like it my way.
Especially after culinary school in Florence, I have an Italian stomach. I like the flavors, the method. The truth is it's been that way forever. At a very young age, I remember being asked where my ancestors were from. Really I have a range of countries to choose from, but my little mind drew a blank and so I thought, "What do I know about countries? Well, I know some food. I know spaghetti! And I like spaghetti, so I must be Italian." And then I answered quite comfortably that my Scottish, Croatian, and Lithuanian roots were, well, Italiano, no doubt.
And I've happily eaten my way through the cucina since then. But, I'm thinking, I'd like to branch out, try making new cuisines. Because, as it turns out, living in someone else's home, in someone else's comfort zone, can get to feel... if not comfortable, then satisfyingly different. I want more umami in my life, and I'd love it if you had some ideas. Any recommendations? Great cookbooks? Emblematic ingredients I can try? I promise to try to resist adding basil and parmesan.