An overdramatic tale of woe (a coffee lover’s nightmare)

12 Jan

The grounds slowly moisten, letting off a bit of steam. The water seeps through them and drains out the bottom of the pour over. You hear a faint dripping sound, like light rain hitting a quiet pond.

Wait. WAIT. Shouldn’t the coffee be hitting the bottom of the cup?!

Yes, dear readers, it should be hitting the bottom of the cup. However, sometimes you wants your coffee to stay hot longer, so you keep hot water in your cup while you’re busy grinding beans and preparing a filter. Sometimes you’re thinking of something else, or singing, or performing the balcony monologue from Romeo and Juliet…so the first precious drops of coffee join the water in your cup, and you just wasted the best and strongest three ounces (give or take) of brew.

Goodbye, three ounces! May you have a wonderful journey down the drain and end up being recycled into some hipster’s tranquility fountain.

IMG_0075

The end.

Does being womanly require milk and sugar?

30 Dec

“Coffee isn’t coffee unless it puts hair on your chest. Real men drink black coffee!”

When a Facebook friend of mine posted this status, my first instinct was to “like” it. I do enjoy black coffee, after all. But I’m not a man, and I don’t want hair on my chest!

In an effort to womanize black coffee, I perused Thesaurus.com for words similar to “feminine.” It was pretty sad, though. So I looked up “masculine.” Boy, do we have a problem! (no pun intended)

First of all, “masculine” has several synonyms, and many of them refer to character qualities rather than body-type.

what?

Whereas “feminine” brings up a paltry eight words, all of which could apply to a Barbie doll. Oh, and the main definition is “girlish.” Why do men get to be manlike (see above), but women are reduced to being girlish?

dd

I took a break from feminism and synonyms to ponder black coffee from my point of view. I find it delicious. Strong. Pure. Multi-dimensional. Robust. Smooth. Nuanced. Daring. Mellow. Balanced.

How many of those adjectives would you attribute to women? How many to men? More importantly, why does it matter? I believe men and women were created differently, but I’m not sure how gender roles apply to food intake.  The internet says a lot of men want pink slushy drinks, but apparently that’s embarrassing. Girls get frappucinos but boys would rather be caught dead than order a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Y’all, how crazy is that? Everyone has different tongues. Taste buds are weird and contrary and unpredictable. I’m pretty sure communism is out of style, so how about we agree to stop judging people by what they eat and drink?

I am a straight woman, and I would like my coffee black.

Hungarian-ish chili for the chilly

20 Nov

Yesterday, when I was hurrying to my car after class, a freezing wind whipped my face. It instantly reminded me of wintering in dear old Budapest, which obviously made me think of piping hot, comforting Hungarian chili. I lived with a team of eight in Hungary, and this was one of my favorite dishes to cook for us because it’s pretty easy and consistently yummy. I have fond memories of gathering around the table with people from several nationalities and eating chili with hot paprika and mountains of bread.

Technically, the chili’s not totally Hungarian. I learned to make it from a Polish woman who combined recipes with her Macedonian husband to make a masterpiece influenced by their life in Hungary. However, I made it yesterday and strengthened the authenticity of my meal with stuffed peppers, which are a Hungarian staple. I’m not posting the picture because things like stuffed peppers and red beans look disgusting without the perfect lighting. 

I will post this picture of myself in Budapest, double-jacketed. My friend didn't quite understand the concept of focusing!

I am posting this picture of me in Budapest with bad lighting, though…If you look close, you can see I’m wearing two coats.  Because it was COLD.

Hungary will always be cold to me. My short stint there was from January to March, and my poor Texan friend and I would walk around shivering and wiping away frozen tears. Even though I’ve been back twice in the summer, it’s the bone-chilling winter that sticks in my memory.

Perhaps it’s fitting, because the Hungarian people are sort of wintery, too. When you get to know them, they’re beautiful and witty and mischievous. But at first glance, Hungarians are very different than the natives of my hometown of Nashville. Cashiers avoid eye contact, public transport is hushed and secretive, and pedestrians return smiles with puzzled grimaces.

Budapest is a sprawling city with gorgeously imposing architecture and striking inhabitants. Overall, my experience there was chilly, but there were glowing spots of warmth. The elderly man who laughed at me, scandalized by my atrocious Hungarian. The woman on the bus who insisted on telling me her life’s story in a language I knew 15 words of. The group of boys in my English class who made me paper flowers for Women’s Day.

Even cold people can be happy.

My friends and I braving the sleety Gellert Hill.

This chili gives me that warm feeling. When I eat it, I imagine Budapest from far away, a gray-tinted city without much detail. Then I zoom in and begin to see details – a woman waiting for the bus here, a child dipping his finger in the Danube there. I zoom in closer as the colors become more vibrant, and I find a group of people sitting around a table in the outskirts of Buda. It’s cold outside, but they’re laughing and sharing a huge pot of Polish-Macedonian-Hungarian chili.  If that doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy, I don’t know what will!

Things that would be better with food

24 Oct
  • Outdoor concerts

Picture yourself sitting on lush green grass, relaxing and listening to plucky acoustic goodness with your friends. Now picture yourself in that exact scenario, but with some fried chicken and a big ol’ southern sweet tea. Which scenario do you like most? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

  • The pool

Okay, so there’s lots of food at normal pools. Pools are the land of hotdogs, hamburgers and Icees. But it’s frowned upon to eat your food in the pool. Yet that Icee would taste so much better if you were in your float, bobbing up and down on the simulated waves and glaring at the kids who accidentally bump your feet.

Not these type of food

This is not what I’m talking about. Although it’s pretty awesome.

  • The doctor’s office

There’s a man coughing up a lung across from you. The receptionist can’t find your insurance information. Some runny-nosed kid is screaming. But look! The line for the barista is only two people long. The only cold you have now is the feeling of your iced latte!

  • Operas, plays and/or any refined show that lasts over two hours

Since you are such a classy person, I know you would never get bored at something like this, but us less genteel people need food to provide side entertainment. Plus even if the whole production is riveting, some can be three hours long. I don’t know about you, but snacking is a necessity in my life. What if you didn’t have to hide your granola bar from the ushers like a shoplifter? I’m talking full meal, three-course stuff. Oh yeah.

(pic from Heather's Sweets and Treats)

These would be good eaten ANYWHERE (pic from Heather’s Sweets and Treats)

  • The world

Literally anywhere would be better with food. Because food is awesome!

In which a Southerner’s heart goes way over her head

20 Oct
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OMG YUM

This, my friends, is one of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted. The place: Japan. The food: ramen. The feeling: ASDHADHIJFSG UNEXPLAINABLE. So good that I, a very un-Asian journalism student from Tennessee, decided to attempt making my own.

I’m slightly insane on normal days, and things like fall break only increase the crazy. Since I didn’t get to travel over the weekend and I’ve been craving what I fondly call “legit ramen” ever since I went to Tokyo last year, I decided to take the extra day my university blessed me with (that’s right. ONE. DAY.) and go for the gold, so to speak.

The nail-biting started at the ingredient list.

Shitake mushrooms, miso, pork belly, kelp, mirin…were these things at Kroger? Would I have to cross the street to Publix or take a drastic trip to the Asian Market?!

The answer: Kroger is stocked surprisingly well.

Even in bones. I was woefully ignorant of this fact.

Even in bones. I was woefully ignorant of this fact.

All the ingredients were bought, and it was time for prep. I squashed my feelings of foreboding and got to work hacking meat and removing livers. The worst part of making ramen is the way the recipe has you throw most things away. It’s all, “simmer the bacon for 45 minutes and discard.” I have to discard the bacon?! What kind of world is this?

The reason you discard everything is because the broth is just that – broth.  No stray carrots, no remnant of shredded chicken, no thinly-sliced onion. However, the stuff that brewed in the broth at one time or another? Pork bones, a whole chicken, vegetables, and let’s not forget the seaweed:

Best-lookin' start to soup I've ever seen..

Best-lookin’ start to soup I’ve ever seen..

The key word to this recipe is simmer. Yes, cooking it was an all-day (and a half) process, but it didn’t keep me in the kitchen the whole time. It was a whole lot of phone timers and “make sure nothing’s burning” sniffs. I even got out for a jog while the pork bones roasted in the oven.

Mmm...bones...

Mmm…bones…

At the end, I had a hearty, meaty broth that was all mouthfeel and not much flavor. That’s where the taré comes in. Taré is an intense sauce, boiled and simmered and, finally, reduced for an hour. The ingredient list was simple: soy sauce, mirin (rice sherry), and sake.

Which is gorgeous, by the way.

It’s like no one in Japan has bad handwriting?

I spiked the broth with the taré and it transformed into a flavorful pot of liquid that defies logic – impossibly meaty, yet completely smooth. Pretty unnerving. Thank you, Japanese cooks, for the confusing delight of ramen.

Now came the best part: toppings! I had bacon, corn, shallots, and slow-poached eggs to put in the ramen (it was my first time making eggs like this…they were surprisingly perfect!).

fff

Everyone said the egg was like an eyeball. I said, “A delicious eyeball.”

The result of my crazy, time-consuming ramen was…good. It was nothing amazing, and also not something I would spend that much time for again. Yet it was still really, really good, especially with the corn (weird, right?). And it was at least a distant, disenfranchised third cousin to the ramen I had in Tokyo, so I got to reminisce a bit. Have you ever spent a huge amount of time on a cooking experiment? Was it worth it?

Ja volim kafu mnogo! (I love coffee a lot)

24 Aug

Everyone knows I love coffee. It’s one of my “things.” Everywhere I go, I search for high-quality and unique coffee. Thus I’m a little ashamed to admit that for the better part of my two months in Belgrade, I didn’t spend much time looking (the bus costs money, okay?!).

Thankfully, the last week I was there, a friend told me about a micro roaster downtown. A place that sells WHOLE BEANS (virtually unheard of in Serbia). A place that, by his description, looked like one of the “destroyed warehouse” coffee houses so popular in American cities.

So obviously I spent some time on my very last day searching for it. My friend Nina and I waltzed down the streets of Belgrade with a shady GPS and flamboyant attitudes, searching for the illusive Pržionica. Our search led us down a shady block in the less trafficked part of town, and we almost gave up.

Luckily we persevered until we saw a couple men under a yellow awning, sipping coffee and exhibiting perfectly the carefree Serb spirit I’d come to love. We entered the café and my breath caught – it was everything I had hoped for it to be!

There was a personal pour over station…

hghh

There were seats made of burlap…

hhh

(old coffee bean bags!)

There was the name of the place in Cyrillic on the wall….

Plus beautiful Nina!

Plus beautiful Nina!

There was an awesome chalkboard menu….

I might have had a slight crush :)

And the extremely nice barista 😉

And most importantly, there was coffee. And it was good.IMG_3719

Do what the Serbs tell you

10 Aug

ImageY’all, bask in the glory of this gyro. It’s the best gyro I’ve ever tasted, hands down! So yes, as I revealed in my last post, at the time of consumption I was excited to eat anything besides pizza, but this gyro’s loveliness went way beyond that.

Exhibit A: SUPREME MEAT. Serbs reign supreme at cooking meat (their most famous dish is, simply, “grill”). I got the pork, and it nearly melted in my mouth.

Exhibit B: FRENCH FRIES. Need I say anything else? Why, all other gyros in my life, do you not have french fries in you?! WHY. You are stealing magic away from people’s lives.

Exhibit C: CURRY MUSTARD. If you examine the above picture closely, you can see a yellow substance in between the luscious meat and the lettuce. There lies the best mustard I’ve ever encountered, just the right mixture of spicy and sweet, with just enough curry to make you feel exotic and adventurous.

While ordering my wrap, I also learned a lesson in Serb culture. I asked for a bit of spicy-looking red stuff on my gyro (because I am both spicy and adventurous), but the Gyropolis guy shook his head at me. “You don’t want that,” he said, his tone foreboding.

“I really like spicy stuff, though!” I countered, being my naturally defiant, try-everything self.

Being a typical Serbian, though, the guy grimaced and gestured toward another topping option. “The mustard goes well with pavlaka.” (a sour cream-ish condiment).

I considered my options. I could demand the red stuff and possibly get it, or just go along with the guy. Serbs are very adamant about what [they think is] best for you, though, so I acquiesced to his request and forwent the red stuff. And my gyro was perfect. So just in case you are ever in Belgrade and happen upon a Gyropolis, I’m not telling you not to get the red stuff, but…you probably won’t have the option anyways!