Saturday, February 25, 2006


Okay, so I know I have a recent post that argues, with the help of the Popeye Soundtrack, that "Everything Is Food," but in fact that is not true.

Everything is NOT food!

When I was young, it took me about five new boxes of Crayola's to remember that the purple crayon DID NOT taste like grape, and, moreover, it was NOT edible. I somehow knew the other crayons were not for consumption, but that purple crayon...oh man was it seductive! It REALLY looked grapey-delicious, and somehow I always ended up going for it. Crayons are a nasty thing to put in one's mouth: they are waxy and slightly bitter and it is WORK getting the chewed up bits out of one's teeth.
Lesson learned, purple crayon!

Another childhood indulgence was Play-Doh. Now hear me out: Play-Doh is actually quite edible, but it is not FOOD, per se. I took a little trip to the Play-Doh website and found this bit of useful information:

"The exact ingredients of PLAY-DOH compound are proprietary, so we cannot share them with you. We can tell you that it is primarily a mixture of water, salt and flour. It does NOT contain peanuts, peanut oil, or any milk byproducts. It DOES contain wheat. PLAY-DOH compound is non-toxic, non-irritating & non-allergenic except as noted: Children who are allergic to wheat gluten may have an allergic reaction to this product."

Thank goodness I had no allergies, because unbeknownst to my parents I was stuffing a lot of Play-Doh into my young piehole. It was salty and soft and not necessarily delicious but the colors were appetizing enough to make up for it. My mother used to make a homemade version of Play-Doh as well, using flour, cornstarch, water, and food coloring, and I remember nibbling on this as well.
Lesson learned, Play-Doh!

I have tasted all manner of non-foods. Hey, I grew up with dogs and older brothers; it was bound to happen. I remember my older brother Shane presenting me with what looked like a snack of delicious cheese and crackers. As I bit down, however, the cracker was impossibly hard. I could not get through it but continued to try. Shane, after laughing at me for about five minutes, admitted the "cracker" was in fact an Alpo Snap dog biscuit. I wish I could say that his admission stopped me from biting it, but it didn't. I continued to gnaw on the Snap, in an attempt to break through it. By that point it had become a challenge to my nascent adult teeth, and I was ready to take it. Take it and lose, folks. I may be a bitch but I am no dog; this fact was proven at around age 10.
Lesson learned, Alpo Snaps!

But the best non-food material that has ever crossed my lips and entered my digestive tract isn't a Crayola or Play-Doh or an Alpo Snap. It is tree pulp.

Yes: tree pulp.

One of my earliest and most favorite non-food-eating experiences was the result of my parents removing an incredibly large tree from our backyard. It was an amazing thing to witness as a six year old: watching this enormous tree get completely destroyed in sections by the buzz of a saw...its demise has become fixed in my memory because it was so sad. Or maybe it's just sad to me now. Because at the time, I wasn't so much as saddened by it as made curious. As the freshly cut tree parts lay in rounds on our lawn, my twin sister Sybil and I couldn't help but explore them. And, as everyone knows, when you're a child you tend to explore things with your entire person, including your mouth. Well, the tree pulp was moist and pale like white chicken meat, and Sybil and I really believed it was chicken. And so we ate it. We would go outside and pick at the tree meat and put it in our mouths. And I remember feeling like it was the most delicious food that I had ever eaten, because it was so fresh and pure and mild. And we didn't get sick from it, either. Because we were children, and childhood is a magical time where our imaginations protect us from the dangers of reality. Sometimes.

I love that I ate from that tree and I wonder what part of me the tree fed and what part of me the tree became and I love that some part of me is part of that tree because we should all always carry the best parts of our youth with us, permanently. I am the tree, the tree is me. I want it to be like this forever.

And now I am back to my original point, and so I've changed my mind.

Everything IS food. It is! May it ever be.

Friday, February 24, 2006


"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."

Virginia Woolf wrote that, and she was one smart lady. How right she was!

I love to "dine well." And for the last fifteen years, I've thought that in order to "dine well," I must rely on someone else's cooking for me. Be it my mother's broiled chicken legs, my father's barbequed london broil, an ex-boyfriend's egg casserole, or Grand Schizuan's Ma Po Tofu, I seem to look to another's skills in the kitchen rather than my own.

It's because I have few to no skills in the kitchen.

And in spite of this, I have managed to dine fairly well. I have eaten some gorgeous meals, and they ran the gamut from very expensive to impossibly cheap. Some were even entirely free of charge (thank you family)!

But now I've reached a critical point in my life where I want to dine well because I am cooking well.

I have been the good eater. I want now to be the good feeder.

(Well, honestly, I still want to be the good eater. I mean, come on...I'm not going to forsake putting awesome things in my mouth just because I'll be the one preparing them!)

Beginning is the hard part; I know.

Last night was a measly attempt, but it was an attempt!
I made a salad.
It had iceberg lettuce, baby carrots, and radicchio.
Then I took a can of chunk-lite tuna, mixed it with some miracle whip, fresh ground pepper, and a dash of rice-wine vinegar.
I put this tuna mixture on my salad.
I ate my salad.
It was...good...ish.
It was mostly "meh."

I have visions of stuffing a young chicken with lemons and garlic and rubbing its skin with rosemary and roasting it to crispy-juicy perfection.

I imagine simmering a pot of homemade tomato sauce, thick with peppers and onions and filling the apartment with the aroma of fresh basil.

Neither of the aforementioned dishes are at all difficult to make. They are not even difficult to make delicious.

But then I see my apartment. And I see my apartment's kitchen. And I see how little it feels like mine, how foreign the stove seems, how strange all the miscelleaneous cookware.

And I know it's an excuse, but for me it's a biggie.

Virginia Woolf wrote A Room Of One's Own, but my own work would be called A Kitchen Of One's Own.

I want one.

Until then, I will make feeble attempts like last night's salad, and perhaps my attempts will become less feeble. I'm sure there will be courageous disasters, and smoky debacles, and I'm also confident that there will be delicious mishaps and successes.

But eventually I will dine as well as I can, because what I put in my mouth will have come from my own hand.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


"Kenka" means "fight" in Japanese, and while I am scared of violence, I LOVE this izakaya on St. Mark's Place. I don't need to justify WHY to you people, but here is a biggie up top:

$1.50 large pints of Sapporo.

And get this: it is CHEAPER to order INDIVIDUAL pints than it is to order a PITCHER. Forget that the Japanese are a people reputed to be "good with numbers." I know it makes no sense at all, but I will happily forego rationale and stereotypes if it means I can imbibe fermented hops at wholesale prices.

Kenka also serves all manner of tasty treats: they've got sweet, rich okinomiyaki (a cabbage-filled omelette/pancake studded with grated ginger), agi dashi dofu (fried tofu in bonito-flake fish broth), and bull penis (a bull's ding-dong). I haven't tried the latter, nor have I tried the turkey testicle, but they are legitimate menu items, so SOMEONE is ordering them.

The menu is extensive; vegetarians, meat-lovers, AND turkey tea-baggers will find something to eat and enjoy. But it's not JUST Kenka's awesome menu that keeps me coming back, nor are its CHEAPO prices. No, I keep coming back to Kenka for a little thing I like to call AMBIENCE.

Let's start with the music: It BLASTS through old MTA subway speakers and is exclusively AXIS-ERA JAPANESE PROPAGANDA SONGS. Even though I don't speak Japanese I've frequented Kenka enough times that I'm starting to think that Emperor Hirohito might have been on to something.

Then there's the crowd: It's a mix of East Village hipsters, Japanese expats, and Japanese tourists. And here's some trivia for you: alcohol turns Asian people ruddy. Every time I go to Kenka it seems as if the entire crowd just became collectively embarrassed. Not so: the entire crowd is merely drunk. Raucously so.

Other miscellaneous ambient details include: vintage pornographic illustrations on the menus depicting beastiality; a working cotton candy machine with free mini-cups of sugar; a glass-enclosed "outdoor" smoking room in the back of the restaurant; low wooden chairs and butcher-block style tables.

I last visited Sunday night. My companions were Becca and Jed, my married friends who somehow make me NOT feel like a third wheel even though I clearly am, and our friend Brian. Brian was CRUCIAL to this Kenka visit, and here's why:


Basically, Brian is to Meeting People as Steven Hawking is to Quantum Theories on The Origin Of The Universe. Brian is to Making Friends With Strangers as William Shakespeare was to Writing Plays About Hubris and Revenge. Brian is to Getting People On Board For Fun as Analaogies Are To The SAT's. He is A Total Dude!

So we're all drinking beer and sake and ordering up yummy yum yums, and our polite foursome is having a perfectly fun time. And though Brian trusts me in my menu suggestions, I can tell he'd like another opinion. A more JAPANESE opinion. I can tell because he begins talking to the five-top of Japanese students next to our table. And literally, within 10 minutes, we have become an impolite ninesome by combining tables, and now we are drinking glasses of Sochu, a Korean potato liquor, and better bottles of sake, and more beer.

The Japanese students are red in the face. They are funny and they think that WE are funny, and they flatter me by telling me that I look like Riv Tyrer and by asking me to "show us your tits, please!" It's only adorable because immediately after their request, they get completely embarrassed, cover their faces with their hands, apologize, and shake their heads...but a couple of minutes later they ask again. I don't indulge them because I am a lady not a tramp. I do, however, take pictures with all of them, as do Becca, Jed, and Brian, and each time we take a picture we are made to take another one, "this time, with crazy face!" We all comply. Happily.

So it's a madcap good time. And then our new Japanese friends start teaching us Japanese. They start simply, with numbers. They teach us how to count to ten. They are smart, because they apply mnemonic devices to the words, pointing to their knees when they say "ni," and looking to the sky when they say "san." But at number ten things take a turn. Ten in Japanese is pronounced "jew." Their mnemonic device for "jew" is to make like they have yarmulkes on their heads and to laugh hysterically.

Which is...HILARIOUS.
Because their new American friends ARE ALL JEWS.
Like, Bar and Bat Mitzvah'd JEWS!

We didn't make any Hiroshima jokes because you know what? Hiroshima was NOT FUNNY!

But THAT was comedy gold!

No, no.

Boooo, Megan.

I made no such joke.

My new friends were too good for that.
I am too good for that.

And besides: I really love Kenka, but I'm not looking for a kenka.