My mother discouraged snacking when I was a child. (A policy I’m hugely thankful for now that I know just how little willpower I have.)
However, among the few tidbits allowed during my Singaporean girlhood — as just an occasional treat — were Japanese cookies and chocolate snacks.
These bite-sized morsels were adorable — panda-shaped cookies filled with oozy strawberry filling, thimble-sized chocolate “hamburgers,” tasty biscuit sticks I’d pretend were cigarettes as I held them between two fingers, slowly nibbling them down to nubs. But my favorite was something very basic: Crisp Choco, a milk-chocolate pizza-like pie made with compacted chocolate cornflakes.
In the grand scheme of things, this snack doesn’t seem terribly sinful — it’s not a rich molten chocolate cake or mound of bacon, after all. But it was a treat that we looked forward to — one I count as a guilty pleasure I now allow myself just a few times a year.
So when my Let’s Lunch bunch decided on sharing a guilty pleasure for our virtual lunch date this month, Crisp Choco it was …
I have been in love with pie for as long as I can remember — crisp crust, hot filling … what’s not to adore?
My love extends far beyond traditional American apple and pumpkin pies, however — spicy (or sweet) empanadas, pot pies, shepherd’s pies, British pork pies, Singaporean fried curry puffs (which are, essentially, hand-pies) … you name it, I’ll worship it.
Anyone who has eaten with me understands that I generally view vegetables the same way one would dentist appointments or exercise — they’re a necessary evil.
This has long held true, and is something that has exasperated my mother since I was a child. Back then, once it was clear that threats and bribery had absolutely no power in persuading me to eat any greens, my mother wisely appealed to a different side of me: The one that (perhaps not so) secretly enjoys the idea of a good conquest.
Think of broccoli as a little tree, she said.
And so, at the dinner table, I began to imagine myself as a giant, ripping out whole trees from the ground and snarfing down clumps of leaves, then branches, before finally devouring their trunks. Destruction, obliteration — all adrenaline-pumping stuff that finally got me to clean those plates of greens.
Perhaps this could have been seen as an early sign that I might grow up to be a serial killer but, no matter. I was eating vegetables. And that was good.
I was thinking of this story when my Let’s Lunch crew decided on doing “a dish that made me eat vegetables” for this month’s virtual lunch date toasting Joe Yonan’s new cookbook “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook,” which hit bookstores this week. Congrats, Joe!
A little bit of excitement occurred recently — I just had my first piece of fiction published in an anthology!
It’s a short story titled “Ganja Ghosts” — about, well, smoking the you know what in Singapore. And it’s appeared in a lovely book called “The Marijuana Chronicles,” edited by the brilliant artist and bestselling mystery writer Jonathan Santlofer.
While I was there recently, mangoes came pelting down so frequently each day that I certainly took them for granted. There are only so many mango slices and salsas one can eat, after all.
Now that I’m back in New York City however, I’m come to rather miss that tree. So when I happened to see a display of beautiful mangoes in Brooklyn shortly after my Let’s Lunch group decided to share a “Too Hot To Cook” dish for our June virtual lunch gathering, I started thinking …
I haven’t had much time to cook recently, with my book deadline looming.
But one does have to eat. So recently, when I found myself having to take a quick break from writing to prep a dish for a potluck party at The Studios of Key West, I turned to an old reliable: Spicy Korean tofu.
This dish is so easy (and delicious) that I find myself making it sometimes as often as once a week. Each tofu bite is packed with the intense swirl of garlic, chili flakes, nutty sesame oil and more — it’s terrific on its own but even better over hot white rice.
Every time I’ve made it, people ask for the recipe — so when my Let’s Lunch crew decided to make a dish that honors Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month for our May virtual lunch date, I decided it was time to share it …
Cancer has been on my mind a fair bit recently — not too many mornings ago, I awoke to the worst news. A dear friend and longtime mentor had passed away. Another victim of breast cancer.
The world knows Mary Corey as many things — the first female editor of the Baltimore Sun, an elegant writer and intrepid reporter who covered breaking national news and fashion’s frothy runway shows with equal aplomb, a graceful leader of a major regional newsroom at a time of great tumult in journalism.
But I simply know Mary as just about the best boss anyone could have asked for — and an intensely big-hearted friend.
Mary was my editor in my years as a young features reporter — she pushed me to think big and nudged the (then) very-reluctant me into covering fashion, sparking a career path that I’m on to this day. It would be an understatement to say that I would not be the writer I am today without Mary.
By all accounts, even as cancer overtook her life, Mary remained as sunny as ever, still thinking of others above herself. That was just the way she was — big sister to everyone, no matter the circumstance.
So when my Let’s Lunch international lunch club — inspired by cancer survivor Karen at GeoFooding — decided to post a dish today inspired by spring, life and daffodils to promote cancer awareness, I jumped right in.
Eating in front of the telly is something that happens with some regularity in these parts.
When your partner is a super busy television critic, that tends to happen. And I’m certainly not averse to sitting down to lunch, dinner or brunch in front of the box. (A side of Downton Abbey with any meal? No problem at all.)
So when the Let’s Lunch crew decided on sharing perfect snacks for TV watching in our February posts, I knew I had to jump back in the fray.
What do we eat while watching something? Everything, really: Stews, noodles, omelettes, sandwiches. But I’ve learned that the ideal item is something compact — bite-sized and easy to pop in your mouth for a quick chew.
Which is what makes dumplings pretty much the perfect TV food …
The food of my Singaporean grandmothers has always inspired great yearning in me.
As you’ve probably heard, this yearning was so intense that a few years ago it inspired a journey to rediscover the dishes of my girlhood in Asia, a tale that ended up forming “A Tiger in the Kitchen.”
Of all the dishes that I learned to make in my one year of cooking in Singapore, one stands out: Gambling rice. It’s a simple dish of rice cooked with Chinese mushrooms, pork belly, shallots, cabbage and more — one that my late grandmother used to whip together in her kitchen out of sheer necessity.
At a time when my family was mired in poverty, she turned her living room into an illegal gambling den. In order to keep her gamblers at the table, she started cooking for them when they got hungry — and what she made was a convenient one-bowl dish that they could easily eat as they continued to play cards.
I love the story of this dish because it says so much about my grandmother and the smarts, creativity — and business acumen — of this lady. So much that I’ve shared it with just about everyone I’ve talked to about “A Tiger in the Kitchen.”
I’d never talked about this recipe on my own blog, however. So when my Let’s Lunch crew decided on sharing a grandmother’s dish this month to fete the paperback publication of our own Patricia’s “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook” — congrats, Pat! — I knew the time had come …
The sweltering days of summer always make me crave two things: 1) Something cold. (If it’s bubbly, all the better.) 2) Something spicy.
So when the sous chef mentioned Mexican recently, the wheels started whizzing — talk about a food just perfect with an ice-cold beer on a super hot day. Tacos? Enchiladas? Spicy corn salads? Where to begin?
That’s when I came across a recipe for chicken braised in Mexican spices — a lovely preparation for chicken that leaves you with mounds of shredded meat and a deliciously spicy gravy.
As for what to do with the chicken and gravy, a trip to my Brooklyn farmers’ market seemed to be in order, especially since my Let’s Lunch crew had decided on a local market-inspired lunch dish for August …