Lunchtime on a hot summer’s day and two small boys are very silently perched on a bench near Fort Tilden Beach.
They’re still; their eyes a little glazed. Finally, one breaks the stupor to very slowly say, “These are soooo good.”
The source of their trance is at their elbows — two almost empty cups of thick, cold milkshakes and the carcass of lunch. At this point, sous chef and I have just gotten off a sunny bus ride all the way to the end of the Q22 line at Rockaway Beach, all in search of this mythical Breezy Dog food truck we’d been reading about.
From the look of the fog these boys were in, lunch was starting to seem worth the ride …
On a recent lazy spring afternoon, the sous chef and I went on a meandering drive along the winding mountain roads of Northern California.
After quite a few miles of sun-dappled trees and fetching vistas, as lovely as everything was, we realized something else had begun to occupy us. “Are you hungry?” he said, not really needing to know the answer. “I have a little something in mind …”
As he pulled into the small town of Portola Valley, the sous chef began to slow down. Amid the greenery, an empty parking lot emerged, anchored by a small wooden building that would not have looked out of place in an old Western movie.
“We’re here,” he said, stopping the car. “Zott’s!”
When I’m too tired to cook and there are no dinner plans on the horizon, my neighborhood Five Guys Burgers is my instant best friend.
And so it was with great excitement that I read about a new burger joint opening near my Brooklyn neighborhood this spring — Jake’s Wayback Burgers, a chain that began as Jake’s Hamburgers in 1991 in Newark, Del., and in 2010 changed its name to brand itself as a throwback to a time before “frozen hockey-puck burgers” or celebrity chefs “selling overpriced burgers for $20 at their upper-crust burger boutiques,” so says its Web site. Now, having had some of these types of burgers — and enjoyed them very much — I was curious to see how a chain that slams other burger purveyors would make its own.
So, on a recent afternoon, we set off to see how this bygone burger would taste …
Years ago, I heard a sports writer complain about how he used to love sports — until he started writing about it.
Once it became a job, he all but stopped watching games on weekends. The thing that he adored had morphed into stress-inducer.
I remember feeling aghast — you get paid to write about something you love. Isn’t that more than many people dream of?
Recently, however, I’ve started to understand. After spending weeks with my nose buried deep in my book manuscript — which is all about a journey home to my native Singapore told through food and cooking — my time in the kitchen has become, simply, work. Meals have been thrown together out of sheer necessity; easy old faithfuls rather than new creative dishes have been making far too many appearances on the dinner table.
The stress of writing and editing my hundreds of pages on food, sadly, had transformed my love for cooking into a source of anxiety.
But I only realized I’d forgotten how to enjoy the act of making food when my Let’s Lunch friends nudged me back into the kitchen — not to put a meal on the table but to whip up something silly and anything but practical: A decadent chilled dessert.