Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Cake Incident

Screaming, irate chefs and unseemly temper tantrums are nothing new to the professional kitchen. But have you ever seen someone get really mad at a cake?    

Raphael was an all-around lovely guy. Even-tempered, good-humored, helpful, polite, loyal, hard-working. He was Employee of the Month, Man of the Year, certified gold member of the Clean Plate Club - you name the award, he was the most deserving recipient. His job was probably the most important - and the least interesting -  in the kitchen. He baked off all the layer cakes. On Thursdays, when the primary weekend bake happened, he baked hundreds of cake layers. He would make giant vats of batters in different flavors - chocolate, yellow, almond, banana, carrot. Then, he would weigh the amount of batter that went into each pan. Because there were so many different sized pans, each one had an exact ounce amount of batter that would produce the perfect cake layer. Those amounts had been painstakingly, mathematically figured out by Raphael. He had it down to a math and a science.    

But something was amiss with the chocolate cakes. For weeks, the layers had been coming out sunken in the middle. Now, this may seem trivial to you. But let's just say you're getting married. You've always dreamed of having a chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling and fresh raspberries (each preferably hand-picked just for you, on your wedding day). You plunk down $1000 for the cake. This is the beginning of the rest of your life. You've color-coordinated the bridesmaids' dresses with the groomsmen's ties. You've had the place cards hand-lettered to look like your Gaelic ancestors may have written them. You want a cake that Martha Stewart would bless, and perhaps even feature in her next issue of Martha Stewart Weddings. You don't want a cake with a big pothole in the middle. 

Raphael tried everything. He adjusted the amount of baking powder. Reduced the number of eggs. Used shortening instead of butter (it was a sad day in the kitchen when that happened, but since it didn't fix the problem, he went back to butter). Nothing worked. 

And then one day, Raphael snapped. 

He was pulling a large sheet pan out of the oven, and when he saw the cakes - and the sunken middles - he threw the entire hot sheet pan on the floor. The resonant THWAP! immediately brought the rest of us out of our deeply tired, overworked trances. We stared at him. He stared at the cake pans on the floor. And then he did the most unlikely thing I've ever seen a grown-up do. 

He started stomping on the cakes. Jumping up and down like a petulant child, his face filled with crazed glee. Those impaired chocolate cakes were being annhilated by his heavy black kitchen shoes. But in the midst of this cake rant, as he came down one more time on the sheet pan, his weight caused the pan to slide. Unfortunately, he went with it, skimming across the floor. The whole mess culminated in a clanging crash as the pan, and his body, hit the side of the walk-in refrigerator. 

He stayed down a minute, laying in hot cake crumbs. He then stood up, brushed himself off and left the room. A few minutes later, he reappeared. 

"I'm sorry, everyone," he said solemnly, obviously embarrassed for losing control. He cleaned up the mess and went back to work. 

After some investigative work, and a call to Rose Levy Berenbaum, the author of The Cake Bible, Raphael finally fixed the problem. We never spoke of "The Cake Incident." But I'm now much more careful around cakes because I know how much they can really piss you off. 

Friday, March 27, 2009

I've got another puzzle for you

My first job in the kitchen was at a well-regarded pastry shop in Chicago. I got there at 5:30 in the morning, and worked most days until 4:30 or 5:00 in the afternoon. There was no lunch break. The only time I sat down was on the toilet, to pee. It was physically the most brutal year and a half I've ever had. During the holiday season, we worked 16 hour days, filling hundreds of pie shells, making literally thousands of tiny little tarts for office parties and holiday events. One of my jobs was to roll and finish buche de noels, which are rolled cakes decorated to look like Yule Logs. I'm not even going to tell you how many meringue mushrooms I made (because I never counted, but it was A LOT). I was beginning to think I was superhuman. And then one morning, something else crossed my mind. 

I'm an oompah loompah.  

My tiny co-workers scurried about the kitchen in their white t-shirts and black and white checked pantaloons (that frankly don't do anyone any favors in the flattering department). Some were carrying bags of flour around. Others were scooping and weighing sugar or breaking eggs. At that epiphanous moment, I knew: once I stepped into the kitchen, I would be summoned by Gene Wilder's tiny pan flute. He would ask me to take Violet Beauregarde to the juicing room, and see if Augustus Gloop had made it out of the tube alive. Perhaps we would all stop and break into song, some sort of cautionary tale about bad parenting. Then we would continue on with the day's tasks, all us happy little workers.

I left soon after that, to find a job where I could be Gene Wilder and have my own Oompah Loompahs. Although that, too, has its share of cautionary tales. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

One of those meals

Lobster rolls are my proof that there is a God. And Pearl Oyster Bar has a direct line right to Him. Their lobster rolls are exactly as they should be: succulent hunks of lobster dressed with a simple tarragon mayonnaise, maybe even Hellman's (I totally approve). The bun is a homemade, lightly toasted hot dog bun, judiciously buttered. And they serve salty shoestring fries - a big mound of them - on the side. I also admire the few little snipped chives on the plate. Self-restraint is very appealing. 

If I'm going on one food pilgrimage, it's to Pearl. It's on one of those ridiculously charming side streets in the Village that makes you want to move to New York immediately. And I would wait in line forever, which is a distinct possibility at this place. It's teeny tiny. When you finally make it inside, you may end up sitting at the counter facing the wall, as opposed to the other counter that also faces a wall, just a more attractive one. It's a little disconcerting to stare at the wall while you're eating the greatest lobster roll of your life. You'd like to look at the generous ocean that gave you such a delicious, brave, selfless lobster. But you got the wall. C'est la vie. 

I'm sure there must be other stuff on the menu. But why bother. This is the Charlton Heston of lobster rolls (in his Moses days). Big, hunky, sorta sexy but deep down, still a Momma's boy. This is the one you marry. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


An amuse geule is a tasty little something the chef sends out before the appetizer, to be enjoyed with an aperitif. It is of his choosing, this amuse, and I think of it as something that amuses the palate, although the direct translation is "animal's mouth." Figures. The French are always trying to fuck with us in some way. 

Saveur Magazine just came out with its restaurant issue, and on page 12, voila! Les amuses. They use the other common name, amuse bouche. The different amuse they picture - from a variety of fancy restaurants - are much more elaborate (and over-wrought in this non-foodie's opinion) than the ones we sent out at the "fancy" restaurant where I worked. 

The lowly job of the amuse maker went to a different cook every day and you could always tell which cook had the job by the effort that went into making it. If it was Johnathan, you'd get the leftover lentils from the night before, pureed with some butter and slapped in a little crock to spread on bread. You got the feeling that his whole life was a series of half-assed shortcuts. If Stuart had the task, he would spend hours tediously creating new flavor and texture combinations. He was the over-achiever of the kitchen, but it paid off because a few years later, he was named one of "Food and Wine"'s Best New Chefs of the Year. 

In that spirit, I'm going to start a regular entry called "Amuse." It will be a little tidbit, idea, or anecdote that I find amusing. Hopefully you will, too. 

Today's amuse: Project X: the Stuffalo. Some bloggers in Philadelphia were quite taken with the idea of Stuffed Crust Pizza from Pizza Hut. It's hard not to be. And they also adored buffalo wings. So, the logic goes, why not marry the two and create an offspring? The Stuffalo was born (see disgusting photo above). Pizza crust stuffed with buffalo wings. I think they even left the bones in. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Waiting for a Hot Dog

It's 10:30 in the morning and I'm making myself a hot dog. My favorite way, the Franksville way, is a boiled hot dog on a poppyseed bun with melted cheese (think processed cheese food, like Velveeta) and chopped onions. I like the kind of onions that have lost their mojo from sitting around, aerating too long (think onions at a ball park concession stand). It's an acquired taste. 

I probably have hot dogs on the brain because last Saturday, I went to Hot Doug's with my friend, Bob, my daughter, Chloe, and Bob's absurdly large Irish Wolfhound, Georgia, and all we did was wait in line.  For over an hour. For a hot dog. (see all the other obsessed hot dog stalkers in line with us, above) The crazy thing was, we never even made it inside the door. We were still at least 20 people back when we threw in the towel, after standing an hour and ten minutes with a small child and a large dog who kept sticking her curious, well-meaning nose into the butt of a crotchety guy standing in front of us. Chloe had a playdate and we had to get going. 

To be fair, the line wasn't just for hot dogs. It was also for duck fat fries. And the myriad exotic encased meats that Doug, of Hot Doug's, has to offer. I just checked today's specials online and if I went right now, I could get a Thai Chicken Sausage with Sriracha Mustard and Sesame-Seaweed Salad. Or a Spinach and Feta Gyros Sausage with Tapenade Mayonnaise and Kasseri Cheese. I love it that Doug doesn't mix his metaphors. If you're going to be Thai, be Thai! If you're going to be Greek, be Greek! Too many chefs want to cross too many borders and bring too many cuisines together like they're cooking at the United Nations.  

But if I went today, I couldn't get the duck fat fries. They're a Friday and Saturday only proposition. So I will be going back, just not on a Saturday. I've made food pilgrimages before. And after giving it a great deal of thought, I've decided that waiting for hours for a one-of-a-kind, inventive, incredibly delicious item is totally within my comfort zone. It's waiting at a place like Red Lobster that I have a problem with. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dinner out of a can

When my husband goes to Sam's Club by himself, he'll bring home things like the family size Picnic Condiment pack - two 48 oz. squeeze bottles each of ketchup, yellow mustard, and relish. Why? Because someday, his logic goes, we might have a really big barbecue. Like, all of Northwestern University - all 25,000 people - might come over. Not that I'm immune to hypnotic purchasing trances. Last time I was at Sam's, I bought a 24 pack of V-8 juice. I don't even like V-8 juice. So it sat, languishing in my basement, for months and months.  

Then I found this recipe. Figures it's from Nancy Silverton. She's my idol. Has been for years. She's a pastry chef in LA, but that's like saying Michael Jordan was a basketball player in Chicago. I don't want to sound too puppy love-ish here, but I would clean her toilets if she asked. Anyway, here it is: what you might be having for dinner tomorrow night. 

Spaghettini with Tuna and V-8 Sauce
Adapted from "A Twist of the Wrist" by Nancy Silverton

1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of chile flakes(optional)
Olive oil
1 cup V-8 juice
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and cut into pieces (this is my addition)
1 can tuna packed in olive oil (I get mine from Whole Foods - the Cento brand), drained
Spaghettini or spaghetti for however many you're serving (I use a box for four people)

Boil the water for the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, saute the onion, celery and garlic in a generous Tbs. of olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the pepper flakes, if using, and V-8 juice. Bring just to a boil, then let cool a bit. Put the sauce and red bell pepper pieces into a blender (a food processor is ok, too). Blend well. Taste, and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Toss the drained, cooked pasta with the sauce, then flake the tuna over the pasta and toss again. Nancy adds coarsely chopped olives and capers, and I would do that, too, but then my children would end up having cereal for dinner. A sprinkling of chopped parsley would be great, too. 

This serves 4 people with medium appetites. The sauce, once made, can be refrigerated for several days. Add the tuna right before serving. 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Meet the staff

When you're at a restaurant, do you ever wonder who's making your food? Who's sauteeing your fish and dressing your salad and squeezing that curly-Q of chocolate sauce on to your dessert plate?  

It's Julian. 

Julian was the baddest ass I have ever come across in the kitchen. He was like a Richard Roundtree badass motherfucker, and when he walked into the room, you cowered. Even the chef cowered, and he was his own kind of hairy, uneducated badass who made people cower, and occasionally cry, but that's another story.  In a kitchen of gamblers, drunks, and thieves, Julian was the baddest of them all.

He was a physical specimen the way NFL receivers are specimens: tall, lean, and built like an anvil. He was a bald-headed, pink-skinned black man, and he had a kitchen pedigree like no one else in the kitchen: stints at Jean Georges in New York, and Chez Panisse in Berkeley, both like the supermodels of the restaurant world. Which gave him the cred to walk in, and take over. Make the place his. Which he did, by adding his own personal culinary touches to all of the chef's dishes, especially the sauces. I always wondered how the chef took that. Probably by cowering. 

After his first night of service, while we were all cleaning our stations, we heard mad grunting coming from the basement. That was where the staff locker room was, as well as the refrigerated walk-ins. It was a scary kind of grunting, like maybe Dennis Hopper was down there with his oxygen mask from "Blue Velvet."  One of us summoned up the courage to walk over to the top of the stairs. The rest of us followed, all in our dirty white coats and checked pants. We all looked down.

At the bottom of the stairs was Julian, doing push-ups, grunting violently, like a wounded werewolf. At the end of a 12 hour shift. We would soon learn that this is how he ended all his shifts: with 100 crazy motherfucker push-ups. Then he would put on his coat and leave without saying a word, and I'm pretty sure his night would not end there. 

A few months later, there were rumblings that he had lied about everything. He never cooked at Jean Georges. He never attended Berkeley (like he told me one afternoon in my pastry kitchen when we were alone, and I picked up my chef's knife just in case). And then he started to get disgruntled - nothing was up to snuff.  The vegetables weren't fresh enough, the meat was second rate. Then one night, he dropped hot bordelaise sauce on his foot. The burn forced him to stay home for a few days, and then a few more, and then suddenly, he just stopped coming to work. 

I saw Julian once after that, crossing the street one afternoon near the restaurant. He looked bound, keyed up. He didn't see me. He was probably cooking somewhere else by then, telling them he had worked at Restaurant Daniel and Alain Ducasse in New York and that he had gone to Harvard. And I bet they cowered.  

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Carrot Muffins Extraordinaire

I never thought, in my 15 + years of advertising, that I would ever say this without even a hint of irony: good and good for you. I devised this recipe with an incredibly ambitious agenda: to provide my children with a full day's supply of every vitamin and mineral there is. On that front, I failed. But these are really moist, delicious, healthy muffins, and eating 4 or 5 in one day happens at my house all the time. Which is just fine with me. 


1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 heaping Tbs. ground flax seed (optional)
generous handful of baby carrots or 2 large carrots, ground in the food processor

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray. 
In a small bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the oil and eggs until combined. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the flour mixture to the eggs/oil/sugar mixture and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon. Stir in the carrots and optional flax seed. Combine thoroughly. Divide among the muffin cups. I use a large spoon for this. Place the tin on a cookie sheet (better yet, 2 cookie sheets which I call double sheeting, to avoid burning the bottoms). Bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes. Be sure to rotate the pan 180 degrees after 20 minutes. Finished muffins will be lightly springy to the touch.  Let cool,  and then unmold. These will keep for several days if you wrap them well. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Howard Cosell, Hoe Kow and me

Sunday night dinner for my family wasn't a Norman Rockwell scene, with everyone gathered around the gingham-clothed table, waiting patiently for the patriarch to carve the perfectly juicy roast. We didn't ogle the big bowl of whipped potatoes, and vegetables fresh from the garden, arranged perfectly on the good china. Sunday night dinner for us was a night out at Hoe Kow. A Cantonese restaurant on Lake Street in downtown Chicago, Hoe Kow was where Jewish families went on Sunday nights to kibbutz, be seen, and eat some exotic fare, which Chinese food was back then. When I told my husband about the Hoe Kow experience, he admitted that he thought it was pronounced "Hoe-y Cow", as if Harry Caray was doing an impression of a Chinese guy, Jerry Lewis-style. 

Hoe Kow's menu was a "greatest hits" of Cantonese specialties. But we always ended up ordering the same thing: beef, pea pods, and water chestnuts, egg rolls, fried wonton, and shrimp with lobster sauce. Presently, we all have cholesterol issues, and I think I know why. In the winter, the smell of fried wonton would linger in our coats for days, which I didn't mind a bit. 

One Sunday,  as my father mixed the hot mustard and duck sauces for the fried items (we let him do the mixing of most everything at restaurants since he seemed to be the expert at such matters), my brother says very matter-of-factly, "There's Howard Cosell." Howard Cosell. He was with Irv Kupcinet, and both their wives. "Kup" was a local columnist, and......who cares? It's Howard Cosell! Of Monday Night Football and The Wide World of Sports! The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat! There was a Jewish celebrity at our Jewish Chinese restaurant, and I wanted his autograph.  

I convinced my brother to go with me to their table. "Mr. Cosell, can we have your autograph?" He was gracious and lovely, and signed our napkin. Then he handed the napkin to Kup. Why is he doing that? I thought. I don't want that guy's autograph on my genuine Howard Cosell memorabilia. But it was too late.  Irv Kupcinet, "Kup."   And of course, it was perfectly legible. Howard Cosell's signature was a scribble. It could have said anything. We thanked them, and went back to our table. 

I glanced at the napkin all night long. "Kup," "Kup," "Kup." I kept seeing the word "Kup" and then a scribbly line underneath that said, "Howard Cosell." I swear, it did.  Not many people believed me at school the next day as I showed it around. So I started touting Kup. "You don't know who Kup is? Oh, yeah, he's a big deal sports guy at the Sun Times. Big. Bigger than Cosell." 

Hoe Kow is long gone, but they really did have the best egg rolls in town, especially if you were a nice Jewish girl looking for some good Chinese food and maybe, just maybe, a famous sports guy's autograph.  

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Salad the Benihana Way

You might be tempted to think that I got this recipe in some unsavory way, like seducing and drugging Mr. Benihana himself, but I can assure you, there's no seedy underbelly to this story. Besides, what do you care? You now have the genuine Benihana salad dressing recipe. It's probably the only thing you can truly recreate from a Benihana experience, except maybe the Hot Towel ritual. Hibachi table cooking is a lost art. We should find it. 

Benihana Salad Dressing

1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 Tbs. unseasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbs. water
1 Tbs. chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbs. chopped celery
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

Put everything in a blender or food processor with salt and pepper to taste and blend until smooth. Serve with iceberg lettuce the Benihana way. 

Steve's Lunch

It isn't often you find a holy temple of cuisine. But I found one in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And I'm going to try not to go all M Go Blue on you, even though I just happen to be one of those obsessive Michigan fans.

Because this is really about alarmingly hot pickled cabbage. Kim Chi. Eating it is an act of bravery, because frankly it smells like a trip to the loo.  It has been described as a "feisty old crone" by one of my favorite cookbook authors, the late Barbara Tropp. And boy, is it good. But I digress.

At this point, you're probably wondering, who's Steve and what's he having for lunch? I have no idea who Steve is, but Steve's Lunch was a cultural icon in Ann Arbor when I was in school.  It was a tiny lunch counter that served pretty standard short order fare. Omelettes and fried eggs for breakfast, burgers and grilled cheese for lunch. But on the back wall was a tiny menu written in both Korean and English and that's where the riches lay. That's where you could find the Bi Bim Bop. 

It's a fairly common Korean dish that Steve's has raised to an art form. First, you chose your rice. Brown was the politically correct choice in a liberal college town. I always ordered white and was considered a Republican for doing so. Minutes later, a steaming stainless steel bowl would arrive with rice, greens, assorted vegetables, grilled Korean beef and a fried egg on top. Chopsticks were handed over, along with 2 squeeze bottles: one with sesame oil, the other with hot sauce. These bottles came without instructions, so it took experience and trial-and-error to get it right. Veterans applied their seasonings with caution and confidence, knowing that too much hot sauce meant certain death to the taste buds, but just the right amount meant an experience bordering on mystical. You would then mix the whole thing together with your chopsticks and dig in. 

And then there was the question of kim chi, which came as an accompaniment in a little white bowl. A 'yes' to kim chi was like embracing a life of unbridled passion and adventure. A 'no' meant life as an accountant. 

Unfortunately, Steve's Lunch is no longer. But the bi bim bop lives on at little korean joints everywhere.  


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Let's hear it for green, leafy vegetables

People probably wonder why I don't greet my father with a kiss on the cheek. It's really pretty simple. Many years ago, my pretty, blond, unsuspecting sister-in-law dutifully leaned over and did just that. In the course of the exchange, my father's Nicaraguan rebel moustache transferred a dark, oily piece of spinach on to her cheek. It was stranded there for a good hour before she discovered it in horror. 
I couldn't help but wonder: what else is hiding in there? Kale? Belgian endive? An entire caesar salad with croutons? 
From now on, a heartfelt head nod will do just fine. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

God, the Devil and Chocolate Cake

Schoolhouse Rock was right. Three really is a magic number.  It's the the father, the son, and the holy spirit. But it's also carrots, celery and onions. Lemon, olive oil and oregano. Tomatoes, garlic and basil. Every cuisine has as its foundation a trinity of flavors. The French use carrots, celery and onions as the elemental base of their stocks and sauces. Creole cooking uses green pepper, onion, and celery. The Chinese dig garlic, scallion and ginger. Thai brings together galangal (one of those exotic ingredients you'll probably have to fly to Thailand to find), kaffir lime (ditto), and lemongrass. The Greeks, the Indians, the Lebanese, Italians, they all have their trinities. But it doesn't stop there. What about Neopolitan? Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, the classic troika of ice cream. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are undeniably the threesome of the berry world. And let's not forget about plating, the art and science of putting food on a plate. When you plate a dish, the rule is three.  Too many elements are confusing and off-putting. Too few don't entice.  

And then there's chocolate cake. One could argue that the perfect dessert - a lone slice of chocolate cake - flies in the face of my well-constructed theory. But I offer this counterpoint: add the frosting, and you've got two elements. Add a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you've got yourself the holiest trinity of all.    

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Soup on soup

I'm always looking for a superior soup experience. Who isn't? So, I've started throwing the leftover parmagiano rind into my soups. Vast improvement. And I mostly use store bought stock. It's like Janitor in a Drum - not glamorous, but it gets the job done.  

Damn the Menu Writers

There's another food blog out there whose writer I greatly admire. She writes with quiet humor and subdued eloquence and we all know how hard it is to be restrained. 

But something bugs me. She describes what she makes for herself as if it's on a menu. Case in point: broccoli soup with chive-spiked creme fraiche. Who says this about their own food? You see it on menus all the time, pompous, huff and puff nonsense about essences, birthplaces, and elite methods of preparation. But this about your own food?  If I traveled down that road, it would sound something like this: Kids, tonight we're having macaroni in the shape of the elbow in the style of Kraft with a melange of peas aged for 3 months in a factory in Akron. 

Pretension abounds in the food world and I blame the menu writers. More effort goes into making the food sound good than goes into making the food. How many times have I had a meal where the salt and pepper part of the equation - arguably the most important part - has been left out completely, but the menu's use of adjectives is perfectly seasoned? 

Here's what should be allowed on a menu: the name of the restaurant, although this is up for discussion since I presumably already know this; the dishes in plain speak (I don't need to know the origin of every hard-to-find ingredient); the price (need I cite the economy here?); and finally, absolutely no cute italics or wink-wink quotation marks. 

Is that so hard? 

Opening the lunchbox....

It was always marginally exciting, that moment when you opened your lunchbox. If you were in good standing with the lunch gods, you'd find something Hostess. My preference was a HoHo, probably because my palate understood at an early age to enjoy things that had a confluence of tastes and textures. Cake, creamy filling, fudgy glaze in every bite. It was instinctive. 

I had a Partridge Family lunchbox with that Mondrian-like primary color grid and some fine illustrations of the family itself. I'm pretty sure it was dented. And it certainly didn't keep anything even remotely within the range of safe temperatures. But who needed safe temperatures back then? Was anything we ate real? I consumed more preservatives than I did food itself and will no doubt spend an entire future post discussing snack foods of the 70's. And then a post after that discussing gene mutations and cancer deaths from hot dogs.    

I am constantly aware of food. I use food to frame my experiences. I use it to plan trips. Food smells are a deep trigger for me. I can still smell the chicken frying in the mess hall at camp. It was mixed with the faint smell of chlorine from the pool next door, and of grass and pine trees and to a city kid, it was the smell of magic. Every morning, as I got off the bus, that's what I smelled. It set the day.  

So, in this first post, I open the Lunchbox and look inside.  Thankfully, no egg salad. Sometimes, that's all you can ask for.