Breakfast is on the brain. Last week’s food poetry morsel included a plate of scrambled eggs that would have been perfect for Sun-Tzu, served up by poet Roy Mash. For many, the beginning of a day would be less welcome without a cup of coffee in hand. Even though I veer toward tea nine times out of ten, sometimes, a roasted cup of strong black coffee or sweetened and served with milk is downright glorious. Poet Jonathan Pacic shares his poem, “Confessions of a Coffee Snob #3 – Labels,” part of a series he has written on his ruminations while caffeinating. Enjoy the buzz.
Confessions of a Coffee Snob #3- Labels
on this measured midlife morning
as I slowly savor
my hand ground
are these labels for the coffee,
or for the drinkers?
– Jonathan Pacic
ABOUT JONATHAN PACIC
Jonathan Pacic is a student of the moment and a teacher of fifth grade in Aurora, Colorado. His work has appeared on the board of his classroom, the food literature journal Alimentum, and on sticky notes in the lunchboxes of his three children. He is currently working on a collection of poetry for all readers and a middle grade novel for children.
In a crowded East Bay kitchen, I met Roy Mash as we sipped sparkling water before the start of a poetry reading. We began talking about the intersections between food and poetry and he mentioned he had written a bit of food poetry, especially one about eggs. Intrigued, I proceeded to devour the food poem shortly after it hit my inbox. So, with Mash’s permission, I give you, “A Plate of Scrambled Eggs.” Next time you are whisking eggs to scramble, it might make you look at breakfast differently.
A Plate of Scrambled Eggs
by Roy Mash
Attila Me surveys
the battlefield’s pastel
upholstery from here
on high, and salivates,
imagining how grand,
how glorious to slash
the spineless masses through.
Take that! And that! You shreds!
You mangled carcasses,
you bundled, beaten goo.
The once exquisite yolks
are rumpled luggage now,
spreadeagled spongy flesh
I pummel with my tongue,
the battered yellow pads
like mud squished from a fist.
The cushion of a throat
submits like this, or would
were Jack the Ripper Me
arisen from the mist.
A good thing he’s not. Else
these docile clouds defiled
with ravishment might well
belie the dignity
of that One True God: Me,
who sharpens even yet
his appetite among
the bright utensils
in the quiet kitchenette.
This poem first appeared in The Evansville Review
Roy Mash is a long time member of Marin Poetry Center. He holds degrees in English, Philosophy, and Computer Science, though he currently doodles his time away staring out of café windows, dabbing up the seeds that have fallen from an everything bagel, and mentally thumbing over his poems that have appeared widely in journals such as AGNI, Barrow Street, Nimrod, Poetry East, and River Styx. He is the recipient of the Atlanta Review International Publication Award. His first full length book, Buyer’s Remorse (Cherry Grove Collections), debuted in 2014.
From where you sit, is it snowing outside? Maybe your sky is just overcast and grey like the one outside my window, but things are heating up inside. Did you know January is national hot tea month? Whoever decided to appoint that designation must have been in between cups two and three of whatever brew was keeping them cozy in this typically cold month. I hope they got a promotion.
To celebrate national hot tea month, I’ve put together an e-book of 5 bonus recipes for preorders of Steeped during January. Wait until you get a peek at these bonus recipes! Let’s just say there are a few easy ideas to get your mornings off to a smart start, a recipe for you to nosh on in the afternoon, and a recipe so comforting it might be what you reach for throughout the day when you want to warm up. Preorders are important for book sales, and I sincerely appreciate your support. Giving you a little something extra is my way to say thank you in the language that our spoons, forks, and mugs know best. By the way, if you already preordered your book, you can also download the National Hot Tea Month Bonus Recipes E-book too, just input your order number.
I’m also thrilled to announce the Steeped book website is up! Head over there to see a sneak peek of the book. I will be updating the events, news, and compiling behind-the-book blog posts on the Steeped site as well. If you’re already subscribed to get The Food Poet newsletters, then you’ll be getting updates on the Steeped book. If you haven’t subscribed yet, sign up on the Steeped site for the newsletter and join us for tea time. In just three months, my first cookbook is going to be available in stores. I couldn’t be more proud of this book if I tried and I am so thrilled to share it with you!
If I could wish anything for you, it’s that you might know joy. In early 2014, back when I contemplated if I should make resolutions or whether I should balk at the idea of making the same resolutions for the umpteenth year, I began thinking differently about the promise of what a new year gives us. Instead of resolutions I could easily eschew, I wanted an anthem that could carry me through the unknown curves and dips of the year to come. At that early stage, I declared it would be a year of joy. What I didn’t know then is the kind of year that this one would shape up to become. What I did know is that joy sometimes is a choice and can traverse terrain where happiness might not easily go.
I’ve written here about joy before and perhaps it’s more a life anthem that I want to dance along with or wings I want to cinch onto my shoulders. On a blog, there is only so much that one writes about personally that is fit for public consumption. Though I write here regularly, about once a week these days, all the living gets done off the screen. This is the same for you too. Even in the midst of the social media tools to connect us, there are some times when we live unscripted and quietly. The stories that get pulled out of my personal vault get determined by a criteria of whether they can be used to build up another person–in whatever they are enduring, letting them see they are not alone. To live a full life is to experience the range of human emotion… and the experiences that can elicit them. Grief colored my days grey and blue for over a year and I wrote about it that it might bring comfort to someone who is just beginning the journey in that vast valley. Trepidation stained my mom’s cancer diagnosis to be swiftly followed by triumph. Jubilation flavored telling you about my tea book that is coming out in April. Nerves and elation will equally attend my book tour events in the spring. When you visit the food poet I hope you find a glass half full to drink from that will refresh your spirit.
This year, 2014, has been full of hard stops and end words that bleed into other lines and stanzas of poetry. I leave it so grateful for all of the incredible lessons it has taught me, arm-in-arm with a dizzying array of really smart people I’ve met in 2014. In 2015, I will continue to write about food, poetry, and their intersections here on the food poet. And, I will let tea infuse the page in a few ways I’m currently brewing up. What 2015 will hold is also somewhat unknown. But like this Chocolate Mint Trifle, all of the bits of our lives saturate the other ones, and, for you, I hope that those bits are mostly sweet. May it involve a serving of chocolate mint pudding soaking into chocolate cake and freshly whipped cream and a helping of joy so pervasive it will not disappoint. Happy New Year’s.
You know how some people became enraptured with cupcakes and dolloped, smeared or piped their weight in cupcakes during the time that that particular trend peaked? Do you remember the blocks long line to obtain the famed cronut and the intense scrutiny of bakers to try and match that masterpiece of Dominique Ansel’s? If you live in the Bay area, do you remember the kouign amann hysteria that began curling its sugar buttered edges around many a local patisserie? Or, let’s mark the time when macarons made their debut as the potential new darling once cupcakes had ceded their spot? All roads lead to cupcakes and candied bacon.
It’s not really that I eschew trends, but what could a cupcake ever have that can trounce a cup of cold custard? My affection for puddings and custards has unabated over the years. Somehow it has snuck past being latched onto as the new dessert centerpiece of the century, which is fine by me. Years after the cake and ice cream phenomena of birthday celebrations had finally passed (Serve it with a spoon? Serve it with a fork? Why do we not have sporks?), I came to terms with the idea that I could forego cake and ice cream on my birthday. If I could serve exactly what my heart desired, a sweet to usher in a sweet new year of life, I would hands down pick the sumptuous swirl of creamy pudding. The horror. I can imagine birthday purists cowering in their carrot cake and vanilla ice cream hovels. Is there a sexier dessert? Possibly. It might not have all the whistles, sequins and flair that one can inflict upon a cake or cupcake, but a good pudding has heft along with the creamy consistency that makes it a dessert to savor slowly. Several years ago, I began carting home a small tub of Chocolate Pudding from Tartine and would take several days to eat my way through that dark decadence. This year, I made my own.
Inspired by the idea of peppermint hot chocolate, I decided to whisk up a batch of Chocolate Mint Pudding. There is a whisper of mint, a come hither hint that does not pop you in the face with pungency, but makes semisweet chocolate so much better. Wait until you see how I’ve finagled it into a dessert for New Year’s Eve next week. But this week, I give you the dessert that will always keep my peripheral vision in check–if you bring pudding to the table, chances are good that I will soon follow.
Chocolate Mint Pudding
Makes 4 servings
5 egg yolks
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups cream
2 cups whole milk
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
Freshly whipped cream, optional
Fresh peppermint leaves, optional
Whisk the yolks and cornstarch together in a large bowl into a bright yellow paste. Sift the cocoa powder over the chocolate, placed in a medium bowl. Warm the cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat for six to seven minutes, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the milk into the chocolate and whisk until it is integrated and resembles chocolate milk. Pour ¼ cup of the chocolate milk into the yolks and whisk until combined. Whisk in the rest of the chocolate milk and add the extract. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve into the saucepan, set over medium heat. Whisk until it thickens and leaves drag marks, about seven to eight minutes. Spoon the pudding into a small bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding and chill it for 3 hours.
A few years ago, I decided that what the holidays really needed was another party. I can’t remember if this was prompted by the desire to see people congregate under mistletoe or just eat, drink, and be merry, but we will go with the latter response. Happily what started out as a small food blogger cookie swap has continued for several years and looped in friends outside of the blogosphere too. This Christmas cookie exchange lets me try new cookie recipes to discover the right mix of flavors and options for an enticing collection. I have further amended the cookie swap, hosting it at teatime and dubbing it as Tea & Cookies. Who wouldn’t enjoy a spot of afternoon tea with their sweets, right? For this year’s cookie swap I focused on test driving new 2014 cookbooks and am sharing my findings. Include your favorite cookie and recipe link if you have it, in the comments section.
When I heard Alice Medrich was penning a book on baking with whole grain flours from the perspective of flavor first, I became intrigued. My friend, Irvin and I cemented our friendship years ago on this very topic of thinking of flours as a flavor base upon which to build in baking. Teff works marvelously well with chocolate and is naturally gluten-free. How many people think of teff is griddled into injera flatbread used to scoop up delectable Ethiopian food. Teff flour is darkly hued and works so very well with 70% chocolate. What I liked about Flavor Flours is that each of the flours used also is naturally gluten-free, even if Medrich is leading with flavor first, making the entire book gluten-free. I’ve gotten to work with her before and she is meticulous about recipe testing. Her brownies are already a favorite of mine and these teff brownies were popular at the cookie swap. Plan on cutting small squares—they are quite rich. Friends with birthdays coming up can expect me to bake Chocolate Chestnut Souffle Cake (p. 206), Yogurt Tart (p. 110), and Buckwheat Cake with Rose Apples (p. 172), though I’m keeping an eye on these Buckwheat Linzer Cookies too. I’m quite convinced that roses and chocolate are meant to be along with other dynamic duos like basil and tomato or strawberry and vanilla. Mandarin Rose consists of a smooth black tea tinged with a floral high note of rose petals.
Winter time in California means citrus in as many shades as you can imagine. I was given Isa Does It as a gift and let me tell you that it paid off in a friendship with a neighbor who saw it in my window and decided she liked the inhabitants of our apartment before meeting us. That is a win. These cookies are vegan and use coconut oil in two very interesting ways: the oil is used in the cookie batter and then again in the lemon glaze. Because I had a pomelo, I substituted it for the lemons called for in the recipe. I also had just picked up some citrus chef’s essences from Afterlier and was jonesing to try them out. So, a dash of bergamot oil and two dashes of blood orange oil later, I had morphed Norah’s Lemon Lemon Cookies into Citrus Cookies. They are screaming good and offer a chewiness with a bit of crunch in the glaze. Cookbook notables in Isa Does It iclude the Tofu Butchery section which shows the myriad ways to process a cube of tofu into edible bites. Dishes I’m looking forward to cooking up include Sunflower Mac (p.116), Sesame Slaw (p. 58), and Tamale Shepherd’s Pie (p. 231). Prince Wladimir tea reminds me a bit of an Earl Grey with sass. It has a bit of a smooth profile with a bit of vanilla playing off the citrus notes. It pairs perfectly with the Citrus cookies.
I sped read my way through this gorgeous book one evening after it appeared in my mailbox. A day later and I learned it was a gift—the best possible kind of gift. I had already marked these little Sarah Bernhardt Cakes as being ideal for a cookie swap given how unique they would be in contrast to more expected cookies. Mimi Thorisson writes in A Kitchen in France that she received this recipe from her Icelandic mother-in-law and serves them with coffee. The base of the cake is akin to a macaron cap, mine even developed feet (that little ridge that crops up around the edges of macaron caps). The caps are then frozen while the mocha frosting is made, which is then smeared on the caps. Lastly they are dipped in melted chocolate. Though they have a few steps involved, these cakes are not hard to make but are quite fancy. They are the kind of sweets for which you pull out the good porcelain dishes. A Kitchen in France is smattered with lush photography and seasonal menus. Other recipes I’m itching to make include her Mont Blanc (p. 281), Chestnut Velouté (p. 248), Roast Chicken with Herbs and Crème Fraîche (p.46), and Happy Valley Wonton Soup (p. 291) from a Chinese New Year section in this French cookbook—look for her Tea Eggs recipe (p.293) there too. The multicultural feel of this book won me over. Thorisson grew up in Hong Kong and describes visiting her French grandmother and learning from her too. It reminded me of my own multicultural roots and the ways that each of us brings all that is woven into our cultural DNA onto the table. These rich little mocha cakes pair well with a stout breakfast blend tea to cut some of the sweetness. This tea stands up well to the cookies.
Because an entire table lined with chocolate chocked cookies might set my heart aflutter, but perhaps not appeal to those that don’t have a card in chocoholics-are-us, I had selected this Buttered Popcorn Rice Crispy Treat recipe for its fun flavorful approach to the well-known sticky, chewy sweet. My copy of Homemade Decadence sat on our kitchen table with such promise, decked out with the ingredients required as indication of how easy it would be to pop, melt and mix. As things go with party-hosting, I ran out of time before the cookie swap started to whip up a batch. This lapse in time judgment will work well for our next movie night–can you imagine anything better for movie-watching that combines sweet and salty? I’m a regular reader of Joy the Baker partly because Joy Wilson has a way of writing that makes baking fun and approachable, much like Joy herself. So, now the real question is to ask, what movie we should watch when it’s time to turn out these treats.