We need a better word for slime

August 24, 2010

Why are Americans so repelled by the texture of slime? Could it be because the word itself is so awful? What if we called it bounce instead? Would we like it better?

Years ago, in Japan, I learned to love the clean taste and mysterious texture of grated yama imo – surely one of nature’s slimiest creations. When you slice this mountain potato it has the texture of jicama, but when you bite in it begins to dissolve in a wonderful fashion, slowly disintegrating beneath your teeth. Grated, it turns into something more resembling melted mozzarella than any vegetable I can think of, a kind of fresh-tasting porridge that separates into long rubbery white strings when you attempt to pick it up.

In Japan slime is much prized; if grated yama imo is good, grated yama imo with a raw quail’s egg is even better. But last night at SushiZen I had a veritable slime fest: muzuku, the beautiful feathery seaweed from Okinawa that goes shivering from your chopsticks when you try to pick it up. I love its fresh, citric flavor and buoyant texture. Last night it shimmered up at us from etched glass bowls, topped with a pure white squiggle of yama imo, a single raw quail egg and a bright green dab of grated okra.

It was lovely, and I knew I should take a picture of it. But I was so happy when it arrived that I just dived in.


From Today’s New York Times

August 22, 2010

Sunday Routine | Ruth Reichl
A Day for Food (Bears Not Invited)


For Ruth Reichl, the saving grace in losing her decade-long job as editor in chief of Gourmet when the magazine closed last year is being able to live, write and cook virtually full time at her glassy hilltop home in Spencertown, N.Y., in Columbia County. Ms. Reichl, 62, who was the dining critic for The New York Times before joining Gourmet, is the author of four memoirs and is currently working on a cookbook and a novel. She and her husband, Michael Singer, 70, a retired news producer for CBS, have a son, Nick, 21, who attends Wesleyan University, and a 17-year-old cat, Stella, as well as an apartment on the Upper West Side.

UP WITH THE CAT I’m up by 6, because that’s when Stella gets me up and demands her breakfast. Now that I don’t have a job, we often have a bunch of visitors sleeping over on weekends, so instead of getting up and making breakfast for Michael and me, I’m making it for lots of people at all different times, depending on when they wake up. But at 6, it’s Stella and me.

MAKE COFFEE, CHECK BREAD I make some coffee, a French roast by Strongtree that I buy in Hudson, read the papers online and walk around outside by myself with Stella looking at the deer and the birds for a while until it’s time to check the bread. I bake bread nearly every day; I use Jim Lahey’s no-knead method and leave it to rise overnight. At 8, I drive to Hudson to get the Sunday papers, and by the time I’m back, around 8:45, people are getting up.

O.J., BACON, EGGS First I squeeze the orange juice and make the bacon; I get it from a restaurant in Hudson called Swoon that uses local pigs and cures the bacon right there. My eggs come from North Plain Farm. I like poached eggs, but I’ll make scrambled or fried or whatever anybody wants. I’m kind of a short-order cook in the morning from 9 until noon. There’s home-baked breads for toast. And jams. Sometimes I make scones or muffins or biscuits: Sunday is the big wonderful breakfast day.

WRITING TIME Around noon, I put the leftovers on the kitchen counter and go out to my writing studio in the woods. It’s pretty comfortable in the summer; there’s always a breeze. In the winter, it’s a different story. There’s no heat, so I have to get out there and get the wood-burning stove going before breakfast if I want it to be warm by noon. I’ll usually write for two or three hours.

LUNCH, ANYONE? Around 2:30 or 3, if anybody’s hungry, I’ll make grilled cheese sandwiches or whatever. And I put the bread in the oven. Then my treat is to sit outside and do the crossword puzzle on the lawn. After that, I’ll drive to a farm stand and pick up whatever’s fresh.

NO GARDENING I don’t have my own garden; we’re on shale and in the woods. And if I did have a garden, the deer and chipmunks and squirrels and bears would eat everything anyway. The bears can be scary; I woke up a few days ago and two of them were peering in the window.

DINNER AT SUNSET Let’s face it, my life tends to revolve around food, and I love feeding people. We try to time dinner to sunset and we eat on the porch. Corn, tomatoes, potato salad, burgers, and I’ll probably have made a pie — this summer it’s been sour cherry or apricot.

“MAD MEN” AND BED I have to watch “Mad Men” at 10 — I’ve been a fan since the beginning — and then I go to bed and read for an hour. My day’s over at midnight.


To Eat Meat or Not – That is the Question

August 21, 2010

Reading Francis Lam’s insightful piece on killing his first chicken (http://tinyurl.com/25tluql), I scroll down to see the number of comments: 79. Then I look at the number of comments on the previous post about corn: 11. As I keep scrolling, I realize that every post about meat-eating has elicited a huge number of comments. Clearly it is something that is of deep concern to many of us.

It’s a good sign that we are finally coming face to face with the most serious ethical issues of eating. But it is also, I’m convinced, a measure of how deeply removed we are from the true business of keeping ourselves alive. To thrive without killing is virtually impossible, at least if you include insects among the living. There is no way to harvest fruits and vegetables without destroying the insects clinging to the roots, the leaves, the very fruits themselves. Are insects no less deserving of their lives than mammals?

And what about fish? Why is it that there is no outcry about the killing of fish? Is it because most of us have gone fishing at some point in our lives, and it is such a familiar occupation that it renders this particular kind of killing comfortable? Or is it that fish – like insects – are so removed from how we see ourselves that their death does not upset us? We do not anthropomorphize them as we do the pigs and sheep, do not ascribe feelings to them.

For most of human history, most people have lived too close to the edge to have the luxury of debating these issues. In a world where those who do not hunt or raise animals to eat will die, killing for food is simply to join in the solemn dance of life. It is a measure of the sheer abundance available to us in the modern world that we are starting to consider these issues.

It seems to me that the question should be posed in the present rather than the past. The issue is not how human beings have behaved throughout the ages but rather that, given these new circumstances how can we best live ethical lives?