What would a Saturday morning be without a BuzzFeed quiz? How else would I know which actress will play the screen version of me (Emma Watson), the city match for my soul (Portland, OR), or my style icon (Jenna Lyons)? And yeah, I had to look up that last one, too; she’s style director for J. Crew. Apparently the BuzzFeed algorithm thinks I’m cooler than I really am.
The real fun in these quizzes, for me, is then seeing results and comments from friends. “Paris – AMEN!” my daughter’s godmother wrote in response to her perfect city quiz. And, in fact, chic Paris is as much a perfect match for her as earthy Portland is for me.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, it might have been disastrous for two friends to get such different answers. Once upon a time, we cut our teenage teeth on the never ending series of self-knowledge quizzes in Seventeen and Glamour. Are you Punk or Preppy? Floral or Woodsy? We usually took them in groups at slumber parties, where there was little actual slumber and lots of M&Ms, Doritos and Diet Coke. Answering the questions as a group, the outcome was typically that we, friends, miraculously all liked the same things and got the same results (Preppy and Floral for my little group – we were definitely not the Woodsy or Punk type).
It’s a basic ritual of budding friendship, learning that someone else likes the same things you like and figuring out what else you might have in common. It’s now also how Amazon, in particular, amasses a fortune, suggesting that if you like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series you might also like Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme novels.
It’s easy to explore what you might like at Amazon, with the comfort of anonymity (maybe) combined with the comfort of masses. How could 8915 reviewers be wrong? Seems like a safe bet to try something new, especially if it’s a $4.95 paperback book.
It’s a little tougher, but not too much, to go exploring in the real world. Try on a different style of clothing, sample some weird cheese at Costco, see a movie that wouldn’t normally make your list. Take a picnic, go snorkeling, visit a history museum, eat at a new restaurant. Try new things. Take suggestions from your friends, real people who like some of the things you already like, and expand your horizons. Why? Because you can’t possible know everything you’ll like unless you’re willing to try new things.
Then, as you discover and affirm the things you like, remember this: Like what you like.
Like what YOU like. It’s important. It even made Leah Froehle’s list of the 101 things she’ll teach her daughter (great post). It’s an essential part of being who you are, little snowflake.
Just because something is popular doesn’t mean you have to like it. Everyone else at the slumber party answered “C” when you picked “D”? Own up. Your preppy friends already see the punk in you. Believe it or not, they’ll respect that you like what you like even if they don’t like the same things. If they don’t, well then you’ve learned an important lesson about friendship, even if it smarts a bit.
Like what YOU like, and do it with gusto.
Know, though, that with the freedom to like what you like comes the responsibility to respect that others have that same freedom. As ridiculous as it sounds, that’s the philosophy behind the Three Bite Rule in our house. When I make something new for dinner, my children have to try three bites. If they don’t like it, then they may have something else, usually a peanut butter sandwich. My hope is that they’ll feel comfortable trying new things, safe in their ability to like what they like, and accepting of people who may like something different.
One day when BuzzFeed tells them they’re headed to Portland and their friends to Paris, I hope they’ll realize how much fun it will be to visit and how comforting to get back home.
Food | Week of April 7, 2014
How do I know that I do like bratwurst but do NOT like blutwurst? Yep, tried both. (Sorry, you’ll have to look it up. Writing the word is all I will ever have to say about blutwurst.)
When I’m planning our weekly dinners I try to blend things we all like with samplings of things that are new. For Bernard and me it’s more often a new recipe, something we haven’t tried. For the children, I’ll add a food they might not have tried and see how it goes. This week the modified Chicken Marbella (adapted from the classic Silver Palate recipe), fills the latter slot; I’ve never made it for my children. The cracked wheat salad fills the former slot; Bernard and I both like cracked wheat, but the recipe I’ll try is a new one.
Grilled Sausage | Fresh Fruit | Cracked Wheat Salad
Grilling season never really ends in the South, but the onset of spring does usually make grilling more pleasant. I’ll grill a mix of fresh sausages (chicken and apple, traditional bangers, etc. – I like the selection at Fresh Market). This new recipe for cracked wheat salad looks pretty straightforward; I’ll use bulghur that cooks in about 20 minutes and will prepare it in the morning and refrigerate all day. Then, while sausage is on the grill, I’ll mix the salad. For fruit I’ll cut up strawberries and pears then toss in some blueberries.
Couscous Salad, Cafe Samovar Style
If you’re in Memphis then you may remember the great Russian restaurant on Union Avenue, Cafe Samovar. The food was delicious, the people friendly. I was very sad to see their doors close. If I had known they were leaving, I would have begged for a couple of recipes. Instead I’ve made close facsimiles of my favorites, this couscous salad among them. It’s an easy dinner, and a good light night to balance the previous night’s sausage and cracked wheat. To serve four, start by chopping a head of green leaf lettuce (you could also use romaine). In a very large bowl, combine the lettuce with 1-2 cups prepared couscous, chopped red onion (1/2-1 cup, depending on how strong the onion is), dried cranberries (1/2-1 cup, depending on how much you like them), chopped cilantro (1 bunch, or less if you’re not fond of cilantro), and some crumbled Feta or goat cheese. Toss everything together with a French-style vinaigrette (you’re probably a good doggie who makes it at home; I use Brianna’s). You can top with sliced poached chicken for a heartier meal (or shredded roast chicken from the grocery store, if you don’t feel like poaching some).
Mini Omelettes | Spring Mix/Citrus Salad
Inspired by the visit to my sister’s house, we now make mini one-egg omelettes several times a week for breakfast. They’re fast, filling and delicious, and they’re not overwhelmingly egg-y like a traditional two or three egg omelette. Since breakfast for dinner is always a home run at our house, we’ll have these this week. If you’re making omelettes for four, you’ll have to go through the individual steps four separate times; don’t try beating four eggs in a large bowl and ladling out what you think is just one egg’s worth. Voice of experience; trust me. To make the perfect one-egg omelette, beat one egg (duh) in a small glass bowl using a wire whisk, not a fork. Heat butter in a small, heavy stainless skillet. When butter is melted, but before it browns, pour in the egg, tilting the pan until you have a perfect little circle. Let it cook, untouched, for about 30 seconds; lay a slice of cheese (we like Swiss) on top, if you like. Turn off the heat, cover the skillet, and leave it on the stove while you fetch a plate (maybe a minute). Lift the cover and, using a spatula, fold the omelette in half. Slide it out of the skillet and onto a plate. Repeat. Serve with a light, tangy spring salad (spring mix/mandarin oranges/almonds would be a good combination).
Modified Chicken Marbella | Haricots Verts | Cracked Wheat Salad
The original Silver Palate recipe for their classic dish Chicken Marbella is time consuming to prepare but really delicious. In 20 years of making it, I have created a simpler version that mirrors the original but is possible for a weeknight dinner: place 3 pounds of chicken breasts and thighs (I use boneless/skinless because that’s what I like) in a large glass bowl and cover with a marinade of white wine vinegar (1/2 c.), olive oil (1/2 c.), dried oregano (2 Tbsp.), fresh garlic (4-8 cloves, pressed), pitted prunes, halved (1/2 c.), capers (1/4-1/2 c. – mostly drained), green olives (1/4-1/2 c.), bay leaves (3-5), brown sugar or maple syrup (2 Tbsp.), and the juice from one large lemon. Stir to coat all of the chicken, cover tightly and put in refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight (you can do this in the morning before you head to work, or the night before). To prepare in a slow cooker, pour the entire contents of the bowl into your cooker and cook on low for about 6 hours. To prepare in an oven, remove the chicken pieces with a fork and place them evenly on a deep baking sheet or dish. Spoon marinade over the chicken and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (depending on your oven and how thick your layer of chicken is – test a piece at 25 minutes). While chicken cools, coarsely chop a bunch of flat leaf parsley; sprinkle over chicken right before serving. Serve with simple steamed green beans and leftover wheat salad (or just a loaf of bread, if the cracked wheat salad is gone).
This is a good dinner to save for a weekend night as the pork takes about 45 minutes to cook. The carnitas recipe I like best is from Alice Waters’s The Art of Simple Food (p359, if you have the book – which I recommend). Waters doesn’t post recipes through online sites like Epicurious, but here’s a link to another food blogger’s test of the recipe; the pictures are great illustrations. Follow them, and you won’t be disappointed. You won’t be disappointed in the book itself, either. Lots of Amazon readers like it, as do I. A basic salsa verde (fresh herbs, olive oil, garlic and salt in a Cuisinart) is on page 45. You can serve the carnitas as part of a taco bar with traditional accompaniments like fresh lime, shredded lettuce and sour cream (note that corn tortillas will be better companions than flour). As an alternative, you could serve just meat, salsa verde and tortillas, followed by fresh watermelon popsicles from the Mexican market. That’s what we like.