A short note before I begin. I’m starting this notebook because I think I should be doing more writing in general, but not the kind of academic writing I’ve been inundated with recently. As with my recipe book, this is an informal collection of recipes from friends and family as a means of preserving my personal history through food. I have since taken my recipe book down, and will be reincorporating them into posts like these. For now, this will only be a one year project, starting now to the end of my master’s degree at Cambridge.
My main inspiration is Aruna D’Souza of the currently inactive Kitchen Flânerie, with whom I studied Indian food history and cooking during my freshman Winter Study term at Williams College.
Since I’m gross, I’m including a piece of music with every post. Screaming my recommendations out into the void is more preferable than spamming my friend’s Facebook inboxes with links.
The second ring (or maybe third? my taxonomy of hell-rings is suspect) of post-graduate hell is nostalgia. I traversed the first ring, profound sorrow that stains the heart black, back in June and emerged somewhat victorious.
Here’s a brief list of things I’m nostalgic for: magical girl anime, listening to music as a child, prog rock, Naruto, Maplestory, the ocean, potlucks with Chinese aunties, Williams College as a fuzzy memory and not the actual thing, my friends and mentors from undergrad, League of Legends in the North American server, and Chinese cleavers. I am coincidentally (maybe not?) writing this while watching the zero-year reunion at Williams homecoming from afar.
My mother was understandably very concerned about my height when I was growing up. I was always the shortest in the class. I am currently 5’4″ (162 cm). My brother, 2 years younger, is over 8 feet (at least from my perspective) and my sister, 8 years younger, is somehow taller than me already. I have overtaken neither of my parents. It was eventually blamed on my irrational disgust for milk, which actually turned out to be violent lactose intolerance.
Enter bone broth, a stew made from slow-simmered bones. It’s digestible (for me, in a literal sense), tasty, and a good source of calcium, a nutrient I was critically lacking. In the spirit of nostalgia, I have since conjured up a rose-tinted narrative to serve this post. My poor mother, worried sick about the prospects of her son growing up girlfriend-less in a world dominated by tall white men, dug into the coffers of her cultural heritage, emerging with a cure for my genetic deficiency.
It didn’t work. After reconstructing this recipe, I’m convinced that it was actually just the easiest way to feed something warm to a family of five. Turns out the only thing it cures is nostalgia.
Broth for the Nostalgic and Vertically Challenged
(reverse engineered from my mother’s)
feeds me for 3 meals
4 pork ribs or 4 chicken bone-in thighs/legs
4-5 coins ginger
1 scallion, sliced in half
4-5 dried shiitake mushrooms
0.5 tbsp salt, to taste
1. Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in around 0.5 L warm water for 20 minutes. Remove stems and cut into bite-sized pieces. Reserve mushroom water (it really should be called mushroom tea because that’s what it is).
2. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. If you are using chicken, remove skin. Add ribs or chicken to the pot. Boil for 4-5 minutes. This helps rid the meat of any unwanted congealed blood, dirt, and fat for a clear broth. Clear broth, clear conscience! Definitely not clear skin. Remove ribs or chicken, and rinse.
3. Prepare a new pot of water with 1 L (1 US Quart) of water. Add mushroom tea, ribs or chicken, rehydrated mushrooms, scallion, ginger, and salt.
4. Bring pot up to a rolling boil, and reduce to a simmer (a gentle bubbling, like when your friends throw out a portion of unfinished food or when your dad sends photos to you by text knowing full well that you’re out of storage). Cover.
5. Stew over musicology course readings for 2 hours. Take in the smell of your childhood, resist nostalgia lest you accidentally watch Boruto for the next 4 hours, and write a blog post instead of writing critical abstracts for class. Taste intermittently and adjust salt as necessary.
Polyphia – Yas, ft. Mario Camarena and Erick Hansel