Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Food Memory Addiction/Spring Crocuses

I feel like crap but it's been t00 beeyootiful (pronounce that with as many syllables as you got) these past two days, the sun shining and the flowers starting creep out and a few bloom and delicate perfume aromas from lillies of the valley and lenten roses (droopy pale purple flowers that grown on what looks like a tiny shrub) and hyacinths not to try. Besides, iffen I can accidentally walk two miles yesterday, through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, to see a veritable scarf of bright lavender crocuses, then I can brew some green tea, sit down, and write some things out.

I'm obsessed with crocuses. They were growing in this insanely profligate swatch under a tree at the BBG. I'm obsessed because they're the advanced guard. As a person in the human throng I am prolly the rear guard, or the chickenshit cowering behind a sugar maple while the general yells charge! Out of nowhere, though, with frost still licking at the dewy mornings, these crocuses get up there. They have no scent, they're not very big, and if you pick one or look closely at it you can see the texture of its parts are more like fungi than proper flowers, but they are so vibrant as to be arresting. And they do so much work, opening and closing in the course of a day, with no freaking protection--for God's sake, they will sprout up in random patches of GRASS, just begging to be stepped on. Don't care. I'm a crocus. I bloom for like a week. This March wind already blew my seed to the next grasspatch, sucka. Don't care. I'm a crocus.

Everyone knows smells have memories, and spring flower smells are some of the strongest (just wait til the Magnolias bloom and then die with that wet feet and fermented mushrooms smell that I find oddly appealing). But, here's the thing: food, tastes, have memories, too, and not necessarily tied to certain events (i can't smell crappy pepperoni pizza without thinking of a birthday party i had as a kid at Chuck E. Cheese's), but cyclically bound, too, in terms of preference.

This takes some explaining. I keep a food log. That's my big confession for this entry. As of April 5th, 2009, I will have been recording, every day, what I have eaten that day, for a year. There's a few gaps when I visit friends or family or travel for some other reason, but mostly it's pretty true. I am frighteningly able to take on new routines, to the point where I routinize myself down to the microsecond, and the flail wildly and hurl myself into traffic, but, yeah, once I got a passing a motion to see how my eating changed over the course of the year and, especially, across different seasons now that I'm trying to eat more conscientiously, i.e. more locally and as a result more seasonally.

Winter is a boring time at the end for eating if you eat like me. You eat potatoes and turnips and beets and carrots that are nearly soft with age and cheap cuts of beef and pork and apples with wrinkly unfresh skin and just kind of deal with it, cooking the hell out of everything and drinking lots of dark rich fermented beverages. At first it's nice because the flavors are so rich and melded and cozy, but around the first of March you want something crunchy.

So, I was bored one night and cracked open the first food log's old entries--I write in it right before bed, and am now onto my second notebook. This was after a day of going grocery shopping, which includes going to the wine shop, and staring at a bottle of Rosé while salivating in Pavlovian rapture. I wanted that pink wine more than I wanted my next breath. I wanted, I realized, looking in my cart full of dark full red wines, something that tasted like nothing, something delicate. I wanted lavender scented liquid air to drink at dinner, paired with a gentle spring breeze blowing at my cheeks for an appetizer. But it was still too early--this was last week--so I had to comfort myself with looking ahead. The food log let me look forward in a concrete, advent calendar kind of way.

Here's what I found on those pages. First, I absolutely gorge on stuff when it first becomes available, no matter how ridiculous it is, and then don't touch it after like a month. I'm pretty much Winnie the Pooh in an omnivore's body. I ate asparagus every day for nine days straight in late April/early May. Before that I dove into pea shoots--freaking PEA SHOOTS, like little green tendrils--at the end of March going into early April, until I spazzed out on Ramps, which are wild leeks that are little like garlic and a little like onion and have beautiful lily leaves that taste like leeks. They are insanely crunchy and water spritzing you in the face fresh. I ate those for the three weeks you can get them: I made potato ramp soup, Ramp carbonara, roast chicken wrapped in ramp leaves. I made like Ramp jello for dessert. I alternated with green garlic, which is also relevant because just yesterday Olivia told me we were out of the ten dollar bag of garlic i bought from Keith's farm in late November on their last day at the market until April. That's the thing: I actually run out of stuff now, in this new enforced way of eating, which creates a little bit of fear but at the same time a whole lot of excited anticipation (disclosure: i'm not crazy enough not to go out and buy a head or two of garlic for the next couple weeks until the good stuff comes back to market).

Looking at the stuff in the food log I started to play a game with myself, attempting to guess what was coming up on the next few pages. I knew that oysters would be there (just got half a dozen today) in all their mineral seaspray ultrafresh ultraraw slithery glory, and that I would pair them with radishes or pea shoots and drink the aforementioned bottle of Rosé or, believe it or not, a dry Stout, which matches something fierce with oysters or shellfish of any kind. I knew that after the asparagus feast--cream of asparagus soup, asparagus and ricotta ravioli, asparagus frittata, asparagus cannelloni--I would be finding nettles and fiddleheads to make spring tonic soup and fiddlehead soufflé (Olivia's the master of them) and grilled squid with baby potatoes, fiddleheads, and, of course, NEW GARLIC. I knew that the first day of June I got strawberries, and at them every morning with granola and yogurt for like a month, until blueberries showed up and I dumped them in, too. Again: Bear in human skin. Totally.

I've been reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest the past few weeks, and in many ways it's all about addiction. William Burroughs once said everyone's addicted to something, and I think he's right. The question we all have to ask ourselves, the choice we have to make, is what are we going to be addicted to? I think I'm addicted to new, weird food, and locking into a seasonal schedule with it. I'm addicted to being able to remember what I want to eat before I can even remember the damn recipe for it. I'm addicted to looking forward to food, which is gonna gimme trouble come the day when I leave NYC. Looks like I'm gonna have to get addicted to self-sufficiency, too, and learn how to grow all this for myself.


amarilla said...

Ramps? I've never heard of that? Do they grow wild? Where do you buy them?

This morning I ate a marigold sprout. It tasted like parsely and anise and numbed my tongue. Worth it.

Anyway, your consciousness about food inspire me.

Word verification term: hyorism. ??

Tim said...

Yeah, ramps are also called wild leeks and, as they name suggests, they grow in the wild, usually in damp forests in early April. I added a picture of them to this post:

I have no idea what hyorism means--did I used that term? I also had no idea marigold sprouts were edible. I've eaten nasturtiums, but that's about it in the floral dept.

Thanks for the kind words--I'm a long way from the discipline and presence you show on brooklynometry, though, which I found through my longtime girlfriend/partner/common law wife Olivia, who blogs through her work at brooklynology. Keep it coming, especially the photos!

M.R. Nagin said...

make food for me.