Friday, March 30, 2007

Why Is This Day Different From All Other Days?

On all other days I go grocery shopping and add food to my kitchen. Why on this day do I discard all my grains?

This morning I cleaned my kitchen for Passover, removing everything that is forbidden during the holiday: flour, rice, beans, oats, corn, and legumes. Technically, I don’t have to do this until the day before Passover – Sunday this year – but Alex and I are going to Cleveland tonight and won’t return home until mid-holiday. The more religious are militant about this task, vacuuming dusting their houses from top to bottom in search of stray particles of grain. For the observant, spring cleaning is not merely a commandment from Martha Stewart; it’s a directive from God.

I am fairly lax about Passover. I don’t worry about crumbs or think too deeply about the hypocrisy of removing my flour and rice, but keeping my canned crab and frozen shrimp. Instead, I think of matzah ball soup, geflite fish, charoset, matzah brei, and all the other Passover delicacies I am about to enjoy. My mouth starts to water when I envision my mother’s bagelas, or Passover rolls. I think of sweet Manishevitz fruit wine that I wouldn’t touch any other day of the year, but on Seder night rivals the finest Bordeaux.

The reason Passover food is so delightful is that you only get it once a year. However, as much as I love Pesadic food, I am glad that the holiday is still a few days away, and will definitely enjoy my bread and pasta at Shabbat dinner tonight.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Something I Ate

I decided steamed lobster would be the perfect meal for gastronofiles’ inaugural post. Lobster is delicious, celebratory, and very New England -- qualities that I hope this blog will possess. Although I have been living in Boston for two years, I have only once cooked lobster at home. My family is horrified by this fact. “You must have lobster for dinner all the time,” my brother once told me over the phone. When I confessed the truth, he wasn’t convinced. “At least you go to all the great lobster shacks,” he persisted. When I told him that I occasionally dine at Jasper White’s Summer Shack, a large lobster chain, there was a long, uncomfortable pause. Finally, he said, “What the hell’s wrong with you?”

I do feel guilty for not taking advantage of Boston’s lobster bounty, so I decided to do my family right by this meal. I drove all the way to Central Square’s Alive and Kicking Lobster, a small, rundown shack surrounded by lobster traps. The last time I went, the owner gave me a long lecture about how to tell the difference between male and female lobstahs, showing me several examples before finally settling on two feisty females. I asked him about making lobster soup, hoping to bait him into saying lobstah chowdah in his thick Boston accent, but he evaded my trap and simply said that the shells would make a great bisque.

This time, the door was locked when I arrived at Alive and Kicking. The lights were on, and a sign inside the shop provided a phone number to the house next door, where the owners could be reached. Another customer was waiting in the parking lot. I asked if he had tried calling the number, but said he hadn’t bothered. I thought it was strange, but sure enough, no one picked up when I called. The man did not look surprised. “This might be awhile,” he told me. “I’m going down the street for a beer.”

I waited in the parking lot for about half an hour before finally giving up on the Alive and Kicking and heading to Whole Foods, which, of course, does not sell lobster. Instead I bought a whole trout, fingerling potatoes, and artichokes, which I could dip in butter in the manner reminiscent of lobster. The meal was delicious, and I was full and happy for about two hours until my stomach started to cramp. At first I ignored the discomfort, but it grew worse and worse until I was doubled over in pain. Then I was sick. Really sick. So sick that I spent the night on the couch for the first time in the five years Alex and I have been together, not wanting to wake him with my frequent bathroom trips. I don’t know if it was the trout or the artichoke or something else I ate, but this meal caused true misery. At four in the morning, lying on my bathroom floor in a fetal position, I thought to myself that Gastronofiles was off to a wonderful start.