Michael Pollan’s Rules of Food.

I don’t know why this has a publication date of October eleventh, since it’s accessible now, but whatever.

This past March, Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, wrote a post on Tara Parker Pope’s New York Times‘s blog Well; in it, he asked readers a few questions:

“I’d like your help gathering some rules for eating well. My premise is that culture has a lot to teach us about how to choose, prepare and eat food, and that this wisdom is worth collecting and preserving before it disappears…  Will you send me a food rule you try to live by? Something perhaps passed down by your parents or grandparents? Or something you’ve come up with to tell your children — or yourself?”

Pollan's food rulesAs someone whose mother regularly sent her to a suburban New York elementary school’s cafeteria with bamiya, mejadara and bulgur pilaf in her Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox, I particularly like rule number seven, “Don’t yuck someone’s yum.”  Did I mention that I grew up in the eighties, before Pad Thai was a regular feature on our dinner plates?  In a lunchroom full of PB and Js, baloney sandwiches and rectangular pizzas, my thermos and I were an easy target — not that I’m bitter or anything.  To this day, though, my hairs rise when my eating habits are mocked. So back off, people.  (Kidding!)

Number two was a rule in my house too, but that’s not nearly as sensitive a topic.  Or is it?

Bulgur, Two Ways

There’s a good amount of bulgur in Armenian food; two of my favorite dishes would be reduced to practically nothing without cracked wheat. When I was growing up, one of my favorite meals to come home to was a very simple bulgur pilaf. Comprised exclusively of bulgur, chick peas and chicken, it’s the definition of comfort food. It’s also completely easy to make.

Bulgur Pilaf with Chicken and Chick Peas
Makes six portions

2 cups bulgur
1 can chick peas, liquid reserved
1 pound chicken (I prefer white meat, but I’ve had this with chicken thighs too)
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup olive oil

  1. Boil chicken in salted water, constantly skimming foam off of surface. When cooked, remove chicken from water with a slotted spoon; cool, and julienne. Reserve liquid.
  2. Sauté the bulgur in butter over medium heat; add olive oil and salt to taste, and continue sautéing. Add six cups of reserved chicken liquid; if necessary, use boiled water. Cook until the liquid is almost entirely absorbed, about fifteen minutes. If the bulgur is still crunchy, add some chick pea liquid or hot water and continue to cook until soft.
  3. Add the chickpeas and chicken; add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mix well and serve.

This next recipe is one that I didn’t grow up with, but it’s still utterly enjoyable. The spices add just the right amount of bite to the bulgur. Just as easy as the chicken and chick pea recipe, this version is both sweet and savory.

Bulgur Pilaf with Dried Apricots
Makes six portions

1 finely chopped onion
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cup bulgur
½ cup chopped dried apricots

  1. Cook onion in oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about five minutes.
  2. Add spices and cook, stirring, one minute. Stir in remaining ingredients with one teaspoon salt and five cups water; simmer covered, until liquid is absorbed, about fifteen minutes. If the bulgur is still crunchy, add some hot water and continue to cook until soft. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, five minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

A List of Food-Related Things That Make Me Happy.

I love lists and I can’t believe it has taken me this long to make one. Here we go.

  1. Tearing into a mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup to find it nestled in not one, but two brown paper wrappers.
  2. Ripping the pith off of a grapefruit.
  3. Hot fudge sundaes in parfait glasses.
  4. The absolutely intoxicating aroma of butter melting in a hot pan.
  5. The embarrassing sort of farting noise pudding makes when slurped.
  6. The coffee from the Restaurant Orphée in Regensburg, Germany.
  7. The smell of Regensburg, Germany — I swear to you, the entire city smells of sugar, I think from all of the cones being made in the gelaterias.
  8. The scattering of granular breadcrumbs left behind on a plate after eating pandesal.
  9. Anything and everything that has to do with boereg.
  10. The shiny, waxy, almost-black skin of a ripe eggplant.

Food Diary, Day Two.

9.40 am: Orange juice, while I decide if I want coffee, cereal, both or neither.

10.50 am: Apparently what I want are two more Tylenols.

12.19 pm: Piece of mozzarella, while I wait for the oven to heat up. Suddenly, I am starving.

12.50 – 1.10 pm: Two lamejuns from Eastern Lamejun with lemon juice drizzled over them, and a Diet Coke. I love lamejun, but they can be very dangerous — it is all but impossible to eat just one.

2.00 – 2.10 pm: Still hungry… Bowl of Special K Red Berries with organic skim milk. My taste in cereal is pretty cyclical; I’ll eat one type for months on end, and then I won’t want to eat it again for ages and ages. For years it was Kashi GoLean Crunch! Honey Almond Flax but only with soy milk, then it was assorted Cheerios (regular, Honey Nut, MultiGrain) and Rice Krispies before I settled on Special K. In the beginning I ate the Vanilla Almond, but found it overly sweet; I knew my friend Lexi liked the Red Berries, and though the dehydrated strawberries freaked me out at first, I actually kind of love it now, and buy it in bulk.

5.55 pm: Baking apple cinnamon muffins, even though I don’t particularly like apple cinnamon muffins. They smell amazing though. The batter tastes a bit too sweet for me, but I know Keith will like them.

7.14 – 7.30 pm: Snack of feta, oregano and grape tomatoes with bread, and Diet Coke Number Two.

9.30 pm: Harpoon UFO at the bar at Eastern Standard. What I really want is one of my beloved Kir Royales, but the bar is very crowded and noisy that I don’t think the bartender will hear me. It’s easier to point at the Hefeweizen.

10.00 pm – 12.30 am: Dinner at Eastern Standard with Keith, Alyssa and Guillaume. Shared appetizers of baked Raclette — one of my favorite cheeses — and butter-poached escargots, followed by an entrée of a crab cake sandwich.