We’ve all been there. You get to the farmers market and it’s so beautiful and inspiring and you want this and that and the other. Everything is so gorgeous… but where do you start??
I collabed with Quiddity on a short video on how to shop the farmers market. Here’s my shopping strategy, and how I use my market haul to make a dish.
Though farmers markets can be a little overwhelming at first, remember that seasonal, local cooking is actually quite easy. If they grow together, they go together. Chances are, crops that come into season around the same time will naturally pair with one another on the plate.
Secondly, the ingredients are so good, you don’t need to do much. The best way to honor your ingredients is to prepare simply and then get out of the way.
And that’s what I did with my spring radish salad with aged Havarti, creamy horseradish dressing, and cru-tons. I left the beautiful lettuces and cheese as-is. I left the bread unadorned and untoasted so you can fully appreciate the texture (and use it to sop up the dressing).
Because this dish was an ode to radish, I showcased it in three different preparations: raw, roasted, and pickled. Roasting brings out the radish’s sweetness and earthiness. Pickling draws out the spiciness. And raw is like the flawless no-makeup selfie — the radish is naturally beautiful thankyouverymuch.
Finally, I made a simple dressing that amplified and unified the flavors already in the salad. This horseradish dressing is creamy (to give heft to the leaves and unify them with the heartier radishes, cheese, and bread), sweet (to balance out the bitterness of the radishes and greens), and spicy (to alert our tastebuds to the subtle spiciness of the spring radish).
You might be tempted to eat this salad with your hands, savoring each ingredient one by one. Do it! That’d be the ultimate way of honoring these great spring offerings.
CREAMY HORSERADISH DRESSING
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup kefir yogurt
¼ cup olive oil
2-4 tablespoons prepared horseradish (depending on how potent your horseradish is)
1 ½ teaspoons honey
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Whisk all ingredients together and drizzle onto salad just before serving.
If I could only have one fruit for the rest of my life, it’d be the orange.
Think about it — it’s food and juice. It’s sweet and tart. You can candy the peel or spritz it into a cocktail. The pith adds a welcome bitterness if you want to change it up.
Kumquats are like super-charged oranges, which make them perfect as pops of contrasting flavor in a rich cake. Because you can eat the skin, you get the bitterness along with juice, sweet, and tart.
To me, kumquat is a very adult flavor because of its mouth-puckering flavors. Adult taste, adult beverage, so I added a healthy dose of Grand Marnier to soak the kumquats. Rosemary amps up the somewhat savory notes of kumquat and adds a lovely aroma — if the kumquats and booze weren’t doing that already.
1 3/4 cup kumquats
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
1 1/2 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 sprigs rosemary
Thinly slice the kumquats and add to a medium bowl. Pour the Grand Marnier over them and allow to soak. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch bundt pan.
Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated. Reduce mixer speed to low and add one-third of the flour, then half the yogurt, then one-third the flour, then the rest of the yogurt, then the rest of the flour. Add kumquats and Grand Marnier.
Gently pour into prepared Bundt pan and smooth out top, careful not to the smoosh the fluffiness. Bake for 60 minutes, rotating midway.
Remove cake from oven and immediately start making glaze. Mash three sprigs of rosemary with the lemon juice. Strain, then add infused juice to powdered sugar. Mix thoroughly. You will think you need more liquid, but you don’t. Keep mixing until you reach a stiff but still fluid consistency. Invert Bundt pan onto wire rack on top of a baking sheet (to catch the dripping glaze). Immediately pour glaze on top and top with the rest of your crushed rosemary. The cake must be glazed while the cake is hot, so work fast!
When it comes getting your collagen fix, I’d say this is a lot prettier than bone broth, right??
This dish is inspired by mango sago, an Asian dessert made with tapioca-like pearls derived from the palm tree. Sago and tapioca are quite tasty, but don’t offer much nutrition-wise. Peach resin is a perfect substitute for taste and texture, and also gives you a wallop of collagen goodness.
The sweet coconut milk and peach resin mixture is also great for other applications — add it to your iced coffee or matcha for a super-charged pick-me-up. Or, serve it with pineapple for a piña colada vibe. I sometimes steal a couple sips in the middle of the day. The sweetness + healthy fats + pop of collagen always hits the spot.
1 can of light coconut milk
2 tablespoons of blonde coconut sugar (or the sweetener of your choice)
1/3 cup water
2 cups prepared peach resin (see here for instructions)
3 mangos, any variety
black sesame seeds
zest of one lime
Add coconut milk, sugar, and water to a small saucepan and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Add peach resin and simmer on low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Add to blender and gently blend, breaking the pieces of peach resin into smaller chunks. Chill.
When ready to serve, add coconut milk and peach resin to shallow bowls. Peel and slice mango. You can cut the mango any way you want, but to get the fanning effect, slice the pulp on each side of the mango seed. Choose one pointy end of the mango as your central point. Slice the mango very thinly, radiating from this central point. Make sure your slices do not intersect with one another, because you want the mango half to stay in one piece. When finished, gently pat the top down and to the side so it fans out. Repeat with the rest of the mango halves. Use a spatula to pick up the pieces one by one, and gently lay them on top of the coconut milk and peach resin.
Sprinkle with lime zest and sesame seeds. Serve cold!
We’ve covered the basics, and then the traditional. Now we’re bringing peach resin into the here and now — how you can integrate this amazing plant-based source of collagen into recipes you make and eat and drink everyday.
First up is one of my favorite flavor combinations ever — cantaloupe and ginger.
If you haven’t tried it, you must (with or without peach resin). When you think about it, cantaloupe is a very unique flavor. Lots of greens taste like spinach, and of course many meats taste like chicken. But nothing quite tastes like cantaloupe. You know it’s unique when you can’t really describe it. It just tastes like… cantaloupe!
The ginger really perks up the cantaloupe flavor without overpowering it. Cantaloupe is an awesome food to get your glow on — making it the perfect partner for peach resin. It’s super hydrating and loaded with antioxidants that fight inflammation.
The key here is to puree part of the cantaloupe, and then leave some chunks of melon and peach resin semi-blended. The result is a fun pulpy drink. The peach resin, when broken up, tastes like little tapioca pearls — soft and a little gummy and totally delightful.
1 ripe cantaloupe, chilled
2 ½ teaspoons minced ginger
1 cup peach resin, soaked for 24 hours and cleaned (see here for further instructions)
Bring pot of water to a boil and add peach resin. Simmer on low for 5 minutes. Drain in colander and run under cold water until cooled.
Puree ¾ of the cantaloupe and all the ginger until smooth and totally liquid. Add peach resin and remaining cantaloupe and blend on low, making sure ingredients you’ve just added are just chopped more finely and not totally blended.
So today we’re going deeper into the world of peach resin, the collagen-packed Chinese beauty secret that I’m excited to bring to more people.
If chicken noodle soup is penicillin, then Chinese soups are a veritable pharmacy.
Though you might think of egg drop or hot and sour soup, there’s a whole world of medicinal Chinese soups that aren’t about taste, but are rather about healing.
Walk into any Chinatown and you’ll see these apothecaries filled with herbs and roots and fruits and fungi. A holistic doctor will examine you, diagnose your ailment, and will prescribe and measure out ingredients for a tea or soup.
Lest you think these are super obscure ingredients, a couple traditional Chinese medicine ingredients are now in the mainstream including ginseng and goji berries.
My grandmother is an expert at medicinal soups and since I’ve been a child, every time I visit her I must have at least one bowl of soup. Two, if I want to make her happy. She has liver-cleansing soup, a soup for my dad’s high blood pressure, a soup for my cousin who just had a baby… even a soup for your ovaries which my brothers weren’t allowed to drink (but my dad was?).
So to start we’re going to stick to peach resin’s roots with a traditional Chinese preparation. Before we go crazy with smoothies and energy balls and what not, I think it’s important to understand how the ingredient is mainly used.
Then we can get crazy.
Traditional Beauty Soup - Poached Pear and Peach Resin
I drink this soup as a snack or even a post-dessert-dessert. :) I don’t want to get too bogged down by going into the benefits of every ingredient since I want the peach resin to be the star. But suffice to say, every ingredient in a Chinese medicinal soup has a purpose.
This recipe can also be made with papaya, though you should shorten the poaching time. Traditional peach resin soups will also include a clear wood ear mushroom called “snow cloud”. I’ve left that out in an effort to keep this recipe as approachable as possible, but feel free to add it if you can find it.
5 cups water
2-4 tablespoons rock sugar — depending on your sweetness preference (feel free to use any sweetener you like)
2 very ripe Bartlett pears, cut into ½” pieces
¼ cup goji berries
2 cups prepared peach resin (see here for preparation instructions and see here for where to buy)
Bring water to a boil and add rock sugar. Lower heat and simmer until totally dissolved, then add goji berries and pears. Simmer on low for 5-6 minutes, then add peach resin and simmer for an additional 3 minutes.
Serve warm or cold.
You guys… I’ve been hoarding this info for too long.
Peach resin is my everyday, go-to drink for beauty and wellness. What is peach resin??
It’s collagen-packed, completely plant-based … and a Chinese beauty secret.
I first learned about peach resin from my grandma, who is a dancer, can outwalk me in any crowded outdoor market, and knows all sorts of concoctions to heal and nourish the body.
She swears by peach resin, and the proof is in her incredible youthfulness.
When we get older, our collagen production declines. Our skin dulls, our joints stiffen, our hair becomes brittle. Collagen makes up one third of the human body, so when we produce less, it shows. It’s the main protein of your connective tissue, which includes everything from your muscles and tendons, to your fascia and skin. Increasing your collagen contributes to:
Glowing skin that’s plump, elastic, and less wrinkle-prone
Increased mobility and flexibility
Strong and shiny hair and nails
Bend. Strengthen. Glow.
I love peach resin because it’s an all-natural, unprocessed product that also tastes good and is fun to eat. And remember the bone broth craze? That was all about collagen. It takes a lot of bones and a lot of time to make bone broth. Peach resin? Just a couple minutes, once you soak the pieces.
I’ll be posting more recipes using peach resin — some traditionally Chinese, some not. But to start, here’s how to prepare it.
HOW TO PREPARE REACH RESIN
Peach resin is natural hardened sap from the peach tree. To prepare it, all you have to do is soak it in water for 24 hours at room temperature. Check on it periodically to make sure it has enough water and room to expand. The resin will grow 300%-400%, so plan your container accordingly!
Once you’ve soaked it, clean out the black sediment. This is just bark that got stuck in the sap as it hardened.
And now it’s ready to be used! You can eat it plain now, but it won’t taste like much. You can add some of the smaller, softer pieces to your morning yogurt or afternoon smoothie. Larger pieces benefit from a soft poaching.
I’m so excited to share this wonder ingredient with you. Stay tuned for more recipes! In the meantime, you can buy peach resin here.
Last week’s #FoodFictionFriday assignment was rather involved and a couple of us hit Instagram’s word limit (me included!). So this week we’re going to take a field trip away from our computers and phones.
Next time you’re at the grocery store, observe a person and his or her cart. What’s in there? How do the items relate to one another? How is the person acting? Then, using your observations, extrapolate a fictional snapshot of this person’s life and how they are going to use those items.
Explore all the possibilities. For example, you might observe a couple at Costco buying a cartful of bottled water and eggs. Maybe they own an omelette food truck. Or maybe they’re running an egg drop competition. Or maybe they’re going to let the eggs rot, then will use them at a protest (which is thirsty work). Once you’re done brainstorming, pursue the story that revs you up the most.
Whether you consider yourself a “writer” or not, I’m sure you’ve done this before. We are more creative than we think. Exercise those muscles and join us! What do you think the couple was doing with all those eggs and water bottles??? 🤔🤔🤔
P.S.: From now on, I won’t be posting assignment highlights on the blog, only the assignments themselves. The community exists on Instagram, and it stopped making sense for me to separate the stories from their main platform/community. So, to really follow along, follow me at @jessica_tom, where I post assignments every Monday and re-post pieces from the community in my stories every Friday. Follow the hashtag #FoodFictionFriday to see all the magic that’s been happening thus far!
Towards the end of any Chinese banquet -- a wedding, birthday, and most definitely Lunar New Year -- you will get a giant platter of noodles.
You’ll reach for your serving but the noodles won’t stop. They’re long and tangled. You look for a knife, but of course there aren’t any knives at a Chinese banquet table, just chopsticks. Not that your grandma would allow you to cut them. Aiya, do you want to cut your life short?
So you pull and pull and before you know it, your small chopstick pinch turns into an entire plateful.
These noodles aren’t just any noodles, they’re longevity noodles -- uncut and extra long. The long life symbolism and somewhat comical way you eat them got me thinking… what if all the ingredients in Longevity Noodles were long and uncut?
And so I added long beans, flat Chinese chives, enoki mushrooms, and bean sprouts. No stunted peas or diced anything -- we’re looking for length! I gave the veggies a little trim but otherwise kept them at full length.
When it comes to a long life, might as well quintiple down, right?
Note: Stir-fries are easy and very adaptable. All the work is in the prep. Cooking happens in a matter of minutes. The key to stir-frying is to time your ingredients and know how they cook. For example, of all the vegetables in this recipe, only the long beans and Chinese chives sear quickly. The mushrooms and bean sprouts are very watery and will steam before they brown, if they do so at all. So you have to decide what you want to sear and what you want to steam. If you want your ingredients to brown, you may have to cook them in batches so they have room to expel water and brown. Or, you can do as I did and only sear a couple of ingredients, and then add the rest of the watery ingredients to steam all together. This is technically more of a stir-fry/braise, but is equally delicious and a whole lot faster than a true stir-fry.
½ lb longevity noodles (Or any Asian wheat noodle. I like thinner noodles, but they are more prone to breaking which kinda happened here 😬)
1 ½ tbsp oyster sauce
1 ½ tbsp hoisin sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
⅓ lb long beans
½ lb Chinese chives
⅓ lb bean sprouts
⅓ lb enoki mushrooms
Cook noodles according to package instructions. Remove from water when very al dente, since they will continue to cook and absorb water once they’re re-added to the stir-fry. For fresh noodles, this means you could be cooking the noodles for as little as a minute.
Wash, dry, and trim all your vegetables. Mix the oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, white pepper, and sesame oil and set aside.
Heat the wok on high until a drop of water sizzles immediately. Add grapeseed oil. When the oil shimmers, add ginger and stir until fragrant, about 15-30 seconds. Add long beans and stir-fry until the beans start to get some color. Season the beans and other vegetables as you go. Add Chinese chives and continue to stir-fry until they take on color.
Add the mushrooms and bean sprouts. Stir-fry until wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Add the noodles and oyster sauce mixture. Mix gently so you don’t break the noodles.
TIPS & TRICKS
A wok is ideal for stir-fry because its shape is conducive to the browning/steaming method I described above. The ingredients on the bottom sear while the ingredients, piled on top like a bowl, are cooked with steam. (As opposed to a skillet where everything is basically level.) It’s also easier to mix ingredients in a bowl shape. Of course, the classic way of using a wok is to put all ingredients in contact with the wok, ensuring even browning. You control the heat level by moving the ingredients up or down the sides of the wok.
The standard for Chinese chefs is a carbon steel wok, but they can be hard for the beginner or casual cook since they require a somewhat onerous breaking-in process, consistent seasoning (maintaining the oily surface that keeps the wok nonstick-like), and can’t be used with acidic ingredients. That’s why I use the Hestan Nanobond Wok, which combines the best of all worlds. It can be heated to extremely high temperatures like a carbon steel wok (and unlike a non-stick pan), but the titanium coating is non-porous, meaning foods easily release without seasoning or a chemical coating. And unlike cast-iron, the Hestan wok conducts heat quickly, meaning you can cook in a flash. That’s the spirit of stir-fry!
If you love Thanksgiving, you’re bound to love Lunar New Year too. The holiday is all about family, beloved traditional dishes, and copious amounts of food.
I’m not here to start beef with Thanksgiving -- as far as I’m concerned, we should have a big eating holiday every month -- but Lunar New Year has a couple extra things going for it.
(I’m writing from a Chinese perspective, but countries throughout Asia celebrate with their own traditions.)
For one, when you’re a kid, you get hongbao or lai see, red envelopes filled with money. You receive them from all the married people in your family and at a big party, you can make quite the killing. (This is fun in a different, more expensive way once you’re married.)
Second, Chinese culture is filled with food symbolism. Noodles are a symbol of long life. Fish is good luck because the word is pronounced the same as the word for abundance. Dumplings symbolize gold ingots. The more you eat, the richer you’ll be in the next year. Win-win.
I invented Lion’s Head in the Grass as a way to merge two symbolic powerhouses. We are entering the Year of the Pig, so pork is a must. Pigs are lucky animals and eating pork is said to bring strength and prosperity.
And with its plentiful leafy greens, cabbage represents wealth. This is why you’ll find jade cabbages in many Chinese households. Just make sure you point them inwards, or according to feng shui, your money will fly right out the door.
Lion’s Head Meatballs are Chinese steamed or braised pork meatballs. Stuff that flavorful pork mixture inside a head of cabbage? Lion’s head in the grass.
1lb ground pork, 80% lean
½ cup garlic chives, chopped (if you can’t find, can also substitute scallions)
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tsp Xiaoxing wine
¼ tsp white pepper
2 tbsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 medium head of cabbage
1 tbsp sliced ginger
Mix all the meatball ingredients together. Stir until just incorporated, making sure not to overmix, otherwise the meat will be too dense. Set aside and let the meat mixture come to room temperature.
Remove the core of the cabbage using a paring knife. Continue cutting into the cabbage, carving out pieces of cabbage. Once you begin seeing the layers of the cabbage, and you have enough room for leverage, use a spoon to scoop out the inside. Make shallow cuts into the cabbage with the paring knife, then remove the excess cabbage with a spoon. Continue until the outer shell of the cabbage is ½ inch - ¾ inch thick.
Fill the inside of the cabbage with the pork mixture. Pack lightly, making sure there’s still some airiness inside.
Boil a full kettle of water. You will need this as you replenish your steaming liquid.
Place a round pan grate in the bottom of your wok. Pour hot water to the level of the grate and add sliced ginger.
Place stuffed cabbage onto the grate, cover, and simmer on medium for 50 minutes. When the water gets low, refill with the water in your kettle. Serve in a bowl with your steaming broth.
TIPS & TRICKS
If you don’t have a wok with a domed lid, you can use a wide skillet and then cover with a foil tent. You can also use a lidded pot.
Ideally you should use a wok. I use the Hestan Nanobond Wok, which is wide and flat at the bottom (as opposed to narrow or rounded), which means better contact with my range’s flame. When compared to a flat lid, the domed lid fares better with moisture retention and air circulation. Plus, a domed lid is high enough to clear a whole head of cabbage. :D
This was a tough week, but you guys came through like CHAMPS. Here’s this week highlight:
Week after week, @rossdibi has delivered her FFF in both Italian and English! Here’s her weekly assignment, a clever and personal riff on Mrs Dalloway.
E l'unica cosa che riesco a chiedermi è "Perché Mrs Dalloway sta bevendo del Tokay?"
Tutti i vini nascono dalla vite e non dal pompelmo sebbene (in inglese) le parole siano simili. Non importa cosa servi col vino. Però ricorda che alcuni sono migliori, sebbene sia difficile trovare quello giusto per i carciofi o le costolette. Ma al party di Mrs Dalloway non ci stanno, le costolette, sono aspic col pollo o del salmone.
E' persino un Tokay Imperiale quello servito per dire "Che piacere vederti" a tutti, uno per volta.
Così è scritto. Mi fido di Virginia anche se non ho mai visto Clarissa deliziata da un pezzo di cioccolata bianca.
E' la mezza età, secondo Peter Walsh. O la mediocrità, lui suppone ed io pure.
Sono fedele al Tocai - con la c- e alla sua terra, il Collio in Friuli - come puoi vedere. Sì, lo puoi chiamare Friulano. Sempre sincero e senza ambizioni imperiali.
Mrs Dalloway, pensa al Friulano sotto questo cielo.
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Ok guys! This week, the #FoodFictionFriday assignment was to write a story with the mystery basket ingredients: grapefruit, baby back ribs, and white chocolate. Here’s my story for the week: ✏️ He licked the rib clean and then placed it between us. “This’ll work, right?” Misty and I locked eyes. I don’t know what she was thinking, but I was thinking about the curvature of the bone. Would it spin evenly like a top? Or would it wobble and tip over, like a tire off a junkyard car? I guess it didn’t matter. It would stop at someone either way. He wanted us to think that this was an impromptu decision, like hey, let’s use this random thing for this random game. But we all knew what was gonna happen tonight, even if we didn’t expect a friggin’ bone. There were two of them, and two of us. Just Misty and me. Jared spun the bone so fast it lifted off the floor like a helicopter, right onto Misty’s lap. I probably could’ve made a case that it was actually pointing to me, but the whole thing was nestled between her thighs and Jared was already crawling towards Misty and suddenly me and the other boy were nothing, just the other discarded bones on our paper plates. The whole time they kissed I stared at the food Jared’s mom left out for us: sticky glazed ribs, grapefruit wedges, and white chocolate bonbons, all wrong wrong wrong. I couldn’t think of a more vile meal in the history of mankind. But when their lips released with a sickening wet pop, I ate a bonbon, then chased it with the grapefruit. A casual, indifferent act, or so I hoped it’d come off. It tasted bitter and then sweet and then way too sweet, a bracing pucker of bad. It took me three full seconds to stomach it, but eventually everything settled. By the time Misty looked at me, head slung low and hands wrenched, I came to appreciate the awfulness and considered it a type of medicine. ✏️ Ok your turn! Post your story with #FoodFictionFriday tomorrow and tag me. You can read past entries by following the hashtag or visiting my FFF story highlights. 🙌 🙌
And here’s mine!
Whew, that’s one whole month of Food Fiction Friday. I love our writing community and have been so inspired by your hard work and inventive takes.
This week’s #FoodFictionFriday takes its inspiration from our favorite showcase for tomatillos, canned tarantulas and wayward ice cream machines: CHOPPED!
In front of you you’ll find your mystery basket. Your story must include:
Baby back ribs
I was merciful and only gave you three ingredients, no time limit… and no one will be chopped. 😁
In the kitchen, our job is to make ingredients taste good. We use technique to elicit flavor. Not so with writing. We use technique to elicit meaning, attitude, WEIGHT. Consider a homey stew as a cultural touchstone. A macaron as a hope for a prettier, more perfect life. A bowl of cereal as an act of defiance. Depending on your story, a cake can be a cause for celebration, a source of shame, a procrastination tool, and on and on…
Even though this is a Chopped-inspired challenge, the ingredients don’t have to be used in a meal context (ie: no obligation to write about ribs with white-chocolate mole and grapefruit gastrique). But, like Chopped, consider how you can “transform” all of these ingredients through story.
I’m really excited by this one -- both as a writer and #FoodFictionFriday reader. In my experience, sometimes our most brilliant work comes out of the oddest constraints.
Another great week of food fictioning! Here’s a peek at all the goodness that’s happening…
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#foodfictionfriday @jessica_tom Bread. Its bland. A PB and J rail car. But, it can be so much more. You can roast it, toast it, fry it, bake it, smash it, PULVERISE it. Now its injera, naan, or a crumpet to soak up tea. Potato, ciabatta, and pretzels. It’s the yummy in onion rings and the MMmm in schnitzel. Meat becomes meatloaf, and salads have texture. OH, Panzanella salad. Are we getting happy? It forms a nest for an egg, a cup for pie. PIE! Soup bowls Dips Layers of lasagna, twirls of noodles. Italian puddings. PUDDINGS? Oats and wheat and spelt Semolina, keto conscious, and pre-sprouted. PRE. SPROUTED. Gluten free. Brioche roll with pureed nut spread and fruit reduction Bread………
@ells3844 wrote a full-throated love song to BREAD. I loved how she took examples from around the world, then quickly expanded our typical understanding of bread with out-of-the-box examples and language.
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A little late in turning in my assignment, but here is my excerpt for this week’s #foodfictionfriday theme of imaginative eating. In my first entry to this series, I expressed the embarrassment of having to eat what was clearly different from everyone else. From an early age, I had already been been introduced to cuts of meat that most adults are not at all familiar with, let alone have tried even once. Beef Laab, or what I would lovingly refer to as meat salad, is one of my Dad’s favorite dishes. Its essentially a “salad” comprised of all the cow parts with a hint of greens. Those greens being cilantro, spring onions, mint, & several squeezes of lime. No lettuce. This meat melange would include tripe, beef heart, & eye round, and of course fish sauce. As a kid, it was not my favorite, but now as an adult, I savor it. It’s one of the rare dishes that my Pops still enjoys. Whenever my Mom makes it, the best part about it, is to be able to sit across the table from my hero & reminisce about My Father’s better days. #foodfictionfriday #mystories #whatSAAPAF #imaginativEating #laos
@curiouskitkatt took an autobiographical route and demonstrated what’s unusual is always a matter of perspective.
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This week’s #FoodFictionFriday was to describe an unusual way of eating -- either as a way to reveal character or simply let loose creatively. Here’s my homework for the week: ✏️ Salad’s not the sole place for dressing. I’ll admit to bread and rice, if we’re confessing. But those foods were in the way, Why not *freeze* it in an ice tray? I could eat 100% vinaigrette -- what a blessing. :: Convinced my cravings I’d sate, With some bottle squirts and a short wait. But oil and vinegar don’t harmonize, Which I sadly did not recognize. Icy...gelatinous...oil: ‘twas the worst thing I ever ate. ✏️ If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I have a thing for limericks. But you probably didn’t know my husband is actually the limerick lyricist of the household. He wooed me with limericks during our courtship and often writes them for special occasions. (Though not for his wedding vows, thankfully). ✏️ Can’t wait to see what you come up with! PS: I’m trying a new thing where I’m posting my piece on Thursday night, in case you guys need some inspo before posting on THE #FoodFictionFriday. Let me know if you have any questions and happy food fictioning!
And here’s my entry for the week!
Thanks for playing along. Next week’s challenge takes inspiration from an iconic food television show…
In week 1, we practiced the art of subtext and setting the scene. In week 2, we explored drink metaphors and editing.
This week for #FoodFictionFriday, we’re going to loosen up a bit. Describe an unusual way of eating. This could be grounded in real life, like #MFKFisher’s way of eating tangerines:
Take yesterday's paper...and spread it on the radiator....On the radiator the sections of tangerines have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, pull it open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow on the sill....I cannot tell you why they are so magical. Perhaps it is that little shell, thin as one layer of enamel on a Chinese bowl, that crackles so tinily, so ultimately under your teeth. Or the rush of cold pulp just after it. Or the perfume. I cannot tell.
Or, you can take a more fantastical approach like the #DrSeuss excerpt above or this passage from Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter”:
”A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
”Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed —
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”
”But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
The first approach is like a snapshot of the self. Whether it’s the way you pick apart a Kit Kat, or gnaw a giant bone, our eating quirks are very personal and often reveal parts of the self that otherwise can’t be articulated in words.
Or, you can treat this as permission to get fantastical and strange. Find the joy of creating for creating’s sake. Have fun with this one!
And… week 2 of #FoodFictionFriday is in the books. You guys are really finding your writing groove. As a reminder, the challenge was to use the principles of distillation to write and edit a piece describing a person as a drink.
Here are some highlights:
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“I am serious, this guy is a milkshake. At first you think he’s all sweet, creamy, wholesome, made from ice cream and strawberries and milk and shit. Then something happens when he gets agitated. Those tasty bits get all mixed together, they become icy cold, thick as concrete and give you a headache.” . . . #foodfictionfriday #writingchallenge
This piece from @Boomboombbq read in such an effortless, uncontrived way. The drink metaphor was so natural, you’d think we all described people that way.
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Time for another #FoodFictionFriday! This week @jessica_tom told us to describe a person as a drink. There was obviously no other drink I could pick besides this one! So here it goes: He shimmers in any well-lit room with his silver jacket and bright red tie. When he greets you he will send shivers down your spine. He’s got a secret and if you listen closely you can hear the gurgles and pops of whatever is brewing inside. He’ll never tell you what he’s hiding. (Not even the key to staying healthier than his older brother) Instead, he will entertain you with sweet stories that roll off the tongue. He ends every conversation with a salty joke, or burn that leaves you craving for more.
@Demewalls wrote a heartfelt yet unsentimental ode to one of the best drinks of all time. Don’t you want to be this guy’s best friend?
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Okay, this week’s #FoodFictionFriday was to use the principles of distillation to write a profile of a character as a drink. Yes, kind of a mouthful, but hope you had fun with it. 😉 ✏️ My piece started kind of amorphous, a little like it was trying too hard. Then I took out excessive “thats” and ideas that led to nowhere. Then I cut out words that sounded profound but were actually kinda cliche. Last, I listened to the rhythms of the sentences and moved words around so they landed with a punch. 👊#mineralwater #butnot ✏️ My writing teacher once told me that you need at least one knockout sentence per page. Now your turn -- hit me! (I know revision is part of this week’s theme, but if you look at it too much, you’ll start to hate it. Just post it!)
And finally… here’s mine!
Keep on the lookout for the next prompt on this blog or on Instagram. The next assignment goes a little more outside the box. ;)
There are three basic steps to distill liquor. Collect the raw material, separate the water through evaporation, and condense the spirit. The rough draft is loose and flabby, but all the material is there. The second draft is stronger but still lacks punch. The final draft is the most potent yet.
Now your turn. This is a 3-part writing *and* distillation process.
PRODUCTION: Describe a person as a drink. For example, an elegant but stern mother can be a martini. A dishy best friend could be English Breakfast tea. Feel free to depict a real or made-up person. Write freely without editing yourself.
PRECISION: Time to separate the water from the spirit. Remove repeated ideas or words. Take out moments where you’re simply clearing your throat. Cut your piece by half.
PUNCH: Replace lackluster words with powerful, assertive ones. Instead of “he put the bowl down”, say “he dropped the bowl”. Instead of saying “She missed him,” say “She mourned him”. Make each sentence a knockout. Aim for 4-6 sentences when you’re done.
1) Post your work on Instagram this Friday using the hashtag #FoodFictionFriday and tag me at @jessica_tom.
2) Follow #FoodFictionFriday and support your fellow writers with words of encouragement. I’ll be in the mix cheering you on and offering feedback. I’m so excited to read your drink-people-profiles!
What a great way to start #FoodFictionFriday! Thank you to all who participated. I loved seeing how everyone interpreted the prompt in their own unique ways.
I read and comment on every single story and will be featuring a handful here on the blog every week.
@Jillfoodie’s 2-sentence story showed incredible confidence. She set up the story, then let the reader fill in the blanks for him or herself.
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this year, I’ve decided to take part in @jessica_tom’s #FoodFictionFriday and this is my first entry based on the prompt ‘Beginnings’ — I did a take on beans, inspired by my love of my vegetable garden and the wonder of feeding those you love with food you grow, and a spin on the Jack and the Beanstalk tale. What if he encountered a farmer instead? What might he begin? ⬅️ Swipe left for the story (in multiple ‘parts’). (ps: those beans featured were ones I got from the farmers market in summer — aren’t they gorgeous?) #writing #fiction #food (pps: totally self conscious because I haven’t written fiction in forever ahahahaha.)
@Sookjinong put a spin on a classic fairy tale, revealing a different sort of magic. I loved how the bean became the touchstone — a seed, a stew ingredient, a way to connect…
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Tomorrow morning I’ll be flying to LaLa Land 🌴, so I’m posting my #FoodFictionFriday tonight. Here’s my piece for assignment #1: Start a recipe while also conveying another world beyond the food at hand. ✏️ Chocolate sprinkles Chocolate-covered pretzels Oreos (not generic brand!) Peanut butter cups (mini if possible) Wafer cones Chocolate chips (semi-sweet) Chocolate syrup Elmer’s glue Instant mashed potatoes - 5 boxes CONFIDENTIAL. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. ✏️ At the risk of killing the art, I’ll unpack it -- just because this is our first one and I know it can be a little funky to transition from food non-fiction to fiction. My goal was to portray a fastidious recipe writer and take the reader on a little roller coaster. When we start, we think this person is making a delicious sundae. But then we get to Elmer’s glue? Instant mashed potatoes?? Perhaps this person is a food stylist. And then the last line drops. Why so paranoid? Maybe the author has some not-so-sweet intentions… ✏️ If you’re writing an autobiographical piece, I encourage you to play with voice, structure, and subtext (rather than the typical linear, confessional approach). I‘m so excited to read your pieces and see how you’ve interpreted this prompt. Remember, post your story tomorrow with #FoodFictionFriday and @jessica_tom. Check out other people’s stories and show them some love. Hit me up if you have any homework questions or need any guidance!👇Remember the most important thing is to HAVE FUN and PLAY. It’s just a game of make-believe. 😊
And here’s my story!
On Monday, I’ll be posting the next assignment. Stay tuned and thanks for playing! :)
HAPPY 2019!! Today we start a new adventure in writing: #FoodFictionFriday. Our first theme is BEGINNINGS.
The Art of Cookery Plain and Simple by Hannah Glasse was the most popular cookbook in 18th-century England. Her recipe for hare soup was said to have started with this line:
“First, catch your hare.”
In just four introductory words, we get a picture of minimal resources (no FreshDirect here), industriousness, and a no-nonsense author speaking to an equally pragmatic audience.
Now your turn. Start your own recipe while also conveying another world beyond the food at hand. Your recipe can portray a time, place, or set of values. It can say something about the mindset of the author, or the nature of the audience. Some examples: a teenage daughter documenting her father’s cookie recipe after he leaves their family. Or an unscrupulous caterer stealing a rival’s famous dish. Convey these meanings and relationships within your recipe.
Keep it short. That’s the challenge.
INSTRUCTIONS (for this and all assignments):
Post your work this Friday using the hashtag #FoodFictionFriday and tag me at @jessica_tom. Feel free to use the text as your image, or post your writing as the caption along with a complementary image. I’ll be posting my work, too. (Note: I’ll usually announce assignments on Monday, but this week is extra short since Jan 1 is a Tuesday.)
Follow #FoodFictionFriday and support your fellow writers with words of encouragement. I’ll be in the mix cheering you on and offering feedback.
Read, set… write!! Can’t wait to read your “recipes”!
#FoodFictionFriday is going down in TWO days so we better be getting ready…
Here are 9 things to keep in mind as we deepen, broaden, and basically blow up conventional ideas of “food writing”.
Food is visceral, so use that to your advantage. Write about longing when you’re hungry, love when you’re satiated.
In fiction, food doesn’t have to be delicious. It can be gross or strange or simply fact. You are creating art, not selling a dish.
Challenge yourself to write outside your own experiences. Your journal is something else. This is fiction.
No need to be smart or clever or fancy. Write what comes naturally. THAT is your voice and what will shine brightest.
If you can, return to your writing after a break so you can revise it with fresh eyes.
Share your creations -- it holds you accountable, sharpens your skills, and taps you into an inspiring network of like-minded people.
Maintain a childlike curiosity and unlock your imagination by asking, “What if?”.
It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Be proud that you put in the work. Seriously.
The first assignment will be posted here and on Instagram on January 1st. Post your story on Friday with the hashtag #FoodFictionFriday. Keep on the lookout for other FFF participants and give them some love! That’s what I’ll be doing.
Personally, I don’t think you need to have fancy credentials in order to be a writer. If you write, you are a writer.
But because we’re about to embark on #FoodFictionFriday (starts 1/1/19!), I thought I’d tell you a little more about myself and the experiences I bring to the table.
In chronological order:
Was an English major with a fiction writing concentration at Yale
Studied three years under Amy Bloom
Wrote four children’s books, sold exclusively at FAO Schwarz
Marketed heirloom books as my first job out of college
Worked at three publishing houses, including editorial at Scholastic and Penguin
Published FOOD WHORE with William Morrow/ HarperCollins, called “The Devil Wears Prada for foodies” in the NY Post
Optioned film rights to Dreamworks before the book was released
First food novelist to compete on Food Network Star (where Giada de Laurentiis said I have “an incredible knack for describing food)
Won Food Network Star
My food fiction philosophy is that food embodies the entirety of the human condition. Whoa, right? But think about it -- food is at once primal and extravagant, a symbol of love or hate. It comforts and makes us retch. You can portray life in all its shades and meanings with food.
That’s what we’ll try to unpack with #FoodFictionFriday. Almost there!!
Do you want to write more in 2019? Are you also food-obsessed?
Then join me for #FoodFictionFriday, a fun, social-media-based way to kickstart your writing and practice techniques that use food as a lens into our world.
This program is loosely based on a famous class I took at Yale called Daily Themes. Every week, we explored a different writing tool including perspective, dialogue, lists, and endings. Whatever the assignment, the main goals were always the same:
Show, don’t tell
Activate your full arsenal beyond plot and straightforward description
Consider the negative space -- everything you don’t mention
We’ll focus on food as both a topic and literary device. We know that food is more than just ingredients. Food writing isn’t just about the juiciness of the steak, or the swiftness of a whisk. Food can also be about power. Lust. Love. Food is memory, war, a conversation, fantasy … you get the point.
Every Monday, I’ll post that week’s prompt. On Friday, post your work with #FoodFictionFriday and tag me at @jessica_tom on Instagram or Twitter. The first assignment will be posted on January 1st to get the year started off right!
You’re also welcome to keep your writing private, but I encourage you to share when you’re ready. You’ll get feedback from me and perhaps others participating in #FoodFictionFriday, and you’ll also get in the habit of releasing your writing into the world -- a must if you want to grow as an artist.
Give it a try even if you don’t consider yourself a writer. This is for anyone who is interested in the many facets of food -- not just how to cook, eat, and ‘gram it… but how to harness everything food means to us.
I’ll post the prompts and tips on Instagram, but check here for more inspiration and pointers. Can’t wait to read your work!