HOW TO EAT ALONE

Black Pepper, Grapefruit with Local Honey & Yogurt | for the love of the south

I never truly knew who he was. I saw him every Saturday morning at precisely 11 o’clock at a restaurant I worked at as a hostess after I graduated high school. He was a short, thin elderly gentleman dressed in creased tweed slacks and a crisp button down shirt with a local Waco newspaper tucked under his right arm. Wrinkles around his eyes and cheeks folded gently into each other as he greeted me. His wide, toothsome smile was stained from a lifetime of daily indulgences: coffee, red wine and pipe tobacco. We walked through the restaurant to his favorite table, table number 26. The small, circular bistro table was the second to last in a row of identical tables in the atrium. The atrium was long and narrow. Small windowpanes stretched from the floor to the curved ceiling, which poured sunshine into the otherwise dark restaurant. I sat with him for just a few minutes before having to dash away as the lunch crowd began to pick up.

He sat at table number 26 for nearly two hours. He ordered two glasses of red wine, one he drank with his appetizer and the other with his entrée. He ordered lightly battered and fried sweet onion rings, spritzing them with lemon before each bite. Filet mignon crowned with a pat of bleu cheese butter was always his entrée of choice. He let it sit undisturbed for just a few minutes, allowing the butter to melt and drip down the sides of the seared meat before plunging his knife into the steak, revealing its blushing medium rare center. As he enjoyed his meal, he would alternate between people watching and reading his newspaper, spectacles balancing dangerously close to the end of his nose. He sat with his right leg draped over his left. His foot bounced in the air every few seconds, drawing attention to his tiny, shiny doll-like shoes. Coffee arrived with a small silver cup of cold cream and a plate of milk chocolate cake sitting on top of a pool of dark chocolate ganache scattered with berries. Usually by this time, the lunch crowd dwindled enough for me to be able to sit with him again as he enjoyed his dessert. He called it his “treat of the week.” He reminded me of a giddy schoolboy as he ate bite after bite of chocolate cake, gently swiping each forkful across the plate, soaking up as much chocolate ganache as possible.

Blood Orange Juice | for the love of the south

For many months, I was curious as to why he never invited anyone to come and eat with him at his favorite restaurant at table number 26. He certainly wasn’t a recluse or without friends or family to spend time with. He was a widower, but his children and grandchildren lived in town. After a few months passed, the answer became clear.

Most people are embarrassed of eating alone or try to avoid it completely. He dined alone intentionally, and savored every second. What I learned from him never came from conversation. Silently and unknowingly, he taught me a great lesson: how to eat alone and enjoy the company.

Grapefruit with Yogurt & Black Pepper:

Serves 1, deliberately

Note: Whenever I find myself eating alone, I tend to pay as close attention to the preparation and presentation of the dish as much as if I would be hosting a dinner. Yogurt served with seasonal fruit serves as my everyday breakfast, along with a glass of juice and mug (or occasionally a bowl) of chicory coffee laced with sweetened milk. I’m aware that this is hardly a recipe, but it’s how I start off nearly every solitary morning. When I’m alone, I gravitate to simple, balanced recipes that I can whip up in a matter of moments! 

At the moment, grapefruit and blood oranges are in season, but during the spring I swap out the citrus for strawberries and blackberries. In the summer, peaches and the fall, figs.

(The black pepper is completely optional! I enjoy adding a peppery bite to fresh citrus, but feel free to leave it out.)

1 large grapefruit, peelings removed, cut into thin sections

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon local honey

Freshly ground black pepper, optional

Arrange the grapefruit wedges onto a plate.

Mix together yogurt and honey and spoon the sweetened yogurt next to the grapefruit. Lightly dust the grapefruit with black pepper, if using. Enjoy!

 

 

THE PERFECT ROAST POTATOES

The Perfect Roast PotatoesRight down the street from where I lived was a tiny, taupe elementary school sweetly nestled next to a convenience store and a beloved grocery store. Tucked in between the worn hurricane fence and the textured brick façade of the school was a small, modest plot of dirt where Mrs. Benoit’s 2nd grade class were to conduct very important physical science experiments.

The entire group marched outside onto the magically damp, dark chocolate lot. We fashioned furrows with our hands, gently created holes with our index fingers and dropped tiny seeds into the hollows. We covered them with mossy, murky soil, gave them a drink and hoped they slept tight under the soil and not to let the bedbugs bite.

The Perfect Roast PotatoesDaily during recess, I took a quick peak at the petite garden. My heart filled with delight as I began seeing little sprigs of green hairs and emerald leaves peaking through the soil and stretching out in the sunlight like a small child awakening after a midafternoon nap.

Then, on one bright and sunny day, Mrs. Benoit told us to retreat to our adored garden we had been tending to for quite some time now. She handed out little shovels and gardening gloves and directed us on how to tend each row of veggies. I was assigned to a short row of mysterious emerald fronds while the rest began plucking beautiful vibrant green cucumbers and juicy red tomatoes off their vines. Immediately, I became chartreuse with envy but quickly shrugged it off and stayed on task.

The Perfect Roast Potatoes Rising to the challenge, I lowered my shovel, confronted the bright green shrub and gave it a good yank. All of a sudden with a zip I flew onto my back, holding what seemed like a clump of mud. Desperately, I shook myself off trying to clean the dirt from my clothes without attracting too much attention to myself. Then, I stared at my fist and gasped. I ran over to Mrs. Benoit screaming, “ I think I just harvested turtle eggs!” She just laughed and said, “Honey, those are potatoes.” My eyes became as big as golf balls in sheer disbelief. I never looked at a potato the same way ever again.

This is the best roast potato recipe ever. These little beauties are quite addictive, and they will disappear in mere moments. Breaking through these perfectly roasted potatoes, listening to the cartoon crunch, inhaling its meaty aromatics and allowing the creamy, fluffy insides of the potato fall on your tongue like warm, buttery clouds, makes every second spent cooking them, tending to them, worthwhile. Enjoy!

The Perfect Roast PotatoesRecipe: The Perfect Roast Potatoes

Inspired by Jamie Oliver

Serves 4 as a side

Note: Parboiling the potatoes, adding them to hot fat and slightly crushing them after they have cooked ¾ of the way, helps create a fluffy, insanely crunchy roast potato. Also, you can substitute clarified butter or duck fat for the olive oil for a less healthy option. I won’t tell!

1 bulb of garlic

3 sprigs of rosemary

1- 1 ½ pounds of baby potatoes, peeled

Olive oil

Sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Crush the bulb of garlic, leaving the cloves in their paper jackets and pluck the leaves off of the rosemary sprigs.

Place the potatoes into a pot of cold water, covering the potatoes by about 1-inch. Season the water with salt and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain and allow them to steam dry for a few minutes. Then, shake the colander until the potatoes start to look fuzzy and blurred around the edges. This step will help create a crunchy roast potato!

Place a skillet on medium-high heat (or place in the preheated oven until hot) and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Toss in the garlic cloves, rosemary leaves and potatoes and place in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take the skillet out of the oven, gently flip the potatoes and smash them slightly with the back of a fork. Place them back in the oven for 30 more minutes, or until the edges are crispy and golden brown. Serve immediately.