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 PRODIGIOUS GRAPEFRUIT

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake | for the love of the south

While driving down the long, dusty road to Lacassine, Louisiana, cleared sugarcane fields revealed new life from the rich soil and a mellow, sweet fragrance filled the warm air. I imagined the empty field later in the year, taking over the landscape with its towering pampas-like foliage. As I became entranced by the pale jade landscape, we crept closer and closer to my great grandma’s house.

I tiptoed across the tiny, white shells in my great grandmother’s driveway and peaked around the corner of her small, whitewashed house and stepped into the garden. To me, this was an enchanted backyard, filled with life from one end of the tiny lot to the other. Strategically placed rows of perfectly ripe tomatoes and fingerlike okra pods smelled of sweet grass as I walked by. Tiny yet vibrant red and green peppers pirouetted in the breeze, reminding me of flickering Christmas lights. A protective fig tree magically became the perfect umbrella to take refuge under in the midst of afternoon showers, and near the back of the property, there was a gaggle of disgruntled chickens that became ruffled around the feathers if you got too close to their coop.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil  Pound Cake | for the love of the south

On this particular trip, I decided to keep my distance from the foul fowls and kept to the side of the house, close to my grandmother. She was reaching over her head, picking what looked like spotted yellow basketballs. Quietly and curiously, I filled as many plastic shopping bags with the enormous unidentified fruit as I could and piled into the backseat of the car. I remember how the combination of the saccharine air from the sugarcane fields and the fresh scent of the mysterious citrus resting on my lap made my mouth water.

Immediately when we got back to the house, my grandma grabbed a large carving knife and split the colossal clandestine citrus in half, revealing blushing pink flesh. My grandma smiled proudly and said in her sweet Cajun accent, “Dat’s a biiggg grapefruit!” My mouth dropped in sheer disbelief, and we both started laughing and began ripping into the slightly sweet and tart flesh.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake | for the love of the south

With a mouthful of ruby grapefruit and pink juice dribbling down my chin, I wondered what the secret was to the gigantic, sugary grapefruits that grew in my great grandmother’s backyard. Suddenly, I recalled the soft, spring breeze coming from the sugarcane field across the way and became sweetly satisfied in solving the mystery of the prodigious grapefruits.

Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil  Pound Cake | for the love of the south

Recipe: Grapefruit + Raw Cane Sugar + Olive Oil Pound Cake

Slightly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 Loaf Cake

Note: If you don’t have plain yogurt or buttermilk in the fridge, have no fear. Just add 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice to 1/3 cup of milk and let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes to get nice and funky! It works perfectly in a pinch! 

Using the zest and juice from 2 medium-sized grapefruits for this recipe usually makes enough leftover juice for a simple glaze. Just whisk ½ cup of powdered sugar while slowly adding the leftover grapefruit juice until you have a smooth, thick glaze. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and serve!

1 ½ cups (190g) of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

¼ teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

2 tablespoons (30ml) of grapefruit juice, plus 1/3 cup (80ml) for syrup

1/3 cup (80ml) of buttermilk or plain yogurt

2 tablespoons of freshly grated grapefruit zest (from 2 medium-sized grapefruits)

½ cup (100g) of granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for syrup

½ cup (95g) of raw cane sugar

½ cup (120ml) of olive oil (choose a mild olive oil, not extra virgin)

2 eggs, at room temperature

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×5” loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a glass-measuring cup, combine 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice and buttermilk (or yogurt).

In a large mixing bowl, add grapefruit zest, ½ cup of granulated sugar, and raw cane sugar. Rub the zest and sugars together with your fingertips. Whisk in the oil until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the cake batter, beginning and ending with the flour.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and tap the pan on the counter a few times, releasing any bubbles in the batter. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar with 1/3 cup of grapefruit juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

When the cake has finished baking, let it cool for 10 minutes and invert onto a cooling rack with a tray underneath. Poke holes in the cake with a skewer or toothpick and brush the grapefruit syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely while absorbs the syrup. Serve the cake all by itself or create simple glaze to pour over the top  (see note). Enjoy!