And now a story of love and woe. First the love: this dish evolved from a Mark Bittman recipe, which we still often make in its unmodified version. We love all things Spanish in our household, especially after my wife and I had our food-tour style honeymoon there through Catalonia and parts of Basque country. While this dish isn’t classically Spanish it has enough elements to it that can transport us back to Spain with just one bite.
My favorite Thai restaurant recently got a new delivery guy, and I apparently did something very, very wrong to him in a previous life. Whenever I place a lunch order, 30 minutes later there is always a phone call: “I forgot my ID” [to get into the building], or “I’m downstairs” [when he is still five city blocks away]. And he’s just generally mean. Did you ever see Better Off Dead? He is the newspaper boy reincarnated as a Thai restaurant delivery man, except worse because I’ve prepaid his tip via Seamless.
I first started making these pancakes when a very similar recipe was published in Saveur many years ago. It was the only issue I ever bothered to save (and eventually just the clipping). But who needs clippings nowadays when you have the internet? And who needs Saveur when you have this improved version? ;-)
I’ve had a copy of Roger Vergé’s Vegetables in the French Style sitting on my cookbook shelf for years, and to be honest it has rarely been opened. Published in the mid-90s, it’s one of those books that you leaf through and after a while feel as though you’re looking at pictures and recipes for food you might find in a stodgy old Upper East Side dinosaur of a restaurant, or a cruise ship. But history (and maybe cruise ships) can be fun, or at least enlightening. Chef Vergé passed away recently at the age of 85, so once again I opened his book, determined to cook something from it.
If you have young children and you’re like me, you dream of the day when your kids start eating shellfish. The first hurdle is allergies—you hope that they don’t bust out into hives or something far more nightmarish. There’s a little voice in the back of your head wondering if you are about to poison your child the first time you give them any foods that could cause these reactions. But once that hurdle is crossed, the usual first response is of a look of wonderment that quickly turns into “WHAT THE HELL AM I EATING?” and ends with a mushy bite regurgitated onto the plate or other nearby receptacle, probably your hand.
I’m still mostly proud of the fact that my first food service industry job was at Taco Bell. I loooooooved Taco Bell in high school, so much that I got a part-time job there my senior year and still went there a few times a week during lunch period. I became convinced TB was the healthiest fast food option, not so much because of what you ate but rather how they prepared it—that is to say remotely and with no grubby hands all over the food. Everything came in a bag already prepared: chopped lettuce, chopped tomatoes, even the beef came in a bag that you boiled to bring up to temperature before slicing it open and sliding it into a steam table. And using something exactly like a caulking gun to shoot guacamole and sour cream on those tacos and burritos is just plain fun.
This is the Big Bang, the prime mover. Without this dish, I wouldn’t have thought about unleashing yet another food blog on the world. But this is the first dish that got our kids really excited about food, and gave mommy and daddy some hope that all would not be mashed sweet potatoes and plain fried chicken for the rest of our lives.