Lost in a Pancake

Person: Martin
Location: Kalmar, Sweden
Recipe: Swedish pancakes with summer fruits

There was no question about it. Martin was lost in a pancake. The dwarf clown, Rainbow, had promised him a ride from San Francisco to Austin, Texas. Only now she was reneging. Something about the weather being off-kilter as predicted through the smoky, glass window of her Magic 8 Ball. A few too many clouds portended a dangerous trek.

He’d found her on Craigslist. Being from Sweden, he figured it was like Couchsurfing, safe and all. But Rainbow was a bipolar midget, 4′ 3″, with short, red hair as bright as a child’s balloon, talking a blue streak and emptying bag after plastic bag from the trunk of her Ford Escort, so they’d have room for other passengers.

At Rainbow’s group house, one of her housemates pulled him aside to set him straight. “She’s whack,” he whispered through a mouth half-covered by dreadlocks. “We all know it. But we put up with her. She pays half the bills.”

Martin was a producer at a theater company. Six months earlier, he’d asked for time off to travel and recharge his creative batteries; perhaps come back with ideas for a new show. That’s how he’d found himself in California, the place where ideas gush forth like geysers from an Icelandic spring.

But as he sank down in the crumb-laden cushion of a futon couch in an apartment in the Mission District to consider his fate (and whether Rainbow could be roused from her cumulonimbus funk), his mind drifted back to Kalmar. It was night. Lights were slowly rising on a stage. A man with a guitar was walking to the center of the stage. After a few moments, the audience began clapping its collective hands in anticipation; a performance was about to begin:

http://www.youtube.com/user/byteatern#p/u/3/cMc0vzcie0s

By the time he came to stay with me in New York though, Rainbow had relented. Maybe she consulted some cards or something; Martin couldn’t be sure. With the car now re-packed, they headed south along Highway 1 to pick up the other passengers. Kids just like him, who hadn’t known what they’d gotten themselves into either.

As they drove past L.A. and across Highway 10 through San Bernadino, Rainbow’s quirks continued. Fearing she’d running out of gas, she’d pull into a gas station whenever the arrow showed the tank half full. Martin wondered if he’d ever make it to Austin, let alone the East Coast.

He closed his eyes and began dreaming of a Swedish TV show from the 1960s, Vilse i Pannkaken (Lost in a Pancake), the one in which an innocent Swedish boy (played by an adult), falls into a giant Swedish pancake, only to find himself in an upside down world from which there’s no escape.

As Rainbow drove, headlong, across Arizona and New Mexico and deep into the heart of Texas, Martin comforted himself with thoughts of Swedish pancakes. The strawberries would be bursting just then and his mother (he could almost see her now as a haze of heat rose from the car’s roof into the clear, blue sky) would be standing at the counter whipping cream, transforming the cold, white liquid into light, airy peaks. Next, she’d take an iron pan and fill it with the golden batter. A few moments later, pleasure. Warm pancakes filled with summer fruit.

He could almost taste it. Like he could taste the dust against his tongue through the open window. Eventually, he’d make it to New York and my apartment. And one night, as we sat together, a harsh rain stirring up the sky, just as Rainbow had predicted, he made me pancakes, and all was right with the world.

Visit the Website of Martin’s theater company, Byteatern: Kalmar Lans Teater.

Recipe: Swedish Pancakes with Summer Fruit

Ingredients:

2 cup whole wheat pastry flour . 254 grams
1 cup whole milk . 200 millilitres
3 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt . 4 grams
5 – 6 tablespoons of butter . 84 grams

1/2 pound strawberries . 454 grams
1/2 pint heavy cream . 236 millilitres

Episode I: Strawberries

1. Cut strawberries into small to medium size pieces.
2. Place in saucepan and cook over low to medium heat, stirring to prevent sticking.
3. Allow to soften and warm slightly before placing inside pancakes.
4. Optional: Add honey or maple syrup as desired to sweeten.

Episode 2: Whip Cream:
1. Using hand mixer, whip cream to form stiff peaks.
2. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Episode 3: Pancakes

Add flour to 1 cup milk. Whisk to combine.
2. Add second cup of milk. Whisk again.
3. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt.
4. Add eggs to make a thin batter.
5. Heat 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in an iron pan.
6. Spoon 1 tablespoon of batter into pan to form a circle.
7. Cook until the edges turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
8. Flip with spatula and continue cooking an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
9. Serve warm, filled with fruit and topped with whip cream.

And for music to cook by, check out the band, Pipes You See, Pipes You Don’t’s CD, Lost in the Pancakes:

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“We had no idea just how desperate people would be…”

Chicken and pie living side by side.

Yes, that’s a quote from the head chef at Hill Country Chicken, referring to their fried Texas-style chicken. As someone who can’t eat chicken because I’m allergic to it (Yes, it’s true. People never believe me!), I was still desperate myself to try the sides and pies at Hill Country, which I did the other night in the middle of a frigid winter storm.

Read the sign: Cowboy Pie

All I can say is there’s nothing like coming out of the cold and into the warmth of your mama’s kitchen circa 1950. And that’s just what it’s like entering Hill Country Chicken. I was already a fan of their Texas-style brisket barbecue joint located around the corner and down the street. This time, while I couldn’t eat the main attraction, I had a yummy comfort food-y bowl of mashed ‘taters with pimento cheese with a side of fire-and-ice pickles. (God I love food with dashes.) Both were fab-tastic (my own invented dash-y word). The pickles were so good — flavored intensely with dried coriander and chili pepper flakes — I did something I’ve never done: DRANK THE JUICE!

Carbs and curbs


Honestly, it may be the tackiest thing I’ve ever done.

Here’s their address if you want to try the whole bird:
1123 Broadway @ the corner of 25th Street

For some reason my link to their Website isn’t working… : (

If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Head for the Bar!

The new digs a.k.a. kitchen

In case you hadn’t noticed, the CS cook has been on hiatus for a while, two months to be exact.  The reasons are many.  A cool art project I did on Governor’s Island.  An exciting new job.  Less couchsurfer requests due to the collapse of the world economy.  A re-evaluation of taking in couchsurfers, based on the goofy experience with the Korean girls (read last post for the sordid details).

But perhaps the biggest reason for my disappearance was that the Couchsurfing Cook got herself a BRAND-NEW KITCHEN! That’s right.  Ya’ can’t be cookin’ in the public eye without some serious Ikea cojones to back you up, and now I have them.

You see for the past two-and-a-half years, I’ve been working in a pretty makeshift set-up without storage, shelves, pantry, nuthin’! When I needed a place to put dishes, I’d put ’em back in the dishwasher!  I had one — count ’em one — drawer for spices, pasta, flour, etc.  Needless to say, it was NOT culinarily inspirational.

However given that I was short on cash-ola (and can’t make a large design/purchasing decision to save my life) the kitchen languished in a state of entropy until, well, until this blog came along and then, thankfully, something had to change.

And kids, change it did.  BIG TIME!  And now, it’s big, clean, white, and bright, and itchin’ for a cookin’ fight, as we like to say in Texas.

Which, speaking of Texas (trust me readers, this is going somewhere…), it’s been HOT here in New York City.  And I mean hot as h-e-double-toothpicks.  In fact, it’s so hot, you can fry an egg on your forehead!  It’s so hot, the hot dogs are sweating mustard! It’s so hot, the ice cream’s moving to Canada!  It’s so hot…aw heck, I’ll stop while I’m ahead.

Marcy and me after I dyed and cut my hair and got a tattoo

But seriously, it’s so hot that the other day I drifted into a Proustian, heat-inspired reverie of my own first wild and crazy couchsurfing experience, a Sex-in-the-City style trip I took a few years back to the fair city of Austin, Texas, where I met a woman who’s now become a lifelong friend and one of the BEST couchsurfing ambassadors I know:  Marcy Etemadi.  And it was in Austin, with the red-headed, salsa-lovin’ Marci, that I was introduced to what has become my favorite summertime drink, one that’s PERFECT for hot, hellish weather.  The infamous, only known in Austin, “Mexican Martini.”

Now if you haven’t already guessed, an M&M (as I’m going to nickname it) involves tequila instead of gin.  Having never been a gin fan myself, I for one was thrilled to learn you could turn the British classic on its head with a south-of-the-border twist.

But the coolest thing about an M&M is that you’ll NEVER (and I mean never) find a bartender outside of Austin, Texas who’s ever heard of this drink nor knows how to make it.  Which means, dear reader, when you saunter into your local pub, all gimlet-eyed, and ask the lovely lad or lass behind the bar if s/he can fix you a “Mexican Martini,” this same bartender will no doubt look at you with an expression lying somewhere between fear and love.  Because you, dear reader, have stumped the chump.  You’ve challenged the bartender’s manhood.   Respect, as Arthur Miller would say, must now be paid.

At which point your task is to whip out the piece of paper upon which you’ve written the recipe, hand it to the bartender, and calmly wait for the results.  Then, upon making said beverage and determining that it is, indeed, delicious, YOU, dear reader, will be elevated within the confines of the pub to cocktail god/goddess status. More specifically, the bartender will genuflect in your direction, bow in humbleness to your libational loveliness, and be forever in your debt for teaching him/her how to make this drink, thus guaranteeing you a free round next time you visit.  Do I wax nostalgic?  Oh yes.  I wax.

And so, without further ado, I present the M&M.  The perfect summer cool-me-down.  The drink that will have the bar buying YOU rounds.  And, more importantly, will quickly help you forget that Satan just sent God a text message asking if he could raise the temperature on earth just a few degrees past 100;  he’s feeling a little chilly.

Sante!  Slainte!  Salut!

Mexican Martini

Serves one lush or two lusty but responsible females.

Ingredients:

2 ounces silver tequila
1 1/2 ounces Cointreau
2 ounces fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1 splash Sprite
1 splash olive juice or to taste
2-3 plain or jalapeno-stuffed olives

Directions:

1.  Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
2.  In the shaker pour the tequila, Cointreau, lime, and orange juice.
3. Shake and strain into a wide martini glass pre-prepared with a salted rim.
4.  Add a splash of Sprite and a splash of olive juice, or more to taste.
5.  On a toothpick spear 2-3 plain or jalapeno stuffed olives and add to glass to garnish the drink.
6. Sip and enjoy.