Popcorn for Breakfast and Other Minor Revelations

Leftover popcorn, I’ve discovered, makes a good breakfast. My wife often makes popcorn for the kids in the evening, and there it is in the morning, half a pot — the butter soaked in and coagulated. Like many things, it is better the next day.

I especially like the crunchy, half-popped ones that congregate at the bottom of the pan. My wife worries: “You’re going to break a tooth on one of those one day.” But I like to live dangerously, I guess.

I made another delightful breakfast discovery this morning. It’s soft-shell crab season — one of my most favorite of all foods. Last night, I made seven soft-shell crab sandwiches for our dinner party. I had miscounted, and there were only six of us. So my second course of breakfast was a reheated soft-shell crab sandwich. What a start to the day!

I haven’t been blogging so much lately. I’m not completely sure why — some combination of busy-ness and apathy. Sometimes I think I’ve run out of things to say about food. And then I consider: “How is that possible?” I’ve also noticed some of my other blogger friends suffering from a similar inertia (I’m looking at you, Gourmandistan!). Maybe it’s a seasonal thing.

I do periodically just tire of my own writing. “Oh my god, not that metaphor again!!” And need a break from myself.

I used to publish a post every Tuesday and Thursday. I was very consistent for several years. I don’t know how I did it. Now, I’m like, “Whatever!”

I was saddened by the suicide of Anthony Bourdain, although as a parent of young children, I also thought it was a selfish and cowardly act given that he has an 11-year-old daughter. That’s a hole in her life that can never be filled.

Leftover soft-shell crab sandwich

Like many people, my first introduction to Bourdain was through his book, “Kitchen Confidential,” which lifted the veil on the many horrors of restaurant kitchens. I worked in several restaurant kitchens and never experienced — nor perpetrated — anything too terrible.

The worst crime I ever committed against a customer was when I was a teenager working in an Italian deli. Every Saturday, around 5 p.m., the old Italian owner, Ron, would say, “Okay, let’s clean up and get out of here.” The deli closed at 5:30. And I inevitably had someplace fun to get to and was eager to split. So I would wrap up all the remaining cold cuts and cheese, put away the lettuce and tomatoes, cover the condiment tins, wipe down the counters and wash all the knives and utensils. And every Saturday, just as I finished, a skinny little plumber dude with greasy black hair would come in and order a pastrami sandwich with extra mayonnaise. Old Italian owner Ron was not one to turn down $5. So I would grudgingly get everything out again and make the skinny plumber dude his sandwich, cursing under my breath and casting daggers with my eyes.

One particular Saturday when I had something REALLY fun to get to and already practically had one foot out the door, skinny plumber dude came in and asked for his pastrami with extra mayo. “I’ll give him extra mayo,” I mumbled to myself. I was sure to hand the wrapped sandwich to the customer myself, as had it passed through Ron’s hands, he would’ve surely noticed that it weighed a good pound more than it should’ve. I must’ve used half a jar’s worth of mayonnaise.

The next Saturday when skinny plumber dude came in, he ordered a pastrami sandwich with regular mayo. Once again, I loaded his sandwich with a cup of mayonnaise, and again made sure to hand it to him myself. The following Saturday, he came in and ordered a pastrami sandwich with light mayo. This time, I barely brushed the bread with the faintest trace of mayo.

He never came in again.

Those are my thoughts and stories for a Sunday morning.

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Go Away, Gastropub

I ran into a chef friend of mine at my son’s baseball game the other Sunday. I asked him what he was up to, and after a harrowing tale about his time as private cook for an online poker billionaire, he confessed he was putting wheels in motion to open a restaurant.

I asked him when, where and what. He wasn’t sure, but said he was scanning food trends for inspiration.

“Don’t do a pork belly bahn mi,” I said.

Gastropub burger with truffle fries

As serendipity would have it, I had also been discussing the possibility of opening a restaurant with a friend. A unique opportunity had arisen, and we were exploring it. Which got me to thinking about what kind of food I would serve. I would not serve a pork belly bahn mi. More

The Japan Series — Imogen Dreams of Sushi

“Are we going to eat a lot of sushi in Japan?” my 7-year-old daughter, Imogen, asked before we left on our trip.

“You betcha,” I assured her.

“Just sushi!?” she clarified hopefully. And it was my sad duty to inform her that we would probably eat ramen and tempura and yakitori and other things as well.

Immy’s first sushi meal in Tokyo

In case you’re checking into this blog for the very first time, this is a theme that comes up with some regularity. That is, that Imogen loves sushi. She is an expensive date.

More

The Japan Series — Salvation at the 7-11, Big Pig and More!

Our flight arrived in Japan around 3:30 p.m., which for us was 9:30 p.m. the previous evening. We left Los Angeles at 11 a.m., and flew 10 hours in daylight, although when we arrived in Japan it was the next day. On the flight, they served breakfast, lunch, and then breakfast again.

It was around 6:30 by the time we figured out how to take the trains into Tokyo and locate — on streets that do not have names — our Airbnb. We were hungry, although we weren’t sure if we were hungry for dinner or breakfast. I offered to go out and find some take-out while the family got settled, which suited everyone just fine.

Flynn and Willa at the Airbnb in Kanda

Tokyo, from a non-Japanese-speaking westerner’s perspective, is a bit confusing at first when it comes to food. There are many, many restaurants — our little pedestrian walking area of Kanda was chock full of them — but it is challenging to figure what many of them serve. You look into the dark restaurant, there are six seats, and bodies are hunched over plates of something. Many restaurants serve only one thing — eel, for example, which would not have gone over well with 3/5 of my family. The point being, that a jet-lagged gaijin fresh off the plane trying to find some quick, not-to-exotic takeout in a non-tourist neighborhood of Tokyo was not going to have an easy time of it. More

The Japan Series: An Ode to Ika

I always figured I could make a successful business helping the Japanese correct the English on their packaging and signage. That intuition was only reinforced on our recent trip to Japan, who’s sensational and rather wacky culinary culture I shall explore in a series of posts beginning with this one.

Squid cracker package

Helpful squid-centric Japanese observation #1: A good way to keep your kids from eating the rice crackers you brought back from Japan: Choose squid flavored. More

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