Sunday, July 17, 2005


Wow. I used to be behind two, now I'm behind like six or eight in terms of math. I beg preliminary exams on Tuesday, the last hurdle I have before my only goal in life becomes a dissertation. For now, though, I steal from my friend/cooking idol eclectician, and meme about food:

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?

Unclear. I think I may actually have never done it until sometime during summer 2000 when I was living on my own for the first time -- and such memories are phrased purely in terms of an industrial kitchen at an MIT fraternity rather than in terms of one dish or another. Since then, more enthusiasm, more frequency, and more skill (I hope).

Who had the most influence on your cooking?

Again almost uselessly hard to say in terms of people I actually know. Looking back on it, my parents figured out cooking more or less as I grew up, so early memories are few. I suppose the most honest answer is my little brother, who started cooking seriously well before me and who I must always outdo.

Personality/reference-wise, definitely Alton Brown of Good Eats fame, who manages the right mix of improvisation, science, and art (though who can let me down when he cheats).

Do you have an old photo as 'evidence' of an early exposure to the culinary world, and would you like to share it?

Not to my knowledge, alas -- everything I know is lately acquired as these things go. For instance, everything I've yet posted about math I knew before I knew anything about food beyond how to eat lots of it.

Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?

A dish, not really -- there's two Indian desserts of which I've yet to create even a remotely decent rendition (pedas and ras gulla, for anybody wondering), but I usually only make them for myself -- but for a more general phobia there's an easy answer: cooking for the current special someone. The girl's a vegetarian and I am so totally not. Also she has deeply serious taste (unlike many vegetarians) and obviously I'm loathe to disappoint. Between these two things I think that this particular fear has taught me more about cooking than anything else in recent memory.

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest let down?

I probably get most action either out of my chef's knife (ten inches, calphalon, $20) or my cast-iron skillet (twelve inches, I don't even know, $20) -- I suspect if you just left me these and a heat source I'd be able to accomplish 80% of my cooking without great difficulty. As to letdowns, I'd like to nail my ice-cream maker, but the real problem with that one is that I just don't have enough ice-cream consumption taking place in my house to support an ice-cream maker for anything but vanity. For real, I'd probably have to nail that jar-opener my roommate's aunts got us when we moved in -- they furnished the apartment with an impressive array of goods, but that one thing I've never even considered using.

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like - and probably no one else!

I'm (alas) an impressively normal kid regarding food combinations. The one thing that people have been surprised about me enjoying is kheer: kheer with cocoa powder or kheer as breakfast with coffee, both of which seem utterly natural to me. After all, milk, sweet? Who cares about the rice component; sense is still made.

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don’t want to live without?

Number one has got to be cow meat -- out in the midwest, nothing else is as cheap, as good, and as versatile. Number two is garlic, since whenever I manage to make a meal without adding at least a little bit I feel vaguely ashamed, as though I'd forgotten the existence of a family member. Number three is wine. Between the variety of flavors and the sheer utility of the alcohol (not to mention the intoxication value), when the roomie's in town I go through at least a bottle a week.

... that whole list, on reflection, actually sounds pretty bland until you've eaten at my place a few times. I do have a few decent tricks.

Your favorite ice-cream…

I'm tempted to go with my associate's mention of burnt caramel, but there's an institution back in Princeton called Thomas Sweet which produces a flavor called chocolate chip cookie. Not cookie dough, but the cookie itself -- tiny chips mixed into a base of salty-sweet butter. Every bite is pure tollhouse, but summery in a way cookies simply aren't.

You will probably never eat:

Many, many things, but at this point more mediated by my inability to get them than anything else.

Your own signature dish...

At this point, probably the steak I stole from an old New York Times recipe and modified until my roommate was weaned off a previous sauce addiction. Lamentably, I'm a much better thief than creative mind in the kitchen.

A common ingredient you just can’t bring yourself to stomach…

I haven't yet tried tounge...

Which one culture’s food would you most like to sample on its home turf?

Gujarati food. Blatantly self-serving, but these kids are the hardest veggies to impress I know of and I'd like to have a little better idea where it's all coming from.

The people I am tagging are:

Oddly, none of the bloggers I know who read this are foodies. Any are welcome to it, but if I had my choice of the whole wide world I'd pass the baton to Maggie the Mad Wine Girl over at the Wine Offensive, whose erstwhile wares I've sampled many a time and whose punk-gourmet attitude I simply adore.

More math soon, I promise!


Blogger Neil Sinhababu said...

I'm going to have a big get-together at my place in the first or second weekend of August. Will you be able to come? If so I'll make sure you have a chance to hang out in the kitchen with my mother for a while and ask her about the pedas and whatever else you want to know.

Your attempt at pedas turned out quite tasty, by the way. They just weren't pedas.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Dennis said...

Well, however yummy they may have been they weren't yummy enough for me. And alas, I'll be at a conference and unable to make it out. I imagine my parents may be encouragable to bring me out to philly for labor day weekend, if something could be arranged then...

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Maggie said...

Awe, geez. That's so sweet. I've been keeping meticulous track of links, referrals, and trackbacks for when I move to my new site next month--I don't want to lose anybody. And I saw your post.
I like your site. (I am also a former mathlete.) What is this tagging/passing on stuff?
Oh my god! Do I have cooties?
What do I do?


11:45 AM  
Anonymous lostangel said...

found you through the mad wine girl (one of my most favorite people on the planet, BTW) not sure of the "meme" protocol.....can I answer the questions, or am I like the guys in Fight Club who show up at the door and wait to be asked?????

3:20 AM  
Blogger Dennis said...

Well, cool cool. Go right ahead and meme away.

5:57 PM  
Anonymous eclectician said...

Is the special someone Gujarati, then?

By the way - you'd like this place.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Dennis said...

A bit, yes.

And would I like this place? My understanding was that I'd be at my wits' end. Might like it anyhow though...

10:58 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home