Categories
Essays

The Delivery

I did some math. He must’ve been about 80, 85 years old, which means he must’ve been born between ’35 and ’40. That makes him too young for World War II, and fifteen years old at the start of the Korean war. They didn’t ship 15-year-olds to war, did they? The next closest war was Vietnam, and that went on for 20 years, so he could’ve deployed anywhere between his 15th and 35th year. 

I decided, then, that he must’ve been between 15 and 35 years old when he lost his legs. Probably in his early twenties.

Meanwhile, it’s the summer after my freshman year of college, I’m 18, and I spend my time driving for DoorDash. I leave my house at around 4 p.m., wait for my phone to give me an order, and then do its bidding. I drive to sushi places, pizza parlors, burger joints, ice cream salons, taquerias, Chipotle, Thai restaurants, noodle shops, and, occasionally, McDonald’s. I park, unplug my phone from the aux cord, head in, and ask for any take-out orders. I see couples on dates, men eating alone, high-schoolers socializing. I hear the rustle of silverware over the loud hum of voices, and, if I’m lucky, I get to see what’s going on in the kitchen. 

The cooks are playing insouciantly with fire, clanging stainless steel pans on the gas ranges, flipping sautéed dishes in the air with reckless abandon. God, they make it look easy. Then, the host will come out with a plastic bag tied up with a knot on top, and I leave the cacophony of life for the confines of my 2011 Honda Fit, a small red car that should look cooler than it ever does. I turn the engine on, put on “Your Cover’s Blown” by Belle and Sebastian, and make my way to someone’s home. 

They might live in the hills, or they might live by the highway, but they get their food delivered to them by a dejected college student all the same. Regardless, I dash to the door, knock, and hand the person their food. DoorDash, the great equalizer. I came to learn that the name that appears on the app is practically meaningless. Curmudgeonry, misanthropy, bonhomie, and vivacity know no names.

I repeat that sequence some ten or fifteen times. Drive, enter, wait, leave, drive, knock, smile, leave, drive, and so on. Sometimes someone is visibly drunk, or abnormally nice, and it stays with me for the next delivery or two. At this point, with nothing clear in the future, I graciously accept an iota of kindness wherever I can find it, like a dog scavenging for a lost treat. Somewhere between an overlong time behind the wheel directly related to a singalong session in the haven of my Honda, I decide to go home, where I heat up some leftovers, and after having spent so little time with so many people, I sink into the couch and let the day wash over me. It’s not a bad life. It feeds something in me, my curiosity, my extroversion, my restlessness. But, I’m still hungry.

One evening, I take an order from Curry Up Now, a local chain offering decent Indian street food (on an admittedly flawed scale, if Trader Joe’s frozen Tikka masala is a one, which is underrating it, and Zareen’s is a ten, Curry Up Now is about a six) sometimes in the form of gimmicky mashups like naan pizza. I pick up the order without a hitch, but when I see I have to deliver it to Louis at the local Veterans Affairs, my heart sinks a bit. It’s far, and the food won’t be as fresh when I get there, so I feel disappointed at the faceless Louis on my phone for even ordering something for himself so inconvenient to begin with.

I make my way over and get lost. I pride myself on having a decent sense of direction, but the VA and its 40 parking lots constitute some sort of perverted labyrinth, where buildings have numbers but aren’t numbered, and there’s nothing to distinguish them. I’m supposed to go to X but I have no idea how to get there. I call Louis through the app, but he won’t pick up. I send texts and texts, and I get radio silence. Am I getting left on read by someone I’m delivering food to? So, I sit in the parking lot, alone and hungry, calling DoorDash service to find the quickest way to eat this meal without repercussions. They tell me to wait 30 minutes, and if I hear nothing after that, the meal is mine. I put on a podcast and let the countdown begin.

The food, now certainly cold, is filling my car with the aroma of saag paneer, garlic naan, and samosas. Just as the timer is going to run out, and I can treat myself to a Dionysian feast inside the prison that is my 2011 Honda Fit, I get a text from Louis. It’s frantic and apologetic and quickly guides me to his location. It was surprisingly easy to find.

I enter the sterile hall whose walls are decorated with war memorabilia and find myself among seniors, nurses and administrators. And right there is Louis, who sees my bag, calls my name, and makes his way over in his wheelchair. Louis is old, Black, and has no legs. He is probably hungry too, yet he still treats the petulant child who was about to eat his saag paneer with kindness.

“Is it good?” He asks me. “I haven’t tried this place yet.” 

“It’s one of my favorites,” I tell him.

Categories
Mucho Gusto

Nico’s Japanese Curry

This is the twenty-third installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Make if you have: Beef, vegetables, rice

La génération éperdue, and a Japanese Curry Recipe

One hundred years ago, the world was also changing. After weeks happening in decades, decades had finally decided to happen in weeks. A world war, a pandemic, and a new world order inspired the generation that took up residence in Paris and began their artistically unhinged lifestyle. It burned bright and fast, suffused with the knowledge that tomorrow is never a certainty. They became known as the lost generation. 

It’s too early to tell if our current situation will be as effective an artistic catalyst. But what is for certain is that there are times where the world seems more certain and times where it does not, and we live in the latter. 

It was already tough for us. We’re the generation that serves as the lab rats for everything from vapes to Snapchat to distance learning. Our experience is more valuable to society as a set of data, statistics detailing how our socializing is decreasing and anxiety is skyrocketing. All the while we’re expected to live a double consciousness, inhabiting an illusory world where we signal a work ethic that we adopt out of fear of falling behind in our cohort. Our true passions serve as the coal that fuels the fire of “the grind.” At least previous generations didn’t pretend that their work was anything other than that.

Not to mention the cataclysms we deal with on a weekly basis. One week it’s a planet on fire, the next it’s the casual proclamation of the death of 100,000 humans. And even when things aren’t rapturous, we make them out to be, because we know no other way to rationalize them. Things we see can’t be unimportant because that would imply that to most of the world, our lives are just as unimportant. 

On top of all of that, we saw any concrete future we had to hold on to dissolve in front of our eyes, like an Alkaseltzer in a glass of water. 

Add an “e” to the front of the French word for lost and you get éperdue, meaning “distraught.” From the lost generation you get the distraught generation. La génération éperdue. Full disclosure, I didn’t come up with that. I am not clever enough and also my French is not that good—it’s a compilation album by Yves Simon. But I still find it poignant, even if only for all the angst present in that phrase. But like, did I mention that the WHO predicts a mental health crisis pandemic as a direct cause of our respiratory health pandemic? 

We’re just as lost as Hemingway and his lot. All of our plans for the future are variations of the sundry journeys he and his friends and lovers took. Reading him at this moment is a bit cathartic if only how nice it is to see someone else just meandering through life. 

My Hemingway moment came to me in a plate of Japanese curry. It was noon, and the night before ended at 5am on the hunt for the evasive Uber that would take us through the streets of Paris to our homestays. We woke up surprisingly lucid and decided to go to Pontochoux, an 8-seat restaurant in Oberkampf that was suggested to me by Max, a kid from my Rhetoric class who swore he was from London even though he had an American accent and went to UChicago. 

The meal itself was a summation of all the ephemera that defined my time abroad. A careless saunter through the streets where the biggest problem never went beyond the question of where to eat. Late Uber rides to a nice bed in a good neighborhood. The most perilous situation was that time we doubled up on a Lime scooter and zipped alongside the canal to get home quicker in the rain.

I feel as lost now as I did then, the chief difference being that I don’t have access to good Japanese curry now. I also don’t have access to my friends, or any place to meet up with them. Sometimes, though, I just miss the curry. I miss how it simultaneously solved all of my problems. It wasn’t just curing my hangover, it was curing all loneliness I carried with me. So naturally I tried to recreate that.

I used Adam Liaw’s recipe. I didn’t have some of the ingredients and it made a difference so I’m going to include those which I didn’t use too. You start by taking a large hunk of beef that’s good for stewing (chuck roast works well). Count for about a third of a pound per person, and cut it into bite size cubes. Salt and pepper those chunks and put them in a pot of water so the water rises about an inch above the meat, and boil it. Once it’s at a boil, reduce it to a simmer, and skim off any scum that rises. Simmer them for about an hour, hour and a half.

While this is going, prep your vegetables. You can use anything that’s good for stewing, I used baby carrots (because we had no normal carrots), Brussels sprouts and broccoli, but I would use some potato or parsnip as well as some onions and mushrooms. Make it so you have roughly twice the amount of vegetables as meat.

When the meat is tender, dump your vegetables into the boiling water and let those cook for 15-20 minutes, or as long as they need to be cooked through. While they boil, you’re going to make a roux. This is the base for many many sauces and acts as a thickening agent. You do this by melting three tablespoons of butter in a pot and adding to that an equal amount of flour, and mixing it until the lumps are gone and the raw flour has cooked off. At this point you’re going to add your curry powder and continue mixing. 

Now you’re going to add in some of the stock you’ve been making with your meat and vegetables, one ladleful at a time, mixing after each ladleful to make sure all lumps are gone. Once you get the consistency you want, add in your seasonings, which are one grated apple, and one tablespoon of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce each. Once seasoned, transfer all your meat and vegetables into the curry sauce.

Coat the meat and vegetables in the sauce, and serve it over rice. This will taste great with yogurt, parsley, pickled onions, sesame seeds, or anything else you like on top.

Categories
Mucho Gusto

Nico’s Carnitas

This is the thirteenth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Make if you have: Pork Butt, Time, Tortillas

I served this at a super bowl party and it slapped. It’s easy, delicious, and teaches you the fundamentals of braising without much work.

3 lbs Pork Butt (bone in or not doesn’t matter – the bone adds nutrients but is a hassle so, up to you)

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp paprika

2 onions

5 cloves of garlic

1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

4 slices of orange peel (optional)

Salt and pepper

Tortillas, onions and cilantro for serving.

Start by taking a big, hefty pork butt (also called pork shoulder or Boston butt, shout out Boston), and if you’re trying to figure out how much to buy, get about a half pound per person. Play butcher and cut your pork into 1-inch cubes. Put those chunks into a pot. 

Roughly chop two onions, and throw that into the pot as well. Optionally at this point, take some orange peel (half- to a full-orange’s worth, depending on your taste), and throw that in the pot too. Oh, smash about 4 garlic cloves and throw those in there too. Sprinkle about a tablespoon’s worth of ground cumin and paprika into the pot, and add maybe a teaspoon of cayenne if you like it spicy. And never forget a hefty pinch of salt and maybe 6 good twists of black pepper, but don’t overdo it now, you can always add salt in later.

Fill the pot with water to the point where the water is just barely covering everything, and bring it up to a boil. A lot of scum is going to rise to the top, and while it’s perfectly safe, we like a clear braise, so feel free to scoop that off and toss it down the sink. Once it’s up to a boil, turn down your heat and simmer that for about 2-3 hours, no lid.

When almost all of the water has evaporated and the pork is cooked through and super soft, take out your pork with tongs and put it on a baking sheet or a casserole dish. Take two forks and shred apart all that meat, and drizzle it with a healthy amount, but definitely not all, of your delicious braising liquid. That stuff is liquid gold, it has all the nutrients and fat that was rendered out in your cooking time, and it’ll crisp up your pork nicely.

Broil that in an oven until it’s crispy on top, and then serve it on a warm tortilla, heated over an open flame obviously. For toppings, only finely chopped white onion and cilantro are allowed. And Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde.

Happy Cinco de Mayo, and remember, it commemorates the Battle of Puebla which was fought against the French forces when they came to imperialize in 1862—not Mexican independence. That’s September 16. Viva Mexico!

Categories
Uncategorized

Mucho Gusto Announcement

At Gusto, our mission is to connect people through stories about food. And it’s easier than ever to give in to the dread of isolation and forget that we are still part of a community. That’s why we’re starting #MuchoGusto, a recipe campaign where we want to hear what you’re cooking and build a collective cookbook that anyone can access.

It’s never been more important to be able to feed yourself. With #MuchoGusto, we’re going to be compiling recipes from our editors, staff, and from you, and we’ll feature it all on our Instagram page and website starting this Monday (April 6, 2020). If you have a recipe you’d like to share, DM us or email borbolla@bc.edu to get it published .

Eventually we hope to have a collection of diverse recipes that anyone can access. For now, remember to keep cooking, eating, and being well.

-Nico Borbolla

Categories
Features

Artifacts Of What’s To Come

How a BC alum created a new kind of cider for a new kind of world

Jake Mazar’s favorite apple is the Roxbury Russet. It’s a greyish, greenish apple, with a leathery skin. You’d expect it to be sour, but it’s sweet. Not an artificially engineered kind of sweet that Dole and Driscoll’s may dream of, but instead a soft, weathered sweetness. Another admirer of the Roxbury Russet is Nathaniel Hawthorne, who, in The House of the Seven Gables wrote, “But I suppose I am like a Roxbury Russet, – a great deal the better, the longer I can be kept.” Nathaniel Hawthorne was definitely a cider drinker.

Jake Mazar, CSOM ’08, decided to start a cidery after growing disillusioned with work in the consulting field. Together with childhood friend (and current Head Cider-maker) Soham Bhatt, who had been working in the biotech industry, he started Artifact Cider. “Something was lacking, and I wanted to do something on my own terms…we had a keen love of cider, something we’d been drinking for a long time, talking about for a long time. Soham started making some at his house in his garage, one thing led to another and slowly we decided to open up a company… and it’s kind of taken off from there.”

It begins, Mazar explains, with locally sourced apples. Once the blend is chosen and the apples are picked, the process begins to resemble that of wine-making. The fruit is crushed, pressed, and its juices begin to ferment, either with added yeast or with naturally occurring yeasts. It’s fermented for anywhere between a few weeks to a few months, and then aged until it is ready to be carbonated, canned or kegged, and finally consumed.

Given apple picking’s cultural ubiquity, it’s no surprise that cider culture has begun to reemerge in the Northeast. Due in no small part to the craft beer boom, where many have begun to shirk the Anheuser-Busch beverages in favor of locally-produced, small-batch brews, where cider has enjoyed a rebirth in the last ten years. As Mazar puts it,

“We’re interested not only what’s been done before, we’re interested in what can be done, what’s possible. Reinvention.”

And what serves as a better example of staying true to one’s roots while reinventing oneself than an apple itself? The Roxbury Russet has been in the Northeast for close to 400 years now, and it still manages to find new life every time it’s picked off the orchard, fermented for a bottle of cider, or regrown in a Massachusetts orchard.

Photo Courtesy of Jake Mazar
The Artifact Cider Orchard

Artifact’s name lends a bit of poignancy to this sentiment as well. Sure, the likes of John and Sam Adams might have enjoyed a Roxbury Russet some 250 years ago. They might even have had a glass or two of cider from those apples at the local taverns, taking gulps between discussing the merits of liberalism. So while cider, and the distinctly Northeastern apples that it can be made from, all serve as treasures of our past, they also remind us to look towards the future. I don’t think the Adams’ would have minded a blend of apples in their cider.

Although hard cider still makes up a mere 1% of the alcohol industry, the proliferation of cideries around the United States indicates that it’s not a flash in the pan, and has lasting value. Simply put, if cider can last 400 harsh New England winters, one could assume with confidence that it’s here to stay.

Artifact Cider can be found at Chansky’s Super Market and Gimbel’s Liquors.