I had some successes in the kitchen this past week: I added a frozen banana to the milk-mixture for bread pudding, and it was phenomenal. I had some disasters: I made a couple of loaves of sesame and sunflower seed sourdough — a recipe I've made before — and I do not know what happened, but it just didn't turn out great. (I mean, part of the reason I made the sourdough was to have leftover bread cubes for bread pudding, and this'll be just dandy for that. But still. I was also envisioning some sandwiches.) I made molasses cookies — another recipe I've made a zillion times — and I guess I should have refrigerated the dough as it spread in the oven, and while the cookies are soft, they're very thin. More disappointment than disaster, although Kin does say he prefers them thin.

Even if my own cooking wasn't terribly remarkable this week, we had two amazing meals: one on Friday at Jo's Modern Thai and one last night at Good to Eat Dumplings. The former restaurant is a Bib Gourmand, and we did eat a couple of amazing dishes: the drunken noodles made with a local BBQ's pork was smoky and spicy and arguably the best drunken noodles I've ever had. The shrimp toast was also rich and buttery — made with pork lard, actually. The burger — what I ordered — had recently been selected by the SF Chronicle as one of the best in the Bay Area. But the lobster pad thai, while striking in its presentation, wasn't special. The fried catfish salad was weird. And the desert — I thought I'd confront some old demons and give rice pudding a try — was very very very very bad.

Rice pudding remains inedible to me.

I love rice, so it's odd that rice pudding is so triggering. But it's all bound up in all sort of childhood trauma — food-related and otherwise. And just the taste and the smell and the texture — even in this case with fresh mango and mango sorbet and a nice coconut cream — is too much for me. It just sends me right back to age 9, living with my aunt and uncle in England, going to school with my cousin, struggling to clean my plate at each meal, and being presented with a string of really horrid desserts as a "reward" for doing so.

When the host announced at last night's meal we were having sticky rice, I balked a bit. I wasn't ready for another culinary confrontation. But last night's rice dish was savory, and as such didn't bother me one bit.

Last night's meal was one of the most amazing food experiences I've ever had: a "ja ban bae" at Good to Eat Dumplings, a new Taiwanese restaurant (recently written up in The NYT). There were thirteen, fourteen, fifteen? courses in the meal — a take on a wedding banquet with very traditional Taiwanese food. (The sticky rice, served with shrimp came about halfway through and I was already painfully full.) The chef's speciality are her potstickers — hence the name of the restaurant: Good to Eat Dumplings — and they're stretched long and thin. More surface area to be crispy when fried. We also ate century egg and 17-month fermented mustard greens and 22-year fermented daikon; we ate soups and stews and bao and braises. Dessert was a candied peanut and coriander run-bing wrap with ice cream and cilantro. We took home a large brown paper bag full of leftovers, along with a second dessert — a cheesecake made from the charcoal roasted oolong tea that finished the meal. The host told a story about each food item in between each course, and it felt like we'd been invited to an actual family celebration.

I am really happy to be starting a new writing project that can focus on food, even though part of my work will be to think through the ways in which Silicon Valley today (and the food industry for almost a century now) wants to strip away this emotional component for something more highly engineered, replicable, scalable, gadgetized, convenient, and so on. I published my first recipe there this week, and I practiced a bit with food photography — something I definitely need to work on, along with my sourdough chops apparently.

I have three weeks before my next half marathon. This upcoming week is the peak of my training; this past week had me running 10 miles for my long run and restarting the speed work. It's been a quick ramp back up to high intensity, so I'll be glad to hit the peak and then taper back down again. And then really dial things back for the summer.

Audrey Watters


Audrey Watters


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