Sunday, January 25, 2009


My family was in town last week and on Saturday we went to Peter Luger, a wood-paneled steak house next to the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn. There were plates of hash browns, bowls of creamed spinach and pitchers of mahogany-colored steak sauce. The slabs of bacon, plopped down on our plates by an appropriately uninterested waiter, were simultaneously crisp and tender. The porterhouse steak arrived sizzling and the “shlag,” a thick pillow of whipped cream that accompanied the key lime pie, was divine.

I have been a vegetarian in the past. I shunned flesh for a few years back the heart of my awkward teenage phase, straddling the transition from junior high to high school. I don’t really remember why I decided to stop eating meat. I think it had to do with learning the source of foie gras, or perhaps it was about veal. It had to do with rebellion, too, and the knowledge that my choices at the table could say something, even if I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. It certainly stuck with some people. Members of my extended family to this day, over a decade later, still ask me with their eyebrows raised: “So, Molly, are you eating meat yet?”

I also don’t remember why I later halted the vegetarianism. But I do know that it was on a cool fall afternoon in suburban Boston, circa 1997. It had something to do my friend Ashley, McDonalds, and a chicken sandwich. Perhaps I just remembered that I like meat.

Peter Luger's Steak House is a place for people who like meat. And we ate a lot of meat that night last week. The porterhouse – a tenderloin and a strip steak separated by the thick, T-shaped bone – was served, sliced and glossy pink-in-the-middle, with a spoonful of buttery pan juices. The bacon was slathered in sauce. We took some of the leftovers home with the intention of eating them for lunch the next day.

But the next day around noon we took the bag from the fridge and opened it. I could smell the salty fat, the thick flesh, and the buttery pan juices. I closed it again. Sometimes, meat and I? We just I need a break.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


I am sitting in an unfamiliar apartment. There is the hiss of a radiator, the clunk of shoes on the stairs outside. Through the window next to the kitchen table, where my mug of now-cold coffee sits, I can see pigeons and a light flurry of snow. The scent of both diesel and sweet-roasted nuts; the crowded, delayed Q train and the piles of discarded Christmas trees on the sidewalk scream it out: I moved back to New York. I am still getting used to the newness of it all.

It’s been a while since I last wrote, despite my promise to do so more. Between travel and freelancing, holidays and packing, I haven’t had much time to myself.

I did bake a cake, though, on a cold December morning before Christmas. It was a gingerbread cake: Moist, spicy, and studded with hunks of Bosc pear. It smelled sweet and rich. Familiar. We ate it warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream while watching a movie on a Monday night. We ate it cold, for breakfast one day and for lunch the next. It was gone before I realized that I hadn’t taken a picture. But it did make rounds through the Internet, leaving many beautiful images in its wake.

Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake
From Gourmet, October 2008

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (not robust or blackstrap)
3 large eggs
1/4 cup grated peeled ginger
1 Bosc pear

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan, knocking out excess.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.

Melt butter with water.

Beat together brown sugar and molasses with an electric mixer until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well. Beat in flour mixture at low speed until just combined. Add butter mixture and ginger, beating just until smooth. Pour into cake pan.

Peel pear and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Scatter over batter. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly.