This was inspired by reading RELISH: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. This is the February-March pick for our online Cook the Books group. Simona of Briciole picked this graphic novel for us.
I don't think I've read a graphic novel since I read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi nearly a decade ago. And I had never heard of Lucy Knisley, so I was excited to dive in. I initially ordered the kindle version of this book, but the graphic novel didn't translate well to that format. I couldn't read it or enlarge the images. Boo. But I happily ordered the physical book and devoured it in an evening.
RELISH is part memoir, part cookbook - all presented with Knisley's signature drawings. This is a fun book about her childhood, growing up in a household surrounded by good food. She poses the questions: "How could I ever remember my childhood best friend without bringing to mind the sour taste of buttermilk simultaneously gulped without the benefit of being able to understand the packaging? Taking my vitamins in the morning reminds me of the sweet, chalky taste of the jar of Flintstones I snuck, in an act of delicious medicinal rebellion eaten like candy, inches from the television screen" (pg. 2).
She recalls "[her parents] grew up to discover food outside the realm of the American standards they had grown up with, and renounced the processed foods from their pasts. They resolved to shield their only daughter from such things" (pg. 42). And Knisley knew not to mention to them that she had eaten cereal with marshmallows, boxed macaroni, pizza pockets, and instant mashed potatoes at her friend's house.
I absolutely adored her illustrated CHEESE CHEAT SHEET, breaking down the complicated cheese categories. "I'm complicated, but awesome," says one of her favorite cheeses, Cantal. I loved her six totally amazing things she learned about cheese...
Alpine cheese are the ones that come in wheels, so they can be rolled down the mountains where they are made.
A lot of cheese isn't vegetarian. A curdling agent known as 'rennet' is made from animal products. But there is such a thing a vegetable rennet.
Aging cheese breaks down lactose, so most aged cheeses can be eaten by lactose intolerants.
Most cheese rinds are edible - yummy even! But they are where you'd most likely encounter listeria or cheese mites. "Prove you're hard core...eat my rind!"
Blue cheese is a special type of mold that can actually spread to other cheeses...like a zombie cheese!
Due to the popularity of European cheeses, many of their dairies got overrun and the cheese suffered.
And each chapter is bookended with a fun recipe, including Shepard (Fairey) Pie, The Way Mom Makes Mushrooms, Huevos Rancheros, and more.
But I was most inspired by her chapter 'On Foreign Soy.' She narrates when she went to visit her friend Drew who had moved to Japan. She reveals that "no place has ever made me feel as foreign as Tokyo" (pg. 88). And just the one week in Tokyo was enough to make her feel completely overwhelmed. "I ate weirdness and drank strange. Like learning to eat all over again. A culinary cultural rebirth. When we eat...we take in more than sustenance. Eating pulled me into unknown territory, with undiscovered danger and delight " (pg. 95). To me that chapter embodied why I travel.
Being allergic to soy, she took care of what she ate. She remembers, "Searching for non-soy foods, I came upon sweet, soft comforting mochi" (pg. 88). That sent me in to the kitchen to share our process for Daifuku Mochi.
¾ cup Mochiko (glutinous rice flour/sweet rice flour)
¾ cup water
¼ cup organic granulated sugar
½ cup cornstarch
1½ cup red bean paste or anko
Combining mochiko and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk all together. Pour in the water and mix until well-combined. Add water and mix well until combined.
Spoon the mixture into the top of a steamer with the water simmering below. Cook in the steam for 15 minutes until the mochi changes from white to almost translucent.
Cover the work surface with parchment paper and dust it generously with cornstarch. Transfer the cooked mochi on to the work surface.
To prevent from sticking, sprinkle more potato starch on top of the mochi. Once it’s cooled down a bit, use a rolling pin to create a thin, even layer of mochi. Using the cookie scoop, scoop out anko (red bean paste) on top of the mochi wrapper.
Pinch the four corners of the mochi layer together to wrap the anko. Then pinch the remaining corners together to enclose the red bean paste.
Put some cornstarch on the seam and set on a serving platter. Continue until all of the wrappers are used.
Cut out circles with the cookie cutter. With leftover dough, shape into a ball and re-roll. We ended up with a dozen circles.
Store in a cool, dry place and enjoy within two days.