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By Hannah Howard

All day I taste, I eat, I ruminate on food. I write about fancy bologna, and pink, fizzy Lambrusco vinegar, and macarons that taste like a dream within a dream. I swig olive oil and weigh in on the lingering notes of walnut shells and wheatgrass. I scrutinize sheep-y, feet-y cheese from Portugal. I probe wrinkly olives from Nyons; they smell of the sea.

Happy New Year! I love new beginnings, clean slates, and a chance to reconfirm purpose. I want to live an even better food life, this year. A more joyful, more present, more genuine life in full-throttle flavor and texture and dimension. I hereby resolve to:

Cook More

In our go-go-go-go lives, it’s hard to find time to stop and smell the roses. Or, to stop and make dinner. But the rewards are so much greater than the sum of the parts (veggies, protein, perhaps grains or potatoes, some good olive oil, a few minutes).

The tactile experience–the mixing, spooning, slicing, dicing—is wildly therapeutic. Just give me a cutting board, a knife, some veggies and I’ll chop away my day’s worries.

We New Yorkers can Seamless the universe’s entire library of delicacies into our apartments with a click-click, but there’s nothing like taking some ingredients and metamorphosizing them into something you can’t wait to dig into. It’s so old-fashioned, so life affirming. The heat–sizzling, reducing, caramelizing–the act of creation.

And you can cook precisely what you crave and love. You are no longer at the mercy of some chef, some trend. I put obscene amounts of dried chili flakes and garlic and pecorino in my pasta, because that’s how I like it and no one can stop me.

Have People Over for Dinner

Breakfast, brunch, lunch will do, too.

In non-New York places, people do this all the time. In our city of shoe-box-sized living, we meet anywhere but home. I live in a studio, and I’ve had great dinner parties. This year, I will have more. That’s what pillows are for, flung on the floor. There’s something about packing your place with friends, laughs, roast chicken smoke, too many dishes in the sink, embarrassingly wonderful nostalgic music, shards of the deepest dark chocolate. This stuff makes a house a home.

Nothing brings people together the way cooking does. Start a big, bubbling pot on the stove and watch people congregate. Guests always end up in the kitchen, somehow. Even if it is a Manhattan “kitchen,” not quite a kitchen, a nook, it’s the source of the magic. If your home is a body, your kitchen is its heart.

Food is a universal language, a language of love, family, community, joy. Life. Humanity. So much promise from a pot of chili, or butternut squash soup, or rice pudding.

Make the Pilgrimage

To Flushing for hand-pulled noodles. To Elmhurst, just south of the LIRR tracks, for Taiwanese hamburgers. To Red Hook for fleshy Hometown Barbecue brisket, quivering and succulent. To Greenpoint for Paulie Gee’s beautifully blistered Neapolitan-style pizza. To Corona, for Tortilleria Nixtamal’s crunchy pastor tacos–the crispy pork bits cozy in their flaky-dense tortillas. To Pok Pok, of course, and the new Franny’s, and RedFarm, to Grom for almond gelato, and to the Lower East Side for Kossar’s Bialys.

Because I am stupid-lucky to live in this culinary Promised Land, and it’s worth a hike on the 7 train to bask in the profoundly generous goodness of Korean fried chicken wings, or fatty, ethereal soup dumplings, or Panaderia Colombian hot chocolate, or hot Turkish kebabs. What a glorious world.

Be Mindful

At Fairway, we have these paprika-dusted potato chips from Anavieja, Spain that are clearly crack. A job perk of mine: an abundance of wonderful, wild foodstuffs. Prosciutto di Parma aged seemingly forever in cool mountain air. Chocolates from the Perigord, flecked with golden ginger. Sweet, sweet Spanish clementines. Alsatian spaetzle. Butter waffles (gaufres) from Flanders. Olio Santo, sanctified hot chile-infused extra-virgin olive oil from Western Sicily. Still-warm, drippy, soft mozzarella.

Sometimes, I find the office stash, and then discover the stash a mere memory. I don’t want to abuse these foods by consumption in a brutish, thoughtless hand-to-mouth stupor. They deserve to be savored, every ounce of joy extracted, relished to their fullest. That’s my plan for this year, in food and in life!

 

Featured image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Hannah Howard

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