We cannot bee.

I’m cheating. The lily photograph here doesn’t quite represent today’s topic, but when I walk by them bobbing along the roadside, they always trigger my happy memories of flower sucking. Flower sucking sounds like an obscure sixties bong game, doesn’t it? Puts Flower Power in a whole new light. Groovy.

There’s an orange flower similar to this lily that, unlike the one pictured, can be pulled out of its stem. If you suck the tubular base of the flower, a sweet drop of nectar coats your tongue. As a kid, I sucked a lot of flowers before I stumbled on this mother lode. It’s fun as long as you don’t suck too hard and inhale the stamens, not that I’ve ever done that and coughed for ten minutes straight. No sir.

Flower sucking might be a popular pastime for many people, but I wouldn’t know because when I was a kid I believed that my friend Jennifer and I invented it. We were kids. Everything we did, we did first, and if you told us otherwise, you risked breaking our hearts. Most of the time we sucked field clover‘s countless tiny tubular petals because of the clover’s long season and its abundance in empty lots. The amount of nectar in clover didn’t come close to the amount you got from the rarer orange flowers, but that was okay, the tease of sugar kept us going.

orange lilyOne day we realized that we could do something that nobody had ever done before or even thought of doing before: We would collect all this free clover nectar to make homemade honey. Genius. People at school would be talking about it for decades. Why, we’d revolutionize the honey industry! Jen’s mom walked into the kitchen to find a gigantic pile of weeds on the kitchen table and two grubby girls bent over an empty yellow margarine tub. I imagine that bugs from our haul were crawling all over her clean floor.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

Jen, carefully squeezing one of the tiny clover petals in the tub, sighed deeply. “We’re making honey, mom.”

Only my manners kept me from adding, “Duh.” But I may have rolled my eyes.

The plan bombed. The sweetness that we pressed out onto our tongues under our teeth wouldn’t squeeze out into something that we could see. The margarine tub mocked us with its empty hugeness waiting to be filled with our bounty. We couldn’t even get our fingers damp. Our brilliant dream died and withered like so many dismembered purple clover heads.

Score: Man 0, Nature 1


bullet Food whores d’Å“uvre recs
Very cool fried elderflower in Munich, from the gorgeous delicious:days.
A roundup of recipes and photos using flowers, from the always-thoughtful Tigers & Strawberries.
bullet Tip du jour
Rose petals are edible and make a lovely garnish, but nearly all roses for sale have been heavily sprayed with pesticides. Stick to roses from your garden (if you’re lucky enough to have one) unless you have a safe source.

Risotto: the awkward deflowering.

Many food blogs publish breathtaking accounts of unique culinary creations featuring magnificent ingredients prepared with celestial perfection. Will my food blog do the same?

Nuh uh.

It’s not that I don’t have some instinct; most days I have enough knowledge to avoid boneheaded cooking mistakes. Then there are days when, like a repressed 21-year-old girl set loose at the docks after guzzling five screwdrivers on an empty stomach just seconds before the ships come in, I quickly find mistakes outnumbering dizzy spells on a hungover morning.

My first time with risotto was supposed to be special. Foodies practically write love sonnets for risotto dishes. Something about that romantic Italian spirit sneaks into the blood via the starch, I think. Bachelorettehood discouraged me from trying my hand at risotto because who makes risotto for one? Experience with leftover paella taught me that arborio rice dishes don’t reheat well. Google results for solo recipes gave me the impression that if you tried to order risotto for one at a restaurant, the kitchen would go bonkers, maybe even storm the dining room and take hostages. Nonetheless, I spent the last few months studying risotto recipes and working up the nerve to scale them down to use a mere half cup of rice. I even bought a little pot that I dubbed “Annie’s Wee Risotto Pot of Defiance.” Could it be done? Would my stove explode? Would Italy write me a polite but firm letter condemning me to death?

scallop risottoJust as I was about to take the plunge blind, coincidence dropped a used book order on my doorstep: Cooking For Yourself (Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles, Vol. 12, No. 20). Every page excited me more and more until–wouldn’t you know?–my hungry eyes landed on “Saffron Risotto with Scallops.” I immediately bought bay scallops and clam juice. Nothing would stop me from making risotto for one now! Then my mother told me that she loved scallops, so I made risotto for two. Irony has a gift for finding me that way.

I-shoulda-known-better #1. It was hot. I was sticky. My shorts, too big around my shrinking waist, kept sliding down, and a belt would only have added to the heat. Impatience made me sauté the scallops in a pan so small that they simmered instead of browning. Result: bland scallops.

I-shoulda-known-better #2. I accidentally let the scallion whites and minced garlic brown, not sweat. If only they had switched places with the scallops! A voice in my head told me to stay away from the large burner, but I couldn’t hear it because the other voice in my head was screaming at my shorts. Result: a slightly bitter caramelized flavor that overpowered the delicate scallops and saffron.

I-shoulda-known-better #3. Wanting vegetables, and too cranky to make a side dish, I added peas. Result: the strong green flavor worked to overpower the mild seafood flavor as well.

In retrospect, I should have stuck to the missionary position of risotto–stock and Parmesan–rather than clam juice and saffron. Cheese would have intensified the creaminess, and the whiteness of the risotto would have been more, well, risotto-ish. Instead I served a golden dish to my mother, who looked dubiously at the rice that I claimed was Italian yet looked suspiciously similar to a thick juk (a boiled Korean rice dish). Her instincts kicked in and . . . she grabbed a pair of chopsticks and pulled kimchi out of the fridge.

“What are you doing?” I asked, suddenly terrified. If anything can trigger the equivalent of a fatwa from northern Italy, eating risotto with kimchi is it.

“It’s rice,” she explained.

Fortunately, after the first bite she realized that the kimchi wouldn’t work with that taste. The texture seemed right. I had successfully produced a creamy al dente risotto. The flavors, on the other hand, didn’t wow either of us. It needed something. It didn’t need kimchi, stock, or even cheese. It needed care. The kind of care that only a non-sweaty cook wearing properly fitted short pants can provide.

Well the first time can’t always go well. Nerves always settle for round 2, right? I’ll appease Italy yet. I have my small pot, I know the approximate liquid to rice ratio, and I have the technique down. I’ll pull out the chicken stock and pay a pile of money for Parmigiana-Reggiano and do it right next time.

See? I do learn from my mistakes. And this time I learned that the secrets to good risotto are wearing tight pants, taking it slow, and flashin’ the cash. And hey, if I’m really good, northern Italy might send me flowers the day after.

Corny justifications.

Braces cost $3,000, cause agonizing pain for two years, chafe the insides of your mouth, require acrobatics to clean, and even after all that you must continue to wear retainers every night for fifty years until you finally reach the sweet, sweet release of dentures, all just to keep your teeth starlet-straight and snaggle-free. Is all that pain and effort and money worth it?

corn on the cobcob with no corn


“Peaches & Cream” bicolor corn from the farmer’s market. My teeth glided through row after row quicker than a typewriter. It’s not prime corn season yet, but at three husk-covered bundles of milky joy for a dollar, I won’t complain.

Cost of three perfectly eaten ears of sweet corn for breakfast: $3,001.