Food schmood.

A large Buddha sat serenely in the clearance section of a local home decorating store. A distant echoing voice seemed to shout, Zen for your home, marked down from $499.95 to only $99.95! The path to spiritual enlightenment has never been more affordable! Get it while supplies last! Buddha didn’t even blink.

I suppose I shouldn’t be critical, especially since I’m not Buddhist. However, I do wish they hadn’t set him so close to all the severely discounted December holiday merchandise. Then again it was one of the few times the market could humiliate baby Jesus, the Star of David, and Buddha side by side. With that kind of religious equality we may have a chance at world peace yet.

FlowersFasting is an integral part of almost every major religion and culture. It’s a common practice in Korea (at least among the older generation) where Buddhism and Shamanism thrived for so long. Christianity’s arrival added to the already ample fasting traditions. Once a year my mother does a three-day fast that she breaks with cooked ground pine nut gruel and bitter boiled medicines. She believes, as many Asians do, that fasting is a physical and spiritual cleanse. Most fasts among Koreans last three days or seven days, during which you can drink optional medicines and take fiber supplements. Some Christian Koreans even attempt 40-day fasts. My mother insists that after a fast her body feels lighter, she has more energy, and her voice becomes more powerful. I believe that fasting lowers your metabolism, wastes precious muscle mass, and encourages abdominal fat. Which it probably does.

But I also take modern medicine with a grain of salt. Those countless cultures and religions that have engaged in fasting rituals have survived without much apparent harm and still continue to fast regularly. Perhaps my mother feels better because of a placebo effect, but perhaps she feels better because, well, she feels better. I have never fasted in my life, even when I was ill. I have never been so poor that I couldn’t afford food. I have never been so busy that I couldn’t eat for 24 straight hours. I have never been anorexic. I am surrounded by almost obscene plenty in my home with its full cupboards and two refrigerators. I don’t know what hunger is.

As a food blogger, it’s obvious that I adore food. It’s because I adore food that I wonder what would happen if I not only removed food from my life for one day but removed all expectation of food from my life for one day. Of course, fasting won’t teach me what real hunger and poverty are like, but it will focus my mind and satisfy my curiosity about my body and my tolerance. If it cleanses me too, bonus! I never object to a good incidental cleansing.

February 14 could be the day I finally try it. Why Valentine’s Day? Well I’m single at the moment and—here’s the devious part of my plan—on the 15th I’m breaking my fast and buying flowers…on sale. On clearance! While education and enlightenment should never come cheap, it doesn’t hurt when flowers do. That plan may backfire if it turns out that flower prices go up due to post-Valentine’s Day “OH CRAP I FORGOT VALENTINE’S DAY!” bouquets with pre-printed cards that say:

Dear rocket hot _____,

You are so so so beautiful / handsome and your ass is so not too big / penis is so big. I’m dirt. Forgive me. Here are some extremely expensive flowers and a _____-studded scepter / _____-studded PlayStation 3.

With all my love,

I’ll take my chances. Don’t worry, I’ll have a nice food post for Valentine’s Day ready in advance. There’s no reason why you should go without too. Gluttony is still tied for my favorite vice.

And then the rivers ran with scallions.

You know you store too much stuff under the sink when your faucet suddenly squirts hot water around the seams and you frantically fall to your knees to pull out bottles of soy sauce, fish sauce, rice bran oil, olive oil, roasted sesame oil, perilla oil, chili oil, black truffle oil, black sesame oil, honey, dish soap, sponges, soju, peanut oil, more olive oil, canola oil, silver polish (so that’s where that was), rice wine vinegar, more soy sauce, pomegranate molasses, Barkeeper’s Friend, extra trash bags, salted anchovy sauce, etc., to reach the water supply valve so that you can shut off the water.

Braised ScallionsBut of course the knob won’t turn so you run off, knocking over sherry vinegar, to find something to force the knob, all the while having visions of the faucet exploding off the sink and unleashing a geyser into the kitchen that will form a steaming brook trickling down the stairs closely followed by swarms of locusts. Finally you find some pliers and with a fair amount of grunting manage to turn off the water. With a sigh of relief, you stagger to your feet and decide that you’ll wash all these oily bottles as long as they’re out. Then you remember that you shut off the water and can’t wash anything unless you want to take everything to the upstairs bathroom.

That’s when the frogs come.

Kidding, everything is fine. It turns out that the cold water can run without leaking, but hot water is a no-no until I can have somebody look at it, hopefully for free. In the meantime, consider the above story a reminder to clean out your fridge. My mother has the habit of buying scallions in ungodly quantities whenever she visits Chicago because Korean grocers sometimes sell them as cheap as eight huge bunches for a dollar. Even hungry Asians can eat only so many scallions a day before they go bad. What to do?

Braise them! Molly Stevens showers me with her love again. This startlingly tasty recipe comes from her well-worn and well-loved classic, All About Braising. You really don’t even need a recipe. Basically you stuff as many trimmed and washed scallions as you can fit into a dish with a little butter and water (stock will muddy the delicate flavors), some chopped tarragon or parsley, and salt. Bake, tightly covered, at 350 for 40 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat to 450 and roast until most of the liquid evaporates, shaking the pan now and then. Season with salt, black pepper, and lemon juice. One pound of scallions will shrink down quite a bit; the photograph depicts what used to be a pound of fairly thick scallions. The scallions make a great side dish to just about anything, especially roasted meats. You could even eat omit the butter and herbs and eat it with rice as a banchan (Korean side dish) if you drizzle a little roasted sesame oil over the scallions before serving.

Stevens recommends tarragon as the perfect herb, but I dislike buying expensive herbs that I grow free in the garden. Since my tarragon is currently black and frozen under five inches of snow, I went with Italian parsley instead. It was still silky, sweet, and wonderful. Come spring, when the tarragon revives and our scallions grow out of control, I’ll make this dish again…if the gnats and boils don’t come.

Does My Blog Look Good In This? YES!

Results are in! The four judges and I went through the 64 fabulous DMBLGiT entries and somehow managed to score them in Aesthetics, Edibility, and Originality without pulling out our hair in agonized indecision. But I’m not complaining—stiff competition is a very good thing. So without much further ado…

Drum roll…
DMBLGiT? pom pom girls kick a little higher please…
KitchenAids to 10…
Just a little more ado…
Okay, the fighter jets are a bit much…
Envelopes please…

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