Best of 2023

The Backstory Cookbook: For Those Who Actually Prefer the Long Story About Why Food Is Essential Instead of Actual Recipes

Hard Boiled Egg
Growing up in Tuscany, you learn much about life, about food, about sunlight. I grew up in Whitemarsh, PA, the home of living within 40 minutes of Philadelphia. Oh how I longed to smell something not tainted with creosote or poisoned by a mother’s unmedicated disappointment.
½ gallon water
1 egg
Boil water until you see bubbles without lying to yourself.
Add 1 egg. Boil for 28 minutes, or the length of 47 TikToks.
Serves 1

Happy Hour Improv
You’re having some friends over! It’s a Saturday afternoon. You’ve all been out doing errands, visiting parents, playing softball, getting high. Now it’s a beautiful sunset and everyone needs to celebrate. Or commiserate.
In the old days, your parents and neighbors would call this a “potluck,” but for fun, since we’re improvising the contents, and since the biggest moochers are always the actors who are friends of friends, this menu is an improv.
1 14 oz (396g) bag of potato chips, the kind nobody likes
4 lbs leftover Halloween candy, 6-9 months old
What’s found under the car seat
Things from the last place you were – parent’s table, friend’s fridge, work lunch room or Keurig station (sugar, non-dairy creamer, non-sweetened sweeteners, boiling water, printouts of confidential reports)
Expired avocado
Drugs, edible or swallow-friendly only
Serves 30. Aim for 9.

Fried Gnocchi with Basil and Shredded Tarragon Chicken
But first, let me tell you a long story about how I almost became Elena Ferrante. It all started (cont., pp. 698-851)

Mrs. Bloom’s Bloomin’ Onion
Note the meanderings of some purling rill as it bubbles on its way, fanned by gentlest zephyrs tho’ quarrelling with the stony obstacles, to the tumbling waters of Neptune’s blue domain, mid mossy banks, played on by the glorious sunlight or ‘neath the shadows cast o’er its pensive bosom by the overarching leafage of the giants of the forest.
1 crescent of water biscuit
8 onions
2 gallons canola oil, previously used to fry fish
2 lbs breadcrumbs made from leftover Catholic wafers
2 lbs breadcrumbs made from baguette left behind at Shakespeare & Co in Paris
¼ shamrock, finely minced
High falutin stuff
Many other things, all boiled and mashed
Put the water biscuit aside; nibble it thoughtfully as you begin to slice the onions. Heat the oil to an unsafe bubbling. Mix other ingredients. In a deep bowl, coat onion slices. Place coated onion slices, as ‘twere, in the peerless panorama of Ireland’s portfolio, unmatched, despite their wellpraised prototypes in other vaunted prize regions, for very beauty, of bosky grove and and undulating plains and luscious pastureland of vernal green, steeped in the transcendent translucent glow of our mild mysterious Irish twilight that mantles the vista far and wide and wait till the glowing orb of the moon shines forth to irradiate her silver effulgence. Or until the oil completely burns away in the pot. When it smells like hell, ready to serve. Drain on old copies of the Paris Review.
Serves 12, but most can’t make it past the first helping

Have you ever rescued a puppy? Not gone to the shelter and chosen a rescue pup, I mean actually rescued a puppy, like from a burning building or a flood or a bad marriage? I haven’t either, but I bet it’s a great feeling. Then you have to find a home for it, but now it’s a celebrity. Better yet, I would be too. People would want to talk to me. “Hey you’re that person who saved that puppy! Can we hang out?” That would feel good. Really nice.
Select a large bowl, Starbucks mug, or Bundt pan.
Add cereal to top. Do not close bag for next person. The next person is you.
Add milk to top of bowl.
Serves 1

Midnight Snack
You know how it is, some nights you get in late; You’re out supporting your friends’ bands, or having a terrible date, or trying to connect with the bartender at the bar where my friend’s band was playing after I failed to connect with my friend’s sister (which is the real reason I came out to “support” Expired Avocado in the first place). Now it’s three in the morning, I’m – I mean, you’re drunk, you can’t sleep, and there’s no one to text appropriately. I like to unwind with a good “X” doom scroll and a classic midnight snack sandwich.
14 slices bread, preferably stale white
1 cup Miracle Whip
15 slices Oscar Mayer bologna
8 slices American cheese
While the bread is toasting, go into a reverie about how you lost your one chance for love and now pass each day, each night alone, until one day everyone who would remember you is dead and you shuffle painfully on two scraping knee joints, your world reduced to one room where you will die alone, unloved, unnoticed. You remember the touch of skin, the words you should have said, the thoughts you had no reason to think. You know exactly where your love literally lies, asleep, not alone, never thinking of you any more. After 20 minutes, snap out of it and notice the toast has popped and is now cold. Using 2 slices apiece, make 7 sandwiches. Eat them all. Choke them all down as a metaphor you cannot quite name.
Serves 1 right