Grok My Enthusiasm (25)

By: Deborah Wassertzug
June 29, 2016

One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars.

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meatballs

If I could taste them once more, just once — but having done my research beforehand, having narrowed down what the possible ingredients were, and with all senses set to perceive the nuances of their flavor, I might stand the chance to recreate them. Fried to a golden brown on the outside, nuggets of green (scallion?) and red (pepper?) interrupting the tofu white, they came four or seven to an order, and I always had them with the blaze-red spicy sauce, never the sweet. They nestled on a bed of lettuce, atop a mattress of chewy Thai black rice. Sometimes I’d add more spice. I always ate them with chopsticks. I never asked for more than the one scrap of napkin each customer was rationed.

I’d been a lifelong carnivore, never one to order a vegetarian dish – and certainly not repeatedly – at a restaurant. Was this when things started to change for me? Vegetarian meatballs with black rice, from RICE restaurant on Mott Street, circa 1999, are my madeleine – just the thought of them (because the taste of them is no longer possible) transports me to Saturdays of the late Nineties/early Noughts. My long-lost unhurried weekend life. Dance class at a studio that is no more, and calls on the lobby pay phone to arrange meetups, then: vegetarian meatballs at the counter on the take-out side. By evening, Internet dates, a finite but drawn-out series of encounters with dot-commers which eventually – thankfully – ended in a definitive merger. I’d steer my dates toward the restaurant side of the same joint, smug with the certainty that if conversation stagnated, my mouth could still come alive, the flavor of this food I knew just as well as I was, bite by bite, date by date, getting to know myself. The sauce always set my head ablaze – Sriracha cut with gunpowder.

Like someone jilted, lovelorn, I have searched for the recipe, and posted unanswered requests for it. I have searched for the name of the chef. These magical meatballs, at least for now, are gone, like the gossamer shimmer of the dot-com, like the simple pleasure of an affordable bowl of rice, tofu and spice, on a street now offering few pleasures within easy reach.

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GROK MY ENTHUSIASM: Rob Wringham on THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | Gordon Dahlquist on WEEKEND | Joe Alterio on MILLION YEAR PICNIC | Adrienne Crew on LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | Josh Glenn on THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | Alix Lambert on THE SKIES BELONG TO US | Adam McGovern on PENELOPE and CHAVEZ RAVINE | Rob Wringham on THE LYKE WAKE WALK | Mark Kingwell on NORTH STAR SNEAKERS & GWG JEANS | Gordon Dahlquist on FELLINI SATYRICON | Erik Davis on AH! | Devin McKinney on WHISPERING AFRAID | Mimi Lipson on 1973 SEARS ROEBUCK CATALOG | Jessamyn West on MOSS | Josh Glenn on THE SCOUT HOW BOOK | Brian Berger on SLACKER | Alix Lambert on ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS | Chelsey Johnson on MONOTREMES | Devin McKinney on THE BUTCHER COVER | Flourish Klink on ONE DIRECTION | Gordon Dahlquist on FULL METAL JACKET | Allegra Huston on CLOTHESLINE | Jenny Davidson on POWERLIFTING | Evan Narcisse on REZ | Deborah Wassertzug on VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS | Chris Spurgeon on WALLACE AND GROMIT | Mandy Keifetz on BENEFICIAL MICROBES | Annie Nocenti on MARKS ON WALLS | Molly Sauter on THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF | William Nericcio on LAND OF THE LOST | Dan Fox on “VOICE OF GOD” RADIO DJS | Brandi Brown on WIKIPEDIA TALK | Claire Lehmann on THE APPARATUS REVEAL | Alice Boone on COSTUME JEWELRY | Colin Dickey on WIDESPREAD PANIC | Anshuman Iddamsetty on THE FULL BODY PROJECT | John Hilgart on MAKING GRATEFUL DEAD ALBUMS | Rob Wringham on STEVEN UNIVERSE | John Overholt on DECKLE EDGES | James Hannaham on HABIT PATTERNS | Jessamyn West on THE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM | Adam McGovern on THE SPACE GIANTS | Brian Berger on MEDIUM COOL | Chris Spurgeon on THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT | Joe Alterio on TABLETOP WARGAMING | Mimi Lipson on TRASH PICKING | Jason Grote on CZECH CINEMA | Roxane Gay on AUTOMATED CAR WASH | Dan Fox on JULIA DAVIS | Amy Thielen on BINGO | Steph Burt on FEIJOA.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

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Enthusiasms

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