When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when and where you want them.
Today: Roasted red peppers with a million anchovies, and a reminder to cook what you want.
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I watch as she spreads paper thin wisps of garlic onto grilled baguette, piles on slices of soft, sweet caramelized red bell pepper, presses down a circle of warm goat cheese, and drizzles the whole affair with brown butter drippings.
I hold my tongue. I just want her to take that first bite and say yum before it all comes crashing down.
If she does, I'll be ready with guess what’s in there? A million anchovies.
And she’ll say wow, mom, wondering why she has been close-minded for all of these years.
But my son just isn’t going to let this fantasy play out. He walks up to the kitchen table, points at the dish, and yells out that food is full of anchovies, I’m sure, and I’m not going to touch it.
I want to say dude, you used to inhale anchovies like M&Ms.
But I keep my mouth shut and watch the mama play that is my life. Spanning 11-plus years of eating together. Starring my two kids, some peppers, and some anchovies. A play that always ends differently. A play that I often overanalyze, rewrite, erase, bust apart. A play that I just need to learn not to touch.
I wordlessly spread some goat cheese on bread and drop it down onto my son’s plate.
I scoop up a pile of umami madness with my fingers, bypassing the bread, letting it run down my wrist, my chin, and shove it into my mouth. I let them see my joy.
And then I watch, wide-eyed with pride, as I realize that my girl is almost all the way cooked and ready for the world, as she looks up, smiles, and says: I’m sorry mom, I know you love anchovies, but I just don’t want to eat them right now. She scrapes every fishy scrap off of her peppers and inhales her lunch without a bit of fuss.
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut lengthwise into eighths 16 anchovy fillets, packed in oil 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced lengthwise as thinly as possible 4 ounces creamy fresh goat cheese, chilled A handful baby arugula, chopped
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.