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Hello, space cases. Welcome to the season of Sagittarius, and to your attendant food horoscopes.
In the cosmos, Sagittarius contains an asterism no less rad than the Milky Way. Here on Earth, Sagittariuses and their season want to account for just as much of the landscape. Many Sagittariuses feel most at home in airports and cities. It’s hard to convince us to text back; we prefer talking on the phone all night long, on the rare chance you can get ahold of us to begin with. We are very disorganized! (If not literally at our desks, then in our quickdraw hearts.) If we don’t know you, we like you already. And we love parties, as much as we do going for a walk.
This Sagittarius season, it’s about right that you feel more experimental, investigative, and prone to hitting the streets. All the signs do—we just have different methods of discovery, and different outcomes waiting for us after we employ ’em. So: How will you have dinner? Your devoted (g)astrologer, herself a Sagittarius, has some informed ideas on what’s in season for you this December. I hope they feel, like a city or an airport or the straight-up Milky Way, appropriately unfamiliar to you, as well as all your own. As always, show me what you make by getting at me on Twitter or Instagram; the best way is to say #f52horoscopes.
Happy birthday, star archer. It might be that, recently, you’ve talked a big game about how you don't want to be pinned in one place for too long. (When is this not true, ya capricious centaur? Literally, you say this all year round.) For your birthday, here's a present in the form of a mental trick: It might be cool to think about the reality that you are, no matter what, expansive—wherever you are. So it's okay if you find yourself, despite the unpinnable mode you’ve convinced yourself is right, involved with one person, role, place, or feeling, or dinner plan.
Being interrogative and intrepid doesn’t have to mean running away from everything all the time. I should know: I am you, and I do that nonstop. There’s always somewhere or something, somebody that I’m trying to slip off to. I don’t realize that constantly hunting the next best thing (which I always assume exists) means ignoring what I stand to lose in that pursuit/abandonment. I need to realize that there’s plenty that I can discover that’s right here, close to the little kitchen where I’m typing this to you, and that’s exactly because I keep trying to get away from determining what my actual life in a given moment has in store (or can offer) in favor of other mysteries.
Everything stays half-lit this way—I’m looking at dim shapes, never the fullest picture—and then becoming frustrated when they don’t reveal all they thought I would, despite the fact that I only squinted at them for a minute, the wrong way, through a telescope.
Sometimes the present does just the trick. Hold a birthday dinner with your closest, oldest friends (and, okay, a new person or four—it’s your birthday, so do you, as if I could stop you). Ask a parent or grandparent for the recipe for a meal you’re extremely used to in a lifelong sense; there are steps to enacting it which you’re bound not to have known. Eat the food you decided was your favorite when you were four years old. Live inside the day-to-day that you know for a minute; for us, this is the most difficult kind of investigation there is.
Don’t worry, we’ll start planning for Nicaragua and New York and Tangiers next month. In the meantime: Examine the granular aspects of what is “familiar,” and it will become brand-new, I think. I hope. I hope, too, that you have a beautiful birthday and season, world wrestler.
Mercury retrograde will take place December 3-22. For once, this will affect you positively: You will be tugged toward activist and volunteer service, which is always a tight means of improving your life as you do others’. You can involve food: Nearly every holiday season, I have a party where I promise all my friends that I don’t care if they trash my house and make out on the coats on my bed so long as they leave a can or three under the tree.
One of the best feelings in the world is lugging those offerings over to the Unitarian church where I sometimes help out serving dinner. Give yourself that feeling, whether you organize an online drive, rally people at your office to have a bake sale benefitting Black Girls Code, No Kid Hungry, Oceana, or whatever your preferred spot is (and if you don’t have a fixed recipient, those are all great organizations!), or grant your friends frenching permission upon the price of admission (just a can of soup or corn). Give alms, sea goat.
My sweet intellectual, you are in need of a challenge. That’s fine, you’re up to it this season. You will enjoy becoming the master and commander of a convoluted, frankly ill-advised-to-any-other-sign kitchen project. Maybe you want to learn to flame? (That would impress a fire sign, if you’re looking for a date idea.) Or you could get deep into perfecting soufflés or risotto. Whatever feels hardest, do that, because then you get to know that you can! Find complication—you adore it.
You’re so inclined to be near your loved ones—your family and other beloveds—this season, so why not assert dominion over the holidays? It would feel so nice and hale to take control of the plan this season; you can host, and if you can’t, then at least you can cook. Plot a massive batch of sugar cookies, with one decorated especially per each guest with icing-based appreciations of their personality and tastes. (Like, for me, you might frost one in the shape of Cam’ron eating a ham, because those are my two favorite things.) Or just make a ham for everybody! Have you heard that those are great? If you’re not about ham for religious or ideological reasons, I think you should focus on food-based gifts—I love to give people the kind of fussy, upscale balsamic vinegar, beer cheese, or Zabar’s variety boxes that they’d never think to buy for themselves. Make people happy with food this season; however you do it, you’ll be happier, too.
Spanish Wine & Cider Vinegar
What a rigorous month—year—you’re having. It can all be a lot, right? Sometimes, you don’t even want to feel good—you just want to enter a different world, where things are easier and less intennnnnnnseeeee all the time. When I want to lobotomize myself, I read. Heartburn by Nora Ephron. My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. Nonfiction: The United States of Arugula by David Kamp. You could do a Julie-and-Julia thing, if that’s your bag, with Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, or The Food Lab, or join the Food52 Cookbook Club. I always find it so plucky and sweet when, after undergoing some grave crisis, a friend tells me he is “focusing on trying new things.” I nearly recite the end of the sentence with him: “...like learning to cook.”
Hey, ya astral steer: Do something interesting to a steak (or to a hardy vegetable that holds up well to searing or grilling, steak-style, like asparagus). You could make a cherry reduction for it, or use ginger. Get involved with maple, or spicy and sweet balsamic. Ask the butcher how’s best to proceed with an unfamiliar-to-you cut. Sagittarius asks that we rove the world to discover what it might reveal to us, but I’d like you to undertake a more internal scavenger hunt, which, since you’re always so connected to the earth as its own marvel, I feel is the least familiar terrain to you of all. Explore yourself. See what you are, and how you might be different, if you wanted to be. Eat some cow! (Or the vegetation a cow would eat, if you are morally opposed to the former idea.)
Do you know the neologism “cosmophage?” The writer Wayne Koestenbaum coined it to describe another writer, Susan Sontag. It refers to someone who wants to “eat the world,” aka do and be everything they can within a single life, aka that’s you. It’s good to remember that you don’t have to pick one prix-fixe life: Consume it all.
Look at everything you can have without feeling beholden to any one thing as superlative: Eat chicken parm, fried dumplings, ice cream sundaes with maraschino cherries and an XL scoop of strawberry, pork belly and edamame, cookies ’n’ cream Pocky, pancakes of all species, fresh pasta at two in the morning and all night long, sugared blueberries, just plain scrambled eggs, Diet Dr. Pepper in the morning, soup dumplings, french toast that’s more like custard inside, Champagne over a game of chess, old fashioneds, reheated Popeye's with a romantic comedy on deck.
I don’t believe in “having it all”—that’s greedy, especially when some don’t have anything—so let’s reassemble that thought. Have it all, which requires realizing that whatever you take in, that’s more than enough, for now. You have your whole lifetime to eat the world, so don’t distract yourself with what you could have done instead of whatever you’re doing. You will enjoy variety and abundance, and not just anxiously get through one thing to tick off the next.
My favorite Cancer is just now learning to cook, and she, of course, is most intently thinking of not individual foods, but overall techniques. When she told me about the lava cakes she just made with friends, she described what she did with flour, and specified that they went into the oven for “six minutes.” I asked her what she was concocting otherwise, and she said, “I’ve been the sous chef on poultry and vegetable dishes.” It was more important to her to tell me her role in the making than what, in the end, she made, which is pretty typical of your sign. Cancer. I love your proclivity for learning something new for the sake of the learning process itself, in a way that isn’t overly concerned with the final result, but with the moments leading up to it. You love understanding how to get somewhere, and Sagittarius season will absolutely ask you to take new routes, so you’re in luck. Adopt a new set of tricks that you can apply neatly across all different kinds of meals, like becoming proficient with knives, and see where it gets you—and, more important, the means and effort by which it gets you there. Get some direction in your life!
Virgo! Don’t sweat making it all up from scratch right now; you’re hella busy, and trying to arrange every little place-setting for a four-course home-cooked meal by yourself is just going to make you batty. I know: You still want to. There’s an in-between, though, to the kind of fussing you’d like to hurl at every bit of dinner from its grocery-bagged incarnation to what appears after hours of labor, and fast food. Look: Bring your fastidious eye and mind to “some assembly required” food-endeavors that are still, like you, elegant and well-considered. I’m thinking, as might be obvious by now, of a cheese plate!!!
How sick would it be if you took a beautiful, unique tray or platter of some kind—and I know this is the sort of thing you are likely to have, but if not, you can cop a beautiful vintage iteration at a thrift store for under $5 in most places, or playact “rustic” with a wooden cutting board—and worked with color, texture, and everyone’s favorite food like it was a collage? I put together my family Thanksgiving’s cheese plate: iIt fed 32, and my uncle John told me, at one point, that he wanted to “marry the cheese,” so I have some ideas here. I like to get one hard jammer, my top choice being Cypress Grove’s Midnight Moon, aka my favorite cheese of all time, to placate the cheddar zealots among the crowd. Then I get soft, like you might want to this season more generally. Get a sheep, a cow, a goat. Arrange small clusters of red and green grapes around your picks; make little placards for what each is. Get nice nuts—toasted almonds are ace, as are walnuts—and cheese straws arranged in a tall glass, and good crackers. There; you did it, and you barely did shit. Good work, inventor.
What’s the foxiest food? I’d argue nachos, but I know they might not be prestigious/glitzy enough for you all on their own. (Ya wrong, tho.) Leo, this season, you’d do well to take a standard-issue pleasure and elevate it to your specifications: Let’s make a spread of ritzy nachos, which are bound to impress anybody to whom you serve them, and not just because it’s your decorous ass that’s dishing them up. OK, what I mean by this is: Chips, salsa, very, very good cheese misused joyously as a melting agent, crema, limes, some slightly more complex protein like ropa vieja or barbecue seitan, perfectly refried beans, and specialty hot sauce. You could also make a mealtime-variant version, like breakfast or dessert nachos—how about some sliced pears with strawberry yogurt, chocolate-hazelnut syrup, and crushed walnuts? When it comes to nachos, I dream as big as I can. Do the same, ya hot lion.
My main Libra baby-baby, a world-class friend with staunch opinions that are just like yours only in that they’re ferociously all her own, is a very intent cook. (I once saw her, at a dinner party we were throwing together, throw a head of fennel at the wall because it was being disrespectful to her. Her fennel salad was still perfect.) I was intrigued, allured, and slightly terrified when she told me she’d taken charge of making dinner for the holidays—what glamorous horror would be wrought in the name of a roast and some killer vegetable sides? She hooked it up, of course. She roasted a duck and made a ragout with the giblets and the neck, and you know she wisely saved that duck fat to roast her potatoes in, too. This season, don’t let anyone shake you from your convictions, like my Libra friend who decided that serving turkey on Thanksgiving wasn’t the move, so to hell with it, duck if you buck. Whatever it takes to get there, you’ll manage a stellar result with aplomb. Just try not to throw too many ingredients, or else you’ll bruise them, which I know just won’t do for a talented dogmatist like you. Kick everyone out of the kitchen and make what you know you’re capable of, all on your own.
This season, you won’t have to relentlessly hunt satiation. Sometimes, improbably, good things find us easily, and that will be true for you in many aspects right now, including edible ones. You might find that you’re gratified by the foods that feel plainest to you, which, at different times, are dull. Things like daal, hamburgers, spaghetti, rice, and so on—baseline things—will feel revolutionary, pleasure-wise. Maybe it’s because of the holidays (they ride the tail end of your birthday season, when you are feeling particularly restive and fulfilled), but there’s no need to fine-dine it when your home already hosts what you need right now.
Tell us how you're feeling (and your sign), and what you're planning to cook up this month, in the comments.