Here we are again in February, and another birthday. I was born in the Chinese Year of the Pork, so we feasted on David Chang’s slow-roasted ssam and a bevy of banchans.
Parents: “What would you like for your birthday?”
Me: “Oh, nothing, really.”
Parents: “Absolutely nothing?”
Me: “But maybe you could spend your whole day making that six-hour Momofuku ssam in NYT.“
And since they twisted my arm, I also suggested a flight of sauvignon blancs from Marlborough, New Zealand. My absolute favorites. Sister generously took charge of this part of the meal, making the daring choices to (1) include no New Zealand sauvignon blancs; and (2) include no New Zealand sauvignon blancs. She also set up a big blind tasting, a sort of sport that she really enjoys, perhaps in a way that makes her a little more unique in our family. (Aunty F: “I’m supposed to say where I think the wine comes from?“) For those of you who have never tasted wine with my family, this is the typical discursive pattern:
Father: “Hmm. Dry, light bodied, barely acidic, very French.”
Son: “Cello rosin in fifth–no, seventh grade; Robitussin; slightest note of Tutu’s jigsaw puzzle cabinet.”
Daughter: “Mmm. 91 points Wine Spectator. $17.99 on sale, suggested retail price $19.99. 60/31/9 blend. Delicious.”
And there we were, true to form:
Bottle #1: “Unoaked chardonnay,” pronounced my father, to great ridicule; he had been cooking for us while the rest were popping corks and learning about the sauvignon blanc tasting. Twist! It was an unoaked chardonnay. Well played, Father.
Bottle #2: “Jalapeno,” said I. “Highway 101. Graduate school.” Indeed- Californian.
Bottle #3: “Something Julia Child would drink,” said someone at the table.
“Or spritz on her curtains,” insisted someone at this keyboard. French blend.
What fun! We all thanked Sister, who by the way had included no New Zealand sauvignon blancs, which happen to be my favorite thing in the world and all I had asked for for my birthday, besides elaborate pork.
And speaking of the main event: the lengthy preparation, which involved a cup (sic) of salt, brought to mind the old “Auntie Maria Lani Cooks” sketch by the late Hawaiian comic Rap Reiplinger.
“…and then you cook the chicken at 850 degrees for one minute, or 5 degrees for four days.”
In this case, the glazed pork did both: a long, slow roast, then a rest, then a blast (“into lacquer”) under the broiler. When it came to the table, someone handed me a carving knife and a pair of scissors, but luckily when I tapped the pork’s crackly exterior with a chopstick and it kindly did the rest, melting away. It was so good that two vegetarians ate it and one wrote to Paris about the skin of the pig.
It really was a very nice birthday. Thank you all.