Cooking in the city is like New York itself – crowded. Every television show about young people in New York, whether it’s Friends or Sex and the City, has given the rest of the world an unrealistic view of a young person’s apartment in Manhattan. My kitchen only fits one person at a time and my cookware is literally stacked to the ceiling. While I’m sure that Carrie Bradshaw would have a way to glamorize this most unglamorous truth, the reality is that for a good cook the size of the kitchen doesn’t matter.
But regardless of challenges and limitations, cooking is always tied to culture. Recipes are heirlooms of culture and people’s methods of gathering food representative of entire society’s ways of life. As a 26 year old in New York City, cooking for me has usually been tied to dating. For virtually every recipe stored in my mind I can think of a specific experience with a particular girl. There is of course overlap. Recipes that have been particularly successful with one girl have been produced for others. Why make everything unique for each girl when there is no harm in a little recycling?
Food is of course related to sex. In a simpler time the mere possession of food was probably enough to seduce even the most elusive cave girl. For better or worse the equation has gotten more complicated in modern times, but with the complication, opportunities for creativity have come. Men and boys need to evolve their skill sets to succeed with the demanding modern woman. So, my distant ancestor’s meat in a fire pit has become glazed 21-spice duck.
When choosing what to serve a girl you have to really think about your audience. Might she be a vegetarian? Does she only eat organic? Kosher? There is truly a lot of room for things to go awry. One thing I have found is that girls often like comfort foods. Things they wouldn’t make for themselves but that maybe remind them of childhood or some other positive association. By serving something comforting your guest will be more relaxed. The first girl I ever made my Mac & Cheese for showed up at my apartment dolled up to go to a party, but wound up in sweatpants and a t-shirt not too long after her first bite. Her name was Lauren and the year was 2006.
City Mac & Cheese
2 cups of Mascarpone Cheese
4 cups of whole milk
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of black pepper (or more if you like spice)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 pound of shredded cheddar
1 pound of shredded Swiss cheese
1 pound elbow pasta, cooked al dente
Grease a baking tray or tin heavily with butter. Glass is better than metal because the baked cheese sticks to everything and in my small apartment there is no dishwasher. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Mix the mascarpone, milk, mustard, salt and pepper together in a blender. Pour mixture into a big bowl and add the cheese and pasta. Mix together with your hands. Transfer mixture to the greased baking tray.
Bake covered with foil for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and add some extra cheese on top and bake for another 30 minutes without the foil. Remove from the oven and let it cool for at least 15 minutes.
Note: you can substitute in whatever cheeses you like. I have generally found that you want a hard cheese, but not too hard. I made this with Parmesan once and it was too dry. Cheddar is the right consistency.
Matthew Little was born and raised in New York City where he continues to work and live. Mr. Little graduated from Princeton University in 2005 and works in New York in the financial services industry. Matthew has no formal culinary training and was taught to cook by his mother.
The proceeds to the author for writing this article are being donated to City Harvest.
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