How to Cook Right Now
Summer 2020

Good morning. It’s spring in New York these days, and I’d like nothing more than to swing up to Maine in the family sedan for an extended fishing trip, bopping from roadside diner to fruit stand, munching on overcooked home fries and thrilling to last year’s apples, feigning a genuine understanding of what it’s like to live like an average American.

But instead, like anyone who lives on one of the coasts and enjoys a steady salary and decent benefits, I’m holed up at home with my stable, nuclear family, doomed to write “newsletters” to you, dear readers, when you and I both know nothing new is going on.

It’s not just that I can no longer immerse myself in the gritty underworld of subsistence fishing for an afternoon, or claim hard-earned cultural understanding by recommending blog posts written by real-life southerners. This virus quarantine thing has cut me to my butter-basted core. We all know my embellishment of banal road trip fare is enough to cause the weak among you to drool over your glowing iPads. Like that time I described my gas station burrito warmed in the glovebox and smothered in homemade kimchi I brought for just such emergencies. Try that with a slash of mustard.

But how can I possibly recount new life-changing encounters with truffle-infused lobster bisque when I can’t visit my restaurateur friends over in The Village? And how can I entice you with a fresh dispatch about the rip-roaring conversation I had over a smoking rack of ribs at that barbecue joint I stumbled upon during a “work trip” to Florida, when we all know I can’t leave the house except to walk the dog?

I can hear you now, oh readers, reminding me sweetly that I’m usually the first to suggest that in these dark times, cooking good food for loved ones is our only true remedy. And you’re (I’m) right: as with all downs in life, there are good things that come with this sheltering at home business, too.

For example, although I’ve always said you can get in touch with me at, it is only in the last couple weeks that I’ve finally been able to furlough those goons who ordinarily answer my mail at that address. In fact, I’ve never been more caught up responding to your questions and comments than I am now.

And on that note, I’d like, today, to write an open response to Hillary in Nebraska, who penned me this week wondering about substitutions she could make to my recipe for gochujang scallion pancakes published in last month’s Food & Drinq section.


As you mention, finding some ingredients (You call them “obscure;” I call them “essential.”) in the middle of this great country is sometimes a challenge. Walmart has yet to capitalize on the untapped market for such staples as shrimp paste and sorghum vinegar. However, I do believe that in this, the Age of Amazon, you could trouble yourself to source a few of these ingredients yourself. Barring even that minimal level of commitment, I’m afraid I must warn you that any substitutions you make will alter my recipe in ways that will likely be completely intolerable to a refined palate (though you and your church friends may find the result just as scrumptious).

With that in mind, I suggest you substitute yellow onions for the scallions, use a squirt of ketchup instead of a dollop of gochujang, and forego the rest of the ingredients altogether. Since you have no mandolin (and no, I do not refer here to the musical instrument, although I can assure you the sound of slivering scallions is music to my ears), I suggest you just give the onions a rough chop. Fry those babies up and top with the ketchup and you’ve got a meal fit for someone who doesn’t own a mandolin.



Now it’s got nothing to do with cassoulet or Bordeaux, but be sure to give our very own Henrik Oaf Harvårson’s new book a shot. It’s called My Cultural Revolution, and we’ve got an excerpt here. Brace yourselves.

Don’t forget to visit us on the ‘gram for exquisite photos and films of the fantastically time-consuming cooking projects we know you’re too tired to tackle yourself. And we’re on Twitter, too, where we bring you recipes written as extended threads of frustratingly short installments, sprinkled with typos and infused with the subtle anti-Rust Belt sentiment you know we do best.

That’s it for me. I’ll be back on Wednesday with another no-recipe recipe to get you through hump day (hint: stock up on rose water, clean your candy thermometer, and be sure your food scale battery is charged).

Tom Fissan
Food & Drinq Editor at Thinq | + posts

Tom Fissan lives and (sometimes...grudgingly) cooks with his family in New York City.

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Summer 2020

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