The Momofuku Pork Bun was our first dish that consistently got this kind of reaction. It was an 11th-hour addition, a slapped-together thing. I took some pork belly, topped it with hoisin sauce, scallions, and cucumbers, and put it inside some steamed bread. I was just making a version of my favorite Peking duck buns, with pork belly where the duck used to be. But people went crazy for them. Their faces melted. Word spread, and soon people were lining up for these buns.
That became my yardstick: I’d ask, “Is this dish good enough to come downtown and wait in line for? If not, it’s not what we’re after.” A chef can go years before getting another dish like that. We’ve been lucky: Hits have come at the least expected time and place. I’ve spent weeks on one dish that ultimately very few people would care about. And then I’ve spent 15 minutes on something that ends up flooring people like the pork bun.
Believe me, nobody is more surprised about this than I am. Cooking, as a physical activity, doesn’t come naturally to me. It never has. To compensate for my lack of dexterity, speed, and technique, I think about food constantly. In fact, I’m much stronger at thinking about food than I am at cooking it. And recently I started seeing patterns in our most successful dishes that suggested our hits weren’t entirely random; there’s a set of underlying laws that links them together. I’ve struggled to put this into words, and I haven’t talked to my fellow chefs about it, because I worry they’ll think I’m crazy. But I think there’s something to it, and so I’m sharing it now for the first time. I call it the Unified Theory of Deliciousness.
“Everything familiar has disappeared! The world looks brand-new!” Hobbes says in Watterson’s final strip, and, certainly, my own world after coming out seemed brand-new, as well. But after the pain and loss, sometimes we find more beauty in the world than we ever expected. It really can be a magical world, after all.
For some, the act of writing about the body is not necessarily the inclusion of the body as a poem’s subject but the body as the vehicle for the poem. We see this perhaps most literally in performance poetry and the work of those who privilege breath. Think of how repetition recalls movement, dancing. Think of how good a rhyme feels in the mouth.
Sometimes I’ve wondered if my body isn’t often more empathetic than my brain—or maybe empathetic isn’t the right word. Maybe sympatheticis more accurate.
Maggie O'Farrell writes novels in which you can happily lose yourself. She is fascinated by women who refuse to conform, by the secrets withheld even from our nearest and dearest, and by the unpredictable, serendipitous nature of life, the way a chance encounter can change everything and come to feel inevitable. Her lushly emotional books are filled with strong characters and unexpected convergences and revelations that unfurl across decades and continents.
Real wagyu is so different from other types of high-end steak, be it USDA Prime, French Charolais, Scottish Aberdeen Angus, or Italian Chianina, that it might as well come from a different animal altogether. The incredible dispersion of fat is so particular and distinctive in this style of meat that almost anyone could tell real wagyu from the world's other steaks with a glance.