Vanessa Chang
(A Glutton with Brains)


a glutton with brains

Angry Crabs and Golden Crescents


I've always had this habit of playing with my food. Oh, it was never a question of whether I would eat it—not a bite would be left on my very large plate. But not until I had constructed a reality for the portrait in  the mashed potatoes. A purpose for the impromptu puddy of pulverized short-grain rice between my fingers. And even in adult life, a sub-conscious Freudian slip at the table, involving a slice of raspberry cheesecake eaten down to a solitary tower and flanked by two rosettes of whipped cream.

More recently though, a trip to the patisserie sparked the latest inspiration for mental play. The kind that you reserve for gazing at the clouds and sky. A phalanx of petite croissants four deep in the case stared me down with their buttery sheen.

One night, my friend Romina, Queen of the Kouing and owner of the patisserie, let me come over to help out in the kitchen. Well, actually I didn't do much. I like to see my role more as moral support than anything. But I was able to weigh out flour and sugar. Even fondle a kouing aman or two.

But when she unwrapped an unctuous beige mound, I could smell it. The croissant dough. Yeasty and buttery. It's magic the way she can sing along to all the '80s tunes on 101.9FM, carry on a conversation, and cut perfect triangles of croissant dough. She weighed each out to ensure egalitarian results (croissants for all). Then, she handed me a few of the triangles and said, "try it."


I watched as she gently tugged outward at the base corners and started rolling toward the fine point. These points curled up, smiling back. She gave the whole thing a good "smoosh" with her fingertips to make the outline softer. She deftly placed hers on a tray.

I tried to follow suit. And my clumsy left-handed technique yielded one good rolled croissant to Ro's four. By the time we finished the batch, I got the hang of it, in so far as me not mangling the poor things. But Romina told me they looked "fine." She's a very good friend...

They sat on the tray waiting to be covered with the industrial plastic wrap.  They still needed a few hours of "beauty rest" to unleash their full potential. The dough, the layers, everything looked alive in definitive and sharp lines. More than half moons, it reminded me of angry crabs bearing their scowls and aggresive claws perched close to their plump armor. The look didn't beckon a "come hither." It was a distinct "you lookin' at me?!?"

I'm happy to report that I don't actually "play" with the baked results. I don't march them sideways, have them joust, or send them on kamikaze missions into small tubs of jam. But, sometimes...I don't know, MAYBE they were baked in cozy conditions 'cause I swear, I SWEAR a flaky "claw" just waved up at me.


Then I snap back to reality. And remember that they're simply the golden crescents described in so many cookbooks.

Except for this one...


It reallly looks like Australia. (I ate Tasmania.)

UncategorizedVanessa Chang