I had just made beef stew with lemongrass and star anise, a recipe from Andrea Nguyen’s cookbook Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, a stellar and informative book that’s made Vietnamese cooking more accessible to me. As such a few of her recipes have become my own and are now a regular part of my everyday repertoire – simple for me but often seemingly fanciful for guests as if I had spent the day scrounging through Little Saigon.
Now for the most part I try to pick out the bay leaves, lemongrass stalks and star anise, but in the thick stew it’s easy for a few points of the anise to become lost within a sea of savory juices.
I’m usually good at warning people about things like chunks of galangal and so on, but every so often I forget due to being lost in fragrant bliss or because I’m wolfing down the food like some meat-starved barbarian (Andrea, you know what I’m talking about with that stew). Thus, once in a while a guest bites into something inedible and has to spit it out. I apologize, we laugh, the meal continues.
Anywhose, midway through a meal with BF…
Me: Oh! I forgot. I wasn’t able to fish out all of the star anise points, so if you come across something really crunchy just spit it out. They’re inedible.
BF: They are?
Me: What? …Oh, no. You didn’t?
Me: You ate one!?
BF: I thought it was a little woody. *he says this with complete nonchalance before taking another spoonful*
BF: Well, it was softened up after simmering for a few hours. It was just a little tough to chew.
Me: My old roommate once ate two bay leaves by accident, let me tell you, he was not a happy camper afterwards.
BF: I’ll be fine.
Me: Yeah. Well, get back to me in a few hours.
The ending of this story is predictable, and kind of funny.