15 Minutes With: Carey Montserrat

Born in New York and raised in New England, Carey Montserrat began haunting Red Hook in 2004. After several unsuccessful attempts, he found his way to an apartment on Dikeman St. in 2006, where he now makes his living as a writer and editor.

{Read more about Carey, crock pots and feet after the jump.}

What was the food culture in your house growing up?

I was the latchkey kid of a single mother, so ours was a DIY kitchen. A lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and spaghetti. My guilt-ridden mother would compensate by baking bread and making healthy, elaborate dinners when she had time to cook. Dishes considered exotic at the time, which was the mid-seventies, meant French. Coq au vin, poached fish, vegetable quiche.  I would usually insist on making my own little quiches or pies alongside her.

Years later I learned that I’d been a strict vegetarian until age two.

One food you won’t you eat?

Feet of any kind.

Favorite vegetable?

Beets.

Favorite food experience?

Sichuan hot pot.

It’s a bit like Japanese shabu-shabu, but richer, more complex, and extremely spicy.
A gas burner’s brought to the table, followed by a pot of angry red broth made from soup stock. It’s dense with dried hot chiles and Sichuan peppercorns, which have a bright, tangy flavor—they’re related to the juniper berry—and exert a numbing effect on the palate.
Then you choose from a long menu of fresh, uncooked vegetables, meat, seafood, noodles, different varieties of tofu, and other stuff like wontons & dumplings. Think lotus root, bitter melon, bok choy, lamb, cilantro. Or exotica like “wood’s ear fungus,” which is a mushroom, and glutinous rice cake, about the size of a communion wafer, with the thick, toothsome consistency of a rice noodle.
Traditional Chinese delicacies like congealed pork blood or duck feet may also be had at some hot pot restaurants, for the Andrew Zimmern types.
You cook whatever you want in varying combinations as the broth simmers in the pot using a little wire mesh dipper.
That’s rounded off with an array of dipping sauces, everything from minced garlic to sesame oil with soy to more spicy sauce.
It’s hard to convey the experience, but hot pot’s singular, delicious, and intoxicating. Not a metaphor—you get high off it.
You need a minimum of three people, which is one of the things I love about it. It’s a communal dining experience.
The more the merrier.

Favorite appliance?

Crock pot. Immersion blender a close second.

Most disastrous kitchen or garden experiment:

Roast duck. It burst into flames.

Why are you involved in CSAs?

Is that a rhetorical question?

What’s the best lunch option near you?

The muffaletta at Fort Defiance.

What inspires you?

Other people and how they make their way in the world.

Your opinion: Does talking to plants help them grow?

Inarguably.

Do you sing to them?

I keep meaning to.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Forget about yourself.

Tell us one thing about yourself that would surprise us.

I enjoy being alone intensely.

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