Fun Fact: Did you know that Ja Rule is a leaper? For anyone who doesn’t know what that means, a “leaper” (not “leper”) is someone born on Leap Day, or February 29. This is an extra cool birthday for anyone looking for the fountain of youth because you can technically exploit your age by saying you’re a quarter of however many years old you actually are. So, happy ninth birthday, Ja Rule!
As I recently learned from a particularly hilarious episode of 30 Rock, Leap Day is a day of endless possibilities when Leap Day William emerges from the Mariana Trench to trade children’s tears for candy. That sounds legitimate, right? Regardless, it’s made clear that Leap Day gives us the opportunity to do whatever we want just for the heck of it because it “doesn’t count” — after all, it’s a magical day that isn’t real. I’m not one to do things completely out of character, a situation Liz Lemon found herself caught in, but, as a foodie, I like to believe that Leap Day can be a day to eat whatever and whenever you want without consequences. In other words, Leap Day William tells me that I could eat anything in the world without running the risk of permanent arterial damage or becoming overwhelmingly full. Oh, what a joyous day that would be!
A popular icebreaker question in elementary school is often “what is your favorite food?” to which many chipper children respond “pizza” or “ice cream.” Perhaps older and more angsty teenagers might get asked “if you were on death row, what would you request as your last meal?” to which many (American) people might answer fried chicken, mashed potatoes, Thanksgiving food, and the like. I am a person who can never choose a “favorite” anything. Ask me my favorite color and I’ll keep going back and forth between green, red, and purple until my head hurts. Don’t even get me started on my favorite movie (“Serious movie? Funny movie? Rainy Day movie?). But for me, narrowing down my favorite food is a nearly impossible task.
As I thought about what I would want to eat on Leap Day, a day of no regrets, I soon realized that what I want to eat and what I am capable of making myself are two completely different things. Most things I dream about eating again one day are things I discovered while studying abroad in France (in Lyon, the food capital of France, no less — suck it, Paris!). There is the tartine with goat cheese, honey, and walnuts that would make Mama extremely happy, but besides that, a chef genius was behind the birth of these dishes and I would be lucky to even have them again, let alone make them myself. And, despite my love of Lyon, some of the best dishes I have ever had were in places I traveled to over weekends or breaks. I know as a fact that I ate more pasta in my ten days in Italy than I had in a few years combined in the States (but I guess eating it for lunch and dinner almost every day will do that to you).
Then, what started as a quest to discover my favorite dish turned into a trip down Nostalgia Lane during which I became depressed that I couldn’t get truffle brie or Saint Marcelin from La Mère Richard unless I jumped on a plane for a quick popover to Les Halles Lyon. So, then I decided to shift my attention to foods I could get at home in order to make me feel better, but this soon turned into an internal “Los Angeles is far superior to most parts of the world” argument and all I wanted were some fish tacos or carnitas. Needless to say, I made the executive decision to let that one go too. Next, the East Coast! There are lots of great things here, namely pizza, clam chowda, Legal Seafoods (my chain-restaurant addiction), and trendy restaurants in New York. Ah, Russ & Daughters… how your lox is so delicate and tender — NO. I had to narrow down my search even more to things I could make in my kitchen.
By this time, I was more upset than anything else that most of the foods I would pay unseemly amounts of money for to experience again are between 3,000 and 6,000 miles away from my current location. Thus, I settled for making shrimp fajitas (one of my actual favorites, I make and order them entirely too much) and yellow confetti birthday cupcakes (for no one’s birthday) to use as a distraction from the Valrhona molten and golden boule that was staring me in the face on iPhoto (see above and drool). My friends appreciated the stupid amount of sprinkles, as did I, and I knew that though Leap Day Williams grants us all a free pass to do what we please once every four years, perhaps it’s better to treat February 29 just like any other (mystical, magical, mysterious) day.