Literary Eats: The Seep | the starving artist

Literary Eats: The Seep | the starving artist

I had just read Little Thieves and was so happy to see all the German food. And then I picked up my next book club read, The Seep by Chana Porter, and found even more food! It is a very short book—probably a novella, actually—and the food tradition is set in a dystopian, sci-fi world, yet it is recognizable. I mean, this is supposed to be soon after our current time, I think, and so the foods have been adapted from what we already know, though they are vegetarian (kinda-sorta) and have some other nuances, like alcohol is considered old fashioned, etc.

Here is a choice between a simple meal, a more elaborate meal from My Attitude Is My Gratitude (even though I won’t be able to assess you before serving you) health café, a meal you might miss from the old times, and a dessert that Trina eats while she’s travelling and finding herself. Or maybe she’s just avoiding The Seep.

  1.  In a soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons neutral oil over medium heat. Add 1 chopped onion and cook until it begins to soften.
  2. Add 3 halved and sliced carrots, 2 diced turnips, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 teaspoons dried dill, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1 chopped red bell pepper, 10 quartered prunes, and 1/2 cup raisins and cook until pepper softens.
  4. Add 1 small head of cabbage, rough-chopped and cook until it softens.
  5. Add 8 cups veggie broth, chicken broth or water, 1 large can of crushed tomatoes, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover partially, and cook for half an hour.
  6. Add 1 tablespoons cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon honey. Taste for salt and seasonings.
  7. Serve with sour cream and fresh dill on a cold, overcast day.
  1. If you are going to use a charcoal grill, get that going. You’re going to need your heat source for the tofu in about 20 minutes.
  2. Remove 1 block extra firm tofu and press between paper towels with weights on top (like a cast iron Dutch oven). Set aside.
  3. Steam 1 cup sticky rice in a rice cooker, electric steamer, or bamboo steamer, per appliance’s instructions.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small Mason/Ball jar with a lid, combine 1 minced shallot, juice and zest of a lemon, 1/4 cup olive oil, and a generous pinch of salt. Close it up and give it a good shake. Set aside.
  5. In a serving bowl, toss 1/2 small head shredded Napa cabbage, 2 cups red leaf lettuce, 1 cup dandelion greens, 2 cups slivered spinach, 1 slivered endive, 1 small slivered radicchio and a good handful of chopped parsley. Set aside.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup apple cider or juice, 1/4 cup tahini, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon gochujang, 2 cloves pressed garlic, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
  7. Meanwhile, remove the tofu from its press and cut into approximately-1-inch cubes. Skewer onto metal skewers. You can make these on the grill or in a grill pan, or even broil them to get the barbecue flavor. I prefer the charcoal grill. Do what you need to do. Oil the surface of whatever you are going to grill on, but not in a way that starts a fire. The oil can go on the tofu. Grill the tofu, basting with the homemade barbecue sauce (step 6) throughout. You’re just looking to get some caramelization and charring. Remove, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sesame seeds and 1 thin-sliced scallion and set aside.
  8. In a large pot or wok, heat 2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil over medium-high heat. Add 3 rough-chopped scallions (white part only), 1 tablespoon sliced ginger and 2 sliced cloves garlic and saute until just browning. Add 4 rough-chopped dried chilies and 1 sliced, hot red chile. Saute for 1 minute or less.
  9. Stir in 4 cups fish broth. (I choose not to make fish broth at home because of the smell. Sorry. You can also go with a vegetable broth or even water.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, crack several black and white peppercorns on your cutting board. Heat ¼ cup oil (same as step 8) in a small pan. When hot, stir in the peppercorn and cook until fragrant and popping. Remove from heat.
  11. Meanwhile, thin-slice 4 tilapia filets on the bias. In a mixing bowl, toss the fish with ½ cup beer, ¼ cup cornstarch or rice flour, and a hefty pinch of salt. Set aside.
  12. After broth has simmered, add the oil with peppercorns and ¼ cup cider vinegar and taste for salt. Strain broth to remove all the bits.
  13. Return broth to the heat and bring to a simmer. Gently add in the fish, slowly. Cook just until cooked through. Remove fish to a separate plate, taking with you any new bits.
  14. Serve the salad tossed with the freshly-shaken dressing, tofu, rice, broth, and fish in individual, little bowls and plates.


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a large loaf pan.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine 1 pound ground beef, 1 pound ground pork, 1/2 cup ketchup, 1 diced small onion, 1/2 cup milk, 1/3 cup panko, 2 tablespoons rolled oats, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon Dijon, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Do not over-mix.
  3. Press mixture into the loaf pan. If it is very high in the pan, you will want to place a pan or foil underneath to catch errant juices and grease. Bake for 45 minutes, until the center is 165 degrees F (which could take an hour or more).
  4. Meanwhile, in a small pot, combine 1 cup ketchup, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup cream or 1/2 and 1/2, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, and 1 teaspoon Dijon. Heat over medium heat and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Set aside, rewarming at the end if needed.
  5. Spread 1/2 cup ketchup on the top of the loaf and broil until caramelizing and bubbling.
  6. Let meatloaf sit for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a platter and slice, then top it with the sauce.
  7. To be served with canned corn, saltines, and warm Coke.
  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a blender, whir 2 eggs, 2 egg whites, 1 cup milk, 1 tablespoon nut oil, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add 1 cup ap flour and blend just until smooth. Set aside to rest.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine 1 pound cottage cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons ap flour, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Set aside.
  4. Heat a crepe pan or medium (preferably nonstick) skillet over medium heat. When hot, ladle in 1/4 cup of batter and spread quickly and evenly to coat bottom of the pan. When it is golden brown and comes up easily, flip it and cook until second side is golden brown. Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining blintzes, noting that the first blintz is never a real winner and that you may have to adjust temperature and amount of batter to your tools and situation. Repeat until all batter is used.
  5. Fill blintzes with a couple tablespoons of the filling each so that you are distributing evenly. Roll them up like a burrito and line them into the oiled pan with their seams down. Bake for 15 minutes, until a little crispy.
  6. Meanwhile, in a small pot over medium heat, combine 1 package of frozen blueberries (or fresh) with 1/4 cup sugar, zest and juice of a lemon, and a pinch of salt. Allow to simmer until blueberries are breaking down. Taste for seasoning.
  7. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup sour cream with 1/4 cup brown sugar. It will melt into the sour cream as it sits.
  8. Serve the hot sauce and a drizzle of the sour cream over the hot blintzes, with black coffee.

March 5, 2024 in Book Clubs, Books. Tags: Bad Attitude Cafe, BBQ tofu, bitter greens salad, blueberry blintzes, Chana Porter, dinner, food, Literary Eats, mother’s meatloaf, recipe, recipes, sour fish broth, sticky rice, The Seep, white cabbage soup