Expanding my cooking skills has been one of my highlights of the pandemic. But, like many aspects of my life this semester, my cooking habits have become haphazard, and I haven’t dedicated as much time to making new dishes as I would’ve liked. I’ve certainly made some really good stuff, like spaghetti and meatballs, curry and spicy peanut noodles. But those are all things that were already in my repertoire, so they don’t count for creativity or expanding my horizons.
On top of having to find time, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to exploring new food. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know, and while there are countless dishes in the world to choose from, a pandemic isn’t exactly the best time to travel or go to restaurants so you can try them and then say, “Ooh, I wanna make that.” Add in a college student’s often limited pantry and budget, and it can feel impossible to come up with something other than the same few dishes that are already in the rotation.
Beryl Shereshewsky is a food YouTuber who I found last week, when her “How the World Drinks Coffee” video appeared on my recommended watch list on YouTube. I clicked on it, and immediately after watching I texted the link to my boyfriend, saying it reminded me of him because it was full of caffeine and a lot of excitement about something random. I also told him I had unilaterally decided we would be making the last recipe in the video, Vietnamese egg coffee, sometime soon. He was happy to go along with it.
We’ve both started watching her videos on the daily — before bed, when procrastinating homework, when we’re feeling hungry, whenever — and have taken to affectionately calling her “Brrl.” There’s a lot to like about Beryl, even aside from all the cool dishes she makes.
She started her channel after the company she worked at went under last fall. Her goal is to virtually travel around the world during the pandemic by trying dishes from every country on the planet, whether they’re hangover cures, favorite comfort foods or anything else. I really admire how she’s genuinely making the best of a difficult situation. She’s got a beautifully decorated New York City apartment, and I’m super jealous of all her funky earrings and shirts.
She’s endlessly enthusiastic and open-minded when it comes to trying dishes. And I love how she often gets people to submit videos explaining a dish from their country, instead of introducing dishes herself. It allows them to directly have a voice about something as culturally significant and identity-based as food.
And then there’s the main reason I’ve been binge-watching her videos: the food itself, which looks drool-worthy and mind-blowing or sometimes makes me say, “Huh, interesting...” because I’m a bit more of a skeptic than Beryl is (though I’ll often come around after hearing her talk about it).
My boyfriend and I have already put together quite a list of stuff from her videos that we want to make, including but not limited to: Greek zucchini pie, Dutch war fries, Indonesian chicken soup, Ghanaian spicy fried plantains and Filipino chocolate rice pudding with dried fish on top (the recipe linked here doesn’t include the fish, and to be honest we may give the fish a pass if we make it).
We probably won’t get around to making all those dishes (especially because our list is quickly growing), but even if we don’t, it’s at least nice to have some new ideas after being kind of stuck in a rut.
And we did make the egg coffee this past weekend. My boyfriend made the coffee while I did the real work: beating the condensed milk and egg yolks together by hand for seemingly forever (actually only 10 or 15 minutes) until the mixture was airy enough for a few drops of it to float on top of water. I may have given myself tendonitis in my wrist.
“I don’t know if this is going to work,” I said, beating ferociously.
“What if we get food poisoning from the raw egg?” he said in return.
It did work. We didn’t get food poisoning. Any potential tendonitis was definitely worth it.
The egg mixture, which I had gotten to be airy enough but not perfectly whipped like Beryl’s, got all foamy and frothy on top when it hit the heat of the coffee. The strength of the coffee mellowed out the sweetness of the condensed milk and the egginess of, well, the egg.
The result was a creamy, dreamy, comforting drink that was sure as hell fancier than our normal coffee, which is taken either black or with some milk and Splenda and gulped down at 10 p.m. when we need a boost to finish our homework. This, paired with some chorizo and egg breakfast sandwiches, made for a relaxing and indulgent start to our Saturday, which was a nice change for both of us after feeling so worn down from school recently.
And we got to make something new, even something as simple and quick as coffee.
Normally my columns will have some big-picture realization around the end of them — and there are certainly some realizations to be had here: You can make time for the things you love even when you’re busy and stressed, and it won’t be as hard to do as you think it will be.
Sometimes something as specific as a YouTube channel dedicated to global food offerings can push you in the right direction. So seek out resources that can inspire you or make things easier for you. And, as cliché as it is, trying new things is good.
But it also doesn’t have to be that deep. This article is largely just my love letter to Beryl and to food and to having some fun. So, Beryl, if you somehow end up reading this, thank you.
Sophia Lola is a junior from Brooklyn, N.Y., majoring in Writing Seminars. She is a Magazine Editor for The News-Letter. Her column explores personal growth, whether it comes an inch or a mile at a time.