Hello, divinity diners, and welcome to Stargrazing, where all of our horoscopes are edible. As of last week, we’ve entered the season of Scorpio, and you’re doubtlessly feeling its effects—and feeling them hard, as this time of celestial year dictates.
Scorpio is the most sensual (and one of the most sensitive) signs of the Zodiac. So how better to introduce this season than with the help of a book I love, A Natural History of the Senses? Its author, the brainiac naturalist Diane Ackerman, set out to trace the science and cultural anthropology of our five empirical tools for taking in the world. The result reads like a long, narrative Louise Glück poem—like Scorpios, it’s both serious and Mariana Trench–level deep in its feelings.
In the section of the book called “Taste,” which is about guess what, Ackerman breaks down what was once an often-circulated physical map of where our taste buds are and what each does, like this: “The tongue is like a kingdom divided into principalities by sensory talent.” What’s this li’l bit of verse mean? For a while, it was believed that our tongues were mapped by sensation: The tip was supposed to perceive sweetness; each side, sourness; right behind those, saltiness; the back, bitterness. Depending on where a food hit your chomper, you’d taste it accordingly, according to what was, until 2006, popularly believed to be the scientific truth.
Although this anatomical idea of where our taste receptors were located has long since been debunked, the fact that it’s not real is important to us here, too: During Scorpio season, we might feel that the way things touch us impacts what they actually are in fact, and that if that happened differently, we’d feel different. That, if something hits you smack-dab in the right (or wrong) spot, it’ll leave a stronger impression than it might have done if it reached you elsewhere. Depending on where your experiences find you, they’ll seem to impact particular parts of you more acutely than they do other ones. Good or bad, you’re bound to analyze them accordingly, even if you know that thinking has no basis in reality.
A truer thing to keep in mind: Our taste buds are temporary, no matter where they are, lasting only about two weeks before regenerating. Nothing is ever forever, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore how it’s going for us right now, even if we have to try not to feel fatalistic or conclusively toward it. Mentally and gastronomically: We’ll be back to our rational selves soon enough, so for now, let’s fucking pig out!
If you’ve been feeling a little sluggish or run down lately, Scorpio, here’s a birthday fact for you: that’s about to majorly change. You won’t have to push yourself to feel more like the self you like best, so don’t bother trying—those efforts are better spent pursuing and enjoying the parts of this dumb life you most appreciate, like your three closest friends (aka your three friends; I know how close to the vest you keep your loyalties).
For your birthday, have them each cram into your kitchen with a bottle of wine per, private party style. Tell and listen to secrets as you order in a massive spread of whatever your favorite delivery is—my best Scorpio friend likes to heap Indian takeout onto every available bit of a table’s surface area without consulting anyone’s order, because (a) he pays attention to what people like and (b) provides such a variety of it that everyone feels loved and looked after by means of abundance. If your budget disallows this admittedly lavish idea, please rest assured that you can do the same thing with a diverse candy selection, especially because it’s mega on sale these post-Halloween days. How lovely to have a birthday coinciding with that windfall! I hope it’s a lovely one for you this year.
You delight in trying to take in everything on offer from the world at once, and you are probably feeling that to an exponent of 4,692 right now. This season, you’d do well to execute that desire by freaking whatever food-combinations you feel. You are most welcomed to make whatever unconventional permutations of meals you like—you can eat fried rice with pierogi, if you happen to be hankering for both on the same day. You can make one of my favorite sandwiches, the highly Sagittarian potato chip/plain M&M’S/peanut butter special! (I prefer white or potato sandwich bread—or use semolina or pumpernickel! There are literally no rules here.)
This hybridization extends to snacks! My friend Laia’s favorite snack is called Ham Banana—it’s a single, thin slice of deli ham wrapped around the fruit. Peruse this and the rest of this cute selection of Frankenfoods for further inspiration.
My favorite-ever cooking show is called Two Fat Ladies. Do you know it? For three years in the late ’90s, its stars, an august, older pair named Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright, motored around Britain in a Triumph Thunderbird kitted out with a sidecar, cookin’ lard and breakin’ hearts.
Unlike you, Capricorn, perfection was not these ladies’ middle names. Their food was often gross or at least slightly off—which didn’t matter, because the higher thrills of the show were their banter and ostentatious personalities. You’re similarly devoted to staying true to yourself, whatever others may think—so why not throw precision to the wind and cook wholly without recipes alongside people who make you laugh? What I mean to say is: It’s okay if you aren’t a Morimoto-level Iron Chef; this season, aspire only to yelling at a best friend over the hiss of various skillets as you cook. Allow the spirit of the TFLs’ shared japes and appetites and formidable loveliness to welcome in good, strange friends and dinners. Here’s a recipe they developed—please promise to tell my favorite joke to the person who helps you make it:
Q: What do you call a lonely cow?
A: Beef stroganoff!!!
YOW! It’s not my fault that I’m the bad boy of comedy. Cheers, Capricorn.
Feelings aren’t the only facts, Aquarius. This season, you are tasked with relating to life around you without trying to fold the way you perceive it into some tortured mental origami. Focus not on the way food makes you feel emotionally; instead, focus on a wider political understanding of what people eat. Try out this essay by the chef Tunde Wey about dining and race; clock Michel Nischan’s initiative to double the value of food stamps; get familiar with what different organizations and cities are doing to winnow the perimeters of food deserts.
What can you do to be generous to others right now? Even if you don’t have much money or time, there are means of providing that don’t ask much, or nearly any, of those things. One boss example: organize a virtual food drive—nonprofits like the Food Bank for New York City make this easy.
As the world’s axis dips many of us into the dark, a gastric narrative unfailingly emerges. You’ve seen this messaging on the clapboards outside your local bakeries and laptop-strewn coffee-terias, and you’ve certainly seen it online: it sounds like, COLD WEATHER SWEATER CHEESE-FOOD EXTRA POUNDS WINTERTIME, motherFUCK A BIKINI, NOG IT ON UP. In true “keepin’ it lazy!” Pisces fashion, you are extremely down for this development.
As you might have surmised by now, I’m a real fan of that thinking, but this season and the following few sometimes proceed to eclipse vegetables as they do the sun. If you need to have butter involved in all you do, trick yourself with the name, okay? In addition to your, say, cinnamon sugar breakfast donuts, you can also find comfort in roasted butternut squash with herb oil and goat cheese or this butternut squash soup. Plus, you’ll get to feel all virtuous about eating the vegetal equivalent of a down comforter—that’s always nice.
Don’t be too much of a shut-in this season, Aries. You may feel inclined to burrow yourself in your home as frequently as possible, and that’s fine, but your people will miss you! Can you please set one date a week, minimum, to eat a meal with someone you like being good to? Pick the newest restaurant in town and meet your friends there.
If you’re not feeling that right now, it’s acceptable to have people in for dinner. Just be sure to surprise yourself somewhat with the menu in order to not feel too shut off from what the outside world has to offer. What recently published recipes could you make, in order to guarantee food that’s new to you? Potstickers royale with a crispy crepe, maybe? Squid ink pasta with Catalan aioli, or perhaps chickpea and eggplant curry with mint chutney? Make an of-the-moment something, then have your invitees come over bearing one surprise offering of their own—just decide who’s responsible for what beforehand (grains, dessert, vegetable, etc.); regular potluck rules apply. Bring the outside in.
Throw yourself into action this season—you’re supposed to eat a lot and bone a lot, sayeth the stars. I can’t help with the second one, but as for the first, HOW LUCKY THAT WE HAPPEN TO BE COMING UP ON THE EATING HOLIDAY OF THE YEAR. It’ll do you some good to throw down this Thanksgiving. I hope you’ll do the cooking, whether at your home or someone else’s—that way, you can make this turkey from the poultry geniuses formerly of Torrisi! (Their first restaurant is gone, but praise whatever you praise: The bird lives on!) If you’re hosting vegetarians and don’t want to serve real food (kidding, kind of), DIY the tofurkey instead of getting the plasticine store-bought kind. Real vegetarians don’t like that shit, I think—not one of the teeming vegans at two of my consecutive Friendsgivings ate it, and the second time, it was repurposed as the world’s most vile ashtray. Make your friends this pornographic-looking coconut–sweet potato pie or these stuffing muffins (!) instead, or select four or five of your own fetishes from this line-up of hot pictures. Scorpio asks us to be sensual, Taurus, and you are helpless but to comply! With pie!
Hello, human whirlwind. You’re going to be bopping into a lot of different social events this season—the stars show an overstuffed dance card. As such, let’s affix one constant in place in the form of what you’re eating—or drinking, given the parties, happy hours, and so forth you’re being called to right now.
Do you have a “signature drink”? I don’t mean a vodka soda or a gin and tonic. I’m talking about a true and proper cocktail—an old fashioned, a Tom Collins, a martini with a specific liquor and preparation preference. Find out which one is yours to keep. Oh, but I know it isn’t that easy for a Gemini to be satisfied with this kind of regular, staid cocktail programming—and I thought of that too, capricious twin-one. Luckily, all standards eventually beget variations! Here are eight negronis in slightly different outfits, for example.
If you don’t drink, just continue working on perfecting your “signature delivery Chinese food order,” even if you THINK you’ve got it in the bag (or rectangular paper container). Maybe add something you’d never pick out for yourself, by yourself to the mix, too—who knows? Embrace all things new with the understanding that they might become classics.
Relax, Cancer! After all you’ve done this year, your romantic Scorpio season is based at home—and preferably with company. Make warm caramel sauce with a babe and put it over everything (stop looking at me like that; I mean food; to involve this otherwise would be uncomfortable and gross). Make shortbread-cookie sandwiches with it! Sweeten your coffee with it in the morning! The world is your caramel. (Or your miso butterscotch topping, for that matter.)
For that matter: It’s slow-cooker season, to be sure. I’ve been feeling brisket, short ribs, pulled pork—all the stuff that you’d usually associate with staying in the sheets all day, then emerging to find a feast waiting for you and your cohort. Wait, can you make caramel in a slow cooker? That seems far too easy, but lo, of course you can—check this dulce de leche. Seriously try not to get it in anyone’s hair, Cancer, and have fun.
Your responsibility to yourself this season, Leo, is to hold it the fuck down, since you will be ablaze in many other ways, some of which will make you want to BURN IT ALL TO THE GROUND. Make a classic dinner, like poule en sauce, spinach, and macaroni au gratin or rice and beans. Or, if cooking like that is a lot to ask in tumultuous times (even though I really think it might help with any/all feelings of mayhem…), pack a simple, schoolkid-type lunch, where everything has its own little compartment in its container—I like filling one of these lunchboxes with a grilled ham and swiss, a tiny spinach salad, vegetable sticks poking “artfully” into hummus for dipping, and some kind of sweet thing, like a miniature Take5 bar (the world’s best candy-aisle choice, and I’ll hear nothing else about it). Maybe take along some fruit, too.
Does it really matter if you’re good, Virgo? This season, you may be preoccupied with the idea of leaving a legacy—whether doing so matters so very much, and if so, what effect it’s supposed to produce on the people who encounter it later on down the line. You are constantly refining your approach to being your absolute best, and this season, it might be galvanizing to consider why you’re always trying (so admirably!) to do that.
Food-wise, a prime model for helping us consider what you make of yourself is the late god Jean-Louis Palladin. He mentored all the big French-o chef guys whose restaurants reviewers continue to revere today, like Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud, and an abundance of others, and he was a pioneer when it came to sourcing the exact ingredients along with the proper people to prepare them. Though he has his own dedicated memorial grant within the James Beard Foundation, he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. His legacy is carried by the people who were close to his powers during his life, who now pass it around the table to the rest of us. That’s beautiful.
Virgo, it would be nice to honor the Invite a Friend over and recreate one of Palladin’s perfect recipes, or one passed down by someone else you particularly appreciate, whether that’s a grandparent or, like, Nigella Lawson. As Palladin knew: crème brûlée is not only a wonderful thing to make for others, but a great thing to make of yourself! Ask your guest to prepare the food you choose with you—perpetuate, and become part of, whatever legacy feels truest to you.
Since you’ll find that two or more major areas of your life are entwined right now—maybe love and work, or family and money—I recommend that you observe that rolled-together elements can result in a sum better than its parts. Enjoy some kathi rolls, cinnamon buns, or a danged burrito! Even if your situation is somewhat hectic, remember that it’s not the end of the world when foods touch one another on your dinner plate. And if, per Scorpio, that means you’re getting some, that’s all the better—especially if you also get to enjoy a bunch of already-rad foods stuffed together in a tortilla in between. Good luck, pal.