first taste: lyle lyle crocodile

Childhood picture books, stories and TV shows that depicted food and dining made a real impression on me. Illustrations of steaming bowls of pasta or a piece of toast smothered in purple jam gave me my first taste of foods I’d yet to try, and are sometimes still the archetypes I hold food up to today. Instead of simply reminisce, I’m going to bring those dishes to life the way I imagined they’d be.

Once upon a time, there was

a crocodile named Lyle

When I was little, I was drawn to Lyle. I may not have realized it then, but I related to him. He liked nice things, unapologetically, and appreciated a civilized meal, whether at a nice table, or in the park…or in the tub…

* Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile and The House on East 88th Street story and illustrations by Bernard Waber

He also got into trouble once in a while–but of course that wasn’t it. I loved that he appreciated luxury and style. He wasn’t picky, but he did have distinct tastes. And while he eventually grew to enjoy a wider variety of foods, such as Italian ices, Lyle really had a thing for Turkish caviar. You can see how Lyle particularly liked to enjoy this treat while soaking in a warm bath.

This caviar is a little different than what Lyle is used to but I did make it with him in mind. It’s a seaweed caviar and consequently, it’s super-healthy. It tastes of the ocean and despite being cooked it retains a little chew as seaweed does–plus there’s an added little bite from the inclusion of garlic. And what crocodile doesn’t like a little bite, right?

Hiziki Caviar*

Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

*The original recipe called for the caviar to be topped with a Lemon Tofu Cream and Chives. I topped mine with some cilantro and didn’t go to the trouble of making the cream, but I’m sure it’s lovely.

1 ounce dried hiziki seaweed (or wakame or other dried, shredded seaweed)
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
Rice crackers for serving*
Herbs for garnish*

Place seaweed in a large bowl; cover with hot water to 2 inches above seaweed. Cover and let stand 30 minutes or until soft. Drain. Rinse with cold water, and drain. Place seaweed in a food processor; process until minced.

Heat oils in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add seaweed; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 2/3 cup water, soy sauce, and garlic; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 6 minutes or until liquid evaporates.

Place 1 teaspoon seaweed caviar on each cracker. Garnish as desired.*

The other thing about Lyle is that he lives in a house on East 88th Street in Manhattan. I was in New York this summer so I stalked tried to visit Lyle’s home, to see if it was as impressive as the house on the cover of his book. I couldn’t really find his home but I saw many like that looked similar–he lives is a stunning neighbourhood.

The houses are tall and they have rooftop gardens (I imagine with views similar to the one from the top of the MET), intricate doors and other details befitting a crocodile with distinguished tastes. Truth be told, Lyle was a stowaway–“inherited”, if you will, when the new ownsers moved into that house on East 88th Street. I can see why he stayed. It would be hard to tear me out of those homes once I got settled (all of two seconds) too.