Tag Archives: Cooking

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An iridescent spider weaves a web
Her whole body moves like a single hand
Knotting lace.
Pull, stretch, dip, next
Pull, stretch, dip, next.

My friend prepares dinner
Slicing grape tomatoes
Graceful and relaxed at her kitchen counter.
Set, slice, bowl, next
Set, slice, bowl, next.

My sister crochets a hat
Curled on the couch on a cold winter day,
Listening to a movie while her hands work.
Loop, hook, pull, next
Loop, hook, pull, next.

I enter data
At work wearing headphones
Music distracting my mind from my hands.
Check, copy, paste, next
Check, copy, paste, next.

Repetitive motions get us through our days.
Work is work, everywhere you look.
The rhythms and pulses of life don’t change.
And they are the same
For every creature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Pancakes Only

 

I’m not sure whether this is good or not, but here it is anyway. I don’t know, I can’t focus and should not have attempted to edit this today. I wrote this when I woke up after a dream about a ghost, and there’s nary a ghost in it, but there sure are a lot of pancakes.

It’s either very sweet, very disjointed, or fine… or not fine. Maybe it’s just my head that’s disjointed.

 


 

 

Babbo Babbino was a round man, full of Italian cheer. He spent most of his time running the diner on 21, so when his family went to his funeral, they were shocked to find another family there, already grieving.

Momma was a shy, withdrawn woman, not an Italian but a WASP. She saw the family, swallowed all her feelings, and nodded formally at them.

“A funeral is not the place to fight, Marcia,” she warned her daughter.

So Marcia didn’t fight. But she studied this extra family during the eulogy, steaming. Had they known about her family? They didn’t look surprised. The other woman held her head defiant, straight, wearing her scarlet letter like a point of pride, another Italian by the look of her. As for her daughter, she looked embarrassed to be here. There was high color on her cheeks. She clearly hadn’t wanted to come to this. She was very pretty. Prettier than Marcia, with pure bold Italian features and jet black hair which held a high gloss. Marcia had inherited her mother’s mousy brown, thin, soft, impossible hair, which frazzled at the mere mention of humidity. Had they spoken Italian together with her father?

She hated them so much.

After the funeral, her mother went to speak to them. They both began the conversation looking scared and tense, but before long her mother cracked a smile at something she’d said. They had found common ground. The woman, encouraged, commenced to tell her story after story about Babbo. Soon they were chatting like old school friends.

Her mother turned to call her over but was startled by Marcia’s glare. Her voice caught and fell. Marcia gave each one of them an acid look and stormed to her car.

She drove angry, not thinking, and surprised herself by coming to a stop at the diner. Well… work always did help when she was troubled. So she unlocked the door, ensuring the sign stayed flipped to closed. Nobody would come anyway. All the regulars were at the funeral.

Pancakes. That was all she wanted to make right now. Pancakes always helped.

She whipped together the batter (always from scratch as her father had taught her) in their biggest bowl, and started frying.

The bubbles settled into the top of the first pancake, and she flipped it. It was a little bit too pale.

He always loved her pancakes. She could never make them perfect every time, as he did. But he ate them and he laughed his generous laugh. And at what point in his day would he go visit the other family? Did he make pancakes for her, too? Did he call her his little chef? Did he laugh when she folded one of them in half, or sprayed batter on the floor?

Thinking back, he had spent more than a few nights away from home. Momma had always shrugged it off as business trips, and Marcia had believed her, never thinking to question it. Momma must have always known, or at least suspected. This was why she had taken their presence at the funeral so well.

A pancake was burning.

She wasn’t cooking well. All this was pointless without someone to feed. She had too many pancakes, and needed to share.

She went out, flipped the sign, and taped up an extra handwritten notice which said, “pancakes only today!”

Now that there was the prospect of customers, things were different. She focused, cleaned up, started the coffee, set out the bacon and sausage and blueberries, whipped together more batter.

Customers slowly streamed in. It was a slow day, which was good since she was alone and had a lot of work to do.

“Just pancakes today,” she called as each customer came in.

Nobody minded. And she lost herself in the pancakes, the orders, the change, the pouring coffee, the frying bacon, and the heaps of fresh, golden, perfect pancakes. There was nothing but food in her brain for several hours, and life settled into perfect mundanity. As she navigated around the kitchen, she could hear the clanking spatulas and hissing grills, and layered behind that, imperceptible to all but her, the sound of Babbo’s song and laugh. She found herself humming one of his songs.

Until the bell rang, and in walked the other mother and daughter. Marcia froze in her work and hid, watching them from behind the shelves. The mother seemed to have been here before, but the daughter looked around the diner with piercing curiosity.

The daughter had never been to the diner.

Never been to the diner?

Marcia thought of the long hours she’d spent with her dad, learning how to cook. The waiting tables, the sound of his clatter and singing in the kitchen. Imagining him without this diner as a backdrop, her memories came up surprisingly empty. What kind of a Babbo did they even know? How could they possibly have a complete picture of him without knowing this diner?

“Pancakes only,” she said. She eyed the daughter… no, her younger sister. “I could use some help.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

At My Sister’s House

For some reason my subconscious is full of dragons, and that’s all that seems to end up on my blog. But make no mistake, I love my life. I guess the following is closest to a journal entry.

 

8/14

At My Sister’s House

“Sarah’s here!” Three little voices sound off. “Sarah’s here, Sarah’s here!”

The dog comes bounding over with a smile. The kids run up to hug me, their enthusiasm just as pure.

The house is warm and comfortable. Sean keeps it clean; Jessica keeps it colorful. There is always something fragrant sauteing on the stove. On the counter are homemade pumpkin muffins, chocolate covered espresso beans, a bottle of wine.

As we cook, we make fun of her old and busted food processor. We laugh, giving it a hazing that a sentient being could not endure. She has little interest in technology; her kitchenaid mixer is the only food gadget that gets any respect. I ask her to taste my pie filling. She swipes a finger through and licks it. “More sugar,” she says. Of course she’s right.

The children pop by occasionally for hugs and samples. They’re young but these kids already know their way around a spice rack.

Friends file in. Every person brings a dish, and a story about their day. Each familiar face gives fresh warmth to my heart.

Two rules in this house: everyone gets a hug regardless of their comfort level, and they must taste everything at least once, regardless of their comfort level.

The people distract Jessica. She starts talking, gesturing, telling stories. She focuses her whole self on this, usually waving a spatula or fork instead of using it to stir. This is my time to shine: I prompt her for directions and finish up what she has started.

The craft beer and wine make everyone’s faces bright. Neighborhood kids wander through: “Did you get permission to be here? Use my phone, call your parents.” We shoo the dog out of the kitchen repeatedly, the children’s fingers must be extracted from the chocolate batter, the cat lays on the floor in the center of the chaos, unconcerned. And what a beautiful chaos it is.  We laugh until we cry. “Anybody want tea?” “Is something burning?” “Come see what we drew today!”

Usually the food gets prepared and consumed at different times, but this time, every dish is ready at once. Dishes pack the table: chocolate pie, angel food cake, roast vegetables, tacos, olive cheese toast, dip, salad, bread, cajun shrimp, cheese biscuits. We stare at the spread, impressed, unsure how to begin. “Anybody religious?” Jessica quips, hoping to give this gorgeous meal a proper sendoff. I propose a toast after our family tradition: “Good health and happiness, for the rest of our lives!” People circle the kitchen island, grab random beverages so they can join in, until everyone’s glass (bottle, cup) has tapped everyone else’s.

We eat until we can’t eat anymore. We laugh until we can eat again.

We finish our food on the porch in the evening summer air. There is a cage with two hairless rats out here; they are the subject of some snuggling and much ridicule. Careful not to pet the ball python after you pet the rats.

Things are quieting down. Guests leave. Everyone gets some leftovers to take home.

Sean and the kids put on YouTube. Jessica and I linger in the kitchen, clean up a bit, talk some more, mull over the events of the day. What were the best dishes, did that thing you cooked turn out like you expected, how is homeschooling coming along? We eventually join the TV crowd and work our way underneath the warm heap of animals and children, where we comfortably enjoy the company and let the kids show us what they’re most excited about.

At some point I must reluctantly extract myself from the couch, say my goodbyes, and drive home. But the warmth lingers in my bones. Deeper, even, than that.

Eating healthy isn’t so expensive

“Eating healthy is so expensive!”

Says the person who doesn’t cook? I don’t get it. I did a poll once of my friends and determined that some people think eating healthy means you have to do everything everyone says lately. If you can’t eat fats, starches, sugars, meats… what is there left to eat but members of the squash family, boiled? That’s not living. I think they want to live on a diet of nothing but superfoods, but man cannot afford to live on avocados alone.

I love food, so my healthy eating agenda is fairly open. Of course, I’m lucky because I have no food sensitivities except for a little psoriasis breakout when I drink too much milk. And red dye got me good once when I was a kid, so I generally avoid dyes.

These are my rules:

  • If you make it from scratch, it’s healthier
  • I mean really, make it from scratch. Tortillas, pasta, pizza, etc, are all better from scratch.
  • Try to eat less sugar
  • Try to eat less meat
  • A handful of almonds every day (I’ve noticed this makes my weak nails tear less)
  • Everything varied and in moderation
  • Lots of water, some tea or coffee

Sometimes I’m not so great with the sugar rule. Who am I kidding, I break a lot of these rules all the time. But that’s a part of moderation too, isn’t it?

My best meal for today is home-fermented kimchi (it’s not fishy and horrible at all, it’s spicy-sour and amazing), sour cream, mozzarella cheese, fresh spinach and olive oil on a baked potato. I’d take a picture but it’s ugly. I gotta start being better about taking food pictures before I eat them, but it’s so hard to remember when eating gets to happen.

This meal is pretty cheap. I love potatoes as a cheap carb/vegetable/meal. My sister Jessica decided that I’m obsessed with potatoes and even though this isn’t entirely true, I didn’t argue very hard with her, because I do like potatoes a lot.

Let me add up the price:

Kimchi sauerkraut (recipe adapted from here https://www.makesauerkraut.com/kimchi/)

  • 1 cabbage = $1
  • 1 bunch of green onions = $1
  • 1 bunch of radishes = $1
  • 2 carrots = $0.20
  • 2 inches of ginger = $0.50
  • 2 cloves garlic = $0.05
  • Pickling salt = $0.50
  • Red pepper flakes, spices = nominal
  • A week or two of waiting
  • Total: $4.25
  • One unlisted cost is that of a smelly house. I actually ruined an old nonstick pot of mine fermenting kimchi in it, the kimchi smell has permanently permeated it. I need a real fermenting crock.

Now that I figured out what the kimchi cost, let’s see what my lunch cost:

  • 1/16 of the kimchi (about ½ cup) = 0.13
  • 1/2 massive potato = $0.25
  • 3 T sour cream = $0.20
  • Handful of spinach = $0.10
  • ½ oz cheese = 0.13
  • 1 T Olive oil = $0.18
  • Total: $0.99

Okay, so it’s not Mr. Money Mustache levels of frugality but it’s about a million times yummier and more nutritious than a box dinner, which would cost three times as much, not fill you up, and make your day WORSE with its flaccid flavors. Or if you went to a restaurant, it would taste good, but you don’t really know what happened to the food back there in the kitchen while it was at the mercy of all those underpaid cooks, and you would be paying eight times as much for a damn potato.

Here’s something else to think about when moaning about the time it takes to prepare food. Thoreau explored this concept in Walden. He said in the end, everything costs close to the same. For example (and this is clearly not the example Thoreau used), you can spend $4 and 60 active minutes making a big jar of amazing kimchi tailored to your own unique tastes. Or you can work for 60 minutes at your job, gain an extra $8, and use that to purchase a really nice $12 tub of artisan kimchi of equal quality at the farmer’s market.

Humans are supposed to spend a great majority of their time collecting, preparing, storing, and eating food anyway. It’s the natural order of things.

Maybe kimchi isn’t the best example. If you really hate kimchi or cooking, you can spend $1 on a meal at Taco Bell, then you can use the other $3 to buy a gallon of gasoline and a lighter, and set yourself on fire. But you’ll have used up all your time doing a different stupid thing. One of the joys of modern civilization is that we have the luxury of wasting our time doing whatever stupid things we wish.

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Ham.

Okay, smoking food is the best thing ever. You play with fire, then you sit in the shade and drink lemonade and read a book for hours, with occasional breaks to play with the fire again. When you’re done, you have a beautiful meal.

I did not know this. I’ve only ever smoked a few things before, all of them small. But today I am smoking a ham.

Ham. This usually doesn’t sound good but one I’ve wet cured and smoked myself? Oh mama, it’s gonna be good. It takes hours.

My lemonade is all gone. The flies are landing on me. I’ve forgotten how to blink.

Haaaaam.

 

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