12/06/2020

When I watched the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving parade this year, I teared up a little. Was it the slightly off-color jokes that you’d catch Al Roker make at butter if you caught them, or the nostalgia I feel now more than ever for tradition in a time when we are abandoning them for the sake of our own lives? Understanding my enjoyment is still complicated, but I embrace it.

This is not the parade we deserve, but it’s the parade we need.

Al Roker

If I had told you this time last year that I would be actually crying at that idea, I would not have believed you. There was a wonderful blooper that happened on the first float. It was not necessarily a blooper but rather something the camera caught after the float singer finished the song. The camera panned away just before commercial and the wind blew this sizable confetti chunk which completely occluded the singer. You saw a large black rectangle in place of where she was standing. This made me so happy. At the time I did not know why, but I do love blooper reels of my favorite TV shows, I love watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. Was that why I enjoyed this bit of unscripted TV so much? There were no words, but I still laughed.

As the parade wore on I enjoyed the floats that I would otherwise have had no opinion on: Blues Clues, Wimpy Kid, Paw Patrol. These are not part of my childhood canon of memories. There was video footage showing the parade in decades gone, and an explanation of what they used to do with the floats. They would untie the balloons and if you were lucky enough to retrieve one of them after they landed to Earth, you could return it back to Macy’s and get a prize. A year ago today I would have shamed old bygone days for their backwards ways, but this time I was so happy for them.

Of the things I do not miss but probably should are scheduled TV events. Last night, I watched the Alabama vs. LSU game, which decided who would play Florida in the December 19th SEC title game. The first Nor’easter hit New England last night, and my dad let our family group text know 10 minutes before game time that since his house had lost power for 30 minutes, they would likely miss watching the game. Our watch parties are by text and involve some kind of frustration when there is a delay. Don’t spill the beans! I haven’t seen that play yet. Last night it was me saying: Oh neat! The announcers’ audio cut out and someone else cut in with an explanation and feeble attempt at narrating the plays! My aunt explained that they had already come back from the drop out, so I refreshed the feed. Earlier on in the game we had rewound the footage which was poking fun of a college football player’s name and why he was called Mac, not James McKorkle. That Irish Urkle was splendor for them.

11/21/2020

Last night a friend came over for a get together. It was a relief to get to visit for a bit. This was the second time we’ve seen each other during covid times and the first time we’d seen each other since our birthdays. Earlier on in the day I was feeling bakeful so I put together a lasagna in three layers:

  1. Instead of pasta I sliced thin steaks of cabbage
  2. a layer of pasta sauce mixed with the rest of the mushrooms sliced with a few chopped cloves of garlic
  3. the layer of cheese is a container of ricotta and a bag of three cheese blend: parmigiana Reggiani, asiago, and parmesean (usually I’d add an egg, but did not have any)

Cooked in a pyrex casserole dish on 350 degrees F for an hour covered with tin foil.

After the hour, I uncovered the dish and sprinkled some thin slivers of asiago and cooked it for 15 a final minutes to let the cheese melt and get crusty over the top

When my friend came over, we had parm crisps (zero carb cheese chips), green olives, dill pickles, caramelized figs, cheese roll, salami, pepperoni, prosciutto. We packed up the food and she microwaved a poblano bowl that she brought with her. After that, I offered her the lasagna. I was not expecting her to try it, but was so pleased when she cleaned her plate, which is high praise.

This morning, I opened the card that my friend left me. I opened it not expecting much. I had been standing with her in the parking lot of my place as she penned it before she got in her car to leave.

Earlier on that night we had been talking about advanced directives and death, and how hard it is for people to talk about death. Two summers ago when my aunts and uncles came to visit, I sobbed trying to explain how I wouldn’t want a funeral, wouldn’t want to be buried. How can you feel so bold but then not be able to say it out loud?

My friend would want a Viking funeral, and she laughed as she spoke it. “Send me out to the ocean.” And we’d shoot a burning arrow, and then you’d burn. In the instance she wouldn’t be able to enjoy life or live without medical assistance, she would want to go. She is an only child with no family and no children of her own, so she does not owe anyone anything. I spoke up and said she owes me something, and she would owe her friends something. Yea this would be if something changed and I wasn’t able to live life the way I wanted. She said she has always lived her life as a heathen, as she has made different choices in her life than others.

On the envelope she drew a fake stamp, fake postal markings with a future year on it.

11/08/2020

When NIN was inducted into the 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Iggy Pop cited French novelist Michel Houellebecq in saying the simplest thing you can do that contributes to success is to tell the truth. The memories I have when I listen to those old songs are beautiful and they remind me how enjoyable life can be despite the bad experiences you were going through at the time: teenage angst, bad boyfriend/girlfriend times, depression; it brings fresh excitement to your own limited world. Listening to records is a screen that has painted an existential mesh on top of the present moment that blends how you lived then into now, however flawed and incorrect it inevitably may be. Sometimes that feeling is so intoxicating because it was true for you once, and in a way it will always be true.

Iggy Pop said the first time he saw Trent Reznor he said he seemed to come from 15th Century Spain:

“If he’d been alive at the right time, I think he could have been painted by Velasquez or El Greco, and his portrait would probably hang in the Prado today.”

(Iggy Pop, 2020)

When I was a teenager, I went to Spain with my aunt to visit our family who lives there. One of my favorite artists is El Greco, a Spanish artist whose art hangs in museums. When we were in Toledo in 1997, there was a converted museum that used to be a hospital. El Greco would paint the faces of patients in mental institutions because Greco said their eyes could see God. Sometimes mental illness disqualifies you from being valid or seen, but Greco validated them through his creative renditions. Many of his paintings include self-portraits of himself, and I believe he felt he was one of the common people, in painting himself among those people, and that he was doing the will of the people in performing his art and giving it to the world.

Rick and Morty, Season 4 Episode 4 – Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty

I was just watching an episode of Rick and Morty where there’s this talking cat and Rick is vexed by it and where it came from. The cat posits: can’t we not know where I came from and just have fun?

And Rick says these things should not be mutually exclusive, so Rick scans the cat and discovers the truth, something so awful that he ends up memory wiping his travel companion’s mind of any knowledge of the cat’s origin story.

And Jerry blinks and says did we find out where the cat came from? Rick says he’s from space. Jerry laughs and says it’s a mind f***. And that cat is allowed to roam freely, afforded an opportunity to soul bond with a dragon. I find that there is some kind of connection I draw between that war crimes cat and U.S. politics.

Initially, I thought that Jerry was the U.S. electorate, the memory wipe is the collective forgetfulness we have of past horrors, and the cat is the President. After some reflection, though, I realize that the cat is us, the U.S. electorate. We are allowed to vote into office the worst, most vomit-inducing candidates, in the name of blowing up the system. We are afforded a generosity of sorts, when we forget how bad things were, any time we forge on through this denial and proceed with dignity to future opportunities.

And really, when we move on to future elections, we are afforded a blank slate, where we might create something better. It does not diminish where we’re from and who we’ve voted for in the past, but we’re hoping the past is washed away or just blithely disregarded, and it is, in a way; we are exonerated of what was and march on.

Let’s go downtown and talk to the modern kids

I feel music and our own focus, extant to interest in the sound of songs, is akin to how when we dream we tell other people about them. People have fallen asleep to the droning on of how I was turning into an aphid, simultaneously developing Alzheimer’s disease, forgetting that I was ever actually human. And that museum I walked into turned into a mausoleum where I was doomed to inhabit for eternity.

Hell is other people, says Jean Paul Sartre. Maybe this is how we can advertise how good something is and yet have it fall on deaf ears. I think about how nicely existentialism aligns the constellation-al shape of this idea. Pull a stencil over the night sky and as you peer through the lace the light of a hundred years ago blinks back.

Sometimes I think about the mud and who has walked here before. The footprint of our ancestors trekked over these tracks a million billion times, and then maybe I think we know what is around us because we are afforded the animation of our own bodies. But maybe we are all dinosaurs and we have no idea we are extinct yet. Our little T-rex arms extending to reach out. Our minds, thoughts, habits, these outgrowths are extensions of the infinite permutations of evolutionary experience that may or may not serve us, but have not yet fallen away. We are still reaching out.

Christmas dinner lunch

 

 

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Clockwise from top: Roasted cauliflower with toasted quinoa, Vegetarian summer rolls, Vegetarian Thai Curry with quinoa, Bacon-wrapped scallops

I feel like the holidays should come with some kind of overarching theme, like caveat emptor, a Latin law term meaning buyer beware.  I consider it for a moment as an expanding world view of mine in the face of holiday stress that comes with the glee that results in over gifting, cooking too much, sleeping too little, and maybe thinking too much into the spirit of Christmas to realize that my candle is burning too low. The wick disappears on its own, dissolving into liquid wax. Wicks to wax, dust to dust, as they say, or perhaps that’s not a thing at all, but I still feel comfortable with caveat emptor.

They were mentioning the phrase today on NPR while discussing how to bottle and mass produce resveratrol, a chemical found on the skin of grapes and also in wine. Diane Rehm was exasperated, baffled, perhaps, at why as humans we cannot consume so much of seemingly life-saving panaceas in food, and if not, where one would be able to buy such a thing. Although I cannot quite put my finger on it, I feel like I can relate with the interviewer’s sentiment.

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Source:

 

 

http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2015-06-29/anti-aging-research

Vegetarian summer rolls

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This dish falls at the midpoint between boiled and raw green bean.

Summer rolls are super fun to make if you like working with your hands. I made these recently several times over for some Christmas get togethers and once by myself, and I can say while this dish takes minimal exertion, it is painstakingly slow.

If you are about to eat with a group of hungry and/or hangry folks, make rolls ahead of time. I have considered this a great solo dish to eat alone or in the presence of gracious guests.

General prep note: Make up to two hours ahead of time. If not served immediately, rice paper gets sticky and dries out.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 Cucumber julienned

2 medium carrots (equivalent to 5-7 baby rainbow carrots) julienned

1 avocado

1 bush basil

2-4 ounces rice vermicelli

6-8 rice papers

Equipment:

butcher knife

1 medium sized bowl filled halfway with warm water

1 plate

1 medium pot filled with boiling water

cutting board

vegetable peeler

strainer

Directions:

Cook vermicelli rice noodles 5 minutes in rolling boil water.

Dump noodles into strainer and let sit.

Chop cucumber, carrots, and basil. Set aside.

Place a sheet of rice paper into warm bowl of water for ten seconds.

Then place on plate.

Place small clump of cucumber, carrot, basil, and noodle onto the center of the rice paper. Slice a pat or two of avocado on top.

Fold top and bottom of rice paper over filling. Wrap sides over like a burrito roll.

Upside down mushroom tartlet

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The beauty of cooking is not unlike pioneering. You have to test outside the unset boundaries and trust yourself that you are doing the right thing. Unlike discovering new worlds, exploring food stuffs is mostly harmless. That being said, I enjoy giving myself a bit of lead time on food experiments.

I had a hard time finding the mushrooms for this recipe, so I used a pound of mixed oyster, cremini, and shitake. Although I tend to recommend changing ingredients to accommodate varietals, I have made thyme and gruyere scones before and the combination of cheese and herb is one that is best preserved.

The challenge with this recipe was the instructions. I am still in process, so the next rendition might include using the pastry dough differently. Next time I might use the dough as a purse so that the final product reads  like a stuffed muffin.

Prep time: 25 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

Here is a clip of the major steps.

Equipment:

1 butcher knife

1 cookie sheet

1 ice cream scooper

1 medium bowl

1 vegetable strainer

1 10″ saute pan

1 cheese grater

1 small bowl

1 muffin pan

1 3″ diameter glass jar

1 pairing knife

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 pound cremini mushrooms

1 shallot

3/4 cup gruyere cheese

2 teaspoons fresh thyme

1 frozen pastry puff sheet

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375º  Fahrenheit.

Take pastry puff sheet out of freezer. Defrost by letting dough sit out at room temperature for an hour. After one hour, unfold the dough. Using the mouth of the drinking glass, trace six 3″ circles in the dough with the pairing knife. Set six dough circles on cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator.

Lightly coat with olive oil the bottom and sides of six muffin pan cups.

Wash 1 pound mushrooms in strainer. Chop stems and slice mushrooms.

Grate 3/4 cup gruyere cheese.

Turn on heat under sauté pan. Add one tablespoon olive oil.

Dice shallot.

Prepare thyme: Pinch the tiny, soft, live green thyme leaves from the stems. Collect the green leaves in the small bowl. Discard stems.

Cook shallot on medium high heat for 7 minutes or until lightly browned.

Add mushrooms. Stir mushrooms ten-12 minutes on medium high heat.

Stir in thyme. Remove pan from heat. Pour mushroom mixture into medium bowl.

With the ice scream scooper, divide mushroom filling into six muffin cups. Evenly sprinkle cheese on top of six muffin cups.

Lay one dough circle on top of each filled muffin cup.

Cook for 25 minutes at 375º Fahrenheit or until pastry tops are golden brown.

Remove from pan.

Let sit for five minutes

To remove muffins from pan, invert pan over cookie sheet. Tartlets should land with the pastry side down and mushroom side up.

Source:

http://www.marthastewart.com/319487/upside-down-mushroom-tartlets

Thyme lentil potatoes

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I like the idea of slow food, and Sundays are perfect for all day food creations. Making home cooked meals is my favorite artisanal craft: you are constantly using your hands and you can perfect it daily.

When I am not watching TV I am usually thinking about food. As a result I tend to frame life goals around things I have seen on TV.

I recently had a conversation with some people at work about why some people live so long. NPR aired an interview with the 90-year-old Dick Van Dyke. He said the key to staying young is always keep moving. This is the same name of his recent memoir. He is constantly in motion.

Always Be Closing

Connecting the weird dot from old film stars to now, a gif in my mind runs Dick Van Dyke doing a little tap dance with a caption that reads: Always Be Moving, in the style of the ABC (Always be Closing) speech from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross where Alec Baldwin’s character motivates a bunch of salesmen to make the deal.

I think there is a lot of play with this dish. You could add more lentils and less potatoes for a more stew consistency, or pack on the tots like my current incantation which reads more like a casserole.

Simple contrasts pull this piece together: savory thyme mashed up with  sweet coconut. This recipe includes ingredients I got at the farm market and items already in my cupboard.

Prep time: 35 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Equipment:

1 Butcher knife

1 pairing knife

1 peeler

1 strainer

1 9″ x 11″ Pyrex dish

cutting board

1 large pot

Ingredients:

4-6 red skinned potatoes

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp thyme

2 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil

1 can chunked pineapple

1 12 oz bag lentils

2 handfuls Brussel sprouts

Optional topping:

plain Greek yogurt

Directions:

Preheat oven at 400ºF.

Crush and finely chop garlic cloves.

Fill large pot 2/3 way with water. Heat on high.

Pour thyme, ginger, coconut oil, and garlic into pot.

Open bag of lentils. Pour in strainer. Rinse in running water for a minute.

Once water begins to boil, add lentils. Boil lentils for one minute and then simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off burner under lentils.

Open can of pineapple. Empty entire contents in Pyrex dish.

Clean and scrub potatoes. Use a peeler to remove blemishes and eyes.

Chop potatoes into 16ths. Set aside in Pyrex dish.

Cut each Brussel sprout in half. Set aside in Pyrex dish.

Pour lentils on top of vegetables in Pyrex dish.

Cook in the oven for one hour.

Remove Pyrex dish from oven.

Let sit five minutes before serving.

Optional: top with a dollop of Greek yogurt.