Category: food

Savoring a Grapefruit

One hot day, I decided to savor a grapefruit. I plucked the chilled fruit out of the refrigerator and cut it into eight semicircular slices. I held each slice between the fingers of both my hands, but did not immediately bite into it. Savoring involves all the senses.

I examined it first. I observed its chatoyance. I saw how light glistened off the moist carnelian facets of this gem of a fruit. I spread the rind so that sections of the meat separated from each other, and I inhaled the citrus scent that sprayed from the parting sections.

I tasted the texture and tanginess, but without yet biting into it. I just ran my tongue along the glossy, bittersweet surface.

Then I bit it. And the piquant tartness bit back. It made my lips pucker.

I chewed slowly and winced as each astringent droplet coursed down the back of my throat, burning like a Fourth of July sparkler. It forced me to pause in mid-chew, to allow the bitter to fade into sweetness.

I swallowed, and each fleshy lump of citrus burned and cooled my stomach, all at the same time.

That is how I immersed my hot summer day in zingy cool sweetness.

(This post is meaningless. But I hope it helps you feel a little cooler today.)

Macaroni & Cheese

Guglielmo Macaroni, 1874-1937. I don't have any pictures of my macaroni and cheese dish, so you'll have to settle for a photo of the inventor of this dish. Guglielmo Macaroni was not just a chef, but also a scientist. He invented wireless radio transmission, which revolutionized the way we communicate.

Guglielmo Macaroni, 1874-1937. I don’t have any pictures of my macaroni and cheese dish, so you’ll have to settle for a photo of the inventor of this dish. Guglielmo Macaroni was not just a chef, but also a scientist. He invented wireless radio transmission, which revolutionized the way we communicate.

Dr. Victo Dolore, at the blog “Behind The White Coat” asked me to write a post on macaroni and cheese. I don’t like cooking-themed blogs, and tend to avoid them. Who wants to read a boring old recipe? Not me.

But I’ve learned that it’s always best to follow a doctor’s orders. So at the risk of turning this into a cooking blog, here is my recipe for macaroni and cheese. This recipe should feed a family of three gluttons for about two days:

Well, it’s actually three recipes in one. So let’s start with the first. First you have to make bechamel sauce (pronounced BAY-shum-el). Bechamel sauce is a standard sauce used in many different dishes, so this is a handy recipe to have.

BECHAMEL SAUCE

Step 1: Grab a large, white onion. Yank it out of your garden, steal it from a produce stand, or pilfer it at the grocery store. You need an onion.

Step 2: Reach into your pocket and dig out your pocketknife. Slice about a quarter of that onion out of the bulb, then toss the rest in the fridge for something you might make later. Such as hot dogs.

Step 3: Make an onion piquet. Piquet is French for puke. But never mind that. Just make an onion piquet. Don’t know how? Here’s how: Get into your spice rack and look for the cloves. Not the damned powdered cloves, but the whole ones. They look like little pins. Get just one little clove; you don’t need more. Then find a bay leaf. Those are the things that look like little leaves. Put the bay leaf over the onion, then stab it with the clove, so that the clove clings the bay leaf to the onion. This is brutal, violent stuff. Be careful not to poke yourself in the process.

Step 4: Throw the onion piquet into a heavy saucepan. Then pour in 36 ounces of milk. That’s 4.5 cups. Light a big fire under the saucepan, then wait. When that milk starts a’boilin’ turn the fire down until the milk is just a’simmerin’. A simmer is a kind of light boil. It’s when you see little bubbles coming up, but not great big bursting, roiling bubbles. Now simmer that damned onion piquet in the milk for a whole 20 minutes. Stir it a lot, because nothing sticks worse to the side of a pan than cooked milk.

Step 5: In a separate pot, make a white roux out of flour and butter. What the hell is a roux, you ask? Beats the shit out of me. I can’t speak French. Just follow this recipe: Slice off 2.2 ounces of butter from that cube in the fridge. And you do use real butter don’t you? You sure as hell better, or this won’t taste so good. Use an electronic food scale to measure out this butter. I don’t like using measuring cups much. Scales are a lot more precise. Toss the butter into a saucepan. Now weigh out 2.2 ounces of flour, and throw that into the saucepan. Light a medium-sized flame under the pan. Grab yourself a spoon, or fork, or some sort of stirring implement, and stir the crap out of this concoction, until the butter is melted and a thick paste has formed. Then take it off the flame before the white roux gets too hot and then turns into a blond roux or a brown roux. But if it does, don’t worry. It should still work out well.

Step 6: After 20 minutes, remove the onion piquet from the milk, and throw it in the slop bucket for the pigs. You’ll probably find that the damned clove has come loose, and the bay leaf is floating around in there. If you want, fish the clove and bay leaf out. Or just leave them in, and amuse yourself watching someone’s reaction when they find a leaf in their macaroni. And a loose clove looks a bit like a booger, and that can educe even more amusing reactions.

Step 7: Put a flame under the white roux you made in Step 5, then gradually add the hot milk to it, while stirring constantly with a whisk to avoid lumps. Nobody likes lumps in their macaroni. Bring this concoction up to a good boil. Then reduce to a simmer, and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir a lot because, you know, cooked milk just loves the sides of pans. Whilst it’s simmering, add salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste. “To taste” means just that. Imagine what the finished dish will taste like, as you’re sprinkling these ingredients into the milk. And make sure you have a conservative imagination, or you might overdo it and everyone will throw up at the dinner table.

Step 8: After 30 minutes of simmering, you’re done. Congratulations! You’ve just made bechamel sauce. But now it’s time to convert your bechamel sauce into a bechamel cheese sauce, with the following recipe:

BECHAMEL CHEESE SAUCE

Step 1: Add to the bechamel sauce, 2.2 ounces of grated cheddar or American cheese. Then add a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and a teaspoon of dry mustard.

Step 2: You should have added these ingredients a few minutes before your bechamel sauce was completed. Surprise! I hope you read these instructions completely, first, before embarking on making this gourmet macaroni and cheese dish. So let’s say you did, and you wisely added the ingredients in a timely manner. The cheese should all be melted by now, and so by now you have yourself a fine batch of bechamel cheese sauce. Now let’s move on to the main recipe:

MACARONI AND CHEESE

Step 1: Do you like to make your own pasta? Then go find a book and learn how. I’m not teaching it here.

Step 2: Get down to the dry goods store and buy or steal yourself some already-made macaroni noodles. It comes dry, in a box or plastic bag. Check the ingredients out. If you want the best stuff, get the macaroni that’s made from semolina flour.

Step 3: This recipe calls for 16 ounces of dry macaroni. The rule, when it comes to boiling pasta, is to use one gallon of water for every pound of pasta. Therefore, find yourself a big enough pot to hold one gallon of water. Get that water up to a rolling boil. Toss some salt into the water. Pasta absorbs salt only when it’s being boiled, so that’s the time to salt it. Unless you have high blood pressure that’s caused by salt. Then don’t salt it. I don’t like much salt myself. Really, you can do without the salt. Now once the water is a’boilin’, grab a handful of macaroni and just toss it in. Make sure your handful contains exactly 16 ounces of this curly pasta. Use the scale.

Step 4: Boil the 16 ounces of macaroni until al dente, or tender. Al dente is a fancy Italian word that means slightly firm. How do you know it’s al dente, or tender? You have to fish around in the water with a spoon, and snag a boiling piece of macaroni on the fly. Then bite into it. That’s the only way to tell if pasta is done. You must bite it. However, it should only take about 7 or 8 minutes of boiling to make it nice and done and tender. Slightly less time for al dente.

Step 5: Strain the cooked macaroni through a china cap or colander. A china cap is a large conical contraption with holes in it, and it works just like a colander. It seems like a racist term that perpetuates a Chinese stereotype. But this term persists in the field of the culinary arts, where apparently, nobody gets out of the kitchen long enough to be enlightened by our modern world. After straining, run some cold tapwater over the noodles to cool them down. You have to cool them down or the damn stuff will just keep cooking, even when there’s no fire under it. Then pour the macaroni back into that big old pot you boiled it in.

Step 6: Throw the bechamel cheese sauce into the pot of cooked macaroni noodles and stir like hell for a while, until every noodle is coated with the sauce.

Step 7: Dump 16 ounces of grated Cheddar or American cheese into this mixture of sauce and noodles. By the way, you have been keeping yourself busy grating all this damned cheese, while the bechamel sauce was cooking, haven’t you? It’s a lot of grating. It will wear your arms out. You will feel exhausted by now. But you can’t rest. Because now you have to mix all this cheese into the macaroni. Use a great big spoon that you can wrap both forearms around, and stir by swaying your body in a large, swirling motion.

Step 8: Grab a big slice of that fattening, heart-attack-inducing, real butter you keep stored in the fridge, and use it to butter the bottom and sides of a large casserole pan. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Step 9: Pour the macaroni, sauce, and cheese mixture into the casserole pan. It should pour out in one or two big oozing glumps. Careful, don’t let any tumble over the pan and onto the floor, or you’ll have to scoop it up and put it into the pan with your bare hands, while no one is looking. Smooth out the top of the mac and cheese so that you have an even surface.

Step 10: Slice off some more of that life-ending butter and put it into a saucepan. Throw four ounces of bread crumbs after it, turn up the heat, and stir this around. By the way, you can get the bread crumbs in a can, at the store. DO NOT crumble up some fresh bread, and consider that to be bread crumbs. Okay, as the butter melts it will coat the bread crumbs. Stirring will keep clumps from forming.

Step 11: When the bread crumbs are thoroughly coated with all that delicious, deadly butter, turn off the heat, then spread the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the macaroni.

Step 12: Slam the macaroni into the oven and bake at 350 degrees, until hot. This should take about 30 minutes.

Step 13: Yank it out of the oven and serve. At long last, dinner is done! Bravissimo!

Invading My Wife’s Kitchen

Gratin Dauphinoise Casserole. I made it, but can't pronounce it. I do know it will make you fat, unless you eat rationed leftovers for about three days.

Gratin Dauphinoise Casserole. I made it, but can’t pronounce it. I do know it will make you fat, unless you eat rationed leftovers for about three days.

I’m a men’s libber. I reject the notion that a man’s place is outside the kitchen. And so I invaded that sacred room where my wife magically produces the thing called dinner.

I bought a 1,200 page college textbook, called on cooking, by sarah r. labensky and alan m. hause. I then sat down with bifocals on my face, to study the culinary arts.

They say in China that the journey of a thousand-page book begins with the first sentence. I read that first sentence. But then I gave up and took a nap. But later I picked it back up again, and trudged forward, slogging through page after yawning page. As of now, I’ve progressed to page 750. Which tells me I must be pretty serious about this. I guess for the first time in my life I am determined to learn how to cook.

My wife doesn’t mind all the theory I’m digesting. But breaking into her kitchen was a whole different affair. The battle began. She has everything in its place and doesn’t want it disturbed.

Which is ironic, because my wife is a slob.

The lady of this house is one of those disorganized people who leaves everything in piles, yet somehow manages to find what she needs and get things done. It amazes me. I’ve never figured out how slobs are able to accomplish this feat.

Myself, I’m anal-retentive when it comes to organization. I’m meticulous and methodical, and prefer everything to be neat and orderly. Otherwise I begin screaming. And sometimes I even pass out.

And so we are like oil and water, in the kitchen.

She finally agreed to let me cook something. I think she was hoping I’d see what cooking is really like, and never want to try it again. A gamble for her, and a roll of the dice I think she may lose.

It’s not that I like cooking. Hell that’s work, and it cuts into my nap time. But I love the results of my cooking. This college textbook has helped me produce gastronomic results that promise deliverance–sweet blessed deliverance–from my spouse’s traditional family dishes.

I’ve put theory to practice at least a dozen times now, and all with spectacular results. Even the missus reluctantly confesses her enjoyment of the gourmet feasts I’ve served.

Looks like I’m worming my way into a permanent spot in our kitchen.

I’d like to share my culinary methods with you, so that you too may enjoy the toothsome tastes that are being served upon our cluttered dining room table. And so, here’s a recipe to something I frequently cook. ENJOY!

CACOPHONY SOUP AND TOSSED SALAD

INGREDIENTS:
1 oz of Courage.
1/2 of a Brain.
1 1/2 gallons of Boiling Blood.
8 burnt Fingers.
2 scalded Thumbs.
4 letter Words (seasoning).
2 cups of Ears (or, 2 cupped ears).

DIRECTIONS:

  • Search for a saucepan. Pull all the saute pans, stockpots, racks, lids, and colanders out of the cupboards and scatter them over the floor. Somewhere in that metallic mess there has got to be a saucepan.
  • Find a mixing bowl. It will be behind the precariously stacked up bone-china teacups with the pretty designs on them, and to the right of your great-great-grandmother-in-law’s antique vases. Careful. You may feel angry, but don’t break anything trying to yank it out, or you’ll never hear the end of it.
  • Wait until the temptation to slit your wrists has passed. Then locate a chef’s knife. It’s below all the forks and under the pile of matchbooks, in the hidden compartment in the coffee table.
  • You’ll also need a measuring cup. Ah fuck it. You’ll never find it. Just guess.
  • Mix all the ingredients and put them over a flame. But first, get that roll of paper towels off the stove top. It’s a fire hazard, as you’ve politely stammered to your scowling wife a hundred thousand times.
  • Burn your fingers and thumbs numerous times, because you couldn’t find the hotpads.
  • While the vittles are simmering, try to rearrange the kitchen so that there will be some simulacrum of organization.
  • Serve the food. Listen to your wife smack her lips with pleasure, with each eager forkful. Feel vindicated.
  • The next day, cup your ears while enduring the bitching, cursing, and complaining when your wife tries to find stuff in the kitchen. Then spend hours helping her to put it back in the same disorder you found it in. Because then, and only then, will she know where anything is at.

Bacon

Charles Russell painting of man frying bacon.

Charles Russell painting of cowboy frying bacon.

It was a dream that always ended as soon as it began. It started out as a whirly, whipping sensation, spinning me outward and downward. I’d sense something was wrong and would force myself to wake up. Then I’d realize all was well. That it was just a dream. And I’d try with difficulty to fall back asleep again.

The antinomy of sensing something to be wrong when all was quite well, annoyed me. I became determined to stop waking myself up when this nocturnal gyre struck my dreams. I wanted to plunge down the rabbit hole. I wanted to whirl and whip outward and downward as far as REM would take me, before my psychopomp decided on its own to return me to the wakeful state.

I wanted to see what was drawing me to the netherworld.

It took months of difficult trial and effort before I finally succeeded. Every night I concentrated very hard before falling asleep, on the idea of remembering to go with this odd spinning sensation, as soon as it manifested in my dreams.

One night I finally did remember. And when it happened I relaxed. I told myself it was only a dream, and everything was all right. I then allowed my spirit to be carried away like a leaf in the vortex of a wild tornado.

I lost track of time. But after a few seconds to an eternity of whirling about, the tornado dissipated and I alighted on solid, stable ground. A nebulous figure sort of stood or hovered before me. It glowed like a lightning storm, and rumbled with the bassist of voices. “Welcome. I’ve been waiting a long time for your arrival,” it proclaimed.

“What is this place, and what do you want with me?” I asked timorously.

“It’s the sacred realm of the Tucumcari Mazurka, and you have been summoned for consecration as a great prophet,” came the rumbling response.

It continued. I sensed that it wished to waste no time, even though at the same time, time seemed irrelevant. But a man can only sleep for so long before his peregrination through dreamland must end.

“I will teach you the meaning of life. Then you must wander the four quarters of the globe, and disperse this teaching to all peoples of the earth. Or you can just blog about it.”

I smelled bacon. My wife was cooking breakfast, and the penetrating aroma put me in peril of immediate awakening. There was no time to waste. “Tell me now. Quickly!” I urged the theophany.

“The meaning of life is to be happy,” it stated with conclusive gravitas.

“Bull fucking shit!” I hollered. “You mean you summoned me all the way over here to tell me that? Why, every dickhead on earth who purports to teach enlightenment says the same damn thing. Give me something original. Something imaginative and illustrious. Something that will capture the attention of every soul who lends an ear to my preachments!”

It hovered motionless, while seeming to scratch its head. Finally it let out a great, booming sigh. “I’ve got nothing,” it admitted. “This meaning of life shit is really quite boring. It only goes as deep as the abstract. You can’t place a sure finger on it. So it’s hard to keep people interested. The best you can do is scare the hell out of folks, then promise them salvation if they’ll only listen to you and do what you say. But even that is tricky and unreliable.”

“So why should I be your prophet?” I asked.

“Well, how about this? There’s profit in being a prophet. You know, from donations, book sales, television appearances, and so forth. When you scare the shit out of people, you can really bring home the bacon.”

And that’s when it hit me. The bacon, I mean. The scent grabbed my olfactory nerves and jostled away my attention. The ethereal scene before me faded, and I opened my eyes.

No more dreaming. It was time for something real. It was time for bacon.

Bacon.

And that’s when I fully awakened to the true meaning of life.

The meaning of life is bacon.