“A recipe is not as precise as a chemical formula, since
ingredients vary slightly, as do cooking utensils and stoves. But a little
difference is sometimes refreshing, and so it will not matter if there is a
slight change in the finished product. For example, a sauce or a pudding may be
thicker or thinner without being a failure. Don’t apologize! Just present it
differently – the softer pudding in dessert glasses instead of on a serving
dish as you had planned.”
I was in a bad mood: I’d been
reading the news after breaking up (again) with my mercurial quilting machine. Cooking
when in a bad mood can lead one of two outcomes. When it works, cooking can lead to sublime transcendental enlightenment. The risk however, is that as they slowly go bad, failed cooking experiments can generate a gradual
accumulation of nameless dread that eventually coalesces so thickly in the
kitchen that it triggers the smoke alarm. So cooking while angry is always a
risky undertaking - but one I was willing to take on in my dark mood.
Fortunately, I have the key, to
escape the nameless dread. Garlic can make all the difference, and I’m not talking
about scaring away werewolves. There’s something about the
smell of roasting garlic that dispels the dread and summons the sublime. Thus,
my challenge was to make something with garlic. Then, there were the other
ingredients to assemble like an offering to the gods of anger: I needed comfort
food, aka gluten. And obviously, cheese.
I found this cool spicy hot
chili oil and I always have fresh basil on the windowsill although these days,
my pot is looking a bit tired. So, why not something in the bread machine that
will infuse the kitchen with aromas of mental wellbeing and carbohydrates to
accompany my postprandial bourbon. So I made the dough in the bread machine, then kneaded it and let it rise on my counter and baked it on the pizza stone in the oven.
Now, I could follow a recipe.
But the entire instigation for this cooking effort was the bad mood. And if there's one thing I hate (and there are many more than one thing) I don’t like things bossing me around – especially non-sentient things like signs and recipes.
It was Fannie Farmer who (I think my grandma
told me when she gave me the cookbook for a wedding present) first applied the idea
of precise measurements to cooking to make the experience more repeatable –
like a scientific experiment – and less fraught with pinches of this and handsful of that. Betty Crocker (not to mention Keith Richards) had nothing on
Fannie, my friends, when it came to cooking recipes with precise measurements
requiring tiny spoons.
So, I consider a recipe to be a
place to start cooking, not and exercise in proving a scientific theory about
the thickness of a pudding: one that can be repeated with perfect consistency
thereby proving the perfect pudding theory. If I ever write a cookbook,
it will be entitled Cooking While Pissed. Unless Julia Child already named one
of her books that because it seemed to me that when she cooked with wine she,
you know, got baked too. The fact that I was listening to a playlist heavy on
the bagpipes had little to do with either the cause of my bad mood or the
outcome of my cooking exercise (or with this post, for that matter).
Which was delicious bread, a bit
heavy because I may have added too much cheese, thereby proving the scientific
theory that yeast doesn’t make cheese rise. So I presented it as transcendently thinly sliced doughy lumps of garlicy cheese instead of bread, and it paired perfectly with my Sunday
evening PBS mystery shows. So I’ve got nothing to apologize for.
And also, by my second bourbon it occurred to me that my paternal grandmother may have given me a cookbook for a wedding present (thereby dramatically foreshadowing the failure of that marriage) but she might have been ahead of her time, slipping in the rather subversive message that a girl shouldn't have to apologize for her cooking. Thanks, Gram!
I have a car with a programmable
audible navigation system and a map.In
theory, I should never get lost. In fact, I do get lost. Here. In this town
where I’ve lived most of my life.
Not hopelessly lost where I’d
starve to death and be found in ten years by hikers; or even tragically lost
where I’d be found slightly decomposed within days - like the bodies at the
beginning of an episode of CSI. But I tend to turn left when my final
destination is on the right and I should know this by now dammit.
I could make the excuse about
the main highway that runs through my valley is Route 8 – an east-west road
that goes from Arizona to the Pacific Ocean. When Route 8 goes through my
valley however, it is actually going north to south, making a big zig-zag to
take advantage of passes leading into and out of the valley. That also means
that the dozens of secondary roads that criss-cross the valley also tend to
veer from their primary north/south path to east/west in some places. Or I could admit that I’m
directionally challenged, which is why I was such a failure as a professional
feng-shui consultant that my clients’ homes were being possessed by evil
spirits and demons.
But now with my navigation system, whose voice is named
Louella, by the way, I no longer need to fear this lack of directional ability
- as long as I can program in the address of my destination.
At any rate, I got lost coming
home the other night after I dropped a friend off in a part of town I rarely
visit. We used Louella to get us there, but I figured I’d find my own way home
without her guidance. Which I did, eventually. I was weak with hunger and dizzy
from low blood sugar, and I seriously had to pee. But I found a new scenic
route that covered 35 miles to return from a destination 20 miles from home.
Instead of worrying about
getting lost, I can now work on developing my latest superpower: using power
tools. I promise to only use my power tools for good, never to do evil, or
trepanning, or to slice body parts small enough to fit in my compost bin. At
least not until I get a bone saw blade for my reciprocating saw. Sadly, Home
Depot does not stock them. But I bet Amazon does.
While I was occupied
overthrowing tyrants, righting wrongs, saving kitties stranded in the branches
of tall trees, rescuing damsels in distress, and trying to sleep in, June
It’s not like I need to
apologize to my blog for benignly neglecting it; or to explain why my life
lately has been filled with horrible medical calamities; natural disasters and
acts of a vengeful god; exciting adventures involving unicorns and glitter;
travels to exotic locals, culinary experiments that resulted in indescribable
bliss, pilgrimages to religious shrines where I experienced a miraculous cure
for my lifelong chronic athlete’s foot; or that I’ve finally managed to sleep
late. Because who cares, right?
I also haven’t been too busy checking
my Facebook page hourly to be sure I take the latest stupid test to find out
what kind of musical instrument/kitchen implement/implantable medical device/Harry
Potter character, or terminal disease I am. Because the internets are the only
path to self-discovery through a dozen multiple choice questions yo. Nor have I
been too busy reading posts by people who bloviate about something positively
banal (or worse, christian extremism or political folly) and then say “share if
you agree”. I do admit I’ve spent some time trying to decide which bothers me
more, and instead have concluded that, sadly, I have only myself to blame that
my FB page is cluttered with such crap because my choice of FB friends has been
a bit indiscriminate and over-hasty. Sadly, herein art imitates life.
More importantly, I decline to succumb to what I’ve seen so many bloggers do when they revive a dormant
blog: whinge about how my recent life has sucked - as if people might possibly give a shit or
send me virtual hugs and relevant googled motivational quotes of which I would
otherwise remain woefully ignorant.
It’s none of that. It’s NSA,
people. They may be on to me. I think they may know what I had for breakfast (despite
the fact that I swallowed the last bite as I finished the previous paragraph,
and I already can’t remember what was on the plate). I fear that NSA may have
discovered my secret identity, or my embarrassing sexual
fetishes that involve plush toys and organic produce, or worse, my real weight.
So I’ve been hiding in my
fallout shelter – or whatever the kids are calling bunkers today – reading back
issues of The Paris Review and eating bloated cans of spaghetti-Os and hoping
I’ll drop off the NSA radar and that my latest flare-up of paranoia will
subside. Either that or I’ve been in rehab after one too many drunken blackouts
where I awoke next to a dead hooker wearing a bloodstained clown costume, and
lost the costume rental deposit because I didn’t use my Oxy-pen soon enough to
remove the blood. And don't think I'm stupid enough to commit to the internets which one of us was wearing the clown costume.
Or maybe, - just maybe - I’ve
evolved. I’ve taken my own advice that the virtual world is a pale shadow of
the real world and I’d rather inhabit the 3-D world and enjoy the clover while I still can.
Maybe I’ve found my inner deity
and reconnected with the earth.
Or maybe (and frankly, more likely) I’ve had my medications adjusted to
the point where I can actually garden a bit in nice weather without having to
spend the night covered in flop-sweat while my pulse tops out at 145 before
subsiding enough to let me sleep.
Maybe, I’ve decided that
blathering online about my life is narcissistic and self-defeating. Maybe I've concluded that I could
be enjoying an actual life in the real world, while the virtual world continues
its plummet to hell without me.
( Title Credit: Lewis Carroll. Illustration credit: Yuji Kamozawa)