The things eaten and enjoyed

The things eaten and enjoyed

I went out to dinner at Grand Cafe in South Minneapolis recently with Gogo and one of her friends from Chicago. We ate steak tartare with boquerones, chicken liver mousse, pork pate en croute with savora mustard, wilted spinach salad with lardons, boozy rum cake for dessert. It was the kind of dining experience that holds your hand and teaches you how good food can be; how good food should taste and feel, and then leaves you defeated as though you’ve been crushed by a cleaver to the chest, the remnants hanging onto the edge of your lips and fingertips. Food rooted in the French tradition on which we’ve based culinary excellence for hundreds of years. We tipped our waitress. We bought a bottle of champagne in gratitude for the kitchen. The next night, I smoked a joint and ate a platter of local cheeses at home on the couch. I only meant to have one or maybe two pieces, but I couldn’t stop cutting more until the entire block was gone. I finished it with a piece of dark chocolate from Madmoiselle Miel’s chocolate shop on Kellogg Boulevard and then collapsed onto the couch until morning. “It doesn’t have to be fancy, you know.” Gogo tells me. “Good food is anything that tastes good.” I made macaroni and cheese from the box, found some grapes and watermelon in the fridge, drank a beer from the can, opened a bag of chips and sour cream. “Food is meant to be eaten and enjoyed.” There’s something sexual about the way garlic smells cooking in butter. I made tomato butter for...
“86” clothes: What we gain when we take everything off

“86” clothes: What we gain when we take everything off

It was a feeling from day one, indescribable in a single word. So many different words came instead; words that came and come to mind looking into wandering eyes with wondering eyes like hers. “I want something to eat. And if there isn’t anything leftover when we’re finished, we’ll simply make more.” When things were still withheld and unsteady. When our imaginations ran wild and unchecked. When tension that could be cut with a knife was used to make Japanese udon noodles from scratch instead, and prepare dishes we knew would taste both different and the same, familiar and new, every time we sat down to eat. When words fail it is fingers and toes, breathlessness and beating hearts, inexhaustible passion and heat of the kitchen that reminds us why we stand so close to each other. Why we fall asleep intertwined, all knees and cheeks and sweet words left on the pillow. Because feeling and flavor are inextricably linked. Some people (many people, other people) don’t need much to be happy. They don’t need decadent meals, or the time spent over stoves and ovens. They don’t appreciate the plates so well composed that they beg to play the notes of Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt. So beautiful they could be placed on the wall next to Van Gogh, Dali, Renoir. We do.   A recipe for candied orange peel Ingredients: 2ea large oranges, 1/4in cut off top & bottom 4 cups sugar, in 4 different cups 3 cups water   Directions: Cut the peel of each orange vertically into 4 pieces Remove each section and cut into segments 1/4in thick Cook...
Apple sweet, coffee dark & bitter

Apple sweet, coffee dark & bitter

The Asian markets along University Avenue have anything and everything you could ever want to buy: They have the things that Minnesota’s Scandinavian, Irish, and Eastern European base will recognize, and then everything else brought from the far Eastern Asian countries along the Mekong River: Salted duck eggs, fresh quail eggs, pickled chicken eggs, Thai basil, live clams and frogs. Noodles – a wall of noodles. Hot sauces made from red chili. Coffee with sweet milk. It’s a wonderful thing, especially those who enjoy expanding their knowledge of food and their palate. A resource for everyone. It was not long ago that a farmer grandfather from Monticello looked at sushi with confused and disapproving eyes. Fried Chinese was acceptable, but, what in the hell do we need all these other things for? And he wasn’t necessarily wrong – he wasn’t wrong in the sense that regional authenticities deserve as much attention as all the new things flooding our grocery markets and restaurants. We forgot long, long ago what the Native Americans, the First Nation, indigenous populations were eating here before Europeans arrived. And now we have all of those foods, plus every single other food that has been added since then. It’s become quite crowded, noisy even, and if you don’t know how to navigate this new and exciting and ever-changing world of food; how to keep up and how to appreciate the beauty of diversity in diet, you’re going to retreat into the things you know – the things on which you were raised. Familiar things. Things that make you happy. Like my grandfather did. And it’s never really going...
What is it like to be so in love?

What is it like to be so in love?

We’re holding on tight together in the shower, hot taps running down skin and between fingers and toes. We’re falling into fresh sheets on the feather bed, our bodies wrapped tight in blankets, covered in pillows. Touching and laughing about nothing. There’s a small bar at the end of the block – an old and rickety place that smells like cigarettes even though they banned smoking indoors years ago (except in casinos, where rules don’t really apply). It’s hot in this bar, because it’s so small and so full of people. Even (or especially) in winter. People yell for drinks and cheer for their favorite team on the screen overhead. Potato chips hang from the wall behind the bottles: the only thing they have to eat. There’s a dartboard in the back – slightly crooked, like an open mouth with sharp teeth. We throw darts and I let her win. She lets me win. And then we have one more drink while the football game or the baseball game plays overhead, with everyone watching but us. We cheer when they cheer. Everybody stands crowded around the bar holding glasses and magic wands that will make their problems disappear. We carve out a little space of our own to throw darts. We talk about leaving – about long road trips across the country the way used to do – before – when the wide open spaces of the country were still a mystery and the open road could stretch on and on and on until, finally, it stopped at the edge of vast and insurmountable ocean. And everyone knows that...
When the world becomes water

When the world becomes water

Gogo stands over the oven. She is sweating – the air is warm and humid, even at night. She is cooking when I come through the door, licking her mother’s recipes from her fingers. There’s a loaf of bread and garlic next to her with a piece missing. And she says, “Forgive me, but I was so very hungry. You’re late.” “I’m sorry.” “I started eating,” she wipes her hands with a white towel from the rack. “I couldn’t wait.” Only the light over the sink is on, keeping the kitchen in shadows and smells. I take a bowl from the cupboard and she fills it with noodles, tomato, garlic, wine. We sit down at the small wooden table pushed against the wall and eat mostly in silence. We fall asleep on the couch after we’re finished, watching something on TV that we’ve both seen before. The apartment is only one room, so nothing is far away. It was the opposite the last time we had sex. It was the last time we fell asleep together in the bed – slept someplace other than the couch. “You’re early,” she had said, her hair pulled across her forehead, panting, licking her lips, unsatisfied. We watched a movie recently. I don’t remember the title. It was something that Gogo wanted to watch and I fell asleep before it was over. I woke up near the end to a guy with a strong jaw taking the leading lady in his arms and telling her, “You’re silly.” “What?” The heroine asks. “To think that the money that you’ll inherit from your mother is...