’86’ Clothes

’86’ Clothes

It was a feeling from day one, indescribable in a single word. So many different words came instead: So many words came and come to mind looking into wondering eyes with wandering 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 imaginations ran wild, unchecked. When a tension that could be cut with a knife was used instead to make Japanese udon noodles from scratch and prepare dishes we knew would taste both different and the same, familiar and new, every time we sat down to eat. But when words fail it is fingers and toes, the breathlessness of beating hearts, the inexhaustible passion and heat of the kitchen that reminds us why we always stand so close to each other. Why we fall asleep intertwined, all knees and cheeks and sweet words left on pillows. Because feeling and flavor are inextricably linked. Some people, many people, other people don’t need much to be happy. Some people, many people don’t need decadent meals, the time spent over stoves and ovens, the plates so well composed they beg to be put on the same plane of existence as Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt. So beautiful they could be placed on walls next to the likes of Van Gogh, Dali, Renoir. But 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...
Apple sweet, coffee dark and bitter

Apple sweet, coffee dark and 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. 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 to be “simple” in...
We’re always searching, our culinary tongues, for something new to taste

We’re always searching, our culinary tongues, for something new to taste

Going out to a restaurant, i.e. going out for breakfast or brunch or lunch or dinner early and late, is not only about the food on the plate in front of us: It’s a culinary adventure; an experience designed to create sensations we don’t have, will not get, and cannot recreate, at home. The pros: Many new restaurants doing many new things, changing, every day, and always. The cons: Well, we don’t always need these things. Sometimes simplicity is enough. A man is hungry A friend told me once that he was very hungry for Chinese food. We rattled off for him a long list of Chinese restaurants in the Twin Cities. Does he want takeout? No. Something fried or something fresh? To sit down for dim sum? Does he want noodles or does he want rice? No. He wanted something he had never had before. We looked at each other and shrugged. He wanted a trip to China, deep into the heart of the country’s largest cities to find foods that hadn’t yet made it across the ocean and probably never would. He wanted to go deep into grain fields  and pastoral settings where a full meal is something to be cherished and respected. The flavors that can only be found where they come from; the things that can only be had where they grow and have grown for thousands and thousands of years. Global cuisine has allowed us to have so many things at our fingertips. So many tastes and dishes, so many cultures recreating their homelands right in front of our noses. Should we celebrate eating...
Thoughts on cooking at home

Thoughts on cooking at home

Many things I make for myself to eat at home I would never serve to anyone else. Many of the things I’ve made are strange but I eat them anyway. When the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator and counters are at my disposal then it is time to experiment, cooking what is available and hope that it turns out. And if it doesn’t, I eat it anyway. Usually. Especially when funds were low and the cupboards, refrigerator, counter were mostly barren. It was an episode of “Chopped” just to get dinner made and on the table. Okay, chefs. Here are your four ingredients. Because there were only four ingredients left in the kitchen before we had money again to go grocery shopping. Always rice – a big bag of it in the corner. Often potatoes. Canned black beans. Tomatoes if we were lucky, though they never lasted long. Sometimes pasta from the back cooked in an old bottle of red wine turned to vinegar, with those leftover pine nuts and some long-gone basil in a drawer. Ample amounts of salt and black pepper. And always, always some sort of hot sauce. And when it got worse than that we stole loaves of bread and peanut butter from the gas station. The friend with the largest Carhartt jacket slipping a 6-pack of shit domestic beer out the door because the buzz would help us forget our situation. I was caught once with a deli sandwich stuffed into my armpit. Turkey and cheese with mayonnaise. I pushed the man who grabbed my arm and dropped the sandwich. He let go. I ran. I’ve...
Restaurant run: Low light for food, fantastic, and categorical phantasm

Restaurant run: Low light for food, fantastic, and categorical phantasm

We are at the restaurant after the gala. It’s our restaurant. The lighting is low, except for the menu cards lit with lights almost neon, garish and hanging over the service station like the dashboard of the old car your mother used to drive. We speak in your voice; the way you speak; the way you talk to the one you love simply, the one with whom you share a table, a meal, a drink while casting sidelong glances at other tables to see what they’ve ordered, if they are enjoying it, are they enjoying themselves? Where will they go tonight after the throbbing streets subside? The server stands table side and is a short man with dark hair slicked back long behind his ears. He glistens in the changing light, a layer of sweat on his forehead. Candles on the tabletop, dripping wax. He pours wine with the nose of someone who doesn’t like to be wrong. Who would never be wrong, no, not in the presence of such treasured and esteemed patronage. “The autumn composition, miss,” he says with a voice that recalls Rome and other empires long gone, “Beneath a magret de canard. The season is fantastic and it will be the chef’s pleasure to prepare it medium rare.” “For you, sir,” he says, “the squab.” But we smell the richness of the glace de viande and Soubise, roasted pear and blueberries, vinegar, wine the way kings and conquerors looked down on their meals of great conquest. Like the skin of pure and perfect women waiting in sheets and velvet, and the carved statues of great...
Food & Sex & Everything in between

Food & Sex & Everything in between

It’s been said, by some, that food is better than sex. Food is certainly not better than sex, but some meals can and do come (pretty) close. And the comparisons are apt. The sensations, yes, the appetites, the insatiable hunger for something so perfect you feel you cannot get enough. When something so delicious passes your lips and you grip your fork, your spoon, the sides of your seat in pure and unadulterated ecstasy. Like honey that rolls slowly, dripping down chins and fingers. The sticky sweet. Honeycomb. Along with rank cheeses that assault the senses: Époisses and Limburger. Or along with more subtle cheeses that sit delicate at the back of the palate. Appenzeller Swiss and white cheddar. It’s a sweetness that fills your smells, your taste, you smell, your touch, with a different sort of of sensation. Something you crave. But savory is most necessary (as a paradox, perhaps, of food: the sweetness of dinner comes more from the umami. A richness, sure, but more from the complex flavors of which pure sweetness of sugar/dessert can not alone compare). Breathe in the smell of onions cooking in butter. There is something so very sensual about that smell. Add a touch of (that) honey for sweetness. Add the onions to your steak, cut thin and cooked rare. Have vegetables on the side. Have asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli cooked in oil with a little salt sprinkled on top. Have something from rivers or the ocean: Trout cheeks are the best part of the fish, as soft and nearly as rich as pork belly. Enjoy truffles and pickles and pate beforehand,...