To perceive is to suffer.
~Aristotle

This is not meant to be some hefty harangue or diatribe on writing. To the utter contrary. But, it does seem like the revered trait for writers is not will, bravado or grit, but rather vibrant prose, empathetic and fluid storytelling, rich and beloved character creation.

A blank screen or paper alone can be daunting (have been there and done that), leading to lengthy stares, dire anxiety and idle fingers. Then comes disjointed prose, inapt words or topics, insipid imagery, worthless metaphors, and feeble punctuation. Writing, as with many art forms, is just really arduous labor; a brutal, almost crippling, job.

So, a poetic lilt, even just an enlightened brief passage or paragraph, lifts souls and so often makes us return to re-read, even aloud. Think of Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, William Shakespeare, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Samuel Beckett, John Barth, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, David Mitchell, Joseph Conrad, Leo Tolstoy, Umberto Eco, Jane Austen, Vladimir Nabokov, Victor Hugo, T.S. Eliot, Gustave Flaubert, John Updike, Kingsley Amis, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Stendahl, Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll, André Gide, Jorge Luis Borges, et al. — this is just a smattering of prose writers and does not even mention the magical creations of preeminent poets. But, their words and perceptive imagery can flat illuminate your universe. By arranging selective words, creating characters, telling stories, and placing punctuation or not on a page, skilled novelists, poets and playwrights reveal their minds and extend ours. Even when disruptive to our psyches, their heedful art has unearthed and unveiled human nature, the bare bones of our biology, our anthropology. Alexithymia untethered, so thank you all so much.

So, why do I write about food and stuff? Well, repasts and convo are damned pleasing, and one of our primary hobbies happens to be cooking. The ruminations just came along for the ride. So, the blog seemed a fit, a natural, making little mention of Mom’s Joy of Cooking with her handwritten notes staring at me. Besides being a logophile, my mother gave me a sense of ardor, one of passion, even a feeling of the absurd. Enough of that, as I am not worthy.

Rapturous fare below.

ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES WITH EGGS & HERBS

3 lbs root vegetables, cut into rough wedges (local multi-hued carrots, rainbow beets, new potatoes, turnips, white and red radishes, fennel bulb(s), zucchini, celery root — some peeled, other’s not)
1-2 plump, fresh garlic heads, cut transversely
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 bay leaves, dried

Local eggs
Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh herb leaves (rosemary, basil, thyme, lavender) torn and chopped
Capers, drained

Heat oven to 400-425 F.

Toss local vegetables with olive oil, garlic(s), sea salt, black pepper, and bay leaves in a heavy pan. Let stand at room temperature. Then roast, stirring thrice or so until slightly browned, about an hour. Discard the bay leaves.

Serve with fried eggs just sautéed in olive oil and partially cover the roasted vegetables, with egg spaces here and there, ground black pepper, then strew with fresh herbs and capers atop.

A vivid and savory tapestry.

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Paradise Lost, Again

December 14, 2012

Accept the children the way we accept trees — with gratitude, because they are a blessing — but do not have expectations or desires. You don’t expect trees to change, you love them as they are.
~Isabel Allende

Unspeakable. The darkest of horrors that will never leave. Today, so many beautiful and innocent young bright-eyed children, their glowing futures ahead of them, were massacred in their schoolrooms by a crazed gunman armed like a special ops soldier. Saplings horrifically felled much too early. Profound and recurring, relentlessly nightmarish. Enough reruns of ruined young lives.

So, please just cease the hollow refrains of “how could this happen, why could this happen?” Or the inanity of arguing that “the bad guys will have more potent weapons and so for minimal self-defense, semiautomatic weapons and enhanced clips are needed.” Or the classic misogynistic one that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” We have heard those same asinine lines over and over before. Anyone with even a whit of sense has better solutions, except for maniacal gun supporters and profiteers who seem unwilling to grasp these self-evident truths, sheepishly and illogically hiding behind obsolete Second Amendment claims and adhering to that unpatriotic paper tiger called the NRA. Callous gun lobbyists and gutless politicians continue to aid and abet the rampant gun violence which is nothing less than domestic terrorism, carried out with inherently dangerous assault weapons that are freely owned and carried by our own citizens. The raw data alone speaks volumes.

Do you not know how you shamelessly hastened their tragic ends by blatantly allowing the barter of weapons of mass destruction?

Please, so many senators and representatives, do not offer us your usual weak, self-indulgent condolonences, or that feigned shock and grief only to eschew politics out of hand with devious motives. How you bogusly glad hand with false smiles and kiss babies as if you care, yet freely gird others to kill more each year. Under the guise of delusional constitutional interpretations, you have effectively allied gun fanatics with the deranged and criminals making this country the homicide capital of the developed world.

Soon it will be time to candidly face these angelic, slaughtered children and ask their families how you so readily arm a crazed man and so many others like him. Ask the innocents and their families about the effects of flagrant weapons trade, and how they will remain forever blighted by today’s carnage. Then, look really hard in the nearest mirror, only to see the looks of blatant lies. Those falsehoods you uttered to so many others, young and old, most often to yourself, merely to preserve your lowly caste. Surely you recognize that is it not just a question of complacency and greed, but rather cowardice. How you sell your soul, timid ones — so brazenly, with our youth in the balance.

Beyond sad.

Everything cooked for a lover is sensual.
~Isabel Allende, Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses

One variation on a fried rice theme…a motif limited only by your leftovers, pantry and creativity. As some food is best with bare toes plunked in the sand, somehow bowls of fried rice should be savored while adorned only with giddy, knowing grins and chopsticks in the wee hours. Well, this time of year maybe amorously draped in white linens. Nothing wrong, and most things right with intimate garb and grub.

DUCK & GINGER FRIED RICE

2 C long grain rice
4 C chicken or vegetable stock

2 C roasted (or confit) duck meat, skinned, boned and cut into pieces
2-3 T soy sauce
1 T dry sherry
1 T sesame oil
1 T hoisin sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

2 T peanut oil
1 T duck fat
2 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
4 thin slices peeled ginger

2 shallots peeled and thinly sliced
2 t red pepper flakes
3 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 T ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 C frozen peas, thawed
1 C small mushrooms, halved and thinly sliced (optional)

4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

3-4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
Egg yolks (optional)

Use leftover rice, or…place rice and stock in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low, cover tightly and continue cooking 12 to 15 minutes, until stock has evaporated and surface is pitted with “fish eyes.” Remove from heat, allow to cool in a bowl and then place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or even overnight.

Toss duck meat with soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil and hoisin, and add black pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a wok or large, heavy deep skillet, heat peanut oil, duck fat, smashed garlic and sliced ginger over high heat until sizzling. Do not burn. Remove garlic and ginger and discard, then add shallots and red pepper flakes and sauté until translucent and almost golden, stirring occasionally. Add minced ginger, garlic, peas and mushrooms and cook a couple of minutes more. Add rice and cook on medium heat until rice is heated through, stirring throughout. Fold in duck meat mixture and sliced scallions until heated. Make a deep, broad well in the center of the rice, and then add a splash more oil and when hot add eggs. Scramble the egg lightly, then let it set without stirring so it sets and stays in big pieces. Fold in the rice and gently toss until until well blended. Season with soy sauce to taste.

When serving, make a hollow in each mound of rice and carefully drop in an egg yolk. Then, garnish with cilantro.