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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CFS: A Hangover Cure?

October 7, 2011

His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum.
~Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim

That dreaded hangover. Lifelessly sprawled out after a lousy night’s sleep, and then finally dragging your sweaty dog ass out of bed with bleary red eyes and black circles, nasty dry mouth, throbbing head, sour stomach—dazed and groggy with bouts of delayed recall, piecing the night together awash in remorse. An unforgiving bathroom mirror makes quick note of the evening’s overindulgence. Water galore, aspirin, pepto, vitamins, a long shower, bananas, OJ, and some coffee STAT! Afterwards, greasy carbs and maybe some hair of the dog witch.

The sober medical term is veisalgia, from the Norwegian for “uneasiness following debauchery” (kveis) and the Greek for “pain” (algia). Toxic doses of alcohol often cause dehydration (one glass causes the body to expel 800-1,000 ml of water), promote secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, inhibit glutamine production (causing fatigue), reduce sodium and potassium levels (reducing nerve and muscle function), lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), produce cytokine release (causing headaches, nausea and lethargy), and enhance glycogen losses.

Outside of abstinence, there is likely no miracle remedy for the hangover. Yet, some foods provide comfort to the wounded and even allow the body to rebound some. To each person their own potion, though food does speed up metabolic rates helping to rid the body of booze more rapidly. One suggestion is to consume the grease bombs before imbibing. This coats the stomach and intestinal linings, which slows the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol.

CFS is an amalgam of fried meat and gravy long endeared in small town cafes and truck stops. Whether labeled chicken fried steak, country fried steak, or pan fried steak, it is a culinary orphan with origins unknown. Some say the dish is a variant of wiener schnitzel, others claim it is derived from Scottish collops, while some Texas haunts zealously lay claim to the actual birthplace. Whatever its roots, CFS does remain a portion of the official state meal of Oklahoma—a rather ignominious accolade.

CHICKEN FRIED STEAK

2 1/2 lbs cube steak (tenderized round steak)
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

2 C buttermilk
3 whole eggs, beaten
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Canola oil, to cover pan
3 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1/4 C all purpose flour
2 C whole milk
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Green onions, sliced lengthwise, for garnish

Preheat oven to 200 F

Season the steaks on both sides with the salt and pepper. Whisk together the buttermilk and eggs in a dish. Mix the flour and cayenne pepper in another dish. One by one, dredge each steak on both sides in the buttermilk/egg mixture. Next, place the meat on the plate of seasoned flour. Turn to coat thoroughly. Place the meat back into the buttermilk/egg mixture, turning to coat. Return to the flour and turn to coat. (Wet–>Dry, Wet–>Dry). Gently lay the coated steaks onto a waxed paper covered rimmed sheet pan and allow to rest for 10 minutes or so before frying.

Cover the bottom of a heavy, large skillet with canola oil, add crushed garlics and place over medium high. Once the oil begins to shimmer, remove and discard the garlics (do not burn them). Add the meat in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook on both sides until edges look golden brown, around 2-2 1/2 minutes each side.

Once each batch is done, remove to a platter lined with paper towels. Once all the steak is done, place on wire rack placed over a rimmed sheet pan, and keep warm in the oven.

Pour the skillet grease into a pyrex pitcher. Without cleaning the pan, return it to the stove over medium low heat. Add 1/4 cup grease back to the pan and allow to heat.

Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk or wooden spoon, mix flour with grease, creating a golden brown paste (roux). If necessary, sprinkle in a little more flour and whisk to achieve desired consistency.

Whisking constantly, slowly pour in milk. Cook to thicken the gravy, stirring frequently. Add more milk if the gravy becomes overly thick. Salt and generously pepper, cooking until the gravy is smooth and thick, about for 5-10 minutes. Taste again, as underseasoned gravy is a sacrilege. Plate, ladle the gravy over the steaks, garnish with sliced green onions, and serve with smashed potatoes and a green (maybe even fried eggs).

Pourboire: some researchers opine that bacon combats the common hangover by boosting amine levels which clear the head. So, consider adding bacon lardons after removing the steaks, cook until crisp and remove to paper towels. The bacon fat forms a base for the gravy and the reserved lardons can be used as a garnish.