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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Happiness can only be found if you can free yourself of all other distractions.
~Saul Bellow

Coming as little suprise, the vast majority of Americans use their computers and televisions at the same time. So, Boston College profs S. Adam Brasel and James Gips decided to study media multitasking habits. They positioned cameras to track where research subjects were gazing in order to perceive the demands and disruptions caused by frequently switching between television and computer screens. Their rather startling (not?) findings will be reported in an upcoming article in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. On average, the study vassals switched their eyes back and forth between TV and computer well over 120 times every half hour. When asked, participants thought they may have averted their glances between screens only 15 times per half hour, showing a less than subtle lack of self-awareness—a universally shared human trait.

While the computer prevailed in holding individual concentration spans, neither device proved capable of gleaning the attention of study participants for very long, regardless of age. The median length of gaze lasted less than two seconds for television and less than six seconds for the computer. Have you ever tried to fully engage a serious novel with the TV blaring, even whispering, in the same room?

So, what is truly the level of comprehension among people who frequently switch their attention between devices? How do we quantify such visually tweeked cerebral contortions? Remember, the study did not even contemplate other no less dominant “time saving” stimuli: cell phone calls, endless texts to and fro, tweets, f-book posts, music, and a chiming iPad all simultaneously garnering attention from the same person. Oh, and alas let us not forget those living souls in the room who have the gall to crave live communication. Sounds like ADDHD on crack. It is no stretch to say that multi-device sensory overload and distraction enliven stress in an already stress enhanced world. What these disorienting diversions do to intimacy is for another day, but it seems sadly evident. As for effects on the details and reinvention of imagination? Unsure.

Finding solace in the kitchen can be a ceremonial escape from the day’s distractions. Hand transforming raw, solitary ingredients into a savory amalgamation of tastes, scents, textures and hues for the communal table is a focused outlet—an artful destressor of sorts. Simple or haute, cooking offers a mission, a task with a certain rhythm topped by a sense of accomplishment…a chance to impose free will and character. Throughout the coddle, what may seem mundane may prove vital. And afterwards, you relish the contentment of eating your work (with others maybe?).

It only seemed fitting to offer four doors to this post, all the while fixed on my laptop and pecking away with an Anthony Bourdain re-run and inane ads droning in the background. Scribbling here without cells, texts, tweets, tunes, radio, iPad—but, still pandering to live beings and a screen or so.

PESTO POTATO SALAD

3 lbs red potatoes, quartered

6 organic, free range eggs

1 large bunch fresh radishes, rinsed, scrubbed and thinly sliced

1 C pesto
1/2 C Dijon mustard
1/2 C capers
1/2 C pine nuts, toasted
3 T champagne vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Champagne vinegar, to taste

Place potatoes into a large heavy bottomed pot. Cover with cold water and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil then immediately reduce heat and remove lid. Gently simmer until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and place in an ice bath to cool, then promptly drain and dry well. Slice potatoes, but not overly thin.

Place eggs in a heavy large saucepan. Cover with cold water, and place over high heat. At the first serious boil, remove the pan from heat, cover and let stand 14 minutes. Drain and place in an ice bath to cool, then remove and dry. Thinly slice the boiled eggs.

In a large bowl, mix together the pesto, dijon mustard and champagne vinegar to taste; then add the potatoes, radishes, boiled eggs, capers and pine nuts. Mix well with both hands. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. You may need to add more pesto, dijon mustard and champagne vinegar to reach the right moisture level. As with all salads, the ingredients should just be nicely coated and not soupy.

PESTO MASHED POTATOES

3 lb russet potatoes, peeled and roughly cut into chunks

1/2 C milk, warmed
1 C heavy whipping cream, warmed
6 T unsalted butter
1 C+ pesto
Freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place potatoes in a large heavy pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

When done, drain potatoes well, return to pot, add milk, cream, butter, pesto, salt and peppers, mashing vigorously until almost smooth or smashed until slightly chunky—creating a more rustic version. The butter, milk and cream amounts will likely need to be adjusted to suit the texture of your liking. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

PESTO FINGERLINGS

2 lbs small fingerling potatoes, cleaned
Sea salt

4 T butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 C+ pesto

In a large pot, combine salt, water, and potatoes and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cooking time depends on fingerling size. Drain and remove from the pot, placing the potatoes into a large bowl. Add butter, salt, pepper, 1/3 cup of pesto and toss well, but gently. Plate up as a side dish, and drizzle pesto over fingerlings as desired.

Pesto

4 C fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
4 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 C pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/2 C Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
Sea salt, to taste

1/2 C extra virgin olive oil, more if needed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the basil, garlic, pine nuts and salt in the bowl of a food processor armed with the steel blade. Process in pulses into a paste. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process further until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the cheese and add more oil if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Put the pesto in a bowl and set aside.

Pourboire: if pine nuts are unavailable or outlandishly expensive, you may substitute walnuts.