June 2010


One of the things that I love about travelling and meeting new people is that within each new acquaintance, I strive to find something familiar as a jumpoff point to build or build upon a relationship. That concept is nothing new. First impressions give root to the blossoming idea that a minute coincidence could instantly form a positive bond between new faces. Something familiar only serves to comfort both parties, whether it be a warm reception or a token of welcome to this new experience. When I travel home, and I’m sure it’s the same with many if not all of us, I want to have something familiar. The best thing I can hope for is that I can go home, head to the kitchen, open the fridge, and find a sandwich with my mother’s bread. I know it’s there. All I have to do is dig around in the freezer if it isn’t there at first glance.There’s turkey, and cheese, and fresh lettuce, and tomatoes “from our garden”, she’d always say. I’d make that sandwich, and eat it. With great relish. (Seriously, there are piccalillies and sundry condiments of all kinds when and where I want them). That is the sentiment that I enjoy- being able to sit down and enjoy a slice of comfort.

When we got off the plane last August on our trip to Connecticut, and made our way through the winding maze of neverending, oxymoronic terminals at LaGuardia, I was to keep an eye out for the parental units as a secondary lookout. The lady was on her phone, and I was in a permanent state of eye-peeledness searching the baggage claim area for a somewhat familiar yet heretofore unrecognized face.

Eventually, the connection was made, hugs and introductions were exchanged, and we were soon on our way to the commuter lot for the drive back up to the Northwest corner of Connecticut. In the foremost sense, this was already a pleasant positive, as I genuinely appreciated the effort put forth to make the trek down to meet us at the gate. When we got back to the car, I was even more at ease, as from within a lunchbox, the mistress of the house produced sandwiches.

Sandwiches. Sandwiches and grapes. There was a cheese sandwich for their daughter, and a turkey sandwich for me. The house is mostly vegetarian, and as I found out when we made it all the way back up to the homestead, at least 15 to 20 minutes of a country drive from the nearest Grocery store. That’s why the turkey tasted extra fine.

And there were tomatoes. The sandwich was on a thick, crusty hoagie roll, and it was just right. After a solid day’s travel on the plane, it hit the spot.

Suspicious dog is Suspicious

Back at the homestead, I got the grand tour. A lovely country home on a lane tucked back from the world, a recently installed flagstone pond, and the familiar, well-manicured yet more natural than simply ornamental garden similar to one that I’d find in my own mother’s backyard. As we had escaped the oppressive heat of Seattle (103 degrees on the day of departure), the weather was fantastic. Not too hot, not too cool, and idyllically sunny. I took my shoes off and walked around the yard. There was a curious dog following us with a suspicious look on his face. He was pretty alright in the end.

We scoped out the flower patches, watching the bees in full swing, flitting from bloom to bloom. We ducked under the fruit trees and between the raised vegetable beds. There were red and green lettuces, upside down tomato plants, wily stems of two-foot tall garlic, broccoli, and a bit further down, running along the property line were bushes of raspberries.  It was far enough out of any town, without cellphone reception, I might add, to be considered a place where far away from the everyday summer affairs of the market, I could relax.

Where normally, I would have an avenue two patio bricks wide in front of my icy yet fragrant fish case to traipse back and forth on any given afternoon at the market, there was so much space. The air was clean, and there were no constant blasts from the ferry terminal to alert me to the time of day. It was just right.

That evening, all hands were in the kitchen. We were all busy chopping vegetables, fixing up the cheese, putting the chiffonade on the basil while our grillmaster, Lord of the manor, was outside firing up the grill. We brewed up a pitcher of iced tea with a quick trip to the garden for some fresh mint, made a lovely salad, and sat down on the deck to enjoy pizza on the grill.

Curry Favor and Flavor with a Favorite Curry!

Over the course of the next ten days, we had a few memorable food experiences in the kitchen. We prepared a birthday dinner for our Connecticut hostess with one of our own house standby dishes, curried shrimp with caramelized fennel and pears. With it, we had a lovely bottle of wine, and for those of us who liked potatoes, (and really. Who doesn’t?), we had a delicious dish of layered thinly sliced potatoes and shredded romano cheese, baked in the oven until crispy and golden brown. If you think it sounds delicious, you’re right. It was. It was so delicious that we ate it all.

When relatives came into town for a day or two, with the cheese curds I brought from the Market and fresh basil from just out the back door, we made fresh mozzarella and rotolo with a mother and aunt, which we took the next day to a family gathering on Long Island. There were three ladies and me. As with my own aunts and mother, there was much giggling, sisterly in-jokes, and singing of familiar girl group tunes late into the night.

We made our way down to Long Island the next day, where I met the rest of the aunts and uncles. Our host, Tommy, immediately cracked the cooler and tossed me a beer. Greg, brother number two, introduced himself at the window of the car, swooping in for the Italian Long Island hello, as he put it. Lisa was soon after to show, accompanied by three smiling kids, beachcombing gear, and soda.

We sat around on the porch as the rain rolled in, and retired to the living room as the uncles went out to get some more food. We sat and ate chips and listening to Billy Joel and Bon Jovi blast through the speakers, watching the Yankee game with newly minted AL East powerhouse and former Milwaukee Brewer C.C. Sabathia on the mound. Another something familiar and simultaneously new, the known face in a new uniform.  Ten minutes later, in came the uncles with armloads of food. Eggplant parmesan, grinders, pizzas, an ice cream cake, and meats. Cold cuts. Sandwich fixings.

***

Garlic Spears in the Garden

So the lady is out there right now, doing all of those wonderful things, I am sure. Hanging with the family, eating delicious food, enjoying the sunshine, and I have to wait just about a week to go out and meet her. I’m looking forward to the time off from work. This year, we visit two months earlier than last year. I have an entirely new crop of things to look forward to. To the right is a picture that was taken this morning from the garden. If I can make it happen, I’m going to cook with those fresh garlic spears. I don’t know what, just yet, but when I do, I’ll let you know.

Yep

And below is what I have to look forward to greeting me on the morning I arrive. Maybe she’ll bring sandwiches.

I cook, and when I do, I like to cook for a crowd. It’s safe to say that my enjoyment of cooking comes from being able to share stuff with other people. I have a nightly staff of one, and reservations list of a young couple out for dinner and a movie, and that’s how I like it. Unfortunately, my restaurant is suffering a setback.

Here’s the thing: The lady is out of town. What am I going to do? Before she left, I wanted to have a few nice dinners, so the other night, on the recommendation from my friend over at the Smart Cabbage, I made roasted Kale and Cincinnati Radishes with baby heirloom tomatoes and a White King Salmon.

White King with Roasted Vegetables of a Curious Nature!

The next night, I got super excited because they had some fresh figs, so I wagered an arm and a leg, and got some of those. Made one of the simplest, easiest, snacks known to our tiny household of two. Figs. Slice them in half. Get some goat cheese. The good stuff. The Chevre. (For cheese boners out there, it’s the Purple Haze with Lavender), then drizzle it with honey, give a quick grind of pepper, and a crinkle of fresh thyme. I say crinkle here, because I always get the fresh thyme from the market, but rarely do I use it before it starts to dry out. The drying stuff is still very fragrant, but I usually just crush the bunch between my hands and hope that some tiny bits fall out. Usually, it does, and if there’s an errant stem in there, I have fingers and I can use those fingers to pick it out. That’s just one shortcut that you can take for seasoning your dinner if you’ve been on your feet all day and can’t face the stove without a beer.

Oh, hey. What a hip, hippie snack. Hip, Hipp, Hooray!

In addition to the figs, I decided to make risotto. I had some fish stock in the freezer, and I got some tomatoes, morels, scallops, and garlic spears. All of the lady’s favorite things in one easy to serve, one pot to one bowl meal. I made the risotto, and I cooked the scallops in a separate pan, braising them in butter. They didn’t brown as much as I thought they would, but oh did I mention they were cooked in butter? After I incorporated them into the risotto to set, I strained the braising liquid, now a combination of scallop liquor and butter, and chilled it. Along with the duck fat, that is going to be some serious flavor addition to a meal that I will have soon. The finished product looked great, if still a little soupy, and we also had some more fresh Washington Strawberry Shortcake for dessert. As baking is not my thing, in the kitchen, Bisquick is my best friend. I don’t care if you judge me. I can’t bake my way out of a paper bag.

An artful, unfinished risotto

The dinner was delicious, but now she’s gone, and I have nobody to cook for. There’s some food in the fridge, but when it comes down to it, our single serving culture does not apply to fresh meals. I go to the store and see the single bags of chips (although they are technically smaller than the other bags, check the back. Those Kettle Chips are not single serve), the “Pasta for one”, the individual microwave pizzas. I feel depressed for living the life of someone who is cooking for just one person. Granted, it’s only for a week, and after that week, we will be reunited and it will be glorious, but for now, I don’t know what to do with myself in the kitchen.

It’s not like there’s nothing to cook. It’s that there really isn’t anything to cook that I can do on a small scale. I have some standby items that I can do on the fly, (there’s that leftover risotto in the fridge), but I want something simple, somewhat nutritious, quick, easy, and many other adjectives that imply that I won’t have to work hard to achieve a decent amount of sustenance. Still, I am at a loss, as the weather outside is gray and uncompromising. It is 58 degrees and looks like it will rain any minute, and I have no desire to go out.

Rummage time. Hmmm… Let’s see what’s in the cupboards. Triscuits? Nah. Those don’t make a meal. There’s a mix for caramel turtle brownies that I could make, but eating brownies by myself? No. That’d just make me want to curl up, light a couple candles, and watch the Sex and the City Movies while blowing my nose into Cathy Comics.

ACK! What will I eat!?

Wait a minute. What’s that in the back? It has mysterious script on it, and is covered with green leafy things. It’s instant miso soup! Oh, yes. And next to it? A bag of brown rice, some Nori. There’s Takoyaki in the freezer. How could I have forgotten that the single serve empire of foods was virtually created and perfected by Japan?

You’ve got all of these wonderful things that are finger foods, and all of these things that are grab and go, eat and slurp, etc.

Many of these I can make, and have made, at home. Sometimes I forget that thinking outside of the box just means going beyond what you are used to at the grocery store. This can mean looking at new ingredients, or simply going to a new store. In this case, the store is Uwajimaya.

Uwajimaya is the Porno store for all the Asian food lovers out there. Similar to a Mitsuwa, Yaohan, or any other incarnation of a Japanese marketplace planted in major American Metropoles, it has everything. Live Crab, oysters, Geoduck, Amazing weird looking fruits and vegetables, candies, crackers that have angry chickens shaking flaming drumsticks on the packages (boy, they’re mad about something). There’s also the frozen packs of boil noodles, sushi making kits with the rice, tiny tubes of wasabi, small jars of pickled ginger, etc. My point is that within the confines of the store, there are so many forgotten ways to look at food that I get excited when I visit. I can find anything, and I can make something that is new and different simply by upgrading my ingredients. Where to start?

First, the sushi. As a disclaimer, I should state that if I can get fresh enough seafood from work to make it, I will. However, it’s not always that simple using what we have available at our shop. Fortunately, at Uwajimaya, it is. Tiny 3 to 4 ounce cuts of #1 fish, shrinkwrapped, are ready to go. Tuna, Octopus, Bream, Pickled Mackerel. The one thing with sushi is that I’ve never been great at making it. When (the disembodied) they always say it takes years to perfect a great piece of sushi, they’re not lying. Some people just get it. Some don’t. I am of the latter category. That’s why I don’t make the rolls. I’ll hand roll it, but that’s just like being lazy with a tomato sauce and calling it “Rustic”.

At least I know the basics, and my rice balls don’t tend to fall apart. Here’s a picture of some sushi I prepared a couple of months ago. In the sushi world, I suffer from Heinsbergen Syndrome, and in the back of my mind as I’m fabricating these, I just hear Bill Murray as Raleigh St. Clair saying “Make yours… like mine.” I’m particularly pr0ud of the omelet. The rolled one, kinda yellow in the middle? Yeah, I didn’t have an Omelet pan, and I don’t think I had the Dashi stock to thin it out. It was your everyday basic thin sugar omelet, but it was still pretty good.  The other stuff? Up front? That’s tuna. In the rear with the green shine on it? That’s my highest achievement for flavor, the barbecued eel and wasabi tobikko. I’ve always thought eel was delicious, but it turns out that it’s not for everyone. In this instance, it’s okay, because that just means more for me. Along with my high marks for flavor, my assembly (note the ragged edges and weird spillout issues) gets the participation ribbon that you reserve for refrigerator fingerpainting.

Takoyaki. What is Takoyaki? It’s exactly what it sounds like, if you’re Japanese. Yaki(焼き), as in Yakitori(焼き鳥), Teriyaki (照り焼き), and my personal favorite 焼きとうもろこしmeans “to grill”, and Tako means Tako. You know. Tako. As in the Tako Truk over by the Zoo bar in Eastlake? Like the Tako you see in Hawaii all the time?

Any guesses? It’s octopus. Once again, something that other people don’t necessarily enjoy means more for me. They come frozen, looking like little donut holes, and all you have to do is heat them up and serve them with mayonnaise or tonkatsu sauce (Sauces are so good. That’ll be a new post for another time). Sprinkle them with the weird container of salty plum shiso furikake, and it lives up to that old Japanese sailor’s credo- “Donuts in the morning- Tastebuds are boring. Takoyaki at night- Tastebuds delight!”

Then there’s Udon/Soba/Ramen. I could get into that, but that’s a whole different cup of noodles. Let’s just leave it by saying that Noodles, specifically noodles as pretty as any Noodle dish coming out steaming in a big bowl with vegetables, fried tofu, hot peppers (I see you over there, Pho. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you)? They’re all effing delicious. Anything so delicious as to inspire the following video has got my bet for food of the century. I’m pretty sure that from the start of this post, it was all a sly lead-up to posting this video, but it makes me giggle to see it every time.

Hey, Jamiroquai’s gotta eat, too. Why not make it Cup Noodle?

Read Smart Cabbage’s blogpost about Roasted Radishes, and make some on your own! They’re delicious!:

(http://smartcabbage.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/radishes/)

While you’re at it, get creative and make some delicious bread! Read all about it on the Handmade blog, where you can learn from his mistakes!:

(http://psoutowood.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/bread-and-the-joys-of-jumping/)

Last week, I didn’t get a chance to write anything down, as I was entertaining two of my dearest friends from out of town. What this meant for me was that I had the opportunity to serve up some of the more delicious food that Seattle has to offer to my Eastern friends.

Usually, on Thursdays and Fridays,  I’ll take the opportunity to relax, do some laundry, do some writing, and lounge about the house, but a weekend like this was cause for celebration. So rarely do we get to see one another in meatspace, as opposed to quick emails or text messages exchanged with a quick second of free time. I relish the chance to hang with them, and one of my new favorite things is to play host to out of town guests.

We’ve gone our separate ways in life, and we never keep in touch the way that we say we will. I have no idea about the color scheme for Andy’s wedding, and I really had no idea of Melissa’s whereabouts over the next year. I realize that we have our own agendas, and take our time in getting information out to one another, because we know that the others will always be there, but when we do get together, it’s floodgates of information that are opened, and it’s as though the distance is instantly bridged and little to no time has passed. This is some of the best stuff that I can say about my relationship with my friends.

As Melissa arrived first, on Wednesday afternoon, I was still at work. She came up from the airport and dropped her stuff off at the hotel, and then walked down to the market. Having spent the week in San Francisco before, she was used to the balmy weather, and I didn’t feel the need to apologize for the overcast skies or droplets of rain that would annoy and muss her hair.

We went out for a quick lunch at Michou, where we had sandwiches of the grilled variety, and little salads. Sitting at the tea room overlooking the market and Elliott Bay, there was not a whole lot that was better about that early afternoon respite from the bustle of the fish business. As we parted ways for the afternoon, she went uptown to the Barnes and Noble to hang for a bit while I finished off my shift.

The day before, I had been madly preparing all things delicious for their arrival: I had some porcini mushroom polenta that I had baked and unmolded, sliced for their approval. There were fixings for fresh salmon burgers in the fridge, waiting for an opportunity to grill, and a number of delicious greens and vegetables from the market ready to be sauteed, baked, souped, whatever the evenings called for.

After work, she came down to the market and we took our tour up to the house on Capitol Hill. (The views in the banner at the top of the page are the views from our back window) We sat, reminisced, discussed the goings on in each other’s lives, as we had a lot to catch up on, and plotted our dinner for the evening. I’d picked up some garlic spears at the market, and mussels were also in the bag, fresh harvested that day from 2 hours north on Whidbey Island.

Andy was due in at about 8:30, and his flight got in a little earlier than expected. The lady was at a play rehearsal, and was due back at about the same time. Fortunately, despite many bottles of local Washington Wine at our disposal, we had enough good sense to serve up our mussels in shifts. Just a simple, quick preparation after a long day at the market, but it was still warm and satisfying all the way down to the heart of my bottom.

We sat, ate, talked, and at about 8:15, the lady showed up. Pleasantries, hugs, smiles, and more mussels were exchanged, and within about ten minutes, Andy was at the door. He had recently told Melissa of his newfound respect for Lady Gaga, and upon his arrival, we heralded the door opening and entrance to the dulcet strains of a song that began with the lyrics that changed a nation for the better- “Rah, Rah, Roma-ma, Ga Ga something something.”

More mussels in the pot.

We stayed up for a few hours, well aware of the travel time and energy spent that day. Melissa headed back to her hotel, and Andy and I stayed up for a couple more hours, talking about life and things that pepper our existences.

The next morning was the big day. Waking up, we made omelets with morels, fresh yellow tomatoes, and darjeeling and juniper cured salmon with the remainder of the pickled ramps. As always, there was stellar coffee, a nice bag of Kona passed along by a customer of ours down at the market. We picked up Melissa at her hotel, and brought her up to Vivace, where they were introduced to the enigma that eludes most of the country, the perfect espresso pull.

We all had Cafe Nicos, short shots made with sugared espresso and a rosetta on top, sprinkled with cinnamon and garnished with a twist of orange peel. Then, we were off to the Boeing factory, where we viewed the building of the 737, 747, 777, and the new 787 series of planes. It wasn’t something that I’d normally do, but it was Andy’s Graceland. His Disneyworld. There are pictures of him, arms outstretched, overlooking the runway with the new crop of planes freshly painted, and he’s just about the happiest dude I knew at that moment.

And the tour? It was awesome. Not in the sense that it was the coolest thing you could hope for, but because of the following things:

1) They are building planes there. Honest to God Jumbo Jets. That takes a lot of time, or so you would think. In truth, fabrication of a single plane takes 3 days from start to finish, including riveting over one million rivets into place.

2) The building itself is the largest building in the world. It is larger than Disneyland. At any given time, there are at least twenty planes being built, and  I’m pretty sure that number is more planes than either you or I will ever build in our lives.

3) They had Astronaut Ice Cream in the gift shop. That is all.

The scope of the plant is on a much larger scale than anything that you’ve ever seen. I almost wanted to roll a handful of ballbearings down the length of the fabrication floor, but I didn’t. (As a note to anyone else considering doing this, please be aware that I do not condone, endorse, or advise this behavior in any way, nor do I think it is wise to think such thoughts while in the building itself.)

We got stuff at the gift shop, and travelled down the way back to the Seattle proper, dropping the rental car off back at the airport. It would have been faster to fly in one of the Dreamlifter Cargo planes that they had stationed up there, but there was no flight leaving around the time that we needed to be there.

I should point out at this point, dear reader without a face or name, who hides on the other side of the internet, that one of the main things that my guests requested was to enjoy local food and wine as prepared by me. On our way back from the Boeing tour, we stopped at Volunteer Park, a lovely little meadow on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, to have a picnic. There, we had a polenta with roasted zucchini and porcini mushrooms, a chilled asparagus and garlic spear soup, and fresh made pickled beets and carrots. It was quick, fulfilling, and at least one of us found it delicious. His name was my name.

THEN, we took the exciting wave of the future, SoundTransit’s own LINK Light Rail, all the way back uptown to SafeCo Field for the Mariners’ Game. I had yet to realize that when Ken Griffey Jr. said that he was retiring the day before, he meant that he would no longer play in games. From that day forward, he would fight (for a pennant) no more forever. How poetic. How Seattle.

Still, Carl Pavano vs. the Venezuelan Phenom, Felix Hernandez? Oh, yes. Carl Pavano, whose name I remember but whose face I do not, reminded me as I saw him on a television while getting a hot dog, of a lazy man’s Rollie Fingers. Here. Take a look:

PavanoWasn’t he somewhat more dapper in the past?

With just a little effort, he could have looked like this:

Yep. Still, the lowly Mariners, behind Felix Hernandez’s outstanding pitching and three stolen bases by our own Ichiro, beat the Twins of Minneapolis soundly, 4-1.

And there was much rejoicing.

(yay)

The next day brought a trip by ferry boat to Bainbridge Island. Just a short 30 minutes from the Elliot Bay Ferry Terminal, Bainbridge produces an out of town feel for anyone who happens to take the day off and hop across the water. At the ferry terminal on the Island side, starfish clung above water to the moorings, beaching themselves on Rope upon rope of mussels and barnacles that also made their home on the pylons.

As we came into the harbor, there were picturesque beachhouses along the shore, each with their own twenty to thirty feet of waterline, where they could dig for clams and oysters any time of day or night. As we passed them, I got a bit jealous.

We docked, and walked down to the main street, where they had all the shoppes that you’d expect. The local ice creamery, the fudge shop, the local diner- they were all there. We walked into a shop called Paraffine, and to our surprise, it was filled with CANDLES! Wax candles from all over the world! Who knew!?

Next door, there was a rug shop, specializing in Persians, Afghans, Pakistanis, and beautiful Pashmina scarves and handbeaded boots. With our long trusted and well-informed female companion, we the gentlemen made the purchase of lovely pashminas for our even lovelier ladies. As someone who is neither good at gift giving nor shopping, my heart grew a little bit that day as both Andy and I were able to pick out elegant, feminine purchases that would serve our better halves well, and ones that were unique and complimentary to their individual styles.

We asked the fellow at the shop, “Fellow, where would be a good place to get lunch on your island?” He responded by handing us a treasure map, one with the outlay of the entire downtown area.

“Go ye fivescore steps towards the harbor, and look to your starboard side. There ye will fall upon the Public house, where foods be served with flagons of ale,” he didn’t say.

He told us to go there. He did not speak like a pirate, but that’s how I remember it in my head and am retelling it now. It’s my blog, and that’s how I like it.

So we went there. It was a nice little place, with a waiting couch that had the box springs that make your buttcakes sink a little deeper than you’d think into the upholstery. Each one of us got something fairly indicative of our tastes- Andy with his ultimately satisfying fish and chips, Melissa with a smoked salmon appetizer and a clam chowder with local manilas in the shell, and me with my Poutine with Beecher’s local cheese curds.

I love Beecher’s. They’re right across the street from where I work, and any time this Wisconsin boy needs a fresh cheese curd, all I have to do is walk across the bricks, tap on the window, and maybe give a little bit of a Pavlovian pant. Like a hungry dog waiting for a treat, Beecher’s Cheese has my number, and my hearty endorsement as my favorite place within eyesight to get fresh, high quality Cheese curds.

I also like it because I’m in with the cheesemaker, and he loves to tell me stories of how protective Wisconsinites are of their cheese, and how utterly offended they get when he tells them that the cheese they make there is fresher than anything they taste back home.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I jokingly tell him with ribbons of fish slime cascading from my fingertips.

I will not say anything about my fries, because in discussion of food with Melissa, I came to a realization. We talked about what we were going to do in the next few years, and as I’ve been remiss in informing her of my ambitions and dreams, she inquired as to some of the things that I’ve said I might like to do in the past.

“What about opening your own restaurant?”

Not too bad. I wouldn’t really consider doing that, especially right now. It eats your soul, you have to be a tyrant, and simply doing it for love of the food is not enough. Life is built on compromise, and business should not have to be. If you are a sole proprietor of your business, you need to be unflinching in your goals and restaurant ideals. If you cut corners, you’re not being true to your standards that were initially set when you fabricated your dream plan. You’re selling yourself short, and if your success, both professional and personal, hinges on that, congratulations. Your compromise has just bastardized your dream. This does not even begin to consider the X factors of customer base, niche markets, employee relations, and all the other intangibles that nobody ever seems to think about or fully grasp. This lifestyle of exhausting your personal resources for the good of your dream is not for me. Personal relationships suffer, you can become bitter, and those are two reasons why I would not work in a restaurant at the current time.

“What about food critic?”

Nah. I can critique my own food all that I want, because I am relentless in the pursuit of perfection, or something like that.

That’s kinda true. I love blending flavors, experimenting, taking the time to savor a meal, and the overall experience of working in a kitchen. It might not be a restaurant kitchen, but I enjoy the atmosphere and comfort that I get from being able to create something that somewhat resembles what I had in mind. Some people write. Some people paint. Everyone makes art. Everyone has the one creative outlet or avenue down which they drive to create a dance. I don’t care if you use soccer to create your artistry, or if you invest your time in video games. To some, it’s a fruitless pursuit. To those who can see, you’re building something. You can create entire personas and villages in a World of Warcraft, and you can paint lush landscapes until the cows that you paint into the picture come home. Sometimes, just sitting back to think of it is remarkable.

As an aside, one recent day off, I noticed that Google had a fully playable pacman doodle on their homepage. As I wasted many hours playing it, I noticed the rudimentary Computer intelligence that was put into play with the breakdown of the game, and I thought of my dad. Ms. Pac Man is the only game that he will play, yet he plays it with a fluid grace that I will never be able to comprehend. He is not his computer, or his iPod, and does not subscribe to any technological ways of life, other than what gets him through the day, yet he is completely at home playing Ms. Pac Man. Whereas I get frustrated with the game and, in a moment of panic, toggle the joystick back and forth to elude the terrifying ghosts, he will simply turn Ms. Pac Man around, and move her around the screen in a stupefying dance that is inexplicably fascinating and even a little bit beautiful to me.

Yeah, it’s a video game, and we’re usually so quick to judge those who play them, but every couple of years or so, a bit of bliss breaks through when Ms. Pac Man finally gets a chance to scarf down a pretzel.

In relation to food, I can’t judge or critique what I have on my plate based on anything but the time, effort, and thought that went into creating it. Sure, if it looks nice, that’s a plus, but I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There is nothing more fulfilling to me than a meal that is cooked with passion or thought. I don’t care if it’s a gold plated truffle, or if someone offers you a grilled cheese. I love it. I loved when I was in Costa Rica, and someone’s mom made us fried bread. It was simple and nondescript, but she visited and made them because her son was homesick, and that’s all he wanted.

I loved it when I was in Italy, and a small chalet owner opened up her business in the offseason to make us a simple pasta with fresh pressed olive oil.

I love my mom’s fresh cracked wheat loaves of bread with thick slices of roasted turkey. I love the food that Andy’s mom makes at the holidays. I love Melissa’s mom’s peach pie. I love it because they love making it for us, and making it with us. If you can’t appreciate a $400 dinner, then maybe they’re not trying hard enough to earn your palate. Maybe they’re trying too hard. I don’t need something fancy. I just crave something that is real. Good, honest food.

To be continued…