Ever get annoyed? Ever feel like someone needs to be told where the dog died? Or handed a crowbar and a tub of Elbow Grease to help them pry their head out of their arse? Congratulations--you've come to the right place.

And when I'm not commenting on the latest thing to piss me off, I'm trying to figure out my own twisted life. Because, hey, I'm like that.

On a gentler note: for anyone dealing with depression, anxiety, and other assorted bullshit: You are NOT alone.

And if you're looking for a laugh, search on the key word "fuckery." It's just my little thing (as the bishop said to the actress).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Cookin' Up a Storm!

So let’s talk about the POSITIVE side of the holidays!

I have been doing a truckload of baking. I actually LOVE to cook and bake for other people. There is nothing happier for me than having someone gush over my cooking. Really. It’s a simple thing, a little thing, but there is something really satisfying about baking a really great cookie or cheese wafer or whatever, and having the recipient a) get excited about receiving homemade yummies, and b) later on, praising them. There is a real satisfaction in feeding people.

When I finally finish the cookbook (which is not a priority project—it’s an accumulating project because all of my recipes are mine, some of them from the ground up, some of them adapted from other people & enhanced, tweaked and just made better). My cooking talent is inherited, both genetically from my great-grandmother Lyons (“she was five-by-five, and had a left on her…” who came to the U.S. from Newfoundland as a cook on her father’s fishing boat) and osmosis from my Nana Risley (my dad is adopted, but I learned to love food in her tiny galley kitchen in northern Missouri. I knew I was a great cook the day I tasted one of my sugar cookies, and it was better than hers. One of these days I’ll develop the intestinal fortitude to attempt a proper fruit pie from scratch. Her pies… OMFG... her PIES… ULTIMATE comfort food for me because it brings her back for just a few bites).

This is the time of year that I bake up a storm. This year, I did snickerdoodles for the first time (thanks to Heather, who told me they were just sugar cookies with cinnamon. Not bad, actually—I’m not too fussed on cinnamon, but they were good); mint chocolate chips (although my recipe didn’t come out like it usually does. They were good, but not as good as I’m used to coming out of my oven); chocolate (and chocolate pecan) banana bread; peppermint bark (a mix of milk, bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate… none of that grease called “white chocolate” PAH!); and the piece de resistance, violet shortbreads. I have discovered my newest favorite ingredient (and finally bought myself a pastry blender—the old “two knife” method of incorporating butter and flour just ain’t cuttin’ no more). Violet syrup from France… *dreamy smile* OMFG… the shortbreads were a masterpiece.

And, of course, my cheese wafers. I still have to make another batch of cheese wafer dough. People don’t know how lucky they are that any get out of the house—I am covetous of those things. Utterly, utterly DELISH… Mind you, I use at least five different kinds of cheese in them and more cheese than the recipe calls for, because let’s face it, you’re eatin’ ‘em for the cheese, not the flour.

One of the last happy memories I have of my marriage happened in the kitchen. It was a Saturday night during the last six months Rick and I were together. I was experimenting with a wok and wonton wrappers—different fillings, savory and sweet. I was standing in the kitchen, in my grubby sweats—no underwear, no bra, hair shoved up in a pony tail, zero make-up, futzing back and forth from the table to the stove as I chopped, mixed, stuffed, sealed, prepped… all the crap that goes into cooking, and I looked up, my face furrowed in concentration, and happened to catch Rick just staring at me with a smile on his face. And I’m like, “What?”

“I love to watch you cook.”

“Well, yeah, of course—it means you’re getting a good meal.”

And he shook his head. “No, you are so beautiful when you cook.”

And I looked at him like he’d grown another three heads. “Are you serious?” I mean, I already told you guys what I was wearing. I’m sure I did not smell like a bouquet of roses—I mean, I’d had a shower that morning, but hot oil tends to make everyone around it smell like a fast food joint.

And he shook his head again and laughed. “Yeah, I’m serious. You get so into it—you focus so hard, and you just create… You LOVE to feed people. And you’re good at it, Lee. It’s so amazing. You’re so amazing.” And he took me in his arms—dripping hot wonton, sweaty sweats and all—and kissed me.

I may curse his memory, but I will always love him for that gift of a moment and a compliment from the heart. Whenever I think about shelving the cookbook, that memory comes back, and added to it are the piles of compliments that have come over the years from the folks who’ve had my cooking. I always love passing on a recipe (and yeah, I will keep my promise about posting the recipes from this year, as well as the Guinness mac & cheese once I finally get around to making it). A former co-worker (whom I really miss!) posted the loveliest compliment on FB last week—she still has the little cookbook I made up YEARS ago and uses the recipes.

The teacher in me comes out, too, when I write them up. There’s nothing I hate more than incomplete instructions—I think that’s why so many people get intimidated by the idea of making things from scratch, whether it’s cooking or crafting. Many of the books out there don’t give you ALL of the details, and let me tell you… details are important, especially if you’ve never done it before. I was lucky—I had a Nana whom I got to watch cook, and ditto my mother; I was introduced to the secret of good Italian bolognese sauce (or "gravy") by my childhood best friend's mother, may she rest in peace. I was sent to my first cooking class at age seven. And because I’m such a picky fucking eater (I am, I admit it, and the allergies and gastric bypass are only a part of it—I am FUSSY, Gods damn it, FUSSY about what I put in my body, and it had DAMN well better taste FABULOUS) I had to cook for myself from a very young age.

It also doesn’t help that I have a really highly developed sense of smell & taste—I am one of those “lucky” people who can taste something and analyze the spices. I can tell the difference in certain types of salt (Alea sea salt… *sigh* may I never eat a steak that is not graced with a light sprinkling of Alea sea salt…), a tomato ripened in a field vs. a greenhouse, a Pink Lady apple grown in New Zealand vs. Chile (Chile = #fail—BITTER!), and a Honeycrisp grown in New York or Vermont vs. one grown in Nova Scotia (NS = #WIN—gotta be a difference in the soil and pollution levels). I can tell the difference in quality of chocolate—Cadbury from England = bliss, whilst Cadbury from the U.S. (unless it’s been imported from Canada) = eh; which is why if you have one of my Christmas chocolates (my peppermint patties are legendary; still haven’t decided if I’m making them this year or not), you will have very happy taste buds and tummy. I don’t use those @#$%^&*( candy melts. They are CRAP—grease with chocolate flavoring. I use top quality choccie because dammit, I like to snack on them too!  My snobbery = #win for everyone.

We won’t get into me and cheese. Mmmmmmm… cheese. Cheese is one of the happiest foods on the planet. The last time I crashed up at Camp Atherton, I happened to have some Spanish Mahon cheese with me. Ferd and Laura had never tried it. They happened to have a beeeee-aaa-yoooooooteeeful tomato, the last of the summer tomatoes… OMG, that tomato… (Yes, I haunt the farmers market in July for the first of the summer tomatoes. Because with summer tomatoes comes tomato pie!) The three of us were having a foodgasm over the combination of that tomato and the Mahon cheese with a sprinkle of salt… Heaven. Bliss. In-fucking-credible. And made for a really happy memory, the sharing of really excellent food with incredible friends. One of the reasons I want to do book tours—I want to explore local food, find different tastes… I have more bookmarks in my web browser from magazine articles about some place in East Bumfiddle that makes an incredible jam from berries grown ONLY there, local cheese, a sausage speciality, bread, fruit, cheeeeeeese…

(Am currently munching on leftover chopped pecans… Food Nirvana, thy name is Trader Joe’s. My dessert after having some of the leftover white truffle mac & cheese from Tavern… I may have to invest in a bottle of white truffle oil. We’ll see how the Guinness mac & cheese comes out.)

And now… now I have to bottle up the ginger-infused plum cordial. And maybe start the pear cordial fermenting. Hmmmmmm… I wonder how that would mix with St. Germaine….

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