Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"said you'd never lie...but you never told me about the fire"

- that's a line from one of my favorite early jungle tunes of all time.

i've noticed that most food or food-related blogs worth their salt tend to include a lot of pictures. i'm toying with the idea of taking shots of what i eat, but quite frankly, it seems like a lot of work. suffice to say that last night's dinner was deeeelicious. the coconut almond rice puts it over the top. i take a can of coconut milk, and pour it into a measuring cup, add enough water to make 4 c. of liquid. put it in a pot, and add the zest of 1 lime, and 1 t. of salt. bring to a boil, add two cups of basmati rice, put the lid on, put the heat on low, and steam the rice until it's cooked. meanwhile, in a pan on the stove or in the oven, i toast some slivered almonds, and unsweetened shredded coconut, and stir that into the cooked rice. i also added some of the leftover peas from thanksgiving dinner, so it became almost pilau-esque.

tonight for dinner is another slow-cooker offering. i soaked some white beans last night. i throw them in the slowcooker with some chunks of sauteed onion and garlic, some sprigs of thyme and rosemary, and just barely cover it with water. let those braise away all day. closer to serving time, i'm going to get the roomie to add two pints of grape tomatoes, and 1 bunch of chopped kale, and braise some more (ordinarily i would use stock for more flavour, but it all got sacrified to the turkey gods). then i sear this coil of garlic sausage i get from the mennonites on both sides, and chuck it in the slow cooker for the last half hour or so of braising. a one pot meal. no dessert again for me tonight, i'm being virtuous.

last night after ronnie (an uneven start to the season thus far), i got sucked into watching this show on foodtv called "the heat with mark mcewan". i started my career in fine dining at his restaurant north 44, then moved to another resto (sen5es) and then went back to his new (at the time) restaurant bymark, before finishing my cooking career at canoe. watching that show made me a little nostalgic for kitchen life. i was there when the show started filming, and the producers were going to make me a "key" "character", mainly because i was one of the people who didn't freeze up when the cameras were around and i was capable of being myself (read: obnoxious). then i left because i was getting fed up with the food, and all the sycophantic slavering over what to me, was a pretty mickey mouse operation.

as i was watching the show, and saw the familiar faces of people i'd worked with and who had watched me grow as a cook, i started thinking a little bit about the life i left behind. leaving bymark was a little rough, because they really liked me there, and were grooming me to take on a leadership role in the new hotel operation in yorkville that mark was opening. it also made me miss a way of life that had been mine for 4-5 years. there's something about the swaggering machismo of working the line in a top-notch, well-regarded kitchen that gets you all chuffed inside. every night, you're being tested, and it's an environment of intense heat, pressure, adrenaline, and base, raw, pumping power. there is really nothing like the rush you get pushing out order after order, when you can see the chits lined up 20 deep on the pass, when your mind goes into this frenzied auto-pilot and your body starts to move in a pre-orchestrated automation that you didn't even think you were capable of, but is the condensation of ingrained training. it's the manifestation of skill and a reaffirmation of your abilities that doesn't get expressed the same way say, in library school. the camraderie is amazing. you all go through the same thing together, every night. i imagine that the oft-used military analogy is probably pretty apt.

an amazing book i read recently that dealt with life on the line is bill buford's "heat". being a cook is like being part of a secret society or's got its' own language, and attracts a strange breed of highly disciplined masochists. people who pride themselves on being able to shave the hair off their arms after spending an hour sharpening their knives. people who pride themselves on 100 hour, 6 day work weeks. people who can shoot off at the mouth with an awesome command of profanities and vulgarities used with a lyrical, poetic finesse. very few people are good cooks, and i think i was one of them. i miss being in an environment where my skills are validated every day. and it's mostly a self-validation too. but it was hard trying to be in two different worlds at the same time. the conversation on the line rarely went beyond the various sexual proclivities of whomever happened to be in the immediate vincinity. and it wears you down after a while. it's hard to be a normal person when you keep restaurant hours and restaurant company.

so now i get to be a normal person. and i cook dinner every night for my boy and my roomie, instead of clayton ruby and the stronachs (with 200 of their closest friends) or couples celebrating engagements or birthdays or anniversaries. but there's a pretty substantial part of me that misses the ritual of setting up for service, and executing a friday night rush. there's even a part of me that misses being in the s**ts and knowing it.


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