Wednesday, March 03, 2010

it takes a village to cure some meat

it should come as a surprise to absolutely NO ONE that i wasn't able to sustain my own self-generated 4x4 yoga challenge. it's too damned hard! what the hell? how am i supposed to have time to do FOUR HOURS of anything during the week? it's too crazy! what with dodgeball on thursday nights and my alternating movie club/dinner with the roomie commitments on tuesday nights and then socializing on the weekend and random stuff coming up during the week - it was too hectic. i'm still committed to a more regularly weekly yoga practice and i'm going to start throwing in some crunches and weights in there to get myself in fighting form for the summer, but the rigidity of the 4x4 was not happening.

in other news: i think i might try training (in the same kind of meandering, not super-regimented way outlined above) to do a try a triathlon this summer. something late in the season. i like biking, swimming, and running but not enough to do an entire challenge devoted to one of those things individually. plus the try-a-tri distances are very manageable - you swim for 375m (in open water though), bike for 10km, and then run for 2.5km. i'm not super into placing or anything - i just think it would give me something to work towards when i run/bike/swim this summer. i don't really care about beating times...i just think it would be fun. i pretty much can do all of those distances now (the weak point would be swimming) but they say when you're training you should try to exceed those distances, like, don't just stop at a 2.5km run and call it quits because you want to have some mustard in you. they also say that you should practice biking for 10km and then hopping off and running, which also sounds like sound advice.

i've also been pooched since like, mid february. i think it was the mid-february blahs, which didn't manifest itself in any way other than to make me want to sleep a zillion hours every night. it hasn't helped that i've been nose-deep in several books for the past little while - books are seriously like crack cocaine. the ones i've been into, i've been hard-pressed not to try to sneak in reading time at work. all i want to do is curl up with the book and finish it at the expense of other things like my quilt top and my knitting. again, the pitfalls of having too many interests.

i freakin' love my food friends. this guy who i worked with at my first cooking gig at angus glen golf club in markham recently re-connected with me over fb. this guy was/is HARDCORE. the kind who does a tonne of research into food and will try everything and is super curious and well-informed. he's also the guy who i got to hone my skills at being unbelievably crass and off-colour in the kitchen with (this was the time of bukake gripping the minds of a generation of people newly unleashed onto the internet). ANYWAY, he recently got into charcuterie and smoking and hepped me to all these messageboards AND he has an arborist friend who has hooked him up with all these hardwoods for smoking (apple, pear, cherry, mulberry, white oak, sugar maple) and he's going to hook ME up with them in turn. then my buddy J of cellar and table said he'd get me in on his buddy's 5kg bag of sure cure so that i can start making my own bacon/cured meats. HOO-HA! i was totally beaming about this community of food-hounds coming together. i don't usually like to define myself by my interests, but i'm so glad that my time spent as a cook has brought me such a diverse, interested, and educated community of like-minded people. what resources! as the dotytron said as i told him about the sharing in excited tones over dinner last night: "i'm way more into that kind of community than the exclusive crap of these stupid supper clubs like charlie's burger" SO TRUE.

my cook's heart's cockles were equally warmed when i reached out to some friends from canoe (my buddy A and his now wife S, who worked at auberge de pommier) who now live in NYC. A worked at tru in chicago and is super-precise and an extremely gifted and dedicated cook. i'll always remember that he was the one who first heard my strangled curses when i dumped the pot of boiling water on my footie and he was the one who immediately filled a giant bucket with ice water for me to dunk my foot in. we were just kind of copacetic - on the same food wavelength. anyway, he's been working at per se and his wife was working at del posto. i contacted them because we're heading to nyc in may and i thought we should get together and try to work something out. in the message, i expressed my dismay and still-lingering embarrassment over having served these two incredibly talented, gifted cooks my corned beef hash (with canned corned beef, natch) the day before they left toronto for a going-away breakfast meet up at my place. he's going to work at per se and i'm frying up corned beef hash as a goodbye meal. lol! the wife, S, was so sweet and posted on my fb wall that it was the best corned beef hash she's ever eaten. i don't believe it for a minute...but what a sweetheart. i love unpretentious cooks!

monday night's dinner was a GIANT bowl of the last of cream of cauliflower soup and my favorite quickie sammy of cheddar and onion toasted in an oven on ace focaccia.

last night's dinner was an old favorite of mine. steamed chicken with dried shitakes and chinese sausage (lap cheong) in a sweet soy sauce with steamed brown rice with gai lan (chinese broccoli). topped with a raw egg. that's some good eats, right there...even if it is loaded with carcinogenic nitrites.

tonight i made us steamed mussels in a thai-inspired (read: it had lemongrass and fish sauce in it) coconut curry sauce which we had with toasted chunks of my homemade bread and steamed gai lan with oyster sauce. unf unf!

i read joann safar and emmanuel
guibert's "the professor's daughter" a while back. it's another comic. i was a big fan of guibert's "alan's war" (the review to which i was going to link until now, when i realized that i didn't actually write one). i didn't like this one at all. the images are watery and undefined and the whole story is rather ridiculous and half-baked. don't bother.

but DO read guibert's "alan's war" which is a touching, well-drawn, poignant capturing of the reminisces of american g.i. alan cope, who fought in wwII. alan, who met guibert in the last years of his life in france, is a wonderful storyteller, effortless and unselfconscious. the comic is basically a straight transcription of alan's reminisces of his war-time experiences. it's deeply personal but the deft, meandering storytelling makes it a fantastic read.

i didn't read all the pieces in this compendium of food writing from the pages of gourmet. some of the "endless feasts" were more compelling than others (i don't really need to read 3 separate stories chronicling the life and appetite of james beard.) some of the writing was dazzling and evocative and so of its' time with charmingly colonial colloquialisms (siam, "the chinese") that made you wonder at these impressive gourmands, so impossibly bourgeois, scattering across the globe in the post-war era of discovery and sending back dispatches of meals taken in rice paddies or of glistening trout fetched from a stream in switzerland and plated, piping hot but moments later. it made me miss gourmet magazine.

"olive kitteridge" was the 2009 pulitzer prize winner for fiction and my work book club's choice for the march meeting. elizabeth strout's writing style reminds me of annie proulx's - spare, lean, and yet palpably descriptive, bringing the short interconnected stories of small-town, new england life in portland, maine, to vivid life. you don't get verbal and linguistic acrobatics here. what you do get are characters who are real, filled with longing, regret, fears, worries, yearning, suppressed emotions. complicated, nuanced characters, like the title character, olive kitteridge, whose presence in every story - however incidental at times - ties the collection to gether. olive is a stern, repressed, conflicted, and taciturn woman, set in her ways. around her the stories of the novel unfold. ultimately the reader is left with a profound sadness for the complexities and fleeting moments of life - of how moments of tragedy and beauty can strike in an instant and how our reactions to these moments are fractured and messy. how we constantly wage a battle against our own histories and characters. i have to admit, i started out not liking this book (i dismissed it as mom-lit), but gradually it drew me in, bit by bit, and i was gifted with an intensely rewarding reading experience.

this didn't start off being a big post...but somehow blossomed into one. i'm saving my latest favoritest book of all time for its very own post later.


Nicole said...

glad to see you've posted about trying a triathlon. now you're committed! (well, at least as committed as you were to the yoga 4x4). :)

ANYWAY... I thought of you when I was swimming this morning!

karl lagerfeld, esquire said...


Nicole said...

I usually start in May. But I want to do a race in July this year so I'm TRYING to start now. Once a week is hardly training yet.