Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Got that kitchen groove back

It's a tragedy when you take eating for granted.  Not on a Shakespearean level, mind you, but something to be mourned nonetheless and avoided if possible.  The one thing you have to do to survive is eat, so you might as well make the most of it.  Yeah you have to breathe, too, but there's only so much latitude in that and try as you might you'll never reach the delights found in eating.

I used to cook with fervor.  I looked forward to nights when I could spend several hours at the stove caramelizing, sautéing, searing, seasoning and tasting.  When the house is empty cooking can be a pleasure again.  There's no one to say "Ewww!" or whine "I don't waaaant it", no reason to rush the process to get a little whiner to bed on time.  It's also a good time to purge the freezer of less popular contents.  Yesterday I got a late start and vowed that I'd make do with whatever was in the house, opting to sip bourbon instead of trudging to the store.  Potluck marinade handles the underdog role well.  Dove breast fired in a cast iron pan takes a back seat to nothing.

These found their way on top of mashed potatoes that I'll sheepishly admit my wife found the recipe for in a Martha Stewart magazine.  But hey, fair's fair and good's good regardless of the origin and this dish, absent the customary milk or cream and infused with a heavy dose of olive oil and garlic yields the best mashed potatoes I've ever piled on a fork.  Of course I found I was out of garlic after the potatoes were boiling so I substituted a lonely shallot and some garlic powder and drifted in some cumin out of curiosity.  Jackpot.

You've had those meals.  Everyone's had those meals, the ones where the palate and the mind dance like the Peanuts gang, jubilant and uninhibited.  They occupy thoughts to the point that there's no room left for troubles and all seems right with the world.  Or maybe that's the whiskey at work.

And it was so good I forgot to take pictures.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Death in the short grass

It is undeniable.  You can tempt it, you can cheat it, you can curse it, mourn it, or brood over it yet it remains indifferent to actions and emotions, unswerving in its task.  The human world builds rituals around the end of life culminating with the planting of remains in cemeteries, the gardens of the dead.  The animal world has no such rite. They don't bury each other in unmarked graves either, Disney as that notion may be.  And despite a certain amount of evidence to the contrary they don't all seek asphalt in the end.  Given this and the vast number of animals in the wild it seems an average hunter would stumble upon a few more carcasses in the woods and fields.

Sure, quite a few creatures end up as links in the food chain and are digested to the point that only the most fastidious eye would detect the parts amid twigs and leaves.  For the rest the framework lands in plain view, picked clean, nature's near-perfect efficiency in action.  In plain view of something, but what?

If you believe in higher powers and predestination and those sorts of things it would make sense that each living creature, or at least the sum of its physical parts, ends up exactly where it's supposed to.  That fact is no closer to unlocking the answer but does provide a measure of comfort that there is some order to this end of the universe.  Known science suggests it's possible that the disguises that protect so well during life serve the same purpose afterward, but at that point what is the purpose?

It's also possible that this is one of those questions that Mother Nature never wants answered.  Logical, orderly, mathematical minds have trouble with such things.  Einstein-be-damned, maybe some things can't be reduced to an equation.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Good gear

In a closet full of gear, certain pieces get reached for more than others.  Year after year this core group that almost always makes the traveling squad gets a little older, doesn't necessarily hide the aging well, yet is ready to go when called. 

Good gear isn't necessarily expensive, a well-known name or overly specialized.  General purpose fits the bill.  You don't feel the need to baby it.  Mostly it's tough as a nickel steak.

A Wal-Mart special still going strong

Good gear is sometimes only qualified after you've owned it for 10+ years.  More times than not it's hard to find a replacement for (they usually don't make it any more), and it's good regardless of what it cost (although getting a deal on it makes it really good).  Browsing catalogs or a rack in the stores, a seasoned eye can take one look and know whether it'll make the grade in your world.

Broken in, not worn out

Is technical gear better?  Sometimes.  There's a lot to be said for waterproof, breathable, lightweight, and moisture-wicking.   Durability can be an issue with some of these combinations, though.  Certain types of brush can greatly extend the breathability of fabric while simultaneously taking the waterproof right out of it. 

Many miles to go
The acid test?  When it looks worn plum out but you can't bring yourself to stop using it.  Hence duct tape, seam sealer and Dr. Scholls have cemented their place in the good gear hall of fame.