Friday, December 26, 2008

one down one to go

one holiday down, one more to go. today was not that bad, at least for me. i was on the dessert station, so while i could get some huge batches of cafe items ready to go (and did), my main responsibility was to prep the station and plate desserts. I worked my ass of for two days straight to ensure I wouldn't be screwed this morning, so I had relatively little to do for service...bake some cakes and tart tatins, respin my sorbets, bake tuiles and other cookies, make a couple of easy sauces. The most popular item of the day, and I have no idea why...coconut sorbet. The meyer lemon was fairly popular, too, but most of my tickets included some kind of ice cream and usually it was that one.

we're running out of the major component of two desserts, so it's time to get creative about changing them...soon-ish.

i'm not working new year's eve or new year's day....luck of the schedule but i'll take it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

lists.

1.
persimmon budino
chocolate torte
spiced espresso truffles
cocoa nib iced milk
brown butter-chestnut filling
chestnut crepe batter/make crepes
sage sable breton
huckleberry sauce
frozen white chocolate
chocolate sformato
migniardise: orange cardamom truffles, marmalade financier, orange-rosemary pdf, amaretto macarons, chocolate fleur de sel cookies

2.
am bake off
focaccia
vacherin almonds
coffee ice cream base
vacherin meringues
mango & coconut tapioca pudding
chocolate pot de creme
b/o anise biscotti

3.
blossom bluff hachiya & fuyu persimmon
fhf quince
foraged huckleberries
pears
pink lady apples
meyer lemons
buddha's hand
kishu tangerines
satsuma mandarins
navel oranges
pomegranates
first crop walnuts
chestnuts
///

Thursday, December 18, 2008

i've been hearing rumors

I came across some disturbing rumors that my old college is going to make significant cute to its creative writing department. My first reaction was to google it to see if there was any truth behind the rumors and it appears there is. like every other school, vassar is losing endowment money due to the economy. (i'm sure even harvard is having to cut back, but hey, i'd probably endorse that). My second reaction was to email an old favorite professor, now co-chair of the english department, to see if he could tell me a bit of what is going on. Most of all I'm shocked that the English Dept. did not notify alumnae...at least, I am pretty certain they did not, though I do sometimes miss an email.

Vassar is the place that formed me as a writer. Not the school where I received my masters. Not the countless days and hours writing in cafes or with fellow writers or alone at home. Sure, all of it helps. All of it forms the writer and all of it feeds the writer.

I chose to attend Vassar because I wanted to go to a school with a strong focus on English and writing. I was a high school geek. I worked on the lit mag. In college I built strong relationships with several faculty members, and I began to take my craft seriously. From there my life followed on its plan: spend a year or so working, go somewhere and get an MFA. That is what I did, and though there is nothing more invigorating than talking about writing in a room full of writers, it does not pay the bills or change the oil in the car, so I found myself having to get a career. Hence the cooking gig.

I'm researching the truth behind these rumors in the hopes I'll be proven wrong, but I doubt it. Times are tough everywhere. Academics is a luxury lifestyle, wherein each generation creates the next generation so the academy can be self sustaining. The trouble with writing, though, is that the classroom isn't our only classroom. Every face, every darkened door, every half-heard conversation is our classroom and in order to contribute to the growth of ourselves or of the next generation we have to go off alone and discover what we know, what we can say, and how we can share it.

I'll be blogging on here and at Fringe on what I discover.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

i heart david chang

scoping out places to go in new york, and i see chang now has a bakery in his momofuku empire. cakes, shakes, cookes, pretty normal things, but his list of ice cream toppings?

brown butter solids


he's also got a cookie called compost cookie and a pie called crack pie...

anyone out there been to his bakery?

also, aside from old favorites doughnut plant (which is so close to il laboratorio del gelato i might as well show my mom), dean and deluca, broadway panhandler, and birdbath, where to go?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

i have a reservation at per se for my trip to nyc in january! there is a slight chance my mom will say she's not paying THAT much money to eat lunch, and we won't go after all, but i hope not because she basically said if i could get us a resy, we could go.

they were actually the sweetest, nicest people to talk to on the phone. the reservationist i got was so happy i lived in sf, which led to to confess, "yeah i work in the industry, actually at {the restaurant} and all you guys have been coming in lately, jonathan was in a while back, hollingsworth was just in, etc, etc"

they asked up front about any dietary restrictions, etc. i said we might get the vegetables menu, because we're both picky about meat, and that was it. it's great that they ask. i don't think they ask at my restaurant. some people overprepare and tell the reservationist, but then we get lactose-intolerant vegetarians who claim to be vegan and then ask to have the chocolate dessert with ice cream (dairy + eggs).

the big question, though...what am i gonna wear?

UPDATE: the mom says yes. i'm going to per se! ::does little dance around kitchen while banging out another round of marshmallows::

Monday, December 01, 2008

walking sleep

so michael laiskonis just wrote

I've often said that the day you don't feel that pit in your stomach as you walk into work, that's the day to start looking for a new job.


and it seems that several of us are taking such stock lately.

where am i? what am i doing here? is this the right time? how exactly did i get here anyway? what can i do next? how could i have made this better? how can i make [this person] do [this necessary thing]? these are the questions that plague us while we dice, saute, roast, bake, hunt for the chinois.

is it best to cook wholly focused on that one thing. or five things, should you be capable of managing cookies and custards in the oven, a pot of dairy infusing and a caramel at the same time. {this of course implies that you have oven space and working burners for multiple projects, nevermind pots} when you are not focused you make mistakes. your pot of milk boils over and while cleaning up the spill you burn your tuiles in the oven. i find myself working with some people who can only do one thing at a time and it reminds me of when i used to work that way.

and i am so glad that i do not work that way any longer.
and i am so glad that i have the presence of mind to multitask and still hold it down (not only the what/where but the what/now).
and, yes, i still do stupid things but i admit them freely. today my pot of cream boiled over while I was organizing my jars for pot de cremes, and i was pissed that it boiled over, because i had been keeping my eye on it, but i had the presence of mind to taste the cream (was it scalded? did it taste burned in any way? no, so continue) and then measure it (7.5 cups is no longer 8 cups, so correct and proceed).

in a way i'm glad my cream boiled over a bit. i'm somehow in the position currently of trying to teach several people lots of things. it's challenging enough to be mindful of what their backgrounds all are and their skill sets, and then temper my tone or advice accordingly (like, please don't ruin that dessert for service, k thx). if i can see where i came from (yes and sometimes we need a reminder) then i can hopefully be compassionate with these people i am guiding.

because i want to be compassionate. underneath the crusty exterior. and it's hard when service is coming on or when someone commits to making a mistake and fesses up afterward (because there's that moment when you're looking your your mise, and you're thinking something isn't right, and you can decide to go ahead or you can decide to ask a question, and you don't wanna ask a question cause you made this yesterday and you've asked 20 questions today already, and so what are you sposed to do?).

it's hard when you want someone to tell you your impulse is right. it's hard when you have to tell someone their impulse is wrong, that you know they thought about it but they could have made a more informed choice. because you know they can't just think like you. because you know the reason they ask the 21st question is that they want to think like you. i've been the one so many times, saying but...but...but as if my logic, wrong though it be, is going to win me brownie points for having given a second's thought to the matter at hand.

i'm not saying i don't get it wrong any more. no, not at all. but i am glad to be where i am.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

thanksgiving prep

listening to selected shorts and spending the day off prepping for thanksgiving. What's on my list this year?

Cornbread for stuffing
Candied hazelnuts
Pumpkin clafouti
Homemade marshmallows
Sweet potato casserole
Tart do
Quince apple tart
Spiced cider zabaglione
Quince syrup redux
Mashed potatoes

Happy cooking to all

Thursday, November 20, 2008

ganaches, may-november

i remember the first time i was asked to make a ganache flavor for the handmolds we do at work. i perseverated over it. should i just make some basic ganache, a 1:1 part cream and chocolate emulsion? should i add some butter to enrich it and how much? what sorts of fillings did we do in culinary school? i dutifully looked through my notebooks, copied out a recipe for some earl grey ganache (we're not allowed to use in-house tea) and substituted chicory for a honey-chicory ganache. i keep track of what we do at work and developed the following list of ganaches for handmolds or for truffles that i have made over the last six months. of course i don't make all the ganache so this is merely a sample of what's been offered. i have always enjoyed the process--i usually like anything where i have an ounce of choice--but lately i've been getting tired of the process as i don't like to repeat something, though i do and have. we're pretty low on liquor options and don't necessarily get a lot of new spices, and certainly are not special ordering something only for this purpose. i was originally going to post this and ask for suggestions of new flavors. recently i found out we're cutting back on our chocolate migniardise selection (is it the economy? is it too time consuming? ). so i guess this is in remembrance of its frequency. unless otherwise noted, ganache was made with 62, 6 or 70% valrhona. jivara lactee or ivoire otherwise.

molasses-pecan
white chocolate nepotella
white chocolate lavender
espresso
salted almond
white chocolate cardamom rose
candied pistachio
milk chocolate rosemary
white chocolate pink peppercorn
rum
orange-lavender
hazelnut
malted milk chocolate
honey
honey-chicory
white chocolate vanilla-verbena
star anise
cinnamon
milk chocolate peanut butter
rum-ginger
cardamom
vanilla-coffee
vanilla-rum
amaretto
milk chocolate lavender
grapefruit lavender
chili orange
vanilla fleur de sel

Sunday, November 09, 2008

mistakes

i accidentally made granola bars today.

i accidentally made granola bars because i was mixing the granola dries with the melted butter/maple syrup in the hobart, because boss 2 prefers it that way rather than by hand. everything incorporated and then she told me to let it hang out, keep paddling. we were commiserating over the color of my meringues (still figuring out the new ovens at job 2,) when she all of a sudden yelled STOP. apparently we'd started creaming the melted butter and the brown sugar in the granola, in the process crushing the oat bits and making something too broken-down to be called granola.

i pouted. she laughed. they've actually been after us to make granola bars, she said. roll it out on sheet pans, we'll bake it. it'll be great, you'll see.

It Will Be Great Tonight When I'm Not Here Anymore, I said. Yeah I'll Laugh About It Then.

we didn't have oven space to bake them off till right before i left, so i'll see them in a couple days. it was that sort of a day. the sort of day when every diner decides to order the same dessert that you have, oh, eleven of, because you have thirteen ramekins all day. the sort of day when you're baking extra cookies in the middle of service, when you're peering at meringues that have spent all of ten minutes in the oven saying are they brown? do these looks brown to you? how could they, how could they possibly, the oven is BEYOND low it's basically OFF.

i ping pong between a restaurant with a weekly rotating menu and a new (like, bauer-spotting time) restaurant and so every day is a new calibration of what/where. it has been an interesting if thoroughly exhausting couple of weeks thus far.

things to look forward to:
doughnuts. soon-ish.
day off!
actually having time to go return my library books at the library
delicious banana bread for breakfast

Friday, November 07, 2008

peaceful protest to overturn prop 8

it was not like this. there were certainly more than several hundred of us, and we were only blocking traffic insofar as we were continuing our legal protest down the street, from the civic center to the castro, and down to dolores park. see for yourself, if you'd like. along the way, people leaned out of houses to wave no on 8 signs, and of those stuck in traffic, several beeped in support or waved signs of their own.

we were of all ages, abilities, races, genders, identities. we were in drag and we were in work clothes. we texted, tweeted, snapped pictures, updated our facebook status, cheered, yelled, sang, marched, played brass instruments. you might have thought we were happy, oh yes, because we queers, we like to dance.

we weren't happy. having rights of yours stripped away is something we've all suffered through for the last eight years, and though our country voted for change, and our country said yes we can, we still bump up against others' discomfort at our lifestyle choice, or whatever they're calling it these days. i cried when obama was elected and i saw a democratic majority in congress, because i thought we finally were ready to take back our country and to finally end racial discrimination in all of its small, pervasive ways.

tonight we said it again, yes we can. yes we can, yes we will get there. we will get there because it is the right thing. we will get there through the hard work of changing people's minds. we will get there, one day. we will get there because we are not going away, and this is not going away, and even though we live in sf and can feel so snugly protected, we still have a lot of work to do.

start a conversation at work, if you're out at work. (if you're not out, why?) tell your friends, your roommates, your neighbors. tell them because they care about you. because you can't know who they'll tell in turn. tell them so that they can come along next time, because we can't do this alone. we need your support.

i am sure that everyone who voted yes on 8 knows a queer person, even if they're unaware that they actually do. how many votes could we have changed by letting them know their discrimination affects real people?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

list

financier batter
raspberry truffles
bake off custards
chocolate bread pudding
chocolate sformato
yogurt and pomegranate bombes
roasted pears
olive oil cake
cheesecakes
elderberry sorbet
orange-vanilla ice cream
banana ice cream
tart do
lemon verbena semifreddo

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

prop 8

i'm nervous about prop 8. i think a lot of us are. there's a momentum in the air like the fog, with that same mysterious ebb and flow. i lull into not thinking about it, which is probably the worst, because those bigots out there are spending so much time and money thinking about it.

sure, i could say i don't ever envision myself getting married or that marriage doesn't mean the same thing to someone like me as it does to all those straight people undertaking that commitment, but who am i to presume to know what marriage means to any two people at any one point in time? maybe one day i'll wanna get married. maybe i'll decide instead i'd rather have some rad commitment ceremony in an exotic locale. maybe as we keep living our lives and acquiring kids and moving into your neighborhoods, they'll see we're not a threat.

it's easy to get comfortable with a lot of things (like compost, my fave) here in sf. it's easy to presume that everyone, but everyone, is comfortable with who you are. it's easy to think that the hard work is over. in a week i suppose we'll find out. how far we've come/how far we have yet to go. i hope for the best. really, i do.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Making dinner tonight for some friends. I haven't cooked dinner in a couple of weeks and by that I mean something more elaborate than eggs and toast and more than a takeout meal eaten at an odd hour. I've been paging through the wonderful small mezze dishes in Claudia Roden's Arabesque and found a couple to try out...I'll be substituting squash for potato in the potato-tomato pancakes since we've got a squash st home. I'm also making up some goat cheese-black olive boreks, and if I've got the time am planning to make some apple-rosemary caramel ones with the extra phyllo, since we've still got a lot of apples. At the moment I'm in Peet's drinking Earl Grey Lavender tea and working on some writing, since my original plan to go writing in Hayes Valley got derailed by the bulge of library books in my bag. I'm in the middle of a lot of things right now, or at least it feels that way. I'd like to get back to blogging semi regularly, it's just that things have been hectic as usual. I believe we're also having bread pudding which I'm not making...for once I'm making dinner and not dessert. I'm finished procrastinatic. Back to writing.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

review

Review of Judith Jones' The Tenth Muse up here

Sunday, September 21, 2008

canning sundays

The last of the Apple Farm apples (and pears) made their way into a pear-apple chutney today after a lazy Sunday spent walking on Ocean Beach with the dogs.

Finally checked out my closest convenient local farmers market, on Divis near Alamo Square. It was tiny, but they did have some organic growers, a flower guy, some boutique olives and spreads, and a bread stand. I came home with some extremely aromatic basil, tomatoes, snapdragons and poblano peppers. The basil (and tomato) made their way into basil simple syrup and into bruschetta as part of an improptu dinner with chicken salad. As much as I adore the big markets, like Berkeley and the FPFM, lately there's a part of me that feels like I really need to get to know my community markets to the extent that my schedule allows. Sometimes I feel like certain growers get this huge rep around town cause their on everybody's menu and every time I automatically nab a peach from this guy or that guy, there's some newer farmer or equally worthy farmer getting ignored because his stuff isn't on the menu at Chez Panisse or wherever. And it's hard because there's so many great farmers, and I'm not about to trip over myself buying hard stone fruit from some random orchard just to go against the grain. There are always products not worth buying (and a particular example sticks heavy in my mind) from the most established and most obscure vendors. I am also ridiculously spoiled in getting my hands on excellent produce. I may not be able to make it to the FPFM Saturday market for some Knoll figs, but I'm eating the occasional fig at work...am I splitting hairs? Am I alone in this issue?

Anyway, after the market, and after the beach, and after a trillion loads of laundry, C convinced me we needed to make the chutney we'd discussed. So she peled and sliced apples and pears while I mised the brown sugar, garlic, lemon, ginger (fresh and crystallized) and golden raisins. Having never made chutney before we were going by a pretty basic recipe. When everything barely fit in the stockpot we added some of the Apple Farm's extremely potent cider vinegar, and a dash of water, and let it cook. We tasted it halfway through for seasoning and added a touch more vinegar and a couple handful more salt but otherwise it was delicious. When the chutney finally cooked down it was this amazing combination of caramelization-sugary and vinegar-spicy that I don't know I've ever appreciated in chutney when it's service temp. Pretty much the first thing I thought was, damn, this would be really good with apricots.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

too many apples

I have so many apples I just don't know what to do. They're a mixture of Gravensteins, Ashmead's Kernels, Pink Pearls and a couple other varieties, all from the Philo Apple Farm. We have already made two separate batches of applesauce. C showed me how she learned to do hers from her Polish relatives, by boiling the apples till tender, then draining and mashing them. At that point, you sugar, season and continue to reduce the sauce. We're planning a pierogi-making fest so we can eat the applesauce with something yummy, dreaming of crazy nontraditional pierogi fillings like caramelized onion-winter squash. Personally I think parsnips would be nice.

My next apple creation was a spiced sour cream cake with sauteed apples that's perfect for breakfast munching. Goodbye to another six or so apples.

That said the bottom drawer in our refrigerator is still packed with apples. We were thinking of making some chutney. I'm sure I could make a tart of pie or even some flaky turnovers.

It did occur to me yesterday that I could just eat the apples. As in, not cook them. Enjoy them raw. What at idea that would be.

Friday, August 29, 2008

mystery box

someone sent me a box of fruit.

ripe cal red peaches and flavor king pluots from brentwood's frog hollow farm, a place i know very well. at first i thought it was from my old employers themselves...who else would send me such a gift?...or else from my mom, just being nice, or from my dad and stepmom thanking me for entertaining them on their visit. there was no card inside to clue me in. tomorrow i'll call up the farm and see if they can shed some light on it for me, but in the meantime...

here in california it's easy to play the ant. stone fruit season starts in what, may? continues through till october thereabout, at least september. when you get delicious fruit at work every day (and it's not convenient to your schedule to go to a farmers market), you snack on scraps of what you get at work and you use the fruit to make what is on your menu, and unless you are very diligent, that is about it. then the apples show up and, if you're me, you're kind of confused. like, it's apple season already? and there's only apples (pears, pomegranates, persimmons) to hold us til winter? in new england, where you don't get a good nine months of strawberries, everyone is anticipating the local harvest so much that in some ways it's easier to appreciate it. the peaches are here! this month! hurry, hurry...cause you know the cali peaches the store's been stocking all summer were picked way too early to ripen well should you decide to take them home.

this year for some reason my mom's been really awakened to local produce and what it means, tastewise. it's finally come together for her that when you buy something out of season, or when you buy something that's been trucked or flown up from south america or across this country, you are losing out on flavor for the nominal joy of having raspberries in your cereal. only they don't taste like what you remember a berry tasting like.

so in the meantime...maybe i'll take some peaches camping with me. maybe i'll can them in verbena butter, make a plum rose compote. i have been meaning to buy some cans and do some canning, especially with our yard tomatoes fast approaching. i have at last found one white peach worthy of eating. the snow king (ours are from blossom bluff). white peaches (white fruit in general) tend to be high in sugar and low in acid, which means that all you taste is sugar and texture, and any indigenous flavor is pretty much lost. these snow king have a subtle perfumy flavor that's really kind of nice. i thought of them immediately for desert candy's white peach cardamom conserves.

time to play grasshopper kids.

i also got another present today. a genuine pasta king pasta bracelet. oh no, not the one in sonoma. sf's very own bicycle-riding pasta king.

Monday, August 25, 2008

this is just to say

I am entirely guilty of eating plum crisp for breakfast today. Made with delicate italian prune plums purchased from Blossom Bluff. The man at the market noted my beat-up arms and wanted to know, was I a cook? This of course led to an interesting conversation about where I work and what is going on there. Such a small town, this is. The fruit vendors try to engage you in gossip. Also at last week's market I picked up some of my favorite discovery from last year, Alfieri's Summer Royal grapes. Deliciousness. Of course, once I decide I can manage stopping by the Tuesday market once a week for some produce I'll want to eat and some reconnecting with my favorite farms...ye olde schedule changes again. I can still stop by in the early morning for a manageable load-up, I spose, and carry my goods with me to work. Or I can just start commuting outside the city Sundays to a non-SF market. I do have lots of choices, sometimes I just need to be reminded of that fact.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

puttering

I know that I haven't been posting. It would make me sad if I weren't so happy to keep my time to myself. We've been living in a state of permanent houseguests, some more and some less grateful and courteous, for at least three weeks although it feels like longer, since C's mom was out here for a week shortly before that. Our washing machine's been broken so dirty laundry is piled up everywhere, making the space seem smaller. I've been not very chatty on the phone with people, cause I have had no time to myself! Luckily it's almost over.

I've been slowly working on clearing up the garden for a fall planting of chard, brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, and the like. Meanwhile I've polished off the first arugula crop and should be able to get a second planting in. It's hard to want to garden when the fog swarms in and it feels like an east coast November, but I've got to get the seeds in the ground soon.

C and I, and maybe some friends, are going camping in the Anderson Valley over Labor Day. We're going to hit up The Apple Farm folks as well as the Navarro winery and the disc golf course at the Anderson Valley Brewing Co. Hopefully this time around Buster will be a better camper. I'm hoping it'll be warm up there. If anyone's got any other fabulous suggestions, we'll try to check them out, in between hiking and thrift store searching and campfire-making.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

#300 /why oscar wao

Trying to get back to the simple things in life now that my company's gone. Like cooking dinner at least once a week, calling up those I haven't seen in a long time, continuing to turn our Sunset house into a den of fabulous (or frivolous) decoration. And writing, and reading.

What I loved about Oscar Wao was that it was so different from Drown. Drown, though beautifully written, embraced at times a sort of ghetto chic perspective of difference. In writing that sometimes bordered on romanticism Diaz brought for slices of life (the Jersey/Washington Heights DR diaspora, the realities of growing up on food stamps not knowing your father, the clannish intensities of (im)migrant neighborhoods) that were, yes, missing from "contemporary fiction." Over and over, tough-boy narrator Yunior held forth that you could look through the window but you would not know, in a manuscript that held difference over assimilation or non-assimilation, in a way of speaking that made space for otherness/queerness/difference apart from (not of nor in).

Wao, though, is the nerd-chic fatboy younger brother of Drown-era Diaz. It's Diaz's Corrections, his Caramelo, his Middlesex. Wao takes on the language of RPGs and fantasy books, movies, D&D as much as it draws on Spanish-inflected English and Dominican history. The books is so round, and so real, that reading it I forgive the tired genre it stems from...the old family history stretching back in time, that so masculine snapshot-of-three-generations, this is the key, the thread, the connection. This sort of grand family planning seems to be the archetype of our time, that and memoir, and even David Sedaris bridges the gap (both archetypes! one book!) For as much as I love so many of those books I'm ready for something else to capture our collective literary imagination, but until it does, I'll hope it doesn't take 11 more years of nationwide literary-geek snickering til Diaz produces another piece, and I'm hoping that those of us on the margins will continue to take on the constructs of the center to break apart more open spaces.

Friday, August 08, 2008

where/what


yes, it's true, I did take long disappearance from blogging. new and less desirable work schedule to acclimate to, family in town, getting newbies settled, etc. etc. I haven't checked my email or gotten any writing done for the better part of two weeks. bah.

Another garden bbq this weekend and my part will be, I think:
rancho gordo yellow eye beans

watermelon salad with garden cilantro, radishes and greens, red onion, balsamic redux. or something in that vein.

We're also having the infamous veggie kebabs, grilled corn, meat of some sort and goodness knows what else. And I think I'm being called on to make myself look pretty and go to the Presidio Social Club, and I must say, the menu they have on their website looks extremely undelicious. Although they do have mac n cheese. Which would of course then be what I would get.

Maryusa asked what I have been doing with myself and it's been pretty much this: watering the garden, painting the kitchen, entertaining various family and friends, working, making homemade marshmallows for the boys, cleaning, working my way through a stack on slightly overdue library books. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the parade of visitors seems to KEEP COMING as I've got a college friend and fellow ice cream addict flying into town for a wedding next week. dios mio!

keep my head down and work, keep my head down and write.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

garden shots





squash and blossoms, cherry tomatoes, first harvest of arugula and radishes.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

blueberry jam

That was the fun project for today. I'm not sure whether it was so satisfying to make because the color is really gorgeous, or because the texture is fun or just because blueberries are sentimental to me, but there you go.

I also processed some black raspberries for candy making, made nectarine and pluot sauces, did a sponge cake, semifreddo, made a ganache

(and it broke, but i now know how to fix it, which is very rewarding)

everpresent chocolate cookies and pastry cream, and prepped and organized lots of fruit.

we have a lot of currants. I am not sure what to do with them, but they are really exciting to look at.

True to form, I got black raspberry puree all over my coat as I tried to get it through the strainer. But at least tomorrow I can go in, make candy, and not get messy. There will be ice cream stuff to do, another cake to make, custards to prepare.

I always try to spend some extra time doing inventory on my first day back after a couple days off. Going through the ice cream bases, chocolate stock, nuts, fruits and doughs, because I know by now it's best to have a clear idea of what the week will look like.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

chocolate work has me up at night

when i am already tired. looking through my cookbooks for ideas, or possible answers to questions like why my hazelnut ganache broke today. or how to make a fruit flavored ganache that actually tastes like fruit. without setting it up with gelatin (and in that case is it still a ganache? what is it properly? trying to understand how, why, etc, remembering that sometimes chocolate breaks. and you can try it again. and you can put the pieces together. but in the meantime...fruit puree + ganache. nut paste + ganache. infusing a flavor into white ganache without having a carryover white chocolate taste, yet having it be stiff enough to set naturally. chocolate work is a headache. for me it isn't my favorite. but i would like to learn...if only to carry my own weight. i am given the opportunity to play around...but i do need the tools to get better, so what, who? who should i read? where should i search?

and how can you patent a fruit ganache?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

harvest!

my neighbor Aaron gave me handfuls of plums today. what to make, what to make...thinking of jams. i also know another plum tree to forage in the community garden so the plum-product will depend on how many plums i am able to harvest.

today i made grapefruit-mint candies...am sleepy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

fruit list

sooo much:

white peaches
yellow peaches
apricots
pluots, 2 varieties
golden raspberries
red raspberries
strawberries
blueberries
fresh chamomile
fresh lavender
red currants
purple basil
lemon verbena
nepotella
spearmint
golden marjoram

Monday, June 23, 2008

it's going to be a long summer

it's going to be a long summer.

i'm working a five-days-in-a-row schedule. with saturdays off! and nights! which is to say, strange.

it's cool today but it's been hot and the garden has been wilty. the tomatoes flowers are ready to burst into lil tomatoes. the lettuce is loving the cool and is starting to grow.

i've spent an hour on each of the last two days trying to get the damn taylor at work to, like, work. i'll spin a base, ten try to rinse out the machine and it won't turn back on. there's no manual, of course. i took it apart 4 or 5 times. rinsed and cleaned every part of it. made sure the inside wasn't icy, or cold. some time later, say about an hour, the taylor will decide to work again. i'm not sure if there's some little thing i'm not doing right (which wouldn't make a lot of sense, but still could be) or if there is something broken with it.

i had a bonfire until 2 the other morning with the upstairs neighbors and the boys from the band, and c. crispy-toasted marshmallows, beers, and the dogs running around underfoot. too little sleep after a long hot day. it's going to be a long summer.

the kitchen was so hot. cooler, now. the freezer broke, was down for a day, and is fixed. more things are changing on the menu and we almost ran out of peaches today. i'm not sure when specifically the menu is changing which leads me to wonder what to make/not make tomorrow. but i should eat. and get things done. the garden is watered. the sunset's fogged in.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

conversations with cooks

The conversations we have with one another can be strange, surface-seeming at first. To play the game usually you have to find out where someone has worked, who they've worked with, and if you know people in that city it becomes the game of who-and-what you know. I spent some time last week in Boston having lunch at a server friend's new restaurant, and when his chef and sous chef came out to chat us up, we fell into cook talk. Where you've worked. How hard you've worked. Getting out of the hotels. It's a shorthand banter. I asked the sous chef where they got their fish from, and he started complaining about the deliveries being inconsistent. Same Thing With Our Egg Guy, I commiserated. He Can't Commit To A Number Of Cases. You shrug; what do you do? What can you do? I asked him about farm raised or wild, we discussed salmon.

When regular people find out I'm a cook, the questions tend to fall along a couple lines. They go for the how-did-you-get-into-THAT? tact, especially if they know I'm a writer with a masters degree. Or the cool-where-do-you-work (oh-i've-never-heard-of-it)? Then there's the what's-your-specialty? question. It gets interesting when people ask you what you make, because a lot of the time when I answer them directly (brown butter sponge cake, coffee pastry cream, cardamom ice cream) I am fairly certain they have no idea what the process involves. I can try to talk about what it's like to roll truffles between your hot hands while trying not to get cocoa powder everywhere to melt the chocolate. Or what it feels like to stand next to a hot stove in the unexpected heat wave drinking water all day long yet always needing more. Or what it feels like to shape fifteen loaves of bread quickly, so some brunch cook can have the space next to you, and then later to take them out of the oven with the pizza paddle and pile them up strategically so they don't fall. But I'm never really sure what information gets translated. I think part of the appeal of food television cooking shows is that it always looks easy...or at least manageable. Do you need the visuals to understand cooking? Or if I describe the process of making anglaise for ice cream base what do you take away from it? Are desserts less approachable than savory food? How does food media and food writing affect the conversations cooks have with one another and with others?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

all fogged in

The plants are still alive. The nasturtiums decided to poke their head out of the ground today in response to my massive watering last night. The herbs are the only things not responding to the garden, which leaves us with a future harvest of:

arugula
lettuce, two kinds
radishes
cherry tomatoes
other assorted tomatoes of which I am not certain
crookneck yellow squash
cucumbers, maybe
sunflowers
jalapenos

There's also blackberries and a mysterious fruit tree in the backyard. Hmph. Ahhh, research reveals it to be a quince tree.

I made a delicious apricot compote tonight to eat over ice cream, though it'd go really well with biscuits and whipped cream as a shortcake. But there are limits to the amount of cooking I'm in the mood for right now, and I also made dinner.

Friday, May 30, 2008

list

almond tuile
chamomile panna cotta
pit cherries
roll truffles
bake cookies
shape cookies
SS
process strawberry sorbet
pain perdu custard base
salted caramel anglaise
toasted coconut pastry cream
pink grapefruit pate de fruit
peach prep
.

A couple days ago I saw a half-blind man sharpening knives out of the back of a rusted Chevy truck on 9th Ave. It was a fabulous sight, the sort of thing that makes you stop and stare and stare again. He had a wet stone. He worked fast. It's such an improbable, interesting thing (like so much of this city) and I like to think about him driving around the city to the back doors of various restaurants, one tiny part of this big business.

Friday, May 23, 2008

where i'm going/where i've been

bbq at the house, bonfire at the beach.
aziza, anchor and hope.
north beach, ocean beach.
the lex.
hot springs.
over the golden gate, north on 101.
the east bay.
the east coast.

the herbs have started growing now. so far we have arugula, two kinds of lettuce, radishes, summer squash, tomatoes, jalapenos, mint, tarragon, chamomile, basil, carrots, wildflowers, and unlucky watermelon. i should probably go water it soon. it's nice having this huge yard, having a garden again, although i am surprised every day i wake up and it's all still there and hasn't died somehow overnight. i don't think i have actually grown anything from seed before, except for maybe lettuce.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

in praise of tuesday

would you believe it if I said I had beautiful chocolate handwriting today?

It's almost Tuesday again and I'm excited again. Tuesday is my favorite day now. It's routine in the best ways...I am using the best products. I am working in all the kinds of ways I need/want to be working. I strive to work better, faster, cleaner, more productively. and don't think of taking shortcuts. I have one day a week to carry me through the rest. But it won't always be like this. Soon, soon enough I hope, things will be better.

I mean, cmon, I busted out that handwriting. It's only a matter of time.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

potential



It's going to be a challenge to turn the yard into a *nice* yard but it's got tons of potential. I bought a scuffle hoe today and it made me really, really happy. I cleared out two of the raised beds we have (yeah, we've got a bunch of raised beds. and a lot of direct and indirect light.) It took a lot of work but they're finally down to earth, and I watered and turned over the soil.

We've got berry bushes, a charcoal grill, a smoker, and some type of wild onion. As far as what to actually plant, I'm still figuring it out. I'm used to the east coast, when things would just be getting in the ground right about now. As is, we're behind, but should still hope for some sort of harvest. I'm really happy with the new place, even if it is a lot of raw materials that need some good care.

Monday, April 28, 2008

the ice cream game

It's sort of my new favorite thing to do. At least at 1:30 in the morning when I know I should be sleeping. It's easy. What flavor are you? What flavor are your friends? Are you any of the following: vanilla, meyer lemon, malted vanilla, brandied cherry, rocky road, rose, cookies n cream, honey lavender, pink peppercorn, plum sorbet, coffee chicory, maple walnut, irish stout? Do you get to be a flavor that you like? If you don't like the flavor that you are what does that mean?

Last night was very interesting. Went to Medjool. More later, perhaps. I'm so so so tired.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

where i've been lately

making chocolate cake. like, lots of chocolate cake. meh.
plating. working on consistency of portion size. saucing plates, wiping plates, etc.
hulling flats of strawberries.
crackin eggs. so many eggs. today i found three sets of double-yolked eggs, and i figured maybe my luck was changing, except we make our own luck most of the time anyway.
chopping things-fruits, nuts, chocolate.
i've been spending lots of time in strange kitchens and it's giving me an interesting perspective on the way i've been taught to work/am bring taught to work/whatever.

Monday, April 14, 2008

CH rant

is this why pastry chefs get the shaft? In a long review of Epic Roasthouse the original chowhound poster can only describe the dessert in the most vague terms--a butter cake, with caramel sauce. Apparently the dessert was delicious, and its taste still in the poster's mind days later, which is the goal, right, in preparing delicious desserts, but the level of description brought to the other courses was utterly lacking with respect to the last course.

Dessert. Really not an afterthought for some of us out there.

Searching around for info on the "butter cake" I find it's an almond brown butter cake with toffee sauce and blood orange curd. Their desserts actually seem quite pricy for the number of components on the plate!

What is the contract between sweet chef and sweet eater? Do we owe them better food, more diverse food, something more than warm chocolate cake and vanilla creme brulee? Do they owe us more understanding of the tricks up our sleeves, the various items of our trade, the difference between a sponge cake and a butter cake, a creme brulee and a pot de creme and a panna cotta? When will we get the same level of rapt prose discussing our endeavors as that given to any number of garde manger items, main dishes, etc?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

here

I've got a lot on my mind. Working on a couple posts, writing-wise, cause I've been doing a lot of reading (and writing) of late. It's been a mostly fun weekend of dancing, beers, running into people randomly in these city streets....which makes me feel like I've been here for some time and know people, which in itself is a strange feeling.

I went back to Hard Knox last night cause I was totally craving some fried chicken, and it was pretty good (not as good as this stuff, but you can't have it all). On my original Hard Knox trip I was so saddened by the excessive use of white pepper in the mashed potatoes, and I think I was tasting a lot of it on the chicken, too. White pepper is just awful in my opinion. Blech. Even a tiny bit will ruin the taste for me. Black pepper, though? Unscrew the cap and pass it over! At Hard Knox you get three pieces of fried chicken and two sides for nine bucks, and this time I went with the mac n cheese and french fries.

There was something about the whole night that made me want to junk it all behind and head off to the south. Hit up Hot Springs, Memphis, Nashville, Tuscaloosa. Drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway and stop to wink at Asheville, again, dip toes in my slow and sultry city of birth, turn around and cruise through dead St. Louis and back to where it all began (improbably): Salina, Kansas and my fried chicken OBSESSION. It was hot and crowded in Hard Knox despite the ceiling fans. The tin shack decor only a simulacra in SF. Despite my longings the fried chicken was really yummy and I'm glad I gave Hard Knox a second try because I can have a little more balanced opinion of it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

smells like fire

A weekend (more or less) of bbqs and birthdays.

First with work people/new friends. With absolutely tons of food (burgers, chicken, kebabs, chips n salsa n guac, pasta salad, rice n beans) and a delicious enormous birthday cake, a sunny afternoon, lots of beer and good conversation and marshmallow madness.

Then with old friends and wood foraged from John McLaren park and a giant fire in a backyard fire pit.

Sporadic conversation but mostly silence, in the way that things settle between people who have known one another for a long time and have complicated histories. No food except for meat and soda, which I guess is what happens when you let the boy plan the bbq.

This morning we took Jes back to the FPFM for one last trip (kumquats, strawberries, dried kiwi, dried hachiya persimmon) and now she is almost home, and though she admits that California has some nice things I know she is glad to be there.

Friday, April 04, 2008

un-chocolate?

I am really curious how you can have a "chocolate" flavor of something that tastes absolutely nothing like actual chocolate. This is something I haven't experienced in my life until tonight. Like...

a brownie that tastes nothing like chocolate.
hot fudge that tastes 2% like chocolate.
chocolate ice cream that tastes nothing, but nothing, like chocolate.

See, tonight I went to Maggie Mudd for an enormous banana split brownie sundae with caramel and hot fudge. I shared it with a friend. We got three flavors of ice cream-espresso, pecan praline (which come to think of it had no nuts, hmm) and chocolate. The chocolate was incredibly dark, more the color of chocolate sorbet than actual ice cream. All the ice creams were in general entirely too sweet, which I'd suspected they might be from what I'd had there before. What baffled me most about the whole experience was the utter lack of chocolate flavor of any kind. When I asked the scooper kids what was in the chocolate flavor, they said it was "some kind of chocolate chips and cocoa powder." I'm gonna try to find out, cause it was completely bizarre. Since they do a lot of dairy-free products I'm wondering if they don't use actual chocolate at all in any of their products.

Enough complaining. In the morning one of my best friends ever comes to town. I am going to take her to the farmer's market, because she is a farmer, and I am really curious to hear what her take will be on the FPFM.

the paco jet

is it overrated? is it wonderful? I've had a couple conversations recently about this thing and, for me, I kinda have a hard time respecting it...

At Oleana, Maura had a pacojet because chef Ana saw one on her kitchen tour of WD-50, I think it was, and determined they needed to get one. She used it for sorbet, but spun her ice creams upstairs in the office, in this old and crotchety machine they got from Toscanini's when they first opened.

{this, in itself, is commentary enough on the boston scene...everybody knows everybody else, and they are generally sort of helpful in a noncompetitive way....like, say, when you're deciding to open a bakery, too, why not get information from the owner of the (arguably) most successful bakery in town? the sf scene is, shall we say, different.}

Maura was particular about using the pacojet only for sorbets, but was vague as to the reason why. I next encountered the pacojet on a trail back in September, where I had to re-spin all the ice creams for service and was slightly terrified I'd break the thing.

I do hear that by using a pacojet for ice creams, you've got to change the nature of your base and stabilize the fuck out of it. Which feels intrinsically wrong to me. Not to mention that the cannisters are so damn small (and kinda quenelle-unfriendly, I'd say).

But then that just raises another question. What's the best quantity to produce ice cream in, for a restaurant setting. At Sonsie we'd spin about 6 quarts in some tiny ic maker with a continuous freeze chamber. So all day it'd be spin the ice cream, keep checking on it...bust out other stuff....check the ice cream, spin more ice cream...and by the end of the day we'd have gone through the batch of base. Now we spin probably the same amount, 4-6 quarts I'd say, and that goes into 2 or 3 containers and takes not-very-long to spin. and generally gets used up I'd say in about 2 weeks' time, maybe more. Hard to say.

And that just brings up another question. How does the freezer affect taste? The constant tempering and re-tempering, does it affect the quality of the ice cream? After a week or after a month? I taste all our ice creams fairly often (if not daily) because I'll use any excuse to eat ice cream and I notice sometimes the texture is different to work with/quenelle. But not the taste.

It's sort of hard to meditate on ice cream and not be able to eat some right then and there. {I have, literally, NO FOOD, in my house. like, coffee beans and half a lemon.} Perhaps tomorrow after I look at yet another apartment, I shall take myself to Maggie Mudd.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

reading: amy bloom, away

I've been a big Amy Bloom fan for a while, ever since Love Invents Us. She writes mostly contemporary fiction (novels, short stories) and always features queer characters of some sort in her writing, which is something I always find really interesting. But I wasn't very excited to read Away, a novel set in 1920s America chronicling a Russian Jew searching for her long-last daughter via an overland journey from New York to Siberia. Originally it was Bloom's prose more than the story that won me over...the story seemed like a mishmash of all the other narratives of displacement, rootlessness. The plucky female heroine immigrant road trip, or at least that's how the logline for the movie would read.

I read the book in a day...can't remember the last time I did that. I had two MUNI rides to get started, and stayed up late turning the pages. The details were vivid, sharp, unique. There was the requisite backstory (think Beloved, think Lipshitz Six), a horror story of violence, and that threaded repeatedly through the book.

What turned me off from the book was Bloom's habit of flashing forward. Since the book is a road narrative, the main character leaves every character she encounters, and all those characters give her something (physical or psychic, tangible or immaterial) to push her on her journey...and each time the MC leaves, Bloom offers a paragraph summary of where that person ends up. This is how he dies, or lives, this is where she goes. It's cute...it's the gratification of the reader impulse to "know where" the secondary characters end up, because they/we have come to care about these characters. But it gets old. It gets annoying. Especially as the book nears to a close.

I think it's in part the gimmicks of omniscience that turn me off of third person fiction. The author's tidy tricks. Life is much messier than that. In reality, those characters fade away. It's interesting to think about the novel's weak points in relation to my own work.

I've been writing a lot, especially on MUNI...put on the ipod and go. It feels really good. I'm writing a lot about food and it allows me a place to push against things, think things over.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

rhubarb

It wasn't strawberries this year that made me kick-start giddy into spring. It was rhubarb. We were tasked to come up with a dessert special, maybe a crisp, and suitable ice cream was made. We all brought cookbooks...rhubarb the great unknown, the pinkish vegetable, the first blush of spring. I was the only one who'd used it before.

I had never thought to peel rhubarb before but my coworker (who must've read it somewhere) told me to do so, and I had another stupid moment as I chopped the peeled rhubarb, a body memory return to last spring and the mountains of rhubarb I used for crisps and whatnot at Frog Hollow. The slices would always stick together by this fibrous membrane, and I'd curse it out and hand-separate them (or not, mood depending). But it never, ever, occurred to me to peel the thing. Genius.

So it was the body memory that got me, and then the smell. A rough earthy smell, a green smell. Not a perfume, nothing sexy. A smell of spring and beginning. It took me back to the Oakland days, to when I knew nothing and no one here. To how great it felt to finally be on my own in a kitchen and playing with whatever produce was on hand, plus the flip side of that, ignorance, the thousands of unanswered questions and uncertainties and things-left-to-learn.

Rhubarb...it smelled so new again. And like a thousand old things I'd left behind.

Maybe because of the rhubarb, maybe not, but the rest of the night was great. I was working both stations and getting enough garde manger tickets that the board was getting filled up and I needed to work quick and clean and wipe...and when the intermittent pastry ticket it was time to turn around and tend to the cakes, custards, sauces. We had a good number of dessert sales, too, and though I gave my coworker a 20 minute shot at the station because she missed it (and went off to consolidate walk-in stuffs), on the whole I was into service and had a really good rhythm going.

The whole night was like a gift. A reminder of what I am here for. I love working with food. I love the excitement and possibilities of a new dish. Especially a dish like crisp is so fraught with memories for me. I thought back to all the FH crisps that were too soggy or too stiff, the parade of peach and nectarine varietals, the experience of making 9 months' worth of crisp and having to guess the right amount of starch to balance out the liquid from the fruit. I love my coworkers. It feels like we've all been here for so long, but really it's been the blink of an eye. In September, I stood in the Oleana kitchen nervous to go back to SF and start a restaurant job with serious people and Maura said to me that all restaurants weren't like the ones I'd worked in. She promised me there were good restaurants and good people, and when you see it? It's seductive. You can try to explain it to the other people in your life, those who aren't in the industry, but they won't get it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

kitchen lit

I'm almost finished reading Marco Pierre White's The Devil in the Kitchen and I'm really enjoying it. However, for a book whose title promises sex pain AND madness I'm not finding much of any of that. He's got a temper, sure, but in the book he's very quick to explain that the verbal outrage is directed at the act, not the person. Temporary in nature. And, sure, at the time that doesn't make the verbal slap feel any better...but it reads like just another day in some chef's kitchen.

It's strange to say but he seems almost normal to me. He concentrates on describing his effort to achieve 3 michelin stars and picks away at that thorn in our side, consistency. How to achieve the same presentation with 40 diners a night as with 100? How to serve the sort of meals he wants to be serving in a small kitchen?

I remember the first time I read Kitchen Confidential I thought Anthony Bourdain was totally insane plus sexist. No One Really Does That, I was convinced. Now it's another day in the life.

Change and consistency, two sides of a coin. As much as things are supposed to be consistent, there's always change. You have to be ready to work with what you've got even if sometimes it's next to nothing. I made croutons today with a baguette because we were out of olive bread and I sold 2 out of 3 orders of what I had to start with...the flavor and the shape were compromised but something's better than nothing, even as backup. Pastrywise, we're such big planners that we tend to not run out of anything at all, but it's nice to be in touch with the idea of being flexible during service.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

shortcuts

I had to put down the march issue of Gourmet twice on my morning commute to work. First, I flipped to the back page where I was intrigues to see a recipe for a galette, with no filling. To me a galette is a free-form tart filled with fruit, tho I suppose it could be filled with something else and I'm sure it could be adapted to be savory.

But...FILLED. I would never tell you I baked a pie, and then hand you an empty sucree crust. This galette recipe was pizza dough brushed with butter and sugar, then baked. I'm almost equally annoyed at the fact that, not only is the recipe not a recipe for any sort of dough (and so not teaching you how to work with dough) but it's also not teaching you, really, what a galette could be.

Then I saw this crepe-cake recipe. I read it through fairly fast but something didn't sit right so I read it again, slowly. They didn't have you rest the crepe batter at all, which most cooks do, but we didn't rest crepe batter at work when we were using it in two different preparations, so...it was an interesting opportunity for a discussion of philosophy but no matter. Then, in the instructions, they had you butter a pan and then heat it, and again I read it a couple time before my head sent off a little flag of NO, silly, you're supposed to heat a pan and then add fat and then let THAT get hot and then carry on. Little things.

I got to the charlotte recipe that called for melted vanilla ice cream and I puzzled over that for a second before I realized they were probably going for creme anglaise, but figured no one would be interested in learning how to make that.

In between these half-assed recipe was a very interesting article on omelets, actually on achieving perfection in cooking via the omelet.

You shouldn't inspire someone to greatness and then give them inadequate tools. Does it take up too much space to print a recipe for creme anglaise, or it it too difficult? Sometimes we want something quick, easy, without all the fuss. Without using every pan we own. That's fine. Gourmet is the only food mag I subscribe to, Food Arts aside (and how many people think that Food Arts is fascinating, because I do, but please, it's hard enough for someone like me to fudge a subscription). If I wanted to learn to make a simplified version of some Michael Mina dish or some half-cocked version of custards or cakes, I'd buy Food and Wine.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

teaching

I taught someone how to bake something today and, well wouldn't you know, it was really fun. I have never really considered the rewards of teaching someone to do something. Other than teaching college kids who want to be writers about writing, that is, which is still something I think would be rewarding...

But we're talking about cupcakes now. And that is one thing I have a LOT of experience baking. I showed up at Meredith's house and she had some recipe for chocolate sour cream cake from epicurious. I read the recipe and we got to work. She measured and sifted the dries. I got the butter soft in the microwave, measured out sugar, did the eggs and added an extra yolk, and substituted milk for water cause the sour cream was lowfat and it all made sense but, I'll admit, I was kinda keeping my fingers crossed like maybe it would be too fatty, or too many different things changed and it would somehow be bad and all my fault, but then I figured that it would probably be fine. When everything was measured I told Meredith that she was going to make the cupcakes and I'd watch and be moral support. So I narrated: cream the butter and sugar, scrape it down, keep creaming. Add the eggs (which I'd pre-mixed together) little by little, scrape, add 1/3 of the dried, 1/2 of the wets, etc.

As she sifted the dries I told her the latest thing I'd just learned about sifting, and as I heated up the butter and then the milk I told her about the importance of keeping ingredients at room temperature, and the the batter would probably look curdled because the eggs were still cold, but that it would come back together when we added the dries. I coached her through each step. We put the first tray in to bake and I monitored the baking time very, very carefully. Because I really didn't know how long it would take to bake cupcakes versus a 9 inch cake. And because of everything lately at work. I told myself I couldn't think about anything other than how the cupcakes looked. Were they still mushy in the middle? Did they spring back underneath my touch? Or just almost, begging for one minute more but no more?

Like, damned if I was acting as someone's professional baking coach and I fucked up their cupcakes. So now I stretch this moment somehow, find a way to hold onto it.

Later, when we were walking home from the bar where we'd gone after she cooked me some yummy dinner...like, home-cooked meal man! and she wouldn't let me help or help clean up!...she was thanking me for my help and I was brushing it off saying they'd have been fine. No, she said. You're the one who told me to add the eggs a little at a time, otherwise I would've just dumped them all in. And it was a small thing, but I felt sheepish and happy and I wanted to call up everyone who'd ever taught me anything and tell them that I spent my evening helping someone be a better baker and it was fun dammit! And it made me reflect a lot on, yknow, what's been going on of late.

Friday, March 14, 2008

plating, v.

Realization of the day:

I really enjoy plating up the sorbet. In fact my enjoyment of it is out of bounds with the actual effort involved in doing so. The requisite first step is tempering the sorbet so that when you go to scoop it, it's lovely and fluffy and not rock-hard. It's two scoops or sorbet (no quenelles this time) in a bowl, accompanied by some citrus supremes (currently in house we have blood orange and cara cara), and then since we've got approximately 4 quarts of candied lemon peel, a sliver of candied lemon peel because why not? Frozen bowl, cute green plate underneath, and good luck trying to find a food runner!

Plating it up makes me happy in a cute, puttering, grounded sort of way. Just like the kumquat salad, when I can succeed in making the mache pile up and not get oppressed by the heavy endive shards.

It can't be that plating orange things brings me joy...

Consideration of other things I most enjoy plating:
pistachio dessert
sardines
kumquat salad
feta spread
doughnuts!

And those I enjoy less:
romaine salad
goat, which is curiously my favorite dessert
cheese plate


Today was better. You have a bad day and you get over it. If you're lucky, you convince yourself out of bed at an early hour and get downtown just as the sun is breaking through clouds and you think, goddamn this is a beautiful city and, goddamn I'm lucky I'm here and, goddamn, I should get ready for lunch so fire up the ovens let's go, so that by the time lunch actually starts you can just roll out dough and start ticking items off the prep list.

confessions

If not offering excuses is the first step, then I'll say it here:

I fuck things up.

I am guilty of daydreaming, of being inattentive to things sometimes. My boss got very frustrated with me today because I overbaked some tart shells and then I underbaked these lil phyllo shells. I should know how to do these things better but I forget to taste and touch and smell and it's stupid. I shouldn't forget those things. I have a very physical job and I should be physically engaged with it, with more than just my hands.

I am not sure why this is happening because it's not like I ever overbaked a tray of cupcakes at my last job. But. It is, so then...

I hate disappointing people. Especially those who are my boss/my friend. People I respect. I hate expecting to disappoint them. I should stop it, right? Admit my faults, right? Because that is the only way to get better, and if I keep being mulish I'll only ever dig myself out of a kitchen, out of learning, not in.

And I want to be in. I want to be in enough that I ate some raw lamb the other day, and I have never eaten lamb and not eaten red meat in 14 years. But now it's in a dish on garde manger and I was disappointing the chef, and my boss, and B, and I knew I'd get in trouble for it if not that night then soon. Imminently. I had to be able to taste it and I have to be able to taste it now, each time I put an order out, and it may not be something I like at all but it's necessary.

I don't want this to sound like I'm whining because I'm not whining. I don't want sympathy or any sort of assurance. I don't like being told what to do but I don't like doing the wrong this just as much, so it would make sense that I learn to do the right thing, and do it, rather than think I know what the right thing is. It would make sense, yes. Stop being so pigheaded, jackass.

I like to pretend that I'm tough, that I'm tough enough. I hold myself at a distance without meaning to and then when people see my vulnerability, I like to think they see it all the time. I like to think they know how I really feel/what I really think even if that wall goes back up because we're close now and it's sometimes scary. I have this problem with women, too; I'm detached enough to pursue the ones I'm not very interested in, and have such a push-pull with the ones I do like, because, god, would there be anything worse than admitting I might like you? And it might be all wrong, or you might not like me, or that it might not be enough to push aside the other things in life? I like to think I know the score, the inside information. Sometimes, it's true, I do. Sometimes all of what I think can turn out to be so not true, or half-true. Sometimes it doesn't even matter.

I am not where I could be. Not even where I should be, perhaps. In order to get there-or at least try-I need to give up a little on all of my ideas of certainty.

Because, clearly, I don't know.

I can be strong and stubborn and stupid. This can serve me well when, say, I have no savings, but a home and a stable job but desperately want to move across the country where no job awaits me, and nothing, and no one. But here, now, it's not working for me.

I'm so hungry. I forgot to eat this morning and I'm kind of sick so I don't have an appetite (or taste buds or a sense of smell). I ate a lot of staff meal but that was hours ago. It took me an hour and a half again to get home on MUNI cause my line stops running direct after 9 pm. And the bottle of cough syrup I had in my bag spilled , and then dripped from my bag all over my leg, so I was commuting home in chef pants with sticky wet goo all over me. I should get some sleep so I can get up early and go open tomorrow, but my mind's too wired. But I'll get up and go in early tomorrow, even if I feel worse than I did this morning, because there's no such thing as a sick day in my industry. Never mind running late. And you know what, no complaints. We have long crazy days. All the time we've overworked, running on little sleep or food or both, and it's just how things are.

I used to be such a good student in high school and college, even grad school, but I wonder if it was because I liked being taught per se, or I liked being rewarded for being smart and knowing things, or struggling together to figure them out...so it can't be that I don't want to learn.

I think there is a a part of me that worries that if I admit my faults I still won't get better. Irrational, perhaps? Of all the things my old boss said to me, there's only one that echoes in my mind, sometimes, like a superstition or a curse:

It's Clear You Have Potential, But No One Can Seem To Get It Out Of You.

Monday, March 10, 2008

plastico

If you have to encase the full contents of your bakeshop in plastic, as B and I did on Saturday night, then I am convinced you could not have had a better time than we did. I worked both stations, running in the back in between to help scale out bread and shape it, sheet dough, relieve some piping bag monotony, while B got the prep list done and cleaned the kitchen. Everything that could went into the ovens, and the rest went onto two tables. I cleaned down my stations, wrapped, did a hasty inventory, then came in the back and started cutting plastic bags with scissors. MJ blared from my ipod, so loud sometimes that we had to shout. The dishwashers and a sous chef puttered about, checking the items the line had wrapped. At some point in our taping job I noticed B left a backup roll of tape inside the pile, so I removed it and started taping. We worked pretty quickly, puzzling over some items. What to do with the vat of hot fryer oil? (It got its own bag of plastic) How to get the back of the ice cream machine? We took no chances with the stereo speakers. We took pictures. We were alone; we'd been alone most of the day since K was sick and we'd sent her home in a flurry of assurance that we could handle everything. We could babysit the bread, bake it nicely, finish the piping job, and we didn't need much for the stations, we'd be fine, she should go, really, now, cmon...Then a few hours later we found out about the plastic wrap situation and only toward the end of our job did we think of calling K to let her know because, dios mio, what if we left something out?

Then we left for a well deserved beer and watched drunken straight men rub up against one another, ate greasy and delicious pizza, stayed too late to catch MUNI. Home was a flurry of buses and waiting on street corners, tumble into bed for a crazy Sunday of running all around town and shopping.

I am pretty sure that by the time I get there today, the bakeshop will be back in order, but if not, then I'll have to join in its reshaping.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

last year

I am going to buy myself a digital SLR.

I alternate between saying Yippee and thinking Christ Of All The Things To Spend My Money On.

But. I was never happy with my digital camera, some Canon powershot model. And without a camera I feel sort of naked.

(Taking pictures at work yesterday of the whole pig carcass with my cell phone camera, no way to do it justice).

I've had Canons, Nikons and Pentax and I think I've settled on an Olympus this time. The e-410 model, decently inexpensive, comes with image stabilization unlike the Nikon I was looking at, 10 megapixels, blah blah blah.

It ain't a leica lens but hey...I'm no professional.

Work promises to be another full day. We've been quite busy lately. I'm working garde manger tonight and then the next two nights I work as well, so it'll be a bit of a vacation from pastryland...there have been some menu changes and now there's all sort sof things that I haven't seen/don't know how to do/have only seen once. But picked sardines means that avocados are in house again, which means that I can have avocado-and-flatbread sammiches at the end of the night again, which is delicious and resonant of our early days when only BC worked garde manger.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"you could tie up a lot of girls with 100 feet of rope"

Some people always annoy you. Some people always misunderstand you. Some people always comfort you, like a hug or my awesome ikea blanket. Some always tease you, or you let them tease you. Some inspire, are good for a few beers, make you act protective, make you act girly, some are only better in times of crisis, some are better on the road.

Some, like my buddy Brandon, mostly sit around in restaurants with you and talk about gambling and women. This is most of our relationship, coupled with a search for good fried chicken. When we're not sitting around some restaurant before or after a shift, we're doing random things like kidnapping me to Davis. Driving me out here. Duct-taping the plastic cover underneath my car back onto my car so it doesn't drag on the street. He picks me up on street corners: Embarcadero, pier 3. Fulton and Park Presidio. Church St. Safeway parking lot. 24th and Mission.

Almost a year ago to the day, we pulled up to Oakland together and he left me in a strange house for what I thought would be a temporary adventure.

Almost a year later, we picked up a mattress in Noe Valley, strapped it to the roof of my rental car with a tarp and 100 feet of rope, and drove back to Ingleside where I now live. Because he was convinced this was illegal in California (and it may be, I don't know, but on the east coast it's simply what you do and one time I even moved a mattress and box spring by myself on top of the car, from Somerville through Cambridge and into Boston proper. So, Brandon had never done this and was entirely convinced that 1)I was crazy and 2)it was bound to fall, so 3)we'd better take side streets. We snaked through parts of SF I've never seen, arrived at my house, dragged up the mattress, deflated the world's largest air mattress, hefted up the dresser I scored it Redwood City and now I have a lot of unpacking to do.

This is not really about food, no. It's about how we fall into patterns with people, how we seek out certain people for certain things. This one for friendship, this one for refuge, this one for desire, this one for adventure. My buddy might not be the most attentive boyfriend, but he is always a perfect gentleman to me. I've known him for almost six years and though it's possible that we'll start playing tennis together or cook dinner together, we probably won't really do anything other than sit around and talk about women and life, which is comforting in its own way.

mixed messages

We lose the scrap of paper on which we wrote down the phone number. We lose the phone or it breaks. If I ever had your phone number, I've lost it (again) because my phone broke (again). The text message fails to send the words we write but do not say, the invitation is obscured, the blog post deleted. We try to manage our communication but sometimes it balks at us, makes us human only. Sometimes we are out of touch with what we mean to say/what we are actually saying/what they are actually hearing. And then what, what next?

Oh wait I'm pluralizing again, how selfish of me.

It's an emotional thing for me, being in touch with people. Now when someone texts or calls, I get to know them once again. You are not lost to me is what this says. You are still here. Some people I know I will lose. Those who have no email. Those who know no one else I know, who are outside the chain. If I ever had your phone number and you are reading this, take a second to send it to me again.

At work yesterday, I rolled the better part of 150 phyllo pastries. After a while, whenever I stopped (to get another half-cup of coffee, or to melt more butter, or to refill my pastry bag), my mind kept trying to roll phyllo. When you do something like that for so long it seems like it is all you do or ever could do. Like piping rosettes onto cupcakes with a pastry bag....Do you stay connected to it? Think about how even though this is the 110th pastry you've rolled it's someone's first experience of this dessert, and so it needs to look just as good as if not better than your 17th pastry? Or do you shut down your mind, not think just act? Become the machine that moves phyllo from spot a to spot b, butters the phyllo, sugars and repeats, pipes, butters, rolls, repeats? My boss wants me to stop thinking. Focus on the series of movements that make up a task, focus on doing them cleanly, fluidly. It seems like it's not hard for other people but it's hard for me.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

very little can bring me such joy, but...

all I have to say is...

guess who learned to spin ice cream today? i haven't spun any, but i will soon, but really...

guess who doesn't have to beg anymore...like, really, beg with a sad-puppy face on and the knowledge that even though i beg i'll still not be taught but i have to ask anyway, cause

it's the ice cream machine...and i have to ask...

I Hope I'm There When You Actually Get To Use It said one of my coworkers today.
Why, Cuz I'll Be Happy And Bouncing All Day Long? I said.
Yep.

it's true, sometimes it's just the little things.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

pistachio/ out to sea

If you are coming here to find out information on the obvious, the thing I am not talking about except for vaguely, yes, I have a new boss. But that ignores the fact that I have worked for this person since being hired at the restaurant, that we know one another's strengths and weaknesses and work personalities and tastes. We are into the second week and things are becoming routine again, in a sense. We have replaced most of the things we no longer have, so that trying to get a job done does not mean a discovery of no rolling pin, no pastry bag tip, no magnet or marker. We are redecorating the kitchen.

We have almost all (one was xc) been in touch with our old boss. Heartfelt emails exchanged, replies (or not) waited for...this thing requires distance. It could have spun a thousand ways but the pieces fell this particular way. We get sad, we get angry, we navigate all kinds of tension in the course of a day. This is not easy. And we have not been silent even though sometimes that may be easier, too.

We did not ask for this, but we nonetheless react. Make new sweet things. People ask me, several of them, if I am planning on leaving now as if, because I signed up to work for one person and that person is no longer there I would want to leave. Hell No I tell them. I tell them how I would never abandon my team, not least in their moment of need even if I *did* feel I could no longer work there without this one person. And then I tell them how my new boss has so much knowledge and experience and I feel lucky to learn from it. Do I have confidence in my new boss? Do I like her food? Am I happy to be there? Yes, to all of these. To more.

But in the end, it's just another day at work. Chopping things. Making salads. Doing inventory and cleaning and watching.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

the sordid details...

(because the monkey wrangler asked)

1. the "who am I really?": For a long time when you googled me (which is to say when I googled myself) the first thing you saw was this: Toby Reid is a faggot Jew. It was the first sentence of a story I wrote and had published. It's actually a really good piece and I still love it, but I always wondered if people randomly coming across it would think I was a bigot. Also, in grad school I wrote a story on terrorism that involved me googling things like "how to make bombs" and "how to get away with arson" so the government probably thinks I'm nuts. And now you all can as well.

2. the "those crazy queers": When I was a kid and my first lil brother was born I was really upset he wasn't a girl. So one time I dressed him up in some old dress I had and my first communion veil and paraded him around the house. He was pre-mobile at the time so let's hope he has no vague memory of it to trouble his masculinity, because lil brothers are fun.

3. the "gold star": I've only ever seen one man naked and that was because I was 25 and confessed to him that fact. He's actually my oldest friend out here in California...

4. the "stupid pastry assistant, no. 1": At my first restaurant job, my boss was having me make an anglaise and a creme brulee base (or it may have been a pot de creme and brulee, but you get the pictures. eggs tempered, custard, etc). So halfway through the process, when I'd brought everything upstairs to the stove and was just waiting on the cream to come to boil, I became convinced I'd put all the sugar in one of the pots and none in the other (save whatever amount was whisked with the yolks). Rather than admit my stupidity, I went ahead with both projects. Since we made desserts for three restaurants and one of these projects was for a distant location, I never really did find out if it was all in my head or if I really fucked up a lot of food. Oops.

5. the "violence against literature": Recently I took The Last Course out of the library (back in Boston, because SF just has no love for Claudia Fleming) out of the library and photocopied the whole thing because I can't afford to buy a marked-up ebay copy and it's out of print. So I have the most ghetto version of that cookbook, but it's okay, I still love it. Also, years ago when I worked at a bookstore I was so fed up with things in my life that I would rip pages in the back of the travel guides. Customers would be able to bring them back for a new copy...plus people would just take them and read them on the floor so lots were pretty banged up anyway.

I truly hope my mom doesn't read this. Now, who to tag?

Budi, even though he probably won't comply because he rarely posts. But every now and then he busts out with an interesting tale from his past, which cracks us all up because now he's spiritual advisor and mediator to the cupcakery.

Richie, because I met him for a half second one day...and because reading his blog I just get the feeling he's got some interesting stories.

Fringe, because this is an ideal project for writers, and I have to post this week so let's conserve out stones, eh?

Jamey, again, with the writers.

and lastly, Maryusa, because she is just so much trouble and who knows what wildness she's committing with her one functional hand!

oh, & the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names, linking to them.
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

Friday, February 22, 2008

fruit memories/newness

I made some fig jam today at work for one of the two parties we had. Took black mission figs, cooked them down with some sweet muscat wine and a little water. I took some time to appreciate the sugar sheen on the figs as I diced them, stopped several times to stir, add, adjust, left some space for patience. Pureed the whole thing. It was very good. It went with fried graviera cheese.

Today I also learned how to cook the octopus, from someone who I am strangely starting to bond with. When the dish was put together, he handed me a piece of tentacle. I stared it down, remembering the rubbery feeling in my hand. I tasted it. I let go. It was good, better with sauce and with the side salad. Do You Wanna Show Me? I asked him. Do You Wanna Learn? he replied. There was a time when I wouldn't have said yes.

I worked garde manger tonight so I stayed out of the pastry kitchen, mostly, except to try a spoonful of some fresh-spun ice cream that my new boss held out to me. When I tried to taste it, still so soft and precious, it slid down my throat instead in the manner of an ice cream shot. Some slight hint of flavor lingered in my throat, but it went too fast to make a full impression. Come Back When You Learn To Eat, she said. Visitors to our kitchen soon learn that we tease mercilessly though it is, like a schoolboy's crush, always affectionate at heart. So I went back to the savory kitchen but there it was, an impression, a tease, a hint of an answer to a question.

Yesterday I tasted something good lord so delicious. I was in the pk while it was being born and I got to watch it come to life, got to dip fingers in process, asked the whys. It was incredible. I'm so excited for it.

Change is constant. What do you believe, what do you believe in? Do you fight or do you let go? Me, I'm trying to hold to the things I resolved at week's beginning.

I loved that fig jam. I made it with love. I made it meditating on the first perfect fig I ever ate, in a small Palestinian town, which led me to the figs from Knoll, and the fruit-stealing adventure in Berkeley with some perfect figs devoured on spot, and faint memories of Jerusalem, desert sunrises, certain women, Sonsie figs, my bad habits, my good intentions. Food is love. Food is a springboard. Food is a lot of things, but only with human intervention.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

the update

There are two moments I keep coming back to from the last few days. One is Monday night after a very lazy day...I went out driving, and I drove until I felt like I could write. Until I felt like I could open a cookbook and let the flavors, textures and ideas wash over me. I drove through from Oakland through Emeryville, slipping through streets but never getting lost, then down Ashby and back to the freeway, and back here. I came upstairs and wrote for a while. Then I opened the Oleana cookbook and paged through, and the dishes felt at once like coming home and like variations on a theme. When I look at that cookbook I see the tiny kitchen and its spice rack, its back line, its dish. When I look at the pastry recipes the reaction is more visceral. I remember them....and tied up with remembering them is the crazy abundant wild energy I had at the time. The gluttony of food. The desperation to move to SF. I may have been in Boston but I wasn't, not really. I felt that on Monday, again. At least a faint glimmer of it. I tried to think of ways to keep it close to me, to carry it through the week. To do certain things differently.

And then the week started. And Tuesday afternoon I was washing out a pastry brush someone left in the sink, and went outside to shake it off. I looked back inside, through the glass windows that seem to have grown larger, like some kind of Alice in Wonderland trick, to see two of my coworkers laughing at me. I went back inside, asking what was all so funny. They told me the brush wasn't dry enough and I needed to keep doing it. Then my other coworker walked in the room. Wait Here, I told her. You Have To Stay Here To Laugh At Me, Too. I walked back outside prepared to shake out the brush, and of course looked back at their faces, and almost fell over laughing. There was something about it all...how their faces through the glass mirrored mine, how the moment felt stretched to a minute perhaps, how it grew larger and seemed very fictional, almost. Except there was no realization, no epiphany, no sense of largeness. Only laughter, but strange and joyous and not unkind. I shook the brush and we all laughed, and I went back inside.

They already tell me when I'm being stupid, mean, or plain inept, anyway...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

all kinds of deliciousness

Sometimes really good food is restaurant food, and now that I'm responsible for working both sweet and savory sides of the line I see through that mirage a little bit more (which is not to say that I appreciate it any less).

Sometimes, though, it's diner brunch, tucked into a booth in an in-between part of the city where I used to live and will soon live again. I ordered a chocolate milkshake (if only they'd had malt!) and am omelette with avocado and salsa, hash browns and toast, and coffee. We picked off bites of M's pancakes and made fools of ourselves with a camera. The hash browns were perfect-crispy. I grinned goofily, unable to keep my face from cracking into a smile or a smirk, spooning more food into my mouth even though I was already beyond full...

...but I haven't been eating much lately, aside from fava puree and pasta with butter, and then there was some fried chicken that I apparently am not being enthusiastic enough about (so alright, already, it was all kinds of deliciousness and I ate three pieces! and then took two more home cause it was breakin my tiny tin heart that it was just sittin there on the counter all unloved. It took me back to Kansas, which was I think the point in my life at which I realized I really do adore fried chicken, and I don't adore much, so there, fried chicken, yummers, as an old boss would say)

...and also it was being content in the moment. Realizing that the day would unfold however it may, but I didn't need to be so up in my head about it all. And then an east bay adventure popped up, and then Ikea, and when we were smushed up against a fence in the Ikea parking lot in Emeryville taking pictures of a cake tag for my blog, and then a group shot, it felt like we had done that so many times before, and we'd do it again, and sometimes continuity is nice and it's necessary, especially with the nothing-but-change that my life has been since December.

There is still more change to come. Moving back to SF, which will be the fourth move in a year. And then perhaps a party, for my year anniversary in the bay?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

patience

for long hours.
and long days.
for getting tired, and getting over it.
for piping bags of pink chocolate,
which are sometimes uncooperative.
for forgetting what i should do.
for those who demand it from me even though i do not know why.
for my family who misses me. and my dog who misses me.
for my finger to heal.
until i find time to read and write.
because i can't remember the last time i had a really great meal.
because life is change
even though i have had more than a lion's share of it lately.
for the season to change, and bring new fruits with it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

flavors

It is too cute to go to your favorite local ice cream store with almost all your crew. Especially when you try oh so many flavors, and upon trying one say with absolute certainty that the flavor IS your boss.

honey bay laurel, thanks for asking

And then to hear that she herself goes into the store and orders that flavor later...too funny.

Me, I got some brandied cherry and black pepper-candied pistachio. And I think that I am the black pepper pistachio. You know, hard to take but sweet all the same. However my friend thinks I should be brandied cherry. Slightly alcoholic, plus fruity. Hmph.

Friday, February 08, 2008

first person, limited

(or, I am such a one trick pony, kids...)

In what jargon do you talk? What are your buzz words?

Do you confuse the narrator with the character or with the author? Do you think that you don't need to figure out who is narrating a third person piece? What is at stake for that omniscience? Do you thrive on voice, the slow seduction of one person's confessions(I want to say that I met the apple farmer, Dan, in a cute way)? What do you know of pacing and rhythm, sentence structure? (As luck would have it, I knew the girl who showed up to interview me for the new SF food magazine--as if our tiny city really needed another--and she in turn knew that I was a dyke.)What do you know of beginnings?(Occasionally, something happens in a kitchen, good or bad--so you save the day by covering three stations and cooking for some hotshot food critic, or else you get caught drinking champagne and doing lines of coke in the wine room and your coworkers lock you in overnight just for kicks--and you ascend right into legend) Do you conceive or do you write blindly on? Do you seek to place metaphor, stories, do you make use of dreams or gimmicks (Six months ago I flew to Anchorage to watch my father die and last month he returned the favor)

tense. backstory. scene. exposition. reliability, in narrators. trust. stakes. beginning middle end. protagonist. syntax. prose. word choice. intention. description. dialogue. believability. first person limited/omniscient second person third.

If you know me by now, you know I need to know all the details

There are so many rules, strategies, modes and things to say but all it really takes is my left hand moving. To keep a million things in mind, and still perform the task at hand which is informed by those millions of things, born from them as surely as anything is created. To hold all of the necessary knowledge, and go forth quietly down one path willing to wait for what needs to happen to happen, to get there in the necessary manner, which is different every time, though similar.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

When I kissed Jessie in Kiki's woodshed two days before the bang-up party, I thought it was an accident, some kind of kinetic result of the hours spent carving ice with chisel and saw. I thought it was all over that day, before it even began.

Apparently I really did want to get some writing done yesterday. Tomorrow I plan to do a lot more. I remember an evening spent in a cafe, was it the first of the year? Writing a letter to keep me inspired to write. Trying to combat the loss of a year's work with grace, good humor and good company.

The best people are the ones that can make you laugh. Especially if you have just done something stupid or are in a lot of pain. I got the perfect email tonight from the only person who could have sent it to me. It made me feel a lot better in a way that talking to that same person would not have done.

Sometimes you are wrong about something and what do you do about that fact, your wrongness? How do you betray your character in your response? The dog barks; I am who I am as well.

Curiously, the dog seems much happier here in Oakland. No more yappy dogs!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

it doesn't matter what i do

not for all the tea in china
not if i could sing like a bird
not for all north carolina

not if i could write for you
the sweetest song you ever heard

it doesn't matter what i do


It's that time of the week when I step out of the pantry station and back into the pastry kitchen. It's odd to start your week off in garde manger. To be three days at least, sometimes four, out of working with your tiny team. Sure I see them; I clean their kitchen, inventory their items, sometimes plate their desserts but I'm there to work with someone else's systems and products. Stepping back into the pk midweek is sometimes like walking into the eye of a hurricane, or stepping out your front door into a deluge. The week is underway. Things are afoot and I know slightly of them, but all I know of pastry is the trails it leaves behind. What products we have or are running low on. This week the transition was less rocky, for whatever reason, and I got to work early today and knocked a couple things out before setting up the station. Those days of course are also the days you get sent home super early. There are parties tomorrow. Things to get ready for. I've got a million loads of laundry to do and I should take a shower, clean my room. etc.