“One who knows the Mississippi will promptly aver—not aloud, but to himself—that ten thousand River Commissions, with the mines of the world at their back, cannot tame that lawless stream, cannot curb it or confine it, cannot say to it, Go here, or Go there, and make it obey; cannot save a shore which it has sentenced; cannot bar its path with an obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over, and laugh at.”
― Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi
Such is life. It is no cleaner than a kitchen; it reeks of a kitchen; and if you mean to cook your dinner, you must expect to soil your hands; the real art is in getting them clean again, and therein lies the whole morality of our epoch.
—-Honore de Balzac
From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Saturday, February 16, 2002
Cooking on my Birthday
I guess most people want somebody to cook some special meal for their birthday. What I wanted, though, was to cook my own.
Some close friends of ours have started their own catering business. They have leased a storefront and outfitted it with commercial cooking equipment – big ovens and a huge gas stove, giant refrigerator and freezers, and massive stainless steel tables for food organization and preparation. They gave me a key and I went down there the other week to set up their computer and I fell in love with the place. I guess my favorite thing is the commercial gas range – it looks like what the chefs on all the cooking shows use – an acre of massive black iron pan supports with tiny blue pilot lights sprinkling the area. Turn a heavy steel knob and a get-engine rush of gas throws out some serious heat. It’s something you can actually cook on – not like the wimpy weak glowing electric coils in my home kitchen.
When they called and asked what I wanted for my birthday dinner I replied that I wanted to cook in their commercial kitchen. They said sure so I prepared a menu and went down to the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market to buy my supplies (I won’t shop at Albertson’s any more, even though it’s closer to my house, in protest of their new 1984 Big Brother Card).
I drove down to the place a couple hours early, put a CD in the boom box and started cooking. I made onions cut in half and hollowed out, wrapped with a strip of bacon and stuffed with wilted spinach and a dollop of feta cheese on top. I marinated some sliced fresh mozzarella in sour cream and spices, then melted this over some crusty bread with a slice of tomato and an orange sprinkle of some powdered chile de arbol. For my main course I put chicken breasts, mushrooms, potatoes, white wine, and a fistful of chopped fresh herbs into bags made of carefully folded heavy foil (the basic recipe came from TV, from the Naked Chef) and baked the mess. Candy made a chocolate cake and I added a baby spinach salad.
We had six folks for diner and a sitter for everybody’s kids (we knew there wouldn’t be anything to keep the little ones occupied at the catering place). There weren’t any good places to sit, but there was plenty of wine, so that didn’t matter.
I think the food came out fine (the one thing I didn’t have was a good toaster or a salamander so the bread turned out a soggy – the stuffed onions were too tough, though the stuffing was good), especially the chicken. The foil bag is a great technique to learn. I can imagine baking stuff at home and taking it to a picnic. The foil puffs up like a Jiffy Pop and it’s great when you pierce the package and all that fragrant steam puffs out. Easy clean-up, too.
And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:
from Flash Fiction Online