Tuesday, May 31, 2011

To do Lists in June? Say it ain't so

Some people, I'm usually one of them, have the some offer. Usually, even by now, the High Altitude Summer Writing Institute is over. But this time, I'm hosting it in June. Did I mention Brady Udall is the guest writer? I'm a little geeked out about it. But it's still work. I have five more spots of the workshop to fill. I rented the big auditorium so it will be really dorky if no one shows up for the reading. The good news is, Seth Muller ran a huge article in Mountain Living Magazine and will run something in the local paper. And KNAU might run a spot too. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. This year, a lot is on the line. If this one garners attention, it might not be so much work next year. I think I will have established a tradition. We'll see.
But, I'm also teaching this summer--a five week course in June in fiction. I'm kind of pre-exhausted but also kind of excited. I never get to teach fiction.
I'm also doing my regular administrative work which will be included on the list that shall follow this preamble.
My sister Val just left so I feel like the vacation part of May is over and it's time to get ready for June. We cooked so much food--and so much bacon--that I think we'll be eating leftovers for a week. But, for a short run down on the food adventures, I will list them here before I get to the boring list that is work I must accomplish.

On Friday night: 4 pizzas made with Pizza Bianco's dough recipe (remember, 4.5 cups flour not 5.5, 4 tsp (not 4.5 tsps yeast for altitude and extra crispiness). Cheese pizza with New Jersey Pizza Co mozzerella, pepperoni with Boar's head pep, pancetta and tomato and mozz and, finally, boursin, mint and caramelized onion pizza (Sam introduced me to this. It's unbelievably delicious. Really. I didn't believe it. And I was wrong).

Saturday: Val made waffles for breakfast. For dinner: Filets with foie gras and black cherry reduction. Baked potatoes. Broccoli. Sweet D'artagnan. Thanks again for mailing me such decadence.

Sunday: Val made pancakes for the kids and I made hashbrowns and eggs. For lunch, I think Val and I just ate pate (again, the D'artagnan. Thank you). For dinner Val and I made: Carnitas which involved cooking pork shoulder along with oranges, oregano, a touch of milk and brown sugar, and salt for 2 hours. After that, baked in the oven for crispy caramelization. Grilled corn in the husks. The little silks disappeared. Thanks Val for that new inspiration!

Monday: Eggs Benedict for breakfast. Who ever makes that at home? It was lovely. Blender hollandaise was a little runny. Delicious smashed onion and cheddar hamburgers made by Steve and Erik. Don't forget the pancetta! (I have to say that all the radical deliciousness was Valerie. She thought of the corn on the grill in the husks. She thought of pancetta on the pizza. She even made "crostini" by cutting up some ciabatta bread and letting it sit in the sun. She wanted to make her own corn tortillas and I just couldn't muster the strength to go buy the tortilla press. But next time I find one, I'm getting it for her.)

What is that disease you get when you eat too much fat? Gout? Gall bladder? Just fat? Fortunately, we made up for all this fat eating by hiking down to Walnut Canyon, walking to see the Prairie Dogs, taking the kids to the Aquaplex. I went running this morning. I should go again this afternoon.

The agenda is long though and running twice a day is not on it. In the next two weeks I have at least one grant due, one garage sale to have, one syllabus to write, one party to plan, one trip to Torrey to miss but I imagine I still have to pack the kids' clothes for, and two manuscripts to submit.

So, with no further ado. The list:

Clean off hutch
Finish MacArthur grant (not the genius one. You can't apply for that).
Refill Prescriptions.
Cut Max's hair.

Make labels and signs for garage sale.
Call Dyanne for big garage sale signs.
Zoe's end of school barbecue.
Electronic Tenure File Meeting.
Email CAL list for Brady Udall.
Pick up dishwasher.
Call about tile backsplash.

Pull tables over for garage sale.
Advertise garage sale in Craigslist.
Go through dresser drawers and armoir.
Stage garage for sale.
Email Brady Udall workshoppees--remind them where, when, etc.
Plan Udall reception for the next Friday. Greek food? Angie's bringing shrimp. Thanks Angie!

Finalize garage sale.
Try not to think about bad weather ruining garage sale.
Make pizza for Beya and Brian.

Suffer the garage sale. Hope to sell huge hutch. Everything else, bonus.

West fork hike?

Teach (did you see I didn't put the syllabus making in there. I'll do it on Thursday!)

That list is missing some things but I feel that now that it's covering at least 50% of the things I have to do this week, I can go take a nap. Not really. Tuesday is almost over. I haven't written my 500 words nor finished grant. Max is asleep. Time is awastin'.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A venting

I shouldn't do this but I'm feeling very relieved to be getting back to writing my food book now that I've taken a few months to let it go and get over a couple of rejections. I've been working on this thing for so long that this new version feels truly new. I just wrote an email to this woman, Ana Maria Spagna, whose book Potluck, returned me to the idea that actual books of essays do exist. I feel like I've been pounding my head (read: this book) against a wall trying to create an increasing narrative, trying to make it read like a novel, trying to keep being funny, while using less of an 'I' point of view, while simultaneously changing the book thoroughly while refraining from changing the book too much, while making it more about Mormons, more about the apocalypse, more about the environment, more about food.

Today, I (now I'm self-conscious starting a paragraph with an 'I' but this is the blog world where the I is free to be you and me) am letting the book be essays. It may never be as commercial as everyone kept promising it would be. It may never even get published but I am happier with it than I ever have been. I have lists! Meta-narrative! Letters to people and to the editor! I don't know if it's funny or too I-ridden or uses the subjunctive tense but it makes sense to me now.

It's not perfect. I know I'm the kind of person who needs an editor. There are loose ends but for a book about a narrator growing up in Utah, not eating tuna casserole, who is worried about animals and yet still not a vegetarian, who has a hard time saying no, who thinks that humans adapt the world too much to them and don't adapt enough to it, I think that it holds together in some very esoteric way. I hope the book doesn't read as digressive. I hope it reads not too frilly or fancy. But I also feel, at least right now, that if I do have to go back in and revise yet again, it will be fun, not hopeless.

I'm pretty lucky. I was able to write almost 2 hours a day for the first half of the semester. Then, toward the second half of the semester, still about twice a week. Now that school is out and grades are in, I'm back to every day. Even when I teach summer school this summer, I hope I can write while the students are writing. I'm looking forward to Brady Udall's visit. My friend Karen is going to take the workshop with me plus help me entertain Brady. Max and I played blocks and cars and trains and some weird lets roll around on the floor game and Zoe is almost done with Kindergarten so we can swim and swim and swim the rest of the summer away (well, as soon as it stops snowing) and I'm putting in another order to D'artagnan for more truffle butter and pancetta. Super summer all the time.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Ramen Noodle Chopped

In college, my friends and I doctored our ramen up with soy sauce, sesame oil and sriracha. I don't think we used any of that powered stock. Maybe just a tiny bit. Good, quick, college-memorial food requires MSG.
Really. Ramen are delicious. Are they deep fried?
Crystal is bleeding all over the kitchen. Delicious.
Pickled peppers, smoked turkey, ramen and endive. Hey, that's what we had for dinner!
Once again, Amanda thinks the peppers with the cayenne is too spicy. I say, at least the soup doesn't taste bloody.
Marco--big chunks of turkey leg? Salad. Not too wow.
Shehu--the left-whole cardomon seed problem. It seems overblown.
Some other guy with a salad. Under impressed.

Crystal the injured woman is chopped for turkey skin. Turkey skin? Over that dude who just crinkled the ramen on top? I hate Chopped. I might boycott blogging the rest of it.

Chocolate Frosting. Flat Iron Steak. Chard. Celery Root.
This is too easy. Chocolate frosting--sauce. Maybe some wine. Chard. Too easy (will the judges mention that the stalks are just as good if not better than the leave?). Once I made a celery root, gruyere, apple and dijon mustard salad.
Amanda says to Ted who complains about the canned chocolate frosting with emulsifiers, "you want to play it down as much as possible." How much do you want to bet that someone gets in trouble for playing down the chocolate frosting?

And Chris indeed comments on the double-like vegetable of the chard. Yay Chris for predictability.

I sense Shehu's joy of cooking will be his demise. Also. Ted complains at him about borrowing a burner. Lame Ted. Let the people work together. Oh wait, then he takes pleasure in the apparent-demise of his teammates. Perhaps he will prevail.

During the commercial break, allow me to opine about what is alluring about Chopped. There's something about the life gives you lemons business to it, of course. There's also the attitude. That if you complain about the lemons, you reveal your true character. And, if you're too confident, you will lose. But, strangely, if you're under-confident, you will also lose. The idea that speed is the crucible into which you will demonstrate taste, presentation and creativity is more of a boxing event than a cooking one. Which is why there are so many injuries on Chopped. But the truth is, even though women are the ones most likely to get Chopped, the whole process is so much like making dinner. Last night, with Max on the counter and Zoe chopping mushrooms and cuisinarting the cabbage and carrots for coleslaw, I had about twenty minutes to put the whole dinner together before Max melted down or I collapsed from hunger. By the end though, we had chipotle turkey burgers with tarragon mustard mayonnaise coleslaw and English muffin buns. It wouldn't win for presentation or creativity but it tasted good and came from whatever I could find in the fridge. Chopped is the fancy version of what my every evening looks like--which makes my every evening feel a little fancier.

OK. Where was I? That's right, arguing with the judges.
I always cook my stems with the chard.

Marco got chopped for his sloppy disaster of a plate--he neglected to put the chocolate sauce on and tossed his chimichurri sauce like he

Bananas, pomegranate juice, phyllo dough and white miso. Easy peasy. I made a pomegranate reduction for something the other day. Not desert.
Granita by the guy whose name I haven't bothered to learn because he's obviously going to win.
"Phyllo dough is beyond wack." He's all mad. They're telling him not to get mad at phyllo. If you're going to get mad at something, I think phyllo deserves it. Pre-flakey dough-y like substance.

I love it when they title the dishes by what's in them: banana with miso dough and pomegranate juice in phyllo dough, Shehu names his dish.

Banana sushi with pomegranate sauce is the title for will-be-the-winner dude although he gets schooled about how to use the blast chiller. That whole granita bravado seems to have bitten him in the ass. And yet, Shehu's over-saged entree can't be forgiven.

Tryg! That's the guy's name. No wonder I ignored it (sorry if your name's Tryg).

Spoiler alert. I was wrong. Tryg goes home. Shehu's sage is forgiven. There is sage amnesty on Chopped. Tryg does complain! He cites the inedible sage. This has never happened before. Such hubris. What did I say about over-confident? Just as deadly as under.