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Port Of Embarkation

Over the next year, I will be pursuing my new life.  I believe I have some idea what that is, and I hope that vision becomes clearer as I progress.  I feel a little like the bad guy in the original Die Hard movie.  Or, at least, I feel like the dude he had deciphering the code to get into the vault.  Dude is telling the head bad guy that he can decipher the code, but the final lock is beyond his abilities.  But in the end, the head bad guy has the answer:  “I give you the FBI”.  The FBI cuts the power to the place, and the final lock can be breached.

Well, that’s a little how I feel.  I have this plan, sort of, that I’ll be fleshing out over the next several months.  It will include my culinary education and business plans and reasearch and whatnot.  But at the end is a lock that I can’t breach.  A roadblock that I see no way to overcome.

I haven’t the funds to put my plan into action.

So I’ll be waiting for some magical move by the FBI, or the cavalry to arrive, or something.  But whatever, I have to pursue this.  I can’t not pursue it.  There is something that is pushing me, compelling me to do this.  I just wish I had a better idea at this point what this is.  But I read a little book on my kindle not too long ago called Getting Things Done.  I highly recommend it.  It’s a book about creativity and unleashing it to get projects done.  One of the concepts that stuck with me was what the author calls “Trust the soup”.  The soup being the cosmos…the creative energy that is driving you…the talent that exists within you.  Or, in my worldview, God.

So that is what I’m trying to do.  I’m allowing my creativity to direct me, not having my sights set on a specific outcome or goal, allowing it to take me where it will.  And trusting that as I progress it will begin to take some shape.  That the steps I’m taking will point in some direction.  The vision will become clearer.  But I will tell you, it’s not comfortable.

But then, none of this is.  This sharing I’m doing on this blog, without regard to who is reading it or what they might think.  The seemingly “build it and they will come” approach to whatever it is I’m doing.  Listening to whatever voices are directing me.  Uncomfortable.  Much more comfortable to do what you’ve always done, the way you’ve always done it.  To hide from life.  But those who live like that don’t end up with their own Wiki page.

Not that I’m about that, mind you.  But if I have something special inside me, something to offer someone, I need to get it out there.  It may never amount to much, it may only touch a handful of people.  But if it’s fulfilling for me and helps someone else, then that is where I need to be.

I stole a line from As Good As It Gets before, and I’m relating to that movie as well quite a bit right now.  In it, Melvin Udall is also being “evicted from his life”.  In his discomfort and resistance, when asked by Simon the Fag if he “really liked it all that much”, he responds, “well, it was better than this”.  In the end Melvin realizes he was wrong, that at the culmination of all that upheaval and change he was being set free.  That is what I hope and pray for myself.


Raspberry Vinaigrette

I made a vinaigrette yesterday that turned out pretty well.  Vinaigrettes are new to me, really.  I made my first one that was edible a few weeks ago, a roasted garlic vinaigrette.  It was excellent.  This one wasn’t as good, but still fairly tasty.

I took about a half pint of raspberries and processed them until smooth.  Then I added about 1/4 cup each of balsamic and apple cider vinegar, about a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, and about 1 tbsp of sugar.  After mixing that, I drizzled in about a cup of olive oil with the processor running.  I seasoned the dressing after, and kept adding more and more salt.  Vinaigrettes, I have learned, require quite a lot of salt.  However, I kept expecting a strong raspberry taste to come through, but it never did.  Because of that, I ended up with a little too much salt.

I think, as The Wife suggested, it might have benefited from a little lemon juice.  But, regardless, it was not bad.  I look forward to trying more of them and using them for things besides salads.  Perhaps my roasted garlic vinaigrette as a london broil marinade.  Hmmm.  Note to self…

Making A Move

Patience, perseverance, courage and wisdom.  These have to be some of the most important virtues.  I am trying to practice them all.  It’s difficult, which is why I know they’re important.  The path of least resistance rarely tackles important matters.  If we are to grow, we must tackle difficult stuff in our life, not run and hide from it.

I am almost 50 years old and realizing that many of the important things in my life I have run from…hidden from.  Instead of facing them with the character traits above, I looked for shortcuts, the easy way out.  Never really trying to do something with my life, just living day to day and making those decisions that I needed to make to survive.  But survival is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I no longer want to survive.  I want to do something with my life.  I have experiences and knowledge to share.  I have talents to bring to bear.  But lying low, lest I catch some shrapnel in the battles along the way is not going to get it.

Something is about to happen in my life.  I can feel it.  Maybe this blog is meant to chronicle it.  I don’t know.  But I’m going to make a move.  Watch.

Blogging Themes…Or Lack Thereof

I envy people who seem to know what direction their life should take.  That certainly hasn’t been me.  I’ve always sort of gone where the wind has taken me.  The path of least resistance.  Maybe because I’ve had so little self-confidence most of the time.  And a good amount of shame.  Not being able to be vulnerable.

My brother-in-law posted this Ted Talk on facebook and it told me many things about myself I already knew, but I believe I’m trying to come to grips with.  Vulnerability, as my wife can tell you, is not my strong suit.  I have always believed I had to be strong…perfect even.  No weakness.  No chink in the armor.  I am a man, and a real man is all of those things.  It didn’t help that my first wife positively preyed on those feelings, but, in the end, we are all responsible for ourselves.

I believe that my issues with vulnerability, self-confidence, shame, fear…are the reasons for this blog.  I felt like God was leading me to write this.  And so I wrote, having no idea what I was going to write about and what purpose it was to serve.  I’ve written about food and politics mostly.  Those things I am most passionate about.  But I’m beginning to believe I’m somehow missing the boat.  The words and topics are not coming to me like they were in the beginning.

In the beginning, I talked about me.  Not food, not politics, not my opinions, not what I had for dinner.  But about me.  And I believe that is what I’m supposed to write about.  Once again, to what end and exactly what I’m supposed to write I don’t know.  But I’m trying very hard to follow where He is leading.

My job sucks, our finances suck, my health sucks (I’m going in to have my gall bladder removed next week.  It’s supposed to be simple, laparoscopic surgery, but there is a chance, with the surgeries I’ve had before, they will have to do it the old-fashioned way.  And my history has not been one to support simple solutions.), and I’m sitting here writing this blog.  Because this what I feel I’m supposed to be doing about it.

That certainly doesn’t compute for me.  First of all, I never let people in.  My inner circle is so small, even I don’t know who’s in it.  For me to “air it out” like this to everybody is the antithesis of everything I’m about.  Second, I am a doer.  If your job sucks you go get another one.  You don’t sit in front of your computer typing some crap about your life.  But here I am.

I have some gifts.  I can cook.  I can write.  I can interact with people…all kinds of people, from high-powered executives to laborers, to artists.  I have a good memory.  I’m not saying I’m the best at any of those things, but I have some level of talent for them.  And I’ve never known what to do with them.  Somehow, someway, I feel I’m supposed to find that in the pages of this blog.

I’ve been watching the stats to see how my readership is.  The answer to that is, what readership?  But I am realizing that’s not the point.  The point is not for me to market myself, use the right keywords, hit other blogs and comment so they will track back to me.  The point is, I need to write.  I need to write about myself.  My struggles, my successes, my feelings.  Blech.  I feel like Hank Hill right now.  I wanna go puke.

At least, that’s what I think today.  Maybe it’ll be different tomorrow.  I don’t know.  But I’m trying to find peace.  And right now this feels peaceful.  I may still write about food or politics, if that’s what’s going on with me.  I don’t know.  I’m living my life and I’m going to try to let you in on it.  For some purpose known only to God.  I’m gonna be a little like Charles Bronson’s character in The Dirty Dozen.  A psychiatrist was testing him by showing him Rorschach inkblots and asking him what he saw.  Every single answer had to do with baseball because “That’s what I was thinking about”.

Its a scary thought.

Broiled Swordfish With Horseradish Sauce

We found some swordfish steaks at the store the other day, so this is what I came up with for them.

We had some herb butter left over from something or other so I used that to brush onto the steaks.

Swordfish and metled herb butter
Herb butter…

For the sauce, I started with about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of heavy cream.

Sauce mise en place

Heated it without boiling.  Meanwhile I made a beurre manie.  Beurre manie is supposed to consist of equal amounts, by weight, of butter and flour, but this recipe called for a very small amount of butter compared to the flour.  I assume this is due to the high amount of fat in the cream.  Because of that I made the beurre manie very dry.

Beurre manie
Kneading the butter and flour together

After the cream was hot, I began adding the butter and flour mixture slowly, whisking it in as I went.

Thickening the sauce

When I felt I had enough, I seasoned the sauce with salt and white pepper and allowed it to cook on medium until it came to a boil.  As it turned out, I had used a bit too much flour so I just thinned it a little with milk as it cooked.  I allowed the sauce to cook for probably 15-20 minutes to try to make sure it had no raw flour taste remaining.  I adjusted the seasoning and added about a tablespoon of prepared horseradish shortly before serving.

After brushing the steaks with butter and seasoning, I broiled them.  My broiler is junk, so they never browned very much.

Swordfish steaks!

Served it with rice and peas.

A little sweet tea, and we’re ready to eat!

The fish was excellent, as was the sauce.  The gluten-free flour makes a great beurre manie.  It smooths out nicely and doesn’t take a lot of cooking to get rid of the raw flour taste.  The flavor of the sauce was fantastic.  It could have used a little more horseradish, but not too much.  It complimented the fish nicely without overpowering it, but the swordfish has a bold flavor so a little extra horseradish would have been fine.  Also, thinning out the sauce a little more would have made for a better presentation, but as you can see, the sauce was really smooth and had a nice sheen from the beurre manie.

Great meal!

The Politics Of Food

A very wise man once said

…unfortunately, thanks to people (pronounced “the government”) who are in my business every day about one thing or other, you can’t talk about anything anymore without politics entering into it.

And here we go again.  I haven’t read this blog, so I don’t know what he is advocating or advising.  But I don’t have to.  He apparently has an opinion on the best way to manage diabetes.  I have an opinion on the best way to manage, well, most anything.  Does that make either of us criminals?  Apparently it does in North Carolina.

The site Diabetes-Warrior.Net is being investigated by the State of North Carolina for…wait for it…giving free advice.  I’m here to tell you, that when that statute is passed in the state of Texas, I will be serving a life sentence.  Apparently in that enlightened state, you must have a license to give dietary advice.  Even for free.  If, unbeknownst to me, Texas indeed does have such a regulation, might this blog also be in violation?

If I were to advocate, as I surely do believe, that it is better for you to eat real butter than a partially-hydrogenated spread, would the food nazis come for me?  And on what basis?

First of all, if I were advocating low-fat via such synthetic spreadable plastics, no one would hassle me at all.  I’d be towing the line.  All the do-gooders would be satisfied that I didn’t need re-education and my kids didn’t need to be taken away.  But when you advocate outside of those prescribed and accepted standards, the full power of the government and the media-entertainment complex may be brought to bear on you.  I would imagine this is the case for the Diabetes Warrior.

Second, exactly who benefits from the necessity of dieticians, or even those who play one on a blog, being licensed?  Why, the dieticians of course.  All licensing programs are lobbied for on behalf of those already established in whatever business they are in.  Who was it in my own state that was pushing for the state government to force people who practice “eyebrow threading” (an ancient art of shaping eyebrows by pulling the hairs with a couple strings) to obtain a cosmetology license?  The cosmetologists, of course.  It provides a barrier to entry, you see.

It is reaching the heights of absurdity.  If you don’t want to eat butter and want to eat some plastic spread, then write me a nasty comment which I won’t approve and will never publish and go get some spread.  No harm no foul.  If you decide, based on what you read here, to eat nothing but butter from here on, like chicken nugget girl, and then, um, expire, I’m sorry.  But the fact is, there are all sorts of claims and studies out there that are absolutely bogus.  And many of them by licensed, accredited, acclaimed and otherwise upstanding people.  They’re just idiots.  With a podium.

I have my opinions, and there are innumerable variations all over the web.  Read, learn, cull, sift, retain, regurgitate.  But shutting people up, or down, is not the answer.

Is There A Place For Throwbacks Like Me?

I’m a throwback to another time.  I realize it and I embrace it.  Not to the point of rejecting anything modern, like my brother (love ya man!), but I don’t worry about being hip and cool and up on the latest fads and fashions.  Especially where food is concerned.

When I bought my pan the other day on Amazon, there was a little promotional video from Cuisinart on the page where the salesperson talked about how great the cookware was for cooking “classic as well as more modern” fare.  I wondered what that meant.  What is modern cooking, and what would cookware designed specifically for it look like?

I suppose “modern” cooking would encompass all the “right” approaches to cooking and eating.  No saturated fats.  High Omega-3’s.  Low carb.  Fresh fruits and vegetables.  And, at the height of modern enlightenment, no meat.  Now, beyond the first item, on which classic cooking has to be cut a break as the classic cooks had no idea what saturated fats were, and the last, which I’ll discuss henceforth, where is it that classic cooking differs so much?

I think by “classic” most people would mean classic French cooking.  But that cooking certainly uses its share of fish and fresh fruits and veggies.  High in fat, to be sure, but as I heard a cook on Bourdain’s show last night say, that’s where the flavor is.  And, in classic Paula Deen style, they were cooks not doctors.

Now, you might say, in light of all this new enlightenment, we should take it into account and change the way we cook and eat.  Fine.  But to what extent?  And following exactly what?  I have heard so many studies in my years that have come to be contradicted later that I can’t keep up with them all.  As I said previously, yes, I’m a cynic.  And to what extent must we change?  Is it ok if I add more fish to my diet overall, or do I need to do away with red meat entirely or become a vegetarian?

Thanks to the blog awaitingplace (thanks for following!), I learned what a pescetarian is.  Someone who eats dairy and fish, but otherwise doesn’t eat the flesh of animals.  Now I will admit to not understanding that philosophy, or its cousin, vegetarianism, but maybe through these writings I will learn.  To me, it just seems like so much of those choices are driven by guilt.

Our modern society is big on guilt.  You should feel guilty for driving an SUV, for smoking, for eating fatty foods, for eating animals at all, for not “paying your fair share”, for being male, for being a throwback Neanderthal.  Well, personally, I’ll have the ribeye, medium rare, and a baked potato loaded up, hold the guilt.

As I said, I don’t reject everything modern.  And as I also said previously, I’m quite sure there are issues in the production of food animals.  If you want to try to initiate change to make that stuff better, fine.  Just don’t try to make me feel guilty about supporting it.  I don’t participate.  I look at the other side as well.  We have an agricultural industry that feeds the world at such an efficient rate, that even the poor in this country eat like kings.  We are so affluent, so bountiful, that we have time to worry about all kinds of threats, both real and phantom, from Alar to ethical zookeeping.  To only focus on the problems and not the overall good, is to skew the reality, most of the time to promote an agenda through guilt.

I have thought of trying to make a living somehow through my love of food and cooking.  I have dreamed of opening a restaurant that would be completely gluten-free, but would appeal to “regular” people too.  But I wonder how my interpretations would be received by the g-free community.  So co-opted are many of them by the “modern” sensibilities that I wonder if they could sit down and enjoy a good g-free chicken fried steak with cream gravy.  Or meatloaf.  Or barbecued brisket.  Are there throwbacks out there like me who are forced to eat gluten-free, but still want to eat classic foods?  Who have not so given in to the correctness of the day that they can’t enjoy a classic Eggs Benedict?

And don’t misunderstand.  I know that eating that stuff all the time is not good for you.  I realize that there have been real gains in our collective understanding of nutrition and healthy cooking and eating.  I don’t reject those things at all.  I just believe that so much of it goes overboard to the point of taking all the joy out of food.  And I don’t want to lose that.  I want to have some balance and be able to eat and cook sensibly without completely giving up everything I love so much.  And I’m afraid the do-gooders and the fear mongers are doing just that to a lot of people.

I worry that my take on eating and cooking gluten-free, were I to actually try to bring it to the masses, would be savaged by the food nannys to the point of being vilified and costing my success.  I worry about this especially within the gluten-free community as it seems to be more sensitive to these issues than the population at large (as ubiquitous as it is).  Then again, maybe there are more out there like me.  Keeping our head down, not attracting attention by saying the wrong things at parties.  Sneaking a Philly Cheese Steak without the bun for lunch when no one else is around.  I hope so.  It’s lonely out here.  In this cave.  With my burgers on the grill.  The smell of caramelizing ground beef kissed by the flames of a charcoal fire.  The Wife cutting up the veggies and toasting my g-free bread.

Never mind.  It’s good to be a Neanderthal.  And if you want to join me, keep your head up, and just maybe you’ll be able to follow your nose one day to the smoke of a distant fire that is The Metal Spoon.