Instead of fulfilling my patriotic obligation by whipping myself into a shopping frenzy worthy of Todd Palin in the Sudafed aisle of the Anchorage Piggly Wiggly, I have instead been a near shut-in, toiling away on this infernal device making CAD drawings in advance of an upcoming show. It has been fun, in its way, since the steep learning curve offers plenty of satisfaction; increasing fluency is its own reward. The resulting drawings are even more exciting, and I can’t wait to get the hundreds of little pieces milled so I can paint them and put them together. It’s been a while since I learned to do something new at this level, and it feels good.
For this month’s curing challenge, I took some of the knowledge I gained from making chorizo and fennel salami a couple of months ago and applied it to a more ambitious quantity and variety of salumi. Properly equipped, better skilled, and inspired to try a couple of unorthodox flavors, I ended up with about 20 pounds of five different types.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, centering as it does around food. I usually take a day or three off leading up to it and cook my ass off, often making ten or so courses for whoever comes to visit. It’s my chance to stretch out and try some ideas that require special ingredients or techniques, and to make the best food I possibly can, in sequential courses, using my own ceramics, and try to nail all the details and timing for each dish. It’s also a holiday that’s relatively free of crass commercialism–although that appears to be crumbling in the face of earlier and earlier riot-inducing sales–but these things are easily avoided by not having TV and choosing not to shop in the days that follow the big meal. I think it should be about the food and the company, period. The timing also neatly coincided with the last Charcutepalooza challenge, which was more of a dare: show off, using any and everything we’ve done so far.
So I did. Eight courses, each of which contained some quantity of homemade charcuterie.
I’m a big fan of kneading roots and the like with salt to wilt and quick-pickle them for salads. It’s a fantastic way to tenderize a raw vegetable that might otherwise be a tad too crunchy for some people, and imparts a lusciously silky texture and bright flavor to beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, fennel, and everything else of that textural ilk. So I had an idea to try it with winter squash, and to incorporate some local “spices” that I have stored in jars for the long winter. And I wanted to see if my wimpy little consumer vacuum sealer would be strong enough to do it without the kneading, the way the pros do it.
I blather on regularly about how leftovers are a blessing rather than a curse, and how having a family with a low tolerance for them makes me a better cook because I have to innovate and transform the remnants of last night’s dinner into something new and different if I want it to get eaten and thus make room in the fridge for either A) a giant pork butt or B) uneaten portions of a meal to be named later. And it’s true. I spend far too much time thinking about how great it would be if I had all day every day to cook, drilling down into the experimentation, fabrication, and execution that leads to a deep relationship with techniques and results. But in the absence of that life of leisure, leftovers are the next best thing.
I recently unloaded a kiln, which is always exciting. I got a few commissions, which always provide a nice incentive (and justification) for spending more time in the ceramic studio, so while I was there I tried out some new ideas. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to, and I’ve added the non-bespoke work to my Etsy shop where you can totally buy it for your own self, or for someone you really want to have sex with.