Plate Tectonics

I make ceramics because it’s relaxing, and because I make the plates and bowls that I want. It’s the same reason I paint; the images I want to look at are not in the world so I need to make them if I want to see them. It’s not complicated. That simplicity is important, and I try to always keep it in mind. What happens to the work after I make it is largely out of my control (though that fact chafes sometimes) so I try not to worry about it too much and trust in the process of making. It has not let me down so far.

I like the daily practice of cooking; it’s easy to get better at something when you do it regularly. And since I’ve been back in the ceramics studio a bit lately, that familiar feeling of climbing the learning curve has been a welcome part of the process. I unloaded a kiln today, and unpacking all the work back here got me excited to make a dinner worthy of the new pieces. My plates make me cook better.

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Wings Of Desire

Today was just gorgeous, so I tried to get a few outdoor chores done since it’s supposed to take a turn for the shitty tomorrow. Among the things I managed to take care of was digging up the Thai chili plant from the garden and potting it to bring inside. I’m always frustrated at how the hot peppers really seem to be hitting their stride right when the frosts come, and this specimen is so healthy and so pretty that it seemed crazy not to let it live. I have a bay laurel, two citrus shrubs, and the lemongrass (which is now three years old; I dig it up and bring it in every fall, and it’s happy as can be) so the peppers will be a welcome addition to that aromatic arsenal. And right off the bat, I got inspired to make use of them.

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I’ve Got It, You’re An Italian. Huh? You’re Jewish?

Now that the Boy has figured out that if he requests things, I will make them, it’s been open season. And the memory thing is kind of scary. His ability to recall with granular accuracy exactly what I agreed to do and when is really making me wish that my wife had taken more drugs when she was pregnant. On the plus side, the meals in question are not too hard. Making them from scratch, as with lasagne in the previous post, does require some effort. That effort, though, is repaid a hundredfold by the splendid flavor of the result and the attendant adulation of one’s offspring. This affectionate worship is best savored now, before he is old enough to get tattoos and wreck my car, so I’m basking in it.

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Scuola Vecchia

We’re having a pretty stellar fall so far, with a high percentage of clear, warm days that make being outside a profound experience. It’s all I can do these days not to just bail on whatever work I need to do and just hike up into the mountains for hours at a time. Another benefit to this most beautiful and fleeting time is the fact that one can fire up the oven with no discomfort at all. And that of course allows one to dust off all the comfort food cravings that lay dormant in the heat.

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Like Balanchine, But With Meat

For this month’s charcuteparoject, I made a ballotine. I’d been thinking about this for a bit, going back and forth about what I wanted to do, and then I heard that a friend’s birthday party was coming up, so I had an occasion for which to make something special. And that settled it.

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Palate As Palette

As fall gets into full swing, I become suffused with the mixture of joy and nostalgia that makes this time of year so powerful. The samenesses of green all around have given way to an infinity of subtle gradients; where summer is bright, garish, major-key flowers on a green background, fall is a symphony of microtonal subtlety fading in inexorable diminuendo toward the minimal months ahead.

I had nothing at all planned for dinner the other night, and I can’t remember why. In any case, come time to wrangle of the grub, I was a little short. Fortunately, just like any normal person I had eight local duck legs in the fridge–confit is imminent–so I peeled off two and built a decent dinner around them. For bonus points, it was autumnal as all get-out, coloristically speaking, on account of I have a Master’s degree in that shit.

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Steak Of The Woods

Columbus Day weekend was perfect in the Northeast. Warm–even flirting with hot–with brilliant, clear skies and a gentle breeze, southern Vermont was a giant sensurround postcard of rural charm and autumnal magnificence. And all the rain has turned the woods into a cornucopia of fungi.

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I Don’t Want To Go Off On A Rant Here…

In the wake of Scott Brown’s “I am beefcake, hear me roar” crack about Elizabeth Warren and Hank Williams, Junior’s unhinged tirade equating President Obama with Hitler, I have been thinking about why it is that Republicans aren’t ever funny. Brown’s crack was intended to be humorous, but only a frat boy with a tin ear would say such a thing in public and expect it to be well received. And this constant confusion between meanness and humor is epidemic in the modern Republican mind.

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The Best Mind Of His Generation

I’ve been thinking about Steve Jobs tonight, obviously. I have never owned a computer that was not an Apple. I worked somewhere once where I had to use a PC, and the UI experience was like being forced to wear some sort of Medieval torture helmet while trying to operate a computer; every operation was counterintuitive and frustrating. Nothing was where it belonged. Apart from my fundamental incompatibility with the Windows OS, at the end of the day I think I understand why I hated it so much: it was ugly. And that’s why I, like so many others, love Apple so much and are deeply saddened at his death (at 56, a year younger than my Mother was and from the same disease that took my Father-in-Law). It’s because his work was so beautiful.

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No Joke

On Saturday I cooked dinner for about 80 people. It was a fundraiser, and it went pretty well. The food was well received, it seems, and in typical fashion I made way too much of it. So the fridge has been packed to the gills, brimming with giant, awkward vessels of chickpea tagine, braised cabbage, and polenta for a few days now, and I’ve been working through it as imaginatively as I can. Sunday night, for example, we had a couple of friends over (they’ve been cleaning out their flood-totalled house and clearly needed a home-cooked meal) and I grilled a hunk of lamb, reheating all of the above for sides and grilling the firm slabs of polenta for good measure. I also made a wonderful mash out of frisée, walnuts, garlic, and oil, plus again as much basil pesto that needed eating.

And it was good. But imaginative? Not so much. For whatever reason, though, today I had an idea that did qualify, and which enabled me to consolidate the cabbage into a much smaller container. The fridge is almost back to normal and we ate well.

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Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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