not “sea legs,” but maybe “baker’s wrists” or “dough mitts”

Cottage loaves or Sweet Jesus, look at those buns!
Cottage loaves or Momma Mia, look at those buns!

I love the extra cooking time I get in the summer. I’ve made broths, sauces, breads, and sawmill gravy (The only dish besides jambalaya and gumbo that I learned like oral history—these recipes feel  different when I make them. Maybe I should explore that in another post…).

This week’s output will also include some rolls, French toast (made from aforementioned bread), maybe some pasta and pizza dough. Of course, these are “official” recipes. I improvise a lot in the kitchen and it mostly works. Mostly. It’s like practicing scales on an instrument. The hands and ears work together to help build technique. Cooking technique is similar. How do these tastes/textures/aromas work together? Can they work together? You get better at this the more you cook. Just like you get better at playing an instrument by, yep, playing the instrument. As simple as this idea is, I have had many a good friend who could not grasp this proposition.

And I need to start writing down the recipes that work. Otherwise, the good ones are like playing a great improvised solo and forgetting to hit the record button. I had a great recipe for nachos with asparagus tips and some other foodstuffs (Bacon? Black olives? Green onion? Hmm …)  Anyway, it was good. I promise.

And now I want to make tomato sauce. I used to make it every Friday night. Of course, I never wrote down the refined recipe so it will be like starting over. I know It started with oil, onion, salt, and grated carrots. Yessir, grated carrots. Good for the prostate this sauce was and maybe that’s another post as well.

Digging Up Bones

Or maybe “Skeletons In the Closet.” An old bone won’t have much meat on it and if it’s too far gone, it won’t make a good base for a stock either. Going through an old notebook last night, I found a brittle femur that I’ll offer up in a second.

For some reason, my grandmother always said I would become a teacher. My opinion differed from her’s. I was going to be a marine biologist or an “artist” of the special effects or comic book variety. She was right, even though she never saw me become a teacher. I miss her advice now that I could appreciate it. Maybe she read some of my first poems.

One of my first comes straight from the heart of an English nerd. My main influences at the time were Edgar Allan Poe (and I won’t share the horrifyingly bad lost-love poems modelled after his), Shel Silverstein, Lewis Carroll, Edward Gorey, and Charles Addams. All writers and artists I still love today. They are in no way at fault for what follows.

The Dinner of Terms

Place and Time
decided to dine.
Plot excused himself.

Setting and Mood
prepared the food,
creating an atmosphere.

Rhyme and Rhythm
were caught in a schism.
Conflict was bound to erupt.

Myth and Fable,
related and able,
ate more than anyone else.

Climax and Theme
had crumpets and cream
and were followed by Resolution.

Resolution
came to a conclusion.
It went well with dessert.

Idiom and Irony
were made honorary
at the fanciful Dinner of Terms.

A Failure to Communicate

You can read a recent short story of mine here. The story started as a dream script that I would present to Jan Svankmajer, one of my favorite directors. In a way, my attempt was to give an interior monologue to a puppet or character in a stop-motion film. Much of Svankmajer’s work has no dialogue, so I wanted to create that while having the flavor of his surrealist imagery.

Thanks to Project for a New Mythology for publishing the story. And big thanks to J. Quinn Malott, the editor. He writes a thoughtful blog, usually on topics literary. It’s here.

One Snake, Two Snake, Red Snake, Blue Snake

For part of our summer reading assignments, we are responding to a few of Poe’s short stories. After reading “The Black Cat,” I’ve asked students to respond with a story or a response about their own fears.

I wish I could say I had an interesting personal fear. I’m not talking about the fear of friends or family getting hurt or maimed or what have you, I think we all have those fears. I’m talking irrational personal fear. I would like to say that mine was something like “spaghetti” or “penguins” or “foosball.” For now, in light of “The Black Cat,” I’ll mention an irrational fear of animals, which for me comes down to two: giant roaches and snakes. The cockroach thing is so ridiculous (or maybe they scare me that much), I can’t even talk about it. So, I’m going to go straight to the snakes.

 
One reason why I say the snake thing is boring is that in a Judeo-Christian sense, the serpent has been the bad guy all along. Even before Genesis many serpents were killed and dragons fought. Even though I find this fear a little boring, I will say that I like going to the snake house in any zoo and have handled a variety of snakes. And as cute as that little green snake may be, if I ever have nightmares in which animals appear you can bet they are going to be snakes. One of my favorites involves a new apartment I had just moved into. In my dream I was sleeping on the floor. I woke up (in the dream) after something nudged my side. That something was a giant snake that was so large I never saw its tail or head. When I got up to get away from it I noticed that more were coming out of the heating and cooling vents. It was like a waterfall, a slithering mass of a waterfall. First one, two, three, and then snakes began pouring out of the vents above my head.

 
A second dream I remember comes from watching the Rikki-Tikki-Tavi cartoon too much as a kid. In this dream, I have pet mongooses that I unleash on a house full of snakes. This is one of those action-oriented dreams. I mean I throw my pet mongooses like baseballs at various large snakes while I try to stay away from them by running on beds, getting on bookshelves, etc. At one point in this dream, while my mongoose friends are battling, there is always that one snake that leaves the group and hurls itself at me. I put a hand up to keep it away but it bites me between my thumb and finger. Its venom is an acid that melts through my hand and the weight of the snake hanging on my flesh causes it to stretch like Silly Putty. I usually wake up around this point.

 
Most people say that their personal fear is public speaking. I’ll say snakes. And roaches. Those giant, flying roaches that will one day take over the world. So I’ve heard.

Challenges

Even though I’m wrestling with several challenges personal and professional, only one seems to fit this blog: the 100 books challenge. Ok, make that two: I’ve got to get glasses!

Since I published a few poems and have worked on two separate albums set to come out this year, I’m not pushing myself on the publishing front. Am I still writing? Of course! Can’t not do it, but I’m doing it for the rest of the year without the stressful “you’re nothing until you get something out there” push I have through most of the year. At my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot and all that…

So this year I’m focusing on reading. I’d love to spend time with the great Russian novelists I’ve always put off. Proust has always been toasting his cookies on the back burner. And finally getting down to reading some Vonnegut.

I’m currently reading through Leaves of Grass and Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone.

Haiku Humpday

Losing my zen when I complain of rain. Atonement: A haiku for my grandmother who said I would be a teacher, but never saw me become one. I miss her homemade bread, soup, and pasta and the way she laughed. And, really, she’s one of the reasons that I have very little to complain about. My haiku: 

A mind of summer
chills the first wintertime soup–
ashes in my mouth.