Cuisine. A good, sharp knife. 11.24.20

Folks wind up in the emergency room on Thanksgiving, an US, harvest-oriented holiday based on the myth of a shared meal between Indigenous people and “colonizers” who “discovered America and then proceeded to annex land, intentionally sicken the indigenous folks, run them off their land, or murder them, or rape them, men and women.

It was decided in the early part of the twentieth century, in which a lot of the pretty vile things folks did to “found ” this country were whitewashed, edges smoothed, gore and blood spackled over, with the excuse that we needed to teach history, but not to expose the children to how awful our founding fathers actually were.

So much is done in this country in the name of “protecting children” which often, in reality is done to absolve people’s grandparents of atrocities that continue to this very day, but I digress. (Imagine me smiling and saying this in my best customer service-flight attendant – patient pearl-wearing voice, topped by a high, high bouffant.)

So a holiday was created in advance of Christmas, another strange mythical confection, so that families could sit down, eat to excess, attempt to ignore the slights and insults casually thrown back and forth in families and try to get along.

Fairly often on this holiday, usually because someone who doesn’t usually cook or doesn’t cook often, mishandled some tough-to-break-down food, like carrots that rolled on them, or butternut squash, or one of those big, yellow onions that decided to roll while being sliced.

Fairly often, kitchen accidents happen, resulting in blood, screaming and tears and a mad rush off to the emergency room to sit dolefully until it is your turn to be stitched back together, maybe given some drugs, and sent home many, many hours after your lapse in judgement landed you in our modern answer to what is usually referred to as purgatory. Home to a cold dinner, if anyone was around to finish cooking it, and an eventual bill from the hospital which will likely scare you away from ever touching a knife again.

It was because you weren’t working on a stable surface.

Please, put a kitchen towel under that cutting board so it doesn’t rock when you’re working.

The other reason folks wind up in that horrid purgatory, watching that kitchen towel get even redder and hoping you don’t bleed out before your turn arrives – a very real possibility in our over-stretched medical care system, currently taxed to its limits due to a raging pandemic, in large part due to an idiot in the White House who felt like it was a great idea to create credibility gaps about science during a pandemic.

Again, I digress.

The culprit: dull knives.

When did you last have yours sharpened?

Do you know how to do it yourself?

It will cost you about $12 for a double sided sharpening stone, coarse and fine grain. Another dollar or two for a towel, which will then always be the sharpening towel.

Rest the stone on the towel to stabilize the surface.

I sharpen mine with a whetstone and food safe mineral oil, but you could dry-sharpen them, or wet-sharpen, by soaking your whetstone in a sink full of water for a few minutes before you get to work.

Maybe spend another $5 for food safe mineral oil to oil your stone before you sharpen.

It takes about 7 strokes left, 7 strokes right – alternating so – left, right, left, right, etc. Hold the blade at about a 15 degree angle, about what you’d have if you rested your knife on a nickel and pushed the blade down toward the board. Then, push diagonally away from you, from the point to the handle, in an even stroke. Flip the stone over to the “fine grade” side and repeat the process – 7 left, 7 right alternating your stroke.

Carefully wash the oil and a bit of grit from the sharpening stone off your knife, dry with a cotton towel. If the handle is wood, take the opportunity to treat it to some oil a day or two before you intend to use it again so it gets fully absorbed.

Remind yourself that your knives are sharp next time you go to use them so you don’t nick yourself on the blade, particularly the Japanese steel style, as there usually is no guard near the tang, as that point near the handle is thirsty if you aren’t careful.

Some tips:

When you are using a knife, you aren’t doing anything else – not talking, not watching TV. Focus on the knife. If you are working with something that rolls, either fold up a kitchen towel and place it under the item as support, or look at the thing you are cutting and your first cut should be to make a flat surface to stabilize your product.Hold the food with your hand in a tucked/claw position, being careful to keep your fingers tucked under so that your knuckle is the most forward in your hand position.

Vegetables are cheap, flesh is not.

Don’t get brave trying to get that last slice of onion out. Just compost it and move on.

NEVER PUT A KNIFE IN THE SINK. When it has done it’s service, wash it immediately, dry it immediately and put it on a magnetic wall holder, back in its case, or holder.

A sharp knife in a warm, soapy tub of water is essentially a shark. You don’t reach your hand in a shark tank. You shouldn’t reach into a sink full of soapy water and knives.

NEVER PUT A KNIFE IN THE DISHWASHER – sure, they often are stamped “dishwasher safe,” but putting a knife in the dishwasher does two things – it loosens the handle from the blade, setting you up for an accident, and most dish washing detergents are VERY abrasive – all that not-directed abrasion will take that nice sharp edge you worked to put on there right off your knife.

Be safe and happy cooking, folks.

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Art. Figure Drawing Men on Zoom. 11-17-2020

The desire to create, to practice, to sharpen skills now, when we have been asked to hunker down, to protect each other in the face of a quarter of a million citizens of the US, dead from COVID-19 is difficult to sustain.

It means drawing when you don’t feel like it.

It means finding a way to keep creating as money gets tighter.

I ran a drawing group in DC for almost 6 years, now I join someone else’s Zoom drawing session, fighting with myself since it’s not run how I ran mine, gradually relaxing, listening to my music as my attention narrows down to the point of a pencil.

Two poses, one drawing.
Detail
Standing
Erotic – seated
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Politics. The Age of Assholism. 11-8-2020

Many people are walking around on Twitter and Sunday morning talking-head shows, proclaiming that the reason why the race was so close, and that 67 million Americans voted for a known liar, alleged con-artist and rapist, and person largely responsible for the deaths of more than a quarter of a million Americans was due to racism.

Well…

Racism most certainly exists in this country, and the GOP seems to be under the impression that if they pull all the dirty tricks possible on Black people in Southern States, it generally results in voter suppression of Democrats, and victory for Republicans, so there is some truth in that.

However, there is another contributing factor to why people voted for Donald J. Trump.

That reason is Assholism.

Yes, its a made up word to describe a very real and distinctly American concept, although it does make its appearance in lots of other countries.

I say its distinctly American because our Founding Fathers pretty much stole an entire country from Indigenous people, kidnapped a bunch of Africans, dumped half of them to drown or be eaten by sharks in the ocean, and enslaved us, after erasing our names and heritage to build infrastructure, and then pretty much were assholes for centuries to the new folks until a new group came along to pick on, all while claiming to be “The Greatest Nation on Earth.”

Assholes.

You’ve gotten up in the morning, made yourself a lunch from leftovers from a fantastic meal the night before. You put it in a lunch bag. Your name was very clearly on it. You put your lunch in the company fridge and went off to read endless emails that could have been group instant messages and to attend meetings that could have been emails.

You come back at lunchtime, ready, taste already in your mouth for the delicious thing you prepared.

Its gone.

Someone has Columbus-ed your lunch.

Again.

Some asshole stole your lunch.

You’re in the car on the drive home, and you usually bump back two car lengths heading into where the lanes merge from two into one and you watch as your fellow drivers pull up two inches behind everyone else’s bumpers and solidly NOT LOOK at the people trapped on the shoulder, trying to get in.

Those assholes don’t know how to zipper merge.

You are waiting in line at a fast food place to get your coffee and a sandwich. You usually order the same thing, every time you go to this place because the thing you order is delicious. You are standing behind a person you’ve seen before and NOBODY wants to get in line behind them because THEY ALWAYS TAKE 20 MINUTES AND THEY ALWAYS WIND UP ORDERING THE SAME FUCKING THING ANYWAY.

Assholes.

They are everywhere.

They enjoy watching people who try to do the right thing lose their shit.

They are there to stick their dirty thumb in your very clean eye-socket, because they know, usually, you are usually too polite to smack the fuck out of them like that little girl in the meme who watched her friend smugly lean over and blow out the birthday candle on a cake that was not hers and then dared you to do something about it.

That little girl provided a beat-down of epic proportions to that smug little candle blower, and many of us cheered.

It was terrible, but yes, I cheered too, because you know that’s what we all would like to do when confronted by assholism, but most of us were raised to turn the other cheek, rise above it, “when they go low, we go high.”

When they go low, maybe we need to start offering a kick in the nuts?

We now have confirmation that we have about 67 million assholes on the loose here in the United States.

They will not wear a mask.

They will strap an AR-15 to their backs to got to fucking Panera to order a sandwich because they can.

They will shoot a Black person and claim they “feared for their lives,” even from behind a badge while wearing full body armor, a taser, a nightstick, and having all the training in the world on how to de-escalate conflict.

They will sit at their desk, and watch you come in 10 minutes late and instant message your boss.

Sure, I know we are all supposed to work together, to re-unite and unify, but here’s a question – how exactly do we go about doing that. when there are 67 million people in this country who are just waiting, like Lucy from Charlie Brown, to snatch the fucking football away and watch us fall and bust our collective asses?

Maybe we need to rethink the whole unity thing and start embracing the “either you join us, or get the fuck out of the way, because I’m going here and I will step through you, leaving a bloody hole to do it. Move.” mentality, because, you know, sometimes, just being that motherfucker is what you need to do to get shit done.

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Politics. There Once was a Great Nation. 10.09.20

There was once a great nation called The United States of America, where people were proud to be American. It was a country of diverse cultures and communities that often kept their distance from each other, fought with each other, bickered…

…but in crisis, we came together.

We fought for each other.

We shared the burdens and sacrificed in time of conflict, in wars, and floods, and hurricanes, and when people used planes filled with people as missiles.

We aren’t that anymore.

We are now a country of mostly sane people, mostly smart people, having to reshape our lives, having to make room for the freedom of speech for quack medicine, and conspiracy theory. We have to make room for racism, and sexism. We have all become a little more cynical and a little less forgiving because we had to.

We had to protect ourselves from all the lies, and from the people who believe them.
Maybe, someday we can begin again to aspire to be the America we were all taught about in Elementary School, because ultimately this countries greatness is not in its past.

It is in what we aspire to be.

We’re a country of strivers, dreamers, people always looking at the beacon on the hill and trying to inch toward it. Knowing that if we don’t reach the light, maybe our kids will.

Hopefully, we will all get through this alive and be ready to do the hard work that will get us back on course.

…and to be able to find the grace not to offer a fucking brick in the teeth to the people, our fellow Americans, who sneered and cavorted while people’s parents died.
People’s children died.

…and our country teetered on the brink of its demise while they capered and danced, and made our flag the icon of racists across social media.

Hopefully, in our future, we will remember and honor the people and their small sacrifices and large battles they had to fight to keep us safe.

From the doctors and nurses, lacking PPE, who fought to keep us alive, to the folks working in the grocery stores and delivery services who made sure we didn’t starve,
to the folks at the liquor store who made sure the alcoholics among us didn’t slip into detox and wind up in the hospital, to the folks tearing up bed sheets and table-cloths and any spare piece of fabric we were saving for something special, and sewing late into the night, unpaid, using our money to buy materials and supplies, to make sure care-givers, and drivers and other people who just didn’t have the money for PPE would have, at minimal, a mask to protect them from everyone else’s snot and spit, and those who thought up that idea, organized us, and helped us out when our machines jammed up, or when elastics ran low or we ran out of thread.

Hopefully, somewhere, once this is over, we’ll be able to move forward.

We don’t need to forgive.

Forgiveness is not owed, and, frankly, asking for it and expecting it to be granted is an unrealistic expectation. We are not obligated to be kind or generous to people who actively worked to kill us.

We won’t be forgetting, either.

I would say, to anyone who can’t understand this, or supported the madness, be grateful that people are willing to move forward and may demand justice, since you really don’t want to see what it looks like if we start demanding revenge.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/09/opinions/grocery-manager-anti-maskers-opinion-lake-the-distance/index.html

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Cuisine. Cocktail. Gin Jam. 10.08.20

Costco and Bonne Mamman FINALLY offers a nice, big jar of their 4-fruits preserves, and a very impressive looking bottle of Aviator Gin, so it felt like a good time for a GinJam, a cocktail where you use jam or preserves as your flavoring.

Juice of 3 limes (about 3.5 oz).

2 oz Aviator Gin.

1 oz Triple Sec.

0.5 oz St Germain.

1 teaspoon, rounded, Bonne Mamman 4 fruits preserves.

Ice.

Add your booze, juice and jam into a Boston shaker, while chilling a gimlet or a Nick & Nora glass.

Shake for one minute, clear your glass, and decant from the shaker using a Hawthorne strainer.

Double strain if raspberry seeds in your drink cause you stress.

Sip.

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Cuisine.Drinks.The Apple Blossom. 10-4-20

The temperatures are beginning to drop in the evenings, and, for me, that means my cocktails start to move away from Tequila Anejo, Reposado, and Gin and into Rye, Bourbon and Whiskey as the base alcohol.

I rarely drink vodka – it usually winds up in pie crust, or if I am trying to infuse a tincture of Carolina reapers in a nitrogen siphon. Rarely in drinks, since it doesn’t bring flavor for me. All it brings to the party is more booze. That’s good in punches or fruit-heavy freezes, but I think rum does a better job of pairing with fruit than vodka.

I like brown liquor and broody, complex cocktails when the nights are cool, and the leaves are threatening to change, and the tomatoes suddenly burst into action, hoping to be harvested before the first frost comes and draws life back into the earth. Gin occasionally makes an appearance in a Negroni, but this time of year brings apples and harvest to mind.

Ingredients:

4.0 oz Izze Apple Soda
1.75 oz Calvados Fine (Apple brandy)
1.75 oz Bulleit Rye Whiskey
.25 oz St. Germain Liqueur

Ice

As we drift further into Autumn, add .25 oz St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram in place of the St. Germain.

Stir the booze over ice and top with the soda in a highball or Collins glass.

Sip. I like a metal straw for this since it brings the cool to the lip.

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Sex. Sewing While Naked. 8.24.20

In the finished attic, there is a room. There are shelves where fabric rests, folded neatly. Wools, and cotton, linings, and cheap cotton calico prints.

…and spandex.

There are yards of spandex that wait to wrap around the body, to accentuate and lift, to display, to make beautiful at the beach or under the clothes.

When I sew for myself, often, I sew underwear.

There is a separate tape measure that has only touched my skin, and it has measured every inch of me.

Measurements are important. They can mean the difference between being gently cupped and mercilessly squashed by the fabric.

I know the curve of my own ass.

I know how much extra bias I need to properly cup my balls, and how much ease to provide so my dick, soft or erect, is cradled.

I’ve been making underwear for about a year, and I’m beginning to feel comfortable enough to wear the things I make.

There’s something erotic about knowing under your clothes, you are wearing a unique design, made by you.

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Cuisine. Cocktail. Butterfly Gin Sour. 6.4.20

Butterfly Pea Blossom tea is derived from small blue flowers from Thailand, and is interesting as a colorant/infusion to alcohol, since if you add something that moves the pH to the acid side of the scale, the liquid phases from deep blue to almost a magenta/plum color.

To make the gin, add 4 oz of Navy Strength gin like Greenhat to 4 oz of Hendricks Gin in a mason jar with a good sealing lid. Add 2 heaping teaspoons of the tea to the liquid, seal, and refrigerate to infuse for about 30 minutes before you make your cocktail.

Also, put a gimlet glass in the freezer.

Ingredients:

2.0 oz Blue Gin infusion

Juice of one lemon

Teaspoon of blue agave syrup

1.0 oz Kirschwasser

0.25 oz Limoncello

A small atomizer filled with white vermouth


Stir the booze, syrup and the juice in a mixing glass with ice.

Lightly mist your frosted gimlet with vermouth.

Decant your cocktail using a strainer to catch any lemon seeds or bits of tea that may have escaped notice.

Enjoy.

Butterfly Gin Sour

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Art. Marks Zoom Drawing Session. Model:Emil 5.31.20

Was cut short in welcoming a guest this evening but was able to eek out a couple of quick drawings.

Emil – 20 minute pose
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Cuisine. Some tips for the new cook. 5.19.20

 

This post is from an article I wrote on Quora, and people seemed to enjoy it, so I’m posting it here as well.

I’m not a chef  – I didn’t serve a rigorous French training campaign with stages in order  to earn a toque – which is that  hat with all the pleats in it. I’ve heard each pleat symbolizes a way to  prepare eggs, so a chef with a lot of pleats in their hat knows quite a bit about egg preparation. That’s what you need to become a chef by the strict definition of the term.

What I am is an avid cook and foodie, who sometimes takes pictures of his food and drink, and posts them here, and on social media.

What I can offer you a little advice that may help you cook.

I started cooking at 9 or 10 years old, and have cooked almost every day for most of my life. That’s about 40 years experience. I’ve learned a few things along the way.

Many home cooks cut and prepare their ingredients while they cook.  What this winds up doing is taking your attention off of the food while  its being prepared on the stove or oven and increases the risk of you  missing a step, an ingredient, or overcooking your food.

There’s  a reason why chefs do mise en place – it means everything in its place,  and its where you cut up and portion your ingredients in advance before  you start cooking and assembling your meal.

Many home cooks do not rotate their pantry frequently enough. That  expensive olive oil you’ve been saving from your trip to Italy two  years ago? Throw it out. Its rancid. Expensive ingredients like olive  oil, balsamic vinegar, spices like saffron, etc have expiration dates  even shorter than the cheap, processed stuff.

Use them, or lose them. The clock starts ticking even faster from the moment you open the jar, packet or container.

Get  in the habit of checking jars and condiments in your fridge. Most of  them have enough vinegar or other preservatives in them to have a good long shelf life in your  fridge, but that doesn’t mean they stay fresh and tasty forever.

Many cooks have the stove kicked up too high. Unless  you are specifically deep-fat frying or putting a sear on something,  there is no need to have your stove cranked up to high to cook. It takes  a bit longer cooking at lower temperatures, but you’ll also be allowing  flavors a chance to build in your food.

Lots of cooks do not season or taste their food throughout the process. Seasoning  needs to be applied throughout the entire cooking process, not just at  the beginning, and certainly not just at the end so all your seasoning  sits on top of your food and never gets the chance to work its way into  your food. There are a lot of folks out there who under-season their  food because the first time they taste it is when they are sitting down  behind their plate. Get in the habit of tasting while you cook. I  learned that one from reading and watching Samin Nosrat’s, “Salt, Fat,  Acid, Heat.”

If  you are looking to improve your cooking, start by reading that book,  and while you’re at it, get yourself some cookbooks and don’t just  collect them. Read them.

Many cooks start cooking before they’ve read the whole recipe.. There’s  a lot of folks who start preparing from a recipe without reading it,  and either skip a step, find out they don’t have enough of an ingredient  or improvise and find that the improvisation does not work with the  rest of the recipe.

…and then sit, scratching their head, wondering why the food isn’t delicious.

Oh, and another thing – those beautiful pictures in cookbooks? They were prepared by food stylists, maybe embellished to make them look more tasty, shot under rigorous lighting conditions, and then the pictures were processed and color corrected in Photoshop.

Please take it easy on yourself when it comes to how your food looks, but also, take some time with presentation to make your food look nice, but don’t obsess over it.

At a minimum, consider having a clean, lightly soaped cloth nearby as you are plating, so you can wipe sauce dribbles and fingerprints off the plating edge.

Read first, then prepare. Once you’ve made the dish a couple times, then consider based on your experience where the recipe could be improved.

A  recipe (except for baked goods) is generally not a chemistry experiment  or a list of commands. You do have some wiggle room in there, so get to wiggling. Once you’ve been cooking a while, you know what tastes good,  and where a little more garlic, or fresh parsley would be better than  dried. Make the change to suit your tastes.

Hopefully this will help you make some tasty food.

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