March 27, 2005

Zzzzippp_1there's a time for telling of tales and a time for letting go: we are here now.  i was but a young lass, hardly schooled in the ways of love when impetuous young ivanovich took me in his arms.  my will said no but my heart said go, who among us can resist the scent of russian cigarettes mingled midst vladovodstokian musky dusky sweat?  i did not then know the word tsunami, but it was upon all my lips.

he led me to my hotel room, hardly pausing as he kicked the door to splinters and carried me above the debris.  ivan, i tried to mumble, but all i could say was i want i want i wannt.  and he did want me too, as a ravenous hyena does consume the fallen gazelle, he delved into me with a ferocity matched only by the violence of my thrusts.  for a moment i worried if his head would lash like a whip, it was as if his skull were appended by a thick strand of virgin alpaca.

speaking to the girls (and really, i ask the men and boys to momentarily step out of this room) may i ask if it's common to come upon impact and thereupon continually if not consistently to come in a rhythmic crescendo reminiscent of ludwig von beethoven?  he wrote the ninth symphony upon my gspot.

by the time the kgb burst in our dams too had burst: the  penultimate orgasm, the lost behemoth of the big o tribe, was just as my mother had always promised, the fourth of july and may day combined.  we were tangled ragdolls savoring  the supreme essence of substance never casked nor decanted from oaken depths.  our tongues finished at the place whence sauvignon begins.  the men's brutal kalashnikovs were laughably flaccid to my eye, i couldv wrung their droopy barrels with my smallest digit.

in a cinematic blink of an i was seated before the american ambassador; an f-16 scrambled for my departure.  murmurs of international incident and hasty security counsel verdicts blent with the coriander cologne of my marine escort.  he said his name was ian, he was just a mossad proxy.  oh but a girl never forgets her first jew.

for the next few days i was under gentle arrest in an east wing suite.  ian. bless his heart, did debrief me so gently.  the passion of ivanovich did not vanish so much as ebb; i was adrift in a salty sea, gently buoyed up by ian's supplicant hands.  when it was time to leave, time to return to the drab dreariness of my box monkey existence, i shed many tears, but he kissed them off my cheeks.  he said a woman as glorious as i should never risk dissolving her beauty, i think that's what he said, though he may have spoken of evolving duty.

long long time ago: i still remember when.  did you cry for his widowed bride, or faith, youth, so little pride, did you reveal your teary eyes the day, magic got aids?  ten years in one place, a generation lost in space, do you remember how we raced, the day, the music died?

Posted by Bakerina at 12:39 AM in • (4) Comments • (0) Trackbacks
March 25, 2005

Dear friends,

My desk sits about 10 feet from the entrance to our lunchroom (which is actually called our "cybercafe"wink.  At any given time, the tv is tuned to CNN, MSNBC or Fox, which means that I've spent the morning listening to a) breathless news of a certain custody battle between a certain woman's husband and a certain woman's parents, with certain presidents and governors and Congresscritters muscling their way in for camera time; b) breathless news of a certain pop star's trial on certain charges involving certain youngsters.  I'm sure that I should be paying better attention to all of this news than I am, but I am hoping that somebody, at least one of the local news stations, finds time to squeeze the following into the news cycle:

The Triangle Waist Company factory fire, which took 146 lives on March 25, 1911.

The Happy Land Social Club fire, which took 87 lives on March 25, 1990.

Posted by Bakerina at 04:01 PM in anger is an energy • (3) Comments • (0) Trackbacks
March 24, 2005

Springnpolk

Dear friends, even though I am feeling better, I'm not feeling *all* better, hence the continued dance through the archives.  This was originally posted on April 3, 2004, but the sentiments still hold true (they particularly held true on Wednesday night, when stiff winds literally blew my down Eighth Avenue while sleet pounded into my face).

What wondrous life in this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass.

Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness;
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find,
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas;
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade...

How well the skillful gardener drew
Of flowers and herbs this dial new,
Where from above the milder sun
Does through a fragrant zodiac run;
And as it works, th' industrious bee
Computes its time as well as we.
How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers!

-- from "The Garden" by Andrew Marvell

I know that not three months ago, in this very space, I was complaining about people, specifically New Yorkers, who complain about winter. I made a lot of noise about how a harsh winter was the price we had to pay for a mild spring, that when winter is too warm and dry, spring feels like an unearned pleasure. I held no truck with people who gave vox pop interviews to the local news about how they hated this weather, just hated it, couldn't wait for spring, and if I remember correctly, I harshed on people whose only crime was to have a pain threshhold lower than mine.

Dear friends, consider this my apology, my mea culpa, my official crying of "uncle." I want spring, and I want it now.

The fact that the vernal equinox was two weeks ago is immaterial to me. The fact that daylight savings time starts tonight matters little (except, of course, for longer daylight -- woo-hoo!). It is not spring yet. It's not exactly winter, either; no, it's one of those weird interseasonal limboes. One day the temperature hits 69 degrees, the wind is warm and friendly, firemen smile at you in the park and you have to fight the urge to lick them on the neck. (Errr, maybe *you* don't...) Two days later, your local Fox affiliate interrupts The Simpsons to warn you that a nor'easter is on its way, and your neighbors are rushing around, throwing plastic tarps over their hyacinths and narcissus. The next day, you can't walk a block without becoming snowblinded, and the paper bag in which you were foolish enough to pack your lunch disintegrates violently on the sidewalk. Then the snow disappears, the sky stays grey, the temperature hovers around 53 and refuses to budge.

I want spring and I want it now. This past winter has left a lot of cobwebs in its wake, and it is time to burn them off. It's true that I was given a particularly nice gift this winter, but too many people I love were not so lucky. I have been witness to the end of a marriage, two broken engagements, lost jobs, estrangement from parents, estrangement from children, the death of friendship, the death of love, heartbreak, heartbreak, heartbreak. On a global level, I should no longer be stunned by the level of cruelty humans can show to each other, but it always stuns me, every damn time. I have had enough, and I am not alone.

I am ready to pack away my sweaters and unpack my t-shirts. I am ready to play a lot of XTC. For some reason, XTC always makes me feel springy, particularly anything from Mummer, Skylarking or Apple Venus Vol. I. The first time I heard "River of Orchids," I thought it was one of the weirdest things they'd ever written, but the more I hear it, the warmer it makes me feel on the inside. To me, it is the sound of flowers exploding into bloom, riots of color saturation. It is the sound of rain in May, rain that makes grass bright green and impossibly soft, that makes dogwoods white and lacy, that makes rivers rise.

Most of all, though -- and really, are you surprised that this is the direction in which I was going all along? -- I am ready for spring food. I am so ready for spring food that under the influence of a shot of wheatgrass juice (I swear, honey, it wasn't me, it was the chlorophyll!), I went to the market this morning and bought 1/2 pound of pea shoots and a dozen Araucana eggs. I used to buy these eggs on an almost weekly basis. Then the New York Times and Martha Stewart discovered these beautiful eggs with the celadon shells, deep orange yolks and intensely buttery taste, and suddenly the eggs were sold out by 7:45 a.m. I used to pay $3.00/dozen for them. This morning I found them for $5.00/half-dozen. Of course I forked over for them, of course I did. These are not eggs for baking, even though they would bring wonderful color and flavor to brioche...but no, no, no, no. These are eggs for omelettes, for frittata, or for those gorgeous custardy scrambled eggs made over simmering water in a double-boiler, the kind that you make only for someone you really love, because 'tain't no way you're going to stand at the stove for 45 minutes, stirring eggs for someone you don't love.

It's a good start, these beautiful fresh eggs, these sweet green pea shoots, but it's not enough. My favorite salad is a mix of pea shoots for sweetness, arugula for pepper and sorrel for the hit of sour. I love sorrel so much that I have eaten it out of the bag by the handful, like potato chips, although the food scientist extraordinaire Shirley Corriher warns that sorrel can be toxic eaten in macroquantities. Oops. I am ready for sorrel. I am ready for ramps, the wild leeks that are only in season for about five weeks, but are plentiful and ubiquitous during that season. Most of all, I am ready for rhubarb. Unlike my friends in a faraway country, I can't get good forced rhubarb in January, and thus must wait for rhubarb season before I can make rhubarb jam, rhubarb compote, rhubarb fool (basically rhubarb compote stirred into whipped cream) and the marvelous steamed pudding of rhubarb and vanilla sponge evocatively known as pig's bum. I can taste it now, burning its sweet-sour shock into my tongue, making everything taste bright and clean again. But no, it is not in the bond, not until May, anyway.

Sigh. It's four weeks to May. I can wait four weeks. But I will still feel it in my bloodstream. Bring the spring, bring the spring, bring the spring.

More_deck

Blossoms

Posted by Bakerina at 11:16 PM in stuff and nonsense • (0) Comments • (0) Trackbacks
March 22, 2005

Bluff1

Posted by Bakerina at 12:09 AM in stuff and nonsense • (2) Comments • (0) Trackbacks
March 20, 2005

Note:  This is my entry in the contest hosted by Moira at Who Wants Seconds?, Comfort Me.  You can read the other entries, entertaining and compelling reading all, by following the links in the comment field here.

Among the phrases I'm sure my mother never wants to hear again, "mustard and cheese!" has to rank highly, somewhere above terrible advertising catchphrases but somewhere below the catchphrases of terrible children's television, with which my brother and I tortured her for years.    While Mom will admit freely that she has shed tears at certain rites of passage and the accompanying knowledge that we're not her little ones anymore, she will also admit that there are benefits to having one's children all grown up.  For starters, she no longer has to cater to our various food quirks and aversions.  No more faces being pulled at the sight of a beautiful bowl of homemade cream of tomato soup, with fresh summer tomatoes from the farmstand.  No more discovering that the gallon of milk she had bought the day before was just about gone, thanks to my brother's "milk as the only staff of life" phase in kindergarten.  No more offering me anything I wanted for lunch on my own daily arrival home from morning kindergarten, only to hear the same damn thing from me:  "mustard and cheese!"

I went to a Methodist kindergarten in northeast Philadelphia, not far from where I lived, the house where my grandmother and mother and uncles had grown up.  (This house has never had its story properly told in this space, despite my repeated promises to do so, but you can read a bit about it here and here.)  My memories of kindergarten are a bit vague, except for the day when we had to talk about our families, what they liked to eat and drink and do for fun and watch on television; when asked, I told my teacher that my mommy's favorite tv show was the Senate Watergate hearings.  Although the memories of kindergarten are vague, the memories of coming home from school are as sharp and clear as diamonds.  The teacher would announce whose mother was here to pick them up; we would all run shrieking "Mommymommymommymommeeeee!" like banshees; my mom would drive me home.  Home was a two-family house on Bustleton Avenue that my great-grandfather had built when my grandmother was a girl.  At the time we lived there, my grandparents and teenaged uncles lived on the top floor, my mother and I lived on the ground floor, and my dad, who was in graduate school at the University of Delaware, came home to us on weekends.  Even though our own kitchen was fully stocked -- it was where Mom and I did all of our baking together -- most of our meals were taken upstairs with my grandparents and uncles.  By the time I got home from school, my uncles were off doing their own thing, and my grandfather was at work, so it was just the three of us for lunch.  Poor Mom:  Like Mrs. Welsch in Harriet the Spy, who tried in vain to get Harriet to eat something besides tomato sandwiches for lunch, my mom tried to get me to eat something, anything, more interesting; like Harriet, I was stubborn in my refusal. 

I can't begin to imagine how revolting Mom found my favorite sandwich, and yet, she made it every day.  On paper, it really does sound terrible:  two slices of Arnold Brick Oven bread, the only store bread Mom would countenance; several slices of white American cheese, never yellow American, probably because I associated yellow American cheese too closely with Velveeta, which was acceptable for grilled cheese, but impossible to eat raw due to its slippery, petroleum-based texture; mustard, lots of mustard.  Usually a brown mustard like Gulden's was what we had in the house, but occasionally my grandmother would pick up squeezy bottles of yellow "ballpark" mustard like Plochmann's, which came in a fat barrel-shaped bottle that drove me wild.  Mom was always careful to keep the Plochmann's bottle out of reach, because left to my own devices, half the bottle would end up on my sandwich.  I can't remember what else I ate with this sandwich, or what I drank (although I'm betting it was cold milk), but I do remember how it felt to eat this sandwich, how I loved that combination of cheese and mustard:  the vaguely buttery dairy hit of the cheese, the palate-clearing vinegar hit of the mustard.  The thrill of it used to make me drum my heels on the floor, to be wearily admonished by Mom and Grandmom to stop doing that and just eat my lunch, please.  When I came down with a whopper of a flu bug one day, my mom knew just how sick I was when I took two bites of my sandwich, left the table without a word and lay down on the love seat in the dining room, my forehead hot, my eyelids too heavy to keep my eyes open. 

Even now, even as I recognize that Arnold Brick Oven Bread has only marginally better texture and no more flavor than the Wonder Bread I won't eat, even as I confine my consumption of American cheese to an occasional grilled cheese sandwich, even as I grew into a right mustardhead, with a refrigerator full of Dijon and Bavarian and English and Chinese mustards and mustard sauces, even now, my mouth still waters at the memory of Mustard and Cheese, and its daily appearance on my rabbit plate.  But although I proclaim my love of these silly little sandwiches, I have no desire to test that love, to see if they still taste as I remember them.  I don't need to.  Unlike some of my more grotesque food quirks (strawberry-flavored Nesquick, heated like hot chocolate?  Mom, forgive me, please), this is one that can be adapted for my adult palate.  I know that I'm not the only one who appreciates the combination of a tart, pungent mustard with a rich, slightly biting cheese.  It is this combination that is the foundation of Welsh rabbit, which, along with a little butter, a little beer and a few pieces of toast, makes one of the best antidotes to a freezing wet night that I know.  But I still adore this as a cold sandwich.  The ingredients are better now:  Take any honest loaf, a well-made sandwich bread, a pain au levain, a San Francisco sourdough, a ciabatta full of holes and texture, a semolina loaf with almost no holes or texture, a dense German or Swedish limpa rye; a hard or semi-hard cheese (I tend to go with raw-milk cheddars, but I have also used a semi-aged Spanish Mahon, raw goat-milk Gouda from a fancy cheese shop in Brooklyn, Asiago from my neighborhood Italian deli and a salty, sheepy Kefalotyri from my neighborhood Greek deli); and a mustard that plays nicely with both of them, sweet, hot or both, smooth or grainy, augmented by tarragon or champagne vinegar or maple syrup, or made of nothing but ground mustard seeds and a little water.  These sandwiches are a far cry from the ones that made my mother wince over 30 years ago; then again, when I eat them, I still find myself wanting to drum my heels on the floor, murmuring mmmmmm all the while.

Posted by Bakerina at 12:04 PM in incoherent ravings about food • (2) Comments • (0) Trackbacks
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