Sunday, July 6, 2014

Berries, Beets, and BFFs with Benefits

My friend, Mara, can cook. She's blonde, but also Italian. Irish on one side, but Italian on the side that matters: the cooking side. I have heard the most fascinating stories about what Italian women do to make food. I don't remember any details, so I will give an imaginary, step by step summary of how Italian women make, say, cassoulet, which is not even an Italian dish, btw. These are not the real steps, as shared by Mara, but they are close enough.
1) Cook considers where to acquire:
a) proper white beans grown in proper soil and 
b) proper duck:
b2) grown and raised properly in the sun and given free reign
b3) also, for reasons of duck genetics and not force-feeding, very fat.
2) In order to obtain these things, cook requisitions various military accoutrements with which to invade the duck pasture/farm land. 
3) Cook does a variety of incantations (but calls it tradition, not witchcraft, because this is cooking, not Buffy) in the root cellar, which is right beneath the organic greenhouse and the pig sty, which the cook uses to make, you know, bacon and herbs and shit.
4) Cook waits many moons for something(s) to ripen/marinate/mature.
5) Maybe six years later, cook is ready to make the thing and does so, and it is the dinner that launched a thousand ships.

Mara makes me eat things I do not like. She makes me forget that I do not like them. She makes me confused about my taste identity! And then! She says to my wife, "Lori eats everything I put in front of her," which no one has ever said about me. Like, ever. I only eat like five things. I eat sugary cereal, pizza, and marshmallows. I basically hate everything else. Only, once in a while, I don't. Of course I eat everything Mara puts in front of me: I am not insane!

I like blackberries. I fail to understand why, in our culture, blueberries and raspberries are glorified and blackberries forgotten. What is that about? Blackberries are sooo much sweeter and more flavorful! Is this some kind of fruit racism?

I like beets. I am trying to grow them. Ok, that is a bit premature. I have not yet ordered any seeds. But, I am going to grow some lovely, bad-ass beets. You will see. I just can't decide if I want red or gold. I have some sort of racism here, too, where I believe, in spite of my own taste experiences, that red beets are more flavorful. This is not so, and furthermore, the red ones stain like a mother-fucker. Mara has Things to Say about beets, of course, since they are a food, which one cooks.

Mara on boiling beets: "this is something one should never attempt if one desires to maintain one's affection for beets." After she said this, I phased out for a bit, and when I came back, Mara was talking to B about "blood splatter on the cabinets," which was still about beets. So, the red ones stain. And one should roast beets, but only the gold ones, of course. But I want red, because I am a (reverse?) racist. Also, I want the red greens (are they still called greens if they're red?), for color and bitterness, in my salads.

"I am not the best cook in my family. By far, I am not," is another thing Mara said one time. I'd like to meet this "family," by which I am sure she means "CIA and Cordon Bleu founders/Iron Chef judges/fantastic mystics who can reverse the spin of the earth on its axis, oh and by the way, make a pretty good stew." Because B and I just beat the living shit out of each other to get the last few dregs of Mara's guacamole and salsa. Btw, I do not like salsa. Fucking hate it. Srsly, if some gets on my chip like, by accident, I will spit that piece of shit out in mixed company. But for Mara's, I will kill my wife. I suppose, technically, salsa is not cooked, so maybe this is what Mara means by not being the best "cook" in her family.

We are at the beach, vacationing, and Mara came by for a couple of days, and she said she would cook. It was almost too much to bear--the anticipation. Then, also, I wasn't sure it was safe. I mean, I want peace, not fisticuffs over salsa. But if you think I tried to stop Mara from cooking, you're on crack. She made fish tacos--a favorite of B's. I can't stand them. I don't think fish belongs in a taco, and I don't think fish belongs with other fish. But, you know, I ate like 17. Finally, we ran out of tortillas. There was still other stuff left: the fish and the salsa and the bean/corn thing, two or three other divine food stuffs in bowls. We all looked at each other, and then B said, "Can we just eat out of the bowls? And stop this charade?" What followed was entirely out of hand. I shan't describe it. There may have been blood.

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