Over the River and Through the Woods, To Grandmother’s House I Went

I grew up with a dairy allergy, a hardcore vegetarian/raw food advocate mom who juiced her own wheatgrass and fermented her own probiotic drinks, and no TV.  Books, cats, the outdoors, an occasional friend who didn’t think I was too weird, and an overactive imagination were my entertainment.  Once a week, mom would take me to the library and I’d check out so many books I could barely carry them all.  I’d lie around reading for hours on end, picking sadly at my salad garnished with home-sprouted lentils and fenugreeks.  I ate soy cheese, Rice Dream, unstirred no-sugar peanut butter/honey/banana sandwiches, tofu, and granola with orange juice on it.  But this nerdy only-child hippie kid was perfectly content, man, because most weekends I went to Grandma’s house.  Grandma’s: where I could count on the fridge being well-stocked with a veritable plethora of meats, and the never-deviating placement of a hazy crystal bowl of candy near the record cabinet.

My grandma Ruth had everything my child’s mind deemed to be most important in life: Dr. Seuss books, a pool table, an eclectic collection of old country and trucker songs on 45′s (relics from my great-grandfather’s jukebox distribution business), and a TV.  She would fry up kielbasa for breakfast (which she called Oktoberfest sausage), give me liverwurst for lunch, and serve me pot roast for dinner.  Then I’d collapse onto the couch – or as she called it, the davenport – and watch the tube, my scrawny bag of flesh exhausted from digesting so much animal protein in such a short amount of time.  I’m not certain how aware my mom was of this carnivorous debauchery. I think she knew, and allowed it, because she realized her little son was in dire need of some surf-and-turf (or as my uncle calls it, bait-and-bovine). Mom eventually began taking me out for an occasional hamburger, no doubt a result of my grandmother’s persuasion.

Grandma Ruth always had a sparkle in her eye and a spring in her step.  She’d fix herself a martini, dance around in her robe to old records, and school me at billiards.  ”Not enough,” she’d typically comment, referring to my heinous lack of English applied to the cue ball.  Every so often I’d make a damn good shot, and she’d say “here’s lookin’ at you, kid”, calling me Straight Shooter McGee and other nonsensical nicknames. She drove a little yellow Porsche convertible, and she drove it with a heavy foot.  There were racing goggles and (imagine!) gloves in the glove compartment, and a little silk pillow on the dash in the shape of a candy bar that said “Baby Ruth” on it.  Sometimes she’d drink half a pot of coffee and then fall asleep in her chair, her snores rattling the walls.  When she glimpsed a mole in her yard she threw open the closet door and pulled out her shotgun. When contestants got greedy on Wheel of Fortune and then hit bankrupt, she’d say “serves you right, you dirty rat fink”.

Grandma would usually cook me an enormous Sunday breakfast and then drive me home in the yellow Porsche, stopping for hot chocolate on the way. And so I’d return to my meatless, T.V.less abode.  I didn’t mind though.  I loved my mom hugely; she was one of my best friends growing up, though I despised my rainbow suspenders, hated my bowl haircut, and resented the cowlick in my hair.  Even a wet hairbrush only kept it at bay for a few minutes.  I guess I didn’t exactly hate being the only hippie kid in a rinky-dink three-classroom rural school where the other boys’ idea of fun was to shove a firecracker up a dead gopher’s ass and then light it, but I was certainly aware that I was the only one, and it was just downright irritating.

Growing up with such limited food options has definitely had its effects on my eating habits over the years, and is probably a big part of why I became a chef.  When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered “food taster”.  One time we ended up with one of those big round tins of Christmas fudge, and I found myself home alone with it. I methodically ate the entire tin – every last piece – all the while telling myself mom wouldn’t notice or care.  Boy was I wrong.  Not to mention I puked on a shrub outside and it never grew back.


I knew my energies were about to be claimed by a long stretch of work, as if I were a 1950’s shrimper on the Gulf of Mexico, absent from home for weeks or months at a time.

With that in mind, I savored every atom of reorganized dust, every particle of structured matter that made possible the summer evening spent in the company of two women.

August lay across our thighs, our chests, while we waited for the moonflower to open, and turn its head, and look with a new white face, westward.

I knew then, life was not finished with me after all, and that it may yet offer up something besides pain, if only another chance to see pain through clearer eyes.

So I drove down to the lake and slipped the blade of my body into the sheath of the water, thinking how so many things swell to an inevitable climax while drawing no attention to themselves.


One Road

Once you have traveled in the four directions and along the main thoroughfare, and spent a great deal of time on the back roads, putting one foot in front of the other until you reach a measure of satisfaction, then you might find a clearer vision of what you’ve been searching for, of why you set out in the first place so long ago.

From this high place you can look beyond. You can look far and wide, and see how your own road is intertwined with all the others. It is not separate, yet it is yours and yours alone. The One Road, the sequence of your choices, the order of footsteps that led to this.

At last, at last. One road, at last.

I Want

I want to ponder the radius of the earth as if it was yet to be discovered.  I want to burst through doorways with a clear voice singing, intoxicated with life.  I want fistfuls of cloud spilling out of my pockets.

A poet is hungry, a poet is very thirsty. A poet dies every day, even as she lives. Only a pilgrim soul would put all her stock in poetry, rest all her matters in the hands of such an elusive music.

I want to be both arrow and shield.  I want the dense, substantial blue of an open sky just before nightfall.  I want butter and herbs, olives and fish.

The pilgrim is just beginning to understand who she truly is. She sees the world through the eyes of poetry, listens to the world with the ears of poetry.

I want smoke curling up around treetops.  I want a silky bun of dark hair tied on top of my head.  I want bright eyes and a beginner’s mind.


The shallows of our lives flicker with danger and bursts of quivering light.

We work and work to rise from the deep, shake water from our wings,

congregate and take flight.


Originally posted on Harvest America Ventures:

Painted in Waterlogue

Since the days of Careme, Point, and Escoffier, there has been a military approach to how a kitchen is run. We have learned, rightfully so, that this type of order and control is essential if cooks are able to accomplish their daily goals. This, of course, doesn’t always mean that cooks enjoy the focus on directives (just like military personnel), but everyone seems to understand that this is the way it is.

There is an organizational structure (developed by Escoffier after his time in the French military) that delineates responsibility and reporting. The Executive Chef is the administrator of the kitchen, the Sous Chef is the production manager, Rotissier focuses on roasts, Grillade on steaks, Poissonier on fish, Potager on soups, Saucier on sauces, Boulanger on breads, and Patissier on pastries and desserts. Although most kitchens (outside of very large and formal hotel kitchens) no longer have such breadth to…

View original 792 more words

Legend and Hearth-Tale

They filed onward, an organic regiment,

battalions of brown and green.

Silver branches, grey trunks, brown bark, red wood,

great-grandmothers and grandfathers

whose children all were departed –

offshoots to whom they sang a lament –

a sorrow-song laden with grief and memory.


Softly they stepped, these old growths,

yet still the earth shook.

They drank what they could of light, water and oxygen,

though it brought little relief to the wounds

they acquired from the cruel metals of man.


From the mountainsides they came,

and from winding river valleys,

and all places where they had long dwelt in peace

for age upon age.

Marching on, they came to the coast-lands,

and paused a moment along the shore

to bid farewell to their Holy Mother,

before treading into the sea

to become legend and hearth tale.