Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nowhere After A Tuesday (fiction)

“Do you find yourself destructive?”

Why do you keep asking me that? Aren’t we all? Isn’t that human nature? We destroy to create, we destroy to consume- just like you are consuming me now with your questions, your stares. Why did I come here today? To be consumed? Or something else? Oh yes, it was the rash.

“What difference does it make if I am destructive? I came here today so you could look at this rash.”

“Ah, yes, the rash. How long have you been experiencing this rash?”

Can’t you read? Isn’t it in black and white in front you? Why did I bother wasting my time filing out the form and answering the nurse’s questions then?

“Since Tuesday. He left me on a Tuesday. The rash appeared then.”

But did it really? Was I just so concerned with all the goings on before then that I never noticed it? That just cannot be possible. How could I have ignored something looking like that? And the color? Such an angry purple red. I think I can see my heartbeat in it. Why did I wait so long to come here? Maybe I am dying. Maybe this rash will devour me.

“So, Tuesday. Hmmm… Have you consumed any fish?”

Never mind, I remember. It was the stupid battery of questions. They lead to nowhere. But doesn’t everything? Everything leads to nowhere and I am getting there fast. Damn it, read the fucking chart. I am a vegetarian! What do you want from me anyway? Just give me a salve, any salve and I will be on my way. Pills, antihistamines, whatever will do.

“No, no fish. Remember? I am a vegetarian.”

Just keep gritting your teeth it will be over soon. Can’t you see I don’t want to be here any more? I don’t want to be here and he didn’t want to be with me. Since Tuesday. What a mundane day of the week. Not even the garbage is picked up on Tuesday. It is the day of the week that no one remembers. I will remember it now. Tuesday, the day he left.

“I think we will need to do a battery of tests to determine the cause of this rash.”

Really? A battery? I don’t think so. Maybe it is leprosy. So sad, she was devoured by leprosy after he left her, on Tuesday. At least leprosy is an interesting way to die. So few do in the first world these days.

“Sounds great. In the meantime can I have a salve or cream or something to try and make this rash go away?”

Just give me the salve. I need to get out of here. Maybe this is the mark of the devil. Maybe he was the devil leaving on Tuesday and all. Tuesday, such a useless day. I think he was the devil.

“Just wait for the nurse to return. She will bring you a salve.”

What is your salve going to do against the mark of the devil? Are you kidding me? I am not coming back here for tests. To show me what? That I have been marked by the devil? Not me, no, I am leaving now.

“Thanks, but I will just call later to make an appointment for the battery of tests.”

Freedom. Just like a Tuesday.

(J. Smith 2010)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Christmas (Veg) Dinner, Part I

Although fleeing to somewhere warmer where I could hide until the holidays passed seemed like a brilliant idea, I stayed home this year and hosted Christmas dinner. Cooking for my family can be a bit of a challenge. My father has a more classic palate, while my mother is cautiously adventurous when it comes to food; then there is my brother and his girlfriend- if meat is not attached to whatever the meal is, it is cause to fret and wonder what on earth I may be feeding them. This year, with my Christmas dinner debut, I believe I successfully satisfied my mélange of guests.

To begin, I served a simple mixed baby greens salad with a balsamic dressing, classic and simple, but still able to hold its own. Next, for my dad, baked ziti. Because I believe a little heat can add another dimension to any meal, my pasta sauce includes chilies- just enough to give a bite, let you know they are there and warm your blood in these cold, dark months. Simple meals, but good, stick to your bones type stuff. Where I got adventurous was the other meal. Yes, I served two separate meals at my dinner-could it be any other way?

The second meal included Portobello Wellingtons with Madeira sauce, mashed potatoes with leeks and a touch of nutmeg and lemon haricot vert with almond slices. The Portobello Wellingtons with Madeira sauce are not for the faint of heart- these gems are labor and time intensive- without the holiday dinner debut looming over me, I don’t know if I would have attempted these. I wanted to wow my guests and these did it.

Knowing what was ahead of me, I paced myself. I began my pasta sauce the night before.

Pasta Sauce:

1 bulb of garlic, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 large cans peeled tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
6 fresh Roma tomatoes, diced
Red wine
Fresh basil
Italian herb mixture
Black Pepper
Hot dried chilies
3-4 bay leaves
Olive oil

Sauté onion in 2-3 tbs olive oil until transparent in a thick bottomed stock pot, toss in the diced garlic. Once both the garlic and the onions are sautéed, add the fresh diced tomatoes and allow those to cook for several minutes before stirring in the 2 large cans of peeled tomatoes, the can of sauce and bay leaves. Pour in wine (approximately 1 cup or to taste). Let cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally to avoid burning the sauce.

At this point, add basil, salt, pepper, hot chilies and the Italian herb mixture, all to taste. A good rule of thumb is to not over do it with the herbs and such- you can always add more as you go, but removal is almost impossible. Allow to simmer for at least an hour, stirring periodically.

After I remove the bay leaves, I puree my sauce with an immersion hand blender. It balances out the flavors and gives a nice texture to the sauce. Once finished blending, place the pot back on the flame and allow the sauce to simmer another 30 minutes or longer depending on desired thickness. Knowing I am adding this to pasta that will end up in the oven, I will make the sauce a little thinner because the oven will cause its own evaporation and thicken the sauce up a bit.

Once the sauce is “done” you can either serve it with pasta, let it cool and freeze it for later, or let it cool and place it in the refrigerator for use within the week. As a general rule, the sauce is always better the second day and, as with this batch, I allowed it to cool and then placed in the refrigerator for the following day’s final preparations for the baked ziti- after, of course, giving the sauce a trial run with a little pasta, along with a good red wine, such as Jazz.

I left the remaining, more daunting Portobello Wellington recipe for the coming day. To be continued…