Every season’s change, like pollen surfing a breeze, new readers float toward Simmer. I don’t know if it’s warm air, light rain or laptop-friendly sun, but something about spring equals something new to read.
So welcome new readers, pull up a chair. And ice cream. You’d think the best welcome mat would be a shiny new recipe, but not in this corner of the web, not so. I’d love you to stay, but first you should know what’s on tap: I talk about food. I talk about food, and my family, and my dog and also chefs, and I take pictures. I pretend I can draw.
Sometimes there are recipes, sometimes not. Frankly, it would be quite dull if not for marvelous friends and food-lovers who make up the Simmer community. Like real family they tolerate nonsense, and weird snacks, and repetition of tales. If you’re new here then this food story – with typical scribbles, and no recipes – will be new to you. If you’re an old-timer, well, forgive me. I do like a good repeat.
If you’ve arrived from this lovely Babble.com list, thank you. And come back soon.
A Deep-Seated Need originally posted March 30, 2009
We saw a movie years ago in which a housekeeper, played by Helen Mirren, notes she has the “gift of anticipation.” She knows what people need – or will need – long before they do and is tuned to their next requirement, be it refills or discretion. As she described her onscreen fate, I grabbed Greg’s arm in the theater, whispering “it’s me, it’s me!” Like Helen, Greg had seen it coming. “Mm…okay.” But the recognition was inspiring. “No, I mean it. I have the gift of anticipation.”
“I have it!”
Later, he’d propose that what I shared with the housekeeper was not anticipation, but martyrdom. “That’s not how she described it,” I said, “and you know, everyone in the audience felt bad for her.”
“Yeah,” said Greg, “exactly.”
Whatever the name, it’s there: I know the bride will demand more icing, sleepover kid won’t like onions and wait, you’ll need water with that pill. Over-thinking, yes, but a particular brand, one of cause-and-effect, a mixed blessing. Being ready makes life smooth and being kind makes life good, but the constant pull of awareness can, and will, set you apart.
It will poke you in small ways at the wrong times. At a recent dinner event I was seated between Greg and a smiling corporate publicist. She had blinding teeth and a still, groomed ponytail; she chatted left to right about running her last 10K, but I suspected that within the hour, she would need chocolate.
The first course was served in a synchronized flourish of plates. This was a fancy affair, with predictably affair-tall food, but I’m not easily impressed. Not that I’m jaded, really, because done right I’ll eat both high and low, but one day after chef school I stopped ooh-aahing every garnish and leaf. Still, this course was lovely, presented to a room full of stylish diners feigning indifference to their glee.
Here is what they saw: chic edible puzzles arranged on white rectangular plates.
They saw two ceramic squares with wasabi and lemon herb sauce, and next to them, a Tiffany box-sized ice cube. A well down the center burst with upright crustaceans – one lobster tail, two speckled crab legs and two meaty prawns, fat as steaks from the sea. A twiggy iron fork harpooned it all together, and that was the first course. Gifts from the deep, one raw bar per person.
Here is what I saw: a waiter’s worst nightmare.
Even as oohs and aahs were stifled, I saw what hell this course would bring. The plating was so precise that it left no room for shells, lemon rinds, or tails. The rectangles were shallow and the giant ice cubes, already glistening, would soon melt across the dish and leave a small but briny sea. I glanced around the table; my well-heeled seatmates were diving in, cracking shells and dipping chunks. Water began to seep past plates and down the napkins, toward all those pressed pants. I turned to Greg – who was waiting for it - and leaned over.
“It’s really nice…aren’t they nice?”
“But…kind of a mess.”
He was pulling crab meat.
“The ice cubes. They’re melting all over. The plates are filling up.”
“The waiters won’t be able to pick them up. They need room on the edge. The…crab shells are spiny.”
“They’ll hurt their hands.”
He blinked. “The shrimp are great,” he said. “but there’s so much here.”
Why. Why? No one else was thinking shellfish wounds, or wet linens, or how to balance a dish full of arctic melt. They were just eating.
My PR neighbor cheerfully spooned drowning wasabi, but whispered in my ear about her severe obsession with chocolate. Seated among them I wished for a different head, oblivious and nicely level, but it did not come. Resigned, I picked up the skinny wet spear and ate my beautiful seafood, and since it wasn’t exactly tragedy and since I am no martyr, I did not further discuss what might happen.
Even though, of course, it all did.
* Sketches? Well my friends, turns out there are some places where it seems – gasp – inappropriate to photograph food, and this was the best I could do. Given the end scene of struggling waiters and dirty sea water, I kind of wish I had.