Taking Stock

Guac and salsa and chips with a beer on the deck. Looking at the ocean. But you can't see the ocean in this pic.

We asked our friend, Chef, what she brings on vacation. If you rent a beach house—and are not in the demographic worried about having an appropriately sized table for beer pong—this is an important question.

If you’re tooling around Ireland, it’s about pubs along the way. If you’re vacationing in Italy your food questions are local wines and food, unless you rent a villa. Then you are renting a kitchen staff. My dream is to charm my way into nona’s kitchen and leave with both an appreciation and mastery of her techniques.

At the beach house, you find a blank canvas with unknown brushes, paints and palette. Actually, the paints are known. They are BYO.

The kitchen is supply free. There may be a filled salt and pepper shaker, and the salt may be sticking together, otherwise it’s empty cupboards. Last time I moved into a house and didn’t have a supply of mustards and vinegars, spices and sugars, and oil, flour and maple syrup was—let me think. Yup. It was the first time I moved as an adult. The second time, I packed up and moved my accumulated larder.

I’ve packed up the oregano and sage, rosemary and thyme, the cumin and chili powder, the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, and the 3 vinegars and two oils each move until I moved into this house a generation ago.

My current staples include the above plus capers, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, anchovies and anchovy paste, four or five different types of nuts, golden and Thompson raisins, dried cranberries, cans and cans of beans of various colors and sizes, artichokes, 4 more types of vinegars, additional grades of olive oil, yellow and brown and rustic country and Dijon mustards, horseradish, fish sauce, sriracha and Tabasco, and a hearty and hefty addition of jarred spices. There’s jasmine rice, sushi rice, abririo rice and rice rice. There is white flour, wheat flour, coconut flour and corn meal—both coarse and fine. There’s lentils—black and green; quinoa—regular and tricolored; some farro; and an I interesting grain mixture that I like. I’m sure this list, as long as it is, is very incomplete.

Even with cupboards filled, there’s frequently something I need. And, many other days, nothing to cook.

Rolling into the beach house is all about minimalist stocking for minimalist cooking. The eating out options are sparse, and somewhat gross, so eating in is big.

While some beach cooks are into disposable stocking—that is to throw out barely used jars of ketchup, mayo, pickles, salad dressing, and the specialty gourmet splurge-on-account-of, well, vacation—I just can’t. And The Spouse would secretly pack it all to bring back home where I will throw out the tiny jars of spoilt goods when he’s sleeping. I like that even less.

Bring more, you advise. I just can’t pack up my kitchen. See above re: the sisterhood of the traveling pantry. Not doing it. And I’d forget something and have to buy it and then end up with two at home. Or three. I’m still at a loss as to why I had 3 jars of paprika and 3 of that disgusting dried lemon peel at home.

So for my week of vaycay meals I settle on olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon, fresh cracked pepper, sea salt, garlic, onions and a few sprigs of fresh thyme from the produce section. Add some lemon and lime zest—those fruits are critical for drinks!—and I’m stocked.

So when I asked Chef what she brings, I was surprised to hear her say, a knife. A tool! But she is damn right. The knives—and most of the culinary tools in the rental
kitchen—are usually both plentiful and dull. And mostly serrated. Who has six serrated to one regular knife? Heathens!

Using the rental kitchen “sharps,” I suffer though trying to chop garlic fine. My knife sides off the side of the onion. Another knife pummels verses slices the tomato. Oh, for a good knife!

But the wine is good. The vegetables are fresh. The fish market—when you find the one with the local catch—is perfect. And the creative challenge of a meal for foodies with few staples is well worth the fun. Especially because the wine is good. Seriously, I’m on vacation, but not on a vacation from good food. And did I mention the wine? I did, didn’t I? It’s good. It’s all good.

A Week In Rosé

A bottle of rosé wine. Prone.

It’s the end of the week. I am tired. It may have something to do with that rosé.

This week, before the rosé, was the shopping and chopping and sautéing and grilling of those beautiful scallops, the saffron and tomato brothed cod cheeks and tonite’s panzenella. The Spouse cooked the other nights. Except that night I had a hot dog. It wasn’t an effort, but it was good.

Before the rosé was a week’s worth of work and three month’s worth of politics in that one week.

Before the rosé was a week full of coding data, or analyzing data and wishing there was better data. There was also a missed opportunity and a home run. This work stuff is hitting all emotions if not firing on all cylinders. You know how the engine goes, “POP!”? Maybe you don’t. Lots of people don’t.

Before the rosé was a beautiful craft cocktail on a different night. The drink had a very stupid name, but the measuring and stirring of the cocktail was nothing short of epic. As were the concentrated home-brewed at the bar cherries. They were for the Manhattans but we begged the mixologist for one and she obliged.

Before the rosé I stepped many steps in the heavy heat. I took walks almost every noon-break and passed the close by stop to the station further away. I was steamed and dripped a little on some days. But there were some moments of breeziness that made me happy to be blown around outside.

Before the rosé I leveled up to 16 and caught 53 different monsters. I got stronger tools, better skills and settled on a strategy. The only downside was the irrelevance of this effort. I think I’ll be fully over it in about a week.

Before the rosé was a bunch of television that I didn’t see live and some that I simply time shifted. The time shifted was a dystopian fantasy, the live was a dystopian reality.

Before the rosé I totally had a moment with The First Lady as she purportedly drove around the circle inside the gates of the White House sitting shotgun and singing karaoke in a car. I had the moment with her because she isn’t a great vocalist but can really bust a move. I do that.

Today was my father’s birthday, and even before the rosé, I missed him. Eight years later, and way before the rosé, I still miss him. But mostly, more than missing him, I think about him every day. I think that this past week may have bred an argument, if he were still alive. I hope that I wouldn’t have hung up on him. I hope he would’ve helped me think things through. Actually, he did. He’s always with me.

Before the rosé I spent many hours contemplating what happens next. There is an imminent trip to the beach that needs some plotting and a future set of unknowns that needed some thinking. Resolutions still pending.

And then there was the rosé, split with The Spouse over dinner. The rosé that made me too tired to finish the other post that I started. The rosé that finished me off. It was cool and minerally and tasting of cherries and steel. The rosé that was the bookend to this week.

Pieced Apart

She-Hulk all freaking out because she did her transforming. Outside of the cartoon are some guys freaking out worse.

Dammit. When did that happen?

She had just run her hand along the back of her leg and was halted by a hole.

Seriously? My pants got ripped?

She used the passive voice because she had no knowledge of a trauma, or any activity for that matter, that would have created the tear.

It’s not like I’m wearing them out. I only wear them May to September.

When she looked in the mirror this morning, she wasn’t happy. These pants didn’t have the most flattering cut. They made her look like a very heavy bottomed pear. She swapped out three different tops before she settled on one that made her look more balanced.

Did I catch myself on something? All I did today was sit. Is it this stupid chair?

She couldn’t stop herself from fingering the hole. She wondered if she could sew it together. If it wasn’t frayed she might. It was too high up to convert the pants to shorts.

Like I’d actually really pull out a needle and thread. I use safety pins to hold up the hem on those khakis.

As she walked out of the office, she half-waited for someone to tell her she had a hole in her pants. Someone who got a peep of her fleshy white leg against the black of the cotton. Then she thought about ripping the pants up. She could think of nothing else.

I’m not going to do anything with these other than put them in a pile where they will accumulate dust. And guilt.

She climbed up the stairs and put her key in the door. She walked into her apartment and tossed her bag on the table next to the door. Next to a pile of unopened mail and unread catalogs. She started unzipping her pants as she approached the couch. She let them fall to her ankles and sat down.

These pants are stupid.

She picked the pants off the floor and put her fingers in the hole. She pulled her fingers apart. She watched as the hole got bigger and the fabric frayed. It made a sound of motion as she rent the leg from the seat. It was a crackling along a path like the gunpowder trail to the powder kegs that gets lit in a movie before the big explosion. She took the leg and found more fabric weakness. She pulled strip after strip apart. She wanted to do the same to the other leg but didn’t have a way in.

Where are those fcuking scissors? All bitches have scissors. Shit. Here’s a knife.

She stabbed a hole at the back of the other leg and continued the dismemberment of the trousers. She didn’t know if it was the sound or the feeling of resistance as she broke through, but it was something. She looked at the tatters strewn on the floor and threads and scraps scattered on the couch. She was breathing heavily.

Done! Damn that was good.

She walked to the kitchen and took a glass from the cupboard. She wiped away the sweat that beaded above her lip. She took a bottle out of the fridge, and, in one motion, she unscrewed the top and filled the glass. She walked back to sit among her handiwork. Drinking wine–in her panties.