Monday, October 10, 2011

A story from Alaska

Well, it's October and I just celebrated my 50th birthday. We stayed down in Belize this year for the entire summer season, closing only in June when we had the roof torn off the main building, our home. we've now remodeled our entire place, the guest roomns first and now our home is finished (last , as usual). The season gave way to a more intimate type of cooking for guests, sometimes we would close to the public and cook just for our guests, buying just enough fresh fish for a few people. It was a way to really get to know the culinary expectations of them.

Often, a four couse dinner, eaten out on the dock with a great wine and the waves breathing the music for the night, it's a very special time, and one that may onlyu have existed at our place this summer of 2011, and we really enjoyed it as we hoped our guests did as well. Many of them left as lifelong friends. We had some folks from Fairbanks down this summer who remembered our restaurant there, Two Rivers lodge and mentioned that I used to write a local food column, flavored with some of the Alaskan local characters. We sat reminiscing about the land of the Midnight Sun and a wonderful likfe we lived there, raising 3 kids, living off the grid at the edge of wilderness while we ran a very busy 125 seat restaurant.

I though folks might enjoy a re-run of one of those articles printed in The Daily Newsminer in the early 2000's. My column ran for 4 years before I got a little too busy to keep writing.


“Looks like one-half inch,” I said authoritatively.
“It’s nine-sixteenths, you moron,” said my mechanic friend, looking at the nut on top of my pepper grinder.
And so the weakness of my masculine façade became evident , even to me.

My friends were always hovering over 350 turbos in the driveway, able to discern a 350 from a 302 at a glance, admiring things like 5:1 gear ratios, posi-traction and forged pistons. They were always naming sizes of bolts, whether metric or not, always talking in code about FPS and PSI, while my area of expertise never left the kitchen.
“Looks like one-half teaspoon,” I said, thinking of bread pudding and the amount of nutmeg in it. I only hoped I didn’t say it out loud, for I do make an effort to learn manly things like nut and bolt sizes.
Once, at a gathering with some leather clad, heavily tattooed Harley-riding friends who were discussing flatheads, panheads, knuckleheads and evo’s, I blurted out, “Oh, yeah, well there’s nothing like a pinch of caraway added to pureed beets to bring out the best in my borscht.”
The room grew silent as Jake the Snake stood and walked toward me, big black boots echoing across the cement floor of the garage.
“Say,” he said, “what I really want to know is do you add the sherry to your French onion soup before you sauté the onions or right before you put the croutons and cheese on it?”
“My secret,” I confided, “is to sprinkle the sherry on the floating croutons just before adding the cheese, that way the croutons soak up the flavor.”
“I told you, man,” laughed long, tall Rich, a guy who looked like he belonged in ZZ Top.
And so is the life of a chef—hanging out with mechanics and bikers, carpenters and welders, trying my best to fit into testosterone-driven situations. Yet I ended up being myself, turning the conversati0on about Yamaha’s new four-cylinder, faster-than-fast snow machine into a debate about the difference between copper and all-clad cookware.
After being caught in the charade of trying to fit in, I have decided to stick to areas in which I am an expert: gardening, cooking, wine, and, of course, eating. Finally, I became comfortable with my forte, and realized that although I may be envious of the mechanic who can fix an engine or the carpenter who can dovetail any joint, those experts appreciate the skill of making the perfect soufflé or cooking a romantic dinner for a spouse.
Nothing made this clearer than the summer of 1999, when we were remodeling our kitchen, putting in a wood-burning Tuscan-style oven. This required daily visits from carpenters installing cabinets, a welder forging the frame for the oven, concrete workers, tile men, carpet layers—a veritable bevy of those steeped in their manly careers.
As I went from worker to worker asking how I could help, they gave me menial tasks just to get me out of the way of any power tool capable of de-limbing me (or them).
“Take this jigsaw, and go cut this tin along the lines I drew,” said one worker.
I gleefully went outside with the jigsaw, placed the tin between sawhorses and began to cut. The result sounded like a cross between fingernails on a chalkboard and a thunderstorm. The entire contracting team stampeded out the door to see what the commotion was.
“Who gave him the power tool?” yelled the foreman, watching me vibrate with tin and saw like a cartoon character clashed between cymbals.
“Go make some lunch!” shouted the worker responsible for sending me to near death as he snatched the jigsaw from my hands.
“This New York Steak Diane is seared to perfection,” the foreman said at lunch, “How far from the coals did you cook them?”
“Looks like one-half inch,” I said, glancing at the frill, “one-half inch.”

End..........From Alaska to Belize, at least I won't freeze! Good Cooking!