Tuesday, 12 November 2013



My life is a black book. But don't rebuke a drinker
Like me too much. No human being can ever read
The words written on his own forehead. 
When Hafez's coffin comes by, it'll be all right
To follow behind.  Although he is
A captive of sin, he is on his way to the Garden.

- From Hafez (1315 or 1317 to 1389) ghazal 77, translated by Robert Bly
and Leonard Lewinsohn


Reclined, with a glass of beer in hand.  I am astonished by the very degree of delight I feel.  My head is light, just like a suspended consciousness without body, the way a spirit would feel.  This is the most recent of many rounds of cheer: a glass of beer, a glass of brandy, a glass of wine, a glass of beer, a smoke on the balcony, a glass of beer. Rogues laying on the floor.  Rogues loafing on the futon.  We have jettison our reason here - we are floating aimless now for whatever whim takes us.

I've admired the physical beauty of churches, exploring many in different cities. I've spent hours with the old and modern cathedrals of Montreal, was stunned in St. Patrick's cathedral in New York, wandered for an afternoon through Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The stained glass portraits are a door into another sphere. Once I wanted to be a Buddha, but never have I had the discipline to live a life following holy precepts. I don't even think I ever really wanted to: I just wanted to see the self made holy, or maybe to see the self dissolve into white light; a nothingness.

While I would describe my drive toward religion as having deeply affected my consciousness, it is only ever deeply personal.  The drive is subsumed in creativity, by long flights of imagination.  Any wish I've had for religious community has been pushed into secular community.  If I've ever longed for purity and asceticism I've crushed it with vulgarity and indulgence.  Even at my very worst behaved I somehow allow it to make sense in my own mytho-poetic psycho-narrative of spiritual ascendancy.  This, I conclude, is because I am truly, deeply stupid.

Drifting on my la-z-boy I remark out loud about how good I feel.  None of these thoughts have crossed my mind.  Only that I am drunk, at ease.  A contentedness, and a sincere happiness for having had the chance to enjoy the good food and good company that have come my way.


On Sundays I've been known to get a little sloppy. While Rig chopped onions, I butchered a five pound duck.  In the way I was trained to break down a chicken I break down each side, removing the legs and wings, and then I cut off the breasts.   I'm working with two bowls: one for meat and guts, and another for bones and fat.  As I finish removing the collar bone and separating the rib cage from the breast plate, revealing the gizzard and other interior goodies, 2Krucial showed up with a friend she's wanted to introduce to us.  We've promised her a meal and a half and, wrist deep in duck, I am certain we can deliver.

Working from the canard sauvage recipe in the Les Halles cookbook, we started browning the broken down duck bones in butter, and then we added chopped leek and shallots.  After the veg caramelized we added half a cup of brandy to deglaze, reduced, added some chicken stock and a bouquet garni.  With company the action in the kitchen doesn't seem to low.  It's much harder to wait an hour for a stock to reduce without some talking and booze.  We idly season the legs and prepare the rest of the meeze and chat about whatever is felt to be pressing.  Glasses are refilled.  The whole apartment begins to smell like the beginnings of a rich sauce.

After an hour the stock is strained, and the duck legs and wings are browned in more butter and then removed and put aside.  Next comes the gizzard and various duck trimmings, more shallots, caramelized in butter - some flour gets added to form a roux, then some cider vinegar, and once reduced the duck stock. Another hour to pass while the legs and wings are tender.

Meanwhile, fat was rendering in the oven for use in roasting some potatoes.  Parsnips got boiled and mashed with loads of butter and cream.  Glasses are refilled.  For a cook few things are as gratifying as the anticipation of his guests for the meal.  The conversation now comes back to the sights and smells of the kitchen.  Everyone takes there rounds to stick their head over the pot and take a deep inhale, as if from a baggy.  The sauce keeps reducing to critical levels and needs to be topped up with more stock and eventually just straight booze from the bottle.  As the time nears, a sear is put on the two enormous duck breasts.

The breasts are sliced, revealing a beautiful combination of pink and red.  The time has come to plate the long preparation.  The finishing touches are put on the sauce, whisking a liquefied duck liver into it, and tossing a cube of cold butter in.

Glasses are refilled.  "Call in your plenary indulgences, have you any."


Way's been ruins a thousand years.
People all hoard their hearts away:

so busy scrambling after esteemed
position, they'd never touch wine.

But whatever makes living precious
occurs in this one life, and this life

never lasts.  Its startling, sudden as
lightning, a hundred years offering

all abundance. Take it! What more
could you hope to make of yourself?

From T'ao Ch'ien (365 - 427) Drinking Wine, translated by
David Hinton

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

simoom freestyle

Impatient poetry
wandering for a home
thoughts precipitate
gentle patter upon dome
in the violet dusk
sifting memories with a comb
imagined messages merging 
and blending just like chrome

where I've really flown
riding a camel across deserts
words like glass is blown
crystallize so everything said hurts
were my eyes better I'd never 
let her blow from my sight 
side of the road a kite
shadows shed from a little light
a little bite can shred an existence 
a cold night can make bed out of distance
I see a theatre where two memories kissed in
a trashy book where lovers lives were wished in

burnt leaf smoke
the simoom of a kif toke
it returns like relief jokes
time runs like a beat yolk
here we are
stretch out of darkness covered in tar
lives like licks from flames covering char
matter preserved our minds stuck in a jar
exhaust from a car hangs for a moment
there we are
there we are

forgive my impatience
the matter rarely lingers like a fragrance
if not grasped it won't stay
I'll say what I say
then go my way
I came
two eyes
never the same
I hear voices in the rain
in the distance there's a train
here we are

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Salty oil-cured chilies

Most days I wake up between 4:45 and 5:30am for work, depending on whether I am going to the market or the kitchen.  Other days my partner gets up at one of those hours to go to the kitchen and I am left home to contemplate myself all morning until she comes home.  I do menial tasks, drink coffee, and ponder the grandeur of a man against the backdrop of infinity.

The early hours are mystical.  The light cuts through the clouds and the trees and garbage bins are illuminated with an eerie glow.  The autumn leaves shine golden, and its as if nature is aware of itself being contemplated so it puts on a show.

Enough bullshit.  8am rolls around and my apartment becomes lit with rock.

I feel a burning.  My knife hand begins to tingle, and the 4-quart basket of Portugal Fire peppers (50000 - 75000 scovilles) in my fridge call to me.  I don't know what it is, but whenever the morning is nice and I am comfortable in body and soul, I need to cover my kitchen in capsicum.
 I'd read a recipe in Zakary Pelaccio's fantastic goodtimes cook book Eat With Your Hands for salty oil-cured chilies.  I'd bought the book on a weird grocery store clearance rack.  It was beside some lame NYT bestseller bullshit, and some other books Oprah talked about.  The cover caught my attention and I opened it up to a whole smoked pig recipe with a mise en place that included: "2 cases of beer on ice - cans, not bottles; a couple joints; 2 bottles Pappy Van Winkle bourbon; plastic cups; an 8-ball; 1 carton smokes..." and I thought fuck yeah, I can spend 10 bucks for this.

Basically you thinly slice about a pound of chilies, just fucking pack them with an excessive amount of salt, let them degorge for about an hour, and then cover them with hot olive oil.

I think it was my Vietnamese friend, Dinh, that got me into hot foods.  When I came from Owen Sound I was a real wuss for heat.  Tobasco was a thrill I'd limit to one or two drops in a bowl of soup.  When I think about it, Dinh was probably also a sissy when it came to handling heat, but he was an instigator and would torment himself to torment you.  He might play it a little differently: he was willing to risk great physical discomfort in order to broaden my horizons.  Great wise sage. 

It started with urging me to attempt the sriracha in my pho.  Then add a little more.  Then eat this whole chili seeds and all, you fucking pansy.  And at the time, I didn't enjoy the experience.  I enjoyed the attention.  I got to experience the pleasure of doing what the guy next to me wouldn't do.  Perhaps an urge that's got me into trouble more often than not, but has consistently driven me forward.  Like all things, irony eventually turns to post-irony.  When you first played that Weezy record it was a joke, but now you kind of like it - next week you'll fight a dude at the bar about not including Lil' Wayne in his list of greatest rappers of all time.  And now, in my quiet moments, with nobody watching, I preserve hot peppers because I am afraid of the winter without thrills.

When I was a teenager, I went to bed at 6am almost every day.  I woke up between 3 and 5 pm.  Breakfast was dinner and then I finished my night with breakfast.  When I entered the work force I started by working night shifts, because they most naturally fit my schedule.  Realizing night work sucked ass, I switched to day work, and eventually morning work.  Part of me still doesn't think of the morning as a time.  Yet, this morning I woke up at 5:30 when I didn't have to, didn't go back to bed, and have had a very productive 5 and a half hours of doing.  

Name dropping for my nerd homies: Ilya Prigogine.
It seems the only foods I can eat these days that aren't spicy are sweet fruits like apples or grapes.  Everything, every thing, has to have some small amount of kick.  It doesn't sit well in my mouth otherwise.  I can enjoy some aspects of a dish, or even compliment a technical achievement in the meal, but without a spicy component I find myself not satisfied.  Well, perhaps an exaggeration, but the great majority of my meals are hot.  Very hot.  Sometimes millions of scoville units hot.

All of this sunrise preparation is with my face to the sunset.  Mark has ordered in extracted capsicum because he wants to destroy me.  I don't know what this means yet, but I feel that it may be the end.  The rock and roll draws to a close, and a calm descends upon me.  I return to contemplating how everything the morning sun touches is made golden.