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

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