Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Someone Who Appreciates Food

Well, my friend Bo was here last week. I last saw him in Iquitos about 16 months ago. He's the vet who became a US paddleball champion and wrote the Complete Book of Racketball that sold 260,000 hardcover copies a long time ago. And he's the fellow who runs the Executive Tours, taking wealthy people out to ride the rails to see what the other side of things looks like. He's a pal I met in Iquitos, Peru when I had my bar and he walked in with his legs and feet so distended I thought they'd explode. Been a friend ever since. I wrote a story about him called Renaissance on the Rails that helped me win a national journalism award and was one of three that won me a Journalist of the Year in Texas a couple of years ago.
So he was here for a few days, then split for another friend's--one of the original Microsoft guys--and then wrote me a couple of days ago that he had a friend he'd gone to school with at Michigan 40 years ago who wanted to meet me and loved food.
I said okay and then yesterday came and I was thinking of mussels in red wine and tomatoes with cilantro to go with huge sea scallops sauteed in garlic with fresh lime.
Turned out that Bo's friend didn't like scallops or mussels so I switched to my lime chicken, and diverted them with my jungle guacamole. For the guacamole, I cleaned three small Hass avocados--perfectly ripe--and mashed them. Then I sauteed garlic in olive oil, added finely diced red onion and finally finely diced Roma tomatoes. When that was done I added it, hot, to the avocados, put in a bit of salt and a bunch of butcher-ground black pepper, let it marry for 10 minutes, then added juice of two limes.
They liked it.
And while they were eating that I took 3 half chicken breasts and cut them each in half, lengthwise, to make six nice pieces of chicken breast. They were flowered, egged and then dipped in a mix of 1/2 plain--good--breadcrumbs and 1/2 grated parmesan cheese. With some good pepper thrown in for good measure.
Those got sauteed in good olive oil on one side till brown, then removed from the pan and placed in pyrex pans, dusted with freshly shaved parmesan and then embellished with the juice of several limes--and then put into the oven at 350 for about 10-12 minutes.
While they were cooking, the basmati rice, cooked with garlic and olive oil was finishing.
And while they were cooking I took about 1/2 pound of asparagus, par-boiled them, then drained. Then I cut some salt pork jowel bacon--just a little and cut finely--and reduced that in a saute pan. Done, I added a bit of garlic and olive oil and then the asparagus. As the asparagus was finishing, I added a bit of white vinegar.
While that was all cooking I moistened fresh spinach, drained it, then cooked it in the same damned olive oil and garlic with a little balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of butter. With the same darned cracked black pepper.
Then I sauteed up some very fine red pepper slices--long wise--and used that to dress the plates.
Food was great. As always at the Gorman's, no matter who is cooking.
Taste bud sensation.
Bo's friend loved it. Bo loved it. i loved it.
What was startling was making it while someone who loves cooking watch. Normally my kids chip in on cutting garlic and things but they basically eat. And love it. But yesterday I had an audience of one who loves cooking and watching him watch me doing some of the most basic things I do let me see me through his eyes and WOW! I'm freaking fantastic in a kitchen. I do like 20 things at once, have three or four pots and pans on at the same time all coming together at the right moment, including garnishes--which yesterday included cantaloupe along with the red pepper and some cilantro. But to me it's just cooking. To see it from someone else's eyes--someone who likes cooking and who kept saying: What was that? I missed that step. How did you do that?
In all my life I don't remember having had an audience like that. I mean this guy--a smart guy--was interested in what I was doing and how I was doing it and he found it magical. My kids love my food. In all my years at the restaurant thousands of people came into my kitchen to watch me for my magic, but last night there was actually someone who understood the magic and loved it.
I don't mean to be sappy but what a rush that was! I mean, I made jungle guac and I had someone not just saying it was good or great or fantastic but saying, "So when did you add the onions to the garlic? How long before the tomatoes? This is unbelieveable! Go over it again."
And if you're a mom or dad or big sister or brother or aunt or uncle who has made thousands of meals, all with the intent of keeping those in your charge healthy, well, you know that's not a place where ego gets gratified. So to have someone gratify my ego--about my tastes, my movements in the kitchen, my cutting, my seasoning, my cleanup--well, that was one very nice event.
And for all you moms and dads cooking every day, I can only wish that someday this guy, this friend of Bo Keely's, comes to your house and makes you feel like the greatest cook/chef in the world.

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