Over cocktails a few nights ago with a new friend, he asked me a question I’d never before considered: At what point did you realize that you were more “into” food than the average bear?
I had to stop and think about it for a moment. Back in high school, I was notorious among my friends for always dragging them to the latest hole-in-the-wall I’d found or force-feeding them sashimi back at a time when sushi wasn’t nearly as accessible or omnipresent as it is today. But finally it struck me: that moment, the one that my parents still tease me about to this day.
In elementary school, my class was planning a field trip to Galveston to visit the Elissa (typical Houston schoolkid journey, of course). And while the prospect of climbing all over the old ship was charming and all, my single-minded focus at 10 years old was where we were eating while we were down there. Surely we couldn’t drive all that way and not dine at some of the island’s best restaurants! Continue reading Going to Gaido’s
My first “real” feature for the Houston Press, “Designer Meats,” came out last Thursday. It was the third attempt at writing a full-blown feature in a couple of months, as my first two ideas fell though.
Charcuterie is something I’ve always been interested in, and was planning on doing a series of blog posts for Eating…Our Words about the various chefs around town who were reviving the craft here in Houston (seeing as how it’s already experienced a long overdue renaissance in other cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco).
So when my other two stories fell through, this seemed like the perfect answer: combine all those blog posts I was going to do into one, full-length story. Brilliant! Except for one thing…
I found out through the course of interviewing various chefs that some charcuterie — in particular, the hard cured meats that are hung to dry — is considered illegal in Houston. It seemed ludicrous to me that a food preparation technique that has been around since the dawn of man and is still used throughout the world to this day would be illegal because U.S. health laws are still in the dark ages compared to, say, Europe. On the other hand, this wasn’t why I set out to do the story and I eventually turned in my copy with no mention of the illegality of the situation.
Sunday night, my friend Marc was showing me handwritten letters that his grandfather, Otis, had saved through the years. They were beautifully written, with the kind of intricacy of language and penmanship (my God, remember penmanship??) that’s been lost to microscopic circuits, illuminated screens and instant gratification. One of the letters was from a friend, wishing Otis luck on the high seas in the kind of boisterous and inspiring yet entirely guileless prose that today’s motivational speakers only wish they could scrape together on their best days behind a podium.
It occurred to me the next evening that we often reserve expressing that kind of fond appreciation for others, keeping it to ourselves. These days it seems almost too schlocky to admit that appreciation, to open ourselves up in that way. And we get far too busy. Busy moments turn into busy days, busy days into weeks and without knowing it, we’ve completely forgotten to take that extra moment and tell our friends and family how much they mean to us, taking it for granted and assuming that they automatically understand our thoughts and feelings towards them.
I had a very difficult day on Sunday. I don’t want to expend further energy on even discussing why, but it was a very painful near-end to a time which I’m hoping will become a vague memory very soon. After taking care of my business, I headed to Anvil.
Say what you will about Anvil, that it’s uppity or expensive or scene-y (none of these things are true, by the way). I love it there. And this is why: Within moments of arriving, one of my favorite bartenders in Houston (it’s a very close tie between Marc Borel, the effervescent and knowledgable sommelier at 13 Celsius, Bobby Heugel, the cocktail wunderkind and gifted writer who created Anvil, Claire Sprouse, the spunky and inventive brains behind the bar at Beaver’s and Justin Burrow, the curmudgeonly yet kind man behind the beard at Anvil) was crafting what he and Bobby termed the “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” Manhattan, and four of my friends had already shown up to rally my flagging spirits and lift me out of my funk.
Anvil is the kind of bar where the bartenders take their craft very seriously, with much care and consideration, yet without an ounce of pretension. It’s the kind of bar where the regulars care just as passionately about cocktails or beer as they do about Filipino food, Russian literature, Nintendo games, graphic novels and 70s yacht rock. It’s the kind of bar where – at least on a week night – it’s impossible to leave without making a new friend, and not the kind of friend who’s hoping to eventually bed you.
And oh, my friends. Ann and Cathy gently listened to me rant and rave, offered kind shoulders and understanding nods. Marc and Jason made me laugh, took me out to get tater tots and French silk pie at House of Pies and took me home after it became apparent that I’d had too much too drink. Countless people consoled me on Twitter and Facebook, offered supportive text messages and phone calls. I felt suddenly so much less alone, so much less adrift in all the craziness that seems to have permeated certain parts of my life lately.
I may not say it enough. I may forget to say it. I may want to say it, but my shyness creeps up and smothers me. (And although people don’t seem to believe me when I tell them this, I struggle with almost crippling shyness nearly every minute of every day – I’ve just gotten better at talking through it and masking it after 29 years…) But I do think it all the time: I have amazing friends. I have an amazing family. And you all make my life so much better simply by existing.
You have but to take a peek in the comments section below this column, any column, any article on this or any news site whatsoever, to see just how mean and nasty we have become. It does not matter what the piece might be about. Obama’s speech. High speed rail. Popular dog breeds. Your grandmother’s cookies. The anonymous comments section of any major media site or popular blog will be so crammed with bile and bickering, accusation and pule, hatred and sneer you can’t help but feel violently disappointed by the shocking lack of basic human kindness and respect, much less a sense of positivism or perspective.
Why? What happened to us along the way? Are we the ultimate generation of entitlement, having never been taught that we have to earn respect, material possessions and upward mobility and not have them blindly given to us? Are we the ultimate generation of lazy, idle dissatisfaction, doomed never to be happy with anything no matter how fantastic those things may be? Are we the ultimate generation of hatred, rudeness and enmity?
Is this legacy that we’re going to leave behind for future generations? When did so many of us become so unhappy?
If fewer of us could hide behind the anonymity that tools like the Internet provides, if more of us could look to the many positive aspects of our lives, if we could all abide by the Golden Rule, how much happier would we be? And how much simpler would life be? It’s easy to fall into a funk of your own, focusing on the negativity of others. But we have a responsibility not only to ourselves, but to each other and to our children and grandchildren, to not allow an entire generation to be swallowed and consumed by complacent, needless hatred.
It appears that the unintended side effect of yesterday’s post was that I am now fielding multiple offers from concerned family members and friends to buy me groceries. Heh. (p.s. Thank you – the thought is very much appreciated.)
That was not my intention when writing – it was more a state of the union mixed in with a little “recipe” that I now know, thanks to Mike, is properly called “domatorizo” among many other things, I’m sure.
Everything is fine. Everything is more than fine. Everything is zen.
Now let’s all go listen to some Tumbled Sea and reflect on how amazing this cold weather is in both its intensity and its brevity. Tomorrow night I will be dining at Branchwater Tavern with my father, tucked in and cozy, eating popcorn with duck fat and all will be right with the world.
Thing The Second: Written an article about a bourbon and bacon cocktail at a recent Manhattan contest that I judged, which also hit the front page of FARK and made me briefly consider why I am always chosen for the booze assignments before deciding that I should stop silently complaining to myself. Comment of which I am particularly proud:
The author kept referring to bourbon as an American whiskey. It is a Kentucky whiskey. Period. They don’t make bourbon in Tenn. or Candada or Ireland or Scotland…it’s made in Kentucky with at least 51% corn and pure limestone water. I should know, the Bourbon Trail is twenty miles away.
OH MY GOD SHUT THE FUCK UP.
(Sorry. You know it’s bad when you start begrudging your commenters…)
Thing The Third: You know…it’s just another FARK thing…and it’s not even about food…and it’s frankly inappropriate for younger and/or delicate audiences, so maybe I’ll just let some intrepid reader do some digging and find it.
Thing The Fourth: Quit Twitter. I didn’t realize this was going to be such a big deal until all the comments and emails and DMs and Facebook messages started pouring in. And then the Houston Chronicle picked it up. Seriously…I listen to Kyrie O’Connor all the time when she’s on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me on NPR on Saturday mornings. And now she’s writing about me?
I really do appreciate all the kind words. It’s very nice knowing that my random, snarky, occasionally TMI Tweets brighten peoples’ days. And I say that with no sarcasm intended. But…when it’s even extremely minor news that someone — like myself or like a celebrity (Miz Miley Cyrus) — stops Tweeting, doesn’t that just underscore and reinforce the points I made yesterday?