Jan 21, 2007

A phase is a phase is a phase.

I don't cook as often as I used to. Sometimes I even convince myself that I don't really enjoy it as much as I used to. I've gotten lazy. My kitchen isn't very modern. I want for counter space. But this past week, I caught the bug.

I had chicken that had to be cooked to make room in my freezer. So I made this casserole that my mom used to make. A chicken and rice thing with cream of mushroom soup and Lipton Onion Soup Mix sprinkled on top. The other half of the chicken I fried in a pan. Both turned out great. I didn't really eat much of either. They are in my refrigerator.

Yesterday, I made linguine carbonara. A specialty of mine that really shouldn't be made very often as it is the most fattening possible dish one could hope to eat, short of a bowl of solid fat. And then today, I made meat sauce like my mother taught me, only I don't substitute turkey for the beef and pork (and veal when I can get it). And I had enough meat to also make a bolognese sauce that I haven't made in years. And that sauce calls for a Sicilian tomato sauce recipe that I also had to make. So that's three sauces simmering on my stove all day today. And then I made a tonnato sauce, because I saw the recipe, had all the ingredients, and managed to drop and break a jar of Italian tuna in olive oil -- enough so that it needed to be used but not so much that I'm worried about accidentally eating shards of glass.

I was on my feet in the kitchen all day. I used and washed numerous appliances and pots and pans and then reused and rewashed them. I kept very busy. The Incredible Mr. Limpet was playing on the television for some of the time. My upstairs neighbors were arguing up a storm. And then they weren't. And then they were again. I have a little kitchen timer in the shape of a pear. It was ticking all day. And then it would buzz like crazy. And then I would wind it up and it would begin ticking again. I picture the day going by like in those time lapse films where the sun rises and sets and rises and sets in a matter of seconds. Civilizations came and went. Wars were fought and won. Fashions were established, discarded, and then revived triumphantly. Music stayed mostly the same.

By the time eight o'clock came around, I had finished cooking everything but had no real interest in eating any of it. I didn't even boil any noodles. I just made all the sauces and put them away. And then I cleaned up and went to a party where Ryan and James made me laugh and laugh. It was cold outside. But it was too warm inside to stay in. There was a ham rotting on the mantel. Festively. I photographed it. I didn't photograph much of anything else. Maybe I'm turning over a new leaf. A temporary one. Well, leaves are largely temporary anyway.


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posted by Mary Forrest at 3:29 AM | Back to Monoblog

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     Nov 4, 2006

Epicurean Exercises

I don't cook as often as I should. I really enjoy it. And I'm not bad. In recent weeks, I've played in the kitchen a few times. But tonight, I really went to town. I had shopped yesterday with the intention of making risotto, and I did that. But I also had some chicken breasts to cook, so I made something up for those, too. I didn't name my dishes; I'm not some affected egomaniac and/or professional chef. But I can tell you what I put in them, if you like.

The risotto contained crimini mushrooms, radicchio, and asparagus with parmigiano reggiano and a Dutch cheese called parrano. Onions, garlic, butter, salt, of course. And organic free range chicken broth. I used champagne instead of cooking wine, Italian cream instead of half and half. And I made far too much, which is something I do.

I cooked the chicken with onions, garlic, butter, olive oil, salt, a little bouillon, and balsamic vinegar. After cooking it all down to mostly caramelized, I added chopped tomatoes and crushed red pepper. I don't even know what I intend to do with the chicken dish, but I tasted it before putting it in plastic storage, and it was super great.

I sipped champagne while I was cooking; I didn't have an open bottle to use, and I don't endorse waste. The Fugitive was/is playing on the television, and I am happy to report that this film still holds up, if you ask me. And it's also a fine example of a successful feature film adaptation of a beloved (and good) television series. Which teaches me this: Not everything has to be ruined.

I haven't actually written much lately. Here anyway. Just a lot of list-making and filling in of blanks. Maybe I will write something tutti frutti before I turn in. I have a lot of champagne to drink.

P.S. I'm drinking Veuve Clicquot from the bottle. The only thing more ghetto would be drinking it with a crazy straw. And I don't have one.


posted by Mary Forrest at 11:52 PM | Back to Monoblog

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     Jan 20, 2006


For my mother, there is no real distinction between someone who drinks and someone who has a drinking problem. I have plenty of stories from my own experience. The Christmas Eve dinner in 2004 when I was laughing at something Beulah was saying and had had a half a glass of wine, and my mom snarled, "Look at her. She's drunk." There are plenty more like this. She isn't a teetotaler. She's just judgmental.

But the best case of this is with the Food Network's Sandra Lee. Now, I dislike Sandra Lee for my own reasons. She promotes the white trashery of the American epicure. She speaks authoritatively using words she mispronounces. She has a show, for Pete's sake. A show whose entire purpose is to teach people how to cook without actually having to make anything. The whole point of the show is to use storebought, prepackaged foods to cobble together something that pretends to be more refined. Meaning your family dinners are even more thoroughly suffused with chemicals and preservatives and fat-makers than if you had unwrapped a stack of Big Macs and set them on your fine china, hoping no one would notice you don't smell like a fry cook. I assure you, if you thicken your soups with a can of storebought chicken gravy, you're probably not going to die at your goal weight. Plus, the food she makes doesn't even look pretty to me. I grew up watching Jacques Pépin and stuff, so maybe I'm a big jerk, but if I went to a restaurant or even to someone's home and had one of Sandra Lee's "creations" set before me, there's very little chance I would be able to pretend to be impressed. But whenever Sandra Lee's name comes up or her show comes on, my mom tells me -- as if intoning a great secret -- that Sandra Lee is an alcoholic. I thought at first maybe she had read this somewhere, so I would say, "Really?" But it turns out it's just because Sandra Lee includes recipes for cocktails on her show. It's not even because she swigs from a wine bottle while sautéeing or anything. Just the fact that she has bothered to include recipes for mudslides and creamsicle shots makes her a drunk. Whenever someone is accused of a crime, my mom also assumes they're guilty.

Oh, and for the record, my mom was watching Rachael Ray the other day and she scowled and shook her head and said, "Look at her. She's getting fat."

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posted by Mary Forrest at 5:53 PM | Back to Monoblog

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     Jan 1, 2006

In the Pot

Yesterday, before getting gussied up for my New Year's Eve celebrating, I made a large-ish pot of oxtail soup. A favorite in my family and something I find I never get around to making, even when I plan to. My mother makes it from time to time, but whenever I'm around and that happens, I invariably end up eating most of my meals out in commerce, and I never get any of the good stuff. This Christmas, my mom included a pot full of beef tendons, which I love. Make all the faces you want. I eat things some people think are gross. But I'll never ask you to eat them, so unless you plan on having your next meal out of my stomach, you should probably be all right.

Today, after not being able to sleep more than two hours or so on account of a really unbearable sore throat, I watched some television (did you know that How to Draw a Bunny is playing on the Sundance Channel? -- watch it and get inspired, won't you?), cuddled my dog, answered the phone, tried to add photos to a MySpace group with neither success nor satisfaction, and then I decided to heat up the oxtail soup I made and have a bowl of it. My first of the batch. While I was in the kitchen, I remembered that I had also bought some short ribs to add to the soup, but there wasn't room in the pot, so I needed to figure out what to do with them. I essentially made up my own recipe. I pan-seared the short ribs with a little bit of Star bouillon, added them to a sauteuse where I had softened onions and garlic in olive oil, and then made a veal demiglace, combined it with the pan drippings (which I had deglazed with a nice montepulciano d'abruzzo), and covered the whole deal in the sauce, and it is now simmering away on my freshly cleaned stove. I washed all my dishes, finally heated my bowl of soup for the fourth time (I kept heating it and then getting distracted by my kitchen chores and letting it get tepid), and ate it. It was possibly the best I've made. When I tasted the sauce I created for the short ribs, I thought a similar thing. I said to Audrey, "Oh, Audrey. Mommy just made something yummy." She just looked up at me and wiggled around in her pink velour hoody. The only thing she understands is the stuff I put in her mouth.

Thursday night, I had gone to Ralph's with plans to get all the things I needed for several dishes I planned to make, including the oxtail soup. While I was there, I received a mysterious text message asking if I'd brought my club card. But the number that sent me the text was not apparently in my phone list, because I did not know who it was. When I told Martín and Jeff about it on the way to the New Year's Eve party, Jeff suggested that could easily be the beginnings of a plot of a horror movie. When I ran into J. Keith van Straaten, it turned out it had been him. I was just relieved that he hadn't seen what was in my cart. I bought way too much stuff for a lady of my size and roommate situation, and there were chicken gizzards and stuff. So now I will write a horror movie wherein J. Keith van Straaten sends a spooky text message to someone at a Ralph's. Of course, he will have to end up murdering them, otherwise where would be the horror in that? Sorry, J. Keith.

When I got home from the supermarket, I cooked a pan of collard greens with hot links. Then I made Japanese sticky rice with red beans. Then I went to I.O. with Jordon and watched Hong Hong Ding Dong starring my former teacher Marion Oberle (brilliant) and the Main Stage Cage Match, where my pal Evan's group Panties in a Bunch took the honors. By the time I went to bed, I had a bit of a sore throat. By now, I may already be dead.

The party last night was great fun. I got parking free and easy. I stole many kisses. I danced the night away. I took a million photographs. I took a sip of my whiskey when Martín handed it to me, as Jeff cried out to stop me but too late, because it had a cigarette butt in it. Gross. And at the end of it all, Martín, Mindy, and I went to Denny's and waited too long and ordered too much and made fun of the people around us (they so deserved it), and as we were leaving, Mindy and I sat down for a brief interlude with Joe Wagner, who looked to be enjoying a newspaper or a menu. Something flat with words on it. I don't really remember.

I came home to an anxious and loving Audrey and went to bed shortly after arriving, at about five. My sore throat wouldn't let me sleep. I laid there in bed feeling frustrated and miserable and wanted to cry. But now that my throat is not quite as sore, thanks to Tylenol Sore Throat, I can barely remember it and I feel very tough about it. And that's what I hope 2006 holds for me. Only the shortest bout with pain and an even shorter memory of it. And of course also brilliant career success and the trappings of popularity.

With all the cooking and cleaning I've done, I must be avoiding something.

For copies of any of the recipes mentioned today, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Mary Forrest and don't be terribly surprised if it never comes back.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 4:00 PM | Back to Monoblog

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     Apr 2, 2002

Savory smells and wine in the glass

If chilean sea bass is at risk of extinction, it's because I cooked the lot of it tonight. But it was well worth it. The grand fare I prepared far outshined the value of perpetuation of a species. I'm sure of it.

I adore cooking for friends. And I love the way my home smells afterwards. I love occasions and fancy plates and candles on the table and music in the air. There is something very satisfying about catering to the sensual pleasures. I'm certain I would love having a restaurant if it weren't sure to rob me of my will to live and hurtle me headlong into bankruptcy.

Every day, I find reasons to abandon my faith in people entirely. And every day I find reasons to hold on to it. It's hard to get through the mucky times when you no longer have access to the people you used to count on to see you through even the most mundane of tribulations. Is that codependency? Is it unhealthy to take comfort and consolation in the security of unspoken support? I wonder. It seems as if the only way to escape the disappointment is to avoid relying on the steadfastness of other people. And that seems like a tragic existence to choose. I want to believe in people. I want to trust. I want to relax and know that if I let myself fall, someone will catch me. I want to settle the score.

I remember when I was a child and learned the word "comeuppance."


posted by Mary Forrest at 12:48 AM | Back to Monoblog

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