21 January 2010

I kissed some foot on twitter today

Ruhlman is the what-if-John McPhee and M.F.K. Fisher-had-a-lovechild of our time in his full absorption in all things cooking related, and I'm such a groupie.

I can't help it. I'm a tad aflutter: Michael Ruhlman thanked me today when I paid him a compliment on twitter. I'm reading his latest book, Ratio, and the book pretty much cemented the rock star analogy for me. (He also wrote a trilogy: The Making of a Chef, Soul of a Chef, & Reach of a Chef, good books all. Oh, and he helped Thomas Keller write his cookbook. Amazing. And his instincts are so true, so good; here he's come up with great formulas, great examples, and some amazingly yummy-looking recipes that I have yet to try out. His preoccupation with food is something I recognize; it drives everyone on one side of my family (every last one a gourmet-food seeker, crazy for the stuff).

I am raving about this book because I find it a rare thing, a fine and flexible reference tool in the spirit of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. It's more than just a cookbook but rather a liberating way to think about cooking, perhaps even a way to demystify cooking for a whole bunch of people. Once you have learned the basic ratios (and once you've procured a decent kitchen scale with a "tare weight" button), you have a great set of places from which to launch yourself, especially if you are a tinkerer like me who can hardly leave a recipe alone.

In contrast to Ruhlman, who is after some quintessential information about the best ways to prepare food, I keep circling back to what has become something of a new meditation for me: "What if I didn't have the best lunch possible but a good lunch?" What's the difference between best and enough? What does it mean that there is a gap? It doesn't necessarily mean I need to close the gap. I can have a good lunch without making things too fancy.

I heard a great thing -- at least the author of the book where I read it made me feel I heard it: In Beth Lisick's Helping Me Help Myself, Lisick talks about one spiritual guide, one of the people she consults for help in the course of a yearlong life makeover that involves taking the advice of America's most popular self-help gurus, one per month. Irresistible premise, right? I couldn't put it down. It was good, too: She's funny and sharp, if a little mean, which isn't surprising considering her hipster-than-thou life before her grand experiment (even her husband is a super-hipster -- his band opens several shows for Radiohead!) and considering her former disdain for outside expertise of any kind she has a refreshing willingness to submit to the logic of her new 12-pack of teachers. The one that struck me says to a crowd gathered to hear her communicate with people no longer dwelling in the physical world, "A martyr can only nail up one of his hands." I have been chewing on that one ever since I heard it. (And you, dear reader, deserve a prize for most tenacious if you've made it this far without rolling your eyes and clicking to the next big or little thing.)

In other news: The most popular exclamation I hear among the kids at my daughter's school is "What the...?" with equal emphasis on "What" and "the." And today I heard my daughter's schoolmate say "OMG," complete with Valley-Girl emphasis, in conversation. I'm not sure my kid knew what her friend was saying. I wonder whether her friend learned it from older siblings or from TV. I'm guessing the latter. It strikes me as extra ironic because the girl saying it is from a Catholic family. Wouldn't that be taking the Lord's name in vain somehow?

Oh, and there's this little circle thing we do with our knees, where we draw a circle with one knee and then the other. That used to be so hard. I could barely pick my leg up and drag it across my body. It still aches sometimes but today I was thinking, "Where would I be if I weren't doing this?" It's so hard to imagine, I don't even feel like trying.

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