Ribbed for Our Pleasure

Drawback to being the Pork Guy?

Realizing that you are not the only Pork Guy.

Big, oinky thankyou to Nathan and Anna for presiding over a splendid evening of ritual pig worship.  And for offering me the bite of brain – (texture of peanut butter, favor of pate)

And props to David and Laura for sauces, smoke, good humor, and organizational acumen.

One picture.  The real hero:

In The Lobby of a Thousand Story Hotel

It’s the beginning of summer.  Things just… change. Pig meets smoke, drinks go taller, fruitier and icier.  And new hats seek high ground somewhere between Sunburn and Big Pimpin.

This is my favorite time of year.  It always has been.  It’s as if a window creaks open, and for that fleeting moment in and around Memorial Day, life is malleable.  There is a thick, pent-up energy to daily life, as everyone scrambles to redo their routines and make endless promises before the torpor of July envelops us.  We extend invitations, buy extra glasses, make lists.  It’s the one time of year where you can see a magazine article about building a hovercraft and literally sprint to the hardware store for a leaf blower.  There is almost a dream-like quality to those couple of weeks, where it’s tough to avoid feeling intoxicated by possibility.

This year, I find myself ready.
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Interlude: Lettuce Leaves and Stir Fry – (I do not belong in the real world)

From the “Why am I the way I am?”  department…

I made a stir fry for lunch this morning.  Noodles, veggies… some garlic and some heat.  Not bad for a Wednesday morning at 7:30AM.

It is lunchtime.  I am hungry.   I did not bring a utensil.

I then discovered that there was not a utensil available in my entire building.   It was either a spatula included in a pizza box some time ago, or use the smoothe machine and extrude the mix into my thermos.

(You guys know I work in an office complex within a large factory, right?  And that I take the bus?”   So just “going out” isn’t really an option)

Miraculously,  a co worker drops by my office, and tells me that she is driving up to Kroger.

I explain my plight, and I blurt out, entirely without thinking “Hey, I brought this stir fry thingy into work today, and don’t have a fork or a spoon and there aren’t any in the kitchen, when you’re in the grocery store, can you buy me a head of boston lettuce or something so that I can maybe wrap the stir fry up in the leaves and eat it that way?”

“Um, Jeff…” she replied, incredulously.

“Yeah, I’m serious, can you!??!”

“Jeff why don’t I just… BRING YOU BACK A FORK.”

::crickets::

Pig

As soon as I walked in the barn door, a mason jug of apple-flavored moonshine was thrust into my hands, I heard power tools starting up, and there were two large porcine heads on the adjacent table.

Every Saturday needs to be like this past one.

So I eat meat. I am not naive about doing so. When you put aside the bacon-themed novelties and the excitement about being part of a pig butchering and the intoxicating prospect of obtaining forty or fifty pounds of fresh pork and the little grunts we make during a meal of pork belly tacos, it’s sobering to remind yourself what actually has to happen. It is also essential that we occasionally do so. This was my long overdue first time.

I watched the little piggy snuff film. It was captured on a smartphone, and it only seemed respectful to watch the animal die. I watched the pig clawing desperately backward into the corner of the pen, and I watched its stubby little legs flailing helplessly as the animal was grappled and forced to the ground. I felt its soul-chilling desperate final sound lingering in my diaphragm as the act played itself out.

I am at peace with what I saw. But it was not a something I can just un-see.

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On Birthday Parties and Our Tiny Lizard Brains

There were ninety minutes to go before guests arrived, and everything was running smoothly.  The bread was out of the oven, and my pimenton mayonnaise had held its fussy emulsion. Cream had been whipped, spiked with Grand Marnier, and prepped for deployment atop mugs full of warm boozy goodness.   Chocolate-Chip cookie dough had been scooped onto parchment and was ready for baking.  I had a gallon of cocoa on a low simmer. Ganache for the chocolate martinis was gently holding over a double-boiler.   A Tom Waits-ey playlist was already murmuring in the background.  I had cleaned the bejeezus out of my apartment, sourced a hat, and was ready to don a blazer. My long-held fantasy of a winter-themed cocktail party for my birthday was about to come into being.


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Reverse Leftovers

I am not a bright ray of morning sunshine.

Even after eight hours of sleep unfettered by evening caffeine or smoke-alarm chirping, the first hour is not pretty. Obviously this is the perfect time to introduce knives, boiling water, splattery hot grease, or electric grinding appliances into the mix. It’s not pretty.

Other key fact: My routine demands I adhere to the following mantra: “Out the door at 8:04.” With keys, wallet emptied of all cash (vending machines), fully charged celly, Coffee Mug, ziploc bag full of tea, separate ziplo bac full of ice, fruit, and extra pair of socks. And, most obviously, lunch. I’m “Still Alive at 8:05,” but if I push it much farther… consequences can be profound.

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Sticky

My bakery is called “Sticky.”

You’ll find this establishment in a transitional neighborhood of a large American City. The location takes advantage of ample foot traffic and a dense, modestly diverse cluster of nearby housing. A well-regarded university is no more than four (but no fewer than two– F*$#ing Hipsters) miles away.  Inside, framed photographs of distressed Italianate architecture dot the exposed-brick walls, and an area behind the display counter painted a bright, earthy blue.

There is plenty of seating- members of the creative class take advantage of the free wi-fi to do Very Important Things on their laptop computers. Grumpy old men from the neighborhood hunch over the large table in the corner and play chess all afternoon, bathed in the lazy sunlight streaming through the ancient bay windows. The dining area smells vaguely of coffee, wheat, and lemon.

And, inside the display cases, the baked goods will stop you cold. Brownies the size of wallets, pitch-black from the too-expensive French cocoa I stubbornly insist upon, much to the chagrin of my accountant. Cupcake frosting colored by a madman and applied by a bomb-diffuser-brain-surgeon-architect who freebases Adderall. Ciabatta that’s still slightly sandy from the floured towel used it to hoist it into the steamy oven. Muffins that look like muffins, replete with tops and perfect blueberry distribution. Chocolate chip cookies that are ever-slightly pale. Cinnamon sticky buns that singe your nose hairs before coating your soul in gently frosted goo.

And exactly one cake.
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