Thursday, August 9, 2007

Wild Dreams

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind of intense problematic work and concomitant outsourcing difficulties. Family troubles and tragedies, and friends' equally saddening woes, have added to the general malaise and confusion that accompanies these things. It's not strange for me in such times of stress to sleep wild dreams that vividly imprint, and also occasionally to sleepwalk, which mercifully has not been a problem. Last night's dreams featured a segment in which I was checking into a very grand hotel whose interior was graced with lyrical ironwork not unlike that in The Bradbury Building, except such elements were enameled in apple green with corresponding soft furnishings in assorted lime greens and ceruleans, and had a layout reminiscent of London Heathrow Airport's International Terminal departure lobby in the seventies, but saved by that nice Stateside Sullivanesque turn of the century twist. I vividly see the faces of this dream's people milling around and waiting like me to be taken up to our rooms. Once, while staying at the The Ritz-Carlton: A Luxury Hotel in Chicago (A Four Seasons Hotel) near Watertower Place one weekend, I awoke having had a dream in which I had walked around late in the night in its very swish second-floor foyer completely naked and alone but for the many milling guests and staff who seemed to be keen on helping me. There were no smirks at check-out the next day and I trust it could not have actually happened as some things in the dream were out of place. As a Chicago hostel, I always loved The Mayfair Regent facing onto the Gold Coast, where the Sunday brunch was hard to beat anytime then or now. Sadly, it has been converted into opulent condos. Perhaps the curry I made last night helped last evening's dreams along, or my sleeping mind was just working overtime to sort everything out. I have never taken acid.

Weekdays, work is heavy and demanding and perpetually interferes with what should be restful evenings. It's often the same story on weekends. Since most nights it's cook or starve, I have to divide attention between the stove, and the bread and butter matters at hand. The alternatives are to stand over the stove making an efficient, quickly prepared meal or salad. Dinner may not be evening's end but it is an important occasion for me every day. To obtain more complex flavors on such a harried night a simmered or roasted meat is the solution.

Last night I made Loin of Pork Bolognese, one of my all time favorite dreamy dishes, and something of a salve. Take a lean pork loin, with top fat on, and brown it in a heavy pot, lid off, with some salt and pepper. I add a crushed clove of garlic at this point, husk intact, which is not usually part of the recipe but adds a subtle note to the dish. When fairly uniformedly browned add a cup and a half of whole milk and put the lid on ajar. Turn the heat down. The milk reduces to a bunch of nut brown nuggets after a half hour or so, and, only at this point do you add another cup of milk, scraping the combination of meat juices and milk product away from all sides and turning the roast once again. Heat goes down once more and the lid goes on firmly. After about two and a half hours the pork is supremely tender and ready to transfer to a carving board. The contents of the pot can then be thinned with a little more milk and then brought to the boil and spooned out as a sauce. Fantastic - no herbs, no stock, just the milk and the pork stovetop. This time we served it,untraditionally, with Couscous and Matt made a delicious Greek salad to provide leafy nourishment. Marcella Hazan's recipe from her have to have book is a good starting point. Expect to tailor the ingredients by experience as you cook it again and again and again. I slept much better last night and I don't recall the content of my dreams.