Friday, March 7, 2008


Yes, It's catch up time in order to do penance for not posting.

To my nose skunk spray reminds me of coffee. I love coffee's aroma, but skunk musk is to be avoided mainly due to its adhesiveness. If one gets sprayed, and they only spray if you really threaten them, you are surely in trouble. It's a common smell across the Americas, usually at night when they are out and about. We have a family of skunks here in the neighborhood and I have seen them on my doorstep and nose to nose communicating with the neighbor's cats. The neighbor has an elderly cat called Beanie who wanders into my house freely and when her owner is away I leave the back door open so that she can come and go when she likes. Beanie popped in the other night and settled down on the chaise and after a couple of minutes I heard the pitter patter of Mister Independent Stew, her companion from home. I looked down to welcome Stew but instead it was a four foot long skunk who had followed Beanie's scent and had stopped where the cat had jumped up on the chaise. My room was silent, no TV, no music, unlike most nights and if there was human sound then surely the skunk would have stopped at the back door. But there it was with its magnificent white stripes on black wiry fur, sniffing around. Beanie was sitting upright in disbelief, this was her domain as far as furry creatures went. I didn't panic, I stayed still. I thought about it. I said in a soft voice " Who is that Beanie?". Skunk heard me and looked back at me with the same surprise I felt inside and it made a one-eighty and was out and back along the path it took here. I cautiously checked the kitchen before I followed making as much noise as possible, but that piece of fluff was long gone and I put the TV on as a preventative measure.

I cooked Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding last night and as the meat was slowly charring I enjoyed the familiar fragrance of feasting. Americans cherish Thanksgiving as The Big Feast but in my family Christmas is always The Great Holiday. This year I was able to travel to my parent's home, in view of pelicans drop diving above the Atlantic, and shared a lovely Christmas with them beach-bound in soporific Florida. I embrace sentimentality as remedy for the hard shelled life we face these days, and feel that it has much more value than many of my peers would admit. This was a sentimental time in the best sense. On Christmas Day I cooked the family meal of roasted turkey and a roast duck, and loin of pork with prunes, for the twelve of us. It would never have gone so smoothly but for the able and intelligent Matthew Mills who sous cheffed for me and who on more than one occassion second guessed me. Mario Batali should be so lucky. Matthew was the only one allowed in the kitchen besides me. On other days I visited my favorite fish shop in the United States, Hull's Seafood, and in that week I made moules marinieres for them, and for the first time shucked two dozen oysters for my parents, at table. We also enjoyed shrimp and other aquatic delicacies.

After New Year's our friend Marissa stopped by with Champagne Comtes de Dampieres to toast it with a bang and we had a pleasant dinner featuring Flank Steak and a simple salad with it.

My Birthday in January was a fun time when friends and relatives feted me for a week, no less. We went to Woolgrower's one night and had a party the next night, both in Bakersfield, courtesy of the fabulous Diazes. Matt made me his perfect Shrimp Risotto for dinner on the actual day, after a lunch of more moules at Figaro with friend Marissa. Friend Shauna treated us to Korean barbecue down there in Koreatown.

Well ... I think I've explained myself a bit. It has been a beautiful time. Is beauty best experienced alone? I think not.