Friday, February 18, 2011

Mr. Kim blogs: My most memorable meal

Kim’s thoughts here are of warmth or reward for a journey completed. My memories are of a different sort. Mine are wrapped up in emotions, replete with all the complexities of remembered youth.

When I met Kim, I fell, completely and utterly, head over heels in love. It was lightning in a bottle, not dependent upon her skills at cooking or housekeeping or money management. I had no idea about any of these things. (and in at least one of the three areas, a good thing too. But I digress…..) I just knew the first time I saw her that she was The One. The fact that she has become the best home cook in 49 states turned out to be a lucky bonus. Her first major effort on my behalf is the most memorable meal of my life.

Not long after we met, Kim invited me over for a home cooked meal. Coming straight from work, I arrived at her walk-up apartment to find her busy in that impossibly small kitchen. Within minutes of my arrival, she served up, beginning with a glass of our favorite oh-so-piss-elegant favorite wine, Reunite Lambrusco. Oy, we were twenty, what did we know of wines. It was sweet to the point of being a sparkling syrup, but it was red so we deemed it classy. It was followed by the meal of my life.

And what a feast! First, there was this steak. Now, eggs is eggs and steak is steak, but I was unused to such luxury, only really having access to it on birthdays, and even then not usually in extravagant portions.

(Of course, there was the one time in my childhood, I believe it was for my 16th birthday, that my mom splurged and got filet mignons for all five of us. That was to be a feast! She seasoned them and rested them on a cookie sheet as she warmed up the cast iron skillet to fry them up. All steaks were fried in my parents’ house. Mom heated the pan and began prep on some side dish or other, probably her mashed potatoes – my mom to this day makes the world’s best mashed potatoes, one of only a few areas where Kim’s current prowess has yet to approach mom’s – and while her back was turned, in ambled Andrew. Andrew was our 85 pound Norwegian elkhound / collie mix. Stealth was not in his nature. He didn’t walk, he galloped. Yet somehow he snuck in behind mom, and eased up on his hind legs to reach the pan of filets. One by one, he gingerly lifted those steaks off the pan, not tipping it over or slurping or making any noise to alert my mother, not two feet away with her back turned. Down they went, all but two. A valued member of the family, Andrew had celebrated my birthday with a steak dinner. My mom chased him out of the house and into the yard with a knife, apparently intent on retrieving the steaks or carving an equivalent amount of meat from his haunches.)

So steaks were a rare delicacy when Kim surprised me with this beautiful rib eye. Cooked to perfection to a cool medium rare, with fresh garlic and butter as the only seasoning. And it was the largest steak I had ever had put before me. Truly delicious beyond words. Kim didn't want a steak that night. I recall that she just wasn’t hungry, having spent too long smelling it cooking. I asked if she happened to have A-1 (the pinnacle of accompaniments and an integral part of a steak, in my young mind) and Kim informed me that she had made something to take the place of steak sauce. And she poured over the top of the beef, allowing it to spill over the plate, something I had never tasted before. Brown and musty and tangy and firm were dozens of fresh mushrooms, lightly sautéed in butter and Worcestershire. I had never had a fresh mushroom except sliced in a tossed salad, where the heft of whatever full fat bottled dressing had muddled and mixed all the flavors. I certainly had had nothing in the way of a cooked mushroom that wasn’t preceded by the words “cream of.” The flavor was absolute heaven to me, reminiscent of smoke and anchovy and pepper. And combining this taste sensation with the steak, never forgetting that wonderful steak, was like opening a door to a whole new world for me. It wasn’t that I’d never eaten anyone else’s food beyond my family's. It was simply that I had never tasted anything this… special. And so perfectly prepared. And it was made just for me, a gift whose value can only be fathomed if you spent an hour listening to my recollections of childhood.

Accompanying this incredible bounty were sautéed Brussels sprouts. When I saw these, I knew I had to be polite. I had tasted sprouts before – my mom had served them several times, boiling the living daylights out of them until they gave up any semblance of dignity. But I was raised to never criticize or refuse food that was offered at dinner, a survivor of the clean plate club. Besides, Kim had given me steak and mushrooms; why would I offend my new love by telling her how much I detested sprouts? So I popped one in my mouth and attempted to crush it with my tongue against the roof of my mouth, as I had when forced to eat them at home. But I failed – these sprouts, each halved before being tossed in a skillet with a little butter until they charred up nicely, had texture. And flavor. They tasted like a sweet cabbage with undertones of the earth they grew in. They were really really amazing to a kid who had never had anything like it. I quickly fell into them like they were candy, pausing only long enough to express my amazement.

It wasn’t for years afterward, long after we were married, that Kim told me the rest of the story of that meal. You see, she didn’t have a steak that night. And she didn’t have meat or much of anything else to eat the rest of that week. She couldn’t. She had spent almost her entire week’s meager food budget on that one meal for me, knowing it would please the oblivious, self-absorbed boy-man that I was. When I learned this truth years later it caused me grief and embarrassment at the thought of what she had done and how it had escaped my notice at the time, even as I absorbed the degree of her devotion and sacrifice. I have never felt more loved in my life or more unworthy than I did when she told me.

Great meals should surpass expectations, should awaken the spirit with the purity of flavors both obvious and suggested. Good food should express the love the chef has for the ingredients and her earnest desire to please the diner. My girlfriend, my to-be-wife, gave me a magical experience that night. All the four star meals, all the gourmet ingredients, all the magnificent presentations that have been put before me in homes and restaurants since have only been reflections of that plateful of love.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Two Most Memorable Meals

I LOVE food. I love to eat it, cook it, talk about it and read about it. I have strong preferences and prejudices, but I'm not really a food snob. One one hand, I cannot BELIEVE that people actually pay money for Subway. On the other hand, I love Burger King's original chicken sandwich with a deep and abiding passion and recently when they had BOGO on them, I had to force myself not to stop there every day on the way home.

But I DO love food. I love long, elaborate meals - with many, many different dishes. At high-end restaurants, I will often choose two appetizers (or small plates). I also love buffets - from Golden Corral to Chinese all you can eat extravaganzas. Clearly, I am all about variety and VOLUME. So my two most memorable meals are wildly out of character for me. But they are memorable for much the same reason - they were both consumed after a long period of paucity.

My first meal was the first solid food I had after The Child was born. You need to know that I had horrendous 'morning sickness'. It was more like morning, noon and night sickness. From about the six week mark until delivery day (not to get TOO explicit, but you can hear Mr. Kim comforting me on the audio tape from birthday). I actually LOST weight in between my first and second OB visits. Eventually, I learned to eat only a bite or two at a time to help with the nausea. This, of course, boomeranged on me, since I began taking 'bites' every 5 to seven minutes and ended my pregnancy looking like Jabba-the-Hutt.

(The Child does the most hilarious impression of me during the last month of confinement - complete with sound effects and chin licking). So even though I wasn't ACTUALLY starving, I spent nine months on very short rations, never feeling full or being able to eat anything 'good'. Add to this the odd phenomena that visited me during the last six weeks of my pregnancy: I had a bitter taste in my mouth 24 hours a day. Like that penicillin-copper penny taste. ALL THE TIME. The only way that I could sleep was to tuck a mint between my cheek and gum. If it melted during the night, the taste would wake me up. For almost 9 months, I basically subsisted (if you can reasonably call gaining 900 pounds subsisting) on sugarless mints, saltines and vanilla milk shakes.

I didn't get permission to eat solid food until after dinner was served and visiting hours were over. I sat there falling in love with that delicious babygirl and fretting over my growling tummy (I am very good at multi-tasking). Visions of the eggs and bacon and toast that I hoped would appear early the next morning dancing in my head, I heard the rattle of a cart outside my door. A smiling lady peeked around the corner of the door and asked if I was hungry. The delicious baby was nearly tossed to the floor in the frenzy that ensued. That dear lady brought in a ham and cheese sandwich on rye bread and an apple. Now, I am no stranger to hospital food. I know that there is more than a slight chance that the ham was pressed, the cheese a slab of dyed oil, the bread stale and the apple mealy. But I can still taste it and remember how utterly sybaritic that meal was. The cool saltiness of the ham, the rich gooeyness of the cheese, the herby crunch of the caraway seeds and the snap and juiciness of the apple.

I wasn't nauseous, my mouth wasn't harboring any hidden coins. I tasted and savored every. single. wonderful. BITE! I picked at the crumbs and wished for more. And I returned to counting fingers and tasting toes and marveling over the most beautiful baby ever born, able, at last, to give her the attention that she deserved.

The other meal that will stick with me forever was the first REAL food that I ate after having a gastric bypass. Having heard all of the fat girl horror stories ("you won't ever be able to eat chocolate/hamburger/cheese again!!!"), the week before the surgery I gorged on every food item imaginable - Mr. Kim even took me to Philadelphia for a cheesesteak. I think I set a speed record for weight gain. For the first couple of weeks after the surgery, I didn't care if I never ate again. I honestly wondered at the time if the operation had worked TOO well and worried that I would starve myself to death through lack of appetite (HAH - no fear). The progression of allowed foods after a gastric bypass is: clear liquids - thicker liquids (including the seriously gakky SF Carnation Instant Breakfast) - pureed foods (more Carnation) - soft solids - solids. By the time I got to the pureed foods stage all worries about starving myself to death were history and I wanted to TASTE something. I wanted to CRUNCH something. But I still couldn't eat much. So what was my 'dream meal', my 'gourmet's delight'? I fantasized about...3 Wheat Thins and a grape. Yep. That's what I wanted, thought about, imagined until I could almost taste it. So finally, I got the solid food go-ahead from my surgeon. Mr. Kim went to the store for a box of Wheat Thins. He carefully picked over the grapes until he found the plumpest, greenest, fattest fruits that they had. And he brought me a pretty plate with my feast displayed. I ate exactly one grape (in about 4 bites) and two crackers. And, was sublime. Crisp, salty crackers. Firm, juicy grape with that wonderful snap.

When I get blasé about meals and can't think of anything that really revs my engines, I remember those two meals and how perfect and delicious they were and feel ashamed of myself. It is really true: hunger IS the best sauce!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mr. Kim Blogs: Moving Day

I have devised a new workout plan that I recommend to everyone.

1. Have and raise a child. (This part takes a while, stick with it.)

2. Allow child to get an apartment at college so as to facilitate the accumulation of a lifetime's worth of crap and heavy furniture in four years.

3. Place all said belongings in storage after college and allow child to move home to find a job, save some money, and get established.

4. Wait 4 years for said child to "find herself."

5. (And here's where it gets good) At long last celebrate child's location of suitable grown up apartment. Do happy dance. Rent a truck, return to storage unit, load truck with 120 rooms of heavy furniture, boxes of books, boxes of what appear to be bricks, kitchen stuff, more lamps than can be found in a furniture store, what appear to be more bricks, and misc crap, all destined for a one bedroom basement apartment.

6. Arrive at apartment to find it flooded, less than a week after signing the lease. Call weekend emergency maintenance number, wait for plumber, and learn that the problem may be in a wall and will take up to a week to fully rectify. Reject idea of jumping out of window. It's a basement.

7. After laughing, then crying, then looking for the nearest liquor store, drive truck back to self-storage, unload everything including the bricks which appear to have been breeding in the truck because there are now four times as many. Find out that just because everything came out of the storage locker doesn't mean it all will to be easily fit back in again. Apparently bricks like sunlight.

8. Return truck, return home, and realize that part of what went into the storage locker was daughter's bed. Reluctantly agree to sleep on couch for a week.

9. Lie awake thinking that you have to do it all again next Saturday.

And voila! a 1200 calorie-burn workout. (Not including the have and raise a child part, that burns even more.)

Somebody pass the Ben-Gay.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Drag Stories, Part Deux

I, of course, have no business sitting here blogging away. Blogging, in my mind, is sometimes akin to the legendary bonbon eating that idle housewives are supposed to have done. There is a possible Ms. magazine article in that idea, but not now. Laundry is calling, I have veal thawing on the counter that wants to be Milanese’d. Dust bunnies are procreating at a faster rate than their real live cousins. I really do have a lot to do. BUT…I need to add the pictures and the shameful tale of the final night of the Drag Show. The pictures are of The Child and all. The shame is all mine. I’m afraid that Mama Bear came out. When The Child was given what I thought was an uncalled for low score, I became a bit…unruly. I might have shouted out something. A slur on a judge. The judge in question was a former friend of The Child’s. Former. Not an enemy now – just back to an acquaintance. Because of difficulties in on a trip to Paris. I thought perhaps he was thinking of Paris and not the wonderful, delightful exhibition that The Child was giving on stage in front of him. Occasionally things come out of my mouth without making a detour through my brain for a bit of thoughtful consideration. I think that this was one of those times. It is all a blur. But I did make somewhat of a spectacle of myself, though I did my best to be charming and funny when the judge came over later. And that WAS the night that I was pressed to consider becoming a contestant, so I guess either not that many people actually heard me or else they thought it was Diva-ish enough for me to qualify. Something like that.

Anyway, enough about me. The Child was wonderful. It was her 27th birthday and she celebrated in High Style. Here she is in her first number:

She was much ‘free-er’ this week. She flirted and played and shimmied and just had a blast up there. Nothing but fun to watch and be a part of.

This is her in her second number:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m told that this is a Lady Gaga costume. (Those are telephone cords, BTW).

Some more shots:

With her proud Papa.

And Momma.

With some of her buds. The tall one with the beard is my ‘son’ Andrew – he of the wonderful boobs quote last week.

This is her with her BFF Kevin. My other ‘son’, Andrew’s partner and the editor/publisher/creator of the incredible website:

And lest you think that our birthday celebrations are all glitz and glamour, here is my girl, dressed all ‘normal’, wearing jeans, hair pulled up in a ponytail:

Every bit as gorgeous and fierce and smoochable.