It was a rough week for home-cooking. The Beast decided to make gnocchi from scratch on Wednesday night. We’ve been watching Italy Unpacked, a BBC TV series featuring the Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli and art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon. They travel around Italy and discuss local dishes and art. (You can watch all three episodes in their entirety on YouTube.)
Locatelli’s cookbook, Made In Italy, came into the store where the Beast works. That’s where he got the idea to make the gnocchi with goat cheese and chives. (I think it may also be the source of inspiration for the Beast’s desire to grow his hair.)
When I got home from work, he’d nearly finished preparing the gnocchi.
Foodie: I’m so impressed! These look incredible. Where did you find a potato ricer?
Beast: From Kitchen Stuff Plus.
Foodie: Hey, do you know where my copy of Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind is?
Foodie: Hmm. I’ll find it. Do we have a copy of Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation?
Beast: It’s in the bathroom.
Foodie: Have you ever read Saul Bellow’s Ravelstein?
Beast: It’s in the bathroom.
Foodie: What are the chances!?
Beast: Were you just reading the Sunday Style section in the New York Times?
Foodie: OMG HOW DID YOU KNOW?
Beast: Well, all three books you just mentioned were referenced in that article.
Foodie, Oh, right. Yes. Do you ever get nervous that your brain is turning to mush? I’ve read the Bloom and the Sontag but I can hardly remember a thing about them.
Beast: All the time.
The gnocchi were great. The goat cheese sauce? Well, in my opinion, he started it too early. It became very clumpy. It could have been my fault–the Beast enlisted me to pick up the goat cheese but I didn’t get home in time to get some from the fancy cheese store so I had to buy a generic grocery store brand that was very tangy. But I think it was his fault for asking me to get the goat cheese, knowing that it would be a close call to make it to the cheese store. In any case, dinner wasn’t entirely a bust.
Thursday night’s dinner, however, was a complete pile of shit. It actually looked like a pile of shit on a plate.
I had the grand idea of making a Pugliese dish called fava e cicoria. It’s supposed to be very simple to make: stew dried fava beans for a few hours and they will naturally mush up, then top that with some chicory, or dandelion, that’s been boiled for a just a couple of minutes, plus thin slices of raw red onion and a healthy drizzle of good olive oil.
It turns out that you need to buy peeled dried fava beans. After three hours of stewing, we had a greyish brown sludge. That’s when it occurred to me that the beans’ shells were preventing the dish from turning into a creamy, golden brown-coloured stew. So, we hand-peeled each fava been of it’s shell (I’m in agony right now, typing, because I still have bits of shell underneath my fingernails.) We then let the mixture stew for another hour and then ate the resulting pile of shit at 10:00 p.m.
I went to bed, while the Beast stayed up to watch TV. The volume was turned up pretty loud so I yelled from the top of the stairs for him to turn it down. I heard him sigh and turn off the TV all together. I returned to bed with my book. Then I heard the Beast coming up the stairs with “We’re going to rock down to Electric Avenue” blasting from his iPhone. “And then we’ll take it higher.”
“Is this the behaviour of a 12-year-old or a 30-year-old?” I asked when he appeared in the bedroom.
“How many fucking 12-year-olds do you know with moves like this?” He replied, dancing like a 12-year-old.
“I thought this John Cheever book you bought me for Christmas was a collection of short stories. This seems like it’s a novel,” I said.
“It is a novel and it’s not the collection of Cheever short stories I bought you for Christmas,” he replied.
“Well, I don’t know if I like this.”
“How many pages have you read?”
“Let me guess: You’re reading John Cheever because of that Matthew Weiner interview in the Book Review, right?”
“No, there was a profile of John Updike in the New Yorker and he mentioned Cheever and I remembered that you bought me a book by him for Christmas,” I told him. “Oh yeah, and did you know that the creator of Mad Men also likes Cheever?”
“Are you fucking kidding me right now? Do you know who Matthew Weiner is?”
“Oh, wait. The creator of Mad Men, right? Ha, that’s pretty funny. Do you think I would like John Updike?”
Clearly, I may be in the midst of an intellectual crisis, or rather a crisis revolving around the fear that I lack intellect entirely. I’m reaching to read anything that may better my brain but I’m not actually absorbing a single thing. The fact that the desire is there, I suppose, should be exciting–however futile it may be. It’s also overwhelming.
Same thing goes for dinner possibilities. But because we ate shit the night before, we decided to not take any chances on Friday. We went to Geraldine, a fantastic restaurant down the street from us. We really went all out, too. Cocktails, oysters, fried smelts, shrimp, halibut, a bottle of Muscadet, Toulouse sausage, fiddle heads, the best cauliflower I’ve ever tasted in my life, and to finish? A Scotch for the Beast and an Amaro for me.
Matching the food is the service, which is provided almost exclusively by men wearing cuffed and collared shirts, suspenders and sporting tattoos. One had an Irish accent. Another looked exactly like Hercules. And when the server who is a dead-ringer for Bradley Cooper brought us our bill, he remembered us from the first time we came to Geraldine six months ago. “Oh my god,” I squealed [literally], “how can you even remember us?”
“I remember the table you sat at and what you ate,” said Bradley Cooper looking into my eyes. “It’s because you guys were a lot of fun.”
“Go on,” I replied, almost falling off my seat.
But he had work to do and we needed to get to the video store to rent the 1946 classic The Best Years of Our Lives and to Tim Hortons to secure a half-dozen donuts. We managed to finish the donuts but fell asleep during the film.
We’ll finish it this afternoon. Right now, the Beast is organizing his spring wear. “How many pairs of pink shorts is too much?” He asked me.
“How many do you have?”
“Does ‘cranberry’ seersucker count?”
“I think so.”
This morning, before he started organizing his closet, I found the Beast looking pensive in the sunroom, listening to Domenico Scarlotti’s piano sonatas, and reading the New Yorker. “What are you thinking about?” I asked.
“No, tell me.”
“Well, I was just thinking,” he said, “that I might need a new windbreaker.”
Maybe finding cultural enlightenment is all about balance.