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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Food Network Move Over: Jarret's Recipe #1 (and only)

May 30, 2013:  I'm standing in my kitchen sweating like Mario Battalli (that fat, ugly, sweaty guy who drips his drippings into whatever pan he's preparing on the Food Network ... It's remarkable how often you'll see these chefs drip sweat into the food, if you watch them closely. I guess that's the trade-off of going to someplace like McDonald's, where they spit in your food -- or so the legends tell. Instead, when your food is prepared by the most renowned, their expression of love comes directly off their foreheads and into your pasta sauce ...)

Such an ugly tangent, and I haven't even started. In fact, I thought I'd make this Blah-ugh! entry just a trifle different (starting with using the word “trifle”) and include one of my unique recipes. (I pretty much only have the one, which is mainly why it's so unique. I do a lot of cooking, actually, but it's hard for me to take credit for any great innovations. I'm not a phony, like Rachel Ray, who's something of a pan dripping in her own right. I mean, my pancake recipe came from Alton Brown, whom I respect greatly. My fiddlehead recipes come from the fiddleheads. I don't claim to be any innovator, like these other Food Network phonies claim to be -- the phony ones, I mean, like that southern lard cooker, who looks like a composition of her own processed dough, and seems to believe her grease-laden Pillsbury recipes are the stuff Food Network magic is made from. I always forget her name – as I do everyone’s -- but her airbrushed photos are always gracing magazine covers near the checkout lines if you look. You know who I mean. That ghastly southern woman with the grey hair ... Give me Guy Fieri every time, if we're going to talk Food Network. There's a great innovator, and I'm not even talking about his hair ...)

Anyway, I was just preparing one of my fabulous dishes -- or at least this one dish -- for my daughter and her friend (and no, I didn't sweat in it -- I was incredibly careful not to!) and marveling at how innovative and clever I was with my use of water and salt and other ingredients … Suddenly, I realized, this is something I should be sharing with my Blah-ugh! readers (who are phonies in their own right) – a family recipe that highlights the gentle side of both me and my column … (Is that what this is? A column? … More of a spectacle, I’d say!)

Still, redemption is always possible these days, what with television and Internet reprogramming. I mean, how often do you find yourself quoting Quentin Crisp on how to become a virgin?! (If you’re like me, constantly, and I’m not even gay, although I happen to own two pink shirts.)

I’m not sure how this recipe came about, except I started making its first incarnation around 1986. (God, that’s a long time ago now, and I’ve gotten no richer … Doesn’t that suck?!) Originally this recipe involved a can of chicken broth, as well as strictly yellow cheddar. But you have to understand that that was in the days when white cheddar was still something of an anomaly. (Young people today don’t realize how different things were back then, before cell phones and fresh herbs, when all red meat contained pink putrification, and if you were overheard asking about any foreign mushrooms in a grocery store, the police would likely be called.)

It’s safe to say I’ve made this dish over 300 times, and maybe close to 400. I’ve made it with the addition of fresh and somewhat unfresh greens, such as kale and spinach. I’ve made it with different cheeses, and not usually with good results. I’ve made it for one, and for as many as five, which was a terrible mistake, because it’s a small-batch specialty item, like the essence of saffron, or Swedish meatballs. I’ve also renamed it on several occasions, but the final moniker—the one that’s stuck for all these years—is Glop.

And while it was once published in a small fund-raising cookbook for my daughter’s Santa Monica nursery school, here for the first time on an international level (although there were a couple of Iranians in the school) is the original recipe for my own invented food creation—an original, if ever there was one—Glop!

You’ll need:

1 box of Pastinas, preferably Barillo … (those of you who aren’t familiar with these, they are the teeny-weeny star-shaped flat little dots, which are recommended for babies and toothless adults.)

A thing (I guess a box) of chicken broth, preferably low-salt and squeezed from free range-roving chickens.

One half fresh lemon.

Some salt.

Cheddar cheese – yellow may be better, but definitely a hard kind, and extra sharp, or sharp … whatever … I use white. I use what's there. Let's not complicate it.

At the end of the day, you just get what you can get and make the best and don’t get upset!

Boil your broth in a pot (and have a lid ready). Salt it up pretty good, to taste, I guess, but use nice sea salt like I do, and it’ll be better, although I’m not entirely sure why. Just do it. Stop arguing with me!

When the broth boils, pour in about half a thing of Pastinas. This is where it gets arbitrary, because I’m not sure what the measurements are, because I always do it visually. The thing is, you’ll probably use about 3 or so cups of broth to a half box of pasta. The goal is to cook the pasta – and I recommend turning the heat low immediately and covering for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring occasionally … and you can even turn it off after 5 minutes!

You want it soft, but you want the liquid mostly evaporated into the pasta. Get it to the point where you could pour it and it’s still smooth like liquid, but not much wetter … Or just do what you want. I don’t care anymore. I’m getting tired of writing all this!

(At this point I should mention this is a comfort food, despite my attitude.)

When the pasta is cooking, you can squeeze in half the lemon … Just make sure it’s the right half! (I won’t tell you again.) Mix this in and cover. You can’t really over-cook the pasta, in my book, so don’t be paranoid. I think this whole business of al dente is a lot of bulls**t. Pasta is always best when you boil the hell out of it. (That’s what makes it a comfort food! Duh!!)

Okay, so now you’ll want to grate about a third of a cup, or a half-cup of cheddar cheese atop the pot. (Make sure it’s off the stove and you turned off the burner; don’t make the same mistake I did in the early 90’s.) Now mix the cheese in until it’s all melted … Go on! Mix, mix, mix …

At this point, you could incorporate your greens, but I don’t recommend it the first few times around. Learn to produce your basic Glop first, then expand when I feel you’re ready …

And that’s it … Serve it hot. It doesn’t really reheat well. Sometimes it doesn’t even serve well, but if you hit the mark, you’ll find it an extraordinary happy, wonderful and filling dish -- somewhere between a souffle and cement! Personally, I find it’s better with a shade less cheese, otherwise it congeals on your teeth, and you miss the sweet, subtle flavor of the chicken broth …

If you’ve made it right, it’ll still have the proper liquidity in that you’ll be able to pour it into a serving bowl and it’ll not lump, but be relatively flat. That’s amore … or a lesse …

This is a dish that goes well with orange juice if you’re sick, or if you’re very hungry. (Note that you may find some of the little stars long after you’ve finished eating sticking to your shirt.)

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Jesus & Me

I woke up this morning thinking about how much Jesus and I have in common. (Do I say “have” or “had”? It’s really not clear to me if he’s dead or what. I know he came back on or around Easter, though I don’t think it was as big a holiday at the time. The Bible books don’t make it entirely clear whether he stayed back, and if so, which Apostle he went to live with.)

If you haven’t read the Bible stories about Jesus, by the way, you should, because they’re kind of interesting. I think there are four basic overviews—John, Paul, George, and the fourth may or may not be Ringo. They kind of tell his same story over each time, but with different angles, different versions. It’s kind of like the “All in the Familly” episode where Mike and Archie share conflicting accounts of the guys who came to fix the refrigerator, except they’re pretty much more in agreement that Jesus was a good guy and didn’t have a knife.

I don’t mean to being blasmatic, incidentally, comparing myself to Jesus in any offensive way. It’s my understanding that he was a terrifically nice guy, like Steven Spielberg, and while there are conflicting accounts that he may have been black (at least according to Mr. Jefferson on “All in the Family”), and/or incredibly homely—and I’m not sure where that came from, but I didn’t invent it—I’m pretty sure he was very wise and probably had a good sense of humor, although there’s no record of him having had a blog, as far as I know.

Actually, I was thinking about how we were both misunderstood in our own countries. Like him, I feel that I’m regularly frowned upon for not just my annoying capacity to speak the truth—and the more-annoying capacity for those around me to ignore it—but also for my inherent inability to connect with my fellows. It’s a real problem, as we both know. I understand that at parties and such, Jesus was usually very shy and stood off alone a lot, especially during the faster songs. Some of those pictures you see, like the famous “Last Supper,” seem to show him as the life of the party, but really that’s more of a fictionalized depiction. (Plus, he knew the Apostles pretty well and felt much more comfortable around them anyway.)

What I really identify with about Jesus was how he would always say these seemingly cryptic things that people didn’t get, but really they made a lot of sense. For instance, I was trying to explain to my wife why we should keep the shades drawn on the east side of the house until after noon, then we could open them, but should shut the shades on the west side. She still can’t seem to grasp it, but I know it makes sense when you don’t have air conditioning. See, Jesus went through that kind of thing a lot, and back then no one had air conditioning.

Realistically, I understand there are probably some things we don’t have in common. Like Jesus, I know, used to like to fish, and I don’t really do any fishing anymore, although I did a little when I was younger, but really it’s kind of a barbaric practice better left to Polynesians and southerners. I like eating fish, of course, and have had numerous good experiences with both lobster and haddock. When I was little I hated fish, however, which again makes me think of Jesus, because I don’t think he hated anything, except women.  Not to imply he was gay or anything—which is fine, because some of my best friends are gay, although I tend to be in denial about it—but I myself happen to like women even more than haddock.

Jesus and I both like to walk, too, by the way. I just love walking, although I can never get very far in sandals, the way he did. I’ve walked in various shoes, and I’m not being metaphoric. I mean, I’ve worn my good Florsheims, sneakers, cowboys boots … It’s interesting how feet—at least my feet—adapt to changing conditions (meaning changing shoes … or changed shoes). Sometimes I put on shoes that I haven’t worn a lot and walk, then my feet hurt. But after a few walking experiences, they don’t hurt anymore. Then when I return to my previous shoes—meaning my former shoes, or the shoes that were—(in other words, to paraphrase the Bible—before this pair of shoes was, these sneakers am!) …  See, when I get that first pair of shoes back on, now suddenly they hurt again (my feet, not the shoes), and the whole process repeats itself, except with different shoes.

This is very much like Jesus, I think, because he was always turning the other cheek, which metaphorically, if you stop and think about it, is very much like my turning the other shoe. I tend to believe that if Jesus lived today, he’d most likely wear a nice pair of old, brown shoes, like a British youth. I just don’t think he’d go in for any of these new fangled kinds of sneakers, or even sneakers at all. Even if he were on the soccer field—I don’t mean in a tourney, of course, but just a pick-up game—you’d probably see him playing in an old-fashioned brown shoe, complimenting his casual street clothes. That’s what I like about Jesus. Despite his savior role and all that fame he attained, I suspect he was very down to earth and probably stood his ground fashion-wise. I like to think I’m the same way.

If Jesus were alive today—or if he is alive and I ever get the opportunity to sit and have coffee with him—or tea, or lamb’s blood or whatever—I want to ask him how he manages to keep such a good attitude about things. I suspect it has to do with his fame. It’s much easier to be a maverick when you’re famous, like Alan Arkin. This I wouldn’t know, for my struggle to maintain integrity as an artist, a wag, and a concerned citizen unfolds in a veritable vacuum of non-appreciation, contempt and misunderstanding.

As usual, I'm not sure I've made myself clear, but I know that if he does read this Blah-ugh!, Jesus gets it. Amen!

Monday, May 20, 2013

More ... I Mean, Less About Me ... and Vegans

May 20, 2013:  Ah, my 164th Blah-ugh! post ... It seems like only yesterday I was doing my 163rd, and you can see where that got me ...

I actually encountered some very rude feedback about my Blah-ugh! recently from some militant vegans with poor spelling skills. It was disturbing, I can assure you, but in the end I resisted confrontation -- like Ghandi -- and instead, like Ghandi, made myself a hero sandwich with extra cheese.

When you're a public figure it's hard to not to take the periodic waves of criticism personally, especially since I'm feeling physically ugly these days. I know people who call me names like "egomaniac" and "geletinhead" don't really know anything about me (with the exception of Matt), so it would be silly for an intelligent, balanced mensch like myself to even let these nasty cabbage heads intrude upon my cloud. (NOTE: Speaking of mensches -- or mences -- I'm still meaning to do that Steven Spielberg post, now that I have the correct spelling on his name ... I just haven't gotten around to it. Perhaps the 167th post, if not the 166th. I don't think Spielberg is a vegan, but if he is, I intend to out him!)

Anyway, I was just in the shower, which as you might imagine is cause to wax thoughtful, especially when there's all this mold on the tiles. When I'm in the shower, I also tend to sing, and not even well, but I like to sing loudly because I imagine no one else can hear it, and it annoys the family, who don't even like it when I speak or show my face at the dinner table ... Anyway, I was singing something that reminded me how much I love Jefferson Airplane and The Inkspots, and not in any particular order, so I felt I should devote some time to outlining my love in a public forum (like some kind of pervert) ... but I'm not going to now. (Perhaps in my 168th post.)

What I do want to do now is share a bit about what's going on in the world -- my world, that is, which is the world, and I'm not saying that to be self-centered, it's just that it's the only world I've got, or at least the only one that'll have me, and allow me the space to pretend to be an opera singer. You see, things are bouncing around in all directions, as they tend to do when you don't take your Lithium -- or subscribe to vegan principles -- and the well of worthwhile observations seems poised to be .. well, observed! (Man, that italics feature is just doing all the work tonight. Sweet!)

Wait, wait! Don't go yet! I'll make some point, or get something out worth reading ... Just ... give me ... a ... minute ....

ITEM: Just watched "Election" last night and I really love that movie. I always feel that Matthew Broderick is really kind of an angry person based on my perceptions of his photographs, but he really was made for this part. And Reese Witherspoon and her mammoth chin just steal the show, though not necessarily in that order. Best of all is this kid who plays Paul, who's running against the notorious Tracy Flick. He's great -- kind of a mutant Little Rascal grown up. One day I'll look his name up and include it here, unless I get a nasty note from Broderick and have to rescind this whole entry. (I'm convinced he's vegan, btw.)

ITEM: My daughter and I made an awesome red velvet cake last night, except it isn't red. This might disturb some people, but we expected it would turn out as is. It's delicious, and in fact the three pieces I've had today were better than yesterday's slice. (I can't wait until tomorrow.)

ITEM: Speaking of my daughter, her softball team -- which I manage -- had its first win Thursday. It was a glorious event, and while I wasn't really in any way responsible for the victory, I made it clear to the girls that I was. (I figured they shouldn't get too arrogant, and as I'm already arrogant, it wouldn't matter so much.) We celebrated with vegan pizza.

ITEM: I'm convinced the National Security Council has begun monitoring this Blah-ugh! -- or my brain, or possibly both. This because I picked up a copy of The Catcher in the Rye someone left atop the gun locker and ... No, no. See, I kid. (I actually keep my gun under my pillow, where I can reach it quickly if a spy comes in the window when I'm making love ... or a vegan.) Anyway, the reference to the red hunting cap made me nervous, so I tried to read faster, because I'm sure that by reading the book I'm inviting questions about my Americanism and my morality and god-knows-what-else ... Then, around page seventy-something -- I won't claim to know the actual number -- I noticed that certain letters on the left side of the page began to form messages ... Now, you're maybe going to think I'm crazy, but there was clearly a progression of letters that included a "C," an "I," and an "A," although I don't think they were in that order ... You see where I'm going with this. And while you may be wondering why the CIA isn't keeping the tabs, it's because they're involved with international chicanery ... I mean, alleged chicanery ... Alleged! That's what I meant ...

ITEM: If you rearrange the letters in "vegan," it spells "N - AGE - V," which stands for "New Age Virus," which is a clear indication that something much more radical is going on with veganism than with my bedtime book reading. "Vegan" is also suspiciously close to "Vegas," which is a suspicious place surprisingly close to the Hoover Dam, which as we all know generates a significant amount of power -- or what the Indians called "Pow-wower" ... You see where I'm going with this ...

ITEM: It's time for another movie and some more vegan red velvet cake ...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Jarret's Frank Film Forum: A Few Different Films & Things ...

May 6, 2013:  I'm thoroughly enjoying a second viewing of the old British film "The Wicker Man," and not only because it's such a sincere pleasure to watch a young Britt Ekland dancing naked. (Needless to say, her song number in the bedroom adjacent to the police inspector's chamber is not only a remarkable visual -- and auditory -- pleasure, but it and other moments --{although not the other moments as much}-- really highlight the utter {a tacky comic with less thoughtful material would say 'udder,' but I won't!} delight of her lovely talents and talented udders ... I mean, loveliness ... Ah, to be young and Swedish in 1971 Europe!)

I like movies. You might have gathered as much from my periodic Frank Film Forum entries, which ... Did I say "entries?" I meant "entrails." ... Or did I? ...  FFF -- Frank Film Forum entries, which offer tired and impatient Blah-ugh! readers the chance to get an honest appraisal of the most important, or least important, cinematic fare polluting our natural environment today and in years gone past ... I believe I've done the Bond films as a whole, owing to my laziness, and "Chicago" and "Halloween III," and maybe others ... and others still ... Who really remembers?! And who really cares anyway. I know I don't!

But this is quite a startling movie for other reasons as well -- "The Wicker Man," I mean -- really quite a frightening little flick ... But I don't want to say anymore, in part because I don't want to ruin anything, but also because I've lost interest in writing about it ...

It's funny how that works. I mean, I start out with these grand ideas to craft a Blah-ugh! entry -- all those important details swirling around, like so many gnats in summer, and then by the time I finish proofreading my first paragraph on the fly, I'm so tired of whatever it is I'm writing about, I usually deteriorate into something of unrelated interest ...

Which brings me to another movie I really enjoyed recently called "The Third Man." (Not a sequel, nor prequel, to "The Wicker Man;" completely different man!) This is a post-WWII flick set in Vienna with the great Joseph Cotton (Cotten? ... I mean, how great was he really, that I should have to remember how he spelled his name?!) and Orson Welles, who I love and revere on some strange level, and directed by the wonderful Carol Reed, who I was always attracted to until I found out he was a man. The best part of this movie for me is the tweaky cinematography by Robert Krasker, which is just cool, and especially I love the last long, long shot, which I'll say no more about. Also, the unnerving zither music is just terrific and inspiring. (I mean, I'm inspired to never let a zither player in my house after hearing it, but it works so well in this masterpiece.)

As I continue on my own creative journey as a filmmaker ... (What? You didn't know I made film?! ... Well, we'll talk at some point, but I've got to get this thing done now ...) ... I find it's so easy to learn (and enjoy) more and more each time I watch anything. I subscribe to what I think Coppola said about a BAD movie being the best teacher for learning how to make film, but the good stuff can also do well to open your eyes/mind to some very cool tricks, techniques and psychic treachery ...

Another superb movie I just watched was "Taxi Driver," which really rings my bells as an overall example of very fine filmmaking. Here I'm smitten with Michael Chapman's photo work--that look of the city night and lights captures a spirit to me the way Haskell Wexler's work on "American Graffiti" did ... But what really cements this movie -- "Taxi Driver," I mean -- is that awesome, terrifying Bernard Hermann music. It's really intensely cool. His last film, I believe, but he went out with a Zap ...

And that's how I'm going to go out tonight -- with a Zap!