On Wednesday he ate chicken that he had fried in a pan, strictly adhering to a recipe he’d first encountered in beautiful ink printed with real care and taste onto the white paper of a book that smelled like glue and, mildly, of mildew. The book he found lying open on a table in the kitchen of he’d been sent to help demolish and rebuild. It was the property of a woman in her sixties or seventies who sat at the kitchen table smoking cigarettes even though the kitchen was pretty much gutted and men were working in it. She didn’t seem to notice any of it.
“May I take this to the library to photocopy it?” said William.
“Sure,” she said.
He left the building and went to the library and smoothed the pages of the book with his thumbs and photocopied a few recipes.
“My you're young,” said the woman when he brought the book back.
“I’m twenty seven,” said William.
“Ach,” said the woman. She died a few weeks later while the job was still unfinished. They left her little spot as it was for a few days after they’d heard the news, but then they put it all a way, her teacup, her ashtray, and everything else.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Francis Fukuyama's ideas about globalization, capitalism, and the 21st century have been, much like (if you take James Wood's word for it) Jonathan Franzen's attempts to match the insanity and grandeur of the culture, shunted aside by 9/11 cathexis. But maybe if more people watched America's Test Kitchen, Fukuyama's theories might hold greater sway. Because what's good about democracy? The extent to which it enables things like America's Test Kitchen to exist.
On America's Test Kitchen they do experiments about how to make food that tastes good. They try different techniques, they compare results, and they are very happy. And they have a large following . Words from founder and editor in chief Christopher Kimball:
There's a huge demand, an appetite, for understanding process in America right now. We have 640,000 paid readers [of Cook's Illustrated], and all of them seem to be really keen on why. And that's a shock to me. I would think that most people wouldn't care, but they do care. And that makes a good cook.Would such an observation be possible in an autocratic state?
(Source: Powells.com interview to promote Baking Illustrated.)
I have no idea, but it's possible in a democracy. That's good. It's so good, I don't even really care about the why, I'm just glad that it's there.
What does it feel like to be Chris Kimball? I bet it feels good.
I've gotten past the point in my life and my psychology were I relentless idealize the lives of others for their simplicity and their general superiority to my own. We all have medical problems and insecurities and regrets. But Chris Kimball pulls me out of my wisdom and makes me think that he is wise, that he has figured out something important.
I imagine him leaving his house in the Boston area to go to work. Is it early in the morning? Is it summer? Is there a breeze blowing through the leaves of the trees that line the street? Is it going to be a scorcher?
Or is it winter and he's scraping the frost off the car or drinking a cup of coffee in his kitchen looking out the window over his sink at the trees in the backyard that have no leaves and the dead grass and his back fence and wondering why his kid put a hula hoop over one of the fence posts?
And what of those of us, even those of us belonging to those billions condemned to work for the entirety of our lives, who have the breathing room to watch his peaceful television show on a saturday morning, soaked in--basted!--in appreciation of the nuances of comparative kitchen spoon quality?
Are our lives not touched by or at least brushed by the feathers of a leisure and a peace that approaches the holy?
We are touched by such a thing. There are costs, to be sure, the whole world is built on blood, but we are touched by such a thing.
Growing the reach of such touching should be the priority of civilization.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Man, I almost hope that dude becomes president. It would herald the dawn of a radically new/insane era in world history. He would be like some crazy dude in a high school student body election running on a "beer vending machine in the cafeteria" platform. Except it would be awful. People would die and suffer as a result of his being a moron. And the moral history of the country would be not necessarily brought to its nadir so much as, like, blasted into atoms, leaving only a tingling sense of postmodern nullity. That's the sort of state my brain goes into just contemplating the stable of republican nominees. Every single one of them is insane. Every single on of them babbles incoherently. McCain babbles incoherently. Romney babbles incoherently. Guiliani strings together statements whose relation to one another can only be guessed at. I wonder to myself . . . could it happen? Could one of them win? What would it be mean? Could Jack Nicholson be elected president? Who couldn't be elected president? A cat? Doctor Dre?