Avoiding the Red Cliche

Most things come easily to me, things you wouldn’t expect from a boy with no discernible talent.  Things like baseball, calculus, forgiveness never came easy to me, but love did.  Love in the carnal sense, love in the fictional sense.  Love in the sense of letting go, love in the sense of finding yourself.  Love in the sense of that ever-present gnaw at the pit of your stomach that registers in the mind as I am responsible for someone else’s happiness.

Love has come easily to me since birth.  I love my mother in an almost manic sense, an almost Oedipal obsession with my desire to make her smile.  In kindergarten, I kissed a girl named Alex’s hand when she reached out to grab a colored pencil, I thought I was gentlemanly and adult of me.  Years of expansive love bloomed in me as I began to daydream of boyfriends and how exotic the word fiancé sounded, with it’s accented e and promise of a future with someone else.  With each boyfriend, there was a breakup, and with each breakup, there was some promise of next time, next time, next time.  I found Nolan during one of those next times.  During my return to Italy, when we were both a little bruised, both a little cut up and the vinegar kisses of a stranger felt like when soap gets in a hangnail.  But, underneath all of that, once we stripped down and opened up, there was love.

It was raw and passionate, it left me heady in the perfumed 10×8 dorm room where the heat was on and a blizzard blew through Pittsburgh one night in January.

It was lazy, falling asleep with a bucket of chicken during XLV.

It was chaotic in the sense of never having an ending, never knowing the dates of anything important, throwing shoes and his grandmother’s dishes when I got too angry and forgot to say, “I’m sorry.”

But I was never sorry, never sorry for loving someone so ferociously and tender.  I’d lick the wounds I had created and then blame the rust-taste in my wolf mouth on his laziness, his determination to let our love fade away.  It was raw and passionate, it was lazy and chaotic.  And somehow love became this little succulent, never needing watered, collecting dust on the windowsill, timid in its approach to life.  Our love had a geophyte approach to sustainability, fatty and tuberous, holding onto any love that existed when life got barren and dry. When it got hard to come by, when it couldn’t be found in the moonlight nor with a dowsing rod, broken off from a backyard apple tree when the Santa Anas made us unbearable to one another.

Since I left for Texas, we fell in love again–hard and fast, when the bones were most brittle.  An apologetic love where conversations often ended in “How did it get like this?”  We are finding our way back to the frenzied love of when I was 19, and slowly those sour wounds heal when they’re exposed to air.  I wanted to celebrate this love for Valentine’s Day and forget all the other four years and the bullshit we put one another through. I wanted to celebrate this love in boxes, small tins of love that overpowered Nolan for Valentine’s Day.  I wanted to remind him what home could feel like.  I wanted to remind him what love could feel like, because our house in San Diego was big by San Diego standards, and it could creak too loud when you’re lonely.  I made him dinner, cakes and bread, and shipped it to him to have for Valentine’s Day with a movie, so it felt like a date tonight.

I love you.

The menu for Nolan's Valentine's dinner

                                                          The menu for Nolan’s Valentine’s dinner

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                All the ingredients it takes to make a meal for someone you love

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                              How I hang my pasta: air-dried on an old clothes hanger

Pasta out to dry

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                                     Rolling out the dough and cutting it

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Chocolate Cake with a Marzipan Heart

                                      Chocolate Cake with a Marzipan Heart

A chocolate cake with a marzipan heart

                                          A chocolate cake with a marzipan heart

Bacon Salt and Popcorn

And bacon salt to go on some popcorn, to eat while watching Fargo (this year’s Valentine’s theme was “Dinner and a Movie, 1300 miles away”)

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Handcrafted candy bars made by me. I did everything from the chocolate flavorings, recipe testing, to molding and designing the wrappers. It was probably the most fun I’ve had in a while.

homemade candy bars

The flavors were: Peanut Butter (the light blue), Cookies and Cream (white), and Mocha (black)

Homemade Candy Bars

                                              How can you not love these?

Homemade candy bars

Homemade Candy Bars

           “Neenz” is my nickname for Nolan. I hope that isn’t too embarrassing?

“He shall never know I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made out of, his and mine are the same.”

 


Roasted Beet Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 large-sized beets
  • 3 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
  • 6+ cups flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450
  2. While oven is preheating, peel beets and wrap in foil, place on baking tray.  When oven is ready, roast for 40 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, unwrapping so steam can release
  4. Cut into large chunks.
  5. In a large food processor (6 cups or more), throw in beets, eggs and yolk, olive oil, and salt (and optional zest).  Puree until smooth
  6. In a stand mixer, combine puree and three cups of flour using the paddle attachment.  When dough begins to form, switch to dough hook and continue to mix, adding in last three cups of flour, one at a time, until a proper dough forms
  7. Remove from bowl onto a floured work surface (i prefer marble for pasta-making) and knead for 7 minutes or until is elastic
  8. Keeping dough floured, cut into eighths and lay plastic wrap on sections you are not going to use.
  9. Use your pasta machine’s directions for thick noodles, and dry.
  10. Enjoy with a vinaigrette and parmesan!

Bacon Salt

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 cup sea salt (preferably a larger crystal)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Fry bacon on a skillet until extra-crispy
  2. Put on a plate lined with paper towels and allow to cool, blotting excess grease
  3. In a food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until combined.  Do not over-pulse, as it can result in fats in bacon to liquify.
  4. Enjoy over popcorn, with potatoes, or be creative!

Handcrafted Candy Bars

There is no real recipe for a basic candy bar.  I used some of my mother’s recipes, which use more specialized chocolate and techniques, but the instructions I have below can be practiced even with chocolate chips. From here, you can personalize them and make them your own, even including honeys, spices, herbs, salts, and even homemade nut butters!  But, I would start here for an intro into confectionery.

Before you begin, use a ratio of 3 oz per candy bar, so you have some room for leeway with sticking to the bowl, the mold, and your spatula.  From here, you can cut and halve, mix chocolates together and multiply easily.  I particularly like mixing white chocolate and a milkier, lighter chocolate.  When you have decided how you would like to flavor your chocolate, measure out how much you will need.  Then, take away about 30% of that amount and set aside (this will be your “seed chocolate”, a step for this pseudo-tempering.  It is necessary so your chocolate doesn’t turn grey when cooled).

Prepare any mold you may be using.  I always use a light olive oil cooking spray and then wipe off the excess with a paper towel.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine your remaining chocolates and microwave on HIGH for 20 seconds.  Take out and stir.  Put back in for another 20 seconds and repeat this process until all chocolate is silky smooth and easy to stir.

Add remaining chocolate and continue to stir.  The heat from the melted chocolate should melt remaining chocolate.

Add any add-ins and pour into mold and smooth out with a rubber spatula.  Allow to cool for at least half an hour in the fridge before unmolding.  Package however you want (I went a little far with homemade packaging I designed and printed on special paper, but basic foil will do). Store in a cool place, or the fridge.

Other recipes used: For the cake (marzipan inspiration here)/  For the hot chocolate mix /  For the marshmallows / For the bread.

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One response to “Avoiding the Red Cliche

  1. This is going to make me smile all day. Thanks. Nuts for the pasta. But hey, let’s be real here: no talent? No talent but love? Maybe tap into writing. Just a thought. No, maybe don’t tap. Break down the fucking door.

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