everything in moderation...

...but some things not at all. Non-destructive compulsions, however, may be indulged in moderately. Contradiction in terms, "moderately compulsive"? Probably.


I love adverbs. And I enjoy their copious use, at least when I'm doing the writing. I guess you could say I use them copiously (sure you could, if you wanted to be a sarcastic dick). But the way I understand it, as long as this is the case, I am doomed to be an amateurish writer. And yet, a couple of Google hits later in our Search Results, we find this intriguingly (that's an adverb) amateurish adverb smackdown, written by a "professional freelance writer". And exactly how surprising is it that it's amateurish, really? Let's just silently (adverb) marvel at the variety and relative complexity of human expression and call it even.


Did anyone really believe that the VDuck had been vanquished?

Turns out that this blog is a good way to, like, document your travels? And since I'm in America right now, here are some photographic moments that have occurred inside my camera over the past few weeks.


So I arrived here in unusually grey-skied Atlanta about a month ago, and hung out on Mara's parents' porch (which used to be our porch, how 'bout that) for a few days...

well, they let me come inside at night ha ha, and at that point I had a bite of strawberry pie just like Shoney's used to make (maybe they still do):

Then I went over to Steve's to do a whole bunch of audio archival work (750GB worth), after which we got the old, old gang together and did some successful recording and just plain comic frolicking...

That's my guitar/percussion station above (!), there are some pretty embarrassing items strewn about if you know what to look for (I'll give you the first one: violin bow).

Our carefully orchestrated recording sessions (not only musically orchestrated, but also from a chemical perspective...as the sober person, I was responsible for gauging when everyone else's intoxication curves met at just the right intersection of creativity and eh, impairment...then I would say, "Quickly...into the studio! 5cc of adrenaline for Steve, 50cc more Scotch for Soules, Stu? Where's Stu? etc.") were punctuated by bouts of equally successful hanging out on Steve's back porch...

and in a stroke of good fortune, Steve's oven broke at the very beginning of my 10-day stay, so we did ALL of our cooking on the amazingly precise Ducane man-grill pictured above. We cooked everything from cauliflower (40 minutes wrapped in foil) to couscous (6 minutes) on this thing, plus the more obvious victims: pork tenderloin (25 minutes over indirect heat), lamb kebabs (4 minutes per side), eggplant (3 minutes per side), and these awesome hamburgers (5 minutes per side) topped with real Vidalia onions, from this Dominican recipe (minus the sauce). It was all immensely satisfying.


Now since I was officially not blogging during this vacation, there were many excellent food explosions that I did not capture with my soul stealer of a camera. Memorial Day's cookout this past weekend, for example, was homemade BBQ: pulled pork shoulder with baked beans, cole slaw, and 17 other things, and it was done right. In fact Jeanie has been on an absolutely scary tear in the kitchen (warm blueberry cobbler yesterday)...it makes me even more proud than usual to be an honorary Tomanek.


Mmm, yes: Lastly, I should emphasize that this post does not indicate a return to regular blogging. I will be extending a tentative tentacle of Blogness every so often to catch up on shit, but don't be wasting your precious time checking for daily updates or anything, 'cause you'll be disappointed, and we don't want that. Please refer to the title of this post. Comprende?


My own Exercise in Advanced Cliché above reminded me of a fabulous short story I listened to during our tornado-related power outage last week at Steve's. There's really not too much to do in a big suburban house at night during a tornado-related power outage (you can't really go outside) except either 1) talk to each other (ewww!) or 2) huddle in a corner and wait for your laptop battery to die. Or maybe 3) drink, which I didn't do.

So while I did number 2 (!) for one of the five hours during which we had no power, I listened to some MP3s of some short stories I downloaded from the New Yorker. The nice twist to these recordings is that the stories are selected and read by other New Yorker fiction contributors. By far the best newish story I listened to was "Bullet in the Brain" by Tobias Wolff. It's only 4 pages (PDF), or 10 minutes long (MP3), the MP3 is read by T. Coraghessan Boyle (he also discusses the story before and after he reads it), so you should check it out. It takes such an unexpected turn in such a short span of time that you're left with an emotion that's an unusual mix of nostalgia and surprise. Plus it's not very amateurish at all.



friday night tomato tasting.

This post was a draft from 2006 or 2008 or something. I'm finally publishing it because it documents the beginnings of what I've come to think of as "my red sauce", even though it's totally Clare's red sauce.


Last week Clare called and asked where would I get tomatoes if I were making a tomato-crayfish soup for a dinner and the tomatoes needed to be righteous. And I, only knowing what I read on eGullet, said "Well, I'd use canned instead of fresh, and I'd go to Caulils and get some San Marzanos." And after some further dicking about we hung up.

Afterwards, I started thinking that hmm I bet those San Marzanos are pretty expensive. And it's not like the tomatoes I normally use are bad, in fact I think they're pretty good, I get them from the Turkish guys. And even the Italian ones from the Dirk aren't bad. And then I started feeling bad that I sent her off to buy these luxury tomatoes when Dirk would've done. And THEN I started thinking what do I really know about tomatoes anyway.

This is all just to give you the hypothetical reader an insight into the nitty-gritty of my vast, nearly inhuman intellect. THEN, this week we were talking and I asked Clare how the San Marzanos had worked out and she said they had a "great depth of flavor", but her vast, nearly inhuman intellect had been wondering how much better they really were than the other Italian brand at Caulils for half the price, or for that matter: how much better were they than the priced-to-sell Italian tomatoes at our local budget grocery store? Hmm...great minds do think alike.

So Clare suggested that a tasting was in order, and this is one of the many reasons to love Clare. Her plan was to use the simplest possible tomato sauce recipe, something she referred to as pasta napoli (more on this eventually), from which we'd make 3 versions of the sauce, each with a different brand of tomatoes. The contestants: Agrigenus San Marzano (2.50/can); Mutti (1.20/can); and the Dirk van der Broek's brand called:

Yes. And Mara costs 0.19 cents per can. Let the jokes begin.


Although I wish we'd had more standardized cooking equipment to test with, or just the tiniest bit of experience with the scientific method in general, I think we came to some conclusions that are based at least partially in fact. All sorts of details will follow when I get to them, but the upshot is: a 2.50 euro can of tomatoes is very different from a 0.19 cent can of tomatoes, but you don't need to spend 2.50 euro on a can of tomatoes.

easy red sauce. 

So for each can of tomatoes you use, you add to the pan: 1 small glug of red wine, 1 clove of garlic, 1 bay leaf, 1 glug of olive oil, 1 grind of black pepper and 1 pinch of salt or smoked salt. And maybe 1 pinch of smoked paprika if you feel spicy. Oh and 1 tsp of sugar towards the end. So just do this for every can of tomatoes, I usually do 2 or 4. Here's 2.

2 cans cheap canned whole tomatoes
2 glugs of decent red wine
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 small bay leaves
2 glugs good olive oil
2 tsp unrefined sugar

Put everything except the sugar in a saucepan on the lowest heat possible. Let it cook until the tomatoes fall apart, this usually takes 60-90 minutes for the Dirk's tomatoes. After 45 minutes add the sugar, and after 15 more minutes start tasting for salt and sugar levels.



korte pauze.

As you may have noticed, post frequency has been dropping gradually over the past few months, for a lot of reasons. I'd love to go into the gory details, but then again I don't have any idea how much time it would take to do so, so I can't.

I will say instead: I'm taking an official break from frequent blogging here, for at least a few months weeks, I can't really say. Thanks for reading, commenting, paying attention in general....and hopefully see you again after the summer soon, when we're all tan, skinny, hungry, etc. And we'll all be like peas in a pod again.


Oh, yeah: tonight's rehabilitation meal: tiny 5-minute steaks with homemade A-1 sauce (store-bought apple chutney + Worcestershire sauce, 2:1 ratio) and garden-fresh kapucijners from Klary's source with a little butter and prosciutto. Couldn't ask for a much better-feeling early summer dinner. The peas were so good that I almost stuck my fork through the side of my mouth trying to get them in there.