Writing, Baking, and Preparing Quality Meals

 

Each week I try to write a blog. Each blog is a different subject meant to provide either factual information, or bits of wisdom that comes with experience.

That experience is usually based upon action, a movement towards or away from something. This strategy is usually constructed on physical or mental attachment or detachment. Experience is the  involvement in an activity that brings you closer to a goal. That goal can be attaching to a concept of discipline that propels everything to it’s desired conclusion.

In the case of writing, for me, it is broaching a subject that contains what I deem to be interesting content. If I’m excited about the content then I have a better chance to succeed in my desired goal… a writing that makes one think.

Living in a peaceful setting enables me to live in the mode of creativity. Being creative translates to many different mediums. Writing, baking, and preparing quality meals for dear friends are certainly satisfying past-times.

Each different task presents challenges that stimulate the brain and triggers the nuance of discovery. Each discovery is a stepping stone to more advancement in the subjects listed above.

When I write, it is spontaneous. It’s not done with an outline or prior thought process other than the subject headline. From there, it’s off to the races. I never know exactly where the writing will take me, but I know that as I progress through the subject I will tie things together. Then, at the end I hope the message is condensed and speaks to the reader.

As I relate to baking I think of the treats I’ve had during my lifetime and how special some of those treats were. The delicious flavors of a Grand Marnier Souffle, or the richness of a bread pudding, creme brulee, or chocolate lava cake that brings the meal to its desired conclusion… a wonderful, captivating  warmth that spells out “comfort food”.

Each baking process is about following the recipe. No matter how complicated the directions, I must be precise in the measuring and order of execution. The desired affect is a smile and sometimes even laughter that captures the beauty of sweet confections. Of course there are also sorbets for those quitters that have bought into the whole, “Sugar is bad for you”, mantra.

Unlike when I was a kid, baking is sticking to a plan. When I would built a model car as a kid, I could never figure out why I should build the engine? It’s hidden underneath a hood. So, I finished relatively quickly as those thousand engine parts were unnecessary.

It’s interesting how important in baking the nuance of altitude, water, and flour or other binding agents that intertwine to become the finished product. Each is a lesson in chemistry that makes you adjust to your circumstance. As you adjust you learn about the importance of things you never considered as a child.

The smells that permeate the air as you bake or cook become the sensory introduction to the meal or the finishing touch, dessert. I always try to start the hot part of the meal with caramelizing onions. The sweet smell of the onions flamed in a sweet liquor or a madeira always entice the guest to wonder, ” What are those fragrant smells?”

Starting off with a chilled salad featuring different marinated vegetables combined with distinct, contrasting fruits and textures makes the beginning an overture painted on a colorful sensory palate.

The same contrast of flavors and textures is important in designing the entree. Color, height, and temperature is equally salient. If the plates are all cleaned at the end of the meal, you know you’ve succeeded in the desired outcome.

Each creative part of life becomes a plant that is fed with practice, determination, and the satisfaction required to maintain that joy from having others smile at the effort.

Each written piece, baking creation, or savory meal is an exercise in skill that improves with repetition. It is however much more than that. It is the love garnered from providing a phrase or a flavor that will create a memory for as long as forever is.

 

 

 

The Voyage of a Searching Soul

 

Whether its a dream that propels us to lands and people in our imagination, or the reality of planning a voyage to new destinations. Our heart lives for a Uruguayan sunset or the acoustic camouflage of the ocean that drowns out all other sensory distractions.

Our brain lives for the thrill of discovery which is at its height when we experience a place or event for the first time. Being in the mode of discovery opens our universe to the unveiling of new possibilities.

Those new possibilities create that inner smile that radiates through-out our body. This smile in turn  transmits negative ions that increase levels of the mood chemical, serotonin. This “serotonin” helps to alleviate depression, relieves stress, and boosts our energy. What could be better than to be on a voyage that illuminates all that brings a song to our soul?

New places we’ve read about and would love to visit brings cultures into the spotlight of discovery. Music, food, wine, architecture, and literature provide an interaction with those we’ve met along the way. This opens up the corridors of knowledge, bringing history books to life.

Enraptured by a tour of Buckingham Palace, the Louvre Museum, and the Burgundy region of France, we walk across a path tethered by the present, thinking of the past, eventually… to be shared in the future.

Each country we visit has its own magical charm that begs the question, “Have I been here before?” Past lives are open for discussion as familiarity breeds questions we can not answer.

Our propensity to gravitate towards certain foods, wines, and countries draws us closer to the past.  We breath in the smells, sounds, and flavors of cultures we can now speak of from experience. Each experience is a page in a book yet to be written, penned by an author immersed in the soul searching bounty of life.

As countries are brought into focus, I look for the finest to draw from in a short amount of time. I search for the best tours that create a real feel for the city. We find ourselves in the mode of discovery highlighting cultural expletives we must see that represent a grain of sand in the hourglass of life.

In Spain it will be flamenco guitar, tapas, sherry,  the most beautiful Gothic architecture, and world class beaches. Thriving in the  means of exploration I find things I wasn’t even searching for.

I stumbled across a page that listed the  best pizza restaurant in Europe located in Barcelona Spain, called “Sartoria Panatieri”. And on a more sublime note… who could forget one of the most revered artists of all time, Pablo Picasso born in Malaga, Spain.

Each city in every country has a story to tell. Each tale is brought to life through music. That music becomes a style that reflects a large part of the country’s identity. The arts are what draws people to experience different cultures.

And then there are other notes of culture to listen to. The food in every country which represents culture, climate, and products available. Each dish is passed down from generation to generation following the taste and traditions of the people who famously created it.

If you were to talk about how the top ten countries in the world prior to the 20th century related to their contributions to humanity… in almost every case music, food, wine, architecture, and literature would top the list.

Now it is technology and the advances turning luxuries into necessities. But before that it was the communication through the above mentioned arts that drew people to forget the struggles of everyday life.

In Portugal, Fado is a music of the world. Originating in Lisbon, Portugal,  it sings the feeling, heartbreak, and the longing for someone who is no longer in their life. The matches, or the mismatches of life are an infinite theme for inspiration. The mournful tunes and lyrics are often about the sea or life of the poor. Usually this music is infused with a sense of resignation, fate, and despair.

Every country, every state, every community, every person… if they’ve lived a little, writes poetry or sings songs about soulful sadness. It’s a lingering thought just beyond our reach… a perceptible weight on our heart.

The voyage of life is brought to a soulful crescendo when sadness is silenced. We learn to overcome our youthful hormonal surges that seems to create an emptiness inside. Then, with wisdom that comes with soulful searching, and of course age, we replace sadness with love.

The love we have for life’s voyage is a journey that leads us to search for answers about ourselves. Not only ourselves but those we’ve shared special memories with which are etched in the caverns of our mind… for as long as forever is.

The Beauty Of Live Theater

“The Whole World’s A Stage and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

The “seven ages” according to experts analyzing Shakespeare’s thought process is as follows:

Infant, schoolboy/girl, lover, soldier, pantalone (someone at the top of his or her game/ social order), old age, and of course… death.

The reason I mention the above quote is because of it’s complexity illustrated in a wonderfully simplistic phrase, both poetic and truthful… One of the greatest thoughts ever expressed on stage.

As we wander down a path that seems to change with the ebbs and flows of people, places, and jobs… we add layers of flavor to our personas that many have called “the spice of life”. For some this analysis makes no sense because their comfort zone lies in the repetition of working, eating, sleeping, rinse and repeat.

But for me, life is a cabernet to be drunk slowly. Let us enjoy all the nuances of the people, places, and of course the amazing meals that connects to the unexpected daily tapestry written in a book illustrated by our dreams.

Having said all that there is nothing quite as relaxing, sometimes invigorating, and usually entertaining as live theatre (this is most certainly part of the above mentioned tapestry).

Nancy and I journeyed to go see “I Hate Hamlet” at the Festival Theatre during the Neil Simon Festival in Cedar City Utah. The Neil Simon Festival is relatively new and is the brain child of former principle member of the Tony award winning Cedar City Shakespeare Festival, Peter Sham.

Directed by Richard Bugg this play is set in modern times. In 1987 the playwright, Paul Rudnick, rented an apartment on the top floor of a Greenwich Village brownstone. He learned that John Barrymore had once lived in it and that he had renovated the space into, what the real estate ad described as a “medieval duplex”. A year later Rudnick felt compelled to write a play about both the apartment and the legacy of John Barrymore.

Barrymore’s interpretation of Hamlet is widely considered one of the best of all time. He was haunted by the character, just as the main character in this play, Andrew, is haunted by the ghost of Barrymore. Barrymore spent the rest of his life trying to match the power, grace, intensity, and impossible command of body language that he achieved in this performance.

The dialogue and interaction between Andrew (whom just got the part of Hamlet in a production in central park) and the ghost of Barrymore becomes much more than just a question of an actors portrayal or commitment. The story evolves into a question about choosing to pursue wealth or the honor and integrity of self-worth. At least once in our own lives we are faced with the same choice.

Take time to sip in the beauty around us and possibly that could include live theater. We are blessed to live in an age with so many events literally a click away. From enjoying a play, show, sporting event, or concert, and if the stars align just right, you may be taken beyond the time frame of the event and experience a long lasting memory.

 

Passion PAZAZ™ Style

When you live in the experience and you are passionate about what you do there is a magic that goes well beyond the task, the event, or the story. This “magic” can be felt by those around you that hear the change in tonality of your voice, the movement of your body, and the glow that surrounds you.

My dad used to sway to the music he was playing, close his eyes, and drift into a sublime space. This series of gestures inevitably created a wonderful connection with the listener that brought the music from his soul to his fingers to the audiences ears. Every movement was based upon a phrase that brought witness to the “Passion” of the moment. Smiles could be seen, bodies pulsated, and hearts were touched.

As a small boy I would never forget those moments of pure joy that spurned me on to become an impassioned ambassador of all things that could be considered “art”. Music, theatre, sports, and even food and wine became my wheelhouse.

When I’m in the world today I see those that blend their talents into an art form that freezes a moment within a picture frame of time. The rarity of this combined with the spontaneity of the circumstance captures a talent, years in its development, to unleash an experience that morphs into a memory.

When someone gives a part of themselves to add to the moment there becomes a connection or a bond that can not be broken. It is within this vulnerability that produces an inner smile forming a path that winds around our heart.

Watching glass blowers go through the process that begins with raw materials and upon completion ends with a work of art is one such example. Another is the musician that beckons to the audience to hear the notes one by one that forms a phrase, that produces a song.

Within my profession of food and wine there are few times that a chef or a server can complete the connection to the guest. Because of the importance of reading the guest, knowing the food, and producing the product as written on the menu there are many variables that can disconnect the expertise that is required to connect all those dots.

That is why it is so rare to feel complete satisfaction within the culinary world. But when you do there is a sense of “Passion” that goes well beyond the outer envelope and speaks to the soul of the team. This produces a lighting bolt beyond sustenance and beyond the orchestral dining ensemble that just produced a very rare culinary symphony.

For all those involved in any art form I salute your “Passion” because it is within this context that you just made the world a better place.

This blog is sponsored by PAZAZ™ “The Magic of Cooking” Kitchen tools for the discerning chef. Please go to www.pazazshop.com to purchase my Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat, Heavy Duty Baking Sheet Pan, and the Steel Mesh Cooling Rack… an experience by which all others would be judged.