Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Guerilla Chef



     The roof on our house in El Paso is flat, an oddity to we who are from New England, and I often climb a ladder to lie up there and smoke a cigarette and look up at the stars while I listen to the regularly scheduled screaming matches of a couple across the street, even though the entire thing takes place in Spanish and I have no idea what they’re saying. The stars are beautiful and so clear they appear to be merely a few feet overhead, and the couple’s words are so vicious and loud I imagine them floating up into the universe where they bounce off the stars like a pinball game before finally congealing into a big ugly ball of fire.

     But often I climb up to the roof for more Zen pursuits, such as looking out at the Franklin Mountains or watching the sunset. That’s what I was doing last evening when I heard the banging of pots and pans in the kitchen below. I was trying to photograph a particularly Maxfield Parrish-like sky and not get the telephone poles in the shot, when I heard Buck in the kitchen and I was immediately overcome with a wave of guilt, the kind you get when you’re trying on a pair of shoes and you suddenly realize it was your turn to car pool somewhere and there are about five little kids waiting for you in front of the library across town.

     The guilt I feel when I hear Buck in the kitchen is unfounded, by the way. Unlike Forgotten Children Guilt, Buck In The Kitchen Guilt is all self-inflicted. He likes to cook and doesn’t have a problem whipping up a delicious meal for us. He’s proud of his cooking skills and refers to himself as a “Guerilla Chef,” because he can make a meal even if there is nothing in the kitchen to work with, and he never ever uses a recipe. I, on the other hand, will order pizza in desperation if I see that we’re out of white wine and shallots, or if I can’t find a recipe that appeals to me online.

     But I do try and do the majority of the cooking because I’m of the school of thought that if you earn less money than the guy typing away until all hours, and it’s his money that allows you to hang around on the roof and smoke cigarettes, the least you can do is make his dinner. Especially when he’s the one paying for the digital cable box so you can watch The Simpsons while you’re doing it. So when I heard the clatter of pots and pans I was overwhelmed with guilt. I scrambled down off the roof and grabbed my tape recorder and ran into the kitchen and shouted, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

Buck: I’m making dinner. These green beans look good.

Me: Thank you. I saw them in the supermarket and thought of you. 

Buck: Well they look good.

Me: I’d buy them more often, it’s just that I don’t like them. They’re so bland.

Buck: Well you’ll like them tonight. Some people add bacon to green beans to give them flavor. But I’m going to add the dogs’ Beggin’ Strips.

Me: Do not add Beggin’ Strips.

Buck: Oh, I’m adding them.

Me: Don’t even wave that Beggin’ Strip over the green beans in jest. They’re way too salty, you know. Saltier than bacon.

Buck: How the hell do you know?

Me: I’ve tasted them.

Buck: What about the Pupperoni?

Me:  Not quite as salty as the Beggin’ Strips, but salty. All dog junk food tastes salty and I don’t know why. Except for the Better Than Ears. Those are curiously un-salty. No, I take that back. The cheese-flavored Better Than Ears are salty. What’s up with that?

Buck: Why are you taping this?

Me: Because I didn’t post anything on my blog today. You looked so busy, I didn’t want to bother you. So I spent the morning dusting the myriad crap in my office, and both the nun and the Easter Bunny were especially dusty so I had to actually bathe them. Then I got all invested in that movie Knocked Up. Then I took a nap. Before I knew it, it was time to go up on the roof and do stuff. The way I see it, this is the only opportunity I’ll have today to get something that resembles blog material.

 Buck: Where were you when my computer seized up?

 Me: I don’t know. Wandering around, or sleeping. My own computer was messed up, it wasn’t just yours. Our Internet connection was down, so I was confused about what to do with myself.

 Buck: I miss those yellow wax beans. I don’t even know if they still have those, except in a can. When I’ve asked at the produce section here, they looked at me like I just asked if I could sleep with their sister.

 Me: They don’t know what they are.

 Buck: No, seemingly not. One guy showed me a can of lima beans, thinking that was what I was looking for.

 Me: That alone should tell you we don’t belong here.

 Buck: All clicks and whistles, honey. I can’t understand you.

 Me: That’s probably because of my Boston accent. It’s a problem here. No one can understand me. Except Andy. Last week when Andy and I went to the book fair downtown, I was teaching him how to speak with a Boston accent. He asked me to. Which was especially challenging because he kept trying to drop his R’s with a Southwestern flair. As the day went on he got better at it, though. For his assignment I told him to rent The Depahted at Blockbustah.

Buck: I’m going to make you a lovely little meal with . . . what is that?

Me: Steak. Some kind of steak.

Buck: Well I know that . . . it’s ribeye. A lovely ribeye, a fresh salad, and a giant bowl of green beans slathered in butter and salt and pepper.

Me: And My Name Is Earl. 

Buck: Yes, dinner with My Name Is Earl. Are you going to mention in your blog how I taught you to cook?

Me: Umm . . . I guess you did.

Buck: I did. You’re always so reluctant to admit that.

Me: Well that’s because I could cook when I met you.

Buck: Yes, but if you could have been transported back to the 1940s you would have been considered a great cook. 

Me: I can’t get into this. In school I had five years with a Home Ec. teacher who was as old as Jesus. Mrs. Tufts was accustomed to using rationed food as her ingredients. And of course my mother —

Buck: Well that’s what I’m saying. It wasn’t your fault, you were a good cook but you were making creamy casseroles and Welsh Rarebit. You had hot dog recipes, meatloaf recipes, white bread that took you all day to make. There was a lot of lasagne —

Me: Shut the fuck up. I fed you didn’t I?

Buck: Yes and it was delicious, but you would have killed me with cholesterol inside of a year. When did you actually start cooking? At what point in your life were you making dinner every night?

Me: Whenever it was that Cody stopped eating baby food and started eating real food. Like, 1981 maybe? I wanted her to have some semblance of a normal family life, so I started cooking for the two of us with recipes from my Home Ec. class and my mother. They were old, that’s what those two old ladies made.

Buck: I’m not putting you down. It’s just that you had never . . . nobody ever showed you . . . I mean, when you made fish it was fish sticks with tartar sauce.

Me: Well I went on to become a food writer in the Cape Cod Times so shut the hell —

Buck: Yes, yes, and all I’m saying is that everything you learned about cooking in this century is what you learned from me. You can really cook now, without a doubt, but there was a time when you —

Me: I’ve surpassed you in the kitchen. I’m a far more sophisticated cook than you are.

Buck: Well I don’t know about that.

Me: Your meals are delicious, but they’re simple. Mine are more complicated —

Buck: I’m a guerilla chef, I can make a meal out of —

Me: — anything. Yes, I know. We all know. I don’t like where this conversation is going.

Buck: No. No. All I’m saying is that you’ve become a great cook, but when I met you —

Me: Stop. I’m younger than you and that will always trump whatever it is you’re about to say —

Buck: Don’t make this personal —

Me: — IT IS PERSONAL. You’re attacking me.

Buck: No big deal. Drop the whole thing. 

Me: Gladly. You taught me to cook, I admit it.

Buck: [silence]

Me: So what did you do today?

Buck: Fucked with my Internet and made you dinner.

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