Monday, June 23, 2008


My son's intelligence is just that -- frightening. At 3 1/2, his vocabulary is already amazing -- and it's not just how many words he knows, it's how complex some of those words are, and that he knows what they mean and how to use them in context... "privacy", and "catastrophe", for instance. On top of that, his grasp of abstract ideas -- we've given up on trying to spell out words or use synonyms and foreign words for things because he has those dialed in -- and today he finally cracked our "oblique references" code -- as I was leaving for work, TFR asked me if, after work, I wanted to go somewhere to pick the things that grow on plants that you eat, and he exclaimed with glee, "BERRIES?!"


I'm proud, but I'm scared. I'm just waiting for him to start eying the car keys.

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day

Where did you go if your horse naturally won, where did you go next, how did you get there, and what did you do there?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

When Worlds Collide

So today's foray to the farmer's market got me to thinking. Living in Eugene, and attending the culinary program where I did, can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to food and certain ethical, philisophical, political, and economic concerns. Eugene, being Eugene, is very intensely enthusiastic about the idea of sustainability -- organic, local, seasonal agriculture -- not just for the qality of food, but for the argued environmental benefits. And that enthusiasm carried over into the culinary classroom at LCC. The spring dinner we did was a 100-mile menu, you'll recall.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not against local, seasonal food -- I love the concept, especially as a culinarian. The quality of food is so much better when you get the freshest ingredients, and those that were harvested close enough to you that they actually ripened on the vine. Alice Waters has really pioneered AND solidly proven the validity of the concept at Chez Panisse.

But for me, it's more about the quality of food, and the economic benefit to the local economy, which ultimately benefits the restauranteur, since he's essentially paying the people who pay the people who pay him. It's not the moral imperative or grand crusade that it's made into by people who also ascribe to overarching environmentalist movements (such as the Eugene-style neo-hippies with their almost luddite-like abhorrence for anything that smacks of industrialism).

Those gorgeous, yoummy vegetables and berries I showed you? Those set me back $18 and some change. My next stop was at our local Giganto-warehouse, low-overhead discount food outlet (local readers know of whom I speak) to do the rest of the my grocery shopping, including more vegetables. As an exercise in curiosity, I tried to limit myself to the same $18 and change, and while my math was off (lots of stuff for fractions of a dollar per pound, purchased in fractions of a pound), I only went over by $2. And for that, I got:

1.17 lbs romaine lettuce
2 navel oranges
4 bananas
3 tomatos
2 lemons
.47 lb broccoli
1 bunch cilantro
2 Kiwi fruit
1 bunch green onions
2.26 lbs. grapes
.96 lbs asparagus
4 Gala apples
2 necatrines
2 limes
1 bunch (1.47 lbs) celery

Big difference. Granted, that difference is both in quantity and quality, and the two are inversely proportionate, but here's where my dilemma comes in. If I were buying for a high-end restaurant, I'd buy almost all of my produce that way. But I am not a purchaser for a restaurant -- yet. I'm a purchaser for a family -- a family that until recently was living on one income, and is still only on one and a half incomes, until my hours pick up. Those farmer's market veggies will make a wonderful weekend meal splurge, but there's no way I could have afforded to buy all the vegetables my family needs until the next time I shop, if I'd paid farmer;s market prices for all of our vegetables. I understand, the stuff I bought at gigantostore are not all local 9though some was), are not at their peak, are not organic -- but they are AFFORDABLE.

I have heard all the arguments about priorities, and the benefits of the "sustainable" produce outweighing their cost, but when the chice is between buying inferior vegetables or insufficient vegetables, I know where the choice lies for my family.

I also understand the arguments that the greater the demand for local, organic, seasonal produce, the more farmers will offer it, and the more affordable it will become. But unless you live in a very agriculturally vibrant region, the reality is that the odds are, your local agriculture will never be able to produce enough crops in that manner to feed an entire populations (and if there is data that refutes this belief, by all means, please show me) -- Economy of scale has the upper hand, not to mention the fact that the larger the farming operation, the mote indistinguishable from the model it's purporting to replace it would become.

So for the foreseeable future, I don't see this kind of microagriculture as a viable alternative to the industry that agriculture has become, at least not for most consumers -- it is a luxury, albeit one that is accessible to more consumers than most luxuries.

And as you can tell from my prior post, like Ferris Bueller referring to Ferraris, I highly recommend it, if you have the means.

Foodie P%&#

Today being the first Saturday of my post-collegiate life, I decided to take The Lad with me to the Eugene Farmer's Market and do a bit of shopping. Here's what we came home with:


All of this was grown locally, picked fresh, and sold direct to moi. Clockwise from upper left: Strawberries (not those pale pseudo-red styrofoam giant mutants you get in the grocery store, these are compact, seduction-lipstick-blood-red, and co full of flavor they're almost hallucinogenic), spinach, easter egg radishes, carrots, blue potatoes, sugar snap peas, spearmint, and in the center, a cucumber.

The potatoes I'll slice thin and fry into chips, the spearmint will garnish the strawberries, everything else goes in a salad. I'll serve it all with some wild Alaskan sockeye (can't get any closer to local, our runs are closed for the year) and pair it with a local Pinot Gris tonight, or maybe a Pinot Noir Rose.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Welcome to the Majors, Kid

It seems appropriate that on my first day in the kitchen after graduating from the culinary program, I should get my hiney handed to me.

No, seriously, it really is appropriate. And it wasn't anywhere NEARLY as bad as it could have been, but:

I was scheduled a partial shift -- I'm still only part-time, and although I only get one day off this week, I am only scheduled one full shift. Yesterday I was scheduled to work 11-6. The opener was scheduled 10:30-6:30. Another part-timer was scheduled for 6, and the closer arrived at 6:30.

When I got there, the ppener informed me that he had a sore throat and was going to go home after the lunch rush. So from around 1:30 or so until my relief arrived at 6, I was on my own. Only my 6 PM reliever didn't arrive -- I ended up working until 6:30, when the closer arrived.

And the lunch rush picked back up right after the opener left.

And the dinner rush came early.

And we were 86 several popular items.

And several other popular items, all of which the opener told me had been prepped, hadn't.

I actually held my own. The bartender only had to check on the status of an order a couple if times, I only screwed up about 3 garnishes, and nothing got sent back. Overall, I'd say I did ok.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I Walked The Line

Well, that's that. Yesterday by 5:30 PM PDT, the ceremony was over and I had become a graduate. Before the ceremony, the culinary department held a luncheon in our honor, after it, my family had a dinner in mine.

It's a great feeling. For once in my life I finished what I started, something significant and life-shanging. Two years ago I sat in a classroom with a group of strangers, overwhelmed by the list of competencies required in order to complete the program. Yesterday, I sat in an audtiorium with a group of friends, overwhelmed by everything we have accomplished over the last two years. There was laughter, there were tears, a lot of shouting and smiling, and in the end a sense of triumph.

My mother, my sister, my brother-in-law, my niece and two nephews, my uncle (my father's brother) and aunt, and my wife all were in attendance, and I was even able to surprise my mom with my PTK membership. Yesterday and today we spent as a family, celebrating not only my accomplishment, but the love and support that thy have provided me that has carried me through this all (especially my wife).

It's been a good time, and while both my school and my family made me feel like the center of attention, I also felt like part of something bigger than myself.

I'm ready to move on now. I'm hopeful -- no, I'm confident -- in my ability to make a career of this, and I'm ready to go.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day

If you've pawned all your hopes and he even sold your own car, (1) how are you getting there and (2) where are you going?


My last final... make that my FINAL final... was this morning from 8 to 10 PM. I did not ace it, but I am sure I passed. Now all that's left is to walk on Saturday and over the summer complete the paperwork for the co-op work. But in terms of sitting in a classroom, turning in homework, taking tests, and attending labs, I am DONE.

I would have posted earlier today, but I had to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Two Down, One to Go

Yesterday was the Culinary Leadership final. Today it was American Regional Cuisine. Tomorrow it's First Aid, and I'm done -- with finals, and for all intents and purposes, with school. There was some clarification today regarding our ACF certification. The application and fee we turned in along with our finals this weeks does NOT get us the ACF certification of Ceritifed Culinarian -- it gets us a membership in the ACF as Student Culinarians. Upon completion of our degree, the ACF membership AND our transcripts showing that we've graduated will get us the coveted CC after our name -- which means that I won't have mine until I OFFICIALLY complete the dregree, which will be some time this summer anfter I've put in enough time at a cooking job and hence completed the "Cooperative Education" class.

Which is a pain in the butt, but is a minor detail. When all is said and done, I'll have the following feathers in my resume cap:

Degree: Associate of Applied Science, Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management

Organization Memberships:
American Culinary Federation
Phi Theta Kappa (National Community College Honor Society)

ACF Certified Culinarian
American Red Cross First Aid Certification
ServSafe Certification
Oregon Food Handler's Card

A week before he passed away, my father looked my wife in the eye and made her promise that she'd make sure I graduated from college. I know it's not an advanced degree, or hell, even a Bachelor's, but it's a degree, and it's in a field that I thoroughly enjoy, and that can be the foundation of a career. It took me 40 years to figure out what I wanted to do, but we kept that promise.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day, Head Space Round

If you know what you're needing and you don't want to waste more time, where are you?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Milestones and Signs of the End

A lot of things going on this week -- it's "dead week" at school, and I'm close to matching that description.

Today I cooked the last dish I'll cook in the student kitchen of my schools culinary arts program. It was a bittersweet moment -- I was relieved to be done, triumphant that I did it well, but a little sad. I'm going to miss the camaraderie and the environment of learning and inquiry. I'm not going to miss the petty bickering and schoolchild self-centeredness of some of my fellow students, and I'm CERTAINLY not going to miss not making a living wage.

On that note, I received good news this week. I've been selected as a recipient of a scholarship frtom a local congressman, earmarked for vets and displaced workers, several of each received it. It's going to finish off my tuitiuon and help with bill.

One small paper to write tomorrow, due on Friday, it's an evaluation of the dinner event. Tomorrow is also my 40th birthday, and I get to work (yay!), and finish the day in wine class, eating a buffet and trying delicious wines.

Tomorrow's also payday, and I'll finally have the money to buy my cap and gown for next Saturday's ceremony. The culinary program is hosting a luncheon for the graduating Second Years that day. It'll be nice to not be the one cooking for once.

I'm finally a Single Digit Midget -- barring any major catastrophes during finals week, in less than ten days, I will be an American Culinary Federation (ACF) Certified Culinarian, as well as an Associate of Applied Sciences in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management. I'll also have my First Aid training certificate -- all of which will look good on my resume. The one thing I didn't gain as part of the program that would pad it even more is an OLCC liquor handlers license.

Officially I won't receive the AAS until I finish the Co-Operative Education segment, but that's simply a matter of working enough hours at a job, pay the tuition fee, and fill out a form. The ACF CC will be mine if I pass my final exam in my Culinary Leadership class.

It feels weird. It's like my life has been on hold for two years, and now that this period is passing, It feels like it's time to get back to real life. I just wish I felt more... transformed, I guess, if that makes sense?

Maybe after I've had some sleep.

You'd Better Believe it, Pilgrim!

A Tip of the Toque Stetson to Vulture Six:

What Kind of a Western Bad-Ass are You?
created with
You scored as John Wayne

You a classic all American cowboy who does the right thing. When you're sober. Which means occasionally. You like horses, the outdoors, whiskey, hot tempered women, whiskey, and bourbon.

John Wayne


Charles Bronson


Clint Eastwood


Lee Marvin


Lee Van Cleef