Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cooking at RockBottom & the Mythical FTS Cookbookbook

The following entry, as Earl pointed out, has essentially nothing to do with the creamery and would not inspire anyone to buy our milk and ice cream, which, if you don't know, are truly amazing products of great effort by hard-working, interesting people and beautiful and patient animals. None of which will be discussed below. And so I will be calling the Web Guy in the morning and asking him to take down the link between the creamery website and the blog. Because it's really important for people to keep buying our products (and it would be great if just a few more families, like maybe 162, started drinking our milk regularly), and because I only like writing the plucky stuff, I think I had better break the link then spend some time writing copy for the website itself.
I'll get started on that first thing tomorrow. Tonight, however, it's all about The Cookbook.
I heard on the radio a few years ago that the average man thinks about sex every seventeen seconds. I asked a few men and they said that seemed about right. One, who I had previously suspected of using his time to ponder the future of agriculture in Vermont and the nature of true sustainability, said, "Well yeah. At least." I'm still pretty surprised about that, but informal research seems to be supporting the idea. Go figure. Me, I think about food.

If I had to put a figure on how much time I spend cooking or thinking about cooking, including animals and vegetables yet to born, grown, harvested and eaten, I'd say maybe 30% of my waking hours, maybe more. Some of that is because of the sheer volume of food that gets consumed around here--three meals, plus snacks, for six people and guests, every single day. The rest of it is because food is simply the most interesting thing I can possibly think of. If I can't fall to sleep at night, I play the alphabet game, thinking of ingredients that start with each letter--(Artichoke, Banana, Cassava Melon, Daikon, Eggplant) or recipes I hope to master someday (Asparagus Risotto, Banana Cream Pie, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Dal, Eclairs). I always fall asleep before Zebra Tomatoes or Zabaglione, but I have them at the ready and sometimes ponder whether the Zebras, which are ripe when they're green, could hold their own in a blind taste test or how Zabaglione differs from more traditional English custard.

When I don't have a specific food quandary, I think about the FTS cookbook. FTS stands for--WARNING, PROFANITY AHEAD, GENTLE BLEADER--Fuck that shit. As in, "Divide cold butter into eight pieces and blend into flour and baking powder with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles a coarse meal." Fuck that shit, man. I will instead suggest putting the butter in your back pocket while you do five other things and then, when it's good and soft, stir it into the flour with a whisk. Put the bowl outside in the cold or in the freezer while you do three other things, then dump the milk in, and you're most of the way to fluffy biscuits without ever having to chase a cold lump of butter around with the constantly bending tines of your pastry cutter, if you even have a pastry cutter.

Then I think about how anyone who would benefit from my time-saving biscuit trick would probably be put off by the extra step of putting the butter in his or her pocket. Perhaps even just the length of the explanation itself would be off-putting. Then I think that maybe I should just write my suggestion to Cook's Illustrated magazine and try to win a free year's subscription and hope that the people who used to make pastry cutters can find meaningful work in another sector. But I can't quite bring myself to mail it in, because if I give all my tricks away, even for a $24.95 subscription to a great magazine, what will I have left for the cookbook?

There are other suggestions and recipes, of course. There's Meatballs With Clean Hands and Tofu That Doesn't Suck and a whole imagined chapter on Cooking With Ketchup. The tips include how to shop with children (You are a military outfit on a reconnaissance mission behind enemy lines. The general has given us a list of the items we need to bring back to headquarters. They must be smuggled out by jeep, driven by corporal Oliver, who cannot be trusted and must not see anything that he will want to eat right away.) and how to buy your beef--whole animal, in the freezer, take out three cuts at a time, hamburger for right away, steak for the next day or two, and a roast to throw in the slowcooker for the weekend so the house smells like heaven on earth when you come in from skiing or milking the cows.

The Cookbook could also be a pathway to character development. I envision the personal growth that would come from working on the seafood section. Currently, my recipe for family-style fish involves driving the family to a restaurant that I have called to verify has at least one item on the menu that had legs and letting Earl and the boys indulge their oceanic appetites while I eat a hamburger or piece of chicken. I just don't think of fish as food, and I know that's rather pathetic. Fish is a super-healthy, very-interesting-in-recipes protein source and I would do well to suck it up and learn how to cook it. The mythical Cookbook's hard-nosed hypothetical editor would force me to include fish and I would become an expert at cooking swimmy things, maybe even start eating them myself and the big empty spot in my repertoire would vanish.

So that's it. The cookbook. You'd think I might spend a little more time on developing the business and work on positioning us to withstand the hard times ahead. Or how to get through to Harley that plugging in the Christmas lights is an inappropriate activity for a four-year-old, even if he is Being Very Careful. And I do try to concentrate on the bigger picture, but then I get hungry. I glance briefly in the fridge, but then find myself spun around, staring at my cookbooks, wondering at the possibilities within.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Whoa there, cowgirl! Not to cause marital discord (didn't I introduce you two?) but don't people buy the your milk products because of your relationship to the cows, the land, not to mention, the taste? And, doesn't the blog reinforce the relationship to the all that? The love of it? The living of it?

Earl, make your case!