Today, I was to cook up a poem in two parts. The recipe was supposed to focus on food or a meal. Part of the poem was to season the food as a person, and I was to give it some spoken dialogue.
Boiled versus Fried
Newlyweds were we,
having moved to above her garage
from over on Waverly Way.
She fixed supper for us,
and I first met up with boiled fucking
okra, AKA, slimy green snot.
It was nineteen hundred and sixty-six;
we were 19; something, like this, well folks,
you just never forget, or forgive.
I’m certain I heard the grassy flavored
seed pods of gumbo thickener sing eat me raw, you city slicker. We be worldwide.
I wanted to puke. I could’ve just died.
Embarrassed, I mannered-up and sighed.
And I swallowed the snotty lady’s fingers.
Little evil green monsters, till one day…
Then this happened…
A crunchy cousin, nicely coated,
in some restaurant, called theirselves fried okra
provided texture to my tale and it was, step back, Jack, we gunna treat ya well.
Old John Henry called it all “Okree,”
like old aunty of the Mallow family
with a funny first name
and John seemed to fuss over the food
in a good way, but I passed on boiled,
stewed, raw, or wrinkled. Fried
is the only okra for this damn Yankee.
Look both ways and learn to try, but texture counts.
Mind the gaps, but India grows most okra and now has the most people (not China),
and they must eat a lot of okra over there.
Today the ever lovely and charming Mistress of Mystery and lover of history and animals, Madam Rochelle, teamed up with David Stewart to serve up a delicious challenge which she prompted from her recliner throne surrounded by things important to her.
My 100-story follows the prompt photo. Is yours here?
Genre: Breakfast Fiction
Title: I Got You, Babe
Word Count: 100
They had told me there was another man. She’d soon be leaving me. I’d catch them in the act and kill them, then myself.
I parked a block away, planning to catch them having breakfast. I cautiously entered Big Al’s Restaurant. I saw two meals without coffee. Did she give it up for him? Probably a Mormon.
Her voice, “Hi Babe. Eggs sunny side up, right? Just like you, bright and sunny. I had to get our coffee. Did you drop the kids off? I’m working on that writing prompt you told me about.”
I decided to delay my plan.
Look both ways for drama in your life.
Mind the gaps for reasons to commit fictional crimes
if you are indeed a writer of such.
The dVerse quadrille is a 44-word poem, excluding any title, using some form of the prompting word: Bramble. Click here for link to the party at the pub.
Small troops of proud pickers pounce
and probe with plastic cups and buckets seeking
drupelets of prey, searching brambles
to score secret sweet’n sour ingredients
plucked from aggressive blackberry tangles.
Juice-stained fingers hunt hearts of cobblers,
tarts, buckles, crisps, and jams.
Perchance, some wine?
Look both ways even when picking berries.
Mind the gaps,
we share all of this with more natural consumers.
I seldom eat the whole pizza any more, at least not in the same evening. My wife may have one slice, but not always. Still, why do some religious folks insist that if, per chance, the wife wants none, I’ll go to Hell?
Am I gluttonous? I eat more than that guy, but less than that one, and maybe about the same as the other dude. When does eating and drinking become one of the deadly or capital offenses? Where do we cross the line that assures our trip to the inferno?
I’m not going to argue that overeating is good for us. We all know it’s not. But the reason is biological, not spiritual. Besides, I do it more than I care to admit. I don’t think I am alone in my gastronomic fault. In fact, for an American, I’m probably about average.
In the Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas said, “Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire… leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists.” Inordinate? I only know this limit after I am well past it.
Devils, Demons, and Witchcraft says those who commit the sin of gluttony are punished in Hell by being forced to eat rats, toads, and snakes. Are they cooked or raw? Do we get hot sauce? Since these are eaten by people around the world every day, I feel so not threatened.
I posted about Epicurus back in the Spring, so I want to invoke him here. His name and philosophy has been incorrectly associated with glutinous behavior for centuries. I had it a bit wrong. Further, we’ve also bogarted his name to be associated with fine dining.
The word epicure is linked to indulging the appetite, but that is not the teaching of the man to whom we owe the word. That ancient Greek philosopher taught of simple pleasures, friendship, and a secluded life. He believed in the pursuit of pleasure (as do I), but pleasure for him equated with tranquility and freedom from pain (Dude! Try this plant.) – happiness.
Detractors of Epicurus misrepresented his notions of pleasure to material and sensual gratification. When epicure entered the lingo about 500 years ago, his philosophy had been trivialized. Epicure or epicurean became synonymous with “hedonist.” Way back, he showed a lot of wisdom.
“Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it.” —Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus
His philosophy combines a form of materialism with ethics that emphasizes moderation of desires and cultivation of friendships. His world view was optimistic, stressing a philosophy of not fearing death or the supernatural. It can teach us how to find happiness in almost any situation – without moaning after we’ve eaten the whole thing.
The opposite of gluttony is abstinence. Once again, from one extreme to the other. Abstaining from food can be a diagnosable eating disorder. We know how much, and of what things we should eat and drink. We must eat, but not too much; we must sleep, but not too much; we must drink. But there’s no such thing as too much fun.
“Moderation in all things, especially moderation.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Eating is an essential part of life.
Eat well, be happy, and enjoy all that life offers.
If we mind the gaps and look both ways, we’ll be fine.
How I will do this is covered in ‘About.’ Since today is a restaurant review, I want to go over my specific personal ROE (rules of engagement).
I am doing this to tell you about places, not to rate them. If it was a bad experience, it will not be here. We have Yelp and others for that.
I read reviews and on line web pages (especially menus) before I go. I recommend that, especially the one star reviews. Then, I go anyway. They are frequently not the same as my experience. I don’t usually write reviews, but if I see one that I think may be unfair, I write one to balance it.
Big deals for me are quality of food (within reason), cleanliness of the facility to include restrooms, adequacy of service (I’m not a perfectionist), variety of drinks (dark beer is not yellow and you can’t make a margarita without tequila), comfort, noise-level, parking, staff knowledge, and internet site accuracy (are you as you claim to be?).
Having spent the past few years of my life (prior to retirement) in quality assurance, I’ve developed a philosophy that ‘good’ is good enough, excellent is often BS, and better than that is either a lie (e.g., desserts that claim to be better than sex), manipulation, or both.
My first restaurant review is of Jay Berry’s Café in Renton, Washington. Renton is south of Seattle and short ride from the Sea-Tac Airport. But this place is on the northeast edge of town, east of Lake Washington. On-line reviews vary, but most are positive, with negatives possibly being an isolated bad experience or opinion. Parking is adequate, but the lot can get full, causing patrons to park along the roadway.
The main entrance takes you down a narrow hall, past the bar on the left (they call it a lounge, but it’s a bar.). It has a long honky-tonk type bar with approximately 12 stools. There are about nine tables, and three or four televisions. Food is served in the bar. A brief walk through this area takes you out onto the patio seating area, which is good, but on the street (west/sunny) side. The two (clean) restrooms are on the right side of the hallway as is a large ‘specials’ board. The hall is barely a ‘two-butt’ wide walkway, so if you stop to read it, you’re in the way. The waiting area is on benches lining the hall. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner; take reservations; and take-out is available. This is down-scale café with a bar. Shorts with a tank-top and flip flops are an acceptable level of dress – so relax. Besides, general dress code in the Pacific Northwest is usually all casual.
The receptionist area is where the cash register probably was back in the day. The two inside seating areas are separated by two steps (ADA?) with no visible ramp. Some tables are a little close for girthy customers, but it’s manageable. Ambiance is comfortable and ok, but should be a ready for a little rehab soon. Most tables seat four, but can be moved to accommodate larger parties. There are no booths. The acoustics are average and loud voices are easily heard.
We requested and were shown to a table in the lower area. The server was there asking for drink requests before we sat down. I always ask the same question if we are having dinner, “What is the darkest beer you have, preferably on draught?” I picked Mac & Jack’s African Amber. It is a locally brewed amber ale I find acceptable. My wife ordered water.
The server explained some things regarding the pasta and we ordered a Greek salad and Spaghetti Alfredo (they did not have fettuccini). The wait staff was energetic and service was almost too fast. They are a little blunt and straight-up for some customers, but I think it fits the charm and atmosphere of the restaurant. While I’ve had better salads, it was ok. My wife thought the alfredo white sauce was subpar. The waiter boxed up her leftovers. I tried it the next day and found it on par with what comes in a jar from the store.
Jay Berry’s is proud of their pizza. But I think their strength is breakfast and their special drinks. Check out the menu. The special cocktails with breakfast are a big hit. The breakfast menu is comprehensive. That is when larger crowds show up. Lunch is good, too.
I will be going back. I recommend Jay Berry’s to anyone looking for a family-friendly, laid-back café with a nice ‘honky-tonk’ bar (when the Seahawks are playing, it’s busy). If you are in Seattle, it may be a bit far. Be sure to check out the menu on-line and their specials – especially the breakfast drink specials (mimosas anyone?). I never make reservations, but they do take them. Calling ahead can get you to the front of the line when you arrive.
Excuse me, are you gunna eat that? May I try one of your fries? How’s that pizza? What’s your favorite adult beverage?
Long before I ever entertained the idea that I might want to write things that people don’t pay me for (as in my old day job), I read a biography about J.R.R. Tolkien. It impressed me that he and his writer group (the Inklings), which included C.S. Lewis, would gather at a pub (The Eagle and Child) to discuss writing and literature. They would read what they had written to each other and critique each other’s work. I want to be there to watch, to listen, to learn, and to discover. Can you imagine? This happened in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Lewis and Tolkien were alive and writing during my lifetime.
It was purely accidental last November that I noticed a schedule of events taped to the window of the PNWA Writer’s Cottage. I was attempting my first novel with NaNoWriMo. It was the schedule of write-ins, meetings, and events for the Snoqualmie Valley Region of NaNoWriMo. Eventually, I managed to attend a couple of the write-ins. After finishing, as I let my novel percolate for about six weeks, I noticed that this group (as Snovalleywrites) is a year-round, active collection of novelists, non-fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, and memoir writers, poets, and ghost-writers with a wealth of experience, knowledge, and talent regarding every aspect of writing from the first idea through publishing. I am now a novice member among this enthusiastic group of men and (mostly) women of letters. We have two “write-in” gatherings per week. One is Wednesday evenings at a nice pub (Little Si Restaurant and Pub) in North Bend, Washington. The other is the topic of this blog.
Friday mornings I get in my car, or climb on my motor scooter and drive about thirty minutes to the town of Snoqualmie, Washington. There I meet with a group of aspiring and successful writers at a charming place called The Black Dog Arts Cafe. This is my Kaffeeklatsch. While the majority of conversation is writing or publishing-related, it is a most pleasant gathering of friends and associates willing to converse about any topic. This friendly and welcoming group has taught me a lot about my newly discovered craft of writing. We range in age from low twenties to high ‘not-gunna-talk-about-its.’
Ironically, unlike the Inklings who were exclusively male, most ‘members’ of the kaffeeklatch group are women. The group was started by one of them (Hi Caz). We drink coffee (or your choice of morning beverage), eat, and talk. Some in attendance have even confessed to getting some writing done. I wouldn’t miss it. If you’re looking for me between nine and noon on Friday mornings, check the Black Dog in Snoqualmie. I am the one with short gray hair, wearing a cap, mostly listening, frequently laughing, and totally confused. Who is to say that the next Tolkien or Lewis is not sitting there, telling me how I need to work on my plot?
As I prepared for retirement about a year ago, I wondered what to put on my calling, or business card. Retired didn’t seem right, even if accurate. It tells nothing about what I do, as I thought the card should. When a doctor retires, she is still a physician. Others who no longer practice their vocation often can still rightfully be called, say a pilot, but not necessarily an airline pilot. He may even continue to fly airplanes.
With tongue in cheek, I listed my position of expertise as Leisure Aficionado. Also on the card, I listed three skills. One was Pleasure Seeker. I found reactions to that interesting and would often ask, “Don’t you pursue things that give you happiness and pleasure?” Apparently, some people only interpret a pleasure seeker as immoral. Unless your name is Church Lady, even sex is both moral and normal. Admittedly, it gets a lot of people into trouble. Without it, however, none of us exist. My topic is not sex, or even retirement. It is the pursuit of pleasure and the reduction of pain: Epicureanism.
I am an Epicurean. I see nothing wrong with that and even see it as positive. In my house I have food and drink, some of which has minimal or no nutritional value. But I like them and they bring me a certain amount of pleasure. I also have substances that have value in the reduction of pain. Chances are that you do too.
Epicureans are disciples or students of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. In the more modern sense, we are people devoted to sensual enjoyment, especially derived from fine food and drink both in a person’s taste and, as it often relates to delight-providing establishments, restaurants. Synonyms for epicureans could include hedonist, sensualist, pleasure-seeker, sybarite, voluptuary, bon vivant, and bon viveur. More related words are epicure, gourmet, gastronome, connoisseur, and gourmand; a generous, life-loving epicurean. Much of how we use the term invites thoughts of fine food and drink. I personally favor the adjective Epicurean to mean leaning more toward an understanding of Epicurus and his ideas.
Of course, there are problems with excess. Health factors such as weight gain, allergies, addictions, and waste leading to environmental damage can be consequential. But those problems are about excess, not pleasure or the relief of pain. Epicureans are not opposed to common sense and we applaud evidence-based solutions to problems.
I’m in good company with my pleasure seeker philosophy. Other adherents to the teachings of Epicurus included the poet Horace, whose famous statement Carpe Diem (“Seize the Day”) illustrates the philosophy quite well, in my opinion.
I’ve had new cards make up. They have my photo, name, contact information. The job title on the card is “Writer” – nothing more. That is what I consider myself to be, because it brings me pleasure. While it also brings me pain of a certain kind, Epicurus had an answer for that too. If the result of the pain is pleasure, in the end it is good.