Sunday, February 27, 2005

Spring is in the Air

The very season that inspires the name of my future restaurant is a profound time for me. Winters, especially gloomy ones as this has been with a historical rain season, are not something I particularly enjoy. Albeit being necessary, as life is cyclical and with depression comes gestation and growth, I look back at the past two months and wonder what happened to them. I've been neglecting friends, relationships, letting things go undone, forgoing exercise and dealing with paperwork/finances. I've been hiding behind my books, the scrabble board, and a vat of excuses (rain, it's cold, my right to be depressed).

However, today I woke up (even with mild symptoms of the flu), the sun is out, the birds are chirping, and I'm able to open my balcony door. The door gets stuck during the rain as wood expands. My potted herbs have been flooded, roots browned. It's okay. Everything will be okay.

I put on KCRW as I do by habit, and the usual Harry Shearer whom I adore is depressing me, so I put in a wonderfully beautiful mix by Drew. A little Keren Ann, Black Box Recorder, Rufus Wainright, Coco Rosie, and Ben Folds doing a live version of "Raindrops Falling on my Head."

I make coffee. I thumb through Dwell and Jane (a very guilty little pleasure). My house is in desperate need of cleaning, but instead, I'm sitting with my magazines, newspaper, books and daydreaming. For you multi-taskers out there, I don't think I can daydream and clean at the same time. Not today. Daydreaming is essential to my livelihood.

I dream of the food I will make and the people who will eat them. I think of the organic rooftop garden I will have. I differentiate the smell of peppermint versus spearmint in my head. I think of segmenting blood oranges into supremes for a mesclun salad served with a champagne-citrus vinaigrette, topped with roasted coconut flakes.

I think of my team who will strive for perfection at every corner. I think of stainless prep tables. I think of a warm oven and sweeping flames. I think of the clean, inviting, fashionable uniforms my staff will don. I think of a busboy who has dreams of his own. A mile away I can spot his talent yet until he walked through my kitchen doors he lacked opportunity.

I think of a kid whose parents had to bribe and drag before making it to my restaurant for Sunday brunch. The mopey boy would rather be at his best friend's eating potato chips and playing Grand Theft (what a lovely society we're raising kids in). Sitting at this Vietnamese restaurant surrounded by adults suck (except the cool Vans that they wait staff wear). Everything on the menu contains green things and sauce, too frilly for an eight-year-old punk skateboarder. Then I think, what a lucky kid. His parents must love him a whole lot. He just doesn't realize it yet.

I think of my Mom whose talent I admire more and more each day. Lately, I've been into terrines and galantines and realize how much Vietnamese cooking French influences. Although I'm not a huge fan of terrines and galantines, I appreciate the craft and skill that goes into creating and serving them. Growing up, I saw my Mom layering meets, and using all different kinds of homemade molds (milk cartons, cans, etc.) -- Surfas and Sur la Table are not things she's familiar with. Sometimes making one loaf would take ten hours. The worse thing is you had no idea how it was going to turn out (has it cooked all the way through, will the colors come through, was the fat to protein content correct, enough or not enough gelatin, etc.). Finally, the hours of working in anticipation was going to pay off, or not. The banana leaf wrapped galantine has cooled to the right temperature and she would gently put it on a cutting board lined with a recycled paper bag (so she can just roll up the mess once she was done). She would dip her sharpest knife in hot water, wipe off the knife and with one swift move, turn out the cleanest, most beautiful cut. She would call all of us over and make us look, "Come here, look at how this turned out." She critiqued herself, replayed each step, and thought of things she would have done differently. She would be proud of the fact that, "This is exactly how I thought it was going to come out." I would be the least bit interested and barely touch the plated delicacy (usually served with various sweet rice and pickled vegetables). I was not a fan of cold meat (still not). Moreover, I had no appreciation for my Mom's work and would complain about the heat, the smell, and the prep she made me do (I once peeled about over fifty cloves of garlic when she volunteered to make five gallons of Nuoc Mam for a church event). I spent a lot of time sulking in Mom's kitchen. Today I think back. I was/am so blessed. Little did I know.

This is why daydreaming is so important. Especially on crisp, clear days when the break of Spring is in the air.

12 Comments:

Blogger darth said...

lovely, evocative post, mhp - welome back :) i love to slip into that quiet state of daydreaming..it has always been what keeps me..well, keeps me being me i guess.


and hey, i want to hear ben folds do "raindrops"! i love his cover of golden slumbers...

9:31 PM  
Blogger Arethusa said...

There's always those things that your parents make you do when you're that provide enrichment to your life that you only realise years later.

I love to daydream. Keeps me out of trouble. And Umm...thanks for the compliment you posted in the other entry. :blush:

10:19 PM  
Blogger MHP said...

Darth & Areth,

What a delight! I love being back and seeing you guys. I miss you. Areth, comment reiterated. This new interface shows pictures next to comments. Lovely. Will look for you guys in my daydreams.

5:40 PM  
Blogger littledminor said...

have I ever mentioned that I like to eat anchovy paste straight out of the tube? I probably shouldn't admit that.

7:59 PM  
Blogger darth said...

littled, that stuff is addicting...i'm always sampling it when i have it out to cook something...

8:01 PM  
Blogger MHP said...

i like when you write about the things you don't admit. ldm, what are you eating these days? i guess i should go read some blogs, huh? darth, i'm going to have to send you a mixed cd one of these days.

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