Sunday, May 18, 2008

There is Power in a Union

Sunday morning. If you leave Monday out of the equation, it's my favorite time of the week. I brewed some coffee and made Erin and myself a turkey bacon, cheese and onion omelet (yeah, I can cook a thing or two; not three, just two). I'm listenining to Billy Bragg's "difficult third album", Talking With The Taxman About Poetry. It's almost cool here in the living room, which is a delight, because this same living room reached an almost book-bursting temperature on the Bradbury scale on Saturday.

Yesterday, Erin and I, with extraordinary assistance from Melissa (who is not 3'5 as I had previously claimed) hosted Adam & Josh's wedding shower. We had 14 friends crammed in our small, hot, upstairs apartment, midday. Open windows, open front door (cats locked safely in the bedroom), several fans and a tempermental air conditioner.

Erin handled the cooking; Melissa took charge of the decorating. I piped some letters on the cupcakes.

With a Disneyland theme, the 2 CD mixes Erin compiled were appropriately whimsical.

Most of the guests tanked it on the "Ridiculous Disney Quiz" and the Portland heat via the Amazon put the kibosh on the much anticipated Disney Pictionary.

Still, a swell time was had by all! Good food, good friends, good god -- did I mention the heat? (The black balloons deflated instantly when the noonday sun struck them; followed soonafter by the exploding yellow ones...)

Sitting here Sunday morning, thinking about eating my fifth cupcake this weekend, Erin walks into the room and smiles, "I love having parties here."

Congrats, Fellas!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

12.0 There Will Be Pork

Starring Erin, Mike, Adam, Josh, Jim & Allee
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Punch the Clock by Elvis Costello

“Isn’t this the greatest thing?”

A Timeline for New ITSKers: May, 2007 – The Maiden Voyage of the Sellwood Kitchen. To think it all began with herb chicken, sweet potato oven fries and John Coltrane. Ah, chicken! Our albatross! (Maybe we should try albatross sometime…)

Well, here we are (are we all here?) one year later, as unpopular as ever, but still true to the cause: Providing delicious recipes paired with esoteric banter and vague references to obscure musicians (“Hey, Mike, you can quote Guided By Voices songs all year, but no one’s gonna download their discography…”). Ah, give it time…

Full house tonight in the Sellwood Kitchen: Josh & Adam (as per), Jim (as of late), and Erin’s girlhood chum, Allee, who notches up the intelligence quotient by about 50%. (Sure, I can namedrop Ayn Rand, but she’s actually read The Fountainhead. Oh, and Jim’s read Atlas Shrugged. Eggheads.) Ayn Rand developed a philosophy called Objectivism (she preferred Existentialism, but Nietzsche had already nicked it). Rand’s idea that happiness is the moral purpose of our lives, and productive achievement is our noblest activity, sounds tempting at first listen, but I balk at her unswerving conviction. I am certain of nothing. I also shrink from reading anything written by someone whose name I cannot pronounce (this accounts for the absence of any Anaïs Nin on my bookshelves).

But Erin’s devotion to a delicious meal flashed parallels to Objectivism: Allee remarked on Erin’s refusal to compromise her ideals, despite the cries of hunger from her needy diners.

Our entrée this evening is the other white meat. No, not sea turtle (as I was disappointed to learn), but pork. Apparently, the unnecessary killing of threatened or endangered species is frowned upon by an incredible number of conservation groups. I faced this same difficulty in Ohio back in 1914 when I was forcibly pulled down from a poplar tree while poaching a few eggs from a passenger pigeon nest.

Tonight’s meal is nothing you can whip up in flash. Time is the main ingredient (for those listening to this article on tape (as read by Lyle Waggoner), that’s t-i-m-e). The lengthy prep time offers guests a rare opportunity to chat without crumbs spraying from their jabbering maws. We gathered in the kitchen, an interactive audience to Our Cooks’ presentation. It’s like performance art, except at the end you get to eat the Playbill. So what’s happening now is the pork tenderloin is simmering in a cast iron Dutch oven for an hour.

“It’s an enamel cast iron Dutch oven,” interjects Erin. The stock pot was a birthday gift (not from me – I got her a 2-year subscription to Ranger Rick, which I had mistaken for a 2-year subscription to Rachael Ray’s magazine).

Speaking of Rachael Ray, of whom Erin is a fan, Josh’s roiling digestive juices conspired for this select choice of verbal bile: “Welcome to Erin O’Shaughnessy’s 30-Hour Meals!”

Not only is tonight’s meal extended, the Kitchen itself gains a foot and a half when we roll the microwave stand next to the oven, thus establishing a prep area for Adam. Never underestimate the ingenuity of the lower middle class!
Jimmy puts on a mix tape he made me (sure, it’s on a CD, but when I try to say “mix disk” my tongue cleaves to my palate and I can only dislodge it with a shoehorn). Allee’s ears perk up to a Velvet Underground song. Josh wonders aloud, “What’s the difference between ‘underneath’ and ‘beneath’?” I suggested “beneath” was the word of choice for stuck-up sticky-beaks. He declares he’ll start using “beneath” in ordinary conversation.

After the pork has sufficiently cooked, it is removed from the pot, shredded, and then returned to the pot to be further reduced for a secondary eternity. But to paraphrase Poe, “What care I how time advances? I am drinking Two-Buck Chuck today!”

Jim declares Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal in There Will Be Blood the greatest performance ever given in American cinema, even surpassing De Niro’s Travis Bickle in intensity. He is happily haunted by the film, the 158 minute Oscar-winning epic. I see the cast of flavors and crew of utensils toiling & boiling & embroiling us in a new American epic. If P.T. Anderson was to cook a meal, it would be pork tacos.

Josh regales us further with outrageous pet peeves, such as his loathing of gerunds, and of sentences that end with prepositions (“No, it’s ‘what time does Target open at?’,” he heard a father correcting his son).

Seconds before we slip into berserker mode and settle on cannibalism, dinner’s ready! We rush to load up our plates, nearly forgetting to assemble the floor display for the official photograph. Adam does the honors. It looks too good to eat; nevertheless, we eat it.

“Blue in Green” (a highlight among highlights on Miles Davis’ monumental Kind of Blue) hushed out of the stereo as we sat down to eat, and its luxuriously slow meter set a necessary pace for what could have become a feeding frenzy. And while we did cram down about four tacos each, I realized the lobster bibs I had on standby were merely precautionary.

All the waiting (which really wasn’t long at all, unless you were born in the impatient era known as the late twentieth century) was totally worth it! We all learned a little about anticipation, self-control and gerunds.

What shall we call this recipe? I suggested “Puerco Tacos”, or pork tacos. Someone thought I said “puerto tacos” or “door tacos.” Not to be confused with “floor tacos”, which you could’ve eaten from underneath the table. Oh sorry, beneath the table.

The dinner party stretches late into the night. Adams falls asleep on the carpet, using the latest issue of Real Simple as a pillow.

Serves 5-6

2 boneless pork loins
Two cloves of garlic (minced)
Olive oil
1 sweet onion (chopped)
2 large jalapenos (seeded and chopped)
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
3 cups of chicken broth
Taco seasoning (1 tsp cumin, ½ tsp red pepper flakes, ½ tsp ground cayenne pepper, ½ tsp oregano, ½ tsp seasoning salt)
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil on medium. Add minced garlic. Cut up pork into two-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Place pork into pot. Brown thoroughly on one side. Flip pork, add taco seasoning and continue browning. Once browned on both sides, add jalapenos, onion and peppers. Cook for 2 minutes, then add broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer for one hour. Remove pork, shred with two forks, and return to simmering broth. Raise heat slightly and reduce broth. When broth almost completely reduced, remove pork with slotted spoon and serve on warm soft corn tortillas with your favorite taco fixings. Sure it takes a while, but they’re TOTALLY WORTH IT!

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: