Wednesday, July 18, 2007

the tao of food

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly
When people see some things are good,
other things become bad

Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow. For me, that means doing what the monkey loves best and taking a ferry ride every few weeks to the aquarium. And doing this on a Tuesday morning means hitting the market, because you always need a snack. Or maybe two. One spicy dry chorizo, tub of mozzarella balls and loaf of bread later, plus a bag of produce, we were on our way.

With our friends and goodies all collected, we crossed the embarcadero to catch the streetcar. Over on the platform, sitting on the ground near the bench was some cowgirl's bag with a pretty little wedge of cheese in it. This sounded intriguing. I'd never had Tome au Dauphine, and a receipt showing its purchase some 45 minutes earlier made us think twice about leaving it by its lonesome self out in the cold. We picked it up, reasoning that some poor soul would be having a cheese-free lunch, and boarded the next car contemplating our next move. Hmmm. Street cheese. Might want to down-play this one, so as to not encourage the monkeys from harvesting food from the street. K and I discussed whether we would really consume it later.

The car slowly pulled up to the next intersection. While we were waiting, I realized I had left our bag of groceries and snacks behind, near the cheese finding location. We asked to get off and walked back the few hundred feet, reserved that the train would pull away any second. I saw my bag, grasping it with relief and looking down the tracks for the next car. Nothing. We looked back at the car we just departed a moment before and saw it reamining still despite a green light. We made a run for it. The driver opened the door, then stood in the doorway looking around the next turn in the track at a broken down car ahead of us. A bizarre sense of fate came to mind, but we were happy to have re-boarded, with our freebie cheese and groceries now safely tucked in our backpack.

With the broken car quickly removed, our ancient Italian thing with slick seats rambled on. The varnished wooden benches have nearly nothing to hold on to. Very easy to fly from if you're little and not used to these things. A parent can only warn of this happening so many times before it actually does. On one of the next green lights the car jerked forward and I felt the monkey's hand leave my knee suddenly. I looked to my left and found her four feet away and on the floor, facing backwards. She landed like a little cat, with back arched and upright. If she had a tail, it would have been quivering no doubt. I'm pretty sure I saw some back fur standing up though.

Blemish free and no worse for the wear, she had an expression of bewilderment when I picked her up and dusted her off. Back on the seat, with her back in big city observation mode, I tried to slip in a reminder.
"Honey, you gotta hold on when the car starts and stops."
"Yeah, or you might drop your bread!"
"Well, yes honey, but you could hurt yourself real bad."
"Yeah, you could fall down and go BOOM!"
"Luckily you're just fine. Please pay more attention to holding on sweetie, these seats are slick!"

Nice priorities on that little one. Definitely my kid.
Go with the flow, I told myself, and rejoice when these lessons occur. Without injury that is. What had appeared to be a near disaster was now a bright spot in life's lessons. You gotta hold on, or your bread will be swept away in the current. Well, that and you just might smack your noggin.

Arriving without any more momentum lessons we stashed a stroller in the parking area and got down to some exploration. We saw the baby penguins and admired the fish, making sure to play in the bubble windows that allow you to feel like you are in the tanks. After burning out on watching critters, we went and horked down on cheese and bread. Upon opening the chorizo however, I was greeted with what looked like a fuzzy blanket over part of the casing. Drag. When some things are beautiful, other things become ugly, came to mind. I could eat some, maybe, but I wanted confirmation that this was normal before going any further. With the freebie cheese nearly off-setting the price of the fuzzy meat, I tried to go with the flow of food, reasoning that in the end it was a fair trade.

After lunch, we stood for a while at the models showing how the new academy is being built. As wondrous as the enormous under-construction tanks will be, I couldn't keep the possibly bad chorizo off my mind. Tired, amazed, and stuffed, we waddled out to the street and made our way back to the ferry.

Back at the ferry plaza, I returned to the site of the purchase to show them the quantity of mold involved and to ask if this was normal as I suspected. I really wanted confirmation of such. The counter help took one look and said "Oh, that's a good one. I mean, that's nothing compared to some. Some are really hairy looking, even black sometimes." I looked down and felt better about my sausage. We went and boarded the ferry, riding the waves back to the East Bay. It would take a few days to get to do anything else with the chorizo besides sample it, but that's just part of the flow of food when you have kids. I went with it, eagerly awaiting my opportunity.

The soft overcomes the hard.
The slow overcomes the fast.
Let your working remain a mystery.
Just show people the results.

On the next baking day, I ran the experiment. I set aside some of the herbed dough that went into these focaccia and rolls with the intent of making pizza. (The english muffins were also good, but not herbed.) I took out the ingredients on hand and started to whack, chop and mince. Into a pan they went, to sauté. Then: wait a second, if I'm cooking this now, the hard will become the soft and it would make a better filling wouldn't it? The flow, the flow! Calzone it is!

I fired up the oven with a pizza stone to about 500 degrees. This would be the slow overcoming the fast, as this takes upwards of an hour. With the calzones ready to go, I popped them in, as we needed some munchies to get us through the vigorous task of brewing before dinner. Eating requires something flow through the lips to aid digestion, so we had to open a few beers. Which is a good thing, for in order to make more beer, you have to drink some too. It's part of the flow.

During the initial stages of brewing, when we got around to eating the calzone, I just had to laugh. The chorizo was fantastic, the mushroom, onion and pepper combo divine. With garlic jack and an herbed crust the flavor topped out somwhere near hugemongous. I forgot completely about the fuzzy meat. Then remembering that I had forgotten, I began to wonder why I ever questioned eating it in the first place. I mean, why is a guy who eats moldy cheese he finds on the ground so concerned about moldy meat he buys from a reputable source of salumi? Yeah.......go figure. It all comes down to being in accordance with the tao. (Or in this case, not.) When you're flowing with it, and "free" food is coming your way, you're thankful and less discerning, allowing yourself to enjoy the experience more fully. When you're paying for it, you expect the absolute best and are quick to judge. I jumped into the tao of food and had another.

So maybe I showed too much of the workings there. And not enough of the results. Oh well, that's part of the flow too.

*excerpts taken from the Tao te Ching


Callipygia said...

Your little monkey is adoreable, that serious expression behind her sunglasses! I don't really have much to say other than- nice post about the flow of things. Free Cowgirl cheese? Jeez, I mean cheese.

Rev. Biggles said...

MMmmmMMmm, free cheese.

Kevin said...

A really nice post. I enjoyed it immensely,

chilebrown said...

What a fun day! I used some of your starter for some pizza! Peace, Paul

Monkey Wrangler said...

Callipygia: Somehow, I knew this post would amuse you, having spent time in that part of SF (that sandwich post was it?) Thanks. And yes, she is one serious little monkey........also possesed with the most genuine belly laugh that I know.

Irrev: Too bad folks don't lose bacon on the street huh?

Kevin: Thank you my friend, thank you.

Chile: Glad to hear. Did you fire up the beehive? Oh, and there is a jar of blenheim jam awaiting trade with bacon.......

denise said...

This post brings back some great memories of adventures with my dad. It's kind of funny how that dynamic between father and daughter, created very early in the relationship, changes in some ways as the years pass by, but remains the same in many ways too. When I visit my dad now (I'm 41 years old), our adventures are still pretty similar to the ones we had back when I was a young tot. It's comforting and something you can both look forward to. Enjoy the ride.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Denise: Thanks for dropping by the monkey ranch for a little look around. More importantly, thank you for making my day with your observation of father/daughter relationships. It is indeed comforting to hear that some things don't change too much despite the years.

Catch you soon!