Victual Victories

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Monday, April 13, 2020. Disregarding the fact that unemployment would’ve paid for my audio book and more – a painfully large pill to swallow – I must focus on my goal: the audio book. Get it paid for. Do what it takes to get from where I am to where  I want to be. Self-employed and properly paid. Versus going through the motions at a job. I have to do my best to be mindful, to be present at this temporary task, I know. Show up, do the job, leave when your agreed to time is up. Don’t get entangled with expectations and pleasing people and trying to be the go-to guy. Don’t sweat learning things and trying to get up to speed and not be the burdensome new guy. Just show up and do what you’re told. If you’re not told, if your boss or bosses don’t have a clue, just hang out, fake it, try to stay busy but out of the way until you’re told otherwise. Don’t be noticed. Don’t strive. Just arrive and do your time. Think like a prisoner. No, not like that. Employment is only a prison if you allow it to be. I’ve made that mistake. I tend towards that mistake. That, and trying to make a job into something that it isn’t. This little job might work out only because it’s both temporary and entirely incidental; they just need bodies and they come and go, no harm, no foul, no expectation except keeping the slots filled, you don’t want the work, no worries, goodbye, there’s always somebody else. This may be just the thing for me to collect my little $3K and go from there. One step at a time.

Meanwhile, this morning I get an email from Bleam Garbors, the VP of human resources himself, desperate for employees to help with the virus-driven clean-up. Hilarious. Since when was Bleam Garbors involved in medical waste? Well, it’s not technically medical waste, that’s the loophole, all this virus related trash. What a joke. What a silly, impossibly ridiculous “opportunity” for the cagey and the cunning and the accidentally well positioned of this world to attempt to cash in. Always, when somebody loses – the restaurant business, for instance – somebody else wins. The waste business? I don’t know. The irony is acute because it was a Bleam Garbors job that I thought I had in the bag when I was trying to escape Blasco before they fired me. And I was turned down because I was old, I know it. On the Bleam Garbors website they say, “recent college graduates encouraged to apply.” Uh huh. It’s not ageism (which is technically illegal but impossible to enforce against) in and of itself, though perhaps there’s some of that, but the money. It’s always the money. Older workers cost more, they demand higher pay. And the waste business, I ought to know, was always one, akin to the equally low margin food business, to demand the lowest payroll possible. The attitude being anybody can learn to do this shit, so why pay them? But what do I care at this point in my life? I just need my cache of cash to move my real life forward. And this little anxiety attack of mine will pass along with the time served and the money collected and the future will be better.

Why do I sweat it all so much? The reader may think I’m a whack job the way I fret over a part-time job. I get it. But that’s what it is to be bad at something and some of us are really bad at working for others. It’s not laziness. It’s actually the opposite of that: entrepreneur types are always on the job; we don’t live for the weekend or the after work life because our work, when it’s our proper work, our right livelihood, is our life. And we don’t complain and rant and rave about it like I’m doing here. Because we’re being who we are when our work is our life, when there is no division required between who we are and what we do. I told Angie that when I’m self-employed every day is an adventure – I have the sense that anything could happen. But when I’m employed, I’m dead. I’ve died to myself and I must play act. I have to fake being engaged. My zeal gets set aside and my vocations starve for attention. If I could do both – write novels and work a job, I would. But I just cannot manage the energy in that way. But I’m going to try this part-time thing and see what happens. I’m going to make a different mistake if nothing else. There’s always a chance I’ll just see the full-time thing as the better option to get it all over with, unless I can indeed manage to strike a balance between my writing and the pay. Journaling will continue no matter what, it always does. I rather wish it could be the fiction but we’ll see, it’s never worked out that way; my full-on creativity seems blocked when I can’t devote every waking hour to it. Journaling is a form of riffing without the architecture of wholehearted investment, without the personal mythological demand, I suppose. Anyway, it may work; I may be capable of editing TC2 while being employed part-time just because the first draft, horrible as it is, is already written. That’s my gambit, at least.

DOP1 (2010-11) VINTAGE POST:

Monday, October 10, 2011. We’ve had a series of warm, dry days. I notice I accidentally deleted, or didn’t save the last entry I made here – the one where I bitch up a storm about how the Le Creuset Cook-Off turned out. I should explain: this was a Le Creuset-sponsored cooking event. Mark H. sells some Le Creuset product in his store, so somehow this event came up to promote sales all around. I have no problem with this idea; hell, I love Le Creuset stuff and in fact I’m the only fucking person in Union Hall Kitchen that even uses it. THE ONLY FUCKING ONE. Anyway, the contest involves cooking a meal in a 3 ¼ quart Le Creuset pot, serving it to the public and letting them vote for their favorite. It’s good that I didn’t save what I originally wrote about the outcome – it was just bile and nobody wants to read that, not even me. Hut K was the winner and The Lunch Room was runner up. These two carts – I’ll lower myself to say this hear just this once – make the worst food in the court. They’re both militantly vegetarian. The Lunch Room is also Vegan. With the exception of The Lunch Room’s cookies, which are serviceable, the food from these carts is a joke. I don’t know what the fuck Lunch Room made for this contest but I can guarantee it sucked. Hut K’s food looks and tastes like complete ASS – I’ve called it baby food on a platter since the beginning – and I tasted their so-called “winning” dish which was ugly, bitter, sour and ridiculous. Hut K puree’s food and reheats it – they wouldn’t know enameled cast iron if it crawled up their “nutrilicious” ass and fucking died. These veg and vegan folks really like to stick together and make a statement, which is to say I think they stuffed the ballot box. They called up all their fucking veggie-vegan moron friends and had them stuff votes. I’ll say no more, I’ve already said too much, but this is what HH presented, per the contest rules, and which was, in my opinion, transcendent in all it’s enameled cast iron glory:

The best mac & cheese in the world by Humble Hogs
the logo

Le Creuset “Cook-Off”

Truffled Mac-n-Cheese with White Cheddar, Gruyere & Prosciutto

  • 2 oz butter for bread
  • 3 oz butter for roux
  • 6 slices of bread cut in cubes
  • 6 cups milk
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • 16 oz white cheddar grated
  • 8 oz gruyere grated
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3-4 oz. Burgundy truffle, sliced thinly and chopped
  • ¼ lb. Prosciutto, chopped.

Oven = 375F for 25-30 minutes

  1. Grate cheeses and combine.
  2. Butter a 3.5 Quart Le Creuset dish.
  3. Melt 2 oz butter, pour over bread cubes and toss.
  4. Combine bread cubes with approx. ½ cup grated cheese and prosciutto.
  5. Warm milk on medium heat but do not boil.
  6. Melt 3 oz butter on medium heat until bubbling.
  7. Add flour and cook 2 minutes whisking continuously.
  8. Whisk roux while adding hot milk until mixture bubbles and thickens. (3-10 minutes)
  9. Stir in salt/nutmeg/cayenne/black pepper and remaining cheese.
  10. Boil macaroni 2 minutes and drain/rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
  11. Add macaroni & truffles to cheese sauce and pour into buttered dish.
  12. Top with bread/cheese/prosciutto mixture and bake.

I used Burgundy truffles from D’Artagnan, which cost my $75. I couldn’t justify spending $225 on Black Winter or White Winter truffles (Black Winter, with its bolder flavor probably would’ve been the choice for baking). I thought the Burgundy was fantastic anyway – it added a truly luxurious depth to my already fantastic mac & cheese. The prosciutto was just a little additional class and pigginess. I wanted the concept to reflect the Humble Hogs theme: pigs. There have been truffle pigs throughout history and of course some cured pork fits in nicely. Plus, mac & cheese goes down as my most popular dish if you added up the numbers, so it’s fitting I think that I nailed it for everyone who can appreciate such things. Apparently, there was simply an advance marketing push from Hut K, who thinks he’s fucking famous with his bullshit restaurant, and he got a bunch of morons to vote for him regardless of what he served. Same with Lunch Room – they’ve been recruiting “support” ever since they opened from this freaky “culture” of food-troubled fucks who like to promote their weird fucked up food needs to the world through events like this. Uh huh – two vegetarian dishes, neither of which actually utilized the Le Creuset dutch oven we were given, beat me. They also defeated Jay’s Cassoulet, Travis’ Braised Brussels Sprouts with Kimchi & Bacon, and Paul’s Chili Verde. Are you fucking kidding me? Fucking absurd. Absolutely totally fucking absurd. There, I’ve got some bitching and venting in and I feel better. In the end, folks seemed to think our dish was great, which it was, and we gave away almost two trays of it as samples – we ran out an hour early and that cost us over $100 but we got to keep the $160 pot, so I’m calling it a wash.

Update: Monday morning and I googled mark’s carts just to see if anything was out there regarding the Le Creuset debacle and I found this article from The Michigan Daily (there are little victories to be had):

“October 10, 2011 – 3:54am

Biting into the Mark’s Carts cook-off

BY NICOLE ABER, The Michigan Daily

“Saturday afternoon, the six food carts of Marks Carts on West Washington Street faced off in a cooking contest sponsored by French cookware manufacturer Le Creuset. Here at The Michigan Daily, we’ve tasted the samples and given you our take on the competition at Saturday’s cook-off.

“The Lunch Room, which serves vegan fare, offered a tasty stewed vegetable medley atop fluffy rice and a toasted multigrain baguette. Called the fall harvest aloo yoop stew, it was a combination of potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, red bell pepper, onion, chickpeas and peas. The vegetables were cooked to a perfect consistency with coconut milk, curry, vegetable broth, seasoned pepitas — or squash seeds — and spices. The ingredients cooked for about an hour, according to Phillis Engelbert, co-owner of The Lunch Room, and the excellent timing showed. The vegetables tasted just right — they weren’t too soft, and the stew had texture and steered clear of a soupy or mushy consistency. The curry and other spices gave the yellow-orange stew a slight kick, though it didn’t overpower the other flavors in the dish. It was slightly sweet from the sweet potatoes and coconut milk, slightly spicy from the curry and all around an autumn comfort food that didn’t weigh you down. It could have used a pinch more salt, though, to bring out the flavors that much more. Underneath the stew was multigrain rice that made each spoonful even more satisfying. The stew was complimented by a piece of multigrain baguette toast brushed with garlic and oil and crisped to perfection. With just the right amount of crunch, the toast partnered well with the stew and contributed to the harmony of fall flavors abound in the dish.

“Next stop was the Humble Hogs, which featured a truffled macaroni and cheese with white cheddar, gruyere and prosciutto. Though the Humble Hogs didn’t take home the cook-off prize, it’s The Michigan Daily’s winner. The Humble Hogs’s dish had all the makings of a perfect mac and cheese — not-too-soft macaroni; nutty, salty cheese that’s not on overload and a few surprises. The surprises in this dish were the always-delectable truffles, the delicate, savory prosciutto, nutmeg — which brought out the nuttiness of the cheese — and an ever-so-slight kick from the cayenne pepper. The dish also had an interesting array of textures — something that’s often missing from mac and cheese — from the al-dente macaroni, the bits of crisped prosciutto and cubed bread. Many mac and cheese dishes are baked with a breadcrumb topping, but the Humble Hogs took this one up another notch and used whole cubes of bread. Soft from baking, yet retaining a slight crunch, the bread complimented the soft macaroni perfectly. But the star ingredient, of course, was the cheese with its salty, nutty flavor that smoothed over the taste buds and made us never want to eat from-the-box mac and cheese again.

“San Street seems to be a favorite among regular customers, with steamed pork buns in high demand even with the plentitude of free samples Saturday. San Street’s pork buns even got a shout-out in the recent New York Times “36 Hours Ann Arbor” photo slideshow. Yesterday, the cart served up “Not Your Korean Grandma’s Kimchi Stuffing,” a unique twist on the Thanksgiving staple. The stuffing had a complexity of both flavors and textures. It was smoky from the bacon yet bitter from the kimchi. The variety of ingredients in the dish made the stuffing a multi-layered one: The soft, but not mushy, brussel sprouts and kimchi were paired with slightly chewy pieces of bread, which — being Zingerman’s Roadhouse Bread — scored high notes in itself. All in all, the stuffing combined classic dishes from two different cultures — American stuffing and Korean kimchi — and made them sing together.

“The winner of the cook-off was Hut-K Chaat, which aims to serve healthy Indian food packed with flavor. Its winning dish — shanu chaat — was no exception to the cart’s mission. With both sweet and spicy flavors, the shanu chaat was a combination of crushed chickpeas, colocasia leaves, baked multigrain chips, potatoes, peas and Hut-K Chaat’s special sauce. The dish was topped with “chickpea flour savories,” the dish’s ingredient list read, or a crunchy, crushed chip-like topping that introduced a new texture to the vegetable medley. Though some of the ingredients paralleled several that were in The Lunch Room’s fall harvest stew, the two dishes had completely different flavors. The shanu chaat’s nutritional value was evident, and not just from its green color. The tender colocasia leaves resembled spinach, but were slightly starchier. It’s clear Hut-K Chaat owners Swaroop and Sumi Bhojani have more than health in mind when it comes to their food. The flavors were interesting and complex, and the dichotomy of textures made the dish far from boring.

“Each dish brought together elements of autumn in its own way. But because the carts are so different, comparing the dishes to one another was a little like comparing apples and oranges. If served at a dinner party, each would most likely be devoured and the licked-clean plates would be piled high next to the sink. But the mac and cheese, with its nutty gruyere, savory prosciutto and delicate truffle undertones, would be the dish everyone would be talking about the next day.

Unfortunately, two of the carts were out of samples when the Daily was at the cook-off. Darcy’s Cart’s Chelsea Chile Verde and Debajo del Sol’s Jay’s Cassoulet were available during the event but are not included in this review.

I can’t tell you how much better I feel now. Some justice. I just wish Jay and Paul could’ve gotten some more samples out – everybody ran out of food because the court was so packed with people. How can you vote on food you never tasted? You can stuff ballot boxes anyway I suppose. This Michigan Daily article is just a little thing I know – a small kudo in a small newspaper in a small town, but hell, this means a lot to me. It means not everything in the world is bullshit and beer nuts. YEAH for HH – YEAH for people who can cook and for people who recognize GREATNESS!!