(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column whose title says it all. Enjoy! -Max)
by Jason Hissong
21 December 2009
'Tis the season.
I've had three culinary events this week which evolve previous topics I've written about. This is the nature of cooking, writing, and, life. As we march forward through time things shift, understandings change, ideas and meanings more lucid.
And so, with these events, too.
Early on in this endeavor I wrote a column about why I love to cook. And most of it is that cooking, for me, and especially when I'm doing it for others, is a form of thanksgiving for my friends, and food, and life.
And so I get to repeat what I did last year: New Year's Day Dinner at my house. Prepared by me. For my friends. Except, this year, it's different, because I'm different.
It will not be the same crowd 1 January 2010 as it was 1 January 2009. People move away. Other people join, and the table will be as it is meant to be.
This dinner will be different from last year because I will be cooking different dishes. I'm not sure what the menu will be at this point, but I don't need to know right now.
The most important difference: I won't be cooking alone. The lovely Kate will join me in cooking the meal. And so, things change. I give thanks for my friends by cooking for them, and by cooking with them.
A more recent column highlighted my Cook's Bookshelf. And to this I add a new volume: Michael Ruhlman's newest Ratio. The book was a gift from Ashley to me for my birthday. Thank you!
Ratio's premise is simple: forget recipes. Here's the base level of what you need to know and then, once you have the base level, an infinite amount of variety can be accomplished. It's not a dissimilar theme to Colicchio's Think Like A Chef.
I like Ruhlman's prose. It walks the very thin line between pragmatic and pretentious. Here it leans towards the latter. I love this book. It makes so much sense to me because I am NOT a recipe cook. Recipes stress me out. There's no innovation in recipes. And, of course, there is that ubiquities discrepancy between what the recipe promises and what's executed.
I've not read the entire book, of course, but from the first handful of pages I can tell that this is one I will read cover to cover. Also, it makes me want to get in my kitchen right now and start playing with ingredients.
The third event of my culinary week occurred Sunday evening. I travelled to the Rogers Park neighborhood to eat at the other Uncommon Ground, which is, of course, my favorite restaurant here in Chicago. In that column I wrote that it's my favorite restaurant because of the food, yes, but because every time I've been there it's been with people special to me. And Sunday night's visit was no different.
The John Erickson Trio played last night. It was the first time I had ever gone to Uncommon Ground to hear music while having dinner. I'm so thankful to have gone. The music was very good and so perfect in that place.
And so I get to add another experience as to why that place is my favorite. I dined with a table of seven comprised of individuals from two separate circles in my life. The seven: my roommate Jason and his girlfriend Elizabeth. My friends from my place of worship Megan and Tina, and Tina's roommate Jessica. Ashley and I were the sixth and seventh and I certainly loved every moment.
I had the chopped salad. Ashley and Megan both had the pork chop with polenta and fried brussel sprouts. Tina had the pumpkin ravioli. Eiizabeth had the filet and Jason had the meat loaf. I'm not sure what Jessica had, as she was at the other end of the table from me.
So things change and are added to a bit. The fluidity is what appeals to me- that this process- cooking, eating, understanding both, being thankful for those around me- is always changing. I am thankful I can see that. And I'm thankful I have that.
What I Cooked, Where I Ate, and What Others Cooked for Me
Backwards this time: thank you Ashley for cooking the wonderful dish which she has entitled "whore in church." It's a pasta dish with shrimp and sun dried tomatoes. But to that is a cayenne/tabasco mixture added into the sauce that compounds itself as one keeps eating. Other thanks: the Title department in my office for their potluck on Monday. Sarah and Kelly for hosting the cookie exchange party on Saturday night (I don't even want to know how many calories I consumed there).
I ate out a lot again this week. Uncommon Ground on Sunday evening. Friday evening I enjoyed dinner with my friend Andy at The Pick Me Up Cafe. I had the corkscrew pasta in broth. He had a breakfast scramble. Saturday afternoon my friends Shayne and Katie joined me for some Christmas shopping in Wicker Park. We ate at the Earwax Cafe. While the Earwax has the most unappetizing name ever, the food is really delicious. I had the tomato soup and grilled cheese. Shayne had the Kitchen Sink Burrito and Katie had the chorizo burrito. Other than that it was my usual, tired lunch rotation.
I cooked this week! I made pancakes Sunday morning- before I had Ratio! Earlier in the week I made a simple dish of braised Italian sausage that I put on top of a jasmine rice and carrot combination. Tasty and delicious.