It has been a while since I have written a post and the over last couple of weeks leading up to this update I have considered the reasons why. I realized that it wasn’t due to a shortage of topics but more due to the feeling that I was rehashing the same main idea about food that everyone else with a food blog was: good food is awesome and I like it. What was I offering that was unique or worthwhile? Then I realized that there was a second reason I stopped. Not all food is good food. Some of it is bad. Really bad. I was finding myself wanting to start doing some critiques of things and could not think of how without being mean. In the end I lost my nerve and just stopped thinking about it and in turn stopped writing.
What did we miss: I set out on an epic journey to find a pork shoulder with its skin intact, and failed. There was a week of cooking for a group on vacation. Mead was made multiple times. A buddy of mine and I dug a hole in the backyard, lined it with brick, filled it with fire, removed the fire, refilled the hole with about $500 worth of seafood and vegetables and then covered it with sand. At one point I think I made the best burger I’ve ever had and it involved grilling bacon. In the fall I started hunting and learned a bit about providing for myself and processing meat. Many pizzas were grilled. A rooster found its way into a classic coq au vin. I got engaged and began to think about what that means culinarily. I ate at good restaurants and had wonderful meals and a few woefully disappointing ones. I am sure I am missing things.
I must say though, the peak of my time away from writing came when we dug up all of that food from the hole. My buddy Jake helped me dream up the day. A New England Style clam bake. Not a stove top boil adaptation, but an honest to God, hot pit in the ground bake. He had Xeroxed two pages of a recipe out of book that included a case of beer and had no trouble convincing me that it was a good idea. Really, how hard could it be? A hole in my tiny Oil City backyard is just as good as some hole on a beach. Seafood in NW Pennsylvania is no longer unheard of thanks to Wholey’s. We had no experience in pit cooking and marginal experience cooking seafood. In short, we had no idea what we were doing, but we did it anyway.
Of course there were some hiccups, but I believe the day turned out to be exactly what we wanted. A memorable summer event was created around good food, good drink, and good people. Normally, big summer meals happen in some other manner and food is picked based on ease of preparation. “Well, it’s a holiday/birthday/parent day, we should all get together, what are we going to eat?” is a familiar last-minute refrain. As a result my experience with most summer get together menus center on hamburger and hot dogs and the dichotomy of mayonnaise salads. A clam bake, on the other hand, made for something a bit different. The day was a celebration of food, friends, and the slow pace that a summer day allows, yet we all take for granted. Everyone had a chance to lend a hand and be a part of the process or just sit back and enjoy a drink and conversation. The food came out in stages and caused the meal to be enjoyed over hours instead of minutes. That wasn’t exactly planned, and it kind of stressed me out, but in the end it proved serendipitous and added to the evening and made it all the more memorable. Jake is fond of what I believe is a Yvon Chouinard quote, and it is applicable to that day “The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts.” Setting out on a well planned nature walk isn’t adventure, that Oil City clam bake was adventure.
So, as this mild, albeit grey winter starts to brighten up I am reminded of the days ahead. Seems odd to be ‘reminded of the future’ but that is the only way to describe that refreshing feeling that there are good times ahead. I never liked the phrase “the good old days” when people sullenly reflect on happy experiences as if it were a bizarre set of circumstances that caused them and such a planetary alignment will never occur again. The good days are here now, and they happen when we do something new and out of our comfort zone that protects us from things going awry. I, for one, aim to make the most of them and not cut corners when I can help it. I look forward to more long, memorable, imperfect days ahead and taking the time to write about them.
Unfortunately my photographer was on hiatus at the time too (she sent her camera to the bottom of a lake), and I have no image to leave here.