Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Rice in its natural state

"'I am always sad that we do not eat the leafy part of the carrot, as the tops are so nice to look at. I often long to see rice growing in its natural state. Have you seen this?'"

Polly said she had not, and a silence fell between them."

Laurie Colwin, Family Happiness, 31.

The speaker is Andreya, Polly's Czechoslovakian sister-in-law, whose vegetarianism and generally mute demeanor offer great amusement in an otherwise sad novel.

It turns out I have seen rice growing in its natural state, but never realized it until a few days ago, when I acquired Seductions of Rice at Pegasus (this time I went there to get a book for Hockeyman. So there!)

Seductions of Rice come to us from cookbook-writing-traveling-photographing duo Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Being very hip types, they have their own snazzy website, which may be accessed here.

Alford and Duguid's books are all glossy coffee-table porn numbers that save themselves via informative writing, lush photos, and terrific recipes. Some of the photos in question are of Sacramento rice fields, which yours truly has passed any number of times, seeing only dry-looking weeds. This is what happens when you show a Detroiter farmland. Now I know I was seeing rice growing in its natural state.

I read Hot Sour Salty Sweet, but it was a library book. I loved it too much to really read it thoroughly, for I had to return it. But now I have Seductions as consolation. Somebody saw fit to sell this book. I got it, hardly used, for twelve dollars. I really wonder what people are thinking when they sell books like this. Was it a Christmas gift to a non-cook? A person who committed himself/herself to the Atkins regime? Post-divorce leavings? An estate sale? Who, who, who sells a book like this?

Never mind. I have it now. Mine! All mine! And I'm cooking from it.

Take last night. I was making H-man strip steak. He loves steak. But I had just been to the orthodontist, and of course Dr. Gadget was on duty. There are five doctors in this practice, but I always get Gadget. He loves to put metallic thingmabobs in my mouth, wire configurations that seemingly do nothing save snagging my tongue and/or bits of food. Thursday it was "lace." This is a wire, woven triangular fashion round my top four teeth. The bottom teeth have a "chain." Lace and chains. Who names this stuff? Somebody who demands you call her Mistress?

Thanks to Mistress Lace, I could not chew. I look forward to using my teeth again one day. Meanwhile...

I marinated H-man's steak in my recently acquired mushroom soy sauce and some sesame oil. Boiled some rice. Stir fried Chinese radishes (gorgeous pink interiors, lots of sugars), fresh farm garlic, ginger, greens, and a carrot in more mushroom soy sauce, peanut oil, a splosh of sherry, and a fingerful of Thai Red Curry paste, which I bought in a jar and died a thousand deaths opening. I served the whole mess to H-man and wondered what he would say: steak, to him, means potatoes, some inconsequential vegetable, and a glass of scotch.

"What is this?" He gasped.

"Is it ok?"

"It's wonderful. What did you do?"

I should mention here that H-man loves salt and mushrooms, so I really couldn't lose.

On tomorrow's menu:

Yunnanese spicy ground pork sauce with Quick and easy Chinese greens.

Ironically, I am out of white rice and will open my new box of Thai Red rice. Stay tuned.

Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid: Seductions of Rice. New York: Artisan Publishing. 1998.

Laurie Colwin: Family Happiness. Knopf, New York, 1892.

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