food

Recently Matthew Good reminded me of Tony Pierce's most important, or perhaps most vital, blogging guideline: Do what you fear most. And then do it again. Okay, what I fear most is Photoshopping pictures of my head onto topless pictures of Raymi. Actually, that sounds like the funniest thing ever. What I really fear most are two things:

1) being boring; and
2) the fridge.

These fears dovetail nicely. My fridge illustrates the great gulf between my ambitions and my achievement, between my ideas and my near-total incapacity to focus and follow through. Four weeks ago I woke up with a craving for pad thai and the strange conviction that it would somehow change the course of my life. You know, if I made a big ole wokful of pad thai, then success in all areas of my life would follow. So I sat on the conviction for a week, imagining how good the pad thai was going to be, and all the awards that my writing would get following my noodly success. Three weeks ago I actually went out and bought the ingredients.

Then I found every single reason on earth not to make a simple fucking plate of pad thai. I was too tired; I was going out to see friends; I was wasted drunk; Schmutzie had gone out and I wanted her to be there; I used up the garlic; I used up the lemon juice; once I had too much tofu (I seriously thought one night that I had too much tofu on hand. I don't understand that one either).

We got back from Christmas vacation on Friday, and I began to figure out new reasons not to make the goddamn pad thai. Today I decided I would make spinach and roasted winter vegetable soup, but the local grocery store was out of butternut squash. I came home with half the ingredients for the meal I was going to make.

I plunked down the groceries and thought Fuck It. I'm going to make some pad thai. The recipe called for shrimp. No shrimp. Fuck it, I'll throw in more tofu. I needed lemon juice for the fish sauce-sugar mixture. Again, fuck it, I'll use lime and cut down on the amount a little. No sprouts. Whatever. It's all optional. I started mixing and cutting. I got out the bag of Planter's chopped roasted peanuts. I scooped some out and took another look. The chopped peanuts didn't look right. And they smelled wrong: woody and bitter. I looked at the bag.

I'd bought a bag of chopped walnuts. Chopped walnuts were a deal breaker. Peanuts are not optional in pad thai. Walnuts were for baking. Walnuts went into hideous Christmas cookies and inedible cakes made by unloved aunts. Those little brown nubbins of bitterness heaped up in the measuring cup were telling me that I was a complete failure, an asshole errant bound for a hell where I would eat walnut shortbread cookies dipped in fish sauce for all eternity.

At Schmutzie's sugestion, I threw some frozen Amy's meals in the oven. She had the palak paneer, I had the teriyaki bowl with the brown rice and the parquet flooring tofu. The remaining pad thai ingredients went back into the fridge, except now I don't have enough lime juice for the next batch.

So the fridge and the cupboards are full of all kinds of ingredients, but none of them quite enough for the things I want to make. And I know that if I look my fridge squarely in the shelves and really take stock of its contents, I could make something awesome. But that's scary. Some of that stuff is old. Some of it is covered and you just don't want to open that lid to see what's fermenting within. Some is stuff that you thought you liked, but when you brought it home you never touched it, and now you can't bring yourself to try it on or throw it out. Stupid fridge.

The problem is that taking stock is not only potentially painful, but boring. When you consider every item closely, make decisions about details, enumerate and qualify, it slows time, thickens the air, bloats out each moment until you feel waterlogged and sick. I hate that feeling. I recoil from it. I avoid situations that call for that kind of concentration whenever possible (don't ask me to read out the minutes at a meeting, I start babbling and feeling sleepy).

This is the crap that's in my fridge, top to bottom.

And here's a red cabbage wrapped in plastic wearing a strainer for a hat. It's jaunty. It's dirty. It's all for you.

I'm going to make soup out of that damn thing, just you wait.