mark bittman, man of the times, writes his food stories once a week. now he is vacationing on cape cod. cooking for himself and a whole long week at that. oh, and so far, the stuff he's come up with, such inventions, what creative stove force. unremarkably so, like pasta and beans, a tomato sauce, 'no taste' steamed mussels, a one egg pasta frittata, stir fried squid and somesimilarsuch. these items could be terrific and would be if done in a deeper, may be more creative assembly. fitter concoctions. i know he's on vacation at the cape, and like in most out of the way places, there is a lack of good stuff around to find or to buy and hence to prepare. when you go to america bring your own food, the old caution serves well, ever more so today or so it seems. like, stephanie took me to alaska. she had work up there and i thought of alaska as in wild fish, shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters. raw, of the gulf. after two days i flew. the fish at the monger, all halibut, came as a solid two pound of ice. ditto the shrimp. no clams, nor mussels, let alone oysters. restaurant fare was woefully awful, mrs. paul's fish sticks in red sauce, pre-fried frozen french fries. a thousand island iceberg. or worse. it is a sad food fact that even on alaska's coarse coast, or for that matter on cape cod, mussels are no longer wild. you might get sick from the savage shellfish. a lawyers delight, a fishmongers dilemma. the taste of mussels comes from their food, much like man: you are what you eat. der mensch ist was er frisst, old feuerbach said so, some hundred and fifty years ago. still, and without regret, bittman might have done better, if on cape cod.

it is true, i tend to brag. i know. i do it that way. my food stuff is often over the top, pictures included. but, tell me, why not? i believe in the challenge. i like to worry the stove. or go hungry. not that i would. yes, there are many suppliers of mussels, if farmed, there is variation enough. as everybody knows, flavor is ever dependent on price. i deplore cheap food. not for consumption. not on my table. when stephanie's gone, on business or for a reunion, when i can't or won't join her like up in alaska, i love to cook for myself. for a week or two, or a few days, i'm on vacation. no matter. i set a table, mostly, or eat from the pot kitchen-wise. last night i braised a pound of wild ling cod. in olive oil, skin down, beset by soft-stewed chanterelles. no butter. liquid reduced, i rushed small leaved romaine through this sauce as an aside.

so simple. and in no time. a glass of barbera d'alba had the fish swim. 'the silver spoon' kept me company. it's a marvelous book. all manner of the italian cook's intrigue and lore. some thousand pages fat. or 'phat' as we tend to say around here.

this morning from my window