dinner variants


like so many good "hausfrauen" i do dinner virtually every night. it is my delight to invent something on a daily basis, even though i often strain under the need to find a novel variant for my gloating belly.
i often wonder how many have the luxury to go everyday to a market for fresh produce, meats, fish and other food stuff. i do. i'm lucky to have a sparkling 'whole foods' and that extraordinary japanese supermarket 'uwajimaya' reasonably nearby. i hardly ever really 'store' foods, excepting the few left-overs and the sauces and condiments needed to play with. as well as a few frozen delights from last summer's bounty, like various pesto, or peas, or edamame. i love to go food browsing, to find inspiration from what might be available. i'm lucky to have the time and don't need to stock up in advance for the weekly table. and glad we have a decent icebox for those items to keep, not to spoil. but onions - those beautiful cipollini - and my garlick i store in a brown bag where it's dark. i also keep a reasonably well stocked larder, for jams and cans of tomato, peanut butter and salt, sugar, spices and anchovies. some whiskey, wine and beer, for those likely or not emergencies, chocolate, candles and canned beans, dried tomatoes, rice of all colors, saffron and olive oil. and water, lots of that.
but do people still put their butter out on the window sill? my grandmother did, which would have been alright had she lived high in the cold austrian alps. as it was, her house stood by the edge of old-town near the river. on my infrequent visits there she would hand me a well buttered piece of crusty bread on the same lovely, slightly chipped plate, a band of painted forget-me-nots around the edge. her butter, fresh from the sill, strongly redolent and rancid. enough so to scatter much salt disguising a certain balm. she told me to eat, eat she said, so you'll get tall and strong, like your cousin manny. manny was her first-born daughter's son. she doted on him, he could do no wrong. he was for ever taller, stronger and very much smarter. and i hated him. he never ate her stuff, and when she wasn't looking, fed it to the dog. my mother's mother did own a fridgidaire, in fact she had two, one  for the kitchen and one with the old black party-line on top, in the hall. both were unplugged, doors open wide, propped up and a-kilter. she kept phone books and her receipts in there, though mostly stacks of old news papers. the one in the kitchen was for rice and dried noodles, black beans and soup cans, green relish and mustard, candles and matches and her half bottle of gin. never fresh food. bread in the bread box, slow soups dark on the back burner, and butter, yes, butter out on the sill.
that was of course a time in the late forties, after that terrible war, a time completely without 'whole foods'. but then and unlike our precious famers markets now, folk like my folk went to the daily market. in the center of town, between the new rathaus, down the street from the old castle. baskets of farm stuff, carrots, beets and onions, eggs, leek, live rabbits and chicken. and bunches of flowers. always flowers. to give color first in the kitchen, then in the dining room. then as now, we played cards after dinner, sheepshead and sixty-six. hungry days, unlike now.
today though, how many times can i ratchet a risotto without blimpy yawns from those noodlebrains who just don't get the notion of a risotto as composite, a 'once around the kitchen' conation. so deeply bellycose and friendly a meal. is it the climate of portland - if you can call it that - inviting such rich and generous fare? but don't worry, there's no risotto tonight, though we again have that daily cold and misty rain so beneficial to our skin tone. no arancini di riso neither. instead i'll do a king salmon in a miso crust, baked quickly in a hot oven to keep the fish moist. torching the miso crust to achieve a crunchy glaze and serving the salmon with spinach aside. this spinach is barely steamed, then brined in a light wasabi and ponzu sauce.
by the way, i think my endless search for food fancies had its origin in the days of those salt buttered bread crusts. my need to do good food, both as a photographer and as the stove's handmaiden, transpired from those hard times, the lack then of, if not basics, so at least principals like sugar, chocolate and certainly, fresh, unsalted creamery butter.