Saturday, February 2, 2008

Mushroom Barley Soup.

J and I had a couple friends for dinner last night. I made mushroom barley soup, which I've made before but last night's was so good that I feel compelled to write down the recipe and share it. I don't usually remember recipes so exactly, but I paid attention last night. It's really simple; the flavor depends as much on method as ingredients. Toasting the barley and browning the mushrooms are key.

Mushroom Barley Soup

4 or 5 crimini mushrooms, sliced
4 or 5 shitake mushrooms, sliced
about a dozen white mushrooms, sliced
(Don't wash the mushrooms, just brush the dirt off before you slice them.)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 small onions, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and diced
7 cups mock chicken stock
rounded 1/2 cup barley
2 or 3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper
olive oil
2 tablespoons butter

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet and add the butter and barley. Stir constantly over medium heat until the barley begins to change color. Put the barley aside, splash a little olive oil in the pan, and add the mushrooms, garlic, a few pinches of salt and pepper. Saute, stirring, until the liquid is released, then evaporated, and the mushrooms start to brown a little. (You don't want them to burn, but you want some browned bits to stick to the bottom a little -- that's where the flavor comes from.) Add a little water to the pan, scrape the browned bits off the bottom and turn off the heat.

Heat up a big heavy stockpot, add a little olive oil and salt and the onions, celery, and carrots. Saute over medium heat until the onions and celery wilt. Add the stock, mushrooms, bay leaves and paprika and the toasted barley. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for about 45 minutes until the barley "pops."

Stir about 2 tablespoons cornstarch into a half cup of cold water, and add it to the soup. Simmer for another few minutes until the broth thickens slightly. Salt and pepper to taste.

This soup reminded me of the Kiev restaurant on 2nd Avenue and 7th St. in the East Village, where I ate frequently back in the 80s. I think it's still there, but it's renovated and unrecognizable now. They used to make a very similar mushroom barley soup. They made theirs with chicken stock, and they served it with two very thick slices of challah bread with butter. It was very filling and all you'd need for dinner for $2.50. $3 with coffee. My other favorite meal there was kielbasa and eggs, which was just sliced kielbasa fried on the griddle with 2 scrambled eggs, served with home fries and challah bread, also under $3.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Something Different.

I want something different. The only sexual intimacy in my life these days is occasional drunk encounters with near-strangers. I don't want to say that there's anything necessarily wrong with those encounters -- and I'm not unaware of the possibility that my refusal to judge is indeed the problem -- but I want something different.

Lately I have framed this question (of how intimacy figures in my life) as part of my larger inquiry into what it is to be an artist, what an artist does, what kind of a life is ideal, or productive, or available to an artist, what kind of a domestic life an artist needs in order to work, etc. One of the answers I came up with not long ago is that I am more at ease with the management of my life if I explicitly prioritize the work over relationships. (I do this anyway, but to do it openly reduces my anxiety about what I should be doing.) I decided I didn't have any use for a boyfriend or whatever you call it.

So, theoretically, casual sex works. And in some ways it works on a practical level too. I am having fun, is what I mean. But there are too many pitfalls, and I'm kind of thinking lately that it's not worth the risks.

There's emotional risk. I had this idea that it isn't the length or seriousness of the encounter, or how well I know the guy, that is important, but rather my attitude or intention. Meaning that I want sex to be a way to express affection for another human being, rather than a means of feeling better about myself for a few minutes. So I've worked at that, with some success. I don't always get it right.

And there is the health risk. Or I should say, the whole host of health risks. With partners whom I don't care about beyond that moment it's much more difficult to 1) stick to boundaries regarding safety, i.e., what level of risk I'm comfortable with, or what I will and will not do, and 2) know what I'm getting into. (I know they say you should always conduct yourself as if your partner is HIV positive, and that's wise advice, but we all know that the better you know someone, the more likely you are to know something about his disease history, and there are lots of other diseases besides HIV, many of them much easier to catch. I find the whole risk thing to be less like a contract and more like an extemporaneous dance.)

So what is it I want?

There's a guy I see on the bus almost every day. He's tall and muscular with a wide smile and a crewcut. We're in a class together. He noticed me reading one of the books from that class one day last week on the bus, and he said something, we chatted for a few minutes. He probably plays football, is probably from a small town, probably goes to church every Sunday, he has that look. I find myself staring at his chest and thinking how nice it would be to just lay my head there. What is wrong with me?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Draft.

We got the draft option agreement from the producers of Lizzie Borden last week. It's 11 pages long, and I'm a little shocked to find that I know what most of it means. I have some questions for the lawyers, but for the most part it looks close to what we expected, so I don't think there will have to be a lot of back and forth to get to a final version.

What's unexpected is that, after paying the attorney and covering expenses we incurred in revising and preparing the music and book, there's not much left of our advance. But we get royalties of course, so if the show is a hit we all get rich! Or something like that.

The name of the production company is Took An Axe Productions. This is very exciting!


Hillary Clinton is Tracy Flick.