Eat This NOW

Someone asked me last night for a recipe I use.  That never happens, and it felt nice.  To me, cooking is a great way to indulge creativity, do fun things and demonstrate you care for the people you cook for.

It’s so core.

Nurturing.

<glossing over the fact that I don’t cook much for myself>

Of course, it was my carbonara recipe, something I’ve never made the same was twice in my life.

I made it for my Monday Night Supper Club peeps a few months back and it was met with rave reviews.  

My response, “C’mon, guys…it’s just carbonara!”  I was amazed to hear that no one had had it.  Not even the Silver Fox, who I consider quite a cook and rather world-wise.  Secretly, I thought he was messing with me.  But then again, I made it for my family and they’d never had it before, either.

At this point, I began thinking that maybe they had had it and I was just making it wrong.  Hehe.

Then again, before 2006, I couldn’t say that I’d had it.

I walked into my kitchen classroom at the Sur la Table I was working at in Kirkland, WA and my store’s Resident Chef was creating.

He’s this guy, for context.

And he’s made quite a name for himself, just like I knew he would.  I’ve largely held a static level of accomplishment…but carbonara helps.

He slides me this plate and tells me to dig in.  I had a foodgasm.

“I figured you for a carbonara guy, Galby” he tells me, smiling.  “Pasta, bacon, eggs, cheese…what’s not to like?  It’s like breakfast in pasta”, he continues.

No shit.

I couldn’t respond, I was inhaling.

A few years later, I started playing around with it.  I tried googling a recipe and realized that there’s no one way to make this dish.

The core argument seems to be around whether you add frozen peas or if that’s a bastardization too far.

I like peas.  And I like a hint of color.

So I usually include them because I think it makes for a more appealing plate.  You’ll have to decide for yourself…it’s obviously both a deeply personal choice and a hornet’s nest.

So, aside from frozen peas, maybe, the shopping list is pretty simple:

One 1 lb box of spaghetti style pasta

Three large eggs – the yolks are another debate-slash-variable.

One third cup each of grated pecorino and reggiano cheese.

8 oz (or more!) of bacon or pancetta.

One shallot.

A few cloves of garlic…just a hint.

One third cup of heavy whipping cream – depending on the yolk situation.

I’m a big fan of the mis en place method of cooking, so that everything is ready to go when I start.  So, I’ll slice the bacon into 1/4″ strips, mince the garlic, dice the shallot, grate the cheeses and let my eggs come to room temp before I even boil my water.

But once everything is prepped and I put the water on?  The meal is basically done, so be ready to eat!

I think with the MNSC, I got to this point and then waited for everyone to arrive before continuing.

And, by “waited”, I mean, “opened a bottle of wine”.  Basically, I made this while I was buzzed.

So, the water’s on to boil.

I brown the bacon and then when it’s almost done, start spooning off the fat, then throw in the garlic and shallot to soften.

At some point while the bacon has been going, I’ve thrown in the pasta – and possibly the peas – and it should be about done as the bacon concoction finishes up.

While those two things were happening, I’ve cracked my eggs and either whisked the yolks (I’ve used anywhere from 0 to all 3 in my experiments) into them or taken just the whites and whisked the cream into them and added the cheese.  

Hold some cheese back for topping the dish, for God’s sake!

I recommend holding back about a third of a cup of pasta water, just in case you need to goose the sauce along.  More on that in a second.

Drain the pasta and then do one of three things:

Return it to the pot, add in the bacon/garlic/shallot situation, pour on the egg/cheese sauce and then stir!  You will hear people talk about the terror of ending up with pasta and scrambled eggs at this point…but it’s never happened to me.

Obviously, I recommend cooking with the wine technique.

My biggest stress is usually just getting the cheese evenly distributed.  It does tend to clump together.  

No, Dori…just keep stirring!

If you need help loosening this sauce up, add in some of that pasta water.  I find that the egg and yolk route tends to need this little trick more that the egg and cream method.  Nevertheless, it’s good to have on hand

Once you’ve got a good coating, transfer the finished dish to your serving bowl.

The second option is to dump everything into your serving bowl and mix there, ya cocky bastards.  One less step.

Or…if you’re a real pro, like Joel is – seriously, watch his show Scraps or his YouTube channel – you add the strained pasta to the fry pan your bacon is in.
Scandal!

Mix the pasta and bacon around before adding in the egg and cheese mixture.  This allows the wet pasta to kinda deglaze the bacon fond adding a lot of flavor to the situation.  And some cool color to the pasta.

I usually make a double batch, so I don’t do this since my fry pan is too small for 2 lbs of pasta.

And I’m not a pro, like Joel.

Now, a single batch allegedly serves 4.  I think it serves one Xtopher, so if I have company, I double up.

Make this now.  You won’t be sorry, and 

You.

Are.

Welcome.

Eat This NOW

Farewell, Summer

Yesterday was the first day of Fall.  It certainly showed here in the PNW, too, all cool, gray and drizzly.

Wonderful!

Another reminder of how pecadelicious – Chrisism- my body is.  With my AC set at 70 in the Summer, I’m comfortable.  With my heat set at 70 in the winter, I’m freezing.

However, I was reminded as I noted the change of seasons that I never shared my vacation story, and it’s been a month.

It’s funny, I’m about to step into my sixth decade – ok, stumble or possibly stagger – but I can still be the bratty kid that complains to my parents that we haven’t had a family vacation forever.

I really rather rely on my elder and only sister for this type of stuff.  Her three younger brothers are borderline loners – at best.  Once Mom-Donna officially retires from her holding-the-family-together duties, the mantle will be hers to wear.  Mom has tried a few slow steps back from her matriarchal role, but still steps back in with statements of the, “I’d like to host one more holiday while I still can” type.  

She’s such a Prince Philip sometimes.

The result of my mild tantrum, nevertheless, was the parental gift of a summertime family vacation this past Christmas.

Finally, after a long break we were getting the Galby clan back together again in Central Oregon’s high desert retreat, Sunriver.

It’s always fun.

Always.

We’re together under one roof again, yet still free to pursue whatever we want throughout the day, coming together each night for dinner as a group.  Everyone takes a night of cooking duties, which is enjoyable for everyone.  Dad’s night – being the patriarch – is hosting dinner out at a restaurant.  The ‘Phew, as the youngest on the other hand, dips into his hard earned Birthday and possibly allowance fundage to treat us all to pizza delivery on the night of our arrival.

It’s a good ritual.  Plus, it provides me a chance to cook for people, which seldom happens outside of MNSC.

It just occurred to me that the last couple of family get togethers in the desert have proved near – or actually – fatal.

The last trip out for a Christmas getaway a couple years back was interrupted by a Christmas phone call from my ex, Sacha to tell me he had colon cancer…a story for another time.  Maybe.

That Christmas holiday was – more importantly to me – also marred with our family’s collective concern for dad, who had recently had a coronary procedure after which he wasn’t feeling well.

The trip before that was Rib’s first family vacation.  This was maybe five years ago?  Before the pizza even arrived, we were booking a flight for him to ABQ to attend his grandmother’ funeral.  Enviably, as I tap this out in a coffee house, he is with his new beau and family at Munich’s Oktoberfest.​

​I love that this video he sent me of his family vacation was so timely as I reminisced about mine.

Beyond those recent vacation danger moments, I’d say our other vacations were reasonably trauma free.  

Well

There was the Bike Ride Incident and The Nose Hair Situation, both of which I blame exclusively on my Black Sheep Brother.  Only one of which is near funny.  Black Sheep Bro and I went trail riding with the ‘Phew, I think he was still aged in single digits at the time.  We were having a blast leading him through the trails with a vague goal of finding a path to the ever elusive Benham Falls when he just barely nicked a fallen log that had been cut through to preserve the bike trail’s passability.

He.

Went.

Flying.Poor kid.  Right into a tree.

Little fucker scared the hell out of me and BSB before walking it off.

Talk about a dodged bullet.  I thought for sure my only nephew – at the time – was going to spend the rest of his Halloweens dressed as Stephen Hawking.

Things have changed since then.

I’d sent my bike home with mom and dad the week before after they came to town for a lunch date.  Er, doctor’s appointment.  When they picked me up, all I had to do was show up on the curb with my suitcase.

And a case of wine.

That’s a good change, in my opinion!  My sister had put in a request for some of that good stuff I’m always going out to Hood River for, so I took two bottles each from two of my favorite wineries out there.  I was reserving those for my night of cooking.  But since it’s also Summer, I rounded out my case with eight bottles of Rose.

My parents clucked their tongues at my “extra” baggage.  Not only because their car was also full of their bags, food for the week and doggie travel needs, but also because they had also brought a case of wine.

Great minds…meet the Galby clan!

We made it all fit.

Plus, a growler I’d gotten at 2.0 and Little Buddy’s wedding the day before.

And a huge watermelon The Silver Fox had gifted us.

As we made off on our way, I rationalized two cases of wine being barely enough if even four of the six legal drinkers partook with any regularity.  Really, that’s an easy three bottles a night, closer to four.

Five.  Five a night, tops.

As I mentioned, we all still take our bikes, but only my sister’s family unit rode together.  I put in daily rides, except for arrival and departure days.  It was good.  I’d spent the prior couple of weeks in spin class to trim up a bit.  But nothing prepared my ass for 15-20 mile rides in the saddle of a real bike.  My butt was less bun, more hamburger by the time I left.  But a nice 60+ mile four day stretch was good for me.  

After a successful jump start in spin, with minimal discomfort to my never-healing knee, I had aspirations of riding to the top of the Cinder Dome of the mega-volcano Newberry Crater.  Once the hills hit “straight up” status, my knee straight up refused.

Oh, well.  I still got plenty of exercise and just enough sun, even without the view from the top of the dome.

For my brother’s part, he pedaled to the store one evening, only to return grumpy or confused.  Hard to say.  He was all disturbed at how everyone he passed greeted him.  

I told you…loners.

Anyway, I’d noticed it on my rides. too.  It hadn’t bothered me, though.  I enjoy the social nicety of greeting passersby.  I was more interested in the range of greeting; from the apex vocal salutation to this:which was kind of a very minimal entry.  It was also an indictment for the homogenized environment we were spending the week in.  The darkest skin in this high desert mecca was simply overexposed and under sun screened.

This was the first time we didn’t – not a single one of us, let alone the group – spend time laying about at the pool.  There was a sister’s family rafting trip and a brother and nephew kayaking excursion, otherwise it was fairly pedestrian adventures.  Shopping in Sunriver or heading into Bend for some…shopping.

My sister and brother-in-law took the ‘Phew to look at COCC – that’s for you, Diezel.  He was considering Central Oregon Community Colkege for his first two years, but came back ambivalent.

I cannot believe I’m days away from having an 18 year old nephew!

While they were doing campus tours, the rest of us took off for the High Desert Museum.  Quite a way to spend an afternoon, with some self-improvement undertones.  It’s a nice mix of self-guided educational exhibits and nature path wanderings.

There were way more pics taken than I can comfortably squeeze into my humble blog post, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t throw something in just for Diezel’s enjoyment, so he knows he’s never too far from my thoughts.

So, enjoy, my friend and chosen family member!

Just to shake it up, no humans died or had close calls this time around.  But Buddy, my parent’s dog decided to give us all a scare, with a late day trip to the vet.  The local Sunriver vet wasn’t equipped to handle his situation and escalated him to Bend, 20 miles away.  This resulted in a doped up doggie and my parents enjoying my carbonara reheated.

But, in spite of the changes, the important things remain…

Each of us, being there, for one.  It was touch and go for me.  Mom and dad had picked a seemingly random week in August, the month that usually works for all of us.  Little did we know that we’d signed on for the biggest travel debacle in Oregon highway history: the 2017 eclipse.  

With the increase in tourists traveling in and me working at the airport, I was fairly certain I’d be asked to cancel my vacation.  The request was just to be back for the two days prior as people landed and one million tourists and 27,000 rental cars hit the road.

I was more than willing to fly back instead of risk the road trip…ODOT was tactfully suggesting that people take not only plenty of water for their travel, but also relief vessels, if you get my drift.

I don’t want to be that close to my family.  Hello, Alaska Airlines!

In addition to being there, also the food!

I think cooking for people is the simplest way to show love.  It’s demonstratively caring for them by providing sustenance.  Sharing stories and time over the table.  Figuratively or literally breaking bread together…there is – to me – no better way to illustrate family.

And every night, there we were…gathered at the table celebrating our bond.

Not a bad Christmas gift, parentals…thank you!

Farewell, Summer

MNSC: Unicorn Edition

Not just because this happened…did I decide this needed to be subheaded Unicorn Edition.  But also because I fin my unlikely group of attendees at the situationally Friday Monday Night Supper Club to be unique in so many ways that they are unicorns in their own right.

I considered subheading this Full House as a cute entendres about the two married, gay and (most rare, at least in PDX) monogamous gay men and the three single gay men that seem to be the last three gay men in Portland that not only believe being single and feeding your libido a steady stream of strangers is not the apex of the human relationship condition, but also possibly the last three capable of actually entering into a relationship as an equal.

A full house, if you will, for all you card players out there.

Plus, five grown men and one torbi with an oversized catitude is literally a full house in my little condo.I joked about Myrtle being my typical Friday night date, but when The Canadian and The Cajun arrived, I dispatched The Silver Fox to bring them up and Myrtle made herself comfy at the bar.  

I originally called this monthly-ish gathering of friends Monday Night Supper Club because I hosted the inaugural edition selfishly on my Saturday night.  Since then, my friends have moved it once to Saturday to accommodate my schedule changing and then it bounced to Fridays because people do shit on the weekends in summer, like leave town.  However, the moniker hasn’t changed, although Diezel was kicking no around an acronym he liked for a while, but between us we never really landed on something that worked, so I still call it MNSC.

Everyone else just calls it “dinner”.

Oh, and now it happens to fall on my Sunday night.  Admittedly, I’m a little sleep deprived as I tap this out on the way to work after squeezing in about 4.5 hours in the rack.  This was after a less than smooth segue from hosting duties to slumber last night.

But I only left one dirty dish in the sink!

Well, one dirty dish and a decanter with about two undrank glasses of wine left in it.

Talk about a Unicorn!

At least in my house.

But, in addition to four bottles of wine, the menu included my go-to carbonara, summer favorite caprese salad – with mozzarella balls and halved cherry tomatoes from mom’s (and dad’s!) garden and a Watergate Salad courtesy of The Cajun’s kitchen that had me unreasonably excited!I didn’t snap a pic of the pasta, once it’s made, it’s eating time not picture taking time!

I love carbonara.

Disputed as it is in the pantheon of real Italian food – some placing it on the same level of authentic Italian as Americano coffee – carbonara is an easy Italian.  No huge prep, no super processy sauce…just simple carb-coma-inducing, hearty goodness that takes little more time to prepare than boiling the pasta.

I like to mis en place before I cook and clean as I go when I cook, this dish is perfect for that!

Dice a shallot and some garlic…”just a hint of garlic!” was a favorite exclamation from the kitchen of my turn of the century neighbor that inspired – or nurtured – my MNSC idea.

Slice some pancetta.

Grate some pecorino.

Poof!  Prep done!

Then it’s just boil the water, put the pancetta on to brown before throwing in the roots while the pasta cooks, separate some eggs and mix them in with the parm – and heavy whipping cream, if you like. 

Once the pasta is drained, throw in the cheese mix and stir it all together with the pancetta and it’s time to eat!

So.

Good.

Which is exactly what company of this caliber deserves!

MNSC: Unicorn Edition

Fitfy: 49.8

It’s time for a dry week.

A)  I don’t think I have had one this quarter/year, or at any rate, actually completed one in quite some time.

B)  Fitfy, I realized this morning as I was taking my weekly recycling progress pic to monitor my alcohol consumption, that this blog could also be called “What I’m Drinking” since it seems to be composed of equal parts sweat and booze.

Obviously, sweat and booze would be diametric opposites as far as how they contribute to the physical goal of this blog theme, and I have had a week where I pretty much skipped the gym…so this only seems fair.  Also, beneficial.

That said, here’s the recycling pic from week 49.7.

Not pictured: a growler of beer.  No, wait..two.  But they were shared.  Although, I admit to being the better lubricated of my growler companion (The Silver Fox) and I.

Now, witness the results from this past week – excluding the Monday Night Supper Club wine from last night, since my week seems to be running Sat-Fri.  I know!  It used to be a Friday-Thursday thing.  I’m a procrastinator.  Now, look…I’m publishing Sunday.  Where will it all end?  Also, yes…I know that last night was Saturday, not Monday, but Monday Night Supper Club has moved and I don’t have a set acronym-slash-name for the new night.  Diezel and I are working on it.  

I’ll take two bottles of wine and not quite a six pack as a week over week improvement.  Also, I was too busy/tired to excel at drinking last week.

Ok, enough of the negative – see also:  therapeutic – from last week.  Let’s get on to the exercise portion of this accountability blog.

My work-week was chaotic, to be sure.  But, in all that work mayhem, I still managed to clock 32.7 miles of schlep-walking while at the airport.  I call it schlep-walking since I’m generally pushing a cart or rack of something as I make my frenzied way around PDX between my five locations there.

BTW, for all of you curious about my sleep walking, I can report no further incidents.  But four nights in a row was plenty for this bout.  My sleep walking PR, as best I can attest.

Anyway, schlep-walking gets me a pretty good sweat and heart rate, especially since PDX has got to be the best heated airport ever.  But it’s nothing compared to what I accomplished at the gym this week with my cardio.  I made friends again with my favorite machine, I’ve been steering clear of it while my knee healed – and I’m still a little wary, but I just couldn’t resist.  It’s as close to the ballistic feeling I got from my running workouts, and I need that.  Not just physically, but mentally, too.  That pounding rhythm I experience in running just clears my mind.  Mental shit just bounces off of me when I run, and well, this machine closely emulates that same effect.

There’s barely any time to ogle cute guys working out near me when I use this machine, it focuses me on the goals so much more than the other cardio machines.

But don’t take my word for it.img_1887

800 calories in just under an hour?  Yes, please.  That knocks a bottle-plus out of my recycling bin!

Don’t judge that 2-setting.  I prefer the longer stride – obviously, with these ostrich legs I’ve been given – to the stair stepping motion of the higher 5-setting, but I do mix it up during my workout.  I was so motivated and proud of that 800 calorie burn that I went back the next day for an “or die trying” repeat.

Took a few seconds longer to accomplish, but I pulled it off.  I admit, I was a little distracted by a guy on to my right in the row ahead of me.  But it wasn’t just that he was a HGN (Hot Gay Nerd) but his workout was a bit odd and I was trying to figure out his rhythm.

Outside of those two Festivus-unworthy visits, my week at the gym was pretty lackluster.  I told ya, I was busy at work!  Sheesh.  Let it go.

I did feel the physical and mental changes missing the gym created in me over the course of the week.  To keep them slightly at bay, I did a couple of dumbbell mini workouts at home, just for the little endorphin push.  They even included some ab work, which I desperately need.  I’ve been avoiding my abs as my back pain hasn’t completely subsided and I know I cheat with my back when my abs fatigue.

But, I think my back pain has crossed a line.  Now, instead of my back pain being exacerbated by the cheating I do when working out, I think the pain is equally – if not wholly – due to the overall weakness of my core.  It’s a phys ed catch-22.  My Needle Man has been encouraging strengthening my core, so this week I caved.

Back still hurts.

The last accountability factor from last week is food.  It’s so good!  Why, why must it be so good?  While being busy and drinking less might make one suspect that I ate more emotionally, I have to say…that wasn’t the case.  Sure, I failed to take lunch to work with me last week, but what I ate was slightly better than basic burgers and ‘za.  There’s that, I suppose.  But also, I just ate…less.  Eating more is essentially where that emotional eating takes place.  It’s never more salad.  Maybe salad dressing shots, but not more veggies.  It’s always – and I hate using emotionally charged words like that – but it is always chips and popcorn and crap like that.  Last week, on my one emotional eating evening, I managed to pair my wine with hummus and carrots instead of chips.

So.

There’s.

That.

Less booze, better exercise, less and better food.  I’ll call 49.8 a win.  Now, it’s time to lather, rinse and repeat that bitch.

Off to the gym before dinner at #DanweiCanting with the parentals.

Fitfy: 49.8

Goodbye To Love

When your life is a Carpenters’ song…you know, let’s just say that there are worse things.  Because while the title-slash-theme to this blog entry may seem a little on the morose or even – since it’s me, here – maudlin side, you’ve got to remember that if the Carpenters are going to suddenly be revealed to be the folks responsible for scoring my life, I can also count on being On Top Of The World at some point.  And who’s to say that isn’t now?

So, there is all that.

But lest you think that this is a post about giving up, rest assured it’s not.  Over the last year, I’ve watched people start dating, stop dating, get married, get divorced and face all variety of conflict and joy in between.  Personally, I have had opportunities to participate in dating and romance and have – I think rather objectively – chosen to pass.

I (don’t) Need To Be In Love.

I see people my age dating after divorce following a long term marriage and absolutely loving the experience.  I know.  Dating is a euphoric rush.  I get a little contact high from following their sexploits.

Chrisism.

I think that contact high is enough for me right now.

Goodbye doesn’t have to be forever.

It’s not a statement that comes out of bitterness, I’m just focusing elsewhere.  I know that I had my chance and now it’s time to face my relationship status with the same grace as Hilary faced the tragic 2016 election results.

I had a wonderful relationship experience with Rib a few years back – even though sometimes it feels like it was Only Yesterday – and if that ends up being my final relationship, it’s not a bad note to exit dating on.  I think our time together helped make him the man he was when he met his current boyfriend, and for that, I feel a little pride.  For me, exiting that relationship in the manner that I did, with my eyes wide open, prepared me for the acceptability of being alone.  Even if it’s for the long run and I don’t date again.  And, like Hilary – who may never run for public office again after this past election cycle – went to the Traffic Cone’s inauguration, I would certainly be comfortable going to Rib’s wedding if the invitation ever arose.

So, there’s all that, too.

One of my recently single friends – Diezel – sent me this meme in a text the other day.  

I laughed out loud and told him so.

Of course, this was after a few minutes of thought about where the motivation for this text came from, he could have been standing on a building rooftop for all I knew.  He was pretty blindsided by his boyfriend’s sudden exodus.  While Diezel was thinking We’ve Only Just Begun, The Marine was considering that it was time to end (T)his Masquerade.

And he was kind of – totally not “kind of” but rather, completely – an ass about it, making what should have been a Christmas Song for the couple’s first Christmas together his swan song in the relationship and breaking up with Diezel over the holiday.

Like I said, The Marine was a complete ass in this matter.

So, when contemplating whether to share with Diezel that I had guffawed at his meme while at work – in the middle of a busy airport concourse like a completely crazy person – I also had to consider where he was emotionally.  I know the whole emotional overcorrection that is swearing to never date again.  But I trust Diezel’s emotional depth enough to differentiate between pushing tough feelings down and covering them up with a cast made of sweatpants and pony tails as you make a show of strength out of basically giving up on love versus taking the time one deserves to heal and get back to a place where he is a whole individual again and also not overcorrecting by jumping into a new relationship just to put a temporary salve on the emotional pain of a recent heartbreak.img_1748

My response to him ultimately, was what I try to always be with my friends – especially one that I consider family, like Diezel – respectful and honest and completely Xtopher.

“I know that’s your depression talking, but that’s still friggin’ hilarious.  I lolled.”

Because, when should one pass up an opportunity to paraphrase Under The Tuscan Sun?

Never.

Never is the correct answer, especially when the discussion is centered on relationship pain, as this one certainly was.  But that we could somehow shift gears from appropriate gloom to boy bands…well, like Diezel said in the subsequent texts, “It’s why we are friends.”

True fucking story, Diezel.

While It’s Going To Take Some Time for Diezel to return to his fully functional single self, I saw last night at our MNSC dinner that he was definitely well on his way.  And, no – since I’m busy trying to cram as many Carpenters song titles into this blog post – our meal last night was not Jambalaya.

For me, it’s my birthday.  I know…maudlin and morose timing, but that’s all it is, timing.  As I begin the final year of my fifth decade, I have a lot of other things in my life to focus on this year.  Things that actually define me as an individual, not things that validate my self worth.  That’s where I want to put my energy because it’s never going to be Yesterday Once More.  Those days past are behind me, and while there are always happy memories to reflect back upon, I’m not – and forgive the Bruce Springsteen intrusion here – ready to invest my future happiness in my Glory Days.  I’m forward focused and embracing the future because…

I’ve Only Just Begun, suckers, so watch out.

Goodbye To Love