Really Cooking

May 10, 2008

May 12, 2008

Last week I had one of my occasional episodes where I find myself watching my hands work.  They are getting a little wrinkled, have some burns, and have very tough callouses.  They are exceptionally strong.  They don’t twist and turn like they used to though.  I’m having problems getting things opened especially those pain in the neck plastic rings around the milk bottles.

But these hands are very gentle with food.  I was going through a bushel of mussels with a line cook.  The mussels were soaking in a deep bucket of water.  I watched my hands scoop out a handful of mussels from the top of the water, gently rub the shells together to remove the sand, then inspect each one to make sure they were closed tightly, that there were no chips in the edges and to pull away any beards that were attached.  I watched as I gently laid them out in the hotel pan. I remember 30 years ago, not knowing the difference between a mussels and an oyster.

I was also watching my line cook quickly plunge his hand into the bottom of the bucket thereby stirring up the sand which was trying to settle down at the bottom.  Then, as he brought up two handfuls and tossed them into the hotel pan, picking through the mussels only then. Now he didn’t clean that many more mussels, his probably had sand in them and he missed a lot of damaged shells.  I know mussels are not diamonds, or pearls even: they only cost 15 cents each, but they are still important and looking at them carefully is even more important.

I watch my hands peeling carrots, no one is faster, rolling pie dough, mine are very tender.  Nothing is as wonderful as making gnocchi when the dough is the perfect temperature and consistency. Rolling, cutting, shaping and lining them up like soldiers in rows onto a sheet pan.

Last Saturday, I was home alone for lunch.  I put a (all beef) hot dog in the microwave.  I put it in an old, dried out hot dog bun with mustard and pickle relish.  I bit into it.  The steam squirted out of the end and burned my nose.

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