Their, There, They’re, Just Right About You’re Write to Right

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Tears Of An Abstract Artist

“You have to suffer for your art” I’ve heard that so many times before so maybe its worth considering. But what kind of suffering? Public ridicule, self mutilation, a good old fashioned ass kicking, exactly how should I suffer for my art? Some artists cut off their ears although I‘ve grown attached to my attachments, others go mad listening to the passengers in their heads (was that me that aid that?), some turn to drugs, and many go the route of heavy alcohol abuse. Maybe I’ll start at the drugs and alcohol and work my way up. Okay, that bullshit, that brushstroke dried on the canvass a long time ago, so if abusing drugs and alcohol are all that’s needed to suffer I’ve already suffered for years. But those aren’t acts of suffering they’re consequences of attempting to avoid the suffering. The suffering we bring on ourselves by being our own worst critics. Why? I believe its rooted in the fact that we tend to live our lives in the abstract and not in the conventional world that most “normal” people live in.
Artists think see and feel in the abstract. Even “normal” people experience abstract thought everything they sleep because our dreams are the inherently abstract. The brain functions for us when we’re awake but once REM sets in it’s the brain has free reign and great god almighty can it do abstract. That’s why our dreams can be unreal, surreal, or too real. Its like the brain likes to fuck with us while we’re lying defenseless in bed. It needs to keep itself occupied while we’re snoozing and its like “what the hell, might as well throw some weird ass shit out there that makes no sense” just to amuse its superior self and to keep us wondering. Sometimes I wake up and my first thought is WTF was that all about? Sometimes I wake up and think holy crap that was awesome, Ima try to get back to sleep and see some more. Other times I don’t even remember my dreams at all. More than likely a defense mechanism using selective recollection so I don‘t actually blow my own mind. But while our bodies are at rest our brains goes into an abstract state. That’s why dreams can seem so strange yet so real. Abstract is the normal state for an artist. Not much of a reach to label us “dreamers!”
At any rate I’m awake now and debatably lucid so allow me to define my concept of what an artist is. An artist is one who uses any or all of their senses to express their abstract manifestations in some form of expressive medium. We are familiar with the painters and sculptors because we can see their works Rodin, Michelangelo, Picasso, Van Gough, all the great works of the world expressed through colors and shapes and textures and committing their visions or images to canvas or marble. The same is done with a musician who hears sounds and then recreates those sounds using instruments, or anything that makes the sound they hear. Jimi Hendrix is the best example, using his guitar to express sounds we would never have been able to experience had he not been able to summon the abstract. The writer who puts random thoughts into words forming a recognizable pattern that expresses emotions. All of those abstract thinkers are artists but an artist is not limited to those more familiar mediums. I first began to understand this when I became a chef and learned to cook in the abstract.
I have always had the soul of an artist and it made me feel like I was just a tad different from others when I was young. I wanted to be some sort of an artist but it was frustrating. My best drawing are my stick figures o that was out. I loved and still do love music but I could never read it. I could read the note on paper but my mind and my hands failed to form the synergy necessary. I erroneously assumed without being able to read music I would never learn to play. I would have loved to get into acting but I suffered from chronic stage fright and rejection anxiety. I always wrote but never learned how to structure properly so only wrote for my self and my friends and even that was done sparingly due to that rejection anxiety. To make matters even worse I wrote a love poem for my first girlfriend and she laughed, effectively destroying both my elf sesteem and my self confidence while smiling. I suffered!
But working in restaurants is where I learned about artistry. I began washing pot and pans and quickly learned how to make salads, then simple deserts. I learned about food prep and eventually worked my way up to lead cook. But it was just a J-O-B, a way to make money for weed. A I got older I discovered I could make a living cooking so I worked hard and got pretty good at it, ultimately went to school for it. Once while I was working in a restaurant in midtown Manhattan as a line cook the chef took an interest in me. He is a talented chef from France and he saw something in me so he began to instruct me on his style of cooking. As time went by I spent many of my days off and after work hours working with him and he taught me so much. I quickly became not just a line cook but the best line cook, then the sous chef. My benefactor began teaching me how to not only cook, but how to give my dishes personality. I began to form my own style and every dish I created had a bit of my culinary DNA in it. That’s when I put it together. I wasn’t merely a cook, I was a culinary poet.
Cooking creatively is art. Performance art using a biodegradable edible format that is in the moment. It’s a fierce and fast paced performance balancing the demands of a hungry public and their discriminating taste buds. But the chef is responsible to reach every one of the senses with his creation. First it has too be appealing to the eye, it has to have a fresh and enticing aroma, it needs to feel good in the mouth and be at the proper temperature, It needs to incite a number of sounds from the diner (MMM, ahhhh), and most importantly, all the flavors have to come together in a harmonious taste sensation. During many of the performances I either cut or burned myself. I suffered!
But I had to man up because the show must go on and I was a culinary performer. An artist armed with an array of foods bearing different colors, shapes, textures, and tastes at my fingertips and they all required individual attention. Vegetables that need peeling or cutting, with different cooking times, meats and seafood’s that needed fabrication and storage, some in marinades, and also with varied cooking times. I also had to make decisions as to which methods of cooking would achieve the beat results. After that I take into consideration the variety of flavors of those components and arrange them using the various shapes, sizes, textures, and present them in a way that is appealing to the eye. And that’s done over and over with different dishes in rapid succession, each dish going out perfect. That’s Art!
I still think and breath in abstract and my life is one big improvisation which may be my strongest trait. I don’t have a structured life plan I approach just about everything in an abstract manner. If an inspiration hits me its only a seed, and what develops s from that seed is often totally different from what I originally had in mind. That’s how I roll. I’ve reached my pinnacle in restaurants and have refocused my creative efforts to baking and now that I’ve reached as far as I desire in the culinary world I continue to create desserts but I put more focus than ever on my first abstract love, writing. I’m not reaching for the stars with my words but there is much that I want to share to any open minds that enter the arena. I found my writing voice which not surprisingly sounds sarcastic, slightly cynical and its woven in a loom of dry humor that quite often no one gets but me. That’s okay, at least I’ll get the last laugh and besides I believe I have been steadily improving and I constantly pushing my boundaries to expand my parameters and write things I’m not comfortable with. Well not comfortable at first, but I adapt quickly. I’m happier with my words than ever before and it is incredibly self rewarding. I’ve even attempted to delve back into poetry a bit, still adding my trademark dry and sarcastic humor, and I’m digging the hell out of it. It has allowed to me further explore my philosophy of existentialism. Not suffering!
So my advice to any who have the fortune, or misfortune if you’re a sufferer, to read my ramblings, especially if you’re young, is never believe your thinking in the abstract makes you different in a bad way, but unique in a glorious way. If you need to make a living while honing your art do it, your family and personal life come before everything. Life spins by at lightning quick speed and while were are on this tiny twirling orb we need to take care of each other and save our abstract guilty pleasures for those moments when we need therapeutic assistance but can’t afford a shrink. Just never quit, and never give it up. You’ve got something to say and it should be heard….PEACE

Have A Cupcake, The Existential Treat

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The Only True Philosophical Question Is “Are You Gonna Eat That Cupcake?”

Existentialism is the philosophy of living your life with sincerity and passion. Life has meaning to an existentialist, its just not a predestined life or a life controlled by any religious boundaries. Basically existentialists are the rebels of creationism, deniers of nihilism, and singers of their own songs (some of us also dance but my guilty feet got no rhythm). A philosophy which embraces free choice but with a bit of moral responsibility and unlike anarchy there is an understanding of the cause and effect resulting in consequence. Being existential doesn’t absolve me of punishment when I screw up. But how can I bake existentially, and how are cupcakes the existential treat?
First the cupcakes. Are they really existential? It’s a question that would have stymied Socrates, perplexed Plato, and driven Kierkegaard Krazy. That claim may not be truly fair because cupcakes didn’t even exist until 1796 so Socrates and Plato are off the hook. But Soren may well have sampled a cupcake during his existing period. Quite possibly his Mom baked some in wonderful wonderful Copenhagen when he was jut a boy with a big brain
Like many of our treasured mysteries there is a bit of controversy over the name and history of our existential treat, the cupcake. While many believe it’s a reference to small cakes that were measured by the cup as opposed to scales, the more likely explanation is it was a cake baked in a small ramekins in the early 19th century. Most were baked by short elfish people of Denmark who lived in trees. The ovens were very small and all they could fit were a few coffee ramekins to bake with (don’t believe that I’m lying my existential ass off)
I theorize cupcakes are the most existential of treats because of its rebel nature and humble beginnings. Cupcakes understand their purpose in life is to bring joy and happiness to one who consumes it. It exists ready willing and able to serve when served. No need to cut these individual delicacies it into slices or break pieces off, it’s a self confident and self contained treat. The cupcake embraces its short life and if you look closely at a well engineered cupcake you can see its total essence has a much more profound understanding of self than all other treats. It stands loud and proud in the knowledge that it looks and tastes exactly as it chooses and it defies any control by religious orders. Never associated with the last supper or communion responsibilities, never on display in the shape of a rams horn of sitting Shiva, and always ready but not obligated to break the fast of Ramadan. The cupcake is however revered in many celebrations . It happily takes its cherished place of honor in Rio during carnival. But don’t pray for me Argentina, I’m a non secular treat and I am here for no other reason than to add joy to your life. My soul purpose is to enlighten your taste buds while coaxing a smile to inhabit your face.
.Filled with this information there is no doubt that Socrates, Plato, and Kierkegaard would have all agreed that each cupcake exists as individual and is committed to becoming someone’s personal choice. It sets itself apart from other desserts in the world of the existential. Try as it may the petit four, whilst appearing individually bite size in stature was baked as a much larger cake and cut into its shape. The cupcake begins, exists, and ends as exactly what it is to become, a lovely individual. That’s why cupcakes are the existential treat.
So that’s how cupcakes are existential but how does one bake existentially? Not as easy as it sounds because the production of cupcakes follow strict baking guidelines. I need to consider the laws of physics that allow the batter to rise and fill with air as the proteins go about setting up at the same time to trap that air inside insuring a fluffy texture. Once the laws of physics and nature are both understood, appreciated, and obeyed I can begin to alter basic recipe to give it individuality. That’s the job of an existential baker, to re arrange the recipe and introduce the cupcake to the processes necessary in completing it while allowing for its individuality at the same time. Each one is given its own bake spot on the pan and subjected to the proper temperatures to nurture it to become what it is, an edible existential beauty.
I also need to have a deep understanding of its roots. I celebrate the life of the wheat as it blows in the winds and soaks up sun’s energy until it gets harvested and milled into flour, the lives of the many chickens who sacrifice their eggs for our consumption on so many levels, and the cows that shared their liquid of life, mothers milk. The flavorings, the sugars, the leavening agents all have stories as well dating back even before the agricultural revolution. I never take their existence for granted, but I do refuse to follow militaristic styles of regimen in production. The times and amounts of baking in no two days are ever the same. Different intervals and different sized pans help to develop my cupcakes individuality and that’s how they take on my personality. I have always lived my life as if it were an improv. Or maybe a sit-com but I never give the things in my life too much structure. I opt to take things a they happen, accept them and deal with them. Then move the fuck on to the next path because life comes at us fast and furious even though we may find ourselves bored at times. That pretty much sums up my basic life philosophy, live an let live and share your magnificent essence with others to make them appreciate this wonderful world of ours. Play each card as it turns up and make the best from what you have. When it comes to baking that’s how I roll, like an Artisan Vienna loaf. JK, that’s not how I roll, its how I bake existentially. I don’t even make rolls, only cupcakes. ….PEACE

Tiers On Their Wedding Day

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Keeping My Day Job
Which came first, the eggsitentialist or the baker? The deeper philosophical question is which pays the bills. Not much thought involved in that mystery, so I baked my ass off to insure that a very happy couple had a nicely presented existentially baked and arranged treat. The cupcake is by far the most existential of all sweet treats and this tower stands proud as a monument to the profound love the couple have for one another. Despite the topper looking more like a groom on the run….PEACE

Cupcake Tops With Peeps?? Off With Their Heads

Watch Me Pull An Easter Bunny Out Of My Hat

Another holiday another challenge. It doesn’t matter your culture, your religion, or your nationality, if it’s a holiday and your in the food business in any form, you need to know all about it. That’s how an existentialist baker ends up being challenged with tapping into the cultural aspects of holidays like the one facing me now, Easter. Yea, yea, yea, I get it. Palm Sunday Jesus came to town on his ass (I have to admit hearing this as a kid made me chuckle). Him and a dozen compadres ate together for the last time and it was a feast fit for a vampire. All body and blood. One of the twelve dudes dropped a dime on the J man and Roman guards whipped him and then crucified him. A few days later his ghost rose from the dead and they proclaimed it a holiday. Celebrating his death seems counter-intuitive but religious obsevervances have always befuddle me a bit.
No matter, I’m not making a cupcake that rises from the dead nor am I making one out of wafers or wine. I am tapping in to the cultural aspects of Eater. The happy stuff, like the candy part. So what do I have to work with? Chocolate bunnies are too old school and besides, they already have a stronghold just being themselves. Jelly bean are a must, I can do something with those classic favorites. What else? Peeps! Now there a tradition worth raising some insulin levels over. A marshmallowy ball of cooked sugar coated in……more sugar of course. Only colored sugar.
Not just yellow anymore, these stretchy marshmallow treats shaped like little chicks come in array of color these days. Pink, Green, Blue, purple, and the old standby, yellow. And not just little chicks, these Easter basket must haves can be either a chick or a bunny. Gender appropriate candy, amazing how much we have evolved. Evolutionary advances aside, I plan to stick to the original. Well original shape anyway. So I’m set. I will use jelly beans for one and Peeps for the other.
Just making a jellybean cupcake or a marshmallow cupcake is not much of a challenge for The Existential Baker. I need to dig deep own into my creative culinary depths and so something different. So not cupcakes for this holiday, but Cake Sliders. Or maybe I’ll call them stuffed cupcake tops!? Elaine made it work with muffins on Seinfeld so WTH?
The first one will be Stuffed Jellybean Cupcake Tops. Now I am somewhat of a jellybean aficionado. Gourmet, No name, spiced, Jelly Belly, all brands, all types. I’ve tried them all. (with the exception of the jelly bean featured in Harry Potter. However, if they were available to me…..) But The Existential Baker can’t just make what he like best, I need to make what works the best for my cupcakateers. After careful sampling of a number of easily available jellybeans it hit me like a sugar rush. A stomach ache. After a few Zantacs and some Pepto, I went back to my notes and discovered that the winning bean contestant was the “LifeSaver” brand jellybeans. Why them? None of them singularly overpowers the others, the coloring and size is perfect, and the flavors blend effortlessly. Since there are apparently no beans left from the testing I went out and got ssome more.
My first attempt was a bit of a disaster. I placed some vanilla cake batter in the whoopee pans, topped them each in an artistically arranged collage of jellybeans and popped them in the oven. Cooking time is about 12 minutes so I checked them after about six. To my dismay the designs had sunk to the bottom and seemingly disappeared. No worries, I’ll flip them over when they finish and cool. Uh uh..No, no, no! Thee delectable cute innocent jellybeans refused to let go of pan. The cake part had no such attachment and instead of having my base I had to carefully clean the mess and start again.
Once bitten twice shy I settle on the same theme with a new approach. This time I filled the pans with vanilla cake batter and right into the oven. After six minutes I removed the pans, sprinkled them with jellybeans in a totally random pattern and back into the oven. It had to be done quickly and efficiently, and I felt like the Jason Bourne of cupcakery. Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum. The most perfect looking cupcake tops ever. Randomly arranged and barely beginning to show signs of melting they were a masterpiece. Now to cool and fill.
A variety of flavors began dancing in my mind. What best to fill these beauties? I settled on a strawberry custard and chopped up the remaining jellybeans and folded then inside. The result was a pleasing pastel pink custard dotted with an assortment of tiny bright-colored jellybean segments. I placed a scoop of the delish filling on top of half my cupcake tops, reserving the prettiest ones for the toppers. Another success for the EB’s guests at Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes this weekend. But I’m not done there, I need to do something with the Peeps.
“Peeps for my Peeps” cake sliders take center stage to the cupcake tops understudies. This time I used a heart shaped pan, because I love my peeps. Not the candy, my peeps. Yea, I have peeps! A few anyway. But I digest, lets move on. This was a bit more of a challenge for a few reasons. First those cute little chickies are hard to cut up, and if you put them in a bowl together they begin to re-knit into a glob of marshmallow madness. The other challenge was the presentation. What I wanted to do was top each heart shape slider with a head of the Peep. Just the head, the whole Peep would look messy. But will the EB look like a murdering marauder who hangs the heads of his prey like a trophy on the wall? A game hunter proudly displaying his kill for all to see atop a cake slider? Will it cause lasting scars on the hearts of my little peeps? Will my peeps children forever view me as the villain that slew packets upon packets of sugary chicks removing their heads? Profound quandary. I mean after all I am a lifelong pacifist. I admit to killing more than one lobster during my days of restaurant life. That lobster scream still ways on my conscience. But these Peeps are not and never have been alive. So I can move forward with eight inch chef knife in hand and remove the heads of my peeps. The candy, not the people.
There it is. Heart shaped chocolate and vanilla sliders waiting patiently to morph into a treat. I had reluctantly beheaded all the colored Peeps and set them aside. What to do with the bodies? Wrap them up in blankets and toss them in the sink? No, no way. I want the short temporary lives of those seasonal marshmallow favorites to mean something. So I cut them into pieces. This created another problem. As I mentioned they have an uncanny ability to reform into larger pieces of themselves in various shapes. My solution was to cut and mix in small batches using some marshmallow fluff to keep them bound . Success! Next I took said mixture of mallows and folded them into some vanilla mousses. The result was a bowl of marshmallow mouse dotted with pastel pieces of Peeps. A scoop on a heart shaped cake, topped with another heart happed cake, then adorned with a small dollop of buttercream. Then the prized peep head went on top. Cute, but I feel like they are all looking at me now. Menacingly!! How I suffer for my art!!
Happy whatever you celebrate. If you don’t celebrate any specific occasion, then Happy Life.. What better to celebrate than that???….Peace

Sins Not Tragedies

What’s In A Name?

When I am at the bakery creating my edible poetry in the form of cupcakes they call me “The Cupcake Dude.” The name is indicative of what I appear to be. I am 6-4 and look like an overbearing biker dude, who actually did frighten many in my younger days. Just by the nature of that look. But that’s just a look, it’s not what I am. I have always worn my hair long (when I had it), I have tattoos, and I am a pretty large dude. But I’m a pussycat, a teddy bear of a dude. I am actually a lifelong pacifist and I’m a lover not a fighter. Basically I am way more harmless than my appearance.
Buddy the Cake Boss was doing a charity for epilepsy and asked me and Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes to join with five other bakeries to help raise money. Of course being a tree hugger and self proclaimed lover not fighter I seldom pass up an opportunity to help out a charity. The color theme for epilepsy is purple, so we made purple people eater cupcakes for the event A vanilla grenadine cupcake topped with plum icing and blueberry custard filling. During the event two teenage girls were nearby our display and I heard, “Look.. There he is. He was just on TV last night.” Of course I assumed they were talking about The Cake Boss but when I looked Buddy wasn’t around. One of the young girls pointed to me and said, “Hey Cupcake Dude, can we take a picture with you?” Humble yet bursting with excitement I told them of course, and their Moms took several photo’s. I had just been on a segment of Unique Eats on the cooking channel and they recognized me by my trademark bandana. I was blown away. I gotta say it felt really good.
A week and a half later one of the moms came into my shop to talk about a party in which she wanted our cupcakes. She thanked me for being so nice to the girls and I let her now it was my pleasure, which was an understatement. The she said, “You know my daughter has put up the picture with them and you in her locker at school and they brag to all their friends that they hung out with the cupcake dude.” I was red with anger….Wait, no! Not anger, I was enbarssed as hell, which I assume is what caued the red. Part of me thought that it was a tad creepy being a high school and all, but that was washed away quickly by the part of me that felt as though I had attained rock tar status, if only for my fifteen minutes. More a pebble star than a rock star, but still, it felt great. A nickname was born and it has stuck.
But here in the world of word lovers I call myself The Existential Baker. It’s here where I put my creative juices to a keyboard instead of a bakers board and use words instead of flour eggs an milk to express myself. Here is where I share my dementia, my memories (if somewhat foggy) and random thoughts. Not knowing me, the name tells you a little about me. First that I am an existentialist. I’m not the “I was existential before it was cool” sort, but a lifelong existentialist. It doesn’t make me intelligent, I don’t hang out drinking happening beverages and talking world politics, and quote philosophers verbatim all day. Its just my philosophic belief. Second it indicates that I either enjoy baking or am a professional baker. So thats what you learn from just the name. The reason for this drawn out ramble is this. Names are important. Names are a coat rack to hang our personalities on. That’s why I take great pains to give my cupcakes a name they deserve.
There are times I spend as much effort naming them as I do cooking and eating them. Some names are pretty obvious like “Strawberry Alarm Clock”, or “A Clockwork Orange”. Some a bit more complicated like the Fandango. it’s a cupcake with a caramel mousse. I made the mousse and abbreviated the name “Cara-mousse”. My wife seeing that thought it said Scaramouch and stating sing the Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the line ends with will you do the Fandango. That’s the name right there. Then we have The Godfather part I and Godfather part II, both obviously very Italian oriented or more like Soprano-ish..So you see, pop culture and rock and roll play a vital role in the naming of our cupcakes.
This leads me to today’s edition, Sins Not Tragedies. I have always loved rock and it’s assisted me in bridging generation gaps because I refuse to tell kids that their music sucks. I may not like it, but its not supposed to resonate with me, it for them. But sometime a tune comes along that could have fit into any generation, and one such tune is by Panic At The Disco. This is one of the rare times my teen daughter and I agree on musical excellence. The song “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” is a great tune from way back in 2006. Its essentially about a best man and bride being caught having “benefits”. Haven’t they heard of keeping the god damn door shut??!! ..Anyway, before we became bakers we did full scale catering for weddings and parties. One such party was supposed to have a grooms cake of cheesecake. I never caught it on the function sheet, and the night before the wedding I needed to come up with a cheesecake on the spot. Using what I had around I through together a cheesecake made with Roc N Rye. I didn’t even have a recipe, it was straight from my head.
As luck would have it, the groom thought it was the best cheesecake ever. My wife said you better save that recipe. I gulped hard, an confessed there is no such recipe. She politely told me to write it down now if I ever want to see my scrotum again. I was appalled! The3 indignity, the nerve, the……I wrote it down. To this day its on a scrap of paper titled “The I think this is it cheesecake.” True story. So the cupcake….cheesecake batter and vanilla cake batter mixed, its stuffed with Rock N Rye custard, and topped with chocolate icing. Believe me when I tell you its delicious. I’d be willing to gamble my scrotum on it…….PEACE

A French Fry By Any Other Name

Word to Your Spud
Potatoes. The Goth’s of the veggie world. Cut out it’s eyes, rip off its skin, or bake it alive an it‘s happy as a chowder clam. It’s still satisfies despite the poor treatment. And this coming weekend Potatoes are front and center for St. Pat. Spuds will get their proper respects by being part of an internationally celebrated St. Patrick’s Day tradition, the corned beef and cabbage dinner. Wait!! Now that I think about it not very respectful to this tuber. Not even a mention in the dishes name. Why the hell isn’t it a potato, corned beef, cabbage and carrot dinner? The potato has been one of the most loyal and versatile foods in history. Why these starchy delicious starches have been around longer than the Inca’s even inhabited its birth land. Estimated to have made the scene sometime between 8000 an 5000 BCE this now undisputed king of starchy sides was ripped from the Inca kitchens and transported all the way back to Spain, where they ungratefully prefer rice!! Undaughnted by the apparent haters the tater spread through Europe and became an important crop all over the world. Such a regal line the potato had few challengers to its throne due to being genetically challenged in diversity and was not imitated with the usual number of varietal clones. That led to the (Not So) Great Potato Famine that nearly decimated Ireland and leaving those corned beef pots spudless.
Undeterred by a lack of genetic engineering it didn’t take long before we humans added hundreds of new varieties, and even a new color or two. The potato stands alone as a global masterpiece of nature. Every continent, every culture, and every kitchen on earth bows to it’s infinite array of uses. A thickening agent, a must have in chowders, an arsenal of side uses that rival the chickens reign of culinary versatility, a research plant, skin burn protector, adhesives and quite possibly a source of biodegradable plastic in the near future. It’s even used to distill for alcohol in the making of delicious hearty and buzz worthy vodka, Scandinavia’s unusual caraway flavored Aquavit, and Poland’s Potcheen, an alcoholic beverage so freaking potent it was banned in Ireland for over a century. Yes the potato, such a superhero of the culinary set it should be marketed wearing a cape and a giant “P” on its chest! ….maybe not , but you dig what I‘m saying!!
So this St. Paddy’s day go ahead and cook or enjoy your traditional Irish one pot meal, but when you do take a minute or two out to salute that iamond in the ruff Gothic starch that has an entire year dedicated to it. That’s right, I said an entire year. In 2008, The United Nations convened in an attempt to give the potato is due by proclaiming it The International Year Of The Potato. But even then it got dissed as they forced it to share it’s 366 days of that leap year. 2008 was also the International Year Of Sanitation. Cleanliness is next to godliness, an the potato stood side by side with sanitation so by my calculations, potatoes ARE godliness. So enjoy, and if you are feeling the activist maybe even start a petition to officially rename the classic Irish meal Corned Beef and Potato!!…………………Peace

1-2-3-4, I Declare A Cupcake War

The EB gives it 2 thumbs down

Near about every day someone will say to me “You guys should be on Cupcake Wars.” Like this is our magic bullet and it will make Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes blow up huge! Well intended advice but total bullshit. But this is something I’m used to. I owned a small restaurant before I began my journey toward cupcake excellence. Everyone unfamiliar with the restaurant industry seems to know exactly what will make a restaurant successful. Owners get advice on a daily basis. “You know what you should do? You need to put this rice lasagna my Mom makes on the menu. I’m telling you, everybody loves it. You’ll make a fortune.” Others offer up their own personal recipes for various dishes. Yet they came to eat in my houe so I believe there should be a presumption that I am in possession of numerous recipes of my own. They freely explain how carrying this beverage or serving that fish on your menu is “what you need.” I wonder if they made suggestions to an electrician, or a carpenter. “Hey, use the green wires more, people really like that. You know if you use copper nails it will last longer.“ Or even worse, tell a doctor how best to treat an ailment. “You know if you prescribe more valiums you will have happier patients.“ (yea, that was my advice but I really think that one will work!) After all now that we have WebMD so who needs a professional? Now we can treat ourselves. The food business is something easy. That’s how they know all about. Why the hell they don’t have their own restaurant? When I had a restaurant I got more advice than Dr. Phil gives in an entire season. So now that I’m a cupcake engineer and no longer a chef, they advise me to get on cupcake wars. Just do that and I will become famous.
The truth is I have been asked, over 3 time now and when first told about Cupcake Wars I was quite naïve about the show . When I was asked to be in Cupcake Wars it conjured up an image of troops of small cakes slugging it out on battlegrounds like wood tables covered in flour, stainless steel tables, and gigunda mixing bowls. The combatant cakes are outfitted camouflage cupcake liners and carrying the appropriate weaponry of any kitchen worth its baking soda. Duking it out with war tools such as knives, spoons, whisks, spatulas, an rolling pins. They engage in fierce battles smashing innocent cakes in the process and await the reinforcement of the heavy artillery. In come the big machines. The food processors, power mixers, batter dispensers, and enormous rotating ovens. The cupcake war escalates into a shock and awe campaign as huge flames arise from the oven hearth and extreme heat takes over the war theater. The sound of forced gasses and flickering flames fill the air and the smell of burning gas penetrate the prep area as wafts of thin white smoke billow off the carbon etched, war torn cupcake pans. Cupcakes have declared war!
What’s next, Teddy Bear Battles? Hello Kitty Conflicts? How can anything as sweet and innocent and so amazingly tasty and satisfying possibly be involved in a war? Obviously I knew it wasn’t really a cupcake war but it did in fact warrant a little investigation. So on to Google and then Wikipedia where I found out that Cupcakes Wars is a reality based competition show on The Food Network. Reality based? What the hell does that even mean? Armed with this information I felt compelled to take it to the next level. The only sensible course of action for me was to engage in an activity that is extremely rare for me. When I got home I turned on the TV and tunes into The Food Network to watch the show.
Watching the Food Channel is rare? Most people are indeed shocked to find out that I so rarely ever watch The Food Network. They get very indignant and question me as if we were in the Culinary Inquisition. “But you’re a chef, how can you not watch The Food Network?” Apparently it’s the responsibility of a chef to watch shows about what they do for a living. It turns out the Food Network is designed to entertain people in all walks of life who have more than a passing interest in food, and not a network designed for chefs to share recipes and ideas. My response to them is “If I was a plumber, do you think that after plumbing all day long I would want to go home and watch shows about nothing but plumbing?” The truth is if the network were really designed to entertain chefs it would be mostly about inept waiters and waitresses during epic fails while the sweat saturated kitchen staff laughs so hard their ass bones begin loosening. That’s something I might watch. When I finish a long hard day in the kitchen and I sit down to relax the last thing I want to see is more kitchen. Give me serial killers, lawyers. Doctors and nurses, detectives, or even makers of meth. (Although techniquely the meth does get cooked!) I want to escape the world that I work in for sometimes 14 hours a day. I look towards TV to take me away from my ay to day an entertain me by allowing me to escape into new realms. But I needed to know what this Cupcake Wars was all about.
Needing to understand the concept of cupcake wars for myself I watched an entire show which fro me at least, was a tedious process. It turns out its not a war at all, but a competition between bakers based on an age old culinary tradition, the Mystery Basket. The mystery basket has been used for years to help teach young culinarians skills and to hone their creative process and resourcefulness. Its even used when a chef goes for a certification. The chef is given a basket, or tray these days, with an assortment of foods on it and they are asked to create complete meal, appetizer, entrée, and dessert using everything on the tray as well as some of the basic ingredients in the pantry. They are given a specific time constraint and they are judged on taste, presentation, and creativity. Quite often these days mini mystery baskets are a stage of the interview process where the potential employer may get a chance to investigate your style of cooking, your ability to prepare and blend flavors, and how well you work under pressure. I have always felt this somewhat ineffective and a waste of time because if your resume will reflect your style and capabilities. I have had to perform a few of these interviews and for me it was easy because improvisational cooking has always been my strongest suit. For many others who are equally as talented but may be the type who prefer to carefully plan an document their course of preparation (like an accountant may) the challenge could present unfair advantage to my loosey goosey cooking style. But is is a barometer of how well one can think on their feet an it is a great learning tool.
The major difference in the game how however is that other factors come into play. Drama and conflict. Without these two gratuitous concepts the show would be of little interest and as fast paced as watching a snail running from a French chef. They pit 4 pairs of culinary bakers, most of which own their own shops, against each other and try to create a diverse cross section of cute young entrepreneurs, grouchy old lifelong bakers, and some serious cupcake makers hoping to create their dynamic business venture into an overnight success via winning the contest. They are judged by 3 wannabe American Idol judges, a European who can be testy and sharply critical, (Le Simon). an everyone wins because I’m okay your okay compassionate woman who hasn’t a mean bone in her body, (Le Paula) and an influential guest judge that has a vested interest in the winner as they will usually hire the winner for a “special event”. (Le rotating Randy)
For me the show is part of a larger sub-culture of entertainment that portrays an industry I have vested way too many years in, and worked way too hard at to see turned into a novelty act. In my day chefs worked their asses off, put in ridiculous amounts of hours in, and earned enormous respect due to their talent and integrity. Now potential chefs graduate culinary school and hope to get a TV show. Granted it is entertaining to its demographic but to me it reduces my life’s work into a slugfest of personalities where its not the most creative and flavorful food that wins, but the best personality or the most manipulative. They attempt to increase the viewer enjoyment by creating challenges through forcing the usage of unusual products. That’s great if the challenge is meaningful, but to put things like tobacco, or nacho cheese and hot dogs is just for sheer enjoyment and not a creativity challenge. I get it, it’s very popular and has millions of viewers, but even if one make a great cupcake, if they have no TV presence they can leave the show scarred as a loser. And even those who win will experience a spike of popularity, and business will grow out of curiosity, but most times it isn’t long lasting. I want a solid business grown on strong principles and hard work. But if you do ever hear of a show that wants to showcase an honest existential cupcake poet, give me a call. Or better yet, I’ll get some people and you can call my peeps……..PEACE

Memoirs of a Hippie Chef (an excerpt)

If You Can’t Stand The Heat
It wasn’t as if I wasn’t used to the fecal matter hitting the rotary oscillator, but Cavalieri’s closing was a lot to deal with and the furthest thing from my mind. No longer was I an apostle to a culinary madman, no more waitresses to flirt with, no more free beers. I was now saturated with disappointment and disillusionment. I knew I needed to seek another avenue of employment. I needed to shed the dry snakeskin of the restaurant industry and turn out to something else. I needed to get far away from any kitchen or Chef or waitress. I need a sacrificial rack of lamb. I should do what James did back in his time and work the fields. As fate would have it and timing being everything my brother’s ex boss owned a landscaping company, and needed a laborer. So it came to pass that I had became the new landscaper for Mundies Field and Dreams. More accurately put, I had become the new lawn mowing leaf raking topsoil carrying shit spreader. I had chosen to become a hard working laborer and have my skin scorched everyday by burning threats the sun makes good on, while enjoying the hearty aroma of freshly decayed organic manure. Enough abut the perks though; let me tell you about the downside. Everyday ended the same, my arm and back muscles pound out a rebellious beat building to a painful crescendo. As I reach to cool my aches and pains with a cold beer it seem as though all my muscles tightened up into ball of overworked subdermal tissues and tendons screaming at every movement. My skin radiates a pinkish aura from hours spent unprotected by those relentless threats of the harsh sun. It left my neck and shoulders feeling rug burnt adding to my misery. As if that weren’t enough, the omnipresent stench of decaying crap had implanted its neverending stink carousel deep into my nasal cavity. Out on the field, one of my less enviable jobs was to take compost, Mundies name for decayed animal shit, and spread it across a field. First the smell of evaporating morning dew so earthy and rich comes up off the ground like a wisp of warm steam in a tease just waiting for its replacement. Breathe deep and enjoy nature while it lasts because within seconds comes the dank aroma of compost. Its a blend of some of the most offensive smells I could ever imagined. Once dumped on the ground, the aromas of a horse stable had a meeting with a quarantined bathroom, and then joined forces with spoiled milk to create a cacophony of disgust that slowly crept up my nose and made an all out assault on my entire being.. There it would stay for hours even after my day was done. A rank reminder of my newly acquired hopelessness that was eased, but not eradicated by the beer.
Partying had come to a new intersection as well. Turn right and head up the morphine highway that was one step away from the dreaded H. Heroin, horse, dope. A dangerous path to be sure but as long as we kept just to the pills it seemed okay. To the left was an array of uppers and downers that had become much too routine for us. From the ritual of lighting up to the ritual of popping pills. Ken was in big demand and was spending way way too much time with Artie. As for me, I was required to wake up early 6 mornings a week. But I had every night free to do whatever I chose. I had begun spending more and more money on drugs, supplying not only my head but Carries as well. And many evenings I took care of Sue as well because Ken was always out copping drugs. I had begun doing diet pills every morning to keep me awake and give me the energy to bust my ass out in the shit fields. On days that it rained I would be sent home and not make any money for the day. I quickly went through my savings after a week of solid rain. The summer was coming to an end, I was making less money, and soon it would be too cold to do landscaping. I couldn’t remember how the fuck I got here, but what I did know wad that I needed to get the fuck out soon.

When The Saint Comes Marching In

Don’t Pee On My Parade and Tell Me Its Rain
There’s a parade coming to my town Saturday and I don’t want to be the one to rain on anyones parade, but someone has to do it. So as they elected the Grand Marshall of the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, I have elected my self the Grand Marshall of questioning what all the shenanigans are about. More importantly just who is this Patrick dude, why is he a saint, and why are we celebrating him anyway?
The Feast of Saint Patrick. Celebrated in many parts of the world, The UK, Canada, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and of course here in my county, America. Even more localized the parade in my town of Nutley New Jersey will be this Saturday, because that’s the only day the bagpipers had open. Apparently here in America there is a shortage of men in skirts squeezing a bag with various pipe sticking out of it that makes haunting sounding music. New York City has the monopoly on pipers due to the huge going-ons in the city. It’s an official celebration here in New York every year beginning with the famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade. They love their parades in Manhattan, and more than that they love the party and revelry that is mistaken as a free pass to exercise extreme inebriation and tomfoolery. “Step out of the road my dear lady there’s a parade coming through.” Every Irish pub is filled to the rafters with either Irish or temporary Irish folk singing Irish tunes. Maybe I should say slurring Irish tunes, many in manbraces swaying to the country sounding tunes of Ireland. People come in buses, trains, and cars from all around the area to get drunk and share overplayed jokes like “More like Erin go Braless,“ or “Kiss me I’m drunk.” After the parade the city is packed with people who celebrate the day by excessive drinking which somehow translates into being Irish. The bars serve green beer which as I’ve heard it told, turns ones urine a pastel lime green. But allow me to back up a little and investigate why March 17th became such a decadent celebration here.
Patrick is the patron saint, or heavens advocate, for the Republic of Ireland. He lived from AD 385-461 and passed away on March 17th. That explains some of the heavy drinking and carousing and basic mayhem surrounding this day as it’s a ginourmous multi-country funeral repast. If you’ve ever been to an Irish funeral you know what I mean. When a friend or family member passes away we throw a party and instead of sitting around crying we have copious amounts of raisin‘ the glass. I guess it a kind of last hurrah and we get drunk, sing songs, stuff our gullets with food, and remember all the great times we had with the deceased. Clearly Patrick is more than just a passing acquaintance because the party returns year after year. What makes him so special?
Not much is known about this mysterious saint, but from what I was able to find out he was born a Deacons son in an area once known as the Romano-British culture and not in Ireland at all. This has led to all kinds of confusion, the Romans claiming he is Italian, and the United Kingdom assuring he was a Brit. Whatever! He was kidnapped by some Irish raiders and held prisoner. While in prison God talked to him and told him to escape and go back to his home which he did. There he became a bishop. As a Bishop he went back to Ireland, moving diagonally as Bishops do, and was told by God this time to help convert the Irish into Catholicism. In a vision he was asked to be the “Voice of the Irish”.
So it was that Patrick headed into Ireland and began what today would be called “Bishop Patrick’s Catholic Revival,” He set about baptizing, ordaining, and basically teaching the doctrines of Christianity to the Irish people. One particular lesson was the teaching of the Holy Trinity and its rumored he reached down and plucked a three leaf clover as a visual aid. So impressed were his students they embraced the shamrock as a national symbol and it remains synonymous with Ireland to this very day. The wearing of shamrocks on their clothes and patches strengthened the resolve of that symbol and long after Patrick was gone in 1798 Irish soldiers took it a step further and wore all green uniforms. That gave us the famous “wearing of the green” ritual. Patrick had become the icon of Ireland. One of the more dramatic claims of Patty was how he banned the snakes from Ireland. Truthfully, snakes would find it difficult to migrate there so its true there are no indigenous snakes, so methinks it was a metaphor for evil assholes. Anyway, according to Eugene O’Neil, St. Patrick tossed all the snakes of Ireland into the Atlantic Ocean where they swam across to New York an became cops… What? It could happen!
Here in America along with the drinking and parade we also celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner. This I find amusing because there is not a huge following of this meal in Ireland. It’s about as Irish as apple pie. You will however find it very often in a New England Boiled Dinner. I believe it is jut a small touch of confusion. Ireland is largely a farming and herding country. That means hours and hours in the fields working hard. The women folk worked even harder, taking care of all the chores around the house as well as some of the farming or herding tasks. They were responsible to have food on the table at the end of the day and like many hard working women completed it by making a slow cooked stew or boiled meal. Dinner was created in a one pot vessel on a stove. One pot meal. A casserole. The meat in first, later the potatoes, then the carrots, and so on. Like Goulash, Tagine, Duchie, Bourguignon, Cachupa, and tons of cultural stew dishes were born this way. Corning, or curing was popularized during the industrial revolution but even before that meats had to be preserved somehow on the long boat trips across the Atlantic to America. So early colonist in America likely ate a lot of cured and pickled foods. A more traditional Irish dinner would include seafood like prawns and salmon around the area of Dublin Bay, or lamb with potatoes and sausage in the farmlands. I imagine Patrick himself would get a kick out of watching us celebrate being Irish by drinking green beer and eating corned beef and cabbage. I’m relatively certain he would more likely have some advice for us along the lines of kiss my Irish ass but we party the way we party.
Or maybe he would prefer the wise Irish advice I got from my Mum and Dad. My dear old Dad always told me to celebrates it with an Irish seven course meal. A six pack of Guinness and a baked potato. My Mum told me the Irish are exceptionally good at one of two things, loving or fighting. At six foot four you might think I would be a good fighter, but alas I am not. But lover? Many would be green with envy but that’s a horse of a different color!…………………PEACE

Hey Babe, Take A Wok On The Wild Side

My Wok Down Memory Lane
True enough you have to crawl before you can wok. I was reminiscing with my daughter about some of her toddler escapades and through the myriad of cobwebs of the memory banks crawled the story of my first wok. That and the glass bottle of sesame oil she found. The wok is a remarkably versatile piece of kitchen equipment and now I use it with an above novice status. But before I could Wok on the wild side, both my daughter and I had to crawl.
My kitchen has always been a sort of laboratory for me. It’s where I have created many culinary delights that bordered on creations born of divine intervention. Frankenstein’s monster was created in a lab. Thousand of real creations came out of labs a well, like Edison’s lab, Curies lab, Pastures lab, and Hoffman’s lab. Okay Hoffman created LSD and maybe shouldn’t be in with the other labs, but it was still a creation. Actually many creations when I think back on some hallucinations, but that’s for a different blog entirely. But back to my lab. So I love to experiment and I encourage anyone who loves to cook or bake to widen their horizons and always be willing to try new equipment, techniques, and food products. So back in the 80’s when the western world was finally figuring out what those huge metal cooking bowls in Chinese restaurants were, woks became all the rage.
I did what I always do when experimenting. The very first thing I did was intensive research so I would understand what a wok is, and how I could best put it to use. The wok is a cooking vessel from China and has way more uses than I had thought. Not just stir frying, but one can pan fry, deep fry, boil, poach, stew, and sear. The gifted eastern chef can also braise, roast, and even smoke food in a wok. But my intended use was to stir fry like a “real” Asian cook. I bought all the proper utensils, and various oils and seasoned my wok for one week before even attempting to make anything. Then I began to stir fry and I turned into a stir fry maniac. I stir fried everything, everyday for about a month. I went into my wokking with my trademark well informed reckless abandon. It was ideal for me as I had a gas stove and could regulate the heat pretty well. It was also very efficient, using the sole vessel to create entire entrees worthy of an aspiring chef. I was going to cooking school at the time and was the envy of my classmates. I lived off campus because I had a wife and a two year old at the time.
I had a special place where I kept all my wok experience enhancing accoutrements. In a cabinet along the floor I had my bottle of sesame oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, soy sauce, tamari sauce, fish sauce (that took some getting used to) oyster sauce, hoisen sauce and a slew of flavor agents like Sirachi sauce. Yep, thats right. I used Sirachi BEFORE it was a thing! I was having the time of my life preparing all sorts of dishes. I was also an involved father so my daughter spent much of her time with me in the kitchen. Crawling around, pulling on my leg, attempting to engage me in the never ending game of peek a boo, climbing in and out of the cabinetts, and all the usual practices of a toddler times two. Time two because she is a true Gemini and as fast and adventurous an two kids. On one particular day her attempts to make me chase after her were on the extreme side. I was making some spicy shrimp stir fry which cooks exceptionally fast. It became eerily quiet which unless its nap time is very rarely a good thing. Thinking she had snuck out into the living room I tuned off the stove and went in search of my rebel baby. Not under the table, not behind the couch. I listened carefully to ee if her constant state of energy would betray her hiding spot. The silence ended its frightening reign with impunity and evolved into an even more frightening stage. The loud crash and sound of breaking glass followed by a shriek. That shriek was the familiar cry of my little girl calling DDDaaaadddddy!!!! Into the kitchen at lightning bolt speed. I turned the corner into the kitchen the sight made me question my parenting skills. My baby girl on her hands and knees surrounded by broken glass and some dark brown liquid. With my rapid surefire detection skills I ascertained immediately that it wasn’t blood. But what the Hell is it? My keen detective skills immediately focused on the olfactory glands for confirmation. Sesame! My baby girl was kneeling in a puddle of viscous dark brown sesame oil.
Of course I quickly scooped her up to avoid the broken glass and held her tight as some of the strong scented oil jogged own her legs and jumped onto my jeans leaving a noticeable stain. I changed my sweet little explorer and then turned my attention to the mess in my kitchen. I was able to remove the glass and most of the oil but a very faint remnant of oil had settled in the tile floor and created an almost invisible community that would give off its treasured sesame smell for weeks to come. That sweet stench of a community thrived and serve as a reminder to me for the rest of my parenting while cooking regime. My wife commented daily that our kitchen smelled like a Chinese restaurant and I secretly smiled a smile of pride because my food had also taken on the status of being compared to restaurant food.
To this day my daughter calls me whenever the smell of sesame make an appearance near her and it’s a story we laugh about constantly. I have since become very prolific in wok cooking, both Asian an American style dishes and although as durable as a wok is, its not the same wok. I highly recommend cooking and experimenting with woks, I use it as a deep fryer, making sides like rissole potatoes, and lately sauté veggies and chicken or appropriate protein, a sauce of my choosing and pasta. Let me tell you, stir-fried or sautéed angel hair pasta from the wok is a tasty and versatile entrée. Explore, try new things, break rules, and constantly challenge yourself. Do yourself a favor and if you don‘t own one, go out and buy one. Then you too can Take a wok on the wild side…………PEACE