Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Always Bee Cooking #4: Making Weird, Making Useful

 This month, I’ve been experiencing a ton of new things. I baked (first Cloud Eggs, then three different attempts at bread, all of which turned out interesting in their ways, some even good) for the first time, after being terrified of the precision. I made a soup out of horseradish, because why not? I made homemade cheese and then put it on a spinach & pearled barley salad. I had never whipped anything to stiff peaks, separated curds from whey, kneaded something or waited for it to rise before August of 2019. Pretty presumptuous of me to start a cooking blog, right?

That previous sentence is a joke, but it’s also probably pretty sincere. Especially if I keep focusing on recipes. Because it feels a bit weird to say: I’ve baked bread thrice, here, you should do it this way. There really aren’t that many dishes I can say I’ve made enough times to know that I’m doing them about as right as I can.

I’ve also harped on my own lack of taste, for historical and other reasons. Which, if nothing else, leads to a tremendous amount of anxiety around food. Knowing that I’d be content eating 7-11 pizza six days out of seven (it’s not that long since I was doing just that) contributes. Which lead to me thinking through some of that, and what I value out of cooking, in this short Twitter thread.

The rundown is that I noticed that there were two heads of garlic that were actively rotting in our house, so I pulled them apart, discarded the rotten cloves, minced the ones that weren’t bad, and dehydrated them in the oven at 170°F (that might technically be toasting them, I guess?) to turn into garlic powder. I added this to the powders of celery leaves, carrot leaves, lemon zest, and onion (from freeze-dried) that I keep in little Tupperware containers alongside my store-bought spices. I tweeted about it because I realized doing that was about as gratifying to me as was baking my first genuinely good loaf of bread and managing to make a really excellent rub for pork tenderloin out of garlic, celery leaf, salt, pepper, cumin, thyme, and coriander in a mortar & pestle the same day.

It feels like, as a cook (or a chef or whatever), you’re supposed to be way into using good ingredients to make a distinct, filling, flavorful meal to share with others. At least more than you are about mincing some garlic and checking on it every forty-five minutes in a low oven. I’m not? Not more than, at least.

I think it was around 2006 that I released my first song. As I recall it was a short repetition of a few chords, played on my dorm roommate’s guitar, recorded into a laptop speaker. I made it because I was part of a crew that thought it would be fun to make bad (or weird or unpalatable) stuff and seed it onto to hopefully foul up their “tag radio” (radio stations that selected random songs from user-generated tags). We evolved from there.

I remember telling that crew that I wanted to create material more than songs. Weird, annoying shit that was also potentially useful. When I released my first album, An Emotional Guitar, sometime early in the next year, I think it was five songs long with a remix of each. That first song became this (featured in the video); I remixed this one and another friend made this. I’m not sure what happened with the rest.

You could boil me down to: Make weird shit. Make useful shit. Those are still the dual, often competing drives that define the things I make, most of the time.

Wait a second, I just realized I lied on accident at the top of this. I’m going to go make the video that appears at the top of this post.

I had baked before, and fairly often. Just potatoes. I also can’t believe I didn’t include a baked potato on the initial post on this blog, Potatoes and Transitions. Seems like an oversight that’s fairly easy to correct. Especially now that I have a bunch of homemade spices that I can use to great effect here. Make useful shit, you know?


What you need:

  • Oil (Olive probably preferred, I use Canola)
  • Salt, Pepper, other spices
  • A Potato

What to do:

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  • Wash your potato. Stab it with a fork 2-3 times per side, around four sides. Place in a bowl or over a plate. Pour some oil on it and rub it in. Wash your hands.
  • Add spices – at least salt and pepper, though some garlic powder, onion powder, and dehydrated celery leaf/carrot leaf powder can also be excellent. Lightly coat evenly.
  • Put your potato in the preheated oven. Check after 20 minutes, rotating if desired. It should take about 40-60 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of the potato.
  • Dress as desired – for the video I split it in half lengthwise using a fork and some pressure and used a mixture of sour cream, cream horseradish, and a drop of ghost pepper hot sauce. Sorry it ends up looking like shit by the way, it’s for eating though.


Camera Operator: ijkanada

The Rest Of The Stuff: Bee

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