I'm finally back from my West Coast torture that I've been genially calling the Book Tour.
Touring is a strange affair. For years I had in my head I this Carrie Bradshaw-esque image of flitting across the nation. I would be reading to packed rooms, staying in quaint hotels that have a better than average continental breakfast (the kind where loose leaf tea and scones from the bakery down the street are served), and meeting people who love food and books and who want to talk to me about both as I scrawl illegible messages in their just-purchased copies. All of this, of course, on the publisher's dollar and in a private car.
I'm sad to report that this is all only about half true. Unless you're Ina Garten or J.K. Rowling you are on your own. The publisher may help with some event logistics at best and when you get to Seattle the publisher will happily email you a link to the city's bus system website so you can putter around town all the better. (That dollar-fifteen bus fare is on you, though.) Many events you go to the author had to craft together his-or-herself from far away and totally over the phone. It is tough so be forgiving next time you see a cookbook author trying to smile through the chaos.
To be frank the entirety of it rests on you.
Not to say there aren't great events or wonderful perks to it all. Some events are planned by others and all I had to do was show up. Recipes from the book were prepared by eager volunteers who had an excitement for cheese, the kind where they likely had a wheel of Brie at home in the fridge. These events were packed with cheese connoisseurs, readers of this blog or Stephanie's, or perhaps had just heard about it through the many various foodie networks that buzz underneath society like bees dancing a map to the next food truck party or restaurant opening.
There were long drives punctuated by analysis of the many McDonald's dipping sauces for their chicken nuggets, a term that should likely be placed in quotation marks as I'm still a bit dubious about them. I learned that you can't pump your own gas in Oregon for some inane reason and that I'm expected to tip someone for moving a pump nozzle with less effort than it would be to pistol whip the legislator who decided that this was a practical way to boost the state economy. More than one book on tape was devoured. (Revenge Wears Prada has as much literary flare as the directions on the back of a home enema kit. Sad as the previous entry was so sinfully trashy. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman is more fun than a book has delivered as of late and makes me hope that if Ragnarok comes that it'll be just as fantastically entertaining before the giant wolf Fenrir devours us all, Praise be to His Wolfiness.)
I loved meeting people jazzed about cheese. That was the best part. That's what made it so fucking with it. That's the reason I did it at all. The people. I was worried about being in perky author mode for weeks on end and constantly engaging total strangers - two things I generally panic about and to those who noticed and waved it off I thank you for your humanity.
Thing is is that all these cheese lovers made it so darn easy. We talked about cheese and why we all love it so much. There were more than a few conversations about cooking and how not to break your sauce. I happily answered questions about the book and found a few jokes I could rely on that played well to every audience. I got to know a bit about their lives and how they connect with food.
I'll never get over how fun it was to hug recipe testers I had talked to for the last few years, or joke with the poor fools who have killed years reading this blog (you won't get any of that time back, sorry).
It was astonishing.
You find a groove eventually. The song is different every time but the beat is the same thumpa-thumpa so you just find your feet and move with the people there.
There are a few events still lined up and reviews are still popping up - all of them wonderful. There hasn't been a single negative review yet. Not. One. That doesn't happen often, if ever.
I'm trying to take the holiday to unwind a bit. I'm listening to the first real storm in my new home. There are new sounds I'm hearing - water trickling down the rain gutter, a branch from the neighbor's tree scraping along the fence, checking if I am hearing a drip in the roof, and learning that my little succulents have gone black and floppy in 28F weather. Between the biting cold and sheets of rain so thick you could make a bed with them, Brian is trying his damnedest to try and build a decent fire without a gas line, though I think I may need to call up a Boy Scout Troop as reinforcements. I would help, but who would cheer from the couch while drinking a Hot Toddy?
I'm also reading a bit. I have missed casual reading. It's been emails and cheese journals and reviews as of late. I have delved into the new Amy Tan novel, which so far is no Joy Luck Club, but engaging nonetheless. It reads like Memoirs of a Geisha - Chinese Edition, which isn't a bad thing. Just saying.
The other day I finally got to cook something that wasn't cheese. Not that I don't love cheese (obviously); I just needed to not cook cheese for a bit.
I rarely cook meat so when I do it's usually with a bit of trepidation. However, I tossed it to the wind and decided to teach myself to cook a stuffed pork loin. In my experiment I have assessed that stuffing a pork loin with garlic, homemade kumquat marmalade, and mustard is just so cheeky you could sit it in a corner and tell it to think about what it's done. The thing being so darn tasty it could be criminal.
There are two gallons of stock made with smoked turkey and roasted veggies setting in the freezer waiting to be made more delicious in a soup or some such.
We're also inundated with orange juice from the tree. Who knew one tree could produce so much? And why did I plant three more citrus when I moved here? I may drown in a sweet pool of orange juice. But I'm amenable to that.
We're also roasting garlic. It's not the most economic use of the oven, I guess. All that energy to roast one or fifteen heads of it. They're just so small in that big oven. However, I can't imagine a more wonderful way to warm the house. I adore garlic in its raw form, but roasted it has a sense of perfection of it. It imagines itself wearing a tweed jacket and making snide remarks about Walt Whitman. Roasted garlic is also sanctioned messy food, you can't help but manhandle each sticky clove and squeeze its guts out. It's a fright of sticky garlic paper and caramelized sugars and oils.
I think garlic secretly wants to be roasted. It wants you to find inspiration in its simplicity. A cut across the top, a massage of olive oil (more dirty hands), a sprig of thyme if you happen to have it and are feeling shmancy. The next thing you know you're swathing it over crackers or adding it to soups, creamy mountains of mashed potatoes, or perhaps the mornay sauce for your mac and cheese.
Today, however, it's just toast. Me, my garlic, and Amy Tan watching Brian wad up more paper for the fire place. I may mash it up with some room temperature blue cheese. Smeared on toasted sourdough it may be proof that not only does the universe care for you, but that it wants you to eat well. That'll require me getting up, which is doubtful so perhaps tomorrow.
I bought an extra 20 heads. No joke. I have plans this winter.
Cut the scalps off of a few heads of garlic and discard any excess paper. Rub the heads with olive oil. Place in individual pieces of aluminum foil. Top with a bit of salt and sprigs of thyme or rosemary. Wrap up the foil aright, but don't bunch it around the garlic - we want each head to roast and steam simultaneously. At this point I place the wrapped garlics in the slots of a muffin tin to easily transport them all, but a baking sheet is fine. Roast them for about 35-40 minutes in a 400F oven. Allow to cool down a bit before squeezing out the cloves or getting at them with a small pickle or dessert fork. Use as is or perhaps mash them in with a bit of fluffy, boiled potatoes and a dangerous knob of butter.