Chet Reads & Writes*

Sooner Than You Think!

Alright…It’s been awhile. Let’s get this done. New, and real, blog coming soon. How soon? Sooner than one would believe. Which I have to admit the amount of time you all are willing to believe I consider to be “soon” is bound to be an incredibly long time.

I have a to-do list though! I even have drafts! I’ve got books to write about. Since the last time I’ve read these: A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons, My Father The Spy: An Investigative Memoir, and I’m almost done with Catch-22.

See Y’all Soon!

on the study of Ramen amongst those of us Lucky enough to enjoy Peach[es]

I’ve spent this past week reading Lucky Peach, which is a new food quarterly from Momofuku’s David Chang. It was recommended to me by one of my favorite people in Lincoln, not to mention the fact that he’s pretty damn good when it comes to the art of Cookery. I will further the recommendation of this fine publication by saying that you need to go out and find it immediately if you enjoy food. That is enjoy tasting, reading or talking about, preparing, creating, and especially eating it. I will warn that it may be hard to find, when I first looked to see where I could find it McSweeney’s warned that the demand was much higher than they had anticipated and it was running out of stock across the country. [The bibliophile side of my brain is fairly excited to have a first edition, first printing of this amazing piece of art.]

This edition is the Ramen issue. It is ~200 pages of well-written, knowledge-filled articles about the history and art of ramen making. I’ve known for a little while that ramen is the chicken soup of Japanese culture. However I’ve never taken the time to truly learn about all the numerous ways this beautiful dish can be served. I think the one I’d like to eat most is a model known as Tsubame-Sanj├┤ Ramen. Unlike traditional western soups where copious care is put into clarifying a broth, this dish has as much lard dissolved into the broth as possible. It’s supposed to be thick, slurpable as gravy, and delicious. It’s served in colder areas in Japan, the fat helps keep heat in the food.

Aside from the discussion on ramen there are also several extra tidbits that only increase the gross value of this book. Firstly there is a discussion between David Chang, Wylie Dufresne, and Anthony Bourdain. Purportedly they are all drunk, or at least approaching drunk, and they are discussing the state of mediocrity in the restaurant in the United States, specifically New York City. There are a lot of great opinions to come out of that discussion, including some about the farm-to-table movement that I was a little surprised when I found myself thinking, “You’re so right…” I believe my favorite one-liner to come from this little discussion may be:

Ingredient-driven food. What the fuck does that mean?

Now may be a late time to point out that most of the people and chefs involved in the making of this book enjoy the use of the word fuck, so if you have a particular urge to avoid that word, then just skim over it while reading, but most definitely still get this.

My favorite article is one written by Todd Kliman entitled The Problem of Authenticity. It’s an investigation into what makes food authentic. I mean he goes into the deepest crevices that exist in the word authentic. I don’t want to discuss it much out of fear of ruining it for anyone who may actually go buy this based on my recommendation. Though I will say he boils the argument down to: what is more authentic? Tuscan Food in New York made with ingredients from Tuscany or Tuscan inspired food made with ingredients from the culture surrounding the restaurant’s borough.

Other things you shouldn’t miss out on: The Instant Ramen Taste Test (Maruchan doesn’t even show up for the final showdown.), Seven Spectacular Egg Recipes, Ramen Recipes (Did you think there were none?), Chang and Meehan’s (He’s part of the backbone of this whole production, but I gave him very little credit until now. He deserves more.) adventures in Tokyo, and the art. There are so many things that make this book beautiful. I found myself wanting to cut out every other page and so that I could frame it and hang it on my wall. I’ve considered getting a second copy just for that.

Buy it here: McSweeney’s or at the typical big box stores, or if you’re lucky a local book store.

Clash of Kings

I’m attempting to get back to the Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule that I was following fairly well back in May and part of June. I’m down to just one job now, and that has really opened up a lot more opportunities to do the things I’d like to be doing. So rather than wait until Monday or something to get back into the groove, why not today?

Over the weekend I finished Clash of Kings. It is just as well written a story as Game of Thrones. This time we are flung even deeper into the conflict raging across the nation of Westeros. Four men have been claimed as king, and each thinks the other a traitor. The battles are brutal and bloody, and because Martin doesn’t like for anything to ever be truly resolved everything is always unpredictable.

I’ve learned while reading his books that I should never trust that what seems like a resolution, is not actually going to be the way this or that particular siege ends. I’ve already developed the wits to not attach myself too closely to characters, because of his annoying yet graceful way of doing horrible things to them. There is one character’s death of near-death that has been celebrated at least three times at this point. To reiterate: don’t get overly attached to characters, do not trust the resolution in your gut.

I am still enjoying the story though. Naturally, Clash of Kings ended in such a way that I’ve been dieing to read A Storm of Swords since I finished this one on Saturday. Alas my pusher is out of town.

Here are some new things to take away from this book: not all bastards are bastards, honor isn’t always what it seems to be, Theon Greyjoy is the son of a whore*, the Stark family is hardy, Winter is, in fact, coming.

*This isn’t an actual detail from the book, but it seems like a more fitting derogatory title than a modern day curse.

The Avocado Book

I finally took some photos to show to all of you that I’m not all talk about this book binding stuff. I finished, and have been using my first hardcover blank book for over a month now. I’m pretty proud of how it turned out. There are some small things I’d like to improve on for my next venture into this craft, but they are things that definitely come with practice and patience. I’ll keep this short and just let the photos do the speaking.

{Update: Thanks to Doug there is more information on the Avocado Book available in the comments section. If you want to know more, feel free to keep the conversation going.]

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Game of Thrones

Have you heard of Game of Thrones? If not that’s probably because your friends don’t love you as much as mine love me, or because you aren’t interested in Medieval Fantasy novels. I will admit that this is the first fantasy book I’ve read since high school. For a very long time that was the only genre I was reading from, and by time 10th grade rolled around I was pretty burned out.

Fast forward 7 years and we reach the unveiling of Game of Thrones in my life. My dearest work-wife* said to me one day that she would read some Orson Scott Card if I read Game of Thrones. I accepted this challenge and was very promptly presented with an 800 page tome of medieval political mayhem. I’m fairly certain she hasn’t touched any Orson Scott Card.

That was in May. It took me awhile to get that book read, but my trip to Texas and the plane rides really helped knock it out in the end. I am now about 200 pages into the second book of the series, also around 800 pages. I am in love with this world that George R.R. Martin has created for us to enjoy. The characters are people that you learn to love, to hate, and to grieve over when they die. Yes, death is prevalent in this tale. My pal warned me early on that one should not find themselves attached to the characters too deeply, because you never know who Martin will be willing to kill off.

Unlike typical fantasy fiction this book is not filled to the gills with magic, and wizardly quarrels. This is fairly just the movements of men in their kingdom. The story does evolve beyond just the basics of a happy kingdom, but there’s no need to go into that just yet.

If you’ve read this book then you know that Joffrey is a jerk, and you hate him. We know from Ned that there is such a thing as too much honor, and that bastards aren’t all that bad. If you haven’t read this book, and have some time open in your reading schedule then pick it up from somewhere books are available today!