And, Why Cat?

23 04 2013

Observe Fraud-the-Cat.2848677509_24c8a9675b_t

Her name says it all.

Pious, as she sits on a kitchen table from which I am banned, she licks the top of a bowl of fresh polenta and cream. Abandoned briefly by it’s human consumer, Fraud feigns concern for the man. In the all-important drawl of a long meeoow she explains, “Official food-taster.”

I purse my flews, raising a corner to bare one tooth.31224026_ce1efc9b84_t

For one, Dog would never simply lick an edible. Polenta, especially, is to be gobbled before it’s owner resumes position at the table, without a thought to it’s quality. Something by which there is seldom a mistake, and if there is, it only affords the opportunity to eat twice…

Two, licking an object is an insipid behavior unless cleaning oneself, the young, or initiating reciprocation in some fashion: a pat on the head; a scratch behind the ears, a treat.

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Licking is for sissies. Or a feline who merely wishes to make a point: All things of table domain are mine, even if I dont want them.

So, I ask you: Why cat?5841987753_b176b12b1b_t

Unteachable, undisciplined, aloof. She has the run of the house because she ignores civilization. If she were a dog, she’d be banished. Yet, well-trained, restrained and sociable, it is Dog who is relegated to the floor. Manners: the self-inflicted restriction keeping Dog’s paws on the ground.

Man saunters in, seats himself, and digs into the polenta. Fraud sits like a centerpiece in the middle of the table, licks her paws and swipes her face, tongue sweeping in grains of polenta hanging like ticks on a whisker.

At times like these I yearn for a hidden camera.images

Chow.





The ‘I’ in Italian is for Irish

17 03 2013

St. Patrick’s Day. I am green for the occasion. Frankly, I could have done a better job myself simply rolling in the freshly mown spring grass.1034471684_03013052f1_t

The meal this evening: Green pasta with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and vodka….vodka?105683306_458e9335c6_t

I suppose it’s a better choice than Irish Whiskey. At least vodka is flavorless. A reflection on the Russian culture? Makes a dog think.4202198032_b137b8ff79_t

The cook tosses a handful or two of baby spinach from the garden into the churning pasta dough, passes it through a hand-cranked cutter and out come stands of verdant linguine, like the long, slender grasses of mid-summer.7379440830_051b9132b8_t

The sauce: Creme fraiche to begin. Fraiche because it’s straight from the cow next-door, thick and rich; ice cream without the sugar.3249757365_9a5e6951a7_t

Vodka we have discussed. Gives the dish a piquant edginess. Another Soviet quality, perhaps?

The two, warmer together over a low flame lend a sweetness to the kitchen that hovers in the air like the aroma of some heady, unnamed blossom. Unwrap a package of tender, gently smoked Irish salmon and the kitchen becomes a perfumery. Heaven.2343601360_f2f4aff6c4_t

Cook folds the salmon pieces into the sauce. Checks for flavor, swiping a privileged finger through the mix, adds a splash more vodka to both the sauce and her glass of fresh-pressed juice. I guess the Russian liquid must have SOME merit.

The green pasta is boiled in salty water in the time it takes me to make it to the corner of the yard to water the basil, and return.

Linguine drained, sauced and served with a generous sprinkling of fresh parmesan and a glass of crisp Italian wine.865303675_d9436aea2b_t

Now THAT’S St.Patricks Day in style.374491_441513399262757_326224331_n

Chow.





The Seven Day Fog

22 01 2013

“It all started with a wrong turn in the velvet fog of Venice.”

Chapter one, line one, new autodogography.

I am off to the City of Water to do some research. Venice in January: like an iceberg in a snowstorm and tourist-free.

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Steamy bars laden with the scent of tobacco and milk chocolate. Trattorie packed with bodies warming to a plate of squid-ink pasta or creamy truffle risotto.

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Gondolieri standing in their boats, wrapped up like winter hams, waiting for business. Ice between my toes. Frost on my snout. Pregnant mist pushing its long, fleshy fingers between the towers and canals.2292218586_e546c44060_m

I know only roughly (or ruff-ly, as is the case) my plot. Certain things have to occur: suspense, romance, danger—and magnificent meals. Truffles will take part as it is winter in northern Italy. And a French-African Chihuahua I once met will play in.1159578853_5864672ff8_m

 

 

Write what you know is what I say, until you no longer know. Then make it up. It’s fiction. All life is a type of fiction, after all. And the living, nothing more than writers. Comforting to know one can always change the ending. All dogs understand this.

The ending is always owned by it’s writer in more ways than one.8381306661_3b58d2eccf_m

Chew on that.

Chow.





Doggie Dolci

9 08 2012

Cook is in the kitchen making fresh ricotta. I lie under the butcher block awaiting all things making their way from table-top to floor: eyes straight ahead; ears perked to hear the launch above.

Dinner was an hour ago. Any dog knows that there must be a bit of a nibble before bedtime lures a canine to the pillow.

So does Cook.

Who knew that a chicken and a bee could conspire to create such heaven? The happy marriage of winged things, no doubt.

Behold, Canine Zabaglione:

1 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp. honey
1 tablespoon fresh ricotta

Combine milk, egg and honey whisking until frothy and slightly thickened. Pour into a bowl belonging to the nearest available dog and place a dollop of fresh ricotta in the center of said receptacle.

Wait for the dog’s appropriate pleasure at your devotion and satisfaction to his stomach to be expressed in a cursory lick to your ankle.

Chow.

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The Vintage of Cheese

11 05 2012

Does anyone out there understand what spring really does to a small dog of sophisticated taste?

Spring cheeses made from the milk of newly lactating ewes, goats and cows, perch on the shelves of cheese shops on every corner.

Passing by, my whiskers perk, my tail stiffens and I leave a tiny whisp of drool along my trail like a child wandering through a fairy tale. 

While cheese is available throughout the year, there is an ethereal quality to a cheese made from an animal producing that mystery substance of milk for the first time.

It’s nature’s way. It’s instinct. It’s the discovery of life, renewed and boiled down to hope.

Which is what I do most in spring. Hope for a cheese less forbidden to the lactose-intolerant canine.

I content myself with bits of floor-fall.

I drool, therefore I am…a Dog.

Chow.





Fava is for Fav

2 05 2012

To a small dog, spring means more sun, less mud, sprouts in the garden and spring lambs.

Together it’s the perfect formula for a basket of fresh Fave beans,

a chunk of salty Pecorino straight from the mother of a newborn sheep and a plot of dry grass under the shade of a Chestnut tree with a glass of Friulian wine.

Available in most farmer’s markets this time of year, the fava bean is a bitter, crunchy vegetable that, when eaten raw from the shell and paired with a great Pecorino cheese, describes the very flavor of spring.

Or try it in risotto…with Pecorino.

Or in pasta…with Pecorino.

Or sauteed, pureed, served as a bed for bitter Rapini, drizzled with a fine olive oil….and topped with shaved Pecorino.

Or forget the Fave….eat the Pecorino. Drink the wine. Nap.

Chow.





Nevica

4 02 2012

Driving in the big grey car with the butter-soft leather seats and the whole vehicle smalls of truffles. The Contessa holds them in a glass jar full of risotto: A succulent dish that will be served up later with only the truffle scent hinting at the current pleasure those kernels enjoy.

Now, we carry the prize to uncle Giglio in Rome.  He will use the truffles in his famous linguine for one night only. Customers and friends in the know will line up at his trattoria doors promptly at 8:30pm.  We will be there.  I sit in the back seat, nose against the chilly window watching the snow fly, drooling at the idea of the coming meal. Soon the snow will turn to rain as we approach the Tiber valley and the Eternal City. Good thing, I think, for Roma has no plows.

But the snow does not stop by the time we reach the city.  The cobbled streets of Rome have lost their etching. Road-noise is absent. The Ferrari tires glide, no, slip along the icy via. The Count swears under his breath as great glazed domes into view.

Marble statues wear coats of white mink. The umbrella pines on the Pincian hill stand like bas-relief on a slab of ancient glacier.

Effervescent Rome is dampened, the bustling city muffled under a white dome more grand than any other in sight.

The Contessa puts a hand to her mouth as we pass the Pantheon. She whispers as though her words are a secret, “Fermiamo qui.”

The Count pulls over and we quit the car, walking on the silent cushion of snow toward the most beautiful building in Rome. The Contessa pulls me into her fur coat and we enter the vacant Pantheon. There in the center is a miracle: A column of flakes descends from the oculus as a alabaster pillar and I wonder if this is the way the marble columns of Rome were created.  At it’s base the marble floor is blanketed in a perfect round of white, pedestal to the heavenly pillar.

All things a dog sees are miraculous.  This is the way of a dog. Every day is new and all things possible.

Even “nevica” in Rome and ancient pillars made from snow.

Chow.








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