To Be or Not to Be: Doggish

1 11 2013

When it comes to philosophy, dogs have it boiled down to four points. Like Bernini’s Four Rivers fountain in Piazza Navona, this wisdom flows into every dog.

Man would do well to ride its waters, as well…Image

These few noble constants by which all dogs live are inborn. Every dog shares them, be they domesticated, feral, or ridiculous as I like to think of the curs on the Pincio.

First, dogs never let their past define them, and neither do they take life seriously. Every day is a new day for a dog; a new, exciting, anything-is-possible day. Any human can see that all dogs enjoy the charm of novelty.Image

Second, a dog’s heart is easily won and difficult to break. And though pride may be the downfall of many creatures, understanding their own fallibility makes dogs loyal to even the worst sort of human being. As a result dogs have learned that it is a far braver thing to stay in a disagreeable situation, helping dispel the misery of man, than to leave it. That is the charge of man’s companion. Dogs value bravery above all else; its degree, the measure of every dog. It is the noblest of canine virtues.homeless_sleeping_dog

Third, dogs are philanthropists. They never pass up an opportunity to give. A pact was made in the early days of their ancestors. Hunting expertise for a share of man’s kill. That reciprocity continues today, but now lies in the pleasure and benefits exchanged between human and dog. It’s innate. An affectionate thresh, an endearing lick, a fond sniff about the crotch: these are all traded for room and board. One gets what one gives.4d6b1c7d73228.hires_t540

Finally, dogs never pass up the opportunity to have fun. It is the very heart of every living spirit; the essence of every dog. It encourages strong bonds and deep affection. If there is no pleasure, there is no life. This is the simple and abiding truth of existence.

 It all comes down to looking at life with a kind eye, no?

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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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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.





Dog Logic

1 02 2012

Off to truffle hunt this morning.  Just as the truffles reach their peak of flavor and scent  the season wanes.  Wild pigs grow irritated at approaching unavailability of those elusive funghi.

Soon they’ll be relegated to lesser treasures: Nuts, berries, carrion…and the occasional eyeing of a certain small dog. Morning fog grunts in the background as we make our way through the wood. Leaves crackle under the oak trees hidden in the mist.

We are surrounded by boar guarding that remnants of those white diamonds beneath the soil.  We walk on up the mountain.

A half mile beyond we find a large oak, acorns strewn across it’s feet, the scent of truffle hangs just below the mist, dog-nose level.  The dig is on.

My people sift the dirt landing behind my rear legs.  Soon the small, round basket is full.  A weeks worth of truffle heaven, secured.

Truffle Butter slathered upon al dente Fettucini;

Truffled Porchetta; Clafoutis with Morels and Truffles; Truffles Fontina; Fried eggs with Truffle Shavings…Truffle Ice Cream.

There is a God.

There is a Dog.

Dog Logic the morning after: To be, one must eat; I eat, therefore, I am; Pigs eat truffles, I eat truffles.

You see where I’m going here?

Chow.








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