Wednesday, September 5

The Last of the Great Rawhicans and the Feeding Frenzy of the Ravenous Piranha People

This was it. My final recipe! Trio of Gelatos. Don’t you love it? My last recipe is actually three recipes. Frankly all recipes in this book seemed to be a composite of several recipes to each one, but hell, who’s counting?

We were having our long time friends Rick, Mady and Ed over night. We had been looking forward to this get-together, as it had been a while since we last had them all up to our Sonoma place. I imagined I would celebrate their visit with my grand finale last dessert. The actual recipe was Trio of Gelatos: Persimmon, Pineapple and Chocolate.

OK, folks, persimmons don’t begin to appear for months. What to do, what to do? I called Nancy Kux, professional baker extraordinaire for advice. What would be a good substitute? Damn, she must have gone out of town for the long weekend, no return call. What was good right now, I asked myself. And what would be colorful? Plums turned out to be the answer. Now for the chocolate gelato. Well, I still had a full container of fudge (raw chocolate, maple syrup and almond butter) left over from my failed attempt at truffles. I really wanted to use that up, plus it was scrumptious! So I decided not to make chocolate gelato but keep it vanilla so we could make sundaes! Plum, Pineapple and Hot fudge Sundae it would be!

I had thoughtfully frozen the ice cream canisters and packed them in the cooler for the trip. As soon as we arrived, into the freezer they went. I was prepared. As I began pureeing the pineapple and plums in preparation of the fruit gelatos, I reflected on the fact that I was making three gelatos and only had two canisters. This detail was compounded by the fact that I did not start the day before as I had planned, but on the day of our guests’ arrivals, Sunday.

I began to sweat bullets when for some reason the plum puree would just not freeze. I tried to be patient, but I had to admit when after 20 minutes it was still liquid something was wrong. I picked up the canister and much to my fear, it wasn’t frozen! How could this be? I had put it in the freezer the night before! I quickly put the puree into another container and put in the frig. I stuffed the non-frozen canister with ice, padded it with freezer bags and set it inside the ice tray of the freezer. Please, Goddess of Ice, freeze my canisters! It was a good thing I got started in the morning, maybe with a little luck the canister would be frozen by afternoon. I still had to make the pineapple and the vanilla!

After an hour or so, I tried the other canister and ice-creamed up the pineapple. Goddess of Ice came through. I lost no time returning that canister to the freezer to hopefully freeze up before I needed it for the vanilla gelato. Finally the moment came when I could no longer put off the plum gelato. I expectantly pulled out the canister. Shook it. I could hear no liquid. Goddess, please let it be frozen. I poured in the chilled plum puree and flipped the switch and fled. I ran around the property doing chores so I would not melt it with my anxious gaze. I came back about 15 minutes later and hallelujah! Clumps were beginning to appear. Freezing happens. Two down, one to go. I decided to put off the vanilla until the very end to build up my freezer credits with the Great Goddess.

We had a fabulous dinner, the sunset was beautiful, the weather was perfect and we were all quite entertained watching Rick futilely bat away these little flies (for some reason he was the only one) who relentlessly flocked his ears. Ah, life was Good. Worlds collided as they often do with me and I enjoyed some grilled pork loin and the wine was flowing. I snuck into the kitchen, pulled out the canister I hoped would be most frozen, poured the chilled vanilla puree in and flipped the switch. Again, I couldn’t bear to watch. I walked back out to the picnic table to our guests, but I was nervously pacing and it wasn’t long before I returned to peer into the whirling ice cream maker. Still liquid. Don’t worry, it will happen.

I went back out, slammed back a gulp of Menage A Trois Red and confessed my worst fears with my guests. This was my last recipe and the vanilla gelato looks like it’s not going to freeze! This crowd was completely undaunted by this prospect and was all too quick for my tastes to come up with lots of alternatives for my beloved gelato We’ll have slushies! someone said. Yes, we’ll make milk shakes, said another. NO! I screamed, it HAS to turn out!
They all gave me that look.
Like, how unnecessary to take this thing so darn seriously, I mean REALLY. I ran back into the kitchen, I was alone in my resolve. They obviously did not know what this meant to me.

Well, it did seem to be slushing a bit, but why was it taking so long? I stopped the process, changed the canister out with the other one from the freezer. I would not be dicked with! I flipped the switch, poured a generous glass of wine and went back out to more creative alternatives such as granitas, snow cones and slurpees. I would have none of it. It seemed like forever, but eventually my vanilla mixture began to stiffen up and form those beautiful frozen wave-globs. As soon as it looked good enough, I hauled it into the freezer to finish. I would not take the chance that the canister would warm up and undo this progress!

The moment was upon me. Us, the World. Out came the other two and into the microwave went the fudge sauce (sorry, this is completely anti-raw, but I didn’t care, I wanted HOT fudge!) I scooped up the first two and then triumphantly took out the vanilla and scooped it too. Of course our camera had run out of batteries, so thank God Rick with flies still buzzing his ears took over as photographer.

After the photo shoot I had planned to serve dessert, civilized style, out on the dinner table with each guest having their own serving. I never made it that far. Our dinner guests began to hover around like piranha. I had barely served up another scoop before they all began to dive in with their spoons. While they were having spoon wars, I grabbed the fudge sauce and poured it over a couple of scoops of the vanilla gelato. I think that’s when things got ugly.

Spoons were clacking, lips were smacking. Gutteral sounds were humming out of mouths. Did you taste the plum? No, you HAVE to taste the pineapple. Oh, the plum is my favorite, no the vanilla. No fudge for me, I like it as is, cried Mady. No, you HAVE to try the fudge! Oh my God, the Fudge! More fudge, please. I slathered it on. We shamelessly attacked the defenseless gelatos.

It was ridiculous. It was truly a feeding frenzy of the first degree and it could not have been a finer finale, a more gratifying send-off for the completion of all 52 recipes. This has been such a deep and satisfying odyssey for me, but to have some of our dearest friends chowing like starving vultures on my very last recipe as if it was the last dessert they would ever have, well….it made my heart smile.

I stood on a chair, donned the book and announced myself Complete. Fin. Au Revoir. No Mas. Finito. Terminé. There was applause. There was more wine. And just like that, it was over.

Recipe 51: Apple-Quince Pavé with Pecan-Maple Ice Cream

It was Thursday, the day before my supposed last day and I had two recipes to go. My back: HURT! I had seen the chiropractor twice and my physical therapist three times. Still: Hurt. How could I make my deadline, I complained to incredulous ears.

My friends and family were non plussed. What do you mean you won’t make your deadline…didn’t you set it yourself? Like, who cares if you don’t make your deadline, you’re the only one counting. Well, hell, I know THAT! It was the PRINCIPAL for god’s sake! If I can’t get my friends to take my own imaginary deadlines seriously, what else could I count on them for? Well, obviously, they just didn’t get it. They couldn’t understand why someone in such back pain who was busy at work and preparing to leave town would completely stress herself out any more on completing a self-established deadline. In short, they felt I needed to give myself a break. So I gave myself an extension. In reality, I hadn’t started this endeavor on exactly June 1st, it was more like June 5th so an extension was entirely legal. I’d finish up over the Labor Day weekend.

Now why would I expect the recipe before the last to be any easier than any other? And what is a pavé, anyway? A pavé, dear reader, is apparently a triangular dessert. A triangular dessert made from round apples and, instead of quinces which are out of season, oblong pears. The pear substitute idea came rather easily as I imagined quince would be similar to pear and luckily they were in season at the market.

I carefully cut “paper thin” slices of just-in-season gravenstein apples and pears and brushed honey-lemon sauce on each layer, then covered it and weighted it down with a brick. I’m evidently not evolved enough of a cook to have a 2 lb cooking weight in my cupboard. I jammed the sticky honey “pavé” and the canister of pecan-maple ice cream into the cooler and headed to Sonoma for the Labor Day Weekend.

This recipe should have been called Baklava! The thin but crunchy slices and the honey sauce make a delicious and healthy version of that middle eastern classic. Then of course, good old Roxanne wants the dessert to rest in a pool of sultana juice. This is not the first time she has thrown that curve fruit at me. I came to learn that sultanas are small and special dried grapes from the other side of the world. I could have used raisins, but found some champagne grapes at the market which when pureed and strained turned out as a sumptuous substitute!

The pecan maple ice cream – well, it had all the flavors, but the consistency was gritty and mealy. Just didn’t work. I would say next time I would strain it all before freezing, because the maple and pecan flavors were delicious.

When I lifted the brick from the pavé I had my doubts if the dessert would stay together and had even less confidence that when I took a knife to it that I would be successful in cutting triangles from round fruits, but the Klein-Trotter gods must have been looking down benevolently upon me, because the knife sliced right through and voila! The next to the last recipe was born, and this recipe was light, fruity, tart, attractive and DELICIOUS!

Raw food Heaven. And, sometimes Hell by Danny Swetlik

Being a little overweight with borderline blood pressure was really bogging me down. When my wife told me she wanted to go raw for the summer I was totally on board. We started with a 36hr Stanley Burroughs master cleansing. Then cut out all processed foods. We agreed that 75% of our diet would be living foods or “raw” food. I said I can handle raw breakfast and lunch. However, dinner for me would have to come with some complete usually cooked proteins with raw veggies, no bread if possible or potatoes, etc. She reluctantly agreed, but then she moved our cooking pans down to the basement! Every time I wanted to cook something on the stove, I had to go dig around in the basement to find a pan!

I had no idea how overwhelming it would be for her to make our kitchen into a full time marathon for her raw food version of Julie Powell’s “Julie, Julia.” We went from usually using paper plates to full blown dishes and food prep utensil getting dirty by the hour. A dish washer used twice a week now became every day. Setting the alarm to get up 2am to turn the dehydrator off. Fruit gnats buzzing around her compost bucket. At times I felt like we were running a soup kitchen for the neighborhood. Being privileged to work at home and wander into an unused kitchen for a bite was over, at least for the next 12 weeks. I began to adapt to it as time oozed on. I tried to help with doing the dishes when I could but should have done more. Keep in mind there was plenty of comic relief. I tried to be the chauffer on her project, but was not always there to open the door for her. Thank the mighty spirits she is one strong Scottswoman!

By week five I had lost 15bls and was feeling fantastic! I have kept the weight off for over two months now by eating 50 to 60% raw. I hope to never go back.

Wife Maurine has brought new “life” into our world. I will always cherish her love for adventure of both the outside and inside world, even when it feels like it’s killing me. Including a vile smell in my store room and discovering her batch of sauerkraut fermenting.

There could not be a more lucky man on this grey earth to have someone like Maurine living by my side, making it a little greener and brighter every day.

Keep up the battle for a better life, my clever little Puck!

Loving you always, hubby Daniel