>first time homebrewing


I began my first attempt at homebrewing this weekend. I have no idea how it will turn out. I am using a kit and equipment my wife got me for my birthday a couple of years ago. Yes, it took me a couple of years to finally get around to doing something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
Boiling the wort:
Into the carboy for cooling and then pitching (adding the yeast):
The wort is now slowly fermenting next to my desk in our storage closet. It should take about 10-15 days to finish the first stage of fermentation. Wish me luck.

>cycling and croissants (or ‘have bikes will roll’)


We loaded the kids in the trailer and rode our bikes to Hideaway Bakery one recent Saturday morning.

We rode along the Willamette River, through Skinner’s Butte Park, through the Univ of Oregon campus, then some neighborhoods, along the Amazon bike path, to the bakery. The ride is about 7 miles one way.

I shot this on my Canon G11 – a little tricky hand holding it at times while riding and pulling the trailer. I wish this camera shot in HD, but it’s not bad for what it is. Edited in the Canon utility that came with the camera, and with Windows Live Movie Maker (yes, I’m cheap).

Music is by Caribou, from ‘The Milk of Human Kindness.’ Song is track 5: ‘Bees.’

>A Tour of the Deschutes Brewery


We began with some tasting while waiting for the tour to begin.
Our guide knew just about everything about the process and her enthusiasm was clear.
Nothing like fresh hops! Wonderful smell, and part of the secret to one of the world’s hoppiest beers.
People come from all over, even places that do not sell Deschutes. One way or another people find out just how good it is. The white pins show where the distributors are. The latest is in Minnesota. My friend Brian likes that a lot.
Lots of big tanks for lots of good beer.
Overall it was an informative homeschooling experience.

>In Defense of Food: Michael Pollan in response to The Omnivore’s Dilemma

>I have been posting a lot of videos lately, and here is another. Michael Pollan wrote on of the most important books in recent publishing history, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. That book raised so many questions and concerns about the food we eat that many felt they could not eat anything without facing some kind of moral, ethical, or health dilemma. In that light, and to counter fears created by his book, Pollan wrote another book called In Defense of Food. He spoke on that book at Google and, I have to say, this less-than-an-hour talk could change your life. I have not read his new book, but I do know The Omnivore’s Dilemma (which I am currently reading) is amazing.

>The Pagnol/Waters connection: Chez Panisse and the good life


The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.

~ Marcel Pagnol

This post is about dreaming…

Alice Water in early 1970s.
Image by Charles Shere.

If you are a food lover then you’ve heard of Alice Waters. What I had never heard was the story behind the name of her famous restaurant, Chez Panisse. In the forward to the English translation of Marcel Pagnol‘s My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle, Waters writes the following words:

Fifteen years ago, when I was making plans to open a café and restaurant in Berkeley, my friend Tom Luddy took me to see a Marcel Pagnol retrospective at the old Surf Theater in San Francisco. We went every night and saw about half the movies Pagnol made during his long career: The Baker’s Wife and Harvest, taken from novels by Jean Giono, and Pagnol’s own Marseille trilogy—Marius, Fanny, and César. Every one of these movies about life in the south of France fifty years ago radiated wit, love for people, and respect for the earth. Every movie made me cry.

Vahala a.k.a. Chez Panisse
Image by Aya Brackett

She goes on:

My partners and I decided to name our new restaurant after the widower Panisse, a compassionate, placid, and slightly ridiculous marine outfitter in the Marseille trilogy, so as to evoke the sunny good feelings of another world that contained so much that was incomplete or missing in our own—the simple wholesome good food of Provence, the atmosphere of tolerant camaraderie and great lifelong friendships, and a respect for both the old folks and their pleasures and for the young and their passions. Four years later, when our partnership incorporated itself, we immodestly took the name Pagnol et Cie., Inc., to reaffirm our desire of recreating an ideal reality where life and work were inseparable and the daily pace left you time for the afternoon anisette or the restorative game of pétanque, and where eating together nourished the spirit as well and the body—since the food was raised, harvested, hunted, fished, and gathered by people sustaining and sustained by each other and by the earth itself.

This little passage was a revelation for me. I am a fan of Waters and her vision. I love the slow food movement and community supported agriculture (though I need to put by enthusiasms more into practice). I had no idea of her love for Pagnol’s films or how Chez Panisse got its name. Maybe I am the last to know.

A video look at Chez Panisse.

I was searching the library catalog for the films My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle, but the library only had the book, so I checked it out. Originally published in 1960 (in French of course) the Alice Waters’ foreword is from a 1986 edition.

Alice Waters today.
Image by David Sifry.

Two of my favorites things in this world – the kinds of things that makes me say “there is a god” – are great films and great food. I was so pleased to read those words from Alice Waters. Here is someone who is famous for her restaurant, her cook books, her simple, earthy philosophy – all of which I admire – and yet she displays a deeply felt response to cinema. And then she creates a permanent connection between the two great arts. That is the kind of human action of which we need more.

Marcel Pagnol looking suave.

I am now in the hunt for the Marseilles Trilogy (a.k.a. The Fanny Trilogy). I see that is is available on DVD. Since my local library doesn’t have it this might be the final straw that gets me to sign up for Netflix (you’re wondering why I haven’t already). I know very little of Pagnol’s work, but I have a feeling I will love it. I would hazard a guess that he was an interesting individual and a great filmmaker.

The day would turn enchanting when Marcel arrived, unheralded, in the middle of our boring summer holidays in La Treille. From then on, our day was filled with unusual commotion as my brother would immediately stage some activity: long hikes in the hills, picnics, highbrow conversations way off our usual chattering.

~ René Pagnol, Marcel Pagnol’s brother

One day, I saw La femme du boulanger (“The Baker’s Wife”)… It was a shock. This movie is as powerful as a film by Capra, John Ford and Truffaut altogether. Pagnol must have been an outstanding man.

~ Steven Spielberg

Here is a three part homage to Pagnol and the world he inhabited, wrote about, and filmed:

I began this post by saying it was about dreaming. I dream of visiting southern France (where I’ve never been), of making films and writing books (which I’ve only done on the smallest scale), of cooking gourmet meals (which I’ve done many times, but there’s always more), and of eating at Chez Panisse (which I’ve also yet to do). These dreams, and others, keep me alive.

>Bread and Circuses Desks

>This weekend was as crazy as always. In the midst of everything I decided on Saturday to bake some sourdough bread. I had already created a sourdough starter about ten days ago. The bread turned out really good. Here’s a pic:

This past week I started the process of creating a desk space for myself. It’s just a tiny corner, but it’s better than the non-desk space (read end of kitchen counter) I’ve been using for over a year.

I built the thing from scratch, then painted it. I still have some trim work to do, but I will get to that later. For now I’m ready to move in.

It will take me awhile to figure out how to arrange my books, computer, etc. The bottom shelf is now completely full of library books – which gives me pause. I have hopes of this little space becoming my center of operations. Maybe here is where I will write my book.

>through a day slowly

>Today I ran my first 10k road “race.” For me it was not a race, just something to finish without walking. Which I did. The beginning of the race was rather comical for me. I intended to start slow, and I did, but I felt as if everyone was running away from we, which they were. So there were only a small handful of people who finished later than me. At least I accomplished two goals: (1) run the race without resorting to walking at any time, and (2) run the race at a better than 12 min per mile pace. For those of you who are runners you will know that a 12 min pace is very, very slow, but at least I achieved both goals. So I am feeling good about that.

Part of my inspiration for doing this run comes from the book: No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running.

Now, this race is called the Scandia Run and it is related to the annual Scandinavian Festival here in Oregon. So I, being part Swedish by ancestry, was glad I was running in a Scandinavian kind-of-thing, and to top it off I decided to watch Through a Glass Darkly (1961), by I. Bergman of course.

Another way I can tie this film to my day, other than the Swedish angle, is that when I was in the middle of the run I found myself crying out to God too.

But for dinner I made Chicken Cacciatore – which is decidedly not Scandinavian.

I got the recipe from a book called The Pleasures of Slow Food: Celebrating Authentic Traditions, Flavors, and Recipes.

>The Red and the White


There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk. And that is my answer, when people ask me: Why do you write about hunger, and not wars or love?

M. F. K. Fisher, The Gastronomical Me, pub. 1943

I dream of vacations and I dread them. Call me a glass-half-full kinda guy who thanks God that he has a glass. We just got back from our week-long vacation at the unique Fort Worden in N.W. Washington – right next to wonderful little Port Townsend. We vacationed with five other families, stayed in the same building (the old nurses’ quarters), and let the kids rule the roost (for the most part). We also took turns with each family (actually two families at a time) cooking a dinner for everyone else. When our turn came we decided on pasta. Here’s the basic low-down:

Cooking for 25+ can be a bit daunting. I figured I needed to start early – the sauces were my contribution. I knew we had a lot of different tastes to accommodate, so I chose to do both a red sauce and a white sauce. Most of the ingredients were purchased at Aldrich’s Market which, if you’re ever in Port Townsend, I would recommend you get your groceries there – or at the Food CO-OP, my other fave grocery in P.T. One of my biggest concerns was the kitchen we had available in our rooms at Fort Worden. Since we brought none of our own cookware, we were at the mercy of what was available. Fortunately, we had what we needed, even though lack of familiarity with a kitchen can throw off a cook.

A Lusty Red Sauce (for the strong and tender hearted)
The key to cooking a good, thick, dark, meaty red sauce is time. Certainly the ingredients are critical, but there are many variations that will lead to excellent results, but time – as in, letting the sauce simmer for a long time – is key. What follows is about half of what I made for the group.

Ingredients (I love reading recipes and the listing of the ingredients is the best part):

  • Note: buy organic if at all possible. I like to believe the food tastes better, but I know that we can all do with less chemicals applied tot he planet.
  • 1 typical can/jar of red sauce (I like to start simple, so this is partially semi-homemade)
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes (if you want to peel and dice them yourself, go ahead, I applaud)
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • a 1/2 bunch of fresh basil
  • A bunch of mushrooms (you decide the amount and the kind)
  • 4 to 8 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 lb of ground beef
  • 1/2 lb of thick-sliced bacon
  • 1/2 lb of sweet Italian sausage links
  • Red wine (Cabernets or Zinfandels are good choices)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Sugar – anywhere from a couple of tablespoons to a half cup, depending on your preference for sweet sauces. The kids like the sweet.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Optional ingredients:

  • Whole Olives
  • Red or Yellow bell peppers (roasted, peeled, and diced)
  • Capers
  • Molasses

Throw the red sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, a couple tablespoons of the balsamic, about a cup or more of the red wine, the basil (torn or chopped up), and the sugar in a big pot and bring it to bubbling, then turn down the heat a bit and let it simmer. The rest of the wine is for the cook. Additional bottles will be opened for the guests. Chop the onion into thick chunks and toss in a frying pan. Do the same with the mushrooms and add them to the onion. The point here is to get the onion and mushrooms pre-cooked a bit before going in the sauce. When you feel they are softened enough add them to the sauce and stir in. Chop the garlic and place in the frying pan with plenty of olive oil. Sauté on low heat. It’s easy to burn garlic and the goal is to mellow it out while retaining what is best about garlic, so cook it on lower heat than you think, and let it sit there a while. When the garlic begins to look somewhat translucent, but before it turns brown, add it to the sauce. Then chop up the bacon, cook it (not crispy) and toss it in the sauce. Slice up the Italian sausage and do the same. Then cook up the ground beef and add it to the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Now here’s the clincher: Let the sauce simmer on low or med-low for at least three hours. If the sauce begins to thicken too much (due to evaporation) add more wine. Also, I like to add 2 to 6 tablespoons of olive oil to the sauce as well – gives it an additional hearty yum factor.

Let each individual ladle how much sauce they want over the pasta noodles. Penne is a good choice for noodles, but experiment with whatever noodles you think will work. Invariably your guests will take a medium amount at first because they are not quite sure if they will like such a hearty sauce – especially if they are used to the typical weak sauces so frequently served up. But then they will go back to seconds, maybe thirds, praise you, praise you again, and then find a comfortable place on the couch to finish of their second or third glass of red wine with inspired conversation.

Note: I do not emphasize specific amounts for the ingredients very much. This is a sauce “to taste” and I think it is very personal. All food should be personal and should reflect the personality of the cook as well as something of our humanity. This sauce is clearly a “heavy” sauce and is not at all the same as the wonderful light tomato sauces common in Italy (so I have read and tried to duplicate). I say BE BOLD in your sauces – and make no apologies!

A Transcendent White Sauce (for the young, the gracious, and the wise)
This sauce is so simple and so essentially perfect that, in order for it to go badly, one has to purposely set about to make a ruin of it. And like the red sauce above, this sauce is designed to be made “to taste” to suite the personality of the cook.


  • 4 to 8 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 pint of heavy whipping cream
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb of turkey apple sausage links (or similar mild/sweet sausages)
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Sea salt (to taste)
  • Fresh ground pepper (to taste)

Again, go with good quality ingredients – it’s worth it.

Peel and slice the garlic (do not crush the garlic or use a garlic press) as thin as possible – use a sharp knife. Place the garlic in a frying pan with a generous amount of olive oil. Sauté the garlic on low heat for as long as you can without it turning brown (sometimes this can take 30+ minutes on really low heat). Because garlic will burn quite easily it must be watched – so put on some good music, fill your glass with wine and stay near the stove.

Slice up the sausages and sauté them until they are well cooked – even a little crisp around the edges. Just at the moment before the garlic turns brown from the heat add the heavy whipping cream, the sausages, the sea salt, and the fresh ground pepper. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down to a good simmer. Stir occasionally and let it cook down until it thickens up quite a bit – this could take 20 to 30+ minutes, even an hour.

I have never had this sauce burn, but I suppose it could, so check it frequently. When done pour over freshly cooked pasta (I like bowtie for this one), add Parmesan, toss, and serve immediately.

Bread and wine are critical ingredients for living well, so my experience tells me. We provided fabulous bread (plus olive oil & balsamic, and some fine cheeses) for the crew from a wonderful little local bakery in Port Townsend called Pane D’Amore. The wine and cheeses came from Aldrich’s.

When I walked in to Pane D’Amore I waited in line, and when it came time to order I said I wanted a loaf of Cibatta, a baguette (French, not sourdough), and an Olive loaf. When I was handed my order the woman said it was rare for anyone to know exactly what they wanted. Oddly enough, here is a funny (not exactly intentionally funny) little video report about the bakery:

I’m rarely any good at getting through life, especially when it comes to loving people and being friendly. I can get downright grumpy at times. But one thing I love to do is cook for others. I don’t have many recipes in my bag of tricks, but these two I’ve had some good success with. Never do they turn out exactly as they have done before, but each time they seem to always please the palate and make people glad they came to dinner. Try them for yourself and let me know how they turn out and if if those you serve it too don’t also praise you for ability to raise the pasta bar just a little.

Also, I have made this blog primarily about cinema, but I find that I have the desire to write about food as well – and maybe other things too. Let me know what you think. Personally, I think good movies and good food make a nice combo.