Sunday, June 8, 2008

A smorgasbord of c-r-a-p for you.

I bought a little cookbook in London of “200 easy suppers” that I liked because the recipes are as advertised and because there are pictures of all the dishes. Some people like their cookbooks to be these gigantic tomes, packed to the gills with prose on every page and nary a picture in sight, but I’m the opposite. I like simple recipes with lots of brightly colored pictures of the easily achievable results. Last week I made a recipe that I thought sounded pretty good, and indeed it was:

Pork filet with mushrooms

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb pork tenderloin, sliced into ¼ inch discs
10 oz mushrooms, trimmed and cut into chunks
1 lemon
½ pint crème fraîche
2 sprigs of tarragon, leaves stripped (I used a lot more)
Salt and pepper

Heat 2 tblsp of the oil over medium high heat and fry the pork slices for 3-4 minutes, turning once so they are browned on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the remaining oil and cook the mushrooms for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden.

Cut half of the lemon into slices and add to the pan to brown a little on each side, then remove and set aside.

Return the pork to the pan, add the crème fraîche and tarragon and pour in the juice of the remaining lemon. Season well, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and leave to bubble gently for 5 minutes. Add the prepared lemon slices at the last minute and gently stir through.

Serve with white rice or crispy potato wedges.

I just added that last line because it sounds so English – “crispy potato wedges”? Like I’ve got those lurking about to serve with this dish. Anyway, here it is on the stove:

It was awfully good.

In other news, this was a very big weekend for Eeyore: R. put up a swing for him in the backyard, which he loved, and he went swimming for the first time. Unfortunately, we forgot our camera when we went to our friends’ house to swim, so we are relying on her sending us the photos she snapped for us. I did get Eeyore in his new swing, however:

And finally, I posted my next assignment. For this one, we were given 3 or 4 sentences describing a scene: a couple driving down a highway, they think they hit something, they bicker because she thinks he’s been drinking, then they get out and can’t see anything. We were supposed to flesh that out with the same start and end points, using some dialogue and other secret literary techniques I can’t remember. So here’s my exercise (and I did not make up these awesome names):


Loretta bit nervously at the inside of her cheeks as Mick drove in stony silence, the icy, moonlit trees clicking by like a slideshow of still photographs from a horror movie. Loretta leaned forward and switched on the radio again.

"How many times are you going to do that?" asked Mick. "There's no reception out here."

"It's just so quiet out here, I can't stand it," said Loretta, snapping off the radio and inching away from him on the seat. The smell of alcohol had wafted across the car on his words. "I feel like we're miles from anywhere." Willing herself to relax, she leaned back and closed her eyes to avoid looking out the windows at the canopy of leafless branches arching around them - gnarled, bony fingers intertwining as far as the eye could see. She hated tonight.

“You stink of booze,” Loretta said.

“Jesus Christ, Loretta, I am not drunk! I only had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner,” Mick answered angrily.

“Glasses? Those were practically tumblers. And don’t forget the two martinis you knocked back before we even sat down.”

“Forget them – how can I forget anything when I have you around to remind me?” Mick spat, shaking his head.

The couple lapsed back into silence. After several minutes, and despite the sour electricity of the tension hanging between them, Loretta felt her eyes starting to close. The droning of the engine and the repetition of the scenery panning past were too much to resist; she fought to hold her eyes open, but they fluttered shut. Suddenly, though, they were wide, and she felt the tight catch of fear in her throat.

“Did you see that?” she asked.

“See what?” said Mick.

“I thought I saw something run across the road up ahead; it was white.” Loretta replied, her voice rising.

“I didn’t see anything,” said Mick, “you were asleep. You imagined it.”

“I don’t know,” said Loretta, “it looked real to me. I think it was a person.”

“There wasn’t anything, Loretta,” Mick said, rolling his eyes.

“Look!” cried Loretta, “there it is again!”

Mick drew in his breath sharply; this time he had seen something, too. It had only been a momentary flicker at the end of the range of their headlights, but it had sure looked like somebody standing in the road and then darting into the thicket of trees to the left. Or maybe it wasn’t anybody; it had just been something kind of thin and white. Could it have been someone’s laundry blowing across the road? But it was winter, and who hung their sheets out to dry anymore, anyway? And sheets didn’t dart like they had a purpose.

“Shit,” said Mick, “what was that?”

“Keep driving,” said Loretta, “don’t stop!”

“I’m not stopping!” Mick said. “Are you kidding?”

Suddenly, the car jolted sharply as its front wheels rose off the ground and quickly hit the pavement again with a slam. There was a loud thudding from under the car, then the back wheels rose and fell.

“What was that!?” Loretta screamed, turning frantically to peer out the back window. There was only blackness behind them.

“I don’t know!” said Mick, easing off the gas and pulling over to the side of the road.

“What are you doing? Please don’t stop; let’s just go,” Loretta pleaded, her voice rasping with dread.

“Just wait here,” said Mick with more confidence than he felt. “I think we hit something.”

He opened the car door and stepped out into the winter night, the road ahead still lit by their headlights. Loretta’s heart was pounding, but she grabbed the flashlight they kept in the glove compartment, slid across the car seat and climbed out after him. She clutched his arm, and they tiptoed hesitantly towards the back of the car.

Mick shone the light into the darkness behind them, but they could see nothing in the road. He leaned down to look underneath the car, not knowing what to expect but sure it would be bad. Again, there was nothing.


Broady said...

Have you read "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor? One of my favorite short stories, and the tone of your piece reminded me of it... maybe the sense of foreboding, and the bickering couple.

The pork looks amazing! I can't believe you didn't fry up some crispy potato wedges ; )

Cindy said...

I'm with you on the cookbooks--pictures, please! That looks like a great recipe.

I'm enjoying your writing exercises--hope you are too!