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Lightly Toasted: Chronicles of the Friday Night Cocktail Club

fancy tubes. 
Oct. 28, 2010 6:15 pm 
Updated: Nov. 1, 2010 10:44 am
Week 2. I've turned the blog over to the One Drink Professor. To be perfectly honest, I'm not at all convinced he's an actual professor. But he dresses like one. He smells of pipe smoke. And after a cocktail, he's inclined to increasing levels of gasbaggery. What follows, then, are brief discussions over a series of evenings, heavily edited for your protection.

At dinner now, and the conversation picks up again somewhere in the general vicinity of where it left off. We've poured some wine, and the One Drink Professor has been describing how, over the ages, technology has helped us feed ourselves. Someone points out that we're feeding our faces with the help of a pretty useful piece of relatively modern technology: the fork.

"Have you ever noticed in the first couple seasons of the Tudors [the soft-core Showtime series] that no one is eating with a fork?" asks the One Drink Professor, as he dishes out a round of potato gnocchi. "They're all using their fingers."

If you know the show, then you'd be forgiven for thinking that going forkless was just a gimmick, a clever way to show beautiful people licking their fingers.

The One Drink Professor soldiers on: "I should say, forks did exist in the 16th century, at the time of the Tudors. But eating with them was considered an overly dainty Italian custom."

"Like driving Fiats," I slide in with an assist.

"The Church also frowned on eating with forks. Considered it too delicate. Delicacy, of course, being a particular kind of gluttony. Because it wasn't quantity alone that could qualify you as a glutton. Delicacy was one of the more nuanced ways you could sin by gluttony."

"Best to use the fork that God gave you," offers SLS.

"Exactly," confirms the One Drink Professor. "The tines of three fingers and a thumb, as God allowed."

The conversation devolves momentarily as forks drop and we begin handling the food.

"And after all, what are we?" the One Drink Professor picks up again. "We are essentially tools for eating."

After a moment, the One Drink Professor asks, "Have you heard of something called the 'Analogy of the Year'?"

We are too busy with our napkins now to reply.

"In one sense, the 'Analogy of the Year' is a way to comprehend our participation as a species in the vastness of time."

And when that doesn't clear it up, he continues. "The 'Analogy of the Year' takes the entire 4.5 billion-year history of life on earth and condenses it into a single year. On this reduced scale, then, single-celled microbes (like amoeba, algae, bacteria) existed on earth all alone, all the way until June. Until June. Already the year's half over, and that's all the earth has to show for itself. The first multi-cellular organisms, they won't show until the middle of August. Then, finally, the first primitive bodies began to appear."

At this point there is a sharp crack of a high five, possibly in support of primitive bodies. And the One Drink Professor continues. "Now then, I know some vegetarians who 'won't eat anything with a face.' Right? You've heard that. Well, a person could have lived with a very clear conscience as an animal that doesn't eat anything with a face all the way into the autumn of our analogous year. Because the first animal with a head doesn't show up until October."

This provokes a prolonged "whoa" in two-part harmony from certain members of the group.

"So here we are, we're closing in on just two weeks left in the year when the first dinosaurs appear on December 13th. The first primates don't arrive on the scene until December 26. The year is nearly done with. And humans? It’s New Year's Eve, late December 31, the very last day of the year, when humans finally arrive on the scene. Earlier that day, at noon, humans had diverged from the chimps. Now we're on our own, hunting and gathering until, suddenly, with just one second left in the year, we see the first humans settling down and planting the first crops. Later that same second, Columbus pushes off for America at 23:59:57. And here we are, having a pleasant dinner at 23:59:59 and change."

There's a silence at the table. The One Drink Professor pours a little wine around.

"We've managed a lot in that single second," the One Drink Professor says before blowing our minds a bit further.

"What we are, in essence, then, is a considerably more sophisticated version of that amoeba that existed here all by its lonesome for the first half of the year."

"I would hope we're a little 'more sophisticated,'" someone says.

"Well, okay," says the One Drink Professor. "But think of this: an amoeba surrounds and absorbs food through a vacuole. And that food passes through the vacuole not entirely unlike food passes through our intestinal walls. What we are is: we're fancy tubes built for eating. But, of course, we have developed some useful attachments.

“Today we sit here with arms and hands and big brains, legs and toes--everything that's built up around the alimentary canal. But like all other animals through the ages, everything is designed to help get some other living thing, whether plant or animal, into our bodies to sustain us; and at the same time, with luck, to keep us from being that living thing that goes into some other animal's body to sustain it. It's a variation on a simple theme."

It's late now. Lucky break for us, there are no saber-toothed tigers lurking in the shadows beyond the table. And we are glad for it, as we fork up the last of the tiramisu.
Photo Detail
Photo Detail
Oct. 28, 2010 9:25 pm
Can I please come to one of your dinner parties?
Oct. 29, 2010 5:51 am
HEY!!! You had dinner with my dad!! Gasbaggery......HAHAHA
Oct. 29, 2010 6:29 pm
Wow, I think the One Drink Prof just blew my mind. Pass the wine, please.
Oct. 29, 2010 8:55 pm
So, then, my third or fourth cup of wine here is really just a drop. Nice!
Oct. 30, 2010 12:23 pm
Always love your posts!
Oct. 31, 2010 3:02 pm
LOL! Love The Tudors! So 16th Century, and yet so good!
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About Me
My wife and I and our two devilish kittens live on Capitol Hill in Seattle. A few years ago, I got a masters in gastronomy. I'm a food/wine writer. I’m also blogging about cocktails.
My favorite things to cook
We cook fairly simple dishes using fresh local ingredients that we pick up at the Seattle farmers market. My favorite thing is making a nice slow-braised or long-roasted something on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I like cooking with wine (in the dish and in the glass...and in the cook).
My favorite family cooking traditions
My mom never liked to cook, but she did well despite herself. Her mother, my omi, was from Munich and made delicious rouladen, sauerbraten and other traditional German and American dishes. Always bins and bins of home-baked cookies at Christmas. Wonderful rye bread. And beer. Opa would say, "Brotzeit ist die beste zeit."
My cooking triumphs
We’ve made the signature timpano dish from The Big Night a couple times. And for Thanksgiving 2007, we made Turducken. My wife and I are always volunteering to cook the big holiday meals with the family. We mix a signature cocktail, and get down to it.
My cooking tragedies
I made Thanksgiving Dinner for myself once when I was snowed-in in Denver. I nearly burned down the neighborhood.
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