Monday, November 23, 2009

Irish Salmon

Wild hen turkey in downtown San Rafael police station parking lot. That's me and my blue shadow. "Isn't she lovely..." keeps trotting through my mind. And boy, can a turkey ever trot—they're world class sprinters along with emus and ostriches! I once clocked a turkey doing 30 MPH down MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland one foggy morning—I thought I was hallucinating, or my gallon of morning tea hadn't yet kicked in. Turkeys have made such a successful comeback, they've moved right into the suburbs along with the SUVs. I've seen toms take on red cars, chest-beating their own reflections on shiny car doors. Click on the turkey and click again on the second window to see her up close and personal. She really is lovely. She was a little nervous because I was following her and she crooned at me like a broody hen. I crooned right back. We crooned together. Small feminine moans of anxiety, reassurance and contentment.

Tomorrow's my birthday (Nov. 24) and I always get stood up by the damned turkey and everybody always forgets it's my birthday ...

Invariably, towards the end of Thanksgiving dinner, someone will suddenly remember and say—Hey, isn't it your birthday? and that's the end of it. No fuss, no muss, no cake—no prezzies either. Wow, what a long and winding anti-climax it's been.

To wit, I've adopted Thanksgiving dinner as my own personal feast. To mess with it, and go rogue with duck, goose, swan or ham instead of the Big Bird is not my idea of a good time.

And I won't even mention when folks go all crazy and adulterate the traditional Thanksgiving trimmings: instead of leaving well enough alone, and letting the integrity of the food offer its bounty to the palate, they fru-fru plain old cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes.

This menu meddling disrupts my already fragile psyche. I don't want raw grated cranberries with orange rind, I don't want orange juice or HORRORS! marshmallows on my sweet potatoes. OK, so I don't mind garlic in the mashers. That's a good foodie addition. But make sure there's plenty of pan dripping gravy.

On Turkey Day (or any day), I really don't care about the current American food fad: the fear of fat fetish. Minute traces of fat don't make you fat, calories do—and your body really doesn't care where the calories come from. Despite the dietistas' magic potions and formulae, as a nation, we grow fatter, we grow fatter. Couch potatoes aside, carbs is carbs is calories. Besides, Thanksgiving Dinner clocks in at 5-6000 calories, and that's before your just desserts. Did you know that we have two stomachs on Thanksgiving? One for dinner, and another special one for dessert.

And on Thanksgiving, the only thing worse than adulterated stuffing with mountain oysters and cornbread, is no stuffing at all. I want real chestnuts in my stuffing, and I want a slab of my grandmother's three-tiered jello salad, like a wiggly UFO draped in the colors of an Irish flag: layers of lime & grapefruit, cream cheese studded with walnuts, and mandarin orange.

See, I want to stop time itself. I want to wear pitted olives on all ten fingers, wave my digits like a crazy olive-headed mob at a puppet show, and run wild with my cousins up the hill. I want to wait in anticipation for the turkey to come out of the oven—always later than expected, but the anticipation. Oh, the anticipation builds. For I drool, I drool.

I want my favorite cousin Ricky—who died too young—by my side. I had to give Ricky my new birthday-cum Christmas bike because he contracted polio—I was at cross purposes with myself because I loved him more than anything in the world. (Not that I had a choice.) But I was six, and newly in love for the first time with the shiny new red bicycle—replete with training wheels and multi-colored tassels on the sparkle handlebars. I no sooner saw, then it was gone.

I grabbed the handlebars lovingly and went, vroom-vroom, as they carted it off into the trunk of a waiting car. Somehow, I feel a vague having involuntarily given him that bicycle. Like I led him down the road to perdition. He was killed riding his Harley down 4th Street in Santa Rosa. A stuck throttle.

I want to go for a long birthday ride on my fast horse with my best friend Stephanie who also shared a Thanksgiving birthday. We were twinned a year and a day apart in age—Stephanie, me and my 2nd cousin Eddie—like in the fairly tales. They were my bookends, one on either side of me like pieces of bread on Leftover Turkey Friday and I was the filling. But, alas, that's all in the distant past. The cancer ate Stephanie's bones. My cousin has long since slipped down the slender neck of a bottle.

Birthdays serve to chronicle the inevitable march of time with the finality of a coffin nail—whether or not they're celebrated. Fear of death follows me even in my sleep. I never did learn to properly ride a bike. Maybe in heaven—or more like Purgatory. I had an interesting life. No goodie two-shoes for me!

See, with the profound disappointment of yet another missed birthday, I need all that feel-good tryptophan I can get buried in that turkey meat. No other meat has it. Nothing else will do. Tryptophan, tryptophan, we all scream for tryptophan. I will rage, rage against the dying of the light. Bring on the turkey. Bring it on, Jeeves. Turkey, Zoloft is thy middle name. Let the sun shine.

Unless, of course, salmon is introduced in sunset hues. Then I'm at cross purposes with myself and tradition. How does one properly choose between a healthy dose of tryptophan, vs. wisdom and knowledge? Not that salmon is being offered this Thanksgiving, mind you. But duck is, well, sacrilege...

My workaround is to go to three separate Thanksgivings and make up for the tryptophan shortfall. Talk about eat and run. My tryptophanic greed is like the primal urge of randy ducks who will attempt to nail just about anything their shape and size, including footballs. It's a Must Have Thing. Score a touchdown!

On my personal score card of 1 to 10, most carnal flesh rates in at around 3 or 4 (well, chateaubriand scores a 5—but, seriously, when do I ever see chateaubriand? Last time I had chateaubriand was in 1976 and I won't even mention sex) whilst the sunrisen flesh of fresh salmon rates 10+ on the scale! Go figure. I must've been born under the archaic Sign of the Salmon—fish of wisdom (vs tranquilizing turkey—BTW, a New World food!)

In Irish mythology, the Salmon was the first creature, the oldest being in the world, and he was the fish of wisdom—as he ate the hazelnuts of knowledge that fell into his vernal pool. Each red spot on his side represents a plucked hazelnut. The more flecks, the more profound his knowledge.

Note the Irish distinction between wisdom (críonnacht) & knowledge (fios). You have to gather discrete bits of knowledge to gain the kingdom, but you are either born with or without innate wisdom. And knowledge is next to useless without wisdom to frame it.

Don't know what that says about my passion for the fish. Eating wisdom? And you know what happens when I eat hazelnuts (anaphylaxis)! Death of knowledge? Oh, where is thy sting-aling? Breathe.

But look at what my great friend and artist in residence co-worker, Alex sent me from Da Bronx Farm! Now that's a great gift of art(ifice). I wonder if he added a little Wild Turkey to it as well? I envision it as a heavy, deep chocolate gateau (none of that cakemix fluff) with a chocolate truffle filling and a chocolate ganache icing. Guitard will do in a pinch. No Nutella filling, no hazelnuts, please!

© 2009 Alex Schapiro comix. Hire this guy to teach art, he's brilliant.

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