The Nocker Chef: Thanksgiving 2013

SO … last year, I decided to assume a new persona while cooking the Thanksgiving feast.

There’s a roleplaying game I’ve always loved called Changeling: The Dreaming. Elevator speech: Faeries are alive in the modern world, though they’ve taken on Changeling human forms to avoid detection. Each type of faerie has its strengths and weaknesses. I’m going to pull from the White Wolf Wiki:

Nockers are the artisans among the Kithain, able to craft the stuff of dreams into whatever they desire. Their creations are always flawed, however, and their knowledge of this curse makes them irritable and quick to anger. Nockers are master artisans. Their skill and inventiveness are legendary; so is their cynicism and bitterness. Typically, they are highly critical of their rulers and eminently sarcastic to the people around them. Most nockers dislike having to deal with “imperfect” things, including people.

I never played a Nocker, but always wanted to – specifically, a Nocker Chef. Someone with every gadget under the sun you’d need in a modern kitchen, and with the temper of your modern celebrity chefs.

I gave into the temptation and tweeted all day. I think I got more attention on Thanksgiving 2013 than I ever have before, and Jenn Brozek suggested I should collect the tweets for posterity.

So why share it now?

Well …

Easter is coming.

https://twitter.com/TheNockerChef/

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I think we’ve ALL had enough.

Am I Writing the Right Story?

Springboarding today off an excellent post by Janice Hardy at diymfa: Are You Writing the Right Story?

I’m not going to parrot her advice, just answer the questions and prompts she provides.

  1. What kind of novels am I drawn to?

    Lately I’m drawn to crime thrillers and mysteries, in addition to my staple fantasy novels. I enjoy historical fiction, though I haven’t read much recently.

    A list of my favorite books, Lord. Um. I can’t name any crime-wise, aside from Black Lizard Pulp Collections. Catherynne Valente’s Deathless wove a period of history I’m interested in into a setting of legend and fantasy. Tim Powers’ Last Call provides grime-stained high weirdness. Fritz Lieber and Robert E. Howard give me grim heroism. I don’t enjoy the grimdark trend in fantasy, but looking at my favorites, I suppose it’s closer to what I’m drawn to than epic heroism.

  2. What kind of movies or tv shows am I drawn to?

    The only show I watch on a regular basis is Hell on Wheels, which is a Western full of difficult choices, complicated relationships, and a complete lack of status quo. I enjoyed Boardwalk Empire, which is similar in theme. In more formulaic shows, I loved Firefly for its dialogue and sharp characterizations. My favorite shows are actually nature documentaries – they’re not always story fodder, but visually they can be stunning.

  3. What similarities do you see? What common themes?

    They focus on an unstable world, where loyalties and priorities shift on a regular basis. They’ve all got protagonists who are competent though flawed. A few of them are straight-ahead bang-up action, more often they blend that action with introspection.

  4. Is there a recurring character type? 

    Competent but flawed protagonists. Slippery and powerful antagonists. Determined characters who may be at war with themselves, but who have chosen their path and will continue down it come what may.

  5. Are there recurring plots? 

    Ambition and determination.

This was a great exercise for anyone working to find their voice – I have some thinking to do.

(Thanks to Elizabeth S. Craig for the initial link to Janice’s post!)

My Top Five

The Spring Equinox is Thursday.

Every year, I look at where I’m at, what I’m doing, and where I want to be. I find it easier to do this now, rather than the traditional New Year’s Day, when the world’s frozen and dark.

Spring and its green winds give me a more hopeful and honest picture.

1. EXERCISE

Anyone who knew me in my youth would be surprised by this, but the number one item on my must-do list is exercise. Developing a workout routine has become, and remains, the best thing I have ever done for myself and for my life. When I can’t create, I get cranky – when I can’t exercise, I get downright cruel. To myself and others. Having a chance to push my body and my boundaries still tops the list this coming year.

2. WORDS

The second most important thing to me is to keep the words flowing. I’ve written more in 2013 than at any other time since college. Most of those words haven’t been seen – many of them haven’t been submitted. They remain still, and it’s time to give them wings in the wind. I will make 2014 my most prolific year of words yet, or I will know the reason why.

3. PERFORMANCE

Have you met me? I like talking. I like speaking. I like attention, to be frank. Last year, a combination of poor habits and poor timing kept me from being able to be in the public eye as much as I wished. This year I have at least three projects already in the works, some soon to be announced, some not yet hatched – but all involving some form of performance.

4. ENVIRONMENT

As of last year, I own a house. It is, to be frank, in need of work. There’s paint peeling on the walls, ancient decorations left over from 2001, space filled with useless claptrap that could easily be removed. An offhand comment by a loved one has forced me to reassess my squalor, and at least the place is cleaner now than it was, with a weekly cleaning rota established and in good order. I’ve also talked to a number of friends in the interior decoration business, as well as dudes who are far handier than I with things like electricity and wiring. 2014 is the year I turn this house into my home.

5. RELATIONSHIPS

The odds are good that even if we’re close, I haven’t seen you in a while. I can count on one hand the people outside my family whom I see more than once a month, and that’s simply not going to stand any longer. So many people who are important to me have fallen away – which I’m told is normal, it happens, as we age. Well, I’m tired of normal, and I’m certainly tired of age. I can’t reverse the age, but I can reverse the trend.

Spring has always been a time of resurrection, whether you see that in divinity or the orderly steps of the seasons.

I’m coming back.

Craig Ewert: 1945-2006

Today should have been my father’s 67th birthday.

Many of you know the end of his story: The documentary The Suicide Tourist tells it better than I can, and it can be streamed for free at Frontline.

I’ve talked quite a bit about his death. Overnight, I thought a lot about his life.

*

He always claimed to have been bad at making friends, but I knew a few. Jeff, with whom he grew up. Pat, the hippie-turned-lawyer who always sneaked me chocolate bars when he would visit. Dale and Mary, my godparents, with their nice home in Evanston, their books and banter and telescopes, and their children who became my playmates, their son remaining a friend of mine to this day. Ray the parole office and his wife, Irene, who took dancing lessons with my parents and became their closest friends.

He was one of the first to major in the new field of computer science, with a double major in mathematics. He couldn’t find work immediately out of school – not enough call for what we now know as IT professionals – but drove a taxi in Chicago, worked on the Metra line as a conductor. I found it funny, later; that a man who was so sedentary started off in such steady motion.

He was a mayfly with his hobbies, turning to them only long enough to get quite good; then moving on to something new. Dance, poetry, illustration, woodwork, tai chi. I still sleep in a four-poster bed he built.

He taught, after getting his Master’s. He preferred teaching people who had to fight to go to school – they listened, he said; where others took a passing grade for granted.

He was terrible to play games with. He had a competitive streak that didn’t seem to emerge unless we were playing, say, Candyland or Connect Four; and he’d grow irritable if a five-year old hit a lucky streak and came out ahead. When computer games became a reality, he shifted to them completely; where he could play against something rather than someone.

He read, and encouraged us to read. Heroic fantasy to philosophy. He wanted us to know that good could prevail in the world, and while he didn’t have a holy book to point us to, he knew mortal books and stories that claimed no divinity could do the same job with less baggage.

My family, early 1970s.

*

That was in the past. This is now.

My father did a lot for us. He did a lot for me.

Yes, I’m still sad that he died, still proud of the manner of his death, still angry – so incredibly angry – that he got sick.

But today should have been his birthday, and I’m so glad he lived while he did.

Night, dad.

FAMISHED: The Cookbook – Sweet and Sour Pork

I love Chinese food like the sun loves the Earth – I want to keep it ever close to me, never let it go. Sadly, my wife doesn’t share my lust for Chinese – or at least, she wants to be sure it’s good Chinese, which is difficult to find in our immediate orbit.

ssporkThen last night, she asked if I could come up with a sweet and sour pork recipe.

Can I? CAN I?

I don’t know if I even repeated the question before I was in the grocery store for fixings.

That said, I’m a bigger fan of Sichuan than Cantonese dishes. I like heat, whereas she wanted something sweeter than my typical fare. I checked a few online resources before finding Bee’s advice at Rasa Malaysia - using plum and worcestershire sauce in place of the glommy staple of orange juice. I didn’t have any plum sauce on hand, so I substituted chili paste which would add some sweetness while also adding the spice I crave.

Here’s the recipe, in order of prep work and suggested timing. Stir fry is always tricky at first. Just remember, when cooking the vegetables, the densest materials go in first, followed by those which are more delicate (such as mushrooms) or which you want to stay crunchier (celery, asparagus).

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin (cut into 1″ cubes)
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • garlic & ginger to taste

Mix all ingredients and marinate, refrigerated, for 1 hour.

  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 4 Tbsp ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 Tbsp chili paste (I use sambal olek)
  • 1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar

Whisk all ingredients together for the sweet and sour sauce.

  • 1/2 red pepper, cut into 1″ strips
  • 1/2 green pepper, cut into 1″ strips
  • 1/2 onion, cut into 1″ wedges
  • 1 lb asparagus, cut into 1″ diagonal … stalk things
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1″ diagonal slices
  • 1 can water chestnuts

Heat wok over screaming high heat until water flicked into the surface sizzles and evaporates.

Coat wok with sesame oil and cook pork tenderloin until done through, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove pork and add vegetables in the order listed, each for 1 minute’s time – garlic and ginger, peppers, onion, asparagus & celery & water chestnuts (so the aromatics for 4 minutes total, peppers for 3, onion for 2, etc) stirring constantly.

Add pork back to wok with vegetables and mix in sweet and sour sauce, stirring to coat. Serve immediately with crispy chow mein noodles and scallions to top. Jasmine rice is your best choice for a serving bed, as it holds tighter to the sauce than noodles.

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