January is coming to a close and not a moment too soon. In the first place, I don't much like January. A year ago one of the local magazines asked me to " give us your thoughts about January." I told them at the time that I had no thoughts about January. At least none that were especially insightful or printable even. They were undeterred by my candor. " Why don't you try reeeeeeeally hard and come up with some? And do it in 500 words and get it here next Sunday."
Secondly, this has been a particularly rough January. My excellent friend Wendy maintains that "bad stuff always happens in January." Bad stuff certainly paid a visit to our little family unit this January with all of Mother's travails. If that were not depressing enough, the weather has exceptionally nasty so far this month. I bet I played golf 4 or 5 times last January. I have touched a club once this month and that was around New Year's. Indeed, the Country Club of Arkansas, whose course I regularly desecrate, has been closed for a week due to the cold weather which required them to put tarps on the greens. That's unheard of around here.
Yesterday, we had a minor ice storm here in the Central Arkansas area. Most schools and businesses closed early although after the initial blast in the morning it wasn't too bad. John and I were going to take his son Clarke over to Catholic High last night so Clarke could witness for himself a historical anomaly: a halfway decent Rocket basketball team. Unfortunately, all high school games in the area were cancelled, although I did see in the paper this morning where Catholic's Principal and Maximum Dictator Mr. Straessle said that Saturday detention hall would be open for business same as usual. Somewhere, Msgr. George Tribou, Straessle's late mentor, is smiling down approvingly.
Although the streets weren't bad last night I decided, along with everybody else in the neighborhood, to stay in. I finished up Garry Wills' new book "Head and Heart-American Christianities," I had some bacon and I found some eggs so I made an omelet. I opened a bottle of wine and I perused what is far and away my favorite Christmas present from last Christmas: A cookbook authored by my old law school buddy Don McCormick.
The work, which he imaginatively named "Cookbook," is more than just the collected recipes of a serious foodie (which he certainly is) it is also a love letter to his daughters Caroline and Annie in which he recreates not only the recipes of the meals he prepared for the girls as they were growing up but most of the various dishes compiled therein (and there are about 75 or so-like I said this boy is serious about food) have a story attached to them.
From the Dedication and Foreword: " [E]very time I think about any of these recipes I think about how much fun it was cooking with the two of you and how much I enjoyed our meals together."
Chicken and Mushroom Gravy: " Annie loves this. The gravy referred to as 'alternative' is the way I made it when you were little but the one with the cream is the one Annie asked for when she was in high school."
Pasta with Red Chicken Sauce: " We ate this a lot when you were growing up because it comes together very quickly and is well-suited to school night suppers. When Caroline wasn't eating meat I prepared the tomato sauce in one pot and the chicken in another, then poured most of the sauce over the chicken, reserving a Caroline sized portion in the first pot, which actually speeds up the cooking process."
Macaroni and Cheese I: " One of the household's favorite TV shows was one featuring Issac Mizrahi, a clothing designer who had his own TV show for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, although he was pleasant enough."
Basic Chicken Soup: " Your mom had a good friend in law school who showed her how to make Jewish-mother-style chicken soup this way. He used to be a prosecutor in San Diego but is now a criminal forfeiture specialist in Marina Del Ray assisting drug dealers recover property seized by the government. Charles Manson had a lawyer too, but I hope he didn't get rich off of it."
And a long-forgotten (by me at least) conversation with me about homemade barbecue sauce: " He adds about a half cup of Kentucky Bourbon-something not too expensive and with that Kentucky edge, Jim Beam. He says he has seen recipes that call for using Knob Creek in barbecue, and I agree with him that to put high-end whiskey into barbecue sauce is wasteful silliness. The editorial board is offering a whiskey exchange program, so if you bought a high-end whiskey because a barbecue sauce recipe called for it, I will gladly exchange Old Crow or Heaven Hill for equal volumes of Knob Creek or Gentleman Jack."
"Cookbook' also contains numerous appendices (?) including "Persons Mentioned in the Text' in which Yours Truly is spoken of in terms that far more gracious than I deserve and a section entitled "Rejected Alternative Titles" such as "Yes, Way," "I Can't Hang On To A Wife But I Can Cook," "George Bush Is An Idiot," and my personal favorite, " Too Bad I Can't Sell This Because Writing Is Lots More Fun Than Practicing Law."
As I type this in my little study, the world outside the window is cold and gray. The weather man says it is supposed to reach the mid-fifties today but it had better get after it if it is going to make it. My excellent friend Rick and I would like to play golf on Sunday but I don't know. Even if it warms up it still may be too wet. But enough of this. January will soon pass. It is best on these gray days to contemplate those things that bring happiness any time regardless of the season. Things like "Cookbook." A more thoughtful and profound testament of a Father's love for his daughters (and in some smaller measure his friends) I can scarcely imagine. His girls are lucky to have him.
And so am I.