Why I Cook


He fried for our sins.

Just when I had given up writing about food…

Today marks the release of Michael Pollan’s new book, “COOKED: A NATURAL HISTORY OF TRANSFORMATION”  in which he decries the demise of home cooking.

You, of course, know Pollan as Marty McFly’s brother-in-law, but that’s because you think about pop culture more than you do about food. Except when pop culture is food, like when Guy Fieri travels cross-country to commune with an 8,000-calorie bacon-sausage-ham full-pound cheeseburger (I know, I know; I just drooled all over my Kindle). And so begins the problem with our relationship with food, which Pollan is working so hard to correct.

Pollan’s 2006 book, “THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA,” was a benchmark in changing American eating habits, a direct link to the spread of the grass-fed beef movement.

Earlier in that decade I had begun trekking to Berkley annually to soak up some sun at the Claremont Hotel Club & Spa in Berkeley, an oxymoronic experience until you consider my real reason for being there: to pick up a quarter steer from one of the early proponents of pasture-fed cows. My rancher friend couldn’t legally sell directly to the consumer unless it was in carcass-size lots, so he figured out how to match up two to four buyers and have them split a whole cow. A butcher in Petaluma de-supersized my share into dozens of individually wrapped packets that fit into two giant coolers I’d lug up in the back of our Volvo (the same one I now use to schlep Ressikan flutes and “Inner Light” scripts to cons in Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Francisco). Steaks, chops, bones, brains, hearts – the works, all from very contented cows free of the antibiotics mandated by the typical and highly unnatural diet of corn.

I had by then already become a pretty good home cook. When I asked myself how that came to be (more…)

A Beatle Re-balanced

That's Sir Paul to you

“Are you a John or are you a Paul?”

This is the catch-all personality test a friend of mine once suggested for use on all us toilers in the business of show. Meaning, are you a tortured, self-destructive soul who pours your guts out in your art? Or are you a happy, stable person who wants to get the job done, and get it done right?

For 40 years I’ve put Paul McCartney in the latter category. A genius, sure, but with a tradesman’s ethic and very few demons coming between him and his work.

Then I read Howard Sounes’ excellent McCartney bio, “Fab.”  A meticulously researched book, it re-balances Macca’s life compared with other bios to put his post-Beatles efforts – personal and creative – under the lens. By doing so, this biography paints the portrait of a more complex character than we might have imagined.

I spoke to Sounes the other day by phone from his home in London and I realized that there are at least four major contradictions on display in McCartney’s persona.

1.  Paul is the “cute” Beatle, the charmer, but he always needs to let everyone around him know who’s in charge.

Sounes’ refers to this as “a slightly less attractive side of Paul.” “He appears to be this genial easygoing guy, but he really likes to
be in control and has a pretty monstrous ego and that’s not necessarily the image he projects,” he told me. (more…)

The Final Chapter

Say goodnight, Eline.

As we reach the last chapter of THE OUTER LIGHT, I’m just returning from my final Trek outing for 2012 – the Creation Entertainment San Francisco Trek con. Looking back over the last year, I’ve learned some things about how THE INNER LIGHT fits into the Star Trek universe.

One of the questions I often ask as part of my talk on“Inner Light” is, “How many of you have thought at some point that this life could all be a dream from which you will one day wake up?” A surprising 50% or so raise their hands.

The premise of “Inner Light” is that we simply would not be able to distinguish between reality and an experience implanted in the brain – and I think you can make a case for the notion that they are, in fact, not at all different. It’s a variation on the question, “Do I see the same color when I look at a banana that someone else does?” Might someone else’s “yellow” be what I see as “red”? But it’s a specious question. If a person and his or her neighbor look at an object radiating electromagnetic waves at a frequency of  510 trillion Hertz and consistently recognize that as a distinct color and (more…)

© Morgan Gendel 2011