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For the past few years I’ve had a problem; I have suffered from a severe lack of focus. When it comes to work, it’s not as bad. I mean I still have my job and I do it well and no one has complained so I think we’re good there. But when I’m home and relaxing, I’ve had issues with my two other favorite activities: beading and reading. It hasn’t stopped me from buying beads or books but it takes me longer to get through a book or a beading project (unless I’m being paid. Money is an excellent motivator.)

But for some reason, the one thing I can concentrate is cooking. Or reading and following a recipe.  It’s like when I was laid off and took yoga. I had to concentrate hard because yoga didn’t come easily for me.  And it was an hour, whenever I took it, that I was able to concentrate on nothing else except getting into Cobra.  With cooking, I need to concentrate. If I don’t, the food will burn or explode or be bad and if there is anything I loathe, it’s when something doesn’t turn out simply because I wasn’t paying attention. I pay for the groceries so when food doesn’t turn out, I consider it a waste of money.

And I get a real burst of satisfaction when something turns out well. Ok, I admit…I preen. There, I’ve said it. I’m a Leo so I dig the adulation and appreciation for my efforts.  And I like things that taste good.  As do most people. But lately work has been crazy and chaotic and kind of sucktastic. Coming home and cooking feels like it’s work and there are nights that I know it will be and I don’t. But, I’ve noticed it helps. I’ve noticed that doing something that for the most part I can control helps. And it’s far more immediate in results than my job. In about an hour, I have a finished product.

It also helps me compartmentalize. I can think about what happened during the day, what I need to do that night (yes, I have been working from home lately) and what I have to do the next day. How I want to handle things, or not handle them.  It calms me and helps me unwind from the day. It makes me feel like I’m home.  Tonight, it’s chicken parm, roasted potatoes and onions and steamed green beans. Nothing fancy, no bells and whistles. But I’ve noticed it’s the homey, down to earth food that seems to really hit the mark a la hacienda.

Wine recommendation (not necessarily for my dinner tonight but I am going to have some): Albarino Rias Baixas  Fillaboa, 2008.  A nice white wine. Nice and dry but awfully tasty. It’s a little pricier at about $18 (well pricey for me) but it’s been worth it. Yum

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Most people have five favorite actors or musicians, but I have 5 celebrity type chefs that I love watching or reading about on a regular basis.  I love all 5 of these people equally. I can’t choose. It’s like choosing which pair of shoes I love best. Can’t be done.

  1. Anthony Bourdain – I don’t know how anyone can watch No Reservations and not be entertained by it. He loves food and hates bullshit. I do not share his hate of Rachael Ray. That woman made me less afraid of my kitchen and her rabid enthusiasm is one of the things that got me cooking.  But Tony…you’re a hell of a lot braver than I am. You’ll try anything once and you know an adventure when you see it. While I don’t see what the big deal about visiting museums and other touristy type destinations is, I understand you’re doing something different. You’re the best of both worlds…travel and food and you have unbridled enthusiasm for both.  Although…I suspect that little girl of yours may be softening you a bit, it fits.  The man is a bad ass and he knows his stuff. Since he used to be a working chef, I respect his opinion. I’ve eaten at Les Halles, way after he left, and while I wasn’t blown away..it was delicious food.
  2. Gordon Ramsay. For one, ok two reasons: He swears like a sailor and he puts his money where his mouth is. The meal I had at his restaurant at Claridge’s was one of the best experiences in my life.  The food was delicious, the wait staff was amazing and we got to visit the kitchen. That kitchen was spotless. He puts his money where his mouth. He does not ask anything of any of his chefs on Hell’s Kitchen or Kitchen Nightmares that he doesn’t practice himself. I completely respect that.
  3. Julia Child.  This woman found love during WWII and she and Paul were for all intents and purposes, completely devoted to one another. It was incredibly sweet and I’m sure that even though he would have to get annoyed by the test bowls of mayo in their kitchen, was very supportive.  She found a love of food and a way to make french cooking accessible to everyone because she wanted everyone to know the joy she did.  She was a pioneer of early television on PBS and made Cambridge, Ma her home.  I have spent many wonderful afternoons either leafing through Mastering the art of French Cooking or watching her on The French Chef. The day I flipped an egg in a pan like she did was one of the best I’ve known in awhile.  I understand that this means I need to get out more.
  4. Eric Ripert.  He’s sort of my list pin up boy. He’s good looking, he’s French and Le Bernadin is on my bucket list of restaurants to visit before I die.  Yes, I have a list.  He’s also friends with Bourdain and I find the thought of this just a total hoot.  On an episode of No Reservations, Tony decided to go back and try and work the line. He somehow conned his friend Ripert into helping.  Compared to Bourdain, Ripert KILLED it.  And you know he doesn’t actually do the cooking at his place on a regular basis.  And…he’s good looking. Did I say that?
  5. Thomas Keller. This one will surprise you as you don’t see him on tv unless he’s on someone else’s show (Bourdain once again springs to mind)  What he’s done at The French Laundry (another on the bucket list) is just awe inspiring in many ways…from menus to wines to location.   Each part of his dishes are just as important as the others.  He experiments with taste and textures. He understands the pleasure of eating and the joy and the way that food can be a kind of erotic experience for your senses(and yes, I do feel that way..as travel brochure as it sound, food can be sexy, believe it!)  The name by the way is taken from the building itself which was a brothel and then a french steam laundry. No really…look it up  http://www.frenchlaundry.com/ And yes, I check out his menus on a regular basis.   It’s like my porn.

5 different people with the common thread of food and a love of it. And wow…as I look, I apparently have a thing about french cooking (Sorry Gordon)…which I hadn’t noticed before.  And since I rarely cook French, I wonder if I am living vicariously. Or, if I should be living in France. Hmmm…