20 MINUTES AWAY FROM THE BUG HOUSE
Yesterday morning my day began with what I can only imagine to be raccoon diarrhea covering my porch. Literally. My lovely wife was walking my infant daughter out the door and nearly fell down the cement steps, slipping on the raccoon shit. I’ve spoken before about the realities of my burgeoning fatherhood and its various details. Well, you can now add early morning porch raccoon shit detail to that list. And not just any raccoon shit. The little fucker must have been eating dry cement mix from the construction site next door because it didn’t come up easily. So I guess you can add elbow grease to that detail list as well.
If I had only known where my day was headed, I would’ve taken a little more time and really enjoyed my scrubbing quite a bit more. I mean it was a nice crisp morning. The heady aroma of wild Austin critter turd was filling my nostrils and the scrubbing was downright aerobic. I wish I had honestly felt all of these things, because that morning’s activities on the porch turned out to be the high point of the day.
I don’t want to go into specifics, but it was the type of day that makes handling raccoon diarrhea seam desirable.
It was the type of day that polite types would call “Just one of those days…” And I would agree with them… if only they finished the thought accurately: “It was just one of those days that makes me want to grab a ball-pein hammer and beat a random stranger to death with it.” It was rough.
Getting home barely in enough time to see my kid and play a few games of knock over the blocks, mouthy fart noises and ride the plastic cow was a welcome reprieve. I felt like a human again. If maybe a human who was still silently planning on smiting my adversaries between the exuberant slobber spewing flatulence impersonations my little girl likes so much. But then she went to bed and the weary orneriness of the day began to creep back in.
Then it was dinnertime. Thank god.
There are times when I simply need to cook. It’s what keeps me sane. It’s what keeps my vocabulary larger than several virulent combinations of choice phrases that can’t appear on a blog where I’ve casually tossed out the phrase pig-fucker more than a time or two. Cooking offers a complete immersion in something completely different than the shit that occupies most of my days, good and bad. I start with a pile of one thing, apply knives and fire and after a little time, end up with something completely different and nourishing. Something enjoyable for the palate, belly, mind and soul. And I accomplish this without any meetings, convincing dissertations on why I need to use cheese or the strategic justification for spaghetti versus fusilli or being on hold with some asshole at the bank or the DMV or the phone company. Just a knife and some heat and a few good ingredients. On this particular night nourishment was a somewhat bastardized version of calcio e pepe, a simple and beautiful piece of everything the Roman’s have gotten right. It’s also a great recipe for when it’s gotten late and you haven’t had time to prepare or prep anything. Calcio e pepe is done in the time it takes to boil pasta.
I cooked. My wife and I ate together. Watched our kid on the video monitor. Watched a little TV. Drank some decent wine that was around the house. It felt good. I felt like a human again, a happy one. I may have felt even happier had it been some high end Aglianico that was just laying around, but still. The dinner had done its job and the preceding 12-15 hours of meanness were gone. I just hope the raccoon doesn’t come back tonight.
Calcio e Pepe
This whole thing takes about 20 minutes from beginning to end. That’s just enough time to talk yourself out of beating an unsuspecting passerby with something you shouldn’t.
Half a cube of unsalted butter
A generous amount of fresh ground black pepper
Parmigiano Regiano and Pecorino Romano grated finely
A large pot of well-salted water.
Salt and heat the water to a boil. Drop your pasta. Melt the butter with a generous amount of fresh pepper. Throw in several splashes of the pasta water and simmer together. When the pasta is nearly done, move it directly from the water to the butter pan with tongs. Heat on high for a brief moment. Turn off the heat. Add the cheese and more pepper and toss to incorporate. Put on some smooth music, like say Sammy Johns, get some sleep and dream of rock and roll.