for whatever structural reasons, i seem to end up drunk and alone in my brother’s house more often than my own (correction – get and stay drunk and alone), and as such a notable amount of my writing has emerged flanked by his gigantic cats, toy robots, tastefully arranged clutter, and the just right number of decorative bottles that i have somehow never managed to capture in my own life. the first week, more or less of this blog’s existence, my late-night discovery of Julia Child’s 20-second omelette, probably a bunch of stuff about fennel and/or rapini, because cheap fennel/rapini season often coincides with my brother needing a cat-sitter; i cannot discount the place of this house in the framing of creative production.
i’ve also made some good meals here, in spite – even outright defiance – of the spareness of their stores; i bought my second cutting board to spare myself the spirit-rattling clatter of cutting vegetables upon their naked tile counters (i used torn-up beer boxes for a while, but enough is enough, you know?); and years ago, when homeless and affectedly derelict, i payed my way with grilled-cheese-sandwiches on demand grace à the health food dumpster down the street, so generous with their waste (so willing were they to cast away) that we had to stack the loaves several deep in the balcony’s snow.
but it would be unfair to trace the gastronomic character of this place so solipsistically – it is, after all, my brother’s house (my brother and his partner, who makes a variety of hells of good pies), and while i have given him due credit for some ice cream memories, i have also heaped my nigh-scornful incredulity upon him for so indifferently making it through the day on often little more than a gigantic cup of instant coffee and a bag of potato chips. the fact remains, however, that my brother has had a profound impact upon my eating habits: we are both ‘bad with chips,’ he brought me for the first time to a Montréal bagelry (although i don’t remember whether it was Fairmount or St-Viateur, i do remember trudging through the snow, and then eating hot bagels and cold tzatziki in a bare room with a confused cat in Outremont), i have consumed countless boxes of Breaktime ginger snaps with him, until we both were intimately acquainted with the raw and lacerated mouths that attends such indulgence, and the Jade Garden All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet will forever be associated with the bad decisions (such as going to the Jade Garden All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet. i don’t think i am out of line in setting ‘No Pizza‘ as one of my ground rules for not attending a Chinese food buffet) that he and i have made together.
above and beyond all these, there are two influences that i cannot deny. the first being that my brother introduced me to dumpster diving. back in, hell, probably 1997, not out of any devotion to the political or lifestyle rhetoric that i later infused it with, but because he was a Fine Arts undergrad and had found a way to obtain garbage bags full of donuts for free – the acquisition of large quantities of donuts being the basic principle from which much of the Campbell Sons’ practicality was to be derived. and i must say that it changed the terms. at the risk of hyperbole, but in deference to the fact that it’s 3:47 and i’ve got about a litre of bad wine in me, i think it’s like robbing a bank, in the way that suddenly the usual order of things changes, as one suddenly has access to things one never did before, by very different means than those one has come to think necessary and inevitable. and i don’t know if you’ve ever had a garbage bag full of donuts on your living room floor, but that is a lot of donuts.
trust me, it’ll change you.
the second influence, which dates to around the same time, even perhaps the same visit, was my brother making dinner for us by boiling some spaghetti, then frying it up on a hot plate with Patak’s curry paste, before adding the tomato sauce. i don’t remember if he added anything to the tomato sauce, or whether it was just whatever can or jar was readily available, and nor can i say with any certainty whether it was really more delicious than any other spaghetti i had eaten before; but i was in My Big Brother’s Apartment, in The City, eating what i understood to be his signature dinner, so of course it tasted better than any spaghetti before, what are you, new? and i mean, fraternal piety aside, it was important because it taught me that you can do things to food – things that any number of people (for example: myself, now) would tell you not to do, or even be too mortified to comment upon, but sometimes you just have to dump some herbs and some paste on that and fry it – can’t nobody break your stride, or like, “fuck it – imma put a egg in it*,” you know? i am convinced that one of the angels of our better nature, which along with restraint, and taste, and discretion, can not be neglected but to our detriment.
anyway, all this to say: Zac, i ate all your butter. i mean, not -all- of it. but like, a lot of it. and i always do. i wonder why you never write me upon arriving home after i’ve cat-sat and say “hey, btw, where did all our butter go? did you really eat a POUND of butter in 3 days, or did you forget and let the cats go lickin’ on it? you know we have pies to bake up in here, occasionally?”
and you know, i didn’t even used to like butter.
* Mike Leo Lecky: “i realized today that i’ve taken to putting eggs into other foods primarily as a signifier of my good mood–a ‘fuck it, imma put a egg in it’ sort of thing. like a little dude – gastronomy and whimsy and outright deliciousness all at once.” (02.11.10)
“also, to further my egg thing, IF YOU LIKE IT THEN YOU SHOULDA PUT A EGG IN IT. as sung by beyonce.” (03.11.10)