by The Baker
[Jason]: A pie for the end of school and the start of summer. This recipe makes me want to chill out with a slice of Ace of Cake’s new EP, The Bakery.
Blueberry Pie with Sweet Corn Ice Cream Continue reading
There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
Lately, I have been reading Nicholson Baker to excess. I first heard about Mr. Baker from a New York Times Magazine article—”Nicholson Baker: The Mad Scientist of Smut.” House of Holes, Mr. Baker’s most recent work of erotic fiction, just hit bookshelves. Besides his “miniaturist” style—expanding fragments of plot into absurdly dense treatises on everyday minutiae like the comma (Room Temperature) and shoelaces (The Mezzanine)—Mr. Baker is famous for erotica. In Vox, The Fermata, and now House of Holes, Mr. Baker explores the literary limits of sex writing. In my final two weeks before the fall semester, I have indulged in some “pleasure” reading, albeit of a non-prurient variety. Not to worry, I’ve been keeping my mind out of Mr. Baker’s dirty dollhouse. Intrigued by the prospect of miniaturism—maximalist, but munchkin!—I bought Room Temperature and The Mezzanine at a Borders blowout sale. Unlike David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon, and Don DeLillo, Mr. Baker is one postmodernist who has escaped academic celebrity. Search Jstor for journal articles on Mr. Baker’s novels, I dare you: few and far-between results. As Charles McGrath notes in that NYT Mag piece, Mr. Baker pioneered the footnoted, wry academicism David Foster Wallace made thesis-worthy. Where DFW used the footnote as a vehicle for formal digression and neatly organized scholarship, Mr. Baker trips towards James Joyce the Nebbish, allowing that cavern beneath the big print to plunge into the narrator’s wandering consciousness. In his most boring moments—and there are many to choose from in The Mezzanine (a representative sentence: “Let me mention another fairly important development in the history of the straw.”)—Mr. Baker reaches the zenith of postmodern irony. His contemporaries stoop, humbled, to tie his broken shoelaces (a problem solved, we are informed, by Z. Czaplicki in “Methods for evaluating the abrasion resistance and knot slippage strength of shoe laces.”). The less patient author bows, awed, before this perfect distillation of post-Fordist ambiguity. Do we love the mechanical mundanities of corporate America—is there a phrasing of the epic in escalators and Popular Science? Or is the frayed fascination of Mr. Baker’s protagonists with the plastic drinking straw funny because it reads as pathetic and picaresque?
Overambitious plans make for half-baked dinners. As a kid in the kitchen, I plotted baroque feasts that required hours of labor. Nearly 20 now, I finally understand economy of effort. Last Thursday, I avoided culinary disaster by accepting simplicity as the solution to an unapproachable recipe.
Although I’m sure they exist elsewhere, thin pork chops seem particularly popular in St. Louis. In a city so obsessed with beer, baseball, and pig products of all kinds, one might expect to find big, honkin’ double cut chops walking across the average grill. Most St. Louisans that I know, however, prefer the skinny variety, less meat and more sauce. Typically, these chops come boneless, and pose serious bbq-ing challenges. How to get the pork well-seared while preserving juice and tenderness continues to stump backyard chefs armed with only a cursory knowledge of zone fires and food science. Continue reading