How Do You Read the News?

•August 15, 2010 • 2 Comments

“Clean-up” underway in the Gulf…

Death toll in Afghan War — 63. An all time high in the nearly-nine-year-war…

Oil pipeline bursts in Kalamazoo River…at least a million gallons of oil…

Immigration law takes effect…protests…riot gear…

Mosque construction sparks debate…

(Here’s my cynic talking)

I suppose it’s nothing new. To say the least — and rather colloquially — we’re a fucked up world full of fucked up people. What should we expect? Oil erupts, gushes, damn near mushrooms into the Gulf for months. Then, just when we cap one volcano, another one blows in the Kalamazoo River. On top of all that, we have exponential tumult in Arizona. Not to mention the war. The (superfluous) debate over the mosque construction near ground-zero.

And that’s only domestic news.

(Here’s my hippy-self)

Much like Anne Lamott in the opening paragraph of Plan B, “…I decided that all of life was hopeless, and I would eat myself to death. These are desert days.” Here she’s referring to the time of the Bush administration. But this feeling seems appropriate nowadays as well —- not necessarily as a result of the current administration, but, in the least, amidst the incessant and exponential bickering by both sides. I hate to admit it, but some days I ignore the news. I go about my day, write a story, a poem, read, go for a walk, put The Band on the stereo, chop, cook, eat, take in a glass of wine —- get lost in aesthetics, pleasure, and creation. If I see one more picture of a rust-colored pelican dripping with crude I’m going to stab myself and hope that my offering of blood, in some strange magical manner, will not only clean up the aftermath of the gusher, but that it will avert all future disaster.

(Here’s my optimist)

Then, on the very best days, the humidity will be bearable not make me want to choke someone. On the best days work feels less like work and more like productive and soulful discipline. On the best days art speaks to that greater peace I’m always trying to attain, the breeze makes me believe in Something Greater, my friends, family, myself. And, on the very best days, when I read the news, it is tragic. It is disconcerting. But it’s mostly just a reminder that we live in raw world with hate and pain and hopelessness and divorce and addictions and suicide. And maybe, just maybe, if I just move aside and let that asshole in the right lane pass be by, or if I stop avoiding calling my family, or if I cook a pithy meal of cobbed corn with herb butter and bison burgers, it might make my close ones a little happier, a little less downtrodden by the ache and the angst and the fighting–always fighting.

So, here’s where I turn (to food, small pleasures). It’s the little things. And questions like, “How to Read the News” becomes less of a headache. More of a rhetorical question that, maybe someday, I’ll learn a little but more about.

Bison burgers:

Mix up some ground bison, fresh thyme and rosy, garlic, salt and pepper, a splash of oil (season to taste).

Fry it or grill it to medium, slap some goat cheese and an heirloom tomato on a bun or some toasted bread along with your burgers.

Maybe some arugula too to give it a peppery bite.

And eat. Know that the world and the ocean will heal itself. And you can’t do everything. Just try to get by. Try to search for something sublime.

Thanks for reading.




Between Feelings and the “Great American Essay”

•July 20, 2010 • 2 Comments

For Rebekah

I’m trying to post more. So settle down already, all three of you, that is. Don’t get your panties in the biggest wedgie of your life, please, because between scouring the interweb for both jokes and clever things to say, I’m hunkering down–and hunkering rather intensely–with a critical essay for graduate school; and if I don’t scour the world for clever things to say, I can’t say anything at all, because I don’t know nothing about nothing. (But! If you really search through that triple negative, you’d see that I really do think I know something, which, in the end, makes me feel like a monster)

Anywho, this is an article I stumbled across today via NPR. It’s an interesting food-related conversation, and, I think, a vital one in which to engage. GOOD REAL FOOD comes at a price. Our present economy and the food politics of cheap-easy-shit from mega-corporations, generally speaking, perpetuates the struggle. It is a struggle that tells the low-income mother of four that she can’t feed her kids organic milk (because The Powers above and/or below know that kids don’t need anymore hormones than they already have surging through their fidgety bones). All that said, here you go:

copyright NPR

All right. Now that the gritty lays in place. Let’s get to pleasure…

I’ve been wanting to put these hot mammas to my palate:

copyright Bon Appetit

Don’t drool, already. Your spouse is watching you, watching your eyes gloss over and your armpits sweat with love for this mouthgasm. Here’s the link to the recipe:

All right, back to “The Great American Essay”…


Thanks, Dear Reader. You could’ve been doing something more exciting–mowing the lawn, counting the cracks in your old wood floor, picking your nose–but you didn’t.

Cheers, cheers indeed,


(For Titus)

•July 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

(For Titus)

Today, like the last few days, I wake up, fire the kettle for the french press, plop down  with my laptop, read the news, check a certain social-media-time-wasting-machine, and then peruse the job ads, which is—-and is proving to be—-one of the most unsettling existential conundrums any middle-class American (especially nowadays) can experience. So, I’m scrolling through craigslist, non-profit boards, company web-sites, newspapers, peering into cafe windows, crossing my fingers for a “Now Hiring” sign; I’m studying the clouds, squinting into the rainbow streaks streaming through the sprinklers, praying to God, Buddha, Muhammad, Allah, Apollo, Medusa, Art, Science—whomever might be in charge of flipping me a job ticket.

And then, when my eyes are bloodshot, I lie down on the floor and force a few yoga stretches. Why? Maybe some grandiose idea will wedge into my muscles. It doesn’t, of course. I just get a kick of oxygen and un-tensed shoulders. And then, just when I begin to feel like a human again, I hear the voice of my chunky-12-year-old self.

He’s whispers, “Fuck it, man. Just take the money you’ve saved and buy a bunch of Krispy Kremes. Forget working out. Forget eating whole foods. Forget the discipline it takes to forge a healthy lifestyle.” He stops to laugh and dance around and jiggle his fat belly in my face.

He’s proud of it. My chunky-young-self continues, “Just eat yourself into a sugary coma, because the oil is still spilling, and it’s friggin’ always already Armageddon. Didn’t you hear about the NATO killing five Afghani militants by accident? Didn’t you read about the Arizona/ Mexican government-spat? Noony noony nooo,” he says. “You’re so stupid, trying to save the world by writing stupid blogs and wasting stupid time with stupid graduate school. Eat my stinky shorts,” he says.

And I don’t even know what this means.

So, the day moves ahead. I eat good food, catch up with old friends after moving halfway across the country (home), plunge into schoolwork (reading, writing, repeat), listen to Leonard Cohen, maybe—-if I’m lucky—drink a glass of Syrah or browse the latest issue(s) of Saveur and/or The Atlantic and/or Writer’s Chroncile, and play with my wife’s hair.

(Consider the grounding quality of food of my “foodism” for this entry)


Thanks for reading,


postscript links:

Here’s another perspective on the existential drudgery that is job-searching:

Saveur’s Celebration of Tomato Season

The Graceful Beseecher

•June 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m currently amidst a ten-day residency for my MFA program, so I’ll keep this post short.

Ellen Bass, a poet on the faculty here at Pacific, got up on the first day during general announcements and beseeched all the students and writers to buy ourselves a re-usable water bottle, if we didn’t already have one. She told us that it takes three ounces of oil to produce a single plastic water bottle. Three ounces.

All the while the oil in the gulf gushes. And the ocean–concrete, a thing, yet so abstract and unfathomable–swallows the crude and mingles with the oil like an uncomfortable host of a party might mingle with an uninvited guest. But they both know it’ll never work, and someone’s going to have to forfeit.

So, for the first few days at residency we make jokes about how, if Ellen Bass (our graceful beseecher) sees you with a plastic bottle, she might mutter hexes under her breath, praying that you too will be sent to the dirty depths. And this is a natural response: a joke to lighten the gravity of the situation and make us feel less crumby and helpless.

But three ounces. It adds up faster than you can imagine.

Please, please, friends. The things you can do are simple and sweat-less. Bring your reusable bags to the market. If you’re a water snob or paranoid about “cancer-causing water,” buy a Brita and a reusable bottle. Visit your local farmer’s market (imagine how much fuel it takes to ship those Mexican peppers to Safeway, and how much less it takes you to drive ten minutes). Eat what’s in-season. It’ll most likely be cheaper, closer to home, fresher, and it will taste better, anyways. (If you aren’t familiar with your region’s seasonal options, go here:

If you pray, ask Her/Him/It for help. If you meditate, focus on clean-ocean thoughts.

I really wanted to begin this blog with something funnier or lighter, but, unfortunately, I think we need more encouragement, more prodding. The oil’s still spilling, and it’s getting heavier.

This isn’t a political thing; it’s a human thing.

Please. Just try something.

So, now that that’s off my chest, as promised, I’d like to cap off the entry with this food-ism:

In French Cuisine, radishes and butter with coarse sea salt remain an appetizer staple. I wasn’t completely sure if this would work, but, after invited by some friends to grill out, I wrapped radishes, butter, thyme, salt and pepper in (recycled) foil, let it roast on the grill for fifteen minutes, and pow! Such a surprise. The heat softens that hard crunch, but the juices remain and abound; the salt and thyme stick so sweetly to the skin. It’s beautiful.

Try it, and try throwing in some rosemary or oregano or even some slices of orange and/or lemon. French words you never knew will start slipping from your mouth, and, if your lucky, and a French-person is passing by, you might even make them blush. And you’ll have a new friend. And you can tell them that it takes three ounces to produce a plastic bottle, and that, my new French friend, is heinous.

Keeping my fingers crossed, my reusables close,



A Blabber’s Banquet

•June 11, 2010 • 3 Comments


Before we begin:

I’m aware that this enterprise is–and most likely will remain–self-serving. However, I want to steer away from that if I can. I want to make you laugh and cry and think. That’s it. Without you, Dear Reader, Word-Feaster, Banquet-Diner, I wouldn’t be attracted to such an apparatus as blogging. Please enjoy, and please leave as many comments as you wish. I will do my best to reply and clarify as needed.

So, what’s is this all about? Who’s my audience? What’s my focus?

It’s simple: I don’t have one. It’s a Blabber’s Banquet. As your Master of Ceremonies,  you can expect blabs about Literature, Writing, Music, People,Travel, Food, Beverages, Work, Truth-Questing, Adventure-Seeking, Planets, Redwoods, sagebrush, fireplaces, crumbs on the kitchen counter, etc., but, rest assured, it will be blabbed.

“Blab” reveal secrets by indiscreet talk : she blabbed to the press | [ trans. ] there’s no need to blab the whole story.

-From the New Oxford American Dictionary

However! There is one exception to my unstructured structure.  To conclude each entry I will bring the banquet home with the main event–food. Be it a recipe–stolen or original–an experience, a cooking technique, or a link, I promise to share with you something I find of eternal importance. At the end of the day we come to the table, and we try to find sustaining pleasure.

No worries, just a little unraveling.

It’s a Blabber’s Banquet.


JP Cook