Tuesday, August 3, 2010

the idle idealogue's idyll, or, when something comes of nothing

We have all been there, to varying degrees.  We have visited that gray and plasmatic quagmire of the human mind where confusion and chaos swirl into recognizable patterns and then disperse back into the turbid muck.  We have gawked at these fleeting formations, consciously or not, and withdrawn with conclusions befitting either a college stoner session or a great philosophical treatise.  My observations may belong more on the stoner end of the spectrum, but I confess to feeling (in my rare moments of lucubration) on the cusp of a greater realization.  Naturally, just when I think I have the bird of truth in my grasp, a herd of rabid purple pachyderms stampedes their way into my brain, as though choreographed by Jim Henson to a Wagnerian soundtrack played by Jimi  Hendrix.  Of course, in the event that I ever have that bird in hand, I promise to share it with whatever patient blogreaders remain out there in the world of Comparitive Twitterature.  Which, by the way, will be a valid college major when my children are ready to declare.

So, my not-so-sane point is that this blog post is at once a Seinfeldian glimpse into the obvious, a Thelonius-esque tribute to nothingness, and an unapologetic abstract post expressionist ode to white space.  All of this without the talent, and I might add, without our friend brevity--therefore, simultaneously soulless and witless.  Still reading?  Shame on you.

Forsooth, it has been too many months, busy months at home and in the restaurant, since I sat down to write.  There have been birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, vacations, funerals, many of these happening simultaneously, the whirlwind of activity in our lives mirroring the aforementioned quagmire of ideation. [Valkyrie rides through Purple Haze.] Yet, as stressful and difficult to manage as these events have been, they have served as mile markers on the route to progress, and it feels good to be moving in that direction.  I don't believe many of us will look back wistfully on the turn of this decade, but we will doubtlessly have taken a few hard life lessons from it.

The Gulf of Mexico--now a man-made, rust-hued toxic salad dressing waiting to be shaken up by the hurricane season--reminds us that tampering with dinosaur remnants to power our modern conveniences is a dangerous and primitive idea in itself.  Somewhere deep inside, we all know that human sacrifice is the answer:  not the Mayan kind, as in humans being sacrificed, although that might help too; but the impossible kind, as in humans making sacrifices.  Such a radical concept, I don't think most people are even ready to discuss it, much less engage in it.

Which brings us to Facebook.  Recently, something good came of Facebook.  Really.  On our restaurant's page, a bold reader commented that our bluefin tuna special one night in early July was decidedly irresponsible (I'm paraphrasing).  According to the post, "taking a bluefin is not 'preventing it from going to waste,'...it is demonstrating a continued market." (I'm no longer paraphrasing.)  The opinion, a valid and hotly disputed point, was quickly snubbed by the Black Trumpet Defense Department, which consists of regular guests, friends and even employees who wanted to weigh in on the topic.  Anyone who cares about the future of wild fisheries, or the future of the earth in general, should read this amusing but thought-provoking stream of commentary.  It points to the disparate set of ideas and opinions that form a collective consumer subconscious.  [Insert Hendrix riff here.]  From the dark depths of our oceanic conundrum, economy and ecology once again engage in battle.  As a chef in a fishing community, I want to support local fisherpeople; but if a local boat going for another species brings in a bluefin, whose population is under scrutiny in the Western Atlantic, and I buy some of that fish, am I guilty of culinary malfeasance?

I recently attended an event in Cambridge, wherein a sustainable fisheries advocate from the New England Aquarium referred to chefs as "stewards of the sustainable food movement."  I agree that we can help bring about change.  In fact a group of us chef types from Portsmouth are currently working on the Michele Obama initiative called Chefs in Schools, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of lunches in public schools around the country.  But if the onus rests on the shoulders of a few chefs who run small kitchens, what do we do about the chef from the TD Garden, who pleaded his cause at the meeting in Cambridge?  He goes through 14,000 pounds of frozen shrimp per annum, and there are thousands of places like his in our country, never mind the world.  This idea of feeding the world is already very tricky before any conservation conversation comes up.  As soon as you look at the grand scheme, what difference can we really make?  I don't think the earth's condition is terminal, as many people seem to think, and I'm no scientist, but I do think everyone needs to make an effort to understand, and act on, our most egregious excesses.  If we don't limit those excesses and eliminate some fringe luxuries, at the very least, I'll be hopping up on the soap box with the doomsayers.  Until then, I'll continue to be the best steward of sustainability I can be while doing my part to maintain a healthy fishing economy in our area.

Back to the narrative quagmire, these are a few notes without a blog heading of their own:

In May, two great friends of Black Trumpet got married in Exeter and had their reception in our restaurant.  Their ceremony was worthy of a long, dedicated and heartfelt blog, but I missed the window to pay them a dual homage.  Indeed, the happy couple is comprised of two men, and in retrospect, I couldn't be more thrilled for them that they live in two states (New Hampshire and marital bliss) that will recognize and celebrate the bonds of their love.

Flash to the next wedding, in June, on a little tugboat a few steps from Black Trumpet.  Two other good friends of the restaurant, this time a he and a she, locking their destinies together after years of obstacles.  Love conquers all, you two!  Denise and I were honored and thrilled to be a part it.

Lastly, but not leastly, we just recently hosted the wedding of one of our own, bartender/server/manager/goddess Jody, and her mate Bjorn.  The ceremony in the park, the dinner at Black Trumpet, and the Red Door after-party were beautiful and intimate, leaving nary a dry eye in the house.  The images in our heads, fortunately, will outlast the multi-day hangover.  Whole-hearted congratulations to you good friends!

In conclusion, we at Black Trumpet try really hard to make people happy.  It consumes our every-day existence in ways that are disputably unhealthy.  When someone has a beef with our beef, or our service, or--as in one recent instance--table placement, we do what we can to make it better.  One exhortation to guests: constructive criticism at the time of the dining experience (when we can actually do something about it) is far better than a posthumous raking over the Interweb coals.

In summation of my conclusion, after the flood zones are permanently flooded, the great gulves are all gummed with gloppity-glopp, and all the yummiest fish have been fished, and after our land has been pocked by bombs and scraped free of animal, vegetable and mineral for the greater consumption of  megalomonocrops, and after castles made of sand have slipped into the sea, we the people will still have love.  And we at Black Trumpet love love.