Tuesday, May 30, 2017

We Made Bowls!

I took Wes to a ceramics class for his 30th birthday in April, hoping that it would be something different and fun that he'd always been curious to try but would never actually do.  I kept it as a surprise - all I told him was that we were going to the Fairfax District, and that he may want to wear clothes that he doesn't mind getting a little dirty.  He probably was worried, until he found out that it was just pottery.  We were able to experiment with blocks of clay and water on the potter's wheel for the afternoon, and each picked one piece to fire and keep at the end.  Of course, being utilitarian, we both made bowls that we could use during our meals.  They turned out really nice, thank goodness.

 Wes's is the grey one with a flat bottom and curved walls, and mine is the white speckled one with a wide rim and a smaller bottom.  We've since lovingly embraced the addition of these lopsided new vessels by plating colorful side dishes inside of them (as they're both too small for main dishes).  In a way, these bowls have piqued our creativity in the kitchen more, and it makes us giddy to see the food that we cooked in the bowls that we made. 

All happiness aside, here's Wes's takeaway from his experience:  Pottery is scary.  You can do everything perfectly and then in the end it can literally all go to shit when you are making your final adjustments, after which you will need to start over from square one again.  Almost sounds like a metaphor for real life.  So about half an hour into the obsessive-compulsive task of shaping the bowl, Wes's was starting to look good.  Then, the walls were getting too high and the bottom was getting a bit thin.  With a pointy needle-like tool, he gently attempted to cut down the wall while pressing down on the foot pedal to turn the wheel.  The wall wrinkled instantly and suddenly the bowl looked like a deformed pitcher that threatened to fly off the wheel.  I was laughing then, but not anymore when something similar happened to mine.  I think I was trying to thin out my walls by squeezing them with my fingers and somehow this pressure had thrown the bowl off kilter, resulting in disaster.  Your heart literally sinks.  Our teacher calmly and matter-of-factly told us to simply scrape it off and grab a new hunk of clay.  At least the second time around, it's a lot faster and easier to get back to where you were.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Brisket and a Not-So-Brisk Bike Ride

These days, Wes has been a lot more open to intense physical exercise, and I have been a lot more open to indulging in all-American barbecue.  Not that he never liked to go on hikes and bike rides, and not that I never enjoyed some good, drippy ribs - but when we're talking about a 30-mile roundtrip bike ride from Pasadena to Azusa (in pelting rain) and an 12-pound slab of brisket...that's a new level of tolerance for both of us.

Wes saw this gargantuan prime brisket at Costco for three bucks a pound and jumped on it.  I was dumbfounded - I would never have even bothered to read the label on a piece of meat that big.  We were supposed to go on a long bike ride that weekend but it was going to rain hard, so we thought that maybe we'd do part of the route and come back home, and I guess, make this brisket while kicking back on the couch.  Neither of us thought that we'd end up doing the entire bike circuit anyway and then last-minute hosting four adults and two children age 3 and under.  What a day.

Wes got up early to start smoking some hickory wood chips and then plopped the brisket into the smoker just before we got our helmets and rain jackets on.  Leaving meat cooking unattended is totally okay, yeah?  The smoker's electric!