Wednesday, January 03, 2007


It's funny. I've pondered rather thoroughly how I want to describe myself, but now that I'm sitting down to it, the most important thing to type seems to be an explanation that it is too cold outside to start my boyfriend's truck. It simply won't start. I tried on my own. That didn't work. My boyfriend is travelling in the Outside and was, at that moment, on an airplane. So I couldn't call him. I ended up calling around town until someone gave me the number for Kenny's Towing. Then Skendar, from Kenny's Towing, came over. He is from Albania. He couldn't get it started either. He did the jumper cable thing. We let it charge up for awhile, while we stood around in the 30 below wearing what an Outsider might assume were matching Carharrts and hats. We talked for awhile - nonchalantly about the cold, and how he had once changed the tire on this truck. We tried to start it every now and then. But no luck. It never "turned" (that's how Skendar described the sputtering noise that I was wishing so earnestly not to hear).

It is, quite simply, too cold outside to start-up my boyfriend's pick-up.

So, instead, I've come inside and started a blog.

But that's not really an "introduction". It's more of a "snapshot." Let me try this:

Me. I'm sitting at my kitchen table, still warming up from the outside and wearing my professional attire of jeans and a cardigan beneath the Carharrt work bibs I have not yet taken off. My white coat, freshly dry-cleaned during my own recent trip to the Outside, is propped up on a chair next to the heater, absorbing extra heat for the upcoming dogwalk I could confess to dreading. I just activated two packages of handwarmers, which are perched to the left of my laptop and are kicking up extra heat for the same purpose.

I'm thirty-two. Three years in Alaska, the last one in Bethel. I came on my own gumption to Alaska, and followed a boyfriend to Bethel. Two leaps of faith that ended well. If there is one thing to know about me - I love Bethel, Alaska. If you already know a lot about me, and are just checking-in to see what I'm up to - yes, I still love Bethel, Alaska.

I cook. Prodigously. I intend to write a lot about that.

I wax. Poetic, nostalgic and sometimes rebelliously. Often Quixotically.

I have a dog. Puck. I'll probably write about him a lot too. I'll probably post lots of pictures of him too. For example, I just did. He's quite photogenic, isn't he? Oh, I do adore that little bundle of mischief. I also adore my boyfriend's dog. But I suspect I should get permission before I go posting pictures of him. So - for the moment, I advertise only copious pictures of the Puck'ster.

I don't think I love bacon. But I do tend to eat much of it during the nine months of winter. Fortunately, bacon is not my only winter hobby. I've also taken up knitting, kind of. I bought a banjo and a Pete Seeger guide to teaching one's self to play the banjo, but I haven't been too good with that new hobby. I do practice, every now and then, on my Irish tin whistle. But only because I'm hopelessly pathetic on it, and I find that entertaining. I'm on art and dog mushing committees, and have the luxury of being able to say "Yes" to almost every volunteer opportunity. Dog mushing is my latest. I'm sure I'll be posting a lot about dog mushing. I was in one race last Spring, and got hooked. Not that I've been in any more races, but that I am fully aware of how that one experience has forever transformed my perception of the ingredients for my Good Life.

There is a group of four or five of us, around the same general age and arrival dates in Bethel, that plan on raising a pig in the Spring. My goal...well, it's more of a dream, is to really work on my cheesemaking over the winter, so that I can be prolific enough in that art by Spring as to have lots of whey to feed the pig. I've read that it is the whey leftover from making Parmigiano-Reggiano, that makes the hams of Emilia-Romana so remarkable. I want to call him Churchhill. I also want to try making my own prosciutto. I do suspect that naming the pig makes me less likely to achieve that goal.

All in all, I work less than I hobby. This is a new development. A Bethel one, in fact. I've been dreaming of such a balance, however, for a long time. There was a time in my life when I thought it couldn't exist. I think of how nearly I gave up hope that life could be more than billable hours, and I consider myself lucky. It is that luck that I try to daily celebrate with at least one (symbolic) cartwheel of glee.

And, to wrap it up - at least for the now, I sometimes dream of opening my own little hole in the wall, with brick walls (a rare luxury out here in Bush Alaska), lots of windows (again, rare) and a long row of counter and stools. It will be called, as you might guess, Quixote's Tart. And from its open kitchen and witty clientele, I hope to serve up a cuisine of humble magnitude.

In the meantime, I practice. Often. The cuisine, the humility, and the recognition of true magnitude. I'm getting more adept at creativity and make-do, have managed to learn one or two arctic tundra survival tricks, and am becoming ever more familiar with the potential of pantry items.

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