Monday, February 21, 2011

What I Learned From the Crawfish

Normally I blog about making visual art or music rather than other creative enterprises, but today...well, you'll see.

On Friday I couldn't resist buying a bag of frozen crawfish at the local supermarket.  Whole cooked crawfish, in Cajun spices, 5 pounds for $7.99. From Texas.  Such a deal!  I was really excited because I really like crawfish and was really enthusiastic about cooking some. (Don't start laughing yet.)

So, we are in the middle of replacing the windows in our house and my job is sanding and preparing the window sills while J.A. stains and finishes the new sashes.  Hence our kitchen is a mess and not really fit to cook anything in.  AND, we'd spent the weekend at a Scandinavian dance and music workshop, so we'd already been plenty creative.  But, last evening after we got home from the workshop I decided to get involved with the crawfish, cleaned up a corner to work in, and started in on making an etoufee.

Where do you begin?  You put the rice on.  You make a roux. Then you get the bag out of the freezer and open it.  Gulp.  Well, it did say whole crawfish.

My parents are from Louisiana, and I was born there, too.  I've eaten crawfish in Louisiana, in various forms, and I like it.  I've cooked etoufee before, but with langostino which is the closest thing we can usually get to crawfish here in California.  Langostino is always peeled and deveined, so you just pop it into the pot.  I was really looking forward to this, but I've never before encountered the whole beast and couldn't imagine that you would want to fish the whole thing (ha, ha) out of your gravy and take it apart at the table.  So I separated the heads and set them aside to make a bouillon and then I threw the tails into the etoufee. It was starting to look good, so I served it up and selected a nice light beer to go with.

J.A. was game for the challenge of removing the meat from the tails, and he really enjoyed the dish.  I found the etoufee gravy over rice to be scrumptious, but the crawfish meat had an aftertaste that I found less than appealing.  I'm not so sure I like the smell of the broth, either, but we'll reserve judgment about that.

Here's the math...I bought 5 pounds of crawfish for $7.99 (or $1.59 per pound).  Sounds pretty good, right? But, given that crawfish are about 80% head, that means that only about one pound of crawfish tails were in the bag.  We used about 1/4 of the bag for this experiment and the rest is destined to become fertilizer.  So if you look at the amount that was actually eaten (about 1/4 pound), that makes the actual cost more like $31.96 per pound. 

Considering you can buy frozen Louisiana crawfish tails (deveined and peeled, for goodness sake) on line for $16.99 per pound plus shipping, there may be a moral here somewhere about impulse purchases.

On the other hand...
  • we got an evening's entertainment out of it;
  • we affirmed our spirit of adventure;
  • I have a husband who loves me and is amused rather than upset by cooking misadventures;
  • nothing ventured, nothing gained...would you rather have tried and failed or would you rather never take a risk?
  • for every good creation there are any number of failed experiments, but we learn from each endeavor.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Something Red, Something Blue

Not roses or violets, though.  I'm posting a couple of completed projects, first a watercolor that was a class project in simple perspective (paint a box), and then a mixed media journal spread.

Take Out

There's a faint layer of writing from May Sarton's "Now I become Myself". 

We had a lovely Valentine's date last night (involving a delightful restaurant with pasta and red wine) and today I'm going to get off by myself for a little while.  I'm living an enchanted life : ).

We're finally getting some winter weather here in Northern California, so today will be a good day to work on some projects, go to the Y for aqua aerobics, and then head up to the cabin for a nice fire in the wood stove with the rain coming down outside.  I plan to do a little meditation, catch up on some reading, and make a sketch or two.  Maybe watch "The Motorcycle Diaries" in Spanish.  All things that are good for the heart, mind, and soul. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Faces, Faces

I really want to learn how to draw and paint faces, so I've challenged myself to do the 75 faces in 75 days, thing.  During the past week I've sketched ALOT, trying to capture as many kinds of faces as I can.  I've learned some things about light and shadow, and the planes of the face, as well as some things about proportion and symmetry.  I can recommend Suzi Blu's online portrait class as a way to get started, because even though she works with stylized faces, she is very clear about shading technique.  I've just begun and am excited to see where the class will lead.  Ultimately some of these faces will turn into journal pages using her mixed media approach.

I took a trip by train (and home by plane) to SoCal over the weekend for a lengthy meeting, where I sketched in my journal and all over my notes and agendas.  Nice way to pass the time, I have to say, and I was still able to listen and contribute : )  I have a ways to go, but am really pleased with the progress.   Besides, I'm having enormous amounts of fun.  Some of these are from photos, and certainly don't look much like the person that they are supposed to represent, but still were really enjoyable to draw.  Most are from my imagination and are just for practice.

In March, I hope to take a gesture drawing class, and am looking forward to being able to capture more spontaneity and the essence of a person's expression.  For now, though, I'm happy to be learning some things about technique, and hope to be able to transfer the learning to watercolor.