Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reich and rabe

Before I write about food, I'd like to write about the all-Steve Reich concert I managed to attend last night by buying a ticket in front of the hall with cash from possibly the most hipster dude I have ever actually had social intercourse with (huge beard, black skinny jeans, black thick-rimmed glasses...). Aside from the thrill of being three rows away from eighth blackbird, Bang on a Can, the freaking Kronos Quartet, and the man, myth, and perpetually baseball cap-clad legend himself, I was particularly excited to hear WTC 9/11. Reich did not compose it for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks--this was, in fact, merely its New York premiere, and it wasn't premiered on any special date as far as I know--and for me it functioned as a reminder rather than a memorial. 

It's easy to get cynical about 9/11, particularly considering how it's been used as a political tool, and particularly for people like me who eye sentiment-strewn memorializing with something just short of contempt. But this composition, with its recordings of confused NORAD officials, victims and survivors of the attacks, and people who sat reciting psalms over bodies and body parts twenty-four hours a day, transcended cynicism. First of all, it was simply a great piece of music--I particularly liked the way the last syllables of some taped words were extended into growls or howls or keens--and great music performed live tends to get me a little verklempt. And then there were the voices of people trapped, screaming that they wouldn't be able to breathe much longer, and of people recounting the unique pain of being completely confused and ignorant in the midst of chaos. The composition began and ended with the violin playing in unison with a phone's dial tone, which evoked a lack of access to clarifying, reassuring information and, of course, the heartrending absence of those who should have been on the other end of the line. This wouldn't do for a memorial, of course. It did, however, remind me that while I might roll my eyes at every flag-waving invocation of what happened on 9/11, there was real tragedy that doesn't deserve to be tarnished, whether it be by jaded twenty-somethings or mawkish masters of ceremony.

And then there were the other compositions. I could write pages and pages about them, but I'll stick with a mention of Double Sextet, which was performed entirely live (rather than incorporating some taped instruments) by members of eighth blackbird, some of whom I'd seen earlier this semester at the Park Avenue Armory. To play this composition must have required extraordinary mental discipline, but the effort the musicians must have put in to practice the piece and must have been exerting as we watched was belied by extraordinary joy. Minimalism--even absent taped voices--is not devoid of emotion. Last night, it brought the performers together in a complex interweaving of precisely timed lines that inspired ebullience in the players and the audience and, judging by his wide grin, the composer.

Dinner tonight featured panko-crusted balls of cheese, because there's nothing more deeply appealing to me than hot cheese with a crunchy element. First, I mashed up about four ounces of feta with a little pepper and formed the cheese into balls. I rolled the feta balls in egg, then flour, then egg, then panko and refrigerated them until dinner. I was torn over whether to fry them or toast them in the oven. While frying would have given them a more pleasant hue, the oven won out, because I was also making a toasted orzo risotto with roasted garlic and didn't want to have to manage two pans (plus, I hate dealing with used oil).

I made a basil lemon oil to go on top and some simple roasted broccoli rabe as an accompaniment. There's also a little fresh basil and lemon zest garnish.

Andy hates broccoli rabe because of its bitterness, but I
find that roasting it tempers the bitterness somewhat.
The recipe was inspired by this, then heavily, heavily adapted into a full meal that doesn't use goat cheese (because I don't have goat cheese, not because this wouldn't be delicious with goat cheese). A note: if you make this, don't salt the risotto. The feta is plenty salty enough.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of your prettiest meals ever. And your writing about the 9/11 piece spoke well to the delicate balance needed when we remember that day. Specifically to the fact that a phrase like "we remember that day" can set off the "what's the agenda here?" antennae we all have, when it is a darn shame that it does so.

    I think when I was your age (see how that phrase does the same thing?) I would have liked Reich's piece. I can't face that type of pain for that long anymore. That doesn't speak to the piece, or to you, or to me (other that to the specific "me" in this case) as much as the fact that we all bring ourself--exactly ourself, nothing more or less--to every experience. And we filter our memories of events through our total self as well. Maybe the co-opting of every event or issue is the result of the unfortunate distillation of our myriad complex reactions down to the treacle or swagger of some group's agenda. And even that statement that is a warping distillation too.

    But very well said. I don't forget that day. As just that---"that day"---before anyone got a hold of it. It was song enough.