It's a bit clichéd because of commercials these days, but I'll always have a soft spot for Israel Kamakawiwoʻole's ukulele version of Louis Armstrong's classic hit "What A Wonderful World".
I've been to Hawai'i but haven't actually experienced it. Allow me to elaborate. In the summer of 1976 a pregnant Mom and Dad won a trip to Hawai'i and decided it was too good to pass up. I don't count it on my official list of states visited (I've willingly set foot on 31 as of now), but it's kind of a neat story, and an apt intro to this birthday post. Yes, I turned 35, and why am I showing computers?
In 1984 Dad brought home a bunch of boxes which contained a bunch of gleaming white pieces of technology collectively known as the Apple IIc. It was fully a parents-only thing for a few weeks until I got my wee grubby paws on it and began reading the manuals. Within a month I was doing simple programming in Applesoft BASIC and ProDOS. A few months after that I'd mastered the primitive but mathematically complex applications that allowed for word processing, spreadsheets, and databases. With a 1 mHz processor and a scant 128kb of memory, I pushed that beast to its limits all the way to 1994.
I've held onto the dear machine out of sentimental reasons, though I've tossed out all of the interstitial computers. I do find it fascinating that the latest Apple purchase is the postage stamp-sized iPod Nano. An 8 gigabyte hard drive (the Apple IIc didn't even have one, just the 128 kb of RAM and 140 kB of space on a 5.25" floppy). Full color display (hey, the IIc was advanced for its time), ability to play music for 24 hours straight, grab FM radio broadcasts, serve as a pedometer, and lots of other things.
Similarly, in 1984 I was a voracious reader and quietly thought it would be amazing to be a writer. I either wanted to write science fiction or newspaper editorials, a drive that persisted well into adulthood. Obviously nothing came out of those plans (although I've appeared in magazines and newspapers), but I never stopped writing thanks to the advice of a grouchy English teacher who honestly told me how badly I wrote some things, and how well I wrote other things. And eventually, I got some readers, and today, I had hundreds of them wish me a happy birthday via e-mail and Facebook and other electronic means that I could never have imagined back in 1984.
Lots of people wondered what I was drinking or cooking tonight. And the reality is that I had a vegetarian pizza and a ton of water, because I was hungry and thirsty after work. But I did celebrate last weekend with a long-needed dinner party in Nashville with Sally, her husband Terry, my brother-from-another-mother Paul, and others. I'll write about the wines later, but I'll go ahead and show the dishes. We all had a wonderful time, and it was good to get back in the groove of dinner party magic.
I started out with a sparkling Brut Rosé and a platter of cheese and olives. The cheeses were Wensleydale, Red Leicester and Cambozola. Big hit, but then I brought out the following with a Riesling... moules normande, or mussels cooked with apples, bacon, cream, brandy, shallots, and a great deal of love to keep them from getting tough:
Καρπούζι με φέτα, or as it's known in these parts, watermelon with feta, onion, mint, and a little oil and vinegar, plus the requisite salt and pepper. It's stupidly easy to make but tends to be a show-stopper for those that have never tried it. Pro tip: bad implementations of this dish are really watery, and the fruit juice and whey from the cheese make an unattractive pink slurry. Drain everything and pat dry with paper towels before combining, let rest in the fridge for a few hours, and plate with a slotted spoon to avoid excess liquid. Serve with additional sea salt.
The main course was provided by brother man Paul: a 3.6 kg (8 lb) ribeye roast that was dry-aged in the fridge for a full ten days. Slow roasted to medium rare, and served with grilled endive, homemade horseradish sauce, and a freshly prepared chimichurri sauce. The beef and horseradish were huge hits--chimichurri needs some charred flesh to really work well.
I always pass off dessert responsibilities to the host or a guest. I'm not a great pastry chef, I don't have a sweet tooth, and by that part of the evening I really don't want to cook another course. Sally and Terry provided a delicious carrot cake, while Paul provided the Port. A great combination with the raucous jokes and merriment that ensued:
A great time was had by everyone, and as is my tradition, I'm happiest when I can celebrate my birthday by cooking for a bunch of new friends that don't know it's my birthday. I'm happy, they're happy, and it's a great way to get rid of excess bottles of wine. And what about the wine? They'll show up in future posts about those particular sets...
Until then, thanks for the kind birthday wishes, and many more thanks for reading all these years.