My mister is crazy about T.V shows, and he introduced me to Frasier a couple months ago. I can hardly say "introduced me" because I've known about it as long as I've been watching T.V. It was the show that played absolutely non-stop when I was a teenager. Every time I wanted to sneak an episode of Friends after dinner without my parents knowing (T.V was against the rules), Frasier was on. I found this more than annoying. I didn't understand the jokes! So I never appreciated the beauty of Frasier. But since I started episode 1. season 1., I understand what all the fuss was about.

I grew up thinking T.V was bad, forbidden, and basically evil. I was always trying to sneak programs and watch what all my friends were watching. My parents, especially my mom, seemed to think T.V was going to kill me, ruin my "angelic" thoughts, or "put ideas into my head." Well, there were certainly enough of those "ideas" in my "angelic" head, and I certainly managed to get into enough trouble without T.V, so I'm not sure what all the fuss was about. Turns out, Frasier is hilarious. Jean-baptiste and I watch it drinking chamomile tea and eating popcorn dusted with nutritional yeast. We kill ourselves laughing! This has been a good addition to my sometimes, over-serious life.

Frasier, the protagonist, is always learning. He always takes himself way too seriously, and often says or does the most ridiculous things, but in the end, he laughs at himself and learns. His family and friends help him see through his arrogance and pull him off his high horse. The beauty of this show is that everyone sees themselves in all the characters. I, like Frasier, take myself too seriously. This can be a good thing and a bad one; it comes from a strong desire to be excellent. But I can't be so excellent if I'm so worried about not being excellent. Sometimes I worry so much about being excellent, or not being excellent, I forget why I wanted to be excellent in the first place. It boils down to one question: What is this excellence anyway?

Excellence is making eggplant parmesan, listening to Revolver (the mono recording), and singing along at the top of my lungs. Excellence is a cappuccino with Jean-Baptiste at Olympico, our favourite café, with my legs on his lap, and his huge grin and bad jokes. Excellence is a slice of lemon cake topped with a spoonful of thick crème fraiche and a cup of tea. Excellence is riding my bicycle in the early fall wind to the market to buy a squash to make soup. Excellence is this. that. and the old man over there sitting on a bench chewing a cigar. Excellence is wandering around used CD stores, not buying anything, just looking, clad in a long wool coat, leather boots and a beret. It's simple people: whatever we have right now is excellent. And if you find yourself saying, no! This is not excellent! This is hell! Well, it's pretty excellent that you're alive and breathing and kicking. Life just goes in a circles anyways, from day to night, from night to day. So go stand on top of a mountain or by the sea and give this old life of ours a good, loud yell.

Or simply make a little dish for supper, light some candles, invite someone you love for dinner, and dig in.

Either way, it will all be excellent.

Eggplant Parmesan
Adapted from Jamie's Italy

There are many ways to make eggplant parmesan and recipes may vary. The dish I make involves sliced, roasted eggplant layered with parmesan cheese and fresh tomato sauce. The following proportions can be adjusted to taste.

Serves 2

Preheat the oven to 350 F

1 big eggplant
Olive oil

Slice the eggplant about half an inch thick and lay slightly overlapping in a roasting pan.
Brush the eggplant on one side with oil.
Put pan into oven and roast until soft and slightly brown. About 35-40 minutes.

olive oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
6-7 big tomatoes or a whole can of tomatoes
fresh/dried basil and oregano
a splash of balsamic vinegar

Make the sauce while the eggplant cooks.

Heat some olive oil in a pan. Chop the onion and saute it until soft. Chop the garlic or use a garlic press and add it to the onion, stirring so it doesn't burn.

Chop the tomatoes (I don't take the skin off or remove the seeds) and add them to the onion and garlic. Season with basil and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Let simmer until the sauce is bubbling and juicy. About 30 minutes. Taste and add a splash of balsamic vinegar.

4 handfuls of bread crumbs
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese

Grate the parmesan cheese.
Pour 1 TBS of olive oil or melted butter into a bowl with the crumbs and mix around. This will keep them from burning in the oven.

Pour a bit of sauce into a small gratin or casserole dish (remember this is a dish for two). This will give the bottom layer of eggplant some moisture. Place the eggplant on the bottom of the dish side by side so there is little space between slices. Pour half the sauce on top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Add the final layer of eggplant. Add the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese. Sprinkle on the crumbs.

Cover the dish with foil and bake at 350 F until bubbling. About 30 minutes. Remove the foil and let the top brown under the boiler.

Serve with braised greens, some crusty bread, and cheese. This would also be a great accompaniment for fish or steak. Red wine, yes please.

Enjoy this life, this excellence.

Until next time,

- j

Billy Goats

When I was a wee little thing, Katherine and I shared a room (to my dismay). When we were younger, between the ages of 2 and 8, we played a lot together in our bedroom. One of the games we played was called Billy Goats. We named it after these lumpy looking, dried fruit and nut cookies that Dad used to make. He'd make them in enormous batches and put them in a huge Tupperware container. And then, if we were lucky, and if we hadn't eaten too many cookies already, he would play the game with us.

Like many siblings who shared a room, we had bunk beds. Dad would hang a pink and green flowered sheet from the top bunk so it completely covered the bed. He would crawl onto the top bunk and hide. Then he would tie cookies onto the end of a string hanging off of a makeshift bamboo fishing rod and dangle them off the end of the bed. Katherine and I would pull on the cookie, just like little fishies do, and dad would pretend there was a monster on the line. Sometimes he would pull the cookie back before we could get at it, and sometimes he would let us gloriously snatch the cookie while we collapsed in a fit of giggles and ate our prize.

Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of us playing this delightful game. That would of been a real hoot. I'm sure it involved dressing up in costumes. We had a dress-up box, you know. Any chance we had, we were digging through the dress-up box, putting on over-sized high heels, dragging dresses, stained satin gloves, and poofy hats. There was usually some fighting over who would get to wear what, and I usually won. Poor little bit... Then I would put my hands on my hips and order her to do something or steal her cookie. She's not such an all-adoring push over now though. Oh no.

Tonight I made some of these cookies. Turns out they're called Hermits in the Joy of Cooking, not Billy Goats. In fact, I'm not sure Dad even made them from the Joy. I'm not even sure we called the game Billy Goats. Memory is so fluid! But that is how I remember things. The cookies were paler, smaller, and more rock-like looking than what you see in the picture. I didn't have brown sugar so I added some molasses. I had no dates so I used raisins. I had no ground cloves so I added cardamom in its place. And I added chocolate chips. Dad never put in chocolate chips. These were supposed to be healthy cookies. But what the heck, they're a put-in-whatever-you-want kind of cookie.

I just ate one. Mine are delicious. I'm going immediately consume another one. I bet they get better with age too. I'm also going to call Dad to see if he actually followed this recipe. I'm sure he did not.

Billy Goats

As adapted from memory

Makes 24 2-inch cookies
Oven: 350 F.

1/2 C butter
1 C packed brown sugar

Cream together until well blended. Hopefully you have beaters. I did not. Damn it.

1 egg
1 C milk/buttermilk/sour cream

Add to butter mixture and blend well.

1 1/3 flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp clove/cardamom
1/4 tsp bk. soda (used powder by accident)

Wisk together and add to wet ingredients. Before everything is combined, add below ingredients and stir until well-blended.

1/2 C chopped raisins, dates, figs, apricots, or citron
1/4 C nutmeats (used 1/2 C)
1/4 C coconut
1/4 C chocolate chips (if you're so inclined. but the chocolate will take over the other flavours.)

Use a spoon to measure out the amounts. Space well on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the trays 3/4 of the way through if your oven is hotter at the back, or until just brown around the edges.

PS: if you want to play the game, you'll need to make your cookies much smaller. About half the size. Add more nuts and things to make the batter thicker. That should give them more of a pebble like quality which is more favourable to tying onto the ends of string.

Gone Fishing.... In my dreams!