Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Pork loin for Mr. Clayhouse

Had an experience today to make this entire writing school concept seem less inane.

A student, a laconic, tallish, thirtyish, square-jawed fellow, asked this lucid question after class: what should a writer eat? Like anyone who has toured the MFA reading circuit in order to whore up a few bucks for poorly bound reprints of novels long past their relevance, I hate the standard post-reading, eager-young-writer questions: when is the best time to write? is it better to write longhand or on a keyboard? do you recommend using an outline (Lord please deliver me)? do you have any advice for aspiring writers, &c, &c, &c.

Ah, but what a writer should eat...this is a question of literary merit.

Billy Clayhouse, the student in question, is an Okie with Kiowa roots. Unlike that playacting aristocrat that is Our Leader, Clayhouse has the bearing of a true cowboy. His western jeans, his crewcut and his pearl button shirts are not affectations. He hasn't said two words in class until now, except to read from his work, and then his voice is steady and clipped, like his prose. In his own way, he often tops Miss Puppycute when it comes to pure style, his only drawback being the fact that none of his work, up to this point, has featured any human beings. I'm all for dogs and cats as characters in narrative, but it's people that make fiction pulse. Clayhouse has featured an owl, a coyote, prairie chickens, a covey of quail, etc. But then, to the traditional Kiowa, animals are people and vice versa.

In any case, we spoke at length about the usual reduction sauces and the importance of restraint in a marinade. I recommended "Dad's Own Cookbook," which Harrison, the pre-eminent foodie, touts as essential for anyone starting from scratch. I've no doubt Clayhouse could do justice to a rabbit spitted over a campfire, but his skills are otherwise fairly raw. He mentioned macaroni and cheese as a staple, which caused me to shudder. I realized, then, that this was no pampered trustfunder or the recipient of suburban largess...this was a fellow working his ass off (golf course grounds crew) in order to eke his way through, of all things, an MFA program.

In any event, I shared a very simple grill recipe featuring pork loin ribs marinated in olive oil (extra, extra), fresh lime, orange peel and black pepper, then rolled in dried rosemary and seared before a gentle, slow grilling. Serve with steamed carrots (lime butter sauce) and some Ojibway rice. We strolled to my apartment where I bestowed on him a bottle of San Giminagno white, which I gave him permission to refrigerate, this being appropriate only for a novice.

For the first time in my playacting at professor, I feel as if I've made strides with a student.

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