Handshake from a master chef

This afternoon, driving south through Chapel Hill and down 15/501 toward Pittsboro, I was remembering when Michael Ruhlman was here in the Triangle in November 2011, promoting his book Ruhlman’s Twenty and telling a story at The Monti. In his story (he mentions it in Book Tour Blessings) he told about learning to kill a rabbit from Thomas Keller, chef at The French Laundry, one of the best restaurants on this planet.

I’d already been in awe of Chef Keller since reading about him in Michael’s The Soul of a Chef, but after hearing Michael tell the rabbit story that night, I figured there was no way I’d ever have a chance to meet such a star. And besides, I thought, he’s a chef, and surely he must safeguard his hands, so how could I ever shake his hand? (I like to shake hands.)

But this afternoon, after standing in line for an hour and a half in the warm but shady beer garden at Fearrington Village waiting to get the sumptuous Bouchon Bakery book signed, I was finally face to face with Chef Keller, and I was stunned when he reached across the table and warmly took my hand. His hand seemed large, and padded, and so gentle. I can’t say it was a shake, because I had the sensation he was holding my hand — maybe because I’d just told the Talk Story crowd on Wednesday about how Noel would hold my hand as we walked up the road to the Lironessa co-op (From There to Here).

Then Chef Keller was signing the book to the Zuiker Family, and pushing it over to co-author Sebastien Rouxel (he’s executive pastry chef for Keller’s restaurant empire). When I mentioned that Michael was a friend, and he is continuously inspiring me, Chef Keller reached out and shook my hand a second time. Michael had actually alerted him that I might be stopping by, and he relayed an endearing message that truly humbled me. I started to chat with Chef Rouxel, and my buddy Bora walked up (he’d just tweeted a picture of a goat to show me he was walking from his home nearby to meet up with me) and suddenly I was seated between the chefs and Bora was snapping a photo.

And then Chef Keller took my hand a third time, saying, “It’s really nice to meet you.” I walked away, happily holding the heavy, expensive cookbook, and I was thinking back to Michael’s story about the rabbits, about how Chef Keller shows enormous respect to the animals and ingredients and elements that go into his cooking. His handshakes seemed to impart that same respect to me today.

What a heavenly day in the garden.

What's paper got to do with Blogging 2.0?

Erin and I and the children have embarked on an ambitious spring cleaning of our home, and I’ve spent many hours sifting through sheafs of papers — so many old bank statements and school notes and holiday cards and junk mail has accumulated, in file cabinets and boxes and piles on the floor. Feels good to discard all that crap, and the house is looking really good.

I joked at one point that I’d love to have an airlock at the front door that incinerated any papers before they could enter — and clutter — the house.

But, amidst all the worthless paper, I’ve found a lot of my writings and other documents worth saving. One stapled set of papers was an article about influenza that I had written for Cleveland Magazine. I’d forgotten all about that. Another paper was a draft of an essay I’d written about the television show Survivor Vanuatu. I scanned the essay, but couldn’t recall where I’d published or posted it.

A couple of days later, I got a cryptic email message from a Duke colleague, saying he now understood my connection to the city of Durham. He directed me to the Independent newsweekly, where I found that editor Lisa Sorg had written a fun Illustrated Encyclopedia of Durham. For Z, she’d selected me to bring up the end of the alphabet.

If you follow Anton on Twitter (@mistersugar) or his blog (mistersugar.com), he’ll fill your head with lots of scientific esoterica and random thoughts that add up to … something. Zuiker (it means “sugar” in Dutch) co-founded the annual ScienceOnline Together conference. He also hosts Talk Story, a live storytelling performance similar to The Monti.

Thanks, Lisa!

While I was at the Indy’s site, I searched for a couple of other times that I’ve been in the paper, and that’s how I found that my Survivor Vanuatu essay had run there in December 2004.

I have other essays and newspaper clips, as well as college term papers and poems written when I was in Hawaii, spread across boxes and binders and folders. For the longest time, my high school papers were in the attic in two yellow cardboard banana boxes that I’d gotten from the supermarket behind my house in DeKalb, Illinois. In the closet, a big plastic bin contains most of the letters that Erin and I wrote and received when we were Peace Corps volunteers in Vanuatu. And, this blog has 13 years of my thoughts and observations. What does it all add up to? I’m not sure, but a couple of months ago I started to ponder if a redesign of this site might help us all find out.

Meanwhile, I’m actively using the new Fargo outliner, and so I’m watching with interest as Dave Winer explores Blogging 2.0. I imagine he and Kyle Shank will develop something important. In fact, I used Fargo this week to keep track of the news items and memories and observations that I wanted to write here on my blog. The previous, and coming, entries are some of those items. (I didn’t use the Fargo-to-Wordpress functionality because this blog uses Textpattern, but I think there’s a way for me to connect it soon.)

Out shopping this morning for the Mother’s Day meal the kids and I will cook tomorrow, I picked up five more copies of the Independent. For my archives. And that’s how my house gets filled with paper.

But it gave me something to blog about.

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Written by Anton Zuiker since July 2000
Why mistersugar? Why a pig?

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