Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Return of the Pot Boy


the Pot Boy,
Palace Advice Columnist
& general answerer of questions

Lori Witzel said...

Dear Pot Boy:

Who wrote the Book of Love?

Sincerely,

Sorry, that was the best question I could come up with on Short Notice.

Ms. Witzel,

The Book of Love was written before the worlds were made. If you don’t believe it, just read more Yeats. We are made to read much Yeats here.
*
Yours truly,
the Pot Boy
*
****

blog queen said...

Ah, I have one. What is it like to be a boy/man in love? I've wondered lately. We girls get all giddy, look starry eyed, feel weak in the knees when kissed, etc. I've wondered if boys and men feel the same or is it different for them? I read also that usually one of the couple is "more in love" with the other, and saw this played out today at McDonalds. I saw a chap with his arm around a girl looking totally besotted. Giving rise to the above questions in my mind. She on the other hand looked like she was just tolerating his being there and was more in love with the ice cream cone she was holding. I was thinking, poor chap, she's probably going to dump him sometime... but anyhow, do boys/men go all gagga like girls/women do when they are first "in love".?


Ms. Blog Queen,

I cannot speak for all men, but I can certainly speak for myself. In love, I have floated past the moon head over blue-lit heels and found butterflies in my bed in the morning. Nevertheless, I have managed to keep a straight face, gaga being alien to my nature.
*
Sincerely yours,
the Pot Boy
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****

Susangalique said...

I have been working with my profile and looks like I will just have to be faceless and hatless, I so wanted to wear my turbin hat for the potboySusangaliques question, is how a soul might beat the lethargy of bla


Miss Galique,

I will be happy to see you in your turban, whenever it appears!

A soul might beat the famous Lethargy of Blah by waking up. As Thoreau said, most people are sleepers in a long railroad track. Spices and hot oil, a pan full of suds, a book or picture I almost understand and want to grasp, unearthly encounters, music, the opposing sex: all these wake me up.
*
Snappily yours,
the Pot Boy
*
****

Dear Pot Boy,


What we would all do without pot boys?

please, i'm being rhetorical.

After all, armies and families must be nourished on a frightening regular basis. And this requires pots. Clean pots. Lots and lots of clean pots.

So, dear pot boy, please let me off the hook if you can. What i need to know is this:is it absolutely necessary for me to keep my copper pots shined at all times? i only have two in my humble kitchen, but they are used frequently and while i do often enjoy shining them 'til them gleam, i am almost always compelled to fly away with dishes dripping dry on the rack while the last of the soap bubbles slips down the drain. This means, of course, that the copper pots develop a well-worn patina i've often spied on tv chef's copper pots...but...please tell me the truth: am i slothful for not polishing them every night?

Humbly yours,

Fitful Zephyr

Fitful Zephyr,

Shine not at all times! You are a zephyr, not a sun.

Women ripen, copper tarnishes. I am also fond of copper as it heats quickly and is responsive to temperature changes. Some people clean tarnish with vinegar or salted lemon halves or other easy home remedies, but I do not dislike the evidence of time.
*
Mythologically yours,
the Pot Boy
*
****

blog queen said...

I have another question for the pot boy. Are there ghosts in your palace? I was with a friend tonight at our local coffee house and we had contact with a ghost. Details are on my blog, but I want to know about your palace, does it have ghosts, and what are they like?


Dear B. Q.,

How satisfying! A second question.

There is some disagreement about the matter of ghosts. This place is a regular rabbit warren, and it’s possible to get lost… Generally it is people who are lost who see ghosts. Some shriek and depart as quickly as possible. Others attempt to bless the ghost and lay it to rest. “In the name of Christ, be at peace!” is a common utterance. So the numbers of the ghosts may be in continual decline. Of course, some ghosts plug their ears.

I believe that the kitchen and butler’s pantry are haunted by the ghosts of vegetables. Ghosts of avocados rock back and forth in the tiered basket. Melons skitter about on tiny legs like unexpectedly graceful pigs. I once saw the ghost of a large rutabaga tapdancing on the kitchen table, surrounded by a ring of bobbing scallions.
*
Peace-be-with-you yours,
the Pot Boy
*
****

Amanda J. Sisk said…

Dear Pot Boy:

Pls do not feel unloved and come out and play! There are few worse fates than being unloved, it is true...but you could have a name that means "worthy of love" and feel the weight this title adds to the burden that is absence.

I've a query for you, but perhaps you require some gentle coaxing. Since you spend your hours in the kitchen, I assume you like to eat and also approach the edible with a certain creative flair. I've just perfected my recipe for simple home-made pasta sauce here in Italia and shall give it to you. It is not a bribe, just a gentle offering.

1 lb sun-ripened tomatoes
1 lb spaghetti
1/2 cup grated ricotta salata or pecorino
salt and pepper to tastea pinch of red pepper flakes
olive oil
6-8 basil leaves
3 cloves of garlic, chopped

Cut a small "x" in the tops and bottoms of your fresh tomatoes (pls avoid grocery tomatoes... grow them yourself or go to a market). Boil them in hot water until their skins loosen. Peel the skins whilst making sure you don't singe your own skin. Chop up the tomatoes and and put them in a saucepan with the garlic (finely chopped or pressed). Let this mixture simmer eight-ten minutes - stir occasionally. You can add a TBS or two of olive oil at this point. This is a personal choice. I find too much olive oil makes the sauce less hearty. Also add salt, pepper, and the red pepper flakes (be very sparing on the flakes). Boil your pasta in salted water. Add shredded basil and cheese to your sauce just a few minutes before serving.

Variations: Eggplant - Peel and slice into 1/2" slices and salt them. Place in a colander for 1-2 hours. Then rinse, pat dry, and fry in hot oil, turning so both sides brown. Drain on absorbent paper and add to your sauce before serving.

Black olives - 1 1/2 cups black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped. I don't use canned olives... I remove the pits myself. Try adding these with a tsp or two of oregano and a little chilli pepper for a second variation on the sauce.

Serves 6.

Some people like to add a pinch of sugar to cut the acidity of our tomato friends. I did not detect a difference when I tried it.

There will be pots to scrub, of course.

Now: Do you think it is a person's duty to build a life around a gift/skill (one recognized by the individual but also one others have defined for him or her)? Suppose it is a skill that few possess, but that the person only enjoys him or herself 95% of the time? Is it the greater duty for the person to follow his or her bliss, even if it is unrelated to the gift?

Joyful Amanda,

The recipe is in the file, waiting for the appearance of lovely red orbs of tomato. I look out the window and see much snow. A ripe tomato would make a fine contrast.

Your question is challenging. It seems, perhaps, that you may have more than one gift (sculpture, printmaking, drawing, painting?) but that you have been repeatedly urged to follow a certain way. The gift or gifts you relish are ones that you enjoy more than 95% of the time. The gift that seems “right” but lesser you enjoy a mere 95% of the time.

First, I would suggest that 95% is quite high.

Yet you love something else more.

Since I am somewhat in the dark—not completely, from what I gather of you—I would give these examples.

Here’s one that’s bliss followed in despite of gifts. A man I know—shall we call him X—was talented in the theatre and writing. Nevertheless, he had a pronounced to become a doctor and did so, despite the fact that math was not one of his favorite enterprises and was a thing that had to be endured along the way. Many people protested his decisions.

As a doctor, he has a notable talent at diagnosis because he has a strong memory and can make imaginative leaps to new possibilities. It seems that the old gifts have not vanished but give strength to the new vocation. He still does a little theatre. He still writes. But these will never be his life. They add much—very much—but the art of medicine is his.

And let us consider a stubborn woman, Y, who is an example of braided gifts. She writes poetry, she writes stories, she writes novels. Yes, you know who I mean. When she calls a stop to one thing, something else bubbles up. One mode influences another. Has she been writing a novel and turns to poems? Well, then, narrative and characters creep into the poems. Has she been writing poems and turns to fiction? Then maybe this time she wants the prose to go bow-string tight. The three fertilize one another. Borges said of his fiction and his poetry that he didn’t know which was the dog and which the tail, and whether the tail wagged the dog or the dog wagged the tail.

Let us consider Z, a Pot Boy and Advice Columnist. The mystical circles that I inscribe on the shining bottom of a pot as I scrub are what bring forth the gush of truth.

Those are examples I well know: gifts united or gifts abandoned and yet somehow bound to new vocation. But you are a mystery, somewhat to yourself as well as me. Are you better at one pursuit now than the other or others? Years can change that: persistence can change that imbalance, swing it around to the other side.
*
Yrs in chasing bliss,
the Pot Boy
*
****

Lucy said...

Dear Pot Boy

Verily my pot runneth over and there is little I need to ask. But while we're on pots and pasta sauces, are green bell peppers, capsicums, what you will, the same species as the red ones, only at a different stage of ripeness, or are they something of a different kidney? (Always loved Eliot for rhyming that with 'Sir Philip Sidney...)

Dear Lucy, resident of Box Elder--

The delightful green of Capsicum annuum or the bell pepper is, I believe, its immature state, while ripeness leads to red, yellow, or orange. (There are more than 20 species of Capsicum, and within these are many more varieties—as here, with the bell pepper.)
*
Yrs in affection for peppers,
the Pot Boy
*
****

Illustration: Credit goes to sxc.hu and Nathan May of Durant, Oklahoma for the photograph of the inside of a copper pot.

19 comments:

  1. Amanda, I had that today for lunch or at least something very close to it. I am not quite sure about the pot boy though I will have to research him more before commenting further.

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  2. I send a deep curtsy to The Pot Boy for his sage and compassionate response.

    Now, off to read more Yeats...

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  3. And one more -- not a curtsy, but a slow g a s s h o -- for this wonderment:

    "Melons skitter about on tiny legs like unexpectedly graceful pigs."

    That is the best sentence I've read all day, and the image makes me want to rush out and buy melons just to see more of their ghosts.

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  4. thank you pot boy, that is good advice indeed

    you had a bunch of questions piling up!

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  5. Greetings, supplicants at the tawdry kitchen throne of the Pot Boy! I am glad to have pleased some of you. Robert, you may find a list of my sudsy effusions a few posts down the page.

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  6. Amanda,

    In case you come by: are we locked out? I couldn't leave a note but was glad to see the man-of-clay after the refiner's touch. Very lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Marly:

    'Twas not my hand turning key in lock! My dear web designer has been making some changes that banished the blog a few days ago...I've alerted him to the comments problem.

    My computer charger started on fire and I have no way of charging my laptop in the middle of Tuscany. I'll be somewhat scarce for a few weeks until I have figured out how to get a new charger. Will then reply to kind PB.

    Robert: Yum. I think the PB is trustworthy.

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  8. Amanda,

    Your charger caught fire? Another unpleasant possibility I had never considered. I'll have to start a new list of things to worry about...

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  9. Miss Zephyr,

    The pleasure (as it usually is around here) is mine.

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  10. Dearest Pot Boy,

    Thank you for the information on men/boys in love and ghosts.

    It is good to know that men/boys have floated past the moon head over blue-lit heels and found butterflies in my bed in the morning. I rather like that line. I guess being a guy the trick is to stay straight faced through it all.

    I love the description of the palace as a rabbit warren. It makes me think of hobbits and such. I also like your vegetable ghosts. I've never had any of those to contend with thank goodness, but I'd love to see them dancing. The next time I run into a ghost I shall have to remember the words to banish them.

    Thanks again. At your service,kind pot boy.

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  11. There is one person in the warren who has been accused of being a hobbit--barefoot, small, fond of elevensies.

    My pleasure, Mistress Donna--

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  12. Good to be back and to read your as-ever intriguing words..Lovely.

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  13. I am one step closer to enlightenment...

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  14. Lucy,

    Thanks for your gracious response--a thing that a poor Pot Boy and advice columnist shall struggle to deserve...

    Jan,

    Welcome back to the kitchen! A Pot Boy's Advice: keep out of the fire.

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  15. Does your hobbit type person have hairy toes and love mushrooms?

    I've been accused of being an oversized hobbit once or twice myself, hairy toes, mushrooms and all.

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  16. An oversized hobbit with a mushroom fetish and hairy toes: I missed that entirely at NCCAT. Donna, you should have been more forthcoming!

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  17. Dear PB:

    Apologies for the long delay before responding to your kind words. My computer's wires are now reconfigured and pose a diminished threat of bursting into flames.

    I believe I made a typo of sorts. I meant to communicate that I enjoy something I do about 5% of the time...which leaves a 95%burden of misery.

    Your illustration of the doctor was quite encouraging...as was your mention of perseverance. It is not easy to go against those(whether motivated by misunderstanding, misguided concern, green monsters, or their own vision of what is best for someone else) advising against the path we think/know would make us the most joyful beings we can be. And then environment can play such a profound role in how we perceive ourselves and choose our paths.

    Next time I have a pre-midlife-crisis, I will re-read your words. I have been looking at "dilettante" through the wrong eyes...I shall go back to the original Italian and then back to the Latin. There is no negative connotation here: To delight. Lover of the arts. Devoted amateur.

    Thank you,

    AJS

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  18. Amanda,

    That does change things, doesn't it? Perhaps you should spend five percent of your creative time on that activity and the rest where your heart is. Percentages can change in time, of course.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.