Mar 6, 201409:59 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

Growing and Growing Old

Struggles with eating healthy, gardening and growing old.

We here at Haute Plates Light Industries and Specialty Nozzleworks hope you enjoyed your Carnival festivities. Being susceptible to melting in damp weather does not incline one to parade-going, but cold, wet weather is good for hunkering down, and that's a thing at which I excel. I didn't brave the cold on Fat Tuesday; I made chicken stock, cleaned and made elaborate plans for a garden that I will eventually revise as the practicalities of actual gardening become apparent.

The first year I had a garden that consisted of more than a few pots of herbs I planted collards, turnips and some sort of lettuce. Months later it occurred to me that these are not the sort of things one should grow in a garden not much larger than a bathtub. You can buy greens at the farmers market without breaking the bank, after all, and without the investment of time and energy. Over a three-month period I suppose I got two pots of greens out of the garden.

The second year I replaced the greens with a couple varieties of tomatoes. The plants grew pretty well, but at the end of the season I'd harvested a half dozen small fruits and about 600 varieties of inch-worms and caterpillars. As a youth I was enchanted by butterflies. Their amiable flight through the garden was delightful. Now when I see them I just think about how the goddamn things have probably just left several hundred eggs in my garden which will shortly become ravenous tomato-eating larvae.

You know what's hard to explain to a child? Pulling the wings off a butterfly while muttering profanities. To be honest, that's pretty hard to explain to an adult, too, and I am starting to regret going down this line.

Anyway, this year's garden is going to be different! I'm going to focus on the things that I've grown well in the past, such as fennel, cayenne peppers, herbs and thousands of neon-colored worms. Stay tuned for a recipe!

This Friday marks my 45th year of existence. Were I not convinced that modern medicine will “cure” aging within the next two decades, I might be inclined to think I was at the median point of my life. Fortunately I am hale and hearty as these terms can be applied to a man of my stature and I frequently eat things that are green, brown and/or fibrous.

That's actually the point of this divergence. Not my birthday, though you should feel free to shower me with gifts; rather it's that over the last few years I have found myself wanting to cook and eat more plant-based foods and eating smaller portions overall. I think what brought me to this realization was when I actually cooked some brown rice I'd gotten in the weekly basket from Hollygrove Farm & Market. Brown rice, and I enjoyed it.

Pat me on the back if you want, but as far as I'm concerned this is a troubling development. Do you know I actually have a package of sweetbreads in my freezer at this very moment, and no immediate plans to cook and eat them? Last month I bought a juicer. For dinner tonight I made quinoa, kale with mushrooms and garlic, and roasted beet and potato puree. When I wrote, earlier, that you should expect a recipe for neon-colored worms in the near future, I was joking. I'm not sure now.

I mean, sure I've got about a quart of leaf lard from Cleaver & Co. in my fridge next to the fat leftover from the veal stock I made two weeks ago. And yes there's two pounds of smoked sausage competing for space with andouille, hot dogs and bacon in my crisper instead of whatever you're supposed to put in your crisper. I suppose that the multiple portions of vacuum-sealed beef in my freezer somewhat offset the tofu I've been cooking lately too?

I don't know, kids. It's complicated is all I'm saying.

Final item: Were it open, I'd be going to Square Root for my birthday dinner. As it is, I'm not sure what we're going to do, though I'm leaning towards either cooking at home or taking the family to Ancora. Any suggestions on other places to have a celebratory meal, or how to celebrate generally? It's a bit late in the day for me to change my plans this year, but the topic is of particular interest to me at the moment, so I'd appreciate input. 

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Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

about

Robert D. Peyton was born at Ochsner Hospital and, apart from four years in Tennessee for college and three years in Baton Rouge for law school, has lived here his entire life. He is a strong believer in the importance of food to our local culture and in the importance of our local food culture, generally. He has practiced law since 1994, and began writing about food on his website, www.appetites.us, in 1999. He mainly wrote about partying that year, obviously.

In 2006, New Orleans Magazine named Appetites the best food blog in New Orleans. The choice was made relatively easy due to the fact that Appetites was, at the time, the only food blog in New Orleans.

He began writing the Restaurant Insider column for New Orleans Magazine in 2007 and has been published in St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana Life and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles magazines. He is the only person he knows personally who has been interviewed in GQ magazine, albeit for calling Alan Richman a nasty name. He is not proud of that, incidentally. (Yes, he is.)

Robert’s maternal grandmother is responsible for his love of good food, and he has never since had fried chicken or homemade biscuits as good as hers. He developed his curiosity about restaurant cooking in part from the venerable PBS cooking show "Great Chefs" and has an extensive collection of cookbooks, many of which do not require coloring, and some of which have not been defaced.

Robert lives in Mid-City with his wife Eve and their three children, and is fond of receiving comments and emails. Please humor him.

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