Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

W4DW: @#$% Risotto!

103_0129Hell’s Kitchen is one of my favorite shows.  My wife and I watch it religiously, along with Kitchen Nightmares, so it may be more accurate to say that we are Gordon Ramsay fans.

In watching Hell’s Kitchen, it is inevitable that you will hear Ramsay tearing one of the contestants a new asshole for not cooking the risotto properly; it’s either under- or over-cooked, or it’s too salty or bland.  The one and only time I was somewhere that served risotto was at a hotel outside of Dublin, Ireland, and what was served was incredibly bland and resembled watery oatmeal.  Needless to say, I was not impressed.

I started to wonder: how hard can it be to make risotto?  I chanced across a recipe by Ramsay for Mushroom and Tomato Risotto, and decided to give it a shot.

Turns out, it isn’t that hard, it’s just time consuming and requires some attention.  There really is no way to make this receipe without taking about a half hour dedicated to cooking it; there is a fair amount of layering of flavors and slowly adding ingredients to not overwhelm the consistency.  The end result, though, is very tasty and worth it.  I gave some to my father-in-law, and he thoroughly enjoyed it, so I have independent confirmation on this.


To Burn, or Not To Burn

…that is the question.  Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer boredom, or crushing defeat…

The Midnight Burn is coming up on the 31st.  For those not from the area, this is one of the larger bouldering competitions on the East Coast, and has been running for nearly 15 years now.  I think that I have about 5 or 6 under my belt at this point, have worked 2 of them (one of which I shot the video for…see below), and am contemplating entering this year.

Here is my conundrum: I haven’t been seriously climbing/training for a while now, what with the lack of funds, so I am far from my best shape.  I went to the summer “Burn” in July, but was grossly disappointed with the whole affair, from my performance to the way the thing was run (which was stacked against intermediate climbers).  If I were to enter in the Beginner’s division, I would probably win (or be bumped up to intermediate, depending on my score), but this would definitely be a sandbagging situation, as I know that I climb harder than the Beginner division.  If I enter the Intermediate division, I will definitely not place at all, and will more than likely be disappointed with my performance.  (My wife will tell you that I am incredibly on myself and hyper-self-critical.)

I know that in some ways, the spirit of the competition is not to necessarily win (then why keep score?) but to enjoy the camaraderie of other climbers who share your passion and climb some really cool problems, which will not be in short supply if the route setting follows past years’ examples.  And if a group of us were attending, or were I still close with the climbers at the gym, I would probably be more gung-ho for going this year.

But, alas, there will not be a group attending; Chuck’s Halloween party is that night, and for some reason, the comp doesn’t start until 3.  If you have ever entered a bouldering comp before, you know that 3:00 really means something like 3:45.  Such is that way of these things.

I am pretty sure there will be no Burn for me this year.  It just isn’t in the cards.  Sadly, this has not been a very good fall for climbing for me…no semi-annual Gunks trip, no Burn, not a lot of climbing at all…

Enough with the self-flagellation.  The next couple of weeks, I think that I am going to try and get my thoughts on training for beginners, specifically kids, down on “paper”.  Until then, please, enjoy the video from the 2005 Midnight Burn.  The music is by a band called Silvertide, and my wife had the pleasure of being the drummer’s high school Spanish teacher.

W4DW: Autumn Pork Chops with Parmasean Rice

This is my favorite time of year (next to Christmas).  The leaves are changing into a brilliant backdrop of color, the days and nights are delightfully cool, and there simply is no better weather for climbing.  And one of the best parts of a great day of climbing (besides the time spent with good friends) is having a nice, hot meal that mirrors the season.

For this dish, I looked to the Maven of Domesticity, Ms. Martha Stewart, for a nice pork recipe that would really celebrate the season.  Say what you want about the woman, she has some great recipes that are relatively easy to put together.

Autumn Pork Chops

4 boneless pork chops, about 1/2″ thick
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage, finely shopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine

103_00701.  Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pan over medium heat.  Cook the pork until each side is browned, about 3-4 minutes for each side.

2.  Remove the pork chops and cover them with aluminum foil to keep them warm.  Add the shallot and simmer until soft, about 1-2 minutes.  Add the103_0072 sage, thyme and wine and reduce until about 1/3 of a cup remains, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the juices from the pork.

Serve the pork with the sauce drizzled over top.

A great side dish (as recommended by Martha) is Parmasean Rice.  It’s very simple: cook about 1 1/2 cups of rice, and when it is all finished add 2 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of Parmesean cheese and mix until blended.


Virgin Gets Drilled

Please, watch this video, then we shall discuss below.

First, the climbing here, wherever it is, looks absolutely brilliant.  I have never really climbed sandstone as a “mature” climber, but this looks nothing short of awesome.  I also have to tip my hat to the production values, something that sometimes gets left in the snow fence on the side of the road of video production, what with the easy access to editing software and publication (via You Tube and Vimeo, as well as others).  As someone who started his career in video production, I have to appreciate when someone takes the time to do it right.

That being said, there are two glaring issues in this video, however, which are but examples of a larger epidemic: there is the scene of a drill being taken to the rock (around the 2:05 mark), and a brief scene of one of the climbers sitting next to a fire lit directly beneath the rock.  Both of these are such blatant disregards for Leave No Trace norms, and serve no purpose other than the selfish ones of the climbers.  I cannot fathom why, in any scenario, a hole must be drilled into the rock at chest height.  And lighting a fire under the rock just takes away from the natural beauty of the place.

(I am slightly less upset about the giant flake that was thrown off of the top of the boulder just before they are shown drilling it.  If it was very loose and was going to be an obvious hazard in that it would have come off under simple body weight, than…well, to me, it falls in that gray area, drifting towards being OK.  But seeing that they are drilling immediately after that makes me wonder how the flake was removed…)

The problem that these actions represent is one of respect.  To be put simply, boulderers (by that I mean those who participate exclusively, or almost exclusively in that discipline), and to some extent some sport climbers, lack a certain respect for their environment.  I blame the gyms.

Here is my theory: it is, by and large, very unlikely that someone who climbs trad to enter that discipline without being mentored by someone.  That person learned their craft from someone else, and so this relationship of mentor/apprentice goes on.  Because of this relationship, the attitudes and approaches of the older climbers gets passed on to the newer generations.  There is a fairly large “entry barrier” as well, as getting into trad climbing involves a substantial investment in gear (’cause cams ain’t cheap!), so unless the climber is serious about pursuing their craft, they more than likely will not stay involved.

Boulderers, on the other hand, need only their shoes and a soft place to land.  There is no need for a partner, and frankly, just about anyone can figure out what needs to happen to finish a problem.  Granted, there are limits depending on a climber’s strength and technique, and I wholly believe that bouldering can only make you a better climber, but bouldering is not hard to start.  A climber doesn’t require much instruction, it is way more accessible, and someone can get the gear they need for less than $200 (as opposed to the $500-700 required to get outfitted for trad).

So here we have a whole subset of climbers who don’t have that same connection to the traditions of their forefathers who have now been turned loose on the rock of the world.  Those traditions, in some respects, may be too constraining: there are certainly old heads who look down on the concepts of sticky rubber, dynamic rope and camming devices as blights on the face of “pure climbing”.  But sometimes those traditions can manifest as restraint, or as a conscience.  They can be that little angel on our shoulder who makes us stop and think about our actions.

Boulderers, I think, don’t have that angel; hence the drilling at ground level and lighting a fire at the base of the rock.  Things have started to improve some, but only because of access closures.  Once the rock is taken away, then people start to listen.  Perhaps at that point, it should be too late.  But, through the work of local organizations, the climbers start to clean up their act (and clean up their crags).  Until they develop that conscience, though, until they develop traditions that are in the best interest of the land they use for recreation, they will continue to be the source of so much angst for the climbing community at large.

Now, this isn’t to say that all boulderers are soulless crimp monkeys who fling their crap at the world…far from it.  I think that the majority of climbers who participate in that discipline do have respect for the environment and the rock.  But then, I would also hazard to say that the majority of them probably participate in other disciplines as well, and take a more balanced approach to climbing.  I would also hazard a guess to say that the problem “children” probably wouldn’t know who John Gill was if he fell on them.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am not against drilling for sport climbs when the climb is not protectable by traditional means.  I am not for climbing every rock I see, but I also don’t see a problem with responsible development or aschew the ideal of nailing a first ascent on a premium problem.  These opinons are obviously up for debate.  But regardless of your thoughts on the ethics of climbing, I think that we can probably agree on two things: 1) that the drilling incident in the video above is way out of line, and 2) that it is our shared “heritage” that, despite all other arguments, holds us together.

One last thought about protectable lines: if it is going to be drilled, it really shouldn’t be able to take any protection.  Check out this video for an awesome example of a really clean ascent.  Oh, and I would never want to take a fall like this guy did.  That is the definition of hard core.

Mute Monday: Authors

Writer’s Block


Check out Troll’s blog, The Troll Report, for the original Mute Monday.

Friday Fill-Ins

Sorry…none too creative this week.  Be sure to check out Janet’s site!

1. So are we going to do this, or what?

2. Game 2 of the NLCS is what’s up ahead.

3. I love to relax on rainy days and just enjoy the solitude.

4. Isn’t a cruellar just a danish of some sort.

5. I walk a fine line between humor and bufoonery.

6. Philadelphia tap water is the true elixir of life!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to the Phillies game, tomorrow my plans include more cleaning and a trip to Goodwill, and Sunday, I want to sleep in!