The text message I sent out yesterday was this:
“Hello everyone. The time has come to cook up something new, awesome, straight up badass & Spanish. Yeah kids. That’s right. Tonight we are going to cook Paella Valenciana, a dish that, try as Hope & I have tried, we can’t find anywhere in LA that makes it good. So we’re going to do it ourselves. The thing about this dish is that it takes careful preparation & more importantly, in Spanish tradition, this is the type of thing cooked for loved ones who you appreciate, which you all are!! We really would like to do this for ya tonight, prob be ready around 730-8p. We hope you can make it!”
Mike’s text back to me?
“I’ll fuckin eat it.”
Mike, Gillian, Kenji and Ellie made it over. Hope made a steamed mussels dish (which was totally delicious) as an appetizer, and I tackled paella for the first time. This is a dish that’s all about temperature, timing, steps, and prep. A lot of prep. Truly. At least an hour of prep. And if you do it on a grill, make sure you have a grill that distributes heat pretty evenly.
Also, cooking off some sausage, rendering the fat, sweating some onions, these things always seem to take longer than you think they will on a grill.
A moment comes when you are making this where you must let things go, where you can not stir again, where it’s going to be what it’s going to be, and that’s that. And you know, isn’t that like all creations? Or even a microcosm of life?
Anyway, my friends are fuckin awesome. I love them. Ellie is a manager at a post production house. She is the toughest person I’ve ever known. How tough? She jumped out of a plane, the chute didn’t open. She survived. That tough. You want more? Then, the hospital nearly killed her. She survived that too. She’s survived all kinds of crazy shit. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that Ellie is extremely difficult to kill. She’s also positive, smart, thoughtful, and my holmie to the end.
Her boyfriend Kenji is an editor these days, on the path to directing films soon. He’s also an incredible guitar player who’s toured the world with the Long Beach Dub Allstars, English Beat and his own band, Rice Rokit. He’s pretty friggin talented is what I’m trying to say here. Like really friggin talented. And humble. And funny. And nice. And generous. And a bit of a hater on posers, but who isn’t? I suppose a poser isn’t. Kenji ain’t a poser. Not even close.
Mike works in the art department. What does that mean? It means the guy builds movie, tv and still photo sets. And when he’s not doing that, he’s playing drums for The Gods of Macho, or playing bass for a new music project, or building something for his house, or smoking a salmon, or hunting for boar or bear or deer. The dude is as reliable as they come, honest, adventurous, talented and is just a great friend.
His ladyfriend Gillian I admit, I don’t know her as well as I know everyone else — but I do know that she’s a hairstylist, she’s creative, she’s nice, she’s truly down to Earth, and she’s fun to hang out with. I’ve totally enjoyed our new friendship.
The wine was flowing (2011 Bogle Phantom, 2012 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, a 2013 Loire Valley Sancerre, and 2011 Las Rocas Grenache. All of it was very good!) The food was being devoured. And then we all got into a conversation about our mentors. We remarked that it seems like a more common thing for men to list a person as a mentor, than women. Then, the idea of a “Tor” Mentor party was brought up.
That idea made us all laugh. It makes me laugh now. In fact, that idea will definitely make me laugh for many years.
If we did it, I’d have to make paella again, because I think paella brings people together in a cool way – served from the pan it’s cooked in, it’s the perfect bringer-together-er of Proteges and Mentors. It helps the mood be good. We may yet do it.
In any event, last night was a great time. I believe that I navigated the rite of passage that is grilling paella with great success. I might tweak a thing or two of course, I always think that way, but overall, the flavors were awesome, everything was cooked perfectly, and the socarrat was crunchy, delicious, and memorable.
When I think of us as people: me, Hope, Kenji, Ellie, Mike and Gillian, I think that we’re the socarrat of society. We’ve taken the heat, we may have been a little burned, and yet we are that much better for it.