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Griffin to Go: In Praise of Clutter

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Clutter (1)My work space would drive my mother crazy. It’s a card table with the laptop on it, and it’s filled to overflowing with all manner of cookbooks, references, notebooks, business cards, calendar, etc. None of it is in what you might call order. In fact, to the untrained eye, it looks like Hurricane Ike blew through once again.

I try to keep it as neat as possible, hoping that the anal retentive gene that I have in other areas will someday mutate to this one. But it doesn’t happen. Should I attempt to clean it, I end up getting lost.

I tried that last week and still haven’t found the thank-you notes that I had written but have yet to address, stamp and post. (Sorry, friends; believe me, I’m truly grateful for your kindnesses. The notes are just going to have to wait a few more days.)

Maybe they’re under the DVD cases in the mix, movies from the library that I like to play while I work. That stack is over with the unemployment information that I also keep on hand since I have a tendency to search for jobs at any hour.

There’s a fine filter of bird dander, a few feathers and several kernels of dried corn from my pet cockatoo, who generally sits on my shoulder as I stare at the screen while waiting for inspiration. He’s sitting there now, hoping I’ll go get a snack that he can share with me. (That means more crumbs of some sort, as J.B. is probably a sloppier eater than I am.)

In recent weeks, the collection has spread to the chairs around me. I can see a stack of books, including “101 Sangria & Pitcher Drinks” and the Frugal Gourmet’s tome on Italian cooking on one, a pair of James Beard’s on another. Escoffier is in the chair at my left, along with a book on sake rice wine and an 80-year-old volume on what to do with apples.

Again, no rhyme or reason, yet I know where they all are. So, if a friend asks a question about capers, I can just pick up Gerogeanne Brennan’s “Olives, Anchovies and Capers” on my right and send back a reply. The answer: Fennel, Orange and Caper Salad with your choice of how much of each to include with a simple dressing of olive oil, sherry vinegar and a sprinkling of minced flat-leaf parsley.

The main thrust of my cookbook collection is scattered through the rest of the house, even the bedroom, but as unclassified as they are, I almost always know where to find the volumes on Southern cooking or the volumes devoted to all manner of Spanish cuisine.

You’d never believe any of this if you were invited to the house. The AR party-giver gene takes over, and things are arranged more neatly. I even dust on occasion. There may still be stacks of theater books lining the hall (recently displaced from their home in a shakeup that has yet to be settled), but they’re out of the way and they do let you know that a die-hard bibliophile lives here.

In parting, I’ll leave you with a tasty morsel from the mess, a recipe from Janet Mendel’s “Tapas and More Great Dishes from Spain,” an invaluable little book I picked up more than 10 years ago while visiting the Costa del Sol. It’s a great dish for those of us who love eggs at dinner as well as breakfast.

Baked Eggs, Flamenco Style (Huevos a lo Flamenco)

Olive oil
11 ounces (1 1/3 cups) tomato sauce
3 1/2 ounces ham, chopped
8 eggs
2 tablespoons cooked peas
Strips of roasted red pepper
Slices of Spanish chorizo sausage
8 asparagus tips
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Oil four (or 8) individual oven-proof ramekins and divide the tomato sauce among them. Sprinkle a little chopped ham into each. Break 1 or 2 of the eggs into each ramekin. Sprinkle on a few cooked peas, criss-cross the top with red pepper strips and set a chorizo slice next to the egg. Top with asparagus tips. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and parsley. Bake until whites are set but yolks still liquid, about 8 minutes.

Makes 4 supper servings or 8 tapas servings.

Adapted from “Tapas and More Great Dishes from Spain” by Janet Mendel

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