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To the archives: Knee deep in debris

Naw, I didn’t write this. Not me.

Someone must have hacked into my computer and altered my files.

There’s no way I could have produced this; it reminds me of an entry in a mental patient’s diary.

Dear heavens, what was I thinking?

Wow, I’m surprised I wasn’t fired for writing this one.

This is an embarrassment and, moreover, it was trotted out in a public forum — printed in a newspaper.

Do they still ride people out of town on a rail? If so, would someone check my backside for rail marks?

There should be some kind of protection from stuff like this — a professional writers’ organization that polices the industry and acts in the public interest to prevent someone from publishing this kind of crap.

I’m reviewing my old columns, written for The SUN.

I’ve penned more than 500 of them.

Reading them is painful.

That’s a problem with printing what you write: you produce an archive, a record of the abuses drift in your wake. There are some people who, at one time or another, wrote columns or articles and, somehow, labor under the misconception that the work was swell. In reality most were mundane, at best., and many were downright awful. The author simply lacks a clear vision of what he or she did.

Not me.

I’m on Day 14 of reading old columns, confronting evidence at the scene of the crimes.

I mean, really, there’s no way I devised a method for doing quadratic equations that involves crudely drawn cartoon characters. Is there?

And my design for uniforms for property owners association covenant control inspectors? Wasn’t the reference to National Socialism and Himmler a bit much?

Being aroused by female competitors in a lumberjack competition is pathetic, but telling everyone about it? And the roller derby fixation, the Manichean reference, the Ode to Spandex — was that necessary?

Taunting phone solicitors in the days before the no-call law? Was Nafisa really bothering me that much? Why belittle a single mother of two in Baltimore, trying to eke out a meager living with late-night work in a fetid boilerroom?

Inventing a weird illegal alien spy for a devious foreign government named Ping and putting him in our back yard, reporting to his Khan about our eccentricities? What’s that all about?

Writing a “Year in Review” column that reviewed the year ahead? Lashing out in libelous fashion against upright citizens of Siberia with a View? Shame on me.

What was I up to when I attempted to extort an industrial-size drum of rice pudding from the Kozy Shack corporation — a fine New Jersey business? They never harmed anyone.

I’ve extolled the virtues of street food while bragging shamelessly about extraordinarily expensive dinners at fabulous restaurants. What a thoughtless buffoon.

I thumbed my nose at readers, gloating about exotic establishments in far-off places, about menus that stagger the imagination, hammering away with exaggerations, rendering fact flexible.

Talk about arrogance: Coming up with a Top 10 of eating experiences and selecting No. 1 as macaroni and cheese simply because I enjoyed a mess of the divinely inspired carbo and fat concoction while viewing reruns of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Who really cares about German pants?

Who needs a graphic description of the awful effects of a nasty virus when reading about pork tenderloin?

All this reflects on a basic question: What the heck do most of the things in these columns have to do with food?

What does Nietzsche have to do with food? The guy was infected with a monstrous STD and confined his dining thrills to consommé and crackers.

The Human Genome Project, insane theories about a lab beneath Archuleta Mesa where mutants run wild on Level 7 … and food?

What, exactly, is the connection between a Studebaker Golden Hawk and lobster thermidor? I’ll tell you: There isn’t one.

I get increasingly distressed, the more of my old columns I read.

It doesn’t help that I’m drinking a juicy southern Rhone blend as I scan the files. Three glasses into today’s project, I struggle to remember why I’m reading this junk.

Oh, yeah, I recall now — I’m trying to put together a book of food writing.

Ego has the best of me, as usual. I’ve taken a single, incidental comment made by a stranger and blown it totally out of proportion. I have a tendency to do that.

I bump into the guy at the grocery store.

“Say, aren’t you Kraft Tisbrag?”

“Yes, I imagine I am. You can call me Kraft.”

“Love that stuff you write with the recipes in it. It’s usually real close to the want ads in the paper, and I read those ads every week. Heck, you oughta be a writer. You ever write a book?”

“Me no write a book, never.”

“Well, you oughta. Somebody would probably buy one.”

To a precariously balanced soul like me, a trivial exchange like this quickly inflates to a demand that I satisfy a global hunger for my work.

So, I’m reviewing material.

Dear heavens, this is sad.

I open another file. Therein I find myself setting a musical program for my funeral then, with no tangible bridge, crossing into a poorly composed recipe for Chicken Marengo.

I open another file. Utter pretense. Overblown, self-important crud gilded with Latin aphorisms. (There is one I treasure, though, since it applies to the health and food Nazis: Qui Medice vivat, misere vivat. Very roughly translated: To live for the doctor is no life at all.)

I can’t grasp the relationship between Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” and a bay scallop quiche. No doubt I thought there was one when I wrote the piece.

These are the ravings of a dimwit and I don’t resent any of you who have shamed me for the trees that have died, needlessly, so drivel like mine can be printed and distributed. I see what you mean.

Who out there knows who Soutine is? Who cares? What does Soutine have to do with food? A hint: Not much, but for the ox carcass he hung in his studio in order to (brilliantly) mimic Rembrandt.

Why pick on Canadians? Why the cheap jokes about pemmican? Canadians are sensitive folks and don’t deserve a thrashing.

A paean to the corn dog? Jesting about something scientific like feng shui? What was I doing?

Why would I call theater people “pinheads?” And how could I forge a link between theater people and Swedish meatballs? Oh, wait: This one is accurate.

What gives with the recurring enmity regarding food magazine layouts? What’s the problem with smiling dilettantes holding fake parties in improbably luxurious homes, overlooking (take your pick) perfect beaches, perfect ski slopes, stunning skylines?

And the recurrent theme of the triumph of the machine, the dominance of computers, the tyranny of devices. What’s the deal? What does it have to do with food?

I pour another glass of wine. I open another file.

What’s funny about veal? One minute, there’s a teeny calf, wide-eyed, ready to romp in a pasture; the next thing you know, you’ve tying into a wad of scallopini. What’s amusing about that? Especially for the calf.

There are entirely too many references to sausage, and way too many in close proximity to snippets from Leviticus 11.

Too much nastiness concerning tofu.

Way too much discussion of television cartoon characters and the oppression of the underclass on police documentaries. The term “wife-beater T-shirt” shows up time and time again. And what justifies a detailed treatise associating plutonium, nuclear bomb triggers, psoriasis and pancetta?

I’ve been at it all day. The sun is setting and the glass is drained, literally and figuratively. I’m depressed. My review reveals me to be a shallow, self-indulgent goofball. In a world plagued by insurmountable problems that demand our sustained, serious attention, I’ve suggested finding relief in a veal rib steak.

I must change my life. I’m 64 years old; the clock is ticking.

First up — stop reading. My blood sugar is at the nadir and I’m ready to fall off a psychic precipice.

I need to eat something.

I search the fridge and I find boneless chicken breasts and Boston lettuce.

There’s a white onion and garlic. I have a bit of cilantro, some chicken stock, a bag of outstanding Espanola red. I locate a pack of corn tortillas in the bottom drawer, but they’re dry and stiff and they go into the trash.

A can of pinto beans emerges from the cupboard, as does a can of diced tomato. There are some cherry tomatoes on the counter right next to one of those creepy, watery avocados you get during the winter months.

The chicken gets diced, as does the onion. I mash up five cloves of garlic and chop a bit of cilantro. I saute the chicken and onion, adding the garlic last to avoid burning it. I sprinkle on some of the red, a bit of oregano and cumin and add a half can of the tomato, allowing it to cook for a while and sweeten. In goes stock and some of the cilantro (the rest I reserve for later). I cook the mix until the sauce tightens and I adjust the seasonings.

I take the cherry tomatoes and put them on a baking sheet, splatter them with some olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper. I roast them for about five minutes in a very hot oven, close to the burner. The smoke alarm goes off.

I heat the beans, reduce the liquid, season them then pulverize them with my hand blender, adding a smidge of olive oil to slick them up.

The avocado gets sliced; some jack cheese is retrieved from the refrigerator and shredded.

Into a lettuce leaf goes some of the chicken, a slice or two of avocado, a couple of the roasted cherry tomatoes, a mess of cheese. Beans on the side.

I could have gone curry with the plan, substituting chickpeas for the pintos, a yogurt-based sauce with cucumber for the cheese. I’d use unsweetened coconut milk and a ton of garlic and fresh ginger in the curry. I make a note to try it soon.

The meal works; I feel a whole lot better about myself and my lot. I feel smarter. The eating thing really works.

What I need to do is figure how I can produce more income, allowing me to amp up the quality of items in the larder —strengthen my safety net.

Perhaps I’ll write a book.

If I remember correctly, a lot of folks have been asking me to do it.