Category Archives: WORDS

Sacred Compromised

ruinedpianoNot good. I’m feeling violated. If you accept mediocrity, you deserve it.

Certain things are not meant to b e fucked with. Whatever it is for whoever it is, some things are not to be disrespected. It’s sacrilegious and it brings bad karma.

For me besides obvious moral ethics, this also includes food and music. They’re both languages I’m fluent in and both communicate what is not needed to say. In my opinion to be able to speak without using words is a type of ultimate theater and in turn, too precious to be taken lightly. Mimes excluded, as they annoy the hell out of me.

For me, a bad meal is a wasted opportunity gone forever. It causes me to pout like a little boy. The same goes for a music gig. When you know how good they can be, you hate to have it go any other way.

I say this because both meals and gigs can and do go south on occasion and when they nosedive, we’re back to my original premise of “sacred compromised”.

Recently, I had the misfortune to have a less than stellar gig foisted upon me. Usually, my gigs are the best evenings of my week. Last week though, a sub of a sub caused a train wreck that harshed my mellow considerably.

My regular bass player was out of town for the holidays so he subbed out the gig to a completely acceptable player, which in a perfect world is how it should be done. This is common and I have no problem with it. The issue was that the sub who was supposed to play the following week as well, with out telling me in advance (so I could have called someone I KNEW could cover the gig) subbed it out to a less than adequate or desirable player and in turn compromised the integrity of the evening considerably. You NEVER send a lesser player, any more than you would go to a med school when you need a dr.

Are we playing the same tune? Are you aware that there is a quarter note pulse in this ballad we’re trying to play, one that you are oblivious to and playing in the wrong key as well?

“But it’s dark” you say. I know it’s dark. You’re in a nightclub Einstein. And I’m Sorry you forgot your glasses so you can’t read the music in front of you as well. This is the type of thing that should be a non-issue, should never happen. But it did, last week, at my gig.

It was all I could do to remain civil and get through the evening. I thought of firing him on the spot when it became apparent that he was a waste of space midway through the first tune. Trane would have, Miles would have, Betty Carter would have. In afterthought, I should have and regret not doing so.

Instead, I endured and allowed my sacred art to be compromised. I wish I didn’t. I feel so dirty.


icelakeI fell through the ice on my brothers’ birthday. I was 7 he was 16. I was playing on the lake that afternoon. Winterdusk. My father used to laugh and call it invigorating. We just called it cold. That was before wind chill. I guess it was always there, we just didn’t know about it. It’s just as well. It was a very naive time anyway. Among the few rituals my family observed was that all festive occasions were celebrated at our favorite Italian restaurant, Fanny’s. Anniversaries – Fanny’s. Mothers day – Fanny’s. Kennedy’s election – Fanny’s. So it goes without saying that on my brother’s birthday, here’s a stretch, we were going to Fanny’s.

Jimmy Rodbard and Mitchell Dubin had already gone home. Something about freezing their little asses off. I mean, what the fuck, it was January in Chicago on an ice covered Lake Michigan. I laughed. I was just “invigorated”. It starts getting dark pretty early at that time of the year. It was around 4:30 and my father would be home around 6 to leave at 6:30 so as to arrive by 7. It is my nature to push my luck and procrastinate, even at that unripened young age. I’m sure my fathers’ military precision had something to do with that. Dad coming home early, (it was Sunday night after all, and he had already worked the 6 days prior until 11 or 12) was an occasion not to be trifled with. He preferred work to home for reasons I wouldn’t understand until much later.

My sled was on the beach as no one was around to antagonize into pulling me. I was past the pier on the ice of the lake looking back unto the sand. Exploring like the child archeologist that I imagined myself to be (did I mention law kindergarten?). I was just off the pylons on the north side of the pier. In the summer we’d have bbq and sit there and throw the ribs bones in the water. The joke was that one day, a teepee of bones would be discovered in the water and the hypothesis would be that a huge seafaring swine once inhabited pre Mesozoic Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry had definitely made an impression upon me.

As I was diligently recording my data, I neglected to observe that the closer to the pylons I got, the thinner the ice was becoming. The male trait of being oblivious to your surroundings was also forming early in my psyche. I suppose when you are pre pubescent, these characteristics may be misconstrued as cute. But as an adolescent and young adult, that mistake will no longer be made.

I was about three feet away from the pylon, fascinated by whatever it was that was fascinating me, when I heard a crackling sound. Like thunder only higher pitched. Or a burning tree. That was the first thing that registered. Not the newly found ice water on my little ball sack, not the thought that we were going to Fanny’s for Ronnie’s birthday and dad would be home soon, but this sound that I can still remember late into the night of this predawn 40 years after the fact.

The restofmylife

i got my fortune told in south beach over xmas. “your life will be completely different by march.” as she threw my hand back at me like it was burning her. he was dead by 16 feb or was it 17… it was over the international dateline. or is it under? shewasright. damn. a d-fining moment. no more fucking around. shiiit.


when something happens that catapults you to a new reality, being aware of it is half the fun. goodandbad … offtheplateau …intotheabyss… turnthepage. i can’t not do something. gilda said that she just assumed “he would always be here, i mean he lived every day like he wasn’t going to die.” well, he did. but if you gotta go, and we all do, what a way to go. 80 is a venerable age. add a 4 month world cruise and a babeinparadise, and you begin to get the picture. truly an inspiration. did i mention the return engagements of the aforementioned? not 1 but 2, count’em, harmoniconvirgences on my spiritualvortex. so, forced to act, act i do. the main thing i notice, is a new resolve. like, you’ve been groomed for something big, and you have to step up to the plate. schoolsout. i’ll try not to demand anything i’m not capable of… my confidence has increased, as has my extrasensory perceptions next. no idea. but whatever it is. i’m ready. when i wonder what’s ahead, it’s not where you’re going, it’s how you get there. the journey from here on out, is what the last one prepared me for. my soul evolved.

– Alan Lake

The Garlic Manifesto

The Garlic Manifesto is a personal compendium of garlic facts, folklore, myths, legends, garlic art, quotes, award winning recipes and insights into how and where they were obtained. By the 3-time winning Delray Beach Garlic Festival Garlic Chef Champion Alan Lake.

The Garlic Manifesto: An idiosyncratic view of Garlic through the ages

The Garlic Manifesto, is meant to be a personal, lighthearted compendium of Garlic throughout the ages. Tracing its origins from Neolithic caves 10,000 years ago, up to the very present.

The 100 recipes included herein could be considered to be my Garlic’s Greatest Hits. Included are the award winning recipes from the Delray Beach Garlic Festival’s Professional Chef’s Competition, from which I retired undefeated after three years running.

The manuscript includes chapter introductions and individual stories regarding acquiring, developing or originating these recipes and menus via my childhood memories, world travels, and musical experiences.

School children's artwork for Garlicfest photographed by Alan Lake
School children’s artwork for Garlicfest photographed by Alan Lake

As this truly is my life, I also have the actual photographic documentation of many of the key events in the stories that were taken at the time they occurred.

It touches upon my early experiences and influences growing up in Chicago, lessons taught and learned in the food industry, working in Los Angeles, Japan and Zurich etc… as well as examining the relationship between food and music.

A result of my being a musician virtually my entire life.

With a nod to MFK Fisher, Paul Theroux, or J D Salinger, and those who have followed in their footsteps, myself included, this is a Food and Travel memoir of sorts. A “novel” cookbook.

Pardon the pun.

Throughout the book you will also find unbelievable Garlic themed Art and Memorabilia. All of the original artwork was commissioned exclusively for this book and has never before been seen or published.

garfiend3As a professional musician, I’ve been honored to work with many extraordinary artists, including Madonna, Bryan Ferry, Julian Lennon, filmmakers, dance companies, poets and choreographers.

I feel this gives me a certain insight, which I attempt to share with the reader. Having had successful careers in both, I know firsthand how compatible and similar they are with each other.

The theme of music and the arts play a recurring supporting role throughout this book. Musical analogies abound and my theory on “Jazz Food” is explained simply as the principles of “solid technique coupled with improvisational ability” as applied to food.

The Kitchen parallels the Bandstand as it parallels Life.

This book also contains an intriguing and informative chapter on Garlic facts and folklore, myths and legends. Tracing Garlic’s association from the occult and religion to Roman Proverbs and Lower East Side Yiddish street sayings.

“A nickel will get you on the train, garlic will get you a seat.”

Other chapters include documenting Garlic’s medical and scientific benefits, and another on Garlic Quotes from the likes of Aristophanes to Shakespeare to filmmaker Les Blank.

garfiend2Also included is a comprehensive list of historical figures that either loved garlic or hated it, throughout history. A garlic primer and garlic tips are also included.

I attempt to use the arts to expand upon my own interests and knowledge and, in so doing, find the similar thread that encompasses the disciplines of music, food and art.

Life to me is a performance. I’m not just acting it though. I’m living it.

Performance art.

As a musician, Chef and most recently, photographer, I’ve found that, at least in my mind, it all pretty much comes from the same place regarding esthetics, conceptual abilities and production.

With that in mind, and with Garlic as a theme, “The Garlic Manifesto” came to life.


Home Cookin’ 7: Craig Brannan on LTH Forum

Home Cookin’ 6: Ava George Stewart on LTH Forum

Al’s Beef, a Taylor Street Original for Gapers Block

Home Cookin’ 5: Cool Yiayia on LTH Forum

Home Cookin’ 4: Ronnie Suburban and Steve Zaransky on LTH Forum

Home Cookin’ Part 3: Robert Smyth on LTH Forum

Wisdom of the Creatives curated by ALAN LAKE for General Admission Chicago

Home Cookin’ Part 2: Kristina Meyer on LTH Forum

Sacred Compromised on a Cruise to Nowhere for General Admission Chicago

Sacred Compromised for General Admission Chicago

Food For Thought for General Admission Chicago

The Flavor Matchmakers: Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg for Gapers Block

Home Cookin’ Part I on LTH Forum

A Book on Garlic Wouldn’t Stink for Gapers Block

Science Fiction Comes to Life in a Public Library for Gapers Block

The Windy City BBQ Classic Debuts Labor Day Weekend for Gapers Block

The 2013 National Restaurant Show — and Tell for Gapers Block

Interview: The Reader’s Beard Award-Winning Mike Sula for Gapers Block

Review: Chicago Gourmet for Gapers Block

What Really Happens In Restaurant Inspections via New York Magazine’s Grub Street Chicago

A North Side Beacon: Shari Fenton’s Asian Youth Services for Gapers Block

The Urban Canvas for Gapers Block

Salvation — Cooking Holiday Dinner for the Harbor Light Center for Gapers Block

Behind the Scenes at the Family Farmed Expo for Gapers Block

Nourishing Neighborhoods for Gapers Block

Master of the Market for Gapers Block

Birds I View for Gapers Block

Whole Foods, Whole Deal for Gapers Block

Swine by Me for Gapers Block

Let Adam Have Eve for Gapers Block

Better Than Excellent for Gapers Block

Conversations with Mario on LTH Forum

Cooking Zurich for Gapers Block

Jiro and Akemi for Gapers Block

A Hundred Reasons to Come Home for Gapers Block

The Barcelona Has Been Raised for Gapers Block

Chicken Vesuvio or How I Learned To Be A Chef for Gapers Block

Besides the Castle the Most Distinguished Address I for Gapers Block

Besides the Castle the Most Distinguished Address II for Gapers Block