by Keef Rutledge on March 14, 2012

At culinary school, Mario Batali taught me that the proper way to cook blackened catfish was to make the spice mixture in a very specific way. The ratio of thyme to cayenne to cumin had to be perfect thirds, for example, while the garlic powder, fennel, and white pepper had to be 1:2:3. I used his recipe to woo my wife, and it worked like a charm. When I told Batali of my success, he demanded that I pay him a ‘seducer’s fee.’ The ‘seducer’s fee,’ he elaborated, was a hairy beard-mingling kiss. I politely declined, which enraged Batali. He pressed coarse sea salt into my delicate facial skin and proceeded to blacken my face.

(Keef Rutledge lives in Austin and can be seen at

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