Tag Archives: om nom

life imitating art imitating life

So I’m sitting at my desk eating a cheeseburger. Lindsay Lohan, one of the resident cats, is sitting on the windowsill next to me. She likes to look out the window at passing cars and critters. After a few minutes I turn my head to look at her, for no particular reason. She’s looking right at me with that look. The one all pet owners know. Pitiful begging.

“Oh, hi. I see you have a food there. It smells good. I also like food. Maybe… maybe I can have some? Maybe…

“I can haz cheezburger?”

That’s right, kids. I was just memed by a cat named Lindsay Lohan.

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mixology, or why i should drink more often

I needed an Aperol Spritz. For a bunch of reasons, primary of which is this damn heatwave. And as I’ve learned, the Italians have mastered the art of the Refreshing Beverage, therefore, Spritz. So I looked up the recipe. Pretty simple – 3 parts prosecco, 2 parts Aperol, one part tonic, twist of orange. Not wanting to fuss (and frankly not caring that much), I figured a combo of the first two would suit fine. So out I went to Party Source.

I picked up the cheapest bottle of prosecco I could find, because come on now. Using it as a mixer. And they were all out of Aperol proper, but I got a bottle of something their mixologists recommended as a good substitute. Taste-tested it in the store – solid. Got home, put everything in the fridge.

3 hours later, it’s drink time! Pull out one of my rocks glasses, two ice cubes. About a finger of Aperol-substitute. Popped the cork on the prosecco and… suddenly remembered you can’t reuse the cork. Shit.

Uh okay… well, first order of business is the Beverage. Two fingers of prosecco… almost perfect. One more splash and I’m satisfied. Good. Now for the problem at hand. I know I have a bag of corks made just for this situation, but my best guess is they’re in any one of ten boxes labeled “kitchen,” because I just moved and they’re not essential. Okay… plastic wrap? Yeah, plastic wrap and a rubber band, that could work! Except I can’t find my plastic wrap either. I can find parchment, aluminum foil, and a thousand sandwich bags, but no plastic wrap. Crap. What do I do?

Then in the box of everything-except-plastic-wrap, I see the little box of jewelry bags. Little 3″ plastic earring bags. That… that could work! I slip it over the top of the bottle and it just fits. Secure it with a (brand new) hair tie… yes! It works! Hopefully. Hopefully the seam is strong enough that I won’t have flat prosecco tomorrow. If I do I guess I’ll just have to go get the tonic water after all. This is what I get for trying to make an Aperol Spritz outside Europe.

HAPPY UPDATE: As I wrote this, I took a guess at which box the spare corks were in. AND I WAS RIGHT! SUCCESS!! No flat prosecco for me after all!

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celery

I hate celery. I mean I really hate celery. Raw celery. Cooked to mush and absorbed into other things, like soup, I can overlook. But raw? I will be a petulant small child about it. I will pick it out of my food piece by piece. And if that’s not possible, I just won’t eat it. And I won’t do that with any other food I dislike – I’ll suffer through coconut, I’ll force myself through the texture of eggs, and I’ll even deal with mint which gives me actual migraines. But I will. not. eat. raw. celery.

People who like celery cannot comprehend this – and I’m thinking of one of my relatives in particular. “How can you hate RAW CELERY? It tastes like CRUNCHY NOTHING.” (This went on for no fewer than 20 minutes.) Well obviously it doesn’t if it tastes like the blue-ribbon winner from Satan’s personally cultivated vegetable patch. So why the disparity? What’s with this? How can most of the population think it tastes like crunchy nothing (or maybe slightly salty nothing, according to some), and a bunch of us think it’s the taste to destroy all other tastes?

I think it’s genetic. Like cilantro – does it taste like lemon or soap? Or like lemons – is it bitter or just tart? I’m convinced there’s a gene somewhere that when turned on makes celery taste like a Vegetable of the Apocalypse. And I’m volunteering to be one of those subjects for the genetic study that figures this out, so I can tell all those diabolical celery-lovers that they’re wrong and Nature has gifted me with the ability to see celery for what it really is – evil.

If you’re interested in conducting this study, you know where to find me. …as long as I don’t have to eat the damn stuff.

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bologna

So I’m at Kroger, in line at the deli picking up some bologna and cheese when this man, probably about 40, walks up and asks nobody in particular:

Man: Do they have mortadella here?
Me: I think so, I’ve seen it here before.
Deli lady: I don’t see any in the case, I’ll go open a new one.
Man: Oh, thank you, so much. I’ll take a pound.

I am impressed with this guy.

Me: I haven’t had mortadella in years, not since I left New York. And I haven’t seen anyone else order it!
Man: Oh it’s so good, isn’t it?
Me: Yeah, I know.
Man: So what are you getting?
Me: Just some bologna today.
Man: (his face brightens) You know, we always forget about the simple things, like bologna!
Me: I know! I grew up in an Italian and Polish neighborhood, so I got the real stuff. And this is as close to that as I’ve found.
Man: Oh really? What are you getting? Which bologna?
Me: The regular one, not the all-beef, just the plain old cheap stuff. It’s as close to homemade out in the smokehouse as I’ve had.
Man: I’ll have to get half a pound of that!
Me: And if you like garlic…
Man: I LOVE garlic…
Me: you’ll have to try their garlic bologna. It’s not kidding around.
Man: I will definitely do that! Ah, the simple things. (Another man who I presume to be his partner comes by with some baguettes; he mentions the addition of bologna to the order and they are both pleased at the idea.) So what are you going to do with yours? Sandwiches?
Me: Sometimes I do sandwiches but I’m actually going to fry it up with some eggs…
Man: I LOVE IT FRIED! Fried bologna is the best. We had these friends in Russia who just loved it that way. We got hooked!
Me: Yeah, I grew up on the stuff, learned it from my dad.
Man: So good and so simple! Ah, perfect.

By that point the woman handed me my bologna and cheese. So I wished the man well as he ordered his own bologna. We were both smiling. Seriously, how can you not? Boar’s Head makes some seriously good bologna.

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penny

I am cat-sitting for my friend Sean. (Please don’t tell my landlord.) Sean just moved in with Brooks for the summer, who has two large dogs. The dogs probably wouldn’t mind Penny (the cat,) but Penny would probably mind the dogs.

Penny likes to eat my flowers. I discovered this a few nights ago as I was making dinner. I had a vase of sunflowers and some other taller purple flowers on my dining room table. I heard licking and chewing. Wondering what exactly she had found to eat, since there was no food in her bowl, I turned around. She was on my dining room table, drinking the water from a small drinking glass that, half an hour ago, had contained a broken stalk of the purple flower. Which I found scattered across my living room.

Since then, I have left the flowers on the table but pushed in all the chairs, depriving her of a leaping platform. It seemed to work. Then this morning I woke up to find she had ralphed pretty much everywhere, and there were purple flower petals all over my dining room table. Apparently mere chairs were not a convincing deterrent.

I cleaned everything, and since she seemed to be feeling better (and was desperately seeking attention) I gave her some real food. She then pestered me until I played with her at length. At one point she ran face-first into my sliding glass door. Then she went to sleep under my bed.

I texted Sean, telling him she was rather lively today, and he should come play with her since she’d probably appreciate a visit from her human. I also told him about her being sick from the flowers. To which he apologized, but I said, hey. She’s a cat. What do you expect.

Sean knocked on my door at 2pm. I opened it and he held out a bouquet of flowers to me. “What…?” He smiled and said, “To make up for the ones she ate.”

Penny will not be eating those.

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was this review helpful? choose: no / not even a little bit

A year ago I got a Moroccan cookbook. Naturally, I also wanted to get a tagine. Because why wouldn’t I? They’re beautiful, they’re impressive, and dammit they’re authentic, and you can’t make an authentic tagine without one. But like a responsible person I decided I’d wait on buying one, because 1. they’re large, 2. they’re heavy, and 3. they’re expensive. I figured if I cooked enough Moroccan food to warrant getting one, I’d consider it and start researching. If not, then I saved myself a bunch of money and space.

That cookbook has become my go-to book, and is responsible for the massive expansion of my spice shelf, the several leftover lamb bones in my freezer, and the lovely turmeric-yellow discoloration of one of my wooden spoons. I make something from it at least once a month, usually more often. So I’ve decided to finally look into getting a tagine.

My cookbook tells me the traditional ones are made of fired ceramic, but need to be seasoned and are meant for use over a charcoal fire. Without a diffuser, using one on a stove directly will drastically reduce the life of the vessel. It also says that the fool-proof way to go is Le Creuset’s cast iron version, which sounds much more reasonable and hassle-free to me (considering cast iron is a natural diffuser).

So, I go online and start researching tagines. I know I want one that’s cast iron, glazed, and around the 2-quart range. Le Creuset’s model is $175, which is a little on the steep side for me. (Read: ouch.) Emile Henry has several models, somewhat less expensive, and apparently they’re made of ceramic with some kind of new technology that permits stovetop use, and also has a footed base for heat diffusion. These seem to be the two top models. I am considering them.

I see what amazon has. Le Souk seems to be really reasonably priced with some lovely designs. They are ceramic and need seasoning, but I consider it. I make a mental note to do more research on how involved this “seasoning” bit is.

I skip all the serving tagines, since I can’t actually cook in them, but I want them all anyway because they have the most intricate designs. I click on one of the “medium” sized cooking tagines by Treasures of Morocco, since it’s pretty inexpensive. It tells me almost nothing in the description: 10.5″ wide (nothing about capacity), free shipping, “easy to cook in it”, and that you can use it with an electric or glass (?) stove, but to use a diffuser with gas. I am assuming it is ceramic. This is probably the fourth such semi-description I’ve found across various brands.

Oh look, it has a five-star rating. That means it’s either the best product ever, or only one person reviewed it. I bet you can guess! Her review goes like this:

“I made my first tagine last night with this and it tasted wonderful. I’m not sure whether it was just because of the dish itsself or because of the cook ;-) but this was exactly what I needed. I can make authentic tagine without worrying about the bottom burning if I leave the food on too long (like a metal pot does). I really didn’t have to do much when I cooked with this. I just put all the ingredients in, mixed a few times, and left the dish to do the rest… and it was amazing. Of course it was… Tagine is ALWAYS amazing… ”

No, no this review was not helpful to me. You basically told me that you didn’t screw up the recipe. Of course it tasted wonderful – you could make it in anything and it would taste good. What do you think happens when you throw together cinnamon, coriander, and honey with lamb and dates and then simmer it for an hour in its own juices? If you have a problem with things burning, I recommend a) turning the heat down, b) watching it more carefully, or c) both. You said absolutely nothing about whether you seasoned the vessel, how well that worked, how easy cleanup was, whether it was easy to use, how well it was made, whether there were any tips and tricks needed, nothing. All you said was, essentially, “I made tasty dinner last night! Yaaayyy!” Congratulations, so did I.

The sad thing is, this is how the majority of online reviews are. Go on almost any cooking website/blog, and most of the recipe reviews will read something like: “5 stars! OMG this looks so good, can’t wait to try it!” That’s not a review, that’s a pre-view. You can’t give five stars to something you haven’t made yet.

Often on sheet music websites, I see, “This is my favorite piece ever!” Why? Was it was easy to play? Did it sound like the original? Mascara reviews are often rather enlightening and most go something like this: “OMG THIS IS THE BEST EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE IT”. Yes, and how does it work? Does it volumize, lengthen, curl? How long does it wear? How about smudging? Flaking? How black is it? Easy to remove?

But my favorites have to be book reviews. I downloaded Lord of the Rings yesterday for my new nook, and the very top review read, in its entirety: “Orlando Bloom was Legolas!!” Of course I don’t expect in-depth literary criticism from everyone, but that… come on, really?

So the moral of the story is, I still haven’t chosen a tagine. (Suggestions welcome.) And if you’re going to write a review, make sure you’re actually saying something about the product.

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you live, you learn

Things I have learned from tonight’s baking experiment:

1. Loquats: possibly not worth the effort to peel and seed, even if they are free from your friends’ trees.
2. Mini tarts bake the same amount of time as a full-size tart.
3. Using a nonstick cookie tray to hold six nonstick mini tart pans: bad idea.
4. Placing a dish towel on the cookie sheet so the tarts don’t slide around, then putting the whole thing in a 450° oven: terrible idea.
5. Dry dish towels start to smoke after about four minutes in a 450° oven. They will probably eventually catch on fire.
6. Even if you’ve transferred tarts from pan to plate a hundred times, still wear your glasses when you do it. One of them will end up on the floor. Fruit-side down.

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