Friday, April 30, 2010

Food

When I started writing this blog again, I was considering making it a food blog because that seems to be what I'm most obsessed with, besides beer and cats. (Both of which might be considered food.) But I decided against it when I realized that there are lots of people writing about food, most of which have more experience with it than I do. These people work at restaurants, or make things that I generally have no interest in cooking myself. (Who has time or reason to make their own cheese?) I don't consider myself a food snob since I love simple foods like a cheese pizza or the occasional fast food hamburger. Food snobbery makes great tasting things seem inaccessible to regular folk, but that's just because theses recipes take pride in too many ingredients, strange technique, or kitchenware you can only buy in the country where the dish originated. Do I have a store within an hour of here where I could buy a sharkskin wasabi grater? Probably. Do I need one? No. But they tell me I must have one because it grates the wasabi so much better than anything else. But I don't make my own sushi. I did once, and it was good. But I would rather leave it to the professionals, who can make multiple types, which taste great, and can deliver it to my door for the same price that it cost me to make 2 rolls. If you are thinking that I'm saying, "Don't try to cook things that are difficult" you're wrong. There is nothing I love more than cooking something that takes forever, takes skill, or takes a few beers to get careless enough to try something really different. But I also don't like to spend too much to make it.

Recipes. I think of them as the sheet music of cooking. (Sheet music I can actually read). But as far as my every-day cooking goes, I don't use them. That's how I play piano. I never read music, I just look over the chords and wing it. I play by ear and I cook by taste. I've been told that playing music by ear is a talent most people don't have, and I think that cooking without a recipe is also a talent, but one that is easier to learn than looking at "F#m7" and knowing what piano keys to put your fingers on. If people concentrate on ingredients of foods they like, and know what those ingredients taste like separately, they can combine them (I'm gonna be cheesy here) in a symphony of flavor! Example: I know that I love balsamic vinegar. You can't go wrong with balsamic. I know I find chicken to be pretty flavorless (maybe just Bronx chicken) and I know that when you put balsamic vinegar on something hot, its water evaporates and you are left with a kind of glaze. Put it on chicken while its grilling? You get balsamic glazed chicken. Throw that on some good Italian bread with mozzarella and roasted red peppers and you have a great sandwich. Do you need to search through recipes to make it? No. It's science mixed with common sense.
I'm going on and on about this because I just spent 5 hours going through cookbooks, Saveur magazine, and websites trying to find some recipe that would impress Mike. I got so frustrated thinking of all the pans I would have to wash, the tools I don't own yet, and the grocery list that would make it impossible for me to make it up five flights of stairs with the bags, that I decided to go with one of his favorites, the aforementioned sandwich, which has all of 5 ingredients. Match that with some cheap wine and an easy brownie mix for dessert, and I have a happy boyfriend. And I'm happy because while I'm writing this I'm enjoying the cheap wine.
Back to cookbooks.
I have lots of cookbooks, and food magazines, and I watch food shows constantly. I think, "Wow! I'm gonna make that Tom Yum Goong!" It's the initial excitement that soon wears off when I realize that I really don't want to run all over Manhattan to find ingredients for some Thai recipe that calls for 1.Galangal (??) 2.Kaffir Lime Leaves, 3.Prik Pao. If I lived in a Thai neighborhood? Sure. But the Bronx ain't no Thai neighborhood.

Another affliction that I'm, uh, afflicted with, is my lack of "food heritage". Mike is Italian, French, and Irish. He loves Italian food. He can drink like the Irish, and (Ahem) loves like the French. (Sorry mom.) I, on the other hand, while very mutt-like, have a family that didn't retain its national heritage or its food. My dads side is Croatian and Polish, and the only things we retained from those regions are good looks, olive skin, and great legs. My moms side has been in the U.S. for hundreds of years. The things I consider to be my food heritage (mom side) are beans and cornbread, pie, and various meats. Very American. And tasty. My dad is a good cook and always had me cooking something with him for dinner. We would grill everything. Meat, fish, vegetables, pizza, anything that could be grilled was grilled. That's why I have a hard time with this whole apartment living thing. I grew up in a grill based world. And I'm really glad for it because It's tasty and healthier than, say, poaching your fish in butter or something. And it takes skill to get a steak just right, a skill which I pride myself on. Speaking of food heritage, the last time I was visiting my dad in L.A. I was telling him some things I like to make. I said, "One of my favorite things I made recently was chicken with a Chile Verde sauce. You know, tomatillos." He gave me a strange look and said, "I never taught you how to use tomatillos!" Like he was upset that I have my own food brain. It was funny, and I came to realize that a lot of my favorite ingredients like bell peppers and chorizo, are not things he would ever make. I've grown up, I guess, into my own food-person.
One thing I have not grown into, however, is the use of fruit with meat. It's everywhere, and it's popular among the high-end types, carrying their Dolce and Gabbana bags, (55 gallon $2000 dog crates) and "lunching" at places I could only dream of affording. I love a fancy restaurant as much as the next girl, but I don't want my sauteed pork cutlet on a bed of seared figs and some kind of reduction. Separate? Sure! Applesauce with my pork? No problemo. But uppity food is as unappealing to me as uppity people. Plus I know that a bugs favorite place to have sex and lay its eggs is on figs. It's true. Ask the USDA.

Anecdote:
My friend Brian and I used to talk about the finer restaurants in L.A. and began referring to their "plating technique" as "Tall Food". They pile everything up in the middle of the plate to create a sort of tower. Some gratin-type thing at the bottom, 3 asparagus tips as a kind of foundation, 2 ounces of a fancy meat, and some micro greens at the top. Want to impress your mother? Tall Food. Then take her out for a hamburger so she's not still hungry.

Am I too negative about food? I go back and forth between wanting cheese pizza and wanting something ridiculously expensive or high-end. If I was rich, I might not be so negative about the fancier things. If I was rich, I would have a platter of oysters sitting here by the computer to eat at my leisure. I would sear fois gras in the salty tears of the sturgeon who's eggs I would be eating on toast points. I picture myself laughing hysterically during all of this.

On a lighter note, It's time to start making dinner for my Italian Frenchman who should be home soon. He's going to be glad that we're having those balsamic chicken sandwiches with mozzarella and red peppers, and not apricot prune stuffed pork medallions with a pomegranate reduction atop a poached quail egg. I'll be glad too. Not because I wouldn't want to make the fancy crap, but I've been drinking that cheap wine and I don't know that I could poach an egg right now.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Friends, Mom, and Herman Melville

I'm currently between the visits of my three favorite women. My best friend Robyn came to Da Bronx a few weeks ago and it was lots of fun. She wrote about it in her blog, and did such a good job I'm not going to try to compare to it, so read it here. We didn't do the usual touristy New York things, thank God. Robyn is smart enough to know that the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building are less interesting and more expensive than having lunch with a dead Herman Melville or going to awesome bookstores. We also found joy in funny-named frozen desserts and shopping for really cheap clothes. That is why I like Robyn. She likes the same things I do.


After I left Robyn at Grand Central to catch her bus to LaGuardia, I walked a few blocks to meet one of my oldest friends, Diane, who is also kind of like a mom because she was with my dad for many years when I was growing up. I think of her as my friendmom. She was in town with her son visiting her husband who is working here for a few months. We hadn't seen each other in about a year and a half, so it was fun. We went to the Central Park Zoo, which I hadn't been to since I was 8. Her son is a fun boy and I had a good time. I wish we had more time together, but Diane and her husband Brian had a play to go to, so I walked back to the train and went home. I got pretty sad, having to say goodbye to two friends in one day.


Mike and I have had things to keep us occupied though, It's not like we're bored or anything. Last weekend we went to a Yankees game with Aaron and Sara. We had seats waaaaaaay up in the last row, which turned out to be the best seats because it started pouring and they are the only ones that are covered. There was a fight when some guy showed up late wearing his "Mets Gear". It was funny because he got escorted out after being punched by a few different guys, though the guys doing the beating got to stay. I guess the cops were Yankees fans too. Then there was a rain delay, which ended up with the Yankees winning. Sara and I had some crappy pretzels.

On Sunday Mike and I went back to visit Herman Melville and his pals at Woodlawn Cemetery. The note that Robyn and I had left was still there, as were the sticks you should have read about in her blog. I didn't leave him anything this time, but we did have lunch with him and I told him I'd be back soon. We walked around for about 4 hours and met other "deads" (that's what Robyn calls them) and some funny names. Here lies Mike T. I'm sure that the afterlife would be much more enjoyable for him if he had his seltz.

We also found headstones with the names Coffin, Self, and T.B.A. which were amusing.

And now the next thing I have to look forward to is my mom coming to visit. She came out last year when we moved to Brooklyn and I've only seen her once since, when we went to Florida for Mikes graduation. It's weird to not see her very often since we had live in the same city for so long, but it was time for everyone to get out of AZ. I'm glad we did. It's always nice to have her visit, and I'm glad we have a guest room this time. I'll probably take her to visit Herman Melville. And I know while she's here my floors will be spotless. That's what moms do.

My mom

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Things and Such

A NOTE FROM TIBBET:
Tibbet was very interested in watching the CNN coverage about the vote on the health care reform. She told me that even though it doesn't affect her, she likes to keep up with current events and that Buddy should really take more interest in these things. She had me make a sign for her to pose with so she could look back on this historic day and remember sitting on the folding chair. She would also like everyone to know that despite popular belief, Siamese cats are very into politics.

A RANDOM COLLECTION OF THINGS
Here's the story of this group of items. The monster with his arms out and the praying mantis are toys I used to play with in the tub when I was little. There are 2 large pieces of mica (check out that basal cleavage!) that they seem to be fighting over. I think I found the mica in a driveway somewhere. They are standing on a rock my aunt Carole gave me that has a hole in the middle, so I inserted a passover candle that I got for 15 cents. Now that's art!

THE MIGHTY PINE
These are pine trees. Can you believe it? I don't know what I'll do when they get bigger, but I think I have some time. I love a conifer. Conifers are gymnosperms which is a funny word. I don't know what type of pine they are because I bought this little pot and seeds for $1 and it just said "Christmas tree". I wonder if they figured no one would actually try and grow it.

TABASCO AND "THE BOZ"
Two new things have appeared on my bookshelf since Monday. They are a bottle of Tabasco sauce and an action figure of Brian "The Boz" Bosworth. Mike brought him home from his dads house on Sunday. "The Boz", who was known for his radical hairstyles, apparently wasn't much of a player. He got thrown off teams for steroid use, bad conduct, and general douchbaggery. So we like to display him in our living room, tackling a bottle of hotsauce.
These are just a few things around my house that I get a kick out of. I hope they entertained you for a while. Next time I'll write something with more of a purpose. My brain is fuzzy today.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bear the Dint

If you ever find yourself in a dollar store, go to the toy section and look at the names of the toys. They're usually translated from another language and it's almost impossible to figure out what they were trying to say. My dad and I first noticed this at a store in Tucson, where they had the same fishing set I found the other day and a "pugilism gun" which was a boxing glove on a "gun" that juts outward when you pull the trigger. That one makes sense if you know what pugilism means, but "The Bear The Dint Fishing Challenge" is beyond me. Bear the Dint? How do I bear the dint? The Oxford English Dictionary defines dint as such, "n. a dent. By dint of = by means of." So the bear the dint would be to carry, support, or endure a dent, or to endure by means of. So we are possibly enduring the fish by means of the fishing pole.

If you look behind the pole, you will see three points these advertisers have made, possibly trying to show the things you will learn while using the bear the dint fishing challenge. They are,

  • Patience
  • Wait For
  • Fast
These are basic things any fisher person should know. Not that I would word them that way. And I really don't think these fish are going to be difficult to catch.

After so much confusing language, it is comforting to know that even if we have no idea how to bear the dint, at least we know this is a lovely fishing set.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Apartment Canyons and Chore Avoidence

Lately (well, always) I have lots of things going through my brain and I usually don't focus on them for more than a few minutes each. But today I was inspired by looking at the same thing for a while and comparing it to something else. I was sitting at the desk and a pigeon landed on the windowsill. It was a really scraggly pigeon, and I thought he was kind of cute. He just kept looking in the window like he wanted to come in and have some coffee and probably some crumbs and maybe wash that oil slick off his feathers. I named him McMoop. I thought about how much people hate pigeons and how I really don't understand it. People go out of their way to attract "prettier" birds to their windowsills, but take great measures to keep pigeons away.

Then as I was watching McMoop I noticed the buildings behind him. I can see between 2 buildings to another building, all separated by that weird area that's always gated and closed off so no one can walk there. It's probably because people would dump all their trash or do drugs down there or something, but I started thinking about canyons. The buildings kind of make a canyon, and I thought about how if I could walk through these I might end up in some beautiful land, or maybe the building canyon is a beautiful land where pigeons feel like eagles and the canyon walls are full of homes where people feel safe from murderous tribes (gangs). Kind of like this one:



<- Apartment Canyon


I know if I walked between the buildings I would just end up out on the street pretty quickly, but I've kept my mind from actually picturing it. For now I'm just letting my imagination run with it so I have something nice to think about while I'm sitting at the computer. Also, there's this thing coming off my fire escape that I'm guessing was used to hoist things up here years ago. Or maybe it's to save adventurers from being swept away by flash floods. McMoop might know.
Another thing that I've been thinking a lot about is my mystery plant. I brought it home from the park when it was just a little green point sticking out of a seed and a root dangling from the bottom. Now he has one leaf and another one on the way. I've been researching it and trying to figure out what my mystery plant is going to be. I'm hoping for something pretty, but who knows. The closest I could find was a plant called the "Hog Peanut".



So all of this is really just my brain trying to distract itself from something I've been avoiding for a few weeks...


Oh I forgot to tell you about my other plants. I started growing some basil and thyme from seed and they came up a few days ago. Here they are. I'll probably have to move them to larger pots soon. For now they live in ceramic Santa boots.


So the thing I have been avoiding is unpacking all the stuff I have in the guest room. It's mostly stuff I don't really need but can't get rid of, or Mikes stuff which I'm not allowed to get rid of, and lots of clothes I used to wear to work but aren't any good for anything else since they have ink all over them. But I have to start today because we're actually going to get the bed for that room this weekend so my pal Robyn will have a place to sleep while shes visiting. I don't think this will be fun but here goes. Maybe I'll eat something first. And check the mail.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Bronx and The C

I've been putting off writing anything since we moved in hope of coming up with something worth writing about, but alas, I lost enthusiasm for a while. But now there is a reason. I'm putting off doing laundry. So here is whats new. We moved on March 1st which was not as bad as I thought but a little more expensive since apparently we had more boxes than we thought and we forgot to consider the stairs up to the front door as a "flight". But everything and everyone got here un-maimed. I did have to take my plants on the train which was kind of weird but there have been weirder things on the New York subway I'm sure.

Our new place is much bigger, cleaner, and quieter than the last one. I unpacked almost everything in one day but left the rest in the guest room. Next week I have to get all that stuff put away because my best friend is coming to visit and we're getting our 2nd bed next weekend. And a couch, finally!

Writing about moving is boring so I'll change the subject. Lately I am once again obsessed with metal-detecting and relic hunting. I have off and on been obsessed with this and unfortunately should have made more of an effort to get into it when I lived in AZ. There is not much in the way of open land and ghost towns out here in which to easily find things and I kept putting off getting a metal detector. Now I really want to start doing this but I don't know where I would do it other than Van Cortlandt park, and you need a permit to hunt there. It's free, but there are lots of rules. I just want to go out and find crap! Check out this website that I've been reading for a while and maybe you'll see why I am interested in these things. Or not. I'm a history nerd you see. And I think maybe I'll spend part of my tax return on a cheap metal detector. Here is something I found without the help of modern technology. Its a "C".




Who knows what its from or how old it is, but it is old and it is a C. And that's good enough for me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What is this thing in my soup?

It's been a few days since I wrote anything but that's because I don't really have much going on. Today I have to pack and go to the grocery store. Exciting! And then I'll make some kind of stir fry for dinner. While I was thinking about what to make for dinner, I started wondering if they would even have the things I need at the store down the street. I don't know how easy its going to be to find fish sauce, but considering that the only "ethnic" foods they have are taco shells, I'm not counting on them. But this brings me to another question that has been on my mind for a few days...
What is this thing in my soup?
The white thing with the hot pink edge.
It wasn't meat. It wasn't a vegetable. It was some kind of firm gelatinous salty thing. It wasn't tofu, either. And why the hot pink? It didn't taste bad. It just tasted like broth. Still, I only nibbled it and then made Mike try it so he could also be confused.
It is of Japanese origin. I still have it if you want it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Things I will miss in Brooklyn

I just walked to the grocery store to get some chicken, jelly, bread, jiffy mix, and jello. The store smells like a pet store. It's so gross. I also left because my neighbors are listening to their awful music again and I can't deal with it so I had to get out. On my way to the store I took some pictures of my favorite things within a few blocks of where I live. I'm going to miss this stuff. I'm sure at some point I'll make time to come back and walk around again. Maybe when it's not snowing.

So here are the things I like about my hood.


1. Franklin Avenue Shuttle. It is across the street and from there I can get anywhere. I literally have to walk across the street to get anywhere the subway goes, anywhere metro north goes, or anywhere any of those other trains I've never taken go. Plus it's got a pretty interesting history, which you can read about here. That page also has info on some of the other things I'm including.



2. This semi-creepy old building that no one lives in but still has a bunch of crap in it. Can you imagine what you might find in there? I imagine there are probably lots of old magazines and records, some funky furniture from the 70's, maybe some drug paraphernalia, and even a dead body or two. The sign you can't see in this picture says "Deliveries." I like that they make deliveries.

3. The "Public Elephant". That's what Mike and I call it. The Public Elephant is a government office which can be held by anyone willing to run, but usually goes to an elephant. This is Brooklyn's Public Elephant. He is the finest one yet and has lowered tusk tax by 5%

4. Mint green pointy house. Around Christmas they had this huge plastic internally lit nativity scene on the ledge of the lower window. It's also the only house that is colorful around here. The one next to it is yellow, but that's nowhere near as tasty looking.















5. The Heinz Building. It's a neat looking ketchup colored building a few streets away from where we live. If some developer hadn't built some really awful still vacant apartments right outside our bedroom window I would be able to see this instead. And the old buildings that are attached to it that I love so much.

6. The hallway in our building. It is sooooo ugly since they painted parts of it gold. Mike was coming in one evening and overheard this conversation between a little girl and her mom.

Little girl: "Mom, why did they paint those things gold?"
Mom: "'Cause some people like like ugly shit."

Girl on Grill

Last night I was cooking dinner and started thinking about some of the differences between NY and Tucson. There are lots, and for the most part the differences are better in NY. Like not having to drive and all the cost that goes along with it, being able to walk places, Seasons, and people who read. There is one thing though, that I will never enjoy. I can't grill. I don't have any outdoor space of my own. The last year in Tucson every meal I made with the exception of 3 was cooked on my grill. I am not a big fan of indoor-meat. Have you ever had a steak cooked in a pan? Its terrible. It gets that dull brown color and tastes like dead animal. When you grill something it comes to life! The meat gets some black parts, some deep brown parts, some bloody parts, and lots of the fat you're not supposed to want drips off and makes even better "fat smoke" that leaves a tasty flavor on yer meat. Oh how I miss grilling.


But there was one solution... Mike bought me this grill pan which is wonderful in every way other than not leaving any tasty charcoal smoke on food and I suppose thats healthier. It's also hard to clean. Actually, my burgers are better on this thing than any I cooked outdoors. (Probably because I can control the flames under it with a knob, and I clean it.) I further realized how convenient the grill pan is when I looked outside this morning...


This is the lonesome grill I can see out my bedroom window, living behind the building with no one using it. It makes me sad. I'm guessing someone who lives on the 1st floor gets back there by going out their window since it's otherwise blocked off. I took this picture a few hours ago, and to emphasize my point, there are footprints that look like maybe lastnight someone walked toward the grill, realized it was too cold to cook outside, and walked back without even giving it a friendly pat on its lid.
New York is not a grill-friendly city unless you live upstate or are fancy enough to have your own backyard. That is why I continue to talk about how someday we have to move to Yonkers or some place where I can grill and plant tomatoes and herbs and other things that don't taste as good when you buy them at a crappy grocery store in Crown Heights. Maybe someday I'll get my wish. Until then, the grill pan will do.

Just for humor, a picture I took when we lived in AZ---->>>>

We didn't have any big marshmallows.



Monday, February 15, 2010

A semi-brief overview of the last year

So here I am again, this time hopefully not getting rid of everything I write because I end up thinking it's stupid. Maybe my good friend Robyn can encourage me since she's a master blogger. I figure I have some reasonably interesting things to write about since Mike and I are moving again. We moved to Brooklyn from Tucson, AZ about a year ago. Mike is from New York and I'm from Los Angeles and we both wound up in Tucson. We met in our shared backyard. I was literally the girl nextdoor. We had known eachother for about 2 months when the company he was working for closed its Tucson office. He wanted to move back to NY, so I came with him. We left Tucson in April of '09 and I drove a moving truck with a car pulled behind it for 2500 miles. With 4 cats and 2 ferrets. I did it to be with a great man. I'm glad I did.




We moved to Brooklyn in a lovely area called Crown Heights. (Not so lovely but I love it.) It's a quick walk to the alternate universe called Park Slope. To those not familiar with Park Slope, it is the land of women pushing strollers, women reading Oprah book club books, women spending too much of their money on expensive organic baby stuff, lesbian bars for the women who like women, and men who don't make as much money as their women. We go there for dinner sometimes because Crown Heights is a little short on good food. And it's just a little scary.
In December '09 Mike got a new job at a hospital in the Bronx. It takes him an hour and a half to get to work, and an hour and a half to get home, on top of his long work day. Time to move again.

On March first we will be moving from over-priced hipster filled Brooklyn to the less expensive non-hipster-filled Bronx. I'm really going to miss this place, but I'm sure I'm going to love it up there too. I've already learned my way around the new 'hood with my favorite time wasting activity, google street view.
So thats my semi-brief overview of the last year. I enjoyed Brooklyn. Now I get to enjoy the only boro that has a "the". Much cooler than just plain old Manhattan, Staten Island or Brooklyn. They don't have a "the". Other fun Norwood Bronx facts can be found on my absolute favorite website Forgotten NY. Here is the Norwood link.
And now that I've got all that crap out of the way, I can begin...
A Bronx Blog.