Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Food, Part 2

I thought I would share some of my favorite things to make for dinner, because who doesn't like food?

I was watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain and he was talking about how everyone should know how to roast a chicken. I had never actually roasted my own chicken, although I had eaten many. They're good. Whats not to like about a roasted chicken? And there was one piece of advice he gave which I think is the most important. You have to dry your chicken. After you wash it off, pat off all the water with a paper towel. Otherwise the skin wont get crispy. (I don't eat the skin because it has a lot of fat in it, but Mike and the cats like it so I have to do it right.) Plus it looks better that way. Another thing I do is to carefully detach the skin from the breast, making sure not to puncture it, and there you have a great place to put spices, garlic, or whatever you want. Because if you only season the skin, the flavor wont go through the skin and into the chicken. You'll just have really flavorful skin and bland chicken.

If you have a string, tie the legs together. The dark meat cooks faster than the white, and by compacting it into a smaller area, you're going to have a more evenly cooked chicken. You also have to flip the wings underneath so they don't burn. And always remember to remove the bag of weird chicken parts from inside the chicken. Feed those to your cat.

For spices, I use a mix of Old Bay and some brand name chicken seasoning because that's what I have in the cabinet. If you've never used Old Bay, get some. It's really great in hamburgers too.

After you've done all those things to your chicken, and you've preheated your oven to 350, go online and look up how long to roast your chicken by weight. I'm not going to type every cooking time on here. It's easier for you to just look it up. I usually add on about 20 minutes to whatever the websites say because I'm afraid of undercooked chicken and I don't have a meat thermometer.

I always put my chicken on a cookie sheet (with a rim) covered in foil. The lower the sides on your cooking dish, the more evenly cooked and crispier your chicken will be. Lots of websites will tell you to baste your chicken, which I have done, but I've also not done it and it came out fine.

Once your chicken is in the oven, go watch TV or stalk people on facebook for a while. I usually watch the travel channel and have a beer, or stand in the kitchen for no reason. Then, in a few hours, your chicken will be done. The house will smell good, and whoever you cooked for will appreciate the hard work and hours of preparation that went into this meal. You don't have to tell them how easy it was.

A tasty chicken looks even better on some retro
Bjorn Christensen Rosti Mepal Dinnerware

My other favorite thing to make is pizza. I like ordering it too, but home made pizza is great because you can put whatever you want on it and you don't have to tip someone to bring it to you. My dad started a tradition around Christmas called pizza night. Everyone makes a small pizza with whatever toppings they want, and then he cooks them on a pizza stone on the grill. It's a lot of fun, and it's interesting to see what other people will come up with. Last year even Ivy, from the Cramps joined us for pizza night. (Cool, huh?)

Ivy made a lovely vegetarian pizza

My new favorite pizza that I make is red onion and chorizo. I love chorizo maybe even more than bacon. It's good with anything. It comes in different forms depending on what ethnic group you happen to live near. In Tucson I always found it in the ground form, like hamburger meat. Out here its in tube form, and more like salami. I like them both. If you use the ground kind, drain it after you cook it. There is a ton of fat. You don't have to cook the tube form, but I do, and I break it up into small pieces.

The crust is up to you. Personally, I just buy the frozen dough because I've only got about 4 square feet of counter space and I have really bad luck with getting dough to rise. If you want to make your own dough, you're on your own. Frozen dough is pretty good. Just don't buy that Boboli crap.

Now cut up a small red onion into thin pieces, and cook your chorizo so it's ready to go on your pizza.

I've tried different ways of stretching the dough into pizza shape, and I think rolling it is the easiest, but I don't currently have a rolling pin. so hands work well. And if it looks funny just call it rustic. That's what everyone on food network does. And they all pretend that they're the first to think of it. I put some olive oil on my cookie sheet and get the dough as stretched out as much as I can. Then I put on some tomato sauce, and some sliced mozzarella. I don't grate it but you can. Then, I put on the chorizo and onions. (Do I even need to be telling you how to make a pizza? It's pretty obvious.)

Put it into a 450 degree oven or whatever your dough package tells you, and wait about 15 minutes. If the cheese in the middle isn't melted yet, wait a little longer. Then take it out. There you have it. And you can get all the ingredients, enough for two pizzas, for about ten dollars. That's the same price as those horrible five dollar pizzas from Little Cesar's. And you can have an awesome pizza that looks like this.

Mine is square because I have a square pan. If you have a round pan, make it round. Make it a heart for Valentines day. Do whatever you want. Just try making dinner. It's fun and it tastes better than eating at restaurants all the time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Monday

I wish I had.

Today is not my day.

I went to deposit my paycheck, which I was hoping to use some of for groceries. They usually let 100 or so go through, but not this time. I'm guessing it's because my card was stolen recently and now they think I'm trying to pull some fraudy crap. I'm not, I just wanted groceries and my money. So I left the bank, after getting no help from the "I could care less about anyone" teller. While walking down the lovely Jerome Ave, I stepped on a mirror and it broke. First of all, why is there a tiny mirror laying on the sidewalk, and why did I have to step on it? I'm usually don't believe in these kind of things, but it happened at the exact moment that I was complaining about my lack of money over the phone. Not only did it break, but it stuck into my shoe. Some woman said, "Are you OK?!" I think she thought it went in my foot. I was on the phone so I pretended not to hear her.

I continued my walk to the grocery store where I got what I could with the cash I had, and the cashier started chasing me out of the store. I thought, "oh, now what." She put someones yogurt in my bag. Thank God she didn't think I was trying to steal someones yogurt. I was worried with my luck so far, she would. So I walked home.

On the front stairs of my building was a turtle shell. From a dead turtle. The last time I found something dead in my path was a really horrible day that I don't want to go into. I had found a dead bird on my car and the rest of the day involved someone (not me) in jail and lots of drama that I didn't deserve.

So I'm home now, and I'm going to stay here. I was here all day waiting for a package that was supposed to be delivered but has not come yet. So there's another thing that isn't going my way.

So happy Monday everyone. Remember, you can't trust that day.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bowling Green and Battery Park

If you read yesterdays post about Bowling Green park, I said I would be going there today to remember the historical events that happened 234 years ago. I went, and sat there, among lots of tourists who had no way of knowing that today was important for any other reason than that they got to take a crowded boat to the Statue of Liberty. I tried to get into my "reflecting on historic moments" mindset, but it just wouldn't happen. During the day it is just too full of people and noise to really reflect on anything other than the fact that I really don't like tourists. I'm sure I would like them if they were in their own cities, but for the most part they have no idea that they are missing out on lots of interesting places and things that are right in front of them. To emphasize this, I took a picture:

In the foreground is one of my favorite things in NY, the fence surrounding Bowling Green. Like I said in my last post, it was installed in 1773. It is still there. But do the tourists find it at all interesting? I'm sure some do, but most of them want to look at the ugly bull statue as you can see by the group of people standing around it in the background. And it's amusing that there is a British flag flying alongside the American flag. Considering the reason I went there today was to remember when Washington's troops tore down a statue of the King of England.

Here are some other things that have changed. I posted this painting yesterday and took a picture today that is in the same place more or less. What a difference. I can't complain that it's different but it's interesting to see what has changed. Here is another one, which shows that most of Battery Park is landfill.

Herman Melville wrote of this area in Moby Dick;

"Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme down-town is the Battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there."
I looked at them. They were all waiting in lines for things. There was a man wearing an umbrella hat playing steel drums and another man holding a radio playing music and expecting tips. And hundreds of people selling photos of famous New York attractions, or caricatures or Jonas Brothers pictures. I sat and watched people until it got too hot and I went back to Bowling Green and sat in the shade for a while till it was time to go. I watched a whole group of tourists walk through the park, not even noticing the plaque out front telling about the fence and the park. They walked directly to the bull.

I could go on for days about comparing the bull to the statue of the King that was torn down 234 years ago today, and say things about the government and the economy but I already typed it all and read it and I sounded too preachy so I deleted it. You're welcome.

So I'll leave you all with a Melville fact. He worked at the Customs House for years, which is directly across from Bowling Green. I bet he used to sit there on his lunch break. Here is a picture of the building, which is now a Native American museum.
There were no stinky nerds wearing 18th century military dress. I was the only stinky nerd. I had a nice day walking around and I hope the next time I go there it will be 3 a.m. which is my favorite time to hang out in the financial district. Because I'm the only one there. And maybe some ghosts.

Happy July 9th everyone.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The History of Tomorrow

I am an over-zealous blogger today. But it's too hot to do anything else.

Tomorrow I'm going to take myself on a field trip to my favorite park. I'm going to sit in the park and think about history because I'm a nerd. Let me tell you why. (Why I'm going to the park, not why I'm a nerd. That's a secret.)

The park I'm going to is called Bowling Green. It's the oldest park in New York and probably the smallest. You may know it because it has that really ugly statue of the Wall Street Bull which I visited a while back at 3a.m. for a quick ride:

Here is some background on the park, with a little help from Wikipedia. It is the original site of the Dutch fort of New Amsterdam and it served as cattle market between 1638 and 1647 and parade ground. In 1675, the Common Council designated the "plaine afore the forte" for an annual market of "graine, cattle and other produce of the country". In 1677 the city's first public well was dug in front of the old fort at Bowling Green. In 1733, the Common Council leased a portion of the parade grounds to three prominent neighboring landlords for a peppercorn a year, upon their promise to create a park that would be "the delight of the Inhabitants of the City" and add to its "Beauty and Ornament"; the improvements were to include a "bowling green" with "walks therein". The surrounding streets were not paved with cobblestones until 1744.

I really like the part about how it was leased for a peppercorn a year. I'm guessing they really didn't need the peppercorn, it was more of a formality. Kind of like the commercials where they tell you to lease a car and only put a penny down.

Anyhoo, the park was the delight of the inhabitants of the city, where they would go and push hoops around with sticks and other early American forms of entertainment. Maybe some of them would sit in the park and drink their flagons of ale and view the 4,000 pound gilded lead statue of King George III which had been erected in August 1770.

People didn't like this statue very much. In 1773 the city had to pass anti-graffiti laws and installed a cast-iron fence, (which is still there today and my favorite part of the park.)

Then on July 9, 1776, after the Declaration of Independence was read to Washington's troops at the current site of City Hall, (which is about a 5-10 minute walk away) the local Sons of Liberty rushed down Broadway to Bowling Green, where they knocked over the statue. and ripped off the cast-iron crowns that topped sections of the surrounding fence as well. Here my friend Wiki helps me with the description.

According to folklore, the statue was chopped up and shipped to a Connecticut foundry to be made into 42,088 patriot bullets-at 20 bullets per pound (2,104.4 pounds). The statue's head was to have been paraded about town on pike-staffs-but was recovered by Loyalists and sent to England. Six pieces of the lead statue are preserved in the New-York Historical Society; one in the Museum of the City of New York as well as two in Connecticut (estimated total of 260/270 pounds); The event has been depicted over the years in several works of art, including an 1854 painting by William Walcutt and a 1859 painting by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel.

So tomorrow, July 9th 2010 I'm going to go sit in that park and think about what happened there 234 years ago. Surprisingly (or not?) the parks department has no event planned to commemorate this anniversary, which is apparently less important than events such as "Hip Hop Kids Secret Agent 23 Skidoo" (???) and Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre. If anyone reading this post would like to join me in my sitting and thinking about history, you're more than welcome. If my printer wasn't out of ink I was going to make little pamphlets to hand out so other people know why it's an important day.

I was wondering if anyone else would go there tomorrow because of the anniversary and I imagine that if anyone does, it will be really nerdy people dressed in 18th century military uniform and I will have to avoid them and their body odor. And whatever concoction of Old English and New York accent they come up with to sound "authentic" (which is always about as unauthentic as you can get if my experience of historic role-players serves me correctly.)

I'll post what happens tomorrow when I get home. Hopefully sans stinky nerds.

Why can't we all just get along?

I decided to check out meetup.com because I have no one to hang out with and I thought maybe I could find a group near me that would have some people with similar interests so I could make some friends. I hoped maybe there was something for people who liked nature, since we have a huge park here that is mostly woods, or maybe something for couples so Mike and I could make some new friends. Apparently not.

Now as you may know, I'm not racist. I don't care what race people are. If they act stupid it's not because of their race, it's because they are stupid. So don't get mad when you read me complaining about this.

I would say 80% of the meetup groups are for specific races only. I'm not just imagining that, because they have names like, "P.S. African- American & Latino Literati Salon", "MCCC - Married Christian Couples of Color", "Black,Thirty-Something, and Fabulous!", "The N.Y. People Of Color Genealogy Meetup Group", "Black Women of A Certain Age, NY Vicinity", "The African-American & Latino Literary Salon Meetup Group", "Arabs and Jews friendship", "BLACKANOMICS - NEW YORK", "New York City Brazilians and Brazilian Culture Meetup", "NYC Modern Orthodox Jewish Singles Club 30's-50's", "NYC Puerto Rican Culture", and on and on. A majority of the others are religious, which I guess is a little better because you choose what religion you are, so I could technically become Jewish and go to the Arabs and Jews friendship group. But I'm not going to.

So it got me thinking again, as I have in the past, about this phenomenon of every race except for white people being allowed to discriminate against other people. Usually white. And here is my point: If white people had groups named "White, Thirty-something and Fabulous!" we would get the crap beat out of us and be called white supremacists or Nazis. My favorite is "Whiteanomics - New York". What would that even mean? What does Blackanomics mean? Why are other races allowed to discriminate against white people? The first time I thought about this was while watching BET. Was I not supposed to be watching it? One may argue that every other channel is mostly white people, which is the case. I agree that there aren't really too many people on TV who aren't white. But it's not because white people don't want them to be. What would happen if white people made a channel only showing shows made by white people, with white actors, and wouldn't let anyone else on the shows? Again, they would be criticized or worse. Whats with this deliberate segregation? For so long, people of different races and colors wanted to be equal. And now that we all have the same rights, we have started separating ourselves, but in a different way.

If we are not supposed to discriminate against people, why are people still doing it? In this case that I'm bringing up, it's reversed, and I'm glad that we can all use the same drinking fountains and doors and bathrooms and go to the same schools. I have never even thought about race as much as I have since looking at these meetup groups. It bothers me that I am. I just don't understand why, a girl such as myself who would enjoy the company of these 30 something and fabulous women, would not be allowed to because of my skin color. Maybe they're just stickin' it to me. I certainly wouldn't join a group that only allowed white people.

I do understand that there is still discrimination in many areas of the United States and that is sad. But this is New York. Probably the most diverse city in the United States, if not the world. Everyone who came here is from somewhere else. Here are the stats:

White (non-Hispanic) 35%

Black 28%
Hispanic (any race) 27%
Asian 10%

As compared to the entire U.S:

White (non-Hispanic) 67%

Black 12%
Hispanic (any race) 11%
Asian 4%

If there is any city where people are equal, it should be New York. Our percentages are very close, and out living proximity is even closer. I'm pretty sure in my building alone there are people from at least 10 different countries, probably more.

Where am I going with this? Don't ask me. It's kind of a question that can't be answered. Not by me at least. I don't know why it's OK for anyone to discriminate against anyone else. White against Black, Black against White against Hispanic against Jewish against Arab etc. Whats the point? Let me and Wikipedia break it down for you into some bad-ass science:

In humans, melanin is the primary determinant of human skin color and also found in hair, the pigmented tissue underlying the iris, the medulla and zona reticularis of the adrenal gland, the stria vascularis of the inner ear, and in pigment-bearing neurons within areas of the brain stem, such as the locus coeruleus and the substantia nigra.

Dermal melanin is produced by melanocytes, which are found in the stratum basale of the epidermis. Although human beings generally possess a similar concentration of melanocytes in their skin, the melanocytes in some individuals and ethnic groups more frequently or less frequently express the melanin-producing genes, thereby conferring a greater or lesser concentration of skin melanin.

And that is how it all began. Sure, we're from different parts of the world and we all have different ways of doing things, different music, dancing, holidays, religions, and beliefs. But that's just because people are different. When we all began our long journey from what is now Eastern Africa, we all looked the same. Hairy and naked. It was only because of our environments that our skin colors changed, but as the groups separated, so did their beliefs and ways of doing things. I know this is a very simple explanation of millions of years, and that there is no way of ever fully understanding another person even if you accept them completely.
If we can't get along completely, here is what I propose: You know how some very well known black comedians make fun of white people? I think that is hilarious. We are a pretty ridiculous group of people. We take ourselves too seriously. We never really let loose. We can't dance very well. We're awkward. These comedians also make fun of black people. They make fun of everyone indiscriminately. I say, instead of everyone inwardly thinking about the things they don't like about other people, why don't we just make fun of them in a friendly joking manner? If you can laugh at yourself, this could be a great way to make new friends and not worry about offending anyone. I'm not a fan of political correctness. It makes for lame conversation, not very funny jokes, and a lot of inhibited feelings that could otherwise be brought out and resolved. I propose that we all start making fun of each other. Why not?

Seeing as I've already gone on way too long about this, I'll leave you with a picture that will remind everyone that we're all ridiculous and there's nothing wrong with laughing at yourself or anyone else who does something funny. Even if they're making fun of how you talk or what you look like.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lessons of Literature

After living in Tucson for so long, living in New York is like being thrown into some strange carnival with different food smells, different music, and lots of strange people walking around. I like to watch people and I got to do a lot of that over the last week. I was also reading Herman Melville's biography because I'm a little obsessed with him and I had lots of time on the train to lose myself in words and personal reflection. There was one part that really struck me. It was about Ishmael meeting his soon-to-be best pal, till death do they part, and I had been thinking about how we perceive other people and how they might see us. When Ishmael first meets Queequeg, he is shocked by his appearance. Face tattoos have and always will be something I think of when questioning the character of a person. In Queequegs case, it was a custom of his tribe and not some idiotic youth fuelled rebellion against parents who hate face tattoos. Ishmael at first is afraid of him because of the strange rituals he has, and the ways in which he does things that are not the way ol' Ishy would do them. Of course, we are all human (maybe) so there is always something we have in common, but initially I tend to be wary of anyone I don't know or anyone whose character seems superior or assholey. Or has face tattoos.

In my own recent experience with other cultures that I have not been familiarized with, I've noticed a strange phenomenon among older Chinese men. I was in chinatown for 40 hours last week staring out a window. Sometimes I would stand outside. In those few minutes I would spend outside, countless older Chinese men would blatantly stare at me, even keeping their head turned toward me once they had passed. And this wasn't a "check-out". It was like they were sending me evil eyeball rays of hatred. Had I offended them in some way? I was dressed in business attire, so it couldn't have been my clothes. Did they think I was one of the young Americans living in the overpriced luxury apartment building towering over their neighborhood? I don't know. I wouldn't blame them for not wanting their neighborhood becoming something other than it is. But I didn't quite understand the evil death ray eyes. And as strange as it is, I don't have any friends from farther east than Moscow so I can't ask what I did wrong.

Melville comparison:
Fortunately for Ishy, Queequeg is a very nice guy. They have to sleep in the same bed so it's a good thing. One part of Moby Dick that really made me think was when Qq and Ishy are sitting by the fire, and they have been in each others company for only about a day, this happens:

"If there yet lurked any ice of indifference towards me in the Pagan's breast, this pleasant, genial smoke we had, soon thawed it out, and left us cronies. He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and unbiddenly as I to him; and when out smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married; meaning, in his country's phrase, that we were bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need should be. In a countryman, this sudden flame of friendship would have seemed far too premature, a thing to be much distrusted; but in this simple savage those old rules would not apply."
It made me wish that people were less what we have become. We don't trust anyone, and to die for someone would be out of the question. It's hard to make friends, especially ones you can trust, who would help you even if it was inconvenient for them. Those who would are friends who have been around for years, not only a few days.

There is nothing I can do to make people change, but if everyone would care about their fellow humans to even a tiny degree, the world would be better. I'm not trying to be miss America with some world peace crap. I just wish that more people would consider other people when doing the things they do.

I guess I will never know why people in chinatown stare at me or why people in my neighborhood want to steal my wallet, but I know that when I get the chance, I always treat people with respect. I smile at people who look at me, and give leftovers to homeless people who would probably rather I give them beer. And I've done that too. I'm too nice. But, if I want people to treat each other well, I have to make an example. So I will continue to care about people. Let's all take an example from Qq and be friends with people. Just don't get any face tattoos.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quiet and why I currently appreciate it.

It is very quiet right now. I don't think I have ever appreciated the quiet as much as I do since moving to NY. Quiet in Tucson was still just a little noisy, especially where I lived, right next to a train track. I don't mind train noise though, but here there is noise. Noise you wouldn't believe. Since spending a few days in the ol' Manhattan I've had noise overload without even noticing it. Mostly honking, yelling, cars, sirens, kids screaming, etc. It makes me glad for once that I live up here, at the very end of the city. It's loud during the day, but at night it's quiet. There aren't any drunk young people yelling because young people who move to NY don't move to the Bronx. That's cool with me.

I've been working at the front desk of an upscale apartment building in Chinatown that is mostly filled with people my age. The men wear suits and the women look like they want to be models but I'm pretty sure their dads pay their rent. They can't be models. Some of the people are really nice. One couple just moved in today and brought me a cupcake because I was nice to them. Isn't that my job? Well, I was nicer to them than the fake models. The fake models treat me like some kind of lower life form so I treat them like what they are. Fake models. I let them think I'm dumb and they're in charge. It feels good to know that my apartment is five times larger than theirs and we pay five times less. I don't really care about their apartment, but I like to think about things I would tell them if I weren't being payed to be nice to them. I try to make small talk with them and I don't know if they think they're too good to talk to me, or if they don't understand what I'm saying. Maybe their over-priced clothing has some kind of intelligence deterrent.

The connection between these things is that I'm really glad to not have to listen to anything or smile at people who think they are better than me. I like the quiet. It's really nice to enjoy it after hours of hearing people thank me for pushing a button to let them into their own apartment building. Apparently people who pay for over-priced apartments don't know how to use keys. If they want to get in the front door and I'm not there, they have a little thing they wave in front of the lock that unlocks it. Keys are so 2009.

So I'm going to go to bed since it's 2 a.m. and enjoy the quiet. I've got a lot of things I want to write about but they'll have to wait till I'm not tired.
This is how I have to act at work.