Saturday, February 28, 2009

Craving: Zingerman's Hot Cocoa coffeecake. Not sure why, except chocklit is key.

Not probably going to listen to: Il Trovatore (on today). No anvil ear worms.

Intense love and satisfaction: the Pittsfield Cafe at 55 E. Washington. Bloody brill.
I can't get the Brady Bunch song "Good Time Music" out of my head. It gets really bad when you hit the "reLAX [horrible down beat] posiTIVely" line.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Let me correct that. Getting addicted to 30 Rock. Totally fun. I'm new to the modern method of watching TV shows in whole series' chunks through DVDs/Netflix, but...yay. Instant grat.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

God, I love Dawn French! She just makes me laugh. This is her doing Catherine (Spartacus) Zeta (Douglas) Jones' regal "Christmas Message" and as Madonna reading from her English Roses books, a bit that contains my favorite new phrase ("vixen toilet parts").

Sunday, February 15, 2009

(Totally true) cliche of the day: growing old isn't for wimps. I am wondering where Katherine Helmond got those big binder clips in Brazil. Wait--older. Not old. Older!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Is it possible to overmarinate flank steak? It turns out yes (a day would have been good, not two.) Also a problem: a stove with burners that have minds of their own (several settings do not work...makes it interesting)--I could have used the broiler, but I just didn't feel like heating the whole kitchen. Also probably not the best choice: the wine in the marinade. Also not so good: using a serrated knife, not a plain-edged one, at first while cutting meat. Regardless: totally delicious.

Flank Steak à la It Works Out Fine
Put flank steak in a bag with: coriander seed, oregano, s&p, honey, Sauvingon Blanc, four small organic lemons and their juice, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, Worchestershire sauce, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, ten garlic cloves cut in half, strong sorta whole grain mustard, onion powder...err...other stuff. Marinate until you're like...damn; gotta cook that flank steak (at least a day). Take out of fridge to warm up and heat a serious pan for a long time in the interim on low, or heat broiler. Pat meat dry, cook for 5-6 minutes each side on very high heat, then let rest, covered, for at least 10-15 min. Internal temp is supposed to be 160 I think, but I dunno, it never seems to quite get there, so I always have a moment of worry before I'm like...I want my medium rare, forget it, it's comin off. Slice thinly against the grain when ready and eat it with your fingers over the cutting board and make sure you have a way to sop up any juices, although if you let it rest well you won't have much.

ADDENDUM: Leftovers are epic dipped in a little mayo/grainy mustard.

sexism amongst mammals

I, like many, have become completely enamored of the weepy tale of Sam, a female koala who was rescued in the Australian wildfires. If you haven't heard about it, she was found with scorched paws by a firefighter who offered her water--she apparently drank three bottles!--and has become something of a symbol of hope in the midst of all that tragedy through the photo (left) that quickly became famous. Sam is now in a rehab facility and...has a boyfriend, Bob, another injured koala at the wildlife shelter. The thing that's killin me? The headlines about it. Most of them today read: "SAM THE KOALA HEALING WELL THANKS TO BOYFRIEND BOB." That's all very sentimental and avuncular, and I know a nice new boyfriend can cure many ills, and granted they're saying "healing" not "rescued," but isn't Sam the koala healing well thanks to her own tenacity and willingness to approach the firefighter? I'm a big fan of anthropomorphization, but this stuck in my craw just a tiny a bit. Although really I don't care as long as we keep talking about/showing photos of heroic koala bears (the article is well worth reading too). Right is a photo of Sam and Bob at the shelter (notice his suave Fonzie move).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New lows in cell phone behavior:
Dude sitting near me at a cafe today. A casual sort of cafe, granted, at which you fetch your own water and such, but a cafe nonetheless. There are tables, there are chairs, people eat at them. Food is brought. This guy....was on his cell phone, but instead of just the usual loud barking on the cell phone problem, he was actually--barking loudly on this cell phone but also--walking the aisles between tables, hands on hips. Like...it's 1984 at the bullpen at Goldman Sachs and he's trying to get Gordon Gekko to buy. Pacing. Yelling at times. Passing by high chairs with noshing babies and arguing into his phone. As if the cafe were his office. I couldn't believe how rude it felt. I indulged in passive-aggressive--yet effective!--glaring and shocked head turns. Probably just as obnoxious, but I had a hard time controlling myself. It felt like a new low; had I been the manager I would have asked him to take it outside. He eventually quieted down a bit and sat down, but it goes without saying he was on the phone during my entire meal. GodDANG, the restaurant (movie theater/transit system/whatever) I'm going to have someday is going to be run like a freakin ship. Tithing poles and ruthless smashings for malefactors.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Much cooking, but not particularly interesting these days. Mostly variations on high-protein Sludge! Such as tonight's, which was very good, just, you know...sludgey: Brown organic ground beef; add spices and herbs and fry with it, then add a big glug of pinot noir, Worchestershire, tomato paste...lots of flavorings (too much for the meat). Add 2 c. of quinoa (about $300 street value), 4 c. of chicken stock, bring to a boil, drop some fresh herbs on the top, turn to simmer and cook, fluff, take off the herbs (I used rosemary and thyme), let sit, fluff again. Really good! Very...unattractive. Good with sour cream. Sort of your basic sludgey pilaf. Have made it also with piles of aromatics (onion, garlic, celery, etc.).

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Someday soon, very very soon, when I accept my honorary PhD in Stingy and Fair-Weather Philanthropy from my alma mater for being really rich and famous in whatever it is that will get me there, although in the speech introducing me it will be clear the degree is really for conforming to every lame stereotype of my generation as I did it, I am going to get up in front of all of those--at that point--absurdly entitled children whose parents all had Campbell's stock or government jobs or owned McDonald'ses during the Great Depression of 2009--and say that all I have thought about since I graduated was laundry. Oh, and TV. There will be nervous laughter, uncomfortable twitters...an upset "hey!". But those who know...will know. After that I will launch into a long, digressive speech of occasional merit regarding the state of air conditioning that day, the campus' lack of ADA compliance, why Timothy Black (names changed) didn't have the hots for me freshman year, how I wish Frida's haircolor could have settled down during ABBA, hey how about when Clinton was here that one time, do you guys still have those chicken sammchs? but that will be my big point. It's all about laundry.
Etta James can say anything she wants to about Bey*nce. That's fine. Even if it's not quite nice or merited or whatever--fine. Especially about "At Last," because she is right--the way that people sing that song now is a variation on James' own version of it, not the song itself. It's like the "House Is Not a Home"/Luther phenom--now when people sing it, they are singing his version, which is I guess really half his and half Warwick's*, but still, he doesn't usually get the credit.

Plus, I don't really care how cookie-cutter, pro-forma, cultural grouchy pants this sounds, but bloody hell...ETTA JAMES ACTUALLY SINGS. She broke the singing ground in question. She sings with more real rebellion, sass, sex, fuck-you, raw pain, humor, personality, verve, talent, vocal agility, vulnerability...eh, I don't know now to say it in a way that's convincing. It just sounds stuffy. The more intense rokkritik adjectives you throw at it, the more meaningless the whole thing sounds. But if nothing else...for every second of attention James is getting now we've been forced to cough up hours of attention on, er, the other, and why is that always how it works? so fine. She deserves the attention. Plus, James is really funny. She's already apologized in a funny way, but I honestly wouldn't care if she chose to put her in her place even more. Plus? I have a little fat-girl anger for James in the mix about this, and that's fine. She is the one who got put on TV wearing hip-length wool sweaters over her dresses in the 60s even as she put her stamp all over American music...

(*Worth watching? Luther's version sung to Dionne Warwick at the NAACP Image Awards in 1980-something, laying it at her feet as Dionne accepts it in a NE PLUS ULTRA queen-bee gracious and completely fierce/ferocious fashion with demure little smiles and tears and hands in the air...it's a performance. I've mentioned this link before, but it really is cool. Total tableau of gay cultural obesiance. Plus it is exciting to see his version as it begins blow up.)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Do you think you can get on Intervention for laundry issues? (We will always love you, but we are not willing to watch you kill yourself with a pile of dirty laundry...)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Great pleasure: hot pomegranate tea with lemon and demerara sugar, served in a big robin's egg blue cup and saucer, and to stir a silver SOUTH DAKOTA spoon embossed with cattle and flowers and birds and scenes of industry.
I'm not a wholesale Skip Gates fan, but I must admit to being as all-agog watching African American Lives 2 as I was the first series. It falls right into a net of completely fascinating topics: genealogy (which I really love), identity, race, background, record-keeping, hidden stories and history...there's even a strong element of People mag in the whole thing, given the celebrities Gates focuses on. An odd This Is Your Life quality. Although I also think choosing famous people has a point. It would be valid with any famous person, in a way, but especially within a group of people whose ancestors weren't generally found worth of record-keeping at all in this country. I love watching it...I also love that you just never know what's waiting in a family tree--in any direction. That DNA can't lie. This episode focused a bit on people who passed, such as Anatole Br*yard. It made me think about my Jewish grandfather, who in a similar way thought he was cutting something off when he converted/passed/etc., when all it did in the end was raise questions.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What ABBA Really Looks Like

Dork factor is really high...you might want to get out your cheese-reducing blogger spex.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Monday clean-up

* Newflash: That's twice, now, in the space of a week, that I've actively disagreed with/been annoyed by the New Yorker. First, their idiotic Limning the Fissures epitaph, and now with their re-look at How to Cook a Wolf, which I had already written about last month in this blog entry in the same reviewing spirit (new austerity regime). I made a particular point to complain about Fisher's commentary....they choose to call it "delicious." Seriously...delicious?

* I made up for whatever lack of testosterone I displayed yesterday notwatchingsooperbowl by watching some of the Sopranos marathon on A&E. But mostly I was...cooking! Two solid weeks of squinting at the news since the last time I bought groceries has me on a newly ferocious Hints from Heloise tear about stretching every little bit out of every little bit. Great plans (even with a wonky stove) for flank steak and pasta e fagioli and anything else involving a can of beans. Last night's success? Sloppy joes. They turned out really well: faked out a standard sauce w/ brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, tomato, garlic, onion, etc...served it on buns with white cheddar. And strawberries for dessert, which for some reason (Feb?) were incredibly good. Actually, now that I think of it I don't know that anything could have been more sooperbowly unless I had actually made the sloppy joes with little pimento decorations and football flags on 'em or something. V. yummy, tho.

* A very interesting cinematic double-feature this weekend, between the two of which I am tempted to draw connections just because...you can. You could. One might. I don't think I'd seen Pink Flamingos since college. Er, House Bunny...I hadn't seen yet, but had wanted to, partly due to a semi-embarrassin' but deep commitment to the G*rls Next Door. Also just cause I wanted to. They were interesting stuck next to each other, no way around it. Mostly because they fit okay. Both of them are just thrown at you. Waters flings his movie at you (comme poo!), daring you to have a reaction. HB is flung in a big pile of cliches and set pieces and scenes and premises. If I had to guess ahead of time what they had in common, I probably would have been right; i.e., HB is an inheritor of--borrows--weirdness (PF) for frosting, for gloss (but is a flipped version of PF culturally). For sexy contrast. For an easy goose. I can't handle Pink Flamingos, by the way. That doesn't mean I don't like John Waters or even that movie itself, but it tries to shock and it does. It's totally disgusting. That's just fine all the way around, though. He's trying to shock, yes? I always figured he was just laughing and laughing at the people trying to be so cool nothing in the movie shocks them even as they were totally nauseous. Divine was such a star, that was really the best part. One of the best voices, ever.

* I don't think I have a better consumer-based relationship than the one I have with my cell phone provider. Why must everything else be so fraught? It's strange in a way, because I don't use my phone that often, although I guess that's part of it. But I wish everything was like this. I pay $100, get 1,000 minutes for the year. No bills, no monthly gouging, no rates based on usage. No junk mail, no solicitations, no pushes for upgrading. I just use the minutes as I go. I can use just a couple one month, and a lot the next and it doesn't matter. Minutes roll over after a year. I can use them anywhere in US. I'm not actually sure the phone co. even has my address--I did everything at the store when I signed up. All this leaving me alone is making me as fiercely loyal a customer as any advertising mascot ever did.

* I indulged in a little satisfyin fussy housekeeping recently and outfitted my sewing kit! I bought this old-fashioned sewing chest second-hand, put in my little collection of dog-eared and random supplies and decided it was finally time to buy things I needed like...a thimble. A seam ripper. I also got sturdy elastic thread (black and white), a magnetic pin cushion, some decent-sized safety pins, a piece of tailor's chalk, a new measuring tape that's actually big enough for my hips, a few other things like that. What they call "notions." Incredibly satisfying, cheap, and will hopefully help me with keeping clothes mended, mending being one of my actual housekeeping likes. I like the quiet, sitting-in-armchair feeling of getting something fixed. Plus, you know...I'm fuckin broke. Gotta fix stuff. Isn't the chest cute?


* I have now made my fifth? sixth? try at Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time. I just can't get it started. Ever. Am I going to be one of those people who never reads it? It doesn't help that I have very glum editions that I'm trying to engage in. The covers (they are cheap paperbacks) are so bad I actually tore them off, a long time ago. They had daisies and bad drippy font choices--they looked like a 70s tampon ad or Judy Blume's Forever. Couldn't have been more off. So I'm left with these sad little fallin-apart paperbacks that I take out every few years and hope will be my gateway drug into all however-many volumes of the series, but it just never hooks me in. I've had them since college, when my dad gave them to me. I have to be honest...I find the books sort of impenetrably wordy, especially for ones that should be pullin me in for yards and years of narrative goss. Maybe when I'm older (wait, I already am). Hm.

* For those of y'all waitin for a resolution of the great Vanilla Issue, check out the latest Cooks Illus.