Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dear Elitist Snob Cosplay Enthusiasts…

A few days ago, I read this article on BuzzFeed, about a young woman who knows virtually nothing about such things being walked around New York Comic Con and asked to name various characters that were being depicted with varying degrees of accuracy and success.

Her answers were all hilariously, good-spiritedly, entirely wrong.  Which is cool.  If it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing.  But she was a good sport about it.

The same, however, can’t be said for the commenters on the article who called her “uneducated”, asked if she’d been living under a rock, wondered if she’d ever had a childhood, all sorts of variations on that same assholic theme.

What bothers me the most about that reaction is that the cosplayers I know, the ones who actually make the costumes and post the photos and bring the characters to life for these conventions, would never react that way to this young woman’s ignorance of their craft.  Granted, I don’t know every cosplayer in the world, but the ones I do know are genuinely nice, friendly, helpful, supportive people who get that their thing isn’t everyone’s thing.

So, because I’m fighting a cold and it’s making me grumpy and considerably less forgiving than usual, I’m issuing a little challenge to the judgmental elitist cosplay fans who are convinced that lack of knowledge of their particular interest makes someone a complete moron.

The following are photos of women who will be immediately recognizable to most pinup & burlesque enthusiasts.  Can you name them all?  Can you?  CAN YOU?!
















WTF really?  You can’t?  Is it because you’re an uneducated rock-under-dwelling Amish who never had an adolescence?

Or is it maybe just because this isn’t your thing, and that’s perfectly okay?


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Tits Aren’t Your Husband’s Problem

A few days ago, this article showed up in a Facebook friend’s newsfeed.

Go ahead and give it a read, we’ll wait.


Back?  Okay then.  We’ll begin at the beginning, and go on ‘til we come to the end, then stop.

First off, “I can’t believe I used the word boobs in the title of this post”?  Yes, you can.  You can believe it quite easily and completely because it was a deliberate attempt to drive traffic to your blog.  I know this because it’s the same reason I used the word “tits” in the title of my blog post.  The Internet has scienced this thoroughly and concluded that posts with titles that contain any alternate word for “breasts” receive approximately 317% more views than all other posts.  You know that as well as I do, so please stop dissimulating like a nine-year-old who just dropped her first f-bomb on the playground.  We don’t write blog posts so no one will read them.  Own your words.  Oh, and FYI, “boobs” in that context belongs in quotes, not italics.

Second, stretch khakis should not be a sin.  I don’t know about your ass, but mine is pretty big.  I need stretch pants.  They are the only pants that fit me properly and still allow me to move.  And “hot” never needs to be spelled with a double T.  In any context.  Ever.

But enough with the nitpickery, and on to the real topic at hand.

Your first concern is whether or not your husband is looking at the bodies of other women.  Well, allow me to put that concern to rest for good and all by assuring you that yes, he absolutely is.

Your next concern is whether or not he is sometimes comparing you to these other women, and I can give you the same assurance.  Yes, he absolutely is.

Now, before anyone goes too far down the “holy shitstacks what a heartless twat throwing this woman’s insecurities back in her face like that I’m not reading any more of this cruel fuckery” path, please read just a bit more to see if I can’t redeem myself by letting you in on a little secret.

You know who else is looking at other women, and even occasionally comparing his life partner to them?  Brad Pitt.

Yes.  Not even Angelina Jolie, arguably one of the most beautiful creatures the universe has ever seen fit to create, is an exception to this very simple rule.  The rule is, everybody looks.  Which, by the way, also means that Brad Pitt isn’t an exception either, because Angelina Jolie is looking too.

Everybody looks.  So when you make statements like “my husband was in solitary confinement from social media for two days to protect his eyes and heart” what you’re really saying is “my husband took drastic action in the hope of making me believe something completely unrealistic, which is that he would never ever as long as we both shall live ever look at another woman with anything even vaguely resembling a lustful thought in his head”.  Which is, in a word, bullshit.

You say you’re “fighting for your marriage”.  May I suggest, as one human being to another, that you fight for a marriage built on realism and truth rather than escapist techniques and impossibilities?

My guy and I have been together for going on seven years now.  He looks at photographs of beautiful women all the time.  Of course, part of that is because he’s a photographer, but while he could just as easily pick up lighting ideas and various other stylistic whatnotteries from photos of things other than beautiful women, most of the time he doesn’t.  Because in addition to being a photographer, he’s a guy who likes looking at beautiful women.

Women who are a lot younger than my 44 years.  Women who are a lot more boobacious than my B cup.  Women who are a lot taller than my 5’ 3”, and a lot blonder and a lot less asstastic and and and and and.  I could go on for a day and a half about all the things I’m not and still not finish the list.  But what I am is the woman he comes home to every day, and falls asleep next to every night.

And would I be surprised if someone told me he was cheating?  No.

I would be shocked.  And demand proof of his supposed crimes against our relationship.  And if you showed me a picture of him shirtless on a bed with a naked woman, and he said “oh yeah, that was a light check, the stand-in flaked” I would accept that without question.  You show me photographic evidence of actual intromission, and I will have questions.  Until then, I trust two things; he’s going to look, and he’s not going to act.

And so am I.

And that is how things work in the real world.

Your husband is going to look at other women, he is sometimes going to compare you to other women, and he is sometimes even going to think about other women while he’s having sex with you.  That’s just how it is.  The difference between a healthy relationship and one that you should probably get the hell out of immediately is that he is occasionally thinking about other women while he’s with you, rather than occasionally thinking about you while he’s with other women.

And you’re going to do the same.  I already know that you, as someone who feigned shock at her own use of the word “boobs” in a post title, will deny this up to and with your dying breath, but you’re not fooling anyone.  But you know what?  Fooling other people isn’t anything you should be worried about.  Fooling yourself, on the other hand, that’s where you start to have a problem.

Oh, and please don’t call me “love” unless you actually know me, or you’re from somewhere in the UK and have the accent to back it up.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Domestic Sluttery: Improv Apricot & I’m-Going-To-Hell Tagine

Among myriad other things I am well aware I should and should not do, I have a terrible horrible no good very bad habit of using pork in recipes that really should not include pork.  I could say it’s not really my fault that the flavor profiles of a lot of these recipes lend themselves spectacularly well to the inclusion of pork.  I could say that Costco tempts me mercilessly with their high-quality low-priced bulk trays of country-style ribs* which freeze beautifully and are an absolute treasure in slow-cooked dishes.  I could say a lot of things.  All of which are to say, yeah, pretty sure I’m going to hell.

Having accepted this eventual doom and the freedom to be found therein, I decided to make Domestic Sluttery’s Slow Cooked Chicken & Apricot Tagine with a couple of big chunks of pork shoulder.

The sweet spicy rich delectable damnation that followed is well worth any pesky eternal hellfire, I assure you.

I made a ton of changes to this recipe, starting with not using my slow cooker** and opting for a stovetop preparation, which worked quite well and had the added benefit of making the whole house smell a lot more delicious than it would have had all this yum been relegated to the sealed confines of a crock pot.

I didn’t have any squash handy (hurry UP already, garden) so I increased the pepper from one red to a whole bunch, i.e. all that were left in the bag from the previous week’s Costco excursion because it was Friday and that’s what I do on Fridays.

I also didn’t have celery, which I don’t keep in the house because I have a mild sensitivity to it, so I substituted celery salt for regular, and the harrisa paste was swapped for half a teaspoon of crushed red pepper in canola oil.

I left my dried apricots whole because I love big chunky stews, and in lieu of the sliced almonds the original recipe suggested be sprinkled over the finished dish at serving, I threw in a cup of whole almonds.  They cooked down to just soft enough to not be annoying but still crunchy enough to add textural wow.

All of this was put in a stew pot, with an extra tomato-canful of water to compensate for stovetop vs. crock pot cooking, and left to become magical.

Which it did.

I intended to make chapati to go with this*** but ever since my excursion at the beginning of the week into the wonderful realm of cooking spaghetti in wine, I have been haunted by the question, “What other starches can I cook in what other alcohol?”  The answer that came to me was, “I can cook brown rice in brandy”.

And by “can” I mean “should”.

And by “I” I mean “everyone”.

I started small since I had no real idea how this would work, just a few tablespoons of brandy in the cooking water with a good dash of salt.  The result was the rice having a nice little bite to it, which was needed to balance the richness of all the pork and apricots and almonds.  Next time, there will be more brandy.****

Unlike the labels of most packaged foods which seem to be written by people who have never actually eaten, this recipe is not kidding when it says it serves 4.  Which comes in really handy on Sunday night, when a weekend of manual labor started at 7:00 on Saturday morning and you barely had the mental acuity necessary to order a pizza online Saturday night and knew you couldn’t get away with that two nights in a row but by the time another dinner was required you would happily have just thrown yourself to a pack of rabid wolves rather than have to figure out and prepare another meal, just throw the leftovers in the microwave and slice some bread to go with it.  Super delish and requiring no significant brain power.

*Which actually aren’t ribs at all, unless they’re farming some bizarre mutant pigs with really oddly-shaped rib cages that finish in their shoulders, which I doubt.  Or which could explain the consistently low prices.  I think I’m going to not think about that anymore now, just in case.

**I was going to use my slow cooker.  But it’s been so long that when I took it out of the cupboard and tried to remember how to take it apart to wash it, I… couldn’t.  It’s either fused permanently as revenge for my neglect, or I’m dumb.  We’ll call that another thing I’m not going to think about anymore now.

***Chapati is my new favorite thing.  It’s naan for people who are too lazy to make naan.  Things for people who are too lazy to make other things very often become my favorite things.

****If this makes no sense to you, I am now sad for your childhood.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Domestic Sluttery: Improv Creamy Seafood Curry

Shortly after my 40th birthday, shrimp got together and decided to exact their revenge for my lifelong love of Sizzler All-I-Could-Eat sprees by making it so that if I ever ate another one of them, I would die a fairly quick but nonetheless quite uncomfortable death.

It’s okay, shrimp.  I forgive you.  If somebody ate a few thousand of my cousins, I’d probably go a little Carrie on their ass, too.

Now my go-to seafood is tilapia, which is inexpensive, not destroying the planet, and worked really nicely when recreating Domestic Sluttery’s Creamy Seafood Curry.

This was actually the first recipe I grabbed when I decided to do this weeklong tribute to DS, for a number of reasons.  I love curries.  I love seafood.  I love recipes that call for an entire can of coconut milk and half the contents of my spice rack.

And for bonus points, I had a bunch of rainbow chard in the garden that really needed to be harvested and consumed ASAP, so this dish was pretty much perfect on every possible level*

First year growing chard,
happy times :)

I actually had most of the exact ingredients this recipe called for, so my improv was slight.  The only things I had to alter were ground mustard in place of the mustard seeds, and chili paste in place of the chopped chilies**.

Stages of Awesome

This dish is seriously fantastic, the keys to which are the coconut milk and spices with the rest being open to pretty fluid interpretation, so in the future I will be making versions of it that include:

1- Tofu in place of the fish
2- Courgettes***
3- Salmon
4- More spinach
5- All the spinach
6- The use of a larger pan****

On the menu tonight: Apricot & I’m-Going-To-Hell Tagine  

*However, DS, you should know that I take ingredient listings like “all the tasty veg you fancy” as a personal challenge.  Do not tell me all the veg.  You will get all the veg.


**A lot of chili paste.  What some might call inordinate amounts of chili paste.  Again, DS, “add more chili if you fancy it” will be taken as a personal challenge around here.

***Now that I know what the shit they are, and when the ones in my garden are ready to be harvested

****The recipe says it will serve 2 very hungry Christmas mourners with some lunch leftovers.  In our house, it served 2 very hungry Stanley Cup Playoff mourners with some sauce left in the bottom of the pan.  But even The Big Pan wasn’t quite big enough.  Or maybe I was just uncoordinated in my sorrow and not stirring things as neatly as I could have.  Either way, I’ll use a bigger pan next time.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Domestic Sluttery: Improv Breton Chicken

Before I even start talking about food, let me just say my boys were knocked out of the playoffs last night so I’m not in the best of moods right now.

However, the food was good even if the hockey was not* so I’ll try to keep my focus on that.

After two days of fairly big heavy meals, I wanted something at least a bit lighter, and after the temperature decided to take a 20 degree jump between Tuesday and Wednesday, I definitely needed to incorporate as much cold as possible.  But I also really really really wanted to try Domestic Sluttery’s Breton Chicken recipe.

In cooler times, I will revert to my 70’s roots and use it as the basis for a biscuit-topped casserole** but when the temperature is still pushing 100 at 6 o’clock, other measures are called for.

Those measures were not cooking anything other than the chicken, and consuming a lot of very cold wine along with it.  Fat Louis White***, to be exact, in keeping with the whole geographic theme of the meal.  They put the Eiffel Tower right on the label, so you know it’s the real deal.

I wish I could have photographed this smell,
it was basically all the joy of all the lands

I only made minor alterations to this recipe, replacing the pancetta with turkey bacon****, using dried shallots in place of the leek I didn’t have in the house, and using almond milk in place of dairy, which I do in just about everything.

My poor tarragon is not doing well this season :(
but we got through one more meal together

I also may have made another alteration, I’m not sure.  The recipe calls for “English mustard pepper”.  I have no idea if that’s a specific thing, since Google failed me this time*****, or if “pepper” was supposed to be listed separately, or what.  So in context, I decided to go with my old standby of French’s, which is my secret weapon in mac & cheese and had the added benefit of totally furthering our geographic meal consistency.  I like cheap sharp mustard in cooking because it’s ballsier than its higher-quality counterparts, particularly in rich heavy dishes like this one promised to be, and it also balances the slight sweetness that stems from using almond milk in the place of dairy, which is almost always a companion ingredient.  And it worked really well here.

The Dynamic Duo

The Domestic Sluttery serving suggestions for this dish are over rice, with bread, or in a pie.  I will do all of those things in the future, I assure you.  For last night, I stuck with just the bread suggestion, sourdough sliced thin, with tomatoes also sliced thin and lightly salted, some fresh spinach, and a lot of grapes, creating a grab-dunk-wrap picnic-y sort of meal.

As delicious as this chicken is on a slice of bread, it is a whole other sort of amazing when you put a blob of it on a slice of tomato and cram the whole thing in your face.  With the added benefit of limiting the amount of time your neighbors have to spend listening to you yelling at the refs as they hand the series to L.A.******

But I digress.

On the menu tonight: Creamy Seafood Curry

*I blame Darryl Sutter’s evil yellow tie.  I like the guy, but that tie seriously needs to inadvertently on purpose die in a fire forever.

**Anything we didn’t top with biscuits, we put in Jell-O molds.  The 70’s were as fantastic for great bad food as the 80’s were for great bad music.

***Another of my recent Big Lots finds at $7 a bottle

****It’s a pretty sure bet at this point that if any recipe ever calls for pancetta, I will be using turkey bacon.

*****But thanks again for the “courgette” thing, because that was really bugging me


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Domestic Sluttery: Improv Bang Bang Chicken of the Sea

As mentioned in the DSIW intro post, I go to Costco once a week.  That trip is made on Sunday mornings, with my mom, and we have a wonderful mother-daughter bonding time involving the ogling of many baked goods*, the use of much profanity, and the reinforcement of our shared opinion that Californians seriously do not know how the fuck to drive**.

I am all about buying meat and fish in bulk then freezing it in single-meal portions; it’s cheaper, it cuts down on the number of times I have to go to the store, it reduces the amount of packaging involved in my meat & fish consumption, it’s just a win-win-win.  Win.  I’m not even sure how many.  There’s a lot of win involved.

And while that works perfectly well for a lot of things, it does not work for tuna, so when I buy a piece of tuna at Costco on Sunday, it goes in the fridge and is eaten no later than Tuesday.  Buying tuna at Costco is a hit & miss prospect, not because of quality (that’s consistently good) but because of quantity.  I don’t know if the butchers are still drunk from Saturday night when they parcel it out or if some of the tunas fight back harder than others or what, but more often than not, my choices for tuna-buying are an 88 lb slab or a scrap barely sufficient to feed a colicky toddler who doesn’t particularly care for tuna even on a good day.

So when I find a piece the proper size for two adults, I grab it***.  And eat it within 48 hours.  Which is why I decided to try Domestic Sluttery’s Bang Bang Chicken recipe with tuna.  And holy wow am I ever glad I did, because it was awesome.

I made far more alterations to this recipe than just swapping out the protein, but the end result stayed pretty true to the spirit of the original, in that it was rich & peanutty & spicy & again made it far too easy for us to eat twice as much as we should have.

First off, since tuna cooks far more quickly than chicken, I decided to combine all of the poaching liquid ingredients beforehand and let the tuna marinate in it for a couple of hours, to make sure it really soaked up all the yum.  The changes I made there were using jarred chopped ginger and lemongrass, since that’s what I keep handy, and throwing in a teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice because I don’t have star anise in the spice rack right now (which I totally thought I did, but if I do, I can’t find it).  Oh, I also used minced garlic from the 3 lb jar that is in my fridge at all times.  I use far too much garlic on a weekly basis to want to mess with chopping it fresh every day.

“But what is that I see?”, you are asking yourselves right about now, “you neglected to add a small piece of tuna to the marinade!”

No, I did not neglect.  When tuna is cooked in this house, a small piece of it is cooked sans seasoning for the third resident of our household

Lady Byng, Spoiled Rotten Little Shit Extraordinaire

who is a thoroughly spoiled rotten little shit, and is also the only canine I’ve ever met who likes fish even more than she likes bacon.  Watching the eye-popping backflip-turning hyperventilating happiness that ensues is well worth the small amount of extra work.

But on with the people food.

I did not have rice noodles in the house, so I made black rice instead, which I love and which for some reason we haven’t had for a while so it was about time.  If you’ve never tried it, find it.  It’s amazing, and lends itself really beautifully to nutty dishes like this.

For the accompanying veggies, I did not have bean sprouts, sugar snap peas (dozens of blossoms in the garden that will be ready in a matter of weeks, but that didn’t do much good last night) or spring onions, so I used green beans, a bunch of garlic chives that really needed to be harvested, and threw in a bunch of extra peppers with the carrots that the recipe calla for.

After cooking the tuna and straining the poaching liquid, I gave the veggies a quick swim in it, just enough to heat them through and let them pick up some of the flavor but still keeping them crunchy.

For the sauce, I substituted a heaping tablespoon of chili paste for the chopped red chiles, a sprinkle of dried coriander for the fresh that I didn’t have, and an extra splash of rice vinegar to bump up the acidity since I didn’t have limes handy.

The recipe calls simply for “crunchy peanut butter”.  I don’t know what peanut butter is like in the U.K. but I will tell you this; using natural peanut butter is, to me, an absolute must here.  Using the brand name stuff that works so well in sandwiches and cookies will not work as well here, so check the label.  If the second and third ingredients in your peanut butter are sugar and corn syrup solids, consider picking up a jar of something that contains nothing but peanuts, oil, and salt to keep on hand for your savory peanut butter dish needs.

And once you’d tried this, you will have those needs.  Oh yes.  You will need.

On the menu tonight: Breton Chicken

*Seven.  Pound.  Chocolate.  Layer.  Cake.

**With bonus points for not knowing how the fuck to maneuver a shopping cart.

***Even if it does bear a slightly disturbing resemblance to Oklahoma, a place not exactly renowned for its saltwater fish

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Domestic Sluttery: Improv Drunken Spaghetti with Baked Avocado

People who do not live in California tend to associate the state with movie stars, beaches, and Disneyland.  And while it’s true that we have those things, natives like me have other associations with our beloved home state, many of which are tied to agriculture.

On less than 1% of the total farmland in the United States, the California Central Valley produces 8% of the nation's agricultural output by value

So, you know, we’re pretty cool like that.

For today’s blogscursion, we focus on two specifics of California agriculture; we produce 90% of the nation’s avocado crop, and are the fourth largest wine-producing region in the world.**

Avocados & wine are part of my dinner routine 4 to 5 days a week, usually in salads and glasses respectively.  But it’s always fun to take old favorites and render them almost completely unrecognizable, which is why I chose to open Domestic Sluttery Improv Week with a Cali twofer, combining interpretations of their Drunken Spaghetti and Mediterranean Baked Avocado.

Holy mother of tits you will never want to do anything as plebian as cook pasta in water again as long as you both shall live.  You and the pasta, that is.  I won’t presume to make sweeping declarations about any of your other relationships.  But your commitment to starch and alcohol just took itself to the next level whether you think you’re ready or not.

The recipe calls for a bottle of red that is cheap but drinkable, the finding of which is something I excel at quite mightily.  You may recall from the DSIW intro post a mention that I buy much wine at Big Lots.  Outlet store wine is hit & miss, but more often than you might think, a lot of really good bottles wind up there simply because a lot of really good wine makers get hung up on the “I am an artiste” aspect of their chosen profession and don’t have the sense to assemble decent marketing departments.***  My latest find, at $4 a bottle, is TanTerra.  They have two varieties, but the Cab is better than the Syrah, so I used the Syrah to cook my pasta.

Cheap, drinkable, AND sustainably-grown.  WIN.
The end result was the pasta having a slightly acidic edge to it, which balanced the richness of the rest of the dish beautifully and made it really easy for us to eat twice as much as we should have.

The changes I made to the DS Drunken Spaghetti recipe were omitting the butter and increasing the olive oil to compensate, substituting Asiago for the Parmesan, using turkey bacon in place of the pancetta, and adding a bit of anchovy paste to put back some of the richness lost by leaving out the butter while still keeping some of the fat/calorie reduction benefits.  Oh, and I used curly leaf parsley instead of flat leaf, because that’s what I grow.

Their Mediterranean Baked Avocado recipe is meant to stand alone as a starter or small entrée, but since I was incorporating it as the protein in a pasta dish, I kept it very simple, just rolling the avocado halves in the olive oil mixture (after it was cooked but before adding the wine) and topping them with some of the cheese before baking them.

Next time, I’ll either use the broiler or break out the torch to brown the cheese a bit, but overall I was extremely happy with the flavor and texture.

In summary:  I cooked an entire pound of pasta for 2 people.  There is one very small dish of leftovers currently in the fridge.  ‘Nuff said.

Happy Pasta Spoon was happy, too.

On the menu tonight: Bang Bang Chicken of the Sea

*I was going to spell it right, but that would have altered an awesome alliterative apportunity

**Which may or may not hearken back to the Californians-seriously-not-knowing-how-the-fuck-to-drive bit mentioned in the previous post.  I’m not sure learning the truth would make me feel better or worse, so I’ll just leave that alone.

***A lot of bottles that are nothing more than a tragic waste of grapes, glass, and cork also wind up there.  It’s a gamble.  When in doubt, look for labels that show addresses in Napa or Sonoma proper.  It’s still a gamble, but that puts the odds slightly more in your favor.  You also run the risk of running into people in outlet store wine aisles who are genuinely not aware that Bordeaux is a place.  Trying to explain this to them is not worth your time.  Just walk away.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Domestic Sluttery Improv Week

As some of you may know, I recently stopped smoking, after a year and a half of smoking, after four years of not smoking, after a very long time of smoking.  The combined effect of no longer flooding my system with appetite suppressants and needing to keep my hands busy has resulted in a lot of really good food flying around my house lately.

Now, I’ve been playing in the kitchen since I was tall enough to reach the stove* and am no stranger to cranking out properly cooked and well-seasoned food, but even I’ve been impressed with me this past few weeks.  I have been stretching, boys and girls, stretching like the first bite of a chile relleno, like the innards of a just-cut grilled cheese, like homemade mozzarella I will be making week after next**.

Why wait, you ask?  Because next week I am dedicating to paying proper tribute to a blog I’ve been following for a while now but have not taken the time to truly appreciate hands-on, Domestic Sluttery.

We’ve all found blogs that immediately make us go “ooooOOOOoooh…” with all their pretty and awesome and delicious, and subsequently make us go “mmmmmm” and “zomfg” and “I SERIOUSLY FUCKING NEED THAT IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW” with every new visit, but how often to we take the time to act on those base and usually not entirely healthy urges?  Not often enough, people.  Not nearly often enough.  So next week, the household menu planning will revolve around interpretations of recipes found on that blog.

Even if they are based in the U.K. and insist on using an utterly ridiculous system of measurement based solely on increments of ten, when we have a perfectly good one of fours, fives and twelves that anyone who was raised with it can easily make perfect sense of.  And even if they do insist on calling cans “tins”, when everyone knows cans aren’t even made of tin anymore.  That would be like us calling glass jars “cans” just because the process of sealing things in glass jars is called “canning”.  Pffft.

And thank you, Google, because without you I seriously had no clue what the shit a “courgette” was.***

However, I must admit to finding the phrase “on an offer”**** far more endearing than it has any right to be.  Don’t ask.  I don’t know.  It just makes me happy every time I read it.

But I digress.

Your next question after “why the hell are you waiting to make mozzarella?!” is very likely “why will you be interpreting the recipes on the blog rather than following them exactly?”  And the short answer is, because I am an old hippie at heart and people in California do not know how the fuck to drive.  Which probably requires some elaboration to make even a modicum of sense, so here you have it:

I am not one of those people who will make a special trip to get a single ingredient to make a specific dish.  I go to Costco once a week primarily for meat, produce, and bulk dry goods like flour & rice.  I go to Big Lots once a month, mostly for a lot of wine but also for canned and smaller dry goods.  I make a special trip to Cost Plus 2 or 3 times a year to stock up on spices, vinegars, more esoteric pantry items.  And that is it.  I choose to not worsen my carbon footprint by willynillying around on a daily basis for teaspoons of things.  And I limit as much as possible the amount of time I have to spend on the road with my fellow Californians, who, I believe I have previously mentioned, seriously do not know how the fuck to drive, consequently also limiting the likelihood that I will wind up on trial for their mysterious deaths should my numerous assertions throughout the years that I am quite capable of planning the perfect murder***** prove sadly untrue.

So I will be following the recipes pretty closely, but making adjustments as I go based on 1- what I have in the house, 2- the fact that I cook for someone who has a history of picky eating that I have only mostly managed to obliterate, and 3- my fundamental what-the-hell-everishness when it comes to actually “following” recipes.

I will be posting the results of my folly here, with links to the original recipes, notes on what changes I made, and, of course, pictures.  Feel free to tell me to stop at any time.  I won’t, of course, but the feedback makes me feel loved.

*shut up, Paul
**dear god I love cheese
***for those of us in English-speaking countries, it’s a zucchini
****it means “on sale” but it just sounds so civilized and non-inclusive of mall brawls
*****digitalis and coffee filters, just sayin’

Friday, August 9, 2013

Next Food Network Star: The Season 9 Recap Rant

You all know how much I love Food Network.  You’re also likely aware how little I hesitate to call them on their shit when I see it.  And as the finale of the latest season of Next Food Network Star approaches, I find myself with plenty of shit to call.

The format of this season of NFNS was scattered at best.  The “mentors” seemed less like mentors and more like judge, jury, and executioner.  I’m sure plenty went on behind the scenes to which I’m not privy, but near as I could tell, they were not grooming stars.  They were throwing into an ocean of options a bunch of people who want to be stars, and seeing how well they could float.

Example: You claim you want food authorities.  Yet people continually referenced notorious alien crime boss Mars Capone when listing ingredients, and no one said a word to correct them.  Allow me to restate that, to make sure you really get it: GIADA FUCKING DE LAURENTIIS stood there and let numerous people mispronounce “mascarpone” on multiple occasions, and never uttered a peep.  That is not mentoring.  I don’t even let my friends get away with that crap.

Oh, on a side note: I know the ratings game necessitates you have your villain in every season, but there are limits.  I find it damn near impossible to believe that anyone is as unmitigatedly cuntish as your careful editing made Danushka Lysek appear, but your presentation of her brought me very close to not watching the show.  Just something to keep in mind when you’re picking out a bad guy next year.

But I digress.  And now, after a season of floundering, flopping, and fuckuppery, much of which seems like it could have been avoided with a bit more guidance from the experts present, it is down to the final 3 contestants and show ideas.

The Final Three: Damaris, Rodney, and Russell

Russell Jackson: Guilty Pleasures

Before I say another word, let me say this; when this NFNS season opened, I was all about Russell.  Seriously.  All.  About.  Russell.  I would have stuck forks in the face of anyone who dared speak a word against him.  I liked his message, I liked his style, I thought that with a bit of coaching he could work through his on-camera awkwardness and go on to great things.  ‘Great things’ in this case being, making a show I would watch.  Then, his message started getting a little mixed, and then a little more, and in his attempts to distill it into something marketable, he lost the part that appealed to me most strongly; the part where he would show us fun decadent sexy food styles that we could re-create in our own kitchens.

His pitch opened with “I go to other people’s restaurants and...”  Red flag, but I was willing to give him the benefit of every possible doubt.  Then I saw his pilot.  He did indeed go to someone else’s restaurant, and tried one of their products, and had wonderful things to say about it.  Okay, you’ve advertised for someone, now show me something I can use.  So he borrowed that restaurant’s kitchen to make his Bacon Bourbon Ice Cream.  I like alcohol and pork products, I can get behind this.

Except.  He is going along, step by step through the process so we can follow, and BLAM!  Straight into the brick wall of liquid nitrogen we run.  Here’s the thing, most home cooks don’t have large tanks of liquid nitrogen in their kitchens.  I know.  I’ve asked for one, many times.  So there’s really no point in explaining your process in detail if you’re just going to have a pretty significant step that I can’t copy.  He then gives the finished ice cream to the restaurant owner and asks if it’s something they might someday consider putting on their menu, and is told yes, that could maybe happen. 

At the end of the show, I’ve seen one product I can’t try because I don’t live where the host restaurant is located, and one product that I can’t buy anywhere yet and can’t make at home because it requires a piece of equipment that I SWEAR TO YOU, MAN OF MINE, WILL HAPPEN SOMEDAY but I do not currently possess.  I’ve watched you do fun stuff, but gleaned nothing useful.  If I want flashy improbable scenarios with a side of sexy, I’ve already got Rex Linn in CSI: Miami reruns

WOULD I WATCH THIS SHOW: Heartbreakingly, no

Rodney Henry: Pie Style

Of the three finalists, Rodney is, in my opinion, the one who would have benefitted most from a firm hand to help rein in his all-over-the-map exuberance and channel his natural energy and charisma.  Because he is fun to watch, but “overly focused” is not something I think any teacher ever had to write on his report card.  After spending the entire season with him, the only conclusion I can reach is that the definition of “pie style” is “whatever the hell I feel like doing, because I’m the one doing it, and I wear cool hats.”  Unfortunately, this is not the kind of conclusion that compels me to watch any show.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like Rodney.  There is no doubt in my mind that going out drinking with Rodney is one of the coolest and most anecdote-producing experiences any human being could hope to have.  I’d love to meet the guy.  But that’s not the same as wanting to watch the guy on TV.

His pitch also opened with “I go to other people’s restaurants and...” which is, as previously stated, a huge red flag for me.  But the basic premise, that he goes to other people’s restaurants to taste their signature dishes and turn those dishes into pies, translates far better to a home cook than Russell’s “I go to other people’s restaurants and borrow their kitchens because I can” platform.  I like turning things into other things, and when the other thing is pie, so much the better because you can make two with very little extra work and freeze one for later.

So Rodney is given a dish, a grilled cheese sandwich with all sorts of yumtastic stuff in it, and he turns it into a pie.  The translation from one to the other is pretty literal, a bit more of a personal twist would have been nice, but the personal twist is “it’s now a pie” so I can let that go.  Am I ever likely to turn my grilled cheese sandwiches into pies?  Not really.  But there were a few things he did that made me think.  Like, the original sandwich had nuts and raisins in the bread, so Rodney put nuts and raisins in his pie crust.  Which made me think “hey, I bet adding some golden raisins to the crust next time I bake an apple pie would be really good.”  So, kudos to Rodney for giving me an idea I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  This is why I watch Food Network.

But before I got that idea, and fighting to drive it from my head after it was got, is the loud, extremely boisterous, at times downright manic presence of Rodney himself.  He is absolutely an entertainer, and an awesome one at that.  What makes him difficult to accept as a teacher is how exhausting it can be to pick the useful information out of his presentation.

WOULD I WATCH RODNEY: Yes, but only in small doses
WOULD I WATCH THIS SHOW: Yes.  Because it’s pie, which has been scientifically proven superior to all other foods

Damaris Phillips: Eat Date Love

I am actually surprised that Damaris made it as far in the competition as she did, but in that “please please PLEASE you can do it just hang on you can DO THIS” weekly internalized prayer meeting kind of way, rather than that “what the hell is she even doing here?” kind of way.  I wanted Damaris to grow and develop and focus and hone her natural charm and awkwardness into something that would force the FN execs to see just how marketable she really is, and that happened.  And it made me happy.

Her pitch was “I’ll teach guys how to cook so they can impress women”.  Right there, she is ahead of Russell and Rodney because of two little words: I’ll teach.  I don’t recall hearing anything about teaching in either of the boys’ presentations.

And as someone who, while in the throes of the worst flu this side of bubonic plague, was once told by her well-meaning and always supportive guy, “I can make you anything you want for dinner, as long as you want bacon and eggs”, this idea of teaching guys how to cook specifically for their women struck a spectacularly melodic personal chord.

So, we have a show I can get behind completely, hosted by a woman I find almost ridiculously adorable.  Aside from her imparting useful information, I know there will be that moment in every episode when she puts her foot in her mouth, backtracks to try to cover whatever awkward thing she just said, makes it even worse in the process, and is laughing right along with us at her own slightly risqué clumsiness.  Half the fun of watching the show will be waiting for that to happen.

And there will be sweet potatoes.  Oh yes.  There will be sweet potatoes.


There it was.  After careful evaluation of not only the personalities but the shows themselves, I am brought to the conclusion that there is only one place my vote can go, and that is to Damaris.  Russell, Rodney, please forgive me.

So off I went to cast my vote.

Except, in order to vote, I have a choice between giving Food Network a piece of information that is none of their damn business, or giving them other information that is even less of their damn business.  Yes, I can only vote by letting them know my phone number, or giving them access to my Facebook profile.  Neither of those things is going to happen, so I ended up not voting.

Congratulations, Food Network.  I thought you dropped the NFNS ball with your handling of Justin Warner.  Turns out you were just getting started.