The Best B.S. Ever

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brussels sprouts have a bad rap. How many people detest the mere thought of them, and lets be honest, kids (and many adults) don't exactly line up to fill their plates with the spherical little veggies.

Their alien appearance doesn't really help their cause and seems like something out of Dinotopia or Invasion of the Pod People it just can't put up a fight against the familiar bell pepper, or comfort and safety of the onion. Of course, I find that many people don't even know what they look like, yet have developed a fervent dislike, even fear, of the minute cabbages.

They have a myth all of their own that's cultivated at an early age. Cartoons and legends tell of brussel sprouts steamed to a limp mess of bitter and slightly transluscent leaves. Their near mutant-green hue, like that of some strange experiment gone awry, a signal of its horrid poison taste akin to that of a colorful rainforest frog. The horror story precedes any actual interaction with them and thus many find disgust in them.

Indeed their actuality is something a bit more humble. The stalks of sprouts were first cultivated in Rome, Belgium, and Romania. They eventually moved along into France and Spain until these countries brought them over to what would be North America with California now being the biggest producer of them in the states and Ontario in Canada. However, a large portion of sprouts are shipped in now days from Mexico, where due to the high heat their flavor suffers (however, their tight little bods can easily survive the trip). Still, this knowledge is lost on most and therefore the cruciferous little plants finds few fans.

"You made brussels sprouts?" More than a few guests have recoiled to this moment in the dinner I serve them, a slight grimace and a questionable look.

"But of course!" I reply. "You haven't tasted them my way." A sentence we have all heard before only to meet the challenge and reconfirm our disgust.

"Yeah... I dunno," a challenge always seems to arise but I took an oath the moment I plopped them in my shopping bag that as a sprout roadie it would be my job to convert another.

"You've only had them steamed or boiled haven't you?" I query.

"Yes," a quizzical look is directed at me, then back to the offending veggies to ensure they don't attack.

"Well, these have been pan seared with a bit of olive oil. The heat diffuses a lot of their bitterness. Afterwards they're salted and given a few fresh cracks of pepper, and then a light shaving of Parmesan cheese. Trust me, I've changed many minds with this dish."

The eyes rarely leave the plate and I'm never sure if the person hears me, so entranced with raw fear they are unable to respond to the most basic stimuli. After more coaxing, the victim relents to single bite.

"Wow... it's... good."

"I told you."

And did I. Many of my friends and family now buy the sprouts on their own to cook at home for themselves or for friends. I've made many a meal with just a large bowl of these and a small glass of white wine. Rustic, elegant, flavorful, and simple, plus you can do it on a tight budget. I encourage you, embrace the brussels sprouts.

Seared Brussels Sprouts
Serves however many you need...

What You'll Need...
As many brussels sprouts as your and your companions will eat. I can put away about 8 or 9, but usually 5 per person is good.
Parmesan cheese
olive oil
(kosher) salt and pepper

What You'll Do...
1. Cut off the stem of each sprout and discard it plus the loose outer leaves. Quarter them.

2. Place a few tablespoons of olive oil in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat the pan to high heat.

3. Place the sprouts cut side down. Allow them to sit for about 3 minutes. Give them a stir and a shake. They should begin to brown and char a bit, this is what you want. Eventually they will begin to pop and shimmy on their own, possibly even preforming a few little flips for you. After about 2-3 more minutes turn them into a bowl.

4. Grate with fresh Parmesan cheese and another sprinkle of salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

The Traveling Tajine Project

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Have you ever used a tajine (also spelled tagine)? It's a heavy, conical earthenware cooking vessel used in Moroccan and Middle Eastern Cooking. It's unique shape works to keep food moist and blend flavors. As heat and steam rise they condense at the tip of the conical lid, and drip back into the base, circulating moisture, heat, and flavor. It's a unique piece of cookware that can create exotic and tasty dishes.

Most people simply don't keep one around as it usually takes up quite a bit of space and isn't used in most homes outside of Morocco. However, I find that many other home cooks are interested in trying it out. As such, I am proposing an idea I am calling the Traveling Tajine Project.

The idea is simple: I will create a list of people willing to participate who want to try out a tajine. After a list of participants is established the tagine will be shipped to the first person. That person will have the tajine for one calendar month. Afterwards, they will pack it up and ship it to the next participant whom I will provide an address and contact information for. The next participant will have it for one calendar month and then ship it to the next participant and so on.

Afterwards, each participant can post on their blog or website or flickr account about their recipes, experience, and so on.

If you are interested in participating please read the following rules and guideline and then e-mail me and I will put you on the list for the Traveling Tajine Project. My goal is to get 12 participants so that we will have an entire year lined up.

Traveling Tajine Project

Tajine Notes
1) The tajine, being ceramic, should only be used in the oven and not over an open flame or on an electric or gas burner.

2) The tajine has already been seasoned by me, however, you may feel the need or desire to season it again. Feel free.

1) You must be in the continental United States.

2) You must have a blog, website, or flickr account in order to post your tajine experience and/or recipe.

3) You have one calendar month in which to use the tajine. Afterwards, the tajine should be shipped to the next participant within the first five days of the next month. This is to allow the next participant ample time to use it before they too must ship it out.

4) You are expected to post about your tajine experience. It does not have to be a big post with dozens of pictures or even a recipe, but you must post about your results.

Care and Shipping Guidelines & Agreement
1) If you break the tajine while it is in your care you are expected to replace it.

2) You must pay for the shipping to the next recipient on the list. The tajine is heavy, weighing about 5 pounds.

3) You have one month to use the tagine and then ship the tajine to the next person on the list. Tardiness is not appreciated or acceptable; by choosing to participate you are promising to use it within your calendar month.

4) Should you receive it late on your month, we will work out an agreement for you to have an appropriate amount of time in which to use it and ship it to the next recipient.

5) Should you not use it within your calendar month you must ship it to the next participant. If there are extenuating circumstances contact me and we will work out a time extension.

6) When shipping the tajine, you should be sure to take care in putting it in appropriate packaging. It is ceramic so newspaper, packing peanuts, a solid box and plenty of tape should be used.

7) If damaged in transit, you will be held responsible unless it is damaged through obvious destruction of the package due to negligence of the delivery service. It would be best to insure the package when you send it. I use the USPS, but UPS, FedEx or any other shipping company can be used; they can also assist you in properly packing it so it does not break in transit.

Other Information
-I will contact all participants before their time comes up to ensure that they are still wanting to participate. If you need to back out, please let me know at least two weeks ahead of time.

-I will do my best to ensure that people get the month they want.

-By putting your name on the Traveling Tajine Project list you are agreeing to the above rules and guidelines.

-If you wish to participate please e-mail your name, address, and a phone number to me at vanillagarlic [at] yahoo [dot] com. Your information will not be solicited out, and its only purpose is to ensure that you can receive the tajine when it's your turn.

Nut Butter Bars and Comments on So Cal

Friday, December 26, 2008

I sometimes get small reminders of why I've decided to no longer live in the affluent part of Orange County, California, where I grew up. While many of the people who live here are good, honest, regular people who pay their bills, eat like anyone else, and have a healthy concept of what reality is and their actual place in it there are those who simply don't.

Have you seen "The Real Housewives of Orange County"? I grew up surrounded by people just like them. Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo, Lake Forrest, Newport, etc. All these places prescribe to and cultivate a stylized sense of neuveau-riche-ality where everyone should be tan, wear designer sunglasses indoors, and damn it, their food is organic and costs much more than regular organic food because it's bought at Organic-Green-Mart (as opposed to going to a farmer's market and getting your produce fresher and way cheaper and it still being just as good if not better).

Anywhose, I went to the Pavillion's here and was shocked. I mean, I love the store. Good wine selection. Great shellfish. Any mushroom or produce you want is available. Of course, it'll all cost you, but those living here in the land of SVUs, 5 credit cards, and disposable income up the wazoo where a basic home costs around 600K, well, it's simply not an issue.

Walking in I ran into the far too familiar and annoying brand of crazy, the So Cal Crazy. I was nearly run over by a kid who couldn't have been older than 11. He ran up to the in-store coffee shop and proceeded to order a mocha. Trailing behind were the siblings who had no desire to acknowledge my existence and bumped right into me with no apology and the youngest, a little girl, gave me a scornful look as I had apparently ruined her day.

I gave them each my quick appraisal stare to analyze their unique demonic auras and social status. You grow up here and you inherently develop the "appraisal stare," a super-power that let's you efficiently evaluate anyone's status, class, and net worth based on their clothing, hair and accessories in under half a second. The trained eye can do it in a casual glance lasting about five one-hundredths of a second.

Through my appraisal stare I noticed each was dressed in probably $200 of designer clothes. The middle child was dressed like a rich gangster rapper, a trend I guess he would continue until he was in high school as being white but dressed like a gangster would be the right amount of danger for upper-class girls. The youngest little spore, a girl of seven in Dolce sunglasses and Baby Phat hoodie gave me her own appraisal stare, still obvious as she was young and hadn't yet the practice to do it in a half glance, and grimaced at me.

I rose an eyebrow at her and moved on. My ratty jeans and sweatshirt were comfy and I moved to the wine aisle to pick up a few more gifts. Still, I was a little miffed, my watch is Omega, dammit. She threw her nose up at me and continued plugging away at her iphone, a situation which I was confused at for what on earth a child needs an iphone for I haven't the slightest.

Children like this were the ones who would grow up to be trust fund children - spoiled, irresponsible, with no concept of how the world really works. The little girl's fate would be a sad one; she would become popular for good looks and money and probably giving out hand jobs at the age of thirteen making her a favorite of the boys and a slut to the other girls (only in whispers, BFF's in public). The boys would become arrogant and useless - pretty with no desire to work for anything having been handed all on a silver plate. All married at 25, divorced at 28. Etc. It may sound cruel, but I say it simply because I had grown up with people like this and seen this scenario played out dozens of times.

The mother was dressed up as well in a designer track suit, chatting on her iphone. She paid the coffee person no attention, nor watched her kids as she gabbed away. She paused only to place her own order, talking as she fumbled for her credit card. The world existed only on the other side of the call at the moment, and as she was surrounded by lights and glitter of holiday decorations, the sounds of Christmas music, the politeness of the coffee person behind the counter or the whining of her brood I don't believe she was aware of any of it, incapable of producing a reaction to the slightest of stimuli. That phone was her god, and she its devoted acolyte.

But moving on.

The Pavillion's had something new I had never seen before that intrigued and appaled me. The Nut Butter Bar. No, I'm not being crude though the potential for sexual innuendo is intense and viscous here on out. It's a station where you can go to machines filled with various nuts, and you can freshly grind your own nut butter. Peanuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, even cashews. Indeed there are even some with honey roasted nuts or a selection of seeds, peanuts and chocolate chips for a more trail-mix like nut butter.

All for $1 an OUNCE. A 18 ounce jar of Skippy will go about $3. The same amount of organic peanut butter, maybe $5. The equivalent would cost you $18. Plus tax.

And let me tell you, there was a line for this. Props for trying people, but when you can buy the nuts by the pound and grind them yourself, well, why not? Indeed there is even a bulk section of the store where you could buy peanuts by the pound for cheaper, then take it home and pop it in the blender or whatnot.

Organic food advertising strikes again. The underbelly of the Slow Food movement, the Faux-Slow Food movement. A case in which the idea of green, organic, slow food is taken so far it becomes a retardation of its true self. Indeed many of these people had been cultured and trained, subtly or with a baseball bat, that organic and slow is good. However, the critical parts of their brains have been dulled to the point where they don't realize that the slow food snake oil they're buying is a near reversal of the process they are trying to embody and support. Good intentions gone wrong.

Making your own peanut butter? Good, assuming you bought the nuts, roasted them and ground them yourself - an easy process. Going to the store and paying a ransom for a machine to simply grind your own gourmet choice blend of nuts? Batshit crazy.

Not everyone here sucks, just a lot of them. Plenty of good people live in So Cal and many make their own jams, pickles, and some even raise their own chickens here in Laguna Beach in their backyards, much to the chagrin of their neighbors (it reduces property value). I grabbed the bottle of wine I needed and left. The cashier was sweet, the lady behind me clever, and witty banter ensued in line and all wished each other a happy holidays.

A Quick Note and a Question

Monday, December 22, 2008

The blog will update sporadically, if at all, in the next week. I'm going to be in Mission Viejo visiting my family all the way down in So Cal. It's been a while and honestly I am looking forward to the warmer weather and seeing my friends and family again. It's been almost three years.

Also, I'm putting this out to you, the readers. A request for help. I'm working on a small children's book proposal for, get this, a Christmas book for next year. I figure a year is just enough lead time. Anyone know anyone I should get into contact with or know what avenue or publisher I should pursue once the proposal is finished? Would appreciate any help!

Banding Together Against the Yeti - Another Coffee Shop Story

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I should be filled with holiday cheer. Spreading joy, peace, and love wherever I go. I should and I do try. I like to think that I can be a model of virtue, a paragon of turning the other cheek.

However, on my way back from dropping off the BF off at the airport I ran into Peet's Coffee for a little bit of tea as I had none at home. As I waited in line this gruff angry lady with the gait and hunch of a snow yeti walked in then stepped right in front of me in line. No nod, no message with the eyes, no explanation. Just walked in front of me and took my place.

I was a bit stunned for a moment, I looked behind me to see if others had witnessed Miss Manners' cutting. Indeed through glances and stares and jaws agape they had indeed seen her trespass. I turned back, "Excuse m-"

"Look, I'm running late! I need my coffee now so I won't be later!" She didn't even look at me.

And it just came out. "Well I was here first and you will run much more late after I punch you in the back of the head. Back of the line."

She looked me in the face horrified as if I shot her dog, then her snow creature visage contorted as she planned to respond. Luckily, the woman behind me chimed in. "Back of the line lady!"

"Madame," the guy behind the counter said,"You need to get in the back of the line. You cannot just cut in front of others."

She exhaled with extreme depravity towards us all and marched out the door.

Smiles were abound. The evil was vanquished. I was a bit shocked at myself and what I said, but as people greeted me Merry Christmas with the warmest of smiles as I grabbed my tea and left I felt better. Sometimes it just takes a rude yeti of a person to band people together and make us appreciate the holidays.

Dining Alone - The Experiment

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Having been sitting on my own musings for a while on the concept of eating alone I finally decided to go out and explore it. Eating alone comes with a certain stigma - we fear being judged lonely or single. Pariahs. That there is a reason that one dines alone and it is not of our own choosing. 

With finals over and finally having a chance to sit down and read a book for fun on my own accord I decided it was a perfect chance to go and put the theory to the test. I made reservations at a relatively nice restaurant and decided to be irresponsible and splurge a tincey bit. A night for me. To celebrate me. Just for me. It may sound a bit conceited but I find it necessary to take time for oneself and even spoil yourself once in a while. Otherwise one goes crazy; the longest icicle doesn't form in a single snow, stress builds slowly over time until it finally just makes you break. This was a chance to just... BE.

As I quickly strolled down the dark wet sidewalks of downtown Sacramento, my gait wide in an attempt to warm myself in the shiver-inducing, brisk winter air, I glanced at those passing by and silently observed their habits and walks and listened to snippits of their conversations. Checking my watch I noticed I was running a bit early as traffic had been better than anticipated. Ginger's was only another block east; tucking my book and umbrella underarm I dashed across the street. 

We quickly chatted about Christmas plans, both personal and business over a few macarons and played a bit of catch up. Soon it was time and back through the cold air I dashed arriving shortly at the door to Mulvaney's.

"Hi, I'm a bit early. I made a reservation for one at 6:30? It's under McCord."

She confirmed and smiled a coquettish grin, "Would you like a table or sit at the chefs table to watch some preparation."

"The chefs table sounds great actually." The hostess led me through the cozy dining room, the beams decorated tastefully with lights and artfully crafted silk birds in vermillion and gold. She sat me at the bench where I removed my scarf and jacket delicately putting them over the back of the stool-back.

I looked around at the other people dining, in the back an elderly couple seemed to quietly chat over whatever people have left to talk about after how many years of marriage. A first date in the corner was obviously boring the lady in the scarlet dress as she twirled her hair and let her eyes wander aimlessly. A party or two on this side or that, but for the most part it was still empty. And then there was me. 

And I didn't mind. It seemed everyone was too busy with themselves and their dining guests to pay any mind to the single twenty-something at the bar table with a book. I suppose a stray thought or two may have entered their consciousness upon seeing me but I seemed to be by my self with no other minds to consider. 

I ordered a carrot and vanilla soup, the striped sea bass with mushrooms and pesto, and a glass of white wine. Simple and easy food that was light and tasty. My waitress seemed perky and sweet, assisting me perfectly through the night. 

"So enjoying your night out?" she queried as she removed my soup bowl.

"Yeah, actually. Just enjoying a night out for me." I smiled.

I took pause from my book to watch Chef Mulvaney work. We had met once or twice before, but always in passing and never enough of a conversation to impress upon his memory it seemed. Silently observing from my perch like a curious owl I was mesmerized by the method and pace that took place before me, all done in quiet meditation as one might undertake for serenity. His fingers, stained crimson from beets that must have been utilized early, slowly work and flattened bits of shortbread dough, each mound being rolled out with a bottle of brandy. The dough was the layered with a thin piece of candied fennel and a bit of pomegranate syrup. Each one was meticulously put together in silent solitude and dedication, paying to mind to what was going on around him. He paused only to explain something to one of the wait staff.

There was a moment when he introduced himself to a couple next to me and showed them some porcini mushrooms which he then whipped up into a special dish with them. He, the couple and the waitress then discussed and tasted a fine French wine the couple in question had ordered, something hitting $80. I was a bit jealous at the attention, I admit, but regardless who you are a 10 minute discussion on the nuances of so-and-so wine rings a bit snobby to me. Still, they all seemed to know what they were talking about and there was no air of pomp about them; it all seemed genuine. So whatever.

As I finished my wine and my chapter I paid my bill, leaving a healthy 20%. The night had been unexpectedly simple. I assumed there would be questioning, looks, drama, curiosity. Indeed the night was mundane if you had been watching me. However, I found it relaxing. Ohm-like. Simple. Without a dining companion I could focus on my reading, my own thoughts, the flavors of the food. Each without distraction. The night rang clear as a bell. 

It wasn't the grandest experiment, I'll grant you that. It was, however, enlightening. More than that, it was relaxing. Necessary. 

I highly suggest you all do the same. 

Persimmon Oat Muffins

Monday, December 15, 2008

I feel that in the middle of finals I do a lot of cooking, partly for sustenance, partly as procrastination. This was a bit of both: it fulfilled my need for creativity and my need for brain food. My friend Andrea always has stores of fresh persimmons this time of year (given to me this year via Elise) and the trouble when getting them is what to do with them. I find them far to sweet to eat on their own usually and end up putting them in salads or other baked goods.

This however, had purpose. It was something to give me some energy! Vigor! Alertness! Something whole wheat and oat-y that wasn't just healthy but actually tasted good in the morning with a small smear of yogurt and a glass of orange juice. Delicious and nutritious.

I took some to work and received some rave reviews. People were intrigued by the persimmons, loved the texture of the oats, and were surprised to learn that they were whole wheat.
Persimmon Oat Muffins
Makes 15 muffins

What You'll Need...
1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1 1/3 cups of milk
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup of freshly grated persimmon flesh (about 2 large fuyus)

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat the oven to 425F.

2) Place the oats, milk, and lime juice in a bowl and allow to soak for 10 minutes. While you wait sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in another bowl.

3) Add the oil, sugar, and egg. Mix well. Sift in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

4) Add the grated persimmon and fold in.

5) Fill into cupcake papers or straight into a well greased and floured muffin tin about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for one minute before popping out and allowing them to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Cranberry Sorbet and No Life

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Last 72 hours before the last final is due. I have no life for a bit. New post over at Simply Recipes! Feel free to peruse the archives for something more clever than this, but my current plan is to go back in time and castrate Lacan. That should give him something more interesting to postulate about. 

Today Started With a Half Flask of Bourbon...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I found it buried in my car under the passenger seat.

"The hell?" I was puzzled, I admit. In a quick cleaning frenzy to once again clear out the shit that magically accumulates in my car I came across the forgotten flask tucked under directions to a some place I couldn't recall and a gas receipt from March. Honestly, the last time I saw this thing was probably months ago. I had carted it along on a night out with friends in an attempt to get a bit tipsy before dancing and save myself a bit of money by not buying myself an poorly made $8 sidecar*.

Honestly, I was already in a bit of a rush as I had decided to prolong my shower with a moving rendition "Disturbia" via shampoo bottle makeshift microphone. Furthermore, it was damn cold outside. Like see your breath 40 degrees cold with fog rolling in at horror movie thickness - it obscured vision like the best of intentions. I looked at the bottle furtively. I quickly checked my watch, hoping that the time I thought it was wasn't. It was.

"Screw it." I rolled my eyes as I quickly unscrewed the cap. I felt the bourbon slip down, its spicy burn warming and waking me. Why not go to work toasted? Given, the three 2-inch thick brownies and multivitamin I ate for breakfast would soak it all up, no question. Still, the timid societal rebel in me was happy to give the finger in a tiny way to the world.

I hopped into the car (it was maybe a half ounce on a full stomach, no worries) and threw my book and lunch on the seat. Lunch was going to be green curry with chicken. Again. My laptop had taken a turn for the worse and the purchase of a new MacBook had thrown me into a pit of leftovers and budget eating in order to recover some of the pennies I palmed over. The new diet program that comes with a Mac known as iBroke is a fabulous way to learn to cut your food budget and find yourself complacent with the most simplest of meals.

Still, I must admit. Now that I've tasted the punch I think I prefer Macs, though given I am still having some issues learning things and I find one or two things I like better on PC.

I took a few minutes to let the car warm up and listened to the radio. More bad news. More corruption. More people going broke. All followed by smooth jazz.

Anyways, by the time I settled myself into work, made myself some loose leaf Earl Grey and talked to [name of man I am smitten with] on the phone I had finally woken up. The day seemed to actually be off to a good start. The new article for Edible Sac looked like it was organizing itself nicely and would pan out to be something quite awesome. I was somewhat caught up with my paperwork. I learned that over 180 people follow my twitters, proving that 180+ people are obviously more crazy than me, and that sort of self assurance is always welcome. Plus, I had a drink before 7 am. Today seemed like good omens would abound.

It was only then I looked down at my cup.

Tasseography is a fickle mistress. Open to interpretation. Like the Oracle at Delphi or a box of chocolates, you never know just what you're going to get. The tea leaves had formed a neat and very clear "X" at the bottom of my mug.

Lord, I hope it's for "marks the spot" not "x'ed out."

*gay bar bartenders are the worst, if they even know what a sidecar is they screw it up, the only drink they know is vodka+juice

Oddest Meal Ever?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tonight I had brussel sprouts and chicken hearts stir-fried with black bean garlic sauce and mirin with pumpkin seeds over wild long-grain rice. It had to be the most hodge-podge meal I think I ever made. It also tasted quite delicious.

Anyone else have an odd dish you threw together at the spur of the moment?

Snot the Best Grapes You Could Buy

Monday, December 8, 2008

From the Archives.

So we've all shared in my experiences with unruly ankle biters (monsters in the shape of children) and the irresponsible hosts they spawned out of (parents) in social gustatory settings. We've also seen how unsanitary people can be when sneezing over or touching public food.

But this last one, this takes the god damn cake.

I was at the market and was walking over to the grapes. Across the display was a child old enough to chew steak crammed into the toddler seat of the shopping cart looking over the grapes. As I ripped off a bag I looked up and noticed the kid's face suddenly become gnarled as he breathed in and tilted his head back.

"Oh Sweet Jesus, no..." I thought to myself with dread.

The child began to sneeze furiously over and over, each one echoing louder than the last. It was like a fireworks finale was occurring in the produce section. Luckily the kid was well mannered enough to cover his mouth so I was felt okay about it and grabbed the grapes at the total opposite end of where the child was.

And then he wiped his hands on the grapes display.

Mom turned around and nodded at him, "Oh honey bless you, but next time ask mom for a tissue or something." She then began to walk away. Yes. She just left the grapes which her son and left behind the visible chunks and shmears of snot streaked across the grapes.

"Excuse me!?" another woman barked, "Aren't you going to take those grapes or call someone or something?"

"I'm sorry?"

I helpfully chirped in. "Your son just wiped his snot all over the grapes. You can see it. You can't just leave them there."

"Well people should wash their food when they get it home anyways, you never know whose touching it."

You are shitting me... "I agree, but blatantly wiping your mucus over food is different than just bits of dirt from handling."

"You should tell someone," the other woman noted, backing me up.

"Well I don't want to buy those grapes!!!" she screeched as she the levees of sanity broke and the demonic she-bitch she was hiding revealed itself. "I DON'T WANT THOSE GRAPES! THEY HAVE SNOT ON THEM!" Her face was contorted and red. Her kid ignored all of us and was halfway into a box of cereal for the toy.

The other woman started back at her, "It's your kid's snot!"

"And they'll probably just throw them away and not worry about it." This was where we had to start calming her down before a scene began. However, just to be sure I started to eye Rob a bit and try to send a telepathic message to grab a coconut to bean her in the head with. Just in case.

"I DON'T WANT THOSE GRAPES! Just because my kid is sick, it's my responsibility!?"

"YES." The other woman and I resounded back in unison.

"Don't you people tell me how to raise my child!!! IT'S NOT YOUR CHILD AND IF YOU DON'T WANT SNOTTY GRAPES, DON'T BUY THEM!" And she stormed off, presumably to devour other shoppers.

The other woman and I looked at each other. "Some people..." as she rolled her eyes.

I laughed, "Yeah, and they're reproducing."

"Heaven help us."

"Indeed," I nodded, "I think I'll be getting pears instead."

The grapes were removed by the store immediately.

Finals Week and Joining the Dark Side

Sunday, December 7, 2008

So it's finals week. Meaning either no posts or archives being thrown up. Sorry, but grades come first.

Also, my new 18 month old computer crapped out. Guess I get what I pay for... Anyways, have a new Macbook. Trying something new, and so far all I can say is I am still recovering from the hemorrhage inducing price tag and trying to learn to use the damn thing. I know there is a faux-right click button but damn it, it's not the same. Learning a whole new system is driving me absolutely batshit loco. Anywhose, back to the books I go. I miss Control+C/V/A, they made life easy. This thing is just hard to use.

I guess though, at only two hours in, there is a learning curve. Any and all advise or little hints or tricks for a beginner are more than welcome and are, indeed, encouraged. My technological abilities are endearing in their total ineffability.

Okay back to work I go. In the words of Tigger, "TTFN - Ta-ta for now!"

Yes, I Twitter...

Friday, December 5, 2008

I try my best to resist on-line fads or groups. It's like this... I have a myspace and a facebook page. Doesn't mean I use them or check them regularly. Still, I do have them if for any reason to avoid being some kind of social pariah. So yes, I have a twitter account. I may update it with new post alerts or to bitch about Eat Beast once in a blue moon. I also do something that I generally avoid on the blog - swear like a crack-dealin', ho-baggin', Catholic school girl. Which I might add, I do a LOT of in life not on the net but make a conscious effort to avoid here.

Still, it's a neat way to kind of keep in touch with some of the other food bloggers I know, and they occasionally make me laugh, inform me, or make some poignant thought. You can follow me at

There's No Cents In It

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I was at the local coffee shop and watched as a customer received his change - all various types of coins. As I watched, he sorted through it, picking out the pennies. He then grabbed his coffee, threw the coppers into the jar and hurried off.

I have covered tipping once or twice on here, but allow me to re-iterate something. Never throw your pennies into a tip jar. Just... don't. It's an insult, not a tip.

Allow me to explain. When you are handed change, you might find yourself with a dime or a nickel. Heck maybe a quarter or a few bucks. These are all fine gestures of gratitude to your coffee person (the word "barista" sickens me, I preferred coffee person). Indeed, nickles, dimes and quarters add up to actual dollars. As such, all shiny, silver colored coins are welcome. Pennies are not.

Here is the thing, coffee people get minimum wage. We don't depend on tips, nor do we expect them (I use "we" in a loose sense, as it has been years since I was behind a counter). As such, you are not in any way required to tip your coffee people. It is however kind and a good way to ensure we remember your face. Indeed I had a few customers I could actually time to a watch and have their drinks ready the moment they walked in the door. People rarely ever try something new I learn, it's too crippling to gamble with caffeine for most so prediction was easy.

As for those I knew to be rude jerkwads, if they were the only person in line then I might slow down or over / under-heat the milk. Little things to try and make the person go away and never come back. Those who came in and demanded 20 drinks for the office and then didn't bother to throw a damn fivepence into the tip jar? Oh, you can guarantee that the next time they showed up I went so slow, you'd think my own personal time had stopped. I would sit and enjoy them begin to pace frantically, glancing at their watch every other second in a panic as they missed whatever meeting they had. Vengeance is a bitch, and when I hold you drinks hostage and your cash is in the till, you were mine.

Anyways, pennies. Throwing in your pennies is not a tip. It is your convenience. Pennies add up, yes, but rarely to much more than 30-odd cents. They're a pain to count up at the end of the night when you just want to go. Furthermore, the real reason people put them in the tip jar is they themselves don't want to be burdened by carrying them around. It's a form of economic light-lifting sloth, and pushing on your little annoyance to someone else and attempting to pass it off as appreciation for a job well done is bullshit.

So what is appropriate for you $3-5 coffee? Other former coffee-persons and I have come up with a few guidelines:

-For cappuccinos, lattes, americanos? Between 10 to 35 cents is appropriate. Aim for the higher end if you are asking them to gussy it up in a thousand different ways.

-You do not have to tip for drip coffee or pre-prepared food.

-If the coffee person has to make food you've ordered, 40-50 cents is about right.

I know there are some coffee-people who would disagree with my rules. They're the ones who call themselves baristas and think they're the pinnacle of hip culture for people between the ages of 16-21. If they think they deserve a dollar for your drip coffee, give them the finger and move on. Still, these are rough guidelines. You don't have to tip coffee people at all. However, out of kindness and gaining someone in your confidence who will take care of you and even slip you a free drink or two (I know I and my fellow coffee people did for our favorite customers) I suggest it.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Icing

Monday, December 1, 2008

Yep, a new cupcake. Finally, right? Well, you won't find it here. Rather, I'm gonna send you along to Simply Recipes. Enjoy!Photo by Elise Bauer.

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