Social Graces: Eggnog & Cranberry Scones

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

-Social filters are so lame anyways. Not like scones which are never lame.-

I was raised right and generally like to think I'm with rather decent manners. I never push my way through a crowd, but rather gingerly shoulder my way past to with the appropriate "Pardon me. Excuse me," as is expected. I feign timorousness when the situation is proper and speak out when it is expected or necessary. I hold doors, always smile, and genially try to be cordial to everyone.

Then again, we all have our bad days. I've been that person who gets in the car and takes personal offense when the person behind me thinks I'm going to slow - which I probably am - and decided to go around and get in front of me. I respond with anger, taking this pass as an insult to my ability to drive, and speed up determined to prove to EVERYONE that I am not the slow, inattentive driver I am.

I'm also the type who detests poor phone skills and will deliberately make my revulsion apparent. For example, I may or may not have been taken aside at work and told that it is not appropriate to chastise one of our more annoying vendors for always every. single. time. interrupting me on the phone.

Then there are the days where I don't just completely toss all sense of propriety out to the wind, I club it in the back of the head with a shovel and then throw it in the back seat of my car to be buried in a train yard.

This is what happened yesterday. When I told a baby to go fuck itself.

-Yes, I'm a model human being.-

Now, it wasn't the baby's fault. I admit that he was innocent and not really the problem. His father, who was an ass and whom I did tell to go fuck off, was.

It had already been a bad day. I mean a really bad day. The kind where you a negative energy of pure bitch fury just radiates off of you like heat from fire. Everyone knows to just leave you alone and the obvious scowl is enough to deter questions and well-intended comfort which would only add fuel to the flames.

Yes, it was that kind of day. Thank God, the work day was over and I only had to run to the market for some mussels so I could test a dish for the cookbook. I had called ahead and checked if they had any mussels.

"Two pounds? Yeah. We have plenty."

I asked if they were sure and if they could hold some for me. They explained that no, they couldn't do that for seafood but that it shouldn't be a problem. I told them fine and that I would only be an hour and that they would please just try to keep me and two pounds of mussels in mind.

I arrived, earlier than I had told them and walked up to the fish counter where there were no mussels.

Roommate Hunting: Coco-Banana Bread

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

-That one time in life where you have to let strangers into your home. And then live with them.-

"i am would liking to know if te room is still 4 rent? please send picture, address, phone number, full name to me so i can do need some research on the place. please consider the House mine. -Jessica"

Reading it I could actually feel a small part of my brain wretch as small blood clot formed from pure frustration struck it. In fact, I'm pretty sure I lost some grade school algebra in a small grammatically-induced stroke.

I deleted the e-mail that was most likely a scam anyways. I then edited the Craigslist ad I had put up, and with no dramatic rapidity or concern added the word "intelligent" into the description of the would-be roommate Fiance and I were hunting for.

I'm sorry, but if I have to live with someone then that person better have a firm grasp of syntax and punctuation.

The search for a new roommate - a situation brought about through fiscal necessity as Fiance and I were eager to start scrimping away more fervently for a down payment - had never been this hard before. Then again, the last time I was hunting for a roommate the economy was good and Bravo had yet to start airing anything starring an attention-whoring housewife. There were simply far fewer ads on Craigslist to compete with for potential roommates.

Of course, those who did seem to read the ad weren't exactly the ones who fit the description. In fact, I imagine that none of the potential applicants had actually read it in full. I use the word "potential" rather literally. Only one person have I actually deemed to meet and that one was more out of desperation than anything else. For the most part many of the applicants are failing to get past the preliminary phone conversation or e-mail due in part to grammar so blunt you could club a horse to death with it; or phone skills that demonstrate a third grade education, a drinking problem, or both.

-It's what happens when teacher drinks too much before class.-

The ad reads pretty darn simple. Clean gay couple with two cats. No drugs. You pay rent on time. Clean neighborhood. Attic and a washer and dryer are available. So on and so forth. Overall, it's the place I would have loved to live in but couldn't afford seven years ago. Thus, by my standards, it's a room in a house that people should be knocking down the door for.

Instead, I get people who call and ask about thier pet dog.

"The ad did say no pets," I replied. "I suppose if the dog is trained..."

"Well he's an inside dog, but he only poops on the floor every so often. He also hates cats."

"Everything you just said is a problem," I replied.

"The pooping or the cats?"


"You have cats then?" he asked.

I sighed audibly. "It's in the ad that I do. They are indoor cats."

"Can you put them outside?"

There are times, in fact, when it is perfectly acceptable to just hang up on someone and it not be considered rude.

Chill and Warmth: Chocolate & Ginger Cookies

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

-Something toasty on a crazy cold day.-

I'm sitting on the floor next to my oven right now typing this because I am frozen. The pilot light has yet to be lit in the new place (and by pilot light I mean odd fuse-like device that needs to be installed in the electric heater; oh if only it were simply striking a match). The only source of heat right now is the layers of sweaters bulking up my wiry frame.

I mean, what else do you do when it is under 40 degrees Fahrenheit in your dwelling?

I am also somewhat relying on the ambient heat given off from my cantankerous oven. It's as senile as the average Floridian retiree and puts out heat based on similar whims. It's something that must definitely be looked at but right now it's at least reliably baking my cookies (double entendre that all you want).

I actually did buy a space heater, though. Some giant ceramic tower device that puts out more heat than an alley cat in August. Unfortunately, it's more intelligent than I am as programing it correctly is more difficult that setting the clock on the VCR my mom had in the 90's.

The whole situation has left me only the teeniest bit absolutely livid right now.

-I would be more upset if I wasn't buried under quilts.-

As I shivered in my new place the only thing that seemed to make any sense was to bake cookies. It would force the oven to (hopefully) grumble to life and heat the kitchen, which luckily has a door to it and therefore I can trap the heat and hotbox myself.

But cookies have another function - that of comfort. What other food turns a house into a home? Indeed, chocolate chip cookies are the first thing I ever learned to make. I have great memories of my mom teaching my brothers and I how to bake them. We'd always do it in fall and winter when turning on the oven and hot cookies was the only sane way to warm us up in our brisk 50 F Southern California winters. (It doesn't sound bad, but when that's what you grow up with that, well, 50F sets the standard of tolerable cold. Now that I live in Northern California where it hits an arctic death of 20F.) We would carefully crack eggs and beat butter, and my mom would pretend not to notice me and my siblings sneaking fingerfuls of cookie dough.

A more innocent time before salmonella scares and kids learned by making mistakes and hurting themselves and not being protected from every little thing, and parents were terrified that the entire would was out to destroy their young.

Settling In: How to De-Seed a Pomegranate

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

-A simple meal during a complicated week.-

Moving day is the worst. It’s heavy, tiresome, expensive, and frustrating. The result is a bad back and a strained bank account, neither of which recover quickly and require at least a few days of rest.

But no rest for you! Oh no! Those boxes must be unpacked. Walls must be painted. Nails must be secured and pictures hung for all guests – because you want to show off your dazzling new place as soon as possible – to admire.

It’s tough work. No question about it. Yet it’s probably the part of moving we all actually enjoy. With each box emptied and broken down a small piece of your life comes back into order. A shelf organized brings calm. Clothes hung in the closet means you aren’t hunting for underwear out of stray boxes like some real estate blessed vagabond. The TV unloaded means movies and background noise when you unpack everything else. Let’s not forget the reconnection to society when the cable guy, a veritable angel walking amongst humanity, comes to hook up the Internet. And, of course, what home cook doesn’t love invoking order upon a spice cabinet?

Each little task brings you closer to evolving your house to a home. New adventures, memories, etc., and the fervent hope that things in this space will go well. It’s that time when you can make statements like, “This is where I will be happy forever and nothing bad will happen,” and you can almost believe them.

Though who knows?

-Hopefully, no more disasters.-

As it stands the house is transforming into what Fiancee’ and I want it to be. The living room is inviting with therapeutic bamboo green walls and personal bits of decor that range from framed post-it notes with cryptic dime store philosophy and homemade rorschach prints to the antique Remington Rand I wrote my college applications on. (Oh god, I just dated myself).

The furniture has all been smartly arranged though there is still that corner we’re not sure what to do with. The bedroom is tight; not in square footage but in how eloquently it has been arranged for functionality. Our bathroom is glittering white, almost sterile – which is something I prefer in a bathroom – with hints of azure blue here and there.

Some things are still standing issues. The pilot light still needs to be lit, and, dear landlord, please hurry on that as the air is beginning to chill. A door jam needs to be added in the front room before someone (i.e., me) accidentally pops a doorknob through the drywall like a small wrecking ball. We need another smoke detector because Jesus Christ I will not be almost burned to death in my sleep again.

Writing a Cookbook: Sauteed Persimmons

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

-Something without pasta. Thank god.-

Writing a cookbook is an interesting venture. Things are often unpredictable, which is both exhilarating and somewhat exhausting.

Take, for example, the speed at which things move in the publishing world. Sometimes things go achingly slow like the near year it took to cobble together a proposal that Stephanie and I were proud to put our names to. At other times things move at breakneck speed like when we actually sold the book during a hurricane three-day publisher bidding war that literally kept me tied to my phone and e-mail for a good 72 hours.

Details are insane. I'm learning publishing slang. I'm doing my best to go over each recipe with a fine tooth comb only to come back the next day and find new details I forgot to include. I'm familiarizing myself with copyright laws. The contracts are so long and confusing they practically cause vertigo and require steady footing, not to mention reliable people at your back to prop you up and hold a magnifying glass for that print under the dotted line you're so eager to sign. Lucky, the peeps at Little, Brown and Company and my agent, Janis Donnaud, are all kick ass people who I know have my back.

Organization is key. Numerous spreadsheets have been crafted, accounts created, and documents shared. There are notebooks. Literally notebooks. Plural. To keep things in check.

In fact, this organization has been crazy especially when it comes to the many and beloved testers I am so happy to be working with. When Stephanie and I put out a call for volunteer testers we expected a humble number of emails to eek their way to us.

We definitely did not expect 300+ volunteers.

-Words cannot express my shock and gratitude.-

To all the testers out there who are currently testing or waiting to test a recipe, know that we adore you. You guys are the heroes of this book. The organization is stressful but worth it as I've had an amazing privilege to get to know many of you personally as you share stories with me and we converse about cooking, cheese, and our families. We love every typo you find, every recipe quirk, and we adore the great feedback were getting (almost all of it positive).

I know many of you have sent e-mails to us wanting to test a recipe and are still waiting for a response! I beg your patience. Between blogging, my day job, moving, the wedding, and cooking and testing it's been hard to get through the deluge of e-mails I have coming in like a digital tsunami. Know that it's a current I am slowly swimming against and that I will address each and every one in the coming weeks.

And the testing itself!? What a whirlwind! There have been some amazing things coming out of this kitchen. Ingredients like persimmons, truffle oil, arugula, vanilla beans, shallots, and guanciale have all had a place here and each one warmly admitted to the fold like a new member marrying into the family (Ack! The wedding similes are creeping in!).

Admittedly, there has been one or two recipes that have given off an indolent thud as they hit the bottom of the trash can, never to see the light of day. The good with the bad and all that noise.

Oh, but the cheeses. *Sigh* The cheeses...

Sure, my cheese bill may have been more than my rent this month, but it is so worth it. Dolcelatte, Keen's Cheddar, Abbaye del Be'loc, Feta, Nicasio Square, Gruyere, Point Reyes, and chalk-white slabs of Monte Enebro have all had a chance to dance on my plate.

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