14 September 2007

How to learn to cook

In the comments section on the Book Meme, Alex Elliott asked about a good cookbook for someone who wants to learn to cook.

Most of the cookbooks in my rather large collection aren't for beginners. Many of them are those food porn books that feature recipes that take hours and days and piles of ingredients that are so exotic and expensive that you end up wishing you had just taken the $60 you spent on saffron, smoked paprika and hearts of palm and had just gone out to dinner instead.

I learned to cook from American Wholefoods Cuisine a huge vegetarian compendium I got back in the 80s. I had recently given up meat and was tired of quesadillas so I was delighted to find 1300 veg recipes to choose from.

One cool fall day I used that cookbook to make a carrot stew recipe while my housemates were out hiking. They came in, tired and hungry, and fell on my creation, praising me endlessly for being such a culinary genius. That did it. I was hooked - an instant cooking junkie and I cooked so many recipes from that Wholefoods Cookbook that it eventually fell apart in 3 pieces and is now held together with rubber bands.

When I first moved away from home, my mom got me a copy of The Betty Crocker Cookbook with the inscription "Be patient. Good things take time."

Little did she know how prophetic that would be, not about cooking, but about me. I only moved out for 6 months, then came home for an endless community college career, followed by a long, expensive stint at a state college (Thanks Mom, Thanks Dad).

During that time, I survived mostly on Taco Bell, dorm food and instant oatmeal. I cooked rarely and badly. I distinctly remember getting the idea to saute eggplant (Why, I really don't know. I had no recipe and no plan - just an eggplant and a pan) and having it soak up so much oil that I took one taste and pitched the rest of the eggplant, frying pan and all, out into the driveway where it sat in the mud and rain.

I have heard that Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is a wonderful book for beginners and experts alike. Bittman writes "The Minimalist" column for the NY Times and has sprung some fabulous ideas, like no-knead bread, on the world.

But the truth about learning to cook is that you have to be interested if you want to do it well. If you don't care, actually truly care, it is going to be damned difficult to make a good meal.

I liken it to how I feel about fashion. I always think I would love to dress better, to look nicer, but when it comes down to it, I just don't care enough to put out the energy to make it better.

It doesn't make me that miserable to look like I do, and it doesn't make me terribly happy to dress cute, especially if it means spending time and money and/or being less comfy than I am in my baggy ill-shaped clothing.

The truly fashionable want to slap people they see wearing Crocs or wrinkly old clothing. I don't - to me it doesn't matter what people wear as long as they are happy, but I do want to walk into the kitchen and slap the cook who oversalted my Moroccan chickpea-vegetable tagine.

And when others eat the tagine and say "Oh, it's okay, I don't mind that it is a little salty," I want to slap THEM, too. Because I care deeply, and I can't imagine not caring. Just like I suppose some people feel about my corduroy jacket with the frayed sleeves and the ink stains. It's all a matter of what is important to you.

Do you cook? How did you learn?

12 September 2007

The Book Meme

I haven't done a meme in forever. Grace at What if No One's Watching? tagged me.

Total number of books owned: I have had to cut waaay back since I now live in a tiny box-shaped house. I would say maybe 200, about 75 of which are cookbooks.

Last book bought: Bamboo Lemur Boys recommended a book and I bought it from Amazon today - The Disappearance of the Universe by Gary Renard. Apparently it is based on A Course in Miracles, and I have been am ACIM student, since oh, forever.

Last book read: The last book I finished is "The Great Gatsby," which I re-read when I was home on sick leave yesterday. I am working on Greg Palast's "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" which is just pissing me off so bad.

Five Books that Mean a Lot to You:
On Cooking and Food (the best food book ever written) by Harold McGee.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman, which I can practically quote from memory since I have read it maybe 200 times.
A Course in Miracles, without which I may have already committed suicide.
Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking because I never would have figured out Indian food otherwise.
An Interrupted Life by Etty Hillesum - such a beautiful inspiration.

Best Five Books You Read in the Last Year:
Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cuisine by Morimoto himself
Strange Piece of Paradise by Terry Jentz
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin (God, how I wish my sis could have read this)
The Dance of Life: The Other Dimension of Time by Edward Hall
Through the Eyes of a Survivor by Colette Waddell (my friend!)

I Tag:
Super Des
Count Mockula

11 September 2007

Real friends

This morning I was poo-poohing the idea that people on the internet can be your real friends. You don't see them, you don't talk to them, the relationship is fun but shallow and artificial - kind of like a long-distance romance. You never have to deal with them when their car breaks down or they have the flu.

Funny how this stuff works.

This afternoon I looked at the website of our local paper and saw that there was an accident at a worksite where 2 people were killed. One of my favorite bloggers' husband was there and I knew it because she had posted about his business trip.

I started shaking and my head started spinning. I was frantic, thinking of her and her little girl. Though we had met in real life a couple times, I didn't have her phone number - we had always emailed.

I emailed her but didn't know if she would answer right away.I finally got in touch with a mutual friend who could confirm that her husband was alive and well. VenturaMom emailed me back and I finally began to calm down.

Several hours later, I read another blog-friend's post about how her husband had been treating her. I grew as indignant as if she had been my own sister; I wanted to go punch the loser out.

I dunno. Either these people are real friends or I have a stupid overactive internet life. I'm not sure which.

And in other news, is there a better word than "blog-friend"? Frog? Bliend? Help me out here.

10 September 2007

Pearls of great price

I read this LA Times article about teens who are into luxury brands yesterday and I can't get it out of my head. Consider this quote from a 15-year-old girl:
"Chanel is definitely my favorite designer," she says, emerging from the dressing room, unvictorious. She adds that her most prized purse is a black Yves Saint Laurent Muse bag, which sells for about $1,200. Her best friend, 14-year-old Jennifer Hourani, prefers her ChloƩ Paddington bag. But today, Jennifer is carrying a pristine white leather Dolce & Gabbana tote (it was shelved after Labor Day).
As an old hippie, hearing this made me want to tear off my fringed suede vest and whip someone with it.

Don't get me wrong. I understand teen object lust. When I was that age, I was dying for a wide skateboard with Sims Pure Juice wheels and Bennett trucks and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt, for no reason beyond that my junior crush, the totally rad and awesome Van Lanning had them.

When my mom misunderstood my VERY clear instructions and got me a plastic skateboard and an Eagles t-shirt instead, I couldn't believe my misfortune. I barely survived the shame.

But it has gotten SO much worse, hasn't it? And somebody has to tell kids these days the truth. It might as well be cranky old Aunt Suebob on her blog, right?

Let's go:

1. There is nothing wrong with owning nice stuff. If you find a handbag that is made by hand by an Italian craftsman who has been studying handbag making for 40 years and who finds a quality piece of leather that comes along maybe once a year and he spends months carefully constructing the most precisely made handbag you have ever seen, feel free to pay $10k for it, if you have the cash. If it is that amazing, it is worth it. What ISN'T worth it is paying $10k for something that you could get for $500 - just because it has a brand name that other people drool over.

2. Materialism is a losing game. There's never enough stuff to satisfy the beast within. It's always something else that you truly want, need, desire.

3. Sacrificing one minute of love and laughter for stuff isn't worth it, IMO.

4. If you have the kind of friends who put you down because you don't own the right brands, you don't have friends. You have that bitch Stacy from "What Not to Wear."

5. If you get addicted to luxury brands when someone else is paying for them, how are you gonna feed your habit when you grow up? Keep depending on the folks?

Or will you find someone else to pay the bills - a spouse or spouse substitute. Is it them, or is it their money you love? If they are paying, you have to dance to their tune. Are you ok with that?

Or you can support your own habit. You may have to take a job you don't like as much as your dream job. You may have to do things you don't like doing. You may have to work long hours, move to somewhere you don't want to live - all so you can keep yourself in $1,200 purses. How far are you willing to go?

Thanks to credit cards, you can always go into debt. I know several people who were bankrupt by age 30 because they needed nice stuff. Is that what you want?

Or maybe you will get lucky. You will get the the perfect job, the perfect soulmate who happens to make a pile of money, and you will always have more than you could ever desire, effortlessly. Good luck with that.

6. If you judge your worth by the brands you wear, what does that say about you? Is there something empty inside you that you are slapping a brand logo over? Just asking.

7. Personally, I think that living within your means feels so good that there is little that could tempt me out of it. But I've been down, way down, so I know how it feels to have bills you can't pay and bill collectors calling you. Trust me, you're not gonna like it.

8. In a world where half the people live on less than $1 PER DAY, can you really justify your $1,200 purse? Wouldn't you rather provide six families with home lighting, so they can change their lives than carry a $1,200 purse? Or you could get a $200 purse and supply five families. When your stuck-up friends ask "What is with that purse?" you can show them photos of those smiling people who have lights to work and socialize and study by and say "I truly made life better for these five families. What have YOU done lately?"

9. If my child thought that her beauty, her value, her worth, came from wearing the right brands, I would be heartbroken. As a parent, isn't one of your jobs to let your children know that their value comes from within?

Ok, that's my lecture. Do you have any stories of silly things you have done for material goods?

09 September 2007

Was that weekend short or what?

Random Thoughts for Monday


Remember "Highlights for Children"? Did anyone else think that Gallant was a bit of a suck-up?


I wish I could invent a machine that would make it possible for others to feel the pain you are in. The next time a doctor said 'You're gonna feel a little stick," I would hook him up before he stabbed me with a monster needle. Just so he would know to be a little more accurate next time, or to shut up completely.

What would you invent?


After seeing what Snackie's readers would go see, I feel like I should drag more people to the opera. Because there ain't NOTHING like some live opera, people. If you haven't gone and you get the chance, GO. I'm just saying.

The weird part is that I HATE musicals. Can't stand them. Every time the plot action gets rocking along, they burst into some stupid song. Does anyone REALLY want to listen to "Gee, Officer Krupke"?

But opera - they have to sing THE WHOLE THING. That is a good trick!


Goldie got to go off leash and chase all the birds off the beach today. Watching her run gives me a lump in my throat. It is so beautiful. It is what she is meant to do, what she is happiest doing. It is like prayer come to life.


This breastfeeding on Facebook thing has become quite the big deal, huh? My main gripe about the whole thing is that Facebook should know better than to let idjits like Anthony handle PR. What a loser:
Hi Karen,
After reviewing your situation, we have determined you violated ourTerms of Use. Please note, nudity, drug use, or other obscene contentis not allowed on the website. Additionally, we do not allow users to send threatening, obscene, and harassing messages. Unsolicited messages will also not be tolerated. We will not be able to reactivate your account for any reason. This decision is final.
Thanks for understanding,
Customer Support Representative
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