The Confused Vegetarian Makes Bloody Beet Steak.

I despise going to the supermarket, especially on a holiday weekend. I’ve read that the average person spends about five years of their lifetime waiting in lines, and while I can’t vouch for the accuracy of that statistic, it certainly seemed well within the realm of possibility after schlepping around a crowded grocery store on Easter weekend. I feel like I’ve already spent five years waiting in line. I think I spent that much time waiting in line today.

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Hi, I’m the Grim Reaper. If you die waiting in line, I’m right behind ya.

The grocery store is never a pleasant experience for me, and it’s partially due to the fact that I’m not very organized. I can’t remember the last time I made a list before I went shopping. I’ll venture out for something I need, wander around through the herds of slowpokes strolling up and down the aisles and playing on their smartphones, slowly becoming more and more agitated. I usually end up randomly throw a few interesting-looking things in my basket, some vegetarian item or whatever the powers-that-be on PBS are calling a superfood this week. Even if I have no clue what they are or how to cook them. Then I leave without the item I originally came for.

Sometimes this haphazard style of shopping turns into a happy accident, sometimes it doesn’t. As a sidenote, the first time I bought a plantain I thought it was just a really giant, supercool banana. They were in a bin next to the bananas, they looked like bananas. I was excited because I love bananas. I went home, cut one up and put it on my cereal. What a shitty banana, I thought. This one must not be ripe. I ate half of another one and then gave up. I had quite an unfortunate stomach problem for the rest of the day. I found out later you’re supposed to cook them. Oopsy.

On the other hand, I’ve learned to cook some rather interesting things because I’m always lacking the staples necessary to make normal meals. Due to my spaciness, my cupboards and fridge are filled with oddities and yet missing exotic things like salt and bread. If I can’t make anything that tastes all that fantastic, I try to amuse myself by at least making it look fun.  Ironically, for someone who doesn’t eat meat, I more often than not end up with something that looks like it belongs in a horror movie: a pomegranate massacre, a bleeding tofu snack, or a vegan Easter cake I made, featuring the Monty Python rabbit who bludgeoned travelling passerby and lived in a cave strewn with skulls.

Maybe I should see a psychiatrist. Okay, back to my story.

Today, all I needed was toothpaste. Wegman’s was packed with every mother and screaming child in the tri-state area, plus a couple of their cousins and their cousin’s cousins. There were no little carts left and somebody ran over my foot with their big cart and then glared at me as I hopped around in agony like a monkey. I wasn’t even halfway through the produce department and I was over it. So what did I end up with? A bag of, um… beets.

I was relieved to be out of the chaos, but when I got home I was hungry. I’ve actually never eaten a beet before, I grabbed them because I was reminded of an episode of ‘Hannibal’ where Dr. Chilton is disemboweled and can only eat vegetables, so Dr. Lechter makes him some kind of beet salad. I don’t know how many people get their culinary inspiration from a television show about a serial killer who eats people for dinner, but now we know there is at least one. Howdy.

So, thanks to Google and a couple hours of free time, today I learned how to make a “bloody beet steak.”

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It’s fairly easy, you simply wash your beets, cut the tops off and rub them with olive oil. I put mine in a baking dish at 375 degrees for two hours until they were tender, then peeled the skin off and cut them into about 1 inch slices. I sprinkled each side with a bit of salt and pepper and threw them in a skillet until they looked slightly browned on each side, let them chill in the fridge and threw them over some greens. The dressing is a plain old red wine vinaigrette: half a cup of olive oil and a quarter cup of red wine vinegar with a smidge of crushed garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper and some of the remaining beet juice to make it extra red.

I have discovered that I love beets. They’re delicious, and amazingly healthy, no matter how horrifically bloody they appear. I found tons of recipes online for everything from beet cake to beet smoothies to beet salsa.

I also found a few articles detailing the horrors of those who ended up freaking out the day after eating their first big ol’ batch of beets. Apparently they give you pink tinkle, so eat a beet, but watch out for that. You’re welcome.

I’m now going to sit down and enjoy my bloody beets. And then brush my teeth with peroxide and baking soda because I just remembered I forgot to buy my damn toothpaste.

Happy Easter.

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Apparently, I smell like a teenage boy.

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Rub a dub dub, there’s nothing on Netflix.

I love baths, but not Bath and Body Works. It’s just not my thing. I don’t like to smell like food, it’s weird. But…sigh…since I’m a female and I live in America, I receive tons of this stuff every holiday: cookie-scented lotion, watermelon hand sanitizer, Santa Cinnamon butt wash. I don’t like to be wasteful, and I do sincerely appreciate the thought behind each and every gift I receive from anyone, so I use it. From December 24 until mid-March my skin, hair and hands smell like everything from Papaya to Coconut to baked goods. I think I’ve used every lotion and wash that company has ever put on the market. It’s not a bad group of products, but I prefer darker, muskier scents. I like Black Opium and Secret Obsession, and I’m the only person I know my age who wears Chanel No. 5. I like older, stronger smells.  I do not want to smell like a fresh little strawberry in a puppy’s mouth on a pink beach, I prefer to smell like a French prostitute who has been chain smoking Marlboro Reds all day.

So we’ve established I’m not a Bath and Body Works girl. At least, I wasn’t until two weeks ago when I was digging around in the bottom of one of my Christmas gift baskets. I came across this stuff, Lemon Zest Sugar scrub. It looked suspicious, but shorts season is approaching so I figured I could use it on my scary ashy knees. I usually make my own, if you’re interested you just mix coconut oil and white sugar with lemon juice and scrub away. It’s cheap, natural, and it works. A few times I felt fancy and put pureed ginger and orange zest in it but I don’t recommend that, it clogs up your tub drain with what looks like secret vomit in the pipes of a sorority house. Just a word of advice.

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Okay, back to the point. Lo and behold, this was the most glorious thing I have ever smelled. It didn’t smell like lemons, it had some odd cologne-ish fragrance. The scent lasted all day, and it reminded me of something familiar and pleasant I couldn’t quite place. I wanted to spend all day smelling my elbows. I smelled so good I wanted to ask myself out to dinner and put a roofie in my own drink. Two friends and several people at work confirmed this as well…they sniffed me and said, “What are you wearing? That smells familiar.” I said, Bath and Body Works Energy scrub. They said, “No, that’s not it. What is that? I like it, I know that smell.” And they sniffed again.

After about ten days of using this stuff, today I solved the mystery. Or rather, my best friend did. He had consumed a few beers and was staring at me in an odd, petulant way.  Almost bitchy. “What’s your fucking problem, sister?” I hissed. His response: “Umm. Are you wearing that horrible 90s teenage boy aftershave? Drakkar?”

Holy crap. A lightbulb went off above my head and then shattered. That’s the smell. That is exactly what this stuff smells like. Like standing downwind of any cluster of males under 18 in high school. My first boyfriend pretty much took baths in Drakkar, and he was a lovely person, probably still is. Maybe that’s why I found the smell subconsciously comforting. It reminded me of being 16.

I’ve been walking around smelling like a teenage boy. For over a week. And you know what, I don’t think I care. In fact, I’ll buy another tub of this next time I’m at the mall, walking around. Smelling like a teenage boy.

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“I go out walking, after midnight…”

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Most of us unfortunately have contact with at least one shitty person on a daily basis. Someone whose stinky, sweatsock-scented juju wafts off of them into your space like itching powder or the fragrance of an old piece of gorgonzola left out in the sun. No matter how positive you try to be, no many how many deep breaths you take or “ommms” you mouth when no one is looking, the stinky juju affects you. There’s really nothing you can do about it; it’s like anthrax, you can’t wave it away. Smile and breathe deeply out alternate nostrils all you want but if you’re forced to share an office with someone who does nothing but scowl and sigh all day (or worse yet, share a home with someone who does the same) you may have to focus on damage control after the fact, not prevention. Stinky juju kicks the ass of happiness every time. It’s just a fact, I don’t make the rules.


I’m one of those people that really tries to be happy. I wake up every day and decide to be happy, and then I think of something I’m thankful for. I admit there’ve been days when the only thing I could come up with was, “I’m really glad I’m not missing a leg” or “I’m grateful I don’t have that virus that eats holes your skin.” A couple weeks ago I started the day with, “I’m really glad only one of my cats died and not both.” But I did it. I try.

However, I do have to venture out into the world because no one pays me to play on Instagram and draw pictures, and I inevitably come across someone who pollutes my happy space with their stinky juju. Perhaps you work alongside shitty people, or even worse, you are forced to reside with shitty people. I had several years where I dealt with both, and that’s when I discovered the relief of walking at night. It’s remedial meditation, designed for people with nowhere to meditate.

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I first began walking at night many moons ago, when I was in what could best be described as a subpar situation. I had recently moved back to Philadelphia and agreed to take over half the rent on a townhouse, occupied by someone I “sort of knew.” Translated, that means she knew someone who knew someone I knew…but I was a bartender, I knew a lot of people. You bartend in a major city, you know everyone who has mixed a drink or carried a tray. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re your friends or people you’d want to be friends with. I take partial responsibility, I’m a smart girl and I knew better, but I was somewhat desperate for time and I figured it couldn’t be that bad. I worked 12 hours a day minimum and had college classes on top of that, and was never home. I just needed a place to sleep. I had one day off. I figured it couldn’t be that bad.

I was wrong.

I won’t go into too much detail, because the specifics are something I’m saving for a low-budget horror movie I plan on writing once I can remember the details without involuntarily twitching from a ‘Nam-style flashback and diving under the couch. I’m kidding, but the details aren’t important right now. All I’ll say for background purposes is, this young woman was unpleasant company in every sense of the word, The few hours I was home, I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be anywhere but in that house.

So I started walking. I’d get home late at night and walk up to the 24 hour supermarket to pick out something for dinner, or I’d walk along the the main street in town and just watch the people spilling out of the bars. Sometimes I’d just stroll around the neighborhood, looking at the rows of old houses and watching raccoons dig around in their corresponding garbage bins. It started out as an escape, but I realized after a while it cleared my head. I never stopped.

I’m lucky enough to spend most of my time in an area where walking in the dark doesn’t pose a safety hazard, our “crime blotter” is pretty much limited to shoplifters caught at the local mall. I could probably walk around here naked with money taped to my forehead and no one would bother me, except the police because they’re bored and have few other crimes to attend to. When I’m in the city I limit my walking to populated areas during the reasonably lit hours, which I don’t find as relaxing, but in the suburbs I can walk around all night if I want to. Sometimes I have done just this. I do take my dog with me, who is substantial in size and has a tendency to lunge and snarl at strangers, despite my best attempts to train this out of him. In the off chance a zombie in a Brooks Brothers outfit tries to sneak up on me, I’m covered. I also have my phone in case of an emergency, but I have the ringer off and I only use it to take random pictures of shadows and churches…for no particular reason except that it makes me feel artsy-fartsy.

 

Nothing clears your head like the dark night air. It blankets all the ugliness you see during the daytime, like the dustings of snow everyone loves because they cover the garbage, dog poop and unkempt lawns. The constant, chaotic noise of the waking hours can no longer be heard, it’s replaced by crickets, the occasional sound of a Canada Goose overhead and the rhythmic sound of my dog’s jingling ID tags. I can see the lights from televisions flickering in the windows of the neighborhood houses from the sidewalk, sometimes I see a family sitting down to dinner through a kitchen window. Someone’s mom washing the dishes, a kid playing with his dog through a sliding glass door. I wonder what these families are like, what they do for fun, what they worry about. When I look up at the stars and the moon I feel very tiny.

At the risk of sounding corny, I guess it reminds me that I’m just one little person, whatever I’m stressed about probably isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things.

Try it. You’ll see.

Goodnight.

 

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I Am Mercilessly Taunted by the Cuban Bread Gods.

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Dogs in Havana. I bet even the dog food is delicious.

I’ve never been a huge “bread” person. No one in my family was ever much of a cook; they certainly never spent hours kneading homemade loaves on a Sunday afternoon. (Sunday night was Gorton’s fish stick night, anyway.) I grew up in Jersey, eating PB&J on Wonder Bread that tasted like stale air and never experienced a really good loaf of bread in my childhood. By the time I was older I had been poisoned by way too many TV specials featuring claims that gluten and simple carbs were the cause of everything from constant explosive diarrhea to just being plain old butt ugly. I avoided bread like it was a loaf of herpes. Once I started cooking for myself and realized most of that information wasn’t exactly accurate, I still didn’t think having good bread was worth the time and effort it took to complete the science project that is baking.

Then I had Cuban bread.

Real Cuban bread. Not the Cuban bread you get at places like Subway, where it’s basically a baguette someone sat on for five minutes. The real thing. The kind you seem to only be able to get in Cuba itself, or apparently in certain parts of Florida if you know where to look. I spent a week of vacation eating sandwiches fashioned out of it, dipping it into my coffee, and sometimes just walking around stuffing it in my mouth like a proper American piglet while I was sightseeing. How could a piece of bread taste this delicious? I didn’t understand it. It was like no bread I had ever met before…smooth and rich tasting, with a crusty outside and a warm moist inside.

I decided when I returned home I would figure out how to make this bread, and then I could eat it all day, every day, until I could no longer fit out of my front door to buy more flour. Then I would Amazon Prime the ingredients directly to my house.

Got home, looked it up. Do you know what the secret ingredient is? I guarantee you don’t want to, but I’ll tell you anyway because I’m mean.

Lard.

Damn it. Damn it to hell.

I know I’ve eaten lard before, but never on purpose. My grandparents are from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania and while they’re not Amish, they eat a lot of Amish food over that way, as it’s readily available fresh off the farm in the local supermarkets. Things like Shoofly pie, dumplings, fried cabbage…Amish people are not whipping them up with a can of Pam – they cook with lard. (Bonus Snapple fun fact: the filling in Oreo cookies used to be a combination of lard and sugar. I used to eat those things like they were a necessary nutrient.) However, these days the concept of lard is foreign to me. I didn’t think anyone even cooked with that anymore. I had never seen it in my travels at the supermarket. Did they even sell it anywhere, or would I have to take a trip to the boondocks in Pennsylvania… or the 1990s… to be reunited with my bread? Now I was pissed.

Turns out they do make it. It comes in a little jar with a pig on it, and is called “Berkshire Pork Lard,” which sounded slightly British to me. Everything British seems somehow more refined, so I almost bought it. But I couldn’t. It’s lard and it gave me the heebie-jeebies.

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I’ve got a lot of creepy things in my search history but I never thought, “How to duplicate the taste of lard” would be one of them. Not that my search turned up anything. Damn you, Google – you can tell me exactly how to perform a DIY exorcism or knit a bicycle seat cover that looks like a vagina, but I can’t find any suggestions for non-lardy Cuban bread.

I’m going to figure this out if it kills me. Since my plans of stuffing my face with Cuban bread this evening have been foiled, I have a bit of free time to do some research.


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I make salad dressing and complain about ketchup.

*%^ing ketchup. I hate it.

I’m hardly what one would call a “food snob.” I do generally eat very healthy, and I love to cook so I spent years making almost everything from scratch. After spending a few months eating beans out of a can like a 1950’s hobo because I was newly single and had no one to cook for, I recently started up again. I’ll spend hours in the kitchen preparing a gourmet meal for one and then sit down and eat it by the light of whatever Yankee Candle nib I can find lying around the house.

If you think this is sad, kindly keep it to yourself.

It may seem a like a waste of time to create elaborate gourmet meals for one person, but half the satisfaction is in the process, and taking the time to do something nice for yourself is worth it. I mean really, if I can spend that much time cooking for someone else, why can’t I do it for myself? I’m the one who will appreciate it, I’m the one who did the work so I’m the one who deserves to eat it. I’m certainly not the one who will dump ketchup all over a dish that has no business being anywhere near ketchup.

I hate ketchup.

A few years ago, there was a viral human interest story about a French chef named Xavier Duclos who had banned the use of ketchup in his Florida restaurant for any patron over ten. Of course the whole concept was ridiculous; if someone’s paying to eat at your restaurant they should be able to put ketchup on whatever they want. They’ve purchased the food, it’s theirs. But I have to say I sort of understood.

Seriously, guys. I don’t ask for a lot, but don’t put ketchup on the food I have lovingly prepared for you. My biggest pet peeve is people who dump ketchup all over their food. I’ve witnessed friends pour a mound of  ketchup on everything from potatoes au gratin to Cordon Bleu to a fricking Quiche Lorraine. Drowned the food I made in a puddle of it. I went to dinner with someone who squirted ketchup all over a 60$ filet mignon once. I don’t get it. You can’t taste anything that’s smothered in ketchup. Pit ketchup against any other flavor, and ketchup wins. If you want to eat a plate of ketchup, just eat a plate of ketchup…but do it at your own house. Don’t do it when you’re a guest in someone else’s home and they spent hours making you something fantastic. It’s rude.

So we’ve established that I hate ketchup. No ketchup at the table. Normally, I don’t even have it in my house, I had no use for the stuff until I recently came across a recipe for the most delicious ginger salad dressing I’ve ever eaten. So I had to buy some, but I silently protested by drawing on the bottle.

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If you’ve ever been to Benihana, you’ve most likely started your meal with some anemic iceberg lettuce drizzled in a delicious tangy ginger salad dressing. I love that stuff, it’s pretty much the only reason I ever went to Benihana, as I’m not much of a meat eater and I always felt kind of awkward sitting around a huge table full of strangers while a chef juggled knives and squirted oil onto a griddle whilst doing a weird Eastern version of the Tom Cruise “Cocktail” dance. But oh, I love that dressing. The various store-bought versions I’ve tried never had the punch of the freshly made stuff. While perusing through some of the dusty cookbooks in a family member’s home, I found a recipe that is just as good as, if not better, than the Benihana version.  It’s from a book is called “Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2” by Todd Wilbur.

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Benihana-ish Ginger Salad Dressing

½ cup minced onion
½ cup peanut oil
⅓ cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced celery
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
….and finally…2 teaspoons ketchup

Throw it all in a blender, and run on high speed until everything’s pureed. It takes about 30 seconds and makes about 1 ¾ cups. Put it in a jar and stick it in the fridge, it keeps for ages because of all the acidity.

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I like my food to have a ‘burn your nostril hair’ potency so I add a bit more ginger and garlic than the recipe calls for, and I threw in some crushed red pepper flakes for an extra punch. But there you go, easy, delicious, healthier than the processed stuff you squeeze out of a plastic bottle, and a great reason to start eating salad. And as for the ketchup, its only purpose seems to be to add a gingery orange color. I’m pretty certain I could substitute tomato paste for the bastardized condiment and return to having a ketchup-free kitchen.

Enjoy.

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Procrastination.

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Procrastinators of the World, Unite! Tomorrow.

I am a master procrastinator. I will wait until the very last day to pay a bill, my library books are always overdue, and I wait until 11:30 at night to get on the treadmill so I can lie in bed, super energized for three hours while I stare at the ceiling. In a lifelong effort to fix this, I’ve read article after article about the causes of chronic procrastination on psychology weblogs which have cited everything from perfectionism to fear of failure as the root cause of this problem. The most comical article stated that people often choose to goof off instead of doing work because work is less pleasant than goofing off. Thanks, what an epiphany. Ironically, reading these articles just served as another giant suckage of time I could indulge in while putting off other, more important things.

I think I might just be lazy.

I flirted with the idea of writing a blog several years ago, a goal that ended up hanging out on the bottom of my bucket list. I thought the process would be cathartic, and it probably would have been if I had ever written anything. Skip to New Year’s Day of this year. “I should start my blog.” I told myself. “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Tomorrow turned into the end of February, then the end of March.

Today, I’m finally getting around to my new year’s resolution. On April 7th. I wrote something and set out to start my blog. I chose WordPress because it was free and seemed to be relatively popular. I researched the basics. I couldn’t come up with a theme but hell, my life really doesn’t have a theme so I shrugged and went to sign up anyway. I entered my e-mail address.

Turns out I already had an account here. From 2011. With nothing on it but this auto-generated “Hello World” post from 6 years ago.

Now, that’s some impressive procrastination. I’m almost proud of myself.

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