Sunday, February 22, 2009

Too much stress and a tough training session yesterday make a relative soreness spread across my back muscles like branches reaching.

I've been spending the last few weeks doing more for myself, and harboring a tremendous amount of guilt about it despite my attempts to convince myself otherwise. These shouldn't be guilty pleasures - taking a day off from work for a fancy lunch and a museum, new sheets with a higher thread count than I've ever owned before, an abundance of red wine, praise and attention and love from the people around me. Maybe if my ALP weren't woefully behind - woefully might be an understatement at this point - and I didn't have that nagging reminder in the back of my mind about the pleasure of being responsible and paying bills and the joy of looking in the mirror when I've been eating healthfully. Maybe it's that these pleasures are just a little bit outside of my day to day life and they allow me to escape facing the occasional ugliness of day to day. If I can figure out a way to incorporate these things into my life without the running away feeling, maybe that guilt will dissipate. A little bit?

Being a grown up without a trust fund is hard. How glorious it must be to be able to always follow the path that pulls you toward it. 


Monday, September 15, 2008

DFW

The news about David Foster Wallace made me incredibly sad, and ashamed that I never seem to have time to finish "Infinite Jest." I suppose it's not unusual to, when hearing someone has passed, wish you'd known them better when they were alive. I wish I'd known him better when he was alive.

All weekend I've been unable to shake a conversation I had nearly 10 years ago during my Chautauqua summer. I had a friend that summer who, at 18, had spent almost half of his life struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. On first glance he looked and sounded like the kind of person who attracted trouble, the kind of guy who would kick the stool out from under you at a bar just to pick a fight. In truth, he was brilliant. Painfully brilliant and artistic and sensitive, and he'd created a persona for himself that would ensure that no one would find out.

When I met him, he was in the process of getting his life back in order. One day he'd gone to see a therapist that said something to him that seems completely unethical but shook him so much that he never looked back. She said to him that because he was so brilliant, he would spend the rest of his life feeling lonely and misunderstood. She said that most people who have these amazing minds feel disconnected from everything and everyone around them and often end up killing themselves because of it.

What makes me the most sad about the loss of David Foster Wallace is how disconnected he had to feel to take his own life, yet how much his work made others feel connected to him.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Another food entry

I'm not nearly as prolific a cook or food writer as Pam, but I do enjoy doing both. Yesterday I made a huge dinner that took about three hours to make and not much time at all to scarf down. I have been craving fresh summer tastes and food that won't undo all the hard work I've been doing at the gym, and these recipes were perfect.

We started with gazpacho, which Jarred loves and I haven't made in years. I decided to puree it instead of leaving it in big chunks like I normally do. The chunks always make me feel like I'm eating salsa - it felt much more soupy as a puree. I covered some shrimp in cumin and grilled them before tossing them on top of the soup, and I really liked the contrast of hot spicy shrimp and cold soup. I didn't have Tobasco, but I did use Spicy V-8 instead of tomato juice as the gazpacho base.

The recipe made a HUGE bowl, which will make a nice addition to lunches for the next week.

Then we had grilled fish tacos. Now, I've never been to California. I have never eaten (I'm
guessing) "authentic" fish tacos. I don't know what that means, but I imagine I'd know it if I'd eaten it. I have had fried fish tacos at a few places, including the controversial Border Cafe (it's a go-to fun and casual cheap eats place for me, but that "authenticity" issue seems to be a sticking point for many people) and I've had grilled fish tacos at the even more controversial Cheesecake Factory. In the interest of health, taste, and keeping my kitchen walls grease-splatter free, I opted for the grilled. The recipe I used came with a great marinade that called for Old Bay but didn't need it. Didn't need the honey, either, which I discovered because our honey has entirely crystallized and I was too lazy to do anything about it. I also didn't feel like messing with the gas grill on the rainy porch, so I grilled the tilapia in about 2 minutes on the rusty trusty Foreman. Jarred wanted whole wheat tortillas, which even after heating weren't very soft or flexible, but we're not good at folding them anyway so I don't think it would have made much difference anyway.

I chopped some red cabbage (since we don't have a shredder - we're missing a lot of things which I hadn't realized during the school year) and cilantro, made a mild avacado crema and modified the dressing in the recipe to be a mix of fat-free sour cream, adobo sauce, some chipotle seeds, lime juice, and cumin. A lingering smoky spice, it was just bordering Too Hot For Jenny To Eat, but not quite. I also made one of Jarred's favorites, a black bean and corn salad with an olive oil/lime/cayenne dressing that really makes the entire dish (recipe below; note: I only use one can of black beans because I like mine with more vegetables, and I use one or two scallions at most because they can get really strong).

We ended with my first, and very successful, attempt at a granita.
The recipe was simple enough, and I used some leftover watermelon puree to pour on the granita before serving to make it a little juicy. For a dinner party I'd consider adding a little vodka to make a slushy drink/dessert. I definitely want to make more of these. Very refreshing and really easy. I'd like to try a lemon/blueberry version next, and maybe a spiced cider version on a warm autumn day?

I love how fresh everything tasted and how relatively easy it was to compile. I'd love some suggestions for things to do with the leftover adobo cream - we have tons of it! Burger topping seems too obvious... any ideas?


Corn and Black Bean Salad
½ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
⅛ tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 15oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1½ cups frozen corn kernels
1 avocado peeled, pitted and diced
1 red bell pepper chopped
2 tomatoes chopped
6 green onions thinly sliced
½ cup fresh cilantro

Place lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper in a small jar. Cover with lid, and shake untl well mixed. In a salad bowl, combine beans, corn, avocado, bell pepper, tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro. Shake lime dressing and pour over salad. Stir to coat and serve.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

You can look at the menu but you just can't eat

Did you ever get the feeling that the universe at large was trying to tell you something? Suddenly your horoscope is eerily accurate, you identify a little too closely with characters in books and movies, song lyrics seem to speak to you very directly... if you know that feeling you know how frustrating it can be when you can't quite figure out what the "something" is you're supposed to understand, and it can be heartbreaking when you do know what that something is but you're not quite sure you're ready to hear it.

Or maybe you, like me, spend too much time alone drinking wine.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wish you were here...

A new website and a new database means lots of testing testing testing. I don't think any of us were anticipating the steep learning curve involved with learning new tricks, nor did we have any idea how many functionalities would be disfunctionalities, and that reporting them would result in a series of lengthy back-and-forths with the designers who would insist in rather curt and rude ways that the problem was not theirs. Add to this the stress of the normal workday in sticky 90 degree weather and you've got one sweaty, pissed off Jenny on your hands.

I'll use this opportunity to take a deep breath and imagine a few happier places than this:



Corpus Christi, Texas, enjoying a drink by the pool with my good friend Emily and her dog Betty.








The bar at Eastern Standard, drinking champagne. And a manhattan. Not necessarily in that order.





Varanasi. I've never been, but it's at the top of my list of Very Expensive Life Goals.






Portland, Maine, dishing with Gill over dinner at Fore Street.







Hilton Head, with as many friends as can be gathered, drinking beer and eating crab legs and ending with a bonfire on the beach. I know, it sounds trite, but save for Saco I've never been to a beach bonfire. Hey, I'm from Jersey.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Nostalgia

Thursday morning, as I got off the train at Science Park, I thought of the lyrics in Elvis Costello's "Flutter and Wow" (one of the top ten best love songs of all time, yes, all time): "Pulled my hand up into the sleeve of my coat/so you wouldn't know how it was shaking." I had only been back to the Museum once since I left, and it was only a few weeks after my departure - I was in the area to get my hair cut and I'd ducked in quietly to see Chad and Croys at Da Boof. This visit, though, was designed for maximum exposure, and I was anxious about who I might see.

On top of all of that was also the sad news that had come just the day before that while they had been slowly letting the lifeblood of that place drain away, they'd decided to force some out on their own. I approached the revolving door (oh if they only knew the irony of having that right in the front of the building) with dread and felt my stomach turn. My fears were both warranted and needless, because at that place, nothing changes.

BoBo is still a complete clod who uses office lingo incorrectly. HC is still purposefully vague. Lumpy is still socially retarded and shows up when she's not wanted, Barbara W. still has the best laugh ever (although she hasn't much occasion to use it now) and Andrea is still the best person in the world, who can take any awkward situation and make it fun by just being her always sweet self.

Returning to the Museum didn't leave me with the triumphant feeling I'd hoped it would. "HA! I told you all I was better than what you thought of me." It also didn't bring back the bittersweet memories of Eric K's hourly smoke breaks to help me get over a bad break up, or Rob's handkerchiefs in the stairwell. The visits to Heather and Blair's office to eat the seaweed crackers they didn't like. The joke that turned into a real argument between Mark and Chad about whether or not eating the shells of peanuts made you sick. The constant reminder of fridge cleaning. The nights at Lingos. The afternoon walks to J Pace's. The bathroom launch pad. Eating my sandwiches down by the river. "And THEN I went for ANOTHA WALK." "Ding Gala's done!" Giving Kathy a near nervous breakdown as Chad tried to help her get over her fear of butterflies by taking her to the Butterfly Garden. Meetings with Blair at Aldo Accessories. Re-creating scenes of Kathy's in-office demise with plastic figurines.

Being back at the Museum brought me nothing but sadness. Sadness that hatred of being there was what held many of my friendships there together, and without it I lost some people who were really important to me. Sadness that the bad leadership continues to march on. And sadness that I don't think I ever really loved those moments and those times as much as I should have, or as much as I do now looking back. But this is how nostalgia works, yes? We look back fondly on things that weren't so great. I sometimes wonder if the things I am nostalgic for ever really existed, or if my desire to re-create those feelings that I only have now in retrospect is what makes me so unstatisfied with my current state of affairs.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

WOOHOO! Wine Expo '08 duuuuuuude!

I just got home from a very long weekend as an exhibitor at the Wine Expo. I'd never been and I must admit that it was not at all what I was expecting. I expected a larger room, a bigger selection of wine (at least more US regions represented, and certainly more small vineyards present), more chef stages, the ability to purchase more (for some reason I could have sworn that when Andrea and her parents went they bought wine, or at least ordered it to be shipped), and a much older, wealthier crowd. As far as our presence there, we all expected people to want to register for courses on the spot.Instead there were lots of people in their 20s and 30s, lots of folks in flannel and fanny packs, and no one stopped for long enough to register for anything, to the point where only a few hours in on Saturday we took down the registration promo signs.

A few delightful surprises: many people were taking classes already and loved them, and those who weren't were very interested. We got some great feedback on the marketing, and one guy even stopped to take a picture of one of the signs I made! ("She thinks all zinfandels are white.") The wine stoppers/foil cutters were a huge draw and a big hit and went faster than we could have expected. We had some offers to donate wine which is wonderful. I ran into Brian from the Phoenix who is quickly becoming one of my favorite new people and not entirely because he gives me free stuff. I ate (and then later purchased) some really wonderful manchego cheese partnered with almonds and honey. I also bought a jar of hot brussel sprouts - no really, they are wonderful. I can't wait to have a party and put them on the coffee table I have yet to buy in a lovely little dish I have yet to buy. I couldn't resist a rosemary infused olive oil, and will indeed use it as was suggested, tossed onto some pasta with a little bit of cheese (he said ziti but I don't like ziti {I know, it's pasta, it all tastes the same but really I don't like ziti} so I'm thinking tortellini or maybe a goat cheese ravioli would be fantastic.)

Some less than delightful surprises: vomit. Everywhere. Yesterday as we were leaving there was a girl sitting in a chair next to a bucket, her boyfriend at her feet helping her clean puke from her jeans, and a statie overlooking the entire scene. The best part? Right next to the exit, so we all got to watch and judge as we left for the night. This evening I did the obligatory "go to the bathroom before getting in the car" trip and at least three stalls were completely unusable because the floor was absolutely covered in vomit. I don't even know how that's possible. There are sinks and trash cans and other toilets on the way to that toilet, and then you, standing right in front of a toilet, missed it completely. I would hate to see what that girl's sweater must have looked like. In commenting on how gross it was, someone in front of me told me she saw a guy barely bending over to throw up into a trash can, near where the Luna bars were (right in front of the Celebrity Chef stage for those of you in attendance.) Give me a BREAK.

There were also a number of people stumbling around at 5:00, grabbing empty bottles from unmanned tables and trying to drain the dregs. Tonight, since no one wants to lug a half empty bottle of wine back to their hotel room along with all the other show materials, there were plenty of half-bottles to be found, which one group did (they looked to be 24 at the oldest). Staked near the exit, they plopped themselves into a group on the floor, chugging wine and hooting. Courtney appropriately titled the scene "The Fall of Rome."

Indeed.

I was really grateful that we were able to do this, and am excited to have generated some good buzz and hopefully good students from being there. I am absolutely disgusted with the behavior I saw by some (thankfully a small minority) of the consumers, though. It ties in to people who send emails on their Blackberries at the Symphony, who would rather throw an elbow into your kidney than say "excuse me," who are so rude and selfish and lacking any sort of basic human civility that it literally keeps me awake at night wondering how they can live with themselves and how on earth I'm expected to. I've seen 8th grade classrooms with more grace and decorum, and I'm betting even a classroom filled with drunk 8th graders might even command a bit more respect.

Is Boston falling? Or are these just a few morons who need to be swept aside so the rest of us can go about our business of contributing to the world?