Category Archives: Food

Wine Whine

I’m all about doing my errands to and from work, so the other day I popped into a new wine store on my way home. That the sandwich board said something about cheap wine was merely a seal on the cork. Turned out to be more like a snake in the grass.

I walked into a sleek, white space, and it’s not just me saying it. The Google blurb calls it a “sleek liquor store.” It also says it has wine tasting machines that dispense samples, which must be well-hidden. Or maybe I was so distracted by the sleekness, I missed them. Sleekness apparently means bottles must be stored upright, 6 bottles high, with an additional 4 inches high of space per bottle. That is approximately 2-3 more bottles high than I can reach. I’m pretty sure no one under 6 feet tall could reach the top shelf. If you want to force customer interaction and make me ask to get a bottle of wine, move your business to the South. Ain’t no New Englander got time for that. Especially those after a long day at work. See, if we New Englanders want help, we’ll ask. If we want to chat, we’ll go visit a friend. Got it, Sleek?

As I was puzzling over the overwhelming display, a young one came out of left field, or actually from the left side of the store, and startled me. He of course asked if I needed help, and when I said I was just looking, he said something curt and turned away. That would have been a good time to offer the wine dispensing machine, my friend.

But personally I think it was because he knew damn well the wine rack system was incomprehensible without his guidance, and he was mad he didn’t get to explain it. Note to young hipsters: if I have to spend any time figuring out your wine storage system, you’ve probably already lost me. And maybe you didn’t want me in the first place, so perhaps the feeling is mutual. Fair enough.

Now there are occasions when I’m buying for another person, and I love nothing better than saying to a wine store person, “I need a wine to impress a Frenchman who is rather picky in his wine choices and drinks only reds, preferably grown in sandy soil.” They love that shit, believe me. And depending on the friend, I don’t mind spending money.

But today I was just buying for me, looking for a New Zealand Sauvignon blanc. But the Sleek Wall of Wine didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason to it. There was a sauvignon blanc over there and another up here. I wondered if it was like a bar, with the “top shelf” stuff higher up and the bargain stuff at the bottom? Or maybe it was alphabetical? Nope. Then I notice 2 big labels: 1W and 2W. They were sitting near each other, with no explanation. Was it code? A bad rhyme ? 1 wine, 2 wine, red wine, white wine? Cripes, now I need a key or decoder ring? I glanced around, but didn’t see a key posted anywhere. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to ask the hipster now. This was war.

That’s when I realized there were no price tags. What fresh retail hell is this?

winewhine1

So, you’re going to make me ask you to recommend a Sauvignon blanc and you’re either going to hand me a $30 bottle or ask me what my price range is and just like the real estate agents do, you’ll make sure to stay in my upper range. Hey, hispter, what’s in your 2/$15 bargain bin? Oh, wait, all this sleekness discourages a bargain bin, despite your “come hither” sign about cheap wine. What a scam.

At this point my head was spinning, and not in a good way from drinking too much wine, so I left. I was pretty sure there was another wine store before I was going to get on the train.

Sure enough, several blocks later, I saw a little store with wine and groceries. Ahhhh. Familiar wooden racks, wines displayed on top, and the extras directly beneath, laying horizontally snug. And hey, looky here! Three Sauvignon blancs next to each other and 2 from New Zealand. All with sticker prices. Fan-fucking-tastic.

I picked a bottle, handed the nice man my 10 bucks, and was on my way.

I do wish Sleek Wine Store all the best. I’m sure you’ll be great down South.

Paying It Forward

Another quick one, my chickadees. Yours truly had too much fun this weekend, and you know what that means. The facade I like to cultivate that I’m a dedicated, organized blogger gets blown to Cheeto land. I did get to see my best friend from childhood and her delightful, funny husband. They live in the desert, and I don’t get to see them very much, so that was completely awesome.

Back at work today, I got a text message from the kid to tell me his friends were over again and that they’d used my card to get food. I sighed heavily. They have been frequenting my house several times a week for the past few months. I get it, this is their last summer together before college changes everything. But today I got crabby. Where are the other parents? I muttered to myself. Why is my house where everyone gathers? No one offers to pay for anything. We end up driving everyone one home. Grumble, bitch. I checked my account for the food delivery damage. $60 bucks. Sigh.

But then I thought about my childhood friend. Her house was the gathering house. It had a yard all around it and had the advantage of not having a dad who yelled, like I had at my house. In the summers, we practically lived at her house, showing up before lunch and staying way past sunset to play hide and seek. And all day we inhaled immeasurable amounts of ice cream, Popsicles, sandwiches, snacks, and Kool-Aid. True, there were 7 kids who actually lived there, so what was a couple more, but still. I never heard her mom complain about us being there, sprawling all over the furniture, running around the yard, or consuming mass quantities of food.

So as I sit and listen to the kid and his friends laughing and talking trash (OK, it’s Dungeons & Dragons trash talking), I realize, I’m paying it forward for all those summers of freeloading as only kids can do — freely, without malice, and with gusto. Thank you summer second mom, I’m honored to carry on your tradition.

Week Two

It was kind of a rough week. I don’t recall the last time a president’s executive order increased my work load in hospital communications. So you can blame the Cheeto for this short post. His nonsense took up most of my energy this week having to write something to calm employees and patients about the immigration ban. Meanwhile, inside I felt like an old school journalist, sweating under deadline, in a cloud of cigarette smoke, and wishing for a Mad Men-like flask in my drawer. The week did end well, though, with a family gathering for my son’s birthday, and a Planned Parenthood meeting at a friend’s house. Some quality family time and political action does a girl good. I learned a number of things at the meeting:

  • Planned Parenthood provides Pap tests, breast exams, birth control, HIV testing, health care for men and women, and more.
  • In many communities, especially rural ones, Planned Parenthood is the only safety net provider of family planning.
  • I need a group, a glass of wine, and tasty snacks to help me write political letters. A while ago I had put in a reminder to myself to write to my US representative Katherine Clark about something. So, I thought I’d finally do that as well. When I pulled it up on my phone, it said “Thank Katherine Clark for not going to the inauguration.” Um, yeah, so clearly I can’t be trusted by myself to get the job done. In addition to asking her to keep funding Planned Parenthood, I was sure to thank her for all she was doing. Better late than never, I suppose.

So, that’s all I got this week. That and the photo from a long ago, far away vacation (back in September) with my sis and bro-in-law on Hilton Head island. That is my current happy place.

If you’d like to help keep Planned Parenthood funded, go to www.istandwithpp.org/call .

There’s Always Next Year

Like the Red Sox fans before the 2004 World Series win, every spring, my hope and optimism are reborn. This is the year I will have tomatoes before Labor Day and have more tomatoes than I can eat by myself. This is the year I will get to gaze at my gorgeous tomato plants with satisfaction and pride. This is the year I will finally beat those nasty bugs and critters laying in wait.

And as usual, shortly before Memorial Day I received my tomato plants, grown lovingly from seed, from my friends Becky and Susan. I was so proud:

tomato-before

My excitement was short-lived. Every single year, about three to four weeks in, something weird happens, and I have to send an emergency panic photo to Becky and Susan, with a plea for a diagnosis. This year it was these nasty little fellows: tomoato-aphids

In the past, I’ve had weirdly crinkled leaves, other types of bugs, something I dubbed butt rot. Let’s just say I keep Becky and Susan busy. This year it was aphids, which seemed easily solved with soapy spray. I followed the directions and in a few days the nasty things were gone. Yay! I was on track. And anyway, I usually am able to get a couple of handfuls of small tomatoes before havoc strikes.

A few weeks after that, I noticed the leaves at the bottom of one of the plants were getting yellow, but I didn’t pay much attention. In past years, when I was actually able to get a few handfuls of tomatoes before they were overcome with bugs, a virus, or my sheer inability to care properly for them, some leaves turn yellow. Some. It soon became clear, however, this plant was going belly up from bottom to top. I looked at the doomed yellow flowers and tried to stay hopeful. I still have another plant, after all.

Yeah, right. The other thing that happens every single year is that the plants all go together. There never seems to be a hardy survivor. And sure enough, when plant number 1 was about half-way dead, plant number 2 started its inevitable march to the big garden in the sky. I searched in vain for bugs, evidence of gnawing animals, stunted leaf growth. Nothing was wrong with them except, perhaps they realized that being in my care was going to mean their demise anyway, so I think they made a pact and took control of the situation.

They begrudgingly gave me five small tomatoes, threw themselves in each other’s arms and became this:

tomato-after

On the upside the basil is growing like crazy and seems impervious to me, bugs and critters. So at least I can make pesto.

So, dear delicate tomatoes, I bid you adieu. No judging, but I wish you could have been more like your sibling, Basil. Just you wait til next year.

 

Happy Dead Jesus, or Easter for Catholics

I might finally be turning the corner on my dread of Easter. I’ve written before about my religious disposition and how that whole Catholic thing just didn’t seem to take in me or in my family. In fact, one might say I ran screaming from being Catholic, and there are many reasons why, but the big one was Easter. Or should I say, the three bloody, gory days leading up to Easter. Despite my potty mouth and my penchant for channeling my gin-soaked, cigarette smoking alter ego Blanche, I’m a sensitive person. Well, at least in a squeamish sort of way. They call it the “Passion of Christ,” but I like to think of passion as either doing something you absolute love that feeds your mind, body, and soul, or, alternately, going at it with someone hot and sexy who thinks you’re hot and sexy. Call me crazy, but I’ve never associated passion with getting the snot beaten out of you and getting nailed to wood.

But growing up that’s what Easter was for me EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Rehashing the gory details of a man’s crucifixion for three days straight — a guy who by most accounts was just trying to be a decent person. Then, on Easter Sunday, the fact that Jesus is risen and the appearance of chocolate bunnies and jelly beans are supposed to erase all that. But it never did for me because my Catholic guilt had been honed to perfection. It was made perfectly clear to me that I caused his death. Jesus was getting beat up for me, specifically; the text is very clear on this part. Believe me, I was always looking for some loophole to pin it on the lame people of the time. No such luck. So you can perhaps forgive me if I wasn’t quite getting the joy of Jesus going to heaven thing.

Intellectually, I get that for some people Easter Sunday is just that. I only kind of understand it from years of asking enthusiastic Catholics what they get out of their religion because I was 1) stumped and 2) genuinely curious. The most common answer is they like the ritual, pomp, and pageantry. I thought that’s what the British monarchy is for, but apparently that’s just me.

The only thing that saved me from the Easter horror was the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. Yes, I get that Andrew Lloyd Weber ain’t no Stephen Sondheim, but I didn’t need Broadway perfection, just a transmutation. The music made me finally realize this is a rich human story set to some ass-kicking guitar riffs. I’ll never have the faith required to forget three days of pain to revel in the euphoria of the Easter morning, but I can sing, “Die if you want to, you innocent puppet!” like a Broadway bad-ass.

But I think I might finally be getting past all this — you all may only have to endure another year or two of an “Easter is gory” blog. Did I mention I tend to have a hard time letting things go?

I offered to bring dessert to my sister’s house for Easter — my sister’s extensive wine collection helps me keep everything in perspective and keeps my gory observations to myself. On Saturday I went to the Italian bakery in my neighborhood, and it was a beehive of people buying cakes, pastries, and cookies decorated with bunnies and chocolate eggs. There were eight people behind the counter, and the door to the back room swung open to reveal an additional small army of bakers and decorators. People were smiling. People were happy. One older couple laughed about spending $90 on pastries. We both knew they’d be bringing it to some big family gathering and enjoying each other’s company. I wished them a happy Easter as I lugged my own 7-pound box of fruit tarts and chocolate cake heaven back to my car. I wasn’t thinking about dead Jesus, I was thinking about blazing guitar riffs, heavenly bakery goodies, the cold spring day filled with the promise of warmth, and being with people you love. Happy Easter.

Photo credit: Heavy.com 20 creepiest Easter bunnies

How to Be a Resolution Rock Star

I find resolutions fascinating, mostly because people have such strong reactions for or against them. Folks tend to fall into two camps:

  1. I must lose 20 pounds, work out more, finally get through War and Peace.
  2. Resolutions are stupid, self-destructive, and are the end of civilization as we know it.

Of course there are entire industries to support both options. There are experts to tell you in great detail how to lose 20 pounds, work out more, and get through War and Peace. I’ll bet you could rattle off some of the tips without so much as a Google search. “Set realistic goals, have an exercise buddy, stalk your high school English teacher on Facebook and see if he or she will accept a report on War and Peace from you as a way to be accountable.” Blah, blah, blah. Who among us can honestly say we haven’t been sucked into one of those lists of top 10 ways to succeed at your resolutions? Liars.

The anti-resolution people are just as adamant and have their own lists of why people fail. These experts maintain that most people making resolutions are doomed and their failure just reinforces the bad feelings that led them to the resolutions in the first place. Then the bad feeling forces the hapless resolvers to do better the next year, with the same results. It’s a vicious cycle that the anti-resolution people seem to kind of enjoy writing lists about.

The truth is that probably most people start off in the first camp and get so pissed off they become members of the second camp. But let’s get real. Both sides have their points, and there’s every reason to believe you are good enough and smart enough (and gosh darn it people probably like you) to continue on with your life without having to lose 20 pounds, work out more, or read War and Peace. That is unless you were that person in front of me who was still stopped, even though the traffic light had turned green, because you were texting, watching a kitten video, or checking your Twitter feed. Then you really are as bad as your resolutions are going to make you feel, and I hope you fail miserably every year.

I don’t think it’s a bad idea to review once a year where you are in your life and what you have become, especially if you have become a phone zombie. If you feel like you could make a few changes, take heart and listen up. The problem is people set their sights too high. Forget about all that “make specific, manageable goals” poppycock. The key my friends is be less specific and keep the bar low. For example, if you want to lose weight, downgrade it to eating better. The beauty of this is that it can mean anything you want. Just inhaled a Snickers bar? No problem, eat an apple chaser. Better eating. Done.

Family driving you crazy? No worries. Your resolution could be to have more patience with them. So next time Uncle Bob is hocking a loogie at the dinner table, just go to your happy place. You get credit for not launching yourself at Uncle Bob and pummeling the loogie out of him. See? More patience. Done. God, how I love that disgusting phrase, hock a loogie. My resolution is to work it into my daily life at least once. Oh, look! I just did. Done. And I also resolve to use the fun word “poppycock” in a sentence. Yes! Two for two!

You are now a resolution rock star. You’re welcome. Happy New Year!

Post Thanks and the Dark Side of Carrots

Thanksgiving was busy and wonderful and there were many moments with friends and family I am grateful for. In a few instances I was laughing my ass off, but thanks to my middle-aged brain I can’t really remember what I was laughing about–let’s just say you had to be there.

So you can blame gratitude for the fact that this week I couldn’t get it together to write a regular post, or if I did it would have been sappy and positive, and who the hell needs that? Instead, I was recovering from all the post Thankgiving festivities and preparing my vegetable snacks for the week because I’m older and this is what life has come to. Snacking on vegetables. Go ahead and laugh young ones, and call me in 20-30 years. I hope you’ll be snacking on something more futuristic, yet similarly ridiculous.

So there I was emptying the bag of “baby carrots” when I discovered the ugly dark underbelly of this misnamed product.

They aren’t babies.

Look at that long witch/snowman nose shaped carrot lurking among the “babies” like the old hag in a fairy tale looking for tender flesh in exchange for a prince’s greedy wish.

I’m crushed, crushed I tell you! Wish me luck getting it away from the others. It had a mean look in its pointy end. And please join me in my petition to name these carrots more accurately. Like carrot stumps or witch carrot sacrifices. You know,  something truthful that rolls off the tongue. I’m sure we can all be grateful for that.