Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Food Porn Chronicles: It Was a Dark n Stormy Night

So the saying goes that all anyone ever uses blogs for these days is to post pictures of their cat or whatever they happen to be eating. I guess I've been guilty of both. It's not as extreme as the San Francisco Chronicle's Jon Carroll and his cat columns, but I like to think the comparison is somewhat appropriate. Carroll is more brilliant than me, though, so he gets to be more self-indulgent than me.

But onto the blah blah blah.

Tonight's dinner was inspired by a trip to Dallas BBQ last Saturday, when it was about 140 degrees outside. It's a touristy joint with passable barbecue, but we were more interested in the frozen margaritas. My friend inhaled his large plate of steaming brisket, but I couldn't bring myself to have anything hot. Instead I had a shrimp cocktail on a bed of avocado and lettuce. Crisp, cool and horse radishy. It hit the spot.

Tonight, back in my greenhouse of an apartment, I decided it was time for Dallas BBQ shrimp cocktail, redux.

7-9 large shrimp, peeled
1 ripe avocado
1/4 red onion, minced
1/2 tomato
1-2 leaves lettuce, chopped
juice of 1 lime
red chili flakes
shrimp cocktail sauce

Boil the shrimp until cooked through. Don't overcook. Combine avocado, onions, tomatoes and lime juice. Mash together until smooth with a few lumps (you've just made guacamole.) Add salt and chili to taste. Place shrimp along edge of bowl. Serve guac on top of lettuce. Makes 2 servings.

Notes: I didn't have shrimp cocktail sauce on hand, so I mixed wasabi with ketchup. The wine glass turned out to be hard to eat out of so I recommend a regular ole bowl. If you don't like eating sea poo you should devein the shrimp before you boil them.

A couple of friends recently brought me a bottle of dark rum in exchange for dog-sitting their beautiful, sweet Australian cattle dog while they were on vacation. Perfect for dark n stormys.

The rum, not the dog.

The key to good dark n stormys, according to a quick trawl of the interwebs, is the ginger beer. My favorite is Stoney Tangawizi (made by Coca-Cola??), a standard soda offering available in nearly every inhabited outpost in Kenya. It's not too sweet, has quite a bite and makes me sneeze. A friend visiting from the U.S. even brought a few bottles back to California with him, or claimed he was going to.

Alas, Stoney, like Tim Tams (owned by Pepperidge Farm??) and a limited few other brilliant foreign creations, is not available in the U.S. Would I have to go to Whole Foods to buy overpriced ginger beer?

It turns out that ginger beer is extremely popular in the Caribbean, and that dark n stormy is a Caribbean drink from Bermuda or Jamaica depending on who you ask. Which means that my neighborhood grocery store, which serves a Caribbean and West Indian community, stocks shelves and shelves of ginger beer varieties. There were so many to choose from. I couldn't decide. I finally went with the Diet Goslings. You know, if you're planning to drink as many dark n stormys as I am, you should avoid any sugar you don't have to ingest.

Dark N Stormy

1 part dark rum
4 parts ginger beer

The can of soda expanded in my fridge, resulting in the Tower of Pisa effect you see.

And another thing. Apparently you can suck tea or coffee through a Tim Tam with the corners bitten off, and win contests for your effort.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Laff of the Day #7

As told by the Eternal Paid Volunteer Temp:

"I was at the vending machine today and this fat lady..." [holds arms out to indicate a 300 lb woman] "...was complaining about how everything is too healthy. 'Why's everyone trying to make us be so healthy? Why can't they put regular soda in the vending machine instead of this diet crap?' So I said, 'Well, this is a hospital. They want you to be healthy.'

And she said, well if we were all meant to be the same size, we'd all be a hundred pounds, wouldn't we?

Then she said, 'I'm going downstairs to the other vending machine to get a real soda.'"

[The End]
And then I said, "While you're down there you should also try to get a real gym membership."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Left My Heart In...

It's back to the grind after a glorious week in San Francisco, the greatest city on earth. A friend said tonight that there is a marked difference in my mood and energy since I've been back.

"Even your skin looks different," he said.

"I'm browner," I said.

"No, something else," he said.

Love, probably. And life. Something renewed in my spirit and my soul. Something gently shaken and lovingly reawakened. My head tilted with curiosity, my eyes squinting into the sun, my shoulders dipping and legs zipping around people to get a better view. Showered once again by the love of old friends, the kindness of strangers, and all the things that make my pulse race for the place that I call home only because it resides in my heart.

I reconnected with the people who paint my world there with broad and fine strokes, in vivid and muted colors. I got to know distant connections who are now being recruited to nourish the love and wonder and passion for life that only seems to spring forth when I'm out there. I reconnected with the city itself -- a living, breathing, pulsing mass of rolling hills, crashing surf, dramatic cliffs plunging into deserted beaches and shimmering tidepools, tiptoeing fog, crisp blue skies, sprawling bridges and winding highways and car-free bike lanes.

There have been tiny tiny men who were threatened by the knowledge that I'd never love them as much as I love San Francisco. They have bellowed in their weak, quivering voices that San Francisco is not a living thing and wouldn't miss me if I moved away to follow and prop up their empty souls. They lacked imagination, they lacked self-worth, and they lacked a compelling reason to take up precious space on our planet. So when a tomato truck ran them over while they were wiping their crack with poison oak leaves on the side of Interstate 5, I only mourned for the tomatoes.

So what? I love bloody marys.

In San Francisco, I'm alive. The vitality and passion that were part of my daily wardrobe, tucked into every vein when I lived there years ago, became fiery again. I'm not sure what it is, this match struck against a coarse surface, this beacon through pea soup fog, these hibernating parts of my soul that bound out of bed at the crack of dawn when I find myself sitting on the dock of the Bay, wasting no time.

In New York, those parts of me have fallen asleep. At some point in the last three years, complacency took over. Things started to seem good enough. Monkey dancing for lethargic bureaucracies seems good enough. Doughy, unchallenging, clown-like men seemed good enough. Being surrounded by plodding vapid lifestyles seems good enough, as long as it comes with eye contact and a vague semblance of customer service.

There's an equally valid flip side: The friends I have here are priceless. I'm glad to have a job, and a lovely bike, and a kickass living situation in an endearing neighborhood. I'm young, healthy and don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me.

In this silly thing called life, I'm constantly faced with the dilemma of which reality to use to realign my perspective, how finely to tune my patience and my discontent, exactly what constitutes opening my eyes so I can feel gratitude and what constitutes spin. It's not East Coast vs West Coast, it's Eastern vs Western.

Practice: Sitting still, breathing in until your Buddha belly becomes impressive. Now shed your desires. This is how to achieve happiness. Want creates dissatisfaction. Accept what you have and be grateful, instead of feeling entitled to more and trying to reach for things you don't have.

Versus: How many million times did I want to shake my Kenyan friends in the village and say, "Stop complaining about what you don't have and do something about it. Say out loud what you're thinking and ask for what you want."

There's no right answer to my dilemma. Or rather, the right answer is different every time I ask the question.

There's something missing when I'm not in San Francisco. It's that thing that I know exists, because I remember seeing it somewhere before. Not just seeing, but holding it and breathing it and living by it. Now I've gone for years without tending it, and then it reappears joyful dancing frolicking in the form of the place that feels like home, the place that holds my heart. It's so obvious. But sometimes it comes in other forms. Like in the form of another rich, rare soul revealed to me through uncontrollable laughter, through vocabulary words I never knew, through a conversation full of brilliant ideas I completely disagree with. And then it's all of those things held up to me as a mirror reflecting the beauty of my own soul. Yes, I've seen you before.

It's my lifelong love affair. Like all true love, the feelings ebb and flow. But kind lovers forgive each other for being absent, for taking each other for granted for long periods of time. They do this because their love still lives and breathes and kicks and scratches. It's not going anywhere. They know they've been fools for pretending otherwise.

Back to the complacency. It settled in when I wasn't even looking. It slowly, silently smothered me, stubbed down the embers in my soul's campfire. But I'm still wearing my headlamp. I can see that the s'mores I made awhile ago have cooled too much, the graham crackers are a little dry and uninteresting. Don't worry though. I'll wrap and save them for later. Tonight I'll retire to the tent, bring in my hiking boots so they stay dry, zip out the biting critters. I'll get a lot of sleep, and dream courageous dreams.

I wake up to the sun these days, and it rises early.