Monday, August 31, 2009

No food

As I mentioned before, I rarely really leave for lunch. Friday was one of my delivery days -- Indian food. Thing is that the Indian place has a $35 minimum for delivery. So I had to convince the HR person that she wanted Indian on Friday. After her part of the order, I was still left with about $26 worth of Indian food -- naan, chicken tikka masala, lamb korma, and sag paneer. Bottom line is that I was set for food throughout the weekend.

This should have left me free to party. Except I needed to get my hair done. And I showed up on Saturday for what I thought was my appointment to be told that it was too hot to do hair.

In an attempt to redeem my weekend, I headed to the Ann Taylor outlet. Because shopping there can correct so many ills in life. They are having my favorite sale -- buy one item on clearance and get the second clearance item at half price. Except there's almost nothing cute in my size. I did manage to find a dress and a skirt, all for $40.

So I kept trying to tell myself that my new dress was cute enough to compensate for the less than cute hair. But I had too much time at home. And so except for that one outing, I spent my weekend at home.

And I don't want your fucking sympathy. You can stuff that... Well if you know me, then you know where you can put that.

Here's the problem. Somehow I feel alright with writing here while for the most part I'm done with people. Everyone for the most part. Because most of my weekends are spent on my own so why the hell do I need people who aren't there? On any day of the week?

And yeah, I realize that a lot of this comes from the fact that September is quickly approaching. The month of birth of both my aunts and my stepmother. Let's be honest. The coming month is going to be hard as hell for me. And if I can make it through without other people, then so the better for me.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


The crab of the other night was an afterthought and was not meant to be eaten alone. I saw this recipe and was inspired. I never combine Indian flavors with beef because. Well, you know.

And I say inspired because I didn't follow the recipe to the letter. First of all, when I am working with herbs and spices with which I am familiar? Yeah, there was no measuring involved. Also the recipe calls for curry powder. Years ago I looked at the ingredient listing on a bottle in the store -- red pepper, coriander, fenugreek, and turmeric -- and realized that I already own most of the individual components. Except the fenugreek. For that, I always substitute another "f" that sometimes appears in Indian recipes -- fennel. And since it was supposed to be Indian spices, I threw in some cardamom as well.

And has become the custom around here, everyone has their spot to watch the preparation of meals.

But the finished meal was just for me. And I have to say that it was mighty tasty.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Something different

Most days for lunch, I run out to pick something up and then promptly return to the office. I eat while I continue to work.

Today I decided to use part of my lunch hour away from the office though. For months, I have thought to myself that I should head to the marina at lunch time since it's only a couple of miles away. So after picking up lunch in the neighborhood (Taco Bell, or as I call it Taco Hell. Because yes, sometimes I eat complete junk.), I headed on over.

It was a bit windy and I didn't have a sweater or jacket so I retreated to my car with my book after a few minutes. But I was parked right near the bench so I was able to still enjoy the view. And that land in the distance? That would be the runway at the Oakland airport. So yeah, I got to watch the planes land as well.

I think I'm going to be taking lunches like this more often.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Surf or die

I haven't really been doing food posts as of late. Why? Because I've been eating for existence for the most part. Nothing exciting there. But then I decided to mix things up.

I have been existing on stone crab claws for the last few days for dinner. Just steamed up with some melted butter. There had been some Dungeness crab in the mix . Just caught a bad crab though. And my digestive system has not been too thrilled with that bad choice. Didn't deter my thought of having crab though.

And now on the fifth day of crab, I could not help but think of one of my favorite 80s songs. (Sorry for the crappy quality on the video but it's all about the lyrics so take a listen.)

I still own my 12-inch of this song. Apparently the Surf MC's are classified as being California surf punk rap. Completely defines who I was in the 80s.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My first love

Normally on Sundays, I'd show you photos of my weekend adventures. No photos this weekend. Instead I decided to spend my weekend immersed in my first love -- books.

When I was growing up, my mother would send me to my room as a punishment. Eventually she learned that it wasn't punishment for me. Because my room was filled with books. And so I decided that this "punishment" thing meant time alone with my books.

As an adult it has become harder to find this precious time. I have found that the older I become, the less time I have to read. Except for those years in which I taught full-time. And so this weekend, the only time I ventured out was for food and cigarettes. I must admit that I took a very scenic route but things were overcast and so there are no photos.

My taste in books can be as eclectic as my tastes in food and music. This weekend was a kind of lowbrow one as my book of choice was One Fifth Avenue.

But then I was almost halfway through and read this.

"You're rich. You can do anything you want. There's no bogeyman around the corner who's going to punish you,"
"I thought God punished us," Annalisa said under her breath.
"God?" Nolene said. "I've never heard of such a thing. Spirituality is only for show. Astrology, yes. Tarot cards, yes. Ouija boards. Kundala. Scientology, and even born-agains, yes. But a real God? No. That would be inconvenient."

And so I read this and thought that I would delve into a subject which I rarely like to touch -- spirituality. But something told me to read on instead. And so, on the next page I found this.
Writing a blog was a bit like going to a shrink, she thought -- it forced you to examine your real feelings. But it was also better than a shrink, because you got to do your naval-gazing in front of an audience of several thousand as opposed to one. And in her experience, that one -- the shrink -- was usually half asleep and expected money. "This week, I realized that I spend at least thirty minutes a day nagging my husband," she wrote. "And to what end? There are no consequences."

That last line? That's what I thought when I read the first passage. Or at least that's where my mind ended up.

I started with the idea of what happened to a world in which we thought that it meant more than ourselves as individuals. Because the world I see, has an inordinate number of folks who feel that they are entitled simply because they breathe. And no one seems to be really calling them out on this shit. And as a result, there are no consequences for their actions. So they just keep doing the same old crap. We need to stop this cycle.

And maybe that's why some folks have a hard time understanding what things are basic human rights. Because there are these folks who flit around, not doing much but smiling for cameras, who have made some of us believe that this is important. That it might just even be a right. So who's to say what the important rights are at this point?

And then I thought of the readings of my childhood -- mythology. When Pandora opened that box, all kinds of bad things were unleashed upon the world. But in the end, the box contained one item -- hope. And so I like to believe that this hope still survives. A hope that we can get past our present stupidity and become the people we were meant to be. Because without this hope, we are truly nothing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Tonight I watched the finals of "Top Chef Masters" and I was moved. The final chefs were given a final challenge of a four course meal.

1. Your first food memory.
2. The food that made you become a chef.
3. The opening of your first restaurant.
4. Your future.

And then Rick Bayless said that this was all "the story of your life on a plate."

This resonated with me on so many levels. I have been told for many years that I am a storyteller when it comes to words but could I do the same with food? Because although most of the time when I cook, I believe that I have put my heart and soul on a plate, I'm not sure if others realize that. And so I thought of the challenge in terms of what I would do. I don't have memories of the last two so I will have to imagine.

First food memory? My challenge would be in turning my first memory into a starter. My first food memory comes from helping my paternal grandmother bake. And over the years I have become a much different baker than she was. She measured everything exactly, leveling the spoons and cups. While I use measuring implements when baking, my measurements are still not exact. This might be why when I give recipes to others, they are not able to duplicate what I produce. I now read all the time how baking is an exact science. There is a narrow range of "fudge" room in there though. And somehow in my eyes, my heart I know just what this is. So my battle is how does one create a starter out of something that is usually sweet? Unless I go with some kind of savory bread like the ones I did a couple of years ago with the caramelized onions with blue cheese.

The next I like to think of as, "What made you love cooking?" My sophomore year of college, one of my roommates had a copy of a basic James Beard cookbook. She never used it but I read it often and tried out things. I think the turning point for me was poaching chicken in white wine with tarragon. Until this point, I had never heard of tarragon. And I was raised by Southerners. We just didn't poach stuff. And then I used the liquid to make a sauce. I combined this with another cookbook I picked up and used the meat and liquid to create crepes. Basically I read one recipe for poached chicken and realized that there was a great deal more that was out there.

At this time, I have a deep love of spices and herbs. My favorite flavors are those of the Mediterranean and those of India. There is actually some overlap between the two. Part of the reason why I tried out that recipe for the ribs recently was because the rub incorporated a great deal of the spices that are common in Indian food. And I don't know if anyone else noticed, but I could distinctly taste the cardamom. So who am I now? I'm all about traditional cooking methods with global flavors.

And the future? I haven't gotten that far. I'm enjoying the now too much at the moment. But I'm pretty sure it will be a continuation of blending tastes of the past with the new flavors I have yet to experience.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

iPhone Love

On Saturday I was cruising up to Napa and grooving to the radio.

I mean, after all, they threw on "Back to the Hotel" -- a song that deserved to be cranked up just like the station's choice for Friday night, "Blow the Whistle."

But along the way to Napa they threw in something new. And I was suddenly happy that I own an iPhone because I started up Shazaam. Once the song was identified, I was able to click through to iTunes to buy the song.

I don't know about y'all but I'm loving the whole 70s groove in the video. Makes me think that it may be time for a new 'do.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What I meant to say

I was later showing up at my dad's party than I had planned. It was all because I got sucked in by the movie The Power of One. I read the book almost twenty years ago and frequently refuse to get sucked in by the movie. Because I know it will make me angry. And so yeah, I was angry by the end of the the movie -- for the the things that others may have taken for granted. You know? Like being able to fill out a ballot form and have it count for something?

Because while I was driving up to Napa, all I could think was that some of us have achieved a great deal (and somehow no one knows of our achievements except our small group) but the rest of us hang in limbo. And this limbo seems to be defined by who will get credit.

And so this is how I started my Saturday. This is what I wanted to share with someone, anyone. But I let it all go on my way to the party. I imagined what it would be but that didn't mean that that would be what it was.

But it was. On some level at least. In the course of the party, I met at least one
African American who would awe you. I know that I was completely awed and I'm one jaded bitch. It was like what Emerald and I discussed -- why is it when a person of color does something incredible, it rarely makes it into the history books? Because that's what watching The Power of One brings out in me -- the feeling that anything that I do because of "who I am," will be diminished as such.

The estate in my photos? It's a near mirror of the dream home I imagined at age 11. I wonder how different the world would be if I had seen all of this at age 13 as opposed to age 43.

And then there's that other point -- being exposed to such a great measure of wealth. Here's the thing. Every time I hear the word "wealth" in my mind, I hear the words "noblesse oblige" as the resounding chorus.

Whenever I use the term "privilege," others are quick to look at my upbringing. Yes, I have been charmed but privileged? Privilege to me is a political term. Privilege is what stops a police officer from pulling you over because you are the correct complexion. What I really love is that most of the time the folks who will tell you this is not true, have never had to experience this special kind of degradation, humiliation, this feeling that while you are the descendant of people who have been here for several generations, you are a pox on society. You don't think this is true? Well look at the scorn that recent immigrants have upon the descendants of slaves in this country. Thank you to the dominant culture for once more reminding us of our place. Must really piss the hell out of you that an African American man is now President of this country. And here's the honest thing. Most of us voted for him and every day we fear for his life.

Because we have spent too many years seeing what happens to an African
American man who speaks his mind. In my every day life, I do the same. I don't want to be the "dumb" or "too volatile" African American woman so sometimes I hold my tongue. Of course that volatility thing is often attributed to any woman who speaks out against the status quo. I am proud to be a part of these women.

And this is all that I wanted to discuss on Saturday. But no one was available. And so I was left with the only person upon whom I've ever been able to depend -- myself. And this made me frustrated and sad. Because I knew that I wanted to speak truth and to make change. But can you really do that with an audience of one? And so my tears were a mixture of sadness and frustration.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Return trip of sorts

Saturday I found myself in Napa once more -- this time for a birthday party for my father and his new girlfriend. The party was held at the home estate of one of my dad's friends. There was that brief moment of horror when I realized at the gate that I had forgotten to put the memory card back in my camera. I decided that the iPhone would have to do.

And throughout the afternoon, I realized that this is probably why I may occasionally take what's available to me for granted. I'm trying to work on that. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the photos.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I had a really great day today and will post about it later. But on the drive home to get ready for the rest of my day, I ended up in a craptastic mood. The kind of mood that has you brushing the tears away while you're driving. Because while driving down the road, I suddenly felt very alone in the world. And then I got angry. Yes, one can discuss all this crap with a therapist but shouldn't there be someone else? Someone whom one can call and say, "You know what? Today I think everything and everyone blows." And I had those kind of people to whom I could say this kind of stuff. They just died in the last year or so. And no one had replaced them. So tonight I feel a mixture of really good and really crappy. Normally I would curl up on the couch or the bed in this kind of mood but I promised a friend to go out. So yeah, I'm taking this crap out on the road. And hopefully no one crosses me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Making adjustments

I don't know about y'all but when I see a recipe I that catches my attention, I start planning the menu.

I don't have the cookware to prepare the chicken in the manner of the recipe so I decided to do my usual roasted chicken instead. The one change was that I would only season the chicken with salt and pepper as I felt the sauce would be where all the flavors would lie. Also, when I roast a chicken, I always put it on a rack in a baking dish so that the skin can get crispy all over.

Next was the challenge of the mushroom sauce. I went to the large store in the nearby fancy neighborhood. They carry Strauss whole milk yogurt so they've got to carry creme fraiche, right? Ummm. Wrong. Also there were no dried trumpet mushrooms. So I made do with sour cream and dried porcini. At this point I briefly thought, "Berkeley Bowl would have had both the creme fraiche and the dried trumpets." And then I had to remind myself that I no longer live in Berkeley. As such, it was time to start adapting instead of reminding myself of what could have been.

As I said, I always imagine a whole meal. So imagine my surprise when I started cooking and discovered that I only had about one cup of chicken broth to use for the polenta. But I had plenty of vegetable broth around so I used some of that as well. And then I threw in some Romano cheese.

The kale? Exactly what I had planned. I chopped it and threw it in a pan with some olive oil. Once it was almost completely wilted, I splashed it all with some balsamic vinegar. (I love the taste of balsamic with greens.)

While some things may not have ended up the way I originally planned, I was more than pleased with the end results. Because that's what it's all about. Starting with an idea and making sure that the spirit of the intention still exists at the end.

Oh, and Maddie, in answer to your question -- yes, I ate it all. Over the course of something like three hours.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Patsy, Patsy and the alleged Saffron

Back in the 90s when I hung out in the Castro on a regular basis, several of my friends proclaimed that I was Patsy. Whenever I heard this, I would whine, "But I want to be Edina." They'd laugh and reply, "Honey, you will never be Edina because you are Patsy." Whatever.

As I have now accepted this as my fate, I usually try to hang out with Edina types -- like Zombie Mom. Every now and then I find myself in the presence of another Patsy though. And two Patsys? Why quadruple the fun -- because we're each double fun on our own.

And so I found myself out at dinner last night with the other Patsy and the one who tries to call himself Saffron. I'm still not sure about the Saffron thing except he does seem to take all that education stuff seriously.

We met up at Puccini & Pinetti, a place I have passed on numerous occasions. (The other contender was First Crush. Oh and don't tell Maddie that the name of the street is Cyril Magnin because he might just start that whole Cecil thing all over again.) Maddie and Boy Toy had looked at the menu before I arrived. I had an advantage over them though having looked it up online. On Tuesday nights there are happy hour prices in the bar until 10 pm. And yes, that would be about the time we left after getting there around 7 pm.

Maddie and I split the calamari as an appetizer.

I went with the braised short ribs as an entree,

Maddie had the pork chop,

and Boy Toy had the lasagna.

And Boy Toy actually tasted the calamari and the pork chop. Apparently this is some kind of major feat.

OK. Maybe I should correct this. I ordered the short ribs and had them for lunch today. Because Maddie and Boy Toy now know the ugly secret of which Zombie Mom is fully aware. If you put alcohol in my stomach before food, I probably will not eat much. If I remember correctly, Zombie Mom put it as, "Now I understand the way of the skinny chicks. You unconsciously make calorie choices." And speaking of Zombie Mom, I wish that she could have made it but it just wasn't in the cards, or the stars, or whatever.

I do know one thing though. I'm going go miss Maddie and Boy Toy when they leave town tomorrow. Of course, then things may finally settle back down in the Castro once more.

Monday, August 10, 2009


As many of y'all know, Maddie and Boy Toy are in town. I met up with them yesterday.

We started with some quick touring around San Francisco. (They had done quite a bit of sightseeing on their own on Saturday.) And then we were off for the real feature of the day -- the Wine Country.

My original plan was that we would hit at least four wineries. I knew this would be a stretch since we also needed to make a stop in Berkeley. We only made it to two wineries -- Viansa and Domaine Carneros. I picked both because I knew that Maddie would love the grounds. The first had the added appeal that they only sell directly from the winery. In other words, you will never see their wines in a store.

As you can guess, we had a lovely time. For me the great part was taking it all in through someone else's eyes. I grew up around all of this and so sometimes take it for granted. That's part of why I started taking the weekend road trips -- so that I can remember and appreciate the beauty and wonders around me. And in true tradition of my weekend outings, I joined. The wine clubs that is. Now I will be receiving shipments from both wineries every other month. I can't wait for my first shipment -- and seeing Maddie and Boy Toy one more time before they head back east.

Oh, and yes there are more photos -- but I think I might just let Maddie post them. If you want to see us enjoying some wine, then check out David's blog if you haven't already.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Taking notes

If you know me well, then you know I love to process stuff. It's just how I work. I hear something, then do some research if necessary, and let it all marinate. Sometimes this is done in a matter of minutes. Other times it can take longer.

I have been reading Dr. Biggles and Chilebrown for quite some time. Problem was that at my apartment, I didn't have any outdoor space -- unless you wanted to count behind the building by the dumpster. Me? I just thought that was disgusting.

In my new home, I do have outdoor space though. (It was one of the must-have's I told my realtor. The list was (1) nice kitchen, (2) outdoor space, (3) hardwood floors, and (4) bathroom with decent tub.) And last week, I finally got a grill -- a real grill in my opinion. Couple that with the fact that my dad has been dumping all of his past bulk shopping on me including a package of baby back ribs and an idea started to form.

I decided that I would give the indirect method a try. When I mentioned this to Uncle Crickity Crack, he mentioned throwing in some wood. And suddenly I could see him sitting around with Biggles and Chilebrown. They'd be discussing grilling techniques while sipping on some nice cold Buds. While I did pick up some wood chips, I decided to wait until the next time to try them out. Baby steps.

Saturday I got the ribs out and applied the rub to the ribs. (And Miss Ginger, you will find the sauce recipe here as well.) Because I have always felt that it's all about the seasoning. Because well-seasoned, well-cooked meat doesn't need sauce.

The ribs just before coming off the grill so that I could start the next batch...

with sauce applied...

and ready to serve.

Now this was a lot of food, especially after I added side dishes. Because y'all know I have some Southern tendencies. So there were deviled eggs to start off with. And mac and cheese, baked beans, potato salad, grilled corn, grilled asparagus, and grilled artichokes. And if you needed something to dip the veggies in, I whipped up an aioli.

So yeah, I asked folks over to join me and was graced with the presence of Zombie Mom, the Commander, Sister Locks, and a woman I met though Zombie Mom, Filmmaker. Even after I insisted that they take plates home, there is still plenty left. Who wants dinner?

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Recently Cookiecrumb was extolling the benefits of making your own barbecue sauce. Say what? In my family, the tradition has always been to start of with some bottled sauce and then doctor it up. The less doctoring, the better the sauce was to start off with. (This line of thought applied to a lot of other things when I was growing up and so I grew up thinking that I didn't like a lot of things. Turns out I just didn't like how they were prepared.)

But last night I decided to give it a try. I did a little research -- because that's what the internet is for when you're having a slow day at work -- and found the recipe pictured above. Next time I won't go with the stone ground mustard. It was a texture thing for me. Other than that, it was pretty damn tasty.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sitting pretty

Earlier this week, Zoomie asked folks what they had on their tables. Easy question for me to answer -- a bowl and plate I retrieved from my aunt's house right before I moved. Some days it contains fruit or veggies. Today it holds nothing.

I could have posted this earlier in the week but the thing is that I got to thinking. Once I had selected the light fixture for my dining area, I had decided that my table and chairs would not do. I have spent months looking for a set that I loved. A few weeks ago I found this. I just couldn't get myself motivated to go to the store. But Wednesday I bit the bullet and this morning it all showed up.

And finally I could take the photo of what sits upon my table.