Hello, happy campers! Here it is: post four (of six) that has been ripped from the cold, dead hands of my former blog. Re-posted here from 2007 for posterity, and may some relevant god have mercy on my sad soul. I give you Moral Turpitude. An Outrage.:

So, I was reading the RedEye this morning like a good little CTA rider, and I came across this small, glimmering gem of knowledge:

“One long-term study on rats showed that former binge-drinking rats—with a binge defined as exceeding the equivalent of a .08 blood alcohol level—had more trouble learning new things than rats that had never had a drop to drink. Tasked with swimming around a pool in search of a platform to stand on, the teetotaler rats were able to find the platform easily after it was moved, while the former binge drinkers—which had last been drunk three weeks earlier, the equivalent of six to seven human years—kept circling around the platform’s original location.”

Which just begs the question–if the average lifespan for a rat is 2-3 years, where are these rats being served? Clearly Chicago’s age enforcement for bars is not as stringent as we all thought. Shame on you, city enforcers. Shame on you. I move we discredit this study as unethical on the grounds that they must instead test on animals old enough to understand the effects of alcohol. Like turtles.

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Reverse Darwinism

July 15, 2011

“I look busy, but I’m just drawing pictures.”

Huh. So, having been discussing animal collective nouns with my darling male companion last week, it caused me to remember I had once given conquistadors a collective noun classification. So, in search of the reference, today I stumbled across some old blog entries I had drunkenly or hungoverly pecked out back in those years, before I started keeping this blog, on a site no one ever visits anymore *coughMyspacecough*. Oh, I’m sorry, something in my throat. On Myspace, which no one ever visits anymore.

Anywho, if you’ve read these already several years ago, both of you, feel free to be excused to go have a smoke outside until I’m finished. All the rest of you must staaaaaay. 

Until then, I’ll post one a day for the next few days. Good? Good.

Note: it is entirely appropriate to accuse me of laziness for not wanting to write anything new right now. I actually have a good rant sort of worked out in my head, and also another ongoing bloggity project that’s been sitting dusty on an invisible shelf (that apparently collects real dust) for months. But, again–lazy. I’m getting there.

In the meantime, I give you Reverse Darwinism. Me, circa 2007. You lucky person, you.

Ahem.

“Hi!”

“Sources claim that Henry J Heinz began making ketchup in 1876. The recipe has remained the same to this day. Heinz was neither the inventor of ketchup nor the first to bottle it commercially. The tomato is a native of the Andes, and early in the 1500s, while living in Mexico a group of Spanish conquistadors discovered it, and the tomato followed them back to Europe.”

Evolution rears its ugly head yet again, apparently. Here I am looking up the history of ketchup (as one spends one’s time doing during one’s lunch break), only to read here that the first tomato ever discovered apparently had the ability to follow (and keep up with) a group of conquistadors… (Shit. is that right? Myriad of conquistadors? Gaggle of  conquistadors? An invasion of conquistadors? Let’s see….murder of crows, pride of lions, school of fish, silliness of Republicans, herd of sheep, bellowing of bullfinches, flock of camels…)—we’ll say ‘disco of conquistadors.’ Why? Because it amuses me.

BABY! My heart is full of love and desire for you!

Moving on… I believe this suggests that the original tomato had, at least, legs, and then certainly arms for balance, likely opposable thumbs for wielding weapons (so as to survive when conquistadors get into a scuffle, as conquistadors tend to do), and a prehensile tail (clearly for hanging onto branch and limb when attempting tough terrain). Which just makes you wonder, I think, how we as humans have affected the evolution of the tomato so much that we have simply caused its appendages to fall out. Clearly our global footprint is deeper than we thought. This concerns me very deeply.

Pow!

My message to you is this: before we can inflict any more harm on the state of the world’s vegetation, quit pulling the vine off the tomato, or else someday—if evolutionary history repeats itself—our tomatoes will simply be red, round balls, inherently vineless and incapable of forming their distinctively pleasing shape. For the love of god, people, do it for the Earth. Okay? Who’s with me?

This is all true, by the way. Don’t bother looking it up.

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How the hell did I do this?

So, I went about trying a new recipe for an upcoming barbeque. Actually, I had six new recipes to try out for this thing. Yes, six new recipes for one barbeque. Because, you see, in my world there is bored, and there is overly bored. And when I get overly bored, I tend to go overlyboard. Oh yeah–when overly bored I tend to go COMPLETELY  Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell  on your ass. That’s accurate.

And I’ve been bored with the things I’ve been cooking lately, plain and simple.

So, I stumbled across some new recipes, among them–PB&J cookies.

Ahhhhh-ahhhhhhh-ahhhhhhhhh!

What’s that you say, God? Peanut butter and jelly cookies? And also, that despite certain patriarch-influenced depictions, you’re actually a gloriously curvy, blue-singin’ woman? I KNEW IT! Well, all except the PB&J cookie thing, though. That was a new thought. A delicious, delicious new thought.

So, my first order of business before any of the rest of the recipes was to make the PB&J cookies. And then another set of experimental cookies that night, and several new dishes to follow the next day.

Right. So, I get to mixing this recipe I had found on some woman’s blog. I get all the way through mixing before I realize this recipe hasn’t called for any flour or sugar or butter or anything like that which one might find in a non-imposter cookie. No, this one is mainly peanut butter, with a dash of baking soda, brown sugar, vanilla, and egg white. And jelly, of course. Mmmkay. That doesn’t seem right, but I’m on the phone with a friend of mine at the time who’s an AWESOME baker, and she suggests I might as well put them in the oven and see whether they come out.

And so the recipe (already hearkening back to the foreboding feeling I’d experienced with a previous dessert incident–The Great Cookietastrophe of ’09) told me to put the mixture into little balls and place them on the cookie sheet before placing a divot with my thumb in the middle of each for the jelly.

Only, these things, as you’ll recall, are mostly peanut butter. You know what? You try sticking your hand in a peanut butter jar, pull it out with a handful of the stuff, and try to make shapes out of it. Yeah. Good luck with your new nickname, Grossyhands. These did not shape into a ball of any sort. They didn’t even suggest balls. They just sat there, little abominations staring at me accusatorily through the unseen eyes of their agonizing, grotesque, amorphous blob-type figures, as if to cry out, “What. Have. You. Done?!?

And then I filled their piteous craters with strawberry jelly.

I popped these sad saps into the oven, waited about 8 minutes, and then decided to check on them once they’d stopped screaming. I pulled them out, and…

Someone took a bunch of craps in my oven!!

AGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!

What the blue hell?

They are monsters!!!!! I’ve created monsters!!!!!

I mean, they are as enormous as Grand’s biscuits and a sickening light brown color. Why??? They were little petite globules with jelly in the middle! And now they look like an entire steaming tray of Mastiff feces, with traces of blood at the center of them. Honestly, if I ever saw this come out of a Mastiff, I would have the heart to put the dear creature out of its misery.

THIS IS NOT OKAY.

What the hell went wrong? I didn’t miss any steps or ingredients. I checked the blog to look at her picture of the finished product.

Her cookies:

“SCREWWWW YOUUUUU,” I yell at the image on the screen. My darling male companion now ran into the kitchen for the second time in ten minutes, thinking I had undergone some awful culinary injury due to my continued Tourette’s-like verbosity.

I take the offensive, little piles off the stove and set them in my dining room to cool while I calmly try to figure out my next move. I send a picture of them to my friend who had earlier said to just pop them in the oven and see–my friend who then proceeds to laugh so hard she almost has to pull over, and immediately tells me she’s coming right over because she just has to see them in person.

When I go back to the dining room table to peer at them again, once more they have decided to astonish me and alter their disgustingness into a totally different image of bleghh.

Mmm. Lunch?

Now they have completely flattened, as if someone had stopped pumping air into them and had forgotten to put the cap back on the hole, and the jelly has gotten, well…frothy. Frothy.

At this point, figuring “What the hell,” I cut a cookie-like thing out of the solid cookie sheet hulking mass and taste it. I mean, it slops partly onto my spatula and partly back onto the pan like ingredients that desperately miss flour, but the taste? Actually, quite brilliant! Taste just like peanut butter and jelly. And you know what? If I had just placed it between two slices of bread rather than deciding to expose it to 8 minutes of 350-degree heat blast, it might have been an acceptable thing to put in my mouth.

I ended up scooping up the whole thing–both already baked and still “dough”–with a giant spoon and dumping it into a great, big bowl, which I then put a fork in and handed to my darling male companion. Who, of course, was only too happy to eat it.

And you know what? I do believe he rather liked it.

And that is my epic cookie fail for this year.

The Great Battle

June 10, 2011

Things I find it nearly impossible to do while in a relationship:

1.)    Lose any significant amount of weight. Not a few pounds here or there, but significant weight.

2.)    Well…no, that’s really about it. Truly. It is a crazy phenomenon brought on by a number of things, and after talking to many others about this, I’ve found it isn’t singular to me. Not nearly.

3.)    Yeah, no seriously—just that.

Now, there are a number of factors that go into this phenomenon. Because when single, despite certain genetic—oh, we’ll call them “gifts,” but they will refer to things like curves—I find I tend to lose weight pretty easily by tweaking any number of behaviors. When I’m putting even moderate amounts of effort and/or money into it. Not that I wish to get rid of my curves, mind you, gentle reader. I usually quite like them, and I think they’re highly undervalued in this society’s media. (Curves in general, not mine in specific. Actually, you know what? Fuck. Mine in specific. YOU WILL APPRECIATE MY CURVES, AND YOU WILL LIKE IT!) But my healthier ideal weight is probably around the one I lied about on my driver’s license, so I’d at least like to get to that place.

But when I’m single, I have more money and effort to put into keeping a certain weight.

And aside from having effort and money to put into losing weight when single, I also find that I just lose some weight in general as a singleton, even without the added effort. This is because when I’m bored or anxious/tripping on the paranoia one can only achieve while living alone and realizing that having not left your apartment all Sunday means you haven’t actually heard the sound of anyone’s voice—not even your own—for over 24 hours, I tend to spend all my free time walking. I do love walking to alleviate unpleasantness. It’s so cathartic.

For example, my anxiety and paranoia while single might manifest like so: “Dear god—I haven’t had sex in two months. TWO MONTHS! Wow. Like, I don’t even really miss it…I just didn’t notice. Oh my god, come to think of it, I read once that there’s a pheromone you emit when you’ve been having sex regularly that attracts the opposite sex. Can they smell my sexual inactivity? Is my singleness repelling people??!”  (Said in my apartment alone, talking to my plants.)

And a walk—ooo, a walk just takes all the nasty craziness away and replaces it with sanity and clarity of thought. Like, “Ahhh. Much better now. Frightening paranoia has ended; I’ll just suck on these juicy beta endorphins for the next hour and go sweetly to sleep.” It just clears the air. A walk is like the Glade air freshener of my fetid psychological miasma. That’s poetry. I may stitch that on a pillow.

Only, since being in a relationship, when I’m feeling anxious, there is another sentient being in the apartment at most times who tends to quell the emotional baddies much better than my plants ever did (who still have yet to put a nice arm around me when I’m sad. So, you know what? I quit watering them. Yeah, screw you, you heartless bastards). And when I’m bored while in a relationship, my sig’ o’ and I just do something or watch something together. I’m not complaining; it’s lovely. I just now have no motivation to go walk out of general malaise until I’m too tired to remember what was bugging me. And that seems to rule out just losing weight without really trying.

In in a relationship, there never seems to be enough of anything to accomplish significant weight loss when I am really trying: free time, money, superfluous energy, etc. Even when I feel like I’m putting lots of energy and focus into it, it does not happen. And it’s so irritating; I eat sensibly. My portions aren’t large; I almost never like fried foods or things in butter; the only meats I usually eat are chicken, turkey, or fish—again, not in butter or fried; I seldom go back for seconds; I don’t often fancy dessert; I like vegetables and healthier options generally whenever possible; and I’ve cut out copious amounts of drinking. Hello, body. I’m torturing you with sensible, healthy eating—you’d think you’d shape up.

But I think I’ve boiled it down to a fair number of reasons.

1.)

First, age. I was 24 when I got into my current relationship; I am 27 today. Now, I’m not exactly a card-carrying member of the local gomer club (despite a rather misleading name for my blog), but I’m no spring chicken anymore either. Maybe like a summer chicken. And I’m thinking my body has decided to prepare me for the joys of bearing children and carrying them on my hips whether I make the active decision to procreate right now or not. Much like happens with chickens’ bodies in the summer! True story…

And I’ve come to this conclusion because, most specifically, it used to be easier to lose weight in certain areas of my frame than it is now. Ergo, I’m going to go ahead and say age is one of the villains of this piece.

2.)

Things can’t get any freakin’ better!

Secondly, happiness. It is damned difficult to worry about fighting myself with health food and annoyingly long hours of exercise when I’m too happy to notice. Not that I disliked myself when I was single, by any means. I was just more honed in to the task at hand, you see. The battle with my instincts of “tastes good = is good” and “feeling of laziness = well-deserved sleep,” if you will. I was a warrior in the body fight. And now I’m all, “Tra la la…whatever. Sugar bomb? Meh. I could really go for an orange pop…” I’m all sleeping in on weekend mornings rather than going out for a walk because the bed is such a nicer place to be with my partner there. Damn this insufferable, infernal contentment! What is it getting me?

3.)

Thirdly, I do not live in the constant fear of never having sex again. Say what you will about this statement, but that panic button for me and many others is a big, shiny, red one. It will make you do things you have absolutely no desire to do (when being totally honest with yourself)—things like going out at all hours of the night to packed bars booming with music so loud that you nightly lose your voice just trying to ask the name of the random sweaty person whose hand has been on your ass for the last half hour rather than just staying home with a hot toddy and a decent, quieter, more satisfying form of entertainment. Or suffering through torturous first date dinners with people you wouldn’t want to talk to if they were the only person who spoke English in a 1000-mile radius. Or regular small talk. Or going to comedy clubs for amateur night. Or, I don’t know, jogging. Point made.

4.)

An actual shot in my kitchen last week.

Next, I spend most free time I do have (which is precious little, let me tell you, and that is no understatement) doing relationshippy or couply things rather than at the gym. If I do get a night free, it’s so much nicer spending it at home with the darling male companion. So that’s how I spend most of my free time. And again, “most of my free time” is a small percentage of an already small percentage of my composite time, so have perspective. (I work a full-time job, do freelance work, commute 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, go to meetings and appointments most evenings, and see people constantly.) Also, see “not living in the constant fear of never having sex again.” This fear would trump wanting to spend free time at home if it were a certain reality, but it is not.

5.)

Cakes!

And finally, cooking for two. It has always been really easy for me to lose weight when cooking for just myself because I’m willing to eat some remarkably unenjoyable things. When I was single, since I don’t care about meals terribly much, I would often just make sure I was hitting certain food groups and stayed below a certain calorie/fat content amount. And then I’d eat what I’d made, regardless of whether any of it went together. It wasn’t about the pleasantness of the experience. It was about having fuel, and …doing math, and …eating nearly indigestibly healthy, tasteless things. But now that I cook for two (we have a nice system where I do all the cooking, he does all the dishes), I cook entirely differently.

It’s not that he’s picky; he’s said numerous times he’ll eat whatever I cook. And let’s just all pause now and appreciate a good’un when we see one. He’s a good’un.

But even though he assures me he’s not picky, I don’t want to inflict bad meals upon him. I prefer to give him a nice, balanced meal (taste-wise as much as health-wise). No, I don’t know why. I just do. So I cook things we both want to eat, which immediately ups the starch intake, at least. It also puts more meat where I normally wouldn’t put it, since he works on his feet all day, and I feel he should have a good intake of protein. I still cook things without putting them in butter and have other healthy cooking habits thoroughly ingrained. Still.

But furthermore, healthy food is often fresh food, which as you probably know is pretty damned costly. Health food generally does not consist of things that come out of boxes and cans. And therefore, making meals of healthy food for two people is even more expensive than…well, than making healthy food for one. Which is already fucking expensive! So in order to cut costs, we eat more things like pasta. More bread. More rice. These carbs add up, don’t ya know.

So, despite my continual work to overcome these obstacles, so far, aside from the small weight losses here or there, my efforts to lose significant weight have been fruitless as of late. Similar stories from many, many of the shacked-up people I’ve talked to. Damn. And combined with back problems I’ve had over the last two years that make it difficult for me to do any workout more athletic than walking, I think it might just be one of those things that will continue to plague me for quite awhile.

As will my plants not responding to me.

Heartless.

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For maximum effect, play this while scrolling down…slowly.

da daaaaaaaaaaaaaa…

da daaaaaaaaaaaa….

DA DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…


DA DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!

BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM


As promised, I did get my egg-dying episode documented. It’s with film, not a digital camera, so the quality promises to be what we’ll go ahead and call “retro.” Voila.

Darling male companion, painting away

Me, attempting great art

 

I assume this happened since we were attempting to make deviled eggs for the first time. And, to be fair, his is a picture of a witch (which is conveniently glared out).

 

Masterpiece!!!

Also, desecrating Easter lamb cake. A time-honored tradition in my family.

Do I tell you, sir, that I hid an egg on your chair before you sat down? Nah. I’ll let that be my little secret. With the egg. And the chair.

Voila l’oeuvres! That is all for now.

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During my past three years of pocket-draining adventures here in Chicago, and also likely due to our city’s charmingly constant atmospheric conditional variances (often inclement, which has frequently left me indoors to cook for myself rather than going out and braving the weather), I made the very fortunate discovery that being fantastically financially unstable will lead to many wonderful food and drink items being created out of necessity. Yes, my lovingly and laboriously concocted feasts are the veritable trash fires of the gourmet world—they do the job, they have unusual smells, and they often contain resourceful (and/or harmful) materials. And to the forcedly thrifty, they are glorious things. Objectively glorious. I mean, who could argue?

Cooking with only the odd ingredients I’ve had left in my fridge and cabinets until pay day (see my previous blog post, The Peter Pancake Syndrome, for an example of past ingredient resourcefulness), I’ve managed to pioneer for myself a whole new, exciting culinary experience using the nourishing and satisfying value of what I affectionately call “hobo meals.” True, it’s probably not technically politically correct, but anyone else who’s ever attempted la vie en rose with very limited fundage—surely you get me here, darlings.

Hobo meals: my gastronomical opus (and please allow me my moment of grandeur, here). Much like penning the elusive Great American Novel, I have perfected the thing I will leave behind as my major worldly contribution after I perish, nourishing all free-thinkers who stumble across it (thank you; that felt good).


And so, for years the kitchenette in each of my adorably dim and small (short, but not too big around) apartment hovels became a delightful bistro for … oh … remarkable originality, culinary … uh … improbability, character-building digestional challenges … and, well, satisfying solitary dining. “What the hell? You don’t want to join me for hobo Dijon tuna rice surprise? Brilliant. Leftovers! This is good for half a week’s meals. A week, actually, if I wish to test the endurance of my stomach and immune system to handle potential E. coli threats. Come on, white blood cells. Don’t crap out on me, now.”

Get it? No? Fine.

Necessity is indeed the mother of invention, as Plato quite rightly noted. My resulting cartes du jour of original, sometimes absurdly convoluted, sometimes craftily minimalist items were always an avant-garde smorgasbord of condiments. And garnishes, like sandwich pickles, canned olives, or store-bought guacamole. Or cans of non-perishables, like cans and cans and cans of tuna, condensed soups, anything Franco-American® or Chef Boyardee® (Saint Boyardee, really), or beans. And carbs that take a long time to fuzz up, like crackers. Oh, and food substitutions that were based solely on color: “No sour cream left. Damn and piss. …Hmm. But mayhap ranch dressing works.” “This calls for milk … unless there is no milk. Mayo, it is!” “Kraft macaroni and cheese. Well, last week I used the cheese powder packet for my cheese-flavored condensed mushroom soup Cornflake bake on graham crackers. So … macaroni and mustard?”

The results were innovative and not entirely unpalatable. Frequently. And despite the hearty richness of the description of these meals, my dear readers, they can be crafted for breakfast and lunch, too! Mustard sandwiches are delicious for before you run out of bread. And you can draw faces on them with the mustard. Who doesn’t want to be smiled at by something they’re about to eat? It just kind of makes my day. Or try a sliced turkey pepperoni and sun-dried tomato hummus sandwich. Treat yourself to a fancy lunch in and toast it. Or crack a fried egg on top of it. Or both! And careful not to lose yourself in the positively sinful indulgence of it all.

Now, note this, because it is tremendously profound: bacon is cheap and can be added to anything. Write that down, write that down.

Or revel in the simple brilliance of cooking up all the vegetables you have left —peppers, onions, tomatoes, Shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, sprouts, etc.— in any oil or non-sticky stuff you have at your disposal and some soy sauce packets from the Chinese place down the street. Add Tabasco® for a delectable kick. Want chicken with it but don’t have meat? Spice it up with chicken seasoning. Or chop up hot dogs and cook them up along with it. Same thing, really. I mean, who honestly knows what goes in hot dogs? Might as well be chicken. And then serve up this masterpiece delicately on a lettuce wrap. Put a baked potato on the side for a luxurious “full” feeling. Ketchup works beautifully on a potato when you’re out of butter, like putting ketchup on French fries… only fancy. *wink*

And then there are the hobo pastas. These work well for entertaining. Throw on a little Sinatra, light some candles, and prepare a group of like-minded individuals for some culinary sparkle. To begin with, tomato soup or medium salsa are practically the same thing as marinara, and don’t you let them tell you any different. Actually—pro tip: any condensed soup can go on pastas. And if you have any cheeses whatsoever—especially a shaker of grated Parmesan—that goes in there, too. As much as fucking possible.With enough cheese on it, people will eat a leather handbag.

Ooo. Hadn’t considered my handbags yet… Hmm.

Oh, but my favorite is probably hobo rice. Yes, gentle readers (both of you). My darling epicurean thrill-seekers, positively whatever you have in your pantry can go on hobo rice, and therein lies its genius. Pancakes, mustard, hamburger pickles—it’s all gustatory gold. Because, you know. Gold tastes awesome.

Additionally, absolutely anything goes on bread or a wrap, if you have them. And if your meal is too much of a liquid to put it on bread—like soup—never fear! Bulk it up with some crackers until it’s a solid. Now you have something that will stick with you for 12 hours. And on your hips for the rest of your life. Now that’s staying power!

Lastly, hobo drinks can even be beneficial to your health. Don’t have mixers on hand to hide the taste of your bottom-shelf liquors? Search your medicine cabinet for other flavored delights that mix well. For example, I sometimes give whiskey a boost by treating myself to a Theraflu®-toddy (note: actually very much not recommended by the American Medical Association, or my liver). But do try an Airborn® cocktail (with vodka). Who’s getting that office virus? Not you, sir. Not you. Or a Special K® pink lemonade-flavored protein mix cocktail (with gin or vodka). And you’ve got your nutrients for the entire day, my loves. Woo-hoo! Feel the health trashing about in your kidneys.

As an epilogue, I’ve since moved out of my Chicago apartment and back to my parents’ house for a bit (amazingly not due to financial reasons), where there is Oh My God always crazy amounts of food at my disposal to make more traditional meals. Still, it’s hard to break the habit. Beware that once you start out on your frugal meal-innovation experience, it is difficult to ever look at ingredients the same way. Living at my folks’ place, I still occasionally make hobo foods. And sometimes, when no one’s looking… I indulge my lusty thirst for the nostalgic taste of Airborn® cocktails.

At least I never ate a shoe.

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