Food, And How Not To Do It

First of all, what in the everloving fuck is this?

Pea and mayo pizza?

I’m all for pushing the culinary envelope but there are just some things you don’t mess with. Even people who like pineapple on pizza (you know who you are; don’t identify yourselves) look at this and think we must join forces to stop it. I don’t think it’s evil, per se, but Peter H. Corn this is bordering on sandwich territory, and a crap one at that, and as far as I’m concerned it should not be taking the name of Pizza in vain.

So, don’t do this.

People are weird about their food. And not just food –  food placement. Some people will not eat unless their plate looks perfect, their food arranged like a clock, with protein at 6:00, starch at 2:00, and vegetables at 10:00. OK, I kind of get it, but they’ve made no arrangements for condiments. Where do they go? 4:37? 9:22? And does Daylight Savings Time factor into this at all? I envision this person moving everything on their plate exactly once inch to the left every autumn. And what if, God forbid, the gravy on the 6:00 chicken seeps over to the 10:00 asparagus tips? Do you hit the snooze button? Eating with this person would make me very tense, as they frantically scraped the sauce back to 7:30.  Can you imagine being at a dinner party with someone like that? While the Clock Guy is wondering what to do with an extra starchy vegetable (2:00? 10:00? WHERE THE HELL DOES IT GO?), you could have another person arranging everything on the plate alphabetically.

By the way, can you imagine Clock Guy teaching his kid to drive? “Hands at Vegetables and Starch, Johnny.”

How about this dream meal?  I don’t know what’s going on here, but it looks like the Mom and Dad mushroom brought the little mushrooms to see what happens when you don’t look both ways before crossing the street.

Even worse, though, is the person who plays a little fast and loose with their food hang-ups, as certain food might touch other food, but ONLY under certain circumstances. The meat loaf may touch the mashed potatoes, but the peas or carrots cannot be touching the meatloaf. Peas and carrots may touch the mashed potatoes, however, but only if the mashed potatoes don’t have gravy. This particular quirk involves a set of variables that would trip up Archimedes, and would definitely bring the dinner conversation to a halt if she has to whip out a protractor just to get through dessert.

This is a charmer. Because if you’re going to have shashlik, you really want it to be caucasian.



Despite my snarkiness, I’m pretty open to trying new things. However, years ago I worked with a woman whose food repertoire was pretty much established by age nine. If she hadn’t eaten it before that age, she wasn’t having any of it. Once, our team went out to lunch at a Thai restaurant, just to see if we could get her to push her boundaries. While the rest of us enjoyed our curry noodles and chicken satay, the poor girl tried to order a hamburger. The waitress looked at her like she was nuts, and we tried to placate her with a bowl of chicken broth with vegetables. I’m sure she went home that night and wept over a fluffernutter sandwich.

Ok, what is this? Dessert? Mayonnaise Jell-o mold? I’m just going to name it “Scary Clown Eyeball.”  I won’t eat anything that creeps me out.

And it is watching you.

Look, we all have our food issues. I’ll eat smoked oysters right out of the can, standing over a sink with a copy of Us Weekly on the counter. I’m not proud. We, collectively, and perhaps me, specifically, are overly obsessed with what is on our plate these days. Discussions, articles, and news pieces abound, often delivered with a level of salaciousness normally reserved for stories of sexual perversity. Oh, my God, carbs! Oh, for Heaven’s sake, sodium! Oh, my stars, trans fat! Even the government is getting into the act, with New York’s ban on sodas larger than sixteen ounces. (If you want thirty-two ounces, though, you just have to buy two sixteen-ounce containers. This means that they really don’t give a flying fig about how much sugar you ingest; they’re just going to make you work for it.) I’m currently trying to give up sugar. It’sgoingfinethankyouit’sokohmygodIhateeveryoneright now.

This just makes no sense. It’s not a dessert, and who in the hell would serve this as an entree? I don’t even understand the thought process here.

“You know what these bananas need? HAM.”

“Oh, GOD, yes. And put a Goddamn cream sauce on it. I hate food!”

And it comes with a side of grapes. If I was served this I’d probably just start throwing the grapes at people until I was asked to leave. Fucking banana ham.

One food thing I struggle with is the idea of finishing everything on my plate. I have no idea where this came from. My mother never forced me to finish everything, so it’s not some sort of latent guilt trip. My grandmother was big on the Clean Plate Club, and once, years ago, pulled the “starving children in China” routine on me. My mother wasn’t having any of it.

“Finish your meal,” Grandma implored me. “You’re so lucky, living here in America with all that we have. Think of the starving children who would love to have your dinner.”

Mom wasn’t moved. “Mail it to them,” she replied.

I have a theory about guilt. Put two Jewish mothers in a room, and they kind of cancel each other out.

Here’s another vintage recipe picture I found. It’s a put-your-meal-in-gelatin, all-in-one deal. Is that fish with the skin on for the bottom layer? And again with peas? I’m going to assume the top layer is some sort of carrot schmear.

I don’t know what the yellow stuff is. Maybe it’s the antidote.

Everyone and their orthodontist has a cookbook. Gwyneth Paltrow has one, too, and it includes something called “Duck Ragu.” DUCK RAGU. Not only does this recipe call for roasting an entire duck, it also calls for four slices of duck bacon. What the hell is duck bacon? I kind of get the feeling that Gwyneth is messing with us. Even if you manage to procure such a thing, what on earth would you do with the rest of it?

“Hey kids, come downstairs! It’s time for scrambled eggs and duck bacon!”

“Would you like some duck bacon bits on your salad?”

“How about a duck bacon cheeseburger?”

I don’t think it would catch on.

It looks like Mother Bread has come to identify the bodies.



I don’t cook much, either. I tend to get a bit over-involved. I had a brief foray into vegan cooking in the mid 90s, which led to The Great Bean Ball Disaster of 1994. (Not to be confused with the Neil Balle Incident of 1996.) I had some people over once, and I wanted to do a nice vegetable tray, with the vegetables cut in unique and interesting shapes, perhaps reminiscent of Monet’s “Water Lilies.” (You know, as you do.) After a stare-down with the food processor and the realization that I had no idea how to turn a stack of celery sticks into a lily pad, I decided to just arrange them according to carbohydrate count. (P.S. Nobody noticed.) To add to the drama, when someone asked me later where I bought the dip that I spent fifteen minutes carefully blending and seasoning, it almost ended in tears. Costco, people. Just buy a damn tray.

I don’t know what the fuck is going on here.


It just looks like sadness.

I think I will stick to a Crock Pot. Dump it, forget about it. Then…soup! And I can eat the soup while watching people who actually know what they’re doing create flambes and souffles and fricassees and any other meals ending the “es” sound. And create homemade BBQ sauce for their Tex-Mex Asian Fusion Haggis Tacos. And something for dessert that includes ganache. I just like saying “ganache.”

Say it with me. Ganache. Ganache. Ganache.

It’s gone a bit weird now, hasn’t it? Ganache.

As I enter this next phase of my life, I think I’m going to set some kitchen goals for myself. More vegetables. Simpler recipes. Basically, creating meals that don’t put a look of fear on my Dad’s face when I announce, “I found a new recipe!”

That means I am never looking at another Martha Stewart magazine again. I can’t deal with the feelings of inadequacy that come from not being able to fold my napkins into interesting shapes, have cute hanging paper decorations that look like chrysanthemums and are made out of recycled Christmas wrap, make a quick (and easy) fondue, or MacGyver a chocolate fountain out of an umbrella and leftover M&Ms. (P.S. I never have leftover M&Ms.) And I’m never, ever, ever making Gwyneth Paltrow’s Duck Ragu recipe. It’s just beyond me. And this is coming from someone who once tried to make tofu nut loaf.

Yes, tofu nut loaf…let’s just say that it did not end well. I’ve mentally repressed the specifics; I do know that the meal ended with antacids, which may be why I shudder slightly whenever I see a TUMS commercial.

That being said, I’m thinking about doing something with kale. You’ve been warned.


Money, Money (Monologue #1)

(Lights up on LIZ, mid-30s.)


So let me just say, that, all things considered, yes, I am responsible with my money. Like maybe not Jeff Bezos-level responsible, but I heard he once bought four paintings of dudes on horses pointing northward, so maybe that’s not the best example. He did get free shipping through Prime, though. We weren’t poor growing up, but you know, my dad knew how to pinch a penny. But I’m not stingy. Not at all. You know, I recently discovered this thing called “Cos-Play.” Totally on accident –  it was laundry day and I had to wear my Princess Leia costume to the Laundromat and this lady told me about a convention at the Hilton. It’s not for kids, and most people are pretty much normal except for the whole dress-up-on-weekends thing, although some people are really (rolls eyes) OH BROTHER, you just know they still live in their parent’s basements, but the Hilton has a really great breakfast buffet, so you know…Oh, this? (Points to her vest) This fur trimmed breast plate? Totally great deal, plus I can use the edges to slice cheese, so, you know, double bonus…I’m getting my money’s worth, that’s for sure. I’m thinking of wearing it everywhere now, even to work. I’m sorry if Rick from accounting might find it “unprofessional” but I’m a Creative and it’s empowering and you need to be empowered when your team wont get their reports in on time and you have to take your frustrations out on the toaster oven or even, yes, sorry, Rick from accounting. It’s important to have things in your life to focus on instead of your job 24/7. I mean, I’m not married and I don’t have any kids, but I’m optimistic and I don’t need a man in my life to validate my existence. I have a gym membership – I don’t go but I do think seriously about it every day – and I just signed up for a “Pot Roast of the Month” club, so yeah, I’ve got that going for me. And I’m currently sponsoring a child from Somalia, so I use my money philanthropically, although I haven’t heard from Inan since the last military coup so maybe I should be concerned. And I did win a pool at work that took bets on how many Cheeze-Its Dave could stuff into his mouth – sixty three, by the way – so maybe I should be looking into an IRA or a CD or a DVR or something like that…so yeah, I pay my bills, put some in savings, and keep way too much in checking so if I want to buy Wonder Woman underwear online after my solo wine and cheese night, I feel perfectly justified.

So, I guess to answer your original question (looks at nametag), BRANDON…yes, even though they’re not on sale, I will take TWO dozen assorted donuts to go. And a skim milk. Keep the change.



Lucid Feline Woman

I’ve written…a song? A poem? An ode? I don’t know. We can call it a sonnet so I can feel all fancy but I fear the purists would object.

If anyone wants to set it to music, feel free. It’s not something I can manage on a thirty-five year old clarinet.



Cat food, cheese and chardonnay

There in my cart co-mingle

People look me up and down

And say, “You must be single.”


Crazy cat, cat lady

They think it’s so sad to see

But based on what I see in them

I weep for humanity


I go to any party

And within ten minutes flat

You’ll find me in the kitchen

Talking to their cat


Crazy cat, cat lady

Too bad I’m not a wife?

Don’t feel bad for me, I’ve got my friends

And an active inner life


I don’t think cats are weird

Birds I think are worse

And at least I won’t scrounge for birdseed

At the bottom of my purse


I can have nice things

Sleep in ‘til noon

I have my independence

I take my own honeymoon


Crazy cat, cat lady

They think it’s so sad to see

But based on what I see in them

I weep for humanity


You may think I’m crazy

But this much I know is true

You can kiss my ass, I like my cat

Much more than I like you.

Maybe, Baby

The first time I held my niece Sarah, she pooped on me. I would have thought that it was kind of cute but her brother Henry did the same thing to me when he was an infant so I can’t help feeling that they’ve been coached.

Obviously, I don’t have kids. Don’t get me wrong – I think having children can be a wonderful thing. It’s just never held any interest for me. When I was a little girl, my friends would talk about how many kids they’d have someday, and what they’d name them, and I’d think, “We’re in the second grade. I can’t deal with that. Let me learn long division first and then we’ll discuss.” I dreamed about having good friends, a nice house, or maybe talking to Johnny Carson, but the idea of kids just wasn’t on the agenda.

Consequently, I’m not all that comfortable around babies. I think they’re adorable, but they make me a little nervous. They stare at you with those little eyes, like they know you haven’t called your mother recently, and frankly, they’re a tad disappointed in you. And they’re always a little sticky. Fresh out of the bath, smelling like powder, and…a little sticky. At some point I get the inevitable question: “Do you want to hold her?” If I’m not related, I usually decline. But with my niece and nephew, I had to give it a go. And it’s unbelievably awkward, which is weird because I know how to hold things, generally. But one little nine-pound baby, and I feel like I have two right hands and I just know that I’m doing it wrong. I’m positive that if I shift my weight one tiny bit to the right the baby will go springing out of my hands, making me feel like a nervous student on Day Two of a “How to Juggle Chainsaws” home-study course. So when I first held Henry I was as stiff as a board, and he gave me a look that said, “You have got to be kidding me.”

I know, I know. It’s just a baby. I need to get over myself and get comfortable with it. Or maybe people need to stop handing me their children. I don’t really like to pick up my cat, either.

Look, babies are adorable. I unabashedly love baby feet. I like picking out baby clothes. But I do not enjoy discussing the actual babies at length, much less the birthing stories. And it’s a tough situation, because most new mothers do. Not really having much to contribute to the inevitable conversation, I’m forced to continually stifle my inner monologue:

“And then the pains started shooting through my whole body…”

Please stop.

“Then they had to CUT (insert very personal body part here)…”

I don’t want to.

“There was blood and goo everywhere…”

For the love of Mike.

“I was afraid I was going to poop!”

We’ve just met.

“Breast pump…”


“The first time I used a rectal thermometer…”

I’m begging you.

“He spit up all over me. And I couldn’t figure out why it was green…”

Is he an alien? Just a theory.

“You want to hold him?”


And these exchanges always, always happen with women I don’t know very well. Why? Are they trying to get me to see what I’m missing? If so, rock on and message received. My actual friends don’t do this. My childless status is probably a bit of a relief to them, and I like to think that they know that they can call me at any time and I will never start the conversation with the words, “Can I call you back? I just got peed on.” A big problem here is that due to my lack of comfort around the wee ones, I tend to talk to them as if they were tiny adults. The first time I met my friend Isabelle’s baby, I actually tried to shake hands.

“Um, how do you do?” I said, stiffly. “Um, he appears to be leaking.”

“Oh, sorry about that. He’s teething. Here,” she said, handing me the baby. “Let me go get a bib.”

So there I stood, holding little Aaron in front of me like a bag of flour. Face to face, I felt the need to fill the awkward silence.

“So, how do you like the Sox this year?”

It doesn’t help when parents dress their children like tiny adults. Isabelle had a baby-sized corduroy jacket hanging in Aaron’s closet, and honest to God it actually had elbow patches on it. Give him a little briefcase and he’d be my Uncle Saul.

“It’s adorable,” I told her. “But where’s he going to wear it? Court?”

It doesn’t get easier when they get a little older. My nephew Henry is at the stage where he’s very opinionated and bossy, which I guess comes with the territory, but it’s a little off-putting taking orders from a four-year-old. The first time I went to David’s house to see Sarah after they brought her home from the hospital, Henry was very protective, like a bouncer at an exclusive club.

“You can’t touch the baby,” he insisted. “Only I can touch the baby.”

“Well,” I replied, sweetly, “Your daddy says I can touch her. It’s OK.”

“But I say just me.”

We seemed to be at an impasse.

“Maybe later, then,” I offered.


I jokingly threw up my hands. “OK, then!”

“Don’t worry,” David said. “Just wait until he’s busy with his toy parking garage. You can play with Sarah then.”

“As long as you’re sure it’s OK,” I replied. “I don’t want to get put on report or anything.” I paused for a moment. “Wait – Henry has a toy parking garage?”

“Yeah,” he said, “It makes five car horn sounds and has two different sirens. We haven’t slept in weeks.” He hung his head. “My mother-in-law bought it. I think she secretly hates me.”

One thing I have learned, by watching the parents around me, is that the parenting never stops. Even at my age, my Mom worries when I’m alone, and is convinced I’m not dressing warmly enough in winter. My Dad still checks on my car, and offers the odd bit of life advice. When David was four, for example, he wanted to be a fire truck. Not a fireman – an actual fire truck. Now, every so often, Dad will call him and ask how his former career plans are progressing.

“So, are you a fire truck yet?”

“No, Dad, not yet.”

“That’s all right, son. It’s all about setting goals.”

I have a feeling I’ll never be a “natural” with babies. And I’m totally fine with this. Rather than feeling like I’m missing something, I prefer to look at the childless life as its own kind of adventure, filled with sleeping seven or eight hours in a row, clothes free of spit-up, and the option of white furniture. It also gives me the chance to be the beloved aunt, the bearer of finger paint and fruit roll-ups. When Henry and Sarah get older, I will show up wearing sequined sneakers and a matching hat, and whisk them away to the zoo, where I will make up stuff about the animals. Then, when they’re tired and cranky, I will hand them back to their parents.

And then I’ll go home and most likely spill something on my white furniture, but I won’t tell them about that.