Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dangerous Behavior (The Joy of Cooking)

Every once in a while I turn over a new cookbook and proclaim that I, queen of cold cuts and frozen entrees, am going to cook more. I aspire to be healthy you see. Much like I aspire to be clean and aspire to be organized. Most of the time I miss all three marks by a wide margin.

On most days, my organizational system is a series of piles in my office. I know generally where things are by the location of the pile. Something urgent will be located in a pile on my desk, less urgent things are piled on the floor but within reach of my chair. If the pile is anywhere else it's something I probably don't need anyway.

On most days you'll find tufts of cat hair on the carpet, dishes piled in the sink (even though we have a dishwasher), an almost empty cupboard and a trashcan stuffed with Styrofoam take out boxes.

But on a select few days you will find everything in the house neatly in its place, the fridge stocked with vegetables and a dustless cookbook on the kitchen counter.

My cooking aspirations occur the least of the three areas since I have no natural talent for cooking and most often will be cooking for my self since Danny's diet is limited to things that did not grow in the ground (sort of the opposite of a vegetarian). My cooking endeavor never lasts very long nor does it usually go incredibly well. If it does go well, I come out the other end with a new recipe I like and only minor injuries or burns.

The only exception is last Christmas's baking frenzy which I actually enjoyed and miraculously escaped unscathed. Well, almost. I did put a spoonful of boiling sugar in my mouth and once or twice grabbed a cookie sheet out of the oven with my bare hands. But the experience worked out better than my usual foray into domesticity.

But baking is not nearly so frustrating to me as cooking. For one, it's way more difficult to mess up baking. If you mess up, the worst that happens is it tastes like burnt sugar and if you don't get a cookie it's not the end of the world (unless you're Danny).

But if you spend a lot of time on dinner and it doesn't come out right you have to start all over with something or just go hungry. This time I didn't mess up the cooking too badly, but I'm pretty sure the act of cooking itself made me sick. I think I'm allergic to cooking.

Sunday, I decided to try a recipe that required a tad more prep time and called for something I'd never even seen before, a rutabega. I had to ask two shoppers, a publix employee and a produce manager before I found someone who even knew what a rutabega looked like.

The rutabega turned out to be quite good actually. Like a potato but sweeter. I overcooked the zuchinni meatloaf (even though it was in for shorter time than called for). My oven, which was brand new when I was 9 years old (you do the math) smokes in protest at any temperature over 325 and has stove top burners that only randomly work (we have to jiggle them first).

So the smoke from the oven, the toxic chopped onion that made my eyes water so much I couldn't see through the tears, the heat and posture of chopping, dicing and standing over the sautéing rutabega for twice the length of time it should have taken, all combined to equal the massive mega headache I woke up with Monday morning.

Worse than any hangover I have ever had in my life, combined, the headache was so bad I thought I would throw up if I opened my eyes. The muscles in my neck and shoulders were stiff from looking down at the cutting board and the sauté pan.

I managed to recover after two Excedrine migraine tablets, an ice pack and a morning nap with Kiddo (we watched Beethoven). But the mental trauma of preparing food on my stone age stove has left it's mark forever. From now on I'll only be buying pre-chopped vegetables and am officially in the market for new appliances (or healthier take out).

My Dog (in list form)

My dog's name is Kiddo, that is unless we're calling her one of 18,000 terms of endearment. These include, but are not limited to:
little face,
happy face (there are many variations on the "face" theme)
kiddo the kid,
kiddo skadiddo,
circus girl,
baby girl
god dammit
and "the tank"

Kiddo's treasures. A list of items the dog has brought in from the yard:
A partially eaten corn on the cob (not ours),
peanut shells,
a pack of cigarettes,
a paint scraper (that does not belong to us),
weed lining (both the sheet and the edging variety),
all manner of rocks and gravel,
something resembling a petrified bird foot,
and last but not least, cat poo.

Kiddo's wake of destruction. To date, the dog has destroyed:
Three dog beds,
four couch pillows,
two couch cushions,
one kitchen rug,
the living room rug,
every toy we have ever bought her (except the indestructible Kong),
a pair of my jeans,
my favorite t-shirt,
6 pairs of shoes (including two pairs of my sister's flip flops---sorry Alex),
two towels,
one used maxi-pad (publicly)
and our ability to answer the door to our own house (it now takes both of us, one to open the door and the other to hold the leash).

Occasions we've regretted getting the dog:
None. (She's that cute)

After a long day of dragging strange things into the house, bothering the cat, destroying our property and scaring our guests, she curls up in our laps, tucks her head under our elbows and falls asleep. And we forget all about being mad at her until the next day.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Steph vs. The Scary Movie

I have a love/hate relationship with horror movies. I am drawn to the suspense and twisted imagery. I get trapped in the shock and fear that people walk among us who would do gruesome things to fellow human beings.

I hate them though, because after soaking in the grisly and dreadful details of some serial killer, I lie awake for hours at night mentally surveying every nook and cranny of my home in which said serial killer might be hiding, waiting for me to fall asleep. Is he contorted in the hall closet with 20 years of old and dusty CD's? Crouched over the kitty litter? Camping out behind my wedding dress?

In the No Horror (or true crime) Treaty of 1999 Danny and I agreed that I would no longer be allowed to watch any movies where people get chopped up into little pieces and stuffed into suitcases by their quiet, churchgoing neighbors.

As Danny pointed out, when I don't sleep, he doesn't sleep. He's kept awake not only from my tossing and turning in nightmare, but from the inevitable, "Danny? Are you awake? Can you turn the hall light on?" or "Danny? Could you just check that all the doors are locked again?" that issue forth from my mouth the very second he has fallen asleep.

The treaty does include a "special circumstances" clause. Normally I can watch a scary movie as long as the rules are such that I know I am safe from harm. For instance, if it is not Friday the 13th I have nothing to fear from everyone's favorite hockey-masked menace. And since my parents never participated, to my knowledge, in roasting a child molester in a boiler room on Elm Street, Freddy holds no grudge against me. I do not live in the Amityville house, my neighborhood was not built on top of a cemetery or Indian burial ground, I am not tunneling down a dark cave and the dead of the world have not risen up from the cemeteries. Safe, safe, and safe.

Any tale of a serial killer, stalker or otherwise run of the mill, average Joe murderer though is strictly off-limits under any circumstances.

Because I've had relative success watching horror movies under the special circumstances clause, I got cocky. That's how Saw slipped in there. It was 3 o'clock on Sunday afternoon and I was flipping through channels looking for somewhere to land so I could fold my laundry. The people involved in the movie seemed to be caught in some sort of run down building that doesn't exist in my neighborhood. 30 minutes in I was already hooked and learned that the Saw psycho picks people and takes them to his little twisted game rooms.

Danny tried to comfort me by saying, "But he picks people who are ungrateful to be alive." But how do I know what his judging standards are? I was awake last night wondering. Maybe he deems me ungrateful because I was sitting inside on a beautiful sunny day, because I don't visit my parents enough or because I don't eat organic every time and smoke an occasional cigarette. He could be outside my house right now judging me unworthy since I am the only woman on the block who has failed to procreate. There's no way to tell.

I tried to beat it. When I still couldn't fall asleep, Danny obliged me with a game of name every Susan Sarandon movie, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Kevin Costner etc until my mind was so distracted trying to remember the name of the guy who played Tom in the Godfather that I forgot about the maniac hiding in my shower and fell asleep. (I woke up later to shout Robert Duvall!)

Will I ever learn my lesson? Or am I doomed to a lifetime of sleepless nights and checking under the bed? I guess the best I can do is lock my doors and stick to watching Golden Girls on Sunday afternoons. .