Monthly Archives: March 2010

Well, Momofuku You Too! ….

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So I started this blog because of my love of food….a love so deep and misguided that I had to have surgery to avoid an early death.  But I haven’t talked about food that much lately because most of my cooking has been of the day to day Suzie Homemaker variety, and most of my dining out has been the same handful of places due to the lack of employment.  Plus there’s the whole recovery angle now.  Last week’s No Reservations (I just watched it….finally got a DVR!) focused on food obsession and had a segment on food bloggers.  Compared to what’s out there, I definitely would NOT call this a food blog…..and that’s okay with me, I like to mix things up, and while I appreciate food blogs for recipes and restaurant tips, many seem to go in a direction I don’t particularly admire.  Many of them take things to the level of nerds who love to show their dicks in Intel vs. Athlon arguments, partake in cyber-bullying and oneupsmanship, and very few have anything resembling a sense of humor or irony.  As much as I love food, I don’t ever want to come off like a douche, because it is something so elemental and important to me that I can’t stand the thought of taking myself so seriously.  I want to have a fuller life than that.  eGullet used to be a big part of my internet life, and I DO owe meeting my lurking wife to that website, but either it has changed or I have changed….or both to some degree.  It has become as boring as fuck, like a room full of W.A.S.P.-y whites who are chomping at the bit to correct you on some meaningless point, and thereby keep the website (the end all be all of food wisdom oracles) clean, concise, correct…..and so fucking sterile I can’t even think of any decent obscene imagery to describe it.  Shit like…”But in your original statement you inferred that BLAH BLAH BLAH, and while that may have been true in reference to the cultural aspect of BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH, you forgot to take into account that the translation of the dish, is, in itself, a BLAH BLAH BLAH MOTHERFUCKING BLLLAAAHHHHHHHHHH”.  So those types of dipshits turn people off to the website, but hey, they get to feel smart in a vacuum full of boring doppelganger dipshits who also enjoy minutia that  jumped the shark the same day someone had the spare time to take it seriously enough to outline a code of ethics.  A couple of years ago I would have been giddy at the thought of people from the food nerd community getting a few minutes on Bourdain’s show, but now it’s just annoying….kind of like eGullet can be if you spend too much time there.  I mean, if I ever get to the point where I am engaging people  in order to wax poetic on a humorless, humorless, humorless eight page thread about the best type of wooden spoon on the planet, please put one in my brain. Seriously.  And if I ever approach a level of self-importance where I annoy you with a camera at dinner like it is the sane thing to do, sound like I’m a baseball card collector when I’m reminding you of how many cool restaurant experiences I’ve had, or generally lose the sense of irony that comes with the realization that in a few hours I’ll be shitting out this two hundred dollar meal……then kick me in the nuts one good time before you put one in my brain.   Bourdain needs to do that one over……he has a lot of crossover appeal and it would be nice to let the world know that not everyone whose kitchen toys are worth more than their car comes off like a socially retarded douchenozzle when you talk to them about their favorite subject. 

SO WITH THAT SAID…..I finally got to cook what I think of as a “real” meal over the weekend.  Sure, I’ve cooked some great dishes, God knows I’ve had the time, but a “real” meal to me is one that takes a couple of weeks of cookbook research, followed by a process of elimination to narrow down potential courses, followed by the listing of all ingredients, specialty hardware/techniques that are needed…..followed by….a timeline for all preparation leading up to the meal.  If I’m not cooking something two days in advance in order to have everything ready…..then it’s not a “real” meal.

The occasion for Sunday’s dinner was the result of a raffle I may or may not have mentioned in the fall…..basically, I donated a “you name it and I’ll cook it for you” meal for an AA fundraiser, and the people who won it came over this weekend.  They were trying to figure out what they wanted me to cook for them, and while we were chatting after a meeting one day it struck them…..Asian. Dammit.  I’ve never cooked Asian food before, specifically anything Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese.  At least, I haven’t cooked it on a level where I would consider it a “real” meal…..so damn, you know how obsessive I had to get with that sumbitch.  Oh, and to complicate matters, I had to take dietary restrictions/allergies into consideration…… no corn syrup, no msg, no wheat….and get this….no PORK!  Asian…..and no pork.  Oh well, I was up for a challenge, these were super cool and friendly people and I wanted them to have a memorable meal.

Long story short…I did not stick to any strict theme…first of all, they wanted my famous cream of mushroom soup (Top Chef recipe…simple and it rocks), and some sort of rich, chocolatey dessert.  So after much pondering, reading and obsessing, I settled on the mushroom soup served with homemade shrimp toasts, my wife would make a Vietnamese rice noodle salad, then lettuce wraps with beef for the main, and finally that mega-insane “Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte” with Amarena cherries. 

It took a lot……a LOT….to boil it all down to that list, not to mention shopping for specialty ingredients, which I love to do anyway.  Everything ended up being well received, but I said all of that just to have an excuse to talk about my new favorite book…..David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook.  Total genius stuff….a profanity laced joyride that would be fun to read even if you didn’t cook any of the recipes.  I needed a GOOD excuse to cook from it….I’m not overstating my abilities when I say that it’s not for the entry-level home chef.  Many of the recipes will have a few tablespoons of something that is a completely different recipe in the book, and that recipe will have crossover too….but I wanted to keep it real and not take any shortcuts.  The main dish was the one thing that drew from the book…..lettuce wraps with beef sounds simple enough, but when you are adding half a dozen different sauces and pickled elements it adds considerably to the complexity of the prep work.  I did Chang’s sauteed onions that cook for about an hour to get them just right, his famous ginger scallion sauce, and a pickled mustard sauce that requires you to make a batch of his quick pickled cucumbers and pickled mustard seeds.  But the big boy, a revelation to my kitchen, was his “ghetto sous vide” technique that I plan to use just about any time I need to prepare any cut of steak.  The key to that is having a Foodsaver…it’s one of those things you won’t know how you lived without once you use it.  So the steak, in this case flatiron, goes into the bag with an onion/garlic/soy based marinade, and it sits for a day.  Then things take a turn for the weird…..the ghetto element of the sous vide.  Well, Chang has proven to me that you don’t have to spend a grand on a thermal immersion circulator in order to cook in a bag.  Basically, all you need to do is get a pot of water in your sink and run the tap so that it stays between about 120 and 125 degrees….it takes some finesse, and in my case some adjustment to the hot water tank, but when you get it in that zone you put the bagged steak in the water for about forty five minutes to an hour.  Check the temp from time to time and you’re good.  All you want is for that steak to stay in there long enough to achieve approximately 125 degrees throughout, which in my kitchen is a pretty perfect rare to medium rare. Then you shock it in cold water, take it out of the bag, dry it off and hit it in a ripping hot pan or on the grill for a minute or two on each side. Perfection. Even the usually tough flatiron just melted….I cannot say enough good about this technique.  Slice it on the bias and then surround it with the aforementioned sides and sauces, along with a huge garden of assorted sliced vegetables. Everyone loved it.  Then the death blow…that chocolate torte.

It was good to get back in the kitchen and do something like that. I do love cooking for people, and I have to admit the ego-boosting accolades do not suck.  There is some stress and obsessive compulsive behavior involved, but the payoff is worth it. 

Yep, that’s about it. Just wanted to brag in food nerd show-my-dick fashion…….Lost is on pretty soon. Different subject for a different day, but that show has ended up sucking….big time.  In short, I think the appeal is based solely on the anticipation the viewer experiences from week to week, boosted by the investment one has to put into the show…which does not allow you to then admit the fucking storyline was written by hitting random items on a dartboard.  If you don’t believe me, watch a whole season back to back on DVD….when you do that it’s easier to see the cheesy ridiculousness.  It’s just not that inventive or revolutionary….oh, it’s great network TV, don’t get me wrong, but before you scramble off to some weekly discussion to pore over the details of this week’s episode, go read the fucking Schroedinger’s Cat Trilogy or something….damn. 

I’ll talk to you guys later.  Have a safe St. Patrick’s Day…..or as real alcoholics call it….Wednesday.

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Prostitution Whore!

Motherfucker.   Now every time I have a valid post topic instead of the rambling or total silence of late, I have that stupid goddamn Amy Adams from “Julie and Julia” in my head…….”Tra la la la la!  Well all, today I’ll be cooking sweetbreads!  With NO FEAR!  Just like Julia!  And I’ll squinch my face up and prove once and for all that the only reason I have an acting career is because I can look and act exactly like that annoying Meg fucking Ryan in You’ve Got Mail!  Yay!  Maybe my husband will burn me alive for taking screen time away from Meryl Streep!  Which I would deserve! “.  Yeah, I liked the movie a lot, but that bitch has got to go.  Not a good blog voice to have in your head while you are trying to write.  Where’s my fucking movie deal?  Oh, and the post title is a line from an episode of Jersey Housewives that is currently on a commercial in heavy rotation.  I couldn’t think of anything relevant. We love the Housewives shows on Bravo, and those two words screamed by a woman with the worst hair I have ever seen in my life just cracks me up every time.

So tra la la la laaaaa!  Well faithful readers, today before I practice my annoying nose squinching I just wanted to say….. I got a job!   It hasn’t been an easy six months.  I’ve never been without a job for this long since way back when I was a lazy ass in Bible College.  So long story short, after hundreds of resume submittals, dozens of interviews, and a few close calls, yesterday I faxed in a signed offer letter for a contract with a government agency.  So….between our two incomes we are pretty well covered.  I’ll use what is left of my severance to pay off a little bit of debt and we’ll start socking away rainy day money in case this rollercoaster starts up again.  Six months of no work totally sucked, but in the end I’ve got a for-real nine to five job with no evenings or weekends, all the extra federal holidays, and since it’s the government,  going above and beyond on the job can actually hurt you.  I’m looking forward to the normalcy of a two income family in a nice suburban home with a dog and a cat and the bounty of spring on the way.   If you ask me, THAT is the American dream.

But of course…nothing is ever that simple.   I probably mentioned that shortly after IBM gave my entire team’s jobs to foreign contractors, I was up for a position with a local company…..I waited and waited and waited to hear from them because the interviews went great and they acted like they were lucky to get me.  It turned out, they had to give the job to someone they offered it to previously, because the background check that came back bad for them ended up being a moot point.  Oh well, that’s the way it goes, and they did mention a similar position would be opening up in January.  So in January I started checking back with the recruiters, and sure enough, I was back in the mix for a similar position.  After a phone interview they said was just a formality since I’d been through the whole battery of questions and assessments, I’ve waited and waited and waited to hear back from them.  My recruiters once again said they were extremely interested in having me join the team, but for whatever reason they were still interviewing people…flying them in from different parts of the country to talk to them.  Despite their reassurance, because that’s what recruiters are paid to do….give you false hope no matter what, I kept plugging away applying for everything I could find.  Then a  couple of weeks ago a good friend of mine I used to work with gave me a call to tell me there was an opening on his team; a contract position with a federal agency.  So I was like “HELL YES!”…government contract positions have holy grail potential, with the ultimate dream being a permanent gig with the fed.  If  you think I don’t dream big enough, that’s fine, all I really want is a happy life where I don’t have to pinch every penny, eat well, and travel with my wife from time to time.  Getting into this gig has several levels of interviews, even though I know someone there I’m still up against a lot of other qualified people….but of course, I rule at this particular type of nerd work.  So the good news as of last Friday was that, thank God, thank God, thank God, I got the job offer.

THEN AS SURE AS SHIT….literally an hour after HR called to say my offer letter was on its way, the recruiters from the OTHER job called to say management from the other company wanted to take me out to lunch to introduce me to the whole team and have….yet another….informal interview.  But honestly, the job was pretty much mine if I wanted it…this would be more of a “sorry to make you wait” peace offering meant to give me a level of comfort with taking the position.  So that lunch is tomorrow…..and even though I’ve returned my signed offer letter and really want the federal job instead, I’ll go and hear them out and see what’s what.  After all, I don’t want to burn any bridges or piss anyone off, my particular niche of IT is a pretty small world.  I’ll let them know I have another offer in the pipe, and since I’m going through a recruiter it’s not like they can try and hire me on the spot.  There’s the haggling they do over my rate, offer letter, etc. that still has to happen. 

So here’s the deal, the job I don’t want as badly pays a healthy amount more.  Both jobs pay really well, either one is a significantly higher salary than I’ve made up until now in my career…..so yeah, I know, world’s smallest fiddler for my rich white man’s dilemna.  The job I’m meeting about tomorrow would be a really good chunk of change, BUT the hours are longer (possible overtime though since I’d be hourly), it’s more stress, more assholes to deal with, and unless the economy and job market really pick up it wouldn’t boost my skillset enough to beat out the same over-qualified project managers that have been taking the jobs I’d be perfect for for the past six months if I got laid off again. Speaking of that, layoff and/or travel potential are much greater because they do hire offshore people, and the benefits are not nearly as good as the government job.  But the money is better, and one specialty I’d be called upon to use would be my ability to run the living shit out of meetings, be a nazi on timelines and keeping things on track, and keep the client in line….and I’ll be honest, that can be pretty fun. A big game of chess one day, playing chicken the next.  Total heads on stakes leading to your cubicle type of shit.  And up until this point in my life I would have jumped all over it….between the money and the mindfucks it would feed my ego and imaginary reputation big time.  But I knew from the moment I got the call about the job I’ve been waiting on forever, I would just be happier with the other one.  Steady hours, no weekends, better benefits, learning new technologies and skills, not to mention a recognized name on my resume instead of another widget company…..a great job for a guy new to sobriety who is loving life in the suburbs.   Oh, NOT TO MENTION the fact that I was practically ready to make a deal with the devil to land ANY job….going back on the friggin’  phones as a CSR until I could get my Addiction Counselor certification and go make half of what I’ve been used to…seemed to be imminent.  So no tears from this white man, no chance.  I’m living a charmed life and I realize that.

But even though, logically, spiritually, intellectually and pragmatically, I know the job I’m taking is the right one….the voice in my head kept throwing out doubt and whispering…..”money money money money money money money money”.  I doubt everything all the time, second guessing myself is a way of life, and this has been no different.  White man’s dilemna gone awry…never focus on what you got, always worry about what could go wrong.

And this is where I get insanely gay……last night I had a dream.  One of those super duper vivid dreams that can only be brought on by needed sleep and trazodone.  This dream was a using dream.  I don’t have a lot of dreams where I drink, some people do.  And when I do they are always super panicky and I wake up worried like I’m going to have to change my sobriety date.  From what I remember, my dream last night revolved around me and my wife getting ready to take some kind of vacation or long weekend out of town.  When we arrived at the hotel she went off to look for something, I’m not sure, she just went off for a while and I was unpacking and resting.  Then somehow, as often happens in dreams, people unexpectedly showed up for no reason.  It was one of my oldest friends, ex partner in crime from way back in the porn store days who spent a decent amount of time in the joint that I was spared…way back in the porn store days, plus some buddy of his I didn’t know.  We were talking and they just started pulling out bottles. Tons of them, all sorts of booze, and the weird thing was……they were pulling them all out of their pockets like their pants were clown cars.  I was uncomfortable with it, then suddenly I had a bottle in my hand.  I remember exactly what it was…. a half pint of Jim Beam.  And THAT was when I got a sudden moment of clarity that said “I think I’m dreaming this”, because clown car pockets aren’t that big of a stretch compared to me ever touching a fucking half pint of anything.  No self respecting drunk deals in that quantity of booze….. a half pint is what you slam when you’re in line waiting to pay for real bottles of liquor. Then, bottle in hand, I started chatting with the guys some more and thinking of how to cover my tracks…..I told them “you guys know not to mention this to anyone, right?”.  And indeed they did, no explanation needed from me, they knew I’d been sober for a long time and was choosing to go off the wagon.  Then I picked the bottle up to take a drink, stopped and just said “Nah, I can’t do this”.  Next came one of those bizarre Field of Dreams moments….if you believe in such things….I’m not really sure I do…..but that aside, I started waking up immediately after that and in my head I heard…”the job you’re taking is the best one for your sobriety”. 

So that’s that.  What little doubt I had is gone, because it’s just the damn truth.  Go with what is best for your sobriety, because if it’s good for that it’s going to be good for everything….your family, your sanity, and you’ll just sleep better at night.  Everything seems to work out in its own time.  In a lot of ways, my unemployment has done me a ton of good.  I’ve learned a lot about priorities; what’s really important, what’s worth worrying about, and things that are in your control vs. the things that are out of your control.  I’ve got a good life, and it’s time to be thankful for it and live it instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I’ll be working as soon as all of the reams of paperwork are filled out, my wife is working, spring is on the way, and I’m going on eight months of sobriety.  But in the midst of all of the good, I know that going to meetings and spending time around those tables is just as important as it was the first day I got out of the hospital.  It’s insurance.  You don’t have to dwell in the bad, but as soon as you start forgetting about it, you are in real danger.   And if you don’t believe that, well then, you are probably one of those pussies who thinks a half pint of Jim Beam is more than about two swallows. 

That’s it for now gang…..I still suck at bowling, school is good but painfully boring (different story for different day there…junior college addiction courses are harder in many ways than grad school), and I’m working the steps.

I’ll check back in after I get my first paycheck and can see whether or not I can blog from a new iPhone.

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