Monday, August 16, 2010

Waiting For Winter (AKA Friends Don't Let Friends Invade Massachusetts In The Winter)

There are a lot of things you can’t get in San Diego. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fabulous place, and when I’m gone I’ll look back on my life here with the same sort of marvelous nostalgia that aging baby-boomers feel towards Woodstock.* But much like Boston’s going to be lacking in some key elements that fill San Diego life with happy, sunshiny goodness**, San Diego’s lacking in certain areas too.

Like, for instance, snow.

Some would consider this a feature, not a bug. Case in point: my uncle, who, having visited NorCal/Stanford not long before I announced my intent to head over to MIT, called to inquire as to what I had against “perfect weather and/or happiness”, or something along those lines.*** I, however, am not one those people.

God, I feel like I’m writing a break-up letter.

“Dear San Diego,

It’s not you, it’s me. That’s cliché, I know, but it’s the truth. Girl Scout’s honor (what remains from my K-3rd Scout exploits, anyway). You’ve been more than good to me—through you, I’ve become quite well-acquainted with our neighborhood flaming ball of hydrogen & helium. And while that, too, was a good relationship, I just need something different. It’s your weather, San Diego, your weather and my sudden distaste for its…niceness.

I’ve found another place, San Diego, a place where the temperature comes in more than pleasant, warm, hot, and Oh, My, We Appear To Be On Fire; a place where shorts and tank-tops are by no means all-year attire, and where the pangs and chills of winter (bottoming out at a frosty 60° here) won’t be thwarted by a mere hoodie; a place where it rains, San Diego—in their language, they have no word for drought, because they do not need one! It’s wondrous. Apparently, they have something called Snowmageddon, which I’m quite curious about.

In conclusion, San Diego, thank you for everything you’ve been to me. I’ll never forget the good times we shared, and to be sure, I’ll visit. But it’ll be as a resident of a land where acts of God and/or meteorology cause snowflakes to rain from the sky—not ash, which, as you know, is decidedly less pleasant. Good luck with that firestorm issue, btw. Might I suggest the Governator to help with that?


I’ll stop now, before the people in Minnesota, or Wisconsin, or Vermont, or any other state where the temperatures approach absolute zero during winter decide to form an angry mob armed with pitchforks whittled from pine trees and icicle daggers and the like. They shouldn’t, though, because come this winter I’ll commence being one of them, rosy-cheeked and frostbitten- limbed amidst the snowbanks, huddling in my twelve separate clothing layers and praising the MIT powers-that-be for the bitchin’ underground tunnels between classes.

Despite the fact that I’m ecstatic to be heading somewhere with, you know, seasons, there are those who have expressed doubts as to my ability to cope with said seasons. And when I say seasons, I mean winter. And when I say those who have expressed doubts, I mean everyone I know. Apparently I don’t exactly inspire confidence when it comes to handling a Massachusetts winter, something probably exacerbated by the things like having to wear mittens and a hoodie 82% of the time I was at MIT for CPW in April.

However, I’d like to issue a rebuttal to the people (most of whom, despite drinking a little too much haterade re: winter, I love very much) who are convinced I’m a delicate sun-bunny incapable of toughing out an east coast winter. When I was a kid, I would spend every winter at my grandparents' house way up in Northern California (specifically, Nevada City), which is home to legal lake-swimming, forests for miles, and Tahoe. I’ve been skiing at Squaw Valley and Sugarbowl, and ice-skating on the top of a mountain. So I do, in fact, have plenty of childhood experience with frozen water molecules. Arguments, I render them invalid.

But wait! Pics or it didn’t happen, you say? Of course. I’ve come to the internet prepared. And since I don’t have any recent pictures of me in snow, and because I happened to be an adorable child from ages zero to nine, I decided to upload some of our family pictures.

That would be my brother and me. Apparently I was one of those unlucky children who lost both front teeth at once, then repressed the memory of it.

D’aww, mountain sledding with the whole family. :D

Getting the Christmas tree! I know, I’m Jewish, but my mom’s family is Christian, and there would always be a tree at their house.

My brother and me again. Per what I’m sure was my mother’s insistence, I’m swathed in enough layers to make my look like an exceptionally flamboyant Michelin man.

See that cut on my nose? I was standing in line with my family to buy a lift ticket, right behind a guy holding a snowboard loosely by his side. Right after he got his ticket, he turned to leave, and because of my littleness I got whacked in the face with the edge of his snowboard. Which was exceptionally not-awesome. What was kind of awesome, though, was my little brother running up to the guy and yelling “you hurt my SISTER!!!” at him in his little squeaky voice. Family: sticking up for you when you unexpectedly get a faceful of snowboard.

Learning how to ski (and, more specifically, “the french-fry”).

Sledding! :DDD

Snowman-making? Camera-hogging? Who knows.

Maybe my past experience with snow will help me brave the coming Massachusetts winters; maybe not. But that’s a chance I’m willing—nay, ecstatic!—to take. I want rain, and snow, and sleet, and hail, and all the other forms of weather mentioned in the post-office pledge; I want to ice-skate, maybe on the Charles, if that’s even remotely possible.**** I want to take eight million pictures of the frozen campus and city, excitedly Skype my mom to squeal about the weather, and revel in winter in general. And sure, it might suck at times. But I’m fully okay with that. So here’s to my first winter in Boston, and having a hell of a time.

*Except, you know, I was actually there.

**Like, er, year-round sunshine. And proper beaches. And Mexican food. Oh god, and Mexican food. Hopefully my mother will follow through on her promise to overnight me California burritos on ice.

Note to self: find a phrase similar to “California burritos on ice” that sounds less like an ice-show with figure-skating Mexican food.

***In a totally joking and supportive manner, of course. Love ya, Uncle Rob!

****When we got to Boston and actually saw the Charles, my boyfriend said something along the lines of “hey, think it ever freezes?” I answered in the negative (read: hell no, it’s way too big). Obviously I underestimated the forces of nature and/or ungodly cold.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm Really Too Old To Be Doing This (Namely, Learning To Drive)

So, I have a confession. Despite having been on this good earth for eighteen years and change—and in Southern California, at that—I haven’t learned to drive. The normal response to this seems to be something along the lines of: “At your age?!?!” It’s gotten to the point that I’ve taken to carrying smelling salts in my daintily-laced whalebone corset to stave off the fainting spells that invariably follow.

Now, I was going to write out a long post about it all, with traditional long-post elements like plot, characterization, and full sentences, but the magnitude of driving turned out to be too overwhelming to capture in paragraph form, and the clarion call of impromptu camping, too great to resist. So I gave up and just wrote a bunch of haikus (+1 real poem) about particularly memorable moments in my second lesson, otherwise known as the Oh Christ, You Want Me To Drive In The City? Lesson. Enjoy the taste of my driving-related agony.

oblivious crowds
swarm around grossmont center
god, I hate walmart

1.5. (corollary to 1)
douchebag on a bluetooth
pedestrian laws won’t make you
less dead if I hit you
just entitled to reparations
if you insist on continuing
your toolery

moonbounce in the park
watch out—kids dart, fishily
aww, doggie playground

green shifts up ahead
teacher says yellows last sev—
oh fuck, ran a red

4. (double the haiku, for no additional cost!)
boy riding a bike
brother perched on handlebars
weaving and smirking

you think you’re so cool
but my instructor agrees
you’re both idiots

one more lesson left
swift disqualification
looms in my future

So yeah. Driving has made me want to be a better pedestrian, because I finally understand what obnoxious roving traffic hazards people tend to be when not paying attention to, you know, laws and stuff. I have no idea why more people apparently don't have this epiphany.

The good news: if I happen to fail my DMV test, I still have time before I leave to retake it! Which apparently strikes some people as “unduly pessimistic”, but I see it as looking on the bright side, really.

Now I just have to convince my dad to let me take the test in his Jeep Grand Cherokee instead of The Red Manatee (AKA my mother’s Mercury Monterey). Wish me luck, y’all.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New York Delis Have Nothing On Me

For obvious reasons, I tend to blog about what’s currently happening in my life—and thus, school hasn’t come up too much. Because it’s summer! And while I am doing somewhat school-related stuff*, and while I’m very much looking forward to maybe blogging about school-related stuff in the future, I figure it’s not quite the right time for it yet.

Anyways! I haven’t spoken pretty much at all about what high school was like for me, but for this moment suffice it to say that I was a busy beaver†. Accordingly, some elements of my life ended up getting shoved to the side, much like misfit toys in beloved reindeer movies or gefilte fish on the plates and tables of any Passover celebration ever.

In case that last bit wasn’t enough of a tip-off, I’m mostly talking about my religious observance. To date, I’ve missed approximately several dozen consecutive Shabbats and, oh, several years worth of Temple, give or take a few High Holidays and a Bar Mitzvah here or there‡.

So, I thought to myself, what endeavor could possibly be Jewish enough to assuage my guilt over my heretofore incredibly lax religious habits?

Bagel-making, obvs.

You could search the annals of Jewish history and not find a better innovation! Except, er, maybe not. But still, bagels are good.

My god, they are ugly suckers when they’re boiling (this is probably the best, least-lumpy picture I took).

See, lumpy. But! But! The end results were far more encouraging.

Even my mom’s gnarly garlic bagels, which were briefly un-exiled from their separate baking/storage area for the purpose of this picture. I mean, come on, I like garlic and all, but Jesus, even I have my limits.

As for this being yet another food post, I'd feel bad if I didn't know that my next post will have exactly zero to do with foodstuffs, and will be up...soon. I've learned to not give specific dates, as life often does not cooperate with those predicted dates. (IMPROMPTU CAMPING ANYONE???)

So yeah. Laterz.

*Eventually it all starts running together, abandoning the sinking ship that is order and (my) sanity to become a whirlpool of postsecondary chaos. I’d draw a picture, but blehhh. No scanner + MS paintfail.

†Though not as busy a beaver as I’m about to become. Ha! -crickets-

‡ Er, maybe not that bad. But to the point that I’ve decided I’d like to be more involved in it when college rolls around. Hillel ftw.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Visiting the Hillcrest Farmer's Market (And Indulging My Inner Hippie)

So, apologies for not actually, uh, writing this on time (or, you know, writing anything else for the past week, for that matter). I claim HEAT SLUGGISHNESS. Which is basically what happens to me whenever it starts to get hot in San Diego. And by hot, I mean in the hundreds. Blehhhh.

See, in SoCal, we have something called “June Gloom”, which refers to the way it tends to get sort of cool and overcast (and sometimes even rainy!) during June. It goes against everything people tend to think of when they think of Southern California, is utterly wonderful and refreshing, and extended into July this year—probably to lull me into a false sense of security, so when the temperature suddenly ratcheted up into triple digits it was harder to adjust to the new situation I found myself in (namely, up a mildly sweaty creek without an air-conditioning-shaped paddle).

Dear June Gloom: come back soon, plz.

Ahem. Let me clarify.

I HAVE NO AIR CONDITIONING. My strategy to combat this tends to involve strategically placed fans, enough Otter Pops to singlehandedly prop up the high-fructose corn syrup industry, and lots of anguished sighing, but since the rest of my family functions perfectly fine without utilizing such methods, I concede that I might be (read: probably am) slightly overdramatic about the whole thing.

Shameless excuses aside, what I MEANT to write about last week (and blew off) was my trip to the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market* last Sunday with my mom and boyfriend. Hillcrest, for anyone not in the know or not willing to follow the asterisk down to the website I stumbled upon, is pretty fabulous. It’s a big San Diegan counterculture hub, and if you ever go you know you’re about there when you start seeing the rainbow flags†. Or, you know, the giant suspended Hillcrest sign.

It really is kind of hard to miss.

And so, to the brunt of this post: I lovelovelove the Farmer’s Market. As I mentioned in the last post, my family puts a heavy emphasis on food and cooking; what I didn’t mention is that there's also an emphasis on gardening. I remember growing a lot of produce as a kid—zucchini, pumpkins, green beans, peppers, citrus fruits, pomegranates, berries, herbs—we didn’t grow everything, but we grew a lot. Even as I grew up, when we started getting busier and weren’t able to spend as much time on gardening, we still tried to keep up with the herbs and at least a few kinds of produce. I figure that’s the least I can do while in college, to say nothing of cooking (which I’ll also be doing a lot of—I’ve been temporarily placed in Burton-Conner, a dorm with a strong kitchen culture and no dining hall, and if I stay there—which is likely—I’ll be cooking for myself and probably my suitemates a good deal). And because of those experiences and the drive they created, I have a deep affection for places like the Farmer’s Marker and Whole Foods that allow me to engage in similar experiences and explore the field for myself.

The Farmer’s Market happens to be a place where a love of food, cooking, and gardening all converge in a spectacular display of edibility and excitement, tinged with a whiff of obsessive health-nuttiness. I totally cop to squealing like a little girl to my boyfriend upon arriving (“OMG LOOK at all the awesome FRUITS and VEGGIES that I can COOK WITH SQUEEEEE”). And while it is true that you couldn’t swing a free-range Pacific salmon around without whacking some sign or banner labeled “organic”, “local”, or the like, I think that some people, in their distaste for the hardcore proponents of the organic and slow foods movements—who, to be fair, can come across as self-righteous—tend to forget that organic, fresh-from-the-farm produce tends to taste pretty damn good, in addition to being good for the environment. So it’s not like you’re giving up flavor for sustainability. It’s a pretty win-win situation.

HOW CAN YOU RESIST SUCH GLORIOUS BOUNTIES OF NATURE? The produce, I mean, not the random people who occasionally walk into my shots. As for why I’m including so many pictures, I don’t know if I could fully express in words the vibe of the place and how amazing it actually is, so I toss up the pictures I take. Me: acting like a tourist for your benefit!

Now, the Farmer’s Market is probably something like 60% produce and product tents and 40% prepared food tents. And so I’ve dutifully documented the latter tents as well, because I’m of the opinion that getting your grub on acts as a disproportionately large motivation to go to the Farmer’s Market, though that might change now that I’m cooking for myself more and there’s apparently a relatively nearby (!!!) market at MIT .

Dueling Tamales!

Righteous Turkish food. They recently opened a restaurant nearby, and when I visited I found out they make their own hummus. WHY THEY DO NOT STOCK IT AT THE FARMER’S MARKET, I DO NOT KNOW.

There were also Dueling Gyros!!! Sadly, my shitty MS paint splicejob was thwarted by the fact that I didn’t get a picture of the other joint.


Allow me to repeat myself: MMMMMMMMM. For reals. Times a million.

That panini doesn’t stand a chance.

So, the above pictures of the panini tent and the below pictures of the 410 Degrees cookie tent represent my favorite foodstalls of the day/all time. I can’t really add anything, so feel free to just gaze at the Frenchmen-made paninis and FABULOUS CREATIVE CHEWY COOKIES OMG.

I want these served at all major milestones in my life. Graduation? Check. Wedding? You betcha. Birth of my first child? We’re handing out these puppies. None of that fake cigar bullshit.

The guy manning the tent was pretty cool about me getting all touristy on him. I admire those capable of handing verbally flailing young women armed with cameras.

Pancakes and bacon, people. Pancakes and bacon.

Two cookies framed by my boyfriend’s giant manhands. They each, er, have a bite taken out of them. I might’ve forgotten that I wanted to take a picture of them before trying them.

And so that was my day at the Farmer’s Market. Tasks accomplished:

A) Bought some zucchini to make some effing awesome zucchini bread
B) Made sure the stomachs of all involved in this expedition (namely me, my boyfriend, and my mother) were filled with glorious noms
C) Acted embarrassingly tourist-y for the purpose of gathering blogpost material
D) ???
E) Profit!!!

Okay, maybe not those last two. South Park references aside, I felt Highly Productive. Yay for actually getting stuff done? Of course, my productivity for the week was promptly used up judging by the lateness of this post, but yeah. Until next time! Which will hopefully be tomorrow.

*Holy crap, there’s a website! Look: Why did I not know this? I feel so uninformed. Thank you, Google, for making me feel like a luddite or somesuch historical relic.

† Coincidentally, this past Sunday my mom and I were driving to Whole Foods (which happens to be located in Hillcrest, and which, alongside the Farmer’s Market, stands as Hillcrest’s primary draw for me—seriously, it’s like crack for people too health-obsessed to actually do crack) and accidently got caught in the San Diego Gay Pride Parade. For real, we were this close to becoming a float in their route. Somehow the fact that the Pride Parade was that day escaped our notice until we found ourselves in nearly stop-and-go traffic staring down a truckbed filled with rainbow-painted men lifting their shirts up at the crowd, Mardi Gras-style. It was kind of awesome.

Lastly: all pics are mine except the first two, which are courtesy of the Ventura County Star and the Hillcrest B&B.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Useful College Skills: Cooking

So, I made dinner tonight. And it was pretty damn delicious. And I have the recipe/commentary/all that good stuff! But first, a little more about me and my school.

I haven’t actually said which college I’ll be headed off to yet—perhaps due to the fact that, thanks to my mother, I’ve had more internet privacy lessons than your average CIA agent, or maybe because it just didn’t belong in the other posts—so here goes: come this fall I’ll be attending the postsecondary/inanimate love of my life, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Why yes, I did shamelessly rip this from the MIT website.

This is relevant because there is a 100% chance that I will be cooking for myself there. Not entirely, but a good bit, and because I want to, not out of any sense of need. However, because of the way MIT dining is structured (something I’ll go into in my next food post, because it’s late, and this post could quickly get very long if I try to tackle it now) there’ll be some students who will, in fact, need to cook, and need to learn to cook at that.

Which, if you ask me, is a great thing. Maybe not on the surface, but it seems like something that’d fall into the “blessing in disguise” category. On the list of Things That Are Probably, You Know, Pretty Good To Know In Life, “how to cook relatively tasty stuff that won’t send you to the hospital” is incredibly high up, or should be.

But! Because I promised, here’s the recipe, the commentary, and my initial thoughts on college cooking.

Chicken Cacciatore for the Culinarily Skittish


Canola/Vegetable Oil (just a bit)
Flour (2 handfuls, or 1 cup)
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2)
Green bell peppers (2)
Diced tomatoes (one 14.5oz can)
Chicken broth (one 14.5oz can)
Garlic (2 cloves)
Oregano (2 small pinches)
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
Pasta (1 package)

Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Using your knife, butterfly* the chicken breasts. Coat them lightly in flour and pan-fry in a pan with oil on high heat until golden-brown, and just slightly undercooked. Take them out and place them on a separate plate temporarily.

Chop both bell peppers (making sure to discard the seeds and center) into small pieces and mince (finely chop) the garlic cloves (making sure to take the thin skin covering the clove off first). Add the garlic and bell peppers to the pan the chicken was in and cook briefly, stirring occasionally, until the garlic softens a bit. Put the chicken back in the pan, on top of the garlic/peppers, and add the can of diced tomatoes, the oregano, and half of the can of chicken broth. Cover (with either a lid or foil), turn the heat down to low or medium-low and let cook for thirty minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add pasta, stir occasionally, and drain when done.

Once the chicken is ready, take the pan off the heat, uncover, add to pasta, and voilà! † You have nomtastic chicken cacciatore in forty-five minutes. And without being too precise about how you go about it.


Chicken Cacciatore + Pasta + Italian Garlic/Herb/Cheese Breadsticks = Ultimate Happiness

Mmm…breadsticks…*Homer-Simpson-esque drool* I didn’t include the recipe because they took a good bit more work, but I could link to it if anyone wants.

Honestly, I think that’s one of the biggest problems when it comes to college students and cooking for themselves—that being the preciseness that tends to get associated with cooking. Unless you grew up in a family that heavily emphasized not only food, but also cooking and learning how to cook—and, honestly, even if you did—cooking for yourself beyond making a sandwich or achieving the perfect cereal/milk ratio can be on par with “trekking the Himalayas” and “safely landing a plane on the Hudson”. Sure, some people can do it, but that doesn’t mean you can.

I know. I come from a family like the one I described above, what with the food, and the cooking, and the teaching, and I still have to fight the urge to get bogged down by precise recipe details and Cooking, the capitalized, abstract, far-away concept only do-able by my mother, restaurant professionals, and Top Chef contestants situated comfortably in the magical world of television.

And that sucks! Because cooking is actually pretty fun, and way easier than people imagine. You could feed yourself lifetimes over with easy recipes before ever moving on to something more difficult, if that’s what you’d like, though I think the more likely scenario involves people gradually wanting to try their hands at harder recipes once they get a taste for the basics. (Hah! See what I did there?)

And cooking (unlike baking, which actually does take a certain level of precision) is very adaptable. For instance! That chicken cacciatore recipe used to have onions and mushrooms, but we didn’t have mushrooms (and I was too lazy to go out to the store), so out they went. As for onions, they’re one of the few vegetables that I really, really dislike, and so when I’m making dinner I’ll often leave them out. If you want to change recipes, it’s very easy to do so, and as you go.

So I guess this marks the beginning of “cooking is awesome, yo” campaign, and the near-beginning of my college culinary exploits. Stay tuned! ‘Cause yeah. More to come! At some point!

* For those not familiar with the term, “to butterfly” means “to split a piece of food down the center, cutting almost through…the halves are fanned open and laid flat to cook or fry…the fan resembles a butterfly.” Kudos to for that definition, because god knows I’d mangle it. I’m like Justice Stewart and porn—I may not know how to define butterfly-ing, but I know it when I see it.

†I know, voilà is all inappropriate and French (l’horreur!), but my high school didn’t teach Italian. So there.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

T.I.TDMF. Part Three: On Carnival Swindlers and Letting the Magic Live On

6PM, July 1st, Del Mar, California. The cloud cover was just beginning to break, an hour or two before the sun was due to set. The fair was still in full swing, people arriving as steadily as they had been at one that afternoon. My boyfriend and I were in the Funzone, the area of the park where all of the games and more adult rides were located.

Not the Funzone. You can’t tell, but the entrance of the park is REALLY FAR AWAY.

As I stood next to a carnival basketball game, watching my boyfriend fritter away $20 in a sweet (but ultimately futile) attempt to win me one of these glorious creatures

I realized two things:

--Firstly, those hoops were fucking rigged.
--Secondly, the Del Mar fair is best if consumed no more than once a year.

For all those “but WHYYYYYY?” naysayers out there, hear me out.

I love the Del Mar Fair. It’s a part of my childhood. I’ve been to it more times than I could say, beginning since I was too young to really remember going. As kids my brother and I won prizes for (in retrospect, somewhat skimpy) vegetables we had grown in our garden and arranged, spiffy-like, in wooden baskets. I’ve gone with my family, my friends, and my significant other. I’ve made the transition from Kiddieland to the more adult-centered areas. And I’ve loved every minute of it.

But do it too often and it becomes commonplace. The beauty of the fair is that you wait all year for it, and then when it comes to town, and you finally manage to get off work or out of school to go, you have an absolute blast. You spend the day navigating through the throngs of fairgoers, eating marvelously shitty fair food, and being dazzled by the rides. You let yourself be overwhelmed by the colors, and the sounds, and the smells and tastes, and then later that day, or that night, you go back to your everyday life with pictures and memories and cheap little prizes to show for it. And, until next year, or the year after, or whenever you finally manage to go again, that’s enough to hold you over. If you frequent the fair day after day, you risk weakening the effect. You risk the well running dry.

So if you can, go to the fair, and have that absolute blast. And don’t worry if you’re only there for a day. It’ll be back next year, same place, same time.

Note: all of the pictures in the This. Is. THE DEL MAR FAIR. series are mine, with the exception of the last ferris wheel one, which is courtesy of rockoutkaraoke.