Category Archives: Real Life

Two Random Things and a Drink Recipe

Most of the media output here on the webs makes me want to put my face in a pillow and wail. So here are some things that soothe me, here in the age of anger.

Podcasts of smart/funny women talking.
There are differing opinions on how to subdivide podcast genres, but I like to think of them in two major groups: the people talking kind–which includes interview, monologue, and co-hosted shows a la WTF, Bill Burr’s podcast, and For Colored Nerds, respectively, and the narrative kind, like NPR’s empire of podcast/radio shows. I separate these by their use of sound effects and different storytelling techniques. I usually gravitate toward the narrative kinds, but lately a couple of talkies have me hooked. Specifically: Call Your Girlfriend and Los Feliz, the Podcast. There’s something entirely edifying about listening to smart and funny women talking together. That is all.

 

David Chang coming to LA!
We’re ready, booboo.  I know this isn’t going to happen, but I have a fantasy of him opening up shop in Far East Plaza down the aisle from BaoHaus and Chego! and Howlin’ Ray’s so he and Eddie and Roy and Johnny Ray can just bro out at a picnic table sometimes. Or that this would be a sitcom. Also I wish there were some lady chefs there, now that I’m writing this.

For summertime, try this drink I made up:

Ruby Jane
3 ripe strawberries
1 pinch cilantro
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz sugar or agave syrup
2 oz aged cachaça
2 dashes rhubarb bitters

I named it after my niece. She’s bright, sweet, and funky, too. Muddle, shake and dump into a bucket glass and drink it.

Rhubarb bitters are more versatile than you might imagine. They have a nice halfway flavor between fruity and vegetal/herbal. Those and celery bitters are dark horses. Celery bitters can surprisingly liven up just about anything. It’s the msg of cocktail flavorings. Underrated and unjustly maligned.

Are you a person who hates cilantro, that most divisive of leaves? Try mint, I guess. Or make something else. We frown upon substitutions.

Rewatching Cheers as an adult who has since been to a bar

In honor of achieving my lifetime bartender win by serving a drink to Ted Danson, I thought I’d share some thoughts I’ve had about watching the epic, childhood-filling sitcom that launched him to stardom.

The show shuttered in 1993, and I clearly remember the frenzy leading up to the final few episodes, but the early years are hazy.

So I started again.

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Lent

I’m giving up booze for lent. Rather, because I have a job that requires me to make and taste cocktails (recipe development and quality control–it’s real) and occasionally taste new booze that reps bring in, I’m giving up drinking whole drinks for my own enjoyment. Taking a break, just ’cause. Less of a total chemical break than a routine break–going to try to find some other activity on which to spend those nighttime hours. It feels important to change up the old routine now and again, and doing something to adjust my metabolism as winter slides into spring feels right.

Why now? Well, it’s somehow easier to explain to people that you’re taking some time off the sauce because of the 40 days and nights Jesus spent fasting in the desert, resisting temptation to make himself comfortable with his divine magic powers. Easier to say this than to say you just want to. Plus, it gives a solid time frame, and I always like a deadline.

If I really examine it, abstaining for lent feels appropriate for a more nebulous reason. A foggy sense of comfort located somewhere in my Catholic childhood. I haven’t been to mass outside of a wedding in probably 20 years (sorry Mom). I find it difficult to participate in a community that defends ingrained sexism and turns a blind eye to abuse to protect its own. I’ve always been bad at orthodoxy–any system that tells you not to question it immediately requires investigation. Not to mention the Catholic church hierarchy’s roots in the Roman imperial system, its role in various wars and genocides, etc. We all have our unsavory ethnic histories to contend with, some of us worse than others. The best we can do is keep our eyes open to history.

Still, as a kid, I loved my religion. Here’s what they don’t tell you when ex-Catholics talk about sadistic nuns and styrofoam-y communion wafers: the stories are magic. At eight, nine, ten years old, you’ve accepted that Santa Claus is a metaphor, that Narnia is fiction, that you’ll never meet a hobbit. But every Sunday a group of bona fide adults confirmed that once upon a time, an angel told a 14-year-old she was going to change the world. That a working class guy from a podunk town brought his friend back from the dead and told everyone that love was where it was at. And that in the ensuing centuries, saints miraculously survived mortal wounds, killed dragons (yes! dragons!), levitated and bilocated. We sang in a minor key about glory and honor and spoke invocations in unison. There were pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners. I was lucky enough to grow up in a parish with a very progressive priest, who allowed Altar Girls before Altar Girls were a thing and who loved the music of Godspell. Sometimes he would tell us to go outside and be grateful for the daffodils instead of listening to a long homily. The building itself was small, but ornate and full of fascinating statuary. It really brought that extra dimension of … whatever it was to our little town.

It wasn’t until I hit puberty and realized what the catechism’s teachings on gender and sexuality were REALLY saying that I fell out of love with it. The more I learned about the world, the less in touch the church felt. So I got confirmed, I sang in the folk group, but I did so in the spirit of obligatory participation. And pancake breakfasts.

I haven’t observed lent for years but now seems as good a time as any. As a kid I used to try every year to give up chocolate, a proposition that typically lasted about three days until I broke down in a pre-adolescent withdrawal rage worse than from nicotine. But I’m doing this, because I think ritual has meaning. I don’t know what that meaning is, but it does.

Like: How my best friend is Jewish, absolutely don’t-even-talk-to-me-about-Christmas Jewish, I’m-going-to-spend-these-holidays-with-the-family-I-can-only-sort-of-stand Jewish, because that is her culture. It’s her upbringing, an essential part of her identity. It is the fire she carries forward, and even the annoying rituals bring comfort. She has also been an Atheist for something like 20 years. There is no conflict. Maybe you don’t need a deity to have a religion.

I think it might be possible to be religious, but not spiritual.

It reminds me of how many wine sellers and growers talk about Biodynamic farming.  Some are true believers, others don’t swear by the power of the moon and the earth as a single organism, etc., but they know that if they follow the principles and rituals, plant on the right days, fertilize the right way, that their wines come out great.

As my non-believer doctor father told me once: even if it’s psychosomatic, it’s still working.

 

The 2017 Post

Why hello.

It’s been too weird to write recently because everything feels frivolous. But necessary, sure, to keep talking. Keep working. Though writing about gin and pastry feels a bit silly, these days. I realize it’s a privilege to ignore a problem because it is not a problem for me, personally, one that I’ve indulged in while the country was being led by someone with whom I mostly agreed. I used to wonder how people living under dictatorships or oppressive collectives could go on with their lives, not taking to the streets and freaking out. Now I see how easy it is to bury oneself in the full time job of living one’s life. But we owe each other more than that, it seems.

I keep thinking about food as political weight. Clinging to my coastal affections for cuisines from Asia and Latin America; eating foods harvested and prepared by an unbeatable immigrant workforce I wish we would make feel more welcome.  Foods bridge cultures, we know this. I keep wondering if a nice plate of tamales or some gulab jamun would change the minds of Congressional bigots.

Sigh.

Civil Eats is on point. Check it out.

 

Go back home

I’ve been hearing a whole lot of news about the racist garbage people have decided it’s ok to spout since Tuesday confirmed there are enough poor, pissed-off white folks here to put a reality TV celebrity in its highest office just to prove a point. One thing I keep hearing about is said white folks telling people they think might be of non-Euro decent to “go back to [their] country.”

This is a weird thing to say in LA. It reminds me of my friend Lo, whose family is from Texas and California and has been since before either of these were part of the US. They have dark skin and eyes and speak Spanish at home, and if you ask where she is from, Lo will say “here.”

If you ask where her family is from, she will say “here.”

If you ask where her ancestors are from, she will sigh and tell you, “We’ve been here for hundreds of years, asshole, you annexed us.”

You can’t tell her to go home. She is more at home here than you, pendejo.

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Booze as Food/Food as Booze

No, I am not writing about how, at 21, I would drink two $3.50 Heinekens for dinner because I was fed up with tunafish and hormel chili.

I’m writing about relationships. More specifically, the relationships we have with intoxicants.

I don’t have the healthiest relationship with alcohol, but it’s better than my relationship with my family. And I love my family.
-Me. Just now.

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Ferrante Fever

“Elena Ferrante” is what James Wood called her. Apparently we don’t know if it’s a real name or a real person or what. I don’t much care.

Ferrante is the author of a bunch of novels, including the lauded Neapolitan series, which catalogues the lives, from childhood, of two friends from an impoverished corner of Naples starting in the 1950s and progressing through their adulthoods.

Ok. I’m into it. I listened to My Brilliant Friend over a couple of days off, cleaning and running on the treadmill in the workout room of my apartment building in between the two garage modules. I love audiobooks, since I’ve realized that I’m an incredibly slow reader because I basically read everything out loud to myself, in my head, and pretty much can’t process anything non-aural. I continually despaired at my inability to finish books, from childhood onward, until I discovered that you could have people read them to you, while you did mundane shit like wash dishes and shop for groceries and walk to work and back. Things that don’t really need your full attention, and that would otherwise be occupied with your obsessive negative thoughts, anyway! Since this realization, I’ve finished a whole bunch of books that I’d have otherwise thought too long or boring to consider. Just ASK me about the Plantagenets! Somehow, just having someone keep going with the story, no matter what random thoughts also pop in to visit, is an amazing help. Go figure.

I’m five hours into The Story of a New Name, and though I repeatedly think, whenever I have to stop Hilary Huber’s electrifying voice in my ears to go to work or have a conversation, I can’t help thinking that the book is a bit soap-opera-y, a bit tawdry, though shot through with existential insights, and above all, profoundly “female,” which is something I can hardly stop thinking about since as my brother is the owner of the audiobook account I use and he recently told me he was listening to volume 1.   Continue reading