Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Handstands Gave Me a Big Head

Against my better judgment -- allergy flareup -- I performed a handstand last Sunday.

It was an Iyengar-style class, and the wonderful Indian-born teacher told us to just do it, "just like Nike." After backbending and forward bending at the wall to his commands, I felt aligned but a little congested.

Nonetheless, I just did it.

An hour later, I looked like this, tiny eye balls inside swollen lids. My face got all itchy. The same thing happened a month ago. Suggestions?

Jamie the Sexy Hyper-active Food Cowboy

Taking Human Sexuality got me jazzed up to eat well. I got an "A" in the class but a "B+" for cooking. This latter grade is self-imposed because I didn't quite reach my goal of six recipes in three weeks.

In an effort to save money, I promised to cook six dishes from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home. The book itself was a Christmas gift, a work of rural photographic pleasure. Jamie became my guide through sex and herbs.

After awhile, Jamie irritated me, and I cooked five instead of six recipes.

Yes, he is a masculine free-spirit, a sort of British food cowboy who was the perfect guide for my three weeks of sex. At first, I loved his sexy disregard for measurements, freedom in throwing spice and flavor. After five recipes, I got tired of Jamie's "good splash of olive oil" and wanted him to calm down, stop flying around his farm, and tell me how much olive oil, how much thyme.

That being said, I got high on Jamie's hyperactive confidence, actually buying and cooking fish from a Chinese fish shop. I also roasted shoulder butt, and it was good.

Here are the things I've made:
1. Beautiful zucchinei carbonara, p. 134: Excellent but must cut vegetables before boiling pasta. I overcooked the pasta in the time it took for me to cut them up. I used real Parmesan for this. It made a sensual lunch when paired with wine (shown in photo) and the poetry of e.e. cummings.
2. Spicy pork and chilli-pepper goulash, p. 257-Very, very good. It took more than three hours to make, but the meat fell off the bone. This was my first shoulder butt, also known as pork shoulder.
3. Superb squash soup with the best Parmesan croutons, p. 361-Delicious. Freezes well.
4. Old-fashioned sweet shortcrust pastry, p. 352-Interesting. Hardly any butter. I made a pumpkin pie with it, which is more of an American thing, but the crust was good, toasty with a lemon zest zip.
5. Roasted white fish and leeks, p. 334-I wasn't wild about this, but the cod turned out okay, and the bacon added a buttery taste. I could have added more pepper though. A little bland.

These meals sustained me through Human Sexuality. I ate while reading the textbook, everything from  Anal Warts to Zoophiles. Not all sex is sexy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year's Odds and Ends Goulash

With one exception this week--I'm meeting people at a restaurant--I'm preparing all meals at home. My goal is to cook new things while cleaning out my cupboards. I'm super poor this month but wish to celebrate my current possessions. Tomorrow's lunch will be a baked potato, some boxed pilaf in the back of the cupboard, and some canned baked beans I bought on sale in 2009. For dinner, I will be making Jamie Oliver's "Quick sausage and meatballs with a tomato and basil sauce, spaghetti and sweet raw peas" (page 158).

Tomorrow is my first day of Lehman College's Winter Intensive graduate course on Human Sexuality. I got the book yesterday and am thrilled at the steamy topic in this blast of cold weather. To ensure that the class will happen, my professor combined undergrads with grads. In other words, I will be taking sex ed in the Bronx with a mixed bag of old bags (like myself) and eighteen-year-olds. I'm sure I'll learn something.

Just want to say that 2009 was a good year, despite everything. Here's a peak at the year past.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Your Squash is Showing

On the last morning of this very hard but responsible and adult year, I took a yoga class. In the opening stretches, when we lifted the arms to make room for the digestive organs, I thought of last night's squash soup. It was so good and naturally sweet.

Then I thought about squash in general. What a weird plant. Who was the first person to see these things and think, "Friend not enemy. I'm going to eat this." What a funny thing to say too. "Squash, squash, squash." It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. In further reading, I discovered the squash is a vegetable in cooking but a fruit in classification--the food is a seed receptacle much like a melon or tomato.

Last night, I cut up my first butternut squash, a milk-colored food that resembles a 1960s craft project or an ancient fertility symbol. I had no idea how to cut my two bottom-heavy fruits. Quick research suggested I cut the upper half from the top, rather like the "cutting the lady in half" trick. That made the squash more manageable for lengthwise cuts and skin peeling, but I'm open to suggestions.

For a little squash comedy, check out the Muppets and Carl the Squash smasher.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Naked College Eating

A month ago, I made the best meal I've ever made, Jamie Oliver's chicken tikka masala. Having watched him on the Martha Stewart Show, I was pretty sure I could do it, and I took extra care at the super market, looking for items I'd never used: coconut milk and curry paste.The first bite was a joy. As my boyfriend said, "This is alive with flavor."

For Christmas, he gave me Jamie Oliver at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life. The f irst recipe we tried, "Crispy and sticky chicken thighs with squashed new potatoes and tomatoes" (p. 189), was pretty and fragrant but a little sparse with recipe detail. My boyfriend and I could not figure out why he wanted us to use boned chicken thighs if we had to cut them into three pieces. It just seemed a time-consuming task that left us vulnerable to bone fragnments. The cherry tomatoes, however, added a wonderful pop of flavor.

The next, "Smoked beets with grilled steak and a cottage cheese dressing" (p. 109), worked better, although the beets would have been better on the grill (as Jamie suggested) instead of in the oven. The cottage cheese dressing was really zingy, although I overcooked the steak.

Yesterday, I made some lovely baked potatoes (p. 280), but tonight I made "Superb squash soup with the best Parmesan croutons" (p. 361). I can't believe how delicious the soup was, how naturally sweet and how satisfying with the croutons. I'm also pleased to have attacked my first butternut squash, two to be exact. I debated buying pre-cut squash but decided to "give it a go," as Jamie says. I roasted the seeds as topping to next week's salads. I froze the remaining soup and decided on a New Year's goal.

For three weeks in January -- starting January 4 -- I will give up restaurants in favor of my own cooking or my own food preparation: salads, sandwiches, and leftovers. During these three weeks, I aim to cook a total of six Jamie Oliver recipes, working with at least one new vegetable, like fennel. My reward for completing this challenge is to pay for a legit-Chinatown massage from my favorite massage guy, John A., on Mott Street.

My happy endings come from healthy eating, not to mention my intensive winter session course in human sexuality. While I satiate myself with home cooking -- preparing sensual squash and the like -- I will go to class every day, earning three credits toward my Health Education Masters Degree. Suck on that.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Adeste Felis Catus

In a little over a year, I have adopted a cat, got a boyfriend, entered grad school, got another cat, climbed three mountains, and watched my boyfriend get a cat.  

Despite the Recession, I see progress in a prolonged version of the nativity as told by a cat. Instead of myrrh, Leah gave me five mice this year. Instead of gold, Malcolm brings me tin foil balls. Jesus never had it so good.

By becoming a fan of the cat, also known as Felis catus, I’ve entered the 9,500 year-old tradition of humans befriending cats. It’s no wonder these vermin eating felines, faster than thoughts, are currently the world’s most popular pet. They’re cheerful companions, clear individuals.

Before Malcolm and Leah, I’d had limited experience with cats, scared to be an instant cat mom when I was: 1) a single person, 2) a harried New Yorker, and 3) a self-proclaimed "dog person." To my surprise, the cats needed no toilet training. As instructed, I dabbed their feet in the litter,and off they went. There was no potty training drama, no Freudian repression. The cats just did their business, rolled it in litter, and usually buried it. Quickly, they became my clever children. 

First came Leah, a feminine black cat. Named after Corlear Avenue--her place of rescue--she was in heat when my boss picked her off the street. Now spayed, inoculated, and micro-chipped, she has a cute habit of sitting on the toilet seat. Every morning, she sits on her toilet throne, watches me get ready, and makes agreeable noises. What a wonderful way to start my day. 

Malcolm, a little black kitten, moved in July 4 week. He came to me with all of his necessary shots and surgeries. In other words, he’d lost his balls before he cared. With or without testicles, Malcolm is very much a boy.  

On his first night, he happily rolled on his back displaying his crotch. Then he slept on my pillow, inches from my face. Before Leah trained him, Malcolm pooped on top of the litter. Now he buries his poop, purring instead of reading Sports Illustrated. He leaves the box with a skip and scuttle of litter. 

Every morning is theater: Malcolm dropping toys on my leg and Leah examining the items on my night stand--eye glasses and a very exciting pencil. 

People ask how I tell two black cats apart. It’s in the color and shape of their eyes. Mostly, it’s in the way they move: Each has a different agenda. Malcolm chases cat nip toys while Leah rubs the same toys on her face. 

A week ago, my boyfriend adopted Maxwell House, thus named because his roommate found him outside, huddled in a coffee tin. A week later, this tuxedo kitten has all of his shots, a spot on the couch, and a giant companion in my boyfriend James, a self-proclaimed "dog person." Jesus never had it so good.

Malcolm and Leah love the water sound while Maxwell House plays in James' shower.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I have a totally gross disease

For a health counseling project, I have been documenting my lifelong relationship with nail biting (NB), also known as onychophagia. Now, I am giving myself an intervention, horrified at my inner monologues.

They run something like this: "I'm not hurting anyone," "It's just something I do," and "I can quit any time I want, like for weddings and fancy events."

Not only am I a junkie, my preferred drug -- fingernails -- is grosser and less hip than glue or crystal meth, Andre Agassi's drug of choice.

In short (no pun intended), I am completely alone in conquering my body-focused repetive behavior. NB is completely unsupported by the media; there are no subway ads presenting the multi-cultural faces of onychophagia; and there are no celebrity NB golf events. My disease has no Mary Tyler Moore, awareness week, support group, or After School Special.

No one else gives a flying crap that my saliva probably contains dangerous levels of enterbacteria. No one else gives crap that NB is underresearched and more likely to reflect childhood NB rather than adult NB. No one cares because all the time and attention goes to swine flu vacccines and fat people. Trust me, I'm more dangerous.

In one study, researchers at Atatürk University in Turkey (Turkey, mind you) collected saliva from 25 nail-biting children and 34 non-nail-biters. E. coli, Enterobacter aerogenes, Enterobacter cloacae and Enterobacter gergoviae were found in 76% of the nail biters versus 26.5% of the non-nail biters. Gross.

Finally, my innocent little habit is in the same family as skin biting and hair pulling, also known as trichotillomania. In rare cases of trichotillomania, people die from eating their own hair, also known as Rapunzel Syndrome.

Thus my reasons for intervention. Although my cause has no ribbon or Oprah show, I alone try one of nail biting's most successful cures: habit reversal training. Instead of biting my nails, I will drink a glass of water.

Put that in your mouth and chew it.