Stunted Adults

Welcome to Our So-Called Adulty Life


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And A Snake Brings It All Full Circle

Last week, one of my co-workers told me, with eyes filled with terror and trauma, that she had seen a snake in her backyard.  She spun wild tales of snakes slithering amok all over our city and wanted to rally all of the exterminators to decimate these reptilian invaders.

I politely shook my head at the nerve of those pesky snakes and gently told her not to worry because, of course, they were just harmless little garter snakes.

Then I went all Jon Snow on her, telling her not to kill the obviously dangerous beasts in our midst because I am so noble, brave, and kindhearted.

There is no way this ends with anyone getting hurt….

But, much like Jon Snow, I know nothing.

NOTHING.

When I got home later that day,  I threw on some old cut-off jean shorts because I had to do some gardening and then, once I was done in the yard, I went inside and started cooking dinner.  Country Boy stayed out in the front yard to continue planting those bulk plants that I told you about back in March.  Yes, we are STILL planting them.  Country Boy and I have never met a project that we didn’t want to start and not finish.

A while later, Country Boy popped his head through the front door and asked for a glass of water.  I began preparing a glass of cold refrigerator water with ice to positively reinforce his decision to finish up the garden, but, before I could finish that artisan water cocktail, he stopped me and told me that warm sink water would be just fine.

I looked at him.

I knew I was about to ask a question to which I did not want to know the answer, but I just couldn’t stop myself.  I’ve never met a bad decision that I didn’t like.

So, I asked “What do you need the water for?”

He sighed, recognizing my error, and responded “To clean up all of the snake blood off of the driveway.”

I whispered, with eyes filled with terror and trauma, “Excuse me?”

And, he, with a barely suppressed eye roll, said “There was a snake, so I killed it with my shovel.  It got blood everywhere.  I just need to wash it off before it stains.  Relax.  It was just a harmless little garter snake.”

I said “Right.  That’s totally normal.  Here’s your snake-blood-cleaning water.”

After Country Boy went back outside, I took a few deep breaths and talked myself down off the ledge.  I reminded myself that snakes are living creatures that people keep as pets.  People also keep puppies as pets.  Ergo, snakes are totally the puppies of the reptile world.  And puppies are awesome.  So, snakes are awesome?  Logically, this was no big deal.

If a snake is good enough to be friends with Britney, then it’s certainly good enough for me.

All was well until I realized that I had BBQ chicken cooking on the grill.

The grill that was outside.

WHERE THE SNAKES LIVE.

And then I became like this guy, because snakes are not friends. SNAKES ARE NOT FRIENDS!

It was all terror and trauma up in my kitchen.  I did not want to go out in the backyard.

But, I also did not want to starve.

So, I took a deep breath and evaluated my options.

I quickly realized that there was only one option.  I had to go to the grill.

Apparently, my love of BBQ chicken trumps my fear of poisonous snakes.  It’s good to know that I have my priorities in order.

Maple-Mustard BBQ Chicken

There ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no snake scary enough, to keep me from getting to you.

But, I’m not dumb.

So,  I armed myself with a rake just in case Mr. Dead Front Yard Snake was friends with Mr. Alive Back Yard Snake and his crew.  I also cracked a Coors Light because liquid courage is never a bad idea.

And that’s how I found myself wearing grass-stained jorts, swigging a cheap American beer, and grilling meats while fighting off vermin with a homemade weapon on a Tuesday night.

I am totally one small step away from having fox in a box in my freezer and from serving raccoon to my holiday guests

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Babies, Roast Raccoon, and Chakras: A Rural Yuletide Tale

Back in 2006, after more than four years together and just after the time period for an annulment on our marriage had expired, Country Boy decided to take me to his maternal grandparents’ farm in Northern Indiana for the first time for Christmas dinner.

The farm is a three-hour drive from Country Boy’s parent’s house, and, at his parents’ insistence and for reasons that are still unknown, we took only two of the available four cars to travel to the farm despite needing to transport nine adults and one toddler in a car seat.   Nothing says family bonding like wedging yourself  into a two-door Saturn with four big guys.  I bet you can guess who was riding bitch between Country Boy’s 6’1″ and 6’7″ tall teenaged brothers.  That was the moment that I truly understood the many meanings of the word “cozy.”

clown car

It looked a lot like this except that, instead of clowns, the car was filled with corn-fed giants and one very overwhelmed PinotNinja.

Once we arrived, unfolded ourselves from the back seat, and regained feeling in our limbs, I was ushered into the farmhouse to say hello to Country Boy’s family.  As  I walked in the door, I realized that I had missed the memo that the official holiday outfit on the farm was Wranglers, a plaid shirt, and cowboy boots.  Contrary to what I had learned growing up in Connecticut, a cardigan and pearls is not always appropriate.

It also became apparent at that moment that I was the only woman in the house between the ages of 18 and 25 without at least one baby on my hip.  This fun little fact was repeatedly pointed out to me as I was asked eight (EIGHT!) times over the course of less than an hour why I had not had a baby yet.  One relation actually asked “Where’s your young’un?” before asking “What’s your name?”

Not to be outdone, Country Boy’s 10-year-old cousin approached me and very shyly asked “PinotNinja, are you going to die?”

Way to bring the heavy little girl.

As I pondered how to explain to this sweet child that, one day, we will all move on, she decided to throw me a follow-up bone as I was obviously struggling, saying “I meant soon.  Are you going to die soon because you must be really sick since you haven’t had a baby yet?”

WHAT?!

I asked her where she heard that, and she said that her mom and Country Boy’s grandmother had told her that I had to be dying because I didn’t have any babies.  SERIOUSLY.  Because I didn’t have a kid at the ripe old age of 26, it was assumed that I must be terminally ill.

I have never needed a drink so badly as I did at that moment.

But, there was no drink to be had because Country Boy’s grandmother considers alcohol to be “the devil’s elixir.”

Apparently, news of the 21st Amendment has yet to reach rural Indiana.

Apparently, news of the 21st Amendment has yet to reach rural Indiana.

Yes, you read that right.  This was a completely dry Christmas dinner with my in-laws.  There was no alcohol ANYWHERE.  There wasn’t even any cough syrup in the many medicine cabinets that I checked.

After negotiating myself through that sober procreation minefield, I was ushered into the kitchen to sit down for dinner.

What was for dinner you ask?

Oh, RACCOON.

raccoon

How nice of you to join us at Christmas.

Yes, Christmas dinner was mother f*cking raccoon in a mother f*cking crockpot.

I AM SERIOUS.

Raccoon.  The kind with a mask and paws.  The kind that eats your garbage.  The kind that has never been featured on the menu of any restaurant anywhere ever.

There was no way that was going in my mouth, especially sober.

But, before I could run away, Country Boy’s grandmother pushed a steaming plate of vermin fricassee into my hot little hands in front of Country Boy’s extended family.  I knew that a simple “no thank you” was not going to cut it.  You see, I was on very thin ice with Country Boy’s grandmother. I knew that she didn’t come to our wedding because we served “the devil’s elixir” (wine) and played “the devil’s music” (rock and roll).  I knew that she referred to me as the Big City Hussy behind my back and believed that I had corrupted her sweet grandson.  I knew now that she believed that the only acceptable reason for my not breeding in my early 20s was that I suffered from a terminal illness.

But, I also knew that there was no way in hell that I was eating that raccoon.

My options were very limited, so I had no choice but to take a gigantic gamble.  I was going big because I couldn’t go home.

Despite the fact that the night before I had eaten bacon-wrapped filet mignon in front of Country Boy’s younger brothers and sister who were sitting right next to Country Boy’s grandmother and the fact that every item on the table involved an animal product, I told her that I could not eat her roast raccoon because I was a vegetarian.  Starvation tastes better than road kill.

I then shot a glare at my young siblings-in-law that sent a visible shiver up their spines.   They all got the hint and kept their little traps shut about the fact that I had only become a vegetarian in the past 30 seconds.

PinotNinja — lying and threatening children on Jesus’s birthday since 2006.

After my delicious Christmas dinner of air, Country Boy’s fringed leather jacket wearing uncle cornered me.  I had never really talked to him before, and the horrified look on Country Boy’s face when he saw his uncle pull me aside tipped me off that this was not going to be an ordinary conversation.

fringed jacket 2

Never trust a man wearing one of these. Just don’t.

Country Boy’s uncle me if I believed in the higher power.  Since it had already been a day, I threw caution to the wind and decided to hop on that train and see where it went.

I told Country Boy’s uncle “sure, I believe in the higher power.”  And, with that, we pulled out of the station and hurtled towards crazy town at top speed.

Country Boy’s uncle proceeded to tell me that, through the higher power, he would be able to cure that pesky terminal illness that was keeping me from popping out babies.  He told me that he would speak about me to his prayer circle and that they would call on the higher power to move to energy of the universe to realign my chakras.  With my chakras realigned, all of my illnesses would be cured without the need for those “pesky know-it-all doctors.”

Awesome.

Who knew that a Boston album could solve the nation's health care crisis?

Who knew that a 1970s power rock band could solve the nation’s health care crisis?

I navigated away from the uncle and took a moment to gather what was left of my sanity.  I turned to see Country Boy putting on his coat, and, feeling a wave of relief wash over me, I asked “Are we heading home?” by which I obviously meant “Are we headed to the nearest market where you will buy me all of the wine to make this evening disappear immediately?”

His response, however, was “Not yet.  I’m just going outside to shoot my uncle’s AK-47.”  Because you know who needs a semi-automatic weapon with a night scope?  That guy.

Fantastic.

While Country Boy was outside firing a machine gun into the darkness, his uncle came back for another round.  He approached me, fringe swishing, and emphatically pronounced “You are a red with hints of purple.”  I had no idea what that gem meant, but i just nodded and acted like I did because I was not about to ask a question that I didn’t want to know the answer to.

Luckily, before that conversation could turn back to babies, roast raccoon, or chakras, Country Boy swooped in, grabbed me by the arm, and told me that it was time to climb back into my cozy spot in the Saturn.

That was the best Christmas gift that I have ever received.


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The Man Is Crushing My (Marshmallow) Dreams

Now that The Great S’mores Hostage Crisis of 2013 is behind us, I spent this evening restocking my S’mores Kit with all of the requisite accoutrements.

s'mores

Yes, I have a tupperware container with marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers in my cabinet. Who doesn’t?

Just as I was about to place the last item into the kit, and, obviously, reward myself with a delicious S’more for all of my hard work, something on caught my eye.

There was something different about my marshmallows.

Something was off.

After a few moments of the highest level of investigative journalism — and by that I mean utilizing the skills I picked up during all of those hours doing the hidden pictures page in Highlights magazine while at the doctor’s office as a child — I cracked the mystery.

It was this:

What is this world coming to?  Is there no joy left in it?

What is this world coming to? Is there no joy left in it?

That’s right, my marshmallows now come with an ominous warning label.

WHAT.  THE.  F*CK.

In what universe are marshmallows only supposed to be eaten one at a time while you are seated and supervised?  Certainly not the universe that I live in.

Are there really people out there trying to outlaw the double-stuffed S’more?  Don’t they know that the best marshmallow of the day is the one that you eat when you are home alone and standing in front of the microwave watching your urban S’more cook?

Who were these heathens?  Who were they to tell me how to eat my marshmallows?

I was filled with rage at the injustice of this oppressive exercise of authority.

Because, as I mentioned before, I fancy myself an investigative journalist of the highest caliber, I decided to launch an inquiry into what could have prompted the advent of this ridiculous bout of paternalism.

Move over Woodward and Bernstein, PinotNinja is on the scene now

Move over Woodward and Bernstein, PinotNinja is on the scene now

After about 3 minutes of emphatic typing and shouting at the Google to hurry up, I found my answer.  Turns out, in 1999, a 12-year-old died after choking while playing an intense game Chubby Bunny with marshmallows.

Oh.

That is absolutely horrible.

Most likely based upon that very unfortunate event, the purveyors of the marshmallows are trying to curtail the playing of Chubby Bunny to prevent child deaths.  That’s not the worst idea ever.

But, if the whole point of this initiative is to prevent millions of kids from playing a fun childhood game (which is often played with the way more nefarious and warning-less grape), then I think their label could use some work.

Why not warn the public that “Jamming your mouth full of one more marshmallow than it can comfortably hold and then attempting to speak is a bad idea.  You shouldn’t do it.  And, if you do it and something bad happens, we totally told you so”?  Or “Friends Don’t Let Friends Play Chubby Bunny”?  Or “You can choke on anything, even heavenly marshmallows”?  Or the simple yet always apropos “Make good decisions”?

The marshmallow makers could even have a celebrity do a PSA with a catchy pop tune to drive home the dangers of Chubby Bunny.  I alone have definitely spent enough money on their delightful goods to fund a celebrity endorsement.  Katy Perry would totally be all over this.

Just lose the coal buttons and throw on a jaunty graham cracker hat and she's ready to go.

Just lose the coal buttons and throw on a jaunty graham cracker hat and she’s ready to go.

Mr. Marshmallow Eating Authority Figure, you know you want to eat two marshmallows at once while dancing unsupervised to a Katy Perry pop confection!  So how about you stop stealing the joy from marshmallow eating with this over-broad draconian warning label and tone things down a notch?

Just a little warning will go a long way, I promise.


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Just Call Me Macaulay Caulkin…

… because I am home alone.

And, much like Macaulay in that amazing work of cinema, I’m acting like a child.

Me and Him.  One and the Same.

Me and Him. One and the Same.

Usually, my domestic game is pretty on point.

Most nights, I put together a healthy gourmet-ish dinner for Country Boy and I, often on my own since he works later hours than I do. I honestly love both cooking and vegetables (despite my ongoing battle with green juice), so I actually look forward to pouring myself a glass of wine, getting a little Beyonce going on the stereo, and whipping up an asparagus risotto or seared tuna salad.

Business as usual.

Business as usual.

I’m also a little OCD about clutter, which means that, as soon as I get home, the mail goes into the recycling bin, my dirty gym clothes go in the hamper, and my bag gets tucked away in the corner. I really like my house to be a calm and relaxing space.

But, whenever Country Boy — who is the messier one of the two of us by far and who would be happy eating a frozen pizza every night for dinner — goes out of town and leaves me home alone, all of that civilized behavior walks right out the door with him.

Within minutes, I turn into a feral animal.

Indeed, yesterday, when Country Boy left for a business trip, everything started to go downhill immediately,

As soon as his carry-on suitcase crossed the threshold of our front door, I fully regressed to pre-Country Boy PinotNinja.

A little time with my old self should be a good thing, right?

I really feel like it’s something that a therapist would recommend.

But, there’s a problem.

Country Boy and I moved in together when we were 22 years old. In other words, pre-Country Boy PinotNinja is a college senior.

Would you leave a college senior home alone in your nice adult house?

No. No you would not.

Yet that’s exactly what I did.

Yesterday, my bed went unmade. I left a trail of pajamas from the bed to the shower. I threw my towel on the floor when I was done with it. I spread my make up out everywhere (the bathroom, the bedroom, the other bathroom, and the kitchen). I left a crumby mess back in that unmade bed when I decided to sit there to eat an English muffin (without bothering to put it on a plate or even a paper towel) while I leafed through my stash of back issues of Self magazine.

And then I just left everything as it was, left all of the lights on, left the stereo blaring, and waltzed right on out the door to go to work.

Things didn’t really improve when I got home last night.

I went out for a run and, when I got back, I left my muddy shoes in a pile of filth by the front door after I had tromped all over the house in them, I threw my sweaty t-shirt onto a suede dining room chair, and then I sat down, without showering or at least changing, on my white couch. WHITE!

Home Alone PinotNinja don’t care.

Despite having a refrigerator stocked full of vegetables, fresh pasta, and wines that had been lovingly hand-selected and shipped back during my last trip to California, this is the meal that I selected for dinner:

Chips and diet beer. It's 2002 all over again up in this joint.

Chips and diet beer. It’s 2002 all over again up in this joint.

Not surprisingly, hummus and MGD 64 did not fill me up after a seven mile run.

But, instead of classing it up, calling that culinary travesty an “amuse bouche,” and cooking myself a proper meal, I opted to make myself a hot fudge sundae for my entrée.

I found this on my coffee table this morning.

I found this on my coffee table this morning.

Then I binge watched CW teen dramas (welcome back Hart of Dixie!) until after midnight before collapsing into my unmade bed amidst a pile of trashy magazines, English muffin crumbs, and dirty laundry.

Home Alone PinotNinja don’t give a shit.

This morning, I woke up to find that my house had been trashed.

TRASHED.

There were muddy footprints all over my floor, stains on my furniture, clothes and make-up everywhere, dirty dishes and chip crumbs galore, and magazines strewn all over the place. My bed looked like a hamster nest. I was still wearing my dirty gym clothes. I found diet beer cans in 3 different rooms. And, I felt horrible since, apparently, my body can no longer run on chips, watery cheap beer, and hot fudge.

Someone needs to put me on double secret probation immediately, because things are really getting out of hand.

It's a damn good thing Country Boy comes home tomorrow morning, because Home Alone PinotNinja is mere hours away from turning out home into this.

It’s a damn good thing Country Boy comes home tomorrow morning, because Home Alone PinotNinja is mere hours away from turning our home into this.


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Bonjour, mon amour.

I just returned from a two-week work trip in Paris. Well-timed, I might add, to coincide with Paris Fashion Week. I had the extreme pleasure of dragging my ass up and down the streets of Paris in ill-fitting suits and uncontrollable bed-head alongside women like these:

I just can't compete.

I just can’t compete in my polyester suits.

So, thanks Paris!

I love travel and don’t do enough of it, but in my line of work, there is no such thing as travel in the traditional sense. I have been blessed with the opportunity to visit some very cool places, but only able to see the sights contained within my hotel and conference room. I pretty much only have my passport stamps as proof that I’ve “been there, done that.”

Now, PN is an expert in all things Paris and had a lovely list of recommendations for me – all of which are still languishing in my inbox. You see, I worked 20 hours a day (roughly) and had no time for things like cafes and runs along the Seine. So although it was super cool to take up a two-week residence in Paris (PARIS!), I didn’t have an opportunity to fall in love with the city. I knew the cafe on the corner for a quick bite to eat, the security guard at our office space, and to always watch your step on the streets of Paris. Nothing fancy, nothing remarkable… until one evening late into my trip.

All I wanted to do was to avoid this.

All I wanted to do was to avoid this.

It was 3 am and my team was hungry. It had been a long day and it was stretching out before us into a long morning. I was lucky to be working with two Parisians who knew a great spot to grab a late night meal. Before we trekked over to the restaurant, one of them grabbed my hand and squeezed it tight before she whispered: “aligot.” Then she danced off down the street in her Chanel shoes (seriously, Parisiennes are remarkably well-dressed…).

At the time I was delirious and starving, so I simply smiled and laughed figuring that “aligot” was a French word that I missed in my last-ditch attempts to learn important French phrases. I sighed at my less than amazing handbag and footwear and hurried to follow her into the dark streets.

We sat down and I was immediately told to order aligot, no matter what I wanted for dinner. I sounded out the word to our waiter who laughed at my Americanness, but dutifully scribbled down my order of “meat and something called al-ee-go.”

When it arrived, my life changed forever.

Hello, lover.

That is sexy.

It’s like fondue and mashed potatoes made sweet, sweet love and created the world’s perfect food. It’s cheesy, it’s starchy. It’s heaven.

I nearly licked my plate clean. And it was from that moment on that I could say that I truly, madly and deeply loved Paris.

I have several tales of my French experiences (including when a group of amazing, leggy models and I joined forces in Charles de Gaulle to start a near riot at the Air France check in… another story for another day – just me and some models), but none of them will ever compare to the instant connection I felt with aligot.

I always expected that I’d fall in love with a starch/dairy combination. Who knew that he’d have a French accent to boot?


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Edible Curriculum Taught Me How to Rule the World

Witnessing the return of blindly careening school buses to my neighborhood this week has given me a case of acute nostalgia.

school bus

Based on their wanton disregard for things like curbs and oncoming traffic, this is what the buses that work my neighborhood must believe that they look like.

As I recounted some of my favorite moments from my own school career, I came to a startling realization.

My friends and I tortured all of our teachers.  We broke down their last vestiges of discipline and got away with utter shenanigans without a second thought.

There are many examples of this nonsense, including ending up unchaperoned as teenagers in Italy for 48 hours, but my favorite is a scam that 20 of us managed to run for two solid years.

It all started out innocently enough.

It was American History class at the beginning of our junior year of high school.  Our first assignment was to do a report on one of the events or political movements covered in the first chapter of our textbook, which ranged from the end of Reconstruction through the end of the First World War.  It was clear from the directions that this was supposed to be a written report.

But, who wants to write a report?

Not us.

no writing 3

Hell no, we won’t go (write a report).

At that critical moment, we discovered our collective powers of negotiation, coercion, and determination.

With nary a word between us, we came together as a united front.  By the time the class period had ended, we had managed to convince our exhausted teacher that, instead of writing reports, we should be allowed to be more creative in our assignment.  He gave up and agreed to let us do the assignment in pairs and to change the assignment to an oral presentation with a “creative” component.

At first, we figured that the “creative” component would involve some kind of arts and crafts.

But, a day later, we realized that we didn’t want to make posters or dioramas.  We had remembered that important lesson of elementary school — arts and crafts projects involve a lot of work, especially when you are too old to convince your parents to “help” you finish the project.

We also realized that our class was in the early afternoon, and that we were always hungry then since our lunch period was at 10:50 am.

Out of that laziness and hunger arose a moment of sheer genius.

We came up with Edible Curriculum.

Instead of arts and crafts, we would each create a food item that represented our historical event.

And create we did.

My partner and I made a red velvet cake with the Soviet flag painted on it in frosting to represent the rise of Socialism. One group made a model of the Hull House out of Rice Krispie treats, while another group put the little boat pieces from the Battleship board game into a bowl of blue jello to represent the Battle of Midway.

It was awesome.  And delicious.  And totally hilarious.

Our underpaid and over-antagonized teacher just rolled with it.  How could he turn down a delightful homemade afternoon snack?  And, our dishes revealed that we had to at least vaguely think about our topics, so it was still a win for education.

We kept the curriculum piece of Edible Curriculum alive for another unit.  Then we decided it was time to kick things up a notch.

We threw the curriculum out the window.

peace out

Peace out textbook.

We decided to use our new-found collective power to unilaterally cancel history class and hold a historically irrelevant buffet instead.  And, this buffet wasn’t just a couple of cookies and a rice krispie treat building.

We went all out.

We elected a leader, made a list of who was bringing what, and then prepared a bounty of food.  There were stuffed mushrooms, general tso’s chicken, BBQ ribs, cakes, pies, homemade bread, pastas, and salads among all sorts of other items that I can no longer remember.  You name it and we probably had it.

Who did we think we were, Jeff Spicoli?

On the appointed buffet day, we all rushed to the classroom as soon as the passing period started and began setting up our spread (on top of tablecloths because we weren’t savages) before our teacher arrived.  By the time he made it to the classroom, crock pots were simmering, drinks were poured, and an orderly line had formed at the head of the buffet.

I’ll never forget the look on his face.  It was an epic mix of shock, bemusement, awe, anger, and resignation.

He didn’t say a word.

He just grabbed a plate, took his place in line, and let out a loud, defeated sigh.

He was a man who knew when it was time to fold ’em.

From that point forward, we held a blow-out buffet during what was supposed to be history class at least once a month for the rest of the school year.

Almost all of us came back for round two during our senior year.  We all enrolled in that same teacher’s American Government class, and we kept the buffet tradition alive and well.  By this point, it had become a legend around the school.  People had heard rumors about it and people could certainly smell it, but we would neither confirm nor deny what was happening in that room.  The first rule of buffet is that you don’t talk about buffet.

As senior year drew to a close, we knew we had to go out big.  We had to pull off the most elaborate, most outlandish buffet of the year.

How could we possibly kick this scam up yet another notch?

We needed to grill.

Obviously.

On our last day of class, a select special forces team broke out of school in the late morning, jumped into a pick-up truck, and “borrowed” their parents’ grills and folding tables.  Once the grills and tables were acquired, the rest of us met the pick-up truck in front of the school, unloaded the goods, and set up them up on the sidewalk directly in front of our high school’s main entrance and outside of the principal’s open window.

Go big or go home.

We fired up the grills.  We loaded the tables with a cornucopia of food.  We played music on the stereo of someone’s nearby car.

And then, in a moment of pure magic, the greatest buffet that we had ever dared to dream of opened.  It was glorious.  We piled our plates high with food and luxuriated in the early June sunshine while we chowed down.  Everyone who passed by greeted us with that now familiar look of shock, awe, and eventual resignation.

Somehow, we never got in trouble that day.  No one ever asked us any questions.   Not the other teachers, not the school security guard, not even the principal.  Indeed, the principal wandered out of his office and, upon seeing us, his only question was whether he could have a plate.

That’s right.

The principal of my high school didn’t say a word even though we were using an open flame to cook steaks on stolen grills on the front lawn of his school at a time when we should have been in class.  He clearly assumed that no one would be so brazen and we must have gotten the okay to do this from someone.

However, it’s still completely unclear whether any of us ever asked permission to do any of this over the two years.  I think its safe to assume that we did not.  But, who’s going to stop 20 kids who show up with a full spread of delicious food?

The answer, we learned, is no one.

The most impressive thing about this whole scam, however, is not the scam.  The most impressive thing is that every member of the buffet coalition has gone on to do great things despite our lack of learning American History and Government strictly by the book.

It’s been just over fifteen years since that final blow-out buffet and each and every one of us is gainfully employed doing something that we love. We grew up to be lawyers, scientists, architects, engineers, writers, a television news anchor, a movie director, military veterans, executives, financial analysts, and professors.  That is no small feat considering that we’re the product of a small town public school and that many of our parents did not go to college.  And, even more importantly, all of my comrades-in-buffet-arms turned out to be exemplary human beings.  We’ve all scattered across the country, but whenever I’m back home and happen to run into one of those sacred 20, it is an absolute pleasure.  I think fondly and highly of each and every one of them.

I truly believe that Edible Curriculum is largely responsible for our collective success.  During those two years, while we weren’t learning what was in our textbooks, we were learning how to find power in collective action, how to work as a group, how to persuade others, how to be organized, how to delegate tasks, and how to play to people’s strengths and weaknesses (there were cake bakers and there were soda buyers).  We learned that we should always give our crazy ideas a try because they just might work.  And, most importantly,  we learned that, if you exude confidence and act like you know what you are doing, no one will ask you any questions.

It was precisely that hopeful spirit and confidence that allowed all of us to figure out precisely what we wanted out of life and to get it.

Maybe our history teacher hadn’t given up on us.

Maybe he knew exactly what he was doing that entire time.


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No, You Cannot Have a Midori Sour

Last night, Country Boy and I went out to our favorite neighborhood Southern joint.  It’s known for its killer rye whiskey cocktails, gritty blues music, bacon-laden mac & cheese, and shrimp & grits.

In other words, this place is heaven.

Belinda Carlisle was right, heaven is a place on earth.

Belinda Carlisle was right, heaven is a place on earth.

The restaurant is a loud and crowded place, and, about 15 minutes after we arrived, another couple was sat at the table right next to ours.

We couldn’t help but overhear their orders as they shouted them to the waiter.

Again, this is a Southern place that is notorious for its stiff whiskey and decadent pig.

Hello lover.

Hello lover.

The woman seated next to me asked the waiter to bring her a Midori sour with extra cherries.

A MIDORI SOUR.  EXTRA CHERRIES.  WHAT IN THE HELL?!

Does this look like brown liquor or bacon?

Does this look like brown liquor or bacon?

A hush fell over the restaurant when this woman placed her order.

Everyone stared.

Somewhere in that place, a record definitely scratched.

The waiter just blankly looked at the woman, trying to figure out if she just had a really dry sense of humor with stone cold delivery.

She did not.

The awkward stare down continued for a few moments, and then the waiter, finally, pulled himself together and said to her, as quietly as he could, “I’ll ask the bartender what he can do, but we don’t have any cherries and I don’t think Midori is something that we have here either.”

My heart broke at that moment for everyone involved.  This woman was clearly out on a date and clearly had no idea where she was.  This waiter was clearly an artisan ingredient loving hipster and clearly had no idea where this woman thought she was.  And I was clearly unable to turn away from this train wreck and clearly wished I could just take this woman aside and explain to her where she was.

I’m all for freedom of cocktail.  I would happily extend the First Amendment of the United States to cover both speech and booze.

But, I’m also for knowing your audience.

Do not order a Midori sour if you are in a place known for its cocktails, especially its brown liquor old timey cocktails.

No Midori

No Midori sour.

Do not order a Mirdori sour if a Muddy Waters song is playing.

No Midori.

No Midori sour.

Do not order a Midori sour if your bartender has a forearm tat and a handlebar mustache.

No Midori.

No Midori sour.

Do not order a Midori sour if you are in a place with a porcine theme.

No Midori.

No Midori sour.

You know what, I’m going to make this simple, do not order a Midori sour.  Ever.

Just no.

NO.

You know why?  Not because it tastes foul.  Not because the only food it pairs well with is a sour patch kid.  Not because all that green dye is totally going to give you cancer.

You should never order a Midori sour, because Kim Kardashian, the queen of horrible decisions, recommends it.

The biggest warning sign there is.

Midori sour, the Kris Humphries of cocktails.


20 Comments

Woman vs. Juice

I’ve been a bit under the weather this week with one of those nefarious “summer colds,” and, after coughing my way through a yoga class, I was besieged by a bevy of well-meaning yogis who were all imploring me to cure my illness with a course of green juice.

Greens with ginger will fix you right up, they said.  It’s a miracle elixir, they said.  It will change your life, they said.

I politely said thank you and shook my head at them when no one was looking.  I knew this was a bad idea.

Three days later, despite a continuous dosage of Tylenol cold and Chloraseptic throat drops, I still sounded like an 85-year-old chain-smoking mouse every time I spoke.  All that came out when I opened my mouth was a raspy whisper squeak.  It was not hot.

I was desperate.

The time had come to try the juice.  I had nothing left to lose.

I marched myself to Whole Foods, because that seemed like the kind of place that would have miracle elixir green juice.

I found this item:

Yummy...

Yummy…

I brought it home.

I stared at it in the refrigerator for a day.  We sized each other up.  I kept putting off throwing that stuff down my hatch.  Every time I went to try it, something else in the refrigerator caught my eye, because I knew that anything else, even those dried out old baby carrots in the back of the crisper drawer, would taste better.

I realized that I would never drink the green juice if I had any other available options, so I decided to skip my usual breakfast and bring the juice with my to my office, where I had no other food source, to have for breakfast.  I figured that eventually I would get hungry enough that I would be able to get myself to try the juice.

Around 10 am, my stomach was growling.

It was time to face the celery, cucumber, spinach, lime, romaine, wheat grass, and clover sprouts.

Seriously, that's what was in this stuff.

Seriously, that’s what was in this concoction.

I opened the bottle.  I sprinkled in some ground ginger.  I shook it up.

I stared at it.

I sniffed it.  That was a bad idea.

I stared at it some more.

I dramatically sighed.

And then I finally took a sip.

I could barely keep it down.  My face puckered into a shape that it hasn’t made since that time I accidentally took a shot of warm Popov Vodka in 2004.

I knew that I had to pull it together.  I needed to get on with my day.  And, I was STARVING.

I was not going to let 15.2 fluid ounces of liquid vegetables defeat me.  I had climbed international mountains.  I had survived attacks on my home and having my face vomited on.  I am a dive bar trivia champion.  I had made Home Depot my bitch.  I had saved my husband from killer deer.  I COULD, NAY I WOULD, DO THIS.

Move over Adam Richman, there's a new sheriff in food crazy town.

Move over Adam Richman, there’s a new sheriff in food crazy town.

Of course, every great triumph requires preparation.

I cleared off my desk.

I rolled up my sleeves.

I blasted Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger while imagining myself in a boxing ring.

I did a few jumping jacks.

I took a deep breath.

And then I slammed that motherf-ing juice down my throat.  Take that vegetables.  TAKE THAT!

After approximately one second of relishing my triumph over the juice, I was frantically speed-walking down the hallway to raid the candy jar that my co-worker kept in her office. I had to do something about the superfund site that was my mouth, and I knew that the only way to eradicate the heinous taste of extreme health and wellness was to pound multiple fun-sized Twix bars.

The whole experience looked a lot like this:

I had actually become Ron Swanson.  This was a pretty low moment for me.

But, about two hours later, I felt better.  I was talking like a 30-something year old human being again.  I had energy.  I was really focused on my job.

What the?

It worked!

Green juice really was a magical elixir!

Green juice forever!

I bought another bottle on my way into work today for breakfast.  It has been one hour and I have only made it through three small sips.  It smells and tastes like actual dirt.  It has been torturous, but I’m STARVING and I need my post-green juice focus high to hit before my late morning meeting.

Looks like its time to cue up Eye of the Tiger and the candy bar chaser…


9 Comments

Adventures in Stupid Cooking

As ErinGoBrawl explained earlier this week, I have long dabbled in the art that is Stupid Food with her and BigBrawler.  Recently, the dudes in my life found a way to kick things up a notch in that department.

What could be more ridiculous than Stupid Food?

Stupid Cooking.

Back in December, Country Boy and I went to visit his younger brother (the Giant) while he was living in Santiago, Chile.  The three of us took a weekend trip to the tiny beach town of ConCon to get in some surfing.  After a long day on the beach, we stopped at the market and grabbed a few bottles of wine, a box of spaghetti, and a jar of marinara sauce for dinner.

We took this haul of epicurean goodies to our apartment, which was a rickety three-story wooden building that was precariously built into the side of a cliff.  While such a structure should have made us fear for our safety, the stunning views of the Pacific made us forget all about it.

Safety Schmafety

Safety Schmafety

Once we soaked in that view, we decided that, since spaghetti was such an easy meal to make, we should wine before we dined.

And, wine we did.  Somehow, when we weren’t paying attention, two delicious bottles of Veramonte Primus slide down our gullets as we watched the sun set over the Pacific.

But, we decided that getting a little accidentally drunk was no big deal because all that we needed to do was make some spaghetti.

That is a task so simple that three drunk people working together can totally do it, right?

Wrong.

Everything started out fine.  We unpacked the spaghetti and sauce out of the grocery bag.  We found a pot.  We filled it with water.  We placed that pot on the burner.  High fives were exchanged.

And then we tried to turn on the burner.

Nothing.

High fives were retracted.

After a few moments of hard thinking, we realized that all we needed was a match to light the pilot light.  I scoured the kitchen for matches, but found nothing.  All three of us then scoured the entire house for matches.  We found nothing.  We actually cursed the fact that all of us were non-smokers.

I suggested just calling it a night and having cereal for dinner.

But, Country Boy and the Giant would not be stymied!  They were dudes!  They were drunk dudes!  They were going to produce food!

In a moment that he still describes as “sheer genius,” Country Boy remembered that the apartment had a gas-powered tankless water heater, which he had previously noted because it seemed like a horrible idea to have a flame-based water heater located on the rickety wooden deck of a rickety wooden building.  But now, that gas-powered water heater was the greatest idea ever, because it required a burning flame to operate.

So, Country Boy and the Giant, so named because he is 6’7″, concocted a plan.  Country Boy took a cardboard cereal box, flattened it, and twisted it to make a torch.  He then instructed the Giant and I about our tasks and sent us to our posts.

Here’s how things went down:

The Giant was stationed in the bathroom closest to the water heater.  He turned on the hot water in the shower.  The running shower kicked on the water heater, which then tripped the burner in the water heater.

Once the burner was tripped, Country Boy shouted to the Giant.  Country Boy then stuck his cereal box torch into the water heater and lit it with the burner.  Then, because it was so windy on the cliff side, the Giant stood between the wind and the torch and shuffled along next to Country Boy in order to serve as a literal wind shield until Country Boy got the flame inside of the apartment.

Once inside, Country Boy yelled to me.  I turned on all of the burners, flooding the kitchen with gas, as he sprinted up a spiral staircase carrying the rapidly burning torch above his head while screaming “FIRE IN THE HOLE!”

Never has that phrase been so apropos.

Country Boy came sliding into the kitchen and threw the torch at the stove seconds before the fire would have burned his hands off.  Miraculously, the burner lit without injury or explosion.

SUCCESS!

This guy had nothing on us.

This guy had nothing on us.

Shortly thereafter, we had a spaghetti feast and commended ourselves repeatedly on our ingenuity and steely nerves in the face of potential death.

Totally worth risking death for this.

Totally worth risking death for this.

Later that night after the wine haze wore off, I decided to clean up the kitchen.  I opened the cabinet next to the stove to put away the oven mitts, which I had taken out before we had started cooking.  Right there, on the shelf closest to the stove, sat a giant box of matches.  You know, on that obvious shelf that I had looked at multiple times while proclaiming that there was no matches to be found anywhere in the apartment.

Oh.

This guy was actually us.

This guy was actually us.

Perhaps stoves should come with breathalyzers.


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Adventures in Stupid Food

“Stupid Food” is a phrase coined by PinotNinja and Country Boy when they visited a younger version of me and my husband, BigBrawler.  It was one of those blissful, 20-something urban evenings where we all stumbled down the street to our favorite pub, ate amazing snacks, drank obscure beers, and then stumbled back home in the wee hours, only to realize we were still hungry. Our cupboards were pretty bare, but that did not stop BigBrawler from brainstorming up something for us: quesadillas.  Yes!  Yes!  Quesadillas are a crowd favorite. But what he produced was NOT a quesadilla.  It was baked beans, fat free cheese (it’s plastic, guys – real cheese or GTFO), and I don’t even remember if actual tortillas were involved.  Pinot and I straight up refused to even try it.  BigBrawler ate it with a side of his pride. County Boy obliged because he is much more adventurous and knew this would probably be a story we’d tell for years.  And we sure have.

Every once in a while BigBrawler will come out of the kitchen, hang his head in shame and apologize for whatever just happened in there. He’s had some pretty bad chicken episodes, there was a string of pasta dishes that were not good, and an occasional mixed drink that was awful. Recently it was a desperation move – using the Turkish booze Yeni Raki (long story) with ginger ale, maybe? Bottom line: I know if BigBrawler says it’s the worst thing he’s ever had in his life, it has GOT to be bad.

BigBrawler is actually a wonderful cook – amazing even (recently a steak and morel risotto graced my life, courtesy of BigBrawler – I’d have as many sets of twins that dude wanted if he keeps cooking like that). I know for a fact that many of his friends are likewise great cooks.  They are objectively skilled in the art of cooking, but something about drinking coupled with hunger really messes with ingenuity in the kitchen.  BigBrawler and his friends have a history of such concoctions and utter failures.

Dudes in kitchens are objectively hot.

Dudes in kitchens are objectively hot.

Senior year in college, BigBrawler and I returned to the house he shared with his friends.  Calling it a “house” is generous.  It was more like a fort held together with duct tape and putty, with huge holes in every wall and door thanks to their beloved game “hammer darts.”  And that’s just the G-rated version of why it was an awful place.  But we returned from our favorite bar to find one of his friends in drunken hysterics on the kitchen floor.  Then we saw pieces of uncooked macaroni and powdered cheese everywhere.  He cried that he “just wanted some cheese and macaroni, but NOTHING was working.”  His problem, apparent to us, though not to him: he tried to make it in a George Foreman Grill. Drunk rookie move. Looking back, it may have been because the stove was broken and the man just had to have a Kraft chaser for the case of McSorley’s he drank. I get it. This guy was/is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life.  He’s gone on to be just as smart in his career.  He is remarkable in every way, including because he drunkenly tried to make Mac ‘n Cheese in a George Foreman Grill at 2 am on a Saturday.

None of these things is Mac 'n Cheese. None.

None of these things is Mac ‘n Cheese. None.

Next example, after graduation.  A large group of us went to a friend’s vacation house for a weekend to celebrate.  It was glorious – recent grads, no real responsibilities yet, beach access and tons of beer.  Perfect.  We grilled out almost every meal – there were plenty of dudes who were eager to show their skills with fire.  After a rewarding run of day-drinking we grilled far too many hot dogs and burgers.  Then we had a great idea: s’mores.  S’mores are a great idea.  Always.  So, in a fit of inspiration, BigBrawler grabs a leftover dog and shoves it into a s’more.  The S’mores Dog was born.  I’m sure you’ve heard of it – it became a huge hit and swept the nation, spawning S’mores Dog trucks from coast to coast. Or not… like, at all. Because it was horrid. I still gag a little thinking about it.

This is what you get when you Google "Smores Dog." Can say with some confidence that these probably taste better than the real thing.

This is what you get when you Google “Smores Dog.” Can say with some confidence that these probably taste better than the real thing.

Back in my NOLA days, I actually lived with one of the former residents of the above-referenced Shanty – BigBrawler’s best friend and mine – who is actually a trained cook. His livelihood is in food service – and he rarely disappointed. However, there was this one fateful afternoon after we obliged the NOLA party gods and carried our weight at Parasol’s and the parade for St. Patrick’s Day. Now, if you’ve never been the NOLA St. Patty’s Day parades, know this: it’s like Mardi Gras but, instead of beads, they throw cabbage, carrots, potatoes, etc. – the ingredients to cabbage stew, I guess. So, we drunk, penny-pinching 20-somethings gathered up all of the (inedible) street produce (“this is AWESOME”), marched back to our apartment and he got to work on something that was supposed to be cabbage stew. Good God. It was hot garbage water. No, literally – we had drunkenly picked up discarded produce and decided to boil it. Lindsay Bluth had nothing on us.

Of COURSE there is a theme to this: drinking, dudes and cooking. That’s pretty much the subtitle to my upcoming memoir.

Though each of the above happened firmly in my mid-twenties, I’m happy to report that such Stupid Food never really stops, even if you stick the landing more frequently. Indeed, the other night BigBrawler convinced me that we totally needed some of our kids’ chicken nuggets when we were in hour three of our “Shameless” and booze evening mini-marathon. But this time, I have to say, the dino-shaped nuggets were cooked to perfection, though I was afraid for a split-second that I was going to end up with a Smores Nugget. However, when he convinced me that we had to have nachos last night, imagine my disappointment when they came out sprinkled in that fake cheese again. Man, some things never change.