Tag: food

Not at all like a bird

roof of a shed
Note to self.

I have to eat slower. Last night I was shoving sweet potato fries into my mouth, four at a time. Swaddled in ketchup, smashed into brute taste force. Why? Today I can still taste the lettuce from my Greektown wrap. Probably because I didn’t chew that either. My dad ate very slowly. I used to eat very slowly. What happened? When did I get so impatient with the flavors I supposedly love?

There’s a cardinal outside the kitchen window, perched on the rusty shed in the next yard. He or maybe she – red mostly, but brownish wings – is eating a berry. It’s probably from the tree out front. The one I have to sweep up after every morning starting a month ago, or berries stick to the bottoms of shoes, and flies swarm, and the sickly sweet and rotten smell of ripe smashed fruit fills the front walk.

The bird keeps pecking into the berry, pulling back, twisting its head one way, twisting it the other, and then going back in for one more peck. All the time in the world for that one berry. I’m already thinking of my second cup of coffee. How much can I get done before rehearsal? Vacuum? Grocery store? Call Cuz to pick up where we left off yesterday, our phone call about one relative who has died, and another who probably will die today? I was on the el and it wasn’t the time or the place to mourn.

Stay in this thought. Don’t move on. I was impatient talking about things of the heart on a noisy el train. Feeling I was talking quietly enough, but everyone probably feels that way, when actually they are screaming, “So they turned off the respirator?” into the ear of someone trying to read a restaurant review in Red Eye.

The bird is gone when I return with my phone. He or she eats like a bird, and flies like a bird. I have to remind myself, that’s because he or she is a bird.

After we hung up, I sat and listened to a guy behind me eating some very oniony smelling fast food. The combination of crackling paper and smacking lips and onion smell was making me sick. I pretended I wanted to read the transit map and moved to the exit. I hope I don’t make that sound when I eat, though when I’m eating I don’t really care. I just want to get the fries in as quickly as possible, before I’m too full. That’s the problem with abundance. It can induce its own kind of panic, if you are not a bird.

Pizza doh

Malformed crust for a pizza
I wish I could say it tasted better than it looked.

I’m mad at food. Not all food, just the ingredients. Not all ingredients, just the ones I’ve purchased. Mostly the perishable ones. Unprepared, they wait in my kitchen. Five ripe tomatoes stare from a bowl when I pass by for a glass of water. Three bananas whisper, “Please don’t let us end up like the last bunch, peeled and shivering in a ziploc in the freezer. You say you’ll use them later to make banana bread, but by that don’t you mean toss them out?”

Saturday I cooked and prepped all sorts of fresh ingredients for a bunch of pizzas. We were having a birthday party for Xeena and Starbeck. Syd was making the crusts and bringing them over in the evening. So I browned sausage, roasted sweet peppers, sautéed potato slices, shredded prosciutto, cut up pineapple, cleaned arugula, sliced mushrooms, made sauce, and had Dave shred mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan. By the time Syd arrived, everything was arranged in bowls on the counter.

Her beautiful crusts were already stretched on pizza trays and cookie sheets, stacked and carried in by her brother. It was no work at all to load them up and pop them in the oven. “We should start a business,” we agreed.

The next afternoon, seeing the containers of leftover ingredients sitting in the fridge when I opened it to snack on leftover tiramisu from Xeena’s sister Esme, I said, “I should make a couple more pizzas, to use up that stuff.” It wasn’t what I wanted to do with my evening, it just seemed to be the thing to say.

“That sounds amazing,” said Dave. First I did what I actually wanted to do. (Raking and mowing the lawn. Heaven. Chilly and quiet in the yard, sun going down.) Then I looked up an easy crust recipe because I didn’t trust the one Syd emailed me. (It didn’t say anything about the dough rising, and now it was too late to call and ask her about it.) The easy crust was my first mistake. Pictured.

No, my first mistake was letting the ingredients in the kitchen. If they hadn’t been there I wouldn’t have had to top my poor crusts, who’d clearly been saving themselves for a Red Rock canyon diorama, with savory sauce and fresh pineapple and sharp arugula and sweet peppers and perfectly blended cheeses, all of which could be enjoyed only by being scraped off the canyon floor with a fork.

A well-stocked kitchen is a constant reminder of what’s wrong in the world. People like me have too much food while others don’t have enough. The staring tomatoes remind me that I need to get on the neighborhood food bank donation list. Of course, I can’t donate the tomatoes and other fresh ingredients we all need more of. But at least I can make some room by getting rid of canned goods.

What I really ought to do is quit buying ingredients. Ordering takeout makes more sense and is a better means of overall food distribution. People who can handle all those ingredients can prepare the meals. People like me can order one meal at a time. And five ripe tomatoes can get the respect they deserve, without tormenting my psyche in the process.

Reality shows

It's like a show within a show.

Kismet and I went to Cici’s–or maybe it was Ceci’s–for mani-pedis. First we went to Whole Foods for groceries. I thought we’d need to drive, but Kismet said she’s used to going grocery shopping on the train. She shops from a detailed list. I made a list too. I almost stuck to it exactly, and only had to purchase one additional thermal bag when I checked out. We carried our purchases to Ceci’s or Cici’s or maybe it was Cice’s.

“Put them down!” they cried, pointing to our bags. “There!” They pointed to a spot that looked like it would be in the way. We smiled and nodded, but held onto our bags as we studied the wall of polish, choosing our colors. “Put them there,” my nail technician demanded.

“We’re okay,” I smiled, trying to decide between a dark glittery gray and a pale green.

“That’s a nice color. Very pretty. Put bags here.” Things went along as they usually do in a salon, me not sure how much conversation to make, messing with the chair massager controls, feeling nauseous when the massager thing pounded on my shoulders but embarrassed when it thumped my kidneys and pushed my hips out. Kismet paged through a magazine.

Finally I turned off the massager and looked at the TVs. There were two or three installed high on the walls. A reality show was on. Although there was too much salon noise to hear, closed captioning was on so I could read the lyrics and dialog. “Ah-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h.” “Great job, dude.” “Thanks, bro.”

When my nail technician sat me at the drying station, I was right across from a screen, so I could hear a little. Kismet sat across from me, so she could hear, too, though she couldn’t see the screen unless she turned around. Bro the team leader had to choose between Dude and a guy in red pants. He had them both sing a U2 song. I loved that they sang at the same time, like a high school audition.

Kismet and I agreed that we liked Dude better than Red Pants. Kismet turned around to check them out and didn’t like Red’s swagger any more than I did. But I felt Dude’s blazer and jeans looked too straight-laced compared to Red’s pants. I was sure Bro would pick Red. Kismet seemed less worried, or maybe less interested.

Bro: I love you guys both so much.

I tell Kismet, “He loves both the guys so much.”

Kismet smiles.

Bro: This is an incredibly hard decision. I never thought I would have to choose between two such incredibly talented people.

I tell Kismet, “It’s an incredibly hard decision, and he never thought he’d have to choose between two such incredibly talented people.”

Kismet nods.

Bro: Red Pants, you really surprised me today. I knew you’d bring it, but your theatricality really blew me away.

Me: “He’s talking to Red Pants. He knew he would bring it, but his theatricality really blew him away.”

The screen shows a woman and two little girls. A caption reads “Dude’s wife and two little girls.” Under it is the captioning of what Bro is saying to Dude. “There’s Dude’s family!” I say. Kismet turns around but they’ve cut back to Dude, listening to Bro. Kismet turns back around to face me. “Sorry,” I tell her. “They looked worried though.”

Bro: You were amazing and I knew you would be.

Me: “He’s talking to Dude now. He was amazing and he knew he would be.”

Bro: Your first notes were really strong. Really right on. And I thought, he’s gonna do it. Then your next note.

Me: “His first notes were really strong. Uh-oh, it doesn’t look good. If he doesn’t win he has to start all over, he was saying before. He’s got to support his family. They’re showing the family again!” Kismet turns back around but they’ve cut back to Bro. “Sorry,” I say again.

Bro: You are incredibly talented, there’s no doubt about it. This is such a hard choice.

Me: He’s incredibly talented, there’s no doubt about it. This is not looking good at all.

Bro: It’s really hard. But I’m going to have to say…

Me: “He’s going to pick Red Pants. I knew it.”

[Tense music plays]

Me: “Tense music is playing.”

Bro: I’m going to have to go with…

Me: “They’re showing the two guys. They’re cutting to their wives. Tense music is still playing.”

Bro: … I choose Dude.

Me: “Oh my god he chose Dude!”

“Yay,” says Kismet. She waves her new gorgeous nails. “I think we’re done.”

“Maybe we should give them a few more minutes.”

“I need to make appetizers,” she says, getting up. It’s Syd’s birthday dinner tonight. I can’t argue. I still need to make my salad.

We sling our insulated grocery bags over our shoulders, clearing a space in the salon large enough for four more women. I take one last look at the TV before we head out the door. Dude is hugging his family. “I’ll TiVo it for you,” Kismet offers.

“Please don’t,” I answer. We head to the train.

Nothing but trouble

Everyone dressed up for the Oscars. No lie.

I dreamed I went to young John Malkovich’s apartment to cancel my lie audition. He was about 30 and dressed in evening clothes. His huge 1930s apartment was lit with chandeliers and filled with people drinking cocktails. He came toward me with arms outstretched, very elegant with that leonine Malkovich walk but also like a society hostess.

I’d come to use Malkovich’s computer to email my cancellation, but I suddenly realized the auditions were actually being held right here in his apartment, right now at this moment. Yes, I’m having audition anxiety.

I tried a couple times over the weekend to cancel my audition. I told Dave, “I don’t think the story I came up with is the kind of story they’re looking for.”

“You don’t know what they’re looking for,” he said.

“But I don’t even want to get cast,” I reasoned.

“But you don’t think you will get cast.”

“I know.”

“Go ahead and cancel,” Dave said. “Then you can stay home all day Tuesday and not go out at all.” I have anxiety about turning out like my mom, who never wanted to go anywhere except TJ Maxx. That shut me up for a while.

But then Scheherazade called when I was at Walgreen’s, buying a curling iron for yesterday’s Oscar party. She’d heard about the audition and said her impression was that it was more for guys who would be one-upping each other with outrageous stories. “Like drinking stories,” I said, trying to choose between a 39-dollar ceramic curling iron and a 9-dollar non-ceramic one.

“Exactly,” she said.

“It’s not that I’m scared of auditioning,” I said as I pulled a 19-dollar compromise curling iron off the shelf, ceramic but only two heat settings. “I just feel like there are more important things I need to be working on.”

“If it’s not your thing, honey, don’t sweat it,” she said.

“Exactly,” I said, “it’s not my thing.”

“So don’t sweat it.” I love Scheherazade.

I typed up my story and had the lady from Final draft read it. At the Oscar party, I told my friend Xeena how this lie thing is taking too much time when I really need to be working on my play.  “So it’s not a fear thing,” she said.

“No, not at all.” I love Xeena, but she has these crystal clear eyes that seem to stare right into your soul. “I don’t think so. Maybe a little. But also I need to write a new scene for my play.”

“Hm. It’s hard when it’s both.” I got another plate of food from the Oscar buffet. My favorites were the spinach balls, blue cheese gougeres, mini fruit tortes, Nutella sandwich cookies, some kind of cheese that you put on a tiny skillet ‘til it melts and you put it on flaky cracker, peanut butter buckeyes, and champagne grape focaccia slices. All homemade by Vandamm Lovely and Kismet. I’ve given up drinking for Lent so I ate as much as possible.

When we left, a lovely young woman who was extremely drunk was also leaving, so we walked her to the train. Dave asked if she was from London and she said, “No, Pakistan.” Then a minute later she added, “I’m sorry, that was a stupid thing to say. Yes, I’m from London. I’m really sorry.”

Then she asked what we did and when I said Dave was a violinist she said, “That’s brilliant. No one plays violin anymore. Everyone plays fucking guitar or fucking bass, I hate fucking bass.”

“I play bass,” I said.

“Oh God, I’m so sorry.”

I laughed, “No I don’t. I was just messing with you.”

“Oh God,” she said, “I’m always saying these stupid things. Why do I–”

“No,” I interrupted. “I was lying.”

She didn’t seem to hear me. “I don’t know why I say these things.”

“But I was lying,” I said.

She didn’t seem to hear. “I’m British so I’m always bloody polite even though I’m always swearing and saying something insulting and then I’m always apologizing.”

“But I really don’t play bass. I wasn’t insulted.”

“I’m really sorry,” she began again. We were still a block from the train. This lying business is nothing but trouble.