Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shameful Confession

So, I basically haven't eaten at McDonald's for years because a) I don't like it and b) everything there has ten million calories. And I know that a) should preclude b), but in the past, it didn't always, because sometimes Mickey D's was just too convenient and cheap. It wasn't until I decided that if I'm going to "spend" 1700 calories on one meal, that meal had better rock my world rather than be just tolerable, that I really left McDonald's (and most fast food) behind.

Fast forward many years to when my son is introduced (by my MOM) to McDonald's. Now I basically have to go to McDonald's a couple times a month to get Happy Meals (i.e., food that gets thrown away and a really crappy plastic toy made by slave children in China). If I'm hungry too, I usually grab something for myself somewhere else, like the French bakery nearby my local McDonald's.

Today, my son wanted to eat at McDonald's so he could play in the (also craptacular) play structure because he hasn't had enough exposure to flesh-eating bacteria lately. I didn't think I could get away with bringing my own sandwich to a "restaurant," so I resolved to try to find something to eat at McDonald's.

I settled on this. The southern-style crispy chicken sandwich is a fried piece of chicken breast on a bun with a pickle. And, to their credit, McDonald's now provides easy access to nutritional info at their locations, so I knew in advance that the sandwich is 400 calories, which I deemed reasonable for something I figured would be bland and unmemorable, but filling.

Imagine my surprise when I took a bite and liked it. I mean, I'm not saying this was some kind of delectable gourmet snack, but it was tasty, and here's why: The chicken itself tastes like pickles! This totally appeals to the seriously trailer-parkish part of my palate that enjoys the occasional bowl of ramen noodles with melted American cheese slices, pickle sandwiches on soft white bread, and Tater Tots.

So now I'm looking forward to the next time the junky toys change genre at Mickey D's and Chase wants to get his next Happy Meal. I'm not going to make a habit of it, of course, because there's probably a ton of junk like growth hormones or DNA-altering herbs and spices in there, and because I recently renewed my commitment to pesca-vegetarianism, but, dang that pickle-chicken made me say yum!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Open Letter to Rachel Ray

Dear cacklin' Rachel Ray,

Everyone knows what nutmeg is.

SHUT UP already.


Friday, July 25, 2008

My Life on the (WT)F List

I went to Comic Con today. I'm going to post a longer entry with pictures later, but I can't do it now because my feet hurt.*

Anyway, every other time I've attended Comic Con, I've seen at least a couple celebrities -- usually minor ones, like Erin Gray, Lou Ferrigno, and random Playboy bunnies. The last four times I've gone, I've had close encounters with Gene Simmons.

Well, today, I saw just one. Stephen Fucking Baldwin. And he was signing autographs and sort of roaring at people. I thought about taking a picture, but then realized he wouldn't know I was taking it to show people how ridiculous he looked today and would just assume I loooooove heeeeem. So I didn't.

But you have to believe me, I saw him and he was acting like an idiot. And he loves Jesus. Just so you know.

*How does sore feet prevent me from blogging? I would have to walk a couple feet to the table to get my camera so I can download the pix. I don't see that happening today.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Oh yes. Food. (Trader Joe's Lemon-Pepper Paparadelle)

I love citrus. Citrus fruits are my favorites, with pears a close second. I mean, I'm not gonna turn away strawberries and nectarines during the summer, but citrus fruits are so versatile and full of pop, they enhance any kind of cuisine.

One of my favorite recent discoveries is Trader Joe's dried lemon-pepper paparadelle. I've had citrus-infused pastas before, but this paparadelle has a super bright lemon hit, along with a nice savory black pepper finish. I've had it with acidic sauces, like arrabiatta, but I thought it would really get along great with a cream sauce.

Problem is, in the summer, I don't want the heaviness of a real cream sauce, and I definitely don't want my stove running any longer than necessary. So, I did a little thinking, and this is what I came up with.

Trader Joe's Lemon-Pepper Paparadelle with Ricotta and Creme Fraiche Sauce

1 cup part-skim ricotta
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 pound lemon-pepper paparadelle, cooked al dente
1/3 to 1/2 cup pasta water
salt and pepper to taste

Put paparadelle on to boil in salted water.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, stir together ricotta, creme fraiche, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.
Once pasta is al dente, drain, reserving at least 1/2 cup of water.
Put pasta back in cooking pan and add ricotta mixture, tossing to incorporate.
Add pasta water and stir and toss until sauce is smooth and creamy.

Serve pasta with grated parmesan and parsley sprigs.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Recipe: Lime smoked salmon with avocado

A recipe that's been in my repertoire for years, and happens to be one of my mom's favorites, is grilled salmon with lime, chive, and avocado vinaigrette. It's super simple, delicious, and I think it came from a special issue of Bon Appetit magazine about eighteen years ago. I can't find the original recipe anywhere anymore, so I'm just going to claim it as my own until the copyright police find me. Heck -- who knows how I've changed it over the years? Anyway, the fun part is making the leftover recipe (which will be my next post. probably).

Lime-Grilled Salmon with Avocado Vinaigrette

Adjust amounts to fit your needs. In this case, we had too much salmon for one meal, which is why the leftover dish came about.

I used an outdoor gas grill and hickory chips for smoking. I'm sure a charcoal grill will also make this pleasantly smoky. If you wish to use a grill pan or indoor grill, it's still a delicious meal without the smoky taste.


If you are using an outdoor gas grill, set your woodchips up for smoking as directed.

2 pounds wild-caught salmon, fileted
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
kosher or sea salt
fresh ground pepper
1/8 to 1/4 cup olive oil

With the salmon skin-side down, sprinkle the lime juice over the salmon. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Drizzle olive oil over, and rub mixture into salmon until well coated. Let sit for ten to twenty minutes.

Grill fish until it bounces back to the touch (about eight minutes on medium-high on a gas grill).


2 medium avocados, diced
1/4 cup lime juice
zest of one lime
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives (or more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Let rest several minutes (while fish cooks). Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary.

When fish is done, serve with several spoonfuls of sauce on top. Accept the kudos when your mom acts like you're a big chef!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Here, It's Peace.

One of the really wonderful things that has happened to me in the last couple of years is I've met a really interesting, intelligent, and artistic woman through my son's friendship with a schoolmate. She's a thoughtful liberal, and a funny and complex person, which can be a little rare in the environment in which I live.

One of the really crappy things that has happened to me over the last couple of years is my situation at a job I would otherwise really like. But that changed last week.

I have been trying to see Michele's show since it started, but a combination of stress and circumstance kind of kept me away. In fact, it kept me from a lot of fun activities I would have liked to attend. Though I have seen some of the works she exhibited in the show (and maybe that's not the right word for it -- I am not a visual artist) in her home and online, I knew it wasn't the same as seeing them properly hung, with statements and context. I already knew I find her work powerful, but when the artist is standing there holding the work up before you, it is (for me) difficult to lose myself to the experience.

Though the craptacularness of my job changed by the end of last week, there were still a lot of unanswered questions, mixed emotions, and general disbelief. I walked out of work on Friday afternoon with a sort of surreal potential for celebration.

Saturday was another interesting day. I will blog about that later.

Sunday, I woke up knowing Michele was going to take down her art at 3:00 pm. It was my priority to see it before it went away. I was sad I wasn't going to see the show on a day when Michele was there to talk about it.

Michele's exhibition was titled "Here, It's Peace." I had talked with her before about the meaning of that, and I know it's meant both literally and not literally. Many of the pieces for this collection have a sort of desert camouflage motif, but even though they evoke the current combat situation in the Middle East, they do not literally depict it. And, in fact, the images are also meant to (as I understand it) evoke other types of war and peace. For example, they might suggest the "war" of an illegal alien crossing the border versus the "peace" of a family in San Diego enjoying a day at the beach. Or the "war" of a woman or children who are abused by a violent patriarch versus the "peace" of a happy marriage.

As I say, I have seen many of the works before in other contexts, and always, I have been aware of the juxtaposition of the conflict and the harmonious. But I have always related more to the socio-political implications of the works, especially with regard to the USA's current conflicts.

Sunday, I woke up with an invigorated heart and sense of self. I was ready to let the past go, and give my energy back to my personal life, my friends, and most of all, my son. After entertaining him for a few hours, I set off to see Michele's exhibition.

The San Diego Art Institute is located in Balboa Park. It was very busy, so I had to park far away from the SDAI. For some reason, I felt in a hurry, and dashed off, noticing nothing around me and passing pedestrians left and right, to get to the SDAI.

I got to the SDAI and went downstairs to see Michele's exhibition. It was a rare hot and humid day in San Diego, and I relished the cool quietness that was the exhibition room. Michele's exhibition was the first thing I saw.

I'm not sure I saw the show in the order Michele wanted me to see it, but, for me, the order in which I saw it meant everything. One of the first things that struck me was this painting. There was a poem by Ivan Sigg accompanying the painting that moved me, and I hope Michele will give me a link to it. What really struck me was that for me, the politics were in the background. They were there, but this painting reminded me that personal relationships are what's important. What transcends the politics. As I moved through the rest of the works, I saw things I hadn't seen before. I saw Michele's relationship to her motherhood, which is so similar to mine. I saw her fears and her bravado. I saw and felt orange where before I had seen only camouflage. I saw so much more than I had before.

Note: I'm still processing her piece on Ingrid Betancourt and cannot comment on it now.

Because I was by myself, I could sit on a bench and really let the pieces speak to me. I did that for awhile before I moved on to the pieces behind me.

Those pieces seemed to get more hopeful.

I must say that every piece I saw seemed to speak to me in a new way, and I kept thinking for each piece, "This is my favorite." But then I came to this:

This was the piece I felt summed up everything I was feeling. It's beautiful, it's powerful, it speaks to me about my motherhood, my nurturing, and my conflicts. I stood before it for a long time, letting it draw me in. The most important part for me is it spoke of my relationship to Michele and of our mutual relationship to our kids, our culture, and our concerns.

If you don't know Michele Guieu's work, you should.

And this is what I wrote to her soon after seeing her show:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Goodbye Boss Wack

If you are among my legion of fans who check my blog daily for a new post (Hiya, Gumbeauxgal!), you might have noticed I've been AWOL for, like, two months. There's actually a good reason for this: For about two years, I've been dealing with an increasingly hostile situation at work that recently became intolerable. In a nutshell, my boss was an idiot.

Oh, I know what you're thinking. "Oh, come on! It's the same all across corporate America. Everyone's boss is an idiot, and the same problems exist in every company, and you're just a whiner, or this is your very first job."

Ahem. I'm sorry to disillusion you, but this situation was truly so. fucking. special. (Apologies to Radiohead).

Over the last two years, this boss nearly toppled our entire organization. It almost would have been easier to take if Boss Wack were evil. Instead, BW is pathetically unqualified to perform the work expected. And, unfortunately, BW was too incompetent to carry out the very good advice (even specific instructions) of the many employees who wanted to see the organization (and by association, BW) succeed.

As the situation declined over the years, several of BW's employees developed both emotional and physical symptoms of stress, including digestive trouble, chronic migraines, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression. Of course, our loved ones advised us to simply "leave work at work" and detach our emotions from the office. Unfortunately, we are all highly ethical, committed to our customers, and invested in quality. Our work is too big a part of our lives to be able to compartmentalize in that way.

Numerous complaints to the higher-ups and traditional HR channels resulted in naught . . . until last week.

As of last Friday, BW is no longer our boss. Several of those who remain likened it to getting out of an abusive relationship, because that's what it essentially was. There was obviously no physical abuse, but there was emotional abuse, and many levels of inappropriateness. None of us has experienced anything quite like this before, and we all have many years of experience in corporate America.

So, the tides have turned, the wall has come crashing down, and a bunch of good people are suddenly happy campers with the weight of the world off our shoulders. We don't know exactly what will happen next, but the future is rife with opportunity and hope.

And that means I have my energy for my personal life back again. I can be happy and funny, and, of course, brilliant again. Let the post-athon commence!