Yesterday was the kind of day that makes a girl think that Michigan winter will ever be over. Andrew had decided we needed to go to the bar all day. Oh, Andrew. One thing I can say about myself is that I am a very accomodating friend. You want to go to the mall and get samples from the fast chinese place? Learn to reupholster furniture? Start a hip-hop outfit complete with matching tracksuits? Go sit at the bar? I'm your girl. I can hear my mama right now, "Lydia, you shouldn't drink so much!" I know. So I drove over to Andrew's house and picked him up, drove back to my house to leave my car, and walked to Mulligans, stopping at Wings of Desire on the way for red Kool-Ade. I hadnt't been to Mulligans in many months, but as we were two of five people there it was actually non-irritating. No one was playing shitty hardcore on that appliance of the devil that is the Internet Jukebox, and I could watch Malcom in the Middle on one of those huge TVs. We had a vodka and cranberry juice. I had decided that "matching drinks" yesterday would refer to having the same thing all night, not the same number of things all night. So I had 2 and Andrew had 3, and we left and walked to the Meanwhile for Black Labels on Andrew's tab. At this point, I am loopy, and by the time Mikey Kreuger and Andrew's lady Katie got to us and hustled us out of the bar for food I was astonished to see that it was still sunny. I think it was 5pm at that point. Katie drove us and I remember suddnely being at Mongolian Barbeque. What? We go in and I pretty much have no idea what to do. Andrew used to work at this place, and everyone is hugging him and there are people all over and I'm suddenly expected to fix myself dinner. Suffice it to say I made the worst dinner ever. I mixed crab, lamb and bean sprouts. With some class of sauce. I vaguely remember it tasting salty. Someone had ordered me a beer which I saw as being a foot and a half tall. There was no way in hell I was going to get that down my throat and not all over the floor. I pushed it in front of Kreug. Then we're leaving, and when I drink too much I lose all concept of money. Ususally I forget it exists. I think I threw some money on the table and let Katie sort it out. We're driving again, and then we're not, and we're going into DJs Bar. You know, the one with the crazy sign. We all line up at the bar and I managed to order, and then wax mundane on my depressive disorder. I got the hiccups, which the bartender cured with homemade sweet n' sour and bitters. When I got home I crawled in bed and called my ex-boyfriend. Dear God. Could I be any more lame? Moral: Don't drink, don't eat mongolian barbeque, don't call your ex.
March 2008 Archives
Mongolian Barbeque Debacle of 03/08
I have been trying to get someone to accompany me to the pho place on Division since I noticed it 3 months ago. Unfortunately I seemed to be less than convincing as I went on about the joys of oxtail soup with some less popular parts of the cow. After skipping breakfast in favor of reading Dining Out in the Times, I realized that now was the time, company be damned. I first had pho (pronounced like "fuh?") in Portland, a city with a sizable Vietnamese population. I had never heard of it before and I remember being surprised when a bowl of soup not only filled me up, but made for a delicious leftover dinner as well. Of course, I shouldn't have been surprised because pho is like a full meal with broth, not the meager soups that some of us are used to. It consists of a rich beefy oxtail broth filled with rice noodles, brisket slices, and various sorts of tripe and tendon, and served with an assortment of garnishes including lime wedges, bean sprouts, Thai basil, and jalepeno slives. Hoisin and Sriracha hot sauce live on the table to be stirred into the broth to taste. Pho is very nearly a perfect food, as worthy of repeat ingestion as pad thai or chicken curry. So why did it take me this long to find it in Grand Rapids? And why was I unable to find a lunch companion? Pho Bo, or Rosie's Kitchen (?), is a fair distance away, down the long and pockmarked streach of S. Division best known for pawn shops. It's a tiny place, and unadorned, with only about six mismatched tables. When I was there half the restaurant was taken up by a table of loud Vietnamese men, a single white man ate alone at a two top, and a couple sat in a corner. I took a seat by the window. The waitress gave me a menu, but I already knew what I wanted. I wanted whatever the house Pho turned out to be. Two minutes later a bowl the size of my head was set in front of me, vapor rising. A small plate of garnish came too, along with a pair of plastic chopsticks. Quick note about pastic chopsticks; I'm all for reusable flatware, but the plastic gets slick when you keep dipping into a huge bowl of hot soup, and I'm ungraceful enough sucking down floppy noodles without having the sticks slip from my hands. Having come to terms with my less than dainty eating habits, I finally dug in. The broth was perhaps leaner than others I've tried, the beefy richness subdued. I was also dissapointed by what had to be 1/16th of a lime on the garnish plate. I squeezed that in, and followed it with most of the basil and sprouts. One of the great delights of pho is the crunch of sprouts against the tenderness of the noodles. I was also very pleased to find chunks of toothsome tendon and tripe. Tripe may actually be the reason no one will partake of the pho with me. It looks way gross, no? I slurped my way through half of my delicious bowl before giving up in the face of overwhelming fullness. The waitress teased me when I asked for a take-out container for my leftovers, and I paid my $6.50 and left. I will be very surprised if I go a week without returning; I haven't had a lunch that satisfying in weeks. And hey, maybe if I can get some without tripe I'll even have some company!
I am sitting at my grandmother's house as I write this, full of lunch and half-reading a Tintin comic. With the snow melting and a faint greenish fuzz on the pasture it is again sugaring time. We've tapped the maple trees and sap collects in a number of large trash cans. An old toboggan has been commissioned to haul the sap back over the last of the snow to an outdoor woodstove fitted with a special tray. Sap goes in and gets boiled for days. Then it is strained and brought inside to be finished on the stove, where it is easier to prevent the sugar from burning. Then the syrup is bottled and sealed and passed out to the family. It is all very "Little House in the Big Woods." Homemade syrup is more delicious than store bought. It tastes vaguely smoky and woodsy, and it is darker and richer than "Grade A." Esther likes to eat it on ice cream.
Another Side of Lydia
This blog has gotten away from food a bit. For more about Lydia's social life refer to http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog&pop=1&indicate=1
Another wednesday, another evening in the upstairs section of the HopCat, bitching about glassware and the green lights that hit you in the retina. Some blonde was shrilly exclaiming "I'm blonde, I've got big boobs, I'm so hot I can do anything I want." Which sucks when you've been rejected times in a row, and you're starting to plan your appointment in the dye chair at the salon. But I'm not complaining about myself tonight, so I'm confined to comments about the fancypabst (thank you r.v.) and the mean bartenders who ridicule you for ordering beers in the wrong glass.
I don't know why, but sometimes, coming home for the night, from the bar, or a party or wherever, I look in the mirror and look different. I think that my image changes rapidly. Most of this is due to fluctuations in self-image, so that mornings when I think I look like shit I assume my brain is playing tricks on me. I assume I look as I always do: a meshing of my best and worst. Sometimes its different. I looked at myself today and I looked younger. The face in my reflection looked scared and teenage and oddly innocent, and it is still frightening me too long after I put a towel over the mirror. Maybe my disconect with my physical self is getting larger. I have tried before to express how "lydia" is not actually me, but my representation. In this way my face is a representation of me, but has nothing to do with me. If this were true, though, why would seeing myself differently cause such a shock? It seems like I am really worried that my inner self is expressed through my appearance. That seeing my face shocked and pale made me realize how I feel. That maybe I feel small and that I can't say what I mean when I want to. I always thought when I was younger that being silent was a virtue. That the less I said the better, because then I couldn't say anything stupid. More and more I'm falling into a place where I can't say anything when I should.
I threw a party last night. I think it went ok. Not too many people came, and I liked all of them. The food seemed to go over well, people never cease to be amazed by homemade crackers. The hummus and all the brownies got eaten. I was displeased with the consistency of my caramels. They were much too gooey and I ended up sticking them in the fridge. The samosas got eaten too, but I don't think the chutneys were too well liked. I made cilantro and tamarind, and I thought they were good. I'll end up eating them on sandwiches I think. If this is the worst post ever, its because I drank too much beer and now I feel like I drank way too much beer. I love hearing that people read this, but the more people I know read it the less I can write about.
Ah, the joys of family. I really, really like mine. I went down to the Honeycreek Inn in Cannonsburg for dinner with some out-of-town aunts plus most of the rest of the W. Michigan brood. When I got to "the bar," as we call it, my aunt and uncle were there, at the bar, chatting with two women. My uncle Rich is of the gregarious elite, able to make friends in a second and always looking for more people to talk to. Once, after a memorial service, my aunts and mom and grandma and I were itching to leave and Rich said, "but this is such a great party!" My family on my mother's side is large, loud, and made up of really good cooks. My maternal grandparents owned a restaurant back in the day, my aunt Sue is the family baker/patissiere, and as my father says, my mother may be the only Rockford woman to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for her family in one day. I kid, my mother is the cook I emulate, and she deserves higher praise than the fact that she practices. I was talking to my father today about present-day technology. He had spoken to my little sister's teacher who bemoaned the loss of human interaction since the internet and cell phones. I kind of love it. I love that by being even halfway courteous I am blowing everyone else out of the polite waters. A thank-you note written and sent through the mails is unique today; I love that. I love that by cooking sugar and cream for an hour I am a candy-making domestic goddess. My pot roast puts everyone else's non-existent pot roast to shame! During a recount of my maternal grandfather (the man who's name I share) and his propensity for flying off the handle at restaurants if he thought they were not up to par my dad said that his parents wouldnt have cared as long as the drinks were good. I have a good heratige. We cook, we eat, we drink, we argue politics and take things we know are jokes really literally. I am my family; I love us.
I was doing erands with my friend Andrew yesterday, and somewhere between him refusing to go to the grocery and asking me to take him to 44th street I started to wonder whether we'd be friends if I didn't have a car, or if he did. But these are questions best left unasked, and he does buy me lunch when I ferry him about. Yesterday's fare was Marie Catrib, or Cat-rib as many of us call it. It was packed when we arrived, and we waited 10 or 15 minutes for a table, snaking on orzo salad. I had a sip of Andrew's diet soda, but diet soda is the kind of thing I just cannot drink. The taste of it makes me cringe in the same way whiskey does. Ech. We were seated at the counter, which I like. There's a great communal feel to a good bar. And perhaps also I am around them so much of my time I just feel more comfortable there than at a table. Maybe it's less like being served somehow. I had the "Adult Grilled Cheese" on challa. (holla) I am pretty much drawn to anything with goat cheese on it, but this was goat cheese with feta and cream cheese, also tomato, basil, and enough pepper to taste it. This sandwich is what grilled cheese should be. The challa was good, but not great. Perhaps it is growing up with homemade challa, but I like mine eggier. Cat-rib cuts their bread very thick, but I think this makes the sanwich fun. You have to struggle to get it into your mouth, and then the cheese runs gooey down your chin. Thats really a personal opinion. I had a bowl of tabbouleh as well, and though I loved the proportion of parsely it really should have had more lemon juice. The woman waiting on us was someone I sort of know, friend of a sort of friend. I invited her to my party and she gave me a slice of vegan chocolate blueberry bundt cake that she made. Surprisingly, it was very good. I have thoughts on veganism. Mostly, I don't understand it. I understand that people have different issues in their care. There are just too many to care about them all. The problem with many vegans is that they feel that everyone should care about their pet cause. I have seen too much smuggness and heard too much disgust over eggs and cheese and milk. What kind of life would I have without these things? I suppose I might have to be smug to ease the loss. That said, the cake was lovely, and given in so gracious a manner. It was quite the pleasent lunch.
Cooking Monday Night
Its been a while since I've posted. My computer's hard drive died recently. I am happy to report though, that thanks to a very awsome father my machine is back with the living. Thank you daddy! I had bronchitis last week, to pile on the misfortune. Being terribly ill seems even more wretched when you run out of DVDs and your computer is broken, leaving you with network television and no voyeuristic internet-stalking outlets for the waves of depression that come on with upper-respitory illness. All things combined this was a bad couple of weeks for food. I mostly ate cheese sandwiches, tuna, milk and orange juice. Last night I made tortilla hispanola, also known as the worlds greatest sandwich filling for drunkenness. Frittate-like in construction, but spanish, obviously, the tortilla is filled with potato and onion, and when you slap it on a baguette you're one bite away from heaven. A cast iron pan is really the best here. You need something with steep sides and the ability to go in the oven. Tortilla Hispanola 4 med. onions, sliced 4 large potatos, sliced 6 eggs, beaten & seasoned with salt n pepa to taste 1 clove garlic, chopped Preheat oven to 350. Saute potatos in olive oil til browned. Remove from pan. Saute onions until soft and brown. Add garlic and potatos and cook, stirring, 2 minutes or so. Pour egg mixture over potato/onion and shake pan to distribute evenly. Turn heat to low-ish. After 5 minutes move pan to oven. Cook 10 minutes more, or until egg is set. Let cool and cut into slices.