Monthly Archives: July 2011

Summer Blockbusters. Plus Corn and Field Tomatoes!

One morning last week before work, reading the papers and drinking coffee.

Foodie: Hey, do you know anything about all the superheroes in all these movies?

Beast: A little more context please.

Foodie: Like, the ones that come from the comics and now they’re making movies about them and how some of them, like Captain America and Thor and I forget the others, are going to be in one big movie?

Beast: Silence

Foodie: I just feel like I’m missing something when I see the movies and I want someone to explain all the background to me. Like, what really happened?

Beast: Here’s what I do know.  For starters, they are all fictional characters.  They don’t really exist.  Second, none of it really happened. Maybe in the reality of Marvel Comics it did, but not in our own reality.

Foodie: (Pause) Do you want to see Captain America tonight?

Beast: No.

Foodie: Okay, I guess I’ll go see that one with my work girlfriends.

Beast: (pause)  I owe those two, you know. It works out really nicely that they take you to the movies that I don’t want to go to.

Foodie: You make it sound like I’m some sort of charity case.

Beast: Silence

Foodie: Well, what are you doing tonight with your boyfriends?

Beast: We’re watching MacGruber.

Foodie: MacGruber?!?!? 

Beast: I know, but Mike and Nick are obsessed about watching it together.

As you all know, it’s been warm out.  And there’s no better way to beat the heat than watching summer blockbusters in icy air-conditioned theaters.  Because the Beast isn’t too keen on seeing Oscar contenders, like the new Harry Potter movie, Captain America Super 8 and Thor, I’ve gotten into the very pleasant habit of going to see the big guns on Fridays, right after work, with my girlfriends from work. I don’t mind seeing the types of movies that the Beast favours either, like The Trip (the one with Steve Coogan in it), or the Werner Herzog cave painting documentary or the people who have a monkey at home documentary or anything by John Cassavetes at the TIFF Lightbox retrospective this month.  Basically, I’ve got all my movie bases covered.

But it seems that whatever film I’m watching these days, I end up crying. Sunday night was no exception.

Getting home late Sunday afternoon after visiting family in Port Stanley.

Beast: I’ll tell you what.  Let’s go fill up our propane tanks while we have the rental car, do an LCBO run and then while you return the car, I’ll do my work out and then I’ll make dinner.

Foodie: Really? What are you going to make?

Beast: Well, we have all that fresh corn and a basket of field tomatoes so toasted tomatoes and corn it is.

The rest of the evening went off without a hitch: we did our running around and then settled ourselves outside on the deck, where a pleasant breeze provided the first respite from the humidity in several days, and got caught up on some reading. And then the Beast started preparing our dinner. He decided to do it platter-style, so we could each assemble our sandwiches our own way.

I opted for open-faced style, in order to compound the tomato flavour.

And we curled up to watch Barney’s Version; a movie that I picked out with little protest from the Beast.

The movie ends.

Foodie: Did you like it?

Beast: It was okay, but I couldn’t get past the second-rate scene blocking.  And Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman were great but the secondary characters were so weak: you couldn’t really invest in them, you know?  Are you crying?

Foodie: (Wiping snot from my upper lip) YES! And I didn’t even like the movie all that much. I bawled in the new Harry Potter.  And in Super 8. And in Friends with Benefits. And in Midnight in Paris. I think I even cried a bit in Thor at one point.

Beast: Is Friends with Benefits the one with Justin Timberlake in it?

Foodie: I KNOW! Can you believe it?  What else…oh yeah, I cried the other night watching Emma.

Beast: Silence

Foodie: The one with Gwyneth Paltrow in it.

Beast: Yes, I know the one.

Foodie: That was a good dinner. I could eat the exact same thing tomorrow night and be just as happy.

We did, and I was.

Foodie: ** 1/2

Beast: ** 1/2

Heat Waves and Pita Party for Dinner!

Foodie: I’m home!

Beast: (Shaking his head in disgust.)

Foodie: What’s wrong?

Beast: You are too tanned!  Look at you!

Foodie: I can’t help it, man! I think it’s just from riding my bike to and from work.

Beast: Well, you should cover up!  A woman your age shouldn’t be getting so much sun.

Foodie: I know, but it’s too hot to cover up.  (Sitting beside the Beast.)  Look: we could be a couple from that Spike Lee joint.

Beast: Jungle Fever? What’s for dinner?

Foodie: You’re favourite! Pita Party for Dinner!

Pita Party for Dinner is when you take some pitas, grill them on the barbecue and top them with grilled vegetables, homemade salsa and feta cheese.  I think I got the idea from an Everyday Food cookbook.  I’ve made Pita Party for Dinner about three times now, and I love it! But the Beast doesn’t think it’s really a complete dinner (because there’s no meat) and after we finish eating them he says, “Great appetizer.  What’s for dinner?”

Beast: Great. You make snacks for dinner and when it’s my turn to cook, I make steak.  It’s not fair.

It’s true: the Beast has taken on more responsibility at mealtime.  I assigned him two dinners last week, when I was extremely busy with a few projects, and he rose to the challenge with aplomb.  First, he made  flank steak with arugola, cherry tomatoes and slices of parmigiano reggiano.

And the next night, he showed real initiative, and good planning technique, by using up the leftovers to made steak sandwiches with caramelized onions and avocado.

He even bought fresh horseradish to grate on top of the steak.

I don’t think I’ll encourage him to do that again, though. It seemed to put him in a peculiar mood.

Foodie: Just admit it–you LOVE Pita Party for Dinner! We’ll have so much fun.

Beast: I need to have a cold shower first.  I’m melting.

While he cooled off, I prepared the vegetables for grilling.

And then I had a cold shower and then I made us cocktails.  But not any cocktail: I made us the cocktail that I DESIGNED FOR CHARITY!  My friend Laura, the founder of Paws for the Cause, came up with the brilliant idea of selling lemonade made by chefs and food bloggers during the weekends this summer to help raise funds for the Ontario Veterinary College’s Pet Trust Fund. And last Friday, I made three gallons of classic lemonade for the booth set up at King and Portland.

I also included a recipe for a cocktail featuring lemonade and I called it THE UNDERDOG. Get it? Laura did, and she might even feature The Underdog as one of the specialty cocktails for the big Paws for the Cause gala on October 27.

Anyway, when designing a cocktail, you need to do a lot of taste-testing which might lead to dependency issues when you get home from work and just need an Underdog or you’ll just die.

Upstairs on the deck.

Beast: You’re plants look dead.

Foodie: I know.  I’ve been terribly neglectful.

Beast: Yes, I can see that!  (Examining my vegetables before putting them on the grill.) Can you please be more careful when removing the red pepper seeds? They’re poisonous, you know.

Foodie: No they’re not.

Beast: You know what food mispronunciation is the funniest to me? “Anti pasta”.  Think about it: Yes, how was the negation of the pasta?

Foodie: I never thought about it like that.

Beast: And “brushedda”.

Foodie: I hate “marscarpon”.  There’s only one “r” in mas-car-pone-eh.  And four syllables, not three.

Beast: We’re a bunch of assholes.

Downstairs, we assembled our pitas and watched the season premiere of Hell’s Kitchen, where any number of true assholes can be observed.

Foodie: I LOVE PITA PARTY FOR DINNER!  This is so good!

Beast: It is good.

Foodie: Really?

Beast: You don’t even notice that they’re vegetarian because the mushrooms are so meaty.

Foodie: (Silence)

Foodie: ***

Beast: **

Summer Strawberry Delight. And a Fight.

The Beast and I had a fight last week.  A real fight.  And like most real fights, it was over nothing.  I think we had just finished heating up some pulled pork I’d made on the weekend and while he went into the living room with the food I went into the kitchen to grab our drinks.  I think I said, “Do I need to bring in plates?” And he said, “What’s that supposed to mean?” And I said, “Ah, it means did you get them already or do I need to get them?”  And from there things spiraled into a pit of saltiness. It was terrible!  I think he thought I was being passive aggressive and I was all like, “I can’t believe you think that was passive aggressive. I’ll show you passive aggressive if you want to see it, but that was NOT it.” To top it all off, it was the season finale of Top Chef Canada.  We ate in silence, both of us fuming and refusing to apologize to the other.

It’s not like the two of us never fight, but usually our battles last about three minutes–until one of us can make the other laugh.  Now, I’m not suggesting that laughter is the best relationship medicine.  On the contrary: we end turning legitimate problems into jokes on account of us both being so fucking funny.  It’s really not healthy.

Anyway, we went to bed mad.  And that almost never happens.  At work the next day, I got an email from the Beast: Thank you for giving me a kiss this morning before you left for work, even though we had the worst fight ever in our relationship. 

I’m not sure it was a kiss. It was more like a punch in the face but with my lips rather than my fist.  Regardless, I responded: You are welcome.  I don’t like going to sleep mad at you, or leaving for work mad at you.  Do you think we can work through this?

And he responded: No.

And just like that, the fight was over.

At home that evening, I arrived, as per usual, to find the Beast in his underwear lifting weights and doing his push-ups.

Since it’s extremely difficult for me to watch him exercise, for what I hope are obvious reasons, I sat outside with a cocktail. And every so often the Beast would appear on the other side of the closed glass patio door and flex. I would nod approvingly.  He’d disappear again, and then reappear flexing.  This went on for a while, until he finally came out to join me.

Beast: Man! You’ve got a lot of grey hairs!

Foodie: Yeah, I know.

Beast: Do you think I gave them to you?

Foodie: Yes.

Beast: You know what my new look is going to be for summer?

Foodie: No.

Beast: I’m going to start dressing like Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights.

Foodie: That’s not a new look for you there buddy.  You wear golf shirts tucked into belted shorts every summer, only usually they’re women’s shorts.  But I don’t think you’ll be able to do that any more though, with all the weight you’ve gained.

Beast: You mean all the muscle?

Foodie: How much do you weigh now?

Beast: About 180 lb.

Foodie: How much did you weigh when we first met?

Beast: Probably about 155 lb.

Foodie: Wow!

Beast: But it’s muscle.  Look.

The Beast flexed some more. (In fact, I can’t touch the Beast without him flexing–and he uses a flexing voice too, which is really strained. Even if I just touch his arm, he tenses his whole body in one big flex.  It’s like he’s constantly planking, but upright.)

Foodie: Look at my arms (me flexing and using flexing voice)–you can almost see a line there.

Beast: Where?

Foodie: Right there.

Beast: Look at my chest (him flexing, and using the flexing voice).

Foodie: (Me looking at my thigh muscle.)

Beast: LOOK!

Foode: Yeah, but get a load of this!  (Me banging on my calf muscle.)

Beast: They’re disgusting.

Foodie: Whew. Well, I’ve gained about five lb. So I’ve decided we need to stop having our strawberry delight dessert every night of the week.

The strawberry delight dessert is sort of a deconstructed Eton Mess (Ontario strawberries, meringue and whipped cream), but with the addition of ice cream.

It’s absolutely glorious this time of year, especially when we have it with homemade meringues.

Beast: Speak for yourself! I need as many calories as I can take in for my weightlifting.

Foodie: But we’ve had it Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, Saturday.

Beast: What movie is that from again?

Foodie: Ah, The Godfather.

Beast: Oh right. Which part again?

Foodie: Right before Apollonia gets blown up by a car bomb which was intended for Michael.

Beast: Fucking Apollonia. (Pause) Man, that’s a perfect set of breasts right there.

Foodie: True.  You don’t see them like that anymore–so natural, you know?

Beast: You’re telling me.

We sat there together on the deck with the sun beating down on us, flexing our muscles, and nodding our heads.

Foodie: ***

Beast: ***

Bittman’s Meatballs and a Baby

Because we’ve been barbecuing so much lately, the Beast and I haven’t been eating as many carbs as we usually do in the colder months. But on Sunday I got a real hankering for spaghetti and meatballs.  Normally when I make meatballs I just make up the recipe as I go along but I decided to turn to my used copy of How to Cook Everything this time around; something I’ve been doing quite frequently–and not just because I’m extremely good friends with the author, Mark Bittman, but because everything I’ve made using these recipes, has been spot-on-good.

The meatballs were no exception; they required a package of ground pork, another of ground beef, a half cup of breadcrumbs (I sometimes use soda crackers in a pinch), a teaspoon of minced garlic, a handful of chopped parsley, an egg and a cup of grated parmigiano (I also added a smidge of freshly grated nutmeg).  And this resulted in the finest batch of meatballs I’ve ever made.

As a conservator of dirtying dishes, the best part is that you make the tomato sauce in the same pan as the meatballs so that all those sticky bits get picked up.

But before I started on that step, I got a phone call from my best friend Sarah asking if I could babysit her little one while she and her husband took their older son to see Cars 2. Of course, I jumped at the chance.

On the phone before my babysitting job, with the Beast.

Beast: What are you doing?

Foodie: I just made some meatballs for dinner tonight!

Beast: Amazing idea!

Foodie: Thanks but I can’t talk right now.  I’ve got to babysit.

Beast: Excuse me?

Foodie: I’m babysitting for Sarah.  Do you think a baby will poop its pants in three hours?

Beast: How the hell should I know?

Foodie: I think the last time I changed a diaper was four years ago.  But it’s like riding a bike, right?

Beast: I feel like throwing up just thinking about this.

Foodie: I’ve got to go.

30 minutes later the crew showed up at my place with a diaper bag, a portable crib, a few instructions about food, creams for rashes and swaddling and also one baby.

Before I knew it, the baby and I were alone. The baby didn’t make any sounds.  He was content just being held in my arms as I walked around our house looking at things.

We played with an old rusty abacus.

And then I took him up to the Beast’s music room where we found some age-appropriate instruments.

The baby especially loved the Beast’s collection of bells.

It was such an idyllic, peaceful hour.  Just me and the baby; me whispering to the baby like all that whispering in Terrence Malick’s movies; me hugging and kissing the baby; me making that baby laugh.  This isn’t so hard, I thought to myself. As the late evening sun cascaded into the music room, I imagined staying at home with a baby this well-behaved and being able to cook extravagant meals and keep a tidy house and wear an apron and rock babies quietly to sleep.

Two hours later after the baby’s parents picked up the baby.

Beast: I’m home!  Where are you?

Foodie:  I’m upstairs on the deck!

Beast (enroute to the deck via the music room): WHOA.

Foodie: What’s wrong?

Beast: Was it your idea to put the Fisher Price thing on top of my harmonium or the baby’s?

Foodie: Oh, sorry about that.

Beast: What’s wrong with you.

Foodie: What do you mean?

Beast: You look like…you look exhausted.

Foodie: I need a cigarette and a drink.

(The Beast fills this request.)

Beast: When’s dinner?

Foodie: When’s dinner?  I’ll tell you when dinner is! It’s when I finish making it! I didn’t get around to finishing dinner BECAUSE I WAS LOOKING AFTER A BABY!!!!

Beast:  How was it?

Foodie: It started off so nicely. I fed him and rocked him and played with him. But then I had to change his diaper. Do you know that babies fart as loud as adults do? It’s kind of unnerving.  But the thing is he’s just getting over a bad diaper rash so it hurts him terribly when he poops and there all these creams  I had to put in his bum but when I went to change the diaper…oh god…when I went to change the diaper, he was mid-pooping.  And I just kept wiping but the poop kept coming out like tooth paste and he was crying because it hurt. And it was like looking into the eye of hell itself.

Beast: Please stop.  I can’t listen to this.  Oh god. Oh god. Oh god.

Foodie: And then I had to put, like four creams in a very particular order in there. I’ve never even put cream in my bum before.  And there was poop everywhere and creams everywhere.  It was just terrible.  Then he stopped crying–Sarah said he only cries if he’s pooped so to check his diaper if he’s really wailing.  So when he started wailing again, I checked his diaper.  But there was no poop! I checked that diaper about seven times, man!  And nothing.  That bum was spotless.

Beast: I am going to throw up now.

Foodie: And then I had to swaddle him before putting him to bed.  Do you know how hard it is to swaddle a baby that won’t hold still?  Will you get me more wine please? Thanks.  So I swaddled him, put him in the crib and then waited outside the door.  Then I’d hear him kicking his legs and breaking free of the swaddling.  So I’d go and swaddle him again. I did that for about an hour, and the same thing just kept happening.  I can’t swaddle for shit!  Then I put him on our bed–

Beast: Oh god.  Please stop.

Foodie:  And I just kept putting his blankie over him like a fan and playing peek-a-boo.  He loved it.  It was the only thing that stopped him from crying.  And I was so tired and I had to finish dinner and my arms hurt and my back hurt from carrying him around.  And I had poop and spit on me.  But it was over an hour past his bedtime so I tried to put him down again in the crib–without the swaddling.  But he kept whimpering and it just broke my heart.  (Pause)  I did a terrible job.  I’m a terrible babysitter.

Beast: Silence

Foodie: I’m exhausted–and it was only three hours of babysitting. Sarah did say, when they picked him up, that maybe he was teething so maybe that’s why he was crying, despite him having a spic and span bum.  (Pause) I used more vaseline today than I have in my entire life.

After two drinks and a cigarette, I finally found the energy to finish dinner. The sauce was ready in a pinch.

And dinner was on the table before I got too drunk.

Foodie: I can not watch your Jazz documentary tonight.  Please don’t make me do it. Can we just see what’s on TV?

Beast: Fine.  Oh…I’ve got just the perfect thing for us to watch.

Foodie: Is this Ghostbusters?

Beast: You bet your ass it is!

Foodie: I haven’t seen this in years!

Beast: This is really good spaghetti and meatballs.

Foodie:  It is good, isn’t it.  Did you watch this show a lot when you were a kid?

Beast: Ah, yes.

Foodie: Did you love Sigourney Weaver?

Beast: Actually I used to go nuts over the secretary.

Foodie: The secretary?  Um, I think she’s made to look unattractive and given an unappealing voice on purpose–to be a sort of archetypal annoying woman.

Beast: Well don’t make me feel weird about it!

Foodie: I just think it’s funny is all. I mean, why the secretary over Sigourney?

Beast: Sigourney’s  hair is too big.

Foodie: Do you have a thing for women with glasses and annoying voices?

Beast: Silence.

I ate my spaghetti too quickly that night.  Plus, I had seconds. I basically went into a coma on the couch while the Beast did the dishes and I listened to Ghostbusters and drifted in and out of consciousness, with the sweet smell of baby still on my shit-stained sweat shirt.

Foodie: **1/2

Beast: **1/2