Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Beast makes sloppy joes for dinner

Monday, back at work, I received an email from the Beast with a link to this recipe. He wanted to know which ingredients we had at home and which ones he would need to pick up. He was going to make dinner. Astounded, I wrote him back with the list of supplies he’d have to buy. I also offered to pick up a few things myself: You see, I feared that he’d be overwhelmed by not only deciding on what to eat but also the shopping and execution of the meal to boot. He responded with, “Don’t worry about a thing – going to hit No Frills on the way home.”

And did he ever.

Foodie: Who buys medium ground beef? And why did you buy a gazillion lbs. of it?

Beast: I emailed you asking what kind to buy but you never responded! Plus, it works out to be way cheaper if you buy this much.

Foodie: It’s disgusting! I can’t eat medium ground beef!

Beast: This is going to be great!

I felt my mood start to spiral out of control like a mad women’s. It was the medium ground beef: and it was about to push me over the edge.  But on the ledge of the edge, I stopped myself. Stop being such a fucking miserable asshole. He’s making dinner. Just shut up. Just eat that gross meat and like it.

He set up his little recipe and was determined to follow it to a tee, something I never, ever do.

Foodie: Do you want me to chop the carrots, onions and celery for you?

Beast: No, I’m going to do everything!  You can just relax and watch. Okay. So I’ve five minutes to chop one garlic clove.

Foodie: It’s says here two garlic cloves.

Beast: Oh fuck. Oh, can you get the spices ready for me?

Foodie: Sure I can.

Beast: When you chop carrots, how small do you make them? What about celery? Do I have to use my hands to break up the ground beef?

As I watched the Beast chop his vegetables, I knew that we wouldn’t be eating for many hours to come. Each cut was timidly made and was followed by a little sigh of relief. So I made us two cocktails and stood back to watch the show–and clean up all his dishes as he went along.

Beast: Oh shit. Is this on medium heat? What does it mean, “to simmer”? This is not as easy as it looks.

Foodie: I’m just happy that you’re making dinner–and that you decided what we were eating. This is huge progress.

Beast: I’m trying.

After what seemed like several more hours, dinner was served.

Foodie: Oh! I’m going to do it like you did and make them open-faced! How do you eat these things, anyway?

Beast: With a knife and a fork, dummy.

Foodie: Are you sure?  I thought the whole point was that you picked them up and they’re sloppy.

Beast: Ah, no. Haven’t you ever eaten sloppy joes before?

Foodie: I don’t remember.

Beast: Trust me on this: it’s with a knife and a fork.

The Beast really, really liked his dinner.  I liked it too.  However I found the sloppy meat to be a bit on the sweet side, which I found a little distracting.  On a positive note, though, I wasn’t disgusted by the taste of the medium ground beef.

Beast: This is so good! Isn’t it good?

Foodie: YES! IT IS REALLY GOOD! I LOVE IT!

Beast: You don’t like it?

Foodie: NO! I really do like it!

Beast: I’m having another one.  Do you want another one? God, I wish we had cheese so I could melt some on top of the next sloppy joe.

Foodie: We could do something fun with the left-overs tomorrow night!  Think of the possibilities! It’s essentially a ragu: we could stuff peppers, or just toss it up with some penne and parmigiano.  Yes. That’s what we’ll do.

And that’s exactly what we did for Tuesday night’s dinner. But first, we played tennis. And the Beast made sure to dress the part.

Walking to the courts.

Beast: Are you feeling any better today?

Foodie: A little bit. No, actually. I feel so blue still.  I just can’t put my finger on it.

Beast: Have you exercised today?

Foodie: I EXERCISE EVERY DAY AND WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY BY SAYING THAT RIGHT NOW.

Beast: Whoa! Sorrrrrry!  I just meant that I bet you’ll feel better after tennis.  (Pause) At least I know you didn’t have an affair in New York.

Foodie: Pardon?

Beast (looking down at my legs): I don’t think I’ve ever seen those things so hairy. And your bikini line was atrocious before you left, so I knew you weren’t planning anything sneaky.

Foodie: You’re telling me. Those were some serious hair shorts.

Beast: You’re disgusting.

Foodie: You started this shit. Oh, and did I tell you that a nice group of men in New York, black men actually, found me to be quite fetching?

Beast: No.

Foodie: Well, I walked by a bunch of boys, maybe in their 40s, just hanging around having some coffee one morning and they was all like, “Ummmmm, girl!” And I was all like, so surprised and I think I started giggling, maybe I even snorted, and then they was all like, “Shit girl–there ain’t nothing funny ’bout that! No sir!” I don’t know what that was but they was all like–

Beast: Why are you talking like that?

Foodie: Because I shared a lovely moment with them and I’m trying to express it.  It was just nice because it wasn’t sleezy or gross. I guess because I don’t look like the kind of girl who gets whistled at, you know?  There was a sweet humour to it. (Pause.) Do you think you find me attractive because you have a black man’s soul?

Beast: Probably.

After tennis (or batting practice, practically), I decided to open up a special bottle of white to go with our special sloppy joe left-over extravaganza.

We curled up with our plates of penne tossed with the Beast’s meat sauce, some grated parmigiano and fresh basil (which ended up tasting like Hamburger Helper, or in other words, delicious), and watched a few episodes of The Wire.

And I felt…better.

Foodie: Sloppy joes *1/2, Homemade Hamburger Helper Penne **1/2

Beast: Sloppy joes **1/2, Homemade Hamburger Helper Penne **

NYC in a nut sack, plus some bean & tuna salad.

I got home from four days in NYC on Sunday afternoon to a shockingly tidy house and an empty fridge. On further investigation, I saw that the Beast had had at least three of the Dr. Oetker’s frozen pizzas I stockpiled for him and several cocktails (the dish rack was overflowing with cocktail glasses.)

My trip was wonderful, although it ended up being far more social than I expected: I had planned on having plenty of welcomed quiet and alone time and daydreamed about walking the streets of New York from morning until night, getting lost and having adventures. I ended up coming by some of that, but I also did a fair share of drinking, smoking and cavorting with old friends who, by surprise, ended up being in the city at the same time as I was. So on Sunday night, back in Toronto, I was feeling a little lost. I guess it was a combination of coming down from all that TIFF excitement, of my mini NYC vacation not being exactly as emotionally fulfilling as I’d hoped it to be, of missing my family, who I haven’t seen in forever, of not really having a summer vacation, and of dreading going back to work on Monday.

After unpacking and doing a couple loads of laundry, I curled up on the couch with a book that I can’t put down. A cool breeze from the window lulled me to sleep. Two hours later, all I could think about making for dinner was an a fagiolo salad. (That’s a bean and tuna salad, essentially.)

And that’s when the Beast got home.  After presenting him with gifts (colourful socks, a bottle of bourbon and a bird whistle), followed by his confessing about the frozen pizza and cocktail consumption–and that he started watching The Wire after resisting for years–we stood in the kitchen while I readied dinner and he looked at photos from my trip.

Beast: These photos of you in the museums look exactly like Thomas Struth’s.

Foodie: Who’s that?

Beast: I just read a profile on him in the New Yorker. I also read the entire Style magazine in the Sunday NY Times so I now know everything about style. Ask me anything.

Foodie: I don’t know who that Thomas is but I do know that I’ve been taking pictures of people taking pictures of pictures for years now.

Beast: This is a great shot. It looks just like his work.

Foodie: I like it too. And you mean his work looks just like mine.

Beast: Who’s this?

Foodie: I don’t know–it’s by some Russian painter. Don’t you just love it though?

Beast: It’s amazing.

Foodie: The funny thing is, here I was taking photos of people taking photos of pictures because I find it so strange that they’re viewing all this extraordinary art through cameras rather than just putting their devices away and looking at the stuff. But then I started taking photos of things that I wanted to show you. It’s all so curious, don’t you think? I mean, the desire to document can be overwhelming.

Beast: Who’s this?

Foodie: Oh that one–there was a special exhibit at the Met on, ah, um..whatshisname…Hans–

Beast: Looks like Franz Hals.

Foodie: YES! (Pause) How do you know Franz Hals?

Beast: I just love seeing these kind of scenes. It reminds you that everything you’ve ever felt, every emotion, has been felt before. There’s a comfort in that.

Foodie: (Silence)

Beast: Oh this one. The most important painting of the 20th century practically.

Foodie: I was affected by it this time around.

Beast: I hate Matisse.

Foodie: I was never very big on him but I’ve changed my mind.

Beast: What’s this? Rauschenberg? This is awesome.

Foodie: It makes me want to make stuff.

With the salad ready and the art history tutorial over, the Beast brought me up to speed on the eight episodes of The Wire he watched while I was away.

The show isn’t quite what I expected it to be but I’m enjoying it nonetheless. And the salad? Perfection. Eating it made me feel like I’d cleansed my soul of the memories of urine-infested subways and countless units of alcohol.

Still, I couldn’t shake my melancholy. It feels like I’m longing for something–something that I can’t quite put my finger on.

But it sure is nice to be home.

Foodie: ***

Beast: **

Complaining about covering TIFF? What a TIFFhole!

As some of you know, my bosses at Maclean’s asked if I could help cover the Toronto International Film Festival this year: you know, do some videos, write a few blog posts and a print piece for the magazine. How hard could it be?

Well, for a first timer who had no idea what to expect, it was a bit of a fucking nightmare: trying to get invited to parties that you don’t belong at, then going to said parties alone (celebrities have assistants and PR people to keep them company, seasoned media, who’ve been covering this beat for years, have each other to chat with and everybody else are professional rich people or party crashers). And then there’s the nervousness of being on video with messy hair or getting tongue-tied, and not having the time to do your research before a press conference, interview or round-table because you only found out that you’re covering something an hour beforehand. And also the fear of being late for everything or, heaven forbid, missing something. Plus, there’s the anxiety of getting 50 new emails when you turn your back for a second and trying to figure out what’s important and what’s not.

And the parties themselves? Sure, the drinks and food do floweth but I couldn’t get too drunk because I was working. And I didn’t want to get too fat because the camera adds at least 30 lb. And the PR people: one minute they’re emailing you asking, “Why aren’t you here yet!?!?” and when you show up, you’re name isn’t on the list that the 20 year-old girl in platform heels is holding and you feel like a loser.

Wait.  I sound like a real asshole, complaining about an extraordinary opportunity that I was afforded. How lucky am I that I got to do this?  Extremely lucky. And don’t get me wrong–there was great stuff, too, like seeing so many movies for free! I never took that for granted for a second.  And it’s all so exciting! And sometimes those same PR girls make you feel like a million bucks because they don’t even ask for your name–they just know who you are (or maybe I was just the last one to arrive and it was a process of elimination.) And then there are the movie stars–they were all primped and pretty, they all smelled like angels and they all smiled at me when I smiled at them. But they’re not at parties to make friends with you. And I wasn’t there to try and make love them (yes I was).  My job was simply to observe and eavesdrop.

Basically, I got home most nights, with my heart beating a mile a minute, on the verge of a panic-attack because it felt like as soon as I left a place, a gazillion A-listers showed up. And I just felt terrible about what I was doing–I felt dirty.

Do you know what the best part of TIFF was though? And I’m not joking here. It was getting home one night at a reasonable hour, say 10 pm (This was after a four day stretch of waking at 7 am and getting home by 3 am–early, by real party reporter standards.) And the Beast–that sweet animal who’s obsessed with dressing himself in tweed and houndstooth blazers right now–he was just coming upstairs with a load of laundry. It was the third he’d done that night.  And he waited to have dinner with me, which he prepared. When I got upstairs, there were two Dr. Oetker pizzas, a spinaci and a tomato and mozzarella, on two plates–the varieties already split so we both had three slices of each.  Plus he’d already poured me a glass of white wine. The last episode of Madmen, season four, was queued and ready to go. I think I started to cry.

But that’s not it.  You know how he sometimes brings home presents for me from work? Well, he’d picked up a beautiful broach brooch (thanks Susie!)…

…and a long strand of pale pink fresh water pearls and had those displayed on the coffee table along with dinner. It was too much kindness: it was more good will and generosity, without any expectations of getting something in return, than I’d seen in days, days spent chasing famous people and dealing with sometimes not-so-nice people, all of which just left me so empty.

I ate the pizza too fast and drank the wine with such ferosity that I was going in and out of consciousness on the couch.  And here comes the best part.  Are you ready for it?Through the tears, the anxiety about not doing a good job, the worry about what peers might think and wanting to please just everybody, I saw the Beast with the pearls and he was trying to explain to me all the different ways I could wear them. But he wasn’t joking–he was doing it earnestly. “You could just double them up like this,” he demonstrated, “or, even triple them.  Oh look how nice that is!  But wait–if you wanted to, you could sort of tie it up in a knot, too.”

I couldn’t believe what I thought I was seeing.  It was like a mirage of pureness–no PR person trying to get you to write about something or getting mad at you when you did mention something but you mentioned it in the wrong way. It was just a man-child showing his lady friend how to wear a pearl necklace.

What could be more unsullied?

Foodie: ****

Beast: **

If you’re worried, like my mom is, that you’ve missed any of this Maclean’s TIFF coverage, you can find it all here.

Vethuvio Pitha

Walking about town on Saturday afternoon with the Beast after just having run into our friend Vince who celebrated his 40th birthday the night before.

Beast: So, what was Vince talking about back there?

Foodie: Excuse me?

Beast: Oh you know!  I take it you did a little dance at this birthday party last night?

Foodie: Listen, I didn’t tell you about it because I was afraid you’d be disappointed in me.  I didn’t plan to dance in a cage.  It just happened.

Beast: I can’t believe you.

Foodie: I was pulled up into it! Against my will! It was right after the professional dancer vacated it to take a break. And just as I was lifted up, the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage started playing.  (Pause)  The music took over me.

Beast: What was Vince referring to with all those hand gestures?

Foodie: Oh, well, that was in reference to my new signature move.  Actually, I should credit you with it because you first brought it to my attention. You know when Danny McBride’s character in the show East Bound and Down pretends like he’s, um, ejaculating?  Well, I guess I sort of kept Danny McBriding all over the crowd.  And they loved it.  They were screaming for more.  I was like a wild maenad up there, overcome by the moment.

Beast: WOOOOOOOOW.

Foodie: I think I have too much testosterone in me.  I mean, for a lady. (Pause) You know, I was just saying my goodbyes right before it happened.  I felt completely sober.  But I think I drank a few beers too quickly–you know how dehydrated we get after eating Vesuvio pizza.

Beast: I woke up in the middle of the night and had to drink nearly a liter of water.

Foodie: Exactly.

Vesuvio is a restaurant on Dundas Street West that specializes in North American style Italian food, like spaghetti and meat balls and thick crust pizza.  About once every two months the Beast and I order a party size “Vulcano” pizza (tomato sauce, mozzarella, capicolo, hot peppers and green olives on half–for me).  A party size pizza has 16 squares.  I think it’s supposed to feed six to eight people.  It feeds the two of us one dinner, plus one lunch or one dinner the next day.  But this time, I’m ashamed to say, the Beast ate all eight of his slices in one go.  And I ate seven.  There was one piece left over after our binge. I’ve never felt more gluttonous in my life.  Maybe this over-indulgence led to my poor behaviour later on in the evening in the dance cage, which was actually more like a wall niche.

Back to walking about town.

Beast: Is there any of that pie left?

Foodie: Yes, two pieces! We can have it when we get home.

Beast: It really was an excellent pie.

Foodie: Yes, yes it was.

Beast: Hey, do you want to go to Walmart to buy The Nutty professor?

Foodie: Why do you want to watch that?

Beast: I just love fat suits. How much do you think it costs? I mean, to get the whole bit of work done, like all the fat face make-up?

Foodie: Probably a lot.

Beast: Did you know that if you have to do a home birth in an elevator you’re not supposed to cut the umbilical cord?

Foodie: Why not?

Beast: Because bad shit will happen.

Foodie: Where is all this coming from?

Beast: There’s been so much written in the press this last week about home births. I just don’t get it.  It’s like camping.

Foodie: How do you mean?

Beast: Well, once the house was invented why would you want to do it? It’s just not necessary anymore. Oh, and I read something else you’ll be very interested in: remember that skit I told you about that I wanted to pitch to Saturday Night Live?

Foodie: Which one?

Beast: That one with a man dressed in a toga reading from a scroll and he sees a young kid reading from a book and he says, “If the scroll was good enough for my grandfather, it’s good enough for me!” Implying, of course, that the book is going nowhere fast. Well, there was an essay in the New York Times book review section about how the Kindle is the only change comparable to that innovation.

Foodie: Sarah thought it was really funny that we both wanted to be Don Draper. She thinks he’s deplorable.

Beast: Ah, I think we’ve decided that you’re most like Sally Draper.

Foodie: The little kid? (Pause) I guess you’re right: the childhood lisp, the chubby body, the unkept hair and over-all messy appearance…

Beast: The deceiving, the physical violence, the plotting, the cheating, the aggression, the stealing and being way too self-centered.

Foodie: You’re totally right.

Beast: I can’t hear her or see her on that show without thinking of you.

Foodie: That’s so sweet!

Foodie: **1/2

Beast: ***

Concord Grape Pie (courtesy of Uncle Ron)

-one basket of Concord grapes (maybe minus an average-sized bunch)
-1/2 cup sugar
-3 tbsp flour
-1 tbsp butter
-1 tbsp lemon

Separate skins (and reserve them in a bowl) from the inside pulp and
juice.  Simmer the pulp and juice for about five minutes. Press
through a wire sieve to separate the seeds (or find seedless Concord
grapes! I think they exist.)  Combine the pulp/juice with the skins
and add the sugar, flour, butter and lemon.  Top with a crumble (1/2
cup flour + 1/4 cup brown sugar + 1/8 cup butter) and bake at 350
degrees for 40 minutes.  Et voila!  (Use any pie crust recipe you love
most.)