Monday, November 27, 2006

red velvet, finished objects, and other thanksgiving tales from austin, tx

Bad girls eat cake. Or, at least girls who fancy themselves bad 'cause they're out of town and it's a holiday and they can take a break from the goody two shoes world of sin-free eating at home. Fitting that this cake is red. Lord knows it's the devil. I'd say how good it was, but that would be bad of me.

Now, I didn't go looking for this cake. I'd done pretty well on Thanksgiving day. The Husband Known As The Bubba and I were visiting Annie, my mother-in-law (who HATES being called Annie, but she doesn't read this blog, in which almost everybody gets a cutesie sobriquet so ha ha). For the holiday, Annie and her roommate, MC, took us to eat at their friend Debra's house. Debra has a lovely home in Round Rock, a place I so far do not love (this matters because I'll be moving to Austin on the first thing smoking), and does her own home renovations. Yep. She built herself a pond in her backyard and is in the process of remodeling her master bathroom after having turned her guest bath into a temple almost too good for poo. Anyway, Debra's also handy in the kitchen (sorry to follow poo with food but the two are connected) and made a scrumptious dinner. I stayed away from dessert because I'd had two helpings of everything else.

Of course Friday meant TG leftovers, but it also meant a visit to where Mister Stevens was staying. As luck would have it, Mister Stevens had come to town to give a paper at UT Austin and to hang out with the friends who arranged for him to speak there. We were terribly excited that our visits would coincide, that he'd get to see Annie and The Bubba and I'd get to see his friends J. and Phillip for the first time since years ago in New York. I was also excited because I'd get to see his friend (and now mine) Marvin, who lives in San Francisco and came to join the fun.

Marvin is the reason I'm back on the sauce (just kidding, I'll wean myself the second I hit the runway at LAX). From scratch, no less, he made carrot cake, pies, and the red velvet cake above. He's so good that he made the cakes at home, brought them as carry-on, and frosted them in Austin. To me, that sounds like some kind of wizardry.

I was happy I'd done my part to show Marvin how wonderful he is. I'd made him this (modeled by the giving-you-some-cool Bubba):

I'd been working on it for the last couple months. In addition to my gazillion other projects, I'd pick up this one and 'round and 'round and 'round I'd go, only the interest of the stripes keeping me from drowning in a pool of Wool of the Andes stockinette. When I arrived in Austin, I still had to put the fringe on. Me no likey doing fringe. It's tedious. But for Marvin, anything. He's the only person I've ever seen literally give away the clothes on his back. The first time we met him, he was wearing the jacket The Bubba's got on. The Bubba admired it and before we parted company Marvin took it off and gave it to him. I'm not the stingiest person I know, but such generosity blew me away. For a long time, I wanted to do something to commemorate Marvin's kindness. The scarf, in the same colors as the jacket, is the result. It's not perfect -- I tried every which way I know to get truly jogless stripes, which made for some visually fascinating joins (and I don't mean that in a good way). Still, it's a pretty dashing piece of knitting, I humbly submit.

Marvin's in the middle, probably thinking, "These two freaks are smothering me."

I'm wearing another little something I completed while in Austin:

It's a pattern, "Sherry's Easy Shrug," from Unwind in Burbank. This made my third time around with this one. I made it in Lamb's Pride Bulky about a year ago. Anyone hear that? Lamb's Pride Bulky? I live in Southern California. Why no one had the decency to stop me from knitting what amounted to a radiator for the upper regions is beyond me. I even did it twice because I didn't like the length of the sleeves the first time I wore it. Knowing nothing of the benefit of picking up stitches, I ripped the whole thing and made it again. I wore that version a couple times before finally figuring out why I tended to faint from heat exhaustion every time I went near it -- B-U-L-K-Y W-O-O-L. But I couldn't stay away from the pattern. I wanted myself a bolero. A chill chaser. Some vintage-inspired shoulder chic. So I went back at it, this time with Karaoke. I knit it on size 10s, so it went pretty quickly. But, once again, I didn't dig the sleeves on the finished product. This time I picked up and knit bands that, for some reason, remind me of buttercups. That took a couple of tries because I had to bust out the DPNs and figuring out how to avoid ladders in ribbing was a merciless process. I wound up ripping and re-knitting the left band. But it's a comfortable and handy knit. I can't say how the Karaoke will wear, what with the soy content and all, but I can say that working with it was a yumfest.

Next post: Men in tiny yellow shorts and a contest which yours truly got to judge. Gotta love Austin.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Miss Jennifer Holiday, 1982 Tony Awards

Yes, Jennifer Hudson. Okay, Beyonce. But, really, Jennifer Holiday.

When the hoopla surrounding the movie Dreamgirls reaches fever pitch, let's all take a moment to remember who put the Broadway production on the map.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

today's special

First, thank you guys for your comments and stories. It's so easy to feel alone and crazy in working to develop a sound relationship with food. You start to wonder, Could anyone else on this planet possibly think about cookies as much as I do? But we all have our moments, our battles, and our victories with food.

Today's Good Eat is lunch, Trader's Wine Country Chicken Salad on a whole wheat pita with greens and tomatoes. The asparagus with carmelized garlic is garnish. Just kidding. Although, I do have a few stalks left to eat. I wish there were adequate words to describe just how delightful this chicken salad is. I find chicken salad as a concept just okay. But this version, with its pecans and cranberries and canola mayo -- it doesn't sound like it goes, but you have to taste it to believe it. Naturally, anything this tasty must be consumed in small doses, it's not exactly low in calories. To compensate, dinner is vegetable soup.

By the way, I have a newfound respect for food photographers. I found it nearly impossible to get a shot of the meal that didn't look like the pita was throwing up.

On a non-food note, I'd like to acknowledge Nancy Pelosi, first female Speaker of the House. I'm feeling more than a little proud of the strides American women have made. Now all this country needs is Michelle Robinson Obama for First Lady.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

mama likes candy

Oh yes she do.

When mama was a lil' bitty gal, she had this thing for a sticky sweet treat called Now and Laters -- "Eat some now, save some for later." Every school day warranted a stop at Brown's Carry Out to stock up on mama's favorite flavor -- grape. In fact, every day, regardless of school attendance, was cause for such an occasion, because mama never did do the thing about saving some for later. When it came to candy, it was all about The Now. Sometimes now was late at night and mama would pop one of those beloved little sugar squares into her mouth, burrow it between her back teeth and jaw, and suckle off to sleep. That was, of course, when she still had back teeth.

Ah, the good old days.

Some part of me hasn't fully accepted that they're over. I'm a grown-up in most aspects of my life, but there's always something lost in growing up, always something left behind, which leads to a certain amount of resistance. One way that my resistance has manifested itself is in the way that I eat.

Many years back, I went to a holistic therapist. My goal was to stop obsessing over my ex-boyfriend and, to tell the truth, I didn't even know the therapist was holistic. I went for my first visit, talked about the guy ad nauseam, and waited for her to tell me what to do. Instead, she looked at me and asked how I'd been eating. Again, this was a long time ago, before many of us had the understanding (whether we exercise it or not) of food that we have now. So when she asked about my diet, I matter-of-factly answered, "I eat pretty good. Mostly sweets, cake and stuff, pretty good." Her response was to send me off to the health food store for chromium and a consultation with the owner, who suggested I sink my teeth into The Yeast Connection, which I did. The Yeast Connection proffers a high-protein solution to controlling yeast, which is related to sugar cravings. Once you've stopped jonesing, you get to eat yourself some carbs, so it's a reasonable program. I followed it, took my chromium, learned all I could about whole and organic foods (which weren't affordably or easily come by then, unlike now when we have Organic Rice Krispies -- can you believe such madness?) and gained a wealth of knowledge about the right way to eat. I lost weight, which I didn't know I needed to do until I'd done it, gained a passel of clarity, and went about my business, sugar-free.

My therapist was happy, I was happy, and so I figured it was time to move on. Enter film school, New York City, and my lover and nemesis, Columbia Bagels.

It's a short jaunt from an everything bagel and its accompanist, cream cheese, to a donut. If you're not fastidious, you can easily pick up one when you're reaching for the other -- the cream cheese turns into a cold glass of milk; the salt, onions and seeds morph into candy sprinkles and soon you're over the edge.

My sugar-free life became my sugary life, just like it always had been.

But once you know something, it's impossible to go back to the way you were before you knew it, and as I resumed my old eating habits, I realized how terribly unsuited they were to my well-being. Still, the downhill slide lasted years, with a few trembling attempts at climbing back up thrown in for good measure.

What I didn't know then that I'm glad I know now is that my food choices had more to do with trying to return to a time when it wasn't necessary to be responsible in every little thing I did than with convenience or the hustle of life in the big city.

When I really get to feeling over-scheduled, overloaded, and kicked in the ass by life, I eat like I'm 9 years-old. Before I copied off Natalie and did the maple syrup diet a few weeks ago, my typical food day looked like this:

Breakfast (if I bothered)
- Zen Bakery cinnamon roll + cream cheese (the nutrition label nudges toward eating 1/2 the roll, but I've never been much good at that)

- a boiled egg or two

- water or orange juice (often my last water of the day)

- Tuna salad sandwich (from the food truck that stops by my job in the mornings)
- Free pizza (usually the run-off from some admissions event at school)

- Well, now here's where the trouble would really begin. I'd get home from work, usually around 2:30, and find myself obsessed with the fact that I live up the block from Ralph's. I hate Ralph's. Krogers' fancy-pants offspring. Overpriced, obnoxiously short-staffed, and a mecca of junk food. Absolutely the place to go when you're heading for a bender.

I'd skip down to Ralph's and pick up dinner. I'd maybe buy a roasted chicken and a container of potato salad to disguise my real raison d'etre: vinegar and salt potato chips and Haagen Dazs dark chocolate ice cream bars. And Hansen's Not Really Natural soda, because a girl gets thirsty after all that salt and sugar.

What would happen once I'd get my "food" home is kind of a blur, but I do have visions of myself tearing into those chips and sucking on those ice cream bars like there was no tomorrow. The chicken and potato salad were often relegated to the back of the fridge while I ate my treats for dinner.

But the Ralph's thing would only occur if I hadn't already stopped at Trader's by the time I reached home. There, I'd pick up a couple bags of their ridiculously orgasmic Hawaiian salt and vinegar or barbecue flavored kettle chips and a plank of milk chocolate with raisins and nuts. Yummers.

When I eat this stuff, I don't stop until I can see daylight through the bottom of the bag. This doesn't leave much room for veggies, I must say.

Post maple syrup diet, I've gotten what I aimed for in doing it -- fewer cravings and, more importantly, control over my emotional eating. (Though I like the diet, I'm not pointing anyone toward ten days of maple syrup and lemons. I've used other methods to get where I am now in the past and they all worked to some degree.) Today I am eating like a bona fide adult, which is good.

To keep myself on track, once a week I'll post a picture of a particularly responsible meal that I am preparing to consume. Sometimes it'll be stuff I make myself, other times, wise restaurant choices.

There won't be any pictures of Now and Laters.

I've led this post with today's Good Eat. A bit of organic hummus and some healthy goodness to go along with it. Had it for lunch. Yummers, indeed.