Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Eight Crazier Nights

By now you probably know that Hanukkah is early this year. Thanksgiving is a bit late. But Christmas, my friends... Christmas is a fixed date. 

So why is it that my building felt inclined to put up the Christmas tree in the lobby on November 18? Why in g-d's name, or his son's anyway, is that ok? And why have the radio stations jumped on this early bird bandwagon too? First they decided that starting the holiday music on Thanksgiving was a thing (and we let them do it, mind you). Then Thanksgiving day got bumped back to the start of Thanksgiving week (we could practically taste the stuffing, so what harm could it do). Then Thanksgiving was late so they decided to start the holiday tunes a week earlier (for those celebrating with last year's calendar). But I heard a few songs being mixed into "today's hits" as of mid-November, and that just ain't right. This year the holiday celebrating is totally out of whack.  It has gone too far and someone has to reel it in. Sure Chanukkah is here now, but Christmas is December 25.... Every. F-ing. Year. Alls I'm saying is, there is no need for the tree pre-Thanksgiving. That and the fact that playing the Cranberries the week of Thanksgiving is somewhat clever, but doesn't change the fact that the Cranberries suck all year long.
Please note the lack of snow, sleet, hail, rain, cold or any other indicators of the holiday season outside...
that's because it was November 18.
But enough about trees, let's talk about food. I spend a lot of my time thinking about food. Seriously, an unhealthy amount of my time, really. So for me, the connection between foods and the special occasions on which I get to consume them is a very real thing. In many cases, the special occasion in question is a holiday, hence my need for this rolling series on which foods I eat at which holidays. For those of you keeping track, this is the third one. And with Hannukah coming up, I figured it was time for another list of food I am looking forward to eating.

Chanukah, like all of our holidays, falls at a different time every year. This year it is especially early, rolling in with the turkey, an often talked about holiday mashup that exists because of some damn early* Jewish holidays this year. (*I still don't understand why, but for some reason when we talk about our holidays, they are either late or early, but weirdly never on time). 

There are as many ways of spelling Hanuka as there are possible start dates. As Channukah is usually in December, there are varying theories on whether it is better to get it out of the way early and avoid all comparisons with Christmas or to go head to head, assuming it rolls past the 25th and we keep getting stuff long after the Christmas gifts have been opened and cast aside. The fact is, we do like to keep up with our non-Jewish friends. Oh, you have one day of kick ass presents? Well we get gifts for eight nights in a row! (Don't mention that socks and pj's come on two separate nights and that there aren't nearly as many toys). Oh, you dress up to collect candy from stranger's houses? Well we dress up during Purim so no one knows who we are so they won't kill us. (Yeah, a bit of a downer there). Oh, you hunt for Easter eggs? Well we hunt for the afikomen. You get money and candy in your eggs? Well, we might get some money when we find the matzoh (we will definitely get constipated).

But back to Hannuka: my primary interest in this holiday is not with the candles or the dreidels or the gifts. As with most Jewish holidays, my primary interest is the food. Chanuka is when we celebrate the gift of the oil. And how better to celebrate oil than to deep fry everything in sight?

Jelly filled doughnuts are always a treat, but during Chanukka it is actually a mitvah (good deed) to eat them... or so I keep telling myself. Here's a suggestion to any of the mainstream donut places who might be reading this... cream and jelly should be one flavor. Those that do it call it a bismark, but not everyone does it, and I believe everyone should be in on this one. One amazingly delicious flavor.  Actually, two flavors: the cream/custard from a Boston Cream and jelly. And also the chantilly/whipped cream like in a Krispie Kreme and jelly. Both of them. Why not? When is adding cream to something ever a bad idea? Yet somehow I don't think this idea has really caught on... Yet. 

But back to the oil. As we all know, nothing deep fries quite like a potato. Let us all hail the mighty potato latke. 

Not actually a picture of our latkes... we're way too busy eating them to take a picture, but I do like the look of these. Never trust a latkes with smooth rounded edges.
Latkes are a tremendous pain in the a$$ to make, but they are so worth the effort. I can best equate it to childbirth: it takes a full year to forget the pain so you are able to do it all over again the following year. But potato latkes are their own reward. Hot, crispy, deep fried goodness. And no, I would never make you choose between sour cream and apple sauce because all latkes should be served with both. Choosing one would be ludicrous. One should not even entertain a debate on the matter. Utter nonsense.

Hanukka also has money made out of chocolate... chubby jew heaven. Yes, because I am Jewish I can say that. But if you say it and you are not Jewish, you are a racist, intolerant, anti-semetic bigot. Weird, right?

Two other Jewish foods to add to the 'Such a Huge Pain In The A$$ to Make But So Damn Good and If I Wait Long Enough I Will Hopefully Forget and Try To Make Them Again' list are blintzes and rugelah. 
Blintzes are thin crepes stuffed with cheesey gooeyness and topped off with sour cream (yes, we top our dairy with dairy, what's it to you?) and usually some sort of fruit sauce. So tasty, yet such a pain to make.
Rugelah are buttery, crumbly, rolled cookies with a nut/dried fruit/jam filling (sometimes chocolate, if you're not a purist). Unfortunately, there is no quality control for rugelah out there so while you can find some good ones, you can also find some that should not be allowed to be called rugelah. If you see rugelah wrapped in plastic at your local gas station, do not, I repeat, do not attempt to consume. That is not a fair representation of what can and should be a sweet, buttery, melt in your mouth delightful experience. Seek out some good ones from a decent bakery, or attempt to make them yourself. Several years later you may even consider trying to make them again.

Ok then, after Channuka the holiday season really kicks off. I'm probably knee deep in some egg nog by now. Awwww, yeah, multi-cultural home! Best of all worlds... and by worlds I mean foods. My family has always celebrated Merry, the day when everyone has off work and we get to eat Thanksgiving dinner all over again. That's a meal that needs eating at least twice a year. Plus big bulk store cinnamon buns in the morning... warmed up, of course, so the cinnamon filling gets just hot enough that you burn your mouth on the first bite, but it's so good with the ooey, gooey cream cheese frosting which is also a little melted that you can't help but polishing off the entire half you cut for yourself and then going back for the second half. Sure, they're the size of a baby's head, but technically you've only eaten one, so it's not that gross.

But where was I, oh yeah, food. It's great isn't it? I can't believe I've done three installments and I haven't even mentioned stuffed cabbage, knishes or corned beef. There may need to be a part four. After that I might just keep going with my favorite non-Jewish foods. That is basically a Bubba/Gump style list which includes 86 versions of bacon (and shrimp!). Watch this space. 

Have a very happy holidays, whichever ones you celebrate. Indulge in all your favorites. It is the most wonderful time of the year after all, no doubt because of all the food we can happily consume under the guise of merry-making. Enjoy! I know I do.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reunited and it feels so good

I just spent the past five minutes singing a random string of snippets from various love songs from the 70's and 80's. Somehow my typing "Reunited and it feels so good" managed to trigger a run of songs that played during a compilation box set commercial from when I was young. I seem to have memorized one particular ad, so I figured I would share it, for those of you who also saw this ad growing up. Bonus points for anyone who can dig me up a you tube video of said commercial, cause g-d knows I'm too lazy to do it.
"Reunited and it feels so good" into
"Alllll I neeeeeeeeed" into
"I'm all out of love, I'm so lost without you" cut off by
"When I need you" into
"Darlin' if you want me to be, closer to you, get closer to me"
I think that was the end of the commercial. But I also recall a part of it that went:
"Nights in white satin" into
"I've been waiting for a girl like you" into
"Cherish the love we have"cut to
"Precious and few are the moments we two can share"
Whenever I hear any of those songs that played while the titles and artists scrolled up the screen, I am forced to recite the whole thing, or what I can remember of it.

But that's not what I was going to talk about today. Jeez... talk about short attention span. I'm already way off track and I haven't even started yet.

I had a reunion with a large group of friends from college last weekend. Brought together under the worst circumstances imaginable: the passing of a mutual friend, we all met up to memorialize a wonderful girl, catch up and reminisce. It was great to see those friends... I would have said old friends, but I hate to think of us as old. Of course the fact is I've been out of college over 3 times as long as I was in college... *shudder* But we're not old. Really we're not. Well, we're not that old.

It was amazing to reconnect after all these years. We were able to share a few good laughs too, which was much needed, given the nature of our reunion. I definitely need to steal more time to reminisce about those carefree days of yesteryear. Now I know what you're thinking: "You just said "yesteryear." You're f-ing old." You may be right. But I wasn't always. These girls lived with me when I was young, silly and fun.... blackout drunk most of the time, but young nonetheless. The truth is, I am still fun... but I can remember most of it now.

Having good friends makes life much richer. People who share in the things you love is a wonderful thing. I love food. Not in a fancy foodie way, but in a "get in my belly" way. My eating habits are nothing short of sick, but in the best way possible. Somehow, through some miracle of life, I have found other women who not only don't get sick at the thought of partaking in a massive food tour of New York, but who relish the opportunity. (mmmmm... relish!)

So, the day of the night of the reunion, a few of us got together for what we have since dubbed the inaugural Fat Ass Food Tour of New York. The tour kicked off in the wee hours of the morning when I joined my pregnant friend, who was already waiting in line for 20 minutes, to queue up for a Cronut. By now you've probably heard about the Cronut. If not, let me fill you in. It's a hybrid baked good: croissant-like in buttery flakiness and donut like in shape and filling/topping capability. The bakery only makes about 300 a day and they typically sell out pretty quickly. They only make one flavor every month, and you get what you get and you don't get upset. Fortunately the flavor gods were smiling on us, and while we could have had the crushing disappointment of say: elderflower or passionfruit, we were graced with a heavenly salted dulce de leche... salted dulce de leche, for those that missed it the first time. Heavenly! There are still a few days left in November... get there now. For as much as I didn't want to believe the hype, the Cronut is every bit as good as the hype would suggest. It was buttery, slightly crunchy, sugary and salty, the filling was light, creamy and not overly flavored... it was amazing. I am glad they are such a huge pain in the butt to get or I would have a legitimate problem on my hands... and on my thighs.

After standing in line for almost two hours, seeing this sign is the emotional equivalent of "hearing about a great aunt passing," according to my friend Jenna. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that she is right. After the initial shock and sadness, we had to reconcile our disappointment and anger, which were both real and fairly embarrassing once we acknowledged it was for a pastry... and once we discovered they weren't actually sold out.

Hello Cronut deliciousness!

At our second stop we met up with two more fat ass friends at a place that sells tiny bagel holes filled with different flavored cream cheeses. I feel bad for the bagels, since we all went straight from savoring the Cronuts to squirting cream cheese on our hands and laps when we attacked them all wrong. I'm not sure what food could follow a Cronut, but I wouldn't want to be the bagel hole that tries. As a sidenote, the best bagel flavor was the traditional everything bagel with veggie cream cheese. Who knew?

Assorted bagel holes. The best flavor? Cronut residue in the back of our teeth.
Our next stop after the bagel place was Brooklyn to meet up with a few more Fat Ass Tour participants and experience the Smorgasburg. We got sidelined on our way out to Brooklyn and found ourselves forced into trying a "meatball in a cup." Seriously, we were on a Fat Ass Food Tour and we saw something called a "meatball in a cup"... what were we supposed to do? Obviously we had to deviate from our schedule and try it. We did make sure to note the time: it was 11:08 am, so we weren't that disgusting for doing it. By our calculations, the 11 o'clock hour is practically lunchtime.
We threw away most of that focaccia, so we're not that fat.
A few subway detours later and we found our way to the Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. Mid-November scared a few of the vendors away, but there was still a really nice representation of good bad food (read: delicious, but by no means healthy). One could make a food tour just out of a visit to the Smorgasburg. Not quite enough for us, but I'm sure "one" could.

Smorgasburg is a great place to go when you have no idea what you want to eat, but you know you want to eat a lot. The ramen burger was the item that piqued our interest and brought us out there, but it didn't take much convincing to stay for the fried chicken, grilled cheese and eggplant parmigiana. We chose to line up for the ramen burger as soon as we got there, and without asking, one girl goes and gets cheese fries (really good ones) and another gets pigs in a blanket. Precious moments like that when you know you've got the right friends. That and knowing you can call them "fat asses" throughout your blog post and they will take it as a compliment.
Ramen noodles make up the bun encasing a cheeseburger. Interesting, but not the highlight of the day.

Damn good fried chicken and cheddar waffle.
Sounds like a lot of food, right? Well it didn't stop us from a last spin of the place to assemble a dessert buffet including: S'mores, two more donuts (to accompany the final Cronut), cheesecakes (3 flavors!), crumb cake and a nice juicy orange. Ha ha ha... yeah right. No orange, but the other stuff was there, and it was tasty. Ultimately, the Cronut may have been the star of the whole day. But feel free to ask any of the other tourers. And if I haven't totally grossed you out, let me know so I can include you on the FAFT 2014!

Goodbye Cronut magnificence!
Reunions are a funny thing in the age of Facebook. I have to admit it is nice that we immediately skip ahead to knowing, for the most part, where everyone is living, approximately how many kids they have and what they've been up to. It left more time for fondly reminiscing about youth and silliness and fun. Sometimes you meet friends to whom you are forever bound by both your shared experiences and your pursuit of the same happiness. Back in college that pursuit had us huddled together outside of bars during snow storms, wearing tube tops and black pants, passing back fake ids to get into the same places week after week before setting off for late night cheese fries. We can still gather to laugh about those times, and share some new comical pursuits of happiness as well.

To the ladies I got to reconnect with, thank you for making a lovely event out of a tragedy. I hope there will be a next time with everyone that wasn't able to make it this time. Sooner than another 14 years and without the sadness of losing a beautiful sister, woman and friend.

With the first food tour done, I hope we can extend it to include more of our like-minded friends next time. Assuming there are others out there who don't find that day appalling, but appealing. Because having great friends means never having to say "are you gonna finish that?"

**Oh, and as it turns out, I am actually not that lazy... after much searching, here is the commercial I was looking for, and while it is cut off at the end, I absolutely nailed it! Why was I able to sing along with each line upon re-watching it for the first time in years? I remember where each song cuts in and out, yet I can't remember the names of some of the teachers at my kids school. Hopefully someone else can appreciate this one too. The aggressive lunge should make you laugh whether it's your first time seeing it or four hundredth.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Don't be fooled by the name "stroller"

This may seem reminiscent of my first few posts which angrily discussed my road rage walking in New York City. The thing is, I'm still angry and it's not getting any better. Plus, most of my early rage was based on walking solo. Now I've got company, and she's got a ride. So here I go again...

Listen up people of New York, (or any other place where people walk): I get it, we're all in a hurry to get somewhere. The thing is, none of our time is more valuable than others. Just because I am pushing a stroller doesn't mean I am not entitled to the same sidewalk courtesy that every other hustler on the street is afforded. (I mean hustler in the hurried sense, not in the late night pool player sense).

Please do not for a second think that just because I am pushing 27 pounds of machinery, 30 pounds of kid and another 16 pounds in the amazing Mary Poppins style bag I rock that I can't keep pace with you. Please do not think for a second that you are entitled to wander down the center of an otherwise clear sidewalk. Please do not think for a second that I am not just waiting for a wide enough spot on the sidewalk to pass you. And please do not think for a second that I have time to walk slowly behind you because you don't know about Blister Blocker and are walking around in shoes that clearly rub you the wrong way. You know what rubs me the wrong way? You, inconsiderate moderately paced walker.

Oh sure, it's easy enough for us to always blame the slow walkers for holding us up, but do you know what really screws the sidewalks? It's the people that think they are walking fast, so they swerve, weave, stop short or walk straight down the middle of the sidewalk and slow everyone behind them who can actually move quicker than them down. You know what I have to say to them? Move the F over!

I can best equate these folks to the drivers who cruise just above the speed limit in the left lane when there is no one in the right lane. Move over dammit! [For the folks reading this in England, that should read: drivers who cruise in the right lane when no one is in the left lane].

In this lady's defense, she heard the weird fake shutter noise on my camera and promptly moved to the side... In my defense, there have been a lot more situations when I have not been able to pass someone, but taking these pictures is kind of weird and I'm too lazy to document each and every one. You'll just have to take my word for it.

By now you've probably noticed that I have a heaping dose of what kids these days call the "road rage." Yes, I do. And it courses through my veins whether I am behind the wheel of my family sized crossover vehicle or the wheels of my bada$$ stroller. My mission is the same: to get where I am going as quickly and safely as possible. My obstacles are the same: people who think they are entitled to drive or walk like idiots. My response is the same, although with wildly different results: yelling nasty, frustrated comments at my windscreen, or in the instances when I am walking, directly at the person. This makes for a somewhat awkward moment when they turn around to see who is hazing them and see me pushing my daughter who's just chillin' in the stroller. It makes for a more awkward moment when she awesomely decides to go "beep beep" at that exact moment. It makes for an even more awkward moment when I stop short in my tracks to high five her because that was just too awesome to not immediately positively reinforce. But where was I? Oh yes, stroller road rage.

When I am pushing my stroller, unlike when I am driving a car, I can and will tailgate. Don't like getting the backs of your ankles clipped? Then step aside. I'm sure the email you are reading is very important and cannot wait. I'm not asking you to not read it. I'm just asking you to step to the side and read it. Otherwise, I might just be there to plow into you when you slow down to scroll down. And guess what? I should not have to apologize in that situation. If you can't hear my two year old, who is by no means voluminously challenged (yes, we're going to pretend like that's a thing), that is not my fault. She is my siren, she is my horn, she is the reason I cannot sneak up on people. So please don't pretend like you didn't hear the wheels clinking on the uneven sidewalk or the kid who IS happy, who DOES know it and who WAS clapping her hands.

I hate to play the parent card (not really, but it sounds nicer if I say that), but when I am in a hurry, it is usually for a legitimate reason: I am purposefully trying to get somewhere to provide nourishment for my hungry child; I am eagerly heading to the doctor's office for some symptom I have ignored for one too many days and now fear may severely impair my kid; I am frantically trying to reach home before she nods off to prevent a five minute stroller nap in lieu of a two hour crib nap; I am late getting her to school and every minute that I am late means one less minute of free/me time before I have to pick her up. That last one is essentially the race for enough time to go grocery shopping, throw in two loads of laundry and fit in a shower. So it would be ever so helpful if everyone could either move as fast as me, or if not, no worries, just get the heck out of my way.

Oh, and another thing... If I have passed you while walking down a block and then you see me waiting at the corner to cross, DO NOT pass me again as we cross the street unless you have suddenly had a surge in pace and will not be getting in my way again on the following block. Because if I have to tailgate you all over again, I may not keep quite the same courteous distance the second time. I should not have to pass you on every single block just because you get a jump start at the light before it actually turns green, but then proceed to walk just as slowly as when I had to pass you in the first place.

Just so we're clear, I do not mean to suggest that I am always in a hurry. Can I be slow? Of course I can. The other day it took us approximately 20 minutes to walk across one avenue as she thoughtfully inspected each and every leaf that had fallen on the sidewalk (it is currently autumn, so needless to say there were a lot). We are not always in a rush to get somewhere. Sometimes, especially when she wants to walk next to stroller instead of ride in it, we go VERY slow. But in those instances I do my best to create a lane beside us where any reasonable person could pass. My point is, don't just assume because I am in possession of a stroller that I am strolling. Sometimes I gotta be somewhere, and the inconsiderate walkers in front of me are nothing but the obstacles preventing me from getting there. To those folks I say: knock it off.

Don't make me angry, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry. Well, that's not really true, is it? I'm angry on here all the time and you like me. I guess what I'm trying to say is, just be mindful of the people trying to pass you. Don't clog up the walkways. And for the love of g-d, don't act like you own the sidewalks... you don't. I do. Or I would if I could. That is why I am trying to make them a better place for everyone to use efficiently and enjoy, as any good owner would do.

That's it for now. Unless it continues to bother me in which case, that's it until later.