Friday, February 20, 2009

Food, Glorious Food!

I’m sitting here, in the back of the “classroom”, on an uncomfortable stool. A raggedy old off-white apron protects my clothes, a hand towel rests in the customary place over my left shoulder. The room has mirrors over the main counter so you can get a good view of the chef’s hands at work chopping an onion or deboning a chicken, but her head is covering her labor and I’m stuck guessing what the hell she meant about sticking the knife inside the ball and socket joint of the chicken thigh.

The class started at 10:30 and it’s slated to end at 2:30. That’s four hours of culinary education for me to absorb. Imagine my surprise at finding out they hold four-hour classes in the middle of a Friday, but I guess that’s probably why there’s only five people here, (sometimes it’s nice to be unemployed. Actually, it’s always nice to be unemployed). There’s enough counter space for four more people, but who would show up late to a class they voluntarily signed up and paid for? Besides, she’s already shown us how to debone a chicken, anybody who shows up now is only going to make it worse for themselves.

It looks like I spoke too soon. The class started 20 minutes ago and people are still wandering in. Amazing. Whoever ends up being my partner better not slow me down. I may not be a professional chef, but I know my way around a kitchen and I don’t need somebody who doesn’t know the difference between a stock and a broth messing up my dishes!

As the assistants place the whole chicken on my board I’m a bit hesitant. The Chef made it look so easy. A few quick slices and her yard bird was in pieces faster than you can say “Sir Digby Chicken Caesar”. Sadly, my own bird won’t fare as well, between my hesitant, sloppy cuts and my partner’s choppy hacking at the meat, the chicken ends up looking like it was attacked by a blind butcher during an earthquake. I hope the teacher doesn’t notice. Or, if she does, I hope she knows that it’s my partner’s fault and not mine. Hell, the half of the chicken I deboned looks like an effing Rembrandt painting compared to my partner’s half. It looks like she watched Hostel before coming to class today. Maybe that’s why she’s late.

They threw us in deep during the class. I guess you have to have basic knife knowledge before attending a class at L’Academie De Cuisine, because the teachers pretty much take it for granted that I know how to julienne these sundried tomatoes. Of course if you put a knife in my hand I can chop, slice, dice and stab, so there’s no problem.

Coq au vin, chicken scaloppini with sundried tomatoes, lemon and watercress, curried chicken salad with walnuts and pears and Thai-style barbecued chicken with cilantro and lime. All of these dishes I prepared with finesse and skill. My knife was a blur of chopping and slicing. My wooden spoon was in constant motion, stirring my many dishes simultaneously. My cutting board was my painter’s palate, upon which I used the various ingredients as tools to create culinary works of art. My pots and pans were the canvases that housed my dishes.

Wait a minute, did she just use the same hand to touch raw chicken and then touch her food? Oh well, too late to warn her. Guess my partner will just have to learn the hard way about food contamination. As she becomes intimately acquainted with her toilet tonight, she might regret her absent-minded hand gestures during our Chicken Techniques class. Silly woman!

It’s 1:45 now. Class ends early, since there are only 9 people in attendance. Our dishes turned out pretty well, considering my partner wanted to add a ridiculous amount of spices to everything we were making, (she’s Indian, so as far as she’s concerned, if it doesn’t have cumin and coriander in it, it’s not worth eating). I’m not entirely sure what capers are, and I think I reduced my sauce for the chicken scaloppini too much, leaving it as just a bunch of sundried tomatoes, but otherwise, this has been a productive class. I’ve got a bunch of new recipes to try out and I’m more comfortable cooking poultry. My belly is full from four different chicken dishes and I’m ready for my afternoon nap.

I wonder what class I should take next. “Basic knife skills”? “Sauces and gravies”? “Liver and Brussels Sprouts for tots”? “Cannibalism for Beginners”? “Chilled Monkey Brains and Snake Surprise: Indy’s favorite dishes”? Guess, I’ll just have to study the brochure a little more.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ferris Bueller ain’t got shit on me!

In these turbulent days in America, when the economy is going down the toilet faster than a watery dump, and our social identity is reflective of Popeye’s friend Wimpy (I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a bailout/stimulus package today!) it’s no surprise that I have joined the ever expanding throng of jobless Americans. Of course, unlike the rest of the Great Unemployed Unwashed, I purposely don’t want a job. It gives me a chance to work on my nunchuck skills.

On the other hand, all of the free time I have threatens to drown me in a wave of ennui. I can watch cartoons and sit around in my boxers only so much before my mind starts to shut down from lack of use. I’ve gotten used to being productive and I’m having a hard time getting back to my old slacker self.

That’s when it hit me. Having no job isn’t a punishment, it’s a blessing! This is my opportunity to go out and live! When Ferris Bueller took his day off, he didn’t just hang out in his place surfing the internets for clown porn, he went out and had a wonderful day in Chicago, impersonating sausage magnates and singing falsetto on convenient parade floats. That’s every high school kid’s dream!

So I’ve decided to turn my boredom into excitement! Or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Sadly, I’m in my frugal phase, so I can’t really go out and make it rain on some middle of the day, C Squad strippers. I’m limited to doing things that don’t really cost that much, like terrorizing campers with crudely tied bundles of sticks a la Blair Witch, or sitting on the street corner begging for change.

Luckily I live in the D.C. metro area so there are oodles of cheap entertainment options for me to take advantage of, (oops, I shouldn’t let that dangle like that. Let me rephrase: “Oodles of cheap entertainment options of which I can take advantage.) Like slashing the tires of the cars in the Chuck E. Cheese parking lot, or loitering outside of the Quickstop with my hetro lifemate.

Yesterday I hoped on the metro. And after a long, convoluted journey, which involved me jumping on and off trains like my name is Jason Bourne, I found myself downtown on the National Mall. My plan: a luxuriously slow-paced examination of the various museums that make up the Smithsonian.

You see, even though I’m local, every time I’ve gone to the museums it’s been with at least one other person. When people go to museums in groups of two or more, they don’t really take the time to peruse* the many exhibits there for our edutainment. Everybody just kind of blows by the exhibits as if it’s a race to get through the museum superfast while retaining as little information as possible.

So I decided to go to my favorite museum, (Air & Space represent!) to finally learn how man was able to break the surly bonds of gravity to ascend to the heavens, (turns out it involves helium and toothpicks. Who knew?). There’s a certain level of kick assitude to the Air & Space museum. It’s got big ole planes hanging from the ceiling, that were installed in the early 70s and threaten to fall and crush you at any moment. It’s got old, yellowed Russian documents that are purported to be about the 1960s space race, but could also be a recipe for borsht, for all I know. It has installations that tackle head on the fact that we are all insignificant specks on a stupid ball of dirt in an ever expanding and unloving universe. It’s got astronaut ice cream!

I stepped into the lobby of the museum a little after 11. Though there were metal detectors and x-Ray machines in the entrance, I was waved through without any fuss. Which was great because I was packing my special going-to-downtown-D.C. Luger and I didn’t want to have to make a scene at the museum, capping inept security guards left and right. It would have hindered the learning experience.

When I left the museum, a little over three and a half hours later, I hadn’t even finished the first floor. I had been overcome by all of the knowledge there for me to absorb. I had wandered, childlike, eyes full of awe and wonderment, from exhibit to exhibit trying to make sense of the deluge of aeronautical information.
I was particularly fascinated by the Russian spaceship toilets installation. These were intimidating machines, full of tubes and nozzles that in no way looked comfortable to use. Ivan sure is crazy!

As I walked out of the museum, into the gale-force winds that we had yesterday, I realized that my original plan of hitting up two museums that day was too na├»ve. I hadn’t even finished looking at all the exhibits on one floor of one of the dozen or so museums that liter the mall, (not counting the ones located elsewhere in the city.) So, it looks like I’m gonna make Thursdays my museum day. Each Thursday I’ll make my way down town and spend a few hours at a museum before winging my way back home before rush hour is in full effect. If you live in the DC area and are jobless, (like myself) or just want to play hooky for a day, then join me next Thurs at the mall, and we’ll enjoy a day of edutainment fit for the whole family!

But bring a bag lunch, those DC McDonalds prices are no joke. Seriously, I don’t even have a joke for how unnecessarily expensive that food can be. It’s stupefying.

*In its original definition, meaning to study intently. It’s odd how the meaning of that word has evolved over the centuries. Go ahead, look it up.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Being a mature, responsible adult sucks booty!

I’m 28 years old and I have a specific pattern. I accumulate money, (typically during deployments to Iraq) and then blow through the entire bank account within six months on disposable things, like booze, movies and pizza, with nothing to show for it except a fat belly and a large porno collection. Then, I get sent back to Iraq and start the cycle over again. It’s worked like gangbusters for me ever since I got out of college.

I’m no good at staying on top of bills or monitoring how much money I actually have. I end up owing large amounts of money to companies that I’m too lazy to fight against. My problem is that money is nothing to me. It’s not something to be saved, it’s meant to be spent. That’s what drives this wonderful capitalist economy we’re so proud of. Money is like herpes, no matter how much you try to get rid of it, it’ll always be around.

But, now that I’m older and in the twilight of my years, it’s been deemed that I need to stop my financial mobius strip lifestyle. I need to start acting like the mature, responsible person I vowed to the Gods of Saturday Morning Cartoons I’d never be.

And it sucks.

Instead of being totally scatterbrained about my monies (I love that word!), I have to pay attention to things! Checking my various bank accounts, ING accounts, CDs, stocks, investments, bills, pants pockets and piggy bank is a full time job in itself. I thought my money was supposed to work for me, instead I’m feeling like Kunta Kinte over here.

Scrooge McDuck never had this problem! He just kept his money, (which, interestingly, seemed to be made up mostly of coins) in his big ass money bin, (which is funny because he owned all the banks in Duckberg, but never kept his cash there. Do you think his banks got any of that bailout money?) where he’d go swimming a couple times a day, thereby keeping track of his money and keeping in shape at the same time. Now that’s L-I-V-I-N.

Being rich would be very helpful. I could just hire an attorney (or three, each watching each other to make sure nobody’s ripping me off) to take care of my money for me. I could have a majordomo, like Robert Duvall in The Godfather. The only problem is that to be rich enough to hire somebody to keep track of my money for me, I need to keep track of my money. It’s a devastating Catch-22.

And you wanna know what the most humbling thing is? I’ve had to put myself on a weekly allowance, like some kind of small, irresponsible child, (or like a useless, yet super gorgeous trophy husband, which I wouldn’t mind being one day). Which means I can’t just indiscriminately buy things like I used to. I have to be frugal, which goes against my very nature!

Sometimes I wish I were a Smurf. They never use money, they just barter when they need something. When Baker Smurf needs something built, he gives Handy Smurf some special brownies, and bingo! He gets a brand new harness for his autoerotic asphyxiation experiments. On the other hand, if I were a Smurf I’d be getting sloppy 75ths on Smurfette’s cavernous vagina and that’s no fun for anybody. Not to mention Gargamel would constantly be trying to eat me and I’d be French. But I digress.

Money is on everybody’s mind these days, (well, it’s on everybody’s mind everyday, but even more so recently) and for good cause. Everything’s going to hell and soon we’ll be spending our days standing around in Marxist breadlines, hoping for soggy, mildewed crusts. It’ll be bad*. It’ll be so bad, we’ll be letting our children work for 35 cents a day in Pennsylvania coal mines, coating their little bitty lungs with coal dust in the cutest way. It’ll be so bad that in Ethiopia they’ll watch commercials with Sally Struthers imploring them to spend a few cents a day on little Billy Bob in Possum Cootch, KY. It’ll be so bad that we’ll soon envy the little kids working in those Taiwanese Nike sweat shops. It’s going to be so bad that soon I’m going to start sending unsolicited emails to Nigerian businessmen, telling them I’ve got a few million stashed away somewhere and I’ll need a good faith investment of a hundred thousand to get it out.

What can we do about it? Beats me. I’m not the guy to come to for financial advice. Hell, I’ve been broke and homeless before. I currently have at least three loan shark goons hanging out in the bushes in front of my building waiting for me to walk outside so they can cut off my pinkies.

In the end, I guess all we can do is keep our mind on our money and our money on our mind. Don’t go out and buy useless or impulsive shit like Uggs, or toilet paper. Save your money for important things, like sweet, big ass HD televisions, Faberge Eggs and diamond-studded, gold-plated grand pianos. Then, if everything goes right, one day some lucky hacker will strike it rich stealing your identity. It’s the American dream.

*How bad will it be?