Sunday, February 1, 2009

Food for Thought: 37 Must Know Facts about Tracy's Diet

1. I do eat. I get frustrated that people – including complete strangers – feel inclined to tell me to eat more (more than what? How does a complete stranger know how much I do/n’t eat?) or that I’m too skinny (do I tell people they’re too fat? Too stupid? Too unattractive? No. No. No.). I eat plenty. Not always 3 squares a day, but I can put it down. Ask anyone who really knows me. (And just so you know, asking "How do you stay so thin?" is WILDLY different from telling me I'm TOO skinny). I've got stories for y'all sometime...

2. I enjoy both cooking and baking. And I’m good at both.

3. My favorite summertime meal (both to prepare and to eat): Cherry Cola Ribs, Midwest Potato Salad, Red Beet Eggs & Corn on the Cobb. And I'll probably make two or three desserts to finish up a 'light' meal like this...

4. Pizza: An East Coast transplant, I still don’t understand why everyone in the Midwest thinks Chicago-Style pizza is so good. I find it disgusting. I’d take a ginormous slice of NY pizza any day. Unless I’m in Italy, and then I want the real stuff.

5. My favorite flavor of ice cream is coffee. Unless I’m in Italy, and then it’s a triple scoop of strawberry, lemon and pink grapefruit. Chocolate ice cream has always been disgusting to me – I remember refusing it as a 4-year old at birthday parties.

6. Up until about 5 weeks ago, avocados made me gag. Now, I eat one daily for lunch.

7. I love Jack Daniels over 3 ice cubes. Heaven.

8. With the exception of tobiko, I can’t stand roe / caviar. I’ve tried to like it – I really have – but I fail to see why others love it so and why anyone would pay good cash for that salty, fishy shit.

9. One of my most memorable meals ever was my first trip to Italy with my husband and his brother. We spent a freezing cold day in the mountain-top town of Arezzo, drove recklessly thru the streets of Sutri and found a small family restaurant that was open and warm. I had rabbit pappardelle, sausage and salad -- it was sublime. For dessert, we went back to our condo and ate the pastries we purchased in Arezzo in front of the fire.

10. After reading “Fast Food Nation” several years ago, I made a new rule that the family (in particular, the kids) were not to have fast food. This rule is only really challenged when we drive back to PA in the summer (11 hours on the road - what can you do?). I’m proud that they don’t whine and complain to go to McDonald's or Burger King.

11. That said, I often break the no fast food rule, particularly when I’m feeling anxious or upset. A kids meal is all I need, but then they always include that damn toy – evidence of my betrayal. I hide the toys in the ‘secret’ compartment under the front passenger seat of my car because I started feeling guilty about telling my kids that friends of mine gave me the toys to give to them. I put the unwrapped toys from my car collection in the bags we take to the Salvation Army or put them in my daughter’s school’s PTA closet for ‘prizes’ at BINGO.

12. KFC mashed potatoes and gravy are divine. I could eat my weight of those bastards any day. Go on…challenge me. KFC in general is a weakness, even tho it usually trashes my stomach before I’ve finished the meal and I can guarantee shitting my brains out within 2 hours of consuming it.

13. Arugula is my favorite leafy green thing. I eat it – in bed – with a block of good parmesan cheese that I peel with a veggie peeler to get those thin little curls of cheese. Carlo finds this to be a strange food to eat in bed, but he’s joined me on one or two occasions.

14. I spent 3 days in January 2008 making sausage with my husband and father in law. Stuffing the sausage into hog casings is hard and pornographic work.

15. I DO NOT share my desserts. It doesn’t matter if it is a Tapas restaurant or if you don’t think you can eat an entire dessert. I can. Don’t fuck with me on this one. Find a new buddy to eat with if you can’t abide by this rule. And let me be clear: one bite IS sharing.

16. I’m almost OCD in my dessert ordering. Crème brulee (or panna cotta) or flan. Carlo HATES that I won’t ever order anything new. I don’t know why he cares because even if I did stray from my eggy custard delights, I wouldn’t share it with him anyway.

17. I find water to be the most boring beverage on earth. I’m only good at drinking it if it is in a huge red wine glass and with a giant lemon wedge.

18. I love eating raw potatoes.

19. I think cooked spinach tastes like bile. It ranks right up there with lima beans in my book of things that are evil.

20. Next to whiskey, coffee is my favorite beverage. Particularly Dunkin Donuts coffee. I think Starbucks coffee tastes like burned ass and I’m perplexed at America’s dedication to the slop.

21. My first date with Carlo was at a Chi-Chi’s in State College. I don’t remember what I ate, but I remember knowing before the entrée came out that this was the guy I had to marry.

22. My mother is the worst cook in the world. I joke that I am still skinny from not eating for the first 17 years of my life while she was in charge of the meals. I’m also convinced that if it weren’t for her just wanting me to go the hell to bed, I’d still be chewing on a pork chop she made one night in the late 70s while we lived in the apartment on Race Street. (* See note below)

23. I think I became interested in cooking for two reasons: 1) Carlo is Italian, and those crazy wops LOVE to eat. 2) I never had an Easy Bake Oven when I was little.

24. Thanksgiving dinner is my favorite holiday meal to prepare. When I was gainfully employed, I’d take two or three days off before the big day to cook and prepare. One year, I made 5 desserts, including a trio of bite-sized yummies. Even if someone else hosts on Thanksgiving Day, I usually end up making my own dinner for my family that weekend – it’s never Thanksgiving unless MY house smells like stuffing and gravy.

25. I adore food movies, and “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman” is among my favorite of this genre. So is “Big Night,” not just because they totally nailed the Italian obsession with fresh, delicious (and entirely too much) food, but also because the movie has one of the best endings of all film history. Rent it now if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

26. I keep 5 martini glasses in the door of my freezer, just in case.

27. I was 26 years old before I had sushi. We didn’t know how to order and ended up ordering $80 worth of raw fish. It was not a good experience. The second experience was significantly better and I’ve been a sushi junkie ever since.

28. At a wedding reception right after graduating college, I accidentally ate two cubes of butter, having mistaken them for cheese cubes. As soon as I realized it was butter (this is the second cube), I almost threw up. Carlo and I still laugh that it took me two cubes to come to this shocking conclusion.

29. About three weeks ago, my daughter served me a toasted bagel covered in Crisco (she saw a silver wrapped package in the fridge door and assumed it was cream cheese). I haven’t had a bagel since.

30. Watching Sex & The City always makes me hungry for s’ghetti and meatballs (there’s an episode where Miranda and Carrie are eating pasta at an outside café at night). Watching Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle usually ends with Carlo leaving the house to get us a Sack of 10. Watching Gilmore Girls makes me crave a good hamburger and diner fries, preferably served on Milo Ventimiglia's naked torso.

31. I get angry when people ruin desserts by including coconut or pineapple in them. Yes – I said ANGRY.

32. I work hard not to use public restrooms in restaurants. Almost everytime I do – no matter how fancy the restaurant is – I gag.

33. I puked in two empty pint glasses on our table at the Ten Cat. I’ve never gone back.

34. All of those fancy fondant cakes you may have seen on my Facebook page – I made them all and I’m self-taught. I will give some props to Gale Gand and Duff (the Ace of Cakes guy), since I spent a lot of time watching them bake on Food Network.

35. I defer all sandwich-making to my husband. It’s not that I can’t make a good sandwich, I’m just lazy. For a few years, I think he bought the “you make them so much better than I do” excuse. But he’s caught on, and now just does it so I don’t bitch and complain about having to do everything AND make sandwiches.

36. Butterscotch TastyKakes make me think of Pappy.

37. There is but one way to eat french fries: Covered in vinegar, salt and with a side of ketchup. And there is but one french fry -- from The Alamo at Knoebel's.

*Note: My mother's cooking skills have improved greatly over the years, and she even tries out new recipes. Two years ago, for Christmas, she phoned me and requested a Rachel Ray cookbook -- I thought she had dialed the wrong number! So let's just edit this to read: She was the worst cook in the world...

Spinning Yarn: A True Story

Last night, my husband, Carlo, and I were unable to secure a babysitter and had to cancel our date with friends. In an attempt to redeem what was left of a difficult day of schlepping kids to ice skating lessons, getting rid of the Christmas tree (yes, we did this on January 31st) and scrubbing cat pee out of my son's room, we decided to tag team in the kitchen and make risotto, which left our 5-year old son, Paolo, to his own devices, as 8-year old Maggie was actually entertaining herself with her Barbies in the newly cleaned toy room. While in the final 5-minutes of the dish, a ball of yarn rolls into the kitchen. Paolo is 4 paces behind it and smiling. Carlo picks up the ball & tells Paolo to wind it back up, it's mommy's and he's not to play with it. And we go back to the risotto, because how difficult could that instruction be?

Five minutes later, something catches Carlo's eye and he starts to freak out - Paolo has decided to become Spiderman and use my yarn (which is attached to a new project, by the way) as his web. He's got a good 5 inches of yarn twisted and knotted TIGHTLY around his left arm, but it doesn't end there. We live in a century-old, vintage 6 flat -- our condo is 100' long from stem to stern -- and Paolo has rolled the yarn (which I've violently ripped from his arm) throughout all but 2 rooms in our house.

It's around chairs, under beds and wrapped around the waste can and heater in the big bathroom. It skirted through the tongues of some shoes in our closet and then stretched all the way back up front, where it was tangled in Barbie's townhouse AND Hannah Montana's backstage locker.

I actually called the 5-year old "Asshole." To his face. That's how crazy mad I was. And again -- all this yarn was attached to a knitting needle -- this was an IN PROGRESS ball of yarn (and I had already torn the project apart three times that day).

It took us a full 15-minutes (and by us, I mean Carlo because I was in the back putting Paolo into jammies and threatening no dinner (and he loves risotto. it's one of the 5 meals he eats)). All the while, yelling at how hateful a thing this was. By now, he is crying his eyes out -- he even has those little shakes because Carlo and I are both so. damn. angry. It went something like this:

Me: Paolo! Why did you do this?
Paolo: I don't know Mommy.
Me: No dinner for you! I'm too furious to even look at you.
Paolo: No rizzotto?
Me: No!
Paolo: I'm sowwy, Mommy.
Me: It was so rude. I'm furious.
Paolo: I know it was wude. I don't know why I did it...

And so on, and so on.

Once Carlo salvaged the yarn, we warmed up the risotto (and it was good) and called Paolo to the table. Three bites into the meal, I burst into tears for getting so freaked out about a ball of yarn. Paolo ended up sitting on my lap while we cried and ate our risotto together, while Carlo and Maggie sat across the table, looking at us like we were insane.

I went to bed last night STILL feeling bad about calling him an asshole (who does that???) and worried that I damaged him permanently. And what happens next? That little asshole woke up this morning like nothing ever happened and has already picked three fights with his sister, pummeled the cat with stuffed toys (the same cat that deliberately uses Paolo's bedroom as a litterbox) and jammed a wadded up tissue up his nose so far that Carlo couldn't even see it. Worry not -- we got it out.