I guess I need to clarify that question. I AM a wino in the sense that I am passionate about wine. I love to try new wines, pair wines with food, go to wine tastings etc. My question was more about the other type of wino, you know, for lack of a better way to put it, the drunk ones. Why am I pondering my association with the drunk winos now? Blame my husband. Every time we have wine (which is, I must admit, quite often) he says, “Baby, we are winos!” He always says this as he is refilling HIS glass. My response is always the same, “No, we are not. We simply like wine.” He did this again last night and it got me thinking, am I a wino?
I grew up in a house where my parents regularly drank wine. My Dad even had a wine cellar. From a young age Dad would pour me a little wine and ask me what I thought. I would make a face and he would laugh. Wine was also an integral part of our family celebrations. Every holiday my Dad would serve not one bottle of wine, but four (not including the champagne). My parents would invite friends over for wine tastings and the bottle count went up to at least eight. Mom would cook for days and the night of the tasting, inevitably at least a few of my parents friends would have to sleep over. To this day, when planning a visit to see my Dad, the first thing I think about is which wines to bring. My point being, that in my house, drinking wine was a celebration and a passion, it was never associated with the OTHER kind of wino.
My husband on the other hand grew up very differently. His parents rarely, if ever drank and when they did they had one beer or one mixed drink, no wine. They had no liquor of any kind in the house. It wasn’t that they frowned upon drinking per se, they just weren’t drinkers. My husband says it is because they are Jewish and mostly, Jews don’t drinks like us crazy wasps (that would be me). I don’t buy that explanation. I have dated plenty of heavy drinking Jewish boys over my life time. But I do think the differences in how we grew up do play a role in how he perceives our drinking now.
I went through a time when I WAS crazy with drinking, as did my husband. I drank too much on many nights in college and then spent a good part of my twenties hungover. My husband also had his alcohol fueled years. But, as you know, hopefully you grow up and don’t want to wake up feeling like you have been run over by a truck. Currently my husband and I drink wine about five nights a week. He is a Chef and when he comes home from the restaurant at night it is our habit to open a bottle of wine (or two) and talk about our days. Most nights it is just one bottle split between the two of us, but sometimes, yes, okay it is two. Do I get buzzed? Sometimes, but most nights I just feel relaxed.
So, what is any self-respecting obsessive personality going to do? Yes, that is right, take the 20 questions test from AA. The shocker? Answer yes to one & you are, according to the test, more than likely an alcoholic. How did I do? Got one yes, damn it! I do drink alone. I love a cold beer when I am making dinner.
Where does that leave me? I am a wino. But the passionate kind, not the drunk kind. Excuse me while I go tell my husband to “Shut up!”
I can’t wear white. Not because it doesn’t work with my coloring (it does), not because it makes me look fat (more on this later), but because EVERY time I wear white I spill food on myself and permanently ruin that particular clothing item. For years I have tried, but my closet (and trash can) are full of beloved white shirts covered in permanent stains. I know what you are thinking, maybe you should slow down Piggy and be a little more careful when you eat. Aah, but there is the rub! I am a VERY slow eater. In fact, my husband, whom eats every meal as if the world is ending in 10 seconds, is finished with his meal a full 30 minutes before I am finished with mine. Though, at times, I think he eats his food so fast just so he has an excuse to pick at my meal. And, further evidence that I CAN get through a meal without wearing half of it on my chest is that my blue, black, green, etc. shirts are for the most part, stain free. There is an errant red wine drop or salsa drip on a few items, but nothing that ruins the shirts. I have spent many years analyzing why this happens and I am at a loss. It is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. I have just come to the conclusion that if I am going to be eating (or drinking) I can’t wear white. What follows is how I ruined some of my favorite white tops and a little rant about white jeans just because I need to get it off my chest…
I first realized I had a problem with white in high school. I would carefully plan my outfit (it was high school!) and leave the house admiring my white shirt with the lacy Peter Pan collar only to come home and have my Mom ask, “What happened?!” That Peter Pan collar was ruined when I dropped a hot greasy Tommy’s french fry (if you have tried these, get them with extra seasoned salt, they are delicious!) covered in ketchup right onto my stomach. I was aiming for my mouth. I don’t know how it happened, but I went back to class with a very wet (tried to get stain out) and very dirty shirt. I was dying with embarrassment as I walked through the halls and just knew everyone was staring. The stain never came out and the shirt was thrown out. This pattern continued through high school. I kept trying to wear white and kept spilling food on myself. I dribbled Diet Coke down my chest, I dropped full pizza slices (cheese side down, of course) in my lap, I dragged me sleeves through salad dressing and on and on. So much so, that one of my high school boyfriends decided he was going to “fix” my problem. He had observed, so he thought, that I didn’t hold my mouth right when I took a bite of food or a drink. He actually coached me! Did it work? No. I still was the big dribbler.
The problem followed me to college. I was obsessed with the white Gap pocket T-shirt and loved to wear it tucked in (tucking in is another thing I have given up) to jeans. When I wore this ensemble I thought I looked cool and chic. Coffee stains, red wine splashes and marinara sauce dribbles are neither cool nor chic, so I spent a small fortune replacing every Gap white pocket T-shirt I ruined. Yet I kept trying. In fact, I have pictures of myself in this very outfit from a college house party. If you go through all of them, you can see the before and after of the big spill. There is one with me smiling in a pristine white shirt holding my boyfriends hand. Next I am posing by the food table, shirt still clean, trying to look cool. All the others, well, I am looking uncomfortable and trying, but failing, to hide a stain the size of a frisbee in the middle of my shirt. Right after the food table shot, I had gone in for a huge bite of the seven layer dip and before I could get the chip to my mouth, the beans, sour cream, salsa, etc. had fallen down the front of my shirt. I now believe that supplying myself with new white shirts was a large part of Gap’s big comeback.
Unfortunately, the problem did not end in college. I shudder to think of the many business meetings I attended with my crisp white shirt or fashionable white business blouse covered in that morning’s coffee or mustard from lunch. In fact, I had to give a big presentation a while back and told my boss, “I won’t wear a white shirt.” Her response? “Good.” Damn, the secret was out. What is strange is that even other people spilled things on MY white shirts. One Fourth of July, I had my parents over for Mexican food, drinks, ice cream and general frivolity. My Mom had Alzheimer’s and loved both ice cream and Mexican food. Because we weren’t going out I figured what the hell and put on one of the few unstained white shirts I owned (Okay, I confess, I hadn’t worn it yet). It was a really cute white polo. Not the Ralph Lauren kind, but the ones that are cut for girls and are shorter so you can wear them untucked. We sat around the table eating Mexican food and sipping wine. At this point, a full two hours into the day, I was still stain free. I was giddy. Had I finally broken the curse? Could I once again boldly go into a clothing store and say, “I will take it in white” ? Pride does cometh before a fall. Exactly fifteen minutes later, as Mom finished her third Drumstick, she got up and hugged me. Nice. But her hands were covered in chocolate and ice cream, which of course, ended up all over my shirt. The curse continues…
My final white shirt story happened on my wedding day. My husband to be and I had both been married before, so we wanted a small at the courthouse ceremony. My Mom had passed away earlier that same year and I wanted to wear something that reminded me of her. About five years prior she had given me a very expensive white shirt. It was an open weave with intricate opaque butterflies woven in randomly. All white and not my style. At the time I thanked her, put it in my closet and didn’t think about it again. But when deciding what to wear for my wedding day, I realized not only would it be a little piece of my Mom, but it also would be perfect to get married in, well except for the fact that it was white. So I made it through pre-ceremony drinks without a spill and was feeling confident as we went out for a post ceremony dinner. At the end of dinner, still stain free, I reached over to pick up my bouquet and spilled half a glass of red wine down the front of me. We rushed home and I soaked it in club soda. It ALMOST all came out. I saved the shirt, for sentimental reasons, but will not be wearing it again any time soon. I have now been married almost four years and my husband now gives me a look when he finds me fondling white shirts in a clothing store. “Look how cute,” I will say. “Fine, but you will just spill on it,” he will answer. Yup, I will. So I slowly back away from the white shirts and go toward the black section.
There it is, my sordid past (and present) history with white shirts. Now, the rant on white jeans I promised. I don’t like them. In fact, I hate them. Maybe it is because I was a server at California Pizza Kitchen back in the day. Before they wore the current uniform, we wore white jeans, a white button down, full black apron and very ugly yellow tie. All the girls, including me, hated them. They weren’t flattering and showed dirt. Just imagine if you will, me of the big spill, serving food and wine in all white. I just thanked God for that long black apron. Now, apparently, white jeans are “in” and all the cool kids are wearing them. No. I won’t. I don’t care how many Old Navy ads I see where I ALMOST think, wow, they DO look cute, because then I come back to reality and know that I will feel like there is a spotlight on my butt and that said butt will more than likely be covered in a stain from something I sat in… Plus, I do think I would have some very serious CPK flashbacks and they are never good. The upside of all this? I never have to concern myself with the whole “white after Labor Day” conundrum.
Before I start my rant, let me say, normally I am a big fan of spoons. I love to eat ice cream with the tiny demitasse ones (makes it last longer), go nuts over the large serving ones and generally have warm fuzzy feelings about all spoons. But there are two uses for spoons that really drive me crazy. The first is the spoon push and the other is the appetizer served in a spoon. So, let the rant begin…
Really, I would like to meet the Chef who invented the spoon push and ask him, “Why?!” What possessed him to think that dragging a bit of sauce across a plate with a spoon looked good? It doesn’t. It doesn’t even make sense to me. Drizzle the sauce, put circles of the sauce around the dish, anything but the spoon push. I wonder if said Chef knew that the spoon push would become such a HUGE hit with Chefs. I see it used on Chopped all the time. Each time I yell at the television, “No! Not the dreaded spoon push!” I see it utilized in the Food Network Challenge shows, on Top Chef and when I dine out. I am begging all you Chefs out there, please stop! It doesn’t make sense and does nothing to add to the plate.
Now, onto the appetizer served in a spoon. Usually, the type of spoon one receives when ordering soup while dining in an Asian restaurant. Again, who thought of this? I get it in theory, in practice, not so much. It is a way to serve a small appetizer without using plate, fork, etc. But enough is enough already! For one reason it screams 1980. Why not be cutting edge and think of a better more current way to serve that appetizer? It doesn’t even work that well. It is always more than one bite and you never know where to put the spoon after you eat the appetizer. Again, caterers, Chefs, party hosts, I am begging you, stop the madness!
Whew, I feel better now. Am I the only one that obsesses about stuff like this? Please tell me I am not! Really, I want to hear your culinary pet peeves, please share. We can obsess together…
I know it has been some time since I have written. Hopefully once you read this blog, you will understand why… My niece passed away December 30, 2012. Her name was Tatem and she was only 22 years old. Saying this threw me for a loop would be an understatement. The sadness and frustration I felt at her passing was multi-layered and I am still struggling to wrap my mind around this loss. So, my husband and I spent our New Year’s Eve planning a turn around trip from California to Arizona so we could attend the service. A side note here, I find it completely unconscionable that in today’s world, even death must be fit in and worked around. But I digress, so we planned to drive out, attend the service and then drive back very early the next morning. The service was held January 2nd, which ironically, is the anniversary of my Mother’s passing. It was a lot to deal with to say the least.
The service was being held at the church my sister attends on a regular basis. What can I say here, but that it was overwhelmingly sad and something that will stay with me as long as I live. The reception (is that the right term?) was held immediately after the service in the “Fellowship Hall” next door to the church. I walked in and was greeted by VERY bright fluorescent lights, rows of cafeteria tables covered in green construction paper and Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling. It was if David Lynch had designed this reception for use in a Twin Peaks episode. Immediately to my left as I walked in were two tables covered in food. One had desserts: pies, cakes, cupcakes, danish, donuts and candy. The second was covered with casserole type dishes like those you would find at a potluck: lasagna, enchiladas, noodle casserole, soups, pasta salad and four different kinds of rolls. People slowly filed by the food filling their paper plates with lukewarm casseroles and sugary treats. They then sat down at those long green tables and spoke in hushed tones. My husband ate a few things. I could not. Instead, once we got back to our hotel, I drank entirely too much red wine and stayed up all night thinking about life.
This got me thinking, why when someone dies do we feel the need to offer piles of food? I get that the bereaved are too sad to shop or cook and that bringing food takes that chore of their plate (pun intended). I also get that food is comfort and that sometimes, when things are REALLY bad, all we can do is eat. So, that being said, why do we offer food only when dealing with death? Shouldn’t lasagna and other casseroles be de rigeur when dealing with any type of loss? For example, why aren’t we bringing food and holding a “reception” when one loses his or her job? It would make sense. Give the recently unemployed a pep talk and fill their fridge with food to save them some money. What about divorce? When I divorced my first husband, I think I would have liked a gathering filled with friends and food. How about bad break-ups? Loss of pets?
It also got me thinking about the Irish. Yes, the Irish. I think they have the right idea about how to honor someone whom has passed (or to mark a loss for that matter). Yes, there is food and drink, but there is also laughter and celebration. A wake is a way to remember a loved one’s life and to celebrate that life. I am not saying not to be sad, because that would be impossible. But why not reminisce about all the wonderful things that will make that person somebody you will never forget?
I propose that we begin acknowledging ALL loss with casseroles and company. Food IS comfort and more importantly, the people bringing the food are your strength when times get tough. Also, along with those casseroles and that company, I propose that there is laughter and remembrance.
Thanks for letting me share this with you…
We all have those things that simply drive us up a wall. You know, pet peeves. I have plenty! Like the shoppers that go through the self-checkout line for the first time ever(with TONS of produce) when the market is PACKED. Or how about the person that stands way to close to you in a line? I swear there have been times when I could feel their breath on my neck! But this particular post, I will be dealing with my restaurant pet peeves. Those annoying things, that when I am dining out, absolutely make me insane.
Pet Peeve #1- The Absentee Hostess. Don’t put up a sign that instructs me to “Please Wait To Be Seated” and then have an empty host stand. I HATE this. My husband and I once stood at a host stand for 15 minutes waiting for the hostess, who was flirting with the bartender, to come and seat us. By the time she sauntered over to the host stand and sighed , ” Two?” I was ready to take her head off. Lesson: Restaurants, if you are going to have a host stand, please make sure there is a competent, attentive host standing at it. This is a first point of contact for your guests and can elevate or taint the rest of their experience at your establishment.
Pet Peeve #2- The Forever Hold. First, let me make a disclaimer, here. Having worked many years in the restaurant business, I make sure to call with questions, reservations, etc. during off hours. Read, NOT during the lunch or dinner rush. Please don’t call a restaurant during prime service times and expect fabulous phone service. That being said, my pet peeve is about when I call during off hours and am still placed on hold for more than 3 minutes. I don’t know about you, but I hang up. AND I am angry and at times, no longer even want to dine at said restaurant. Lesson: Restaurants, train your staff about the importance of phone etiquette. Again, this is a first point of contact. Guests, don’t call a restaurant between 11:30-2:30 and 7:00-8:30, they are in service rush.
Pet Peeve #3- The Ice Cold Butter. Really? Is it that hard to take the butter out of the refrigerator before service? That rock hard butter is not going to spread on the bread, period. Lesson: Restaurants, take the butter out of the cooler so it can be soft and spreadable.
Pet Peeve#4- The Charge For Bread Service. Stop it. Remember in the olden days (like a year ago) when you would dine out at a restaurant and after you sat down they would bring you bread? And, if you wanted more, they happily brought it to you? I do. This charge for bread is petty and short-sighted. I understand that the economy is rough, bread costs money, etc. But this is NOT the place to save. Lesson: Restaurants, charging for bread makes you look petty and ungracious. Guests, don’t be the people that greedily eat up four loaves of bread and then share a half salad. You are the reason why these restaurants started to think charging for bread would be a good idea. Stop ruining it for the rest of us.
Pet Peeve #5- The Gum Chewing. Don’t get me wrong, I love gum. I chew gum. Gum is my friend. But I do not chew it in professional settings and neither should ANY restaurant staff. Excluding of course, the diner type establishments where this is part of the schtick. Nothing is a bigger turn off than being greeted by a hostess with a wad of gum in her/his mouth. Or a server that is chomping on a piece as he/she is reciting the specials. Lesson: Restaurants, instruct your staff to just say no to gum while they are working.
Pet Peeve #6- The Sitting Check. You know what I mean. You have eaten your meal, you have placed your cash or credit card in the pretty folder and then you sit. And sit. And sit. Even if you have had a fabulous time up until this moment, this sitting can ruin it. It is just as important to be prompt with the check as it is to be prompt with the greeting. Also, might I add, don’t make me wait endlessly to even get the check. Lesson: Restaurants, make sure that your team knows that the end of the meal is as important as the beginning. Managers, HELP! If a server is slammed, run the check for them.
Whew! I feel better! Do you have any restaurant pet peeves? If so, please share them with me here. Trust me, you will feel much better…
My husband so kindly (note the sarcasm) pointed out to me the other day that I am stuck in a food rut. As annoyed as I was with him at the time, I must admit, he was right. I am stuck. Eating the EXACT same thing night after night. Desperately looking forward to every weekend so I can go out to eat and eat something different. This is no way for a “foodie” to live. Hell, it is no way for anyone but a contestant on Survivor to live. I need to make a change. Break out of this self-imposed food prison once and for all. So, how did I get here? And more importantly, how do I get out?
How I got here, really, is a common story to which, I am sure, many of you can relate. Life is how I got here. Complicated, busy, tiring life. After a long day at work, the last thing I am motivated to do is spend hours in the kitchen. Yes, I have seen Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day. So again, same song, different tune, the last thing I want to do on the weekend is spend an entire day in the kitchen cooking for the week. Besides, I am busy on the weekends… dining out, drinking wine, watching television and (gasp) relaxing. So, I am left with trying to find something I can make quickly (even when dead tired), that is healthy and palatable. Easier said than done. Furthermore, when I do find this magical dish, I tend to stick with it. I mean, if it’s not broken, why fix it, right? But, that, right there is how I got into this horrible food rut. A dish worked, so I stuck with it. For months now I have been eating the same thing for dinner (Monday-Friday) every night! Wow, when I see it written down, it is not only a little disturbing, but also makes me think that somebody out there might sign me up for the new episodes of the OCD Project. I know you are wondering what exactly I am eating. Well, it is something my husband has sarcastically named, “The Concoction.” Here it is. Three corn tortillas with onion, celery and mushrooms. Sprayed with Pam & microwaved for about a minute. Then topped with tomato, cheese and salsa. Microwaved another minute, topped with light sour cream, avocado, shredded romaine lettuce and LOTS of black pepper. Trust me, the sum is much more than the parts. Even my husband has begrudgingly admitted that it IS good. But five nights a week for over six months good? No. Like I said, I need help…
How do I get out? That is the real challenge here. Part of the issue is I am trying to eat healthfully. That in and of itself poses many limitations. Limits on salt, fat, sugar white starch, etc. That is why if I find something that is easy to prepare, healthy and I actually like eating it, I stick. Or should I say, I get stuck. I rotate about every six months (yes, I said months, close your mouths) or so. But really, I only have about three dishes in the rotation. I just keep eating them mid-week and dream about the weekends when I can break free and go out. I really wish there was a system similar to Life Alert, but for food ruts. A button that I could push that would summon a Chef. Of course he would be handsome AND cook only healthy delicious food. But since there is no Food Rut Alert system, I am going to have to figure out another way to break free. Yes, I know what you are thinking, “Isn’t she married to a Chef?” Yes. But the last thing he wants to do on his days off is cook. And the food he wants to bring me home from the restaurant, while to die for, is high in fat, calories, etc.
That leaves me right where I started. In a food rut. But after writing this, I am even more determined to break out and start adding some variety to my diet. I will keep you all posted. But lucky for me it is Friday, so tonight it is an Italian dinner out with a good bottle of Zinfandel and too much garlic bread. Happy weekend all!
My name is Tracy and I am an obsessive compulsive vicarious eater. Whew! I feel better! Yes, that is right, I have an insatiable appetite (pun intended) to know what everybody is eating. Not only what they are eating, but how it tastes, smells and any other details I can pry out of them. I drive my friends and family crazy with my questions. “Where did you have lunch?” What did you order?” “Was it good?” “Would you order it again?” I have to know EVERYTHING. Was it creamy, salty, fatty, cheesy, flavorful? And on and on until the poor person finally screams, “That is all I can say!”
I was always fascinated with all things food. When I was young, I would sit on the kitchen floor every night and watch my Mother prepare dinner. Asking about EVERYTHING she did. As I grew older, my friends became my target. When other girls were talking about Bonne Bell lip gloss flavors, I was asking my friends about what was in their lunch box and bugging them relentlessly until they either told me or ran screaming from me. Other girls collected pins and photos. I hoarded take-out menus. At night I would go to my stash and read (for the hundredth time) my menus, imagining how each dish would taste.
When I went to college I continued hoarding menus, but after too many, “What is wrong with her?” looks I tried to keep my vicarious eating under control. I even brought this obsession into the work place. My co-workers became accustomed to my never-ending questions about their breakfasts, lunches and dinners out. But every once in a while a new person would be hired… Once a co-worker was describing in detail the burger he had for lunch to me and this new person said, completely exasperated, “It was a burger for God’s sake!” We all flinched and the burger boy said, “Oh. I don’t mind. We all tell Tracy what we eat.” Oh boy! Was I embarrassed? Yes. Did it stop me? Hell no.
So, after years of dating non-vicarious eaters I finally found my vicarious eating soul mate. My husband will spend thirty minutes telling me about the bagel he had for breakfast. Spend an hour describing the just perfect roast beef sandwich he had for lunch. It is heaven! We pause almost every program we watch to try to figure out what they are eating. Forget the dialogue, we want to know what is in that soup and if it is too salty. We comment endlessly about restaurant commercials and the food they are hawking. Would we want to eat it? Did we see bacon in the macaroni & cheese? Etc. And, of course, we watch way too much food TV. Food Network, Cooking Channel, Bravo, Travel Channel and TLC. If it is about food, count us in! We will even watch a show one night and still be talking about the food on said show a week later! Like I said, he is my soul mate.
I now realize that I am not alone. There are thousands of vicarious eaters out there. Really it is our time. Think about it. Food blogs, food porn, food TV, celebrity Chefs, etc. We can get our food fix any time of day and from so many different venues. Still, for me, there is nothing like a good one on one recount of a recent meal. A friend of mine recently went to one of my favorite restaurants (Quince in Jerome, AZ) and I was giddy with the thought of hearing the re-play of her dinner! And, even better, we could compare notes. So when she jokingly asked, “Should I video tape it?” I secretly wanted to say, “If you don’t mind.” But I controlled myself. She came through with quite a nice recap of the dinner (even without the video) and patiently answered my many questions.
I say, vicarious eaters of the world unite! I know you are out there… Browsing food blogs, reading restaurant reviews, drooling over Anne Burrell’s latest pasta dish and asking your friends what they ate over the weekend. It is okay. You are not alone. So, really, tell me what you are eating! I would LOVE to hear. And because turnabout is fair play, here is what I ate Friday night. I had a couple of slices of N.Y. style pizza. Cheese only. The sauce was nice and they used the right amount. Not too much cheese and the crust had a nice chew. I put granulated garlic, crushed red pepper and Parmesan cheese on the slice. I ate it with a simple salad of romaine lettuce, heirloom tomato, black olives and a red wine vinegar dressing. My drink? A 2008 McManis Zinfandel. I highly recommend this wine. Forward fruit, balanced finish and just perfect with the garlic on the pizza.
Now, what are you eating?!