Garbage Disposal Juice

I call it garbage disposal juice. That’s what it tastes like. Tiny pieces of food that get regurgitated in small volcanoes that used to house your wisdom teeth into delicious brown goo. It comes out in little globs, brown and squishy, making you wonder what they used to be in their original state. Turkey? Mashed potatoes? Chocolate? No, not chocolate. That is supposed to melt in your mouth.

At night, during the day and especially in the morning your four personal garbage disposals are in full throttle. Need your fix? Just make a sucking motion with your mouth and the good stuff comes oozing out. Or give your tongue a permission to do what it’s been wanting to do all along, which is to go poking around in places where it doesn’t belong. The tongue might argue that it’s its own territory we’re talking about and it’s entitled to survey the damage and that it’s tyranny to keep it away. So don’t. It’s pressing and poking will delight your taste buds with fresh bursts of sumptuous rot.

You wonder if there’s a good reason why people keep their distance from you at the checkout line. You chew gum but still wonder. The gum also pulls out little goo globs, which add an new dimension to the peppermint flavor.

You try to go on a liquid diet and tell yourself that it will be an easy way to lose a few pounds. Liquid diet lasts until dinner.

As a responsible individual, you tell yourself that deriving pleasure from this is wrong and try to keep your mini volcanoes clean by swishing them with warm salted water. This only produces more juice, but this time its flavor profile is intensified by salt. After all, the rules of cooking still apply. Salt makes things taste better.

In the meantime, you experiment with pain drugs and wonder why you didn’t as much as smoke pot as a teenager. That question rises again and again as you sink deeper into the second season of Breaking Bad. Here’s a taste.

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Allen and a Giant Apple Pie

My guess is that Allen has been making pies since he could reach the kitchen counter. Last year, he had an urge to make one from scratch at 11 pm in our kitchen and just did it. This year, we decided to film the process. Allen said, “Let me get my stuff.” And looked up a recipe for Fresh Apple Pie with Raisins.

The next day he showed up with his own pastry blender, flour sifter, apron and a “pastry mat” for easy rolling and just the right roundness:

pastry mat

Tricks of the trade, epic fail and how to salvage a broken pie crust:

The morning after:

pie

You says you can’t start Thanksgiving early?

Halloween Treats and Deviant Tendencies

B. said let’s make Halloween dinner. I said, “Like severed fingers?”

That’s considering that you can get a Master’s degree in criminal science at our house just by being around all murder drama on TV. There used to be a time when I thought knowing where period came from was disgusting…

Coming up with recipes is not my strong suite, if you don’t count just tossing together whatever is in the fridge. So we turned to the web. Fifteen minutes of searching on the web yielded us “mummy meatloaf” and “swamp monsters.”

Then B. found chocolate mice. Cute little buggers. With tails. I instantly pictured them with a fork sticking from the back. Then I noticed that total prep time is 2 hours. B. made a sad face. Mice were a go.

Then it turned out that the prep time didn’t include baking chocolate cake that would later turn into mice flesh. In fact, it would have to be divided into two parts: bodies and fur. Bodies would be shaped by hand and be allowed to cool off. The fur would be dried in the oven and then attached to cold bodies with tempered chocolate. Toothpicks would be inserted to create anuses later to be replaced with a licorice tails. When twisted the tails in, you have to be forceful but gentle. Finally, red eyes would be piped, carefully, so that they don’t bleed out.

chocolate mice halloween

This was done by a cute gal with curled blond hair:

chocolate mouse  halloween

And the arthritic fingers… T. suggested that they should be bleeding:

fingers

The Monsters of Thailand

I am a total chicken when it comes to three things: bugs, snakes and being late. Maybe it has something to do with being a control freak and the fact that all of these things can catapult you out of your comfort zone and into the stratosphere of “horrible things that can happen,” a special haven for people with overactive imaginations and a tendency to panic.

What better place to confront your anxiety monsters than Thailand?

It all started with trusting the alarm clock on my phone. In retrospect, my phone probably was probably in some nearby time zone, maybe India. In retrospect, setting an alarm at 2 am after over 24 hours of traveling was like drunk driving. But at the time, it seemed perfectly normal that when it went off,  I got dressed and went to breakfast even though I could barely make out the skyline.

At the restaurant, a few sleepy strangers were drowning their jetlag in miso soup and coffee. As the rising sun turned the skyscrapers a warm shade of amber, I had the presence of mind to ask a waiter what time it was and discovered that it was 6.30 am. At this point, my choices were infinite coffee, an infinity pool on the 10th floor, a nap or a walk in the park.

lumpini park bangkok

An hour in the Lumphini Park in the heart of Bangkok was a gift from my time zone-challenged alarm clock. Before it got too hot, locals were practicing tai chi and yoga on its green expanses, and what looked like social clubs were gathering around picnic tables. A packed food court featured roasted ducks, little plastic bags with soup-like substances, and all sorts of fruit, including what looked like pink golf balls with green hair.

What at first I took for a log in the pond turned out to be a Monitor lizard, and then another one, and then one sitting in a tree right next to me, and one poking its head out from a water pipe. It seemed like the only two people who took notice of them was me and the guy who shot this video:

Which brings me to a question of snakes.  As our group made its way among the bungalows of a resort at Railay Beach, until recently one of the most expensive ones in Thailand, I couldn’t help but scan the tropical forest for wildlife. And there it was – green, thin and dead in a water feature.

“Oh, it’s just a viper,” informed us the director of marketing.

“Is it venomous?”

“Yes, but it’s pretty rare.”

Obviously, not rare enough. For the next hour, as we inspected luxurious accommodations for perfect honeymoons all I could think about was what snakes are not rare here, and exactly how not rare. But then we were at a beach that where it was sinful not to go in the water, and my anxiety temporarily shifted to the question of bathing without a bathing suit, which I had managed to leave at the hotel.

Bugs can take many forms. In Africa, I was so preoccupied with not getting bitten that I turned out bedroom into a gas chamber every night. Our nephew Allen did get bitten by a spider on the very last day when he walked across a lawn in his sandals without socks. Five meters of green grass was all it took. On the plane ride home, his foot began to change in shape and color, and my imagination was going into overdrive with CSI-style pictures.

Some of my most favorite bugs are bacteria that live in food and can turn your body into a microbrewery of new forms of life. Cue in Thai

ducks at lumpini park

street markets, where curries of all kinds are prepared in giant aluminum dishes, unknown meat is waiting in 95-degree heat to be roasted on skewers, and roasted ducks take the place of rotisserie chickens.

My guide Jintana asked if I wanted to try any of these goodies. I said I was happy taking photos. She offered to pay. I still said no. She began to talk to a vendor roasting bananas and bought three little rectangulars made of green banana leafs stapled at the ends. Tamales Thai style. I pretended I didn’t notice. We walked into an air-conditioned café for a cup of coffee, and she placed them in the middle of the table. I was already living through the repercussions on a 15-hour flight home. She took one and began to unwrap the leaf. Curiosity got the better of me and I followed suit to discover inside sweet, sticky, uber-delicious rice, way better than my emergency Cliffhanger power bar.

And I didn’t die. And didn’t even get sick. Not until a taco salad at LAX.

Get a Rhythm

The first time I met a guy who had rhythm was in Amarillo, Texas. He was grilling steaks. It was at this famous steakhouse where if you eat something like half a cow in under an hour you get your meal for free. People actually do that. They got a wall of photos.

The guy had a cowboy hat on and maybe 50 steaks in front of him sizzling away on a giant grill. He knew exactly when to flip them, when to leave them a alone and when to toss them on a hot porcelain plate. He loved his job and was in the zone, not a bad skill in any field.

By contrast, a guy also grilling next to him didn’t have a clue. He kept fidgeting with his giant spatula, with the towel and looked like his boxers were rubbing him in all the wrong places.

Now every time I need to get myself into a good “work” state and start hearing my rhythm I think about the guy in a large black cowboy hat.

Unfortunately, back then I didn’t get a photo of him. But two weeks ago I was in New Orleans, and saw a similar thing at Drago’s restaurant on the riverfront. Those guys were grilling oysters, hundreds at a time, dousing them with garlic butter and occasionally setting them on fire. The only way not to drown in drool was to keep drinking beer.

They shacked them first:

 

And then did their magic:

And then let you have your taste of heaven.

 

On a different front, I just found out that my favorite blogger and inspiration had a baby boy.

Moral of the story: Nothing like rhythm.

Screw Dinner

All day I was looking forward to a trip to the grocery store. I pictured how I would open my favorite pâté, uncork a bottle of wine, watch CNN and fix dinner like a married woman that I am.

At home, I couldn’t decide whether to turn on the TV first or open the pate first. As a comprise I settled for uncorking the bottle of red from the wine cooler.

I put the screwdriver in, twisted it the usual way, gave it a little nudge. No dice. I tried circling it a little, probably the last thing you want to do to a cork… then remembered how it’s not in a girls’ job description to open bottles… then with a snap, my bottle opener separated into two parts, leaving the cork still intact and with a sharp metal pin sticking out.

Girls are relentless, especially if there’s wine involved, right? So I head to the garage and find a pair of pliers. Still no dice. I stick the bottle between my legs and pull harder, as if extracting a hippo from the pool. No dice. Then the cork snaps in two.

But at this point, I’m unstoppable. Somewhere close to the pliers I discover its distant cousin – a screwdriver. With determination worthy of a different application, I stab what’s left of the cork, as if stabbing a vampire about to stick its fangs into my neck.

The cork pops, sending a fountain of red liquid all over my jeans and a white t-shirt.

Relieved that it’s over, I take a swig straight from the bottle, with tiny pieces of cork getting stuck between my teeth.

Moral of the story: Making dinner like a good wife is overrated.

Baby turtles and hazardous work environment

Work and beach are somewhere in the category of hot wax on your skin. It’s torturous.

You go to sleep to the calming effects of the ocean and a bottle of champagne and wake up to an alarm clock and emails. You put on a pair of work pants and a black shirt while everyone else is sporting bikinis and lobster tan. Your entire being is longing to jump off the balcony from a presidential suite that you are inspecting and straight into the pool below.

But instead, you try to ask intelligent questions and take notes, all along thinking about how you got it easy and it’s the guys who come here to hold meetings about nuclear energy or the advances in breast surgery who are really screwed.

The first gift on my site inspection trip to Mexico last week came from my computer.

It made it so that my computer broke down. Just as I was about to devote three hours of designated siesta time to catching up on work, the screen went black. The computer started to make noises like a helicopter going down. I tried once, I tried twice. After the third time, with clear conscience I went to the beach.

After all, someone had to test out the quality head rests in the pool the depth of my bathtub where you could sun tan and soak at the same time, all along feeling like a sea lion on Pier 39.

It also freed up time to check out local flavors:

Check out local architecture:

Get your hands on a baby crocodile:

Or on a baby iguana:

Or even get a kiss from Rufo the racoon:

It turned out that brides are cranky everywhere:

And that cows fly after all:

The second biggest gift came from nature. It turned out that it was the turtle reproductive season, and our hotel had a turtle nursery where they saved the eggs and let them catch in a sandbox protected from raccoons and locals. It also turned out that the turtles’ favorite place to bury their eggs was the beach volleyball court.

“Turtle patrol” digs the eggs out:

And takes care of them while mommy goes back into the ocean:

And by the way, the computer didn’t recover until I got back home, probably also wanting to enjoy in peace moments like these: