Life in Maison Gezellig
About a month ago, I got an email from a PR person at POM Wonderful, the pomegranate juice company, asking if I was interested in a promotional pack of their juice. I thought it kind of odd, as they’ve been around for at least a couple years now, but, y’know, free stuff. I emailed them back my usual ass-covering response — basically saying, “sure, so long as you understand I don’t have to write about it or if I do, I don’t have to say anything nice about it.” I didn’t hear back; I just got a box filled with 16-ounce bottles of juice with a bunch of press releases about the company and the results of studies the potential health benefits of pomegranate juice.
The health information was a little overly-hyped, but a few of the studies were actually quite interesting. (I was looking forward to talking about the one regarding erectile function improvement because I’m a 12-year-old like that.) Still, nothing there really seemed especially newsworthy. Nothing was new or improved about this juice. Nothing had changed recently about the way people thought about pomegranate juice.
I was still thinking about what to write about this juice, when I saw another food blogger mention she also got a box of POM. And then another blogger said the same. And then another.
Any pressing need to write about POM completely evaporated. As the days went by, the bottles of juice receded further and further into the back of the fridge and when they did catch my eye, I’d think, oh, I should write about that, I guess… But between there being no actual news to report and the evidently huge distribution of their product to food bloggers, the answer to that thought became but why bother?
Still, I suppose I still feel obligated in some way to write about it. So…
POM Wonderful: some not-very-new juice that tastes pretty much like cranberry. Scientists say drinking it a lot gives you 50% more boners?
And let this be a lesson to other food PR people — everyone likes to get free stuff, but if you expect bloggers to write about your product, send something new or improved or, at the very least, don’t send it to every single food blogger you can find. Otherwise, all you get is a blog post about your rubbish PR.
Because I’m taking the summer off from school, my husband and I have decided that this is the summer we officially make our apartment into everything we’ve ever wanted it to be… starting with paint.
Even if I wasn’t the self-proclaimed eco-nerd I am, I still border on freakishly chemically sensitive. Cigarette smoke, Lysol, almost all perfumes, the detergent aisle at Target — all these things give me a stabbing headache. And the worst of all? Paint. The super painted the halls in my building and it was like going on a free dive: deep breath in, then hold it… hold it… hold it… until (gasp!) I got outside and could breathe the delightful city air again.
And after much searching (and sticker shock at how much some of these zero-VOC paints cost), I think we finally have a winner:
The Freshaire Choice paint, available at Home Depot for only a few bucks more than regular paint.
I’ll admit, I’m not exactly thrilled by their color palette; it’s a lot more muted than I would like, but I think that’s due to the no VOC ((I just realized I’ve used the VOC acronym twice now without explaining what it is. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds: basically, they’re the gases that give paint its paint smell.)) colorants they use. I do like that it has a lifetime warranty and you can get three 2-ounce free samples in whatever colors you’d like. As for me, I just ordered Beckoning Sea, Delightful Daffodil, and Charted Voyage.
Because at this rate, I may forget how to cook.
Then I had a 1000-word piece to submit for class Wednesday — a piece no one seemed to especially like, so that kind of sucked. Dinner that night: sympathy cheeseburgers.
Thursday was Museum Day — after which an Obama-supporting waitress spotted my husband’s sticker and slipped us free cake, to which I say: damn, bring the revolution if there’s gonna be free cake, yo!
Friday was Chinatown where I bought this:
Hell if I know what a honeymansi is, but refreshing? Check. Exciting? Well, I guess. It is fruity and delightful, I’ll give it that.
Saturday was a morning of four hours of incredibly intense French — like someone flipped open the top of my head, dumped a basketful of French in, shoved it around to fit, threw some more in on top of that, then sat on my head until it was closed enough to latch shut.
Then, more primary results that afternoon and again Sunday.
Yesterday, I stared into space a lot, tried to remember when to use y or en in the passé composé, stared into space some more, tried to Google honeymansi.
And now today is Super Chesapeake Crabcake Tuesday or something.
Is it November yet?
A couple weeks ago, I had a conversation with my friend Christian after he Googled “standard groceries” and “well-stocked kitchen” and came up empty-handed. I suggested “pantry staples” and did some searching on my own as to what a well-supplied pantry should have.
During my (very brief) stint as a classic poor college student, I would head over to my grandparents’ house about once a month, to be fed and/or do some laundry. My grandmother, in ever-declining health, wasn’t up to cooking the foods she used to make when I was a kid (a subject that richly deserves its own post), so we’d usually get some kind of take-out.
There was, however, one time (I think I had stopped by to pick up some things I’d left in the dryer last time ) she felt up to the task of making spaghetti sauce. And, just as she did every time I’d ever left her house, she loaded me up with food, including a plastic tub full of sauce, straight off the stove. Seeing as it was still warm when I got it home, it seemed a waste to put it in the fridge right away, so…
I probably polished off a pound of this rich, meaty sauce before I had the good sense to save the rest for later. I don’t think it was the last time she made spaghetti sauce, but it was certainly the last time I remember getting to eat it: standing in the dim pantry of the run-down apartment I shared with no less than five roommates, eating sauce right out of the container with a spoon I’d had to wash before using. Maybe it was just from living on ramen noodles at that point, but I don’t think I’d ever eaten anything that made me so happy before.
And yesterday, after years of trying, I think I’ve come as close as possible to making that sauce myself.
It happened pretty much by accident — in truth, I really just needed to cook some sausage meat before it spoiled — so I’m going to try and recall everything I did, in the hopes of recreating this sauce again later.
- 1 lb. sausage meat (or lean ground beef)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 big handful fresh parsley, minced
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tbs. red wine
- 1 heaping tbs. sugar
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes
- about 1 can of water (because I couldn’t waste that bit of tomato clinging in the cans)
- salt and pepper
The rest is pretty self-explanatory; brown the meat and then the vegetables, dump in the rest, set it to simmer.
Here’s what I did differently yesterday: I pretty much forgot about it. Seriously, I walked away from it simmering on the stove and started doing something else… and then before I knew it, it was two and a half hours later and my husband was calling from the kitchen, “uh, should I be doing something with this sauce out here?”
I scuttled off to the kitchen, muttering fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck! under my breath, and found the sauce had reduced by about a third. I stirred, skeptical but hoping some of it could be salvaged, and found it was more than salvageable — it was perfect. As close as I’ve ever come to the sauce my grandmother made.
And, of course, I just stood there in the middle of my kitchen, the same as I did fifteen years ago, just eating that sauce with a spoon and being happy.
When I visit my mom, there are a few foods specific to the North Shore of Massachusetts that I must eat. When we went for a visit last week, I missed out on going to Betty Ann’s Subs (home of the greatest sub pretty much anywhere, for reasons I’ll detail some other time) but I did make it over to Kelly’s Roast Beef.
Almost every North Shore town has a roast beef joint the townies are loyal to, but Kelly’s is an institution — the progenitor of the sandwich, if you believe what you read on the Kelly’s placemats. Ben and Casey Affleck argue over whether to go there in Good Will Hunting. And check out these kids who went to all five Kelly’s locations in one day. I am not as hardcore all that, so we just went to one.
As much as I love Kelly’s, I have to say the wait for your order is sometimes unexpectedly long, probably because in addition to the full dining room, there’s usually at least 5-6 cars in the drive-thru — more after the bars close.
My omnivorous friends, you are looking at one of the greatest sandwiches ever assembled: extremely rare and tender roast beef, piled onto a grilled bun and doused liberally with a spicy-sweet-smoky sauce.
Some get theirs with cheese, or mayo, or both, but I’m more of a purist and I like to savor that super-rare beef with only a little extra added to it with the sauce. Still, no matter how you order it, it’s going to be good.