Birthweek 2004: Hot Damn!

Can’t write much because I’m scrambling to write a 3-page paper for my Negotiations class, but my birthday gift from mom and dad just arrived. The story goes that my mother, the other day, said: “I want to get you a really nice pen for your birthday.” I replied: “WHAT?! Mom, if you’re going to spend money on a pen, I’d rather get a bunch of really good cookbooks.” Then I made her a list of the ones I wanted and told her just to get a few. Lo and behold, she bought them all!

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In case the picture’s too hard to unscramble, they are:

– The French Laundry Cookbook!

– The Zuni Cafe Cookbook!

– Breads from The La Brea Bakery!

– Cooking By Hand!

– Slow Mediterranean Cooking!

I’m really excited and of course I’ll keep you up to date as I cook my way through them. Should only take 14 years. Ciao!

Birthweek 2004: Indian Celebration Dinner

As you are probably well aware, this week marks the beginning of Adam and Lauren’s Birthweek. No, this is not some strange feminist mating ritual: it is the beginning of the celebration that is the Quarter Century Anniversary of Adam and Lauren’s birth.

Here’s a brief synposis of the story: Adam and Lauren met in college. They realized that they had the same birthday (February 18). “Ah!” they said. “We have the same birthday! How odd!” Several years later, Lauren’s parents took Adam to dinner. “Which hospital were you born in, Adam?” they asked. “South Nassau County,” he answered. “Oh my!” shouted Lauren’s father. “By Jove!” shouted Lauren’s mother. And then it was established: we were born in the same hospital three hours apart and didn’t meet until college. Hence, we are known as The Psychic Twins.

The Psychic Twins will be celebrating their birthday all week (though this psychic twin prefers to celebrate all month) with a 31-course dinner Wednesday night at Blaise (report to follow) and a soiree Friday night with food, fun and Janet Jackson breast cupcakes.

Tonight, though, our friends Josh and Katy–who cannot attend our Friday soiree–took us to a birthday dinner at

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Indian food is not my speciality. In fact, Indian food was completely absent from my childhood. To explain this phenomenon, here is a quote from my mother when I told her what I had for dinner: “Ew.”

Which is not to say that I’m completely devoid of Indian culture. My entire freshman hall at Emory undergrad was Indian. My vocabularly increased ten-fold that year learning everyone’s name: Sunil, Varthen, Ankur, Shivani, Payal, Hetal, Vikhas, Ravi, and so on. My mom’s head would spin every time I told her who I was going out with: “Shiva-who? Sun-y-what?”

But food was another matter. It seemed so exotic, so foreign. We all went out one night for Indian food and all I remember is choking on something very hot. Again, Indian food is not my speciality.

Tonight’s dinner though was very enjoyable. It was nice to go with people who enjoy and understand what they are having. For example, we started with this:

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It was very good: filled with potatoes and onions inside. I liked the sweet brown dipping sauce.

Then they brought out my entree:

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It was eggplant baked with breadcrumbs and some kind of sauce and cilantro. I really liked it. But what I really liked was the nan (sp?). Without the nan, the meal would have been just good, but the nan kept it real. Here is Katy eating her nan:

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Of course, there were the obligatory nan jokes. Well, obligatory in that only I made them.

Josh said: “It’s really amazing how they make nan.”

“Whoah Josh,” I said. “That was a nan-sequiter.”

Everyone groaned.

Then they brought out Lauren’s entree. Look at Lauren’s entree. How crazy is this?

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That thing was ginormous! It looked like a Subway 12-inch sub except thinner, better and without Jared in the commercial.

Lauren let me taste hers and it was very good.

Here we are eating our food:

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I got tired about halfway through mine. Then Katy dropped out. But Lauren and Josh kept going.

“So good!” said Lauren.

“Mmm!” said Josh.

I mentioned Thomas Keller’s theory of diminishing returns and how the best bite is usually the first and then it’s all downhill from there. Josh and Lauren were unimpressed.

“I don’t believe that,” said Josh. “This is so delicious. Look how delicious this is!”

He scraped more food out of his bowl as Katy looked on:

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Finally, all the food was consumed and the check was brought. Josh and Katy paid and Lauren and Adam said: “Thank you.”

Our Indian meal was over and I left with the knowledge that when it came to Indian food, I would no longer be nan-plussed.

[I can’t tell if was a good ending. I’m so nan-commital!]

Ok I’ll stop.

Lisa and Olives: Round Three

I would now like to take the opportunity to reply to Lisa G’s devastating round two victory in the Great Olive Campaign. I have spent these past few days training with an olive coach who has worked me back into shape, throwing kalamata olives at my head and squirting me with olive oil between practice bouts.

And so now, weighing approximately 3000 olives, comes The Amateur Gourmet for Round Three.

Ding Ding Ding!

(Went the trolley…ring ring ring went the bell…shit, I’ve been foiled by the great Judy Garland psyche out. Snap out of it AG!)

Phew.

Ok, Lisa, here is how you are wrong point by point, olive by olive:

– “I don’t hate olives for the sake of hating olives.” That’s like saying you don’t hate black people for the sake of hating black people. In other words, Lisa G., you are an olive racist. That is particularly inappropriate considering Monday was MLK Day. Do you think MLK hated olives? But seriously, you seem to suggest that your olive-hating is meritorious; that it is a noble pursuit, like Courtney Love hating. Clearly though, despite the 40,000 who “hate olives” on Google, there are plenty of olive lovers in this world. There must be something to it, no?

– “Face it Adam–they are legitimately disgusting….they taste like old socks.” This point is fair but can be likened to both coffee and cheese. With coffee, the taste is bitter at first and requires a cognitive leap from gross to daily ritual. Similarly, many cheeses are off-putting and I will acknowledge my own cheese-phobia, particularly my bleu cheese phobia, and concede that the terms “legitimately disgusting” and “old socks” often come to mind when encountered with a giant chunk of bleau cheese. Yet, the difference is, that I admit that this cheese-phobia is my problem, not a problem with cheese. I know deep in my heart that I am missing out and that slowly edging my way towards cheese acceptance will broaden my palate, increase my tolerance and expose me to many happy meals that I would have otherwise rejected.

– “They aren’t even good for you.  Eat too many and you’re sure to grow yourself a spare tire.” Yes, olives are fatty and in large quantities bad for you, but you can say that about many things that are naturally occurring and wonderful–peanuts, for example–and yet would you give up peanuts? What about Peanuts? Charles Schultz is dead, Lisa.

– “Why is it that you encourage their invasion of my salads and pastas and martinis?” Once you have achieved acceptance of the olive–olive Nirvana, perhaps–you will see that their “invasion” is more like a “sacred presence” in salads, pastas, and martinis. Olive lovers grope for olives wherever they see them: plucking them out of other people’s drinks, stacking them on their fingers, and slurping them off like an anteater at an ant farm. Once you hit that point of olive awareness, you will suddenly realize that there’s this whole new element of flavor to enjoy in your daily meal ingestion. I think the nut analogy works well: sure a brownie without nuts tastes fine, but there’s something to be said for the extra component that nuts add to brownies. It’s like a different thing all together and that’s what you’re missing when you heartlessly reject olives.

– “[You] trained yourself to enjoy [olives] so you could be part of the cool (freak) crowd.” I gladly concede this point. I used to be an extreme olive hater; attending olive-hating rallies, participating in olive bashings and gluing a “No Olives” bumper sticker to my car. Then I read this quote in Jeffrey Steingarten’s “The Man Who Ate Everything”: “By design and by destiny, humans are omnivores. Our teeth and digestive systems are all-purpose and ready for anything. Our genes do not dictate what foods we should find tasty or repulsive.” I threw the book across the room, shouted “Eureka!” and ran to my local olive dealer where, after several intense hours, I developed a passion for the olive. It is one of the greatest things I ever did because I began to notice and enjoy olives everywhere. Olive tapenade! Olive paste! Olive deodorant! It was a whole new world.

In conclusion, your olive hatred is self-defeating, sort of like cutting off your nose to spite your face. There are many enjoyable things in life that one must work towards in order to appreciate them: James Joyce, David Lynch, Kelly Rippa. Clearly, your anti-olive campaign is a cop out, and the biggest loser will be yourself. Take this round, for example. Did you lose it? I think so. Who’s the winner? Yours truly, olive eater.

Ding ding ding, went the trolley!!!!

Lisa and Olives: Round Two

A Message From Lisa G:

“Adam – i find it highly offensive that at no point in your attack of the great and all-powerful lisa g did you mention that i was temporarily unable to connect to the internet and that the lack of olive-talk was explained to you in full.  Furthermore, i find your spelling of Cincinnati to be hateful and cruel.

Onto the issue at hand… I don’t hate olives for the sake of hating them or just to be “unique.” In fact, i don’t believe that i am in any way alone in my hatred.  Look up “hate olives” on Google and you will get over 40,000 responses.  There are hundreds of clubs and alliances and discussion groups denouncing the atrocity that is the olive.  Face it Adam – they are legitimately disgusting.  They are bitter and malicious and destroy every food item into which they are incorporated.  And it’s bad enough that they taste like old socks and overwhelm all of the poten! tially delicious flavors in a meal, but they aren’t even good for you.  Eat too many and you’re sure to grow yourself a spare tire. 

So I’d like to ask you, Mr. Nature Nipple Lover, what good does the olive bring to the world?  why is it that you encourage their invasion of my salads and pastas and martinis (which aren’t really that good without olives either, so you can keep them in there if you need a purpose for them)?  

In conclusion, I would also like to add that you used to share my hatred for olives, and actually trained yourself to enjoy them so you could be part of the cool (freak) crowd.  You know in your heart that they’re evil and you’ve let society convince you otherwise.  How ashamed you must be. 

I believe, unless I am mistaken, that you lose this round in a big fat way.  Olives suck.”

Survey Says: Lisa wins this round.

Lisa and Olives: Round One

My friend Lisa G. of Cincinnatti, Ohio currently resides in Manhattan, NY and enjoys a diet of vegetarian hot dogs, couscous and little chocolate penguins that I bought her for her birthday. Disturbingly absent from her diet is, to quote Thomas Edison, “the richest gift of heaven”; the sacred staple of Mediterranean cuisine and Martini glasses everywhere: the olive.

Lisa, despite her better qualities, seems to think of this distaste not as a flaw but as a highly unique aspect of her quirky, esoteric appetite. In other words: Lisa is wrong.

I have attempted to engage Lisa in a discussion concerning her and her shameless aversion to mother nature’s nipples. (Sorry, that was grotesque, but it made me laugh). This morning I wrote Lisa an e-mail asking her to answer the simple question: “Why don’t you like olives?”

In her curt and highly offensive reply, Lisa wrote: “I would love to engage in a discussion about olives.  At this time, I have some work I should be doing and thus I will not be able to start the process immediately, but when I am home and snug in my pajamas on my futon, I will be more than happy to sign in and start the fun. Thank you for including me in your oliverific endeavors.”

Clearly Lisa’s priorities are out of whack and clearly #2: Lisa is a liar liar pants on fire! As per the first claim: what kind of self-respecting radio executive with her own computer and her own access to the internet chooses to do real work when they can write about olives? And second of all, it is 11:53 PM and chances are that Lisa has already gone to sleep and has clearly not (a) sat on any futon, (b) signed on to any internet, or (c) started any fun.

I believe, unless I am mistaken, that I win round one by default. Olives are good.