Match.con

So, I've recently re-entered the lair/playground/shit-show of dating. In my mid 30's. I've been on so many goddamn dates now, I can't keep them all straight. I recently sent a Peruvian vacation Groupon to one dude referencing a conversation I had with someone else weeks earlier; the guy who texted me, "You're hot on tv!" after watching my web-series, and then never wrote again.

Next there was the man who called/texted/wrote me several times every day with lovely intros such as "Hey hot stuff" or, "What's happening beautiful?" Almost tricked me into thinking this was normal after meeting someone twice. It wasn't until he questioned me via text message if I was only dating to, "Get over a bad relationship" that I woke up to our incompatibility.

I had a bartender pick me up while one of my dates was in the bathroom. Went out with said bartender a few weeks later, and it turns out he's twentyfuckingfour. A few fun cocktailed-hours spent telling me how he liked older women, left me thinking, "This might be an interesting summer, Mrs. Robinson." Needless to say, that text he promised to send? Never came.

Dated one guy for about a month until I uncovered a lie he told me to my face on his facebook page. I don't know if it bothered me more that he lied, or that he was dumb enough to leave it on facebook.

I've been on 3 different dating sites. I'm so beyond mortified about this that I don't even mind anymore. I imagine it's like when a woman is giving birth; you know the point she's so far beyond caring that everyone in the room has seen her fucking vagina and is aware that she just shit the table.

The problem is, I've started to ask myself, "What's wrong with me?"

I'm not the hottest little catch by any means, but I don't think I'm scary enough to warrant the deficit of kind, stable, single men that I'm currently experiencing. Maybe I'm hanging out in the wrong places. Maybe I should find a job where I have even mild exposure to straight men. Maybe the all-female choir wasn't the best choice. Maybe West-coasters, like Bassett Hounds, are just too chill to make a move. Perhaps Portland really is short on men that own more than one set of sheets. Or, is it my profile? I've become brazen enough to send "winks" and messages with wild abandon. Each one in vain.

Truth is, I've spent way too long trying to morph myself into someone I wasn't so other people would like me. Litany of passive-aggressive disasters behind me, I've vowed to do the only thing I can do and ever truly do well: be myself.

But as it turns out, a lot of people, most in fact, don't resonate with that. I suppose I should look at this with a positive attitude; it does indeed save me a lot of time going out with dudes with whom it would never work anyway. But I've discovered, it's a lot more painful being rejected without the protective artifice of my co-dependent candy-shell.

Last weekend I went on a date I thought was finally really promising. He was covered in tattoos and had a purple hair. I decided I didn't care that he couldn't spell; in fact, he probably did it on purpose. We had a nice conversation and he was very open and kind. I convinced myself that his alternative approach to life meant that surely he would accept me and be open to whatever it must be that the rest of the dating community can't get into. I don't own even the tiniest tattoo, but I aspire to be an open-minded and loving person; willing to see where a relationship with someone my parents would consider a carnie, would go.

I took a long walk before our second date and thought about how my Portland integration would finally be complete. Aqua vintage Craigslist bike for commuting: check. Funky hipster frames picked out by awesome gay dude at locally owned eye-glass store: check. Sweet, subversive, counter-culture boyfriend with mohawk and tattoo sleeves: awesome.

I thought about how cool it would be to date someone really different; how people at the farmers markets would admire that two people so opposite on the outside could fall in love. How he would teach me how to fix my bicycle and I would introduce him to fancy cheese. How we'd decide never to marry because we were way too progressive for that mainstream bullshit. He would be happy to stay home with the kids, and I would go to work.

But, just like the guy who never wrote again after watching my show or the baby-bartender, or the half-dozen other guys who asked me out and then just disappeared; the texts after our second date - vanished.

So, disappointed and crushed once again, this pariah, had to backthefuckup and ask herself, "What's The Deal?"

And I now see two things: 1. That my old habit of changing what I'm attracted to just to be with someone had once again snuck in, and 2. I had to face the fact that this keeps happening because my core belief is that it's never going to happen for me; that there just isn't a dude on this planet, let alone Portland, Oregon, that will adore me, As Is, that I will be mutually crazy about. And until I dig out the roots of this belief, I'm continually going to desire to bestow my love of cheese on any guy who seems an almost-but-not-quite match.

I wish I had some awesome conclusion here, but I don't yet. That's the catch about faith and trust - you just gotta keep moving forward. And know that the all these sad and hilarious encounters aside, the real tragedy would be to never realize that the only one holding me back, is me. The biggest con here, is the one I've been telling myself

No More Words

This essay on “Why Cook Well” was part of a contest to be featured in the introduction to Anthony Bourdain's book Medium Raw.

 

There are many obvious answers here: It’s an expression of our love, because life is short, because we are passionate about food…and all the other lofty and beautiful reasons why we humans want to do anything well.

But why we cook well? I think the answer is a little more self-centered.

Let me start by saying that I am probably one of the more unlikely Anthony Bourdain fans, and admittedly, maybe one he wouldn’t be too thrilled about having. I don’t have any tattoos, haven’t eaten offal, I’m not a great cook, and perhaps most importantly, I am a despised and untrustworthy vegetarian. The fact that I will occasionally eat fish clearly only heightens my hypocrisy and ignorance.

So I’ll make this short and sweet as I’m sure most of you could care less than less about my thoughts on cooking well, and have either skipped this entirely or are currently exclaiming, “for the love of pork please just bring us Tony”.

The thing is, I’ve discovered through Mr. Bourdain’s work and my own travels that food is a medium where we learn about others. Immediately and with all five senses we are instantly communicating on a very deep level, where words have no currency. Ingesting another’s food connects us to their history, culture, likes, dislikes, triumphs, defeats, home, family, faith. Eating is truly one of the more intimate forms of conversation we engage in, and because we all do it, a common language. Like love, with hopefully, less heartburn.

So convinced am I by these beliefs, I let headcheese pass my lips a couple weeks back while visiting Germany for the first time. And then bratwurst. I consumed enough raw and pickled herring to gag a seal, and enough pretzel/bread/fries and beer to have my raw food friends gasping for green-juice.

You see, I don’t speak German. As another ignorant uni-lingual American, it’s by eating the food that they eat, the food that they cook, the food that they love that I was able in some small way to understand and experience Germany. So, yes–even I would try Icelandic buried shark meat (or at least try and get close to it), crispy pigskin in the Philippines, or Argentinean beef, which my boyfriend proudly claims can be cut with a spoon.

We cook well to communicate well. We cook well to tell others who we are. When we don’t have words, when they fall short, and when we realize they aren’t needed at all.

We cook well to speak. We eat well to listen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scoby Seduction

Want shiny thick hair? Weight Loss? Relieve joint pain? How about increased metabolism, congestion relief AND a new boyfriend? Then I have one word for you my friend: Kombucha.

Yes, this purported “elixir of life” has claimed to do all of this and more. Kombucha is a fermented tea that has gained a huge following in the past several years. Companies like G.T. Daves, Carpe Diem, and Kombucha Wonder Drink are lining the shelves of grocery stores, health food establishments, and every other bodega in New York. Yet this relatively new craze has an ancient past. It is said that Kombucha tea was created sometime around 200 B.C. during the Tsin dynasty in China and through trade routes was brought to India and Russia, and to Japan by a Korean Dr. named Kombu in 415 A.D. It found its way to Germany from Russia at the turn of the last century and was popular throughout Europe until the Second World War when both tea and sugar (the main ingredients of the tea) were scarce due to rationing. Others say that this is all completely false, so the history of this tea seems to be as elusive as the health claims (and home brewing instructions) themselves.

I started drinking Kombucha about 3 years ago when my mother introduced me to a nice sparkling cold bottle of G.T. Dave’s Gingerberry Kombucha, and she might as well have handed me a crack pipe. At first, I found it disgustingly vinegary and was a bit put off from the floating slimy chunks, but strangely I couldn’t get enough of it. My body craved more. At my height of Kombucha drinking I was downing up to 3 bottles a day. Yes. I had become a Kombucha addict. I felt more energy, it calmed my stomach, and I rationalized that it was better for me that other drinks of choice, namely coffee and beer.

Fairly confident that I had put at least G.T.’s first born through their freshman year of college (the stuff isn’t cheap! $3.39 per bottle at Whole Foods and over $5.50 at some bodegas) I was eager to find out more about home brewing. As fate would have it I attended a yoga class one evening and the few people there were talking, which was unusual, and actually irritating (I prefer a quiet and start to class). But as I began to settle and pay attention, I realized that they were talking about brewing kombucha! I excitedly smashed my way into the conversation and almost begged the kind man with the brewing experience to teach me and give me his next baby. Of the mushroom persuasion.

A kombucha mushroom (my mom fondly refers to it as “the monster”) looks and sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. The correct name for it is scoby—symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Each brewing cycle the scoby creates a new daughter mushroom, or baby, to protect itself from any harmful pathogen that might also enjoy sharing its home. Get one and the rest is relatively easy. You add about one cup of organic sugar to one gallon of distilled boiling water, and steep about 5 green and/or black organic tea bags in it (time varies depending on who you ask). Pour this mixture into a sterile one gallon glass jar (I found one at the Container Store for about $10) add your precious kombucha baby when the liquid has cooled, and finally cover it with a napkin and rubber band to keep out fruit files and mold and such. Then you let the scoby do its magic, and in about 7-10 days you have Kombucha! Time depends on personal taste and temperature. Some great sites for recipes, troubleshooting tips and mail order scoby’s are www.organic-kombucha.com and www.HappyHerbalist.com. In your research you will most likely come across very conflicting opinions such as you must use at least half black tea while others will say you can use all green. Try it all ways, and just watch the health of your baby—I have killed a few so far.

The fun part about making Kombucha is the communal aspect of it, getting a baby from a friend or a strange man in yoga class and then getting another one when you realize the one he gave you also came with some fruit fly larvae. Somehow in spite of the sick baby, I ended up going out to coffee with the kind kombucha yoga man…and then dinner…and then another fancier dinner followed by ferry ride…and now we make kombucha together on Tuesdays in our apartment. He carries home two gallons of water and we look at each other sideways and make comments about how the other one brews. Some weeks the babies that come are happy and strong and others paper-thin. I think it takes time and a lot of trial and error to get into your own personal kombucha groove, and I don’t think I’ve hit it yet. I still grab the occasional G.T.’s and I don’t know if I am really any healthier or shinier from all the tea, but it does seem to help settle my often cranky and anxiety ridden stomach. For that, and my tea-loving yoga boyfriend, I am definitely grateful.

 

A Sandwich By Any Other Name

It’s a dark and chilly August winter night in Montevideo. We’ve just put our bags down in an odd, skinny little hotel after a long bus ride—it’s late and we’re hungry. Uruguay was never, not in my wildest dreams, a place I thought I’d visit. To be honest, it was a country to which I never really gave much thought. If I had, I’d probably imagine it to be some sort of wild, unsophisticated, poverty-stricken land. Alas, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Montevideo is a strange place, it feels grey and veiled, like a city from the past or in a black and white film. There’s a sense that behind this smoky layer lives a city which has discovered something great about things we’ve long since tossed, and finds meaning in things that we’ve overlooked. It feels anything but unsophisticated. I’m almost certain I should have packed a trench coat and cigarette holder.

There’s no question tonight about where we’re going and what we’re eating. We’ve come especially to Montevideo for this: La Pasiva and their chivito.

I’ve absolutely no idea what I’m in for, but Martin promises me I want one. He orders the regular steak chivitio, and I order chicken thinking it will be healthier. When our chivitos arrive I recognize immediately that I’ve made a mistake. Not because mine is or isn’t of superior nutritional value, but because chivitio is chivito for a reason, and it simply shouldn’t be messed with.

All that needs be said is that the chivito is the sandwich to end all sandwiches. From this point on, either chivitios should belong to a different category, or sandwiches need not be calling themselves sandwiches.

The chivito starts with a white roll, soft and not too thick with the perfect amount of chewy/crunchy crust. The roll can best be described as handles desperately attempting, yet faultlessly incapable of containing the insides. Housed between breaded ceiling and floor is lettuce, tomato, hard boiled egg, peppers, some melted cheese, a layer of ham, another of bacon, possibly some more cheese, could be more tomato, a whole lot of creamy mayo, green olives, and I think I might have missed the hearts of palm. At the nucleus of what to most of us would appear an already sufficient meal rests a beautiful, thin filet mignon. Our chivitos are served with fries and a generous side of napkins. You would be crazy not to wash it down with beer.

As you can see, my chicken vs. filet blunder makes virtually no caloric difference.

The chivito, not unlike this unpretentious, mysterious city, is something to experience. I wonder how it’s possible to have so much in one dish and still taste them all. Each bite is a surprise as a different combination gathers; it’s clear the chivito is the one leading this ride.

The people here are kind, and more than happy to share their national dish. It’s okay with them if I want to go on not thinking about Uruguay, but the truth is I can’t stop wondering about this place, these people and this “sandwich”. Content, we step outside into the black and white night, and stroll across the damp lamp-lit streets.

Trench coat wanting nonetheless, the next mystery on my mind, is dessert.