I have dreaded writing this post. So much so that I have waited until Thursday to actually use my fingers to strike the keys and compose a thought. All week long I’ve been thinking about cute little anecdotes to relay just how much my life is like this wacky, sexy little 30 minute dramedy on the WB (I still think I’m closer to 20 than to 40, by the way, and I definitely don’t think I’m cool cool or edgy enough for HBO since I’m not a vampire, a writer/shoe whore or a part of an all-male celebrity pack of roving, explosive testosterone). Sure I’ve suffered some dating disappointments and some career drama, but through sheer pluck and charm I am managing to have enlightening adventures and overcome it all in the neat, time allotted package. And at the end of this little episode, there is some kind of cute clarity or epiphany and then there is what is always needed to carry anyone to the next foray-- hope. The truth is a whole hell of a lot murkier than this. A lot less hopeful. The truth is, well, kind of antithetical to the life I’ve formulated for myself in my head. You know the one. The one where I’m just a late bloomer and I’m really adorable and really successful in my own slightly neurotic yet sweet way, and that people will certainly discover this about me very soon... the truth is not so simple or cute or formatted to fit your television.
I’ve kind of been living in the place where I want to have hope for my future like I did when I was graduating from college-- when any and everything was possible and laid at my feet, and even if a bad thing happened it would be a well earned lesson and a humorous story for future cocktail parties-- but I’m going to have to admit to myself, sooner or later, that I am living in a real, not made for TV world. A world where my OB/ GYN reduced me to tears during my last pelvic exam by telling me that I am-- shock of all shocks-- 38 years old and if I want to pass on my genes I should consider freezing my eggs for a mere 15 grand (for a college grad I am shockingly unaware of my lack of reproductive immortality and with the fact that money is necessary in the whole exchange for goods and services thing). And maybe I should be a little more honest about thinking that everyone gets a happy ending and that mine is just around the bend; maybe I should just recognize that my business just might fail, that I just might have to really downsize and that great love might not be on the horizon. It is so not a sexy or happy thought, but it is my truth; maybe the more I acknowledge and make friends with this reality the less shitty I’ll feel...
And back in reality... I was on my way to a BBQ at the house of the Girl Whose Name Sounds Better Pronounced as an Indian Food Dish when my car decided to basically blow up for the second time since March. I feel really lucky that I have a car, luckier that it chooses to function 99% of the time, and luckiest that it’s paid for. What I feel less good about is the crap English (even though it’s really a Ford) engineering and the fact that it is eight years old and skirts dangerously close to the whole explode at any time thing.
So I take the car in to the service center without an appointment, which already outs me as a manner-less ne’er do well, and I plop myself down on the couch in the lobby while I wait for a rental car. My service advisor lets me know that he’s going to go look for “overt” signs of trouble in the engine before I take off and I warn him that my car is, quite possibly, the dirtiest car in southern California, no judging please, I do take care of my possessions, really, not that he needs or cares to know any of this information. He comes back a few minutes later with a somewhat disdainful look on his face and his hands uncomfortably clenched (I can see through his pleated khakis) in his pockets.
“Well, I can’t really see any obvious reason why your car would be overheating, but I think you should know there’s a mouse nesting in your engine compartment.”
I’m not sure I can properly describe the look that I imagine I had on my face at this moment-- a mixture of disgust, an un-ironic Valley Girl and shame rolled into one-- but I can tell you I have never felt so dirty in my entire life. Instantly I’m back in first grade and Barbara B., whose parents owned the local doughnut shop, is standing in front of me in the lunch line and everyone around us is pinching their nose and pretending to gag. It was really sad because Barbara B. was really, really sweet, but she was the kid who smelled and no one ever gets over that without having to change school districts.
I am Pig Pen. I am Barbara B. and I’m going to have to transfer to a new service center or forever be the girl with the mouse that has eaten through and nested in her engine compartment because she is a dirty, almost 40, less than spectacularly successful, potentially egg freezing goldsmith.
Of course the mouse has nothing to do with why the car was overheating and everything to do with the fact that I live in what can only be described as a concrete, ethnically diverse garbage dump. And upon my asking my non plussed service advisor, I was summarily told that the only way I can discourage MY-T-mouse from returning to its new abode is to place rat traps with peanut butter on them around the perimeter of my car. Or I could possibly lock Monkey in the car and watch what happens. For now I’m just making peace with the ugly, stark truth: I am a girl who lives alone with a cat in a questionable and unsanitary neighborhood and has a mouse living rent free in her car.
And if I want to have a social life I’m going to have to continue to bribe my friends with soup and booze to come over to my mouse breeding ground. But I’m cool with that reality.
Another reality is that I love love love foods that remind me of the idealized version of my childhood that only exists in my head-- where there are comfort foods and cheese a-plenty. This week I thought that since it was the season premiere of “True Blood” (even though I hate the whole TV thing when I’m entertaining, I’ll lighten up when Alexander Skarsgard, or “ASkars” as I like to call him, is involved) I’d do a little “stunt” souping... a bar theme if you will. So I started off with cream cheese and pepper jelly with Wheat Thins, moved on to an Alice Waters inspired market greens salad with a classic sherry vinaigrette and then served a belgian ale and aged cheddar soup.
And dessert... it was pretty great. I made giant red velvet (like blood, duh) cookies and filled them with homemade cheesecake ice cream to make red velvet ice cream sandwiches. Of course I had to OCD the whole thing up by folding deli paper around them and adding my own custom labels. Another reality, my literal neurotic insanity. My Gay Boyfriend said I was a “blonde, non-Jewish, far less talented Woody Allen.” I took it as a supreme compliment.
Deets for the bar-ish/ trailer-ish/ idealized child-ish soup:
2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
1 (12-oz) bottle ale such as Bass
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb extra-sharp Cheddar (preferably English; rind removed if necessary), grated (4 cups)
4 bacon slices (3 1/2 oz total), cooked and crumbled
Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water, agitating water, then lift out leeks and drain in a colander.
Cook leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaf in butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to moderately low and sprinkle flour over vegetables, then cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add milk, broth, and beer in a stream, whisking, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper.
Add cheese by handfuls, stirring constantly, and cook until cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes (do not boil). Discard bay leaf.
Serve sprinkled with bacon.
I added 3 peeled and diced fingerling potatoes after adding the milk, broth and beer and then simmered for about a half an hour, until the potato was soft. I also cooked the leeks and other vegetables for about 15 minutes, not the five that was in the recipe, because I wanted to make sure they were almost like a creamy base. The soup was very ale-ish because I used a really yeasty beer from Belgium and a two year aged raw milk cheddar. If you like a less bitter flavor, add more Worcestershire and salt-- salt cuts bitterness. If I just eat more salt maybe my personality will improve....
As much as I dragged my feet in writing this post, it has been pretty much the only thing besides cooking that has offered me much respite from the stark loneliness that is my reality lately. That is the truth. I want to be upbeat and witty and write pithy little posts about my shoes and my dates, but it’s just not what’s currently going on. Maybe I’m building my kitchen, one bowl at a time, because that is exactly what I need to do right now. Because if I am being honest about facing the palpability of that unfocused longing, I might as well nurture myself. After all, it is a hell of a lot less expensive than freezing my eggs.