Sunday, February 7, 2010

Poverty Mentality

I realize that this is not a foodie blog (despite how much I love to read them), but with a new-found ability to eat (hooray for the second trimester!), I find myself thinking about food... a lot. Actually, to be totally honest, I have been thinking about food more than a healthy, normal person ever since getting pregnant-- especially during those long, sleepless nights after not being able to eat all day.

I lie awake and plan dinner menus, think of restaurants I want to spend
fortunes on, and come up with elaborate party themes (and of course, the food I would serve at them). It's kind of sick, like food pornography playing in my mind.

Sometime around last week, I realized that I was able to eat little bits of
food that I hadn't been able to before (which had been a list about a mile long, consisting of about everything that wasn't a cracker), and my little mind went crazy. Oh, the joy of cooking, and even better, the joy of eating. A combination of refraining from food for so long, and my hyper-sensitive pregnant nose seemed to make everything I ate taste like the nectar of the gods. So, of course, I have this poverty mentality ingrained in me now, and every time food is within reach, I try to eat everything I can-- until Chris notices & scolds me for making myself sick.

And of course, after feeling like a hermit from being confined to the couch for so long, my very first instinct is to throw a party. My first desperate clutch landed on Super Bowl Sunday. Nachos,
homemade pizza (Chris makes a mean pizza), little brownies shaped like footballs... just thinking about it made me salivate. The problem is that we don't have a TV (that is, we don't have a TV that actually shows TV), and no one we knew was having a Super Bowl party.

Well, not to worry. The plan is to scurry out after church today and buy a set of rabbit ears. If it works, well then, we're watching the Super Bowl [commercials], and having ourselves a party. If not-- no problem, I am determined to make (and thoroughly enjoy-- and probably get sick from) a huge platter of nachos, brownies shaped like footballs, and homemade pizza.

You're welcome to join us, and cheer for Saints. Or the... Colts(?). Or the nachos, as I will be doing.

Best Ever Nachos:
-1 16oz. can Ducal re-fried black beans*
-1 bag Casa Sanchez thick & crispy tortilla chips**
-1 carton Casa Sanchez salsa verde**
-1/4lb. cotija cheese, shredded or crumbled*
-1 tomato, diced
-1-2 avocados
-1-2 limes
-teaspoon ground oregano (approx)
-teaspoon salt (approx)
-small bunch cilantro, chopped & 2 green onions, white parts diced (optional)
-sour cream (optional)

-Pre-heat oven to 200
-Spread 1/2 of chips on a large, oven-proof platter
-Dollop 1/2 of black beans & cheese over chips
-Cover with remaining chips, black beans & cheese
-Place platter in oven for about 10-15 min, or until cheese is melted & chips have browned slightly
-Slice avocado, scoop out flesh into a bowl, and mash with a fork. Add lime juice, salt & oregano to taste. If desired, add chopped cilantro & green onions
-Remove platter from oven, & top with guacamole, sour cream, diced tomatoes & salsa.
-If you prefer a meatier version, grab a rotisserie chicken, chop up some of the meat & fry it in lime juice. Add to top of nachos at end.

*available at Latin markets
**sold in San Francisco at grocery stores, Latin markets, and at their restaurant on 24th & York
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kitchen Window

So far, it's been one of those mornings where walls seem to bump into me, objects seems to fall out of my hand, gravity seems a little stronger, and things that I dig through cabinets to find were sitting on the counter staring at me. Nothing tragic-- just one of those mornings.

how I managed to work about a 14hr day yesterday, and decided to treat myself to the morning off. As I shuffled around the kitchen in my slippers, I fumbled through the process of making bran muffins, and watched the world pass by outside the window.

Living on the ground floor of a corner apartment means that there's a lot going on right outside the kitchen window. I've woken up to a homeless man bathing outside the window, seen
drug deals against the window, heard all kinds of interesting & colorful conversations through the window, and waved at neighbors with purple rubber-gloved hands while doing dishes & looking out the window. But of all the sights & sounds that window provides, my three favorites are Bob, The Cuban Basset Hound, and The Cheerleader.

Bob lives on the far end of our block, and if I had to make a guess, I would
say he is an Italian American in his mid-seventies who grew up in Jersey. Or maybe Brooklyn. On sunny days, he opens his garage door and sits in a lawn chair, watching the neighborhood change around him. Rumor has it, he built his house house back when our rough Latino neighborhood was made up of Italian & Irish families. I honestly wouldn't be too surprised to see him in his lawn chair with a rifle spread across his lap, muttering racial slurs, like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.

The Cuban Basset Hound, as we call him, doesn't actually have much to do with my story, but I just have to mention him because of the intrigue he brings from the kitchen window. "He" is actually an old wrinkly man with almost chocolate brown skin and white wavy hair, along with his wrinkly, saggy waddling basset hound that shuffle at a snail's pace up & down our block. Together, they look like they look like one entity, dragging their feet towards death's door-- that is until another dog walks by, and the comatose basset hound lunges for a kill, and the grumpy old Cuban breaks into a huge smile and laughs. Quite the transformation.

And last, but certainly not least is the Cheerleader. Every morning for several years, like clockwork, we heard the Cheerleader's singsong voice float through our window without actually seeing his identity. The morning routine is as follows: a middle-aged Asian woman half-jogs, half-walks in tiny little bouncy steps around & around our block, and is always inevitably intercepted right at our corner by The Cheerleader.

"Here she comes! Here she comes! Here she comes!" chirps The Cheerleader in a little song, shrilly squeaking out the "Here" part of the sentence in the same way every day. "You're looking good, you're looking good, you're looking good" rolls up & down like the chorus, followed by a big Mwaaaaaw of a kiss. Usually I hear through the window enthusiastic compliments & small talk, as the woman politely responds in a light Chinese accent, but obviously wants to continue her "jog". It's an adorable little interaction.

Well, the big plot twist, surprise ending to my little neighborhood tale came about a year ago, when the Cheerleader & The Jogger happen to collide a few steps earlier than normal, giving me the opportunity to finally see his face... and it was none other than Bob, the crotchety looking Clint Eastwood of our block. I almost fell over.

I have to say that listening to The Cheerleader/Bob has been one of the best parts of my morning, and as silly & repetitive as he sounds, I sometimes wish that he would follow me around the kitchen, cheering me on, and telling me how great I look at 7am.
I think we could all use someone like that, every now & then.

Sadly, it has been months since I've heard Bob's sing-song voice floating through our window, and was reminded of the fact this morning as I stumbled around the kitchen and saw him slowly walk around the corner. My guess is that his jogging friend moved away-- as I'm sure most of his friends have done over the years-- and that he has no one to cheer on as they fight their way through the morning. He looks a little less bright as a result, and I miss his encouragement, even if it wasn't intended for me.

I remember one morning Bob deeply apologizing to The Jogger for missing her the previous day. He explained that his son had called & wouldn't get off the phone in time for Bob to come to the corner. I don't know that she minded-- she might have been grateful for the uninterrupted lap around the block. But I do know that Bob needed someone to cheer on.

And I suppose we all do-- we need to clap & cheer for & compliment others just as much as we need a standing ovation every now & then. I think it sort of keeps us alive. It almost makes me want to take up jogging, just to give Bob someone to cheer for again.