Tag Archives: food

The Impostor at Trader Joe’s

22 May

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I think we can all admit that at some point in our lives, we’ve felt like frauds; impostors who don’t fit in, and who though surrounded by people, are totally alone. We worry that if our secret were to get out, the jig would be up and everybody would finally see that we really don’t know what we’re doing after all. We can feel like this at work, at school, at parties, in church, at book club, browsing art galleries or anywhere sports is involved. I’ve felt it in all of those places; but for sure, I’ve felt like an impostor every time I’ve stepped into Trader Joe’s.

If you’ve not been to a Trader Joe’s market, it’s a dazzling almost choreographed circus of grocery shopping. The atmosphere is festive and tropical. The employees are friendly, chatty, and seem happy to be there, wearing casual tropical tees and box cutters on their belts. It feels like everybody else, customers and employees alike, know each other, though rationally, I’m fully aware they don’t.

Trader Joe’s is not a chicly curated organic grocery experience stylized to placate the most discerning hipsters or foodies or hipster foodies. The chain has been around since the 50’s and the customers are diverse in every way, and from what I’ve seen, utterly devoted to the place. Our closest Trader Joe’s has a line of cars that stretch for a block waiting to get into the little parking lot that is overseen by a lovely lady charged with managing all those Subarus, and pointing out the parking places, and then smiling and waving goodbye to you as leave. This morning I saw a guy peddling away from the store on a bicycle modified with so many grocery holding attachments, I was worried that once he got going down a San Francisco hill, the weight of his loot would not allow him to stop.

Guys or gals, old or young, artsy or corporate or retired, every customer to me looks like they know what they are doing. I’ve been there countless times and continue to have so many questions. “What’s bulgur? Is this healthy? Or at least healthier than other stuff I buy? Is it obvious how hard I’m having to think right now? These other people don’t look like they are thinking at all. Are they on to me? I can’t stand out that much; I’m dressed casually, but not too casually; I have a well-worn Trader Joe’s disposable shopping bag. I’m here at 10:00 am with all of these other people. And by the way, how are so many of us out on a school day?”

I’ve done my fair share of grocery shopping both as an adult learning to read labels, look for bargains, and control myself in the potato chip aisle; and as a kid when already long grocery runs with my mom were inevitably lengthened by the fact that she seemed to know and chat with everyone in the store.

At Trader Joe’s, my old crutches have been stripped away – I don’t see most of the brand name items I’ve used all my life, or at least heard of all my life; or if we’re being honest, the ones for which I have seen the commercials 39,003 times. And with so few of the brands I’ve come to rely on, there I am facing all kinds of new and mysterious stuff I’ve blissfully ignored, until now.

Where I miss my Raisin Bran Crunch, there, somehow is a jar of Hearts of Palm. I can’t find a Pepsi, but I do see Kefir. What’s Kefir? Do I need this? What do I do with it? (And this is from a girl who spends A LOT of time on Pinterest.) I’m reminded aisle after aisle about just how little I really know about food. And maybe about life.

I grip my cart tightly and grab a bag of Olive Oil Popcorn (delicious) and Triple Ginger Snaps (super delicious), tomatoes, and a 10 lb. loaf of bread. I’m confident with my familiar choices, but I know they are pedestrian. I feel certain that if you asked any of my fellow shoppers about Alkaline Water or Yacon Syrup, they could tell you what it is and how to use it. I see the Cold Brew Coffee, Speculoos Cookie Butter, Chia everything, and Pomegranate Vinegar, but walk away defeated. The store’s circular, The Fearless Flyer, probably explains it all, but perhaps I’m not fearless enough of a flyer to read it.

I wrap up my trip where I feel most at ease, in the frozen foods aisle surrounded by little frozen pizzas and hot dog pastries, tiny tacos, small dumplings, adorable chicken pot pies, mini meatballs, itty bitty feta bites, and not-so-little samosas. I’ve been known to put all of these appetizers together to create one global mish mash of a meal that requires multiple oven temperatures, and wildly different cooking times, illustrating to me that these items were not meant to be prepared for the same meal, let alone as the entire meal. (The adorable little things in very similar boxes can take anywhere from 12 minutes to 55 minutes to cook, which results in a two-hour, sweaty, math heavy, “no fuss” meal.)

Recently, I left my comfort zone and bought coconut oil, which according to the folks on Pinterest, is the most amazing product of our time. While, I haven’t had the guts to smear it through my hair as a conditioner, or across my skin as a moisturizer as suggested, I have taken the leap with a Pinterest recipe and created a delightful little snack that is reminiscent of fudge. A HEALTHY (?) SNACK THAT IS LIKE PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE!

Maybe I’ll tell my fellow shoppers about my coconut oil success next time I’m at Trader Joe’s, which might score me an invite me to one of their customer club meetings.

 

For you recipe fiends out there, here’s a variation of the oft copied recipe that’s floating around Pinterest: Take 3 Tbs peanut butter, 3 Tbs coconut oil, a teensy dash of sea salt and a squeeze of honey. Mix it up. I pour it over a wax paper lined pie plate, and toss it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Then you crack it apart with a knife, throw the uneven pieces in a freezer bag, and eat it whenever you want. Although yes, it reminds me of FUDGE, just a couple of pieces of this stuff makes for a delicious, guilt free, and filling snack.

 

Find me on Twitter @FulcrumChron and on Instagram @ColleenWeems

 

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the pot pie paradigm

12 Nov

When you live in California, or anywhere really, you can’t depend on the calendar to tell you when the season has changed.  You likely have your own little tell tale signs that it’s time to shift gears and jump into the next season with abandon. It’s officially Spring when I hear a lawnmower or an airplane through an open window. Summer is the first day I require an iced coffee to function. Winter is simple – sweatshirt, fuzzy socks, hot chocolate, staring at the Christmas Tree; rain, optional.

Fall however, is a little different. The Bay Area enjoys its most beautiful warm weather in September and October. The lazy days of summer are gone, but the realities of school and work and sports and responsibility are just… the worst. You like the idea of fall, but you can’t enjoy a moment of it…yet. Then one day it happens, the good part of autumn arrives. This week, the signs were everywhere; real fall is finally here.

  • Without explanation, a big fat, warty pumpkin showed up on our doorstep. Not the jack-o-lantern kind, but the harvesty cornucopia kind. Some autumnal fairy left it there (thank you, whoever you are). Until the moment it arrived, our entire 2011 pumpkin inventory consisted of the tiny souvenir pumpkin from Zach’s kindergarten field trip, and John’s sad matching chaperone pumpkin. If a mystery gourd doesn’t tell you something special’s afoot, I don’t know what does.
  • Dry leaves swirled dramatically around the parking lot as I hurried in from lunch, clutching close to me my brown corduroy blazer, the official jacket of fall. When the wind blows like that, no matter what building I hustle into, I announce, “It’s like ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ out there.” It’s weird enough to say that at the grocery store or the dentist, but you get really special looks at work yelling that something wicked is coming, especially when work is a church. I might need a new movie reference that says “it’s windy.” Nobody’s even seen “Something Wicked This Way Comes” in 25 years, including me.
  • The 6-year-old needs a new pair of slippers; he’s grown out of the firetruck pair, and his feet are now cold. The cat’s feet are also cold and she thinks she controls the heater. She sits on the grating and paws at it unsuccessfully for an hour or so until it finally kicks on, at which point she looks at me, as if to say, “you’re welcome.”
  • A hot cup of coffee is never far from my thoughts.

 “I need to finish this budget draft…then get a cup of coffee.”

“ Where did I leave my keys? Over there, by my coffee.”

“Someone put peppermint mocha creamer in the office fridge; best day ever.”

  • The moon on Wednesday was freakishly huge and hovered menacingly over the freeway and the hills, so close it looked like I could drive to it as fast as I could drive home. I never look directly at it; it knows I blame it for my crankiness, other people’s crankiness, sleepless kids and bad driving.
  • Monday is the day I will make my annual turkey, apple and sweet potato pot pie. No part of it comes from a box, hence the annual-ness of it. I am trying to get John to commit to a date for his annual apple cake.  They cannot be made on the same day, or my head will explode.
  • And then, to top it off: John picked up egg nog on the way home. It gets dark after lunch. I took an umbrella with me, and promptly left it in a restaurant. Twilight’s out in a few days (they’re vampires, so that’s fallish, and they sparkle, so it’s festive.) I think about ginger cookies almost as much as I think about coffee.

It seems people who know about gardening and growing things best understand the rhythms of the seasons. They talk to me about their bulbs or their tomatoes, eyeing the weather and their soil, and maybe an almanac. I nod, recognizing that yes, I have heard of bulbs and tomatoes, though I cannot tell you what grows from a bulb.

So, don’t let the mall tell you it’s time to feel like Christmas (because they’re trying, hard); it’s not up to them, it’s up to you. Your fall may not have even started yet.

the shrimp dumpling gang

28 Sep

Realizing we had a rare uninterrupted family day ahead of us, John hollered the magic words into the morning air to send the boys scrambling around the house for their shoes…  “DIM SUM!!”

There are just a couple of phrases that send them into such immediate action. The other is “How about a 5:00 bedtime, then, because that’s where you’re headed,” but the circumstances are usually less jovial, and my brow is likely furrowed.  But when we yell “dim sum,” they know what that means: “Today is special, we’re going to the city, find your shoes.”

Years ago, my college roommate, Liane took us to a Chinatown bakery, and bought a dozen shrimp dumplings for about $4. She doled them out when we emerged from the crowded closet sized storefront onto the bustling sidewalk.

Much as one would divide their histories into “before and after kids,” or “before and after the career change,” or “before and after I got a smart phone,” I have pre and post dim sum, marked by that first taste of shrimp dumpling on a crowded San Francisco street.  It squirted all over my awesome kid-sized Curious George T-shirt, ruining it forever – a small price to pay for dumpling shaped nirvana.  Perhaps it was also a sign that even as a pseudo hipster 20-something, it was time to stop wearing the kid-sized Curious George tee in public.

Before we knew it, our favorite San Francisco Saturdays as newlyweds were spent convincing the bakery lady that, yes we did want 42 shrimp dumplings and 2 Cokes so we could have lunch at the cold beach. Or when we were feeling fancy, we’d wait for the good stuff to be pushed by on a cart in a dim sum restaurant. There’s a tripe incident I don’t like to talk about, but if you have the opportunity to select your items from the cart, don’t put your face directly over the bamboo steamer basket when they open it. A tripe facial is not something one soon forgets.

Our Richmond District neighborhood that bordered what is considered by many to be San Francisco’s “New Chinatown,” still boasts Ton Kiang which is delicious and perfect if you can take off at 11:00 on a weekday and head that far down Geary Blvd., because then you can totally…probably… maybe get a table. For the bakery experience, we head to Good Luck Dim Sum. I don’t know how God feels when I do this, but when we venture here, I start praying for a parking space when we’re within a mile radius of the place.

But, alas, we usually end up at Hong Kong Lounge. It has pink awnings, and at some point within the last decade changed their name from the far classier Hong Kong Flower Lounge.  Now that the beautiful old theater where we saw “She’s All That,” is shuttered and forlorn, Hong Kong Lounge is that block’s reigning crown jewel. It sits between the old biker bar John ended up at when he locked himself out of the apartment, and the Ross Dress for Less where I went when it was my turn to lock myself out.

We moved away from the city years ago, but manage to find our way back on chilly days when we are feeling a little nostalgic, and a lot hungry.

We’ve dragged along dear friends like our seminary compadres, Megan & Harold and their kiddos. As we’d wait outside for our name to be called, our little children would press their faces against the glass to stare at the diners inside, or they would tuck their arms in their shirts and huddle together for warmth on the cold sidewalk.

“Stand up before someone tries to give you a dollar,” one of us would say, “Well, never mind, it’s ok, go ahead and stay there.”

Sometimes we come with our college buddy, Bouncer. When he’s there, the hurried wait staff takes a look at our order sheets, and asks us if we’re serious. We nod proudly, and take their doubt as a challenge. It’s delicious at first, then funny, then scary as we try to convince each other to “please, pretty please eat the last bun, they don’t think we can do it, and I cannot. I cannot do it, but I know you can.”

(If you go to the Hong Kong Lounge, whatever you do, don’t ask them to split the bill, because then it’s a whole thing, and every level of management gets involved, and your kids get really embarrassed.)

On this day, when our little foursome gets seated, I go all 1950’s and hand the menu/worksheet to John to make the selections on our behalf. Ordering is like a long and deliciously complicated word problem:

Two adults and two kids go for dim sum. There are three pork buns to a plate, and four shrimp dumplings. Shrimp and chive dumplings come six to a plate, as do potstickers. The 6-year old eats one half the pork buns as the 11-year old, but twice the potstickers. The mom will eat any shrimp dumpling that passes by if her fellow diners are not careful. The dad bats clean up, and assumes responsibility for the consumption of the ‘adventure plate’ if it is not liked by the rest of the group. What combination of plates should they order?”

John taps the tiny little pencil against the paper, and I can see his eyelid twitch with all that thinking.

I try to keep the boys from using their chopsticks to stab each other, poke themselves in the eye, or dig at that hole in the padding of their chair.

The waiter whisks the sheet off our table and John informs us our adventure plate will be the doughnut noodle roll, which arrives first.

Yup, there it is. Imagine you had a doughnut, then you rollllllled it up into a big rice noodle. The man poured brown stuff on it for us, and we debated whether it was syrup or soy sauce.  Three doughnut noodle rolls already cut in half. That’s six pieces. I’ll take one of those, and save room for the other stuff. (It was strangely good by the way, and the brown stuff was soy sauce.)

The shrimp goes fast & furious, and then come the potstickers and fried and  steamed pork buns.  “Darn, I meant puffs,” John mutters to himself, “I like the puffs with the shiny tops.” He notes it for next time, and we talk strategy and what we’ve learned for the future; one more order of shrimp dumplings, two fewer orders of pork buns.  John rethinks this by the time we walk out the door, “I don’t know,” he says, “I think I ate too much shrimp in my 20’s.”

The visit isn’t complete without us driving slowly by our old apartment, which looks exactly the same as it did 11 years ago, cracked glass front door and all. “There’s our old bank,” I say enthusiastically. Kids love seeing their parents’ old banks. “The hobby shop is still there! The card shop! The video café is gone, where we saw the guy lick the ketchup off the bottle, but they still have the poster up for ‘The Green Mile.'”

“Mom?”

“Yes, dear?” I look back at the boys who are blissfully staring out the window, their faces shiny from our feast.

“Can you please turn up the radio?”

If I had to be pick him being super pumped to see my old bank branch or excited to share a dim sum meal with us – I’ll take the doughnut noodle roll, thankyouverymuch.

*The restaurant above is actually yummy Ton Kiang, and I snapped that pic of Good Luck one day as we were probably looking for parking. That building there to the right is our old San Francisco apartment. That might be our former neighbor’s car. Wow, Gary & Linda – I’ll save them for another blog.

twister

27 Apr

The pancake house has a twister now. That’s not a euphemism either, and I’m shocked that two posts in a row have been inspired and kicked off by this pancake house. On top of the bacon they cook directly into the pancakes, they now have a twister – or for the civilians out there – a balloon animal maker. I know a guy, who knows a guy who knows a twister, in case you were wondering how I’m privy to the lingo.

We walked in to the restaurant giddy with anticipation and I spotted a giant balloon sword, larger than the proud sword bearer who was struggling under the sheer size, and not the weight I suppose. There were balloons everywhere and though I knew what this probably meant, I held out the hope that it was one of those 8:00 in the morning pancake house kid’s birthday parties that if not en vogue today, might be tomorrow.

Zach put eyes on her first. We followed the host to the table and tried to order juice and so so much coffee over Zach’s suddenly loud and animated “There’s a balloon lady! There’s a balloon lady! There’s a balloon lady!”

I don’t mind the balloon lady. She looked like a very nice person. But nobody can relax at a meal when there’s a balloon lady. Or a balloon dude. Until you make direct eye contact with them, they are the elusive twister. (Unless of course, you don’t want a balloon, in which case they’re the ever-present twister) In the pancake house, there were a lot of kids watching the twister’s every twist, every stretch, every limp and lifeless balloon in her apron come to life at her skilled hands.

You could see the wheels turning in the kids’ heads, trying to count how many other kids are between the twister and their table. And also weighing their options. I like monkeys, but I got a monkey last time. Do you think she knows “dolphin?” What is that she’s doing now? Is that an octopus? That’s an octopus. That’s awesome. “Look, look, look at the octopus.

The wheels in my head were turning too, and were laced with inner turmoil, as they always are when balloons are involved. This thing’s going to pop and someone’s going to cry. It will probably float away, or cause a fight when Jake undoubtedy touches it.  Seriously, when is the balloon lady gonna get here? Oh no, there are four kids at that table, and that last octopus took like 8 minutes. We’ve just ordered. She’s never gonna get here. “Excuse me miss, my son’s very anxious about the balloon, I mean, I’m not – I’m like whatever – but my son would really like a balloon, would you let the balloon lady know that we’d love to see her?”

Sure there was another table of kids between us and the twister, but in all fairness, they hadn’t ordered, and our handwhipped butter had arrived. We were up against the clock.

One more octopus later, and much to the dismay of the table of girls who were sure they were next, the twister arrived. “I twist for tips” was her greeting. We nodded and asked if she knew “dolphin.”

“No, but I can do flying fish. I twist for tips, I’m not paid by the restaurant.”

“Right, got it. We’ll take the flying fish.” The girls at the other table were turned around in their booth eyeing the fish. I avoided eye contact with the mother who I can assume was giving me a stink eye and timing how long the flying fish was taking.

When the flying fish was finished, it had eyeballs and a fishing pole that was bigger than Zach. It had kissy lips, and I swear, facial expression. We provided the tip (she twists for tips) and got her card. She also does temporary air brush body art and bubbles.

Our food had arrived, and when I wasn’t pouring syrup or cutting pancakes, I was managing the fish, keeping it out of our breakfasts, stopping Zach from sitting on it, and trying to keep it from dangling over the heads of the balloonless girls in the next booth.

When it was mercifully time to go, I grabbed the box of ham that I hadn’t had time to finish, and we began the slow walk through the dining room. We were lead by Zach who, like a royal, gave the diners ample time to ooh and aahhh over he and his fish. When he was satisfied with his grand exit, he went tearing down the sidewalk, the fish flying behind him like a kite. “Stop!” I screeched, “Watch where you’re going! The parking lot is right there.” I turned to Jake who was shaking his head. “That thing is not going to make it to the car.”

Zach turned on a dime to follow the sidewalk toward our car. His balloon banged into the building, and I sighed with relief as it bounced back. He stopped briefly to peek into a can full of cigarette butts perched at the kitchen door. “Zach be careful – don’t swing that thing or it’s going to – “

Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!

There on the sidewalk by the cigarette butt can lay the balloon eyeballs, relatively unscathed. Zach stood in shock, staring at the eyeballs with a few surviving balloons hanging shapelessly from the pole. There were tears. We carried the parts to the car, and as Jake consoled his little brother, I tried to twist the remains into something recognizable. The lips were gone, as were the fins. I handed the new arrangement to Zachary who stopped sniffling. He and Jacob had moved on to discussing things that stink.

don’t call that vintage: grub

14 Apr

There’s a new pancake house in town.

That’s not a euphemism; there really is a new pancake house in town. And it’s kinda glorious. They put bacon in the pancakes…..yes, IN the pancakes. The waitstaff talks about the hand-whippedness of the butter with such passion that you think back with disdain about every stupid meal you’ve ever had that did not come with this butter.

Jake went there with my parents, and they hung his drawing of a leprechaun eating pancakes in the front window, creating three fans for life. A mere two days later, the rest of us were back to visit the drawing, and to procure more hand-whipped butter.

Now we have a tough choice at breakfast, as the new shiny place is down the street from one of this town’s famed institutions of culinary indulgence. For being an institution, I find it curious that nobody really knows the name of it, because when it’s spoken about in hushed whispers, everybody calls it something different. The source of the confusion would the multiple signs out front – one says “The Chef Burger” and the other says “Giant Chef.” I’ve also had the experience of raving about it to more than one somebody, and they cock their heads in bewilderment, until a look of realization comes over their faces and they say, “ooooh, you mean The Burger Chef.” At our house, it’s known as Giant Chef, of course, because that is the most fun to say and to visualize. Frankly you could call it “Stinky’s” and I would eat there.

A friend at work clued me in to it. I think I said “biscuits and gravy,” which if you’re around me enough, you will inevitably hear me mumble. Apparently, it was the secret password. The way I like to remember the transaction is that she looked around stealthily then leaned in to whisper the location before disappearing back into the cover of night. Or the office. Whatever.

The waitresses have worked there only forever, and your coffee cup never even gets down to half full. The biscuits & gravy are a steal (comes in handy at a cash-only joint) and they taste exactly as they should, only better. If you know biscuits & gravy – then you know exactly what the biscuits should be like, and you know exactly what the gravy should be like. Well – these are like that. And if you aren’t intimately familiar with biscuits & gravy, then I would recommend the corned beef hash, and then after that, I don’t know what to tell you. There’s always the donut place across the street that’s nestled in between the Army and Navy recruiting centers. And the friend who slipped me the intel on this place? Well, I’ve seen her there about a dozen times, and one of us usually has a ballcap on. Zach always spots her and announces her presence, much to her delight, I’m sure.

My kids are breakfast kids and have easily embraced diner culture– I’ll say it – they’re naturals. They chat up the waitstaff, use their manners and compliment the food. They’ll pay together at the register, usually in their dirty and dusty sports uniforms, and talk about baseball with the regulars at the counter. And when they are offered a free lollipop even though the sign says $.25, they say “thank you,” look over their shoulder at us and you can practically hear the little cartoon tooth twinkle thing happen.

In high school, I would drive 20 miles for good pancakes. It may have been IHOP, but it was worth it because they had German Pancakes which were really crepes with butter, powdered sugar and lemon. Sophisticated, right? I was savvy enough to know this was a dish I would not likely learn to make anytime soon. As a friend recently reminded me, we wrote a hard-hitting article about these pancakes in the high school newspaper.

Before you start worrying about my cholesterol, I want you to know that I’m an equal opportunity breakfast lover. I don’t just partake in greasy spoon diner culture, but the brunch culture too. Yeah, I like berries and compotes, and stuff made with buckwheat. I think I’ve said “lox is my middle name” and the closest I’ve gotten to a scuffle was with the girl who cut in front of me in the hour long wait for brunch in the West Portal District of San Francisco (My brunch rival, as John called her). As a kid, I would lazily lay in the backseat of my parents gigantic Chrysler, one knobby knee crossed over the other and imagine the day I would eat brunch in San Francisco, looking at the bay and listening to Christopher Cross, and maybe drinking Riuniti on ice, whatever that was. That, I decided would be my benchmark of adulthood…when I know I’d finally made it into the utmost realm of sophistication.

I recounted this childhood dream to John early in our relationship, and he has since caught me many a time affirming my adulthood and ascendance into the utmost realm of sophistication, when a) I’m eating brunch and looking out the window or B) I’m listening to Christopher Cross, which happens more than one might guess. Now if only I could get my hands on some Riuniti.

*Up there is a photo of the one, the only, Giant chef. Over there is the pancake picture by the renowned breakfast artist, Jacob. (One of his oil pencil drawings of my morning coffee hangs in our kitchen.)

This likely wraps up my vintage series. I have a couple of other vintage topics I want to get out there, but they just haven’t come to fruition. Watch out, I may use them to pay homage to this series that pays homage to vintage stuff that we love. Blows your mind, right?

friend to foodies

23 Feb

I eat food, and sometimes I cook it. I watch TV shows and read magazines about it. I even order it when we go to restaurants.

I was an aspiring food enthusiast and home chef for a couple of months until I realized it’s hard, and kind of a lot of work. It can also be pricey if you don’t know how to do it right, and even pricier if you do.

I think I’ve read and collected a thousand recipes in an attempt to lovingly categorize them and store them in these super-cute graphic-print 3-ring-binders I found at Target. I spent hours in front of DVR’d episodes of CSI: Miami, arranging the recipes in sheet protectors and everything. For a while I thought that yes, I would absolutely make every recipe in these binders, and I would jot down little notes about whimsical on-the-fly substitutions and possible wine pairings. The pages would be dog-eared and splattered with homemade tomato sauce when I would, in my old age, hand them over to my boys. The boys would of course accept them with reverence and a touch of awe.

It did not take me long to accept that this would not likely happen. My binders, as cute as they were, were not grounded in reality. Nowhere in my binders had I lovingly clipped and mounted the instructions from the side of the macaroni & cheese box or Trader Joe’s fish nuggets. There is the strong possibility that it might actually be the binders and the sheet protectors that I love, and not the 40 recipes I have for mushroom soup. Perhaps my boys will accept the binders one day with reverence and respect for my one-time love of organizational systems.

I set about to make my collection useable. Out went all the recipes that required fish sauce, quinoa, lamb, curry, eggplant, shellfish, whole fish, or whole chickens. Also the ones where the food would need to rise, rest, or take an ice bath. The food could not at any point be required to look like pea-sized gravel, as this usually requires a food processor or a stand mixer…my great white whales of kitchen appliances. I know what my family will not eat. They’ve vetoed polenta, fresh tomatoes, and if it were up to Zach, anything that is not “noodles with butter.” There are some dark moments in my culinary past that have made me gun shy enough to disqualify even more recipes. Fried chicken is out, and I don’t want to talk about that batch of sugar cookies. If you’re interested, John will happily recount the tale of the “ham ring” from our first year of marriage.

We threw a dinner party years ago. I was at Whole Foods ordering a $100 piece of meat, I think a standing rib roast. I asked the butcher so many questions about how to prepare it, that he came out from behind the counter to give me a hug and tell me that everything was going to be ok.

Because we’ve lived in the Bay Area for so long, we’ve known and befriended our fair share of legitimate foodies and home chefs who can point over their shoulder to Berkeley and say “Alice Waters started it all over there.” They could also easily brag about how every burrito place, pizza joint, and hamburger hovel feature the freshest and ingredients…and usually with the obligatory “twist” or “kick.” “It’s a taco, but with a twist!”

Over the years, the cool ingredients spent time in everybody’s pantries. Pine nuts. Sun dried tomatoes. Feta. Endive. Leeks. Wild Boar. (No? That one didn’t make it? Shocking, the weird meat with the three-day aftertaste was sure to be a winner.) Aioli. Truffle oil. Yes, I know these are still around, but each enjoyed their 15 minutes as the darlings of California Cuisine.

But alas, foodies are indeed everywhere. And now, thanks to social media, I get to hear what all of you food enthusiasts are up to, which is like 90% cool, and 10% annoying because you make it sound so effortless, like you are lazily sipping on chardonnay, throwing together ingredients from your garden for your adoring friends and loved ones…who will clap as you plate the food. You know, without Googling, the difference between baking powder and baking soda, because apparently there is one. The fun flipside, is you get to read my diverse and revolutionary food musings:  “Football’s on! Clam dip time!” or “Basketball’s on! Where’s the clam dip?” or “I love the Giants! And I love clam dip!”

It’s a guilty pleasure, reading what you home chefs and foodies are up to, a sort of culinary voyeurism, peeking into your world as you homemake everything from pizza, bread, cakes and pie crusts to pickles, jam and chutney (whatever that is). I picture you strolling through the farmers market with a hand woven basket or a shopping tote made from reclaimed prison jumpsuits, hotel curtains, or the 8th grade graduation dresses of female freedom fighters. You could probably tell me whether or not that’s a good turnip, and if this is a good price on star fruit or kale. You might look at pomelo and say, “Fantastic! I can go home and throw together the perfect little pomelo margarita, pomelo salad, sea bass with pomelo salsa, and my signature pomelo granita for dessert. Just another typical Wednesday.”

I’ve been to many a farmer’s market, but have been known to find the experience so completely overwhelming that I will leave with nothing more than a sausage sandwich from the sausage guy.

So if I’m not a foodie, what am I? a bookie? That doesn’t sound good. A wordy? Um, I suppose that already applies, especially if you’ve made it this far into this post. I like TV – how about a showy? A winey?  Let’s see what we have so far: a showy, winey, wordy bookie. Perhaps I’ll dust off the binders and give foodie another shot.