April 30, 2006

May Day

E & I went to our favorite Mexican joint tonight with a friend, R. R is an immigrant from Canada of Indian ancestry and the holder of a greencard. On the door to the restaurant was a hand-written sign, "Restaurant will be Closed Monday, May 1." E and I laughed, saying, "good for them." R asked about the issue and we discussed it. As an immigrant himself, he agreed that immigration is a complicated issue and couldn't really be sure where he stood.

Throughout dinner, we chatted with many of the servers, who are our friends after many visits. One of them, Jesus, is our closest buddy. He attends the local Junior College. Last semester, he was taking English at the JC while we were taking Spanish. We went for dinner each Tuesday after class and he corrected our Spanish while we corrected his (far superior) English.

He informed us that he and 5 of his friends will be going to the San Francisco protests and then, they plan to drive down the peninsula to join in the San Jose protests. Apparently, 4 people from the sister restaurant will be joining as well. I don't know about the status of the 9 attendees, but I do know that the restaurant is certainly run and managed on the up-and-up. Make no mistake, regardless of their attendance at the protests, the money lost by this very successful Mexican establishment is an act of solidarity for their illegal immigrant brethren taken by some financially successful latinos who posess either greencards or citizenship.

If every restaurant in the bay area that employs Mexicans in the kitchen or on the waitstaff loses a few to the protests, or, in an act of solidarity, shuts down, allowing as many as wish to attend, we're in for a HUGE surprise. I can't remember the last time I went out to eat where the kitchen wasn't staffed by what appeared to be Mexicans (sure, they could have been others of latino descent, but you get my point).

I've done enough thinking to realize this is a complex issue. You may want to revoke my bay area citizen card, but I believe that borders do still serve a purpose in today's day and age. I also believe that the grey-market for illegal immigrant (primarily Mexican) labor is a HUGE force in the economic health of California. I hope the May 1 protests get as much support as the Mexican community can muster because I fear the economic reality of the issue is being sidestepped by Congress. And, I fear that any "solution" that ignores the economic reality of what we're considering is bound to both fail and create more problems.

Finally, on a much less abstract level, I have a friend who teaches in a bilingual classroom. She wishes Cesar Chavez (who is the new voice of the latino worker movement?) was still around to explain to the parents of her students that they should send their kids to school on the day of the protest. If they aren't going to the protest (where arguably, they'd get a better education for the day), their absence costs the school money, costs the children a day of learning, and as a result of the lower budget, decreases the quality of their education.

Anyways, I look forward to seeing what happens with the attendance of the protests in California, throughout the country, and, of course, in the classroom.
Dear Abby

Yesterday, I was in a grumpy mood due to finals and my dad's ailing health and other family drama. My husband was in a bad mood due to a long week at work.

I snapped at him for loading dirty dishes into the clean dishwasher. My annoyance took some ridiculous form, like, "What is this doing in here?" (pointing at a dirty dish I made while making lunch). "I HATE it when the dishwasher is open. If you see the dishwasher open while I'm in the kitchen, it means I opened it to unload it and put away clean dishes. I don't just leave it open to slowly load it over the course of the day or let the dishes dry." (During this, I'm thinking, "How could he not notice the dishes were clean? I washed all the wine glasses, did all the dishes and cleaned the kitchen counters while he was out with friends 'til 1:30 AM last night.")

Apparently, he'd been loading the dishwasher for several minutes while I was in the kitchen. So, to him I just seemed mean and ridiculous. Why didn't I stop him earlier?

His mood declined. My mood declined. The lunch I made was too salty.

I apologized for being grumpy. Apparently, I followed up the apology with a rant about how he didn't notice that I cleaned the kitchen the night before. He retorted, "Oh. Did you do the floor?" This, of course, implies to me that all he noticed was the floor was dirty. And, trust you, me, it is! But it did nothing for making me feel appreciated. My mood sunk lower -- he refused to acknowledge anything I'd done. His did too -- My so-called apology just turned into another complaint.

I apologized for the saltiness of lunch adding, "I think I forgot that salami was so salty." His response? "And mozzarella. And garlic salt." I asked him what he meant by that -- was he actually implying that I *forgot* that garlic salt was salty? No, he claimed, he was just listing the ingredients in the lunch that were salty. I then complained about how he doesn't listen to me and that when he doesn't listen to me his comments can come across as more insulting than he may intend them to be. And, as you might imagine, the fact that he doesn't listen to me put me in a worse mood, while my complaining put him in a worse mood.

Time passed. I studied. My mood improved. I cleaned the bathrooms, he made appreciative comments. All seemed well.

But then, he tried to put up wine glass racks that I'd requested he put up a few weeks ago. The cheap cabinets in our kitchen would not cooperate. He suggested a solution. I shot it down as unsuitable. I did so while getting him a beer, and didn't think much of it. But, to him, it was just another example of how I was Captain Negative and on his case all day.

I suggested that he appeared unmotivated to finish the project and offered to take it off his hands. I explained that he was obviously frustrated, it appeared that he didn't want to do it, and it was my fault because I'm the one who asked him to do it. But, in his mind, I'd already identified this as a boy job, I'd shown my ignorance by suggesting that he put a nut on a wood screw, and I was challenging his manhood (I think this is the main explanation, I'm still not totally clear on why he didn't take me up on my offer...)

Then we went to dinner with friends and he wasn't in the best mood.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that at some point in the day he asked me if we had the measurements for his tuxedo from the wedding because he's in another one and I said something along the lines of, "Probably, but they may not be correct because you've gained a little weight." I figured he's a guy, why would he care? The men in my family carry guts with pride. Apparently that didn't do much to help with his mood either. Later that night, he claimed I said something more along the lines of "you're fat." It's possible I used the word fat, although I doubt I actually called him fat. You see my husband is quite svelt, but I may have used the "f" word in a way that was unacceptable. I should know better. Obviously, if my husband said something along those lines to me there would be gunfire. So, later, when he mentioned that fiasco, I apologized for that as well.

Anyways, all of this resulted in my husband being at dinner while in a bad mood that was visibly uncomfortable for me and noticed by our friends. The ride home was awkward. And the first 15 minutes at home were some of the most horrible I've spent in this relationship.

Sure, we eventually talked about it for an hour. We agreed that the day was just a series of terrible interactions of our moods. We both apologized. I fell asleep in his arms.

But I woke up scared today. I'm a 3rd year law student with 3 months of finals and the bar exam to get through. If his work stuff continues to be as stressful as my law and family stuff, we may be in for some rough times. Not to mention the additional fun that hormonal swings can bring (believe it or not, this disaster was in one of the happy hormone weeks).

Abby, what's a wife in my situtation to do? I want to avoid these terrible downward spirals. I've racked my brain on what I could have done to avoid this chain of lame, but to no avail. A deep breath at the dishwasher stage may have diffused some of the tension temporarily, but my composure would not have survived the garlic salt comment, guaranteed. It could have been worse for both of us if I kept it in until I could no longer handle it.

Abby, in almost 6 years of being together we've never had a day like yesterday. I'd rather it be at least 6 years until we have another. Do you have any advice on how to avoid this in the future?


Should B. Studying
City, California

April 28, 2006


I keep waiting for the fear. I need its comforting cold embrace to propel me to study when I really don't want to. But it's in hibernation and will not deign to visit.

Instead, I've got the lah-di-dahs.

Despite the scheduled day of much studying, I went grocery shopping, ran some errands, got my hair done, went for a walk, and studied about 4 hours total before calling for reinforcements. Thankfully, B is an over-achiever and was willing to come over and share her motivation with me in exchange for a dinner of salad and panini (another item crossed off of the to-be-made-from-the-wedding loot list).

Thanks to B, I think I may have totalled 7 hours. Which is respectable, but ridiculously short of ideal given the whole 5 finals in 21 days thing. The only possible good side to this that I can see (assuming my general lack of motivation keeps up) is that while I may suck ass on finals, at least I shouldn't be too burnt out before it's time to start the bar studies.

Oh, and the low mileage year prediction is truer every day. The race I'd hoped to do tomorrow is sold out. The weather cleared up and runners signed up. Duh. I'm an idiot. So I'll be running solo tomorrow. Assuming I can find the motivation...

April 27, 2006

There's a Song in My Heart...


See you on the other side.

April 26, 2006

What, me? Worry? Only about dessert.

The ordinary fear that motivates me to work my ass off when it's this close to finals is conspicuously missing. I'm having trouble motivating for 10 minute chunks of time. Just two hours of IP tomorrow and the classroom component of my law school experience is over. I'm giddy about the prospect of never sitting through another law school class again.

But, I'm also bored. And antsy. I don't want to learn. I'm so desperate to avoid making another flashcard about corporate securities that I've resorted to blogging at school, something I NEVER do. Whatever. If you see me from across the room, and know that I'm posting and figure out who I am, keep it to yourself please.

So, instead of studying, I present a review of San Francisco's only full-time churrascaria.

Espetus's wine list is 3 pages long and impressive -- lots of spanish & south american offerings. But, I have no idea how any of 'em taste because their caipirinha is the best I've ever had (granted I've only had 7 or so different preparations of the drink in my life, but these easily beat out Cafe Do Brasil's, as well as various offerings I've had in tapas bars, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.)

The mini bread ball/roll things that they bring to the table as well as the deep fried plaintain appetizers are amazing. I was grumpy to be the first one at the table, alone, waiting for the rest of the party, but then I received a cup of delicious red sangria, and a plate with the small dense roll/balls and plantains. My dinner companions have no idea how much they owe their safety to that plate and glass.

See, Espetus is an all-you-can-eat Churrascaria. So I arrived prepared. I ran in the morning, had a light lunch and was anxiously awaiting making the most of the orgy of meat. This is not the best state for BT to be waiting for other people, alone, in the restaurant. But, like I said, the lovely little gaucho servers knew how to solve the problem, so all was well.

The meal officially started with a trip to the buffet in the back to get our plates. We tried to pick through the delicious offerings while still saving room for the meat. It was tough to maintain focus. I skipped all of the salads, but was distracted by the mango salsa, the green olives, the chimichurri, the beans, and the rice. And, let's not forget the eggplant. I think I could have made an entire meal of their vinegar-marinated eggplant. I'm going to have to find a recipe for that amazing dish.

When we returned to the table, we turned the indicator to green and the gauchos started coming with the meat on the swords (no, it's not a metaphor). We never really turned the indicator to red, so I celebrated my last late night in the city by eating delicious sirloin steak, filet mignon, pork tenderloin, chicken wrapped in bacon, sausage, beef ribs, shrimp, and more sirloin steak. It was gluttonous heaven. It was also, probably too much. Each cut was very high quality and correctly cooked to slightly over rare. Random bits of portuguese conversation surrounded us as we ate. All in all, it was probably as perfect as an experience can be for churrasco in San Francisco.

But, E said it best, "San Francisco just isn't a churrasco kind of town." Chicago, New York, even Boston (G informed us), those are towns where you could go out and eat yourself sick on meat with abandon. But in San Francisco, on a Tuesday, well, we stopped short of excess. It was good. But it was not the end-all, be-all. I was slightly disappointed in us.

Thankfully, there was a dessert menu. And they had a dessert titled, "Peanut Butter Thing." God bless you, whoever came up with this dessert. I may return to Espetus solely to feast upon the huge slice of what appeared to be an ice-cream pie of sorts. It was 2.5 inches tall. It was at least 2.5 inches wide at the base. And it was easily 4 inches long. This triangle of pleasure was peanut butter mixed with vanilla ice cream, sitting in two layers covered on all sides by oreo cookie crumbles, with tiny chunks of chocolate chip cookie dough interspersed throughout. Damn.

I never thought I'd leave an all-you-can-eat high quality meat establishment and claim the best thing was the dessert. But life's about change. And here I am.

So, truth be told, I'm disappointed that Espetus doesn't have a menu where you can order a more reasonable (read: reasonably priced and healthful) dinner of side dishes, a little bit of meat and the peanut butter thing instead of all-you-can-eat meat. Wait a minute. No I'm not. If they did, I'd be there once a month. I'd be the size of China. Maybe it's a good thing that it's expensive and an overly indulgent experience. It's probably okay that it's a once in 3-4 years thing. So, yeah, I hope it's there the next time we get the craving or have something to celebrate near my school.

Okay, procrastination successful. I now have 30 minutes to focus before I can leave this infernal place for my second to last day. I can do 30 minutes of work. I swear...

April 24, 2006


Ahh, nothing provides such amusing blog fodder as the imminent approach of finals. Last night, after finishing enough corporations studying to make me wish we just didn't bother to grant 'em any status at all, E and I watched The Aristocrats.

I could even partially justify it as school-related (yeah right) -- It was in keeping with the First Amendment theme.

But, it was a great movie. I've been thinking about it ever since I saw it. I was slightly upset to realize that it made me think more than I cared to about the nature of speech, comedy, humor, what makes something offensive, whether and how offensiveness harms the listner, how laughter/comedy is often inextricably linked to crossing this line of offensiveness, and finally, how I obviously buy into the value judgment that laughter is cathartic, good, and a healing force in society. Sounds like one of the annoying people in my con law II class on call, my brain does...

Thankfully, it also made me think quite a bit about comedians, their world, and how little I know about it. First of all, up close, without makeup -- damn, it's obvious that them kids live some hard lives (chemically speaking). Indulgence aside, it's always odd to realize that someone somewhere in society does a job that I may utilize on occasion but don't generally encounter. And yet, that's their every-day job. They support themselves and/or their families by doing these things. If I had thought about it, their life could have been mine. It still could be. It's a choice that everyone could choose.

Okay, in fairness, I probably couldn't choose it for the long haul. I'd fail. I'm much too introspective, concerned about propriety, uptight, and all sorts of other crap that would make me a bad comic. But it's still an option I could try to pursue despite my obvious inadequacies. The world is full of options and wacky jobs. It's overwhelming. I could be a voiceover artist. I could be a film censor. I could be a safety testor for toys. Someone has to do all of these things. Why not me? Why didn't I try to pursue any of those paths?

Anyways, if you want to laugh, I recommend watching The Aristocrats. If you aren't so big on laughing, but really enjoy thinking, I recommend the movie to you too. Finally, if you want to understand more about the inside world of comedians, or you just like Penn Jillette and his cohorts, I recommend the movie. And really finally, if I haven't sold it yet: it's worth the price of rental simply to see Gilbert Gottfried's Rendition of the joke and Bog Saget telling his version which shows that in real life, he's much more half baked than full house.

April 23, 2006

This is your life

1. run 12 miles

2. drive 200 miles

3. listen to all 4 PMBR corporations CDs while driving

4. study corporations in every spare moment of the weekend

5. visit dad (ran errands with him, go over legal paperwork with him, cook for him, pick up prescriptions, and generally comfort him as he recovers from his 3rd round of chemo.)

6. find out that your student note has been accepted for publication

7. go to the dentist for a cleaning and find out that you have 2 fillings that are falling out and need to be refilled.

8. Top it all off by attending a tea party baby shower at an English Tea Cottage -- amaze the pregnant crew with your ability to put away the small sandwiches, petit-fours, mini-quiches, etc. Make sure to eat lots of sugary treats to push the line on the fillings.

I'm not complaining. I actually had a good weekend. I'm just wondering when, exactly, and how, to boot, this became a good weekend. A tea party? A weekend away from the husband? Corporations 'til my ears and eyes bleed? Who am I?

April 20, 2006

The slow descent

I just finished reading my last assigned page of law school reading. EVER.

I'm home alone. I have no one to celebrate with.

Oh, wait, yes I do. I'll celebrate with Erwin.

Yes, I'm sick. But not nearly as sick as first semester of 1L, when I was at least halfway through my outlines for every class at this point. Now, I can't quite seem to motivate myself to start really studying. And why should I? I've only got 5 finals...

Yeah, I'm gonna be barrels of fun for the next month. At least I can sustain the madness with the reality that it really is only one month 'til graduation, and I only have to attend 4 more days of class. Seems like yesterday that I started this whole law school thing.

April 19, 2006

Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech...

Woo Hoo! I finished all of the assigned reading in Con Law. Our last topic was/is the First Amendment.

In celebration, I'm taking the rest of the evening off to watch Scarface. After all, it ranks 1.27 on the Fucks Per Minute scale. Sadly, Scarface is only #34 on the list. If I was a better student, I'd be watching The Devil's Rejects or Fuck, the documentary.

Given my odd affinity for curse words, it's not surprising that I've seen and appreciate several of the top-ranking movies as some of my favorites.

Unfortunately, I've worn out my Netflix karma by forgetting to randomize the selections and forcing E to watch Fast Times at Ridgement High, Dodgeball, La Femme Nikita, and random chunks of Shark Tale in succession.

So perhaps I shouldn't worry about failing to be such a good student of Free Expression. Given that the documentary doesn't interest E, I suspect there's an unfortunate date with The Devil's Rejects in my near future. And I can't say shit after all the footage I've put him through these last few weeks. How's that for a balancing test?

April 18, 2006


6 days of class left in my law school education.

5.5 reading assignments to complete before I've done all of the assigned reading that I plan to complete before graduation.

22 one-way 40 mile commutes.

5 final exams.

30 days 'til I am done with all academic schoolwork. (And good days those will be -- the last few pre- and mid-finals days are always such treasures.)

Regardless of how much the next month is going to be filled with unpleasantness, I can't help it: I'm excited to be done with this madness. I'm giddy. It's sunny (finally), and it's going to feel so good to be done.

And now, off to read some of that assigned reading...

April 16, 2006

You Sexy Dog

Oh, Erwin. No one does for me quite what you do.

Words can't express how much I enjoyed our time together this weekend (in fact, it's not quite over yet, I think we can fit in a few more good hours of fun before I must leave you to climb into bed with the husband).

I can't tell you how much I look forward to spending this week thinking about you, and longing for the time when we can meet again.

But, you know how it is...It's complicated. So, um... yeah. Thanks for the fun, but don't call me. I'll call you. I promise. You can count on at least one more weekend trist before the first weekend in May.

I'm sorry. It's not that I don't want to be with you. The husband doesn't even seem to mind. It's just...I'm overwhelmed. I need some time away to sort things out. Like I said, it's complicated.

April 14, 2006

Words of Wisdom

I had lunch today with an attorney who has a practice similar to the one I would design for myself if I could be the uber-attorney right now.

I spent lunch picking his brain about law, how to get where he's gotten, and everything in between.

He said one thing that I've heard a few times from other attorneys I respect but never really taken to heart before:

It doesn't really matter what you do for the first 3-4 years of your career. It's important to get good work and do it. That's when you learn how to be a lawyer. It's only after you've mastered the law at this level that you can even think about being successful in any of the areas that allow you to do fun stuff while incorporating your knowledge of the law.

Huh. I hadn't really realized that after law school there was another 3-4 year period of hard core learning. It's dawning on me now. I'm beginning to think life may just be one 3-4 year learning period after another.

Another jewel of insight:

I feel so lucky to have stayed in the law long enough to be where I am. I love my practice. I love each day of my work. I can't imagine doing anything else. It's so rewarding. But it's a long road. And the law is a demanding career that breaks most of the people who enter it. There were times when it was almost impossible. But I'm so glad I stuck it out. I know other people who are so glad they got out.

I've heard it before. And yet, each time, it hits me differently. I can't help but wonder: Where will I sit on that continuum? Am I one who's going to love it, or burn out before the 3-4 year learning period is even up, before I even have a chance at the fun stuff? Will I stick it out only to realize I don't love it? Or, dare to think, might I be one of the ones who will actually love it?

Of course, all of this, it's idle procrastination. I've got 8 days of class and 5 finals to get through before graduation and then a little thing called the bar. I know I'm procrastinating. I know I should study. And yet, instead, I find that I've made lunch dates with attorneys I admire instead of studying...

April 12, 2006

The first of many bar-related blows

I had hoped to run 4-5 races between now and the bar.

One of them came and went -- I didn't run it, too much rain to train for it and then the day arrived and it was a horrid stormy day, so I didn't feel bad for missing what would most likely have been a canceled or muddy trail race.

Today, when I looked at the BarBri class schedule I found out that that my tentative race and workout schedule is hilariously wrong. While BarBri doesn't plan on taking every Saturday AM of my life between graduation and the bar, it does expect me to be there on 3 of the mornings when I'd scheduled races.

So now, I'm down to two races to try to fit in. One is two weekends before the bar and I already told myself that I'd merely train for it to maintain my sanity. If I needed to be home instead of running (which seems quite likely from what I've heard), obviously, I'll skip it. That leaves one last option between now and August: the Saturday after classes end, I'm scheduled for a 14K. I'm training enough to fit it in, distance-wise, but if the weather doesn't clear up soon, I'm guessing it'll be canceled as well.

Somehow, I think this is going to be a very low-mileage year.

April 11, 2006

How did you not see this coming?

The crème brulée torch had an encounter with one of the Peeps.

Facts learned:

1. Peeps do catch on fire when lit with a butane torch.

2. Despite their temerity in the face of chemical solvents, the eyes do not survive the torching.

3. If you prefer your campfire marshmallows burnt, you will enjoy Peep brulée as well.

4. If you are a true Peeps lover, you will inform BT that despite the fun of fire, you prefer them in their unmolested, fresh-from-the-fridge form.

April 9, 2006

Weekend Lessons

1. Espresso machine good. Developing espresso addiction easy.

2. There's a reason I'd never heard of gnocchi a la carbonara.

The consistency was all wrong. It was still good (E2 claimed it was in contention for one of my best meals yet), but next time, I'll be sure to make pasta a la carbonara the way it should be made -- with barilla pasta from a box (I'll still substitute venison sausage for pork and bacon, but never again the gnocchi -- it was mush).

3. Community property means that it's not my crème brulée set.

It's our crème brulée set. This means that E gets to open it and play with the butane torch before I need to use it on tonight's dessert. I don't think I'd fully realized the power of community property 'til that moment. I wanted to stop him, to point out that all kitchen gadgets are mine. It was my new toy and I should get to use it first. But before I could open my mouth, I recalled the lessons from this morning's CP review: it was acquired during the marriage, and it was a gift to the couple -- both presumptively and evidentiarily community property. So, I haven't yet used the torch, but E's figured out how to get the flame to a nice 10-inches, which I'm sure will come in handy in the kitchen.

April 8, 2006

The good, the bad, and the ugly

This weekend promises to be filled with good food and good friends. This morning, I started my day by knocking one of the fun things off the wedding present to-do list and making myself a cappuccino with frothed milk in the Krups Espresso and Coffee maker. It was not bad. In fact, it was good. And fun.

Tonight, I'll be combining two of my favorite things into what I hope is a masterpiece. First, I'll start with a couple of hours of labor to make spinach gnocchi. Then, I'll quickly whip up a traditional pork-based carbonara sauce. It has the potential to be very good. Add that we are taking it over to the home of some of our friends to watch Cops and The Big Lebowski and, well, how can it not be good?

Sunday, we're going to a different friend's home to be fed salmon. I'm bringing my first attempt at creme brulée. The prospect of using a kitchen blowtorch is also good.

Unfortunately, as I enjoyed the cappuccino, I had to admit that my life is not all potato pillows of heaven, crusted custard and frothed milk. I needed the caffeine specifically so that I could cuddle with my IP book bright and early. That's right, it's the time of year where I get to study late into the evening on Friday and then wake on Saturday to begin anew. That's bad. Not horrid. Not terrible. But definitely not good. I'd love to put it off, but as H and I drove home on Thursday, I realized that we only have to commute to school on 12 more days. That's it. 12 days of school and then I never have to attend another day of law school classes. The end of class is exciting, but it brings with it the lovely spector of finals, which are bad.

And ugly? That would be the current weather, which stops me from running, the current state of our bathrooms, which means I get to spend one of my study breaks cleaning toilets, and my general appearance (hair, clothes, makeup) which I've pretty much completely ignored since the honeymoon. The good news is, you know with finals studying, I'm going to find plenty of time to proscrastinate with things like cleaning, beautifying, and running.

And really, all's well that ends well. In a short while the bad will be over, the good will be pleasant memories plus re-usable knowledge of how to make yummy food, and the ugly will hopefully be banished. (And Yes, I know what comes then, but I'm not thinking about it. The amount of studying I need to do in order to graduate is sufficiently annoying at the moment, thank you.)

April 6, 2006

It's about time

Today, the rain streak broke. (Unfortunately, it's scheduled to come back for 10 more days or some shit like that.)

I celebrated by going for one of my standard runs. It was more difficult that I remembered.

Oh, I guess that's because I haven't ran more than 5 miles at once since January 25th.

Sometimes, keeping a running log is a bummer. I feel like I've been running an average amount each week despite the stuff that life has seen fit to throw at me.

But no, with the rain, the wedding, and my dad, I've only broken 20 miles in a week on two weeks this year. And it's more than 1/3 over...

April 5, 2006

'Tis the season

Every year around this time, we get an ant infestation in the kitchen.

It's from the the year's best Peep uses. We just can't help ourselves.

Okay, in fairness, E can't help himself. We negotiated a "suprise" purchase of flowers for me at some point in the near future in exchange for peeps for him the next time I'm at the grocery store.

Ahhh. Young love.

April 3, 2006

The Power of Taste

Tonight, thanks to my brother, E and I had pasta a la carbonara con carne di cervo.

Carne di cervo (aka venison) is a delicacy that I never ate in Italy. Only as an adult have I come to realize how spoiled I was to grow up a meat-eating kid in a family of hunter/fisherpeople. Fresh venison sausage from the butcher who processed the deer that was killed, a side of beef raised by the local 4-h boy, half a pig raised by the local 4-h girl, and all varieties of fowl (pheasant, quail, turkey, ducks) and fish (tuna, trout, and salmon were the big ones) regularly graced our table. I ate very well as a child.

But, like many Americans who travel to Italy, it was in Italy that I truly learned to appreciate food. I believe carne di cervo was probably available during my most recent and longest stay in Italy, but I was poor, an unemployed dot-com bubble victim, on a trek to find herself, learn Italian, and, save money by living very cheaply. Carne di cervo didn't make the list (but Prosciutto di San Daniele did...).

In terms of saving money, I came out ahead. In 2002, it was actually cheaper to be an unemployed student/tourist in Italy and paying rent in San Francisco, as well as paying for plane flights to Europe, and European lodging, transport, and food costs, than it was to cover my bay area pared-down monthly expenses upon my return.

Of course, despite the fact that I saved money, I still ate well. That's one of the greatest things about Italy -- you can eat like royalty on $5/day. For the first two weeks of language school, I paid my $30/week to have the cook feed me two meals a day at a huge communal table. I rounded out my sustinence with trips to the bar for cappucini in the morning and $0.50 wine at night. And I was never hungry.

Then, I realized I was getting ripped off. The meals served by the school were simple combinations of easy to prepare ingredients from the local supermarket. They were inspired, mind you. But I wanted to cook like that. I wanted to practice. I was certain I could do it, and for much cheaper. So, I organized a revolt and 8 of my fellow students and I decided to exercise our option not to pay the cook. This was quite a scandal -- apparently, the school had never had to deal with this before and the $30/week was calculated upon economies of scale. With 8 of us out of the loop, we were warned, the other students may not be able to enjoy the cook. The American in me was appalled. How dare they use the others' possible hunger and inability to pay a higher price for the cook to shame us into paying for an "optional" service. But the swiss-Italian blood in me recognized it as a cultural difference that I should respect. So I smiled, apologized, and explained that I wanted to learn how to cook in the great style of Le Marche (the region where I was staying). Somehow, the cook still got paid, the other students ate, and I learned to cook simple and filling Italian dishes for 4-8 people on less than $2-$4/day.

Tonight, for the first time since Le Marche, I made pasta a la carbonara. Sure, I didn't use the leftover pork. I actually had venison/pork sausage. But otherwise, it was the same.

The power of the memories that came flooding back with the smells of the dish cooking and the first taste in my mouth were amazing. This dish will always be an embodiment of Italy to me. Never before my travels had I had it. It's peasant food. Simple. Basic. Filling. Warm. And so ridiculously delicious I can't believe I haven't made it since my return.

E made a primal grunt of happiness while eating his pasta tonight. It's the first time I've heard that noise as his wife. I'd heard it before as his fiancée, but that was at least a couple of months ago -- not all good food can elicit the cave man grunt. I get quite a ridiculous level of satisfaction from hearing that grunt. And then, for me, independent of enjoying E's enjoyment, I can't explain how happy and content I was to eat such simple and delicious food. The memories that flooded back made me smile and reminded me that I can do anything (pack up and leave the country when the job market gets tough -- just go!) and that I can live and eat well on next to nothing. It was very comforting.

So, if you're looking for some amazingly simple and hearty pasta, might I recommend the peasant favorite:

Pasta a la carbonara

1. Boil 1/2 packet spaghetti or 1/2 box Barilla semolina pasta of choice in hot water with a touch of oil and salt 'til al dente. Remove from heat and drain water. Do not rinse in cold water.

2. While pasta is boiling, chop 2 cloves garlic and place in sautee pan. Add meat and sautee lightly. (Traditionally -- use 1/2 lb chopped pork in butter and/or olive oil. Alternatively, use sausage, or just cook some fatty bacon cuttings in their own lard.) Cook through.

3. Add 2/3 cup of grated aged parmigiano, 1 can chopped chilis (4 oz), some olives (chopped in a can, pitted kalamata, whatever's available), and the cooked pasta to the meat. Toss.

4. Beat 3-4 eggs with 1/2 cup of half-and-half and a generous helping of ground black pepper (If no half-and-half, use cream or milk, whatever you've got. No liquid milk products? No problem, use more cheese in step 3. Not enough eggs? No problem. Use more milk products.)

5. When the the cheese is reasonably melted and the pasta is evenly heated, add the milk/egg mixture to the sautee pan and stir for 1 minute. Keep stirring and remove from heat when the eggs are cooked through (the sauce has taken a solid-like texture)

6. Add 1/2 cup of chopped parsely, stir in, cover for 5 minutes, and serve.

I dare you to not enjoy this dish.
Let's be clear

It is only because of the fact that I carpool with H that I'm not sleeping for the hour that was stolen by Daylight Savings Time.

Con Law just isn't that important.

April 1, 2006

Dolla Bill Y'all

I've been overly stressed about getting all of E's and my finances in line. I knew that if I didn't do it before I hunkered down for finals it wouldn't be done 'til at least August (and who wants to cuddle up with spreadsheets after a big exam?).

Yesterday, I finally finished the majority of it: Asset-Liability sheets of our separate property, budgeting of joint expenses, balancing bank accounts that haven't been touched in almost a year (tax time always brings this out in me), making certain that every bit of the wedding was paid for as we agreed up front, and finally it hit me.

No wonder I'm stressed. Assuming I start work in October, I will not have earned any money for 14 months. School loans will get me through the end of school (seeing as how that's what they are supposed to do, I suppose I can't complain). But with the wedding I didn't really have the ability to plan for financial outlays after graduation. What to do?

Turns out, I'm in the middle of the longest period I've gone without actively bringing in money to support myself since I was 15 years old. Bonus -- some part of my personality is VERY uncomfortable with relying on others for my financial support. I suppose I could avoid this feeling of relying on others by taking more loans, but it turns out, I'm married now. And if I wanna incur the debt, I need to clear it with E. It's a no-brainer that it's better to live off the spouse than take private loans if that option is available. But, in admitting that, boy do I feel like the incredible black hole of money sucktitude.

Law School. You'll build more character than you ever wanted.