Friday, March 21, 2014

Dear Oprah

When that nice lady called the other day, I hardly knew what to say.  I was trying to keep Abe quiet and not swear and sound normal because when a producer from Oprahland calls, you need to sound normal, right? The problem is that I am the bastard child of Rosie O'Donnell and Roseanne Barr and I don't know how to make my Asperger's behave so I clamped it down.
I know what the people on TV say while they cook turkey burgers and explain how they have exhausted all their resources. I know what the people in line at the food bank tell the camera men and reporters when they get that one minute to sum up the life of the average American. I know what that lady wanted when she wanted me to talk about being "The Working Poor".  Is that like The Walking Dead? It must be to the storymakers, the investment bankers, the people whose parents left them a house or company.  The usual basic investment in some sort of legacy while making $20 an hour is impossible. That's the story we DON'T talk about. Maybe nobody realizes yet how deep we're in? Maybe no one really cares to hear that it's not getting better, it's getting worse and you'd better learn to plant those tomatoes and change that vacuum belt yourself or you'll be priced out of commodities that, up until a few years ago, were as basic as dirt.  We should talk about the fact that the worst foods possible used to be the cheapest foods possible, and now some of them are too expensive for any one but the more-than-minimum-wage employee.
I kept my mouth shut because I didn't want to scare you with my anger about the fact that we have been so busy placing importance on things like having nine different colors of the same cashmere sweater that young mothers can't bake a loaf of bread (they can tell you about all the flavors that Crustables come in, though).
I didn't point out the growing number of Millennial hippies who think that living in mansions is in pretty poor taste and that having more than you need is a sign of insecurity, not prosperity.
When she kept trying to get me to define myself as "The Working Poor",  I wanted to point out that this was a sort of White People thing. That many families for many generations have accepted that their salaries will never exceed what it takes to live so they live 10 to a house and can those tomatoes and drive nicer cars than most of us that are totally paid for.
Paycheck to paycheck is the real thing now. So we should pretend it's 1947 and the war is over and aren't we lucky we have smartphones and Netflix.
Dear Oprah,
Working Poor is People.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Kitchenbitch. Pt. 2: Oh La Vache

Your dick IS bigger than mine. Your knives are probably sharper. You are most likely able to reach the back burners while the front ones have flames and oil fire-crackering off of them without flinching much. You can take being called a cow without bursting into tears.
You are a man in a professional kitchen. It is your domain. Women guest star and some even kick your ass so profoundly you think you should go work at an Applebee's, so bad is your sabayon, compared to theirs, but you are the SEAL Team Six and there was only one woman in that movie and she cried a whole fucking lot.
You are always having to train some girl fresh out of cooking school, the daughter of one of the investors or the wife of the wine guy who loves The Taste and wants to see if her tamales can be world famous.
When her tamales get famous and she gets a cooking show on the Food Network, you find it hard to not be a tad bitter, but there are four new guys and one new Giada to ream out this week so you don't have time. The pantry station has the highest turnover in the kitchen. Every time you write a new menu, you may as well write a new cook's name on the schedule. All the trendy articles like the TIME one point out how sexist it is that women have to make salads, but the real deal is that if you can't handle throwing some fucking lettuce on a plate and saucing a chocolate souffle, then you sure as heck can't run a line of 8 burners. If the ticker ticking sends you running, it doesn't matter if you have boobs or balls. You can't do the job.

There is a reason that kitchens use the brigade system and not the nepotistic shitfest the rest of the world seems to run on. Many trades operate this way and you don't really see articles about the lack of female electricians or welders. You don't get to be the General without scrubbing shit out of the latrines first. While all the feminists are making their stupid points about women not being provided with these opportunities, they don't seem to have any women chefs coming forward to tell the tales of all the oppression. KNOW WHY???? The kitchen is a beautiful place where all you are is your skill. If you are oppressed, it's because you suck. Period. In this time of Millenial Toast, having a woman run your kitchen is hot and sexy and exactly what investors want for PR purposes. You can't find that many who have put in the time and are ready to step into that position. One of the chef's on Top Chef this season said she's never cooked for 500 people before. See. That makes you NOT a chef, except for you are. At a James Beard nominated restaurant. How many Mexican prep and line cooks does it take to prop up one of these female success stories?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


* I will be writing more about this later. There are so many reasons that 'men do it better' ( for the most part. I hate you people who deal in absolutes) that I want to list them without swearing and in a thoughtful fashion.

Hello I am a chef. Hello, I have a vagina. Hello, I have a scar on my thumb from when I hacked it in half during a really busy Saturday service which I completed with my hand wrapped in a towel, before they stitched the tendon back together. Hello, would you like to see the steam burn from 1997 that people still think is some sort of smudge on my chin?

THIS is why women don't represent in the kitchen. No sane girl wants to torture herself if it doesn't involve Channing Tatum and some furry handcuffs. No 'girls' really last more than a year or two in an environment where men think it is funny to fuck the meat and then serve it to unsuspecting customers (Did you not believe Fight Club?) No 'lady' of any repute would say the word 'fuck' 300 times a day. No normal person I have ever met would pull the assholes out of chickens for a whole shift, finish, and think 'Boy, I can't WAIT to do this again'.

We are a special breed of miscreant. Somehow, somewhere, we have been tormented enough that the brigade system combined with shit pay and bad outfits becomes our master.  We pull off our stinky clogs at the end of the night and say to the stars that we are blessed to have chosen a life of back-breaking manual labor instead of a cushy desk job with paid sick days and health insurance.

HEY!!!! JOURNALISTS WRITING POINTLESS STORIES!!!!! Does any of this sound like maybe the reason more women don't cook???


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Baby Was A Black Sheep

The words 'nigger' and 'cunt' don't bother me a bit. Words like 'hopeless' terrify me. Everyone dances on eggshells for followers and ad revenue. I edit myself on social media to not completely alienate the strangers who have turned up interested in what I have to say. I get tired of being politically correct.

If you make the sad face at the WFP commercials and use the word feminist a bunch you should probably click right back to Jezebel or somewhere where they take up sides against everyone all day long because they got made fun of for being different in high school..

This week in reverse racism: people are giving Jerry Seinfeld shit about not including cultural diversity on his show and I call bullshit. No one would dare tell a non-white comedian he needed more Cracker jokes in his act so that they aren't seen as being non-diverse. And if that same black (Hispanic, Asian, lesbian) comic's whole show is full of "look how uptight and asshole-y white people are" jokes, the crowd goes wild and laughs hysterically. Flip that situation. Go ahead. I'll wait for the crickets.

There was also some sort of uproar and death threats against some cartoonist girl for trying to talk about white privilege and how it embarrassed her. God forbid you try to express your thoughts publicly, you Nazi Princess, you. Lemme see if Ms. Manners here can help you out.

I am white. As in Caucasian. As in Armenian, from the Caucus Mountains, the birthplace of the Aryans. I am this way because some guy a couple thousand years ago stuck his dick inside some lady and came and a baby happened and some more people fucked and took boat rides to places with other whitish people and invented or stole guns from somewhere else and stole people and conquered the conquerors of the world. Generations happened and here white Marisa sits in a chair in Rocklin. totally not my deal, you guys. It was not a diabolical scheme we cooked up for our relatives to exploit all future populations of the Earth and assure the success of our people. At least not the Miller family. We didn't even have family BBQ's.. All cultures started this way to the best of my knowledge.

I am on the internet all damn day reading links to posts that empower every possible culture or affiliation in the world. All of them. Gay, African-American, Asian, Muslim, name it.

I don't want a parade. I don't ever really want to talk about any of it at all except the part of it where I can't say anything about being white without immediately being labeled a racist. The story goes that we are supposed to be ashamed of our ancestry and accept that every other culture gets a pass (mass murderers included) while we hide inside flogging ourselves for taking over and managing half the world and it's resources. And be too grateful to bring it up ever, while we sit on our piles of money and slave bones laughing at the misfortune of others. Crap. Crap. Crap.

The most enlightening conversation I have ever had about race (read the ONLY honest conversation) was with Jamie Foxx. It was before Ray and Academy Awards and covered every kind of race-relatable topic imaginable. He is not afraid of anything verbal and neither am I and neither should you be because words are words are words are words.

We are not going to get anywhere in this world until these simple transactions between curious individuals are allowed to happen without suspicion or hostility or fear.

I have no slick way of tying this up. This is not supposed to be a well-crafted essay. I'm tired of trying to keep my rants to 140 characters or word them so that some of my friends do not take what I say personally. This is just me in my box on a Thursday wondering "what the fuck?"

Sunday, January 12, 2014

National Lampoon's Culinary Vacation

Dear Clark,
Come on, now.
This is getting a little bit embarrassing, if you don't mind my sayin' so. 
It's FOOD.
You're having so many of them Marie Antoinette moments lately, I feel like I need to step up and piss in your  farmed and forked and fucked Cheerios and say something respectfully and with great love and encouragement and affection.


Seriously, Clark. Only an idiot would pay $1000 for something that is going to come out of their ass a few hours later and then have any kind of comment about hunger in America. Ever.  EVER, EVER. If you would like to demonstrate your superiority to me, it would be more intelligent to not purchase tiny amounts of dead, cut-up animals and bits of lettuce that grew in the ground for free. This makes you a SUCKER. I'm a chef and I am telling you that. You are a chump. 

What kind of person can, in good conscience, keep most of the money they make feeding said asshats, instead of giving most of it back to the other people who are food insecure according to every news source in the country and that includes a lot more than I get with my cable converter? Even at a 50% food cost, you're still making a fortune off of tricking people into thinking it's worth that much for future feces. Nice work, Willy Wonka.

Do you have any idea how silly it is for you to be so "involved" in food when your involvement doesn't include making sure as many other people are fed as possible, instead of a few app designers who wouldn't know what they were eating were it not for the other rich assholes before them posting thousands of Instagrams?  I know you like a tack-o, Clark, but the rise of street food as haute cuisine, meriting full tasting menus comprised of offal, is, well, awful.  It's The Emperor's Clothes at it's most entertaining.

I once worked for the catering company that does Paul Allen's Christmas party. I spent a FREEZING December afternoon in 1998, grilling what ended up being four rolling racks full of whole salmon filets on a dock. Earmuff hats are very handy for blue collar folk who have to work outside in the snow. Long johns too. You call them Silkies, I think. Cooking is FUN, btw.

We cured olives and preserved lemons months ahead of time.  Made pounds of mozzarella, smoked oysters, made biryani in rented tagines, dipped fruits in Callebaut. We cut a walk-in full of Port Salut and Humboldt Fog into wedges and spread pounds of Salumi's soppressata onto huge wooden cutting boards purchased just for the occasion The excess was as bonkers as you.

When you are a lowly cook processing all this food, things that run through your head while you hack apart chickens include the society broads who will never eat more than four bites of any of this dee-licious spread that you are going to the trouble to prepare. You also consider in a nice way, the catering salesperson who made $5k in commission for selling all this.
Mr. Allen's hangar at Boeing Field was turned into a Moroccan tent with jeweled pillows and belly dancers. The halftime show was the man himself trying to force everyone to watch him play guitar. Good lord. 

Know what has stuck with me 15 years later? The two racks full of untouched salmon. Left AFTER the to-go containers were stuffed and servers were begged to take as much as they wanted.

The St. Rose of Lima shelter near my apartment and I could take them a carload at a time. Pulling up to the backdoor in a dark alley in Belltown to pull out bus tubs of salmon thrown together with the other stuff. A far cry from the display a few hours earlier. Dumpsters-full of expensive cheese and wine and steak and oysters and chocolate and things that we talk about as yum to the motherfucking yum yum yum get tossed hundreds of times every single day by people who then go on to make sad, pinchy faces about the hungry black childrens they are forced to look at sometimes in the NYT.  Or speak about SNAP benefits as if they have any idea. I don't care if your mom used food stamps to raise you. You have a bunch of restaurants and a TV show now so shut it the hell down, Baldy. For reals.

Humans are complex. I get it. Sometimes you can want to eat truffles and then go to the ghetto and teach a child what a carrot is. That is funny as fuck. Why not bring THEM to the fancy dinner that they will never, ever forget? Why not expose them to something as magical as a truffle when their mom is just going to feed them bologna later. Why exclude anyone?

It's food. No one is curing pediatric brain cancer or rescuing flood victims. You are eating things that mostly are on this planet because the planet decided this, and not because Anthony Bourdain invented olives. Capice?

There is alchemy in cooking. Duh. We are literal magicians making something out of nothing and that is something to feel pretty great about. We all fall for pictures of tattoos of eggplants, posts of perfect figs and cheese on a black granite slab.  We love reading stories of how hard that farmer had to work to get those silly goats to behave, but still.

It's food. To feed people with so they don't die from starving. Not so they don't die from sadness that some poor person brought a baby to a restaurant. To forget that is to forget the joy of pulling a carrot out of the ground or to cook a chicken until it turns to jelly that makes the gravy, gravy. To act like you are a special, special twinkie instead of an alien sharing some molecules with some other aliens means that you need a lesson in humanity that will not be printed on the bottom of your triple Caramel Flan nonfat (retard) latte or while your are funding your friend's kombucha kickstarter.

I don't know what we can do when we are a culture of people who wish they had more money worshipping a farmer who likely has nothing. Pig shit smells like pig shit. Not like miso-cured pork belly.

How can we say we want to feed people when most of the shows on the food channels have to do with excess, not inequality? How can social media be so much more concerned with the correct filter for composites of dots of food that no one can smell or taste? How much longer do I have to see people promoting cookbooks instead of volunteering somewhere and writing about those experiences which seems more useful than a few more recipes for a watermelon soup that no one likes or wants to eat?

I don't expect any BlogHerFood "how I saved some people with salad" contests anytime soon, but maybe you could demand more keynote addresses for this sort of thing in between all the schmoozing and duck fat at your conferences and picnics and ski fests? Maybe I could see a post or two about the kitchen you helped build on that trip to wherever you ate those fish tacos right on the boat that I had to look at 75 photos of?

I helped pick a few thousand pounds of citrus this weekend for a group that does this. These are the stories that I want to hear about.

I know you think we're cut from different cloth, you and I, but listen here

You're a lot closer to emptying septic hoses with me than you think. Shitter's full, Clark. Let's get to cleaning.



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Grandma See. Baller.

One of the worst things about the holiday season is the invitations. It's nice to be asked somewhere to be reminded that you are not alone in this overwhelming life and that people love you and care about you. Also, sometimes your boss has a party and there is free booze. BUT. Being down to your last penny and not being able to bring a hostess gift is an awful feeling. NO, it is not required, most of your friends will tell you and NO, please, don't go to any trouble. You know how it feels when everyone is lining up bottles of Hennesey and amaryllis on the sideboard and you're all Hey! Off-brand vinho verde from Grocery Outlet! Everyone will know and a wilting violet from the dollar store is thoughtful but very Lena Dunham wrapped in green cellophane.
Know what else costs about $2? $3 if you buy a little box and ribbon?


Who ISN'T a Goddamned caramel junkie? If you saw the inside of my mouth you'd think I'd done a bit of  meth at some point but I can tell you that the addiction was Heath bars and Sugar Babies.

After years of failing miserably and buying varying grades of candy thermometer, I had honestly resigned myself to feeling bad every year for paying for something that I KNEW cost nothing to make. It's like sourdough bread. $4 for a really good loaf of a quarter's worth of flour and salt. That See's Candy can charge $20 per pound is crazytalk and those thugs in their little pressed pinafores should be ashamed that a Scotchmallow costs $1.75.

This summer one of my favorite people on Twitter, thepeche , went to one of those little wing-dings that some of you go to and he started talking about this magic toffee that another very nice lady makes.

I trust this man. He had a contest where I won a bunch of fancy chocolate and he knows a lot about Little House on the Prairie.  He seems like a very sensible person who wouldn't act like something unattainable was just a snap, so I thought "Why not?" Except for the 100 plus degree temperature which is terrible for candy-making and explains pralines. I tried it, caring less about the fastidiousness of a thermometer and just watched and applied the tiny bit of food science I know about sugar. IT WORKED.  
This will make a lovely hostess gift. No one will know you are broke. They will only think you are cool as hell for being able to make this little bit of magic yourself.

Recipe adapted with swears and less finesse from Rachel at LaFujiMama .

2 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips. Your choice of color. I mix milk and dark and I buy them in bulk so I only have to spend about 75 cents at a time.
Whatever sort of nut remnants from other baking or dried fruits or coconut or pumpkin seeds or whatever. No more than 1/4 cup. This is optional.

1 2-quart stainless saucepan , the heavier the bottom, the better. DO NOT USE NON-STICK
1 slotted stirring spoon, preferably a nice, cheap wooden one that the sugar will come off of, easier, later.
parchment paper or aluminum foil that has been lightly greased. A silicone baking sheet is the best. They even have them at most grocery stores now and they aren't more than a few dollars.

I have the crappiest electric stove ever. If you are fancy it shouldn't have to go above a low flame or 3 induction. Between the 4 and 5 if you're like me.

Line a sheet pan (cookie sheet) with whatever above material you have. If it's not a silicone mat it needs to be greased or sprayed. LIGHTLY.  Dollar store has cans of all the delicious flavors. Usually PAM. Don't spend $5 on this stuff at a real grocery. It's all terrible, but very cheap and effective and you don't use it all the time so don't get too creeped out. Nothing "organic" that they turn into aerosol is that great for you, either, so forget those. Sprinkle the little scraps of whatever has been hiding in the corner of the drawer on the sheet and spread them into a square-ish shape.

On low heat, melt the sugar, butter and vanilla together. Stir every minute and a half (approx. the time it takes you to click over to Twitter, read a few, answer one, and click back) for about 20 seconds each time. When it separates, ignore it. it will be fine. When it looks like weird, lumpy paste, do not give up hope. Right here is where those thermometer bastards make their money and you don't need them. Sugar is dependable. If you heat it, it will melt and if you heat it too fast it will burn. So slowly keep heating and stirring and you will be right as a motherfucker when this little program is over. When it starts to brown on the sides, make sure to watch it very carefully. When it really starts to darken, stir, stir, stir and when it's the color of Shemar Moore, turn it off. Do not be distracted by thoughts of Shemar Moore. I have now made this difficult. Leave it there while the burner cools, stir the holy Jesus out of it to smooth it completely and pour it over the nut scraps. Make a "N" motion back and forth and try to fill in all the spaces. When it has cooled for a few seconds, tilt the pan like that board game with the ball you try to keep out of the hole until it's filled.
When it has cooled for one more minute, spread the chocolate chips over the top. Wait for them to melt from the heat and spread the chocolate evenly over the top of the toffee. You can add more nuts now or crushed things like fruits or salts or peppermint. I like more coconut so it becomes a food group.

Let it cool completely and gently turn over the sheet it's on, holding it with one hand to keep it from falling off. Do this over another sheetpan or sheet of paper or foil to catch the nuts. Gently crack the back so that it breaks into pieces, turn these back over, again, GENTLY, and either place them in a nicely lined tin or box or into a large plastic IKEA container that you can hide from your husband.

*If you are new to my blog, I don't take pictures of food because there is a picture of every single food ever made in the history of the world on Google by people who are qualified to do this. I am merely qualified to teach you how to cook. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

 I get to say what the fuck I want here so if you are one of those weird, bitchy cat freaks who toodled over to talk some more shit, get back to YOUR board and continue to rip apart people you don't know.