*MY VERY FIRST BREAKUP DINNER (AND A SIDE OF POTATO SALAD)

I had tried to turn my rapist into someone special. I had found things to love, and even had a list of reasons for not breaking up with him. Believing that list was becoming harder and harder to do. Despite my lack of conviction of love, the primary reason we stayed together so long was because the 21 year-old me lacked the fundamental skills to break up.

________________________________________________________________________________

It’s not real life, but I with love, Comicbook Crook can change. It’s not real life, but with love, Comicbook Crook can change. It’s not real life, but with love, Comicbook Crook can change.

Sigh.

Will he?

I don’t know. My mantra was losing conviction.

I tried so hard.

I tried so hard to make him love me.

I tried so hard to love him.

I tried so hard to undo what he did in that hotel room.

I was tired. I was tired of trying. Comicbook Crook had his good points. And I firmly believed everyone deserves to be loved. (I believe that to this day.) I had tried to turn my rapist into someone special. I had found things to love, and even had a list of reasons for not breaking up with him. Believing that list was becoming harder and harder to do. Despite my lack of conviction of love, the primary reason we stayed together so long was because the 21 year-old me lacked the fundamental skills to break up.

I was at a loss for what to do. When confronting breaking up, many follow their heart. I couldn’t do that. I trusted the thing I understood most. I reasoned with my head and made a list.

List

By the time I was shipping Comicbook Crook Brownies in Box, I had already stopped working at summer camp to spend more time with my family before my move to Los Angeles. I stayed home and worked for my mom this summer as well.

My mom gave me the book 10 Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives written by the incomparable Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Coming from my very liberal mother, you knew she was desperate. I read the book. While I didn’t agree with the conservative rhetoric or Schlessinger’s view point, there were truths that one could grab on to… like break up with idiot boyfriends.

I wasn’t keen hurting Comicbook Crook’s feelings and wasn’t quite sure I could stomach breaking up with him.

Maybe staying with him won’t be so bad. That way I won’t hurt his feelings.

He may have been dense, but he knew I wasn’t happy. He added to my summer reading list: Are You The One For Me by Barbara De Angelis, PhD. With conviction, he said, “It’s how my dad decided he should marry Jane. (She would never be a step-mother and only his dad’s second wife.)

I read two chapters.

One list, one book and two chapters of another, I had resolve with what I should do.

His July visit was around the corner and it coincided perfectly with his half-birthday. While most don’t celebrate half-birthdays, the Crook’s mother got him in the habit of celebrating them as his birthday is December 26. I was delighted, after a long search, I had finally found that blasted Transformers comic he had been looking for.

The visit was filled with ups and downs. Squabbles. Weirdness from him.

Did I ever mention Comicbook Crook like comics…. And sci-fi and fantasy? Well, he did. Xena: Warrior Princess was one of his favorite shows. In the early evening, in a moment of unquantifiable geekdome, he insisted on transforming his Nissan Altima into the ultimate fan car. To do this, he would pry the M & A off so the car read, Nissan Alti. He rationalized a true fan would appreciate the nod to Alti, (the Siberian Amazon Sameness that taught Xena her evil ways).

Alti

My parents held dinner.

Half an hour later, Crook still wasn’t done. Apparently, Nissan used some super strong glue for the letters on their car.

No kidding.

I was growing increasingly impatient with his behavior. He told me he wouldn’t come in until he had successfully pried the M & A off, so I left him outside while I ate dinner with my parents.

Eventually, he came in. We were already done.

nissan altima

The next day, Comicbook Crook kept trying to keep me to himself. I was annoyed. 

My family graciously invites you to their home and this is how you act?

We had more conversations. I let him know I was dissatisfied. He assured me that this was just a bump in dating.

On his second to last night I took him to celebrate his half-birthday. Before dessert, I presented him with his (parting) gifts. While I had found and purchased most of the gifts before I convinced myself breaking up was necessary, the gifts in large part were to assuage my guilt.
At least I’m doing one nice last thing for him.

The next day, he had to go back home. While we were saying goodbye, he said he wanted to work on things. I blurted out, “I just can’t take it anymore.” And like that, it was over.

I was sad but deeply relieved I managed to get through breaking up with him. He drove away. I went inside to have dinner and told my parents what happened. They tried to be sympathetic, but I’m pretty sure I caught my mom smiling.

Mom had made her famous potato salad for the Crook’s visit. She’s accustomed to making it for a party, so as often happens if she makes it for the family of four, we had extra. I had two helpings and nothing more.

Plated

That night was a milestone. And with each forkful, I celebrated I was gaining myself back.

POTATO SALAD (for 4)

INGREDIENTS:
4 Organic Russet Potatoes
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
3 Eggs
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Purple Onion. (Purple onions are sweet, and add some extra color)

Ingredients

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS

  1. Chop onion.
  2. Put onion in a bowl and mix in 1 teaspoon salt.
  3. Fill a large pot 3/4 full with cold water.
  4. Wash, Peel, and wash potatoes again.
  5. Put potatoes in cold water. This will help them from oxidizing.
  6. Slice potatoes down vertical axis and then again the wide way. Pieces should be approximately 1 inch square or larger, but roughly the same size.Diced Potatoes
  7. Put back in cold water.
  8. When all potatoes are cubed, cover pot, put on burner and set to medium heat.
  9. Cook 20 minutes.
  10. Put eggs in a small pot of cold water. Cook 8-10 minutes.
  11. Timer will go off.
    1. Check potatoes. They should be tender. If your fork doesn’t slide in easily or they still taste starchy cook slightly longer.
    2. The eggs should be done. You want them hard-boiled. Take a slotted spoon. Remove one egg and spin it.
    3. (If the egg does not spin, it’s not done and needs to be cooked more. This egg is done.)
  12. When potatoes are done drain into a colander.*
  13. When eggs are done, carefully pour out hot water and fill pot with cold water (to stop cooking process)
  14. Put potatoes in a large bowl. Let cool about 5 minutes.
  15. Add: ½ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, and salted onions. Gently mix.
  16. Peel eggs.
  17. Chop eggs into large pieces.Potato Salad
  18. Add eggs to potatoes. Gently mix.
  19. Cover and put in refrigerator.

Potato Salad Mixed

*COOK’S TIP:
I like catching the water from my potatoes so I can use it to for vegetable stock later.

*BEDROOM EYES QUESADILLA

I never told Comicbook Crook I went dancing with Bedroom Eyes. Perhaps, I felt a little guilty, like I was cheating. My love of BRE and what we shared on the dance floor may have even prolonged the relationship with Comicbook Crook. BRE was certainly giving me some of the safe emotional and physical connection I needed… the kind would be standard in a relationship.
__________________________________________________________________

My college had a student body that was mostly women. The popular statistic was that women out-numbered men 3:1. With that ratio, dating was tough. But, to compound dating woes, allegedly, 65% of those men were gay. I’m not sure of the validity of the statement, but it seemed accurate.

The school paper even substantiated the statistics with a comic…
Frame One: Snaggle Tooth boy-troll wearing an I LOVE COMICS shirt.
Frame Two: Buxom hot girl.
Frame Three: Snaggle Tooth sees girl. Caption: How to pick up a girl at our college.
Frame Four: Snaggle Tooth, “I’m straight.”
Frame Five: Hot girl whisks Snaggle Tooth away.

I laughed. This wasn’t a little bemused laugh. It was a laugh that welled up from my belly and crossed my lips before I remembered who was sitting across from me.
Comicbook Crook was not amused.

He wasn’t bad looking, he just wasn’t going to win a beauty pageant. At any other college, he’d have a date or two… maybe. But, here, he was one of the few straight men. I was just one in a laundry list of women Comicbook Crook dated. I got to meet all his exes, even the one that broke up with him one month before he and I met. Part of me was happy to be part of the list. In some twisted way it validated my insecurity- I was somehow desirous. (Again, at this point, I didn’t realize that our first date started with date rape.)

Today I wouldn’t put up with his quirks, but part of being good at dating is ending something that doesn’t work. With my inexperience, I wasn’t good at dating…

…yet.

It’s not real life, but I was hoping that with love he would be the man I needed. I had invested considerable emotional energy, but the rose-colored glasses were slipping off. Me laughing at the comic was just a symptom of my growing discontent.

My three summers of working at camp helped me find my voice and undo the negativity that “friends” from junior high and high school heaped on. Camp had a compounding affect:  It taught me to confidently stand within myself and while doing so I gained more confidence. But, even with jokes, camaraderie and safe flirting, there were certain lines you didn’t cross… It was church camp after all.

3-7-14 Hubble Chapple Cross

I crossed those lines with Bedroom Eyes. There was no sex; he was one the 65%. We danced. We danced our asses off. (Yes, I know I’m quoting Footloose.) During my junior year, it became our Monday night tradition to go to Axis on Lansdowne Street. Monday night was “Gay Night.” Looking back on it now, it seems funny to have a bar with a theme of “Gay Night” where they proclaim they’re LBGTQ friendly. But this 2000/2001; Boston and America were still changing.

My first dance with BRE was awkward.

Dance - 1 Awkward

Awkward in the sense that he was a boy. Prior to him, the most I had done with a boy, dancing wise, was the HS shuffle with a friend. I had never danced a fast dance with a boy. He pulled me close. I moved with him as best I could. But, even with my years in Band and understanding the rhythm of music, I didn’t have experiencing moving my body to that rhythm. He pulled me closer. Hips gyrating. His hands on my ass.

I better do something.

Dance - 2 Gettin w it

The moment when you figure out how to dance at a club…

I put my hands on his bicep. I didn’t want to be in his personal space. Besides, even though I wasn’t a virgin, I was quite virginal in my mind and practical experiencing. Putting my hand on his bicep was non-threatening and the best I could do at the time.

I looked around and saw how other people were dancing and decided I better do something more… I put my hands on his chest. He didn’t recoil. We just got more in sync. It was completely fluid and absolutely freeing. I felt sexy. This was safe sexy dancing. Then, I learned a key component to BRE’s sexy dancing— It’s all in the eyes. His big, beautiful, deep and penetrating Bedroom Eyes. I felt one dancing with him. Forget Sabrina, I had the post Patrick Swayze Baby attitude. Nobody’s going to put me in a corner!

D Dancing - Baby Working It

I never told Comicbook Crook I went dancing with Bedroom Eyes. Perhaps, I felt a little guilty, like I was cheating. My love of BRE and what we shared on the dance floor may have even prolonged the relationship with Comicbook Crook. BRE was certainly giving me some of the safe emotional and physical connection I needed. Combined with the flirting and safe sexy dancing, my shaky confidence was becoming stable and even blossomed.

BRE and I didn’t even need alcohol to loosen us up to dance, it just happened once we walked through the doors. With the pulse of the music and everyone moving we fell into the momentum of dance.

In April the school had a big end of year dance where the leadership within the school clubs was handed down to the successor(s) for the next school year. It was a lot like prom. This time, I didn’t have to take a camp friend. I took Comicbook Crook and was excited to show off my moves. We both wore black and looked super slick. There was dinner, speeches and then it was time to dance! I’ve always loved dancing and now I had moves I could use. Comicbook Crook didn’t want to dance. I found Bedroom Eyes. I was a dancing machine, a monster. I owned myself. I loved dancing with BRE.

But, I didn’t go to the dance with him, I wanted to dance with my man.

Dancing Machine

It took some effort, but I was able to coax Comicbook Crook to the dance floor. He wasn’t thrilled, but slowly, he relaxed. Then there was a slow song. Easy stuff— Hold each other close and shuffle your feet. A fast song came back on. We stayed close.

Then I did what the music commanded me to do, which was walk backwards and beckon him to come get me. It was a cute move and I thought he’d walk forward to chase me. Instead, he had a bona fide temper tantrum. He needed a formula and pre-determined steps.

Why can’t he just go with the flow and dance with me?

Again, I had to console him. He was ruining my very first dance I had a boyfriend for.

I know I was stiff my first time, but at least I tried. I expected him to do the same. It was part of his job as my boyfriend to make me happy. I had reasons to stay with him, but coming up with new reasons to stay was becoming harder and harder to do. The big reason for not breaking up was boiling down to:

I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

But, the months of childish behavior, stealing, not eating crust and not letting me be me were adding up. This tantrum was put into my column of “reasons to break up.”

QUESADILLAS

Bedroom Eyes and I would often grab some food before a night of dancing… it was simply practical. On his side of campus they served diner-like food. Everything was loaded with starch, which would be good for sustained energy on the dance floor. Quesadillas have it all. While the traditional quesadilla is made with flour tortillas, really any kind of tortilla works.

INGREDIENTS
Guerrero Tortillas
Cheddar or Tex Mex Cheese
Pickled jalapeños

For the sides:
Sour Cream
Pace Salsa

 

Quesadilla Ingredients

Layer 1

Don’t be like some of the cooks at my school and scrimp on jalapeños like the one on the left.

STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS
Preheat toaster oven or oven to 375F.
On a tray lay out your tortilla and put the cheese and jalapeños.
Add more Cheese.
Cover with another tortilla.

Bake 10 minutes.
Quesadilla Baked - Done

Slice to desired size.
Serve with sour cream and salsa.
Quesadilla Presentation
TIP:
While putting the oven to toast for the last couple minutes is tempting, it will make your quesadilla to crispy and it will fall apart when you cut it.

*VALENTINE’S LOBSTER SPECIAL ON A BUDGET

I was more excited about Part Two of our Valentine’s Day celebration. It would have the romance that we needed—  We would be celebrating it in the suburbs at his mother’s house.

_________________________________________________________________

Similar to the myriad of books Cosby Sweater’s mother had about raising a genius child, he too liked collecting. He had an abundance of comicbooks. Having a baseball card collection that included early tobacco cards, I respected the effort it takes to build a collection. But, this collection was a little too intense. The floor of his bedroom was devoted to many, MANY, banker boxes of books. They weren’t just willy-nilly organized. No, he had a spreadsheet in FileMaker. I took scrupulous mental notes of what he needed. It was safe bet to give him a comicbook for an event where giving gift is customary, especially if you paid attention. And, I did.

Clearly, collecting was a passion. While I didn’t share his enthusiasm for conventions or have the desire to be in a crowd, when a convention came to Boston my junior year, I went with him.  This was my first and only convention, but I saw this as an important step to learn about my man.

Oh boy, did I learn! When he didn’t want to pay the sticker price on a comic, he’d find a comic (at the same vendor) with a cheaper tag, skillfully remove the sticker and put it on the comic he wanted. I told him he was stealing. He argued the vendor was still getting his money, so he wasn’t. Marvel and DC couldn’t have written a better transformation. Right before my eyes Cosby Sweater assumed the villainous identity of Comicbook Crook. I naively hoped he’d stop stealing, but after each convention he’d gloat and show me what discount he took. I believed I had the power to change him through love.

Yes, I earnestly believed if I loved him enough, I could turn him into the man I needed, one who would be more loving (and who wouldn’t steal).  Love can conquer a lot of things, but it doesn’t conquer all, like rewriting history or changing someone’s moral fabric.

From the time I learned about his unsavory behaviors to Valentine’s Day, with my generous helping of love and affection I was still hoping he would change. He did not. But, my frustration was slightly reduced by one simple fact.

It was Valentine’s Day and I had a boyfriend!

Happy Heart

I put on my favorite jeans, ruby crushed velvet shirt and healed boots for our romantic date. Then, I bundled up to go outside. That year, we had a “wintery mix” of ice and slush on the roads. But, that didn’t stop our romantic walk to dinner. While jaywalking is customary in Boston, he neglected to remember I was navigating ice and slush in heals. We had lost our walk signal, but without hesitation, he hauled me off the curb and I stumbled into the intersection and was forced to race oncoming traffic. Clearly, he wasn’t accustomed to having someone on Valentine’s Day either.

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Nearly twisting an ankle while trying to look feminine for an oblivious boyfriend. He couldn’t figure out why I was frustrated. But, we made it to the over-crowed restaurant where we waited half an hour for our reservation.

This was not like the romantic Valentine’s Day dinners you see in movies.

I was more excited about Part Two of our Valentine’s Day celebration. It would have the romance that we needed—  We wold be celebrating it in the suburbs at his mother’s house.

After giving him the wrong Book 2 of one of the many Transformers series for Christmas, I decided on something easier and scrapped together money for a special Valentine’s Day dinner. I purchased a solitary Maine lobster. When we got home from the store, I put the lobster in the kitchen sink. Comicbook Crook peered in and named our dinner Pinchy. I’ve never named my dinner, but I thought it was a very clever name and was happy my boyfriend was so creative. While I poured through recipes, trying to figure out how to expand a lobster for one into a grand dinner for two, Comicbook Crook conversed with our meal, always referring to it by name, Pinchy.

loster in a sink

I brought a giant pot of water to a raging boil and suggested he step away so scalding water didn’t splash him when I put the lobster in. Comicbook Crook insisted he wanted to watch and learn. He said goodbye to the lobster. Then I plunged it head first into the boiling water. No sooner had I covered the pot, from the corner of my eye, I saw Comicbook Crook streak away. I found him in the dark dining room perched on a stool, crying.

A wave of emotions swept over me.

 

 

It was mostly anger.

Comicbook Crook was ruining my very first Valentine’s Day. What the hell!? I was the hatchet man for our lobster, yet I was consoling an innocent bystander. I explained the lobster was killed in the most humane way possible. I smiled and through clenched teeth told him I loved him and wished him a Happy Valentine’s Day.

I served our meal with heart-shaped toast points. Being sure that there wasn’t any crust in sight, I ate all of them for my appetizer.

Dinner Plated

My very first Valentine’s Day being part of a couple wasn’t great, but it was memorable. A few months later, I got to relive the memories while Comicbook Crook and I were watching “The Simpsons.” Homer came into possession of a lobster and named it Pinchy.

My anger was reborn.

Not only was the message of “don’t name your food” lost on Comicbook Crook, my clever boyfriend wasn’t clever at all. He had to steal the name Pinchy, much like he stole my virginity or the way he stole comicbooks.Home Cries - Pinchy in pot

The entitlement Comicbook Crook had of taking things that weren’t his bothered me, but blatant plagiarism offended me to the core. Unsavory attributes were building up. While I was gaining more self awareness, I kept trying to come up with reasons to stay together, which was becoming harder and harder to do. Nonetheless, I had made a large emotional investment and wasn’t ready to let this one go.

_______________________________________________________________

What I made for that dinner landed somewhere between lobster thermidor and lobster bisque. While the original recipe took my favorite ingredients of the two dishes from, The Joy of Cooking, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, the recipe below is modified from a Lobster Thermidor Recipe from AllRecipes.com

INGREDIENTS
1 medium (1 1/2 pound) cooked lobster
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
¼ cup white wine (I prefer something sweet like Moscato)
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (can replace with Guyere)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

ingewiwnra

Alternates:
Add sprig fresh thyme
Or 1 pinch coarsely ground nutmeg… If you’re adding nutmeg, leave out the parsley.

STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook your lobster. To do this- Bring a large pot of water to a ranging boil. Add salt (about a table spoon). Put your lobster in head first and cover. Cook 15 minutes. Remove when lobster is bright red. (For more lobster cooking tips go to localfoods.about.com)
    how-to-cook-lobster-1
  2. In a large saucepan over a low heat, melt butter. Caramelize the shallots. This takes will take a long time. (This is when it’s good to have a glass of wine going.) It feels like it’s taking forever, but that’s because it is. Don’t worry about it. You’re pulling out the stops, it’s Valentine’s Day. As the shallots brown, stir more frequently.
    cooking with wine
  3. Mix in the vegetable stock and white wine. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add heavy cream, mustard, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper.
  5. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook the sauce for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. This is a reduction sauce; again, patience is mandatory.Cream sauce
  6. Remove meat from lobster and cut into pieces slightly bigger than bite-size.
  7. Add lobster meat and Parmesan cheese to mixture. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
    simmer cream sauce

*Note: If your cream sauce is not thickening, in a seperate bowl mix 1 teaspoon corn starch with ¼ cup vegetable stock. Slowly add to your to skillet. It will thicken up. Continue cooking without a lid.

TIPS:
Variations on a theme: Serve with toast points, powdered biscuits or wrap in crepes.

Serve the dish with a lemon wedge. (Click here to learn more about the traditions and reasons why lemon and seafood are paired together.)

With all the cream and the richness of the lobster, I prefer to pair this dish with a wilted spinach salad. It complements the cream sauce while giving your eyes something more to look than just a plate of white food. To enhance the flavor, I top the salad with lemon zest.
wilted spinach salad

Budget 3-4 hours for this dish. While relatively easy, all the chopping, boiling and slow cooking makes for a time-consuming meal. Again, it’s Valentine’s Day. Go big or go home.

*8 FOODS TO GIVE YOURSELF OR YOUR NEW ENGLAND LOVER

You might have noticed a few ads or point of purchase marketing reminding you Valentine’s Day is near. Skimming over early history of St. Valentine, how Valentine’s Day is celebrated has changed. Let’s face it February 14 is filled with so much anxiety, you need need Tums to get through it, regardless if you’re in a relationship or not.

Valentine’s Day does not need to be like that. One friend asked me to write a post “for the rest of us.” Traditionally February 14 celebrates romantic love; let’s modernize it and take time to celebrate our friendships and self love.

I have two groups of friends and family: Those that live in Los Angeles and Those that don’t. While I have friends that come from such places as Oklahoma or Michigan, most of my Los Angeles friends are from the Northeast. We’re like magnets and simply attract one another.

This past Christmas, one New England transplant friend gave me a gift bag of all foods New England. While I’d like to stare at the New Englandness of it, I know eating and sharing the thoughtfully selected food will bring back great memories, both for me and others.

Since we live in a world of countdown lists, here are some of my top New England food picks for celebrating love on February 14.

8. Dunkin’ Donuts

Up until the recent opening of Dunkin’ Donuts in Santa Monica, coffee-loving-donut-craving transplants living in Los Angeles had methods to bring back their DnD contraband.  We insisted the DnD coffee sold in local L.A stores didn’t taste the same as what was sold in New England shops, so we encouraged loving family members to ship coffee. But now, we can go to DnD on Wilshire Blvd, to get our fix.  (It may be necessary to gather loved-ones and make a trip next weekend to get a Boston Kreme Donut.)
dunkin-donuts

7Bell’s Seasoning

It’s available year-round in New England, but during the holidays it’s as common as Salvation Army Santas. I celebrated my first Los Angeles Thanksgiving with other displaced New Englanders. During menu planning we quickly learned Los Angeles doesn’t believe in Bell’s Seasoning. One friend called home, had his mother ship a box and provide the family stuffing recipe. (This happened to be the same family recipe as my family and others’ seated at the table. It seemed everyone’s grandma went to Boston Cooking School and riped-off  the stuffing recipe.)

Bells Seasoning
6. Mrs. Fanning’s Pickles

For many, mayonnaise is a natural complement to the sandwich, but for me it’s the pickle. And, when we’re talking pickles, I prefer Mrs. Fanning’s bread ‘n’ butter pickles. They are made from the larger pickling cucumber and have a thickness that holds up to the heartiest of sandwiches. Sandwich and pickles is a great summer weekend lunch, but if we’re going to go a step further in being purely New England, I like enjoying them while taking in a little Red Sox baseball. (Spring training is around the corner, and if I can’t wait I can always rewind my VHS of the 2004 MLB playoffs and World Series.)

mrs-fannings-bread-n-34941

5. Friendly’s Hot Fudge

To give you some context, Friendly’s is a restaurant. It is really an ice cream parlor meets diner. Ice cream creations are the focus. The meals themselves are good, but you really remember the different ways of presenting and consuming sundaes. The best part about the sundae is the hot fudge. Even though Friendly’s themselves are dying across New England, it seems you can still find hot fudge in many local grocery stores… Thick and gooey. Just the right amount of sweet and bitter to contrast the sweet of ice cream. The hot fudge has a consistency more akin to fudge than to the syrup you can squeeze out of a Hershey’s bottle. (Nothing against Hershey’s, it’s just not the same.)

friendlys-sign-240em100511

4. Drake’s Cakes

The rhyme scheme of the company name is just one thing that makes me happy about this company.  They have an impressive roster of cakes with various fillings and frostings. Among New Englanders, there is debate about which is the best confection. Since this is MY countdown list, rounding out My top favorites are The Yoddle with a ganache type exterior and creme filling, the traditional chocolate Drake Cake with the whipped center. When I get these, they are a “open in case of emergency” item that I keep on the top shelf in my kitchen. Emergency can qualify as- I need dessert, I’m too tired to make dinner, I need to stay up late and write a blog post…

Drakes Cakes

3. Fluff

Let’s get this straight. Liquid marshmallow is not the same as Marshmallow Fluff. When I visit Connecticut I buy a vat to bring back to Los Angeles. I am parsimonious with my Fluff, so the vat usually is enough for my baking and hot cocoa needs until I can go back to CT (or my family ships more).

Like Duct Tape, Fluff is good for everything and can fix almost anything, including a broken heart. It’s also great when you’re happy. I share my Fluff with New England friends (since they’re the only ones that truly understand) and if I deem a new person worthy enough, they may get a spoonful too.

Fluff

There are a number of recipes that you can make with Fluff: classic Rice Krispy treat, variations of fudge or a new favorite, from Shaken Together Life, a Fluffernutter with peanut butter cookies. Thanks Keri!

http://www.shakentogetherlife.com/2011/07/taste-this-tuesday-fluffernutter.html

fluffernutter sandwich cookie

2. Prince Pasta

If you grew up in New England, you grew up watching commercials of Anthony scampering through the North End after his mom yelled for him to come home for dinner. (It was Wednesday, and Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti night.)

Apropos of no occasion the same sweet friend that gave me New England food for Christmas dug into her ration and gave me a box of Prince Pasta that her family brought during a visit. (Not only is this purely New England, you and I both know that pasta does not travel well so the generosity felt extra special.)

And the best New England food/brand for Valentine’s Day–

1. Necco Candies

NECCO stands for New England Confectionary Company. It’s the oldest candy company in the U.S and it is responsible for the Sweet Hearts embossed with those cutesy sayings for Valentine’s Day. Some say the candies are filling breakers, but I actually like them, as long as you’re not making me eat the purple.

Sweethearts

These sweets are also gluten-free AND Kosher. No IBS for your Celiac or wheat-sensitive loved one. Mazel tov!

*I am not getting a kickback from this, but I want to point out if you’re living away from the brands you grew up cherishing or want to lavish someone with home foods, FAMOUS FOODS is a great resource to purchase regional brands.

*A VALENTINE’S DAY POLL

The big day, otherwise known as Valentine’s Day is around the corner. This day puts unrealistic expectations on many of us, in particular restaurants. Somehow, they are still expected to serve the same scrumptious food that brought us there while letting us linger over dinner and stare into our loved one’s eye. Oh- and they have about one hundred other couples that would like to do the same thing, so if you could hurry it up…

Going out for a special dinner on Valentine’s Day is my least favorite activity. On my first Valentine’s Day I expected a calm, elegant dinner but experienced massive crowds, a waitress that was trying to turn the table quickly and unmemorable food. Since that day, I’ve opted to stay in, regardless if I’m dating someone or not. Even though it is a commercial holiday and I say I don’t buy into it, admittedly, my Valentine’s Day dinners are usually a little more special than normal dinners.

This is where I am at a crossroads…

I’ve recently started seeing someone. We are getting to that stage where I’d like to cook for him. Trouble is Valentine’s Day is around the corner and he’s admitted to me he’s never been seeing someone during Valentine’s Day.  I’m conflicted. The practical, StuffedDates side of me wants to keep the first meal simple but the I LOVE COOKING AND I WANT TO SHOW YOU WHAT A FANCY DINNER LOOKS LIKE side wants to do it up.

Seeking a little guidance… Follow the link for a survey…

 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/V7DP9QF

 

*MOMMY’S CRUST-LESS GRILLED CHEESE (How to enable childlike behavior with an adult child)

The first time I made him breakfast he delicately removed the crusts from his perfectly toasted toast and pushed them the side of the plate. After already being scolded for how I made his hot cocoa, I decided to venture a query. __________________________________________________________________ When my grandma met Cosby Sweater, she mused the 25-year-old was still attached to his mother’s apron strings. Sure, Mommy’s bookcase was loaded with titles like, “What to do When Your Child is a Genius” and “Gifted: Raising a Genius Child.” She may have even been suffering from “knight in shining armor syndrome” after Cosby Sweater rescued her from the dragon of his father by calling the cops during a dispute. Sure, he was a mama’s boy, but I NEVER would have said he was attached to her apron strings. (That would be blasphemous, even if it was true.) In my early twenties I understood the financial benefits of living at home after graduating college, but Cosby Sweater still acted like a pre-adolescent. It was incomprehensible he was deemed ready for a new chapter of life. I did what was expected. He expected me to treat him the way his mom did: Like a child. I laugh, now. When you’re young (and sometimes past young) you think you’re supposed to be the caregiver. I admit, it took some time to learn this. Eventually, my friends made me get a cat to focus my giving energy. But, in my junior year of college I thought this was acceptable. Lacking dating experience, I thought it was acceptable to spend as much of your free time with your significant other as possible. After Friday dinner with friends, I often left Boston. Spending the weekend at Mommy’s house was easier than sharing a narrow dorm bed. Plus, my roommate would appreciate it; she and her boyfriend had the room to themselves. I was a diligent packer: homework, clothes, contact lens solution, toothbrush… One Fall visit, while getting ready for bed, I realized I forgot to pack a key component: Something to sleep in. Shoot. Mommy, being generous offered to lend a nightgown. I didn’t like the idea of sleeping in someone else’s pajamas, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. (Besides, what choice did I have?) She led me to her secondary dresser— It was brimming with floor-length nightgowns. I could have my pick. I wanted a career in theater/entertainment for most of my life. By the time I was twenty I had read Oedipus Rex half-a-dozen times. This is seriously screwed up. Despite their dynamic, Mommy was no dummy. I chose a heather grey, long-sleeve, flannel number. It had a white lace bib with little lace cuffs. Flannel Nihtgown Doudy New England is chilly for at least six months of the year and the nightgown was so warm and comfortable, I never considered bringing my own sleepwear again and Cosby Sweater never asked me to. (Point for mom.) Looking back on it, I’m sure this was due to a passive-aggressive rationale: “If I lend her a nightgown, it’ll be like a chastity belt, and my son won’t touch her.” She was wrong.                                   Point for me. I’d stay in the nightgown through breakfast. I love Saturday breakfast. Since I was a morning person, I’d wake up, have coffee and do homework while Cosby Sweater slept. Several hours later, I would nudge him awake. I started my second cup of coffee and made him hot cocoa Can you make hot cocoa wrong? I found a way. Apparently my hot cocoa making skills were so poor, he found it necessary to “edumacate” me how to properly mix Swiss Miss Cocoa. “First empty powder into the mug. Then slowly add some milk while mixing. When you have a syrup, that’s when you add the hot water from the tea kettle. Mix constantly.” (I was not allowed to microwave the water; it had to come from the duck teak kettle. Duck Tea Kettle Even with his very specific directions, I still couldn’t get the hot cocoa right, the way Mommy made it. After sustaining multiple critiques during our early dating, eventually I gave up and let him make the hot cocoa himself. While not wanting criticism, I reasoned this was a good way for him to participate in the breakfast making process— It was so domestic to be cooking together! Swiss-Miss-Hot-Chocolate-1024x717 Saturday breakfast was usually some kind of eggs and toast. The first time I made him breakfast he delicately removed the crusts from his perfectly toasted toast and pushed them the side of the plate. After already being scolded for how I made his hot cocoa, I decided to venture a query. “Why don’t you eat your crusts?” I don’t east crusts. “How can it be crusty? It’s Wonder Bread” I was perturbed, but lacked experience dealing with man-child behavior, so I didn’t push a change. I added it in his Idiosyncrasies List. Today, if I dated a man with this quirk, and I cared about him enough, I’d ridicule and tease him until he learned to eat his crusts. If he has other “quirks,” that are equally annoying or worse, I’d break it off. But, I was in my early twenties, so I ate Cosby Sweater’s crusts. I’m not sure how many pounds I gained from this practice. Lunch was also on Wonder Bread. Even with all her errands, Mommy would come back for lunch. One day she used the opportunity to teach me her famous Crust-less Grilled Cheese. Between her nightgown and the new recipe, she was turning me into a version of herself. A new version of me that would be more appropriate for her son. Her brother died from a heart attack at the age of 45, so she made grilled cheese in the toaster oven. Trying to keep lunch heart healthy, it’s still a mystery why she buttered both sides of the bread. This near Ivy-League educated woman seemed to think toasting the sandwich was healthier than frying it. It would be healthier IF the sandwich were simply toasted, but with buttered bread, the sandwich still had the saturated fat just as if she fried it. I didn’t want over-step. I was determined to learn this family recipe. She pre-heated the toaster oven while delicately cutting the crusts off the sandwiches. She put the sandwich on the tray, toasted it and when it was perfectly golden, she flipped it. When the sandwich was done, she removed it from the toaster oven, cut in quarters and served it. (Yes, the 25-year-old-man-child wanted his crusts cut off and sandwiches quartered.) Unlike my toast, Cosby Sweater ate the whole sandwich.

Grilled Cheese in Quarters

I’m doing a wheat cleanse and nobody on Pintrest makes grilled cheese without crusts.

Somehow I compartmentalized these behaviors. I didn’t see the cumulative affect they were having on me, our relationship, or my waist. I’m seriously glad that I don’t have to deal with his crust-less lifestyle any longer, and Heaven help me if I date another man that drinks hot cocoa on a semi-regular basis. I’ll tell you this much, I won’t stick around long enough to try out a breakfast recipe. MY HEALTHY GRILLED CHEESE INGREDIENTS: Bread Cheese STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS: Preheat your toaster oven/oven to 250°. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. (If you’re using a full-size oven, line sheet tray with parchment paper.) Lay out your favorite bread. Add cheese. Top with another layer of bread. Bake. When you have reached desired toast color, carefully flip. Resume toasting. When it’s done, take it out. Let it rest for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Cut to desired size. (I promise I won’t ridicule you if you quarter it.)   ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Not only did Mommy inspire me to incorporate a healthy baked grilled cheese into my life, I have found the toaster oven method is ideal for grilled cheese and tomato as you can get the cheese to melt more slowly without burning the bread.

*BROWNIES IN A BOX

The joy I got out Cosby Sweater’s possible embarrassment of receiving a bedazzled-saccharine-laden package at his mailroom job outweighed the expense. I budgeted postage for future batches and sent fewer brownies.
————————————————————————————————————

Cosby Sweater’s musings of a future proposal helped on two levels.
1. It soothed my sadness that I lost my virginity before I was ready.
2. It assuaged my worry that he wasn’t going discard me and was actually interested in dating.

At the end of the ideal camping trip, the reality of a long distance relationship set in. I went back to Connecticut to live with my family and he went to Boston to work in the school’s mailroom for the summer. He would be sorting and delivering mail sent to campers living in the dorms attending summer camp. (I still don’t now how he managed to get a job through the college even though he graduated, and I don’t feel like tracking him down to ask.)

It was a 4-hour trip max, CT to Boston, but with no license and not being as convenient as going up 7 stories, it was long distance enough. This time apart would be tough. While I was not ready for marriage, Cosby Sweater’s earnest statement, “I knew how I wanted to propose after two weeks” made me eager to do hallmark relationship things. Even though there was a possibility of a future proposal, I wanted to do something that would guarantee a relationship.

Baked goods! It’s how women in my family have won men for generations.

3-7-14 Chocolate Chip CookiesMy mom sent my dad cookies while he was away at school, but they would usually arrive in crumbs. My dad would quip, “sometimes a whole cookie would make it.” Hearing The Broken Cookie Story my whole life, it took only a minute to abandon sending cookies and choose to send brownies. The brownies would be able to withstand whatever abuse the USPS could dish out. I had a passing thought of cutting them into hearts, but after one attempt and one mangled brownie, I decided on the classic square.

I was in my early twenties and excited to continue the family tradition. Besides, I loved baking and I wasn’t baking at camp that summer. My baking was powerful; I baked The Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies for Red and he asked me prom. PK liked my Church Camp Chocolate Cake and English Teacher swooned over my Church Camp Pie and invited me to hang out after hours.  Now, I had a real boyfriend. I needed to get my baking fix. Was baking and sending food to my underweight boyfriend too maternal? Maybe. But, if I can get asked to prom and get good flirting based off of my baking skills, this would guarantee a commitment from Cosby Sweater (hopefully). Almost as much as the baking, I LOVED bedazzling the shipping box with stickers and overly-saccharine messages.

I was so excited I accidentally went to the post office during lunch. It was closed. (This is a well-known thing in my small hometown.) I went back and presented the package to the Mail Lady. She weighed it.

Ten dollars to ship Connecticut to Massachusetts!?

She encouraged me to purchase a USPS flat-rate box.

“Can I decorate it?”

“No.”

The joy I got out Cosby Sweater’s possible embarrassment of receiving a bedazzled-saccharine-laden package at his mailroom job outweighed the expense. I budgeted postage for future batches and sent fewer brownies.

Cosby Sweater's name is not Vlad, but he received packages like this. See. I'm not the only one that likes to send embarrassing packages.

Cosby Sweater’s name is not Vlad, but he received packages like this. See; I’m not the only one who likes sending embarrassing packages!

He did not get embarrassed. In fact, each time I shipped a package I had to ask if he received it. I was disappointed by his lack of embarrassment, that he didn’t comment on the box or even the quality of the brownies. Disheartened and broke, after the first batch, he only got two other batches.

My desire to pique Cosby Sweaters interest was earnest. I wanted to make him happy by doing these gestures. Even though I didn’t expect something back, when he didn’t return his affection with a small gesture I was hurt.

Has Cosby Sweater received brownies through the mail since me? Probably not. I have had a real long-distance relationship since Cosby Sweater, but have I mailed baked goods? Hell, no. Sending baked goods through the mail is a luxury only for dreamers or people in old movies sending their incarcerated loved one a cake with a file to break out of jail. I am no longer obsessed with being cutesy and have decided that if I ever date someone who deserves to have baked goods shipped, I’m going to use the local baker that delivers. (My long-distance relationship didn’t even deserve that.)

Small towns being what they are, every man I’ve dated since Cosby Sweater has had to go go with me on a field trip to the post office to meet my beloved Mail Lady.

The recipe below is not what I used on Cosby Sweater; I can’t find that one. An additional 15 years of baking and brownie consumption experience, I’ve finally mastered the perfect brownie. The recipe below combines the classic Fannie Farmer recipe with my Grandmother’s fudge recipe.

BROWNIES (THAT ONE CAN SEND IN A BOX)

Ingredients

INGREDIENTS:
1 10 ounce package dark chocolate chips
¾ cups butter (1.5 sticks)
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup mini marshmallows
1.5 cups flour
1.5 cups chopped walnuts

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

  1. In a heavy pot, melt together butter and sugar over a low heat. Cook to softball stage, (takes about 5 minutes) Stir constantly.

Butter and Sugar

  1. When butter and sugar are melted together, add mini marshmallows and melt more. (You may need to reduce heat.)

IMG_4097

  1. When sugar, butter and mini marshmallows are all melted, turn heat off and add chocolate chips. Stir until blended.

(If you’re cooking on an electric stovetop, you will need to take the p0t off the heat so you don’t burn your batter.)Mix in Chocolate

  1. When butter, sugar, marshmallows and chocolate are blended, add eggs and cream together.
  1. Slowly add flour.
  1. Stir in walnuts.
  1. Butter your baking dish. (It should roughly have the dimensions of 9x13x2.)  Spread batter evenly. Bake 20-25 minutes.
  1. When done, test with a toothpick. It should come out clean. If it’s clean, take brownies out of the oven. If it’s not clean bake in 1-2 minute intervals constantly testing.
  1. Let rest for 1-2 hours. If you’re greedy like me, you may want to let cool (slightly) and test for quality control. If you intend on shipping your brownies, let the brownies rest for a couple hours before you cut them. Without doing so, they will be difficult to cut and they likely will have that mangled appearance.
Brownies

I managed to wait several hours before I cut these guys.

*THE BIG SANDWICH – A CAMPING ADVENTURE

Cosby SweaterMost people would not continue to date this guy. But, our relationship was like eating bad chocolate. You eat it because it’s chocolate. You’re disappointed it’s not great. You hope the next bite will be better. So, you take another bite, certain it will be better than the last. And, when it’s not, you keep eating until that piece of chocolate is all gone and you have a bellyache.

———————————————————

I dove into the deep end dating Cosby Sweater and did the best I could with my limited dating experience. I wasn’t sure I was ready for all the “norms” of an adult relationship. But again, I had no hymen and harbored the desire to make sex with him special. Even though there was something “off” about my first sexual experience, my conscious mind did not make the connection that it was date rape.  I had planned I would give my virginity to my husband or the man that would be my husband, so I tried to rectify this sexual experience. And yes, I now realize this was insane, but mind you, I was thinking I was going to spend the rest of my life with this guy…

…or at least make it more special than a one night stand.

There was a month left of school before Cosby Sweater would graduate. One month to organize the chaos. One month to make something happen. In that month while dealing with all this new stuff, I gladly took on the caregiver role he was seeming to require. I was twenty and it seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

While we worked through early relationship kinks, we got to know each other in the traditional where are you from sense.

What was your childhood like?

“One time when my dad was beating up Mom, I had to call the police. The cops came and took him away. After he moved out, Mom divorced him. I saw him on weekends.”

Even prior to Cosby Sweater interceding on his mom’s behalf, it seemed he had always been a target of his father’s criticism. Calling the cops only further complicated their relationship. Anything in Cosby Sweater’s life was up for critique, including me.

Cosby Sweater was 5 feet 7 inches, 126 pounds; I was 4 feet 11 inches, 135 pounds. I was happy to still be shedding my freshman weight, but not happy to outweigh my boyfriend. Body image issues continued with his consistent reminders of his father’s potential criticisms, in addition to my writing major being a poor decision, my complexion was a favorite topic. Pointing out zits, Cosby Sweater gave them sound effects, like the sound of popcorn popping.

Seriously?

A boyfriend is supposed to give you complements, not point out shortcomings that are out of your control.

His observations (and sound effects) hurt my feelings. But, I rationalized and put it under “Idiosyncrasies I Need to Get Used To.”

Cosby Sweater

Most people would not continue to date this guy. But, our relationship was like eating bad chocolate. You eat it because it’s chocolate. You’re disappointed it’s not great. You hope the next bite will be better. So, you take another bite, certain it will be better than the last. And, when it’s not, you keep eating until that piece of chocolate is all gone and you have a bellyache.

I kept hoping moments with Cosby Sweater would get better. The twenty-year-old me was thinking he was preparing me for judgment of his father. I’ve since realized he learned how to judge and communicate the way his father did. I thought I could love him into the man I knew he could be. And while loving him into the man I knew he could be, the pride of having an honest-to-goodness boyfriend I could love outweighed any critique he could dish out. (Besides, I was still trying to make my first sexual experience mean something.) Cosby Sweater accepted my love and affection. He seemed to think he was justified in his actions. I was not perfect. My skin was not perfect. I was a poor example of quality girlfriend. Cosby Sweater seemed to worry that his father would think he wasn’t perfect either.

Sure enough, when I Mr. Cosby Sweater and step-mom during Graduation Weekend my “poor choice” of major and bad skin came up. On some level I respected Mr. Cosby Sweater wanted the best for his son, but was more hurt that he was as critical as predicted. I was still in college and needed time to prove I was good enough for the family. Cosby Sweater’s mom, however, did not criticize— She appreciated who I was, what I was doing with my life and where I wanted to go. She was also wowed by my kindness. At the family dinner, I met more relatives, including his cousin and her husband.

His cousin invited us on a couples-only camping trip. I felt so grownup.

It was just like the movies!

Camping

I was still nervous about sex and emotionally reeling from my first sexual experience. One night while laying in our zipped-together sleeping bags, Cosby Sweater leaned over and kissed me sweetly. He said, “two weeks after we met, I knew how I wanted to propose.”

Um. Gulp!

Counting my church camp boyfriend, PK, this was only my second relationship. I wasn’t quite ready for marriage, but the idea of a future proposal helped me reconcile the sex out of marriage; it made me feel like this relationship was heading somewhere… Even though I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to marry Cosby Sweater. In fact, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to marry him. Being very curious I asked him how he was going to propose. He said I would have to wait until it actually happened.

Damn!

I guess I better see if I can  actually be okay with this sex thing.

Marriage CartoonWhile erasing the bad from the my first sexual experience, this non-proposal piqued my need to understand Cosby Sweater more. It’s not real life, but I was hoping that with love he would be the man I needed. Some may consider our one month of dating would qualify him as a stranger, but I had a large emotional investment and had figured out ways to love him. Besides, a couples-only weekend was a way for us to get to know each other better. We talked to the cousin-couple about relationships, food and cooking. More importantly, I was introduced to Cosby Sweater’s Big Sandwich. Rather, the recipe was his cousin’s. As she explained her method of constructing this gargantuan sandwich, she winked and said, “it is a two hand job.”

Maybe, her husband was a two-hand job. Nothing about Cosby Sweater required two hands.  

The best thing I got from this relationship was the Big Sandwich. As with most recipes I learn, I typically find a way to make them better. I’ve tested different assembly orders of the contents, but the order below gives proper flavor balance. Some reasons are for practicality (you don’t want cheese next to tomatoes due to a chemical reaction that can happen), but the rest is for taste and presentation.

INGREDIENTS:
Round loaf of bread (about a pound; I prefer pumpernickel since it has more flavor oomph for this recipe)
Pesto
Black pitted Olives (sliced on horizontal bias)
Roasted Red Pepper
Tomato
Meat** (can replace with cucumber cut on vertical bias)
Cheese
Sweet Onion
Lettuce

ROASTED PEPPERS

Grateful I had a stash of roasted peppers!

THE REST:

1. Slice the top off the round loaf. (It’ll become a lid of sorts, so you don’t want to make it too thin/thick/uneven.)

SLICE TOP(Rather than slicing the top straight off, I turn the loaf, making a perforated cut around the circumferance of the top. By doing this, it helps to ensure that your top is even.)

2. Hollow out the bread, leaving some room for the walls.

IMG_3847(To help with hollowing out, take a cerated knife and cut along the edges. It is more efficient than grabbing fistfuls of bread innards.)

3. Layer your ingredients it the same order they’re listed above. (Don’t do more than one layer each, if you’re too generous with your ingredients, the sandwich will fall apart.)

4. Slice the sandwich like a pie. (You should be able to get 8 pie-shaped pieces.)

MIDDLE
5. Skewer each piece with a large toothpick.

IMG_3855

Featured Bread: Artisan Beer Boule

6. Keep the sandwich wedges in their circular shape; wrap the whole sandwich in aluminum foil.

7. Refrigerate. (Tastes should have time to commingle and get to know one another before having a party in your mouth- 24 hours is ideal.)

TIPS:

You can typically preorder your bread boule from your local bakery. When you do this, you can specify the size.  (You’ll want a loaf that is 1 pond or more.) Also, pumpernickel is often overlooked, and I’ve often had to special order this flavor.

Budget about 1.5 hours for prep, assembly and cleanup.

FALLING APART

While slicing, sometimes, one wedge falls apart. That’s when you eat the evidence.

*A STOLEN FIRST KISS

In spite of the “unconventional” beginnings, I continued to date Cosby Sweater. I hoped that by pouring out love and affection, he would mirror my actions and love me the same way in return. I was hoping that this would not only make him into the man he could be, it would make him into the man I needed. —————————————————————————————————————- I had a crush on a friend freshman year of college, but he had a crush on Michelle Kwan. Despite all our study sessions and meals together, we did not date. Darn! Michelle Kwan I left that school, transferring to a college in Boston. Prior to beginning my new college, there was camp. I always felt at home in my skin there, and the summer of 1999 was no different. Even with my weight-loss and now shared senior-staff status with PK, my camp boyfriend from the previous year, he was not interested. Despite his aloofness, camp as it always did bolstered my confidence. That summer, The Kid from Long Island was on first year staff. His affection was obvious, as he followed me around like a puppy and babbled cute little things to me. Not only was he still in high school, at barely sixteen, he was the youngest member on staff. He was such a child. But, yay! Someone has a crush on me! Camp buoyed me and allowed me to step into more of myself in the outside world. I was still inherently shy and I still had difficulty walking into a room of strangers, but this confidence shot in the arm made transferring colleges easier. It allowed me to walk into those rooms with strangers and feel less awkward. During the first week of my new school I made friends and immediately found a home with the TV production people. I was and forced to be more outgoing than I ever was. We gorged on war stories of the entertainment industry and spent long days working on set or late evenings in pre-production meetings. To recharge, before or after these meetings, in solitude, I wrote. We further satiated our appetites by reading things like The Mail Room, The Hollywood Reporter’s annual “Women in Entertainment Power 100” (I would constantly re-read mine until the following year came out), Is That a Gun in Your Pocket or Hello He Lied. I wanted to be like Nora Ephron, Sherry Lansing, Nancy Meyers, Lynda Obst… Naturally, when the opportunity came to go to Manhattan with my school and meet working entertainment alumni, I was there. The weekend was an intensive networking/career building event. On a tour of the Late Show with David Letterman, I met a guy in a Bill Cosby Sweater. I shared self-conscious flirty smiles with him. He sat next to me during one of the lectures, we shared an elevator ride and dinner that evening. I learned he was a senior getting ready to graduate. His best friend was attending New York University. He invited me to have drinks with them and some of her friends at a dive bar in Greenwich Village. (How grown up.) Even though I was only 20, I accepted. This was the closest thing to a date I’d ever been on. I sat next to Cosby Sweater. The friends talked about their first presidential election they voted in. I realized I was only in junior high while they were having this milestone. They taught me how to order drinks when you’re underage. I felt incredibly out of place. Cosby Sweater squeezed my knee, and I knew I was going to be okay. I had one drink because I didn’t like breaking the law and I didn’t want to be out of control. I drank slowly and enjoyed this very adult moment. Times Square Cosby Sweater and I went back to our hotel in Times Square. He even walked me back to the mini suite I was staying in with my weekend roommate. I was expecting maybe a kiss goodnight, at the most. He came in and we hung out with her in the modest living room until she went to bed. I was attracted to Cosby Sweater and had those great nervous butterflies, but I wasn’t accustomed to the attention he was giving me… flirting, touching… He gave me a back rub and I politely fended off his advances. We kissed some more and I told him I was tired. He asked to join me. My emotions were sitting between dizzying panic of sleeping next to a boy and an extreme worry of not wanting to be rude and make him sleep in his own room. I agreed. The bedroom was a standard hotel room two full-size beds, and a nightstand assigned to each. No sex until marriage. It was a solid plan. My “no sex decree” wasn’t inspired by my time working at church camp. It certainly wasn’t inspired by mainstream media. It was an idea set forth by my public high school Humanities teacher: “Wait until marriage. Your virginity is the only gift you can give once.” It was incredibly romantic. I loved giving gifts. THIS was the ultimate “I like you” gift. While my weekend roommate slept soundly in the bed next to me, Cosby Sweater took my “I like you gift.” I felt detached, like I was watching myself in the third person. I was scared and frustrated I didn’t have my gift to give. I scrambled to make the misstep out of marriage ok. The crazy thing is, is: This wasn’t making love; it was date rape. But, I didn’t know that at the time. When Cosby Sweater and I woke up the next morning, the roommate was already gone. Cosby Sweater walked to the window and peeled back the shade; it was a window to nothing. It was as if the building had folder over on itself. House keeping came by. The sheets were ruined. Shit! It was an awkward morning. I’ve never had sex before and wasn’t entirely clear how we should act. Do we hold hands? Do we not hold hands? Do we pretend like it’s not a big deal? I don’t know how people act after they have sex for the first time. All I could think of was Tom Hanks in Big and how he gave everyone high 5’s and started drinking coffee and went as far as to take it black. I did not feel that way. But Cosby Sweater and I sat next to each other in the remaining weekend lectures and even on the bus ride home. I was embarrassed and frightened. My brain went into overdrive to rectify everything. I wanted to erase what Cosby Sweater did and worked to reconcile the events of New York. By making a relationship work, everything would be okay. I’d visit Cosby Sweater in his dorm room. If things got too heated (and they often did), my nerves sent me fleeing back to my room. I was on a seesaw. I wasn’t ready for an intimate relationship, but here I was hymen-less. I had to make this relationship work. That’s what people do, right? Marry the first person they sleep with? Part of my inability to see that it was date rape was my naïveté and part of it was the vitriol that women were fed, and it was always some permutation of NO: “no” and “no means no.” Other phrases like “stop” or “get off me” were not part of the “say no to rape” catchphrases we learned at a time before the rule of “Yes Means Yes.” I cordoned off my first sexual experience and locked it and the miserable memories associated with it in a room to wither and die. In spite of the “unconventional” beginnings, I continued to date Cosby Sweater. I hoped that by pouring out love and affection, he would mirror my actions and love me the same way in return. I was hoping that this would not only make him into the man he could be, it would make him into the man I needed. We dated all through my junior year and broke up in the summer going into my senior year. Boston Public Garden Senior year was transformative. It was also the year where other media students and I were involved with a group that was collaborating with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) and the Boston PD to produce a rape awareness video. The video would be shown to incoming college students in the greater-Boston area. The message was twofold: educate them about available resources and teach them they’re not alone. Doing this work, I learned that one in four college women are raped or sexually assaulted. Holy shit! Those are some crazy statistics. Holy shit! That’s me! I submitted a script pulling from my experience. The three members of BARCC, who were liaising between the center and the college told me the script was too dramatic. Really? My script was essentially a cry for help. Now, the very people whose duty it was to assist rape victims through their work at the Rape Crisis Center were telling me my script was not accurate. Their inability to see the cry and listen to my explanation of camera movements showing how the victim would feel detached from everything after a rape made me feel like my experience was invalid. I knew if I confronted Cosby Sweater to tell him he raped me, he’d cry. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. It’s okay you raped me. You didn’t know any better. After he’d be done crying, he’d say it wasn’t rape and then blame me for not wanting to have sex. He is one of those Accidental Rapists, one of those people who admits to having sex with a person against their will, but doesn’t view their actions as rape. The article points out if the R word isn’t mentioned, more people are willing to admit to doing it. Cosby Sweater’s misconception of rape doesn’t make him any less culpable and it doesn’t make him any less rapey. I do not want to even consider confronting him. For a time after the incident and moments since then, I felt I could no longer connect to things that were enjoyable. Food on occasion became more of a necessity— Fuck what am I going to eat? I have to eat something. In the weeks and months after the rape, life started becoming filled with more moments of yawning indifference. I even became fed up with long-distance dedications on the radio and witnessing the smallest romantic gesture in other couples made my stomach turn. Sex for may years was an enigma, often times scary, un-enjoyable and even one of those duties one must subject themselves to (like doing dishes). To my soul, the rape was like taking a crystal vase, dropping it on the floor and trying to put it back together. There really isn’t an amount of glue that will repair it. Talking about rape is one of those things that people push off. It’s taboo. It makes people uncomfortable. It’s one of those things that shouldn’t happen. A dialogue needs to happen. But, people’s inability to have an open discussion or burring a discussion within a blog shows how uncomfortable the discussion of rape is. While not admitting it was rape right away, I knew there wasn’t something right about my first sexual experience. I couldn’t deal with it. Admitting I was raped seemed inaccurate. A dream. How can I be the victim of rape? Over the years I’ve tried to rewrite history, to talk myself out of it. Then, I reread things like Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Cage Bird Sings or Patricia Lockwood’s “The Rape Joke,” and I’m thrust back into the reality. No, I’m one of the four. Somewhere in my dating life, I was able to get back to enjoying romance, making other people happy and even cooking for them (out of affection). But, while traveling I still can’t and won’t stay in the same brand of hotel where the rape occurred _____________________________________________________________ SIDEBAR The issue with rape and sexual assault among college students is that the crisis is large. Many victims remain silent. Their silence and the lack of help from their college or university goes beyond resources, college-sanctioned alcohol consumption, state laws and sexual mores. In trying to find contemporary material while making peace with my past, I found many articles on the subject. One that really spoke to me and helps shine a light on the many angles of the problem is  an editorial by Jed Rubenfeld. In his editorial, “Mishandling Rape,” (published in The New York Times, November 15, 2014), Rubenfeld takes time to carefully unpack the elements of rape among college students. In it, he looks at historical social mores and current trends while calling for a transformation of colleges. As an outsider who is over 10 years out of college, I can see that colleges have come a long way. It’s not enough. Cultural change won’t happen over night, but we need to keep advocating change.

*A SECOND YEAR, A SECOND THANKSGIVING (PART 2) – A Fried Chicken Celebration

” ‘…I’m breaking up with my boyfriend, and I’m worried he’s going to attempt suicide.’ I don’t remember the exact words I used (to break up with Sonodoro)…. I left… When I came back, Sonodoro was intoxicated with a concoction of whiskey and a painkiller with sleeping aid. He was barely intelligible.

Shit. I was right! . . .”

——————————————————————————————————–

A friend in Orange County called one night to invite me over (about an hour and a half-two hours in traffic). She was beautiful and hanging out with her often meant being “Red Carpet Ready.” (This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I just couldn’t wear my comfortable jeans and sweatshirt to hang out with her in public.) For fear of Sonodoro’s reaction if I got glammed up at home, I put my makeup and clothes in a backpack and told him I was spending the weekend with her. When I got to her house, she handed me a stack of books and said, “Here. Break up with Sonodoro.”

I read most of them, but He’s Just Not That Into You resonated most. Each example fit to a T, except I was the guy and I was “just not that into” Sonodoro.

He's just not that into you Cover

Is dissatisfaction a good enough reason to leave?

According to Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, it is.

The book strengthened my resolve and confidence to leave.

Sonodoro was a depressive and manipulative boyfriend. He made me feel terrible with most of my decisions. To keep me from leaving, get back at me for hurting him, or to end his depression, I was worried he was going to attempt suicide when I told him it was over. I was a wreck. I was also mad. I couldn’t believe I had to factor in a possible suicide attempt into a breakup I was already uncomfortable doing.

I called the Suicide Hotline. They assumed I was depressed over a breakup and tried to counsel me.

“No, I’m not sad someone broke up with me. I’m going to break up with my boyfriend and I need advice. I’m worried he’s going to attempt suicide.”

The operator complemented me on my compassion; told me I can’t control Sonodoro’s reaction; advised me to be firm and direct and to have a place to go for a couple hours after I broke it off. I chose the day of SuperFood’s Thanksgiving party.

I don’t remember the exact words I used. I was firm and suggested he move in with his mother. He told me he didn’t get along with his mother and that he didn’t want to do it. I relented a little and gave him a later move out date, told him we weren’t going to discuss it anymore and immediately left for my party.

When I came back, I saw Sonodoro decided to play bartender and was intoxicated with a concoction of whiskey and a painkiller with sleeping aid. He was barely intelligible.

Shit. I was right! . . .

. . . What if he dies?

Calling 911 didn’t even cross my mind. I was angry and I panicked. At 4’ 11.5”, I manhandled the 5’ 7” 230 pounder down a flight of stairs, into my SUV and drove him to the ER.

He wasn’t aware of what was going on until I got him walking towards the building. He begged me not to leave him. He explained that he would be institutionalized for attempting suicide. This caused images of old insane asylums with straight jackets, padded walls and shock therapy to bolt into my mind’s eye.

Insane Asylum

I believed him and took him home.

Mad at myself for not having the courage to leave him at the hospital, but worried that he still might die,I made him drink water.

Then I made him drink more water.

I stayed awake and monitored him.  When I knew he was in the clear, I went to bed and made him sleep on the couch. When I woke up, he was gone. He left a note that was five parts saccharine and six parts anger. He promised that while we lived together, he’d make sure that we didn’t see each much of each other.

During this co-habitatation, our encounters were infrequent, brief and strained. When we did see each other, I urged him to move off the couch; he continually tried to push back the deadline. Among the excuses he cited was that he can’t get along with his mom. Could he get along with me any better? One of my friends reminded me that his problems were not and should not be my problems. (In fact, that Christmas she gave me a mug with the message, “You’re too good for him” emblazoned on it)

You're Too Good

I allowed Sonodoro’s problems to be my problems and I allowed him to stay until April.

In March, I met a friend of a friend at an art opening. We went out on a date. The date was terrible. When I got home, Sonodoro was there. He asked where I was, so I told him. He said he didn’t like seeing me date other men. He would be gone by the end of the week; he was moving in with his mother.

That’s all it took? Had I known getting Sonodoro to leave was that easy, I would’ve started dating a long time ago!

When he took his final box, I celebrated. Besides buying girly stuff to feminize the apartment, I indulged in quantities of fried chicken and sparkling wine while watching The OC in bed.

Often, I’ve used food to woo men. Sometimes, I’ve used it to sooth me. But, fried chicken and sparkling wine (Gewürztraminer specifically) was a pure celebration of extracting myself from a relationship that battered my soul.

FRIED CHICKEN:

Ingredients

INGREDIENTS:

BATTER:
1 egg
½ cup milk (Flax is pictured, but you can use your favorite milk)
1 cup Bisquick
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder

THE REST:
2 pounds boneless/skinless chicken breast
½ cup oil (something w a light flavor like safflower or canola)

The recipe works best if made in a heavy cast-iron pan. (It retains the heat and is best for more oil-intense recipes.) If you don’t have a cast-iron pan, you’ll be okay, but I do recommend purchasing one because you can do so much with it.

STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS:
In a mixing bowl, beat together egg and milk.
Beat in dry ingredients until mostly smooth.

Batter

Wash Chicken

Cut chicken breasts into thirds, so they’re about the size of a deck of cards. (This makes it easier to maneuver in the pan and endures they will cook all the way through.)

Coat chicken on both sides and put on a clean plate. If you have too much chicken for one plate, use a seperate plate. (Stacking the chicken on top of each other will result in not having enough batter on each side.)

Warm pan on medium to low heat for 1-2 min.

Add oil. When oil starts to bubble drop in a spoonful of batter. If it quickly forms a little crisp pancake, the oil is hot enough for your chicken.

Test Oil

Start placing chicken breasts around the outside of the pan and then place them on the interior. (You may have to cook in batches.)

*Be careful placing the chicken in, it may splatter. Grease burns are not fun.

Cook the chicken for two minutes on one side and then flip. (If the chicken batter is not crispy, it’s not time to flip. Give it a little more time.) After the first flip, let the chicken cook for 10 minutes before flipping again and cooking another 10 minutes.

Cooking Chicken

Cut into the chicken. It’ll be moist and easy to cut into, but shouldn’t be pink. If it’s still pink, cook longer. When finished, put on paper towels to absorb extra oil. You will need to pat dry not he top and bottom.

*Cooking Tip: Tongs give you more dexterity and make it easier to flip the chicken.

Serve with Gewürztraminer. Veggies are optional.

Chicken and Wine Best