*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.

*CHURCH CAMP CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CREAM PIE

Gaining the Freshman 15 is easy. My weapon of choice? Cheesecake. New York is known for its cheesecake and I was living outside of Manhattan. (Truthfully, I was living in Brookville, Long Island a 30+ minute ride on the LIRR to get to Manhattan.)

Let’s try that again. I  was living in Long Island and found it necessary to sample the varieties of cheesecake I encountered. My friends and I always found appropriate rationalizations, “I haven’t tried this one yet” or “this one is my favorite; it’s been awhile.”

IMG_1437My college Freshman year started soon after camp ended.  At the close of camp PK said, “Let’s be friends.” I believed it; quite possibly, he believed it too. I tried calling and writing (real letters with doodles and stuff). It seemed PK didn’t want to be friends. He never responded. Now, having more wisdom from experience, he was either A) Busy being a high school senior or B) Didn’t want the commitment of long-distance friendship so ignoring me was easier. No matter how many times you’ve done it, rationalizing yourself out of heartbreak does not come easy. I spent the first half of freshman year mourning the breakup of my first relationship.

To my new friends, my stories would often begin, “One time at Church Camp…” (1) During camp, I was able to shake off my “awkward girl” inner monologue and be at home in my soul. I always left camp with more self-confidence than when I arrived. Naturally, I was excited to be accepted on staff for another summer.

After seeing pictures from the Winter Formal, I realized I had over-achieved and gained the Freshman 15 + 5. Oh crap! I was twisted with my weight-loss incentives: Get back together with PK or make him jealous.

Extreme measures must be taken and I did the unthinkable. I stopped eating cheesecake! I also cut my coffee consumption (a bigger sacrifice than giving up cheesecake). Coffee, which included milk and two rounded teaspoons of sugar, went from two 10 oz cups in the morning and two 10 oz cups in the afternoon and maybe more during Sociology (one 16 oz cup) to 1 cup in the morning and one in the afternoon, each with 1 level teaspoon of sugar and less milk.

3-14-14 Sugar

I was consuming 45+ calories in sugar alone for each cup of coffee, resulting in a daily tally of 225+ sugar calroies.

My second afternoon cup was replaced by an hour of aerobics.

3-14-14 AEROBICS

I did not look like this.

For campus dining, I carefully selected meals that looked less greasy, cut portion sizes and skipped dessert (most of the time). Sometimes, my evenings were capped off with more workouts. I lost 2 dress sizes!

At camp, I was a baker again. Since my co-baker spent the previous summer mostly sick, management gave me the opportunity to run the bakery on my own and be the sole baker at the age of 20. PK was the camp photographer (working Up The Hill) and there was a new batch of Camp Family.

Being a baker must have had the lovable Pillsbury Dough Boy kryptonite factor. This particular summer one boy AND one girl from Family crushed on me. (She was much a much better flirt than he; he was more like a giant puppy.)

3-14-14 Black Lab Puppy

While flattered by the advances and attention, I’m hetero and again, he was like a giant puppy. Besides, my eyes were other places.

PK did not care we were Up The Hill together. I looked better than I did when we “dated,” but it was as if the previous summer didn’t happen.

He didn’t ignore me completely, though. He’d say cute little things like, “please pass the bread.”

Despite PK’s aloofness, camp, as it always did, bolstered my confidence, anchored my faith, and with the safety of co-workers, helped me sharpen my flirting skills that were butter knife dull.

It was a friend from my Camp Family summer I took to prom after I turned Red down. The following summer I dated PK. This summer, my third summer on staff, with cheesecake weight lost, ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN!

3-14-14 Brown Bag Lunch

In addition to baking, I made brown bag lunches for campers to take on their hiking or cycling trips. English Teacher was Deaning (leading) a Cycling Conference.  He was on staff for many summers before my Family Summer; he had a camp legacy. (He couldn’t have been more than 25.) My Family summer he’d volunteer and visit his camp girlfriend. (Their relationship lasted longer than a summer.) Of course I knew who he was, but I was surprised when I found out he knew who I was.

I had dutifully prepared the brown bag lunches so English Teacher and his campers could go cycling after Monday’s breakfast. It was then he approached me to discuss provisions.

He put his hand on my shoulder and told me to keep the next lunch easy… Give him a couple loaves of bread, a vat of peanut butter and some jam. He’ll hose his pickup truck off after the kids use it as a table to make their sandwiches. I looked at his beautiful blue eyes, “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

Then, he smiled at me with his gap-tooth-smile. (Wow.)

He was going to be an English teacher and I was majoring in English. He used to work at camp and I currently worked there. (And, we both breathe air!) We had so much in common!

My heart needed to talk to him more and throughout the week I made sure we did. I invited him to stay for Saturday dinner. (Saturday dinners were traditionally fancier since it was only the summer staff and the incoming Deans and counselors for the week.) I intended to use dessert as my bait.

With my love of cheesecake, I made a similar but less labor-intensive dessert and I whipped off a batch of Emeril Lagasse’s CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER PIE (a standing favorite of mine). I spooned some into Dixie Cups and gave one to English Teacher after Friday dinner. He took a bite and invited me to visit him and the campers that night. It was like being invited to sit at “the cool kids’ table.”

I was terrified. I could be marginally flirty and confident, but I couldn’t manage a visit. I stayed in the female dorm. The next day he chastised me for not visiting.

He had a lot of friends on staff, so he was often up visiting or volunteering. We kept re-connecting. No kissing. No holding hands. Just talking. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if I went for that Friday night visit. Maybe something, probably nothing. I still have good memories of that summer and our small exchanges and how I felt when I was able to entice him to stay for dessert.

RECIPE
You can make your own graham cracker crumb crust for this, or if you’re pressed for time, you can purchase a store-bought pie crust. Still use the plain graham cracker crust; that way you have a flavor contrast to the chocolate in the pie filling.

INGREDIENTS

PIE CRUST:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

FILLING:
8oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts (I usually use more)
4 cups heavy cream, whipped until thick

GARNISH:
2 cups heavy cream, whipped until thick
1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts
4 ounces chocolate curls and shavings
2 cups chocolate sauce, slightly warm (see Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookie… add more milk)

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS
Set oven rack on bottom slot.

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

THE CRUST
In a bowl combine the gram cracker crumbs, butter and ¼ cup peanut butter. Mix thoroughly. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch spring-form pan.

BAKE until golden and crisp, (6 to 8 minutes).

REMOVE from the oven and cool completely.

THE FILLING
Using an electric mixer (if you have one), or a wooden spoon (if you don’t) beat the cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Add the remaining ¾ cup peanut butter. Beat until smooth. Add the milk and roasted peanuts and beat well.

In a separate bowl whip the heavy cream. When it has light peaks, add the confectioner’s sugar. Fold 4 cups of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture.

3-14-14 Pie Filling-the-crust

I am sick & don’t want to make a pie that is germ-loaded & will ultimately need to be thrown away. (Another baker’s pic.)

Spoon into the prepared pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, (about 2 hours).

EATING
Remove from the refrigerator just before serving.

Pool your chocolate sauce on plates. Cut and plate pie slices. Garnish with whipped cream, chopped peanuts, chocolate shaving.

3-14-14 Choc Pie Better

I am sick & don’t want to make a pie that is germ-loaded & will ultimately need to be thrown away. (Another baker’s pic.)

Serves about 8-10.

Variance:
When whipping the cream, wait until it has soft peaks add confectioner’s sugar and lightly sweeten… one to two tablespoons.

Yes, I’m nerding out and using endnotes.

1)  American Pie came out the spring of my Freshman year; it did not help my cause. At least I was no longer the only one who began stories, “One time at camp…”

*CHURCH CAMP CHOCOLATE CAKE

My first boyfriend was two years younger than me. He was a Preacher’s Kid (PK) and we met at work the summer between high school and college— He was my camp boyfriend.

 

I had just turned Red down for prom, graduated high school, and ran away to work at a sleep-away church camp for the summer. The year I met PK, I was on second-year staff, working as one of two bakers. He was first-year staff, also known as Camp Family. Family is generalized help that lives “down the hill,” away from the main camp campus. This means that whenever Family helped other divisions of staff, we were their supervisors.

This particular summer, my co-baker spent the better part of the camp season sick, so most of the time, I was baking alone… At the age of 19, doing the work of two to ensure all 300+ campers and staff would have their freshly baked cookies, cakes, and treats.3-7-14 Chocolate Chip Cookies

Working on Family is like being in an apprentice program; you to learn a new skill so you can graduate to work on Up The Hill staff the following year.  Working on Family also means, you’re a bit like a super hero and go wherever help is needed.

3-7-14 Super heroes

One afternoon, early in the camp season, my co-baker got sick; PK was assigned to help me. Before I could trust him to measure 20 pounds of flour for dessert, he had to face a test. While he scrubbed my pots, I got to know him, (in the clothes-on mundane-type question “where are you from” sense). I got to know him better in the dry goods closet (in the clothes-on kissing sense).

The whole thing was surprising. I had to climb a stepladder to get supplies from the top shelf and I brought him in so he could take the supplies from me.  He took a kiss instead. He tasted sweet like the fruit punch he had been drinking. Catching my balance, I took a step down.  We were eye-to-eye, “kissable height.”

(One friend defined this as, “the optimum height difference between two people to have a comfortable kiss… No one has to stoop over too much or strain their neck to give/receive a kiss.”)

Being short, I was never “kissable height,” and therefore doomed to feel inadequate. In this brief moment of being “kissable height” I felt attractive. Generosity outweighing shyness, I returned PK’s  kiss.  Despite being two years younger than me, it was clear he had more experience. When I saw him at dinner that night it was awkward. I felt like I had done something wrong; I was his supervisor after all. Besides, having your first real kiss outside the confines of Truth or Dare in the dry goods closet at church camp is a real mind-fuck.

3-7-14 Dry Goods Closet

Later that week, when the evening was winding down, (and Family was almost done with their responsibilities) I went to visit him in the Dining Hall. I had that giddy feeling in the pit of my stomach with nervous anticipation/hope/fear that he might kiss me again. I knew I could expect a hug. This was church camp and staff liked hugging in the name of spreading Christ’s love. He was a foot taller than me, so I lead him to the hearth and stepped up so we could see eye-to-eye for a hug. We were spreading Christ’s love (hugging), when the minister for the week (his mom) walked in. PK stepped away so quickly he nearly tripped over his feet. Her only reaction was laughter and she kept walking through, but PK had already run away. When he resurfaced, I walked him to the top of the hill so he could start his 1/2 mile walk to the Family Cabin. In the shadows, he kissed me again. (Yay!)

I liked this kissing thing. The Bakery was not near the Dining Hall, and I often asked him to help me to retrieve the evening snack from the Bakery and carry it back after dinner. Family dubbed it “nookie and cookie.” There was no nookie, just kissing.  Any suggestion beyond that scared the focaccia right out of me. After all, I was supremely in-experienced and still had fears of any form of romantic intimacy.

We were a couple for the summer; when camp closed in August, it was over. But, before the break up, there was his July birthday. In addition to baking cookies, breads and treats, I made individualized birthday cakes for people celebrating their summer birthday at camp. This meant, using a box mix and decorating the cake to fit to the individual, but PK was my camp boyfriend. I needed to pull out the stops. I called my mom for the family chocolate cake recipe (which is really Fanny Farmer’s Buttermilk Chocolate Cake recipe, from her beloved cookbook).

RECIPE

3-7-14 Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

FAMILY DIFFERENCES:

1. My family leaves out the salt and vanilla.

2. If you don’t have buttermilk, use sour milk or add 1 teaspoon vinegar to regular milk to make it sour.

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS
Set oven rack to the bottom rack.

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

MIXING
In a large bowl, sift together: Flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt

3-7-14 Sifting

When it’s well-blended add: Vegetable oil, milk, and vanilla

3-7-14 Sifting Stage 2

(NOTE: I like adding vegetable oil first and then using the same measuring cup for the milk to ensure I can get as much oil in the cake, plus it makes for an easier clean-up.)

Beat mixture until smooth.

3-7-14 Mix Well

THE REST
Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan, ensuring that all sides are well-covered.

Alternatively, you can cut a piece of parchment paper to the size of your pan. Place on the bottom and grease the sides.

Spread batter in pan and bake in oven for 35-45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Put on cooling rack away from oven and let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.

3-7-14 Parchement Paper Help

REMOVING FROM PAN
Tap cake pan on edges of counter, going around in a circle/square. Put serving dish on top of pan. Hold pan to dish firmly and flip cake onto dish. Set on counter and lift pan straight up off of dish.

In Laurie Colwin’s book, More Home Cooking: AWriter Returns to the Kitchen, she writes of Fanny Farmer’s Chocolate Buttermilk Cake, “It is hard to encapsulate the virtues of this cake. It is fast, easy, and scrumptious. It has a velvety, powdery feel – the result of all that cocoa. It is not so horribly bad for you, because you use buttermilk, which is relatively low in fat, and cocoa powder is defatted anyway. Furthermore, it keeps like a dream and tastes even better after a few days.”

FROSTING
Wait until the cake is completely cool before frosting, otherwise you’ll have a giant mess. Frost with your favorite flavor. I prefer a classic homemade buttercream frosting & find that it complements the cake nicely. 

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup butter or margarine (softened)
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and vanilla. Blend in the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk, and continue mixing until light and fluffy. Keep icing covered until ready to decorate the cake.

In all likelihood, you will have extra frosting, but I’ve always found it’s better to have ample frosting rather than stretching frosting too much. You can also dye the extra to create additional decorations.

3-7-14 Decorate

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
PK shook up my isolated world. If he hadn’t been bold enough to kiss me, it could have been years before my first real unforced lip-lock.  I wasn’t nearly as terrified about kissing as I was when I was 14, but kissing and dating were still not in my wheelhouse. I stumbled through a lot of common dating practices (like you don’t need to sit next to each other at every meal and spend all of your free time together). Most people don’t get it right the first time and it was clear I had a lot to learn.