*CUTTER’S CAPRESE SALAD

I can’t remember if Cutter and I met during a fire drill or through friends. Somehow we met. What I do remember is that he lived by Fenway Park and was an easy walk to/from campus and an even easier T-ride.

Copley Square

He had a video editing internship in Copley Square and invited me to meet him for lunch at his office when his hours were over. I was excited to actually know someone who worked in one of those fancy offices and proudly walked past the throngs of people going to the grocery store that was in the same building. Too timid to go into his office and not wanting to get him in trouble for having a visitor, I waited outside the office doors. When he he came out, he greeted me with an awkward “we just started dating” hug and kiss. Then we walked to his apartment, which was about fifteen minutes away.

He lived in a second story walk up and when we got back to his place, the mid-day spring sunlight was streaming in casting beautiful light along the exposed brick walls. He offered me a chair by the wet bar so we could easily talk while he made lunch.

Lunch was fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I found it to be incredibly elegant. I also later found out it was a simple caprese salad. It doesn’t matter it was “simple.” This is the first caprese salad anyone ever made me. And, he purchased all the ingredients from Boston’s historic Farmers’ Market. (*Bonus points.)

Finished

The same spring light that made the brick look so good made Cutter look even better. With his blond hair and butter yellow shirt, he was nearly glowing. I was enraptured. I was having a great conversation with a cute boy who was making me lunch. No one had ever done this. We were at peace and we were alone.

Then, a roommate walked in from a bedroom— It was one of my friends from the Broadcast Journalism School. I’m not sure who was more shocked. My friend and I typically talked TV production and the Red Sox. The most personal we ever got career goals. We were both caught off guard that he saw this other, more vulnerable, side of me. We made small talk and then he left. My friend and I never spoke about that day.

When we were finally alone, Cutter announced lunch was ready. He continued to amaze. He opened the living room window and we climbed onto the porch a previous tenant had constructed. We were going to have a spring picnic!

Wow.

It was a perfect lunch and a warm memory, but summer was around the corner. We saw each other a couple more times, our talks got further between, and then I graduated. Neither he nor I officially ended anything. We just kind of drifted apart. I never saw any of the stuff he edited. I don’t know if he has siblings. I’m not even sure where he’s from. It’s not that he wasn’t nice, we just came into each other’s lives when we were both under the crunch of finals and life transitions. People today would classify our few encounters as “hanging out.” Heck, even then, people probably called it hanging out. But, to me it was dating, even if it was casual.

It doesn’t matter how you want to label it, what Cutter showed was kindness. And, most importantly, yes, there are guys out there who like cooking.

Epilogue
Several weeks ago (ironically 13 years to month we drifted apart), I was at an alumni event in Los Angeles and saw Cutter. We were watching a live-stream event our alma mater was webcasting. While trying to watch the screen, we kept looking at each other out of the corner of our eyes. There was a shared sense of recognition and the desperate hope we could melt into the atmosphere, hoping we weren’t really seeing each other and ostensibly leave the event unscathed.

LA Webcast

INGREDIENTS:
Your favorite in-season tomato
Fresh basil
Fresh mozzarella from the deli. (I go to Monte Carlo in Burbank)
(If can’t get to store that has it, Bel Gioioso has packaged cheese that has a wonderful flavor and texture.)
Olive oil
Nice balsamic vinegar
Ingredients
STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS
Rather than topping your salad with oil and vinegar, Drizzle olive oil and balsamic on plate. It will give your presentation a cleaner look. (For a bigger presentation factor, I like breaking out a plate/bowl.)
 Base
Arrange with tomato, basil and mozzerella.
 Tomatoe and fresh ingredients
Top with more olive oil and cracked pepper. I provide my guests a small carafe of oil and vinegar so they can top how they like, but they got to see the nice presentation.

INSIDER’S TIP:
If tomatoes taste more like cardboard than tomatoes,  you can add a little salt to bring out the tomato flavor.

*LET ME HEAR YOUR BAR TALK

About an hour later, the gorgeous Multi-cam Maven came back. She had wavy brown hair and killer smile, and she was a magnet for unwanted come-ons. This time, she was having an issue with a lanky boy and asked me to intervene. It seemed logical to pick someone of comparable beauty to distract him. There were others in the group that were more beautiful and alluring, but she picked ME. I was flattered. This simple request was another instance among many that helped restore the confidence Comicbook Crook took.

_________________________________________________________________________

In the fall of our senior year, SuperFoods introduced me to her group. They adopted me and Mutli-cam Maven, who was also a friend of SuperFoods. In the spring, I lost SuperFoods to the West Coast, where she was doing her semester “abroad” in our school’s Los Angeles program. The group continued the bi-weekly excursions, while I stuck to one night of dancing.

Kells EXT

Senior Year. It was my Freedom Year. I was no longer tied to Comicbook Crook and I was enjoying the single life. In the fall, I was introduced to Sissy K’s. We never went to the bar; we were always on the second floor, dancing at the club. It wasn’t just a fallback club; it was the club of choice. Every now and then, members of our tiny group persuaded the rest of us to go to places like The Kells, an Irish bar out in Allston with two levels of dancing. (The Kells had more a frat-boy-jock culture with mediocre music. I was not a fan.) We also tried a mixed ages club in Faneuil Hall, but it felt like everyone was in their 30s-40s, married and trying to reclaim their youth. Given we were still in college, even someone 5 years older seemed old. I realize now how ridiculous this is, especially since when I’m out dancing, I don’t care what those college kids think.

The memory of SuperFoods having to rescue me from the gargantuan man was still at the forefront of my mind. The Kells and the mixed-ages bar were not my favorite places, but they helped scrub that memory. Despite the bad experience, my love for Sissy K’s was undying. It had the best Top 40 dance music and a fun crowd. Besides, I had started wearing a fake engagement ring; it felt like I had protective shield around me.  If somebody started getting handsey, I’d point to the ring, smile and say, “My fiancé is okay with me going out dancing with my friends, he just wants me to be respectful.” Looking back on it, I can’t believe this seemed acceptable. Would I be okay dating a man that prohibits me from doing certain things? Certainly not, but, this was reasonable to a 22 year old me, and it was less confrontational than, “Get away from me I don’t want to talk/dance/have a drink with you.” Since then, I’ve refined my avoidance tactics…

  1. If my group isn’t close, find a group of women and dance with them.
  2. Tell him, “I’m going to go dance over there. Don’t come with me.”
  3. And a favorite, “I’m waiting for my boyfriend; he’s in the bathroom.”Sissy K's Dancing

During one trip to Sissy K’s I was dancing with this mini dude. I was in heals (which maybe made me 5’1″) and I was as tall as him. He reminded me of this short guy from my freshman year Tae Kwon Do class, who thought it was okay to pick me up and carry me like a doll. (What is it with men needing to do this?) Needless to say between this memory and my recent experience, I was on edge. When Mini Dude got handsey, he received  my long-winded explanation about the fake engagement ring. He stopped trying to grope me. When the song was over, I didn’t even say bye; I just danced over to my friends.

I stayed with the core group; about an hour later, the gorgeous Multi-cam Maven came back. She had wavy brown hair and killer smile, and she was a magnet for unwanted come-ons. This time, she was having an issue with a lanky boy and asked me to intervene. It seemed logical to pick someone of comparable beauty to distract him. There were others in the group that were more beautiful and alluring, but she picked ME. I was flattered. This simple request was another instance among many that helped restore the confidence Comicbook Crook took. More than anything, I was happy to protect my friend. I danced and talked with the lanky boy; he never touched me. When the song was over I excused myself to return to my friends that were on the other side of the room. All of a sudden Mini Dude bounded in and was throwing punches. The crowd swarmed.

A taller person shoved me back, blocking me from my friends.

Where are the bouncers?

I was scared. I couldn’t see my friends and I was worried I was going to get trampled. When the bouncers finally got there and broke up the fight, my friends and I found each other. One was laughing. She turned to the group beaming, “See, I was right; it was Sarah.”

I was sheepish. “What are you talking about? Men don’t fight over a friend’s wing-woman. That’s all I am.” Nobody listened to my argument.

Mini-Dude and his alcohol-fueled small dog syndrome ruined the evening of dancing. We went home. On the way, we stopped at the Convenience store inside the dorm and picked up supplies for salsa con queso. We spent the rest of the night in, eating and watching a movie.

Even though salsa con queso was our food of choice, I do not have a bad association with it. In general, salsa con queso was a staple food among us. We’d eat it from a jar and when time allowed, we made it from scratch. We were aware of the calories, but didn’t particularly care. Besides, when you’re in your early twenties staying up late eating and waking up early to go work it off isn’t a big deal. More than anything, salsa con queso was a way for us to hang out. Unlike cake or donuts, you can’t take a plate of it back to your room and hide.

I’m judicious with how often I make this stuff now, but I stick to the dorm recipe.

Salsa con Queso

INGREDIENTS
1 12 oz. jar favorite chunky salsa. (We preferred Ortega medium.)
1 16 oz. pkg. Velveeta cheese cut in to cubes.
Tortilla chips

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS

Microwave-Queso-Dip

Microwave:
1. In 1 ½ quart microwavable bowl, heat salsa and cheese at medium for 7 to 9 minutes.

2. Stir every minute or so until cheese melts and is well blended.

3. Serve with chips.
I now, prefer stop top because I have greater control over the heat.

Stove Top:
In saucepan, over medium-low heat, heat salsa and cheese, stirring constantly until cheese melts and is well blended.

*DORM COOKING – WASHING AWAY A NIGHT OF SKEEZY MEN

I shoved hard against his chest and kicked. When that didn’t work, I yelled at him to put me down. He did not put me down. He tried to take a kiss. I continued to push away and averted my face so my lips would be as far away from him as possible.

___________________________________________________________________________

Church camp helped rewrite my shaky inner-monologue and during senior year that inner-monologue continued to slough off. In large part this was because SuperFoods wouldn’t let me cloister myself away from irreverence. Hanging out and relaxing is natural for many people; for me it was not. But, with her constant encouragement, slowly, I was becoming comfortable with something as simple as hanging out. Bedroom Eyes started my affair with flirting and dancing, but they improved over time with SuperFoods’s continued to push to go out dancing at least one night a week. She didn’t need to push too much since I loved dancing. The problem was, I had done all of my sexy flirting dancing with a gay boy, so dancing and flirting with a straight guy was something I had to get used to.

I was excited about my growing flirting skills and wasn’t completely adept at using them. Clearly, this would take time too. Given my deep naiveté (as demonstrated with Guapo) and my diminutive size, my friends tried to look out for me. Standing at 4’ 11.5” I could easily get lost in a crowd, left behind (like they did at the Purple Shamrock) or just get into a situation.

sissy K's EXT

My friends recognized (and worried) that men gravitated towards me and acted like it was okay to do whatever they wanted because I’m small. Some men were more aggressive than others and I still needed to work on standing up for myself. One night while we were at Sissy K’s, I had the opportunity.

It didn’t work.

Sissy K’s was a bar in Faneuil Hall and our favorite place to dance. Shortly after arriving, the group splintered off and no sooner was there ten feet between us, one gargantuan man approached me with his friends and said he was going to pick me up. They were built like football players and looked like they had seen better days. He had a puffy face and bulbous nose, which I assumed was from drinking too much and his advanced age. With a bar that was predominantly college students and young professionals, he and his friends were by far the oldest there. I was scared, angry and incredulous that he thought his behavior was acceptable. I stood there and firmly told him, “DO NOT PICK ME UP.”

jack-facing-giant

He picked me up anyway.

I was horrified. I shoved hard against his chest and kicked. When that didn’t work, I yelled at him to put me down.

He did not put me down. He tried to take a kiss. I continued to push away and averted my face so my lips would be as far away from him as possible.

Where are the bouncers?

The giant’s friends laughed and continued to goad him on.

Why is this okay? Why me? I didn’t ask for this. I don’t even look that good.

SuperFoods hurried over. She looked so small below me. Copping her Brooklyn attitude, she only used  when necessary, she forced the giant to put me down. As soon he did, she yanked me away.

I was shaken up. She hugged me. We found our group of girls and she told them she was taking me home. On our way out, SuperFoods chastised the bouncers for doing a bang up job for protecting women against obtrusive drunk men. We walked home in almost complete silence and spent an evening in, cooking and eating.
I do not associate my recipe of the evening with the skeezy man; I associate with SuperFoods, our friendship and our shared passion for cooking.

DORM-STYLE CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CREAM PIE

Without dating someone, I still needed my baking & cooking for love fix. Like an addict, I kept baking/cooking supplies around because “you just never know.” As luck would have it, I had supplies for a dorm version of my Church Camp Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie.

INGREDIENTS
1 pre-baked graham cracker crust
½ cup chopped salted peanuts
16oz can Reddi-Wip
8oz cream cheese
1 cup melted dark chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter

**Hairdryer

Ingredients

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS

THE CRUST
1. Take cover off pie shell.
2. Spread ¼ cup peanut butter in shell as best as possible.
3. Turn hairdryer on to high heat and melt the peanut butter into the crust. This will also help spread the peanut butter and in turn make it more spreadable.

**If you need more peanut butter to get a micro coat on the whole shell, that’s fine. Take more from your jar and spread until satisfied. This is comfort food, after all.

THE FILLING
4. 
Using a wooden spoon beat the cream cheese until smooth.
5. Add remaining ¾ cup peanut butter, ½ cup melted chocolate chips, and ¼ cup roasted peanuts, beat together.

Cream Cheese Batter
6. Create a cream cheese bowl/cavern within the mixing bowl.
7. Spray in roughly 4 cups Reddi-Wip into the cavern.
8. Fold it into the peanut butter/chocolate mixture.

9. Spoon into the prepared pan.

Pie

THE REST
10. In your secret microwave, melt more chocolate chips on 10 second increments, mixing as you go and adding a judicious amount of milk (or Reddi-wip) to keep it moist.
11. Spoon chocolate syrup onto plates.
12. The pie hasn’t had time to set up, but cut it as best you can and put it on the chocolate pool.
13. Garnish with more Reddi-Wip and chopped peanuts.

Pie Final