*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

*A SECOND YEAR, A SECOND THANKSGIVING (Part 1)

“Sonodoro’s letters had the same perfect grammar & spelling.  But, instead of being filled with kindness and blatant romantic plagiarism, they were now filled with disappointment and to-do lists…”

——————————–

Sonodoro changed. He was not the same sensitive poet he was when met. Oprah told us to write daily letters to each other because we weren’t communicating well. We took her suggestion to heart, hoping it would help.

It did not.

3-21-14 Starbucks

The Starbucks where we met and everything was wonderful.

Sonodoro’s letters still had the same perfect grammar (and spelling) they had two years ago. But, instead of being filled with kindness and blatant romantic plagiarism, they were now filled with disappointment and to-do lists.

The butterflies I once got when I saw his name on the caller ID were replaced with palpations of anxiety or feelings of crushing despondence. He was angry a lot. His grand ideas of getting published lost their magic when I slowly realized they were merely dreams.

I thought I could love him into the man he could be.

I introduced him to my church, figuring he’d love the Sunday night service as much as me. After all, the service was geared towards young professionals and it even had praise rock band. That church and  my friends there were important to me. But, I turned down joining a single women’s small group so I could spend more time with Sonodoro. Rather than accepting my faith and encouraging me to grow it, he gave me a pouch of gemstones and started carrying one of his own. Each had different healing and metaphysical property. There was malachite to protect from evil, hematite to help balance body/mind/spirit, tiger eye for good fortune, rose quartz for peace and calm, the list goes on. . .

I didn’t believe in the power of the gemstones, but I started skipping church every now and then. Eventually, the gaps in my attendance grew larger and larger until I stopped going all together. Now, instead of having time apart, we had cranky Sunday nights together.

Sonodoro slipped into an angry and depressive state, which he often pushed on me. The natural consequence of his actions made me angry, depressed and self-loathing. I wrote some, but was stifled by the toxic living environment.  If it weren’t for weekly meetings with my writing group, I probably wouldn’t have written at all (or left the apartment).

After Sonodoro lost his translating job, getting and holding work was difficult. Miraculously, he found  jobs in food service and was working semi-regularly.  I worked Monday-Saturday. If we both had Sunday off, he often wanted to spend it with best friend, Shaggy. (Perhaps the allegiance came from when Shaggy bonded him out of jail, but I think their friendship is why Shaggy found it necessary to help post bond.) Since our hours together were mainly regulated to sleeping, I wanted Sonodoro to spend Sunday with me. He could always see Shaggy while I was at one of my jobs. Sometimes he did.

Often, he did.

And, often, I’d come home to an apartment filled with smoke from cigarettes and pot. The rationale was that Shaggy’s fiancé didn’t want them smoking in their apartment. Apparently, the very same feelings I had weren’t nearly as important as her’s.

10-10-14 Shaggy w Sandwiches

Sonodoro was growing increasingly harder to love. His managers thought so too. He usually lasted just over a month in his food service jobs before they found reasons to decrease his hours and eventually fire him. The job he held down the longest was working at a pet crematorium. In twisted irony, sometimes, he would pick up jobs as a dog walker.

10-10-14 Pet Cremation

By the end our two and a half years, I was working one full time job and one part time job. He was occasionally working. When I’d come home from work and ask how his day was, he’d respond, “It’s just a day.”

I stopped asking.

Sonodro and I broke up multiple times in that last year. In one of our breakups he told me  it hurt his feelings I stopped asking how his day was. In the most measured tone I could muster, I explained, “why would I ask? All I get is, ‘it’s just a day.’ It’s like touching an electric fence.”

In spite of our difficulty to live harmoniously,  Sonodoro pushed for me to spend more time at home. I watched Super Bowl XXXIX with my writing group. He called 10 minutes after the last touchdown. He kept calling until I picked up.  We had a short conversation. I went home. When I got there, in a less measured tone, I yelled at him.

This relationship was unraveling fast.

10-10-14 Unravel

We had another breakup fight a couple weeks later during an El Nino storm. Sonodoro was going to walk and spend the night at his mother’s, which was over 10 miles away. Compassion outweighing anger, with tears in my eyes, I suggested he stay the night and wait ‘til morning (when it wasn’t raining).

Morning came and it was like the breakup didn’t happen.

Shit.

We continued in our toxic relationship. I called my now divorced sister, who reminded me, “if things are bad when you’re dating it only gets worse when you’re married.” Sonodoro and I had gone well-past the expiration date, but the idea of leaving was difficult.

He didn’t hit me or anything. . .

Is dissatisfaction a good enough reason to leave?

*THANKSGIVING TAMALES

“While out of our New England norm, it WAS culturally relevant to eat tamales… With all the tamales I ate on previous visits, I knew my favorite were the ones  wrapped in banana leaves. As I ate through my tamale that Thanksgiving, I got something unexpected…”

Banana Leaf Tamale

Banana Leaf Tamale

Sonodoro’s arrest put a big strain on our relationship. Sure, he was bonded him out of jail (using the car of his best friend’s fiancée). He was able to stay out because the judge gave him community service. But, somewhere before the kidney stones or after the arrest he lost his decent-paying full time job translating and transcribing Spanish commercials to English. His “I hate the world and all my managers are idiots” attitude didn’t curry favor with his supervisors and his inability to keep these jobs put added stress on the remaining “relationship” we had. I was growing increasingly frustrated he wasn’t committing to turning his life around and be the man I needed. I kept trying to fix him and love him into the man I knew he could be.

He was growing harder to love. . . and fix.

My friends who were vocal about their dislike remained steadfast in their dislike, but supported me as I dealt with his undesirable behavior. I maintained mild optimism I could fix this, but my baby sister advised me, “If there’s something you don’t like when you’re dating, it only gets worse when you’re married.” She should know; she was separated from her husband after a year and a half.

I contemplated an exit strategy.

That fall, Nature Chick, my baby sister and I decided the best thing to do was celebrate Thanksgiving together. She and her husband drove 14 hours from Salt Lake City, UT for a visit.

Despite Nature Chick and I holding our unhappiness in, we made the most of it. We still giggle about my cupboards. She marveled I arranged them by nationality. I thought it was an extremely intelligent way to organize. She thought it looked like segregation.

I had a lot to be thankful for that Thanksgiving— Sonodoro was not in jail and I had my sister with me. For dinner, the four of us piled into my SUV, with Nature Chick hiding the secret she knew about Sonodoro’s arrest. When we got to his mother’s apartment, the doors opened revealing the world of glitter and tchotchkes from quinceaneras, trips around Southern California (like Universal Studios and Sea World) and to Latin and South America. My brother-in-law’s reaction was priceless— His face was filled with wonder and fear all at once.

quincera tchotchkes

Even though Sonodoro was growing harder to love, I still loved him and I was thankful to celebrate Thanksgiving with him and his family and not by visiting a jail.  Sonodoro’s mother had a lot to be thankful for too. She thought Sonodoro and I were close to marriage, especially with the visit of Nature Chick and her husband. With the blonde hair and light complexion I looked like the All-American girl and I was her American Dream.

Despite mismanaging her diabetes and poor parenting skills, Sonodoro’s mom was a master at entertaining. She was able to turn her one-bedroom apartment into a comfortable place to feed many. Grandma’s bed was still off her corner of the common room and a banquet table took up the rest of the area. Sonodoro’s brother was there with his family of four and the15 year old sister was there with her boyfriend. All totaled, there were 12 people over the age of 15 and two kids, one seven the other eight.

The guest of honor lounged on the table, looking like the love child of a Thanksgiving turkey and Hawaiian ham. The turkey may have well just come from a Hawaiian Tropic photo shoot. The sugar glistened like it was lacquered for optimum photographic excellence and it wore accouterment of pineapple rings and maraschino cherries. This was slightly (sarcasm) different than the New England Thanksgiving Nature Chick and I grew up with and only served enhanced the deep homesickness we were both feeling.

hawaiian tropic

Sonodoro’s niece and nephew ran amuck and their parents didn’t seem to care. Nature Chick and I were appalled. Not only did the parents not encourage the children to eat with the family, they ate chicken nuggets. ON THANKSGIVING OF ALL THINGS!

Chicken nuggets were not special. They were not culturally relevant to my Guatemalan boyfriend his Mexican sister-in-law or my Jewish brother-in-law. They are boring and something you pop in the oven when you need dinner but are too tired to cook.

Eating chicken nuggets on Thanksgiving is sacrilege!

There’s something about the holidays that makes one a little more optimistic. That Thanksgiving the kernel of optimism spoke through my despair. I told Sonodoro that when we had kids they would not be permitted to eat chicken nuggets on Thanksgiving and they would eat dinner with the rest of the family. He was cranky that I was criticizing his brother (which miffed me), explained that it was easier to feed the kids first, but ultimately agreed with me.

While out of our New England norm, it WAS culturally relevant to eat tamales. I had eaten multiple tamales while visiting Sonodoro’s family and knew that my favorite were the chicken ones wrapped in banana leaves. As I ate through my tamale that Thanksgiving, I got something unexpected–

I found it to be  as empty as my relationship with Sonodoro and my aversion to continuing the relationship was renewed. Instead of finding chicken, I found an old chicken bone that someone decided to reuse after eating the chicken off.

I almost lost my dinner.

I composed myself  and pushed the rest of the tamale to the edge of my plate. Wary of what I may find if I had another tamale, I asked for a helping of turkey. Sonodoro said he thought I liked banana leaf tamales; I tried to quietly explain to  what happened, but nothing could be quiet in that family. Sonodoro was upset which made his older brother  (33 years old) upset and then the brother yelled at the mom (in spanglish), asked her where she bought the tamales and how could she buy from someone who would do that. With my high school level Spanish, I understood that she bought them from someone locally. That person needed money and she wanted to help. Sonodoro gave his exasperated, “Ma,” that he always used in situations like this (when she would use her money to help someone even though she was struggling). The family insisted that she get her money back and not buy from them other again. I tried to defuse the situation giving a “No te preocupes. Todo esta bien.” (Don’t worry about it. It’s all good.)
Thank goodness! The kids wanted dessert and we could get this conversation over with. We had pastry and sweet bread from the local panaderia.

PanaderiaIn addition to being introduced to tamales and sweet breads, Nature Chick discovered the unpredictable personality of Sonodoro’s mother. We both cleared our plates to the kitchen (while her husband and Sonodoro stayed at the table). I left, expecting her to follow me, but Nature Chick stayed in the kitchen to help. Now, many hostesses would playfully banter with their guests or use soft language if they didn’t want help. Even with a language barrier, a simple, “no thank you” (which I had her use on occasion) and gentle push out of the kitchen would suffice. Not Sonodoro’s mother. She yelled at my sister and hit her until she left the kitchen.

We left shortly after.

BANANA LEAF TAMALES WITH CHICKEN (and not just the bone)

This recipe is inspired by Joe Pastry.

INGREDIENTS:

DOUGH
1 1/3 cups Crisco
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
3 ½ cups masa harina mixed
2 ¼ cups warm water, vegetable stock, or chicken broth

FILLING
4 pounds tomatillos husked and washed
2 chilies (optional/to taste)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ TBS olive oil
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

And of course…

2 pkg banana leaves

CHICKEN FILLING: (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Preheat broiler. Line heavy baking sheet with foil. Arrange tomatillos on prepared sheet. Broil until tomatillos blacken in spots, turning once, about 5 minutes per side. When done, transfer tomatillos and any juices to processor and cool. Add chilies and garlic to processor and blend until smooth puree forms. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add tomatillo puree and cook on boil for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add broth. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until sauce coats spoon thickly and is reduced to 1 cup, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes. Season with salt. Mix in chicken and cilantro. *As an alternate filling, homemade refried black beans works well.

 

DOUGH:
Using electric mixer OR heavy spoon, beat Crisco with salt and baking powder, in large bowl until fluffy. Slowly beat in masa harina. Reduce gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups broth or stock, forming tender dough. If dough seems firm, beat in enough broth, 2 tablespoons at a time, to soften. (*If using an electric mixer, reduce speed!)

banana leaf

THE REST:

1. Cut banana leaves into pieces about 10″ x 10″ (discard stiff stems), then pass the pieces slowly over a gas or electric stove burner to soften them. They’ll become shiny as the waxes on the leaf melt — that tells you they’re done. (Please hold them with tongs so you don’t burn yourself.)

2. With one softened leaf cut strips that are 10 inches long by about 1/4 inch wide. Set strips aside. You will need these later for securing tamales.

3. In a large pot, put your steamer basket. Fill with 2 cups of water.

BUILDING EACH TAMALE:

1. On a flat work surface, place leaf.
2. Spread ¼ cup dough in 4-inch square all the way to one side.
3. Spoon heaping tbs filling in stripe down center of each dough square.
4. Now, like giftwrapping a present: Fold sides of leaf over filling and then fold top and bottom sides to cover.

 

Tamale tied

Tie with strip of leaf to secure. Stand tamales in steamer basket.

 

 

Steamer Basket SmallSteamer Basket Large

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat.

*Point to note- Banana leaves are not uniform and sometimes have tears and holes. Be creative using your leaf.  To be green, I try to use only the leaf, but I often see tamales wrapped in aluminum foil.

If necessary to keep tamales upright in steamer, insert pieces of crumpled foil between them.

Bring water in pot to boil. Cover pot and steam tamales until dough is firm to touch (about 45 minutes on a medium low heat). Given that each stovetop is different, at 30 minutes check water level. Add more water if necessary. Let stand 10 minutes.

Tamales can be made 2 days ahead of eating. If you’re going to use another day, Cool 1 hour before chilling. To reheat, re-steam tamales until hot, about 35 minutes. Otherwise, ENJOY!

dancing tamales

 

*MY LIFE TURNED INTO A COUNTRY SONG

Being in love is great, and when you’re in love you’ll do anything for that person.

I gave Sonodoro the second set of keys to my SUV. He cried. “No one has done something like this for me before. Thank you.”

The running commentary in my head was: I’m not giving you the car. I’m simply giving you the privilege to drive the car, when I’m not driving it.

After Dad drove his other car into the ground, he used the slightly used SUV for his weekly commute of 350 miles. Then, my parents gave it (Connecticut plates and all) to me. My parents sill had the registration and technically, it wasn’t mine when I gave Sonodoro the privilege to drive the car.

8-9-14 Red Chevy

Now, after after driving it cross-country, the burgundy red SUV as my commuting vehicle. Hours working as a Paramount Page were dictated by tours, tape schedule and temping, Tours ran throughout the day and you needed to be there before 10AM. Tape days for Dr. Phil work began at 7AM, sit-com, 3PM and if we were temping 9AM. Then, there were days there was no work. These were the days Sonodoro used his SUV driving privilege. And, it was on a day like this I got a call from him, crying.

He was in jail.

My precious Guatemalan boyfriend got arrested. Got my car impounded. And, somehow (with all my sheltered-life-experience), I needed to fix if.

Sonodoro instructed me to go to his closet and take $300 form the $1k he had stashed there. (Believe me, more than finding out my boyfriend was arrested, I LOVED finding out he was hiding things from me.) I thought about taking all of it, getting my car and moving out. Instead, I handleded-up and did what I thought I should do in that moment— I stood by my man.

I called his best friend, Shaggy. (Seriously, his friends named him after the cartoon character.) He though I was joking until I kept crying. He came over, took me to the impound lot and then we had to go to visit someone everyone wants to see— a bail bondsman.

8-9-14 Bail Bonds

Yippie. (Sarcasm)

I do not know what is worse:
1. Receiving a call from your boyfriend saying he’s in jail.
2. Receiving a call from your fiancé asking you to put your up car as collateral so he can help his best friend post bond.

Remember, technically I didn’t own my SUV so I couldn’t use it as collateral. Shaggy made that dreaded call to his fiancé. She was less than thrilled and particularly mad at me.

When we bonded Sonodoro out of jail, he went through the events of that morning:

He was carrying his prescription narcotics for the kidney stone attack he had a month earlier. He alleged he was at Citibank (at 5:00am) withdrawing money on his way to his early-morning shift. (He did have a shift that began when it was dark out.) Whatever he did or whatever the cops saw, they tore apart my car when they arrested him. Sonodoro claimed it was racial profiling. Permission slip or not (I had one in the glove box for him), he was a Latino guy driving a car with CT plates in the early morning, down Brand Blvd (in suburban Glendale, CA) and past a bank where the alarm went off. It really didn’t matter what got him in jail. And, I really didn’t care. I needed to fix the problem and hopefully fix my boyfriend.

Between making bond and his trial, Sonodoro had to start taking classes with Narcotics Anonymous (NA), which lead me to believe that he had something more on him than the prescription for his kidney stones. (I’m guessing he was self-medicating with pot since he would later rationalize that it was cheaper than seeing a doctor and asking for a prescription.)

Even though we bonded him out of jail, there was still an upcoming trial where he could face possible incarceration. He didn’t want me going with him to the trial, so we had to make our possible last “good” moments together special. I know we went to see a Bruce Lee movie. I know I made him a nice dinner in case he lost his trial and was hauled off. This was a pivotal time for me. I knew I would never forget the details.

I was wrong. 



The details are murky. I do not know if it is time and frustration that wiped away the details or if he simply hid them from me.

I think it’s a combination of both.

8-9-14 Garbage Picker

 

I do know, he ended doing community service (picking up roadside garbage) while continuing his drug abuse classes. I’m pretty sure I sent him with food, but I could also see myself forcing him to make his own food. I was pretty mad and my perfect little relationship wasn’t so perfect anymore.

*SECOND LIFE CHICKEN POT PIE

I was a very enterprising home chef during my 2.5 year relationship with Sonodoro. During that time, I had three entry-level jobs and figured out how to make the little money I earned work for our best interest.

During our first year together, I was working part-time as a page at Paramount, giving tours and wrangling studio audiences. (People from all over the world visit L.A. and when they do, they often include a taping of a TV show. Sometimes groups from various half-way homes (drugs, jail etc) took excursions off campus to visit see a TV taping.) While I was paging, Paramount had a number of multi-camera sitcoms and one talk show  (Dr. Phil),  all of which had/have a studio audience.

7-25-14 Paramount

Each tape day, the personality of the audience was unpredictable, but when there was a favorite guest star, the audience would go into “Toddler Mode” (unruly, winey, rambunctious). Most notably, this would happen when Smokey Robinson was a guest star on “One on One.” As soon as his scene was done, women ALWAYS requested to use the restroom. And me standing at 4 11.5 was usually the wall that would stop them and their nefarious plans.

No, you can’t use the rest room.
Yes, I know the scene is over and Mr. Robinson left.
No, I won’t give him a message.
Yes, I think he is a very handsome man too.

7-25-14 Smokey Robinson

Besides the abundance of unpredictability, on many tape days there was also an abundance of food. Besides the meal we got to eat with the crew, sometimes we were permitted a snack from Craft Service. While the audience may have been difficult for One on One, that show had some of the best food. Their on set caterer always warned us before he threw out the leftovers and invited us to help ourselves. Sometimes this proved difficult since he did not provide to-go containers, but with a little planning, I could build several meals around these “scraps.”

During the second year of dating, I was working two jobs: A part time job working in customer service at The Museum of Television and Radio (now known as the Payley Center for Media) and a full time job as a Carrier in the Paramount Mail Room. Working as a carrier my hourly rate was $0.50 less than what I made as a page, BUT it was full time with benefits. In addition to health insurance, a benefit I often received was an extra copy or two of the New York Times, which meant, DOUBLE COUPONS! (All of the carriers were on a tight budget, so we would divvy up the papers so we each had at least one edition.)

I am too prideful to ask for help. During these times of entry-level jobs, I was also too impressed at my creativity and awesomeness that I was able to still be a good home chef and girlfriend by taking care of my man.

I’m making it work, by golly: I get leftovers from the shows I work on, special events I staff and stolen double coupons.

When Sonodoro’s mom insisted on using her food stamps to buy us food I was conflicted….

  1. I didn’t like it because she was insinuating I wasn’t able to take care of my man.
  2. I was worried that she was spending money she didn’t have.
  3. Mostly, this magnanimous act of generosity was often leveraged against Sonodoro to encourage him to do something for her (which usually involved spending more money than the charity she bestowed upon us).

I knew that she didn’t like that Sonodoro lost weight because of my cooking. (Standing at 5’7”, he went from 250 to 228 during our relationship.

Clearly my cooking that minimized fat, sodium and sugar was not good for him. And, clearly Sonodoro’s weight loss was a problem for her.

I had the reverse problem with her food choices. When she took Sonodro shopping, she would choose her favorite foods, which were laden with salt, sugar and/or fat.

Knowing my discomfort at accepting help, the food stamp shenanigans of Sonodoro and his mom only happened when I was at work. I asked Sonodro repeatidly, to stop his mother’s generosity. He insisted asking her to stop would offend her. Eventually, I gave up and settled for a compromise

She can buy some of what she thinks we need and I sent him with a grocery list.

Stews or casseroles were easiest to combine vittles purchased through food stamps and table scraps from caterers. The meal I most often cobbled together from the throw-away food days was Chicken Pot Pie. Ratios and types of ingredients were contingent on the leftovers, what I had coupons for and what Sonodro’s mom purchased for us.

Insider’s tip:
Frozen piecrusts that come in their own tin.
When baking the pie or casserole, put the dish on a baking sheet.
As an alternate to pot pie, top the casserole with pull and peel biscuit dough.

INGREDIENTS:
2 carrots
2 celery
1 potato
1/4 onion
1/2 cup green beans
2 pre-made pie crusts in their own tins
1 cup cubed Chicken (I like my pie with a greater ratio of veggies)

 

Chicken Pot Pie - Ingredients

DIRECTIONS:

Sauté onion
Add cubed potato
Toss potato w onion
Cool gently for two mi
Add 1/4 cup water
Cover
Cook 10 min
Add other veggies
Cook another 5 minutes

 

Chicken Pot Pie - Sautéed Potatoes

While sautéing and lightly cooking onion and potatoes bake one pie crust for 10 minutes on 350* (middle rack).

 

Chicken Pot Pie - Gravy/Stock

In a large pot, make a roux using chicken broth.  When your roux is complete, add the rest of your veggies and lightly cook for 10-15 minutes until they’re slightly more cooked than raw.

Then add your chicken and cook a little longer.

Chicken Pot Pie - Innards Cooking

 

When your pie crust is sun kissed, take it out of the oven and fill it with your veggie and chicken concoction.
Chicken Pot Pie - Innards

Gently peel another pie crust out of its tin and top invert it onto the bottom pie and filling. Carefully press top and bottom the two crusts together. (Remember one just came from a hot oven.)

Cut ventilation slits in your top shell. (You do not want the pie building up pressure and exploding in your oven.)

Bake your pie on 350 for 45 min – 1 hour.

Remove and let cool slightly before serving.

Chicken Pot Pie - Baked

Chicken Pot Pie - Sliced

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*PARENTS MEET

The first year of dating is exciting. You’ve already established your commonalities, like breathing air… Now, everything you do together is noteworthy. Sonodoro and I were no different. He gave me a promise ring, he attended my baby sister’s wedding as my Plus One, we moved in together… you know, the usual. By anybody’s count, we were moving at lightning speed. But, that’s okay when you’re in love. Don’t question it. Just go with it and have faith that it will be wonderful.

And, it was.

Despite living (and sleeping) together, I still believed the right choice for me was no sex before marriage (as my fornicating college friend decreed was possible). We abstained as much as we could and when we couldn’t, Sonodoro always apologized.

What a caring guy.

Somewhere during this exciting first year of dating Sonodoro, my parents took a road trip to visit, stopping first in Salt Lake City to see my sister and her freshly-minted husband and then to see me and my wonderful new boyfriend.

It seemed as though Sonodoro and I were moving towards wedded bliss and there was a quorum that this would be the perfect opportunity for the families to meet.

The night of the family meeting, while Sonodro was out retrieving his mother, I stayed home to prepare a dinner that blended food traditions of both families.  I don’t remember what Mom&Dad and I talked about; I know I was just nervous as hell. Not only were we crossing the big step of having the families meet, I was cooking for his mom for the first time.

Would my cooking be good enough for Sonodoro’s Mom?

To cap it off, his mom spoke almost* no English and my dad had to repeat Spanish 3 times! (Mom took French, so what good does that do anyone?)

(*Almost meaning: “I love you” and a few choice swears.)

For the appetizer I made my mom’s famous (and fail-safe) “cream cheese mushroom things.”

Once Sonodoro came back with his mom, we introduced the parents. His mom exclaimed that my father is guapo (handsome) and threw a “que bonita” at my mom (how pretty). There was small talk. (Very small). Me mostly gorged on the appetizers.

Dinner conversation was difficult as Sonodoro had to translate between families.

Before dessert, Sonodoro and I turned on music, figuring it would bridge the language gap. His mom was quite eager and more than happy to teach my rhythmically challenged dad how to dance a cumbia. (I know the video is in Spanish, that is what the lesson was like, exempt without the fun graphics.)

This appetizer makes you look like a cooking genius. It is flavorful and satisfies the salty and savory camps. For a party, you never know what last minute hiccups may happen, so I prepare these in advance. I only bake them (in a pre-heated oven) as soon as a couple guests arrive.

INGREDIENTS:

4 tubes Pillsbury crescent rolls
1 60z jar Green Giant mushrooms
2 bricks Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 Egg & ¼ milk (for egg wash)

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350*
2. Soften cream cheese over night (or on a low temperature in a microwave safe bowl)
3. Stir cream cheese so it no longer looks like a brick. (If need be add a splash of milk to help)… This step is necessary to help mixing when you add mushrooms.
4. Drain liquid out of mushrooms.
5. Add mushrooms to cream cheese.
6. Mix well.

IMG_2323

7. On a cookie sheet roll out two sheets of crescent rolls. (The images below are a half-batch)
8. Pinch together the perforated edges and the two sheets, so now you have one big dough base.

IMG_2324 IMG_2326

 

 

 

 

9. Evenly spread cream cheese mixture. Bring it just shy of the edges.
10. Then unroll the other two tins of crescent rolls and put them on top of the cream cheese. Pinch the perforated edges together here too (along with where the two sheets meet).

11. Firmly press top and sheet and bottom sheet together. (You don’t want the cream cheese melting out….)

IMG_2329

A twist and roll method to secure top and bottom sheets.

12. IN A SMALL BOWL COMBINE:

Egg
Milk

12A. Whisk together so the eggs aren’t stringy and the wash is thoroughly mixed.
13. Lightly brush egg wash on top of pastry.
14. Place appetizer in pre-heated oven.
15. Bake at 350 for 10-17 minutes.
16. Remove when golden brown.
17. Let stand for 5 minutes.
18. Cut into squares
19. Put on warm (but not hot) plate. Serve immediately.

 

IMG_2331

Be prepared to put out reinforcements almost immediately.

 

TIPS:

1. When I first started making this recipe, I would roll out the top piece on a separate surface and assemble it into one sheet before I transferred it to my baking sheet.

2. There are several methods to secure your cream cheese pocket, I like the press, twist and roll method the best. It adds a little extra flair while ensuring cream cheese won’t melt out… Mom says this makes the edges too crusty. She prefers the press and seal, so the edge pieces have more cream cheese.

 

*MOVING IN

A few weeks before my sister’s wedding, (while sitting in my SUV) Sonodoro produced a tiny box from his pocket. In it was another ring, but this one had a stone! He told me it would have to do until he could afford a diamond.

5-30-14 Glass stone ring

My quick logic was:

  1. We’re a pretty new couple; this can’t be a proposal.
  2. He’s not on one knee; this can’t be a proposal.
  3. It’s not a diamond; this can’t be a proposal.

I accepted (this non-proposal).

While helping with the wedding preparation in Connecticut, my parents seeing this ring paired with the previous ring Sonodoro gave me, they thought we were married. I told them we weren’t married or engaged. At the time, I believed we weren’t engaged. But, looking ten years into the past, I can no longer say with certainty we weren’t engaged.

Growing up in rural Connecticut seeing someone who wasn’t White was like seeing a rainbow. It happens, it just doesn’t happen that much. My parents knew there was a larger world beyond the tiny town of 2,000— They taught my sister and me to love everyone. And, we did. She married a Jew and I brought my Guatemalan boyfriend to her wedding.

IT WAS AWESOME.

5-30-14 Jupa

Prior to traveling to Connecticut for my sister’s wedding, I had a hateful job at a European Canadian co-Production company. I took the job, with the caveat I needed two weeks off in June to help my sister with her wedding. They agreed.

On the morning of my first day back, the boss called from his home in the hills. The temp answered, and the conversation went something like, “No, (name) I’m not going to do it… You do it.”

After a couple rounds of her telling the boss this phrase, she eventually passed the phone over to me. The boss fired me.

Like an idiot I stayed that day to train the temp (aka my replacement) on additional responsibilities of the desk. The end of my working tenure ended only a few weeks before I expected as I was planning on leaving when my job as a page at Paramount Pictures started.

The time off was good; It let my ulcer heal and I was able to exercise to lose the stress weight. One of these days I got a call from my parents. My grandfather died during heart surgery. They told me to stay in Los Angeles, citing I had just seen my grandfather in happier times and since I had just lost my job I should save my money.

I decided to walk to the grocery store. This would give me time to clear my head.

Sonodoro came over for dinner.  That night was similar to the rest of the nights he came for dinner; he asked to help. As always, I had him wash my pots. (It worked with PK, and it seemed like a worthy test of any man wanting to date me.)

5-30-14 Dirty dishes

A ghetto bird chirped outside my window. I didn’t notice; Sonodoro had to point it out to me. It was moments like this he seemed to enjoy teasing me about how nonchalant I became with my surroundings. I think he even found it endearing. I thought of myself like Daphne from Devil in a Blue Dress, I was able to traverse between two worlds. For me, these worlds were rural Connecticut and Los Angeles.

On this particular night he regaled me with what he saw early in the morning on his way to his 7am shift: He saw a pimp driving a car down Sunset Blvd (at Alexandria) tailing two of his employees. The pimp informed them he was just released from jail and they needed to come back and work for him. Sonodoro said the employees looked like a pinball as they darted back and forth across the road.

Sonodoro never elaborated if the pimp was trying to run the girls over or if he was just trying to talk with them and they were afraid and were avoiding the conversation.

 

Screen shot 2014-06-04 at 9.40.31 AM

I thought the story was charming. One could even argue that it gave my neighborhood character.

Having seen where I grew up, (it was a lot like Mayberry), during dinner, Sonodoro pointed out our differences. He reminded me he ran through the LA Riots to get home from school. He liked my childhood. He didn’t like where I lived now and he he didn’t like I was accustomed to living in a rough area. (It was only rough-ish.) He didn’t feel safe having me live there and he didn’t feel safe coming to visit me. He to pointed to chipped and bent door and doorframe, where someone used a crowbar to enter the apartment. Now, the gap allowed light from the hall to enter. He pointed out all our differences. Then he asked me to move in with him into his apartment in suburban Glendale.

Part of Sonodoro’s rationale for moving in together was so I could work part time at Paramount and write the rest of the time. It was a sweet gesture he believed in my creativity so much. I wasn’t sure about this. We had only been dating four months and I was still getting to know him. But, we got along very well and my family liked him. I had a key to Sonodoro’s place already. (A gift that happened in the first two weeks.) Despite our familiarity, I needed time to think.

I went grocery shopping.

5-30-14 Vons Glendale

I was at the Von’s in Glendale when I ran into the son of a college professor. He was living in Glendale with his fiancée. I told him what was happening and that Sonodoro invited me to move in with him. His advice, “you seem like you’re in love; go for it.”

And, I did.

*WEDDED BLISS

Sonodoro and I met when I believed love could happen in an instant. I was a girl with little experience who was well-satiated on a diet of romance and romantic comedy films. The Bachelor was only in its second season and love in an instant seemed possible.

5-30-14 The Bachelor logo

Sonodoro and I were completely fascinated by our differences. He called me exotic, but growing up in rural Connecticut, I only saw myself as plain vanilla. I liked knowing he played tackle football on concrete; it was terribly masculine (a characteristic my college boyfriend lacked). We marveled at our differences… even celebrated them. Take for example how we we observed the Fourth of July: I grew up watching fireworks in a pasture with milking cows (and rest of the town) while he stayed inside because neighbors would discharge their firearms into the air.

5-30-14 Vanilla ice cream

Despite our attraction and my idea of love in an instant, I clung to a strong desire to abstain from sex before marriage. My desire not to have sex was muddy. I had sexy times before, but a large part of me wanted to reserve this pastime for the confines of marriage. This made sex with Sonodoro enigmatic. Hell, one of my besties from freshman year of college told me he stopped fornicating and because of that his virginity was reborn. He elaborated, “even though you can’t undo biology, you can become a virgin from a spiritual standpoint.” I loved his complete honesty (I also loved that he used fornicating in a sentence). But, I digress….

So, according to my friend’s logic, even though I had fornicated, I can reclaim a spiritual virginity, and essentially undo the sex.

THAT’S WHAT I WANTED TO DO!

I explained my NO SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE decree to Sonodoro. He wanted to make me happy, so he agreed to it. Every time he kissed me or touched my hand, I felt conflicted. We’d kiss and caress… I’d back away and we’d stop. Then, we’d start kissing again. The pattern continued several times before his soft sell (I’m aware of the pun) continued before I indulged. When we had sex, we both felt bad— he with his Catholic guilt for “pushing” and me for letting myself and God down. But, even with our guilt, it didn’t stop us from having sex. We just REALLY liked each other’s company. He didn’t force me; I let it happen. After the act, he would always apologize and kiss me sweetly; I thought it was nice he felt bad. After that, we’d go for weeks of not having sex. (Well, it might not have been weeks, but it sure felt like it.)

So, early in our relationship we were feeling bad about having sex and letting each other down. While on one of our dates to Sonodoro’s old neighborhood, he showed me the little wedding chapel where he and his first wife got married.

Ok…. So my fabulous new boyfriend who I thought is relatively untouched has an ex-wife!?

5-30-14 Princess Wedding Cake Topper

What do I do?

I guess I’ll keep dating him.

“But, when we go back home,” I told him, “You can’t tell Mom and Dad you were married.”

He agreed.

Yes, this hopeless romantic and love in the age of Instant Pudding girl was taking her new boyfriend to her baby sister’s wedding in Connecticut.

5-30-14 Instant Pudding

 

 

 

*FAMILY ENCOUNTER ENTREE

Meeting friends and family is a big step in a relationship. Whether you’re introducing your person to these VIPs or you’re the one being introduced, question whirl about your head.

Will my person like my friends and family? 

Will his/her loved ones accept me?

Now that I’m older, I delay introductions, but I dated Sonodro when I was in my early 20s… With youth and familial proximity, I met Sonodoro’s relatives in the first two weeks we dated. After our first couple dates, Sonodoro told me he didn’t have his own wheels. When he came to see me, he took a bus.

This was not his liquor store, but this scene was common across Los Angeles.

This was not his liquor store, but this scene was common across Los Angeles during the riots of 1992. Sonodro was 17.

It was the same routine on the night of the anticipated family dinner; he took a bus to see me. When he got to my place, we jumped into my SUV and drove it to his mom’s, which was probably 4 miles southeast from my apartment. We drove past the seedy strip mall (where I purchased my defense mace, not to be confused with cooking mace), and south on Vermont, towards an area I never visited. When we parked, Sonodoro showed me the liquor store he, his brother and store owner defend during the LA Riots. (I read Twilight Los Angeles in college, but this in-person first-person account was surprising to hear.) He played tackle football on the very street we parked on and his favorite pupusaria was down the block. As I looked upon the 4-story apartment building, I noticed parakeets resting in their cages on the exterior balconies. We had chickens when I was younger and my sister’s high school boyfriend gave her a parakeet for her birthday. Despite these experiences, the desire to cohabitate with a bird is something I didn’t understand. Even if his mom didn’t have birds, the idea of living so close to people that cohabitated with birds put me ill-at-ease. I knew the evening would be an “experience.”

The evening did not disappoint.

I read about the immigrant experience in my sociology classes, but never visited my first-generation friends at their homes. When I stepped into the apartment, I witnessed step-migration and tenement living at its best. In the moderate-size one bedroom apartment lived his mom, grandma and sister. When he was younger he lived there with his brother and sister’s father. Quick math and I realized that 6 people had lived there at one point. The apartment was filled with pictures of family, relatives and friends. Memorabilia from quinceaneras and Guatemalan and Mexican chotchkies (his sister was half Mexican) hung from the ceiling and adorned nearly every inch of wall and table-top space. Despite the sharp contrast to my sheltered childhood and the previous boys I dated, this difference didn’t phase me (too much). I was more worried about being judged by my rudimentary Spanish. When his mom first met me, she exclaimed, “que bonita!”

Yay! She thinks I’m pretty.

Her complement put me at ease, and we were able to have a basic conversation of where I was from, where I lived and what my job was. Anything that required broader explanation, Sonodoro translated. His sister was still in high school so she and I were able to have some girl talk (in English).

IMG_1850

A recreation of that first meal. And yes, that white glob is mayonnaise.

Everything was going great… until dinner. I was trying to include his grandma in the basic conversation. I wanted to get her attention, but my brain couldn’t think of the (first-year Spanish) word for grandma (abuela). Too proud to ask for assistance, I called her the next thing I could think of: mamacita. She was petite, after all. She yelled at me. I quickly apologized.

Lo siento.

Between mouthfuls of food and sips of his too sweet Kool-Aide, Sonodro made small effort to get me out of the pickle for calling his grandma a fine girl/hot mama. (Thank you Urban Dictionary.) Beyond being yelled at by his abuelita, (little grandma) dinner was relatively uneventful. That is, until we got out to my car.

Right after we buckled up, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of toilet paper. He carefully unwrapped it, with tears in his eyes, he stammered something about being happy he found me and he was happy his family liked me. (Really? His grandma yelled at me.) He wanted to keep dating and needed a special way to let me know. He showed me two rings. One inscribed with my name (that he would wear) and the other inscribed with his (that I would wear). (The me of today is screaming epithets and telling the young me to run fast and run far. When on earth did he have time to purchase and engrave these rings!?)

4-22-14 Wedding Bands simple

I put it on.

Two weeks in, the gesture felt a little premature, but somehow right. I happily kissed him and accepted.

Is this what love feels like? Maybe.

This was going to lead to something. That something looked like we both had marriage on the mind.

It’s so amazing to have this kind of connection so quickly.

I eventually learned secrets to his mom’s cooking. (I also learned that her cooking techniques resulted in her acquisition of Type 2 Diabetes.) That said, these recipes come with a warning: Don’t use as much oil, cream or sugar as the recipe calls for.

Fruit Punch: Mix a pitcher of Kool-Aid to package instructions. Dissolve an extra cup of sugar in it.

Refried Black Beans: Warm a pan on medium heat. When it’s up to temperature, add butter or oil. When the grease is warm dump in Ducal Black Beans. (I tried using a different brand once and was chastised.) If you can’t find Ducal at your grocery store, fear not. You can add a splash of heavy cream to give them that more decadent or ducal (sweet) consistency.   IMG_1843
Chicken: A cooked standard roaster. Shred it.

Rice: Cook according to package instructions.

Tortillas:
These are key. You can purchase a re-heater, but I (and his mom) put them in a plastic bag (leave it open) and microwave for 30 seconds.

The all-important tortilla roll method of consuming the food vessel.

The all-important tortilla roll method. It helps you use this food vessel to shovel more beans into your mouth.

Necessary Condiments: Mayonnaise, Salsa, Hot Sauce

Beyond the vegetables found in the salsa, there were no veggies served at this first encounter meal. When building a Latin-American inspired dish, I often serve it with thinly sliced cabbage. To do this, you need a large (sharp) kitchen knife and patience. Sometimes, I dress the cabbage with a squirt of lime juice for a citrus contrast to the other entree items.

IMG_1866

Stages of shredding cabbage.

*LATIN FUSION PASTA

My first solo apartment was in Los Angeles. The neighborhood was just as colorful as the building mosaic that announced the street name and number.

Thank you Google!

Thank you Google!

An obese bum lived up the road and spent most of his time at the bus stop or under a purple flower shade tree. Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic was also on my block, in addition to one school, one church, a mechanic and a smog check place (100% satisfaction guaranteed). Peppered along the street were small homes, condos and/or apartments. Street parking was a premium; a 16-point turn was necessary to get into or out of a spot. Today, a savvy realtor might call this area “Los Feliz Adjacent.” When I lived there it was on the outskirts of Little Armenia and Thai Town was just west of that.

I loved my third floor walk up on the sunny narrow street. Even though it was considered a studio apartment, the closet was nearly 10×7, and could have been used as a bedroom. I was scared of earthquakes and intruders, so I slept on my Craigslist Futon in the main room, where I could keep my eye on the door. The ceilings were high, I painted one wall sun yellow, another blue and my kitchen cabinets Barbie pink. I hate Barbie, but living in Los Angeles in my very first apartment, having brightly colored cabinets felt natural. After all, the girls on Friends had brightly colored cabinets.

3-28-14 Monica's Apartment

Sonodoro and I had our coffee date on Earth Day (April 22, 2003). Despite my attraction, I made him wait the three dates before I cooked for him.

The local Food4Less was only a half-mile away and since I didn’t want to lose my premium parking spot (or pay for gas) I put on my favorite shorts and walked down. This was before I thought 60° was cold and my innocence was as deep as The Marianas Trench. I was excited about cooking for Sonodoro and this probably made my walk a little too flirty. Some guy, slightly older than 23, looked me in the eye and queried, “how much?” Naïve as could be, I ventured:

How much for what?

“For you.”

I snapped. I’m not for sale! I continued on my merry way, pissed but happy. Yeah, he wants me… I can’t wait to make dinner for Sonodoro.

Between savings and my retail job I was just making ends meet. While living away from the safety of college and home, I economized and spent $10 a week (or less) on groceries… all without eating the sodium-rich TopRamen.

Sonodoro was special and dinner needed to be special too; this meant spending money beyond my weekly $10 budget.

In hindsight what I cooked could be considered racially insensitive, but I thought I was being creative and honoring his Latino background. I did fusion pasta and thought of as many veggies that were germane to Latin American cooking as I could. Essentially relying on my fajita and taco experience, I included, cilantro, onion, tomato, various bell peppers and a couple black olives for good measure. (Again, ignorant, I know.) At this point in my life, I couldn’t afford meat, but I bought breakfast sausage to dice up and sauté.

I was anxiously anticipating Sondoro’s phone call telling me he was downstairs. (The buzzer, as with many other things in my building, building was broken. Before I knew it, there was a knock on my door. I still had on my cooking clothes and apron. Neither dinner nor I were ready. I rushed to the door in my apron and answered it.

It was Sonodoro! AND HE BROUGHT ME FLOWERS!

The big bouquet had white lilies and roses. Holy smokes! Not counting my parents, I only received flowers twice: once at camp (during our mid-summer extravaganza) and once from Cosby Sweater (college boyfriend).

While I finished cooking and setting the table, Sonodoro insisted on helping. While Sondoro scrubbed my pots, we got to know each other. We got to know each other better during dinner and conversation. (Apparently checking out a man’s housekeep skills are part of my foreplay.)

He marveled that I was unconcerned by the ghetto birds. I thought he was talking about pigeons. Again, my naïveté only served to highlight our differences.

No, he meant police helicopters.

Of course I was unconcerned; police are protecting us.  (I assumed police were patrolling. I eventually learned they were looking for perps who were evading arrest.)

RECIPE

INGREDIENTS
Penne Pasta
4 TBS Butter
½ medium white onion
1 green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
½ yellow bell pepper
2 Roma tomatoes
½ cup black olives, pitted & cut in half
5 sprigs cilantro
1 lime
salt and ground pepper to taste

 2014-03-27 19.34.30

If you desire 5 breakfast sausages diced.

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS

DICE your onion. The pieces should be shouldn’t be too small. If you let them soak in rice vinegar or salt for half an hour before cooking, it will help eliminate some of their bad-breath power.

SEED & CHOP peppers into pieces that are roughly 1” by ½”. Put these in a bowl.

2014-03-27 19.59.01
Half your pitted black olives (about ½ cup) and put in a seperate bowl.

Chop the tomatoes….

PASTA
Cook according to package instructions.

SAUTEE
While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a heavy pan and slowly cook your onion on a low to medium heat. When it is almost translucent, add the peppers. Let them cook. I like my veggies crisp, so I don’t do too much cooking with any of it. Right before the pasta is done add ¼ cup of pasta water to veggies. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes, olives, cilantro and lime juice.

A citrus juicer helps make juicing easier.

A citrus juicer helps make juicing easier.

Cover with lid and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Drain water from pasta and toss pasta with veggies. Cook together and keep on low heat until your company arrives and/or is ready to eat.