Ever get annoyed? Ever feel like someone needs to be told where the dog died? Or handed a crowbar and a tub of Elbow Grease to help them pry their head out of their arse? Congratulations--you've come to the right place.

And when I'm not commenting on the latest thing to piss me off, I'm trying to figure out my own twisted life. Because, hey, I'm like that.

On a gentler note: for anyone dealing with depression, anxiety, and other assorted bullshit: You are NOT alone.

And if you're looking for a laugh, search on the key word "fuckery." It's just my little thing (as the bishop said to the actress).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What's Cookin'? Tomato Pie!

Hey, kids - I realized it's been forever since I've posted a new recipe. Last week, I went to the party of the year--the annual gathering of the clan at Camp Atherton. I brought along Tomato Pie, and evidently, it was a major hit. I LOVE this recipe--it's just utterly nummers. It's a high falutin' alternative to pizza that I've been playing with forever, and I think I finally got it right. Plus, it's tomato season... mmmmmmmmmmmm... HEIRLOOM TOMATOES! Cut with just a sprinkle of salt... maybe a little fresh mozz... or Mahon. If you haven't discovered Spanish Mahon cheese, please do. It's the most sublime eating cheese on the planet.

As with all my recipes, if you like it, share it with friends and family, but PLEASE--credit me. I put a lot of effort into the tips and hints (because, honestly, there is nothing more frustrating than trying a recipe and getting weird results that no one warned you about). I hope to finish my cookbook one of these days.

Tomato Pie a la Empress

This recipe IS summer for me, and this is the time of year to make it. Tomato Pie is pizza to the nth degree, a heavenly melding of cheese and fresh tomatoes and garlic… Gods, I’m salivating just thinking about it. Simple, simple ingredients, but utter heaven from the oven. The other beauty of this recipe is, like so many other tomato-based dishes, it’s better the second day, and can be eaten hot or cold (I love a cold slice for breakfast). I also love it because it’s one of the few recipes I can make for my vegetarian friends that will also satisfy the omnivores. If you have gluten issues, switch out the crust. Dairy… can’t help you there. This dish is all about cheese and tomatoes.

This recipe is based on a Martha Stewart concoction I came across a few years ago. I really loved the idea of it and have played around with it over the past few tomato seasons. My advice is to use fresh HEIRLOOM tomatoes for the best flavor. Trust me on this. My three favorites are pineapple (a yellow tomato with a few stripes), brandywine (big bustard of a red tomato), and black prince (a black/purple tomato with stripes). Color is the key—go for variety for the best taste (and one or two good-sized brandywines will give you more than enough for two pies and bits to snack on while the pies are baking).

Trader Joe’s is your friend when making this recipe—I prefer to get my tomatoes from the farmers market (or a good farm stand)—Kimball Farms is my favorite at the markets—but for cheese selection and price, TJ’s is your best bet (in the Boston area). They also have all of the ingredients (including the tomatoes) in high summer.

I use a variety of cheeses in the mix—like five different types in the shred, plus the fresh mozz and parm. Five .75 lb. blocks yield enough cheese for four pies (even with snacking because who can resist cheese?). DON’T skip the fresh mozz, ESPECIALLY if you’re cooking for people with salt issues. The fresh mozzarella cuts the salt of the rest of the cheese. My latest version of this used English Coastal Cheddar, Cheddar/Gruyere (a TJ’s house cheese), Canadian Cheddar, New Zealand Cheddar, Dubliner, and Australian Cheddar. Yeah, I like cheddar. Mix your sharps and milds, and play with your flavors—I’d be interested to hear the result of using a blue cheese or a brie or camembert in this. I know someone tried my recipe with Cottswolds and double Gloucestershire for a great result. If I see a porter cheddar or a mustard cheddar, I may try those for shits and giggles.

I also cheat and use store-bought pie crust (I know, I know, shame on me. Whatever—when I get a bigger kitchen and have room to work, I’ll start making my own. Besides, who the hell wants to make pie crust in high summer?). Trader Joe’s makes an excellent crust; find it in their frozen section. One hint when working with a premade, unrolled crust: if it breaks when you unfold it, DON’T panic. Lay it flat, peel off the top layer of plastic, dust a tiny bit of flour or cornmeal over the crust, put the plastic back over it, and GENTLY press it back together. OR, put it in the baking dish like puzzle pieces & press it back together in there. Your choice.

One final note: you can make this with really basic ingredients—regular tomatoes, packaged cheese, etc. I’ve done it in a pinch. But it just ain’t HALF as good. Trust me.


2 large bulbs of garlic
Olive oil
Crust for 2-9” pies
Cornmeal (for dusting)
Balsamic vinegar
Heirloom tomatoes (2 huge, 2 medium, 2-3 small—you will have extra)
Cherry tomatoes (roughly 10—again, go for color variety)
2-3 pounds of assorted cheeses, shredded
2 balls fresh mozzarella
½ cup grated parmesan
Fresh basil, cut into ribbons (about five leaves)

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Rub the outer skin off of the garlic bulbs so that just the last layer covering the cloves is left. Cut the top off of the bulb—basically, get the tips off so that the inner garlic is revealed. Lay the garlic, cut side up, in the center of a piece of foil large enough to completely cover the garlic (if you have a garlic baker, use that; I use foil), bring the corners of the foil part-way up, and drizzle olive oil over the garlic. Twist the foil close. Repeat for the other bulb. Place in a shallow pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll know when it’s done because the aroma from the garlic will change from the sharp, intense scent of the fresh cut to a mellow, nutty scent. This will take at least 45 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oven and let it cool (for the sake of avoiding scorched fingers).

Line two 8” cake pans with the pie crust; adjust the crust to fit as necessary & crimp around the edges. Dust the bottom with cornmeal & weight the bottom with rice, dried beans or pie weights & bake for fifteen minutes. This pre-baking isn’t completely necessary; it just makes for a crisper bottom on the pie. Don’t skip weighting the bottom—the crust WILL puff up and the sides will slide down. If the sides start to slide, remove the crust from the oven immediately and press bake into place. (Yes, I’ve had it happen; no tragedy, really, just a minor nuisance).

Shred the cheeses. I tend to alternate cheese blocks to make mixing the shreds easier—shred a bit, toss it in a giant mixing bowl, shred a bit of a different one, throw it in the bowl, give the cheeses a light toss together… you get the picture. Do NOT include the parm and mozz in this process.

Slice the tomatoes; thickness is your choice. I tend to let the tomato decide how thick the slices are going to be because different varieties have different consistencies.

By now, your garlic should be cool enough to handle. Partially unwrap the roasted bulbs and pour the garlic-infused oil off into a small bowl. There are two methods of getting roasted garlic cloves out of the skin: one is neat, the other is messy, and you’ll be using both. The neat way is to winkle the roasted clove out with the tine of a fork—just hook the clove with the fork and pull it out. The messy way is to squeeze the roasted clove out of the skin. Either way, get all of the roasted garlic out of the skins and into the bowl with the oil, add a bit of balsamic vinegar to taste (but not so much as to make it liquid) and mash it up to a fairly smooth paste. If you want to add any other flavors—rosemary, basil, mustard, etc.—mash it in with the garlic. I like to keep it simple. I DON’T advise adding salt—because of the cheese content, adding salt as a flavoring is overkill and really wrecks the flavor.

Now, let’s assemble the pies! For each pie: spread the paste over the bottom of the crust, sprinkle a little bit of parmesan, a few handfuls of the shredded cheeses—pat the cheese into a firm layer, shreds of fresh mozzarella, and a layer of the sliced tomatoes. Neatness does NOT count. Fill in empty spots between tomato slices with bits of the assorted cherry tomatoes. Repeat. Put the pan on a baking sheet (because it can bubble over—this is why I bake it in a cake pan and not a pie plate) and bake for 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven, toss a scant handful of shredded cheese, a sprinkle of parm, a few shreds of the fresh mozz, and basil ribbons (optional); return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes. I like the top bit of cheese to brown a bit for flavor.

Allow to cool for at least an hour before serving. Can be served warm or cold, keeps in the fridge for at least a week.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hair of the Dog... ACHOO!

For the record, this is NOT aimed at any of my close friends who own dogs. Unlike some dog owners, you've been responsible and civilized your pup.
"You know what irony is, don't you, Baldrick?"
"Yeah, it's like goldy and bronzy, only darker."
(from Blackadder, favorite quote provided by Vicki)

After finishing the first draft of this post, I got an email from Amazon.com telling me I would want to know that the book, Woof: I Love Dogs has been published and is available for 22% off the cover price. *headdesk*
For the record, I feel the same way about dogs that I do about humans: as a species, I can't abide them; however, I take individuals as I find.
OK, blurkers, I need you dog people to explain to me what the fucking point is.
I'm serious.
I am NOT a dog person--I am actually severely allergic (like, petting them makes my hands itch and break out into hives and cause me to have serious sinus issues) to most of the beasts. As a cat person, I would never dream of bringing my cat along to someone else's house. NEVER. Because a) my cat doesn't like anyone but me; b) my cat doesn't want to leave the house; and c) what right do I have to inflict my choice of animal companion on someone else's home? As someone who suffers from stupid allergies, I know that just because I'm cool with my feline doesn't mean everyone else is.
Dog people don't seem to get this--there is this perception that EVERYONE loves dogs--ESPECIALLY YOURS! because Rover is just so AWESOME! And that I, as a non-dog person am somehow a very bad person because I don't just adore their dribbling needy loud annoying crotch-sniffing INTRUSIVE STINKY four-legged child substitute who literally makes me sick. It's not that they aren't being responsible pet owners--I'm a bad person for trying to avoid my hands breaking into painful hives and developing a life-threatening sinus infection. Yes, of course, I will risk my health just to reassure your personal canine fashion lifestyle statement and ease your ego.
Why is it OK to hate cats but not dogs? I actually had a guy tell me he couldn't date me because he couldn't get into cats. (Yes, this was through a dating site.)
I was at a party recently and two people brought their dogs along, dogs who just had no business being there. One of them kept jumping in the pool (and making it really filthy); the other--a huge, ugly pit bullish thing with a head bigger than the average watermelon and jaws that could have snapped a steel girder--had to be tied up away from everyone else and would NOT STOP barking at everyone and everything, upsetting the dog that actually lived there. It took the moron who brought the drooling maniac almost an hour to get it through his thick head that THIS WAS NOT the place to have his dog.
Why would you do this? Explain this to me. I really don't get it. I don't get this "let's take the dog!" mentality. Dogs are bloody intrusive creatures, most of them--sniffing EVERYTHING, I mean, EVERY FUCKING THING, drooling, dribbling, farting, shedding, Christ on a crutch, WHAT IS THE FUCKING POINT?!?!? And they're so damn NEEDY--they're worse than kids, for fuckssake. Why would you have an animal that can rip your throat out in your home? Or one that you could shove a broom handle into their arse and clean the floor with? (Seriously, if you have to have a dog, at least get one that goes "woof." Anything that yips is useless.)
Oh, and hybrid? Seriously? Back when I was a kid, we had "hybrid" dogs--we called them mutts and you got them from a neighbor or the animal shelter. The sonofawhore who came up with the "hybrid" concept is one brilliant bastard--one way to save your investment when your purebred drooler fucks a purebred dribbler. Proof that there's a sucker born every minute.
And another thing about purebreds--and this goes for dogs and cats--if you buy a purebred from a breeder for any other reason than allergies (because there are some who are safe for allergies)--you're a shallow, ignorant jackoff. Go to a fucking shelter or a rescue (because there are purebred rescue shelters out there) and stop being an irresponsible, fascist cunt. Nazis care about bloodlines; humans should just care, and there are too many unwanted critters out there who've been abandoned out of human irresponsibility and cruelty. You want the responsibility of a pet? Be responsible then.
I like cats. Cats know when to fuck off and leave you alone. Cats shit and piss in a box and don't require being taken on walkies five or a million times a day. Cats will not mindlessly bark for an hour just because they need to let the world know that, hey, I'M HERE! Cats will cadge food (and do sneaky things), but at least a cat doesn't have jaws that can snap your neck. Unless it's a tiger, and hey, you as a human should know better. Cats don't hump your leg. Cats don't shove their nose in your crotch or arse just because they have to smell EVERYTHING. Cats COVER their shit. Cats clean themselves and don't (usually) need to be bathed to keep from smelling like wet dog (which is one of the most evil smells on the planet).
I get it that the behavior stuff is not the dog's fault--it's the idiot on the other end of the least with the opposable thumbs who hasn't socialized and trained the beast. And there are some pretty obnoxious cats out there. But dogs... Folks, I just don't fucking get it.
Pass me a tissue, will ya?

Post-vacation Crash Rant

So I've been back in the States for less than a week and the post-Nova Scotia blues just hit full force.
I've been writing multiple blog posts in my head (I know, does no good there) over the past couple of weeks, but just haven't had the oomph to write them. I get it, depression. Understood. However, it's more than that. I was OK for a while because I thought I was going back in September--was going to hit the Jim Jefferies show at the Wilbur, hop in the car, and haul ass for Halifax and The Hill encampment so I could see all of my friends again.
Not happening--for a lot of reasons, most of them monetary. But it hurts like hell. I miss my NS people desperately, and the only reason to be back here are the good people in my life.
I really hate coming back here, and I've realized why: lack of community. Lack of cooperation. And the fact that Americans are the biggest bunch of spoiled, lazy, fucking brats on the planet. (More on that later.)
I spent the last weekend of July in my version of heaven on earth: the Annapolis Valley. Most of it was spent at a living history encampment of the 84th Regiment at Fort Anne in the piss-pouring rain. In full 18th century dress (which I am not doing again unless I'm in drag--there's something going on with my abs that are making anything tight incredibly horrible). I'm going to do a full post on the encampment--a happy post, because this is NOT a happy post and it was a happy experience. What I left the encampment with was a feeling of community--of being a part, even if on the periphery--of a solid community which watched out for its own and welcomed others willing to commit and give back.
I am not a crunchberry--while I believe that yes, we are bloody irresponsible in our use of resources and hate the disposable society in which we live, I am also as guilty as the next person of not being as responsible as I could be in making things better. However, having worked in the People's Republic of Cambridge for over two decades and dealing with starry-eyed fascists who shoved their politics and naive idealism down my throat until I choked... yeah. I believe in being responsible. What that means is that I eat the cow AND wear leather because the idea of wasting the animal is repugnant. I honor the sacrifice; I also accept that it's a part of the cycle of existence. I will be cremated because my remains will not be allowed to break down naturally and enrich the earth (although, being born in the late 20th century and raised on crap food for 40 years, I'd be worried about what would leach out that would poison the earth). The re-enactors I was with are probably the best example of effective use of resources I have ever come face-to-face with: all natural fibers, thrift store shopping, items mended, repurposed, passed down, passed along... nothing going to waste.
Chortling over "Frenchy's Finds"--stuff found at thrift stores for cheap money, perfectly good stuff that other people threw away, given new life. If you didn't have goods, you gave services--cooking, child-watching, help with a tent, whatever. Cooperation.
The cooperation extended beyond the encampment--whether it was just having coffee, help with moving stuff, advice, whatever--the community continues over.
I miss that community desperately. I miss having a cup of coffee in the afternoon and a yak-yak over a snack. I miss having people to meet up with and just be. I miss the Nova Scotian common sense and acceptance of life and limitations--and the indomitable will to just keep going and make things work, somehow.
Because you have to.
I got a little sick of the anti-American sentiment (actually, I got a lot sick of it, and had to bite my tongue a couple of times from saying, "WELL, WHY THE FUCK DO YOU TAKE IT?!?! Close the goddamned border, stand up to the US. What the fuck are we going to do? Nuke you? We'd be killing ourselves and losing everything we need because fuck knows, drilling for oil in the Gulf isn't working, we've decimated our forests, and most of our top entertainers are imported from either Canada or the UK); I got sick of apologizing for American stupidity, not just because I was annoyed with the fact that I know a lot of people who are NOT like what gets shown on the TV--most of the people I know are decent human beings who are doing their best. The other reason I got sick of it is because I'm sick of our diseased society.
And here begins the rant. Sit down or click off, kids, because the Empress is about to throw down: Dear America: Please WAKE THE FUCK UP AND PULL YOUR COLLECTIVE HEAD OUT OF YOUR ARSE. I don't give a rat's nadgers what you classify yourself as--liberal, conservative, progressive, Green, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, what-the-fuck-EVER. GROW UP. Our government is in the pocket of corporations and very, very wealthy people who have directed us on a course of self-destruction that will make the fall of Rome look like a backyard game of tug-o-war because, thanks to technology, we have far more destructive toys than our Roman forebears ever did.
The world economy is collapsing because of irresponsibility and laziness. Because we want to go farther, faster, quicker, sooner, without regard for the consequences. Somewhere along the line, we forgot there were consequences for our actions, or, to use the physics formula, for every action there is a direct opposite REaction. The human race, in its race to advance, has condemned itself, and no society greater exemplifies this than the US.
And it breaks my fucking heart. We have an AMAZING country, founded on an incredible visionary law code, on a philosophy that believes we are all capable of achievement, of raising ourselves up and being better than what we were at the beginning.
As a society, we have lost sight of this. Over the past century, we have gone from being pioneers and citizens to being spoiled, entitled brats, and there isn't an echelon of American society that isn't guilty of it, from the very rich to the very poor.
We eat over-processed food, approved by a government agency in the pockets of corporate food producers, food that is poisoning us because, while it is convenient, it lacks nutrition and introduces compounds into the body that are deadlier than bullets.
We watch corporate-produced crap on the television that more and more, isn't well-written entertainment (although that was scarce enough even before reality TV), but a glorification of all that is wrong with our society. But for a bit of attention, people are willing to sell their souls for a slice of the pie. We get the Kartrashians, heiresses little more than self-supporting whores, neglecting mothers, shallow idiots, and values that have nothing to do with common sense, common courtesy or common decency, all for Warhol's fabled fifteen minutes. How ironic a hack would come up for the label for the fall of America.
We support professional sports teams who are paid more money than any human being is worth to play games for us--rather than going out and tossing a ball around for fun, it's about who can win the scholarship, who can get signed, who can take this to the limit and get all the money. It's not about sportsmanship, it's not about athleticism, it's about money. You will not see me at Fenway, Patriot Place, or the Garden, folks. Fuck them. And fuck the owners of these franchises who are little more than modern-day slave owners--ever see Gladiator? I really am NOT entertained.
We elect politicians who talk a good game and do nothing but line their own pockets preparing for their next run for office. Hypocrites, the lot of them, particularly on the far Right--decrying everything the lowest, least-educated part of society fears while committing the same "sins" in private.
This is what is being played out in "the media"--on the television, the newspapers, the magazines, etc. This is what America broadcasts to the world--that we are a nation of lazy, stupid morons being puppeteered by corporate masters, new money who have no grasp of the concept of noblesse oblige--I may hate Bill Gates for being a plaguirizing jackass, but he has done great things with his money. He has given back. Warren Buffet is another great example. Not so Donald Trump, Rupert Murdock, the thieves of Wall Street and their ilk, and sadly, they are in the majority, takers who suck the life out of others and don't give a damn thing back, selfish idiots who have lined their pockets and bought expensive toys that use up precious resources that can't be replaced while people die because of the conditions they perpetuate.
Don't tell me Wal-Mart creates jobs and has affordable prices--I know this. What I also know is that Wal-Mart has actively worked to destroy American manufacturing in order to keep its prices low, thereby eradicating well-paying American jobs that would allow the workers to better educate themselves and their children and dear Gods, we can't have that happening.
We have an education system that is, quite frankly, piss. Great universities so obscenely priced that we have three generations who have begun their adult lives deeply in debt, the latest with little hope of paying it off in less than two decades. Primary and secondary education are now test-driven--state-sanctioned test-driven, to the point where if you don't pass the government test, you don't get the degree, therefore you don't get a job, and hey, let's talk about those crime statistics.
Are you seeing the vicious cycle we've created? And you want to cut social programs but not tax the rich motherfuckers who aren't giving a cent back to make things better. Instead, you want to cut money for the elderly, cut benefits for children and families, and in short, make the poor pay for the sin of being poor.
This is Calvanistic Puritanism at its most vile and disgusting. Think I'm kidding? Ever heard of the theory of "The Elect"? It is a philosophy at the center of many of the Protestant sects--the concept that there are a finite number of people who have been "saved"--i.e. whom God has chosen and who are going to heaven no matter what. The Elect can be identified by their fortunate lives; the damned can be identified by their unfortunate lives. In short: they ain't going to heaven, SO FUCK 'EM.
I was raised Catholic; Catholicism states that even the worst sinner can be redeemed by sincere good works (sincere meaning that the gestures come from the heart--from a genuine desire to do rightly). If you want a good example of Catholic redemption theory, see the praying scene in Hamlet--the one where Claudius is on his knees but cannot pray because he has no repentance in his heart.
I am sick at heart for all this, folks. I'm angry, I'm upset, and I am sorely disappointed in America in general. What makes it more painful is all of the wonderful people I know down here--my friends--who are trying to live their lives rightly and do right by themselves and those around them. I am tired of the fact that down here, we're doing our best, but up there... up there, they just don't give a rat's ragged arse about what's right, just about what is right for them.
So what am I doing to counteract the stupidity? To avoid the only real sin I acknowledge, i.e. hypocrisy? I'm doing my best. Trying to eat decent food, grown as locally as possible. Trying to be smart about what I buy. Using thrift stores. Repairing instead of throwing away. Passing around, not throwing out. I wish I didn't have to use the car so much, but my knees aren't allowing for walking.
I'm going to go get some coffee and see if I can find a little peace of mind. A positive vacation blog will follow--going over the really high points and giving lots of credit and kudos where it's due--but right now... right now, I need to have a good hard cry because I'm not going to get to see all of those folks again for at least a year.
while I have much to be thankful for, right now... right now, life fucking sucks.