Category Archives: ramblings

Going to Gaido’s


Over cocktails a few nights ago with a new friend, he asked me a question I’d never before considered: At what point did you realize that you were more “into” food than the average bear?

I had to stop and think about it for a moment. Back in high school, I was notorious among my friends for always dragging them to the latest hole-in-the-wall I’d found or force-feeding them sashimi back at a time when sushi wasn’t nearly as accessible or omnipresent as it is today. But finally it struck me: that moment, the one that my parents still tease me about to this day.

In elementary school, my class was planning a field trip to Galveston to visit the Elissa (typical Houston schoolkid journey, of course). And while the prospect of climbing all over the old ship was charming and all, my single-minded focus at 10 years old was where we were eating while we were down there. Surely we couldn’t drive all that way and not dine at some of the island’s best restaurants!
Continue reading

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)

I started this blog in November 2007. Over two and a half years later, things have changed significantly.

I am no longer employed in the HR department of a large, corporate behemoth, but am now working for an alt weekly.

I am no longer married, but am now kicking it Mary Tyler Moore-style surrounded by amazing friends and a supportive family.

I am no longer living in a thoroughly modern condo in the suburbs, but am now the current custodian of a lovely 1920s slice of history in the inner city.

And soon I will no longer be the web editor for the Houston Press, the amazing job that I’ve held for the past year and a half. Continue reading

The Art of Charcuterie

My first “real” feature for the Houston Press, “Designer Meats,” came out last Thursday. It was the third attempt at writing a full-blown feature in a couple of months, as my first two ideas fell though.

Charcuterie is something I’ve always been interested in, and was planning on doing a series of blog posts for Eating…Our Words about the various chefs around town who were reviving the craft here in Houston (seeing as how it’s already experienced a long overdue renaissance in other cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco).

So when my other two stories fell through, this seemed like the perfect answer: combine all those blog posts I was going to do into one, full-length story. Brilliant! Except for one thing…

I found out through the course of interviewing various chefs that some charcuterie — in particular, the hard cured meats that are hung to dry — is considered illegal in Houston. It seemed ludicrous to me that a food preparation technique that has been around since the dawn of man and is still used throughout the world to this day would be illegal because U.S. health laws are still in the dark ages compared to, say, Europe. On the other hand, this wasn’t why I set out to do the story and I eventually turned in my copy with no mention of the illegality of the situation.

You can probably guess what happened next. Continue reading

My Breasts Are None Of Your Business

When I was in fourth grade, I started wearing a bra. Not a training bra. A regular bra. It’s all been downhill from there.

In middle school, a pack of aggressively lupine boys led by a sinewy jock named Jeremiah Cortez used to harass me between periods. Not about my oversized, hand-me-down blue glasses or the fact that I dressed like a boy. But about my breasts. Shoving me up against the lockers, grabbing at my breasts and leering as I squirmed away, terrified, it was one of their favorite school day activities.

In high school, the nickname bestowed upon me by all the popular kids — girls and boys alike — was “Shilslut.” What had I done to deserve this? Considering I’d never so much as kissed a boy until I was 16 (and even then, he was my one and only kiss until my freshman year of college) it wasn’t what you’re thinking. It was my breasts, which were — at this point — ensconced in a 34D bra.

At my second “grownup” job out of college, I worked in the human resources department of a Fortune 1000 company. I wore fairly conservative suits nearly every day. A few days before our annual meeting with all the presidents of the various companies we owned, my boss — the corporate HR director — called me into his office and told me to make sure I wore an outfit to the presidents’ dinner “where your tits aren’t hanging out.” The stories that center around my breasts are sadly endless.

Before I learned how to dress myself appropriately and dress for my body type (which, being completely retarded when it comes to fashion, took a fairly long time), even my good friends used to tease me. One year, one of them gave me scraps of fabric for my birthday. “To sew into your tops,” she said, “So that you don’t have your boobs hanging out all the time.”

It was difficult, learning what I could wear that would simultaneously cover up yet still look cute. A teenage girl doesn’t want to have to go around wearing sweatshirts and muumuus all the time just to ward off stares or inappropriate comments. And here’s the kicker: I don’t think my boobs are anything to write home about. All around me, every day, I see women with far more fabulous sweater puppies than mine ever aspired to be. In short, I don’t see the big deal about my breasts. I really don’t. Lately, I’ve taken a much more lax approach to dressing, usually wearing T-shirts and jeans or dresses with sweaters. Sometimes my breasts show; sometimes they don’t. I try not to think or care about it anymore. They’re there, and they’re not going anywhere.

That said, it’s taken me years to be comfortable with my body and the fact that it’s not a true reflection of who I really am. Thanks to middle school bullies, thanks to abusive bosses, thanks to all the horrible men (and women) over the years who have made ugly comments about me or my breasts without ever stopping to consider that two mounds of fatty flesh on my chest do not have anything at all do to with the person I am inside. I’m still self-conscious of my stupid breasts and often fantasize about getting breast reduction surgery (“I could wear sundresses!” “I wouldn’t sweat under my boobs anymore!” “My back wouldn’t hurt all the time!”). The grass is always greener…

Which brings us to today. Continue reading

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Justin Burrow and a perfect Manhattan.

Sunday night, my friend Marc was showing me handwritten letters that his grandfather, Otis, had saved through the years. They were beautifully written, with the kind of intricacy of language and penmanship (my God, remember penmanship??) that’s been lost to microscopic circuits, illuminated screens and instant gratification. One of the letters was from a friend, wishing Otis luck on the high seas in the kind of boisterous and inspiring yet entirely guileless prose that today’s motivational speakers only wish they could scrape together on their best days behind a podium.

It occurred to me the next evening that we often reserve expressing that kind of fond appreciation for others, keeping it to ourselves. These days it seems almost too schlocky to admit that appreciation, to open ourselves up in that way. And we get far too busy. Busy moments turn into busy days, busy days into weeks and without knowing it, we’ve completely forgotten to take that extra moment and tell our friends and family how much they mean to us, taking it for granted and assuming that they automatically understand our thoughts and feelings towards them.

I had a very difficult day on Sunday. I don’t want to expend further energy on even discussing why, but it was a very painful near-end to a time which I’m hoping will become a vague memory very soon. After taking care of my business, I headed to Anvil.

German-style pretzel with mustard at Anvil.

Say what you will about Anvil, that it’s uppity or expensive or scene-y (none of these things are true, by the way). I love it there. And this is why: Within moments of arriving, one of my favorite bartenders in Houston (it’s a very close tie between Marc Borel, the effervescent and knowledgable sommelier at 13 Celsius, Bobby Heugel, the cocktail wunderkind and gifted writer who created Anvil, Claire Sprouse, the spunky and inventive brains behind the bar at Beaver’s and Justin Burrow, the curmudgeonly yet kind man behind the beard at Anvil) was crafting what he and Bobby termed the “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” Manhattan, and four of my friends had already shown up to rally my flagging spirits and lift me out of my funk.

The bottle marked P.I.G. holds pear-infused gin.

Anvil is the kind of bar where the bartenders take their craft very seriously, with much care and consideration, yet without an ounce of pretension. It’s the kind of bar where the regulars care just as passionately about cocktails or beer as they do about Filipino food, Russian literature, Nintendo games, graphic novels and 70s yacht rock. It’s the kind of bar where – at least on a week night – it’s impossible to leave without making a new friend, and not the kind of friend who’s hoping to eventually bed you.

Marc.

And oh, my friends. Ann and Cathy gently listened to me rant and rave, offered kind shoulders and understanding nods. Marc and Jason made me laugh, took me out to get tater tots and French silk pie at House of Pies and took me home after it became apparent that I’d had too much too drink. Countless people consoled me on Twitter and Facebook, offered supportive text messages and phone calls. I felt suddenly so much less alone, so much less adrift in all the craziness that seems to have permeated certain parts of my life lately.

Jason (fuzzy, in foreground).

I may not say it enough. I may forget to say it. I may want to say it, but my shyness creeps up and smothers me. (And although people don’t seem to believe me when I tell them this, I struggle with almost crippling shyness nearly every minute of every day – I’ve just gotten better at talking through it and masking it after 29 years…) But I do think it all the time: I have amazing friends. I have an amazing family. And you all make my life so much better simply by existing.

So thank you.

Why Are You So Terribly Disappointing?

Photo by bottleleaf

Big thanks to Jeff Balke for sending this timely article my way.

One only needs to read the comments section of this Eating Our Words post to see just how painfully accurate Mark Morford’s recent op-ed piece in the SF Gate is: Why Are You So Terribly Disappointing? This passage in particular rings true for anyone who writes or blogs publicly:

You have but to take a peek in the comments section below this column, any column, any article on this or any news site whatsoever, to see just how mean and nasty we have become. It does not matter what the piece might be about. Obama’s speech. High speed rail. Popular dog breeds. Your grandmother’s cookies. The anonymous comments section of any major media site or popular blog will be so crammed with bile and bickering, accusation and pule, hatred and sneer you can’t help but feel violently disappointed by the shocking lack of basic human kindness and respect, much less a sense of positivism or perspective.

Why? What happened to us along the way? Are we the ultimate generation of entitlement, having never been taught that we have to earn respect, material possessions and upward mobility and not have them blindly given to us? Are we the ultimate generation of lazy, idle dissatisfaction, doomed never to be happy with anything no matter how fantastic those things may be? Are we the ultimate generation of hatred, rudeness and enmity?

Is this legacy that we’re going to leave behind for future generations? When did so many of us become so unhappy?

If fewer of us could hide behind the anonymity that tools like the Internet provides, if more of us could look to the many positive aspects of our lives, if we could all abide by the Golden Rule, how much happier would we be? And how much simpler would life be? It’s easy to fall into a funk of your own, focusing on the negativity of others. But we have a responsibility not only to ourselves, but to each other and to our children and grandchildren, to not allow an entire generation to be swallowed and consumed by complacent, needless hatred.

The question is: What will you do to fight back?

Copacetic

It appears that the unintended side effect of yesterday’s post was that I am now fielding multiple offers from concerned family members and friends to buy me groceries. Heh. (p.s. Thank you – the thought is very much appreciated.)

That was not my intention when writing – it was more a state of the union mixed in with a little “recipe” that I now know, thanks to Mike, is properly called “domatorizo” among many other things, I’m sure.

Everything is fine. Everything is more than fine. Everything is zen.

Now let’s all go listen to some Tumbled Sea and reflect on how amazing this cold weather is in both its intensity and its brevity. Tomorrow night I will be dining at Branchwater Tavern with my father, tucked in and cozy, eating popcorn with duck fat and all will be right with the world.

Bemused

1046

Alternate title: Things Which I Have Done Lately For Which I Am Receiving A Baffling Amount Of Attention

Thing The First: Written an article about Anvil Bar & Refuge’s 100 List — a list of 100 cocktails everyone should try at least once — that landed on the front page of FARK.com and received more pageviews than the infamous pizza vending machine post here at she eats., as well as garnering an impressive 55 mostly angry comments at the Press and 77 comments over at FARK.

Thing The Second: Written an article about a bourbon and bacon cocktail at a recent Manhattan contest that I judged, which also hit the front page of FARK and made me briefly consider why I am always chosen for the booze assignments before deciding that I should stop silently complaining to myself. Comment of which I am particularly proud:

The author kept referring to bourbon as an American whiskey. It is a Kentucky whiskey. Period. They don’t make bourbon in Tenn. or Candada or Ireland or Scotland…it’s made in Kentucky with at least 51% corn and pure limestone water. I should know, the Bourbon Trail is twenty miles away.

OH MY GOD SHUT THE FUCK UP.

(Sorry. You know it’s bad when you start begrudging your commenters…)

Thing The Third: You know…it’s just another FARK thing…and it’s not even about food…and it’s frankly inappropriate for younger and/or delicate audiences, so maybe I’ll just let some intrepid reader do some digging and find it.

Thing The Fourth: Quit Twitter. I didn’t realize this was going to be such a big deal until all the comments and emails and DMs and Facebook messages started pouring in. And then the Houston Chronicle picked it up. Seriously…I listen to Kyrie O’Connor all the time when she’s on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me on NPR on Saturday mornings. And now she’s writing about me?

<sigh>

I really do appreciate all the kind words. It’s very nice knowing that my random, snarky, occasionally TMI Tweets brighten peoples’ days. And I say that with no sarcasm intended. But…when it’s even extremely minor news that someone — like myself or like a celebrity (Miz Miley Cyrus) — stops Tweeting, doesn’t that just underscore and reinforce the points I made yesterday?

Two Months

I brought you a slice of red velvet cake as a peace offering...

I brought you a slice of red velvet cake as a peace offering...

It’s been over two months since I posted here. A lot can happen in two months.

In two months, you can find yourself living in a completely different part of the city, in a rambling old house from the 1920s, devoid of husband or dogs or cat. In two months, you can ultimately find happiness and some measure of comfort in something incredibly painful. In two months, you can turn a hobby in to a more-than-full-time job and find yourself resenting what you used to love. In two months, you can reinvent yourself.

Over the past two months, I’ve been heavily active on Twitter. Who hasn’t…? But I’ve found myself increasingly disillusioned not only with the ephemeral nature of Twitter — the fleeting attention spans, the condensed and often thoughtless coughing up of little blood spatters of information or thoughts or ideas — but with the inelegance of Twitter itself. Twitter is a spasm, a knee jerk, a poorly played game of Telephone.

That’s not to say it’s all terrible. Twitter can be useful. And entertaining. And engaging (perhaps too much at times). But I don’t like what it’s done to me or the people around me. We’ve found ourselves endlessly checking our Twitter apps on our iPhones at dinner, ignoring conversations with others to scroll through the timeline, thinking of TwitPic’ing something the instant we see it or instantly relaying inane, overheard discussions as OH’s. There is no time to process — only to Tweet. We’ve found ourselves alternately obsessed with ourselves and with people we don’t even know, ignoring our real lives in the process. There is no time to live — only to navelgaze.

I’m guilty of all of this. And I don’t want to be that person anymore. Of course, I can’t get off of Twitter entirely. It’s a large part of my job to be plugged into Twitter at all times as the @HoustonPress. But I’m more or less abandoning @she_eats for now. It’s become too much to keep up with and the intensely private person that I am (truly, although no one really seems to believe this) is exhausted and frightened by people thinking they know me just because they follow me on Twitter. We are more than our Twitter profiles, people.

So for those reasons and many others, it’s back to blogging for me. Equally narcissistic? Perhaps. But that’s not why I got into this game in the first place. I love it here — the words flowing from my fingers to the keys to the peaceful white void of the screen with no 140 character limits or constant need to entertain or be entertained. I feel comfortable here. There is more even footing here. There is more space to explain, to engage, to be useful — all the things that I initially thought Twitter would be better for — but with far more thought and effort put into it.

So with that… I’m off Twitter. And back here (and always at the Press, of course). Hope to see you around…

Twitter Etiquette for Foodies: A Hot Potato

Note:  If you’re my mom, or someone else who is otherwise unfamiliar with Twitter, allow me to direct you here.

Since its inception in 2006, countless guides on Twitter etiquette have been written by well-meaning users attempting to provide some definition and guidance to people using the microblogging service.  Widely-accepted Twitter etiquette includes things like not @ replying the same person several times in a row and instead taking the conversation to DM, making sure your Tweets contain substance and not just endless links to your blog or whatever product you’re trying to promote, and not following people to increase your own follow count and then immediately unfollowing them.  (Again, if none of this made sense, check out the link above or…maybe you can play a nice game of Solitaire until my next post.)

Because everyone uses Twitter differently — whether to keep up with friends, promote their product, network with like-minded individuals or simply entertain themselves — it’s no surprise that foodies have their own way of using Twitter, too.  In my case, I use Twitter as an extension of my blog and to interact with my readers and friends.  That means Twittering about restaurants at which I’m eating, food or meals I’m enjoying, recommending places to folks who ask, answering food-related questions when able, and other food-related (and often non-food-related) errata.  Other local foodies who use Twitter this way are Alison Cook of the Houston Chronicle, Jenny of I’m Never Full, Chris of Houston Foodie and Misha of Tasty Bits.

However, not all Twitter users are created equal.  As I’ve discovered on many different occasions, Twittering my location invariably leads to one of my Twitter followers showing up at that location to join me.  Do I mind?  90% of the time, no.  I’m usually glad for company and to get to know my followers better, if we aren’t friends in real life already.  However, it begs the question: Does announcing your location on Twitter mean that you’ve issued an open invitation for others to join you?

I surveyed my followers on Twitter about this issue and was surprised at the wide array of responses. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though: It’s just another example of the amorphous nature of social media and how everyone uses Twitter in their own, unique way.

On one hand, it’s astonishing how one small tool can be used in a million different ways.  How often has technology been that endlessly flexible in the past?  On the other hand, it can be disturbing when there aren’t at least a few rules around its use.  What if people drove cars without any rules?  There would be chaos in the streets, quite literally.

My opinion on the matter is straightforward: When I Twitter that I’m at a certain location, it is not an invitation for others to join.  I am only sharing an experience — to my point above — that I believe is no different than what I would share on this blog.  If I were having a conversation with someone, whether on phone or email or in person, and I mentioned that I was going to be at Feast for dinner, that is not an implicit invitation for that person to join me.  I’m simply relating a fact about my life, not issuing an invitation.  Twitter — as a conversation between a lot of people at the same time — is no different.

However, I will happily have others join me and often issue invitations via Twitter: I’m at Boheme. Drop by and join me for a glass of wine if you’re in the area.

That is entirely different than, for example: Enjoying the duck gumbo at Rainbow Lodge. What a great view from the dining room!

I trust that we can all see the differences between those two statements.  And I hope that no one would take the latter as an invitation to come and crash a dinner.  And while I suppose I can’t be entirely surprised if someone does show up, I’m not going to censor myself or my Twittering on the off-chance that someone might do that.

As mentioned, there are plenty of guides to Twitter etiqutte while you’re online, but nothing about the offline world.  Because Twitter is such a social medium, you’ll meet your fellow Twitterers out in public much more often than you would, say, fellow posters on a WoW forum.  So it only makes sense to develop some sort of guideline for interacting with each other in an offline setting.  Common sense would dictate that human beings don’t really need guidelines on how to interact with one another in person, but experience has shown that’s not always the case.  Example:  Is it really appropriate to have your opening words to someone be, “What’s your handle on Twitter?”  No, of course not.  But it happens all the time.

Below, I’ve included a sampling of the responses that I received when I asked the original question.  They’re loosely grouped, as it’s difficult to aggregate such dissimilar responses.  Read them and please feel free to provide your own feedback in the comments section.

Continue reading