Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Don't Garden, Either

I don’t cook.

I used to cook. For a few years there I tried to do everything I imagined a grown-up girl’s supposed to do. I bought a house. I got married. I cooked. I even watered a goddamn plant once in a while, despite my lifelong aversion to all things horticult. But the marriage ended in divorce, the house is in foreclosure, and the plants died anyway. Good thing I never went so far as to have the goddamn babies.

Anyway, I didn’t suck at cooking, and people even thought I liked it. People gave me kitchen accoutrements for Christmas, came to my dinner parties, raved about my mustard-crusted rabbit (which I realize sounds like Urban Dictionary slang for a venereal disease, but I’m really talking about the Easter Bunny here). The best part of the process for me, though, was dancing around the kitchen with the music blaring, drinking beer. I could’ve much more happily ordered pizza, tapped a keg, and called it done.

Since I put away adultish things, I’ve quit all that. At some point in the past two years I did remember just how much I love to bake – but that’s a different thing completely, and a story for another time (everyone swears I make the best apple pie they’ve ever tasted and someday, if you’re good, I’ll tell you how). But as far as cooking real food goes, I’ve reverted to the Real Me, who thinks of it along the same lines as church: something she might watch on TV for the bizarro factor, but nothing she’d get off her ass to actually do. In both cases, these days, she’d just wind up burning the motherfucker down.

Which doesn’t mean that I don’t still have strong opinions.

Anyone who’s seen me watching football or America’s Funniest Home Videos – or church, for that matter – knows that I can get up on the couch and shout at the TV with the best of them. Quarterback sneak at the 14-yard line when you’re up by 25? WHY ARE YOU RISKING HIS KNEE AGAIN!? Handing the piƱata stick to the jacked-up four-year-old? ARE YOU LOOKING TO TAKE IT IN THE NUTS!? God wants all of us to be millionaires? BUT DOESN’T THAT MEAN JESUS ISN'T GONNA LOVE US ANYMORE!?  

So it was hard for me at Dad’s last week when he was watching Bobby Flay on the Today Show. Bobby Flay, as far as I’m concerned, is another motherfucker that deserves to be burned down – but Dad’s been sick, so I was trying to keep my Strong Opinions to myself. Which was no small feat, because Strong Opinion #1 was that the segment should’ve been called Bobby Flay Queers Up Thanksgiving Dinner.

Yes, I know I’m not supposed to use that word unless it defines me. But who's to say it doesn’t? After all, I’m not married anymore; I’m a grown-up girl and I can say and do whatever I want. That word meant something else before it got co-opted by bigots, and what it meant is exactly what Bobby Flay was doing to that turkey.

No. Not that.

Now, I know there are different opinions about stuffing. They’re wrong, but I didn't open that can of worms (it’s called “stuffing” for a reason and if you want to call it “dressing” you can pour it over “salad”  – there, I'm done). I kept my mouth shut when, instead of carving it up proper, he took the breast right off the bird and cut it into steak-sized chunks. I said nothing when he put the dark meat back in the roasting pan and braised it off (because who needs to serve the whole bird to a hungry crowd at the same time anyway, right?). I even bit my tongue when he poured some watery ginger-Thai sauce over the breast chunks instead of gravy (because he is Bobby Flay, after all: if he knew how to make a proper gravy he wouldn’t be braising off the dark meat in the roasting pan). But then he started on the side dishes, and that’s when I stood up on the couch.

Fresh blackberries in your cranberry sauce? FUCK YOU!

It’s not about queering up the cranberries, motherfucker, it’s just an asshole thing to do. Hell, it’s an asshole thing to even say. Fresh blackberries are in season for a week and a half in August. Even then they cost $5 for a half a pint, and – if you buy them in the grocery store – are just a tease. Some of us grew up machete-ing our way through a half-acre of brambles that sprouted when some random bird pooped in our yard. Some of us remember emerging at the end of those August weeks all sunburnt and juice-stained, thorn-scratched and mosquito-bit, stuffed with all the berries that were so verge-of-rotten ripe they squished when you picked ‘em, and looking forward to a couple months of our mother’s jam and pie. I don’t think I’ve had blackberry pie in at least twenty-five years, but in our house it was always served with vanilla ice cream, and the rule was that when it was gone, you were allowed to pick up your dessert plates and lick them off.

You don’t come up with a rule like that by buying them in November and fucking ‘em in a pot with goddamn cranberries.

The next day, over our non-queered-up Thanksgiving dinner – at which I daintily wolfed down the (non-braised) turkey wing with my grown-up hands – I was still bitching about Bobby Flay, confident that those who also remember machete-ing the half-acre, not to mention the jam and the plate-licking, would understand how Strong my Opinions about blackberries are. I knew they’d get it when I said I don’t even buy them when they are in season. I just visit them, pat the package, and walk away. I may be nostalgic and Opinionated, but I’m not dumb enough to spend $5 a cup on some watered-down imitation of the Truth we used to get out of our backyard by the gallon, and for free.

“What you should do,” my brother said, “is spring for the five bucks, bring ‘em home, and throw ‘em in the yard.”

He was right. I mean, he’d’ve been righter if he’d said “fuck ‘em in the yard” instead of “throw ‘em,” but my brother has a three-year-old; he has Strong Opinions about things like diapers, Disney Princesses, and Fuck.

But anyway, he was right, and it got me thinking: just because they pick ‘em green and ship ‘em cold and by the time they get to you they taste like ass, that doesn’t mean they aren’t the same seeds on the inside. If I sprung for the five bucks right now – what with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having (in between equally unseasonable nor’easters) – I might just have my very first unfruitful, picker-laden bush-sprouts in the spring!

Of course, the point of this whole diatribe to begin with was that blackberries aren’t in season now. So they probably don’t cost five dollars anymore. Plus, I got laid off on November first and – due to a combination of my being a Good Daughter and a Little Bit Of A Flake – my unemployment still has not kicked in. I am so turn-pocket poor these days I’m considering bagging out on one of my pool teams just to save the 1/4 tank of gas it takes for the round trip from the ass-end of creation where I live to what passes for civilization in these parts. How could I justify the expense? I mean, I’ve only been living at the ass-end of creation for eighteen months: nowhere near long enough to make spending $10 on something I’m gonna fuck in the yard sound like a bargain. It’s not like I grew up here, for god’s sake.

So last night I was lamenting all of this to my Best Friend In The Whole Entire World. She lives in Connecticut these days, but it’s not like she grew up there, either: she’s poor, too (plus she still has a sense of humor, and a soul), so she understood my predicament completely.

“You could eat them first,” she said, “and spit the seeds out in the yard. That way you would at least get a treat.”

Or I could—”


This girl’s been my best friend since 1990. She knew exactly what I was going to say.

“Oh come on,” I said. “I’ve been living at the ass-end of creation for eighteen months now. Don’t you think it’s about time I took a shit in the yard?”

“Go ahead if you want to,” she conceded. “I’m just saying I don’t think blackberry seeds go through a person like they do a bird. You might want to spit the seeds out first, then poop on top of them. Just remind me never to eat blackberries from your house if you do.”

I’m still mulling it over. I don’t know, though. I mean, I’d have to make the long trek to the grocery store, spend too much money on one special ingredient, do stuff to it, then wait patiently for time and temperature to turn it into something I can actually eat. And what did I tell you when I started this whole story?

I don’t cook.