Friday, May 29, 2015

celebratory blondies

I picked up a second part-time job today. Actually, I’ve been doing pretty well on the interview front lately. I got offered the last job I interviewed for, but I turned it down because though it was catering related, it didn’t involve me playing with food at all.  I was afraid I would be unhappy stuck behind a desk full time; didn’t think that was fair to me or the hiring manager.  But today, I walked into an interview for a part time job and walked out with the job.  I start tomorrow.  I’m getting good at this.

There's a funny story with how I ended up meeting the hiring manager at this new job.  I went to a women's networking event at the City Club of Buckhead a few weeks ago, complete with panels of speakers, etc.. But one by one all the people I wanted to meet were cutting out of the event. Frustrated, I went to use the restroom.  Their restrooms are fitted with those fancypants automatic flushing toilets which always seem to go off when you're using the damn thing, and this time was no exception.  Damn thing flushed before I was done, which resulted in me blurting out a few choice expletives.  When I emerged from the toilet, I found myself face to face with a beautifully made up woman, smart down to her lacquered fingernails and designer shoes. Fortunately, she had a good sense of humor, so we laughed and made small talk about Stupid High-Tech Toilets, chatted for a bit, then exchanged business cards.  And then I went on about my day and forgot all about her....

... until the next morning I received an email from her, cc'ing some bigwig at some large restaurant group here in Atlanta, telling him "This is the girl I was telling you about!  You need to talk to her!".  After one phone interview and an in-person interview with one of his people, I got the job.

All this to say, be nice to people you meet in public restrooms. If that toilet hadn't flushed on me while I was still sitting on it, I wouldn't have this job.

So this weekend I’ll be ridiculously busy since I work both part time jobs, one of them having to do with some event at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival.  And to celebrate my last day off for a while, I’m making blondies.

I have no earthly idea where this recipe originated from.  I have it scribbled on notepad paper on the side of my fridge, where it's resided for at least 8 years.  For all I know, I saw it on TV and jotted it down; I really don’t remember.  It’s my go-to for “I Need Dessert Right Now” moods. It can be a tad sweet due to the usage of brown sugar mixed with whatever candy bits you’ve got on hand, so (to quote the immortal Truvy), I serve it over ice cream to cut the sweetness.

{Speaking of Steel Magnolias, at New Teaching Job I work with a bunch of gay men who love to quote from that movie. I couldn’t be in better company. }

Celebratory Blondiessourced from God knows where, but currently from the side of my fridge.
Makes one 9 x 9 pan – approximately 9 3-inch squares

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour (I used unbleached white whole wheat flour, because that’s what I have on hand today)
1/3ish cup of chips (chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, etc), or chopped walnuts, or bits of Heath bar

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Grease a 9 x 9 inch pan and set aside.

2. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the melted butter and brown sugar on high speed until well blended.   Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and, with the mixer on low speed, incorporate that gradually into the mix.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and add whatever chocolate chunks or nuts to this and mix together with a rubber spatula.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack before unmolding and cutting into squares.  Eat. Enjoy. Celebrate yourself because you are amazing.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Panic Manifesto

Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do. – Steve Martin

At the very beginning of the year, I wrote myself a letter of sorts. I called it “The Panic Manifesto”. Something to review at a later date and reflect on, to laugh at myself about (I’m awfully good at self-deprecation). I knew 2015 would be a year of change for me, much as 2014 had; but with a different twist. I knew that my work life would be rough, and I hoped the outcome to be pleasant (I still do, of course). Here we are, almost six months in to it, and I’m still hopeful.

So as I had predicted, I got laid off from my day job back in February. This is my third – and final time, I hope – of getting laid off from Big IT Corporate America. I’ve also told myself that come hell or high water I will make a go of my culinary career.  For too long I’ve had the day job to fall back on to pay my bills, but for too long I’ve loathed the day jobs. Yes, I can project manage anything, but no, I no longer want to project manage anything to do with technology or computers or babysitting a bunch of whiny engineers. I want to play with food full time.

I also felt that the side job would come to an end. And it did indeed come to an eye-opening and (at the time) sad and angry end – in fact, the repercussions still haven’t ended; I’m not currently at liberty to speak about it, but I will one day.  Let’s just say that when a lot of people warned me about a certain somebody and at the time I thought, “She’ll never do that to me!”; let’s just say that she did do it to me. And frankly I was tired of being emotionally manipulated by a no-talent hack whose only redeeming quality is the ability to believe her own lies. You have no idea how terrifically pleased I am that our working relationship and friendship is finally over with.

Fortunately, I landed a part-time dealio teaching people how to cook (ironically, it’s with a large Corporate America-type firm).  Typical to Corporate America, I had several nerve-wracking interviews plus an audition. I like the job though, I really, really like it. I get to play with food, and talk about food, and share personal stories, and people lap it up. Last night I taught a group of women how to make risotto, making them take turns stirring, stirring, stirring; making them understand that it’s not exactly difficult, that it is indeed time consuming but worth it. And in the end seeing the looks on their faces when they tasted said risotto and realized, “I made that and it’s really fucking good”. It is so rewarding.  I would love to do it full time but, as with any food job, the pay sucks and it’s only part time. 

Going into this whole Reinventing Myself phase, I knew I’d take a massive pay cut – Big IT Corporate America may take its toll on the mind, but at least they pay decently.  So I’m still looking for more work to fill in the massive amount of free time I have, most of it spent at the gym or networking, lurking on people’s LinkedIn profiles, and stalking them at conferences (as one does).

 Re-reading my Panic Manifesto, something I wrote still rings true today..  

"I don’t even want to be the best at something – that’ s kind of lofty, and naïve, no? But I do want to be my personal best at something. The more I learn about cooking, the more I realize how much there is to learn. It’s frightening and yet, it’s thrilling.
 I’m simultaneously terrified and thrilled. I’m scared. I’m eager. And I want it now."

And I really do. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

in my neighborhood.

I see them everywhere. Almost every time I get in my car and drive down Haynes Bridge Road to go anywhere, I spot them.  Tall (very tall, at least 6’5”) and lanky, they walk quickly, leaning precariously forward, making it appear that if they didn’t walk so fast they would fall flat on their faces.  Sometimes there is only one, but most often they walk together.  I call them the Walking Guys.

They live in one of the neighborhoods behind mine, and I never thought much about them until I got laid off from a job many years ago and spent a lot of time at home.  Sitting on my bed next to the window with my laptop, scouring the internet for jobs, I couldn’t help but notice that these two guys walked up and down my street a lot, cutting through my neighborhood to get to theirs.  Sometimes they were on their way to work (I guessed), and other times they had bags of groceries.  I begin to wonder about them. Obviously they didn’t have a car – I’ve seen them out there in the worst of weathers; but the plus side is that they’re in great shape.

They look alike. They dress alike, usually in combat boots or hiking boots. One of them likes button down shirts with the sleeves cut off. The other has longer hair. But they do look alike, plus they’re the same height. Perhaps they are brothers, sharing a house in the northern suburbs, going to work, paying their taxes like normal Americans do.  

Last year I was strolling through the Target near my house and ran right smack into them. My face beamed in recognition and I was all smiles, as though I had run into old friends.  I began opening my mouth to exclaim, “The Walking Guys!” when I caught myself.  After all, they had no idea who I was.  So I snapped my mouth shut and just stared googly-eyed as though I’d run into Mr. Snuffleupagus, as if when telling people later no one would believe me. They walked past me through Target, continuing their shopping, oblivious to my recognition.

I wonder if folks in my neighborhood have the same reaction when they run into them, want to say, “Hey! How are you?”.  I wonder how many people actually do greet them, and if they are surprised by the recognition by random strangers. There used to be another dude who I would see at least once a day, walking up the street with a basketball in one hand, leash attached to a tiny little Pomeranian-type dog in the other – it was such an odd combination, this tough guy going to play basketball up at Newtown Park whilst accompanied by the tiniest of little rat dogs.  One time when Dixie and I were at the dog park, located next to the basketball courts up at Newtown, I spotted him and the dog. Some lady called out to him. “I see you every time I drive down the road!”, she exclaimed brightly.  He sighed, and replied, “Yeah, everyone says that. Everyone”.

On nights when I sleep with the windows open, like this time of year and in the Fall, I’m often woken up around 5:30 in the morning by a loud British voice running past my window.  Most of the time I don’t notice it, the voice infiltrates my dreams and I blissfully fall back asleep. But the last couple of mornings, it’s woken me up. Instead of being pissed off, I want to jump out of bed and see what’s going on; but I’m so drunk with sleep that I can barely sit up.  And the weird part about this is that the British guy is on a conference call – while running. I never figure out how people manage to do this.  When I’m on the elliptical at the gym, I’m mostly focused on breathing while trying not to fall off the damn machine. I’m in awe of people who can maintain normal conversations while on the treadmill – but this guy, he’s not just on the phone asking his wife what’s for breakfast; he’s conducting techy-type conference calls, with what I assume is a client in Europe or Asia (who else would willingly be awake that early in the States?).   I want to wake myself up when I hear him so that I can press my face up against the window screen and maybe see him under the street light. I want to be able to recognize him in public, so I can catch myself exclaiming, “Hey you’re the British Runny Guy! I hear your conference calls every morning!”.  

Fortunately for him, he’ll remain anonymous.