Eat This NOW

Someone asked me last night for a recipe I use.  That never happens, and it felt nice.  To me, cooking is a great way to indulge creativity, do fun things and demonstrate you care for the people you cook for.

It’s so core.

Nurturing.

<glossing over the fact that I don’t cook much for myself>

Of course, it was my carbonara recipe, something I’ve never made the same was twice in my life.

I made it for my Monday Night Supper Club peeps a few months back and it was met with rave reviews.  

My response, “C’mon, guys…it’s just carbonara!”  I was amazed to hear that no one had had it.  Not even the Silver Fox, who I consider quite a cook and rather world-wise.  Secretly, I thought he was messing with me.  But then again, I made it for my family and they’d never had it before, either.

At this point, I began thinking that maybe they had had it and I was just making it wrong.  Hehe.

Then again, before 2006, I couldn’t say that I’d had it.

I walked into my kitchen classroom at the Sur la Table I was working at in Kirkland, WA and my store’s Resident Chef was creating.

He’s this guy, for context.

And he’s made quite a name for himself, just like I knew he would.  I’ve largely held a static level of accomplishment…but carbonara helps.

He slides me this plate and tells me to dig in.  I had a foodgasm.

“I figured you for a carbonara guy, Galby” he tells me, smiling.  “Pasta, bacon, eggs, cheese…what’s not to like?  It’s like breakfast in pasta”, he continues.

No shit.

I couldn’t respond, I was inhaling.

A few years later, I started playing around with it.  I tried googling a recipe and realized that there’s no one way to make this dish.

The core argument seems to be around whether you add frozen peas or if that’s a bastardization too far.

I like peas.  And I like a hint of color.

So I usually include them because I think it makes for a more appealing plate.  You’ll have to decide for yourself…it’s obviously both a deeply personal choice and a hornet’s nest.

So, aside from frozen peas, maybe, the shopping list is pretty simple:

One 1 lb box of spaghetti style pasta

Three large eggs – the yolks are another debate-slash-variable.

One third cup each of grated pecorino and reggiano cheese.

8 oz (or more!) of bacon or pancetta.

One shallot.

A few cloves of garlic…just a hint.

One third cup of heavy whipping cream – depending on the yolk situation.

I’m a big fan of the mis en place method of cooking, so that everything is ready to go when I start.  So, I’ll slice the bacon into 1/4″ strips, mince the garlic, dice the shallot, grate the cheeses and let my eggs come to room temp before I even boil my water.

But once everything is prepped and I put the water on?  The meal is basically done, so be ready to eat!

I think with the MNSC, I got to this point and then waited for everyone to arrive before continuing.

And, by “waited”, I mean, “opened a bottle of wine”.  Basically, I made this while I was buzzed.

So, the water’s on to boil.

I brown the bacon and then when it’s almost done, start spooning off the fat, then throw in the garlic and shallot to soften.

At some point while the bacon has been going, I’ve thrown in the pasta – and possibly the peas – and it should be about done as the bacon concoction finishes up.

While those two things were happening, I’ve cracked my eggs and either whisked the yolks (I’ve used anywhere from 0 to all 3 in my experiments) into them or taken just the whites and whisked the cream into them and added the cheese.  

Hold some cheese back for topping the dish, for God’s sake!

I recommend holding back about a third of a cup of pasta water, just in case you need to goose the sauce along.  More on that in a second.

Drain the pasta and then do one of three things:

Return it to the pot, add in the bacon/garlic/shallot situation, pour on the egg/cheese sauce and then stir!  You will hear people talk about the terror of ending up with pasta and scrambled eggs at this point…but it’s never happened to me.

Obviously, I recommend cooking with the wine technique.

My biggest stress is usually just getting the cheese evenly distributed.  It does tend to clump together.  

No, Dori…just keep stirring!

If you need help loosening this sauce up, add in some of that pasta water.  I find that the egg and yolk route tends to need this little trick more that the egg and cream method.  Nevertheless, it’s good to have on hand

Once you’ve got a good coating, transfer the finished dish to your serving bowl.

The second option is to dump everything into your serving bowl and mix there, ya cocky bastards.  One less step.

Or…if you’re a real pro, like Joel is – seriously, watch his show Scraps or his YouTube channel – you add the strained pasta to the fry pan your bacon is in.
Scandal!

Mix the pasta and bacon around before adding in the egg and cheese mixture.  This allows the wet pasta to kinda deglaze the bacon fond adding a lot of flavor to the situation.  And some cool color to the pasta.

I usually make a double batch, so I don’t do this since my fry pan is too small for 2 lbs of pasta.

And I’m not a pro, like Joel.

Now, a single batch allegedly serves 4.  I think it serves one Xtopher, so if I have company, I double up.

Make this now.  You won’t be sorry, and 

You.

Are.

Welcome.

Eat This NOW

My Favorite Joke

Ever!

I kid you not, this joke has been with me since I was a little kid living on LaCour and watching the Muppet Show in our wall to wall shag carpeted basement.

After realizing that neither Sonny and Cher nor Tony Orlando and his two Dawns could see me sitting in my underwear and tee shirt too close to the TV.  Prior to that realization, I had thought they could see me and hadn’t warned me about sitting too close to the TV (re: bad for my eyes, right?) because they were embarrassed by me sitting there cross-legged with my crotch pointed right at the TV while they were trying to work.

So, y’know, I was a stupid kid for thinking Sonny or Cher could watch me in my home from inside the TV, but kind of ahead of my time in today’s CIA/America situation, eh?

There I am, watching The Muppets, and Fozzy Bear comes on to tell his joke.

The question:

What do you get when you cross the Atlantic with the Titanic?

I mean, please…stop me if you’ve heard this one before!

The Answer:

Half way!


Seriously.

Whenever I retell it, I mentally ask myself, “Too soon?”

And catch myself feeling guilty about telling a joke a friggin’ muppet told me.

Then remind myself that it’s been 100 years.  Actually, coming up on 106 this year, I think.

Actually, here’s a factoid you may not know:

The Titanic sank on April 14th, 1912.  That’s 47 years after the day Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford Theater.

And you think April 15th is a crappy day…

My Favorite Joke

I’m (Not) A Survivor

It’s Sacha Story Time!

We were together for six years, which is a long time for a broken relationship.  While I’d say neither of our needs were optimally met, we both drew something or some things out of the relationship along the way.  

I’m not going to speculate as to what his takeaways were, but as my birthday draws nearer, I’m drawn back to this draft I originally thought of about last Spring when reading about the TV show Survivor.

You see, Sacha was a creative type and a person that approached his faith in humanity from a busted up, scientific method standpoint.

Pro: He generally gave great, all-in gifts to his loved ones.

Con: He required significant proof that you loved him.

That last one is pretty easy to dispatch with.  

Also, tricky.

Suffice it to say, tokens went a long way with him.  He called them symbols.  Not at all problematic.

Except…100 people surveyed, top 1 answer on the board.  “Name something that symbolizes a commitment in a relationship”.

“Uh, ring?”

<BING!>

So, you just know that came up way too early in the relationship.  And me being a long-game, “what’s next?” type of guy looked at this simple fix as an opportunity to ask what the next fix would be.

Yeah, no ring.

But we did end up with new cars about every other year – that’s every year for him and every other year I got a new car for a week or two until he decided he liked mine better and I got his hand-me-down.

Oh, and three dogs.

So, I was proving as hard as I could, without capitulating, of course.

That’s the con.

The pro?  

Man, there’s a lot of great stuff to talk about.  He was creative, so when he put his mind to it, he nailed gift giving.  Besides being elaborate, they were usually fairly unique and personal.

Take my 30th birthday.  He reserved the back room at this place called The Alibi. 

It was a disintegrating tiki bar in NoPo that we’d go to occasionally with friends.  I called it “the gayest straight bar in Portland”.

This was before the hipsters resurrected it a decade ago when Interstate Ave got its urban renewal shot in the arm.

So, we were just going there to hang out a bit with Black Sheep Bro and his current girlfriend, Jackie Jack Ass.

Everyone I knew was there.

And, Sacha – not a baker, by any means – had made a gigantic cake in the shape of the starship Enterprise-A.  It was, if memory serves, two half-sheet cakes and two tiers of a round cake.  It was pretty fucking amazing, indeed a unique and memorable way to usher in my 30s.

There were the trip-gifts he gave us.  Sure, I usually ended up funding them.  He always earmarked his annual freelance project money for these trip-gifts, but it never fully funded them.  But, it was ok.  We were making memories.  Again, he usually tried to keep them a surprise, requesting time off with my boss behind my back.

It was special.

I’ve been to Italy, France and Holland thanks to these little experience gifts he gave us.

Oh, and climbed a – y’know – volcano.

But even gifts that weren’t extravagant still demonstrated a lot of imagination and thought, making them uniquely personal experiences.

That’s where Survivor comes in.

For one of my birthdays, Sacha came up with this Great Race themed scavenger hunt or Survivor immunity challenge thingy.  He gave me a clue to start me off and then planted subsequent clues and gifts throughout the house.  Behind the TV, in the dryer, in our gazebo-thing…all over the place.  Once again, Black Sheep Bro and Jackie Jack Ass were on hand, following my progress.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t all on board. He kept kinda having to prompt me along.  Maybe it was because this was where I officially began getting old and grumpy.  Maybe the clues were actually more obscure than I could bet my head around in the moment.  Maybe it’s because I was inwardly terrified that he’d somehow actually submitted me to be a contestant on Survivor or Great Race.  

Maybe I just don’t like being propelled into the center of attention.  I can get there quite nicely, thank you.

On the one hand, even though I may not have demonstrated much enthusiasm in the moment, this example of Sacha gift giving also helped get me to the point I’m at today, where experiences are better than actual gifts.

On the other hand, I still carry the relationship wariness from that moment with me.  That I might get caught up as the Ethel to my boyfriend’s Lucy in some crazy harebrained scheme like submitting me as a contestant in a reality show against my will where I have to pretend to be excited about something I’m not. 

at. 

all. 

excited. 

about.

Let’s call that Why I’m Single #50 – turns out, I’m actually a reluctant participant.

But, I’m going with the pro: experience gifts > things.

So, there.

My birthday is in two weeks.

I’m not registered…go figure.

Your gift to me?  I’m turning 40.

Go with it.

I’m (Not) A Survivor

I Can’t Imagine…

Here’s a reference that my day-to-day life won’t let me escape from recently.

Chirruns.

Specifically, having my own.

There have been reminders like the expected daily posts and snaps from my friends with kids.  More obscurely, Beatles references – or John Lennon, at any rate – to the…oneness one feels with one’s offspring. I wish I could remember where I came across that particular reference.  I’d specifically like to avoid confronting that again.

But even in relatively expected safe havens, like TV, I find my reproductive shortcomings taunting me.  When Madam Secretary plot lines are calling out your life or lifestyle choices, you probably need to take a step back and give yourself a good once over.

Seriously, isn’t TV supposed to provide an escape?

Maybe it’s the new year…but, c’mon!  I’ve always been the guy who refers to children as an STD.

Perhaps the choices I’m meant to examine are more along the lines of whether I should not binge-watch Madam Secretary.  Sticking to the relatively safe havens of Doctor Who and strong male leads like Jean Luc Picard.

Sure.  Great.  Now I just look like a sexist jerk for blaming my introspective nature and nueroses on Tea Leoni.

But that Madam Secretary season finale last season.  <sigh>

All she wanted was to revisit a vacation destination – a cabin in the woods – with her husband and kids.  An escape for her to a less complicated time.  Naturally, her teenagers and adult children don’t want to go, which disappoints her.  Her husband -played by Tim Daly, and probably really more along the lines of what my life is actually missing – takes her to the cabin anyway, just the two of them.

Of course, good old Tim – and formulaic happy ending TV writing – has rallied the kids to the cabin early to surprise mom when they walk into the same exact cabin from all those years ago.

Can you hear my heartstrings?

So, in my ruminating, I’m back to the big life questions…what’s missing from my reality, the potential family cabin scenario or the romance of simply having someone in my life who cares enough for my emotional needs to get me the equivalent of Tea’s family getaway?

That’s a tough one.

But then it isn’t.  

I’ve never wanted kids.  I’m probably too selfish to make the life changing sacrifices good parents make.  I think I could instill great values in a young ‘un, though, don’t get me wrong.

So, I guess as I tap my way through this thought exercise of an essay, it’s not children that my psyche is telling me I’m missing out on.  It’s screaming out a warning to not abandon my expectations for a long term relationship in my life.  It’s that level of intimacy and nurturing that parenting and raising children represents that I think is what drives my desire for a relationship.

Not sex.

Not built in dates on national holidays.

Or an end to the sad looks single people get from couples.

Ok, maybe a little bit that last one.

You’d think that realization or the recognition of the meaning behind the propaganda my subconscious has been hurling at me would simplify things.

Nah.

But at least it provides some clarity before I went all Mia Farrow or Angelina Jolie on my life.

Which returns me to the future reality of growing old without built in caretakers.

Oddly, that I can imagine without freaking out.  Unlike, it would appear, imagining the potential of growing old without an intimate partner in my life to accompany me on that (mis)adventure.

I Can’t Imagine…

2018 Writing Self Challenge

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions.

I mean, right?

But I was aware of the fact as I wrote Fitfy 49:49 that my 2017 theme was quickly winding down.  I’ll probably only post once more in that theme.

So, what now?

I thought about resurrecting The Yes Game from 2016.  It was a little underutilized in its time, but I worried slightly that it would open a Pandora’s Box of fuckery for me.  I have enough readers that know me personally that I could see people basically daring me to do things and invoking TYG if I blinked.

Like I need my friends throwing me foolishness like this to try to manipulate me.

Hashtag: try it

So, I’m leaning toward something fresh.

What are your thoughts on a theme that extrapolates on my $20 first date rule?  

Maybe I could commit to 12 entries over the year…I bet I could trick a dozen people into keeping their clothes on the first time we meet.  On the one hand, it kind of skews toward relationship failure in 2018, presuming I won’t have a lot of second or third dates this year.   

But on the other hand, you know I was going to write about them anyway, so it’s kind of a gimme.

Twenty-eighteen started with an ingrown toenail and what I’m imagining must be a hemorrhoid, why not embrace the pain and write about my datesasters?  I’ve kicked around a couple of theme names:

Dating Into Oblivion, which is a subtle play off “fading into oblivion”.  I think dating in what I’m going to consider a second run through my 40s – call it a reboot – could easily be seen to have a lovely view of an apocalypse.

Fruitless was my other thought on the theme.  Because: Gay + Old + Single = Fruitless

The last reason I’m liking this idea is because after taking a pass at NaNoWriMo last year, having 10-plus 2000 word essays on first dates sets me well upon my way toward that 50000 word NaNoWriMo goal.  I’m thinking 30000 words would leave just enough room to provide any potentially necessary debriefing about those elusive second dates.  Most likely debriefings in their own right, right?

Who’s got a thought on this?  

Bueller?  

Bueller?

2018 Writing Self Challenge

Fitfy 49:49

Well, I guess this would be my golden post? 49 weeks into my 49th year…

Some different things have been going on lately, too.  It’s been kinda nice to experience these last few weeks of the Galby existence.

I’ve been pretty consistent about exercise recently, pulling off a steady three workouts per week.  My shoulder tried to register its complaint initially, but slow and steady got me through my ramp up without actually re-injuring myself.

A while back, I also commented that I needed to start getting my legs more involved in my workouts.  I wasn’t sure how to effectively integrate this opportunity into my home-based exercise regimen, until it hit me:  stairs.

Talk about two bird(leg)s with one stone.  I’m running 30 flights of stairs three times a week as part of my regimen.  30 flights up, 30 flights down.

Running.

That carrot my acupuncturist dangled a while has actually inspired me to find a way to re-incorporate my favorite form of exercise back into my routine.  Little warning twinges from my foot and knee reminded me to take it easy at first.  Warming up to the fresh movements after a three year absence with 10 flights initially allowed my grumpy old joints to get accustomed to the idea of this repetitive motion again.  Taking the stairs has actually been less stressful than plain old road running.

At the end of the day, I’m feeling great about this addition to my routine.  It provides that ballistic movement to my exercise once again.  I finish my workouts feeling like I’ve accomplished something.  Not just getting sweaty, but also shaking off some of the mental drama of my day.  Stuff that would have carried through with me to bedtime is just gone.

Once again.

This is the part of running that I missed most. The piece that retiring from running most significantly impacted me, the mental benefit of this physical fitness.

I’ve missed it so.  

Happy Galby.

Seriously.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m still the grumpy guy I’ve always been, but I find my grumpiness has more perspective now.  

Or, again.  

Whatever.  

That’s helpful, like I said, less important stuff doesn’t remain with me.  I’m clearer about what actually bugs me and can focus better on more significant frustrations…hopefully in order to actually be able to effect change.

All while quitting soda and significantly curbing my caffeine intake.

And no one died.

It happened quite by accident.

I was out of soda and it was cold, so I remained out of soda.  

People were getting sick around me at work, so I started hydrating at work instead of grabbing a soda or coffee to drink absentmindedly.  

After a few days, I didn’t want soda.  I found myself at the grocery grabbing some bullshit hipster bubble water to satisfy my carbonation craving instead of grabbing a Diet Coke.  Bad news for Coke stockholders, good news for me.

Before I knew it, I was five days in without coffee or soda.  On my days off, of course I indulged in my weekly coffee time with the Silver Fox.  Walking away from that with the thought, “Two days a week for coffee ain’t bad”, which was all the impetus the universe needed to dangle temptation in front of my nose.

It came in the offer of coffee from a co-worker.  I love the message that I take away from offers like these, that I’m not an entirely evil boss.  If someone that reports to me wants to take me out for coffee?  I take that as a good sign.

Way better than someone that reports to me simply wanting to take me out.

Of course, I accepted – albeit with the admonishment to not spend their hard earned money on me.  Hey, that’s still only coffee three days a week.  It’s an average I’ve been able to stick to, too.  At most, three times a week.  It makes coffee a reward versus a ritual.  That’s a good thing, in my book.

Also, sorry to you people with money in coffee stock.

But wait…there’s even more!

I was eating well, too. Don’t worry, that couldn’t possibly last.  But it’s – once again – pretty much due to me being out of food and it being cold.

For those of you keeping track, the cold has officially dealt me a triple whammy:

1) no soda

2) ran out of healthy food

3) you should see my Double Oh C recycling.  “Out Of Control” is the Chrisenese to English translation you were looking for there, BTW.

But I’ve come off of that week-plus of solid healthy eating with a sense of moderation when approaching things like hamburgers or pizza.  That ain’t bad.

All this led up to two solid days of exertion when I moved last week.

Alone.

Naturally.

My family were all out of town at the ‘Phew’s basketball thingy.

The Fox was helping his some move, and also being sick.

So I just did it.

I am a SNOB, after all…Society if Native Oregon Born.  Home of Nike, so I just do it, naturally.

Hush, Diezel.

Bed?  Moved.

Sofa?  Moved.

Bookcases?  Moved – or sold.  The new place is slightly smaller.

Dresser?  Moved.

Ok, that last one was a bitch.  But, just done.

After all that, I expected to hurt.

For a while.

But I just didn’t.

I’ll chalk that up to doing a lot of little good things for myself consistently.  And that’s what this year has largely been about.  That and accepting my present physical situation for what it is and fixing what I reasonably can while accepting – forgiving – what I can’t.

Honestly, there’s still room to fix or improve.  And I will.

But The Brazilian made another guest appearance in my life the other night, and when he complimented my butt…I didn’t correct him!

“Alex, I’ll take Self Acceptance for priceless, please” – Me!

I can live with this.

Fitfy 49:49