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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Easy As Pie

Every Thanksgiving, I do the obligatory thing and ask my mom what I can make for the big meal. It's more of a ceremonious thing than a genuine offer. And knowing how useful I am in the kitchen, she usually says, "Nothing" - although I have over the years, miraculously, churned out a mean apple pie, pecan pie and once, a pumpkin cheesecake. But those flukes of culinary success were few and far between. In fact, my ability to get things done in the kitchen is about as advanced as my ability to last five minutes on an Ultimate Survival quest with Bear Grylls.

To my mother, a traditional Lebanese lady with tremendous cooking talent, having a daughter so completely hopeless in that department is a disappointment that has taken her over 30 years to come to terms with. Although she has somewhat accepted the fact that there is no inner great chef in me, her eyes still glimmer with hope whenever I attempt some small cooking feat. It's like subconsciously she believes that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and somehow mastering that art just may land me a husband. It's very Field of Dreams - you know, if she bakes it, he will come.

I wouldn't say I'm a bad cook per se, because I just don't do it. My desire to enter the kitchen and prepare a meal equals my yearning for a root canal ... without anesthetic. (Okay, okay, I'm exaggerating. Nix the 'no anesthetic' part.) But if you want to know the truth, my mother only has herself to blame. As a kid, everything my parents made me do, I refused to do as an adult. For example, I no longer eat steak or bananas, and don't drink milk. (I used to also not eat eggs until a few years ago, when I had a particularly delicious chance encounter with an English breakfast in London that forever changed my once prejudiced taste buds.) And helping mom in the kitchen was numero uno on that list.

You see, my parents used to entertain a lot when I was growing up. It felt like nearly every weekend there was some lunch or dinner they were hosting. I used to absolutely DREAD them, because I was expected to help in the kitchen. TORTURE. I'm pretty sure I ended up being more of a pest than a help. I never knew where anything was, which drove mom crazy - "Don't you live in this house?" she'd scream. And worse, she'd ask for utensils in Arabic, leaving me dazed and confused because I barely knew what they were in English. And back then, the extent of my Arabic vocabulary was murhaba (hello), mneha (I'm fine) and busa (ice cream). Mom would get so frustrated with me that she'd eventually just throw me out.

Luckily for her, though, she has four daughters: two are good cooks, one cooks, but her food is ... well, no comment, and then there's me. Miss Lean Cuisine/ Casper & Gamibini's take out/ spaghetti/ club sandwich (pretty much the extent of my 'cooking' ability). Okay, I'm not being entirely honest with you all. I actually have a specialty. Yes, you read right, a speciality. I - sometimes on special occasions - make my now famous chocolate pie. How did I become famous for anything to do with the kitchen, you may ask? By accident.

When I was in high school, one of the students brought in a chocolate cake that was so scrumptious, I asked for the recipe. Culinary genius that I am, I didn't write it down. When I got home, I told my mom about it and asked her to make it. Seeing a narrow window of opportunity, she said if I wanted to have that cake again, I would have to make it myself, and so desperate for that chocolate heaven, I agreed. But of course I completely forgot the ingredients and directions. My mom kept asking me if I was sure I knew what I was doing and not wanting to admit defeat, I assured her I did. Well, the final product was not the cake my schoolmate brought in, but it did end up being a delicious chocolate cake/pie concoction that I have become famous for.

Anyway, this year, you can just imagine mom's surprise when I told her that last night I made not one, but TWO chocolate pies for Thanksgiving today: one regular and the other chocolate mint. I still don't know what happened in that kitchen all those years ago that left me with at least one culinary legacy, but divine intervention is a strong possibility!


Monday, November 14, 2011

A Beautiful Mind

I know that I always have an excuse for a (VERY) late blog entry, but this time, a very dear and close friend was going through a hard time and I could not write for laughs knowing she was so sad.

Anyway, without further ado, let's get down to business ...

You'd think that my absence over the past few weeks would mean that I have even more material to write about. Well, yes, a lot did happen, but funnily enough, the thing that sticks out most in my mind is one very exciting, stimulating and mind blowing game of Trivial Pursuit. No, I am not the world's most boring person (even though I admit I've had my moments), but sometimes there is nothing more fun than a good old board game. So, after dinner and drinks in Hamra last week, I returned home with Mr. MUF and decided to play Trivial Pursuit along with Mr. US.

Now, let us backtrack a bit. I like to think of myself as a well-rounded person, with a little knowledge about a range of topics so I can participate in a variety of conversations. When hanging out with the guys especially, this is particularly cumbersome, because I have to read up on coma-inducing topics, like sports!

For example, last month was the rugby world cup and Mr. B was incredibly enthusiastic to watch the England games. He organized a couple of viewing parties at our favorite pub, and for some reason invited me, and for some reason, I went (that reason being the English breakfast on the menu). As long time readers of this blog know (hello, mom), I'm not exactly a fan of rugby. But nevertheless, before the morning match, I brushed up on some basics so I would fit in with the guys. As they were talking rugby, I put in my two (very vague) cents so I wouldn't appear totally out of place and they'd think that I knew what I was talking about. But between you and I, I was just there for the food!!!

Then there was the wine fest that took place in the downtown a few weeks ago. Not much of a drinker, or a wine enthusiast for that matter, I decided to go anyway. I went with Mr. B, Mr. US and another friend and we made the rounds of the different wine stands. The other three are totally into their wine. They like know stuff and understand what things like 'bouquet' mean. I think I did commit a serious faux pas though. This one wine rep from a very snooty vineyard said, "I am going to open a very special bottle for you. Here taste this from [I don't care year]." So I did. "Do you taste the [I don't care what type of wood and fruit]?" I replied, "Yes, sure," even though all I tasted was wine. "Isn't it marvelous?" he then asked. "Oh yes, marvelous," I replied as I dumped the rest of the glass in the dump bucket and escaped as fast as possible after glimpsing his horrified expression. He was positively aghast that I didn't want to finish it!

The rest of the evening, I just smiled and nodded and sipped the wine in between my teeth to make it look like I knew how to taste the wine properly, which I don't because my extent of wine knowledge comes from the movie Sideways, which I thought was totally crap by the way. I also twirled the wine in the cup to see how it coats the glass, because that also means something and made me feel very 'winey'. But the buck stopped there. When I ran out of things to say, I said that I was done drinking because I was the designated driver, which was true ... and also convenient.

Okay, so far, I've given you examples of how I barely got by with minimal information while doing stuff my guy friends like to do. Now let's get back to that Trivial Pursuit game, during which I didn't have to fudge my way through anything. I totally kicked butt because while Mr. MUF was awesome when it came to sports, and Mr. US was awesome when it came to history, because I read about EVERYTHING, I was totally awesome ... period!

I even knew who took some boxing championship away from Hector Mercedes (or some question about boxing). You stumped yet? Yeah, well it was Mike Tyson. Okay, so I only got it right because he happens to be the only name in boxing that I know (yes, him being in the Hangover movies has something to do with that). Anyway, although I was grabbing up wedges with lightning speed, knowing how guys hate to lose to girls no matter what the game, I gave sooooo many hints to help the others out. I even sang the jingle for the Hershey Bar after Mr. MUF said that the name of the American chocolate factory that broke ground in the US in 1903 was, and I quote, 'Tweex.' He still didn't get it right.

So while I may not know a great deal about sports, or wine (or a bunch of other things that I'm not going to reveal), I do know a little bit about a lot, which you know, kind of makes me a genius.

Hey!!! I said kind of