Monday, September 8, 2008


(an excerpt)

I am looking at trees
they may be one of the things I will miss
most from the earth
though many of the ones I have seen
already I cannot remember
and though I seldom embrace the ones I see
and have never been able to speak
with one
I listen to them tenderly
their names have never touched them
they have stood round my sleep
and when it was forbidden to climb them
they have carried me in their branches

by W. S. Merwin from The Compass Flower

Big, Bad, Wolf Chocolate Chip Cookies

These thick and chewy cookies are tasty served warm from the oven or cooled. To achieve a chewy texture, leave the cookies on the cookie sheet to cool. The sea salt complements the sweetness of the cookies. For a fun variation, you can substitute cinnamon chocolate chips for the semi-sweet chips in the recipe.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and slightly cooled
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sea salt (NOT finely ground)

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. With an electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Stir in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredient until just combined. Stir in the chips.

3. Form scant 1/4 cup portions of dough into balls. Holding the dough balls with fingertips, pull into two equal halves. This will create a rough edge on half of the dough. Rotate halves so that the craggy surface is exposed. Now, join halves together at their base to form a single cookie. Don’t smooth the dough’s uneven surface – this will give them a nice texture when they are finished baking. Place the shaped dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined cookie sheets, about nine dough balls per sheet. Sprinkle each cookie with a bit of sea salt. (The dough can be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen up to 2 months.)

4. Bake, reversing cookie sheets’ positions halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden. The centers should still be soft and puffy. Start checking the oven at 13 minutes. The cookies should achieve the desired consistency between 15 and 18 minutes. (Frozen dough may require extra time in the oven.) Cool the cookies on cookie sheets. Serve or store in an airtight container.

recipe by Cristina Paul

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

Making friends in a new place is like being on a perpetual series of blind dates; I'd rather drink ink. I recently moved (for at least 3 months) to Boston from L.A. And I suppose that making friends in a new city is one of the first steps to making a place your home - impermanent as it may be. I am also told that friendships really make living in a specific location worthwhile, no matter how cloying the humidity, confusing the street signs or lack thereof, or preppy the local footwear. So I went on what I'd like to call woman dates. I was set up, just like one would be set up on a blind date. Except I wasn't trying to get into this girl’s pants I was just hoping to carve out a friendly, little place in her heart. I'm not sure, though, which fortress would be easier to infiltrate.

When I first arrived on the East coast, I went on a casual double date with my boyfriend, my road trip companion (Madeline), and her friend Joy. The whole point was for me to meet Joy, since she lived in the Boston area and was obviously interesting because she was a friend of Madeline’s. My first impression was promising – cute outfit, great eyelashes – yeah, yeah I'm totally superficial and only befriend the well-heeled and the beautiful. Honestly though, she had a cool job (which I can’t really remember now), spoke cleverly, and was pleasant to be around – except for the fact that she ate so slowly, which made me feel like a human canoli. So I thought the evening had gone well. I should have guessed otherwise though, because when I asked for tips about good theater or cultural activities she looked at me with a moon face not even an inbred, 16th century aristocrat could have mustered. But I didn’t really need her to be “the cultured friend”. I just needed a friend. So we exchanged numbers and I waited an appropriate amount of time to call her without seeming too eager - which I was. She gave me her real phone number which was a step in the right direction and I left a message.

I waited a few days for a response: a call, a text, maybe she had gotten my email from Madeline, something… I got nothing. I had totally been dumped without being given the chance to wear a truly deplorable outfit, or to say something offensive about her culture, or flake for our second date. See how this making friends thing and dating are just different iterations of an exasperating social urge?

So for the next couple of weeks I resigned myself to doing more reading, going to more (bad) yoga classes. Oh yeah, and she was the one who recommended these bad yoga classes that I can’t stop going to because they are so conveniently located and timed with my work schedule. If no one was going to like me, I decided that I would hike more (which is healthier than drinking alone, despite the crazy bug bites) and take some road trips to get the lay of the land (with no one to bother me, I could choose my own music – I have impeccable taste – and I could go wherever I pleased). But hiking solo gets a bit dull. There’s no one to say “Hey, I dare you to eat that purple mushroom” to, and driving alone is tiring and perplexing in a place where roads have no signs and interstates often switch numbers on you like one of those find-the-penny-under-the-cup games. So I decided it was time to play the field again.

This time, my boyfriend set me up on the woman date - she was a friend of his from college. Her name was so cool and alliterative that I thought she couldn’t be for real. I was actually kind of nervous because she works for an NGO, seems to be socially responsible, has lived abroad, is sort of a locavore… man, I was going to have to make up some shit for my friendship resume. Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling all that interesting.

Eight tries and a pile of rumpled clothes resulted in a get-up that suited me and the weather and didn't whimper, "Please, please, PLEASE BE MY FRIEND". Check me out. I decided that I would propose some really neat activities – wow, I just said “neat activities”. I don’t think anyone under the age of ninety wants to hang with someone who hopes to engage in “neat activities”. All right, maybe my “neat activites” wouldn’t fly. But at least I could pick out a good outfit, or purse, or shoes to wear on our first date. Hopefully, I would have a good hair day and my skin would be cooperating rather than reeking havoc on my sense of vanity. Dating friends is so much harder than attracting males. At least when you are on the prowl for a lover, you can always use the temptation (however false it may be) of sex. Plus, flirting is fun - even if you know it’s a road leading nowhere. But there’s no flirting involved in friendship - another reason why making friends and going on woman dates is such an atrocious chore.

But we did go out and we had a fabulous time. We actually got naked on the first date - a fact which reinforces my theory that the success of any date is directly proportional to the amount of nudity involved; woman dates are no exception.

Let me explain the nudity. We went to a very fancy lady's gym (think Curves meets Korean spa meets the Matrix) and pretended to be interested in joining so we could attend a free yoga class. The yoga class was AMAZING. And the spa downstairs was the proverbial cherry on top. I love a good hot tub and being naked totally got me in the mood - for a great meal and good conversation.

So you see, nudity is a requisite for any kind of date. Now, I've got to think of other places where I can meet ladies in their natural state and keep my fingers crossed that they'll like me after I've exposed my true self.