Saturday, December 24, 2011

Not a Creature Was Stirring...

Dear Mouse,

**unintelligible mumbling sound mouth full of cookies**

It's Xmas Eve!

"Santa Baby" last night at Joe's Pub. The Mayor as Santa Claus, The Boo as
Person Pretending Not To Know Santa Claus is really The Mayor.
(He took his pants off right after this.)

Hope you and The Husband are having a beautiful green Christmas down in sunny Florida - !! I'm writing to you from the suddenly Arctic realm of NJ, which is suiting me fine. After days of unseasonable balminess and coatless xmas shopping, December suddenly woke up and, well, made it possible/necessary for me to once again wear this hat:

Wolf Hat. The Gift that keeps on giving.

This will be a short one as it's nearly midnight on Xmas Eve and I have Visiting Faux-Aunt/Fairy Godmother-Style Preparations to attend to. I'm in our home state for Xmas Eve to visit my dear friends Mr. and Mrs. Lawyer (who are never going to speak to me again for giving them that handle which does not at all express their fabulous, creative, artsy personas and culinary prowess(es?)), and their adorable, hilarious 2.5 and 4 year old kids. Witness this exchange between Mom and Son during my last visit:

Mrs. Lawyer: Eli, {The Boo} is a professional actor. Would you like to be an actor someday?
Eli: (thoughtful pause) No. I want to look for god in my spaceship.

Wouldn't you jump at the chance to spend a winter's holiday with that guy?
(I bought him a Wolf Hat.) Not to mention the fact that Mrs. L has been cooking delicious things for me since almost the minute we met, and I'm talking an era in which I myself would not so much as scramble an egg for another person. At least unsupervised. Whatever she brings to the table, I will eat. It has always been this way.

So I thought I'd jump on here briefly to share the recipe which is being mixed up behind me right now! for Xmas Morning Breakfast. As per tradition, she is busy whipping up something wonderful, and I'm standing here running my mouth off.

God bless us, every one.

The Boo

Titusville, NJ Christmas Morning Bread Pudding
(adapted from Bon Appetit)


24 1/4 in. thick challah slices
1 cup half and half
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups lowfat milk
8 eggs
1/4 rum (optional; we're not using it here)
2 tbsp vanilla extract
2 pomegranate's worth of seeds
to finish: confectioner's sugar, rosemary - !

Preheat oven to 400°F. Using 3-inch-diameter round cookie cutter, cut round from each bread slice and arrange on baking sheet. Toast bread rounds in oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
Bring cream, milk, and sugar to simmer in heavy large saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Whisk eggs in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot cream mixture into eggs. Whisk in rum and vanilla.
Butter 9-in round pan. Place some slices of bread in a wreath in the buttered pan and top with some pomegranate seeds. Layer bread and seeds until it's all in there and then pour the custard over the top of it all. Let stand 30 minutes, pressing down on bread occasionally. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Bake bread puddings until tops are puffed and brown, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sacral Chakra Sunshine Soup (say that 3x fast)

Dear Mouse,

** Warning: New Age Discourse Ahead**

What do you get when you take one Boo and add the following:

one aggressively renewed yoga practice with teacher given to standing on people
one bedtime-use mp3 of Deepak Chopra intoning chakra meditations over sitar music
several minor health issues that all seem to be localized in the, say, 'hips' area
a broken toilet
financial woes
...and a personal life that is beginning to resemble an Advanced Douchebaggery Obstacle Course?

This sentence:

"I think it's time to admit that I'm having some Second Chakra Issues."

(OK does anyone not know what that means? Pause for wikipedia visual aid...)

They have the numbers backward! Sigh. But I like this diagram.

The second, sacral, or svadisthana (thank you Deepak) chakra, is associated with the color orange, the huh come to think of it sense of taste, the mantra VAM, issues of creativity/sex/power/control/blame/guilt/finance, and is pretty much what it looks like as far as the physical body is concerned (hips, lower back, unmentionables, kidneys).

Since as usual my aim here is not to teach everyone about something esoteric and fascinating, but instead to talk some more about myself, I'll stop there. (Recipe below! Read on.)

I heard myself say the aforementioned sentence last week to visiting poet friend MM, while pensively chomping on one of her sugary, gummy-bear prenatal vitamins (what? she has a whole bag.) That night, I had a dream. In it, I was sitting by the Hudson River watching a fleet of fast-moving boats, all jetting out to (somehow) the open sea, one after another. The soundtrack (because there was one) sounded very Bollywood and synthesizer-heavy, with a female voice singing a chorus that went "Go find your water.... Go find your water", over and over. I remembered those words upon waking, and mulled them over constantly, until the day after THAT, when, an hour into yoga class, deep in pigeon pose, I heard the teacher say, "This is for your kidneys. Your kidneys are your water."

I went home, consulted google, found out that the kidneys are associated with the sacral chakra, and thought "It's on." The cure would begin with... food. (Natch.) Apparently Svadisthana responds well to liquids, sweet fruits, nuts, and of course anything orange.

Today, I made this soup and I heartily recommend it no matter the status of your Second Wheel. It's spicy, sweet, hearty, delicious, and looks like a bowl of sunshine. Loosely based on Ina Garten's "Roasted Butternut Squash Soup", it's a great way to spend a winter's lunch hour. I'd say add a loaf of crusty bread, but I'm pretty sure that's for your solar plexus.


The Boo

The Boo's 2nd Chakra Sunshine Soup


1 pckg (1.5lbs?) butternut squash cubes
1 bag (1lb? I think) baby carrots (or 1-in carrot pieces)
2 Macintosh apples
2-4 C chicken broth
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 onion
olive oil (2-3 tbsp)
salt, pepper
orange juice (to taste)

Preheat oven to 425. Chop onion and apples to one-in pieces. You can also chop the squash/carrots if they're looking too big. Put apples, squash, carrots, onions on a baking sheet (you may need two) in a single layer. Toss with olive oil. Roast for 35-45 min. Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a soup pot on the stove. When the veggies are done roasting and are very soft, puree some or all (I like a mix) in a food processor with some of the broth, then add it back to the soup pot. Add curry powder, salt, and pepper. Then add a splash of orange juice, taste, see if it needs more salt/pepper. Add more chicken broth if you want, more orange juice, whatever, to desired volume/consistency. I would caution only against adding more curry powder as it will be too much of a muchness. I also recommend a few drops of sriracha just before serving, to heat up your bowl of sunshine even more.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chick-fil-OY (see what I did there?)

Dear Boo,

You know how when you learn a new word, or first meet someone, all of a sudden you start hearing that word or name everywhere you go? This is what happened to me back in November of 2008 when I was introduced for the first time to Chick-Fil-A. Let me preface this by saying that if you are from the southern or midwestern part of our fair country, you most likely just gasped with horror that I lived twenty-something years of a life devoid of this pleasure. All it takes is an utterance of the (ridiculous) restaurant name to see that wistful, hungry-eyed, salivating look come over the face of the devoted Chick-fil-A fan in your midst. And man, are they devoted. Chick-Fil-A was recently voted the third most beloved restaurant chain in the country, and a quick visit to their facebook page shows close to 5 million likes, just a few more than A Mouse Bouche has. While on their page I was tempted to click the "like" button, myself. Heck, their sandwiches are some of the best chicken sandwiches I've tasted. Anywhere. I was not immune to the Chick-fil-A magic, and fell in love the first time I took a bite. But I just couldn't do it. I couldn't click it. Why? Well, I'm glad you asked.

Back to 2008. I was on my way with the then Boyfriend to celebrate Thanksgiving at his sister's home in Virginia. We had decided to fly to D.C., where we met his other sister and her family, spent the day doing some sight-seeing with their kids, and then all piled into the car to drive the two hours (holiday traffic translation: 4 hours) to our final destination. After hours on the road following a long, wet, and freezing afternoon trekking around the Capitol, despite the fact that we knew there would be a feast waiting for us upon our arrival, we just had to stop for sustenance. Off the highway, somewhere in Virginia, I took a bite of my first Chick-fil-a sandwich. It was heavenly, though I couldn't quite explain why. The chicken was moist and perfectly crunchy, the bun pillowy and toasted with--was that a touch of butter? The pickles gave it a sweet and sour crunch and even without the added assorted sauces, it was flavorful, salty and dare I say, complex. Despite my disdain for fast food, I was an instant convert. I dreamed about that sandwich until that Christmas when, back in Tampa, I had the chance to indulge in another one, this time with waffle fries and a surprisingly delicious salad.

Between bites, the Boyfriend gave me some history on the brand. Founded by S. Truett Cathy in Georgia in 1967, the company is known not only for its delicious chicken sandwiches, but for its devotion to Christian values. The restaurant and all of its franchises are closed on Sundays. Their corporate purpose statement indicates that the company exists "That we might glorify God by being a faithful steward in all that is entrusted to our care, and that we might have a positive influence on all the people that we might come in contact with." They have an extensive scholarship program, a foundation, and even foster homes. They have basketball tournaments for kids. I could get behind all this. No one was prostelytizing while I ate my sandwich. The napkins were devoid of lines of scripture. And who doesn't want Sundays off? I returned to NYC with a heavy heart, knowing it might be a full year before I could have another taste.

Back in the city, all of a sudden Chick-fil-A was everywhere (and you thought I wouldn't bring this back around). A girl I was doing a show with happened to mention that her husband (from Texas) had founded a movement to bring Chick-fil-A to NYC, even creating a facebook page to garner support for the effort. Historically, Mr. Cathy has refused any bid to open a store in New York (too many heathens? Jews?). Later that week, a friend dropped that there is a "secret" Chick-fil-A in Manhattan, inside an NYU cafeteria, which low and behold, was located across the street from the Social Work building where I had just begun school. And then, a day later, as though God was sending me a message, I was walking down the street near my apartment, minding my own business when a woman approached me out of nowhere to ask where she could find this magical Chick-fil-A location. I kept meaning to go for lunch between classes, but something kept stopping me. Was it the calorie count? Or something more sinister?

Fast forward a bit. Chick-fil-A is appearing everywhere yet again. There's a flurry of online news articles about the the company's support of anti-gay groups, totaling $2 million in 2009 alone. I spot a flyer in the student lounge at NYU inviting me to a forum to find out "the truth" of Chick-fil-A's politics and practices. Then I learn about a 2002 lawsuit involving a Muslim franchise owner who sued when he says he was fired after he refused to join in a company prayer because of his religious beliefs (I don't claim to know the full story, and the terms of the settlement are undisclosed). Then I hear that potential franchise owners of Chick-fil-A stores have to disclose their marital status, dependents, and involvement in community organizations, including churches, and that the company prefers to hire married workers since they tend to be happier and more hard-working (in case you're not sure, married=heterosexual, though either way, the bias is pretty clear). Then I read that one of Chick-fil-A's charitable arms, Winshape, who runs a retreat center where they often host marriage conferences involving anti-gay, "pro-family" groups, has blantantly said they do not welcome homosexual couples at the retreat. And then, to top it off, this story comes out! I mean, you're going to attack KALE? in VERMONT? Good luck with that, buddy.

And so it was, that my love affair with the Chicken Classic came to an abrupt end. For a few blissfully ignorant months, I was one of the fanatic few, who jonesed for a location in NYC, spoke longingly of the sandwich I ate six months ago, and agreed to a layover in the Atlanta airport just so I could have lunch there.

Here's the thing. I have nothing against the company's Christian message. If your devotion to your spirituality means you feel it should guide every aspect of your life, then why not let it guide your work life as well? And if the principles of those beliefs are "being a positive influence" on those around you, then great! I wish more corporations took that to heart (since, as people, they must have hearts, right?). And I'm all for scholarships! And basketball tournaments! And foster homes (well, that depends...)! But I'm having a hard time reconciling a positive influence on others, with supporting groups who promote hate towards any of god's children, like the Family Research Council, who has actually been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (great organization--check them out) because of their aggressive anti-LGBT stance. Chick-fil-A is well within their legal rights to give money to whomever they choose (though not to discriminate in their employment practices, AHEM), no matter how despicable, hateful, or ignorant. And I am happy to exercise my legal right to spend my money elsewhere.

Like on this sandwich, which may just put the Chick-fil-A to shame.

From Tebaya, a local restaurant around the corner of my apartment, it is the perfect Asian take on the gloriousness of the CFA sandwich. The chicken katsu sandwich is two (TWO!) breaded fried chicken patties slathered with a special sweet miso sauce, a bit of wasabi dressing, and a layer of crunchy cole slaw on a buttery fluffy bun. It's ridiculously delicious, and a great alternative to Chick-fil-A, which frankly, even if you support their politics, you'd be hard-pressed to find in NYC (minus that secret location, though you'll have to pose as an NYU student).

You know that for me, tasty food is a priority. I will compromise on a lot of things for a good snack. But in this case, I just can't stomach it.

I'll miss you, Chick-fil-A. Change your ways and I'll be the first new 'like' you'll get on facebook.


The Mouse