Lemon Bars & Baseball Memories

I’m afraid my entries have been quite haphazard post-contest and so I’m hoping today will be the beginning of a new rhythm here (as I begin to sing, “To the beat of the rhythm of the night” in my head…). Or maybe not. Maybe I’ve just been paranoid.

In any event…my parents were in town last week which should (partially) explain the sporadic (read: no) posting. My mother and I were wandering around SoHo and went into Dean & Deluca and I was kind of surprised to see what sad-looking pies they have there. The cakes were pretty impressive (irises made out of frosting!)…but the pies not so much. I wonder if it was a fluke…or if there’s a real opportunity there. (My dad and I had a serious “chat” about my fledgling pie biz over dinner one night…)

There were probably a million other food-related things I thought about last week and I totally intended to blog about each and every one of them, but I didn’t take very good notes and so that’s really all I remember. I did, however, feel compelled to make lemon bars this weekend. I’ve never made them before…and they seem kind of spring-like, don’t they? (I actually borrowed a roasting pan around Thanksgiving from a friend of a friend…and if memory serves, lemon bars are one of her favorites…I have neglected to return said roasting pan…so I should really save some of these lemon bars and wrap them lovingly in her roasting pan before I ring the doorbell and run away…)

I also came across an 8-layer cake in Saveur – apparently a traditional Maryland treat? I decided it would be good for May birthdays in my office…but then wondered whether or not the amount of work would be justified…(More later.).

And I totally forgot about softball cupcakes and a banana cream pie that I have also promised to produce this week. What’s it they say? No rest for the weary?

Regarding lemon bars again: I was actually surprised there weren’t more recipes in all of the books I have (I *still* don’t have a computer at home and hence could not access epicurious.com). The New Best Recipe book was the only one that had one. I was also kind of shocked by how many eggs go into a curd. (I HATE eggs. I obviously bake with them…but I do not eat them for breakfast.)

It was also kind of fun that you have to force the curd through a sieve before pouring it on the crust – harkens back to my pudding-making days…

And I guess it’s time for me to invest in a candy thermometer, because I had to use my meat thermometer again to gauge the temperature of the curd and it was supposed to read 170 when it was done, but I only got it up to 160 when it boiled and thickened and I obviously had to take it off the heat. (I also think folks were kind of grossed out about me using a meat thermometer when I made the grasshopper pie – just for the record, I don’t think I’ve actually used it to measure the temperature of meat yet…and even if I had, I definitely washed it before plunging it into the pea-soup-colored goo.)

I also had to grate quite a few lemons…and I *almost* bought a lemon zester while I was at Dean & Deluca with my mother, but I decided against it. (I – shhh – just use a cheese grater.) It might have been nice to have the actual zester though…as my mother says it makes it really easy.

The verdict? It’s kind of exciting to make something new (“I made curd!”)…even though I was a little nervous that I was using the wrong size pan (I have 8″ square; it’s supposed to be 9). And I probably baked it a little too long as one corner looked a bit, well, curdle-y. But all in all they turned out pretty good. (One of the best things about baking bars and brownies and the like is that you can cut them up before transporting them anywhere and so you can sample a decent-sized piece and no one is any wiser. Except that I kind of inhaled a bunch of confectioner’s sugar before my first bite of lemon bar…which somewhat dampened the overall experience.)

So…it just so happens that the Braves were playing the Dodgers as I was making these lemon bars. And I was really surprised to see the Braves wearing red (do they have new home uniforms??). It also took me down memory lane – so indulge me for a bit…

My sophomore year at UCLA, I organized an outing to Dodger Stadium for my floormates. We were a pretty close bunch and we did a lot of stuff together…

And there was a boy…

We’ll call him Jeff. He lived on my floor…but I didn’t meet him until around the holidays because I can be a *bit* of a shut-in sometimes…and it wasn’t until my roommate (who prided herself on being the shallowest person I know) literally dragged me kicking and screaming to a pizza party that I met this Jeff…who it turns out had been living down the hall from me for months. And this may sound weird if I say it like this – I immediately thought he was the greatest person ever because he was kind of like the male version of me. We both spent our formative years in the South; we both came to UCLA because our dads lived in the state and we were eligible for in-state tuition; we both really liked baseball; we were both studying English (he was actually minoring in it…Neuroscience was his major…and he got all excited about the brain being the last frontier and how there were all sorts of things he wanted to discover about it…and I completely swooned); and I think our birthdays were, like, 5 days apart. I was convinced he was my soul mate.

I was in a community service group called – don’t laugh – the Bruin Belles (it used to be some sort of escort-y type service for visiting sports teams…but by the time I got there, we just did good deeds!)…and, like any good community service-themed sorority-like organization, we had a winter formal. Now, I am not brave by any stretch of the imagination, but I knew that Jeffs were not a dime a dozen, so I decided to circuitously ask him to accompany me to the Bruin Belles Winter Formal (could I be any more pathetic??)…but really just as friends. And, shockingly, he complied. It wasn’t the greatest night of my entire life…but it wasn’t half-bad. And – really – can you ask for much more from something called the Bruin Belles Winter Formal?

In any event, after I did a big brave thing by not *quite* asking him out, the ball was definitely in his court and he actually did call me up and actually did want to do stuff together again. My imagination ran wild – I planned our wedding and named our children in between the phone call and the designated night of our first actual “date” I guess it would have been. Keeping in mind that Jeff lived on my floor – and, don’t get me wrong – it was a big floor – but I was working on an English paper and had my door open, waiting for him to knock and then promptly sweep me off my feet. He had been visiting his dad earlier that day…and so when Jeff did not knock on my door, I assumed he got caught in traffic and continued to plug away at my English paper. Then one of our neighbors stopped by and I told him I was waiting for Jeff and he said, “Oh! I just saw him in the bathroom.” So…I waited some more. But still no Jeff. I *might* have called. I *might* have actually walked down the hall. But eventually it became clear that there was not going to be any Jeff.

My roommate, meanwhile, never really liked him (she said he dressed like a little boy…and even went as far as calling me a “pedophile” once for liking him so much). And she was always eager to get me dressed up and take me out with her sorority sisters who I suppose she deemed more desirable than my faux community service “sisters.” We also had roommate contracts on this floor that stipulated certain things like cleaning and studying and noise levels. In our roommate contract, we specified that vacuuming would be done once a week and that we would alternate. So…I did it the first week…and then it was never done again. And I refused to vacuum on principle, but I never ceased to remind my roommate of the possibility of vacuuming whenever I saw the vacuum outside our floor leader’s door. So…one day I tried to renew my passport in LA – which turned out to be the weirdest day of my entire life and is certainly a story for another time – and I returned to our hallowed floor and just wanted to hide away in my room. My roommate had big plans to go out that night and tried to convince me to go out with her. I declined. She whined. I told her that if it would make her feel better, she could dress me up however she wanted to, but I wasn’t leaving our room. So…she happily outfitted me in a pleather and pasted glitter on my eyelids , etc. , etc.

Now, when I came home I saw the vacuum outside of our floor leader’s door and so I had gently reminded her that instead of going out that night, she could vacuum…and when she was done giving me a makeover, she said, “Lisa? Is that vacuum still outside of Dan’s door?” and I was so excited by the prospect of her vacuuming that I ran to peek out in the hallway…and the next thing I knew, I saw her running toward the door to slam it shut. Luckily, she gave me some huge heels and I was able to shove a toe in between the door and the frame to prevent it from closing…and I begged her, “Please let me back in. I look ridiculous. I can’t be out here. Please just let me back in.”

And – story of my life – out of the corner of my eye, I saw a person emerge from the end of the hallway and start to walk toward me. My begging became more frantic, “Please, please let me back in.”

My roommate, slightly giddy – drunk on her own power – says, “Not until you promise to come out with us tonight!”

I tried to explain that I’d had a really ridiculous day and I just wanted to stay at home…when she noticed I was getting increasingly frantic and she said, “Why are you so upset? It’s not like he’s out there.”

And through clenched teeth, I said, “Yes…he is…” just as Jeff breezed past me in this ridiculous get-up and said something like, “Hittin’ the town tonight?” to which I had to say, “Yes…yes I am.”

The point of this whole thing is that the Braves/Dodgers game came a bit later in that same school year…and I was kind of on the fence about whether to invite Jeff or not. Ultimately I decided to tell him about it since he was such a big baseball fan…but he was wish-washy…and then he decided that he would actually come, but he was kind of standoffish the whole time and I had to accept that maybe he wasn’t my soul mate.

This was in the height of my Javier Lopez obsession, so obviously I was wearing a Lopez t-shirt…and at one point during the game, a man yelled, “Hey, Lopez, sit down!” and my friend thought it was the funniest thing in the world that I responded to the name “Lopez.” I tried to explain that I knew what I was wearing, but no dice.

It’s probably kind of ridiculous to say all this here – like I said, I’m still trying to figure out how to blog without a contest to link it all to…but I am reminded of Hedrick Hall when I think of the Braves and the Dodgers.


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