Category Archives: pie

Road Trip Roundup, By the Numbers

2029: Miles we drove.

7: States we visited. Also, the number of days we were gone.

9: Episode of Dexter Season 5 that I found profoundly disappointing after watching it in hotel that had cable because I couldn’t wait for it to come out on DVD and which I hope is not a harbinger of the entire season.

4: Chicken wings in the “Midnight Train” entrée at Gladys Knight Chicken & Waffles.

13: Years since I’ve had the Beverly at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.

239: Age of the Old Pinke House in Savannah.

14: Miles over the speed limit I was driving when pulled over for the first time in South Carolina by cop who said he’d have to take me to jail if he wrote me a ticket because I have an out-of-state license and, who, thankfully, let me go.

1: Tire change on a national holiday in a Waffle House parking lot.

24: Jeff Gordon’s number, which I learned at the Nascar Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

12: Cans of Cheerwine we brought back with us.

25: State license plates we counted.

36: Dead animals we saw on the side of the road.

And…about a zillion: Number of Led Zeppelin songs I heard.

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Filed under chickens, dishes, entrees, frying, holidays, pie

Goodbye, Libby’s (At Least For Now)

This year, I carved my first pumpkin in a long, long time. The last pumpkin I carved was based on advice from Martha Stewart (or the like) when I was working at a credit union in Fairbanks. My office held a carving contest and my pumpkin was truly something to behold – I made a leaf pattern and cut out leaves around the pumpkin, carved veins in them, and then pushed the leaves partially back through the holes in the pumpkin so that when I lit it up, the leaves looked like they were floating around said pumpkin and glowed. But — story of my life — the pumpkin rotted and liquefied the night before judging and I lost.

I can’t say this year’s pumpkin was a triumphant return, but it was nice to feel festive again.

I *also* decided that for the first time ever, I would roast the seeds instead of tossing them out…and, boy, am I glad I did! It was sort of hard to find a recipe I liked…so I ended up just rinsing them, tossing them in olive oil, adding salt and roasting on a sheet pan at about 300 degrees for 45 minutes. They were perfect! My mother said it was really hard to get all the orange pumpkin gunk off of them, but I didn’t think it was actually that bad. And it turned out that T’s favorites were the ones that were a little darker because they were roasted with gunk on.

I also heard that you should consider boiling the seeds first…but I thought the roasted seeds were fine sans boiling.

Now my goal is to make a pie from an actual pumpkin. I’ve never done that before either. And even though my baking enthusiasm has dimmed considerably and may never be what it once was, I’d still like to try out real pie this year. Another friend had a taste test last year in which she made a pie from scratch and a pie from a can and asked guests to guess which was which. It seemed obvious to me — the pie made from real pumpkin was a darker color and sort of less pleasant to look at…although I don’t actually remember how they tasted (…which may actually be because I thought the canned pumpkin pie tasted better, but I am too ashamed to admit it).

But, as a general rule, I’ve been perfectly happy with Libby’s all my life. There – I said it. If that makes me Whiskey Tango, so be it.

So I’m not sure I’ll turn pie-from-an-actual-pumpkin into a holiday tradition for years to come. But, like seeing Mount Rushmore or going waterskiing, it seems like something I should do once in life.

And yet…the Web seems to be barren of useful pie-from-a-pumpkin resources. Could it be that the difference is negligible and so no one bothers?

Granted, my research was not as exhaustive as it perhaps could have been, but every pie recipe I saw on Epicurious.com (my favorite!) called for canned pumpkin. Ditto FoodNetwork.com.

And I’m surprised that given the annual food mag task of making old Thanksgiving news new again that they haven’t jumped all over this. I would think that Alton Brown of all people would have made a pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin at least once — after all, I saw him harvest coconut using a power drill — but, alas, I cannot find a recipe from him either.

Thankfully, my go-to cookbook when the Internet fails — The Joy of Cooking — has perfect instructions. I will give it a shot soon (and maybe make a Libby’s pie, too, just for old times’ sake) and report back.

And…just a reminder: There are rumors of another canned pumpkin shortage this year…so if you don’t want to experiment with real pumpkins, make sure to pick up a can of Libby’s before the Thanksgiving rush!

Image via cardamom/Flickr

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Filed under Alaska, books, Food Network, Halloween, holidays, pie, pumpkins

Who Cares What Nation’s Restaurant News Thinks? Here’s My Top 10.

On the same day the New York Times wrote about Pop-Tarts World, the Huffington Post added this blurb from a Nation’s Restaurant News report on America’s favorite restaurant chains.

Cheesecake Factory topped the list. And while some of my favorite restaurant chains were on the list, they missed some good’uns. So…if I ruled the world (or at least Nation’s Restaurant News), the list would have looked like this:

10. Quiznos/Subway — I like toasted sandwiches and LOVE QUIZNOS’ CATS. I could also go for a sandwich from Subway with everything in it — even the peppers — just about any day of the week. But only if it has everything.

9. In-N-Out — While I think In-N-Out is somewhat overrated — YES, I JUST SAID THAT — it’s a classic burger joint and it does things right, which earns it a spot at #9.

8. Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s — They clearly won me over with the ads featuring scantily clad Paris, Padma and Audrina + that French-talking mouth app. (Why, yes, I *did* write about it for ClickZ…)

7. Swensen’s — I have found memories of getting ice cream here as a child. Unfortunately, all I can remember is that it was good.

6. Coco’s — I used to go with my grandmother (who hid in a booth in a corner). I have fond memories of Coco’s southwestern melt (see? Told you I like toasted sandwiches….) and boysenberry pie.

5. Panera — This joint has one hell of a muffin…and was also the focal point of my first (…and admittedly only…) story in the Wall Street Journal.

4. Sizzler — A popular joint with my maternal grandmother. I loved the cheese toast and was once a bit of a smartass when the manager asked if everything was okay and ended up with an entire platter of it.

3. Baja Fresh — I perhaps love nothing more than Mexican food. And I think this place does a fine job. I don’t care if Wendy’s owns it.

2. Chevy’s — Annnd…I don’t care what Jonathan R. Duke says either. I love this place. Always have, always will. And I have the birthday sombreros in my closet to prove it. The cookbook proved to be a little overly complicated, but that’s just fine — gives me a more powerful excuse to go there in person.

1. Waffle House — I also have fond memories of the Waffle House, which I will forever associate with my brief stint in Mississippi and Georgia. Plus, their menu development team was genius — who doesn’t like saying, “Scattered, smothered, covered…”?

Image via Stevie Rocco/Flickr

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Filed under books, cheesecake, entrees, grilled cheese, ice cream, Mississippi, pie, UCLA

St. Patrick’s Day with Mike Meyers, Judy Garland, Hal, Mal, Jill, Lance Romance, a Whole Lot of Tammies and One Single Barbie.

(…even though I’m not sure any of them are/were Irish…)

I feel like I’ve been in such a rut lately…and, like Austin Powers, my mojo is gone. But…to carry the analogy a bit further, I’ve been unable to find my Dr. Evil and somehow learn a powerful Dorothy-esque lesson that I never really lost it at all.

I still haven’t been baking much…even though a friend recently took me to Costco and I got 72 ounces of chocolate chips and could theoretically bake cookies for every last one of the 2,556,598 people who live in Brooklyn. And, sure, *that* would be one heck of a post…but…let’s be realistic.

Today is March 14…or 3.14…or Pi…which I suppose means I should be making pies. But I’m not. Cat-sitting, yes. Old-bill-shredding, yes. Laundry-doing, yes. Book-draft-tweaking, yes. Golden-Girls-watching, yes. But…pie-baking, no.

I just sort of accepted that maybe I’m not going to have anything to write about for awhile. And…I’ve been pitching stories — a girl’s gotta eat — and I was trying to think of some good ideas for St. Patrick’s Day and *that* got me thinking about the Sweet Potato Queens of Jackson, Mississippi and their yearly parade (or, rather, the yearly parade they march in…) and I realized the timing is perfect and I *do* actually have something to write about now.

For the uninitiated, the Sweet Potato Queens are a group of women in Jackson who dress up in spangly green outfits with pink fur and fringe and big red wigs with sparkly crowns and accentuated body parts. They march in Hal and Mal’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade every year and are led by Jill Conner Browne, who calls herself the “Boss Queen,” and has written numerous books on being a Queen that are both amusing and empowering…even though I sort of feel like if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. She’s a good writer — and has definitely found her niche — but I think (and I mean this in the nicest way possible as I really do think it’s a good example of someone who found a way to make a living doing something she loves…) it’s the same brand of fiery Southernisms packaged under different themes, like Love or Money or Divorce or Getting Older. Nothing wrong with it. Just…like I said, if you’ve read one, you pretty much know the gist. (Although…to be fair, I don’t think I’ve read anything after the Big-Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner).

And yet…despite the repetition or whatever, I really like those ladies and part of me wishes I was en route to Jackson for next weekend’s parade.

I went to the parade one year while I was living there…but I only vaguely remember the very end in which Tiny Tim — the Grand Marshal that year — passed by on the back of a convertible with his ukulele. And…it sort of begs the question how I could possibly miss and/or not remember a brassy gang of Southern women in sequined outfits and giant boobs who go by “Tammy” while Lance Romance tickles the ivory and they dance on a float…but I have absolutely no recollection of them. It’s kind of sad. I guess I had different priorities circa 1994…

A few things I *do* remember about the Magnolia State:

  • The boiled (pronounced “bald”) peanuts sold on the side of the road by an old guy with a crusty nose. When my mother first saw his sign, she said, “P-Nuts? What’s that? Pine nuts?” and our real estate agent furrowed her brow and said, “No. Peanuts.”
  • The prisoners wore pants with big green and white stripes and served lunch at a barbecue festival called Red Hot in July…which was a little weird. I’ve never had a felon serve me food before. (I don’t think.)
  • I had my first pulled pork sandwich at Red Hot and Blue (which my parents tried to find again when passing through Jackson last year but it maybe doesn’t exist anymore?).
  • My dad’s coworkers called him, “Mr. Brian,” because they wanted to be respectful, but also friendly…
  • I was on the yearbook staff with the mayor’s son and I played basketball with the Secretary of Agriculture’s daughter…and we had a dress code that said we could only wear t-shirts from the school itself or from colleges…and every time someone walked into the gym in a Yale shirt, my basketball coach would scream and when that person looked around, confused, he’d say, “Well it said, ‘Yale,'” but he pronounced “yell,” and “Yale,” just about exactly the same…or if anyone walked in with a shirt from say, Brown, that wasn’t Brown, he LOVED saying, “That ain’t brown, that’s blue!” (or gray or white or whatever). He was born in California, but only lived there for a few months when he was an infant…and yet still felt we had some sort of bond because of it. “My mama said you could get green beans real cheap there,” he’d say. He was the first person I ever met who actually chewed tobacco and he would spit it into the back of his truck. And, for whatever reason, I can remember him talking about getting fire ants in the innards of his truck and watching them spit out at him when he turned on the AC.
  • Mississippi also introduced me to king cake and beignets (I’m not a big fan of either)…fried pickles (which I like better), a grocery store chain called Jitney Jungle…and the sweetest little four-year-old boy named Connor who used to live next door to me and who I used to babysit every Saturday night. He saw Free Willy and fell in love with orcas…and, 15 years later, I still have a drawing on my refrigerator that he made for me with the Ross Barnett Reservoir and his house and some boats and the warning, “No Killing Orcas.” It’s really scary to think that he’s 19 now…and the same age as Levi Johnston. He was just such a sweet little boy…and — spoiler alert — I’ve often thought that if I ever have a son, the name Connor will be at the top of my list.

These are just random memories from Mississippi…and don’t likely paint a very good picture. I haven’t been back since…1996? 1997? I imagine a lot has changed. But it’s what I remember. (And I say this even after catching a little bit of Wanda Sykes last night in which she interviewed Constance McMillen and said that Mississippi always has a knack for being on the wrong side of history…and…gotta admit she sorta had a point…)

Back to the Queens: I’m not really sure how Jill Conner Browne became the Boss Queen…but I’m glad she did. She’s definitely on the list of people I admire (…and whose career paths I wouldn’t mind following…) From what I’ve gathered in her books, it sounds like things haven’t always been easy for her — she’s divorced and was a single mother and it took her a long time to find the Cutest Boy in the World…so, I mean, I guess I see her as another example of how important it is to be tenacious and that things work out when they’re meant to be…even if it doesn’t always make sense when you’re in the thick of it. (Amen? [Seemed the appropriate way to end that paragraph…])

And, heck, I think this whole thing got started when she decided to declare herself a queen one day. Which sort of begs the question why I don’t just call myself the Queen of Something and get the ball rolling. But I can’t really think of anything that I’d like to be the Queen of — Artichokes? Endives? Soybeans? — nor do I really have a place to march…or anyone to play the piano for me as I do it. Although — one thing’s for sure: I’m pretty sure the Sweet Potato Queens got the boob thing right. I have a friend who went as Doralee from 9 to 5 for Halloween…and she told me that she learned that men do not care what your boobs are made of as long as they are huge. So…perhaps the lesson here is that I should get a boob job if I want a successful media career?

Or…I could always marry a pop star from the 70s?

Frank Bruni wrote a story recently about Katie Lee (formerly Joel)…and, gotta say, I envy this chick’s life. Basically everything I want to do (with the exception of my own cooking show and marrying Billy Joel), she’s either done or has in the works: the Chelsea-Handler-esque collection of short stories; the monthly entertaining column in Cosmo; the Good Morning America appearances…if I had accomplished any one of those things, I might be happy to rest on my laurels for all eternity. (It also sort of reminds me of those bumper stickers that say, “I want to be just like Barbie — that bitch has everything!” Except my bumper sticker would say, “I want to be just like Katie Lee…”? No. That can’t be right either…)

Or, you know, maybe I can just print my resume on a shirt…?

I’m not sure how we ended up here. It’s a long way from existential crises to Happy St. Patrick’s Day…but, believe it or not, that was my point. So. I’ll slam the brakes and throw this post in reverse and wrap things up with, “Don’t forget to wear green on Wednesday! And have a happy St. Patty’s Day…!”

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Filed under books, Brooklyn, chocolate, cookies, feminism, Halloween, holidays, Mississippi, pickles, pie, St. Patrick's Day

Going — Pardon Me — Bananas

Well, folks, I’m coming to realize that writing about food doesn’t bring me nearly as much joy as it used to…or maybe it’s that I’ve come to embrace self-involvement and can finally admit that writing about myself is much more enjoyable.

Either way, it’s been a long time since I’ve written about food — and only food. So…any of you old school Tasty Lacy’s fans who are still with me — and have disapproved of recent off-topic jaunts — will hopefully find solace in the following paragraphs.

Last Saturday — January 23 — was National Pie Day. So, yes, this post is very much belated. But…it’s still coming in with plenty of time for Pi Day on March 14 — you still have about six weeks to prepare. And…because I still feel guilty nearly a year later for stiffing the woman who bet on my pie lesson at the Social Media for Social Change auction last April, I wanted to humbly offer up some Pie Tips — or what I envision I would have passed on to her during that lesson she never received.

So, without further ado: All My Secrets That Are Too Late For Pie Day, But Are Just in Time for Pi Day…

1. Make sure the water you use for your crust is ice-cold. Some books/experts will tell you to refrigerate your crust before you roll it out. I say don’t bother. Instead, I just make measuring out the water my first step and throw in a couple of ice cubes while I’m at it and let it get nice and cold while I’m measuring flour and Crisco. That’s it.

2. Invest in a pastry blender if you don’t already have one. This may gross out some of you, but I really like to use my hands when mixing a crust…and I’ve found it’s a lot easier if you mix the flour/Crisco with a pastry blender first to get it started…and *then* use your hands to finish it and get those nice flaky bits. Besides, your hands are going to get gross and Crisc0-y when you roll it out anyway…so I figure you might as well dig in early on. But only after using a pastry blender or it’ll take you forever.

3. A pie crust shield will change your life. Sure, you can use strips of foil over and over again. But…it’s not very green *and*, quite frankly, it’s a pain in the ass to fold those stupid strips over each other and to get them to stay put. And then you have to be uber-careful when putting the pie in the oven because you don’t want one of those delicate strips to fall off. So…I say, “Screw the strips!” and you should cough up the — ahem — dough for a pie crust shield that you can just throw on top of pies time and time again.

That’s basically it. I wish I had more tricks up my sleeve…but, to be honest, I really think the secret to making good pies is a lot of practice. My aunt makes the most beautiful pies…and she’s been making them for years. I hope that if I keep this up that I’ll, for example, eventually be able to roll out a top crust and place it over the bottom crust and pinch the edges and not have any excess on the sides. I think in pie terms, that’s the sign that you’ve truly made it.

But, sadly (or not so much…), I didn’t actually make a regular crust for NPD 2010. (And, despite my earlier assertion that it’s really all about me and, “To heck with food blogging!”, I *would* like to do an experiment and compare a Crisco crust to a lard crust. I think it would be fascinating! Honestly. And maybe it’ll be a good project for 3/14. We’ll see.)

In the meantime…I knew there was no way I could possibly recreate the magic of NPD 2009 — thanks, in part, to Franimate, Social Medium and Half-Man/Half-Press-Release — so, as I noted in my “Come Celebrate NPD 2010 with Me”-email (and maybe even in my last blog post?), I was on the fence about celebrating this year…but I ultimately decided I’d regret it if I didn’t. And, plus, I’m on this big traditions kick, and it would make me very much a hypocrite if I let the opportunity to firmly establish a yearly pie tradition pass me by. So. I decided to make Emeril’s banana cream pie (while my folks were driving back from Tennessee, they stopped at a restaurant — I guess one of Emeril’s in Florida, Mississippi or Louisiana [thanks to Popeye’s, I heard, “Louisiana…Fast!” in my head as I typed that] — and couldn’t get his banana cream pie and it was supposed to be the best banana cream pie ever and my mom was really disappointed). And…it turns out that Emeril’s banana cream pie has a graham cracker crust.

A quick review: This is one damn good pie. And I find that I say that every time I have to make my own pudding…which begs the question why I don’t make my own pudding more often. It called for an awful lot of actual bananas cut up and placed ON the pudding…and I decided that it would be prettier if I made some whipped cream and whacked it on top and then gently flung caramel sauce across it…which was a good idea in theory…but my caramel sauce was a little too warm when I flung it and so it melted the whipped cream a bit…and, as per usual, the pie could have been prettier. But…it was good! So…no harm, no foul.

The problem *now* is that I have all these bananas left over…and so I was trying to dream up banana recipes to get rid of them. Normally I’d make banana bread, but my friend contributed a loaf to Pie Day…and so I was actually thinking about banana fritters for a bit. My mom used to make them when I was little. I have fond memories. There’s a banana fritters recipe in our family cookbook…and so, just out of curiosity, I asked my mother where she got it and she said it was actually my paternal grandmother’s…and I was still interested in learning more about fritters in general, so I Googled and they appear to be a Southern thing…or kind of Soul Food-y or Caribbean-y…or even something that hails from West Africa, according to Epicurious…which sort of surprised me. I have no idea where my Norwegian grandmother — who lived virtually her entire life in San Francisco — originally got the recipe.

But, after all that, I don’t think I’m going to make fritters…I have this hunch that it’s one of those things that was really great as a kid but that might be a little heavy for the Lisa of today to eat over and over again. Instead, I think those bananas are going to become filling for my favorite empanadas. So…in addition to a freelance piece and officially finishing my proposal (…knock on wood…), that’s what I’ll be making this afternoon…and consuming this week.

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Filed under bananas, blogs, books, Brooklyn, holidays, pie, pudding

My Final Julie/Julia Reference of 2009…

There are times I feel all alone in this world and there are times I feel really loved. Christmas this year was one of the latter.

And…it wasn’t actually just being with family in any sort of traditional sense (with the drinking of eggnog by the fire and/or staring deep into each others’ eyes near the fir). In fact — and this doesn’t mean in any way that I haven’t had the time of my life baking sugar cookies and wrapping presents and learning that “niece” also means “illegitimate daughter of an ecclesiastic,” and signing a card for my cousin by calling him “Uncley Dick,” and making plans for the Dead Squirrel Museum in Madison (you get my point?) – but…it was also very much because of people I didn’t actually spend Christmas with at all. And you can’t blame me completely for feeling gooey now because I watched “Julie & Julia” last night (one of my gifts!) and that movie always warms my heart and makes me happy.

But…my sister got a copy of Julie & Julia SIGNED for me. As in, Julie Powell actually *wrote* *out* *my* *full* *name* — first and last! — and told me to keep writing. I can’t believe it. It’s one of the – if not the – best gifts I’ve ever gotten. Her story just means so much to me – as I’ve written countless times before, so I won’t beat a dead horse, but…it just reminds me that each of us has the power to change our lives in positive ways…and while it may be hard to figure out how to do that exactly (and it may in fact be quite discouraging!)…the point is that we all can.

And, you know, the movie *also* reminds me that it would be nice to have a sweet man by my side in the vein of an Eric or a Paul…who would hold my hand during my meltdowns — and we all know there are plenty to choose from… — but, after reading Cleaving, I guess I also have to acknowledge that relationships are tough and, like my mother says, if everyone threw their problems into a room, we’d all run back in and grab our own. So maybe I’m better off on my own two feet for now. (I am, after all, trying to be more zen and trust the universe…) In the grand scheme of things, I’m doing fine. And, as noted above, there were plenty of reminders this Christmas that I’m not actually alone in this world at all.

And I’m realizing this reflects just how clingy and needy I am if I require constant confirmations that people in my life do, in fact, care about me…which can’t help but remind me of an ill-advised and overly long (no, wait – “overly long,” doesn’t even begin to describe it — it was verbose to the point of insanity…[but, then again, when I have ever *not* written long? Which is exactly what I told myself as I clicked, “send…”]) email I sent not too long ago to a friend with whom I have always had a weird relationship. I wanted to pry some proof out of him…but he ignored it. And, in hindsight, I guess I can see that it was a scary message…but…I sent it with the best intentions and all I really wanted to hear was that he cared about me, too…and it’s the kind of message I would have been thrilled to receive from pretty much anyone. But…what a punch in the gut to pretend like I had never even sent it…and I think this means he and I aren’t really friends anymore. Which is kind of sad…but also kind of not…because he’s sucked a lot out of me…and I never really got much in return. Which, you know, begs the question of what one wants from a relationship with another human being…and shouldn’t it be enough to just exude love and not expect anything back? Which is actually something I’ve told myself repeatedly before…but now I’m sort of realizing that if you do that you become the Sad Sally who exudes love for people who don’t really care about you…and that’s not ideal either. So I guess I’m learning sometimes you have to stop exuding and save affection for the people who really want to stick around. And, heck, I guess if I’m going to cut out dead weight, this is the time of year to do it…with new beginnings in the new year and whatnot. One less proverbial mouth to feed, I guess…

And this may also be a good time to talk resolutions as I’m not sure I’ll really have a chance to blog again in 2009 (…aww…). And, really, I mean, instead of listing eating healthy and exercising regularly and becoming fluent in Spanish and all those things I know I (probably) won’t actually do, I think I’m going to point to those post-Bartender resolutions and continue to concentrate on the things that helped me end 2009 on a positive note: Be happy with me. Get an agent. Travel. Be patient.

My last Julie & Julia reference of 2009: I made chocolate cream pie for Christmas. And, admittedly, I did not measure the Oreos (I just used a whole package)…which I’m not sure was such a good idea as it yielded a *pretty* thick crust. And it wasn’t like a complete unit. It was like pudding whacked on crushed Oreos. But! Then again…Julia said to never apologize. So. There we are. (Plus, the kids loved it. [I think.])

My aunt contributed a mystery pecan pie and a sugar plum cake…both of which I have heard my mother rave about but have never actually tried myself. The mystery pecan pie has a cream cheese layer and a pecan layer and a pecan-pie-ish layer that magically shift during baking. And, well, no one makes a crust like my aunt, so it was really, really beautiful. And…I wouldn’t say I’m a *huge* spiced cake fan, BUT…the sugar plum cake was really, really good – there’s a butter sauce you pour over it (and I guess *that* is actually my final Julie/Julia reference of 2009) that totally makes it. Good stuff all around. (When faced with three desserts, I cannot choose just one. A little bit of all of them. Which may mean I really *should* concentrate on some of those other resolutions that would make for a Less Fat 2010, but…for now, I’m going to let visions of that cake dance in my head…and we’ll see how long that sustains me.)

All the best for 2010!

Your faithful blogging pal,

LL

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Filed under books, chocolate, holidays, pie

Sad(der) Lisa and the Case of the Missing Books

I’ll preface this by saying I know everyone is sick to death of hearing about the Bartender. And I know I need to figure out a way to finally, officially let go and move on with my life. And — other than the fact that his bar is right around the corner from where I live and I have to walk by it/him virtually every day — I don’t know why it’s over two months later and I’m still struggling. I guess part of it is that it was the first time I really thought I was on to something good in a long, long time…and he’s somebody I care about. A lot. It’s hard for me to just turn that off and pretend it never happened.

But…I bring him up again — for what I will (try to) promise will be the last time — for two reasons: (1) It always makes me feel better to write things out; and (2) I have found no one really gives a hoot when I blog about food anyway.

My oldest childhood friend will be here tomorrow…and we have several days to pal around in New York before Costa Rica on Thursday…and I am hopeful I will return from this adventure with a new lease on life. Maybe we can perform some sort of ritualistic exorcism that will make me forget he exists. And/or maybe the guy who cut my hair was right and in another week, my life will change forever — even on the man-front.

Until then, I will write, I guess.

There were MANY things the Bartender and I did not have in common. Politics was one of them. He claimed to be a Republican…but I think he was much more moderate than he let on. Let’s face it — I have pretty strong opinions about woman-y things and I really couldn’t stand to be around somebody who told me I should be seen and not heard and the like. Granted, he had a McCain/Palin poster in his apartment, but I think part of his conservative fervor was also that he wanted to set himself up as a counterpoint to the young, urban, liberal hipster archetype.

The Bartender was also very opinionated and liked to talk a lot. In fact, once he told me on my little red couch that he liked our conversations because we didn’t argue — we had friendly debates that made him think about things in new ways. (But I will have to watch myself when it comes to making comments like that or I’m going to get nostalgic.)

And…one of my J-school professors is really into social justice-y topics and wrote a book called, “Denison, Iowa,” on — you guessed it — a year in the life of this Midwestern town. I’m not Amazon, so this may not be an entirely accurate recollection, but, basically…my memory of it is that Denison‘s claim to fame is that it’s the birthplace of Donna Reed and so for many, many years it was this wholesome, traditional Midwestern town with wholesome, traditional Midwestern people and wholesome, traditional Midwestern values…and then a bunch of meatpacking plants popped up and immigrants started moving there for jobs and the social dynamics of the town changed considerably. So…my professor spent a year living there during this period of flux and sort of sat back and watched all these changes and the related drama. He illustrated it all with a number of characters in town like the young Latino guy who wanted to start his own business — and so there was all this intrigue about whether he would qualify for the loan in the end…and there was, like, a retired schoolteacher who had lived in Denison her entire life and who started teaching English classes at night…and there was also, like, the crooked cop who hated everyone who wasn’t white. That’s basically the gist.

And so — because the Bartender and I were allegedly on opposite sides of the political spectrum, I was curious what he’d think about this book. So…I let him borrow it. But…when I gave it to him, I said, “My professor wrote this, so I’d really like it back…” and then, half-jokingly, I added, “So, you know, if anything happens while you’re reading this and you decide you hate me and never want to see me again, will you please just, like, leave it in my mailbox or something? I really want it back.” And, of course, he looked at me with a big frowny face and said, “Nooo! That’s not going to happen! You worry too much!”

But sometimes the worrier is right and — sure enough — something happened and he decided that he hates me and never wants to see me again. But not before I let him borrow yet another book…which I’ve been saying is one of my favorites, but I’m not positive that’s entirely true. I just like it a lot and would like it back, too. And you’d better believe that even in the middle of our hours-long, tear-filled, “I don’t understand why you ‘can’t'”-goodbye, I let him know that I wanted those books back. He promised he’d get them to me. That was August 20.

I sent a reminder or two. Nothing.

Then…there was the whole end-of-birthday debacle in September.

So. I decided I would give him a good month-long cushion of no Lisa and then I would make one final plea for those books.

And — this is how crazy I am — both our final fight and my birthday are even-numbered days, so I thought, “Maybe if I wait until an odd day, I’ll have better luck!” Plus, November 5 is Javier Lopez‘s birthday and I figured I could, like, channel Javy for strength.

But before I actually had a chance to send him anything that day, lo and behold, I was on my way to meet the Greeting Card Emergency guy and I saw a man walking towards me with a Yankees hat and a cigarette and I thought, “Ohmygod, is that the Bartender?” and then he adjusted his backpack and I realized that, yes, it *was* him and so I got out my phone, but I had no new messages and then we passed by each other and had an eight-word conversation — “How are you?” “Fine. You?” “Fine.” “Books?” “Okay.” — and I turned the corner and my legs turned to jelly and I hyperventilated a little.

I got a new phone post-Bartender and his number is not in it. I had all these messages from him on the old one that I couldn’t bear to delete, but…my memory was full and so every time I’d get a new message it would say, “Memory Low! Delete messages now!” and I would say, “I don’t want to delete any messages!” and so my solution was to just get a new phone. No messages from him in there. No reminders of him.

But I still have that old phone. So…I figured there was no harm in retrieving his number and using the “use once” feature to send a message to that 347-number that I cannot save again. It was perfectly friendly — just to acknowledge that we’d seen each other and it was fine and — I know this is beating a dead horse, but — I’d really appreciate getting those books back.

So, later that very same day, I wrote him something along the lines of…”Hey — I hate to be a pain, but my professor wrote one of those books and the other is one of my favorites and it would mean a lot if I could get them back.” And that’s probably all a normal person would write, but I went on to say that besides making me really happy, I would imagine getting rid of the books would be cathartic and then he’d be free of it all and wouldn’t have any reminders of anything unhappy…and I said that I hoped all was well and that I seriously meant it because I never wanted anything but the best for him…and to prove that very point, I told him how happy I was that Pettitte pitched such a good game and that Matsui hit so well and the Yankees won, in part because I knew how happy it must have made him.

No response. No books.

So…I waited for another odd-numbered day (I hope I do not get, like, institutionalized for admitting that) and sent another message: “Please, T, please? Those books? I’m leaving the country on Thursday. Can I have them back before then?” (If I have to go pick them up at his bar, it would be great to have my oldest childhood friend there with me to figuratively hold my hand…)

But, again, nothing. Radio silence.

And, okay, I guess I have a reputation for being a clingy girl and understand that maybe he’s worried that responding will only fuel the fire and it’s easier to just press “delete” and pretend it never happened. But…it seems to me that the nice thing to do would be to say, “Okay,” or “Sure,” or SOMETHING — even leaving the books in my mailbox in the dark of night. After all, he gets off work at 4:00 AM on the weekends…

And I know I threw a lot of crazy his way, but I was also really good to him — I dropped off pie on National Pie Day because he had to work and couldn’t come to my celebration and I made him cheesecake and planned an elaborate dinner (with meat!) when he was hurt and out of work and poor and sick of eating rice and beans…and I sent him postcards from all of my travels this summer and I spent a small fortune on Yankees tickets for his birthday because he turned 30 and I wanted to do something big and because he hadn’t been to the new stadium and I wanted him to see it. And, you know, I did those things because I care about him and wanted to make him happy, not for future leverage in case I didn’t get my books back…and I was really happy to have somebody to care about and to be able to do those things for, you know? But I don’t understand how it could have devolved into this. My worst nightmare is someone saying, “I can’t love you,” and walking out the door and disappearing forever…and that’s exactly what happened.

I’m not holding out hope he’s going to knock on my freakishly small door and say, “I made a huge mistake!” But it seems pretty rotten to me to just ignore me. I could understand if I was texting him with, “I miss you! Please take me back!” or “Screw you, you manwhore! And give me back my goddamn books!”

But I’m not. I’m trying to be civil…and since I was the one who was so horribly hurt in this escapade, I thought being friendly and nice now would be kind of olive-branch-y, you know? Like, saying, “Yes, I know I was a huge mess the last time you saw me, but I’m basically okay now!”

So…last night, I was debating what to do…and then I got a call from an old coworker saying, “Hey! I just had dinner in your neighborhood — are you around?” So…I met him around the corner from my apartment and he said, “Where should we go?” and I said, “Anywhere but here!” and nodded toward the Bartender’s place. So…we walked up the street to another place…and we talked and caught up and drank…and he really likes my stories, so he always laughs and tells me how funny I am (last time he praised my comic timing — how about that??)…and I hadn’t seen him in awhile, so it was really nice. And…I don’t know how many beers later, I was telling him about trying to get my books back and we had already been out for a good, long time, so we were getting ready to leave…and as I was pointing him to the Subway, the neon lights at the Bartender’s bar shone brightly in the distance and I got all nostalgic and my old coworker said, “We should go in and have one last drink there!” and I said, “Oh, I don’t know…bad things happen when I go into that place…” and he said, “Come on — it’ll be good for you. And I’ll talk to him! I’ll help you get your books back!” And whenever I’m willing to go there, I should always remember that it means I am in no shape to be making decisions like that. But I agreed to go.

It wasn’t particularly crowded…so we were able to get two seats at the bar. The Bartender was behind the bar, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. He’s a pretty jealous guy…and, in hindsight, I realized I’ve always gone in there with girlfriends…and so I guess it could have looked like I was on a date or something and that I was rubbing it in his face.

He was wearing a Yankees World Series sweatshirt…so — see? I was right. He *was* really excited. And his stupid boss came out at one point and saw me there and was LOVING the fact that I was there with some guy and that the Bartender wouldn’t acknowledge me.

And, really, I’ve made a complete fool of myself at that place SO MANY times because of him. So they’ve  probably come to expect it of me. And, really, comparatively speaking, this time wasn’t that bad. I didn’t talk to the Bartender. But my old coworker did. And he came back to me and said, “You’ll get your books on Monday. But we should probably go now.”

And then I wanted to know what my old coworker had said and what the Bartender had said…and my old coworker was saying that, you know, he’s no good and I need to move on…blah, blah…and somehow I ended up crying on the sidewalk outside again and blathering on about how I don’t understand how you can just throw somebody away…and that he was always so good with my cat and that even when the little monster bit him, he’d be so patient and kind and call them “love bites,” and I feel like I’m depriving my cat of a father figure now…(see how much sense I was making?)

I’m very stubborn. I need to just accept that I’m never going to understand this and that I’ve already wasted too much energy trying to figure it out. And, I mean, some good came out of the Bartender situation — I was finally able to look at my life and what I actually have control over and realized how important it is to me to finish my book…and I’m so close! I’m almost there! And I know my poor little heart can’t go through something like this again…so next time I have to be really, really careful and — like my friend says — protect it.

I just feel a little more sad than usual today about the whole situation. And it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t get these books back. But I don’t understand why things are the way that they are…and how caring about him became this horrible, unforgivable thing…for which I have now been banned from his life.

So…even after that makeover, I’m not sure if I really am New Lisa after all. I am hoping that Costa Rica and my oldest childhood friend will change that. (And, if nothing else, I will try to find solace in knowing that my hair looked damn good last night.)

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