Tag Archives: Mississippi

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

My Top 15 Wacky Cookbooks (With Bonus Optimistic Prologue!)

I love wacky cookbooks. And, strangely, despite the carnage of last week — that left me sans part-time fake-gambling gig *and* full-time job prospects *and* hope — I’m feeling rather optimistic now.

I’ve been kicking around an idea for a children’s book series (literally for years) — and was finally compelled to sketch out one of the stories early this morning when I couldn’t sleep. There’s still much research to be done about pitching kids’ books, etc., etc…and I’ve certainly learned that hard work ain’t always enough to guarantee the results you want and that future endeavors must therefore be taken with a grain o’ salt…but when talking to my mother about how on earth I was going to dust myself off after the latest round of out-and-out failure, she basically said that there *has* to be something else out there for me…I just haven’t found it yet. So…maybe it’s this kids’ book series. And — don’t get me wrong — I’m not giving up on the book-book. I’m just maxed out and need to recharge the ol’ batteries before tackling it again. (The kids’ book is also a chance to test out my drawing skills…which I find pretty exciting…although it may be short-lived when I realize precisely why I didn’t pursue a career as a visual artist in the first place…)

I also recently met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile and we got to talking…and all of a sudden, a brilliant blog idea hit me. No offense to this bad boy, but, for the longest time, I’ve tried to think of one of those clever, niche-y, schtick-y blog ideas that get book deals — like, say, Hungry Girl or Save the Assistants or This is Why You’re Fat — and I think I finally came up with something good last night. I think it’s an untapped, underserved sector of the blogosphere…and I think it targets a potentially sizable market. And if I can make it clever and funny, there’s no reason why I can’t attract a decent following — even one good enough to interest publishers. And once I have a single book under my belt (and am legitimately Author Lisa Lacy), the rest should come easy. I may have to take a Web design class before launching this new blog as I have a pretty good idea of what I want it to look like and I certainly can’t afford to pay someone to design it for me…but, at the same time, mad Web skillz may make me a more competitive candidate for multimedia journalism jobs anyway, so this could really end up as a win-win-win, right?

So…after my grumpy outburst last week, I have a much more optimistic post for you. And back to those wacky cookbooks…

The Huffington Post recently put up a slideshow called “Cookbooks You Didn’t Know Existed.” This totally feeds into my passion for wacky cookbooks and I was thrilled to see it. But, while there are some good ones (and, kudos to you, HuffPo, for imploring readers to upload their favorites, thereby doing your work for you)…I think they missed quite a few “surprising cookbooks.”

There are lots of *good* cookbooks out there — I’m not sure I would have made it this far without the Joy of Cooking, for example. I consult it all the time. And how can you not love Rick Bayless? I’m sure Fiesta at Rick’s is a pure delight. But wacky cookbooks are a different breed — they’re unique and they’re cheap and they’re funny…sometimes purposely so…but not always. I’m not sure which one is better.

So…My List:

1. My all-time favorite wacky cookbook isn’t 100% cookbook. It’s more a weight-loss guide. But I love it. And I imagine I have one of the few remaining copies on earth. It is Joan Cavanaugh’s “More of Jesus, Less of Me.”

I love that the title is literal — it’s quite literally about how to make yourself smaller by channeling your faith and it is dedicated to “all of God’s children who have been called Fatso, Tubby or Two-by-Four.” I found it at my junior class rummage sale in Mississippi…and I also love it because it is a book you’d be hard-pressed to find outside the Bible Belt.

2. The Hooters Cookbook. I found this at a Barnes & Noble once in a discount bin and I did not snap it up and I am still kicking myself. Sure, I probably wouldn’t make any of the chicken wings…but it’s such a conversation piece. And it epitomizes “wacky cookbook.” Stupid, Lisa. Stupid.

3. Naughty Cakes. I *did* buy this book from the discount bin at Barnes & Noble and, boy, am I glad I did. Where else would I learn how to make fondant into gold lamé hot pants on a giant ass? Or into firefighters with hoses in suggestive poses? It’s maybe the best baking book I own. There — I said it.

4. and 5. Saucepans & the Single Girl and The Little Black Apron. Man, there’s a whole industry out there targeting Sad Sallies, isn’t there? And…if I ever want to get married someday, where would I be without “bachelor-bait recipes and dazzling ideas for entertaining” and “a single girl’s guide to cooking with style and grace”?

6. Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book. The single girl’s two best friends — get it? Because she’s ALONE! She has to eat lots of ICE CREAM! It’s a rom-com staple!

But, in all seriousness, you can’t not like Ben and Jerry. And, while I don’t own this particular cookbook, I bet it’s good for dessert inspiration.

7. Not Afraid of Flavor. This is a legit cookbook — my roommate had it — but the name makes me laugh. So formidable!

8. A Man, A Can, A Plan. Perhaps this helps balance out all the Sad Sally books out there — something for the hopeless man! The boy in Alaska I was in love with — who petitioned Fruit of the Loom to make Underoos for adults — had this book.

9. 101 Things to do with a Dutch Oven. I don’t own this book either, but I love spins on the 101-things-thing and Top Ten lists (as noted) and things of that nature. And if the sample recipe for the “Mountain Man Breakfast” is any indication of what the other 100 names are like, this book definitely gets my seal of approval.

10. Skinny Italian. I have never seen the Real Housewives of Anywhere — but stumbling upon this book changed all that. Netflix has already sent me Disc One of the New Jersey series. And even though it sounds like Teresa is going to lose her magnificent home and has lived beyond her means to an extent even I find astonishing (…because I’m bad with money — get it?), the Amazon reviews were pretty positive about this book. Perhaps I will fall in love with the show and decide I can’t live without this book…and that will be my little contribution to helping the Giudices achieve financial solvency.

11. Dip into Something Different. Who doesn’t like fondue — *especially* when the Melting Pot says that it is “from our pot to yours”?

12. I Like You. I like Amy Sedaris. I like that she shows up on the Late Show in poofy dresses she finds at flea markets and that she has a made-up longshoreman boyfriend named Ricky and that she’s obsessed with rabbits. I admittedly have not given this book the attention it’s due — although remember a friend saying how funny she thought it was that Ms. Sedaris suggested you put marbles in your medicine cabinet before you throw a party so you know without a shadow of a doubt if anyone goes snooping in your bathroom — but I’m happy it’s part of my collection.

13. Forking Fantastic! I can’t decide if I like-like this book for real or if I like it because it’s ridiculous. It’s a bold claim to “put the PARTY back in DINNER PARTY,” but I admit I’m intrigued to see how these ladies do it. Reviews sound good, too.

14. The Book of Spam. At $3.99, there’s no reason each and every last one of us should not have this book. After all, it is “a most glorious and definitive compendium of the world’s favorite canned meat.”

15. Being Dead is No Excuse. We’ve sort of come full circle here — as this, too, is not *exactly* a cookbook, but rather a “guide to hosting the perfect funeral.” It seems like these ladies have a good sense of humor…and if I myself was financially solvent (it’s not just you, Teresa!) and could afford to buy all the wacky food-related books my heart desires, this one would be on the list, too.

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Filed under Alaska, blogs, books, Brooklyn, entrees, ice cream, Mississippi, parties

Ode to Big J on her 30th Birthday…

Oh, my oldest childhood friend who in junior high dubbed herself Big J; (…which my mother swore you’d regret someday…)

We’ve known each other since the third grade; and lost a plate in the oven once while Bagel Bites were being made.

You’ve been my beloved Valentine since we lost your boyfriend in Chinatown; and you’re the only other person I know who loves trying on tacky gowns.

We wrote about apes and monkeys in our sixth grade class; and you bumped a straw up my nose that same year while we were making masks.

You introduced me to the Irish Rovers and wonders of the Emerald Isle; and I will forever associate shelled reptiles with you, my little turtlephile.

We found maggots in Mississippi in a box of muffin mix; and you totally got me out of my comfort zone in a Costa Rican jungle while getting your ziplining fix.

No one appreciates James Joyce and/or Ulysses as much as you, Big J…; and so best wishes for the happiest birthday ever today!

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Filed under birthdays, Mississippi

“Attagirl, Sandra!” v. “Stupid Jerk!”

I am sad about Sandra Bullock. And I know — at least on some level — it’s a ridiculous thing to say…but, at the same time, I’ve sorta felt a certain affinity with her…at least as far as relationships are concerned. And I find these revelations about Jesse James incredibly disheartening.

In the Barbara Walters Oscar Special this year, Babs showed a clip of an interview with Bullock from, like, ’94 when she was filming A Time to Kill in Mississippi (the same time I was there!) and Walters asked why she wasn’t married or whether she ever wanted to get married or something like that. And Bullock’s response was that she was afraid that getting married meant giving up her identity and she said she wasn’t ready. And…I totally get that. After working so long on forging a career and figuring out what you want and what makes you tick, who in their right mind would want to just become somebody’s wife? (Which is not to say that you can’t have a successful marriage and a career or whatever…I just mean that I understand once you have a career of your own that is fulfilling and that makes you happy, you’d be reluctant to give it up for a ring and you’d want to be careful about the partnership you choose…)

And, I mean, anyone who has read anything I’ve written over the past year or so — maybe longer? — knows that these are issues I’ve struggled with…and, heck, I don’t even have a real career to cling to — I merely *aspire* to have a career to cling to…and to be the kind of person who at, say, 39 (or whatever) is totally comfortable saying, “I’m happy with me and my life,” and who doesn’t feel at all incomplete for not having a better half. Sandra Bullock didn’t get married until she was 40! Which is, like, unheard of, isn’t it? (My Sunday morning ritual has become checking out the Wedding announcements in the NYT and seeing how many of the brides are younger than me. [I’d say it’s about 50/50.] But there was one bride in Brooklyn a few weeks ago who was 42 and who had a procession from her apartment to the church with all her bridesmaids dancing and singing and the quote was something like, “When you get married at 42, it’s something to celebrate.” And I guess the point is I really admire any woman who doesn’t succumb to fear or pressure or whatever and grab the next schlub that comes along so she can say, “Hey — look! I have a husband!” […which reminds me of When Harry Met Sally when Carrie Fisher tells Meg Ryan that she shouldn’t wait too long to get back in the game because one guy they knew said he needed more time before dating again and then he died and Meg Ryan says, “What are you saying? That I should grab on to somebody in case he’s about to die?” and that nameless redhead says, “At least you could say you were married!”])

And the part that *really* makes me sad for Sandra Bullock (…and if I was to be a real drama queen, I could perhaps say all of womankind…) is that she said she couldn’t have played her Oscar-winning role in The Blind Side a few years ago — that it was having a family and someone who had her back in real life that enabled her to play Leigh Anne Tuohy. And even Oprah mentioned how sweet it was when the camera panned to a teary-eyed Jesse James in Bullock’s Oscar acceptance speech…and it just seemed like one of those situations that proved it was all totally worth the wait. She spent her 20s and 30s working on her career and herself…and then in her 40s, she found love. And it was a good love — one that gave her family and support and real happiness. And that’s where it’s supposed to end happily ever after! There shouldn’t be any tattooed chicks or text messages or eleven-month-long trysts! How can that be? How could he possibly stand next to her on the red carpet and listen to her laud him for his support and get teary-eyed and look like he was proud of her and that he was happy he was the guy who got to be in her life…and then go home and text some broad that he’d been thinking about her? It, in a word, sucks.

And it frankly makes me wonder whether there is any hope at all. It seems like sometimes men make it so easy to throw up our hands and declare them all pigs. (I was watching an episode of The Golden Girls in which Blanche was upset because a man — who actually later went on to play the husband of the lady who killed herself and now does voiceovers on Wisteria Lane — appeared looking for George Devereaux because he was his father. And Blanche was upset by this revelation that her husband knocked up some chick in Dallas in the ’60s. So…as she was sitting at the kitchen table with Dorothy and Rose, she asked something like, “Why do men cheat?” and Dorothy said there were two explanations: One, that men are victims of an evolutionary process that deems it impossible for them to control their natural proclivities; and, Two: Men are scum.)

But, seriously — just look at all of them in the news recently: (as if I even need to mention this first one…) Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Mark Sanford, Dave Letterman, Eliot Spitzer, and (maybe) David Patterson…, just to name a few. And it’s certainly not limited to famous people. I can easily peruse the Hall of Fame o’ Bad Men in *my* life for plenty of real world examples: take the Penis-Revealer with the Long-Term Girlfriend Who I Really Genuinely Cared About…or Mr. I’m-Getting-A-New-Roommate-Oh-Wait-Did-I-Forget-To-Mention-I’m-Sleeping-With-Her-And-Eventually-Plan-To-Marry-Her-?. And, sure, there are subtle nuances in both cases…and, depending how you define “cheating,” maybe it’s not “cheating” at all. But, at the very least, they both suck in their own special ways.

And then there’s the example of my married guy friend. And he’s, like, the most doting husband I’ve ever seen — flowers, dinners, jewelry, trips, the whole nine yards. And, for a long time, I held him up as, like, the example of the perfect husband. And then not too long ago, I was out with him and excused myself for a moment and, when I came back, he was in the middle of a flirtatious exchange with a female bartender. And, I mean, it’s not like he *did* anything — he was merely cooing things like, “Will you be here next time to take such good care of me? I sure hope so…” and no one was overtly hurt by his sweet nothings, so what does it matter? But, at the same time, I am absolutely 100% certain that he would not have behaved this way had his wife been present…which makes me feel like something was not quite right. And, sure, I suppose we all do it to a certain degree — sort of like Mo’Nique’s explanation to Babs about her open marriage — but if *this* guy — arguably the World’s Most Doting Husband — can’t be trusted not to have his brain turn to jelly in the presence of a moderately attractive female, can *any* of them be trusted? Or, deep down inside, are they all Jesses, Tigers, Johns, Marks, Daves or Eliots?

Perhaps we’re all destined to be — I’m borrowing from the New York Post’s headline — Blind-Sided. It’s depressing. (I started to read Why Men Cheat in Esquire, but got upset…men cheat because they must? Really? So…I didn’t get very far…)

And…brief aside: I did a lot of flying in the last couple of months of 2009. And flying sometimes makes me nervous…so my deal with myself is that I can buy lots of trashy celebrity magazines to read on the plane. And…in one issue of Us Weekly, there was a Sandra Bullock quote that I liked so much I ended up cutting it out and taping it to my bathroom mirror (…it was, if you recall, sort of a tough time for me…and I sorely needed inspiration): “I complete me. I’m just lucky that after I completed myself, I met someone who could tolerate me.” And the magazine explained that it was in reference to her “strong marriage.” And I just can’t keep it up there anymore, can I? Every time I look at it now instead of, “Attagirl, Sandra!” I think, “Stupid jerk!”

And this isn’t to say that Sandra doesn’t still complete herself…and that she won’t have a happy ending after all. She may stick with James and remain blissfully happy after he does a stint in sex rehab or whatever; or she may leave him and end up with one of Hollywood’s most eligible 40-something bachelors…and her new hubby will be the Angelina to James’ Aniston and he’ll spend the rest of his life as the posterchild for the Lonely Man; or she may adopt a kiddo and start her own family and swear off men forever. It’s a terrible, awful thing that happened…but, at the same time, she’ll go on, blah, blah, blah. And the thing that I really loved about The Blind Side was its message that family is whoever you love — not necessarily those you were born into… — which I suppose would make it even more poignant if she ends up telling James to take a hike and adopts a million babies. (But I can’t see how this *couldn’t* still be an enormous blow to your ego…and I was *just* saying to a friend — before any of this happened — that it seems to me like it would be really hard not to have a certain complex, knowing that your husband’s ex-wife was a porn star. And now…? Sheesh. Poor Sandra…)

Bottom line: As an unmarried woman of a certain age, I found her story hopeful — like, I’m going to continue to work on me…and I’m going to have faith that when it’s right, Mr. Wonderfulpants will fall from the sky… — and I guess her story still *is* hopeful, in a way. But…not in the way I thought it was…

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Filed under Brooklyn, feminism, Mississippi, Ole Miss

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

This City Will Eat You Alive…

I was watching the Woody Allen flick, “Whatever Works,” last night…and sort of laughed to myself in the beginning when Larry David’s Boris Yellnikoff tells the ingenue transplant Melodie St. Ann Celestine that she should go back to Mississippi because she’ll never make it in New York.

Evan Rachel Wood and I have very little in common, but when *I* first moved here, my roommate’s parents told him that this city was going to “eat (*me*) alive,” too. So…I guess I felt a little pride when I realized that they made that comment almost — wait for it — seven years ago…and I’m still standing. I’ve heard you have to live in New York for ten years before you’re officially a New Yorker…so, I mean, I’m practically one of the gang by now. And I won’t beat a dead horse with my existential crises as of late…but, in the grand scheme of things, I’ve supported myself…I’ve hustled…and while everything’s really uncertain right NOW, there’s movement and I’m certainly not stuck in a rut. (Hey — look! — the glass *is* half full!) And it’s a nice feeling when anyone underestimates you and you prove them wrong…

…which got me thinking — I still need a book title. And perhaps some riff on “This City Will Eat You Alive,” is my answer. I sort of wish my name started with a “B” and I could do some sort of alliterative eponymous something-or-rather with Baking…(which is not to say I don’t love the name Lisa Lacy…because — believe me — I love the name Lisa Lacy…)…but…it just seems like it must have been sooo easy for Julie Powell! Why couldn’t I know someone or like to do something that starts with “L”??

There are so many themes in my book — career/quest for fulfillment, relationships/man-crap, baking/therapy… — that it seems nearly impossible to sum it all up with some sort of pithy phrase.

I tried to brainstorm with a friend this weekend…and really came up with a whole lot of nothing. A few favorites: “I Ate, I Drank, I Messed Around,” and “Brooklyn, Baking and Love-Making” (even though neither one of us can stand the phrase “make love.” It seems vaguely creepy to me…and like an unnecessary distinction…and I don’t think I could take anyone serious who used it colloquially. Although…come to think of it, I don’t have any friends that do. Guess we’re a crass bunch.).

But…”This City Will Eat You Alive” — while not perfect in and of itself — contains two major themes: the urban landscape and food(-ish)…which might work with a few minor tweaks. And then I started thinking about my “evolution” over the last seven years…which obviously brings to mind Darwin…but I think it would be a little much to call my first book, “On the Origin of Lisa Lacy.”

And that in and of itself is sort of stream of consciousness…which is not unlike my style…but there’s little you can do with “Stream of Consciousness,” and, as much as I heart Modernism, I can’t very well draw any direct comparisons to Virginia Woolf…in good, ahem, conscience.

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Filed under Brooklyn, Modernism, Red Hook