Sunday, March 8, 2009

It's Funny 'Cause It's Not Funny: Urban Scouting on WCL

Yesterday I eschewed the market and tripped up the steps to the second floor of San Francisco's Ferry Building, where I'd been invited to appear on Sedge Thomson's West Coast Live.

One of the show's staff waved a release form.

"I want you to pay special attention to the bolded text. This is a live show, and if you swear on air, you are liable. If you need to swear, go out into the vestibule and swear now."

I signed and moved along to the director.

"You're the 'urban scout'?" he asked. "What is an urban scout?"

"I dunno." I told him. "Sedge's idea."

"Fine. I read a couple posts on your blog, and you need to understand: do not swear. This is live radio."

Do I swear so much? Why, I'd thought myself positively lady-like. Except for that. I called my trusted advisor, semi-lawyer Shaun.

"I'm so nervous about not swearing, I will definitely swear. And what do I talk about? This week was tame. The highlight was slaughtering Kyle in Scrabble at the British football pub."

"Don't talk about that. And do not swear," he said while texting me ideas for interesting subject matter: tapioca drinks at Wonderful Foods, deer jerky from Lao, moving to San Francisco from New England.

The other guests were funny and engaging. Perhaps intimidating if you were, say, unable to define "urban scout."

I especially liked Kitka, the Eastern European ensemble with Bulgarian guest singer named Tzvetanka who was exactly as charming as you'd hope for and not a drop less. I cursed the writers with good lines, like Barry Jenkins: "Jazz is great, but black people do a lot of things. We eat salads. We ride bicycles."

There were plenty of things I could have talked about: Marin Sun Farms' blue-shelled eggs, lamb-shaped sticks of butter Poles and Russians make for Easter, the excellent Cook Here & Now.

Instead I got nervous and went all seasonal, not local, pimping limited-edition Shamrock Shakes, available in your finer McDonald's outlets. I saw a woman in the audience wrinkle her nose in disgust when I described the taste as mint toothpaste mixed with stardust. But trust me: they're delicious.


Friday, January 30, 2009

little luxuries.

Pull back, pack in, hunker down, hide out: in times of economic crises, people reduce expenses, eschew society, fret about scarcity and try to survive (preferably without eating squirrel).

So instead I decided to do the opposite, because I'm ornery.

Top of mind because this pneumonia thing made me suffer, mostly from boredom. I consumed three seasons of Lost in two days. (Side note: Sawyer looks haggard!) I posted more than usual to my blog where I post things that tickle my fancy. Through my bedroom window, I watched hawks circle the neighborhood, hunting for pigeons fattened on popcorn and bacon-wrapped hot dogs. I spent a lot of time hating my light fixtures.

In my spare time, I composed mental lists of everything I wanted when I was better. The list included:

Tartine's 5 p.m. bread
Walking more than two blocks without getting winded
My friends (outside of intermittent mercy drop-offs of bacon, juice and Flight of the Conchords)

All seemed luxurious. My most expensive desire costs three clams.

So to kill three birds with one hawk, I set up a sort-of potluck dinner party: I offered to make tomato soup and pick up Tartine bread. My friends are bringing leftover cheese bits hanging about their fridges; we'll grate and mix them together into grilled cheese filling.

I'm hoping a gruyere and fig jam combo is in the works. Then we're going to see the amazing (and free) chamber music Classical Revolution puts on every week in a bar that is bohemian in the best sense. Which, I think, is a very pleasant way to hunker down.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sweet & Bloody: Blood Orange Marmalade

In the last few months, I've been buzzing around quite a bit: traveling across the country or ocean four times, working on a couple big projects, and suffering under the cloud of this unending cold. One day cooped up in bed, I constructed this exciting flesh-eating disease decision tree. You know, for fun:

Trips to the Alemany farmer's market were limited, not that I didn't anticipate it. One night in a fevered state, I woke up hungry at 3 a.m.: the object of my desire was one of Guisell's empanadas.

Saturday morning: success! It's funny that after such a little gap the familiar feels nostalgic. On the way there every weekend, my bus passes this Walgreens sign in the Castro; each time I wonder if Walgreens Corporate has a tag in their photo bank to identify hunky pharmacist images for gay neighborhoods.

Back to the subject at hand: have you noticed a lot of dinner parties lately? One exciting outcome of the recession is that people seem to cook at home more and invite their friends over rather than splitting restaurant checks. In that vein, I was looking for something to cook as a gift. I admit the "Sweet & Bloody" sign drew me in to these blood oranges at $2/lb.

Bloody is right: after hacking through 4 pounds of these with a mandoline, my kitchen looked like a snuff film, red bits pooling on the countertops and dripping down cabinets. For the love of all that is sour, I added 3 Seville oranges, the traditional sour marmalade citrus.

Marmalade is messy and fun. You tear apart the whole fruit, either with a mechanized slicing apparatus like a Cuisinart or a hand-held mandoline or grater. I read a tip to soak the fruit and juice overnight in enough water to cover, so I tried that, then in the morning brought it up to a low, slow boil with 1 part of sugar to four measured parts of the soppy skin-pulp-liquid mixture.

In between all these steps, make sure to swab down your kitchen. A surprise trip from a landlord or friend might lead to the conclusion that you practice small animal sacrifice. The horror!