Sunday, July 29, 2007


Friday was the kind of long, annoying day at work where it seemed more funny than sad that I ended the day by printing an entire run of contracts wrong, because I didn’t line the paper up right before I hit print, and had to feed the whole thing into the shredder.



Bye bye, misprints.

Monday, July 23, 2007

in a name

I really enjoyed the new Harry Potter movie, which I saw tonight. It was the first one that actually made me want to go read the books, which is good since the last book is out and I can enjoy instant gratification, rather than having to wait.

I have just one question, though. When you name your daughter Bellatrix LeStrange, which roughly translates into “spooky weapon”, aren’t her career options a little limited? It’s like being shocked that Victor Von Doom grew up to be evil, or that Jo Nah got his powers from being swallowed by a giant space whale.

Just name your kid Toady von Henchman or Smart Doctor and be done with it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

rice cakes, sort of like mom used to make

After yesterday’s pesto mayo non-recipe, I felt like I should actually cook something to prove that I can, and sometimes do, actually cook. (I’m not sure who I felt that I needed to prove this to, but I felt it anyway.) Yesterday I made Tai peanut chicken on white rice for lunch (the complicated recipe included cooking the chicken and pouring Thai peanut sauce from a bottle onto it and the rice), and made way more rice than I actually needed, so I decided that I would make Mom’s Rice Cakes with the leftovers.

When we were little, my mom would, when the urge hit her, make rice cakes on the weekends, a big batch of them, and they were great because you could eat them hot and salted, right out of the pan, but later the leftover ones were just as good cold from the fridge. Like so many things, mom did so effortlessly that it never occurred to me until years later that she had to make rice first, season it, watch it, and keep children entertained at the same time. If she made them on a Saturday, the entertainment part was taken care of, and now that I think of it we were much more likely to get them on Saturday than on Sunday, what with church and all.

Anyway, I called mom yesterday to get the recipe, and found out that there isn’t really a recipe. After much back and forth (“How big a pinch? Like a big pinch or a dash pinch?” “What kind of cookies? Chocolate chip, no-bake, or oatmeal raisin?” “Enough to cover the bottom of the pan and float them, or enough to just cover the bottom and a little more? Like a quarter inch? An eighth? A half inch of oil?”), I ended up with this:

1 egg for every cup of rice
1 dash of sugar
1 dash of salt
1 dash of pepper
Enough flour to bind it together until it’s a consistency between oatmeal raisin cookie and chocolate chip cookie dough

So I dumped the rice in a bowl and got started:

rice cake ingredients

The adding flour part was tricky. For some strange reason I don’t have a set of measuring cups. I usually just use my two glass measuring cups for wet and dry ingredients, but I’d already beaten the eggs with a fork in one of them and the other was in the dishwasher from yesterday, so I had to guess at the flour. I have no idea how many spoons I used, but when I could scoop out a lump of dough and it held together I figured that was enough, and got ready to fry.

rice cake batter

frying the rice cakes

Frying turned out to be the worst part. First, I didn’t realize that I needed to flatten the dough balls after I dropped them in the pan, so the first three were kind of like rice biscuits or dumplings. Once I realized that they weren’t going to sink on their own, like cookies do, I flattened the next batch, and they became the right shape. The color was a whole other matter. They should, based on memory, be a kind of pastel lemon yellow, like a pale mustard or light buttercup yellow. Getting them that color on one side, flipping them, and getting the same color on the other side was a trick that I mastered maybe three times out of over a dozen cakes.

finished rice cakes

How the hell did mom do that right every time? Did she just never make a mistake, or did the mistakes go right from the pan and into the dog’s mouth? They tasted fine, but they’re not supposed to be brown.

Also, the oil was spitting a little by the end, which was my fault for not watching the temperature, and I got a little burned spot on my finger that seems fine until something touches it, and then it hurts like hell.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

chef joel's lunch recipe

Almost every day at work we eat lunch across the street at the café under the basketball arena. Unfortunately for us, the café closed last week, and won’t open again for six more weeks, so we’ve been bringing in our own lunches for a week. This has given me time to discover that bringing in your own lunch gets boring really quickly.

It takes about a week, in fact.

This is baffling to me. When we talked about how we’d have to do this, it didn’t seem that bad. After all, I brought my own lunch to school every day from kindergarten to graduation, and most days it was peanut butter and grape jelly. I was a really picky eater, and still am, and didn’t trust the school lunch people to provide something I would actually want to eat every day, so I spent over a decade eating the same thing every day instead.

I must have had a lot more willpower when I was younger, because I was already getting bored with turkey and cheese this week. To spice it up, I decided to try flavoring my mayonnaise instead, because I used to get a turkey sandwich at a bread store near my old job that had a delicious pesto mayo on it, and I thought, “I like pesto, and I like mayo. How hard can it be?”

It was actually pretty easy, and after it sat in the fridge all night it was really good. Someone at lunch asked what the recipe was, and I had to laugh. I’m much more “Semi-Homemade” than I am “Top Chef”, so the recipe looked like this:

pesto mayo preparation

If anybody is really curious, though, it was two spoons of mayo and one spoon of pesto.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I am famous!

This morning I received an e-mail to let me know that my one of my photos of Atlanta’s Oakland Confederate Cemetery was picked for inclusion in the third edition of Schmap!!’s Atlanta Travel Guide.

Here’s the photo:

oakland cemetary

And the guide, with my photo credit, can be found here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Lunch

I had this plan today that, rather than sitting in my apartment reading, playing video games, and watching the “Twilight Zone” marathon on the Sci Fi Channel I was going to get out of the house for a little while. Every morning on my way to work I drive past this trail called the Greenway, and I see all these signs for it as it winds along the river, so I thought I’d go out, walk along the Greenway with my camera, and then go to lunch somewhere. I got my book, camera, and phone and got on the road.

Unfortunately I was unable to figure out where to park to get on the Greenway.

I looked online, and it said to park at Volunteer Landing. I’ve seen the sign for that, so I figured I could just drive down and be fine. Approaching, I saw a nice big sign that said parking was on the next left, so I took the left, but saw nothing that resembled parking. Determined not to give up, I circled back around and tried again, but still couldn’t find parking at the next left, so instead I got off at the sign for Volunteer Landing itself, but all the parking there was labeled for one of the restaurants.

Frustrated after almost an hour in the car trying to find a parking lot that needs better signage, I decided to just go downtown to Market Square and get lunch instead. Last time I was on Market Square, for the Dogwood Festival of the Arts, I didn’t notice the Women’s Suffrage Memorial, but there seems to be one now:

suffrage memorial

I guess seeing it and taking a picture fulfills my duty to celebrate Independence Day.

One of the things I like about Market Square is the wall of graffiti at one end. There is a block of boarded up buildings, and local artists started painting and drawing on the wood over the windows. When I first moved here, there was a lot of it, and it was very pretty to walk along and look at, like an outdoor gallery.

sharpee church

sad boy

When I went past there a few months ago, though, all of that was painted over in flat black. I guess the flat black didn’t last very long, because when I went up today it was painted over in dark crimson, and the local artists were doing their best to protest:

I quit! handprints

angry bunny

mailbox collage

While I really like the mailboxes one, this sad little vampire boy was my favorite:

vampire boy

It was painted by the same person who did the sad mandolin boy up above that I really liked. I kind of wish I knew how to find that person and that they painted on a smaller, more portable medium other than plywood, because I would actually buy a piece of that.

After I looked at the protest art and was asked for change I went to the Market Square Soup Kitchen for lunch. Last time I went there Nancy and I forgot to leave a tip on our table when we were done, and were both mortified, but no one seemed to remember that when I came in today. Settling in with my book, I ordered my favorite Southern classic sandwich, the Fried Bologna:

fried bologna sandwich

You might be thinking that it’s just a grilled cheese with bologna on it, but it’s completely different. The bologna is fried alone, and then put on untoasted bread with the mayo (and, of course, it’s real mayo; this is the South, after all) and cheese, and the hot bologna mixing with the cold mayonnaise is wonderful. If you’re not grossed out and want to try it at home, get your bologna cut thick at the deli, or else it will curl and wrinkle and be hard to evenly fry.

For dessert I had the coconut cake, which was decorated special for the holiday:

independent coconut cake

When I was done there was one little star stuck to the tines of my fork, and I was going to take a picture, but figured no one would believe I didn’t stage it.

On the way back to the parking garage I saw a really cool antique awning, but couldn’t get a really good picture of it without standing in the street. I tried anyway, but cars kept coming, so this is the best I could do:


All in all, it was a nice couple of hours downtown.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

diet and exercise

I was at the grocery store this morning and made one of those mistakes where you round the corner absent-mindedly and end up in an aisle that has nothing to do with you. Rather than ending up in the baby food or feminine sanitary products aisles, though, I stumbled into the weight loss section.

I won’t pretend I never tried the Slim Fast diet, but I was curious to see if they at least had any new flavors now, since the time I tried it Slim Fast came in Chalk, Strawberry Chalk, and Chocolate Chalk. (I used to refer to that last flavor as Chalkolate, but that implies a mingling of flavors.) Things really have changed on that aisle now. There are two different flavors of chocolate, some sort of high protein one, and one that was bizarrely labeled “Low Carb Diet”, as if the whole aisle isn’t diet.

While I was standing there a strange lady walked by and did another one of those things that never happened to me in the North: I made eye contact and she felt the need to speak. In New York, no one talked to a stranger in public unless they wanted something. No one struck up random chat over vegetables or at the gas pump or in line at the movies, unless they wanted to give you a flyer or ask you for change. Here, all you have to do is look at someone and you made a friend.

So there I am in front of the wall of Slim Fast, and I’ve just made eye contact with a lady on church day, and she feels the need to say, “You know, you’ll lose more weight with diet and exercise. I know,” and then she walks away. Since it’s the South, I just say, “Thanks”, rather than, “What the fuck business is it of yours?” but really, from a logical standpoint, if I could handle a steady regimen of diet and exercise I wouldn’t need to be standing in the Slim Fast aisle, now, would I lady?

I thought about buying a case of it just to spite her, but she was already gone by then.