October 31, 2009


For Halloween, I went as a website - not even a particularly good website, or one I frequent, mind you, but a website nonetheless. Okay, so it might be a little 2007, but by the time people in Lubbock catch on to something, the trend has already faded in the civilized world.

Liberry Kitteh Liberry Kitteh

I dressed up at work on Friday, October 30. I had the ears, face paint, tail, and signs to set at the reference desk. Unfortunately, very few people were at the library since it was a Friday (and its being Halloween Eve possibly affected traffic as well), so my awesome costume and lolspeak signs were not seen by many. I did see some other fun costumes: the Tattooed Ladies of TX Library Association, a pirate, a Super Trooper, and my personal favorite, a Texas Tech coed. Sight unseen, I correctly guessed most of the components of that costume: big, blond wig, t-shirt, short running shorts, and UGGs. There was a little boy of 5 or younger that came trick-or-treating to the library, dressed as a Bumblebee Transformer. Someone said, "Don't hurt me!," and he quickly retorted with a loud, "It's just a costume!"

Mark dressed as another website, People of Walmart, which I found hilariously ingenious. He also sent me a scary and disturbing birthday card:

Even though that is a terrible picture of me, I can't resist sharing. This is the result of not having taken a good picture since the 1980s. I involuntarily screamed when I saw that card, and it was awkward because I screamed loud enough that I needed to explain to the people around me why I screamed, but I didn't really want to go there.

Among the Halloween candy I got, and I guess it was actually birthday candy: Seattle Chocolates Coconut Macaroon Truffle Bar, Vosges Mo's Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar, and my favorite bar for awhile, the Vosges Red Fire Chocolate Bar.

Oh, and no Halloween is complete without a little mischief. Here are a couple of "Costume Crimes" from the BYU Police Beat:
October 24: A boy in a gorilla suit was reported attempting to scare girls in Wyview Park. Officers located the monkey man, asked him to go home and he did.

October 29: A suspiciously dressed male was reported entering the law school. He was dressed in all black, was wearing a leg holster, a bulletproof vest, a portable radio, and five rounds of shotgun shells across his chest. The individual was carrying a black bag that contained two Airsoft pistols. The suspect turned out to be a law student and was called out of class for questioning. He stated he was dressed up for costume day; however, he was the only one in the class dressed up in costume. He was directed to remove his vest and was released since he was not violating any federal or state laws.

October 21, 2009

The Spinster Librarian

I've had a lot of interesting dates and pseudo dates in the last few months. It helps my self esteem to count any one-on-one time with a single guy as a date, and I'm sure they're all really into me, too. Definitely some highs and lows (very lows!) in the mix.

I could write a book on relationships. I guess everyone thinks that. Here's one piece of advice: If you're in a long-distance relationship, demand some kind of collateral from the guy, like a piece of expensive furniture that's worth more than he is. Hopefully all three of you will be in the same location at some point in the future, but if not, you and the furniture can make a very happy couple. Or it can be good kindle for a fire when you're ready to burn all the pictures, cards, and gifts he gave you.

You can't get that kind of golden advice just anywhere. Here's another one: keep the top of the backrest of your leather couch dusted. If you're snuggling up on the couch and your date tries to put his arm around you, getting an armload of dust is a real mood-killer.

So here's the thing, what do we think about online dating? I've had friends that have met some crazies that way, but let's face it, I'm dating crazies anyway. I've kind of tried that scene before. It was more to make new friends, not love connections, and it worked only passably for that.

You're hot enough for me to expand my dating profile location radius

My dear friend Kim keeps telling me to try it, but I don't know. The Lubbock market is a small pond, but I don't think I'm in a position to strike up a relationship with anyone out of town, either. Any advice, opinions, or funny stories appreciated.

Dinner and a Book

I'm a hypocrite. I'm a bad piano teacher; I don't practice. I'm a bad librarian; I don't read books. I could rationalize it somewhat when I was in grad school, but now that I'm past that, I've found other lame excuses. Over the last few months, I've been socializing at such a breakneck pace, I didn't have time for it. I've realized that I'm not going to miss meeting any fabulous men if I cut the outings down to 3-4 nights a week.

If I weren't a librarian, I'd like to be a sociologist or maybe a behavioral economist (except that would involve that pesky math stuff). I ordered a slew of books in that vein that have been on my Amazon wish list for awhile:
Which one of these things is not like the other? That very work-related book on the bottom, which was the most expensive and least enticing of the lot. It also had these goofy pixelated cover graphics. Thank you, library world, for being stuck in the 20th century as usual.

So when I can, it's no phone, no accompanying friends, just me and a book at home or in a restaurant booth if I really don't feel like being home in my lonely house. Last week, it was CancĂșn for the Durango Special: juicy, marinated grilled chicken and shrimp smothered with melted cheese; served with rice, guacamole, and pico de gallo; with Predictably Irrational. It is a little hard to concentrate with Tejano music blaring in the background, but the food was great, and the book enthralling. Last night, it was Lean Cuisine Linguine Carbonara with The Black Swan. I've been excited to leave work every night and get home to my books; when it's to get home to my cats, then you can really worry.

Last night, I read until I fell asleep, ignoring any calls, texts, emails, calendar reminders all evening. I did get a call at 5:45am or so this morning. In a case of friendship fail, I had forgotten to set my alarm clock to wake me up so I could drive some friends to the airport for an early morning flight. Already fifteen minutes late, but luckily I arrived at their house two minutes after the call. I think all was well, but maybe a little reading is a bad thing.

October 13, 2009

Ship of Fools

Intel "Rockstar" from Crystal English on Vimeo.

In my foodie world, Christopher Kimball is like a rock star. The bow tie is hot; the food snobbery, condescension, and choosiness about ingredients is attractive. He's the editor and founder of Cook's Illustrated and the host of America's Test Kitchen. Cook's has been a go-to recipe source of mine for awhile now. Their recipes are almost always perfect in terms of flavor, technique, etc. I feel comfortable making their recipes for dinner parties without a dry run, because they rarely give me any trouble.

Kimball wrote an Op-Ed article inspired by the closing of Gourmet magazine. He lamented the shift of loyalty away from experienced, credentialed chefs and towards untrained cooks and the democracy of the Internet, read food blogs. My favorite quote from Kimball's piece is: "The world needs fewer opinions and more thoughtful expertise." He talked of food media specifically, but it's the same issue for all of them - radio, television, publishers, recording industry - and it's a similar problem in libraries and academia as well: Why would you want to pay for anything when you can find what you want online for free? Why would you want something that requires more effort than a Google search?

So I set out to write a ditto blog post, complete with passion and exclamation points, railing against "the democracy of the Internet." I was prepared to support all of Kimball's assertions.

And then I started writing.

Duh, I'm completely guilty of succumbing to the democracy of the Internet, where content is free and conveniently accessible. I don't have cable or even local television channels these days, because I usually just check YouTube, Hulu, or Netflix for whatever I want. They've got Matlock. Purchasing music? Why would I want to do that? There are more free radio stations and free sample downloads than I could ever listen to. Magazines and newspapers - a complete waste of money if I can get their content online for free. Most products of the mass media are complete drivel anyway, but it's also a factor of my pretentiousness to isolate myself from all of it.

I didn't read Gourmet. Any Gourmet recipes I've made came from the free site Epicurious. My mom has a few cooking magazines at her house, and I've never looked at a single one of them and thought it was something I'd want to subscribe to. I don't buy cookbooks. When I need a recipe, I always search food blogs, Epicurious, and yes, the Food Network site. You can bet I'm right there reading all of the comments and reviews written by inexperienced anonyms.

What was I going to rail against? I'm part of the problem.

Now that doesn't mean that I don't still use a LOT of Cook's recipes. Kimball followed up his Op-Ed with a post on his blog titled Ship of Fools? and I agree with his statement (down in the comments section) "I have had hundreds of people tell me over the years that the one thing that Cook’s has done for them is to build their confidence — they realized that they were not lousy cooks, they were just using lousy recipes." I have said many times that being a great cook doesn't take that much skill or innate talent, you only need start with a good recipe. Going through the process of cooking through dozens of Cook's recipes, with their precise instructions, helped me build a knowledge base of the fundamentals of cooking.

And yet, Adam Roberts of Amateur Gourmet made a good point when he tweeted "Chris Kimball, your recipes might work, but your magazine is the dullest, most brain-numbing one around. Blogs r better." (His more gramatically correct opinion is here.)

What do you think?

October 6, 2009


What's your favorite sandwich? The favorite sandwich of the Massachusetts legislature is the Fluffernutter, a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. And if you try one, it might become your favorite, too.

Have you ever heard of a fluffernutter before? I really can't remember when I first ate one. I do have a memory of visiting Washington, DC in my late teens. My family ate dinner in Union Station at some tourist trap that advertised world cuisine and had an entrée on its menu for each of various countries. Do you know what it listed for the United States offering? The fluffernutter. And Scott ordered one. It's not that he was foolish to do so. It was simply remarkable to me that of all the things that could have been on the menu, the fluffernutter was the thing chosen to represent the United States.

It's a very northeastern thing. The Marshmallow Fluff made by Durkee-Mower in Lynn, Massachusetts can't even be purchased in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Colorado, Utah... I like this Mister Rogers video about how it's made.

I've half a mind to order a case of the fluff if only to support a small US company that's still in the family and still making their product one small batch at a time. It's probably the only business using Comic Sans on their site that I'd patronize. And after all, the shipping costs couldn't be that much - it's just fluff.

My personal favorite thing to order at Sheridan's is a vanilla custard concrete with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, so I may venture to try a few of these Fluff recipes. And you've got to listen to these catchy jingles:
Fluffernutter Theme
The Flufferettes

Update: You can purchase Fluff at United Supermarkets and World Market in Lubbock. Hat tip to Brent!

October 4, 2009

Remember When We Cooked?

I attended a "cooking demonstration" on Thursday night, where two cookbook authors were promoting their cookbook "Remember When We Cooked?" That was pretty much the most ironic title ever for a cookbook, because for most of the recipes, the two ladies on stage merely combined a couple of ingredients from a can or the freezer. I don't think I'm shattering their reality by saying what they were doing wasn't cooking. One of the ladies even said, as she poured several cans of fruit into a bowl for "Spiced Hot Fruit," "This is my kind of cooking, dumping." The same woman later said she didn't go in for that fancy stuff like kosher salt. Here is one of the recipes that they demonstrated from their cookbook:
Mystery Fruit Salad
Serves 12

6 crisp apples
6 bars (2 ounces each) Snickers
12 ounces whipped topping

Cut apples into bite-size chunks. Cut Snickers into small pieces. Combine apples, Snickers, and whipped topping in a mixing bowl. Chill before serving.
Maybe you're like me and surprised that anyone had the need to write that one down, not to mention that it's being passed off as a fruit salad. The ladies seemed like your stereotypical sweet, rural, baby boomer soccer moms, and I say good for them creating a moneymaking opportunity out of a cookbook that any community church's ladies society could have put together.

But back to their cookbook's title, "Remember When We Cooked?" I didn't think it was a reference to the days when grandma went out and caught, killed, plucked, gutted and roasted a chicken for dinner, but I thought at least they meant the good old days when grandma combined flour, sugar, eggs, and milk into something without opening a can or boxed mix. Even the ridiculous opening sentences in the A-J's writeup - Really, all they require is water, electricity and a table. Then stand back and watch the magic - make no allusion to, you know, food! being involved in their recipes.

One of the most beautiful things I've read in the New York Times lately is Michael Pollan's Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch, which discusses among other things, the popularity of the Food Network amongst people who couldn't boil water properly, and how the amount of time spent on food preparation has an inverse relationship with obesity. He wrote:
I spent an enlightening if somewhat depressing hour on the phone with a veteran food-marketing researcher, Harry Balzer, who explained that “people call things ‘cooking’ today that would roll their grandmother in her grave — heating up a can of soup or microwaving a frozen pizza.” Balzer has been studying American eating habits since 1978; the NPD Group, the firm he works for, collects data from a pool of 2,000 food diaries to track American eating habits. Years ago Balzer noticed that the definition of cooking held by his respondents had grown so broad as to be meaningless, so the firm tightened up the meaning of “to cook” at least slightly to capture what was really going on in American kitchens. To cook from scratch, they decreed, means to prepare a main dish that requires some degree of “assembly of elements.” So microwaving a pizza doesn’t count as cooking, though washing a head of lettuce and pouring bottled dressing over it does. Under this dispensation, you’re also cooking when you spread mayonnaise on a slice of bread and pile on some cold cuts or a hamburger patty. (Currently the most popular meal in America, at both lunch and dinner, is a sandwich; the No. 1 accompanying beverage is a soda.) At least by Balzer’s none-too-exacting standard, Americans are still cooking up a storm — 58 percent of our evening meals qualify, though even that figure has been falling steadily since the 1980s.
So perhaps the dump-and-stir brand of cooking the ladies did at the demo was in fact cooking.