Frying Food

“Oh, So That’s How Literally Every Fire Ever Started”

Look. I’m no Jacques Pépin.

But, I do find myself playing around in the kitchen at least several times a week. I’ve found that the repetitive and rote work that comes with dicing an onion or peeling a carrot is incredibly relaxing after a long day of work.

Working in a creative field, I’m often presented with a blank slate, and am challenged to fill it up with narrative. There’s something about following a recipe, step by step, that is so meditative to me.

Not to say cooking isn’t a creative endeavor, because I believe it is. It’s just a different muscle. Knowing when to add a dash of spice or a zing of garlic (who we kidding, always add more garlic) to make a dish personally appealing to you is something that takes years of cooking.

I probably have between 12 to 20 dishes that I can confidently create without consulting a recipe. Whenever I try out a new dish though, I’m one of those people who follows the instructions, down to the exact timing and measurements of spices. It usually takes me two or three run throughs before I can start iterating and making the dish my own.

Walking Kate home from work on Tuesday, she inexplicably tripped and rolled her ankle. After getting home, I insisted that she lay up on the couch, while I make her dinner.

We had some chicken breasts thawing, so I consulted the New York Times cooking section online (highly recommend, the UI is gorgeous), and settled on an easy Lemon Chicken recipe.

The recipe called for breading the chicken and then frying it in a large amount of oil. Growing up in California, my experience with frying food at home was limited to almost zero. The few times I attempted it while we were subscribed to Blue Apron resulted in spatters of oil everywhere, and tiny burns that we wore to work the next day.

Which is why Kate looked up from the couch and saw me frantically turning on the ventilator, opening the windows, and turning on a fan as our house became instantly smoky when the breaded chicken landed in the hot cast iron skillet.

“What’s going on over there?”

“Nothing, don’t worry about it. Just following the recipe”

A discussion ensued, and it was decided that my clean California upbringing left me woefully unprepared in the frying department.

From now on, Kate will be in charge of all hot oil related matters. I’ll stick to peeling carrots.

Frying Food – 1 out of 5 Stars

Breaking Up With Your Couples Therapist

“It’s Not Us, It’s You”

In my first edition of The J.R.S, I wrote about how I was grappling with depression, and how weird the experience is of calling a therapist. I’m happy to say that while I’m not cured (can anyone be cured permanently from sad thoughts?), I’m 100% in a better mental state then I was this time last year.

Part of that experience of getting better eventually led to Kate and I seeing a couples therapist.

First off, if you have never gone to therapy, you should. It’s like having your own personal mental cheerleader. If I ruled the world, I would have three mandates:

  1.  Space Exploration at all costs
  2.  Environmental Care and Protections
  3.  Everyone has to go to Therapy once a month.
It would be a wise move to be a therapist in the land of Joey.

The therapist Kate and I ended up at was a delightful old woman who…we just didn’t click with. Now to be fair, it was couples therapy, and in couples therapy, things can become tense. Our therapist helped us work through some issues in our relationship, and our relationship has never been stronger.

It’s fair to say that our therapist (We’ll call her Dr. Hill), helped us come to terms with dating one another.

Dr. Hill did a good job.

Except when Dr. Hill didn’t. And this isn’t a dig on her professional knowledge or skills, because those seemed to be spot on. It’s just that her methods were a bit…dated for us.

Maybe this is the hyper millennial in us, but both Kate and I struggled with how difficult some basic things surrounding couples therapy became. We couldn’t book appointments online, which resulted in phone tag with me having to take calls at work. I would see the number, awkwardly glance around at my coworkers, and take the call as quickly and as quietly as possible.

Unfortunately, the only time slot that worked with us was at 7:30 AM on a Tuesday morning. Do you know what puts stress on a relationship? Waking up at 6 AM on a Tuesday then battling LA traffic, then spending 50 minutes talking about what can be improved in your couples communication, then frantically battling traffic back to each get to work on time.

Neither of us looked forward to Tuesday mornings.

And then there was the matter of Dr. Hill’s vernacular. At one point she suggested that we go to the library and rent some tapes to listen to. I love the library, but who still rents…tapes? When we mentioned meditation apps like Headspace, we were presented with a blank stare.

During our European adventure, Kate and I had a discussion, and we both decided that we didn’t need to see Dr. Hill anymore. So when we got back, I did what a millennial does.

I ghosted Dr. Hill.

I know, I know. Dick move. But it’s hard to break up with your therapist!

I mentioned this to my other therapist, and what ensued was a 20-minute discussion on how I owe Dr. Hill a call, and that as a professional therapist she would be fine with the outcome.

Instead, I wrote this. Looks like I can always still be improving.

Breaking Up With Your Couples Therapist – 2 out of 5 Stars

Rabbit Rabbit

“This is a Thing People Say?”

Did you wake up this morning and say “Rabbit Rabbit” out loud? Because I did.

I don’t know why I did. Apparently it’s thing?

A quick Wikipedia search bounces back information that it brings good luck, or in some cases, a present at the end of the month.

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained.

RABBIT RABBIT!

Rabbit Rabbit – 4 out of 5 Stars

Automatic Bathroom Apparatus

“Work Smarter…and Sometimes Dumber”

We’ve all been there. You’re in a bathroom that has some fancy new technology that makes it so you don’t have to touch anything to wash your hands. Most of the time these situations occur to me at the airport. You go to the sink, patiently place your hands underneath the faucet, and wait for a soothing jet of water to moisturize your mitts.

Instead, you wave your hands like a madman, while simultaneously glancing around to see if anyone else is seeing your embarrassing technology predicament. After 13.5 seconds of futile flailing, it’s time to abandon hope, and either:

Just walk out with soapy hands or quickly move to another faucet and hope for the best.

I love the advent of new technology in our lives to make the little things that much easier. I marveled at the genius who created the automatic hand paper towel dispensers and spent hours upon hours contemplating how much money that company made with each whirl of a towel.

At one point in college, I sketched a design of a urinal that would use low powered suction fans to drastically reduce (and hopefully eliminate completely) splashback. A frenzied search for patent lawyers resulted in a very patient old man explaining to me the cost of patent applications. And so, the dream of Joey’s Unbelievable Urinal Ward was dead.

The use of hands-free technology in wash closets is a small upgrade that makes bathroom experiences that much better. But we haven’t perfected it yet, which results in everyone frantically waving at a sink or a toilet at least once in their life.

And in those moments of true vulnerability, the desire to be seen, to be acknowledged is never stronger. I came here to go to the bathroom, not have an existential crisis. But as I waggle my palm with increasing nervousness at a thin black square of infrared light, I find myself asking myself, “Am I really here?”

Then the toilet flushes, and all is right with the world.

Automatic Bathroom Apparatus – 3 out of 5 Stars 

Enchiladas

“Just Order The Tacos”

Growing up in Los Angeles, and then going to school in San Antonio, it’s safe to say that Mexican food has been a major part of my life for almost three decades.

Combinations of tortillas, meat, cheese, and beans are almost a weekly dietary staple in our home. When we’re being health conscious, we’ll skip the tortillas and beans, but there are few things more comforting to me then pork or chicken simmered in salsa.

I’m not a professional chef, so please take this with a grain of salt, but nearly all mainstream Mexican food is just various combinations of tortillas, cheese, protein, and vegetables. Burritos are really just food presents with a tortilla as the wrapping paper, while enchiladas create a tunnel of deliciousness, and tacos build a roofless home to tasty bites.

Whenever I visit a “sit down” Mexican restaurant that isn’t some sort of fancy take on authentic Mexican food, I suffer a crisis of food choice. Also to be clear, I’m talking about family Mexican restaurants. The kind that have parrots and guitars hanging on the walls, and with margarita specials. You know the type.

I’m a taco truck type of person. To me, the best tacos come from a place that takes cash only, and someone might try to sell you a pitbull puppy while you’re waiting in line (this actually happened to me). Tacos are sold at a price point of $1-3 and are served in hot corn tortillas, and it’s up to you decide the range of garnishes you want.

At a restaurant where the plates are $15 and come with a side of rice, beans, sour cream, and pico de gallo, I panic. Because really all I want are street tacos, but now I’m in a place that offers more options. Is today the day I eat menudo for dinner?

Which brings me to enchiladas.

I always think I should order the enchiladas. They contain all the things I like in theory. They’re really just tacos that fell asleep and stretched out.

But the second I bring a knife and fork into the equation, the Mexican food magic is lost to me. I feel compelled to eat the rice and beans, when in fact all I want to do is eat the main course and throw the rest away. But that’s wasteful, so instead, I gorge myself, regretting my enchilada choice with every bite.

Skip the rice and beans, avoid the enchilada tunnel. Order yourself a platter of roofless homes, and decorate them how you want. As long as the salsa is Verde, you’ve made the right decision.

Enchiladas – 1 out of 5 Stars  

Visiting Hospitals

“Where the Beeping Matters Most”

When you’re in a hospital, it’s the sounds that are the most important.

The mood and the moment can all be deciphered by one singular sound – the beep of various life-saving machines.

When they’re beeping at a regular interval, you can breathe easy. It’s never truly silent in a hospital, but one can be lulled to relaxation by the measured meter of machines at rest.

Staccato bursts are when it’s time to take notice. To take measure and hear nurses and doctors spring into action. Rapid beeping can be the final crescendo to well-lived years or the opening stanza to a song of new life.

Coughs, groans, moans, shouts, and sneezes all fade into the background bubble of noise in hospital.

But the beeps ring clear – diligently singing their song of observation.

Visiting Hospitals – 3 out of 5 Stars 

Eating at Benihana

“A Meal That Sears Into Your Memory”

During a pumpkin carving party last week (more on that later), somehow I let it slip that I had never been to a Benihana restaurant. Martini in hand, somehow plans were immediately made for a trip to the acclaimed Japanese eatery this week.

Which is how I found myself seated around a square grill, waiting not for dinner, but for a dining experience.

I’ve been to Korean BBQ and intimate Japanese BBQ restaurants, but never to a Benihana-style place. I felt confident that I knew what I was in for. Onion volcanoes, shrimp tossed into mouths, and much much more. Also, as a side note, if you are looking for a great read, this article details the sordid life of the CEO of Benihana, Rocky Aoki. The title says it all “Cocaine, boats, and backgammon: The insane life of Rocky Aoki, Benihana’s founder.

Our motley group of six diners consisted of three couples, and we decided to make it middle school dance style, with all the girls in the middle of the table, and the trio of guys in the corner. After getting our drink orders and salads, our grillmaster came out.

On one hand, we got a show, but on the other, it wasn’t the one we wanted?

A diminutive Japanese man, he immediately struck a combative and…weird tone. One of our eaters was allergic to eggs, and the chef made fun of him in the first 30 seconds, using effeminate gestures to show that allergies weren’t manly.

What followed was a slew of one-note cooking tricks – all umbrellaed under the chef’s main gimmick.

And the gimmick was that he was fucking the food.* 

He would cut the chicken and yell “oooo” and “more baby!”

He would take the rice and throw it on the grill, and then spank it with his spatula, locking eyes with each of the guys as he did it, all while cooing.

The first main trick was turning a pile of fried rice into a heart, and using his spatula, he made it beat. But then he made it pulse faster and faster, muttering “harder harder harder.”

Luckily, the women were mostly oblivious to the shenanigans, but our trio of guys were all bewildered.

The famous onion volcano occurred, and that was maybe the most exciting moment of the show.

There were no opportunities to throw food in our mouths because he simply didn’t give one (which given his demeanor, you would think that would be easy fodder for him).

He did drop my bowl of rice though, scrape it back in with his fingers, and try again. Oh, and he also threw shrimp into one of our drinks, and missed plates completely.

I definitely got a meal I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. But If I do ever go back to Benihana, I hope to have a dish that isn’t served with a side of sexual buffoonery.

Benihana – 1 out of 5 Stars

*Sorry for the language, but he wasn’t just having sex with the food. Definitely fucking it.