Riding the Roller Coaster with Marlboro Man

Oh, it’s been so long since I’ve blogged. My emotions have been riding this roller coaster, which is mostly engineered of twisting downhill turns and long plunging dives. These past few weeks have been a rackety ride with double dips and zero-g rolls. I didn’t want anyone buy a ticket to my mental ride. Refunds would have been requested.

I admit, a lot of my emotional turmoil could be attributed to PMS. Hating on my friends, exasperation with my family, no patience with work or the commute or the stupidity of life. Well, I’ve bled and I’m feeling better. Better, but still sad.

We lost J.

John Garino- musician, researcher, Big Bottom, grizzly bear, Indian Food lover, Groomsman, Guinness drinker, bucket-game player, doctoral student and good friend- passed away February 13th. It was already a sad day because it was my Mom’s first birthday in Heaven. J went to sleep on Thursday and never woke up.

No one got to say good-bye.

Being friends with J was like being in an exclusive club that everyone belonged to. He always made you feel like you were the funniest, smartest, most talented person he knew. Yet he travelled in such wide circles of life making friends wherever he went. You could go a long time not talking to J but the next time you saw him was like coming home. You fell into such an easy patter with him because he was so easy to talk to.

He was the smartest person you never realized you knew.

The guy playing bass in a punk band. The guy at the bar having a little too much to drink. The guy smoking a butt covered with tattoos. The guy at the Yankee game yelling at the umpire. You wouldn’t think this guy would be as brilliant as J was. Getting first his BS in History, then his Master’s in Library Science while working IT at St. John’s University. Deciding to pursue his PhD so he could teach. He was at home in the classroom as well as the stage. But did he show off his smarts? Was he obnoxious about how much he knew? Nope. Most people upon meeting J never realized how intelligent he was. Sure, he would debate baseball, religion, music and politics with you. But you never came out of an argument mad or exasperated at him. He would show up at your door with home-brewed beer or his mom’s Irish Soda Bread and never looked for praise. He was unassuming to a fault.

There’s a special place in my heart for J. He was practically the only one of MR’s friends I met when I first started going with MR that didn’t make me feel uncomfortable because I had two kids. He made me feel at home with the guys (we were on the dart team) and when he came out to the beach house, he played endlessly with the kids- humoring them in their made up games. He coined the persona I use to this day- Mamasoo, bad spelling and all, because I was the one with the kids. And it never bothered him like it bothered so many of MR’s other friends and family members. I will always be grateful to him for that.

It’s hard to accept that he’s gone from our lives. What will happen to Norman Bates and the Showerheads? I listen to his “Rock of J Bralter” CD over and over, appreciating more and more what a great musician he was.

Yes, my life is dimmer now that he’s not here. But living “The J-way”by accepting everyone (faults and all), living life to it’s fullest and learning new things will definitely make my life brighter. It’ll be hard, but I’m really going to try. I wonder if Guinness helps?

Rest in Heavenly Peace, J. You’ll be missed.

If At FIrst You Don’t Succeed…Call It Something Else.

Finally. A blog post. Sorry, but it was a long, busy week. And too much to think about. And too many demons to wrestle…so…

Before I worked for The Bank, I worked for the City of New York for eight years as a Project Architect. The learning opportunities at the Housing Preservation and Development were great- not only did I get to design and build housing for lower income families, I learned the fine art of running a business out of a cubicle.

ALL the city workers do it…

I learned the tools of my trade at this job- Autocad. I also learned that not all architects are created equal. Especially if you’re male. If you’re male, you are naturally a much higher caliber individual. And smarter.

Of COURSEyou are…

But the most important lesson I learned while working for HPD was one my future husband taught me. He taught me to love different ethnic foods. Lunches at Indian restaurants. Dinners in Chinatown for Thai. Snacks at out-of-the-way Pakistani stands. He introduced me to spicy foods and now it’s one more thing I’m indebted to him for.

Working for the City was like working in the United Nations. I worked elbow to elbow with every nationality. And with those nationalities came the food.

Oh, yes. Bharti’s vegetarian lunches. Mike’s hummus.. Lily’s scallion pancakes. Ann’s spicy curdled milk.

Different folks, different foods. I tried all of them and loved it all.

One day, we had a brainstorm. Instead of going out one day, let’s all bring in something from home for a potluck. I always dreaded being on the supply side of a potluck- especially an ethnic one. This American white girl has no ethnic history. White girl usually brought cornbread. Or salad. I think on the day of the HPD potluck I brought in a huge bowl of lettuce. Oh so boring.

But on the receiving end? I was in heaven. All the homemade Russian, Greek, Polish, Indian, Middle Eastern, Jamaican, Italian, Chinese, Guyanese food…and salad…was wonderful. We ate and picked all afternoon. It was the first time I tried dishes like hummus, babaganoush, tabouli, saag paneer and kielbasa. My favorite? Our Egyptian engineer’s wife’s babaganoush. I remember taking the whole bowl back to my desk after lunch to nosh on with the toasted pita points. Heaven!

So I was craving this eggplant dish the other day and decided to document making it. Hey-all the big name bloggers are all doing it…so I figured I’d try my first photo recipe. Since I cleaned the fridge and threw out the tahini, I needed a recipe that didn’t include it. I remember Mike’s babaganoush to be tahini free, too, so I found the recipe here:

2 eggplants
2 tbsp lemon juice
5 cloves minced garlic, preferably roasted
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cumin (the stuff in the blue bowl)
1/2 tsp parsley

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice eggplants in half and pierce with a fork in several places.

Roast for about 45 minutes, or until soft. Allow to cool slightly, then scoop out inside of eggplant, leaving skin behind. In a blender or food processor, process eggplant with remaining ingredients until smooth.

Easy, huh? One would think. I split the recipe in half and used the other eggplant to make this:
Chili Lime Babaganoush
2 medium eggplants
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin

Slice eggplant in half, and roast in 400 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until soft.
Allow to cool slightly, then scoop out inside of eggplant, leaving skin behind.
In a blender or food processor, combine eggplant and remaining ingredients until smooth.

I don’t know if I processed the eggplant mess too much, but it didn’t have the consistency I’ve come to know as babaganoush. It came out more like a tapanade. Spreadable. Creamy. Not “ganoushy” at all. Or maybe too “ganoushy?”

So I call it eggplant tapanade. I’ve been spreading it on wraps and stuffing the wraps with baby spinach and sprinkling dried cranberries on top. Oooh, what a great tapanade. So spreadable! Delicious! Perfect for my new low-carb diet.

Yeah, that’s not raspberry jam and caramel sauce. It’s my wonderful new tapanade/babaganoush fail.
I’ll keep trying to perfect not only the babaganoush, but also my picture taking.

Because I like typing the word BABAGANOUSH!