Friday, August 17, 2012

BBQ Ice Cream Cake: A Recipe Contest I Can Enter

I cook. Yet, I am not a chef or a cook. I cook because my family and I eat. I’m fairly good at it—eating, not cooking. And yet, day in and day out I cook and so my family and I eat.

When I cook there are no mathematical equations, no formulas and no actual recipes.

I could enter a recipe contest, but I think judges frown on disclosures that read “do not attempt if you are living or would like to.” People tend to turn their noses up at recipes that list things like fire extinguishers and smoke alarms in the ingredients.

Growing up, my grandmother was a phenomenal cook: cooking is not hereditary. When I moved out on my own I was surprised to learn that I could not cook. Eating out was just fine—until I got pregnant, and hungrier. I began experimenting in the kitchen. That’s when I learned that there really were only a few things that didn’t taste better with cinnamon.

I cinnamonized everything.

Still, I can’t add cinnamon to a recipe since, you know, people expect other ingredients as well. Besides, I just may be directionally challenged. My one attempt at following a recipe for a Lemon Meringue Pie ended—just not well. The recipe was too complicated for me to follow. At some point the directions switched from making the meringue to making the filling. I switched as soon as I realized it. That was probably one or two ingredients too late. The smell of baked eggs permeated the house. I will leave it at that.

I may not know how to write a recipe, but I know how to eat and I know when a recipe is easy enough for me to follow. Not from reading it, but from following it.

And so, an idea is born: an interactive recipe contest that goes from paper to pan.

Ingredients: From Paper...

  • Recipe Writers
  • Cooks, all levels
  • Recipes, multiple categories
  • Kitchen, Professional grade
  • Actual Ingredients, depends on recipes attempted
  • Creativity
  • Food Tasters, Adventurous
  • Appetite
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Smoke Alarm
  • Cinnamon

...To Pan

  1. Team up with an organization like Living Social that offers a site to prepare the recipes.
  2. Encourage chefs, cooks, eaters, etc…to submit their best recipe in multiple categories.
  3. Have readers choose, nominate, support, and/or adopt a recipe that they are willing to prepare (cannot be the cook who submitted the recipe).
  4. Gather participants at a professional location similar to 918 F Street, a local community college kitchen or a local culinary school.
  5. Watch, shake and stir: volunteer cooks attempt to follow the recipes.
  6. Gather for group Tasting test.
  7. Select winner(s).
  8. Repeat steps as necessary.

Where ever can I find a Kitchen you ask?

1. Ask friends to host recipe cooking parties.
2. Host the event at an organization that offers set up and break down; for example Living Social's 918 F Street.
3. Host events around the world at local culinary schools
4. Host events around the globe at local community colleges
5. Virtually anywhere: have cooks prepare the recipes live on cam and upload

My Culinary Masterpiece: BBQ Ice Cream Cake

More than one way to thaw out an ice cream cake

Literally Me: Words Move Me

Almost twenty years ago I moved to Baltimore—because of words.

I was tired of working five days a week, hanging out five to six nights a week, and feeling like I was standing still seven days a week. Words reminded me that I had goals and ambition to reach them; that my life off the page was not at all like I imagined it would be.

Everything I was reading, all of the books I rewrote in my head, ended in Baltimore—I should mention that these books were fiction.

Still, they led me to move from New Jersey to Maryland; almost twenty years later, words move me again.

I am in the process of relocating my family, of uprooting them, to move to the UK for two years while I pursue my PhD in Creative Writing at Lancaster University (UK). The pursuit of my PhD is on one hand quite a selfish one. There are no guarantees it will further my career or guarantee me a full-time faculty position. There are no guarantees my PhD will get my not-yet-written novel published.

In life, there are few guarantees. One is that I’m guaranteed to fail if I don’t try. Since when is failing an option?

Pursuing my degree across the pond, shows my children that education can take you wherever you want to go and to places you may not even imagine. My children, 6, 13, and 17, are excited, scared, intrigued, shocked. At times, so am I though; I’ve only now begun to admit it.

Moving to the UK requires research, creativity, and communication. I’m a selective communicator by nature. This move across the world is actually bringing me closer to my network of friends, colleagues. I am having conversations about the ability to get around Lancashire without a car; how to transfer my children to schools in the UK; how to find a voice over or writing job to add to my teaching and writing.

My questions, my journey require a combination of communication: phone calls, emails, letters and tweets, updates, and posts. I am communicating more today than I have ever.

I don't always communicate effectively. It isn't that I don't know how; it is that at times silence suits me, not the situation. Moving to the UK means asking for help. It means having questions and getting answers.
I can not afford selective communication. Well, not in the terms I use to define it--to define myself. Words, at times, have been seductive; aphrodisiacs to seduction which inevitably lead to goodbyes. I'm infatuated with endings.
And now, words once again move towards endings--but towards beginnings too. While I am not at all certain where the words will move me after the UK; I'm enjoying the story and the telling of it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Boy Power Too: I'm Raising Men Too

Girl power!

It’s everywhere I look.

Online, I can search for games that encourage my daughter to solve problems, think critically, explore anything and question everything. I can look for movies to inspire my daughter to live her dreams: to make things happen. Offline, I can pick up books about real girls doing real things—really amazing things. Academically, I can enroll my daughter in programs to remind her that engineering, math, sciences, the world is hers for the taking, or the making.

My daughter is beautiful, intelligent, creative, kind; she’s amazing. She can be anything she sets her mind to be. I tell her these things —I have been telling her these things since before she was born—yet, my daughter doesn’t believe everything I tell her. As a mother of a daughter I am fortunate that the world seems to support my efforts. And so the world (at least my corner of it) validates my words through programs, organizations, portals, and other venues.

But what about my boys?

While I don’t look to the world to validate my words, what is the world telling my sons? Are they to imply that the lack of boys’ programs means boys don’t need reminders to question limits of technology, of structures, of their very worlds and thoughts? Are they not to strive to be chemists, politicians, academics because there are few programs actively looking for them?

I know opportunities have not always existed for girls. Around the world, my country, my state, my county, my community—girls have not historically had the same opportunities as boys; many still don’t.

I don’t want the programs for girls to go away.

I also don’t want the world to forget that there are boys too. Not every boy looks to history, books, newspapers, the world and says “oh, he’s a doctor, I can be one too.”

Still, where are the books, games, shows, programs and organizations to remind my boys that they can be anything they can dream of being?

I’ve never been one to look to my world to define my limits: I wasn’t raised that way and so I won’t raise my children that way.

Still, by not supporting our sons we may be teaching them something we aren’t prepared for them to learn.

So, while I don’t look to the world to validate my efforts:

Dear world,

Please don’t forget my sons.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

If Daughters Came with Directions

I worry I don’t know how to parent a 15 year-old young woman.

I have been one. I have known some. But now that I’m raising one, it all seems different. 

When I was 15, I was in to boys—well, young men and their bourgeoning attentions. My friend—and since she’s a married, mother of three, I will not name her—and I strolled the Atlantic City boardwalk from one end to the other in attempts to capture their attention and hold it for as long as our fleeting moments of interest could allow.

My mother—I think—thought we were exercising. Seasons before she had accused my sister and me of being ‘boy crazy.’ 

I wasn’t yet.

By the time I could have been positively diagnosed as boy crazy, my mother was ready to move to Germany—alone.

Today, I parent a 15 year old with no road map, no directions, with nothing but common sense, love, and my memories of wanting to be mothered at 15 to guide me.

Backstory: Reflections on this Month's Theme for Stories at the Storey

Meeting deadlines is as soothing to me as a creamy cup of flavoured coffee. Checking a project off of my mental to-do list settles me. ...