The Pre-Thanksgiving Post: Part 1 (The Rant)

I know that most of the readers of this blog do not know me personally and are probably not aware of what’s going on in my life. So here’s the gist of it: I got a job. Full time and a half with no benefits but still… A job. I work as a First Year Experience Coordinator at my alma mater which means I work with freshmen. 130 freshmen, in fact. There were 135 but I lost a few somewhere along the way. Or more like I could never find them. Part of my duties in this job is to try and help the “Class of 2016” bond as a group and create strong ties to the campus community. How better to do that than with food?

So while my job is an administrative one I’ve tried to make as many of our programs and events include food of some sort. Actually, while typing this section of the post I am supervising a Freshman Study Night and there are enough snacks and hot drink fixings here to sink a small ship. And that’s what I’ve been doing. Enticing young college students into the house of learning with the promise of hot chocolate with whipped cream and fancy biscuits to dunk in it. A lot of the students still don’t seem to realize I get paid to do this.  Sometimes I don’t realize I’m getting paid to do this. Then, magically, checks show up on my desk and thus my bank accounts grow.

In years past my family has tried various traditions for Thanksgiving. We never seem to stick to any one. One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories was from while I was living in England and a friend and I decided that life just wouldn’t be the same unless we had a proper Thanksgiving. One of the American professors that the school held a Thanksgiving dinner for the American students but you had to pay and it was vegetarian (my friend was NOT okay with that) and it was missing some seriously major elements: (1) Pecan Pie, (2) meat, (3) participation in the kitchen, (4) our friends.

So my friend and I decided that the only proper thing to do would be have our own Thanksgiving dinner and invite our non-American friends so that they could experience Thanksgiving our way. Not to mention the regular Thanksgiving on campus was ONLY for American students and we didn’t have too many of them in our posse. What is it about groups of Americans in Europe? I swear they aren’t that loud and obnoxious in their own country. We planned dinner for about 15 people. We made our lists, bought our groceries, scrubbed the dorm kitchen so it was usable and asked around campus for all the supplies we’d need like plates, silverware, chairs, etc.

Thanksgiving day comes and we both have class in the morning so nothing can happen until after lunch. That’s when we start hauling stuff over to the dorm from the cafeteria and people start to notice. It’s when we’re carrying over an extra table that a couple other students offer to help us out that we realize we might need to up our numbers for dinner. After all, people are helping us set up for dinner and they’re asking questions about Thanksgiving and we’re telling them it’s about being thankful for everything we have and bringing people together. So within an hour of beginning our preparations we’ve gone from our original 15 guests to around 20 and as the afternoon goes on we’re up to 35 and so we call in some favors and ask some friends to bring us a few more ingredients to make sure we have enough food. We’d apparently planned for everyone on our original guest list to eat until they rolled over dead because we didn’t have to ask for too many extra ingredients.

By the time people had pitched in to help set up, cook, clean up afterwards, etc, we had a total of (and we counted) 55 people attend our Thanksgiving. While it wasn’t the same at Thanksgiving at home it was still very special to me. It was after that big event that we put on that I was asked to be the Social VP at the school which brought on a whole different kind of intensive kitchen workout. But that’s another set of tales.

Like I said in a previous post, Thanksgiving is a magical time for me. I tell people who I bring or invite home (or wherever I happen to be) for Thanksgiving that this is the one day a year you can eat whatever you want. I know this has next to nothing to do with the spirit of the holiday but I don’t care. That’s a big part of  it for me. If you’re a guest in my house on Thanksgiving I will do my very best to make sure that what you love to eat most in the world in on that kitchen table at some point during the day. It just so happens that the Thanksgiving staples (mashed potatoes and stuffing) happen to be one of my favorite food couples in the world. I ask for it on my birthday along with pecan pie which I’m pretty sure I could eat a truckload of all on my own if I didn’t have parents. (I always make sure my mom makes two for Thanksgiving so I’m assure to have at least a half to a whole pie at my disposal throughout the day)

But every Thanksgiving we get ambitious at my house. My dad buys the biggest turkey and then 2-3 chickens. My mom checks out books from the library. I go online. Magazines get murdered. Lists get made. We all start yelling. It’s really quite horrifying how much we yell when planning family events/meals that are supposed to represent peace and togetherness. I’ve had friends state this quite bluntly to me. And somewhere in there we end up with a menu that works for everyone.

While the same thing is probably going to happen this year there will also be the potential addition of young college students joining us which is both a little stressful but in a good heartwarming kind of way. I hope that the students who come feel the love in how loud we yell at one another about who is cutting what completely wrong. But it is important to me, as me and as their adviser (possibly boss, we might get some older students) that they feel like Thanksgiving is magic no matter where they are or who their with. And also like they couldn’t possibly eat another crumb by the end of the night.

The second part of this post will be a special Thanksgiving Gastroporn Menu which includes some of my personal favorites for the holiday as well as some new things I’d like to see (and hear) my family argue about later.

To be continued…

Advertisements

A Quest! A Quest!

I always feel guilty playing around on Pinterest while at work. But for some reason I have no problems playing Tetris on my phone during committee meetings. Well… They’re really bad meetings. Nothing ever gets done and in the end we always have a worse problem than we started with. I can’t believe that this is what an “Adult” workplace looks  like. It’s ridiculous. There will probably be a new VP to oversee the new Dean who was installed in my office to oversee the Director who’s been here for eons without a vacation and who actually worked up to 18 hours a day 7 days a week over the summer because there wasn’t anyone else to help out. Until they finally hired me, that is. Then there were 2 of us working insane hours but at least they were less than his previous hours.

We need more worker ants! It’s really too bad that all those student workers we pay to sit out at the front desk all day are next to worthless. Maybe it’s because I’m on the wrong end of the complexion scale but I’ve never been so mistreated by anyone as I have been by the students who (believe it or not!) work for me in this office. One of my freshmen just got the Monday night shift with me and he’s still fresh and helpful. I intend to keep it that way. And there is one other decent worker but she just got married (to another student I think) and they have a baby-toddler. How sad it is that the newly married mother is a better student and more productive worker than the ones on a music scholarship who sits at the desk watching YouTube all day? Tragic.

Anyways, I digress.

Today’s self righteous college students with their attitude problems jut really bother me!

Okay, I’m sorry. Had to get that out before I could continue.

When I was working in the English Department it was always very clear as to who was in charge: Dr. C——-, the chair of the department. She actually referred to herself as the Queen of the Underworld on several occasions. The English Department is in the basement so this actually made perfect sense. As an eternal honorary citizen on the Underworld I still go down every morning to get proper hot water for my tea.

It get’s me to thinking that we’re becoming to top heavy in terms of our administrative scheme at the University. A recent conversation had me referring to it as the epitome of Vogonity with all the paperwork it takes to get a check cut or try and use any of the rooms on campus for events or seminars and meeting! Don’t even get me starting on trying to find a location for a meeting…

No. What we need around here is a grand monarch to whom everything goes and either gets a thumbs up or thumbs down. Like in the Arena. There should be no hiding that this is the case. Trying to make every thing seem all well planned and thought out and democratic will only make people more frustrated. If you’re going to be oppressive you should have the guts to be honest about it.

Every day court will be held up on the 3rd floor and the “University Monarch” — who may choose from a list of appropriate titles such as “The Academician” or ” His/Her Educatedness”– for a certain number of hours and there will be a line that follows the old ways so there’s no favoritism, merely the willpower required to get yourself into that line far up enough that you can be seen that day. A request will be made and the Monarch can ask for the opinions of his/her advisers (finance, scheduling, legal, etc.) and then make a final decision.

Guess who thinks she could be a great Monarch….

My first order of business would be to set up a real calendar of events that everyone has access to. That way no one will ever make a stupid scheduling request because they simply have no idea. Simply log onto your computer, see the schedule, decide whether or not you really need to make a request based on the schedule or petition the schedule and then, based on your decision you can either go upstairs and stand in line or you can stay in your office and focus on actually working with your students.

My second order of business would be to fire the third party company that runs the cafeteria and start all over again. I am aware that a large amount of the readership of this blog may not be aware of the Health “Message” of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church (and most of its affiliated institutions, such as my workplace) so I’ll give you a brief synopsis, without all the politics of why some countries ignore parts and become martyrs to others and blah blah blah.

We should all be vegetarian. Preferably vegan but vegetarian will suffice. We should also refrain from alcohol, caffeine, and (if you’re a purist): vinegar, melting ice cream, baking powder (but it may be baking soda I can never remember because obviously I’m not a purist), pepper or spiciness of any kind…. and there are others but it’s not necessary to continue. I think the point is clear. It’s pretty strict in theory. Luckily there are only small groups in the world that actually keep to this lifestyle and then tend to be like the Amish in terms of how often they make it out into “The World” (which they are in but not “of”). The rest of the SDA community is pretty “OK”. Promise.

While I obviously don’t adhere very strictly to many of these rules I’m a fan of religious institutions being true to themselves in that if they are going to preach/teach something they should do it wholeheartedly. So when I took this job and found out that they were serving caffeinated sodas in the cafeteria I was little unhappy. Mostly because the last thing my Freshmen needed was caffeine to mess up their already horrifying sleep habits but also because the cafeteria boasts as being a vegetarian restaurant in keeping with our church’s message. And by vegetarian food I’m not talking something like this:

A Vegetarian Harvest Dinner, from Saveur

I’m talking stuff like this:

Tofu Scramble (the link takes you to a review from “Freezer Burns”)

My Gma used to make stuff like this. It’s disgusting and an affront to tofu everywhere.

So of course we have students who are used to having a lot of meat in their diet and suddenly BAM! Tofu scramble… but here’s some Pepsi! Not okay.

The only good thing I’ve heard or experienced in the cafeteria is that there is a decent salad bar. Not much of a compliment when you think about it. I mean how hard is a salad bar? Considering our chef has supposedly won awards for his vegetarian cooking I’m not impressed. But I do like salad. Which brings me back to playing on Pinterest at work. It’s chapel time so I can actually do that now.

If you’ve been to my Pinterest account at all you will see that I have all the GastroGasms boards somewhat separated for easy browsing. I really wanted one for salads because I like salads and think that there would be better salads. My mom happened to make me a few nice one this morning to take with me to work (I know I’m SUCH a big girl!) and I had a fantastic one last night at an employee banquet. Other than the salad  and the bread there wasn’t much to write about, SDA banquets are fairly drawn out and rather dull affairs and everyone just automatically gets up and leaves after closing prayer. No dancing. Dancing is evil. Probably because there’s no booze and we’re all just so exhausted from all those committee meetings.

But my Gastrogasms: Salads Board is pathetic. Only 20 pins. 20 is pretty lousy, especially with the amount of time I spend looking for recipes and Gastroporn. So I am now on a quest (Yay!) to try and find more salad recipes. Here are some recent additions (all of which I intend to try within the next 2 weeks):

Crispy Okra Salad

Cucumber and Feta Salad

Grilled Zucchini and Spinach Salad with Feta and Roasted Hazelnut (aka: Zucchini Ribbon Salad)

Deconstructed Caesar Salad (Also great site for additional Gastroporn)

I’m now on the prowl for more salads. If you know of any please share. The findings will be posted to both Pinterest and the GastroGasms Facebook page.

“Balancing” the “Budgets”

Now that I’m fully employed (meaning I go to an office 4 days a week and get paid to do “stuff”) I have been both missing my old carefree days of school while also enjoying all the things I get to do with the much larger paychecks I get. And yes, I did actually earn money during school. Hate me all you want but I finished my MBA with a rather nice little pile of not-so-hard earned money and just found out the school owes me over $2000 because I paid too much money to cover all my fees for when I went to France last summer.

So what do I do with all my piles of cash? Well I save it, mostly, and I’m starting some investment accounts (still in the testing phase) and the rest I blow on things like this:

Le Collectionneur, Integrale (French Edition)

And of course there is the regular frolic sessions in and around the DC area that usually involve Smithsonian Art Gallery shops and dinner.

Yesterday was an afternoon spent in Downtown Silver Spring after hearing nothing from the students I had set aside time to take to the Holocaust Museum that included lunch, window shopping, getting frustrated with shoes that look pretty but don’t fit my feet (which are genetically engineered for hunting and gathering like my Java Man ancestors in the jungles of Indonesia but not for cute shoes), and then “Skyfall”. 007 movies are among my absolute favorites. I had a crazy insane face the whole movie I was that happy.

When my Mexican sister (who was having a birthday and thus all the intense amounts of fun piled into one day) and I got out of the movie we realized that we were late for our dinner reservations at Firefly with our Kenyan sister. After rescheduling the dinner with enough time to get into DC and find parking and finally making it to the restaurant we had a grand time with the food, the bottles of booze, and time spent together (which we haven’t done in a really long time).

Firefly (click to go to the restaurant website)
And as a side note: Unless otherwise stated you can click on ALL photos in this blog and be taken to an external source. As a good English degree holder I know how to cite my sources.

My Kenyan sister and I are notorious tippers in DC and our poor server was having a really crap day. Plus he was super cute and actually very nice, despite the tired look on his face and the drooping shoulders while he went to replace our champagne flutes (which had lipstick marks on them). We wrote him a note and left a nice 40% tip. Not our highest percentage on a tip but still pretty decent (and if you know anything about the price of dining out in DC you’ll know that 40% is no small amount). He smiled when he got our signed bills and it was a good end to the night.

I get to the office this morning and sort through all the emails to pick out the best images/recipes to go up on the Facebook page and then I check the damage of yesterday’s frolic session with the siblings. Not as bad as it has been and nowhere near as bad as my horrifying literary hobby. I’m also reminded by another email that I have yet to receive my physical copy of Food & Wine magazine. I have a special budget now for GastroGasms which includes “Research”.

As a decent MBA graduate I know that funding has to come from somewhere and so I have started a project that will hopefully help with the upkeep of this research and potentially the little GastroGasms community: A GastroGasms Calendar.

Exciting isn’t it?!

I’ve begun collecting food/drink related holidays from various sources and am currently compiling them for use in a GastroGasms calendar. If anyone knows of some that they feel needs to be included I would love the additional input. I’ve already enjoyed National Dessert Day and Champagne Day in October and I think everyone needs to be made aware of such momentous markers in time in advance (unlike me who found out last minute and would have to make an emergency batch of chocolate cupcakes for National Chocolate Cupcake Day).

The Calendar will also, feature the monthly Gastroporn menus.

And people wonder what I do at work all day… Speaking of work. I need to go prepare for Lego Death Star night in the conference room!

[Also, feel free to check out and Like the GastroGasms Facebook page for more than daily tidbits either from the Homepage or by clicking HERE.

First GastroGasm of the Day

So I literally bounded down the stairs this morning all awake (without coffee and after a very late night/early morning on the phone) and skipped off down the road to go vote at the elementary school near the house. My parents trailed behind commenting on whether or not I am mature enough to vote while I changed my Facebook status to “And a happy “I Get to Vote for Obama Day” to YOU!”. I picked that one only after much consideration.

Yes, I like Obama. Yes, I voted for him. And yes it makes me feel like a big girl to put the “I Voted” sticker on my office door.

While waiting in line I was browsing for Tapioca Pudding Recipes and photos of well designed Breakfast/Brunch photos. It was all I could do to keep myself from bouncing around the hallways like the mature 5-year old I felt like. I like cooking for people and one meal I especially like cooking for people is Breakfast and/or Brunch. Something about being the artist that gives a person their first GastroGasm of the day. I honestly cannot wait until I have someone to make breakfast in bed for. I don’t care how domesticated that makes me sound.

As it so happens, there is a person I send breakfast photos to on a fairly regular basis. I happened to have these photos on my phone so I’m not sure exactly where they came from. Probably Pinterest, which is not working right now. But here was today’s photo:

20121106-121618.jpg

And here was yesterday’s (it was a vote):

20121106-121648.jpg

Or…

20121106-121710.jpg

And there here are some other things I couldn’t help not keeping:

20121106-121724.jpg

20121106-121737.jpg

20121106-121748.jpg

So after voting and rushing to campus to try and get my dad to his first class of the day at least decently late as opposed to obscenely late (there was a big to do trying to call student workers to get a note up in his classroom), I settled into my office with some blackberries and tea while basking in the glow of a late night with awesome people and an early morning with awesome people who vote. Had some good music going on my Pandora station: Buddha Bar. Then I get a delivery of such magnitude I can’t even control my glee:

20121106-121759.jpg

Isn’t it beautiful? I’m booking the conference room during my next late night shift in the office for a good few hours with this.

But in line with my desire for everyone to have a better day with a better breakfast, I think that starting the day off with a proper amount of sleep the night before (made better depending on what/who you do just before bed) and a bounce in your step is a good beginning point. Then eat. Take two minutes to think about something to make. Make it, then eat it. Just like thinking about your vote before you cast it, we should all put a little more effort into starting our days off better on a regular basis.

Gastroporn Menu – November.2012

I know some people have been asking me if November’s Gastroporn Menu would be Thanksgiving themed. The simple answer is “No”. Thanksgiving is a magical time and should not be attached to anything else. That would spoil it. I will do a special Thanksgiving post later. This menu is inspired by the fact that on November 2 I’ve been asked to give a special vespers program on “Health”. Why they picked me for something I obviously don’t take care of personally is beyond me but I’ll do my best.

I’ll probably do something that has little to do with healthy eating and more to do with a healthy lifestyle and mindset. Part of that is being able to think critically about yourself and your environment. This may seem a little off point but I don’t think so.  Studies show that families who have a sit down dinner together more often have a better family dynamic and the kids turn out better. Point and fact: My family eats most meals together and I turned out fantastic! Also, taking longer to eat your food means you will eat less and usually with more conscience than someone who just scarfs down a burger or junk good on the go. The time we put into getting and making our food can be a religious experience that, when done right, makes us think less about stress and more about the things that make us happy in life. The things we should be known.

So the following menu is a “Life Lessons” Menu. Forcing us to take the time to plan things in advance and spend time with ourselves while we are creating and, in the end, share what we produce with the people that mean the most to us. This is what having a healthy lifestyle is all about: Making sure we take the time to do what we love and do with it with/for the right people.

The Lesson

 

Roasted Almonds

Fall Sangria

Pear, Walnut, and Ricotta Crostini

Caesar Salad in Parmesan Cheese Baskets

Spinach Gnocchi with Sage Butter

Blackberry Prosecco Popsicle

Lavender, Cardamom, and Dark Chocolate Truffles

served with Coffee

Cheese Board