Thursday, August 23, 2012

How Did I Not Know About This?: Sriracha and Food Aversion

I don’t know what has happened to me in the past couple years- maybe it was a hormone shift or finally processing the food aversion mental block. Either way, foods that I’ve literally spent a lifetime hating and avoiding- I was starting to like. I just look in the mirror and think- who is this woman? I’ve been avoiding things like salmon, jalapenos, raw tomatoes, mushrooms and spicy hot sauce for EVER and all of a sudden they make a reprise in my late twenties to critical acclaim.

I think the best cure for food aversions is to be a) embarrassed to be a woman nearing her thirties being a high maintenance eater or b) servers that forget stuff and get your order wrong. All of a sudden, they’ve forgotten you asked for dressing on the side. Total crisis. Everybody at the table has been waiting for their food and nobody wants to be an asshole and start chowing down while you are sitting at an empty place setting looking like Oliver Twist (please sir, may I have some more?) and you don’t want to be the asshole that is eating their entree when everybody else has moved on to desserts. Take this situation and multiply the pressure by one hundred if you are out on a date or a dinner with clients. Seriously, a client dinner is what introduced me to the glory that is the spicy tuna roll. There is just something that is innately childish about food aversions and while I’m totally comfortable keeping my pantry as I see fit- sometimes you just have to take one for the team in public.

My love affair with sriracha came about in such a way. It was a random tuesday here in Orange County. My best friend and I had just attended a blogger event and her boo met up with us at a little waffle sandwich and local beer restaurant called The Iron Press. As a pescatarian I automatically accept the fact that I may be limited to some sort of carb and melted cheese situation. The place was bumping. When places are bumping, you just kind of expect to be there for a while. We looked at the menu, surprisingly the grilled cheese stood out to me the most and it wasn’t even a question whether or not the lady would have the tater tots. The lady will always have the tater tots. The thing about these local foodie-lite joints is that you will always have to ask for any kind of “regular” non-infused or re-worked condiment. If my picky eating were a five, my best friend is easily an 8 or 9 so when we ordered a single round of tots- the waitress was met with three different sauce orders. To my chagrin, the sauce I was hoping for was the one that got left behind. So there I was, sitting face to face with a basket full of tots and sriracha infused ketchup. Whatever, I was one beer in, not really a crazy ketchup person and I’ve always been terrified of sauces with pictures of animals and what I’m sure is descriptive language of said sauce, but in a language I cannot read- it couldn’t hurt to give it a try before I ask the server to bring another option.

The tots and sauce that changed everything. Photo courtesy of

I tried the sriracha ketchup and it was delicious. Seriously, guys, it was so tasty I actually got a little pissed that nobody had MADE me try this before. This delicious sauce that apparently everybody knew about had been sitting mere inches away from me so many times and nobody ever thought to give me the hard-sell??? It’s irrelevant because we’ve found each other now. I stood in front of it’s house, Love Actually style, with a poster with “to me you are perfect” written on it. I ran out the next day to buy a bottle for myself.

Because I’m a weird people-pleaser I always try to keep condiments that other people like in my house. God forbid I make a dude breakfast and he just can’t eat his eggs without Tapatio. It’s one part co-dependence, one part good hostess. Either way, can I just blame Martha Stewart and my conservative Christian childhood? Ok, good, let’s go with that. A couple of weeks before the sriracha incident a guy I was dating introduced me to chipotle Tobasco, also delicious. Mild panic attack ensued. Am I becoming one of those hot sauce people? Is this the first step? Dear infant baby Jesus, please don’t let me become a person that cannot eat food without hot sauce.

Honestly, I’ve just really started to take stock into my food aversions and made the decision to challenge myself a bit. Read some new recipes or order something new when I go out. What else have I been missing out on? Let the adventure begin.

If the idea of sriracha Ketchup sounds tasty to you, or if you just want to mix it up for a party- just mix two parts ketchup with one part sriracha. If you want to expand your sriracha experience Bon Apetit has twenty-five suggestions for you. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Farmer's Market: Ritual Saturday Mornings

 Is there anything better than feeling like you’re in the opening “little town such a quiet village” sequence of Beauty and the Beast? If your answer was "no", you are correct. Maybe I just have an active imagination, but I sure to love my local farmer’s market. My schedule can be pretty intense, so it can be difficult to get into a routine and have a proper work/life balance. One of my newest habits is quickly becoming my favorite. For the past couple months I’ve been making a point to hit up the Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning. I do my best to buy the majority of my produce and eggs there. I’ve also found some other great stuff as well (locally sourced bee pollen for the win! Suck it, allergies, I will defeat you!)- all while trying to not be sweet-talked into $10 hummus by the charming Babba Foods guy or lured into sample-heaven by the Italian bundt cake dude.

As much as I wish I had the time and skill to turn my brown-thumb green, my personal attempts at produce gardening have always fallen short, fallen over or simple been whizzed on by my dogs. Like many a novice gardener, I didn’t realize just how much work actually goes into a garden. If i have more time in the future, I’m sure I will revisit it- but for now, I leave my produce producin’ to the experts and stick to houseplants and cacti. My lackluster attempts at gardening have really created a new-found appreciation for those in the agricultural business.

Some might consider this a bit of a bourgeoisie kind of activity, I think it’s really important to not buy into the hype that fresh whole locally sourced foods and Farmer’s Markets are only for fancy people. Fresh organic produce is for everybody and it is such a nice and relaxing way to spend the morning. Bourgeoisie notions aside, I do like to feel connected with my community and support local business and agriculture. So yes, the produce is a bit more expensive- but I can prioritize the cost because of the good it does for the community. The SoCo Farmer’s Market is my market of choice. The vendors are certified by the government and by the market itself- so you can rest assured that what you buy is locally sourced.
Please don't squish: words to live by.
My Saturday morning go a little something like this: I order my latte from Portola Coffee Lab (it takes a million years, but it’s worth the wait) and hit the tents. Sometimes I fly solo, sometimes I can convince my house mate’s girlfriend to accompany me.Truth be told, there are times that I’ve simply left with a single onion. But whatevs, it’s all that I needed that particular week. Occasionally I’ll visit the food trucks or just have a quick chat with the vendors. Maybe this week I will walk through the market holding my Kindle and shouting “bounjour!” to everybody and see if I’m the only one that gets the joke. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Stand Mixer, Myself: Living Inside One’s Hope Chest

A snapshot I took while I was deciding on which color to order. Do price and model research before you buy. The same exact mixer I paid $349 for at Williams Sonoma (and there was a free shipping promo too!) was $440 at Bloomingdales and $500 at Macy*s.
 My love affair with the KitchenAid Stand Mixer has been no secret. For years, I’ve longed to have one of my own.  Literally, it had gotten to the point that my friends were just sick of hearing it and even sending me snapshots of ones they’d see while out-and-about. I have a job, regular income and a savings account and everything and while $400 is not a arbitrary amount of money- it’s something that I can afford. The money was my frequent excuse, but the money wasn’t what was holding me back. I was holding myself back. You see, the stand mixer was a lot more than a stand mixer. The stand mixer for me was the epitome of the hope chest. You know how some girls dream of diamonds and convertibles- that’s how I felt about my stand mixer. It was my Mt. Everest.

Over the course of the past few years, after making peace with my divorce and making the choice to be optimistic about my romantic future- the stand mixer came to embody all of the expectations I’d had for myself. The super religious, Disney obsessed, age ten Rachel’s head would probably explode to think that at almost twenty-nine, I’ve already been married, divorced and buried my father. In short, life doesn’t always turn out as expected. But hey, age ten Rachel also spent a lot of her childhood being devastated and terrified that the rapture would happen before the senior prom. Because, you know, that's something a child should totally be stressed out about, right? As per usual, I digress and no, I'm not religious anymore. The stand mixer wasn’t a gift that you buy yourself, it was a wedding gift. After convincing myself that it was a wedding gift, the next conclusion, naturally, was that if I bought one for myself it would be some sort of bad omen for my romantic future. My supreme logic had sincerely rationalized that if I bought myself a stand mixer- I’d be single forever.

Isn't she beautiful?
She's a KitchenAid 5-Quart Tilt-Head Artisan Series Stand Mixer in Pistachio.
(model KSM150PSER)

After an extremely short-lived but super-bummer of a “relationship”. I finally said, “screw it” and decided it was time for me to build a bridge, and get over it. After all, what are suspicions if not self-fulfilling prophecies? I finally just went online and bought the damn thing. Let me tell you, it did not help that the flash image that popped up on the KitchenAid website was a picture of a stand mixer, champagne and a wedding cake with the caption "the gift that says 'I do' everyday."  I ordered from Williams Sonoma, crossed my fingers and waited anxiously for the delivery. I always miss deliveries, but this one was special. I had decided to come home for lunch and not five minutes after I walked in the door- the postman cometh with a big beaming box of joy. I opened the box and hugged it. I hugged my stand mixer. She was beautiful in all of her seafoam green glory. I sent a picture to my girlfriends and was met with a collective and exasperated "finally."

Clearly, I'm not the only one that associates stand mixers with bridal showers.

You see, this stand mixer is still more than a stand mixer. Instead of an omen for perpetual singledom- it’s the inspiration for some major personal growth and changes. What else have I stigmatized that was holding me back? Why was I not creating the future that I want for myself? In relationships, even if you give 100% the most you can ever control is 50% because it involves another fully functional free-willed human being.  I can create the life that I want for myself and eventually somebody will fit into it. I will remain hopeful, but I will never again let my hope become my superstition... and yes, I probably will get those plates from Anthropologie that I've been eyeing for months.