Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Brain Food

"Chicken or pork?" said the flight attendant, and I couldn't help thinking that she reminded me of someone.

"Pork," I replied, and then realized the connection. I saw Inland Empire last week, and it's been bubbling up like indigestion ever since.

The pretty girl with the Polish accent was, through the Lynch lens, now a prostitute. And the meal that she placed before me was suddenly sinister.

What exactly was it?

Spaghetti, ostensibly, drenched in red with fleshy bits. Bits that glistened beneath their blanket of melted cheese. I eyed the mass warily, poking at what were possibly the remains of some passenger. That woman, perhaps, who was protesting the new liquid regulations?

I closed my eyes, willed myself out of the labyrinth, and took a bite. It was, in reality, the most innocuous meal in the world. Here before me was the Midwestern culinary trinity: a mildly tangy tomato sauce, some delicately sweet browned meat, and melted cheese.

Various permutations of this had sustained me during childhood - a period in which I was "allergic" to nearly everything. Cheeseburgers, pizza, and enchiladas - these were the building blocks of my youth. I consumed more ground beef and defrosted cheddar in those years than have been seen in whole regions of China.

This continued until 1995, the year in which I moved to Arizona. At twenty I was running away from Kansas, leaving a burnt-out apartment and everything else behind. "Everything else" included the university, my family, and eventually my food phobias.

I got a job in a bookstore in the college town of Tempe. I spent lunch breaks behind the shop in an enclosed garden that tinkled with the sound of running water. I devoured books and, after some time, the exotic offerings of a Lebanese food cart.

This practice wasn't immediate. In my first few weeks on the job, I'd been trekking to Carl's Junior to retrieve my lunch. It turns out, though, that a sourdough bacon melt isn't the best thing to be eating in 120 degree heat. My co-workers seemed to be enjoying themselves in the garden, but that food?

I still remember, more vividly than my memory of first sex, sitting alone one afternoon and contemplating tabbouleh. "This is a bite of onion," I told myself. "This is what it feels like on your teeth. Is it really so disgusting?"

It took nearly an hour to work my way through that salad. There were so many elements that were foreign to my protected palate. Raw tomato (I know). Parsley and garlic. Lemon, for God's sake.

My orientation to food, following that tabboul-ephiphany, began to change. But the transformation was anything but rapid. I added new foods slowly, painfully, and because it was "good for me." It felt more like homework than pleasure.

It would be years before I'd eat my first fresh fish. A taste for sushi arrived only with the millenium. And my first brain, well, that was only last week.

I sampled brain recently at Le Midi-Vins in the 6th. Lamb's brain, to be precise, sautéed and sprinkled with toasted almonds. Andreia, whose dish it was, pointed perplexedly to a jiggly bit at the base. The lessons of high school anatomy came flooding back to me. "The cerebellum," I nodded, and described its role in motor functions. I avoided that nubbin, but was not disgusted to bite into the rest.

It's no big deal, I suppose, for a frenchman raised on offal. But for Le Meg, raised on Le Mac (and cheese), this is something of a triumph. Had I held to the bizarro food convictions of my youth, I would have missed out on the following pleasures in January:

Foie de Lotte

(raw monkfish liver)

sprinkled with sea salt

at Ploum.


Patta Negra Bellota

(Spanish ham)

whose fat and flesh melt sequentially

at La Crèmerie.


Perdreau rouge avec champignons à la forestière et chaîtagnes

(red partidge with wild forest mushrooms and chestnuts)

at Chez Michel.


Is this bragging? Vulgar boasting about my gastronomic triumphs? You bet your sweet oxtail it is. But it's also a call to all you food neurotics out there to please and finally get over yourselves.

You are strong enough to eat better than you do.

It's simply mind over (grey) matter.

Bon appétit!

Friday, January 26, 2007

On Fire

This morning's episode in nincompoopery unfolds with our heroine lighting her crown on fire.

A work colleague brought the ubiquitous galette des rois for breakfast, and suggested that I heat it up a bit.

My mastery of the microwave has been much-touted around this office. Feats such as "warming coffee" have been regarded - until today - as some sort of American birthright.

That's all over now. For I forgot, being unaccustomed to toys-in-food, to remove the foil crown from the box. That's right - a galette des rois comes complete with a party hat, one that's awarded to she (me) who finds the little toy hidden in her slice.

It's only fair, they said, that I should have to wear the blackened crown for the morning. A french tradition, they told me.

It wasn't an altogether unfitting uniform in which to discover that I'm up for a Bloggie. A diaper would have made the outfit complete, considering what nearly happened when I read the news.

(now behave, all you New Year's Baby fetishists out there...)
This is boggling news, given that I've only had the blog for six months and that the other four finalists have massive traffic, book deals and blog-themed coffee cups for sale on their sites.

If you feel like rooting for the underdog, you can vote here until February 02.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Le Travesti

"So, we're going to this club later, you should come," said Marcuse. "Good music, a nice bottle, really beautiful people..."

"And where is this club?" I asked with raised eyebrows.

"Right off the Champs Elysées," he answered, the street name falling like a gift from his mouth.

I burst out laughing. "Dude," I said, "do I look like I would hang out around the Champs Elysées?

"In fact, yes."

I looked down at myself and (dear God) it was true. To begin with, there were the heels.

Those who know me know I don't wear heels. They function in my life much like cigarettes - looking cool on other people but ridiculous whenever I try them. Through the mauvaise influence of friends, however, I am tottering into a new phase.

To continue, there was the dress - a black fitted thing and, well, strapless. Friends know that I don't wear dresses. Or if I do, they are wildly-colored 60s flares with the lingering scent of some Edna.

In trying to fit in for what I knew would be a fancy party, I'd transformed myself into a magnet for investment (bankers). Poor Marcuse was a victim of false advertising. He recoiled - as I was asserting the merits of dive bars - like I was showing him my penis.

Just two nights earlier, I was in a different sort of costume. I was reviewing a concert at La Maroquinerie, wearing filthy Converse and a ¡Forward, Russia! t-shirt. I had covered the tee with a cardigan at work, and changed shoes under my desk before leaving. My co-workers remain clueless about the indie rock Superhero in their midst.

Sunday night, before my first improv theater class, I stood baffled in front of the mirror. "White face paint?" I wondered. "Black turtleneck?"

Who am I kidding...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

You Want a Piece of Me?

All morning long I've been having these fantasies.

I have them while I'm making coffee. In the bathroom. On the Métro.

I especially have them while I'm walking.

It's evening in the dream, and unseasonably warm. A tall stranger encircles me from behind, saying something in French that I cannot understand.

I turn around to face him, breathless, and realize that he's not alone.

Five men in total - all for me?

I smile to myself, step forward, and proceed to beat the EVER-LIVING CRAP out of them.


I am flying through the air. Jaws are cracking. Noses shattering. I am wielding some kind of pipe. They are running. I am chasing.


(I got mugged last night)

In my dream it matters not that the expletives are in English. They know exactly what I mean when I ask if they're my bitch.


I am spent, at the end of it. I collect my things, smooth my skirt, and replace the earbuds on my iPod. I press play and step delicately over the bodies. And old man on a balcony nods approvingly. The night is cool on my cheeks - I am happy.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

F the Pig

On December 31st, while ambling up the rue des Martyrs, I came across this little wagonful of pig.

Some children were gathered 'round, flanked of course by watchful parents.

I dove right in to feel the pig's short black bristles and smooth pink nose. This, to the dismay of those waiting for permission to touch.

Imagined conversation:

"Maman! Why does the giant lady get to do it?"

"Just look at her, Ludivine. She's wearing sweatpants. I think that answers your question."
(I was coming home from the gym...)

My pig-stroking made a challenge of the lebanese flatbread I later bought. It would have been terribly inconvenient, so few hours before New Year's Eve, to contract some sort of mouth disease. But I managed, while nudging through the frenzied fish shop spillover, to keep a napkin over my fingers at all times.

This neighborhood is perfect, I thought to myself, as I crested the butte near my home. Not only do I get to look at this during my morning walk, but there's a pig in the street for no reason.

It only dawned on me today that it might have something to do with astrology. 2006, remember, was the Year of the Dog.

(You didn't know?)

And 2007, which technically doesn't begin until February 18, is the Year of the Pig.

Because my knowledge of Chinese Astrology is limited to whatever was printed on the placemat of my hometown "oriental" restaurant, I turned to Google this morning to find out what it all means.

And what it means, according to this site, is that I'm

Some remarks about my coming year:

"It is actually a year of transition for the Rabbits"
...Hey - they're right on!

"They have chances to handle major issues or tasks"
...That's right. Watch me go.

"But Rabbits should not expect to have any achievement this year."
...Um, what?

"Otherwise, you are just going to be hugely disappointed at last."

"Because of your energy this year, you would fail to find support and assistance from others."
...This is a joke?

and finally...

"You would enjoy much satisfaction and happiness from 2008 onwards."

After a full minute of staring with my jaw dropped, I went back to the search screen. And I Googled and Googled until I came up with something more to my liking:

"This is a good year for those who are born in the year of the Rabbit."
...Damn straight.

"There are signs of promotion and you will be given the power to be a leader in your career."
...I knew it!

"Do not push your luck by trying to reap profits through illegal means."
...But you just said...

"Put a scepter to your right on your office table. Place a lepidolite near you."

To round things out and add a little occident to the mix, I paid a visit to the only horoscope that really matters.

And here is The Onion's prediction for Pisces in 2007:

"The New Year will start out with a bang for you. Unfortunately, it will also end with a bang for you."

I think I'm finished with astrology.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Lost (Happy New Year)

I spent the better part of yesterday on the sofa watching Lost.

I've never before been the serial type, but was grateful - upon rousing myself from the hangover bed - to find my roommate's DVD collection.

Television is such powerful escapism. I'd forgotten about it during my six weeks of squatting. It's even more effective than, say, drinking one's own body weight in champagne and pretending to be a libertine.

Another New Year's Eve, another attempt to wipe clean the temporal lobe slate. This wasn't the first year that I'd drank too much on NYE, but it was the first time I'd done so alone. Alright, okay, so I was hardly alone. But I wasn't in the bosom of my long-time friends, and it had me feeling a bit maudlin.

I looked around the party and couldn't ignore what was missing: Loretta dancing in a giant pajama sack...Roshen passing out the lyric sheets...Friese tossing his wig under a canopy of paper foliage...Jennifer not knowing when to stop with the jello shots...

What? That was me?

And, of course, Jayson. In their place were some strangers who were doing a miserable job of already knowing me. Several hours after midnight, with the party nowhere near dying down, I grabbed my coat and fled to the Pont des Arts.

I stood for some time staring blankly at the city, waiting for an epiphany to bubble up from the Seine. In its place came a text message from Yorkshire, reading:

"I'm in a bar with lots of rough people with non-ironic mullets..." followed by some unrepeatable instructions on lightening the hell up.

In lieu of further revelation, I went back to the party. And I had, against all odds, a very good time.

Reinvention seems to be a little easier on Lost. A plane crash strands them on a tropical island and these characters can be whoever they want to be. The criminal becomes a do-gooder. The wounded cripple is suddenly a hero.

So what exactly am I supposed to be? Your suggestions, particularly if accompanied by costume ideas, would be appreciated.

And seriously, are there really polar bears on that island?

Happy New Year.