Friday, March 29, 2013

Baked Lunch 2 - The Bakening

(Continued from the previous post Baked Lunch)

The guest bakers Bette Midler, Stephen King, Allie Brosch, Carl-Who-is-not-Jake-Gyllenhaal, and No-Risk-Angelina-Jolie are still lined up at the endlesssly long silver studio kitchen counter, they each have a large glass mixing bowl sitting next to smaller one and a pile of ingredients, they are all still wearing aprons that say "Genevieve Rheams is my favorite writer and overall human" except for Bette Midler who has modified hers to read "Genevieve Rheams is an overall twit" because I once mentioned that I don't like "You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings" and Stephen King is about to tell me that I need to stop writing run-on sentences.
"Well, look at it," he tells me. "That entire last paragraph is just one sentence."
"William Faulkner wrote run-on sentences all the time," I retort.
"William Faulkner is dead."
"...Because of run-on sentences?"
"He didn't pause to breathe."
I concede that this is a good point, and tell them to take up their eggs. 
"Now," I say, standing before them and lifting my arms like a maestro. "We're going to mix our wet ingredients in the small bowl. You want to start by cracking each egg on the side of the bowl."
"The shells are sharp," Angelina Jolie mutters through her mouth guard. "I think I'm just going to set them in the bowl here and let them dissolve in the oven."
"No, no, it won't work like that and then you'll have crunchy shells in your brownies, which could possibly cut your lip."
Angelina shrieks.
"That's right. So you want to give each egg a good, sharp crack-"
She shrieks again.
"Oy. Ok, everyone crack your eggs, I'm going to assist Angelina."
Allie Brosch, whose inner child is already going giddy at the sight of sugar, giggles as she smacks an egg against the rim of her bowl, letting everything -yolk, white and shell- fall into the mix. Carl-the-Tour-Bus-Driver-for-the-Green-Day-Tribute-Band-Who-Tells-Me-He's-Not-Jake-Gyllenhaal-But-Looks-And-Sounds-Just-Like-Him and Stephen King are gabbing about music and not paying attention to what they're doing so Stephen King has a little bit of shell in his bowl and Carl is cracking open a quart of milk. 
I move over to Angelina's bowl, crack three eggs, and toss the shells in the trash by her feet. She lays a hand on her chest.
"So brave..." she says.
I smirk. "I know. Now grab your forks and mix them up...good! and now we- Bette, what are you doing?"
"I'm adding some autographed pictures of myself and Lady Gaga. These brownies need style."
Stephen King nodds. He shakes a bottle of seasoning over the mix. "Needs minced evil."
"MINE NEEDS SUGAR!!" Allie Brosch growls and pours an entire sack of sugar into her bowl.
"Mine's still too dangerous," Angelina Jolie says, taking a bike helmet out of her pocket and tossing it in.
"Mine needs unsweetened baker's chocolate," says Carl.
We all look at him. He looks back at us. "What? It does."
"So now stir until everything is blended nicely," I tell them, and there is a general sound of clunking and tearing in the bowls as they attempt to cream butter, photographs, and bicycle helmets together.
"Excellent. Now you may pour the contents into the greased baking dish beside your bowl and put them in the oven where we will let them bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40-45 minutes."
Stephen, Bette, and Carl pour their batters into the dishes. Stephen King's is glowing green, Bette's is shimmering, and Carl's smell's vaguely of a bus. Allie Brosch's brownies don't make it to the pan. She finishes stirring, screams like Cookie Monster,and pours the contents of the bowl into her mouth, brownie mix dripping down her chin and covering up just enough letters on her apron so that instead of saying "Genevieve Rheams is my favorite writer and overall human" it says "Gen is all man." Angelina Jolie manages to pour the batter into the pan but then stares at the oven, eyes wide.
"I can't do this," she gasps. "It's too risky."
I walk over to her. "Oh now, come on, it's fine. It's just a preheated oven. Look," I pull open the oven door and a fireball erupts from inside, followed by demonic laughter. My eyebrows are singed and my apron burns off. Because Angelina is wearing fire retardant clothing and is slathered in 5000 spf sunblock she is unscathed. I close the oven door.
"Let's consult the cookbook shall we?" I say. A prop man brings me a copy of Betty Crocker's cookbook and I begin to flip through it. "Let's see...when Satan has possessed your oven....ah, page 63-"
"We need no book!" Allie Brosch growls. "Allie save you!"
Allie Brosch's sugar-charged inner child takes Angelina's pan of brownie mix, flings open the oven, and dives inside.
"Allie!" we all scream. Angelina faints.
The oven door has slammed behind her so all we hear is the demon snarling and Allie laughing as they grapple inside. The five of us are standing around the oven, watching and waiting with the exception of No-Risk-Angelina-Jolie who is out cold on the studio floor.
Carl-Who-Says-He-Is-Not-Jake-Gyllenhaal-But-Looks-And-Sounds-Just-Like-Him is overcome with worry and asks me for a hug.
I sigh. "Well, I suppose," I say, trying to appear nonchalant and hiding the fact that when he hugs me my extremities go limp and fall off.
"That poor kid," says Bette Midler, gazing at the oven. "She had such potential to be fabulous."
"She's not dead yet!" declares Stephen King. He cups his hands over his mouth. "Allie! If you can hear me, evil is sensitive to music! Sing something! Sing something lovely!"
I pull away from Carl as something in my brain begins to hurt. It's a pain that shoots through my ears and across the hemisphere of my mind.
"God," I say, with my hands over my ears. "What is that?"
Stephen King looks ecstatic. "She's doing it! Allie's singing 'You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings'! She's defeating evil, listen!"
The demon begins wailing from inside the oven and I begin writhing on the floor. Bette Midler stands over me with her arms folded and one eyebrow raised.
"So you say you like my song, huh?"
"Bette!-aaaack! I swear this isn't what it looks like!"
"Why don't you stick your head in a beehive?" she suggests.
And I don't want to tell her but that seems like a gentler alternative.
Then suddenly the pain stops. Allie flies out of the oven, and stands on the counter top. She has one hand on her hip and is holding a pan of freshly cooked brownies over her head. Her pink triangular dress and blonde ponytail are scorched but she is triumphant. She is still talking like Cookie Monster.
"Allie defeat demon with song about love!" she cries. "Brownie is reward!"
Allie shakes the pan of brownies over her mouth and she gobbles them up. She springs in the air and runs around the studio.
I clap my hands together. "Ok! So the rest of the brownies should be done. Let's take them out of the non-possessed ovens and see how they turned out."
Stephen King's brownies are still glowing green. He slices one and sets it on a plate for me to taste.
"It tastes like..." I say, chewing slowly. "Holy crap, this is the best brownie I've ever tasted."
"That's because I added evil. And it comes with a price."
I look back at him and his eyebrows have grown so long, they're touching the floor.
"I'm sorry Stephen," I say.
He shrugs. "No bigee. Do I win?"
"Let's see...Bette, may I sample?"
"Certainly," she says, and her grin makes me nervous.
I take a bite. "It tastes like fame."
"Enjoy it, sister, because it's the only taste you'll ever get. HA!"
"Come on, Bette," I plead with my mouth full. "I'm sorry about not liking your song. I really REALLY like a whole lot of your other songs, and I think you're hysterical."
She raises her eyebrow at me again. "Really?"
"Ok...but I only believe you because I shredded my greatest hits CD and put it in the mix. You don't seem to be having an allergic reaction to it."
And she's right. Other than the fact that my liver is failing because "You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings" is on that CD, I'm fine because I really truly am a Bette Midler fan.
"Carl, how about yours?" I say, turning to him.
He hands me a plate. "Carl...when I eat this the Brokeback Mountain theme song pops in my head. Why is that?"
He grins nervously. "Coincidence?"
"You're getting ready for a role as a bus driver, aren't you Jake?"
His eyes dart back and forth. "Am I believable?"
"I won't know for sure until you drive me around on a bus. Say, after the show?"
"Ok, I can do that."
"See that you do," I say, and I wonder if I should tell him that I consider this a date, but decide that it's probably better for him not to know, you know, because it might distract him from driving.
"And now Angelina-"
Angelina Jolie points to Allie Brosch who is running back and forth across the counter banging pots and pans together. "She ate them."
"Oh right. Allie! How were Angelina's brownies?"
"YUMUMUMUM!" she roars, and then suddenly stops. She becomes quiet. She looks at the pots in her hands and looks at all of us. "Angelina, I think the safety gear in your brownie mix worked as a antedote. I apologize for my behavior."
"It's cool," I tell her. "You defeated a demon."
"Rad," she says.
She climbs down from the counter.
"Ok, well since Allie ate her mix before they were baked she's disqualified. Sorry Allie. But you get special recognition for taming the devil. Everyone baked a good brownie, everyone well done. But unfortunately we can only have one winner and our winner is - Stephen King!"
Stephen King walks over to me, his cursed eyebrows dragging along the floor in his wake.
"Fantastic, what do I win?"
"You win five more guest appearances on my blog...Stephen, that's supposed to be an honor, please stop strangling yourself with your eyebrows."
But he doesn't and soon he is passed out on the floor, where he will remain until his next guest appearance on my blog.

That's our show, thank you for joining us. If you're wondering, I use the brownie recipe that I grew up with from the Betty Crocker cookbook which you can find by clicking on Ultimate Brownies. I would also like to recognize Bette Midler, Allie Brosch, Angelina Jolie, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Stephen King, all of whom I do not know in real life, so I'm just imagining how they'd react to being on my cooking show and you should not take me seriously when I say things like Allie Brosch jumps into ovens or that Stephen King bakes evil brownies. But I am pretty sure that Jake Gyllenhaal would go out with me.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Baked Lunch - it's like Naked Lunch only with brownies and with clothes on

After studying the figures, I've noticed that I get more hits on posts with the following labels: Literary panels, Angelina Jolie, Spleens, and Allie Brosch. The one with the most hits was the one where I wondered if Allie Brosch (writer of Hyperbole and a Half) was doing ok. The second winner was "No Risk Anglina Jolie" based on spam mail that I got. And third was "My Hetero Spleen," which could have been popular because I mentioned Jake Gyllenhaal, also possibly because of my sexual orientation questions, and also possibly because spleens are trending. I don't know. But somewhere in all of that is the winning combination to make me a Blog Star so I'm throwing them all in one post. And I'm going to include Stephen King who starred on my a literary panel because that was the fourth popular one, and also because it's in his contract. But what to make them all do together?....

They're going to bake brownies. Cue the cooking show music! (bah tah tah tah TAH! Bah bah BAAAAH! Ba-dum)

You are now looking into a studio kitchen with a really REALLY long counter. It's about the size of the low brick wall that Charlie Brown leans against when he's having a heart to heart talk with Linus - with no visible ends in either direction. Behind the counter, smiling back at you, is Angleina Jolie, Allie Brosch, Stephen King, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Bette Midler because I mentioned not liking the song "Wind Beneath My Wings" in one of my last posts and I'm afraid that I might have hurt her feelings so I'm going to make it up to her with brownies.
"That was a run-on sentence, Gen," Stephen King says to me.
"What was?" I ask him.
"That last sentence. It needs editing."
"Thank you, Stephen, we will not be discussing my editing skills today."
"It's what you brought me on for. And really if you want any success as a writer-"
I cross my arms at that guy. "Do you WANT a brownie?"
Stephen King closes his mouth. He lowers his head, and pushes back his glasses. "Yes."
"Well, alright then. Grab an apron."
He gleefully takes the apron folded neatly next to his bowl on the counter. It is blue and in white letters it says, "Genevieve Rheams is my favorite writer and overall human." In fact, all of them are wearing this apron.  "So I guess we should start by introducing our bakers for today," I continue.  "To our far left we have Angleina Jolie."
Angelina is wearing a helmet, elbow pads and wrist guards because she is the No Risk Angelina Jolie version of herself and she's nervous about baking accidents. She grins through her mouth guard.
"And next we have Hyperbole and a Half blogger Allie Brosch."
"Genevieve," she says, wearing her triangular pink dress and her blonde hair in a pony tail sticking straight up on her head. "Are you sure you want me around sugar? You've read The God of Cake, you should know that if my inner child eats too many brownies it could destroy you all."
"I know, it's why the producers asked you to join us. Ratings suggest that people like to watch cooking shows where the cooks tweak out on sugar and destroy the studio. If possible they would also like you to develop a moonshine addiction, sell ducks on the black market, and fall in love with Stephen King."
"I'm your girl."
"Excellent. And to Allie's right we have Jake-"
Jake Gyllenhaal's eyes go wide. "My name is Carl."
"We have...Carl?"
"Yep," says Carl who is not Jake Gyllenhaal, even though he has the same smile that makes my toes go numb. "I'm a bus driver."
"What kind of bus driver?"
"I drive the tour bus for a Green Day Tribute band called Teal Day. See, I enjoy pot brownies and I was sent here by the court to learn how to cook clean ones. I brought my paperwork."
He pulls a folded white piece of paper out of his back pocket and hands it to me. I scan over it.
"Yes, well, this seems to be in order. Ok, uh Carl, I don't know how much you'll like these brownies after you've had the special ones but-"
"Oh I've never eaten a pot brownie," he says.
"But," I hold up the paper. "Yeah, you have."
"No, no. I just enjoy the idea of them. I was sentenced by an ideal court."
I look back at the paper.
"Well I'll be damned," I say. "Ok. Welcome to the show. Next we of course have Stephen King, who is chatting up the baker next to him who is the lovely! The legendary! Miss Bette Mid-"
"Don't try to flatter me, pip squeak," says Bette Midler. She narrows her eyes at me and then begins sifting flour into her glass bowl.
"Oh Ms. Midler we haven't started yet," I tell her.
"I don't have to listen to you," she says, narrowing her eyes even more until they are coin slot sized. But what shows through that slit is so much loathing that I know if I put a coin in it wouldn't be candy that comes out but hate. "I know what you said about my song."
"Oh, uh, about that. I didn't say I necessarily disliked it. I just said-"
"That you'd rather stick your head in a beehive than listen to it?"
"Listen, sister. That song has inspired millions of people. Make that billions. BILLIONS of people, world wide. I bet everyone here likes it." She looks down the line of bakers. "Who here likes 'You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings'?"
One by one, all of their hands go up, Angleina Jolie pausing only to spray Lysol above her head before she sticks her hand in the air.
"See," Bette tells me.
"That song reminds me of Brad and the kids," Angelina muses.
"I play it when I need writing inspiration," says Allie.
"The guys in the band ask me to play it constantly on the road," Carl-who-is-not-Jake-Gyllenhaal says.
"You don't like that song?" Stephen King asks me. "Are you missing a soul?"
"The ideal court would not approve," Carl warns.
"Alright! Alright! Look, Bette, I'm sorry I said that. I think you're a fantastic actress and I love your voice. I love 'The Rose'."
She scowls at me. "You would."
Seeing that I can not win her over I decide that it's time for our bakers to start baking.

Which will happen in part two of this post. Oh come on, don't be disappointed. It's only a 24 hour commercial break. In the mean time, Carl-who-is-not-Jake-Gyllenhaal insists that you enjoy Green Day.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wide Awake

After going to bed old-ladyish early last night I found myself wide awake at 3:45 this morning. It wasn't the kind of awake where you look at the clock and think, "Oh thank God, I've got two more hours to sleep." Oh no. I woke up the same way my dog wakes up. "I'm awake! I hungry! I wanna go somewhere! I wanna chase that truck!" After I ate something and chased a confused utility truck down the street I came back in to write to you all. Good morning, my dears.
"Genevieve," you groan. "It's 5:30 am on a Saturday."
"I know!" I say. "You're still in bed??"
"But we've got the whole day ahead of us and the sun will come up soon and the azaleas are blooming in the yard [at this point I've begun twirling around the room] and the coffee is done brewing and everything is wonderful-"
"GENEVIEVE!" You growl, taking the pillow from behind your head and cramming it over your face.
I lean over you and tap tentatively on the pillow. "Hey, so you don't want pancakes?"
"No," you mumble, and I pretend that I can't understand you.
"They have chocolate chips in them."
"I don't care," you say as well as you can manage with a mouth full of pillow.
I sigh. "Or you could get up and read my blog."
You toss the pillow aside. You're wearing a cartoonish frown, like the kind where the lines of your mouth look like they're spilling onto the floor.
"I'm in your blog! You woke me up just to put me in here!"
"And it's wonderful of you to join us! Here, have a pancake."

And the pancake suddenly makes everything better, as they usually do. Here, have another:

"Gen, that's a lemur."
"It is?"
"A baby lemur."
"But isn't he so cute you could just eat him up?"
"Sure." And the pillow goes back over the face.

Well. I tried. I don't know why I wake up like this sometimes, but I do. It's like waking up with the crack of a confetti egg

It's silly and fun and colors seem brighter and I feel in love with the world. I actually wish I woke up like this more often, instead of how I usually wake up. My routine is to shoot a bleary eye at the clock, roll back over, and think about how much I hate my day job. But this morning I got to get up and write, which is like the joy of pancakes, lemurs and confetti eggs all in one.

And now I really am going to go running, but not after a truck. It's one of the things that I've gotten back into - exercising on a regular basis. And I don't usually feel like doing it at the crack of dawn, but since I'm bursting with energy I should probably harness that and send it running a mile or two. But before I go, I will deliver on my promise. Since I woke you up and everything.

Friday, March 1, 2013

You Fill Up My Menses

Prepare to be stereotyped by the following statement: People fall into two camps - those who love Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" and those who would rather shove their heads in a beehive than endure that song.  If you're wondering what side I fall into, let's just say that my coworker James knows that he can mercilessly torment me by singing "Wind Beneath My Wings," and he takes every opportunity to do so, once even by text. He'd had off that day and texted me to see how things were going at the office. I told him things were fine and he replied by saying, "FYI: You are the wind beneath my wings." To which I countered with, "You fill up my senses! Come fill me agaaaaaaaain!" because John Denver makes his head explode. 

I like John Denver and I don't really know why but I think it's because I dig folk music and also because he did a Muppet Christmas special once when I was a toddler, so I equate John Denver with Santa Claus. Let us side-step the irony that Santa flies and is immortal, and flying is exactly how John Denver proved that he is not.

Anyway, we talk about melodramatic music a lot. The other day James began singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and he could only remember the "Turn around..." part. I supplied the rest.
"I always thought the guy she's singing to in that song must be kind of a douche because she says 'every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you're never coming round.' I wonder why she stays with him if he's never there for her."
"I don't know dude," said James. "Maybe he's got a good reason."
I thought about this. "Well...she does fall apart a lot. Because she says 'every now and then I fall apart.' How often is every now and then in her opinion? Every other day? Every other hour?"
"It's every other Tuesday," James theorized. "And on those days she needs to pet a cat, any cat, and she'll only eat Chinese food and she screams piercingly if anyone touches her."
"So she menstruates every two weeks? Jesus. I thought I felt sorry for her before..."
"And her boyfriend is like, 'Shit, she's falling apart and I'm trying to give her a hug and she's screaming like I'm stabbing her, and she's eating all my Chinese food...I'm out.'"
"Yeah," I said. "Yeah! And she says 'every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears.' Even SHE'S tired of her bullshit."
"That's what I saying!" James said. "Think of the line 'every now and then I get a little bit terrified and then I see the look in your eyes' is he looking at her? She's freaking out for apparently no reason and he's looking at her like, 'Back away from the woman who's wrapping herself in tin foil, back away slowly.'"

By the end of this assessment we figured that it was a good thing that the object in the song was detaching himself from her and we were both very concerned about this woman's codependency issues and the glaring need to regulate her cycle. And you would be too if you watched the video that I provided a link to in that last paragraph and in case you ignored it, I'm going to save you some back tracking and post it here. It'' just have to watch it. I remember when it came out on MTV but since I was also watching Sesame Street at the time, surreal costumes, ninjas, football players and doves flying didn't phase me when thrown onto the same set. Things didn't have to make sense, in fact it was better when things didn't because then they were ridiculous. But now that I'm older ridiculous has its time and place. Like at work when I'm supposed to be working and instead I'm worrying about Katy Perry.
"What do you think is going to happen to her in the future?" I asked James. "I mean, she's funny. She could act."
"Yeah, but funny doesn't guarantee her a career. Her music sucks."
"Well yeah, but I like her, and I'm just not sure how she's going to do if she doesn't evolve soon. That's what divas do, right? Like Madonna? They say she has good longevity because she constantly reinvents herself."
"Maybe she needs some inspiration like YOU ARE THE WIND BENEATH MY WIIIIIINGS!"
I covered my ears. "AHHH! Stop it!"
"Fllyyyyyyyyy! FLYYYYYYYYYYY away! You let me fly so high!"
"Rocky mountain hi-IIIIIIIGH! Colorado!"
"No! No! Ok, I'll stop. Just make the John Denver stop, please."
"You're such a baby."
"And you are the wind beneath my wings."
"That's right. Some constantly reinvent themselves and some of us prefer to keep tormenting others in the same way, sometimes repeatedly every few minutes."

I'm not sure about James's longevity if this keeps up. But since I've given you a sample of a song I don't like I thought I would give you an example of one that I do like very much right now and that's "Yankee Bayonet" by The Decemberists. It's a duet about a husband and wife torn apart by the Civil War and it's got great lines like:
But oh my love though our bodies may be parted
Though our skin may not touch skin
Look for me with the sun-bright sparrow
I will come on the breath of the wind

Which is dark and sad and beautiful! has a bird at the end of it flying on the breath of the wind. Which is not unlike the wind beneath its wings....Goddamn Bette Midler.