More anseriform foolishness than is absolutely necessary.

I’ve got twelve (literally!) writing projects on my to do list (ladies?), so obviously the first thing I’m going to post are pictures of squirrels.

My sister got us a squirrel feeder for our daughter’s birthday. Here’s the aftermath:

The first squirrel approaches the feeder.


The first squirrel enters the feeder.


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While I was out, Illinois apparently named the former Northwest Tollway after Jane Addams. Little known fact, the original Hull House motto was “Pay your own way, moochers!”

One of Chicagoland’s other major highways is named after Dan Ryan Jr., the famously pock-marked county commissioner who was known for working no more than two or three hours a day.

There are a handful of things that I really enjoy. Cooking is one of them.

I adore cumin, so it’s not surprising that I love Indian, Mexican, and Tex-Mex cuisine. On any given Sunday morning, you can find me curled up on the couch with Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s Texas Home Cooking, the eighth most erotic book in my library. (If you don’t already own a copy, you’re in luck– the folks at Harvard Commons Press just reissued it. Yes, I know, it’s a Texas cookbook that’s published in Cambridge. Trust me.) I’m pretty sure my stomach is Texan.

As much as I love to cook, I have a love-hate relationship with foodies. There are the hipsters and their Williamsburg-raised bacon. Brooklyn sucks, except for the bazillion awesome things about it, many of which are hipster-generated foodstuffs. There’s Alice Waters and all the other fucks who want you to know that YES, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG AND YOU’RE GOING TO DIE. Jamie Oliver and Gweneth Paltrow have things to say, but I don’t want to hear them. Then there are the cool kids, the David Changs, the Anthony Bourdains. They like good food, they can’t stand hipsters, they insult Alice Waters, and they love to drink beer and write. Rock the fuck on. Then why don’t I feel like I need a shower every time I read Lucky Peach?

Part of my disillusionment with the cool kids is that there’s soooo much nut kicking. What else is new?

There are a lot of reasons that cooking comforts me. It’s a form of self expression. It’s a lot like blogging, in that it’s ephemeral. Yeah, I read and recycle old blog posts, but comment threads close. Cooking is intimate– it’s about the audience. Sure, I cook for me. It’s just that I find food and writing to be very communal things. I learn from what other people write and cook, and from what they tell me about my work.

It’s also hard to find quick-pickled veggies at 2 in the morning. About six months after I started dosing my body with estrogen, my sense of taste changed. I began to crave food, new food, with increasing regularity. I think this is why I dislike the nut-kicking brochefs. It’s not that a lot of the world’s best known chefs aren’t brilliant, it’s just that their ranks are rather one-dimensional.

I once read that marijuana inspires new recipes– something about biochemistry. I wonder how many recipes the world misses out on because the world’s chefs tend to be low on lady juice. You know how white dudes took black Americans’ music and turned it into something profitable? Food is a lot like that, only with highly-gendered undercurrents.

Where are we? Oh yeah, I’m a cranky pants feminist with hormone issues. This is probably why I’ve read five or ten books on food (mostly memoirs– of people) this year. All those books made me want to write and cook more.

Have I mentioned that I recently moved back to Wisconsin? I was raised in Minnesota, but with the exception of a three-and-a-half year exploration of Upstate New York, I’ve lived in Madison.

Just as I have a love-hate relationship with foodies (and anti-foodies), there are plenty of things about my homeland that I find troubling. Some of these things are just amusing.

My great-grandmother was a school cook in Central Wisconsin (a place known as Northern Wisconsin to those of us who live in Madison or Milwaukee). She was Lutheran, and not just twice a year. Church cookbooks, I have them.

Originally I envisioned myself doing Julie and Julia meets The Wisconsin Extension Homemaker’s Cookbook 1940-1990. Marinated Skoodles. Pizzaburgers. Something called “Smash Up in the Valley.” The thing writes itself.

Before I got started on that project, two things happened. First, I read Julie Powell’s book. It turns out the lady can write (using cuss words!). Worse yet, she totally gets that food and writing are two of the most erotic things ever. I’d feel kinda bad stealing her schtick. Second, some people I don’t know didn’t tell me my proposed project was a good idea.

I’m not going to do anything formal, but I am going to do a bunch of writing about food in the Upper Midwest. There are already folks doing this from various perspectives. I’m hoping to share (and/or mock) my ancestors’ recipes while exploring the history of the region’s cuisine (Green Bay Chili, WHAT THE FUCK?!?).

Cooking is playful, yet utilitarian. As with many things, I worry that my people get credit for overalls but not fashion. (Okay, I’m talking about my Midwestern brethren. My queer peeps get all sorts of credit for experimental shit, even when people forget that some of us live out here.)

I’m open to suggestions about where to take this project. For now, prepare yourselves for meatballageddon.

Me: Anna, where we’re moving, there’ll be hot dog cars!

Daughter (age 4): Yeah, and pecker cars!

Me: Huh?!?

Other Mom: Wha?!?

I took me at least a minute to figure out that “pecker” was kid slang for “woodpecker.” Why my daughter expects there to be woodpecker cars in Madison is beyond me.

I’ve got a Kinect. This is awesome, because I can yell at my Xbox, and it does things. Voice commands for technology make everything wittier.

Microsoft updated Xbox Live. Now I can say “Xbox, Bing whatever” and the Xbox will search for content on Netflix, Zune, and whatnot.

Remembering recent events, I asked the Kinect to find me information on abortion. I shit you not, I am not making this up, the second result was a very special episode of Rugrats.

FYI, “Xbox, Bing cock ring” returns no hits. For now.

I love food.

I’m also a screw-up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a good cook. I’m just not afraid of trying counter-intuitive (horrifying) combinations of ingredients. When I was 14, I knew that spicy and sweet went great together, which is why I made the mistake of putting salsa, whipped cream, and cinnamon on a toaster-burnt “waffle.”

I went college. I learned that fusion existed.

Fusion (n) /ˈfjuː.ʒən

Combining culinary aspects of multiple cultures. Doing so while wearing appropriately hip attire is a nifty way to charge customers more money for food than it’s possibly worth.

Tonight I was in the mood for Indian food. Because I’m a reasonable human being, there was a big bag of roast pork in the fridge.

Here’s what I picked up at the Indian food store:

A bottle of tomato sauce. It had a bottle top under the cap. Also, it tasted pretty much like ketchup. Still, I had to use a bottle opener to get at it, which made me feel cool.

A jar of “South Indian Tangy Tomato Pickle.” Mine had an extra tag on it with a picture of a tidy looking faux chef on it. I imagine he was looking at me saying, ‘Hey asshole, you look like you’ve got money to burn. I’m a fucking chef, so you know this shit’s worth blowing an extra dollar on.’

One of those long green spicy peppers. If you choose an especially small one, the clerk’ll give it to ya’ for free, as it won’t register on his scale.

Prepared mulligatawny soup. Because tamarind, bitchez.

A bunch of other crap to bring the total above $10.

Chop up about half a cup of your already cooked pork. Mine was lightly infused with apples and ginger, but wev.

Slice half a small onion into thin rings

Mince a cube of garlic

Slice up the lower half of your free pepper

Heat a generous amount of canola oil in a pan

Cook the onion, garlic, and pepper for a few minutes

Chuck in the pork for a few more minutes

Add a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce. Or ketchup. Or catsup. Like I fucking care.

After a few minutes, add two tablespoons of the pickle.

Once everything’s heated through, taste the shit. It won’t be right. Add at least a teaspoon of cilantro (dried, because this is McRib, asshole), and more cumin than is absolutely necessary (1 tablespoon).

Taste it again. It’ll be less awful. Maybe add some more cilantro and salt and pepper. Yes, pepper. That’ll fix everything.

Serve over rice. Or on a stale bun. Or convert it to an aerosol form suitable for crowd control. I really don’t give a shit.

Despite containing actual pork, the sweetness and acidity of the massive amounts of “tomato sauce” and pickle make this taste a lot like a school lunch. It’s strangely evocative the kind of pulled pork you’d get at a roadside stand in East Tennessee, provided the stand was about to go under. The pickle and hot pepper at a certain South Indian flare. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

To Ronan Bennett, whose novel Zugzwang I found uber-remaindered down at the Dollar Tree.

The other day I was buying Q-tips (technically, store brand cotton-tipped mini batons), and I had a Lee Greenwood moment. As it turns out, a package of 500 Q-tips was cheaper than a package of 375. It’s not merely a matter of “saving money” by buying in bulk. It’s more like somebody at Target was like, “Hey assholes, we’ll pay you sixty cents to take this extra 125 Q-tips off our hands. These things are fucking worthless.”

As it turns out, I’m not the first person to have noticed this.

This sort of thing doesn’t happen in a rational economy involving rational actors. So there’s that.

This morning I needed to call a colleague in Buffalo. My first thought was “Is Buffalo on Central time?” This is after living “out East” for just over three years, and not even on the coast.


I tend to have terrifying or otherwise stressful dreams. When I remember a dream that doesn’t fit that mold, it tends to stand out.

There’s last night’s dream. Apparently there was a Chicago Women’s Writing Festival. Obviously this was on TV, and obviously everyone involved was fabulous, because duh, Midwesterners. Anyhow, the Chicago Women’s Writing Festival challenged the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to a soccer match, because apparently that’s the sort of thing that lady festivals do. Apparently ChiFest and MichFest are big rivals, too. I don’t have a reason for that.

So yeah, let’s make this happen.

PS The soccer game was also on ESPN. That strikes me as far-fetched.