For Natasha

I’m not ashamed to admit it – sometimes grade school humor is just what the doctor ordered, and ever since my friend Natasha introduced me to this clip, it has become part of our everyday conversation.

Me: Hey Nat. Ah don’t know yew!
Nat: Thass mah purse!
Both: [uncontrollable laughter]
Me: Cool. So, drinks tonight?
Nat: Sure. I hope someone tries to steal my purse just so I can say that.
Me: Ohmigod, I would totally crack up.
Both: Thass mah purse!
Both: [stifled laughter, then sigh]

Oh, You Best Step Off My Tuffett…

“Hey Jen, it’s Nat. Farnsworth and I might grab a drink later. Want to join us?”
“Can’t. I’m making cheese tonight.”
“Okay, I’m assuming that’s a euphemism, but I’m not sure I really want to know.”
I then explained that by “making cheese,” I meant that I was, in fact, making cheese. The kind you eat. So I suppose that “making cheese” could be a euphemism. A euphemism for “changing the course of my entire life and finally realizing why I was put on this earth.”
I just never knew. I never knew that a regular urbanite like me could actually create food from other food. I made cheese with nothing more than milk and lemon juice, and that seemingly simple act taught me perhaps the greatest lesson of my entire life: I don’t need anyone anymore.
All my life – or really, ever since I saw the rerun of that PBS special called Frontier House last year– I’ve dreamed of moving away, far from civilization, but the one thing that kept me chained here was the nagging question: “But where will I get my cheese?”
Now I no longer need to wonder.
This is also an “in your face” to all my friends who loved to tease me while playing the cruel game of “If we were all stranded on a deserted island, who would die first?” Dee-Dee and Vivian would always battle over which of them could survive the longest. Dee bragged about all her camping trips as a child. Vivian would flaunt the fact that she could go longer than any of us without a shower. But in the end, no matter what order they ultimately settled on, one thing was always the given – Jenny would die first.
I never went camping as a child, have high maintenance hair, and have major issues with the idea of going to the bathroom outside. But what they always ignored was the fact that Dee-Dee gets squeamish eating meat on a bone, and Vivian’s diet consists almost entirely of hummus and pita. I come from Sicilian stock, and grew up cracking open chicken bones and sucking out the rich marrow. Now that I can make cheese, too, I think it’s clear who would survive. All I need is a cow. Or a goat. Or a sheep. And a lemon tree. Maybe a lighter. And a kettle. And a few yards of cheesecloth. And some Tupperware.
It’s just like the scriptures say: Give a woman some cheese and she’ll eat for a day. Teach a woman to make cheese and she’ll finally be able to stick it to the man, sell off all her worldly possessions, move into a cozy little cave somewhere in the woods, and ultimately spawn her own society of curly-haired savages.
If any of you are interested in joining my new sect – Jenstown – here’s how you can get started:
Step 1: Arrange all the ingredients on your stove in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
paneer 1
paneer 1b
Step 2: Slowly heat the milk until it almost comes to a boil.
paneer 2
Step 3: Add lemon juice and stir until the curds separate from the whey.
paneer 3
Step 4: Try to control your gag reflex as you watch the curdled milk rise to the top.
paneer 4
Step 5: Let the curds and whey cool for a few minutes.
paneer 5
Step 6: Strain the curds and whey into the cheesecloth.
paneer 6
Step 7: Gather the curds up into a ball and run under cool water. Squeeze out excess whey.
paneer 7
Step 8: Shape curds into a block.
paneer 8
Step 9: Place a heavy weight on top of the cheese to remove remaining whey. Let sit for a few hours.
paneer 9
Step 10: Remove paneer from the cheesecloth.
paneer 10
Step 11: Discover that paneer has no natural flavor, so put on top of a Triscuit and add salt.
paneer 11

Letter of Resignation

Dear Internets,
As hard as it to give you my notice, I’m afraid I just can’t do this anymore. This little experiment of ours has ceased to be enjoyable for me. I began this journey for a lot of different personal reasons, but more than anything, because I wanted to challenge myself. And what a challenge this has been, but now it’s time for me to throw in the towel and just say, “I quit.”


‘Cause I’m Drinking Milk

A progress report:
Day 1.5:
1milk 022
1milk 025

Day 2:
1milk 032
1milk 033

Day 3:
1milk 037
1milk 042

Day 3.5:
1milk 046
1milk 051
1milk 055

And a Bag of Chips

I glanced down at the clock on my computer and realized that my train was leaving in exactly seven minutes. I glanced up at the unread emails that had piled up in my inbox while I was in meetings all day long.
Even if I run, there’s no way I’ll make it. Damn.
I had reached the point in the evening when my train only runs every hour, so I knew I was stuck in the office for a while. Stomach growling, I grabbed some change from my desk drawer and headed over to the kitchen in search of some vending treats.
The first thing that caught my eye was a tasty Twix, my candy bar of choice, but I decided I should get something slightly healthier. My attention was drawn toward the bright packaging of the “30% Less Fat!” Harvest Cheddar Multigrain Sun Chips I always saw the athletic set eating, so I dropped in my $0.65, fully expecting what happened next. The coils spun slowly, my chips nearing the ledge, only to stop short of dropping. I was unfazed since this happens 7 out of 10 times in this machine, but annoyed because I had to walk back to my desk to get another $0.65.
After sliding another few coins into the slot, the second bag started to push out the first one, according to plan, but suddenly stopped short of full release.
Oh, come on!
Usually a good hip check will free a precariously positioned snack, but a few slams later, nothing had budged. I listened for a second to make sure everyone had left the office, then grabbed the top of the machine and tried to rattle it like I’d seen a couple of burly coworkers do before. The machine shifted slightly, but not enough to free my $1.30 dinner from its grasp.
Just as I was about to pull harder, I had a flash of the night janitor finding my body pinned underneath the vending machine, toes slightly curled like that unfortunate easterly witch. Could there be anything more humiliating than to be found crushed under a vending machine at work, all because I couldn’t live without that $0.65 bag of chips? I think not. Except perhaps being found naked and crushed under a vending machine at work, but my company has strict dress code policies, so that scenario was highly unlikely.
I paused for a minute with my head against the plastic of the vending machine. It was slightly warm from the bright lights that had beckoned me near, and as I tapped my head lightly, I contemplated my options.
I should just walk away. I’m not even that hungry anymore. NO! That’s what it wants you to think!
Now this was a game. A game of strategy and patience. Man versus machine. Who could hold out longer? I had a whole wallet full of singles and another 45 minutes before I had to leave for my train. I went back to my desk and grabbed five crisp $1 bills.
As I fed the next dollar into the machine, I suddenly understood why those little women sit in front of the same slot machines in the casinos, hour after hour, no matter how much money they lose.
It’s bound to hit sooner or later. I feel it. It’s time. My time.
I slowly punched in 124 on the keypad, careful not to slip and accidentally buy those rainbow Twizzlers in 126. The metal coil spun steadily and the chips inched further and further toward the edge, but then instead of dropping down, they began to fan upwards, pinned against the shelf above.
Oh you have got to be kidding me! What the hell – are they sewn together!? Bitch, I am not walking away with three bags of chips hanging there!
Another uneventful hip check, one paced lap around the kitchen with my hands on my head to gain my composure, and I was pulling out another dollar to feed my nemesis. I would have paid $20 for those chips at that point, because it had become a matter of principle. Fortunately, I didn’t have to test my mettle because with the fourth dollar, all four bags of Sun Chips exploded against the plastic and slid down to the slot below.
I scooped up the bags of chips in my arms, again praying that no late night colleagues would see me walking through the hall with a bushel of snacks, and returned to my desk.
Now I don’t need to buy snacks all week. Yeah, sucker. Who did you think you were dealing with?
I tossed the three spare bags of chips in my file drawer and ripped open the original one. I admired the unique waffle shape for a second, then popped an entire chip into my now salivating mouth.
Oh. Oh god. These taste like… shit!
I thought that maybe I had just gotten a bad chip, like when you bite into a burnt peanut M&M, so I gave it another shot. But the second tasted even worse than the first, its garlicky gritty debris building up in my molars and under my tongue. I quickly took a swig of water and swished it around to remove all remnants of this $2.60 disaster.
I guess I should have known by the name alone that they would be bad. Harvest Cheddar? I mean, I’m from Wisconsin. We don’t harvest cheese. What does that even mean? Cheese doesn’t grow in fields. It ferments in caves, or… something like that.
Harvest Cheddar. If by Harvest, they meant Pile of, and if by Cheddar, they meant Crap, then yes, this was definitely Harvest Cheddar. I would even go so far as to say that this tasted like a Huge Steaming Harvest Cheddar.
And I was now the proud owner of four bags of it.
I threw the open bag of Sun Chips in my trash and went back to scanning my emails. Eventually I glanced down at the clock on my computer and realized it was time to catch my train. As I cut through the kitchen on my way out, I tossed the three remaining bags of Harvest Cheddar Multigrain Sun Chips on the table.
This time I had lost, but luckily for me, what happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen.

Weekend Commentary

1. There is no better housecleaning music than Mariah Carey. Sure, it took me 20 minutes to make my bed because I had to keep playing Heartbreaker over and over again, but I’m telling you – that bed would pass any military inspection you could throw my way. If I didn’t need all my quarters for laundry today, you would be able to see that quarter ricochet off my sheets and embed itself in the ceiling. I also considered taping Swiffers to my feet while listening to Fantasy, but that just seemed a bit over the top and maybe a little dangerous.
2. I’ve been telling my cats that in order for them to take first place in the upcoming cat show, they need to get used to letting people hold them like babies. They also need to keep their claws trimmed and stop meowing so loudly and pacing around the house at night. I told them that no Purina Champions on record have ever vomited in their owner’s shoes, so they need to gain better control over their gastrointestinal systems. There is no upcoming cat show, but my cats have a poor concept of time, so I think I can keep putting them off.
3. There’s no use fighting the rhythm. It’s gonna get you no matter what.
4. For the first time in my life, I bought a gallon of milk. Not a half-gallon. Not a Chug. But an entire gallon. I may be from Wisconsin, but milk just isn’t my thing. Maybe it’s because my mother is Sicilian and she always says that Sicilians are lactose intolerant by nature. But how come we eat all that cheese, I ask? That’s… different. Besides, she says, name me one other mammal that drinks milk after infancy. I’m at a loss, and am easily won over by this sound, logical argument.
In spite of that, for some reason I feel compelled to try to drink this entire gallon of milk before it turns. I tried to find a gallon with the furthest out expiration date possible, so I have until April 13th to accomplish this feat. I will be tracking my milk-consumption progress through time-series photographs starting today.
milk 1
milk 3
milk 4
milk 5
milk 6
milk 7