Come find yourself...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fantastic CHOPPED SALAD, how we're all Wonder Woman and a deep truth revealed...

For those who love it, cooking is at once child's play and adult joy.

Craig Claiborne

I had an epiphany the other night.

It was while I was cooking a rather elaborate Mexican feast for myself and my husband. The TV was off. No music, no Internet, no nothing. Peace and quiet. I live in a very quiet part of Queens and in a very quiet building, which suits myself and my husband. We like a quiet home.

It was me in the kitchen. Andy was still teaching and I had the night to myself. I could feel a rather vile head cold coming on, but I refused to let it drag me under. I wanted to cook.

Since late November of last year I've had very little interest in this blog or this project. I felt I had been through the ringer.

4 years, countless producers, investors, TV executives and endless reams of writing had produced not one viable bite on this project DESPITE the fact everyone told me it was a good idea DESPITE the fact I was told COUNTLESS TIMES I'm meant to be on TV DESPITE the fact I know tons of people IN cable TV who could have made it happened IF they were a bit nicer or kinder or giving.

It never happened. I got sick in late November. I hardly got out of bed in December. My husband wanted me to take anti-depressants. I said, Fuck that - give me a Broadway show and I'll be fine.

Add onto that the endless discussions I've had with people about the cooking show and non-stop litany of people telling me why cooking at home is a foolish idea.

Here are the top ten reasons people tell me they don't cook at home:

"It's messy. Like you."

"Too expensive. I'd rather save my money for things that matter, like a new round of Botox or a hot hooker."

"So time consuming. Wouldn't you rather be shopping for clothes? Or watching TV? Or anything else besides cooking? Shopping and planning and reading the recipes...please. What kind of a gay man are you anyway?"

"I can't be bothered. All of that chopping and mixing? And carrying groceries? No thank YOU."

"Who has the friggin' time? I sure as hell don't. You try to balance a career, husband and two needy teenagers. I'm a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Put a knife in my hand and violent things are bound to happen."

"Food? Please. I eat pills. I don't eat food."

"I eat to live, not live to eat. There is a difference. Which is why I only eat bagged lettuce and pre-cooked chicken with low-fat dressing and NO CARBS. Ever. Ruin this waistline? Get a grip."

"Lean Cuisine. Mix two of those up, zap them and dinner is on the table in 8 minutes and only 500 calories. Throw it mess, no fuss and you're done."

"It takes patience and skill to learn to cook, neither of which I am interested in."

"I'm too busy. No one cooks at home anymore. Only bored housewives in South Dakota have the time. There is a reason God created take-out. Hello?!"

I have no interest anymore in trying to convince people who don't like to cook why cooking at home is such a fun, enjoyable and loving thing to do.

I'm done.

Let them have the same thing every day, let them eat take-out every night, let them be either too skinny or too fat - I am no longer carrying the flag to increase awareness for those who find endless reasons not to cook.

It feels good to write that!

I realized there was a problem in December when I became resentful of people approaching me and suddenly, without any provocation, talking to me about food.

It happens all the time.

I'll be in the supermarket and women will come up to me and ask me to help them pick produce or how to cook a meal...soon we'll get to talking and I'll have a whole bevvy or cooking broads chatting up food and recipes. It's a gas!

I became angry in December because I was hurt at being dismissed so often about The Food Therapist cooking show. I felt bad it never became a reality so I divorced myself from cooking. I found myself listening and actually agreeing with the people who said those classic I Hate Cooking lines above.



So a new, much more realistic day is dawning with my cooking. I am a good cook. I gravitate to food, I know how to cook and I am meant to eat. It is a strong part of who I am.

THUS...this blog and all of my food-related stuff will be directed only to those who love to cook. While I respect all of those who uttered and continue to utter those lines above, suffice to say on food and cooking we will never bond unless they come to their sense because I, for one, LIVE for my senses.

For the REST of you lovely home cooks out there...


Chopped Salads

I've resisted making chopped salads at home for years. I am not a salad fan. My husband loves salads because they are so healthy, but for me, they never, ever taste very GOOD or are very interesting.

I'm not sure if this is big in other parts of the country, but in New York City people are really, really, REALLY into chopped salads. I never understood the thing with chopped salads.

Well! I've certainly changed my mind.

For years now I've made salad by tearing up lettuce, chopping some chicken breast, serving with a healthy dressing and a bit of bread on the side and each time I come away - YUCK.

I watched a recent chef make a chopped salad and realized that he did exactly as the name implies - chopped all of the ingredients to DEATH and then mixed them all together. Now, to be fair, he did have a giant commercial chopping device that looked like this:

You don't need this at home. What this does in a commercial setting is chop the hell out of anything laid in front of it. And I realized that is what lies at the heart of why chopped salads are so good. There is a seamless mix of textures and tastes here that make these very tasty salads.

BUT...and this is a big but (which could result you getting a big 'butt') you still need to watch what you put into these salads. It's very easy to hide fat and calories in this dish. So watch your intake.

I made one the other night and this is what I did.

I got 4 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. If you have an aversion to bone-in, skin-on, get over it. Roasting these breasts results in extremely tender chicken that chops beautifully and tastes great in a salad.

Heat your oven to 450 degrees. Line a jelly-roll pain with heavy duty aluminum foil. Wash and pat dry your breasts. Ha...'it rubs the lotion on it's skin or it gets the hose again!'. Sorry...I digressed.

Rub a tiny bit of olive oil on the breasts and salt and pepper them.

I think now is a great time for a little Martha giggle:

Back to the food...

Bake the breasts until the juices run clear and the skin is lightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Take out of oven, let cool. Carefully shred the meat from the skin and bones (checking thoroughly for bones or skin).

You can make this up to 2-3 days in advance of assembling the salad.

Cut the chicken into tiny dice, set aside.

For the lettuce, I like Romaine for a chopped salad, but Boston lettuce is a nice change of pace (a rather meaty lettuce) or Iceberg (which I find reliable but a tad dull).

Chop the the lettuce very fine and put in a large bowl. Lightly salt and pepper.

Put in the chopped chicken and toss.

I like the chop very fine and add the following:
  • Bunch of fresh radishes
  • 2 bunches of scallion, washed thoroughly; chop green and white portions
  • 2 large carrots, skins removed, cut length wise and into small matchsticks
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large yellow pepper
  • 1 large hothouse cucumber (seedless), sliced lengthwise and dice small
I also like to add parboiled asparagus or broccoli or hard boiled egg to this...the possibilities are endless!

For cheese, I like to add maximum flavor with minimum calories. For me, I like to add either Authentic Stilton Crumbly Blue Cheese or Aged Parmesan Reggiano cheese. Both require very little but impart a very strong flavor. 1/4 cup of Blue Cheese or 4 tablespoons of the Parmesan Reggiano.

For dressings, I forgo the usual bottled dressings. They are filled with sodium and making your own at home is ridiculously simple. All you need do is mix 1/4 cup olive oil with a teaspoon or two of lemon juice and perhaps a teaspoon of creamy or grainy Dijon mustard and 2 cloves minced garlic. You can also add fresh herbs, such as basil or thyme or sage. Mix up and put on a bowl on the side so guests can pour over at their leisure.

I always serve this with a French baguette. To not do so would be a crime. Stop by any local boulangerie or, if you must, get one at the supermarket.

The trick is to enjoy making the salad and make sure it tastes good to you. As those who cook now, the joy you can have in the kitchen is endless...not matter what the food haters or the world say. Celebrate the Wonder Woman in all of you!

Bon appetit!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I'm Mad As Hell! I'm Not Taking It Anymore!

I've been hearing a word tossed around a lot lately.


According to the often insulting but vaguely interesting website Urban Dictionary, this is the definition of the word Gaystream: "...popular culture marketed to queers. Vaguely liberal and often conciliatory to white hetero standards."

There are two words in this sentence which should bother you, gay and straight: "Vaguely" and "Conciliatory." Why?

Because on it's own, conciliatory means, of course, to make concessions. However, when it comes to publishing literature, or making movies or developing TV shows that are created with this dogma in place, what will be done is the work will be 'vaguely' liberal and muddled and perhaps a bit open minded, but in the end, 'conciliatory' to heterosexual standards (read: conservative heterosexual standards of those living in states like Texas and South Dakota) because publishers and executives and those in power want to have their queer cake and eat it to, they want money, gads and gads of money, and in the end, we all know this will result in very sour cake indeed.

We have taken a giant step back in the progression of a society as a whole. Gone is the celebration of individuality, gay or straight, and in it's place is a homogenized sensibility lacking any viewpoint and passive aggressively intent on squashing anything which causes us to feel any sense of unease or challenges us.

We are tired, we are broke, we want to do nothing but sit in our chair and watch TV and be left alone. We want to make our salaries and make our car payments and mortgage payments, and go out to dinner on Friday night and be left alone.

Now is the time where the rally cry of Howard Beale of Network needs to be heard. "I'm not going to leave you alone," he feverishly said into America's television sets in 1976. "I want you to get mad!" he bellowed. "I want you to say, I'm a human being, goddammit! My life has value!"

We need to get mad. We need to feel something more than this complacent ambivalence everyone is so fucking proud of. As a gay man, I feel a certain fury knowing movies, TV and popular 'gay' fiction will not challenge mass culture with showing new ideas and open sexuality, but will, instead, give me the same old package but in a new ribbon.

But the part which is the most offensive is they will tell us this is a NEW way of thinking and this is PROGRESSIVE and we are now seeing other people for who they really are...when we are not seeing them at all.

Queer culture, alternative culture, any culture truly outside of a white heterosexual nuclear conservative family unit will never be fully revealed in mass media and this is 2010. It feels like it's 1955 and it's 2010 and the most disturbing part of this is people think this is what they want and it is the exact opposite of what they need.

Of course, Bush is to blame for having set this agenda in place and hammering it home. Of course, the Conservative agenda is strong and in place. It is taking over parts of the black community and the Spanish communities. God plays a huge role in certain parts of society and God does not like man to bed with man or woman or bed with women and He CERTAINLY does not like transgender to bed with anyone.

I am worried and disturbed more people are not worried and disturbed that we have regressed to a time of invisibility for the true individual. I blame gays for sitting back and not taking any action and they should be ashamed.

I loathe gay men who tell me they are looking for 'straight acting' men to have sex with. Why on EARTH would they want to have sex with a 'straight acting' man? That is a man who is perpetuating the worst parts of being straight! And what IS a 'straight acting' man? Why don't you want to be with a gay man? Leave the straight men to their wives or girlfriends. Why do you chase after what you can't have?

I know countless straight men who would find that term absurd, yet gay men use it constantly to denote their desire to be with the dark man, the real man, the all powerful 'masculine' man who will deliver them from their own disgust with their own homosexuality.

The reason gays are still unaccepted in this society and the reason we will never be accepted in this society and the reason people of all shapes and colors and sizes will say God does not love us or God had decided we are not due the same legal rights as heterosexuals is because gay men (and, to a lesser degree, gay women) don't feel they deserve these basic human rights and feel they have the right to fight for them.

Gay men hate the fact they are gay.

They hate their sexuality and queer spirit.

Being gay is not all I am or all anyone who is gay is, but it's a very large part, just as being straight it.

Until this ends, the hate for us will never, ever end. And as a result, racism will continue to silently grow as it does and no one will ever realize we are all one giant 'thing' and not these separate pockets of futile lives. It will never change.

Of course, most of this thinking is by people over the age of 40. This sort of talk about internal homophobia and sexuality and racism confuses the hell out of younger people. They don't get what it's all about. They may not agree everyone has the same rights as everyone (it's the old God thing, they were raised to think God love selectively) but they wouldn't consider taking action to stop others from living the lives they want to live...not so the case with the Old Guard.

Now go eat a donut with someone who doesn't have the same color skin as you or doesn't sleep with the same gender as you.

It's time we all evolved.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The New Homosexual

Nothing shortens a journey so pleasantly
as an account of misfortunes
at which the hearer is permitted to laugh.
Quentin Crisp

In the summer of 1990, I went to The Angelica movie theater in downtown Manhattan and saw a movie about the personality/author/all around fabulous queer Quentin Crisp. It was called Resident Alien.

The Angelica is a horrid little theater, with tiny spaces crammed full of mostly pretentious Manhattan moviegoers who have nothing but black clothes and snobbery in their closets. Most of the films which play their are alternative and rarely shown outside of the four biggest cities in the country. While I always will applaud alternative independent movie theaters, I don't applaud the fact most of the movies there are depressing, dull and lack any enthusiasm for life.

It was a hot summer and I hated life in NYC. I was working for a banking firm in midtown Manhattan. Most of the men I worked for were married and all were cheating on their wives. They would have me call their mistresses and arrange for car services and plane tickets for their inclandestine meetings.

It was all very sordid and vile.

During the day they fired people left and right and 'invested' the funds from the firings into other companies to make their portfolio of rich clients even richer. All of them wore designer suits, complained if their coffee was cold and never, ever considered for one second how fortunate they were to be making the kind of money they did. The entitled rarely realize the price they are paying to be entitled.

The surprise will come to them on their death bed when they will see, in stark relief, the error of their ways. But by then it will be too late, won't it?

I went to Resident Alien because it was about the life and times of Quentin Crisp. Quentin, for those too young to remember (or those too self involved to care) was a startling breath of fresh, gay air in a city filled with gym-obsessed men who wore dark leather and prowled the late night streets of Manhattan looking for their next dark man to take their minds away from how meaningless their lives were.

Of course, like drugs, it never worked.

The high of instant sex with a 'real man' faded as fast as it had begun and they were left, the next day, with the truth of their lives - a truth Quentin spent his life discussing.

I adored what Quentin was about. I was one of those gay men in his 20's in Manhattan who read all the time, smoked cigarettes constantly and was always on the outside of gay New York looking in. I wasn't obsessed with the gym, I didn't have any interest in cocaine or K or heroine and I wasn't obsessed with finding a masculine man to fulfill my sexual and emotional fantasies. I was effeminate, openly gay and seeing shows with drag queens on most weekends. Despite the ravages of AIDS gay men were, at the time, obsessed with their bodily image. They needed to feel and look 'healthy' to stave off the fact they were aging and dying.

It's even worse today.

Gay men are divided into two camps: the Bears and the Others.

The Bears are the men who are not interested in going to the gym to look like the Perfect Man and are, instead, either rebellious to the point of being fat or ridiculously muscular. The Bears believe in the cliche idea of the masculine male. They are the ones who write on their Internet sex profiles "masculine seeking masculine" or the favorite "no fat, no fems". They intensely dislike and openly loathe sissy men.

Bears only accept feminine men if they are in full dress and on a stage lyp-syncing to a song by the newest one-name dance queen wonder. If you were to ask a gay man who identities as a Bear why he only wants to be with other similar masculine men who dress in leather, show off their various hairy body parts and refuse to wear cologne or deodorant, he will tell you (in a defensive tone) "I dunno. It's just what I want. I'm a man so I'm attracted to other men. Real men".

Or, he may even say, "I'm attracted to men, not faggots".

The Others are the main majority. They are the most visible portion of gay society. They are the twinks, the muscle jocks, the preppies and the other various subcategories I'm not interesting in naming or dissecting. They are obsessed with bodily image. They are shoppers, integrators but not innovators or thinkers.

They are dissatisfied with how fractured gay men are with one another but will never do anything to challenge or change this issue. They are akin to the senseless, floating majority of heterosexual America...they want cultural junk food and don't want to press the envelope.

The Others and The Bears openly dislike gay stereotypes. They dislike gay sexuality which is not expressed in hyper masculine terms. They support effeminate gay men only if they are part of a parody or on a stage in a costume. They don't understand and are disgusted by transgender people. You either have a dick or you don't. There is no in between.

The fluid sexuality of the mass of gay culture and it's effect on creating a more open and receptive gay man which began in the 60's, exploded in the 70's and shrank back in terror in the 80's when the Plague descended has become a tiny blip of a fading star against the black canvas of all gay culture.

Quentin, weather he intended too or not, set out to bring this fading star out of obscurity and bring it to light. It was his insight into the act of being a fully open and aware and receptive GAY MAN with a GAY STYLE and FLUIDITY which attracted me in the late 80's like a gay, fluttering moth to a mother shining ship and why I went to see Resident Alien when it opened in 1990.

Mr. Crisp was to be at the screening. I desperately wanted to meet him. I had bought a flimsy poster of the movie the day before and was hoping he'd humor me and sign it. I carried it with me to the film and afterwards, approached him at a tiny table set out next to the screening.

Mr. Crisp wore a striking blue velvet blazer with a bright red scarf about his neck. He had on blush and a thin line of pink lipstick. Blue eyeshadow graced his eyelids and his hands were covered in various rings of deep green and purple. His infamous grey hair was swept up into a giant cone on his head and was streaked on one side with purple dye.

I was in love.

He smiled at me as I came up to him. I had worn my favorite crushed red jacket and tight black pants. I had my green sneakers on and had applied a thin line of mascara to my eyes. I handed him the movie poster. He took it and looked it over.

This is what it was:

"I look hideous", he said to me as he raised a black marker in his hand. I smiled at him and touched his hand as I said, "Not to me you don't."

He shook his head but didn't move his hand away from mine. "I'm constantly amazed by people, I truly am."

With his free hand he signed the poster To a clearly divine and inspired man, Quentin Crisp.

He rolled up the poster and handed it to me. I thanked him and held his eyes as I left. He stared at me as I walked away and in his eyes I saw such life and beauty it took my breath away. I will never forget that moment.

My friend Kim Jackson has asked me to write a show which I am to perform at The Duplex on Christopher Street in the West Village section of Manhattan. I'm not sure what Kim will get out of this since it will be so gay in content. I think she's doing this because she loves me and is desperately hoping this will shine some light on my withered creative life. I am a tad concerned for our friendship in the collaboration, so I must be frank with her on my concerns.

The Duplex is a hop, skip and a jump from the infamous Stonewall Tavern where many believe the gay movement in America truly began. It's not where it began, but it is where the gay movement became visible to people who lived in South Dakota and Florida.

I have agreed to do the show. I am going to draw on the inspiration of Quentin Crisp. Of Harvey Fierstein and his early plays. I am going to press my hand to my heart and my ear to the ground and listen to the words of Larry Kramer. I am going to ask for those gay men of the past to inspire me to write a show about the truth of my life as a gay man who has spent over half of his life living on the fringes of gay life and has watched his brethren fall apart and fractured.

The gay heart of our day is gone. It needs to be revived and I, for one, am going to create a show with this in mind.

As a small boy, I dreamed of living in New York City and creating theater that would be about being a gay man in the dirtiest and most amazing city on the planet. I have to live out that dream.

The cooking show was an excuse to perform and I see that now. I love to cook, don't get me wrong, but the thing I'm truly meant to do is perform. And since for now TV does not want me and the writing world doesn't know I exist, I shall perform in the theater. Lords knows this will a labor of love. But I know not what else to do, so here we go.

Maybe this time the Gods will shine down on me.