Archives: junk food

Cooking With (The Other) Lauren Ziemski

Plantains have been featuring regularly in my life lately. My wedding caterer, who was born in Peru, practically swooned when I mentioned I wanted fried plantains at my wedding. I think he might be more excited to make them than I am to eat them. Well, okay that’s not entirely true. I can’t WAIT to eat plantains, and all the other utterly mouthwatering things he’s thinking of making (think: ceviche, well, really multiple ceviches, fried herbed fish, plantains, beans and rice, hearts of palm salad, and, naturally, a whole roast pig that requires a device to house it called “La Caja China”.

And then, this, yesterday, from the Other Lauren Ziemski! That’s her official name, by the way (as is mine, to her, probably). See that? She’s making plantains! Go, Lauren! (Oh, and can I come over for dinner at your place sometime? I make a mean one-handed caipirinha).

It’s still utterly amazing to me that the Other Lauren Ziemski is as similar to me as she is. The reason she’s making those plantains? She’s celebrating the funding of her construction loan to build on her property in Panama. Panama. One of my favorite places on earth. And she’s making plantains. For God’s sake, Universe. Quit it with the uncanny coincidences already.

Briefly, as I watched her chop up habanero, I conjured up this scene where I bought property really close to hers, and we hired the same contractor to build our houses, and the contractor, seeing two perky blondes with exquisite taste in nail polish color and the SAME NAME on their blueprints would do one of those cartoon-y high-speed double takes and his head would explode off his body a la the drummer from This Is Spinal Tap and then the camera would close in on us taking a gratuitous bite out of an oversized avocado and shrugging innocently, palms turned up, dimples glinting like diamonds. End scene.

This is why I can’t concentrate at work. My head is FULL of crap like this.

Planning a wedding is surreal to me. I’ll have another post on this later, so for now I’m just going to say that directing this massive, unwieldy ship of tasks is not so much daunting as it is… well, surreal. I mean, I just told a man that I’d give him half of my annual salary to make ceviche for 175 people. And he agreed! And he’s going to do so much more than make ceviche! He’s going to direct a team of people to roast a pig and plate it up! And all because I said so! Why does this feel so strange and out of body to me?

Years ago, I worked for a sign company where my job was to order grown men (a good chunk of them ex-military) to cut letters out of sheets of plywood and paint them according to the exacting standards of national retail chain managers. Somehow, that felt more natural to me than planning this wedding does. What that says about my tendencies towards workaholism and the inability to enjoy the creative process is probably loud and clear. I think there’s a self help book around here somewhere for that …

Then again, this is a pretty HUGE life-changing event I’m planning for. I shoudn’t downplay the significance of ordering fish for 175 people. I mean, extracting the letter “T” from a block of wood and shipping it to some facilities manager in Wichita so his Intimate Apparel department is restored to its former grammatical glory is not the same thing as, you know, planning a party around the act of committing your life to another human being for the rest of your life.

There’s the whole issue of what to wear, too. I’m hoping the bridal gown world will be kind to the round of booty, short of legs, and flat of chests. Last night, with teeth gritted, I made my first appointment with a bridal shop in town. I’ve been putting it off because my experience with women in the fashion/aesthetics industry has been, shall we say, less than pleasant. I once had an aesthetician tell me during a routine facial that I had HORRIBLE Rosacea (I am of Eastern European descent. Hot water parboils my face every time I shower, it’s true. But I most definitely do NOT have Rosacea). Were it up to me, I would just send a rubber cast of my body to all the shops in town and say: Here. Fit this. Send me the bill than have to endure hours of pawing through poofy white gowns and being helped in and out of them like medieval royalty.

At least I have an excuse to buy more shoes. And plantains. I love any excuse to buy plantains.

My Ear Problems Could Be Due To My Recent Decapitation. Who Knew?

Well, it’s official. I’ve got Meniere’s Diease, or, as I like to call it “Constant Diet of Extruded Corn Meal Covered In Dehydrated Cheese Powder” Disease.

It sounds all exotic and lethal, doesn’t it? Meniere’s Diease. I like to say it with an exaggerated French accent just so I can pull as much drama as possible out of having an inner ear imbalance caused by addiction to food the color of traffic cones. I don’t mean to diminish the pain and suffering others have endured because of this disease; I feel deeply sympathetic. I’ve lived with this feeling of low grade nausea and discomfort for four years now and it is no picnic. It’s just that now that I know how I came to acquire this disease (my own poor eating habits), I don’t feel compelled to be all grave and serious when I talk about it. Which is surprising for me, because I usually know exactly when it is appropriate to take things seriously. Like when I need to ask a convenience store clerk if he carries a snack product with the word “Doodle” in its name.

Though the origins are debatable, most doctors think it’s caused by an imbalance of sodium in the body. The symptoms range from vertigo, a fullness in one ear, dizziness, tinnitus, hearing loss, and lovely little thing called nystagmus, a “jumping” in your eyeball when exposed to stimuli. And, in keeping with my fanaticism for collecting all things odd and rare, I’ve managed to add all these wonderfully uncomfortable items to my curio cabinet of health.

Two years ago, I started the process of trying to figure out why my ear hurt when I slept on my left side, and it has led me through a series of tests, including an Audiogram (in which I learned I had lost some of my hearing in my right ear) an MRI, an ECOG, and an ENG, and, most recently, it led me to the doctor who said I was exhibiting pretty classic symptoms of Meniere’s Diease. I cannot relate in words how incredibly RELIEVING it is to finally have something to call this annoyance AND to have something to do about it.

Of course, though I am willing and ready to make the necessary adjustments in my life, I am none too happy about it. Plain and simple, I have to lower my salt intake. And, as my doctor pantomimed by shaking her hand in the air above an imaginary plate of food, it’s not just the salt I put on my food I have to reduce. She said I would need to lower my intake of processed foods and prepackaged foods. And when she said this, I thought to myself, “Now wait a minute. I’m a most-of-the-time vegetarian who cooks for herself using mostly organic ingredients. I NEVER eat processed foods…. unless, of course… you count the metric tons of salty snacks I eat. mean, I guess you could consider the onion and corn pulp that’s been dehydrated, salted, and flash fried into the shape of a ring “processed food”. Oh. Wait a second. I eat METRIC TONS OF PROCESSED FOOD.” Have you heard about my love for all things curled and cheesy and salty? It is an unnatural love. And I don’t even want to tell you what I would do to get my hands on a certain brand of cheddar cheese goldfish crackers. Let’s just say it might involve a criminal investigation.

The most recent visit to the doctor’s office included an audiogram (wherein the lover-of-all-things-spreadsheet-able in me ignored the fact that the graph was of my own hearing loss and got all hot and bothered by seeing it mapped out on an x and y axis anyway). There was also the requisite wait in the lobby while I filled out an intake form.

And maybe it was because I was feeling extra grumpy that day because that morning I’d woken up with some more classic Meniere’s Disease pain, or maybe it was because the receptionist gave me an incredulous “Are you nuts?” look when I told her no, I was no longer with Regence, that I don’t have health insurance… but I felt I needed to correct the third grade vocabulary word spelling error on that intake form with a bit of vengeance.

The intake form was worded to determine whether or not my ear pain might have been caused by something like exposure to repetitive loud noises in the workplace, certain diseases, and/or trauma to the head. REALLY BAD trauma to the head.

I present to you now, compliments of my camera phone and the mood lighting in the doctor’s office, the most specific question I have ever been asked on a medical intake form:

“Have you ever experienced the following: A sever blow to the head?”

My response, written in the margin? “I’ve never had my head severed”.

I may have lost my hearing, Doc, but my eyesight is still pretty fucking sharp.