Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Joy of Dating

I was never a picky eater, so my tastes from childhood have changed mostly in the direction of what I no longer eat (Campbell's soup-based casseroles; Jell-O; margarine; fish sticks; you get the idea). Recently, though, I added something to my diet I previously considered inedible. Dates.

I’m not sure why I had such an aversion to them. Maybe because as a kid they only showed up in fruit and nut trays at Christmas, a time when their natural gooey sweetness couldn’t register on my sucrose-numbed palate.

Here are three incredible date preparations, thanks to a few of our Seattle restaurants:

From Purple Café and Wine Bar, dates (Deglet Noor, I believe), stuffed with gorgonzola, sprinkled with pine nuts, and drizzled with saba (essentially super-reduced, syrupy grape juice).

From Ten Mercer, Medjool dates stuffed with an almond (Surprise! It’s not a pit!) wrapped in pancetta and grilled. Finished with reduced balsamic vinegar and mizithra cheese.

And, my favorite, for all its simplicity, via Boat Street Cafe. Warm enormous plump Medjool dates very slowly and gently in a generous bath of your best olive oil until they get even a little plumper. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Watch your fingers and tongue; they’re hot! Not better than sex. But in a pinch...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thank you, Jesus. For this play.

I have a secret. I wrote End Days, playing through February 22 at Seattle Public Theater. Deborah Zoe Laufer is my pen name.

OK, not really. Deborah Zoe Laufer is a Juilliard-trained up-and-coming young playwright. And I am a "blogger".

But if I had written a play, this is the one I wish I'd written. I know these characters. Really, really well.

Rachel Stein (played by Carolyn Marie Monroe), a super-bright goth teenager with a well-tuned bullshit detector, is completely exasperated with her clinically depressed father and born again mother. She thinks "optimism and joy are signs of low intellect." She really wishes someone would buy groceries. And she has to worry about Nelson (Anthony Duckett), who is geeky in the extreme, oblivious to social cues, and has a crush on her to the point of stalking her. He turns out to be the redemptive one, handily and cluelessly running circles around Jesus' appearances in the lives of these family members and even replacing Stephen Hawking in Rachel's affections.

This is a well-written comedy, in the classic sense. It's got it all: two couples who aren't together but should be, an interloper, dislocation, disguised identities, conflict between generations/ societies, and a reaffirming happy ending. And it's funny as hell. I really was afraid the woman next to me was going to pee her pants laughing when Nelson sang Torah as Elvis. (Or was that me).

Duckett's performance is fabulously large and goofy and unself-conscious. I don't know how he keeps a straight face. We saw Monroe as Ophelia last year (Green Stage Theater) and thought she was terrific. I'm even more impressed after seeing this performance and look forward to more from her around town. Evan Whitfield is corny and hilarious as both Jesus and Stephen Hawking.

Heather Hawkins as mom Sylvia plays the part with an intense earnestness that I remember from her performance last year in The Sweetest Swing in Baseball (also Seattle Public). I can't help thinking even more laughs could have been wrung out of this with a wider range of notes to her performance. Keith Dahlgren is a natural as dad Arthur. He does somnolent really well and wakes up to a renewed life convincingly.

And for director Carol Roscoe: was that Persepolis that Rachel was reading before getting turned on to Hawking? If so -- brilliant!

A very satisfying evening of theater. And bravo to Seattle Public Theater for putting on new work.

Bringing back "The Grandpa"

I've been following with amused interest all the jibber-jabber about the Mariners possibly bringing back Ken Griffey, Jr., for a curtain call in 2009.

Blog posters and news site commentators are all atwitter about the idea, many positively weepy with sentimentality about the return of the great warrior, who will fill the stands with adoring fans and bring back memories of the good old days.


Weisenheimer is old enough -- but just barely! -- to recall the return of Willie Mays to New York with the Mets in 1972 and '73. Watching the Sey Hey Kid totter around under pop-ups was not a pretty sight. I'm not sure how the Big Apple reacted to the return. Folks there still go ape when Yogi doffs his cap on old timers day, but I'm pretty sure they don't want him to suit up and get behind the plate.

Furthermore, the hero's welcome Griffey received on a return to town a couple of years ago puzzles me. For all of his greatness in the field, Junior always seemed to go out of his way to give you a reason to dislike him, right up to his messy and acrimonious departure. Despite his immense talent, he never became a beloved figure; at least two teammates -- Edgar and Buhner -- were and are far more appreciated in town. Griffey got the photo op (above from the PI) for the play that saved baseball in Seattle, but it was Edgar's moment.

I'm ambivalent about Griffey's return. I haven't purchased a ticket to see the Mariners for several years, and Junior will not make it more or less likely that I will do so in 2009. He may well be the best "veteran" lefty bat out there.

In the spring 20 years ago Griffey crashed the lineup at age 19 and stuck with the Mariners for 11 seasons of often electric performances. I prefer to remember the Kid.

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four

The Weisenheimer and I bought shares in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Full Circle Farm. We used to get a box of produce every week from Pioneer Organics before they got bought out a year or so ago. I figured after several years of getting a big box full of goodies from Pioneer I would have great purchasing, menu-planning, and eating habits, and maybe I would save a little money not getting delivery. Wrong! Somehow we slipped right back into thinking of the protein first and quickly developed very boring vegetable ruts. And we spent the same amount of money as ever. And we weigh....well, let's just say the healthy eating habits got a little off track. So I was thrilled to unpack our first box from Full Circle, get out stacks of foodie magazines, and plan what to do with all those snap peas and broccoli and blueberries and apples and parsnips and lettuce and Swiss chard and....

Last night was steak night, done to perfection by the Weisenheimer with his amazing balsamic reduction sauce. And we had four lovely Yukon Gold potatoes from our FCF box. So I made garlic mashed -- with three of them. It was a lovely meal. And yes we were splurging -- it was a holiday, after all! But this morning I'm wondering why I boiled up three potatoes, leaving us one. Wouldn't our meal have been just as satisfying if I'd mashed two potatoes? Leaving two for another meal? I didn't think about it last night, I just started scrubbing and slicing and boiling and mashing...

I'm finding that paying attention to portion sizes is a constant process of whittling down, rediscovering how little food it does actually take to be satisfying. And after a few years of ups and downs on the scale, I'm realizing that there's never going to be a day when I "automatically" eat right. I will always have to pay attention. But that's ok. It's fun to pay attention to food. Now I've got to go spin some lettuce and dice some peppers and roast some beets and...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Death, Sex a riot at Balagan

Balagan Theatre's Death, Sex has it all: a vampire, hot chicks, passionate Russians, a drowning man, a magician, a waitress, a bigoted defense attorney, a lying defendant, a mean dad, a disappointed teenager, and about an hour's worth of belly laughs.

Weisenheimer caught the opening-night performance of Death, Sex, a collection of six ten-minute comedies, on Feb. 6. It will be running all month, but you ought dash out there tonight; it would be a perfect Valentine's Evening outing.

The cast are all marvelous and hard-working. LaChrista Borgers puts in triple-duty, playing Simone, one of the babes stalked by the Vampyre in the opening segment; as Tanya, who may cause Mike Dooly's Volodya to stray from his "kitten" Lili (Megan Ahiers) in The Only Leg He's Got; and Lisa, the poor young thing who doesn't get a very good present for her birthday in Shel Silverstein's The Best Daddy. Borgers is especially hilarious in the latter, as her daddy, also delightfully portrayed by Ashley Bagwell, torments her with "Birthday fools" gifts. What's under the blanket? A dead pony? Her dead sister? The motorcycle she's always wanted? Who knows.

Chris Bell is a riot as Langford, the vampire in Vampyre, and he's a real one, not just an actor acting in a vampire flick. He's also great as the magician in Orange, Lemon, Egg, Canary, courting Ahiers the waitress in the segment that's far more sweet than the others. Jason Harber directed that one, and acts in two others, as Derek the director in Vampyre and as the defendant in David Mamet's Scene 2 of Romance.

The show received a strong review from the Weekly. Balagan is value priced and marvelously entertaining. Go!

What I Really Think About Facebook

10 Things About Facebook*

1. Facebook is... like a huge party with everyone you know where nobody is talking to each other but about a quarter of the people randomly shout out things about themselves. In the third person.

2. Facebook is... a perfect way to stay “connected” to co-workers, friends, and family. And then ignore them.

3. Facebook is... like a rousing game of duck-duck-goose.

4. Facebook is... like a dysfunctional happy family.

5. Facebook is... like a bright, sunny, new dawn for similes. And adjectives.

6. Facebook is... leading to bad writing. (See #5.) (Also the hackneyed use of the present participle to make everything start with “facebook is” because The World’s Greatest Lover told me repetition can be funny.)

7. Facebook is... represented by the formula q = xy(a2-p2/4), also called Cynthia’s Constant, where given x friends from y parts of your life your status updates will be inappropriate, insensitive, indecipherable, or irrelevant to 80% of them.

8. Facebook is... giving me a nightmare where I’m at recess and everyone is tagging me and I’m constantly It and then my clothes come off from all the tagging and I’m at school naked and the teacher calls on me and says “Cynthia give an impromptu speech telling us 25 things about yourself” and then...Oh. Sorry. TMI.

9. Facebook is... an ontological wet dream.

10. Facebook is... fucking weird. But a hell of a lot better than Twitter.

*I couldn’t think of 25. And, really, aren’t you glad?