Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Around eighth grade, I was obsessed with Rent. I knew all the songs, saw it on Broadway, read the rejected film screenplay (it feels good to finally share that. I've held it in for a long time.), I even made friends based solely on their love of Rent.

And then I stopped.

Out of nowhere, it seems. It wasn't a gradual maturity process, or even a gradual "I've listened to these songs over and over for two years. Maybe enough now" process. I just stopped liking it.

I discovered this on Monday.

We had to do presentations in Jazz about a musical or musical theater choreographer, and on Monday, a girl presented about Rent. She talked about the plot, the writer, the characters, and then she showed some clips from the show.

Surprisingly enough, my reaction wasn't disgust, or boredom, or annoyance. It was embarrassment. From the moment she showed the poster:

I experienced an unpleasant flashback reaction, in which I saw myself listening to the soundtrack, taking the message to heart...God, this is humiliating to talk about. I can't believe how into this stupid musical I was! Now, the emotions, the plot, the songs all just seem overblown to me. Maybe I distorted them myself, maybe they were never that good in the first place, but it was really surprising to hear "No Day But Today" and feel a wave of shame followed by ennui. I wasn't expecting that.

Similar, but definitely less dramatic, was my infatuation with Juno in freshman year.

Do you see her outfit there? I used to dress like that. Every. Day. This was partly a peer pressure thing, because all of my friends and the people whom I wanted to befriend liked Juno (it was freshman year, what do you want), so I was a little more into it than I might have otherwise been. Maybe. I didn't really think Ellen Page was as hot as my friends thought, but I did admire her style of dress on a wholly non-ironic level. And I wore skirts over pants, layered T-shirts, and a red sweater very similar to the one worn by Ellen Page in the movie. I couldn't wear my hair like hers because it was too short for a ponytail, but I did a modified version. And....this is the most painful thing of all...I listened to Kimya Dawson. A lot.

In retrospect...these things were pretty goddamn stupid. I give my family a lot of credit for allowing me among normal humans in the midst of my very specific cultural infatuations. I'm glad I'm above these stupid obsessions. I've matured.

Excuse me, I have to listen to Nellie McKay on vinyl now.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Grease of Our Lives

Today I'd like to tell you about two of my abiding loves. Firstly, I have a crush on atmosphere. This crush has led me to one of my dearest loves: greasy spoons. Because I am a) smitten with atmosphere, and b) extremely cheap, I'm always drawn to these gross little restaurants with grime coating the walls and tape covering holes in the windows. Something about these places appeals to me. They're cozy, especially when the weather is lousy.

Take Louie's in Buffalo, for instance. Louie's was my first love as far as greasy spoons go, and there really isn't anywhere else like it. I would have to say it is the grossest place I have ever patronized. The windows are slightly glossy with grease. Some of the booths have ripped cushions (there I draw the line. I hate sitting on seats with torn cushions. I got enough of that in elementary school to last me the rest of my life.), and everything on the menu is fried or grilled, save for the beverages. But I love it. I used to go there about once every two weeks or so in the winter of my junior year. After a rough voice lesson, faced with the prospect of trudging the twelve blocks home in the snow, I would go to Louie's for a veggie burger first. It warmed me just enough to get home. I sat at the counter and complimented the burger--which was actually really good-- and the man at the register would say, "Say thank you, boys!" Then the people manning the grill would mumble their thanks. In the summer, I would get milkshakes, which were so thick you could just barely suck them up with a straw, but secretly, I loved those nasty winter days when I'd sit by the grill for extra warmth.

There's no equal to Louie's, of course (health inspectors are probably thankful for that), but I've found another love in Northampton. Kathy's Diner is a diner in a trailer that's open from 11 to 3 on Fridays, with very cheap and surprisingly good food. Alice and I go there for Milkshakes at Midnight, an informal event in which one shares a milkshake with another after a bad week. We went with Steve and Erika once, but most of the time it's just the two of us, sitting in a drafty booth and sipping milkshakes. After the Five College Faculty Dance Department show a few weeks ago, we went there just before it began to snow. I had pancakes, she had an omelette, and the two of us sat in the warm diner, sheltered from the chilly winds outside.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Viva San Giuseppe!

I hope you enjoyed the Wigila post a few months back, because here comes Cultural Traditions 2: Sicilian Style!

St. Joseph's Table, for those of you who are not "in the know," is a Sicilian holiday held in honor of everybody's second-favorite carpenter: Saint Joseph! The story goes that there was a great famine in Sicily, so the people prayed to St. Joseph and said that if he would make the rain come, they would hold a feast in his honor. Then there was a flood. I guess Saint Joseph got pretty excited. That's understandable; he's the earthly father of Jesus and patron saint of things like unborn children and for a happy death. I've never been able to understand why the Sicilians prayed to Saint Joseph in particular. (OK, according to Wikipedia, Saint Joseph is the patron saint of Sicily. Well then.) His patronage covers a ton of things, but as far as I can tell, drought isn't really one of them.

Anyway, we have a feast in his honor during Lent, and since it's during Lent, there's no meat. What we do have is fish, because...It's Sicily, guys.

The traditional menu is as follows:
  1. Lentil Soup
  2. Pasta con sardi with bread crumbs (fish-based pasta sauces are not served with cheese. My aunt told me once that the bread crumbs are supposed to reflect the self-reflection and humility of the Lenten season, but I've also heard that they're supposed to represent sawdust, as a nod to the saint. Maybe it's both. I just report here, don't ask me.)
  3. Olives and fennel (Fennel is a very mild vegetable with a slightly licorice-like taste. These foods are supposed to symbolize poverty and also cut through the deep-fried foods in the next course.)
  4. Deep fried cod.
  5. Fritattas
  6. Sfinge, which are these delightful airy puffs of sugar-coated dough...oh hey, those are deep-fried too. Wow. Also strufoli, which are deep-fried balls of honey.
My parents have hosted St. Joseph's Table for several years now. Before then, we went to a church basement where the food was gross (especially to a little kid. I couldn't stand the pasta in particular) and we invariably got an ice-cream sandwich at the end of the meal. Nobody knows what the story was behind the ice-cream sandwiches, but they became a tradition.

Unlike Wigilia, which was heavily edited according to my grandmother's preferences, my family stays almost exactly true to the original meal. There are only a few very slight changes that are more due to logistics than taste. Because Buffalo has such a substantial Italian population, the specialty items like con sardi mix are actually very easy to get, but there are some limits. We usually make cardoon, spinach, cauliflower and asparagus frittatas, but this year the whole city was cleaned out of cardoon. (For reference, here's a picture. It's not terribly common.)

Cardoon is a little like celery; it's a mild-tasting vegetable. I've only ever eaten it on Saint Joseph's and only seen it in stores when we have to buy it for the feast.

This year, rather than just pass around a tray of fennel cut into manageable pieces, I made an orange and fennel salad. It was actually delicious; I would eat it any time. It's a light, clear taste that cut through all that fat very nicely.

We make fried artichokes, too, which may or may not be traditional but is certainly delicious. As my father pointed out to Marty, when you eat an artichoke. it makes whatever you eat next taste sweeter.

Nobody makes strufoli, because it's a hassle. Instead, my Aunt Grace makes cannoli, which is excellent. She seems to think we judge her for not making her own shells, but I certainly don't. As far as I can tell, that's the biggest nuisance of a culinary project ever.

The meal was a success. I took some pictures, but forgot to bring my camera cord. Keep your eyes peeled for a picture post next week...featuring....a convertible cake!

Stay tuned, my ever-faithful readers.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I haven't posted in a very long time, I know. Blame it on the midterms.
But while I was busily not updating, I was getting elected a Baldwin HONS for the 2012-2013 school year!!! I'm so excited, for the following reasons:
  1. I will make friends with ALL the firsties and help them fall in love with the Haus of Baldwin.
  2. I will get to help choose the Convocation theme!
  3. I will miss Family Camp! I really, really didn't like Family Camp last year; the meals were super fancy and took forever to prepare, the wake-up bell was earlier, and by that point in the summer I was exhausted and just wanted to leave.
  4. ....I'm just really excited to hang out with the first-years, honestly.
My fellows HONS are both really chill, and I'll think we'll make a great trio. We're all from different circles, which I think is really ideal. This years' batch of HONS is made up of two really close friends and another girl, which made for a kind of weird dynamic. This way, we'll have more to offer a wider variety of students.
Plus, they're people I'll enjoy spending a lot of time with. I am completely happy with the way things worked out here.