Monday, April 26, 2010

Week 17: It starts at home. And ends, sometimes, on the corner of Peterson and Kimball.

A little housecleaning before moving onto Week 17 -- there are two recipes unaccounted for from last week.

Friday night was pizza night, as is our family convention. My plan was to use a couple of bags of whole-wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe's that I had, but I guess I had them longer than I thought, because they were...kinda gross. Unless pizza dough is supposed to be speckled with what looks like barnacles. So I tossed them and sought out a quick recipe for pizza dough -- no time for a leisurely rise, know what I'm saying? Eating was necessary within the hour or heads were going to roll. I found this quick dough recipe on, but was skeptical that you can just knock all that stuff together and come up with a nice crust. After reading some of the reviews -- occasionally, the people who review a recipe online actually make it the way the recipe prescribes, instead of completely changing/ignoring the recipe and reviewing it based on their totally different dish, and then suggest useful adjustments or improvements -- I let the yeast mixture proof for a bit while I prepped the toppings for the pizza. I wound up having time to let the bread go with the dough hook and then even rise a bit while I finished caramelizing some onions. So, it was more of a half-ass job with the dough than a no-ass job, but it felt good and smelled good, so I went with it.
I made four different types of pizza. There a whole pepperoni for AJ, who can be a real bite in the ass when it comes to pizza. There was a whole fig, caramelized onion, and goat cheese, which I'd had a version of at a girls' night not long ago and knew Peter would love. And, one more pizza that was half potatoes, leeks, bacon, and goat and mozzarella cheese -- the other half was artichoke, tomato, olive, roasted garlic, mozzarella and parmesan. The only one of the three "new" pizzas was anything I'd truly never tried was the potato-leek one, but I'd never made the other two types either. (Mark, I'd bought the ingredients for a queso fundido pizza, but then decided that I would rather just have queso fundido, because why mess with perfection?) Peter and I were the only ones who ate the non-pepperoni ones, but we both liked them quite a bit -- I was surprised at how tasty the potato leek number was. Pizza, to me, is tomato sauce and cheese, so it was difficult to think of it as a pizza, but whatever it is in my head it is also very tasty, and came together fast. I think it'd be a nice option for an evening when Peter and I are spending date night at home. All of them would be, in fact.
And then Saturday night. I decided to stay in with the kids since I had a full day of fundraising ahead of me on Sunday, while Peter headed out to a poker tournament and later a party. I'd kind of forgotten about my challenge -- I had initially planned on trying a new sandwich recipe for lunch, and then that got away from me. I started getting bellyrumbles late in the afternoon and, having no desire to go the grocery store, I rooted around in the fridge to find a small amount of ground beef, some egg buns, and the chorizo I had just bought the day before. So, I gave chorizo burgers a throw, topped caramelized onions and goat cheese. The beef and chorizo didn't really want to stick together (hmm, is that analagous to anything?) and kind of fell apart in chunks on the grill, so if I did it again I'd probably run the two meats through a food processor first before forming the patties. I wish I'd put more onions and cheese on mine, too. But they were good, if a little unexciting.
Sunday was a long, long day. Peter is the titular fundraising chair of the baseball league AJ used to play in (but hasn't for two years) with the understanding that he would go to the meetings and I would do most of the actual work. (He'd always wanted to be a figurehead.) This works fine for me, as the meetings were really the toughest part of the job for me when I was fundraising chair -- the actual work can be done more or less on my schedule, where the meetings can't. Anyway, yesterday was the second annual mixer/auction fundraiser -- we piloted the event last year to great success and thus decided to do it a second time. The event was just as successful this year as last, I'm happy to report, and as both a baseball nerd and a parent who strongly advocates for youth sports, I feel good that I can play a role in funding a worthwhile enterprise.
In general, I will help out when asked. I figure I'm pretty shitty at managing my time anyway, so why not add more to the mix? We were sort of recruited for this board, in fact, by someone who will remain nameless but whose name may or may not be used as a curse word in our home as a result. But working for fundraising at work, although tangentially, and at home, has gotten me thinking about how many small charitable entreaties I pass up in my day-to-day life. I ignore most panhandlers -- including those horrible eco-panhandlers, as a friend smartly put it, that used to stalk in front of my building when I worked downtown. (The Save the Children guy shouted after me one day, "A child is dying right now of hunger, and you won't help because you have to talk to your husband?!" Fuck off, dreadlocks, and shove your sanctimony up your scrawny vegan ass.) I don't generally buy candy or Streetwise or whatever from guys on the street, not out of any enmity but because I'm just not interested in what they're selling. Like the guys who sell water bottles on street corners -- they might be enterprising but they're not getting my cash because I try not to drink bottled water.
I admit that there's also an element of discomfort when it comes to panhandlers in particular. They're, well, disturbing and sad. I don't know what's worse -- when panhandler scoffs at the offer of the 75 cents I have in my pocket (I really don't carry much cash at all), or when they ogle my boobs, or rant and froth about crazy shit, or when they're terrifyingly grateful for my pocket change. It's all very sad, and it's mentally much easier to walk on by.
Fortunately, panhandlers are not the only people you can do charitable things for, and charity isn't only about money. (Discussing this with Peter last night, he suggested what I had already been considering -- doing a charitable thing every day. I asked if he meant, like, fucking an ugly guy. He didn't. THANK GOD. I don't have that kind of time.) And it takes a certain open frame of mind, I'm finding, to look around for opportunities to help people, even in small ways. I know that the times strangers have helped me out, even when it's just holding a door when I'm loaded down with bags and babies, have honestly and instantly made me feel better about life. I think I'm a pretty nice person, all things considered, and am as kind and polite to strangers as I can be most days. But I don't go around actively seeking ways to help strangers. So, what happens if I do?
Well, I don't know yet, but Sunday, I goaded upper-middle-class families into buying gift cards and signed baseballs. I felt pretty accomplished, I'll be honest, at the end of the event. Today, I bought five lollipops from a guy who sells them on a street corner near work and he was absurdly grateful. And, I helped an elderly lady load her grocery bags full of bran cereal and prunes into her into her ancient Chevy today at Dominick's. Small things to be sure. But, I felt good about it. I even feel good thinking about it now. Is that selfish?

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