Thursday, September 14, 2006

Miss American Pie

I think we all understand the concept of a bad mood so forgive me if I feel the need to dissect mine, but yesterday morning I was in a really bad mood.

I was in the mood where you have a hole in your head that a doctor needs to periodically ogle, and after weeks of procrastination, you finally make an ogling appointment. You make an appointment for mid-morning, knowing you have to get from one side of Los Angeles to the other after having dropped your kid off at school, and you don’t want to feel rushed. Only you decide to be cute and cut over the canyon, not knowing half the lanes on all the major canyon thoroughfares are currently being dug up and moved three inches to the left. So you get to experience the gut-twisting frustration of seeing a traffic light about a quarter mile ahead of you turn from green, to red, to green and back to red, but your car hasn’t moved an inch. At which point you realize, as you watch the waning moments of your prime years ebb away, that this five-minute appointment will take four hours to complete.

I was in that mood.

Luckily, I had my iPod with me and with the iPod come the podcasts. I love a podcast, I truly do. Since Daughter was old enough to understand the words spewing out of the radio, I have only listened to news when she is out of the car. Unfortunately, on those rare occasions where we're not in the car together, my local National Public Radio station is doing its morning-long exploration of indigenous Peruvian music, which is has a certain charm but isn’t news. Or I catch the opening salvos of a panel discussion on “Sewage Treatment and the Modern Planned Community”. This might be news, but it’s not news I need until I move to a street called Buttercup Lane and my water starts tasting like zinc.

Since I am not listening to the radio on a regular basis, my news options are the newspaper or weekly magazines. I bring the paper in every morning, hide it from Daughter’s eyes (so we don’t start off the day explaining how IED stands for Improvised Explosive Device) and try to read it or a news magazine later in private. But lately it seems, before I can get up-to-date on the week’s current events, I need a cheat sheet. As far as the news goes, I am the person playing poker who gets to the end of the game, squints at her cards, and says slowly, “OK. Walk me through this one more time... A straight does what again? ..And what does a pair beat?”

I understand how to pronounce Shiite. I recognize the word Sunni. But it says something about American education and sleep deprivation that I cannot remember what differentiates them. Thousands of people have died over these distinctions yet, all too often, I find myself frowning at the newspaper and thinking, "...is it a wardrobe thing?”

But then came the iPod. Each night, I plug my iPod into my computer, where my (mostly free) subscriptions to various news programs are automatically downloaded. Each morning, I unplug it ripe and swollen with up-to-the-minute news and information and I am firmly reminded there is a larger world beyond “Why am I seeing only one soccer shin-guard in the gym bag?" or "Where are your other matching hair ribbons?”

Yesterday, however, was not a day for important news. I was not in the mood for a PhD in Something Long to explain the political hierarchy in Darfur yet again. When a person could walk on her hands more quickly than she is driving, she wants easy company and for me “easy company” means “cooking show”. I download two cooking shows every week and they are wonderful. Both feature soothing female voices talking about things which they and their guests are obsessed about and, as I have mentioned before, I love observing the harmless obsessive. I never actually try to cook anything they suggest so I can listen without ever having a quiz on it later. If I come away with a new fact about capers why, that’s just a bonus!

[The caper is an unopened bud of a flower whose family is closely related to the cabbage family.]

Evan Kleinman, of KCRW’s Good Food, is a jolly and pleasant driving companion but yesterday, as the fingers clutching the steering wheel were threatening to split the skin at my knuckles, I needed the big gun. I needed Lynne Rossetto Kasper's The Splendid Table. Ms. Kasper’s voice is the auditory stand-in for warm milk and just a breath of Valium. She is a chortling, grandmotherly fan of cooking and eating. The first half of her program is dedicated to interviews with fascinating food makers and world-class food eaters. The second half is call-in, during which Ms. Kasper never fails to amaze the listener with her knowledge of arcane foodstuffs and how to prepare them.

Yesterday, trapped in the traffic glacier, I was listening to Ms. Kasper interview a guest who was suggesting culinary excursions in and around Austin, Texas. Being as I was trying to figure out how to get my car to fit into the seven-inch spot which intermittently became available between the cars in the next lane, I was only halfway listening when I heard the most magic phrase. For the briefest instant, I was lifted up and away from this traffic hell. I stopped plotting world domination through lane-changing long enough to replay the sentence. Yes, I had heard correctly.

Pie.

Happy.

Hour.

Apparently, there is a restaurant near Austin which serves pie at a reduced price for two hours every afternoon. Isn’t that the most civilized thing you’ve heard all week?

Pie Happy Hour.

PIE HAPPY HOUR.

I know. Americans are hugely obese. But really, how much worse is this than a drink? Beer also has calories, but virtually no nutrients. Beer doesn’t have fruit in the middle. Mixed drinks make you fat, and mixed drinks make you sloppy and inclined to kiss the cute intern. Pie never made anyone do something they weren’t already going to do.

Pie.

Happy.

Hour.


Worried that I was starting to lose my fragile, non-pie enhanced mind, I called my friend Veronica.

“We’re going to Austin. I mean hi it’s Quinn we’re going to Austin.”

“Okay. Why?”

[This is why many people love Veronica.]

“Pie happy hour.”

“Oh my gawd, yes! I’d start with pumpkin, then do some fruit pie…”

[This is why everyone must love Veronica.]

“Finish off with lemon meringue?”, I suggested.

“Oh, yes”

For the next few minutes, we discussed how best to layer pies in the digestive system (we agreed to disagree over whether pumpkin was too heavy for a starter) and the appropriate beverage accompaniment (coffee vs. iced tea). When we rang off, the day-tripper from Texas had moved on to extolling the virtues of some local German restaurant which made its own bratwurst. Being as I am a vegetarian, I didn’t even bother to listen. My body stayed immobile, trapped in a car which was moving a few inches a month. My brain, however, was sitting in a restaurant in Texas in the late-afternoon. A kindly woman with a name tag reading CHERIE and seasonal dangly earrings was leaning over my table, pad in hand, taking my order.

“I’ll try the cherry first, and then the pecan", I said out loud in the car, dreamily. "No, wait. Apple streusel, then cherry, and then the pecan. And keep the ice tea coming, please.”

***

(For those reading who know the saga well enough to be asking “Still with the head, Quinn?”, please know the doctor says I have enough steak now so he can do the surgery within weeks)

7 Comments:

Blogger Valerie said...

ummmmmmmm.

pie.

ummmmmmmm.

oh and i'm glad your head will get fixed soon.

now back to dreaming about pie.

5:15 AM  
Anonymous Goslyn said...

Pie Happy Hour. Yummm. I was JUST in Austin; wish I'd known about that resturant.

Might have to bake an apple pie tonight. Yummm.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous paula said...

Yes, this IS a good life! You have performed a humanitarian service here, Quinn. I will be able to do my one hour commute home today with a smile on my face and a little drool on my shirt.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Given as how the dog, kid, and spouse laughed at me when I suggested ROOOOOOOOOOOOAD TRIP!!! maybe we should organize an Eastsiders pie happy hour at Pie N Burger??



http://pienburger.com/index.htm

(P.S. Quinn, I lived in Pasadena the first year of grad school at UCLA. I'd leave at 6:45 am to make an 8 am class I TA'ed and I'd still be late half the time.)

3:45 PM  
Anonymous houseband00 said...

When pie comes to mind, I, too, do not mind. =)

I truly wish I could join you on your delectable adventure.

Enjoy!

5:23 PM  
Blogger perlchyk said...

If you still like podcasts, and I know I'm commenting on an ancient post, you might like You Look Nice Today. It's just random ramblings of a group of three guys with an occasional and is not child friendly, but very very funny.

It got me to actually like podcasts again since I had been finding them too similar to college radio, um, er, dead air...

I love your blog, and I'm gradually reading the whole thing, so I hope you will forgive the lateness of my reply.

-Nicole

4:39 PM  
Blogger perlchyk said...

If you still like podcasts, and I know I'm commenting on an ancient post, you might like You Look Nice Today. It's just random ramblings of a group of three guys with an occasional and is not child friendly, but very very funny.

It got me to actually like podcasts again since I had been finding them too similar to college radio, um, er, dead air...

I love your blog, and I'm gradually reading the whole thing, so I hope you will forgive the lateness of my reply.

-Nicole

4:40 PM  

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