the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Category: Food (Page 2 of 6)

Breakfast with Lily

As I have mentioned many times before, Sophia is a strong, assertive woman. I find that sexy (unless, of course, when it has anything to do with me, when it can be a pain in the ass). One of the traits I really admire about her is that she isn’t a wallflower in restaurants. If she doesn’t like a dish or it isn’t up to her standards, she isn’t afraid of telling the waiter and speaking her mind.

Before I met her, I was too meek to complain.

“Eh, the salmon is OK.” I would say. “It’s not that bad.”

“Don’t eat it. Return it!” she would answer. “You’re PAYING for it.”

During the last several years under her tutelage, I became stronger. Hair sprouted on my chest (even if the hair has grown a little gray lately). Now I eat in restaurants with renewed confidence.

On Sunday, my mother and I had breakfast with Lily, a workmate of my mother’s from Farrar Straus, and Giroux. She is an elegant-looking Peruvian woman of about fifty. Her strong opinions reminds me of Sophia’s.

We received our food, and Lily took one bite of her omelete.

“It is completely cold,” she said.

“I’ll call the waiter over.” I insisted, taking charge of the matter, the testosterone running through my body.

“No, it’s fine like this.” she whispered quietly, and continued to eat her mushroom omelete.

I found this very confusing. Normally, Lily is very assertive. Had I become such a stronger personality –that I had already surpassed her? Have I finally rid myself of my passive nature? Am I ready to take the world by storm, standing tall, my c**k always at attention — like a true man?

As we left the restaurant and stepped into the September air, I built up the courage to ask Lily the question on my mind:

“Why didn’t your return your breakfast when it was cold? It seemed so unlike you.”

“I know,” she answered. “But my husband has worked as a cook in a restaurant for twenty-five years. I know FOR A FACT that when a customer returns his food, everyone in the back spits on it.”

Dinner at the Kramers

My mother is hip for a long-time AARP member.  She still works a full-time job, commuting into Manhattan by subway.  She likes sex in the City, American Idol, and reading my blog.  Granted, she couldn’t tell you the name of a song by Justin Timberlake, but she has seeen him on “The View.” 

The one aspect about her that is completely old school is her view of “dinner.”  She is stubbornly holding onto the idea that dinner is some sort of special family time, like in TV shows from an earlier era.

When I was a child, dinners in the Kramer family were as close to Ozzie and Harriet as we ever became.  I tossed this lifestyle away after I left home.  Post college, dinner was a sandwich or a frozen burrito.  When I got married, Sophia classed things up, but since we didn’t have kids, dinner never really became the traditional family time.  We ate dinner while watching that day’s “All My Children.”   Dinner was frequently take-out Chinese food, and we usually rushed through the meal.  On the nights when Sophia cooked her delicious, but elaborate meals, I frequently spent more time dreading doing the dishes than eating my meal.

My mother is not a good cook.  She is efficient, seemingly making a ten course meal in ten minutes.  Her food is unfussy, served on mismatched dishes, but in form and function, her dinners are as regimented as a Julia Child recipe.

My mother’s meals always start with a fruit appetizer.  If you ever went to a Catskills resort or a bar mitzvah in your childhood, you would know that every dinner starts with a grapefruit or some fruit.  My mother’s favorite is a piece of melon.

“Why do we need this for?” I asked tonight.

“You always start dinner with a piece of fruit.  It readies the palate.”

“No one eats fruit before dinner anymore.  This is dessert.”

“No, cake is dessert.  This is an appetizer.”

After the fruit appetizer, comes the salad — always served out of this old wooden bowl with wooden spoon and fork.  Why?  I hate NO IDEA.  The only other time I ever saw this wooden bowl was in some old-fashioned “steak place” in Los Angeles, which hasn’t changed its menu (other than the prices) since 1938.  In this restaurant, they even serve you that ancient “wedge of lettuce,” which is basically a slab of iceberg lettuce thrown on your plate. 

I never liked iceberg lettuce.  My mother would still be buying iceberg lettuce if I didn’t finally teach her the ways of other lettuce, like green leaf.  Now, she has joined the 21st Century and buys her lettuce in those Dole lettuce bags. Her salads are always the same:  lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and some sugary bottled dressing that was on sale, usually honey mustard or French dressing.

In the winter, there might be soup after the salad, but we skip that during the summer months.

The main entree always consists of meat, chicken, or fish and TWO vegetables.  Always TWO.  One vegetable is the “fun” carby one — potato, yam, or instant rice, and the second is  the green “good for you” type — peas and carrots, broccoli, string beans.  Other than potatoes and corn on the cob, I do not recall my mother ever serving a fresh vegetable. They are either of the canned or “frozen” variety, and they always come out as soggy and overcooked as the ones you get at Denny’s.  Still, it’s not worth trying to change her ways.  Who am I to talk?  I’ve been so lazy in the past, that my dinner was eating vegetables straight from the can.

I AM trying to change my mother’s portion control.  For some reason, she has never been a leftover keeper, other than saving over food during big events, like holiday dinners.  Maybe her mother was told by her mother to always finish her plate — whatever was on it.   So, whatever is cooked is served, and is eaten.  If she has a big can of peas that she bought on sale, a bucket-full-of-peas is plopped on the plate.  We each receive a piece of chicken that could be turned into 20 chicken McNuggets.”

“This is ridiculous.  We don’t need so much food.”

“So, don’t eat it.”

“You end up eating what is your plate.  It is human psychology.  I read a book that says when you go to a restaurant you should immediately bag half of the food to take home.  You’ll be just as satisfied eating half the food.”

“I don’t like taking home food.”

“Why not?

“It never tastes the same.”

“You always say the leftovers taste better the next day, like during Passover.”

“That’s different.  I know how to reheat the Jewish food.  I’m never going to cook the Chinese food as well as someone Chinese.”

There is no arguing with logic like that.

Sophia told me to buy my mother a microwave to reheat leftovers.  My mother was always afraid of microwaves because of the “radiation.”  I’m going to be honest — I never had a microwave for the same reason.  Fears are inherited.

After the main course in the Kramer household, it is time for dessert.  Dessert is one area which has changed over the times.  I’m frankly embarrassed to tell you what “dessert” used to be when I was a child.  It was literally served in three courses.  I’m not joking —

First there was some sort of fruit cup or applesauce.  I know this sounds almost unbelievable — especially since we BEGAN the meal with fruit, but this fruit was to “temper” the palate — to ready ourselves for the real dessert.  This was the only part of the meal where I was a bratty child who wouldn’t eat his food.  Unlike many children, I loved my soggy vegetables.  What utterly disgusted me were these sugary canned fruit cocktails that my father loved.  Holy Crap, did I hate that crap!  Canned peaches.  Canned plums.  Ugh. Luckily these were eventually phased out as my parents learned the word “cholesterol” and changed their menu to the equally unhealthy low-fat, but full of trans-fats and sugar products which were the rage fifteen years ago.

After the fruit cup, was the real dessert — maybe ice cream or chocolate Jello pudding.

So, the meal is over, right?  Nope. 

No dinner is complete without coffee or tea.  Yes, we had to have coffee after dinner, getting me hooked on caffeine at an early age.  I blame my mother for my need to go to Starbucks. 

Of course, we couldn’t just have coffee without something to “nosh” on — so we would have a few cookies with the coffee or tea.

Three course dessert! 

Gradually, my mother realized that this was insane, and our dessert was truncated.   Today, we usually grab a  non-sugar ice cream bar an hour after dinner.  No fruit cocktail, cookies, or even coffee.

The times they are a changing.

Pineapple on Pizza: Yuch!

If you know that your friend’s husband is cheating on her, do you tell your friend?  Of course you do. 

If your friend is dating a man who is hiding his prison record from her, do you tell her?  Absolutely.

If a family member is in trouble, and you have the opportunity to help save him, wouldn’t you?  Yes!

To most of us, the blogging world is a safe haven from the real world.  We chat, we tell jokes, we listen.  But there are some of us who don’t belong in civilized company.  The sick tastes of these individuals have been so perverted through time that they are a danger to us all. 

I am naturally speaking about those who put pineapple on their pizza.

Two days ago, I made a sarcastic comment on Twitter about the inhumanity of putting sweet Hawaiian fruit on pizza — PIZZA — Italy’s greatest achievement, surpassing even that of the Renaissance. 

I’m a traditionalist.  I don’t like pizza with anything on it other than cheese and sauce.  But I accept the weaknesses of others, and have enjoyed pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, and other acceptable toppings.

It wasn’t until I moved to California that I became aware of the terrible illness that grips the rest of our country – putting weird crap on pizza.   Was it the fault of the infamous California Pizza Kitchen?  The nasty Wolfgang Puck (who once tried to injure my family with a cheaply made pan)?  Or the negative influence of the Papa John’s and Domino’s and Pizza Huts of the world?  Why would you put PINEAPPLE on a slice of pizza?  Do you put apple sauce on your hamburger?  Mango on your pot roast?  It is insanity!

Sadly, many of you ARE insane.  Several of you wrote back to me, announcing that pizza with pineapple was your favorite type of pizza!  How weird!  And disgusting.

I know you took me into your confidence when you revealed this information to me, but this is too serious an issue not to warn the others.  I am not suggesting that we make a blackmail list against bloggers who enjoy pineapple on their pizza.  I am just suggesting that we proceed with caution.  Perhaps there are other “secrets” that they are hiding.  Do we really want to share a room at BlogHer with any of these folk?  I personally don’t trust them.  Who knows what other sicko things they are doing with their food products?

If you put crazy things on your pizza, please tell me now, so I can delete you from my blogroll.

And please be wary of the following individuals:

dailytannenbaum @Neilochka Take me off your blogroll if I’m on it. Although I did burn out after having pineapple pizza as much as possible in college. 01:22 PM May 21, 2008 from web in reply

iamthediva @Neilochka i like pineapple on my Teriake Chicken Pizza… and yeah, the whole “Ham and Pineapple” thing is huge up here. 12:08 PM May 21, 2008 from web in reply to Neilochka

Nedra @Neilochka There goes my chance to make it onto your blogroll — pineapple pizza is my very favorite. Oh well. 09:38 AM May 21, 2008 from web in reply to Neilochka

DownWithPants @Neilochka – I like you Neil, but if it comes down to you or pineapple on pizza, I’ll have to pick pineapple. 09:18 AM May 21, 2008 from txt in reply to Neilochka 

Miguelina @Neilochka If pineapple on pizza is a sin, then I guess I’m going straight to hell. 12:12 PM May 21, 2008 from web in reply to Neilochka

catheroo @Neilochka I had pineapple on my pizza just last night! 09:06 AM May 21, 2008 from txt in reply to Neilochka

lauriewrites @Neilochka We call it Hawaiian pizza in Maryland. Ham and pineapple. : ) 12:06 PM May 21, 2008 from web in reply to Neilochka

— and here’s a real pervert:

fluidpudding @Neilochka I am hesitant to admit this, but my absolute favorite pizza showcases pears, pine nuts, and Gorgonzola cheese. 

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Out of the Past

Neilochka Loves Matzoh Brei

I have been honest with you that things are bumpy with Sophia. I’m sure there are many single women out there waiting for the post where I finally write — “I’ve been booted out,” because that means it is now your opportunity to sent me that bra in the mail and win me over for yourself. But, I’m going to warn you. I’m not that easy. I will never date any woman who doesn’t pass a certain test. I’m not talking about judging you on your tits or ass. I’m not even talking about intelligence.

No, I’m talking about your ability to make matzoh brei.

What is matzoh brei?

To better explain matzoh brei, let’s go directly to the passage in Exodus where it is explained in the Bible:

One day, Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, and was helping out the “cooking crew” by carrying some matzoh. His brother Aaron was carrying a big jug of scrambled eggs. These items were going to be served for breakfast, right after morning prayers. As they were walking, Moses got distracted by a young Israelite maiden.

“Holy burning bushes,” he said to himself. “Her breasts are a round and soft as Egyptian melons!”

Just then, he tripped on his staff and dropped all the matzoh in Aaron’s jug of scrambled eggs.

The Israelites, a stiff-necked people, started grumbling.

“What did you bring us into the desert for. Moses, to starve us? You ruined breakfast, Moses! Who wants to eat that crap? First the gefilte fish, and now eggs with matzoh inside? You’re killing us, Moses! How are we supposed to keep on walking in this hot desert without some nourishment? And what kind of God sends us to this crappy piece of land surrounding by people who hate us… and not even any oil on the land? Why not Paris or Toronto? Better to be slaves in Egypt. At least they made good shish-kabobs and we got to dance like Egyptians.”

Moses was distraught. Not only were his people angry, but his wife, Zepporah, saw him checking out the maiden’s cleavage, and she was NOT happy.

“God, help me!” cried Moses. “What can I do to appease these Israelites, who just keep on complaining about the food we’re serving? What do they expect — a four star restaurant in the desert.”

“Moses. These are Israelites. They love to complain. Listen to me. Lift up that tablet lying there at your foot. I will show you what to do.”

A bolt of lightening hit the tablet.

Moses read what was engraved.

“A recipe for matzoh brei?” asked Moses.

“Take my word for it, Moses.” said God. “Tell the Israelites that even Rachael Ray eats the stuff, so they’ll think it is more special that the goyim like it, too.”

“Thank you, God. You have saved your chosen people again.”

“That’s what I’m here for… sometimes.”

“Just one more thing. Zipporah is really pissed at me for checking out that fair maiden’s tits.”

“Those were excellent, weren’t they? How can anyone ever doubt my existence when a hot woman like that exists in the world?”

“Here. Here. But I think Zipporah is so mad at me, I might not get any… good-lovin’ tonight. Can you help me with that?”

“God is One. And all Powerful. Just not that powerful. You’re screwed Moses. Good luck. And from now on, include a bitter herb at the Passover seder to remember that bitter night you spent alone with the camels outside the tent.”

A simple matzoh brei recipe from The Complete Passover Cookbook by Frances R. Avrutick:


* 4 matzohs
* 4 eggs
* 1/2 cup milk
* Salt to taste
* White pepper to taste
* 3 Tablespoons butter

For variation, try adding some chopped fresh chives.

Break the matzohs into small pieces and soak them in the water in a large bowl until soft but not soggy. Drain well.

In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, salt, and pepper. Add the matzohs. Blend together.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add the egg mixture. Cook over medium heat. As the eggs begin to thicken and brown, stir from the bottom with a wide spatula or pancake turner, keeping the matzoh in large scrambled pieces. If you prefer, cook the egg-matzoh mixture as a large omelet, browning on both sides. Turn out onto warm serving dish.

Yield: 4 servings

Name Your Sandwich at Neilochka’s Virtual Kosher Deli

Blonde shiksa enjoying a “Neilochka”

Earlier today, I received a comment on my last post suggesting that it might be easier to earn immortality by having my own sandwich at a Jewish deli rather than creating a drink named a Neilochka.  Not a bad idea.  After all, half of you didn’t even know that a lemonade/iced tea was called an Arnold Palmer.  Clearly, my readers are lushes who only know the names of drinks with vodka or tequila inside.

I love the sandwich idea.  It totally fits my “branding.”  I love sandwiches.  I’m Jewish.   And there is something very sexy about a woman eating MY sandwich.

But I’m all about community.  In the spirit of the Great Interview Experiment, I believe that Everyone is a Somebody.  That’s why, today I am opening Neilochka’s Virtual Kosher Deli.   Think of it as a Subway extreme.  The options are unlimited.  You create your own sandwich — the meat, cheese, or vegetables, the condiments, and the type of bread — and then name it after yourself.

My sandwich, the Neilochka, is fairly simple, which reflects my personality.  Corned beef, sauerkraut, spicy wasabi mustard, on rye bread.  No cheese or vegetables.  Enjoy it for lunch.


What is your sandwich?   Write it in the comments.

They Don’t Eat Fried Squirrel at BlogHer


After writing my last post, I received a few emails asking me if I’m really going to BlogHer this year. After all, I’ve been making fun of the concept for two years now, each year setting up an opposing “BlogHim” conference online where male bloggers curse and talk about sex a lot (which is probably not that different from what the women do at the real-life BlogHer). But after three years of blogging, I know so many female bloggers out there — at least in a virtual way, that I thought it was time to meet them. And don’t worry. I’m not really going there with the hope of getting laid. But, you know, as the saying goes — “Rice-A-Roni, the San Franciso Treat.” I’m not exactly sure what that means in this context, but you can pretty much turn anything into a sexual euphemism.

I haven’t paid for my registration yet, but the early-bird price is ending in a few days, and you know how much I like to get in on the bargain. So, I’ll decide this weekend if I really want to do this. Maybe this will inspire some other guys to go as well… if the women really want us there. I have a feeling some of you might not.

I also promised Heather from OMSH that I would go. I’ve gotten to like this blogger. She’s a Texan, Christian, wife and mother — and on paper we have nothing in common, but blogging changes all that. I like that about blogging — the way you can interact with people you probably wouldn’t even talk in the real world because you live in different social circles, but online — you completely click. We’ve IMed a few times. Here’s our IM conversation from a few days ago:

Neilochka: do u have a specialty dish?
OMSH: curried chicken
Neilochka: no, I meant at breakfast, like pancakes?
OMSH: or rosemary pork loin with curried pumpkin soup. oh. haha. We do big southern breakfasts
Neilochka: like with grits?
OMSH: biscuits and our free range eggs. no, that’s not a Texan thing, that’s Georgia Ttexans do breakfast burritos — burritos, eggs, lots of meat – bacon, sausage, ham
Neilochka: real food, so you can work on the ranch afterwards, lassoing the steer
OMSH: Jeff brought home a hog that we are mixin’ in with some venison for some amazing sausage, real food
for real people. you’ll not catch me dining on sushi or prissy food
Neilochka: for real high cholesterol
OMSH: I have low cholesterol and very healthy blood pressure
Neilochka: do u eat sushi?
OMSH: no
Neilochka: never?
OMSH: no, where do you get sushi here? NO WHERE. I’d have to drive to the city
Neilochka: That’s it. I’m going to BlogHer in SF, just to take you for sushi
OMSH: no, no sushi
Neilochka: yes
OMSH: I don’t want to eat sushi, blech
Neilochka: u got to try it once
OMSH: I think I might have tried it once
Neilochka: or else i will write a post
OMSH: wait no…that was caviar
Neilochka: where I will embarrass you, calling you a wimp
OMSH: the caviar was also disgusting, but I will try anything. I just don’t want to go somewhere where they give you a plate with three or four teensie things on it and call it a dinner
Neilochka: i don’t like that either
OMSH: and I need choices — preferrably choices with things that are baked or fried
Neilochka: japanese places have tons of fried stuff along with the sushi and japanese places have great meat too. I’ll make a deal, if you try sushi, I will eat… uh… some weird type of Texan beef jerky
OMSH: yumm, hahaha, I’m joking
Neilochka: What else is there weird to eat for me? How about fried moose?
OMSH: Thre’s fried squirrel, that’s pretty darn good
Neilochka: have u eaten that?
OMSH: um … yes
Neilochka: That’s baloney. There’s no fried squirrel.
OMSH: my husband goes squirrel hunting
Neilochka: where do you find the squirrels?
OMSH: in the trees
Neilochka: what does it taste like?
OMSH: chicken, hahaha. no, it has its own taste. I’ve had gator. i love gator and shrimp gumbo. I love cajun food. oh my goodness – except that horrible boudan
Neilochka: i searched fried squirrel on google. You weren’t lying. It is real. and wow — there are tons of recipes
OMSH: I know – it is truly a dish, see, there are different seasons, deer season, hog season, squirrel season, and so you stock your freezer with what is in season and then buy a side of beef if you aren’t a cattle rancher and you have your meat for the year. of course I eat hooved animals
Neilochka: actually I’m reading that mike huckabee got some slack during election for liking fried squirrel
OMSH: that’s so ridiculous
Neilochka: hooved animal?
OMSH: it is a joke, y’know, kosher, unclean… you’re Jewish
Neilochka: i wonder if a horse is kosher?
OMSH: I don’t eat horse
Neilochka: you eat squirrel
OMSH: they don’t have split hooves, isn’t that the difference? pigs have split hooves. Isn’t that the kosher law?
Neilochka: hmmm, yeah, like I’m a expert on the Talmud! it never comes up I’ll need to ask my rabbi if I can eat a squirrel.
OMSH: hahaha
Neilochka: i had buffalo burgers. they were good. Is buffalo kosher?
OMSH: They are good, I’m trying to remember where I’ve had those.
Neilochka: and I’ve had ostrich burgers
OMSH: Seriously, I don’t think there is much meat I haven’t tried.– emu, haha — I’ve not tried ostrich or emu, so you’re one up on me
Neilochka: isn’t blogging great…
OMSH: bwahahaha, yes, yes it is
Neilochka: u realize we would never cross paths any other way! i would hear you eat squirrel and I would run the other way
OMSH: oh – you would be so bored if you lived a life only associating with those like you
Neilochka: that’s for sure
OMSH: you need to stretch out in your REAL life and associate with oddball hicks like me
Neilochka: I once thought about actually having a clone of myself and talking to him… that would be so boring…
OMSH: Neil, I’m laughing so hard I’m about to wet myself.
Neilochka: Not on the squirrel skin rug I hope — OK, it’s a deal, if I go to BlogHer, I make you eat sushi!

So, now you know my real motivation to go to BlogHer. To tempt a Texan into eating sushi!

By the way, here is the BlogHer submission page where you can make speaker recommendations for the conference.

Now, imagine this — something truly radical — a MALE speaker at BlogHer — perhaps, a friendly blogger who interacts with more female bloggers than most female bloggers… maybe talking about how men feel being in a personal blogging world dominated by women — and how MEN have their own obstacles to joining this community — sort of a cultural exchange program for women to talk about how they relate to men online — and what can women can do to make men feel a bigger part of the personal blogging community at large?!   Are there any other men who would join me?   Do you think anyone would show up?

eh, I changed my mind.  What can I really say of importance?   Not much.    Write your blog.   Don’t be boring.   That’s about it. 

Besides, I’m a lover, not a talker.

Sucking Candy


I already told this story on Twitter, but I don’t think anyone believed me, so I’ll tell it again.

Sophia’s mother asked me to pick up two things from her supermarket:  mayonnaise and these sugar-free Werther’s candies that she likes to have while watching TV.  I drove over and stopped at the supermarket near her home.  I was unfamiliar with the layout of the store and I was in a rush.  I had an appointment later that day.  I approached a supermarket employee who was stocking boxes.  He was a young, friendly-faced, college-aged kid.

“Where can I find mayonnaise?” I asked him.

“Aisle four!  I’ll show you.”  he replied, in that cheerful California “have a nice day” supermarket voice that you would never hear in New York. 

He guided me over to the condiment section, where I found my “Best Foods” Mayonnaise.  (side note:  In New York, it is Hellman’s Mayonnaise.  In California, it is Best Foods Mayonnaise.  In New York, it is Arnold’s Bread.  In California, it is Orowheat.  In New York, it is Edy’s Ice Cream.  In California, it is Dreyer’s ice cream.  I have this personal conspiracy theory that the names were changed for the West Coast so they seem less “Jewish.” — but that’s another post)

After grabbing the mayonnaise, I thanked the stock boy.

“One more thing,” I asked.  “Do you know where I can find “sucking candies?”

He giggled nervously.  We were alone in the condiment aisle.

“What do you mean?”  He asked.

“Sucking candies!”

“Uh… the candies are in front by the register.”

“No, I don’t mean like the M&Ms.  I mean the candies you suck on.  The… HARD candies.”

He turned red faced.  At the same time, he seemed VERY intrigued.  I’m not exactly sure what was going on, but it seemed as if I had hit upon some new “code” that has replaced the hitting of feet in the bathroom stall.   He looked up and smiled, shyly.

“I’ll find it myself.”  I quickly said, stumbling over a shopping cart as I went searching for the hard candies.

A few minutes later, I was in line, ready to check out with my mayonnaise and sucking candies.  I saw the stock boy looking my way.  I held up the package of Werthers that I bought, hoping that he got the message.  He GOT the message alright, but I’m not sure WHAT that message was.  He waved good-bye to me, a wisp of hopefulness in his eyes.

When I got back home, I logged onto Twitter.

“Does anyone use the term “sucking candies?”

I was surprised that nobody had ever used the term before.  My entire family calls them “sucking candies.”  “Good and Plenty” is candy.  A Hershey’s Bar is  chocolate.  A Werther’s is “sucking candy.”  Where did this term come from and why was I the only one using it?

Last night, Ninja Poodles sent me a message.  She noticed this on Margalit‘s Twitter. 


Yeah!  I’m not alone.

Since both Margalit and I are Jewish, I wonder if “sucking candy” is a Jewish term that was changed for the West Coast.

The Two Sisters


After writing a post about me finding my fifth grade diary, someone told me about Cringe, a monthly reading series held at a Brooklyn bar.

On the first Wednesday of each month, brave souls come forward and read aloud from their teenage diaries, journals, notes, letters, poems, abandoned rock operas, and other general representations of the crushing misery of their humiliating adolescence.

Leahpeah had organized something like this in Los Angeles, but Cringe is the big momma of this genre.  It is hosted by Sarah Brown, a popular New York blogger, and there is even a Cringe book being published. 

(via Que Sera Sera)

My plan for tonight was simple.  I would attend this reading, my diary in my knapsack.  At a certain point, I would volunteer to read.  I would stand in front of the Brooklyn hipsters and wow them with my elementary school wit.  A literary agent would be sitting in the front row and ask me to write “The Penis Monologues,” which would become a huge bestseller, and I would become so famous that men all over the world would stop calling their members “Dicks” or “Johnsons,” but rather will all call them “Neilochkas.”  Millions of women would be screaming for “Neilochka” each night.

But life has a funny way of changing a person’s plans —

Sophia’s father loved marriage.  He loved it so much, he was married five times.  From everything I heard, he was a nice and exciting guy, but difficult to live with.  Sophia’s parents divorced when she was young.  Recently, Sophia learned that she had an older half-sister who lived in Brooklyn.  The woman, Anya, was born to Sophia’s father and his very first wife, twenty years before he married Sophia’s mother, Fanya.  Anya… Fanya…the whole story is more complicated than Crime and Punishment, or All My Children.

Sophia decided that today was the perfect day to meet her half-sister.  We would meet Anya in a restaurant for an early dinner, and then Sophia and I would take off to Cringe.

We picked Anya up and headed to Spoon, a Russian restaurant in Brighton Beach. 


It was a very joyous meeting, which was surprising, because there was a lot of tension before the actual get-together.  It was almost canceled because at first Anya refused to have Sophia come up to her apartment to pick her up, and Sophia was somewhat upset and confused as to why wouldn’t her long-lost sister want to invite her into her home.  Once Sophia understood that Anya was insecure about how her Americanized new relative might judge her modest home, she wasn’t feeling hurt any longer and laid Anya’s worries to rest.  Both women were also nervous about what this meeting meant.  For all their life, they knew nothing of each other.  Are they instant “sisters” now or still relative strangers with little in common?



The jury is still out about where this relationship goes, but Sophia and Anya seemed to bond well.  We all had a lot of fun together.  Anya’s English was decent enough so I could talk with her, and I impressed her by singing the one Russian song that Sophia taught me.  Since we were on Anya’s territory, she insisted that she pick up the tab to the restaurant, and proceeded to order enough food and drink for fifteen people. 





What I look like when I start to get drunk. 

After the huge meal, Anya invited us back to her home for dessert, and to meet the rest of her family. 

At first, I wanted to say no, since this would mean we would miss Cringe, since it was already getting late.  Then I realized that this meet-up was so much more interesting and authentic than reading from a diary to a bunch of strangers.  A diary is all about connecting to the past — but only through words.  Here, the past was coming together in the present…in actuality!  Two women from the same father, both testing the waters to see if this vague family bond matters in any tangible way.  Who needs Brooklyn hipsters laughing at old diaries when I could witness real life?!


At Anya’s house, there was more food, dessert, and more drinking.

Putin may be bringing Russia back into the Cold War, but no one can doubt that Russians know how to party!

To the half-sisters!

P.S. — After all that, when we got home, we saw that the Cringe reading was cancelled tonight. 

The First Meal of 2008


I haven’t been very good at meeting up with New York bloggers while I’m in town.  I’ve been trying to spend more time with Sophia and my mother.  I’m also intimidated meeting New York bloggers in person, knowing how sophisticated and worldly they can be here.  New Yorkers all hang out at the same hip bars and know Sarah Jessica Parker personally.  And when I tried to pick up this sassy brunette in a Williamsburg coffee shop/art gallery/S&M bookstore by suggesting we grab a meal at the Olive Garden, she just laughed and cursed me in Greek.  Snob!

There is one beautiful blogger I had to see again before I left town — Tamar.  She was an important part of my 2007.  She actually spend REAL, not Monopoly, money to buy me  like a high class hooker in a V-day charity blogger auction.  105 dollars!  I wouldn’t pay that much for a date with me.  A few months later, Tamar showed some love for the other woman in my life, Sophia, when she sent her a very special healing bracelet to help Sophia through her surgery.

What better way to start January 1st than seeing Tamar?

One problem — Sophia and I are staying in Queens.  Tamar lives in Philadelphia.  We spoke on the phone, and came up with an eccentric, but amusing concept:  we would meet for lunch EXACTLY at the mid point between our two locations.  So, call the New York Times!, the three of us have found a new use for Google Maps — plotting the midpoint between two locations, which is — tadah! — some place I knew absolutely nothing about — beautiful New Brunswick, New Jersey!   So, guess where we met for lunch?



A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Happy New Year from the Tournament of Roses Parade, Pasadena

Peace Offering to the Lovers of The Olive Garden

If you’ve been blogging for a period of time, you are bound to write a post that rubs people the wrong way.  You will receive angry emails or insulting comments.  I’ve seen bloggers quit because of all the conflict.   I’ve been lucky, mostly because no one really cares about my opinion.   There are a few times I thought I wrote something “controversial,” about race, for instance, and I was up all night, biting my nails, wondering if someone was going to write a comment like:

“You’re a racist pig.  You suck.  Your blog sucks.  And your penis sucks.  I’m never reading this blog again, and I’m telling everyone to never read it again, too.”

Of course, these comments rarely show up when I expect them to.   As much as I try to be a loud-mouth Bill O’Reilly type, nobody ever seems to want to take me on.  The posts that attract the most negative attention are the dumbest posts possible, the ones I wrote in ten minutes while wearing my underwear at 1 AM.  

On December 5, 2005, I described my first experience eating at The Olive Garden.  It was a relatively minor post in my oeuvre.  The “plot” revolved around a moral discussion I had with Sophia over “sharing” some of the salad she was going to order of the chain’s all-you-can-eat soup and salad, since she wasn’t going to eat too much of it herself:

“Sounds good,” said Sophia. We can get one unlimited soup and one unlimited salad, and we can share it. They even give you unlimited breadsticks. I think I’m beginning to like this place.”

“Sophia, I don’t think you understand. Each unlimited soup and each unlimited salad is for one person only.”

“What do they care if we share it?”

“Because then what’s to stop ten people from coming in here and ordering one unlimited soup and one unlimited salad and just sharing it all together.”

“That’s ridiculous. Besides, it doesn’t say anywhere, “no sharing.””

“Olive Garden cannot stay in business if everyone shares the same unlimited soup.”

As you may notice, I was the “good cop” in this story, defending the sacred rights of The Olive Garden to limit sharing.   In the course of the post, I made a few jabs at the restaurant, mostly about the “authenticity” of the chain restaurant’s food and ambiance — but nothing very threatening.  At the time of the post, the restaurant chain had a commercial on TV where some Italian-American family brings their grandma straight off the plane from Italy — to Olive Garden — and Grandma feels right at home, even though I doubt her local trattoria in Sicily gives a guest one of those grimy “buzzers” that vibrate when your table is ready.

Despite it all, I rated the Olive Garden soup and salad as “pretty good.”  I even made a list ranking chain restaurants, and Olive Garden came in as my #2 chain restaurant!

The Cheesecake Factory
Olive Garden
El Torito
TGI Friday’s
Outback Steakhouse
Red Lobster
Pizza Hut

So, the question remains – why all the hate?  For two years now, I’ve been getting comments and emails angry about my opinion of Olive Garden, as if I attacked Jesus himself.  I don’t know who these people are, or WHY they are so passionate about the Olive Garden.

Is it possible that people are finding my post on Google?  It does come in as #8 when you search “Olive Garden.”   But why all the insults?   Are these frustrated servers?  Or is it management doing ego searching?  There seems to be a lot of pent up anger about everything to do with the Olive Garden… and it is all being taken out on me.

This is a comment from TX OG server –

Supposedly we make the rest in tips… but cheap asses come in and run us into the ground with soup and salad refills and then leave a dollar… so we really don’t make enough to live on.   Thanks, it’s assholes like you that don’t tip, that perpetuate poverty among single mothers who can not do anything but wait tables for a living because they didn’t learn any useful skills before the man who lied to them and told them to have kids, up and left and never has to pay child support because the government doesn’t pursue deadbeat fathers if it’s too difficult because he’s out of state and doesn’t work but commits crime and sells drugs for a living. Shitheads!   Why don’t you think about that, and leave a decent tip.   It’s customary and YOU FUCKING KNOW IT.

Good point, TX OG server, but I don’t ever remember saying anything about the tip.

From “Jeff Kennedy” –

Are you serious? You went to the Olive Garden and expected..what?  Anyone with half a brain knows what to expect from a corporate giant in the food industry.   Too many of your cynical observations gave you away as to what kind of critical pessimistic, nitpicker you seem to be.   For instance, how did you know the birthday boy was “bratty”?  And as for the hostess, do you honestly think that a teenager who’s working for minimum wage at the OG is really putting that much thought into table availability times for the HORDES of people who inundate those places daily?  99.9% of the people who go to the OG regularly (who are incidentally NOT on a fact-finding mission) just want to hear that they will be seated “soon” and then they take their place with the other cattle and wait patiently (or sometimes not) until they are called.  What’s going to be your next revelation?  Maybe the fact that NOT EVERYTHING IS A DOLLAR AT THE DOLLAR STORE??  Horrors!!!

You are right.  I cannot know for sure whether that annoying boy was “bratty,” other than my observation.  But what makes you so sure that I am a critical, pessimistic, nitpicker with half a brain? 

From “Fred D” –

This is the Hotel Reality – Check In Please!

I don’t know what people expect when they go to a restaurant.  I expect to eat and have a drink with my meal.  I realize that if you go at a peak time, you will have to wait.  I get the impression that those who are down on a place because they try to make a profit, would be better off at McDonald’s (they make loads of money) and they would probably want to bring their own bottle of Skrew Kappa or Riunite in a brown paper bag and pour it into their water glass – no servers to oversee the sneaky deed. 

Can someone please tell me what Skrew Kappa is?  Do they serve this at The Olive Garden?

From Josh –

sigh @ you… first of all… if you’re going to write a blog, at least attempt to be responsible and don’t lie or exagerate to make a point.   The soup is not more than 3.95 by itself in any price bracket throughout the country and the salad is 4.95.   The soup & salad is 6.95 at the most for lunch, lower when on promotion.  The OG has tried hard to maintain this extremely low price because it knows its guests value it and it wants something for everyone. and do you go to buffets and pay for one person… grab a plate and give it to your friends? cheap ass….

“If you’re going to write a blog… don’t lie or exaggerate to make a point.”  HA HA HA, that made me laugh for ten minutes!

And this one, from two days ago, I deleted because I wasn’t sure if it was anti-Semitic or just crazy.

From Jose “Jerkoff” –

Olive Garden is great. At least the employees are forced to be clean and presentable.  I ate at a Kosher Italian restaurant in Los Angeles.  It was filthy, weird and they made me buy an extra cup to share a pot of hot tea.  So all restaurants are about selling, wake up.

I know that restaurant, Jose.  Your problem is that the weird staff probably put you in the “non-Jewish” section of the restaurant.   We get free tea flowing constantly at our table!

Let me just come out and say it — I don’t hate the Olive Garden.  There are plenty of targets that are closer to my heart.  Have you ever actually eaten dinner at IHOP?  Now that is disgusting!  The sausages at Denny’s?  Taste like metal!  The burgers at Carl’s Jr.?  Greasy and the buns are flaccid!

I’m sorry if you hate working at Olive Garden so much.  I try to always leave a 15% tip, even 20% if you bring me a second basket of breadsticks.

Since 2005, I’ve been to Olive Garden a few more times.  We have one nearby, at the mall.  It’s decent enough for a quick meal before the movie.  Let’s be honest, their Italian food is as authentic as the “bagel breakfast sandwiches” at Burger King are Jewish.  Italian food is my favorite cuisine, and Queens has some of the best Italian restaurants around, so I am a harsh critic of Italian food.  I have spent years complaining about the mediocre food at most REAL Italian restaurants in Los Angeles.   I DO NOT go to Olive Garden for a real Italian meal. 

However, if I have insulted you, Mr. Olive Garden, please accept my apology.   I hope that these emails are coming from frustrated servers and not from your main office.  I’ll save my rant about your overcooked pasta for another post.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  The Final Chapter of the Closet Trilogy

Two Years Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Neilochka Girls

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