Tuesday, January 20, 2015

it's called a COOKIE, fool

I think the world would agree that Italians do a lot of things right. Art, science, architecture, food, romance, fashion bla bla bla. 

One thing Italians do not do correctly however, is cookies. They don't even know what a cookie is. They are so clueless that they call it a "biscotti".  And they eat biscotti for breakfast, and not in the advertised devilish way Americans do, but in the nonchalant "this is absolutely normal breakfast food" way. Why? because their "biscotti" are plain, minimally caloric, and frankly more boring than a piece of cardboard sprinkled with stevia. This, along with the fact that Italians are extremely misbehaved when it comes to forming a line, make me want to throw all my papers up in the air sometimes and just quit at life. I mean, you can't even find chocolate chips in a grocery store.

I did not grow up in a home culture where my mummy was constantly patting me on the head and baking me cookies. She would however allow me cantaloupe. Nevertheless, I was raised in a country that celebrates few things with more passion and nostalgia than the freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. And now that I can't have them whenever I want them, i NEED them.

The advantage of living in a cookie-forsaken foreign country is firstly, that my mother can no longer control the terror that is my diet at times (particularly of emotional stress), and secondly, that I have adapted to the deficit of chocolate chips by making my own cookies with chocolate CHUNKS chopped up from swiss chocolate bars. 

Occasionally it occurs that good energy is catapulted into my universe, as it has happened recently with having wrapped my sticky fingers around the magical recipe claiming to yield the greatest chocolate chip cookies known to man. I recently verified this as fact.

So I bestow you with this recipe below, making the very important disclaimer that if you share the same flawed soul as I ("going to eat all of these NOW so I get them out of the house so I can be healthy again starting tomorrow"), you're really going to regret the way you feel once resurrected from your impending hard cookie coma. I am cautioning you: THESE WILL ANNIHILATE YOUR FREE WILL. THEY WILL MARCH THEIR WAY ONE BY ONE INTO YOUR PIE HOLE UNTIL YOU PASS THE EFF OUT.  You can thank me later. 

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (265 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch (o fecola di patate)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz (170 grams) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup (210 grams) brown or cane sugar
  • ½ cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups (285 grams) dark chocolate CHUNKS [i used a mix of dark chocolate orange and dark chocolate with hazelnuts, but use any type you prefer]

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together cooled melted butter and sugar for one minute. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Beat until just combined.
  3. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix briefly, just until there are no flour clumps left. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Remove dough from refrigerator and preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 celsius), making sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.
  6. Scoop ¼ cup of cookie dough at a time and roll into balls. Flatten them a little bit, then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, making sure the cookies have plenty of space to spread.
  7. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the cookies have spread out and the edges are golden, but the center still looks soft and slightly under-cooked. Let cool on the baking sheets until the cookies are firm enough to remove. 


Friday, January 16, 2015

Rat Droppings

Happy New Year, if you're into that sort of thing. 

Reflecting on the last rotation around the sun, I'd say 2014 was pretty good. The echo of the impeccably timed carnival-esque emcee at the local bingo night in Sestri Levante failed to sully the moment my curly-haired q-tip formally proposed we go steady forever. I saw my first full-term pregnant woman smoking a pipe on the beach in Ibiza. I turned 30- a fact actualized by the automated transition of gmail advertisements from the best clubs in Amsterdam to $100 off your next tummy tuck. There was linear growth. I learned how NOT to use Uber - it's an app, not telepathy, and one must not stand on the curb at 3am sozzled in west hollywood prepared to enter the first vehicle that stops unsystematically, promising to fulfill you of your request for taquitos. The pinnacle of 2014 wasn't slamming vodka sodas at the same intimate afterparty as Leonardo DiCaprio, but shouting "Auguri!" at a New Year's Eve party in the basement of a pastry shop in Milan while eating lentils off a plastic plate and smoking something dubious under a shroud of a hundred panettones that had been glued to the ceiling.

Another major life event was ticked off the list when I had my first encounter with THE EX while out Christmas shopping with my man (her ex). Believe it or not, in my fantasy of how this moment would eventually transpire, I imagined showering her with kindness because from the anecdotes I had heard over the years, I sort of came to like her. So there we were, finally face to face, my opportunity to throw some warmth into her universe, when my internal google-translate went on the fritz and instead of saying "buon natale" I said "happy birthday" with a goofy smile that in the context of such a cunty salutation could have only come across as draconian sarcasm.  

Giulio came back to visit after spending the autumn working in the United States, evidenced by the fact that he was received off the plane wearing tapered maroon sweatpants, new balances, and a giant yellow northface backpack.  I don't judge because I personally have passed 80% of my life wrapped in spandex, I just never expected the man who posesses a paradigm banning pajamas after 8am to trade in his Church's for his tennies. That, and he has also begun confusing the expression "24/7" with "7/11" saying stuff like "the Chipotle by my house is open 7/11."  

Over the holidays my dad popped over the English Channel for a quick visit. The two most remarkable things that happened were introducing him to Giulio's extended family, and watching him have a mini freakout when he mistook a grain of black rice on my sofa for rat poop.  

I know January 1 is meant to mark the day everyone puts their life in the paper shredder and starts over or whatever, but I spent the day doing exactly what I always do- eating an entire box of cookies and procrastinating. So after all the chocolate-covered peppermint Joe Joe's were exhausted, I decided it was the appropriate moment to de-ice my freezer- an activity hastened by my active involvement chipping away at it with a wooden spatula. I followed this up by gathering all the loose snow, placing it in the sink, then watching it melt. And you know what? The year hasn't gotten any better from there:

NONE of the socks from the clean laundry make a pair.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The best summer ever

You know when you're lost without a compass (allegorical or not) and you keep saying "i've come too far to turn around now" until you're suddenly in an oh shit moment with beads of sweat dripping into and burning your eyeballs, irritability that has persisted to the point of indifference, and a culminating fear has risen to the now nihilistic prospect of your imminent death?

Ok, well for me there was NONE OF THAT this summer. This has been without question the most decadent, relaxing, and surreal holiday of my life. In my previous travels I have always sought some trace of adventure that although not always comfortable, has afforded me a repertoire of share-worthy anecdotes. I have barfed (at least thrice) in every third world country I have ever visited, slept with a knife in my hand in the fresh-out-of-war militarized zone of Trincomalee, been insisted upon the company of two armed body guards moving through the streets of San Salvador, and paid $2.50 for a room in Livingston Izabal that had been decorated by a person whose intention was to make you feel as though you were to be slaughtered there before dawn. 

While this year I admittedly vomited again, I must clarify that it was not because the chef had sprinkled fecal matter onto my samosa, but because I had been coaxed to drink sangria (by my doctor/lawyer/scientist/writer/mathematician friends) while sailing the Mediterranean. Like, ON A BOAT. Like, on a boat on the water with a sail thingy. While wearing a gold watch and a sarong and a designer bikini. There was no damp duvet smelling of human bodies, no shigellosis, no firearms, and no fear. My pedicure was intact. This vacation was different. 

August 1st began with the honeymoon suite overlooking Santorini's caldera. It was by far the fanciest hotel I've ever stayed, so when I walked out of the room the first day in my decade-old powder pink gym shorts and the housekeeper stopped me to whisper "Miss, you cannot go upstairs like that", I thought I had made a mistake by booking a place reserved for pretentious snobs. But during the five seconds of mental exhaustion in which I began to formulate my righteous rebuttal, I realized that she was actually an angel sent from the heavens of the Tholos Resort itself, saving me from impending social suicide in a moment where I had unknowingly been gifted an early arrival of my biological alarm clock saying: "you're fertile, but not pregnant". 

We spent three blissful days going on long explorative strolls, shoving souvlaki into every orifice, and drinking adult beverages in our private jacuzzi. And you know what? I don't even feel a little bit bad about it. 

There's something magical that happens when people who are used to traveling decide instead to take a vacation. There is a difference people. We unwound and we relaxed. In the absence of vigilance we had the chance to talk to each other about current events, music, literature. To ask questions other than: "honey, where are the quinolones?" or "are you still pooping blood?" or "do you think those guys are going to rob us?". We had our guards down, and in the process were reminded of our mutual peculiarities. Had Giulio not acquired a farmer tan on day 1 and I not perpetually eaten ungodly amounts of raw onions, I'd say we might have fallen in love all over again. 

On day four we packed up for Milos. We had five days there zooming around on ATVs, wandering through every deserted beach we could find, wrangling vipers in the desert (lies), and covering our bodies in baklava. 

Then we met up with our friends Bruno and Valentina, Bruno's uncle Guglielmo, and Guglielmo's longtime friend "Bob" for a week of sailing. We started in Athens and made our way down to Cape Sounion, Kythnos, Serifos, Sifnos, and eventually back to Milos. Over the course of the week I barfed once, Giulio almost barfed twice, and one person not to be named took multiple craps in the ocean (it wasn't me, Valentina, Guglielmo, or Bob). I was assured that this was in line with standard sailing etiquette, but have some doubts about the veracity of such an assertion.

And with that, late night talks of constellations under an ouzo illuminated sky came to a halt.

The day after we returned from Greece, my best friend Marah came galloping in from Montana to grace me with her presence for two weeks. If I could chain her to me without being socially chided, I would make us each other's permanent accessory.  

We started our Eurocation in Budapest under the semblance of my 30th birthday. Yarden flew in from Milan and my cousin Hannah from England. My cousin Dávid, his girlfriend Zsu, and our mutual friend Eszter came down from Pécs, and Milla sent champagne over from across the atlantic. For three days we relaxed in the bathouses, danced on many a floor, watched fireworks, took a cruise down the Danube,  braided each other's hair, and ate cream puffs in the plush beds of our presidential suite.

After the third night we flew back to Milan and immediately hopped in a car headed for the Italian Riviera. Over the weekend we hiked and ate a varied diet of prosecco, gelato, seafood, and pesto smothered on anything nontoxic or toxic.  

When we came back to Milan on Sunday night, it was mine and Marah's intention to spend the next three days hiking in the Italian Alps. But the weather was crap and we were less than enthusiastic about trudging through mud in the cold. So we started throwing around alternative ideas as a matter of playfulness, and before we knew it were paying homage to Signor C. Diem with flights booked to Ibiza for the following morning. 

I could have never imagined what we'd be in for. To summarize, we stayed in our bikinis for three days dancing to electronic dance music and nourishing ourselves on bananas, calippos, and bloody mary's (for vitamins). The good vibes were being handed out faster than condoms in Planned Parenthood. The place was magic.

And then there was Amsterdam. A decision fueled less by the inviting prospect of legalized prostitution and more by the opportunity to watch our dear friend Megan Kalmoe compete in the World Rowing Championships. We made it in time to see her take home silver in the women's pair, second to the reigning olympic gold medalists from London. Everyone was very happy.

(She's a mega babe too.)

In between rowing events, we squeezed in a little more electronic dance music at the Voltt Loves Summer Festival. Just below you can see me posing with some Dutch Hollandaise paying tribute to my country while I paid tribute to Spain. There was a lot of love in the air. And then there was Mr. G. You just need to youtube that.

And yes of course we also had some time to reap the benefits of Amsterdam's progressive attitude, a decision which we evidently found imprudently amusing. If this photo doesn't make you laugh then you must be glaringly stone cold. 

To close, I got to pass some time with my favorite Dutch man ex-colleague friend who I met four and half years prior while working in an immunology lab in Southern California. It's a beautiful thing to slam a beer with someone outside the context in which you typically know them.  

Now I'm back in Milan and the endless summer has ended. Marah and Giulio have both buggered off to faraway lands and I have found myself starving for serotonin and eating plain pasta straight from the pot in effort to convince my body to release some more.  I'm studying brain circuits which is not nearly as interesting as it sounds. I've got three computer tabs open to the effect of Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Immanuel Kant which serves to cyclically distract and depress me. I smell of mosquito repellant. My face might as well be one giant pimple. But I smile thinking back to what was really the best summer ever.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The download

I just recently completed a three-week stint in general and gastrointestinal surgery, during which two notable things occurred:

1. While performing my first mini surgery, I got squirted in the face with a creamy immunologic substance that had been previously surrounding the sebaceous cyst underlying my patient's scalp.

2. I made a new Italian language connection on the verb "scaricare". 

Let me just rewind for a second to preface this anecdote by saying that my classmates and I use the online storage network Dropbox to share notes and other school documents. It was here that I first became acquainted with the word "scarica", which through trial-and-error taught me its significance as the present tense, third-person conjugation of the verb "scaricare" which means "to download". (stay with me)

Back to the surgical ward, while doing the rounds one morning, I noticed a surfacing trend in the physician-patient dialogue, hinging on the question "Si é scaricato?"- which effectively begs the question: "Have you had a bowel movement?" In a moment when everything became illuminated, I realized "scaricato" was derived from the same great grandfather "scaricare" I had previously encountered on Dropbox, only this time it was being used to communicate an entirely different message. I have read before that the english language has something like 250,000 words (even if Southern Californians use but five: "awesome", "rad" "like" (as a filler), "burrito", and "totally") whereas the romance languages have something closer to 100,000. I don't know how accurate these kinds of estimations are, but I do know what a relief I experience every time I get lexical permission to recycle a word, particularly in the face of the daily funerals I attend for my rapidly expiring neurons. Now my favorite phrase of the month is to replace "have you pooped/defecated/crapped/taken a dump today?" with: "Have you downloaded today?" 

Which reminds me of another new word I learned and love: "GUARDONE." It's the equivalent of "lurker", "voyeur", "creeper" "skulker", and I love it for all its literality. "Guardare" in Italian means to look or watch, and when you add "one" (pronounced O-NAY) to the end of something it implies the bigger version of it. For instance. "bacio" means "kiss", "bacione" means "big kiss". GUARDONE --> big watcher. 

Speaking of creepers/guardones, I received this scandal-precipitating text from a certain curly-haired nose-pierced, shark-loving girlfriend of mine who shall remain nameless:

Today (while seated intentionally far away from the front row of our lecture hall), our opthalmology professor captured my attention by staring me down as a prelude to the life bomb I could tell he was about to drop on me (he hasn't the foggiest what my name could be and has even addressed me as "Ciao California" in passing). This morning he seemed to take a sinister pleasure in publicly inquiring whether or not I knew "I had an exotropia of my left eye."

First of all, I had drifted off into thoughts of something else and had no idea what exo-whatever was. Thankfully my computer was already open so I did a quick google image search for "exotropia". Basically what he was saying to me was:

"YO, CALIFORNIA. Your left eye is so damn googly, it makes Paris Hilton's look legit."

My friends immediately came to the rescue by generously petting my hair and lavishing me with any kind of desperation-fueled compliment. It was like they knew I was premenstrual and I could spontaneously burst into tears at any moment. But I held it together until I came home that afternoon, at which point I started my frantic iPhoto search for evidence of my rogue left eye. I'm sorry to say, that he was right:

So it seems as if I share more in common than just a locust-like avidity for cookies with this other freak of an apparently shared gene pool: 

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got an eyepatch to buy and something important to download.