Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Ex-Camper’s Guide To Summer

It’s the last week of June. We’ve celebrated Father’s Day, good television shows have wrapped, and flip flops & sundresses have taken the place of leggings & Uggs. This means only one thing…it’s time to pack it up and head to CAMP!!! Unfortunately for me, that Adirondack Trailways bus has been leaving Paramus Park Mall without me for the last 8 years. And even though almost a decade has gone by since I packed my duffels for my summer home, my heart still aches the day the campers leave for camp. Since I know I am not the only ex-camper suffering from FOMCL (Fear Of Missing Camp Life), here are some tricks I’ve come up with that may help:

1) Plan your meals around the camp menu. For me, a Friday is not complete without spit-in-the-eyes and Elios pizza.
2) Sing while you eat. Who cares if everyone at the restaurant is staring!? Chances are someone is bound to join you! (crazy loves company)
3) Change your alarm ring on your phone to bells. And while you’re at it, have it go off at every hour and insist you have to change activities at that time
4) No matter what kind of juice you are drinking, only refer to it as “bug juice”
5) Wear your bathing suit under your clothes: you should always be prepared for your next activity
6) Turn off your A/C and only use clip-on fans, Vornados, & Squeeze-Breezes to keep yourself cool
7) Bored on a rainy day? Invite your friends over for a lip-sync contest or a rousing game of human anagrams
8) Only watch the following movies: Meatballs, Wet Hot American Summer, Indian Summer, Camp Nowhere, and Heavy Weights. I will also accept watching Camp Rock (because who doesn’t LOVE the Jo Bros??!!)


9) Write letters to your friends. The joy of getting mail never ends!
10) Pick a day of the week and refer to it as your day off. Make t-shirts with a slogan, sleep out the night before, and leave a note that no one can sleep in your bed while you’re gone.
11) Looking for a mate? Gather other singletons together in an outdoor hockey rink/basketball court/park and play games like freeze dance or steal-the-bacon.
12) Walk down your block around 830pm and sing “Taps”to everyone
13) Short-sheet your own bed
14) Stock your cabinets with the essentials: Pringles, Ez-cheese (Sharp Cheddar or American), Crystal Lite Iced Tea mix, Tootsie Pops, Peanut Butter & Fluff (my weakness), and the all important Ramen Noodles. These are not just snacks, they are bargaining tools!


15) Refer to your place of residence as a bunk and your stuffed animals as bunk mates/campers/co-counselors
16) One day in August while at your place of employment, suddenly jump up from your desk, start singing/screaming, rip your clothes off, and reveal to your co-workers that color war has broken out!! Split the office into two teams (Gold’s Quarterly Goal and Blue’s Budget Busters) and compete for 4 days. You’ll inevitably get irrationally angry when the other team is meeting in your designated conference room, but remember it’s all about “Sportsmanship”
17) Create a job wheel of chores for yourself. Only, whatever job it lands on, it always entitles you to first shower
18) When you are ready to go home from a night out on the town turn on your mag-light flashlight, start scouring the bar for your friends, and yell “FIVE MINUTES! EVERYONE OUT OF THE WOODS!!”
19) ONLY accessorize with homemade jewelry & don’t ever take it off. Wait til the string inevitably rots away and falls off


20) Upon arrival greet your house guests with a “Welcome Song”
21) Keep a few rocks in your pocket, drop them on the ground, and shuffle over them. It’ll be JUST like walking the gravel paths at camp
22) Go to your local basketball courts and see if you can get in a pick-up game of Knockout
23) Call home once a week and only see your parents for 36 hours on the 3rd weekend of July
24) Wear an outfit, throw it back in your closet, wear it two days later, and insist that it has been “cubby washed”
25) At the end of the summer gather your friends together and hand out construction paper awards. Afterwards, sit in a circle, hold hands, and sing “Leavin’ On A Jetplane” whilst you burn the paper mâché 2012 sign you have painstakingly created. **if you don’t have a lake in your backyard, do it in your bathtub**

I know nothing can replace the feeling of actually being at camp, but hopefully these tips will help fill that hole in your heart that should be filled with summer camp joy. And just remember how lucky you are to have something so special to miss so much!

I love my camp so much that I HUGGED the tennis courts on a recent visit

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Dad

For a man of few words, here are a few words for the man…

Dapper-like the Don Draper of the new millennium.  As the financial world he works in gets more casual by the year, my dad still insists on wearing a suit and tie to work every day.  Casual Fridays are a sin.  My dad has a weekend “uniform”.  Nantucket red shorts and an awesome random t-shirt that he has picked up along his travels with my mom.  He accessorizes with his grey New Balance 990s and of course, Ray-Ban aviators.  A spritz of Aramis cologne, and he is ready to take on the world.

Cool– I mean, driving around in his Mini-Cooper with the top down wearing the aforementioned Ray-Bans, can you THINK of a cooler guy?! My dad likes indigenous beer.  Whenever we are away, he solely drinks the native brew.  He listens to great music.  I actually thank (and blame) my dad for my penchant for classic rock.  On long car family car rides, I don’t remember listening to Disney music or Rafi after the first 30 minutes.  We listened to The Cars, Huey Lewis and the News, and the 104.3 “Classics Countdown”.  I make fun of my friends for going to see Phish every night when they are in NYC for 4 nights, but when my dad does the same thing every March when the Allman Brothers play the Beacon Theater, I think it is the pinnacle of cool dad (and I even tagged along once).  And my dad went to camp, my camp.  No need to further explain how this sky rockets him up the cool scale.

Allman Brothers at The Beacon

Creature of Habit- If the world were to stop evolving, I think my dad would be okay with it.  Actually, if it stopped evolving 10 years ago he would have been MORE than okay.  He does not need technology.  He’s had a Blackberry for years, but still hasn’t mastered the art of BBMing.  If my dad has something to say to you, he’ll call.  And he does NOT believe in GPS.  I think the only reason we have it in our current car is because it was an automatic feature.  I can’t imagine my dad even bothered learning how to operate it.  Where ever he is going, he knows how to get there. I can guarantee that every time I take a picture with my dad, he has to make himself laugh.  EVERY SINGLE TIME.    The culinary world has grown leaps and bounds over the years, but my dad is still happy with having Cheerios for breakfast, pb&j with Fritos for lunch, and a hot dog & a beer for dinner.  And if I wander into the kitchen late at night? I know I can find my dad sitting by the light of the television dunking Oreos in milk in his terrycloth bathrobe. At our beach house I know if I can’t find my dad, he is most likely sitting outside on a lounge chair in lacrosse shorts with a Rolling Rock (his beer of choice).

Celebrity – And this is not just because he looks like Sam Waterston (and according to my mom, Adrien Brody in his younger years).  It seems EVERYONE knows my dad, or at least of him.  One thing my dad never has to worry about is people forgetting they had met him before (one of my ultimate pet peeves).  I don’t know what it is, but people get excited when they know my dad is coming around.  He has a few signature moves and phrases that keep him in the “Brilliant Highbrow” quadrant of the NY Magazine Approval Matrix.  He uses terms like “good fun”, “forward moving motion”, and “ascertain the situation” which are both mind blowing and  genius all at the same time.  He dances the “Dave Rave”, which is a modified version of the Electric Slide.  And then he has his wave-aptly named “The DavidRobin Wave”.  This wave, this GLORIOUS wave, will ensure no one will ever miss him. He stiffly extends his right arm straight into the air, holds his hand up so that all five fingers are spread as far apart as possible, and quickly shakes his hand using a quick side to side motion whilst his arm is still reaching as high as he can get it.  Believe me, he has never lost anyone in a crowd before.  This is going to become a world wide phenomenon-if it hasn’t already.

Dad?

Ladies Man– And not what you are thinking.  I actually don’t know if my dad is that type of “ladies man”.  He’s been with my mom since they went to SLEEP AWAY CAMP, so he doesn’t have much of a history with the ladies.  What I do mean is that my dad, after living in a female dominated household for 30+ years, can pretty much successfully navigate his way through any situation the women in his life throw his way.  My dad doesn’t yell.  When there is a problem he will talk firmly in a very level voice (as to not add any additional tears to the conversation) and try to “ascertain the situation”.  My dad keeps up with the Kardashians and dances with the stars.  He may not remember every friends’ name, but he’s happy to sit and gossip about them at the dinner table.  And no man, I mean NO MAN, looks as good carrying a black Longchamp travel bag through Newark Airport than my dad.

The one downside to my dad is that he has set the bar so INCREDIBLY high, that it is going to be virtually impossible to find a guy as great as him.  I guess for a dad of 2 daughters, that was his exact plan!  Thanks for being you, Dad.  Happy Fathers Day.

 


Life Under The Broiler

I know, I know.  No need to get irrationally angry with me.  I’m sorry I’ve been MIA for the last few months.  But, blog followers, you should be happy that I have been so busy…or at least busier than I was during my 265 day weekend.  Here I am and I PROMISE to try and be more diligent about posting!  But I have to tell you, culinary school is no cake walk.  It is HARD-much harder than I could have ever anticipated.  It’s not the cooking part (because let’s be honest, this b*tch can cook!) it’s everything that comes along with it.

Firstly, no one thought to caution “Calamity Jane” over here about picking a profession that uses knives and fire?! Thanks.  I have learned (and unfortunately am still learning) the hard way.  Though I wasn’t the first person in my class to slice a finger, I WAS the first (and not surprisingly) to make a scene about it.  I mean, let’s be honest people, when dicing a potato (which I’ll get into shortly) and all of a sudden a sharp chef’s knife slices through the pad of your thumb, you too are going to make some sort of  high pitched yelping/yelling noise as you dash to the “first-aid corner”.  Truth be told, I have gotten much better about cutting more food than fingers, but then there are the burns.  For some reason (and we know I am NOT a brave person) I feel as if when I cook, I am invincible to heat.  Convection oven? Let me open you with a bare hand. Noodle stuck at the bottom of a deep pot? Oh, let me stick my whole arm into the pot to fish you out.  Flambe? Kidding, I don’t do that! My classmates have learned better 🙂

Secondly, I begin class at 8am every day Monday-Friday.  Well, we really start filing into the kitchen around 7:30am.  Fully dressed in our chef’s whites (THE most unflattering outfit of all time) we set up the kitchen, prep for the day ahead, and generally complain about how tired we are.  Some days we have a lecture before the cooking madness begins, but other days we get right into the thick of it.  I recall one day, by 8:07am we were all driving our chef’s knives right through the brains of a live lobster! I can only imagine that at 8:07am, you were still home watching Matt Lauer out on the plaza.  By the time we have prepared, plated, and eaten our assignments for the day and cleaned the kitchen, it is noon and time to go home.

Now, I know you are all thinking “out by noon?! There is no excuse not to blog!”.  And let me tell you, I have TRIED to blog.  I’ll sit with my laptop on my couch, and what I think is a blink has turned into a TWO AND A HALF HOUR NAP!  I’m not kidding. I don’t joke about naps-I am dead serious about napping.  I am a professional napper, so when I nap, it is nothing out of the ordinary.  Except when these two hour+ naps happen every day.  I didn’t bring it up with any of my classmates at first, because I am one of the oldest and I didn’t need to feel older than I already do.  But then, one GLORIOUS day, I was texting with one of my classmates after class when all of a sudden the conversation came to a halt.  I didn’t really think anything of it, but when I got to class I was busting his balls about it (as I tend to do).  I mean, you don’t leave a girl hanging!  He leaned down a quietly said, “sorry, I passed out and took a two hour nap”.  With the same excitement I felt the day I got into culinary school, I clapped and exclaimed (too loudly) “NAP!? ME TOO! I NAP EVERYDAY!”.  And then more nappers started coming out of the woodwork.  Everyone really embraced the nap.  Now, we talk about our naps from the previous day or how we are going to situate ourselves for the nap ahead of us.  I know most of my friends’ preferred nap times, so now I’ll never get an unanswered text!

Ok, now let’s talk about my true enemy.  The bain of my existence.  The thing that keeps me up at night.  The reason I shake in my chef clogs. MEDIUM DICED POTATOES.  I’m pretty confident in my knife skills.  Give me an onion, I’ll dice it.  Give me a pepper, I’ll julienne it. Give me a head of garlic, I’ll mince it into a paste.  Give me a rack of lamb, I’ll butcher it (apprehensively).  But ask me to medium dice a potato-the blood rushes from my face and I immediately am searching for an excuse to do something else.  Unfortunately, these 1/2″ x 1/2″ x 1/2″ potato cubes haunt me and my dreams.  For some reason, I just can’t get a handle on them.  I mean, to the untrained eye, my tiny potato squares look pretty good.  But to me and my chef instructors, I can not serve rhombus shaped food (even though they will taste just as delicious).  I’ve admittedly gotten SO much better than I was in the beginning of school, but I still come home and do some practice dicing.  I can’t have any more potato based nightmares!!

Medium Diced Potatoes

Yes, I do realize that up until now, this entire blog post has been all complaining.  But for those three reasons I’m complaining about culinary school, (one more minor complaint.  People, I’m not taking COOKING CLASSES.  I’M IN CULINARY SCHOOL.  Major difference) there are a million reasons why I love it.  Firstly, I am doing exactly what I want to be doing.  There are few things in the world that make me happier than cooking.  I know it sounds silly, but cooking to me makes me feel like I’m making magic happen.  I sometimes can’t believe that I take these raw ingredients, cut ’em up, cook ’em up, and BOOM! Something deliciously magical is on the plate in front of me.  I know it isn’t really magic, but it’s the closest I’m ever going to come to being Hermoine Granger.  Secondly, I love my instructors.  Specifically, the one we just had.  She was a feisty, take-no-bullsh*t, foul mouthed, chef.  Basically, she is my personal Oprah.  What she says, I believe.  What she does, I want to do.  If it were possible, I would want her to adopt me into her family (sorry Mom and Dad).  But really, she made me feel more confident in the kitchen and that I actually CAN do this!

And really, the BEST part of going to culinary school is my class.  I love them.  Yes, we butt heads.  It is hot in that kitchen and there are clashing personalities, but I could not think of another group of 14 people I would rather see every morning.  My biggest fear about starting school was that I wasn’t going to make any friends (I know, I literally had bigger fish to fry, but I couldn’t help it).  After the first day, the fear was quickly quelled.  We were all in the same boat.  We were all at the same start line running towards the same finish line.  We were all there wanting to cook.  And that is what brings our motley crew together.  Well, that and our disgustingly raunchy (for 8am) “get your head out of the gutter” brand of humor.  And I’ll be honest, not everyone is best friends, but I think (or at least hope) we genuinely respect each other.  I want everyone in my class to succeed.  I really hope to see them one day on The Food Network or on the cover of Food & Wine or on the list of James Beard Award Winners…and I hope they wish the same for me.

Our Motley Crew

The other evening, I was hanging out at my friend’s apartment when they commented on how I’ve become a little “tougher” since I’ve started school. Through all of the burns, cuts, arguments, and medium diced potatoes I have grown a thicker skin, but I could not imagine being happier than I am now.    And hey, as they say…if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!