I don't usually make New Year's resolutions that actually better me in any way; last year I decided that I wanted to see every full moon of 2016, which only helped if you believe that I was basking monthly in the warm white welcoming glow of Mother Gaia.
This year, however, I actually have some things I'd like to get done. I have New Years resolutions that are practical and even generous. And I’m posting about them now instead of at the New Year like everyone else because it’s now April and I haven’t done a single thing from my list yet. There are only three items on my list. It’s pathetic. I need to post it publicly so there’s some accountability for my laziness, and here it is:
Some of you may know that my parents, who have been married for 30 years, are very much in love and consequently enjoy each other's company enough to go on little spontaneous trips together. A few weeks ago, they went on a camping trip and offered for me to join them, which left me with two options: spend two of the few remaining warm days of the year on a beautiful lake in the pristine countryside for free, or watch incarnations of Law & Order for endless judgement-free hours in my underwear. I chose the latter, and only God can judge me for it.
This did pose a most singular problem for me, which was what to do for food. Some of you may also know that my mother is the best cook in the known universe, which...Jesus, I have parents who are alive and in love, who love and respect me to the highest, and who spoil me with amazing, healthy cooking. It's like they were actively conspiring to make me a shitty writer. Good thing I make bad choices and carry a hidden trove of insecurities, or I'd be fucked. It's not like I'm good at anything else.
Buckle up, guys. This is gonna be a weird one.
With a hunger beginning to rumble in my belly, I decided that it was time to do some cooking. We have been hosting a great bush of basil this entire summer, which I promised myself in the spring I would turn into more pesto than previous years. I only did it once, and it was the day that I cooked the recipe you're about to read, which took place after almost the entire plant had died and become shitty. But that still beats my record of zero pestos made from last year, so my honor remains intact as far as pesto-related promises are concerned.
I then made the ambitious decision to mix that pesto with mushrooms and ground turkey to ladle on top of pasta, because I apparently needed the reminder as to why I am not a culinary go-getter.
So...here's that, I guess.
Mushroom & Turkey Pesto Linguini
Already, this ingredient list seems daunting. I see now in hindsight why so much went wrong.
All right, well, first make the pesto. "It's the easiest thing in the world!" your pretentious cooking friends might say. Granted, it is easy as hell as far as recipes go. It's one of those sauces that will impress your guests with the least amount of effort, with the added bonus of giving everyone the fanciest foul breath you could offer.
First, go buy some basil. This is advice that I should have followed, because the basil my mom grew was in pretty rough shape. Apparently, an owner of a basil plant is supposed to manage their plant with regular and vigilant pruning to keep it from flowering, at which point it will produce no more tasty leaves. Or something. This, of course, never happened in my house, because we are not farmers, so I began my basil hunt by ripping off flowers and trying to pick the leaves that were still super green. There were about four leaves fitting those standards, so I just grabbed anything that wasn't yet crunchy and dead.
I picked four cups of basil because that's what the first online recipe I clicked on told me to do. An unpleasant smell arose from my bowl of herb, and I suspected that it might be the stems that I'd ended up with in my act of half-assed leaf plucking. After spending some time lovingly (read: still half-assedly) cutting off stems, I realized that it was not the stems, but the less-than-green leaves. They don't smell very good.
Then add some garlic. One recipe said two cloves, another said three. I put in four because it's almost October, which as we all know is vampire season. So get your cloves of garlic and smash it with a hammer!! No really, get a hammer and Thor out on the garlic cloves. It gets off the skins really easily. Don't worry, I'm not smart enough to figure that out on my own. My mom taught me that.
Most recipes said around 1/4 cup of pine nuts, which are expensive as all hell so I followed the cheaper recipe that called for walnuts, followed by a FAL (fuck-all lot) of parm cheese and a 1/2 cup of oil.
If I can get a little off track for a moment, I'd like to note that the recipe called for extra virgin olive oil, and that's what it said on the bottle. But I'm not sure that I trust the label in regards to the virginity of this product.
If you're smart, you will have heeded my advice from my last recipe and bought yourself a Ninja blender. Hug your blender. Tell it how pretty it looks today. Do the little things that get swept under the rug in the whirlwind of everyday life.
Once you have properly loved your Ninja blender, blend your ingredients and taste. I added a little more oil and some nuts and some cheese. If you're feeling risky, there is also the option of leaving in the squeegee you used to push the ingredients down from the sides in the blender when you whir it again. Those uppity squeegees were getting a little bold, anyway.
Once the pesto is blended and delicious (and free of dismembered squeegee parts), the fun really begins. Go find your wallet because you have no noodles, and without the delicious carbs of pasta there is no point of pesto. When you've done that, make sure you live kind of in the boonies, then drive a half hour to town to buy noodles, ground turkey, and mushrooms, because what a better place to remember that you lost your debit card a week ago than the parking lot of the store? You can be really creative, here. You can scream about how you want the world to be fucked in the eye with Satan's firey two-pronged dick, or maybe punch your steering wheel while you sincerely ask God to condemn everyone and everything to spend the rest of eternity in a pool full of Buffalo Bills who will turn their nipples and genital skin into Taylor Swift's album art. This is the real joy of cooking.
Drive home and get your very small amount of remaining cash, then go back to the store because you still have no food. If you want the recipe to be especially delicious, make sure that you lost your ID with your debit card and that you look under 30 (if you're me, under 21, according to most bouncers), because what adds that certain je ne sais quoi to this meal is the socially awkward rage you feel when you have to stand on your tippy-toes to peer over the signs in the liquor store window to make sure that the lady working is the one who won't ID you. This recipe relies on chance: if the lady is working, then go buy some $6 white wine, because that's all you can afford after buying food. If she is not, then I might suggest robbery. Otherwise, be sober, you pussy.
A tip for that extra rage-zing for your pasta is to forget that the iPad your brother just gave you is in your lap when you get out of the car so that it lands on the pavement, putting a nice hairline crack across your screen like you tried to play Fruit Ninja with a real sword. I include this step to see if he is being honest when he says that blogs are gay and he doesn't read mine. He probably is.
Okay, back to food. It's time to cook the pasta. If you're anything like me, you grabbed the box of linguini that was for whatever reason very weakly secured shut, so it spills everywhere once you take it out of the grocery bag.
Cook the pasta. I don't care how. If you'd like to go with the traditional method, soak it in boiling water until it's soft. But for all I care, you can put it in a litter box and let it your cat treat it for a week or two.
While the pasta becomes al dente-licious (for those of your foregoing the cat treatment), mix the ground turkey, the mushrooms, and your smelly pesto sauce in a bowl together. If it looks right, it should look like vomit; as my mom always says, "The best foods look like vomit." No, really. She says that. Think she's wrong? Look at chili.
Again, if you're like me, you have no eye for portion sizes, so instead of trying to estimate how much you'll actually eat, you just mix all of it and dump it into pan, only to realize that the pan you chose is way too small to fit all of your food, of which there is hilariously too much of.
Look at the leftover mixture and decide that it's too little to just put in the fridge for another day, so grab a bigger pan and dump everything in it because at this point who gives a fuck.
You can't see what color the meat is because it's coated in pesto, so get nice and nervous here about your life choices. Cook until you aren't afraid of salmonella, which is never. So instead, drink more wine until you don't care anymore.
Remember that you're cooking pasta and freak out that you've overcooked it, maybe cursing at God because cursing at yourself is admitting too much about your personal faults. Drain the pasta, then put it in a bowl with butter, because mmmmmm butter. Then pour your hopefully non-toxic pesto concoction on top and mix all that shit up. Add salt and pepper, or whatever. I don't care.
At this point, you are probably wondering why you're still angry and full of resentment towards your meal. Let me guess--you're still wearing pants, or some movement-constricting high-waisted skirt. If you are, get rid of that shit immediately. You will feel instantly better.
Despite the fact that there is already cheese in the pesto, make sure to sprinkle your serving with even more cheese before eating. If it seems redundant, or perhaps unhealthy, just remember what Hannah Hart once said: "All food that involves cheese is just an excuse to eat cheese." So wise.
The pros of your meal barely outweigh the cons you accrued while trying to make it, so at this point, you're probably feeling pretty down on yourself, which is not a feeling you want to have while you're standing in your kitchen alone and semi-drunk in your underwear. Cheer up with a photo shoot with your cat.
If that doesn't ease the pain, drink more wine and play with all the Photo Booth options on your newly damaged iPad. Do this until your outsides match your insides. Post results to the Internet because you are a product of your selfie-fueled generation.
This meal is coupled well with a marathon of Law & Order: SVU, the ones with Elliott and Olivia in the cast because otherwise what's the point? Eat and watch your show until you feel pain in both your stomach and your eyes, and then turn off the TV and spend the rest of the night being super paranoid because you watched too much SVU while you were home alone.
The last step in this recipe is to wait a few weeks until you're emotionally recovered from your overly ambitious cooking endeavor, then drink half a bottle of champagne and write about your experience. That is the Johanna way.
**Updated on 1/20/15 because I'm an idiot who forgot a perfect example.**
Tessa and Marcus, our heroes, are friends from childhood who see each other regularly for rousing and oftentimes insulting debates about literature, pop culture, and societal values. Tessa is our charmingly frazzled damsel whose only distresses are work and family; Marcus is our unmotivated knight armed with a shining iPhone that is consistently more up-to-date and cared for than his life. Both are at the age where they stand on the brink of irresponsible twenties and career-focused thirties, and both are successful at ignoring the milestone precipice upon which they stand.
In a diner on a chilly Autumn Tuesday, Tessa and Marcus sit at a table with their recently cleared plates between them, after spending their well-timed lunch breaks together. They have exhausted complaints about their office jobs, which were extensive enough to occupy all of the actual meal, and now find themselves with time to discuss the complaints of their personal lives. As usual, the conversation was not destined to remain about their personal lives.
Marcus: Is your sister's house still being fumigated?
Tessa: Yep. I’m still hosting her and her five daughters while my dear brother-in-law is in Europe on business. That is literally everything in my life right now that isn't work.
Marcus: It can't be all bad. Your sister is cool.
Tessa: She is, but it is exhausting having that many children in my house at once.
Marcus: I don’t know, I always like when my nieces and nephews come over. It gives me an excuse to watch all the movies I loved as a kid. Don’t tell me that you aren’t pleased as punch to be able to watch all those Disney movies. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid…?
Tessa: Oh, I don’t let them watch those ones. When it comes to Disney, I only let them watch princesses of color.
Marcus: I think your attempts to be politically correct have officially strayed into offensive territory.
Tessa: It’s not a race thing. It’s a feminist thing.
Marcus: …I’m sorry, what?
After my last post, my mom said to me, "Johanna, you're getting a reputation as a real alcoholic." I pondered on her words as I sipped my morning coffee and Kahlua, and decided that my next post would have nothing to do with alcohol. Instead, I'm going to write about something I'm less talented at: cooking.
I frequent Pinterest easily more than I frequent books, the gym, and showering combined; I can often be found pinning things related to reading, exercise, and personal hygiene. Like any good middle class female, I also have a board dedicated to foods that I will never get around to ever cooking ever in my life ever. Not because I don't like eating--the only thing I might do more than Pinteresting is eating--but because I'm terrible at recipes. They are always at either end of the spectrum of directions, either being far too specific or dangerously vague. Either way, I take them waaaaaaaaaaay too seriously. I will, and have, tossed an entire batch of ingredients because I accidentally put in 1/3 cup of something instead of 1/4. And if anywhere in the recipe it says, "Put in as much blah as you see fit," I physically run away from the cookbook.
I'm the kind of person who is terrible at cooking because, for things like cooking, cleaning, exercise, make-up, and dating, I for some reason grew up thinking that there was an exactly right way to do them that I missed out on learning, so now I always assume that I'm doing something wrong, and I don't really do any of them with any amount of success. Furthermore, I can't eyeball measurements, I have no concept of how much time is passing without an exact timer, and portion control is a myth perpetrated by big business to sell organs to children on the black market. Cooking and I are not buddies, but I sure like what cooking produces. You could say that I'm a parasite on the food industry.
One other trend amongst Pinterest recipes is the fucking cheerful god damn perkiness in every stupid dumb description. "This is a yummy snack your kids will just adore--and it's good for them, and for the family! I take one bite of this yummy yumminess and sunshine spills right out of my ladyhole!" Listen, ma'am (it's usually a ma'am), I like to think that you wouldn't have posted the recipe if it tasted like the inside of a monkey's taint. And don't tell me to "Enjoy!" or "Eat up!" at the end, because, duh.
"Oh, wait, I'm supposed to eat this now? Oh, wow. This just gets better and better!" said absolutely no one after cooking something. "Good thing they included that step in the recipe, huh?" said absolutely no one's best friend.
So here is my first attempt at posting my own recipe that is straightforwardly not bullshitting you, and will ironically have everything that I hate about recipes poured into one. Except for the cheerfulness.
Today, I will be making a smoothie. I drink smoothies a lot, because it feels like I'm doing something healthy while sitting on the couch watching season two of 30 Rock in its entirety for the eight hundredth time. And, to quell the worries of my darling mother, I will punish myself for any mention of alcohol by taking a shot of whiskey. This may seem more like incentive than punishment, but know that I am not very good at taking shots. At all. Getting them to stay down at all is some form of black magic, and not performed without really unattractive sounds and facial expressions. Also, I don't want to step on Hannah Hart's wonderfully drunken toes, so I'm really going to be on my best behavior today.
Admire now, dear reader, the specificity and integrity with which I create a culinary masterpiece.
Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup instant oats
1 gob peanut butter
3ish ice cubes
1 Ninja blender
Optional: Chocolate syrup
Oh man, what a great start. Look at those ingredients, hot damn. Move over, Bobby Flay--wait, where's the milk? Crap. All right, imagine that milk is also there. These are the pieces of my breakfast that I haven't eaten yet, so gimme a damn break.
My mom has a Ninja blender. It comforts me when I remember that I'm still living with my parents. You don't necessarily need a Ninja blender for this recipe, because any blender will do, I guess. I didn't realize that I needed a Ninja blender till I had one. This thing is the tits.
Remove your banana lovingly from it's natural banana wrapper and cut it (the banana, not the peel) into small chunks, then place chunks inside the blender...is what I would say if I was an asshole. Put the banana in the blender. If I have to specify that you peel it first, then please proceed to also put your face in the blender so you can forever wear your stupidity like a mask to warn others to not trust you with an open flame or sharp objects.
I don't have to cut my banana into small chunks because my Ninja does that for me. Moving on.
Add the milk. I don't care what kind; there's usually skim milk in this house which is healthier, but 2% is more delicious and I imagine will, in turn, make the smoothie more delicious. Today, we have 1%. This is apparently a household of inconsistencies.
Why a half cup? Because after some trial and error of making this smoothie, I found that when the milk goes up to a certain spot in the blender, it makes everything nice and smoothie-ish. One day I picked up the half-cup from where we keep the measuring cups and poured milk into it and, would you look at that, it reached basically the same spot in the blender cup. So really, I want to say, "Fill it to, like, there. Ish. How much is it? It's more than none and less than a gallon. Just make the damn smoothie."
Put in the oats next, if you want. We have Quaker Quick 1-Minute Oats. I know nothing about oats except that these oats are tasty in smoothies. Again, this measurement is completely arbitrary. I needed something bigger than a spoon, and the 1/4 cup was the smallest one within arms reach. Thus reveals the science behind my magic.
What's left to add? Ice cubes? Sure, bring 'em on. I add 3 because [insert reason here]. Honestly, add as many as you want. Or as few as you want. Just don't add none. Nothing in this recipe is cold so far, and a warm peanut butter/banana smoothie is gross as balls, which are also gross. If you want a gross smoothie, do not add ice cubes and also add balls. Blend thoroughly. Enjoy!
It wouldn't be a peanut butter & banana smoothie without some peanut butter. I don't care what kind you use. I prefer the method of "use whatever is in the cabinet" when making anything.
Anyway, add the peanut butter whenever you want--none of these steps are in any particular order. It will not taste any different if you put the oats in before the banana, or the milk in after everything. I usually add peanut butter last because it has a lesser chance of getting smeared along the edge of the blender, where it will live until you find and battle the sinister Jif Witch to release you from the peanut butter curse bestowed upon your ancestors. Seriously, it is a bitch to clean.
I add one very scientifically measured gob of peanut butter, also known as a FAL (fuck-all lot) of peanut butter. Observe.
I first made this with chocolate peanut butter, and holy mother of crap was it tasty. Sometimes when I have regular peanut butter, I'll put in a squirt of chocolate syrup. I didn't promise a healthy recipe, you health nerds.
Is it all in there? Did I miss anything? No? Good. Blend it up, biotch. Make sure that people in your house are either sleeping or watching a quiet, dramatic scene in a movie to maximize your annoyance levels. What's the point of cooking if nobody knows you're doing it?
Keep in mind, I like my smoothies like I like my [insert sex organ here, which is what she said]: really, really thick. It's more filling and I like the texture (also what she said). Let me be the first to tell you that I am the only person I've ever met to actually like this smoothie. If you like your smoothies not so thick, then I might suggest adding more milk, or less oats. Or finding another god damn recipe, you picky bitch.
I have this smoothie for breakfast any morning that I actually have the ingredients for it. I'd drink it later in the day, too, but it doesn't mix well with alcohol, so there isn't much point--oh, GOD DAMMIT.
Still haven't had breakfast yet. Wish me luck.
All of this is mine, except for the distracting funeral photo. I found that here. I'm not proud.
Also, in order to just upload videos straight to my blog, I would need to pay more money. So just trust me when I say that some Jack Daniels with my breakfast smoothie really ruined my breakfast smoothie.
**DISCLAIMER** This post was written many years before JK Rowlings dangerous and toxic muses on the the transgender community. Mme. Johanna is staunchly pro-LGBTQ+ and therefore presently finds JK to be someone who managed to write a fantastic series of books while having a soul made of wet turds. An impressive feat.
Let me begin by saying that I am an obsessive Harry Potter fan. I saw all eight films in theaters multiple times, went to my fair share of midnight book releases, and have attended no fewer than three different Harry Potter parties over the years.
So with that cleared up, I'd like to outline the reasons why, were I a witch, I would never ever in a million god damn grindylow lifetimes send my son or daughter to Hogwarts.
"You call yourself a fan?!" You HP fans might be screaming. ("Who gives a crap? And what in fuck's name is a grindylow?" the rest of you may be wondering.) Allow me to explain.
April is National Poetry Month, and I would be shamed if I didn't write a poem. Basically, I got sick of seeing ads and articles promoting National Poetry Month and saying, "Oh, shit. I still haven't written a poem for April." I finally forced myself to sit down for fifteen minutes and write a poem. I caved to the pressure, dear readers. I have wielded.
The month of April once again arrives,
And begs from Language Conquerors a poem.
Before the month of Aphrodite dies,
We must example la vie de Bohème.
And so, we dust off iambs, rhymes, and verses,
Arranging till they satisfy the heart.
Again, again, again, thus be our curses--
To speak for love and loss, thus is our part
To play; to separate the soul, as sleuths
Separate the bloodshed and the clues.
We gentle soldiers verbalize the truth
Muddled hearts might hear for healing’s use.
For if I can't promote my soulful scrawl,
Then what’s the point of writing it at all?
Guys will make your heart sing,
Then they’ll leave you high and dry.
Girls will leave you also--
But at least they’ll tell you why.
~August 20th, 2012
“The bastards. The insufferable, low-life—shithead bastards!”
Eliza was pacing the room, back and forth and back again near the window, too upset to sit still. Eric knew it’d be a while before she was calm and seated. News of a malicious murder on television didn’t have an effect on her; they oftentimes became plot inspirations for the novellas and graphic novels that paid her bills. Nothing would be written about crimes against her family unless she could solve them first.
She suddenly stopped and faced her brother. “Any suspects?”
Eric had been sitting in silence for so long that he needed to clear his throat to speak.
“They’ve arrested Dave.”
Her eyebrows knotted together. “Dave? David Westfore—you think he robbed your house?”
“You heard him at the bar the other night,” Eric said. “He’s been after me for weeks.”
Eliza smiled and resumed her pacing, the clicking of her black-leather pumps offsetting the sound of the clock on the wall. “And here I thought he was all talk.”
Eliza was chewing the inside of her lip as she walked, an absentminded thinking habit of hers. Eric watched her with his head craned uncomfortably upwards, both because his current state of depression had him slouching severely in his chair, and because Eliza had always been much taller than him, ever since his disappointing puberty growth spurt had failed to catch up to her.
She looked at her brother again, her pendulumic movement gradually slowing down. “Did David confess?”
Eric shook his head.
“So they haven’t located the—”
She paused. “I guess it makes sense. He’s one of the only people who knows how important it is, and how much it’s worth. Never trust a pawnshop worker, I guess Dad was right to say.”
Eliza slowed to another stop and watched Eric’s chin sink to his chest. She paused again. Then she walked cautiously over to him and hesitated by his side. He was still, waiting, curious as to what she would do. Eliza was not one to mistake for a “people person”; her shoulder was never one to cry on, and it was a very rare and special man to ever find a comforting embrace in her arms. That did not mean she couldn’t recognize its value.
She withdrew her hand from where it had been clasped in the other behind her back and, after a third pause, placed it on her brother’s shoulder.
Eric lifted his head to look at her. She smiled. “It’ll be all right,” she said.
He nodded, his dismal gaze returning to his lap. She gave his shoulder a squeeze, then planted a quick kiss on the top of his head. “The guest room is all set up for you. Will the detectives still be there in the morning, over at your place?”
“Yeah, probably…” He let out an irritated sigh and ran his hands over his face. “Dammit, they probably will be. Messing the place up, touching all my stuff…”
“Well, my apartment is your apartment, little brother,” she said. “I’m going to sleep. I want to stop by in the morning, before they ruin all of the evidence.”
“No, Eliza, please. Don’t—”
But she was already down the hall. “Goodnight!”
Eric sighed again before he went into the kitchen for a beer. While her spirit was never one to be hired by the many rules of the legal system, Eliza Hedges always happened to find herself amidst any local crimes. Like a second job, only one that she didn’t get paid for. Her passion for her family was equaled only by her eye for seemingly hidden clues. It was what kept her useful, kept her sane. Seeing what others didn’t kept her busy. It made her different, and gave her direction.
As Eric cracked open his beer and brought the bottle to his lips, he wondered if anyone would know who he was without sharing her last name. It was for this reason he hoped, partially as a joke and partially as petty selfishness, that she would never get married.
Mme. Johanna is a gaudy jewelry and baby possum enthusiast. This ambitious 30-something woman can often be found declining event invites on Facebook and losing interest in whatever latest hobby her newly diagnosed ADHD has hyperfocused on while she drinks wine on her couch, accompanied by her beloved dog, Dorothy Barker.