Oddities and Obsessions

twinkies.jpghallie ephronImagine life without Twinkies? A year ago Hostess Brands went into bankruptcy. This week, in the wake of a labor strike, it sounds as if they may be winding down operations permanently.

I've never been a Twinkies fan, but I love the word. Just for example, from a Seinfeld show, Jerry describes Newman: "He's a mystery wrapped in a Twinkie." It doesn't even have to make sense to be funny.

And in Blue Man Group, the blue men watch intently as a volunteer from the audience tries to eat a Twinkie with a knife and fork. Do not ask me why this is hilarious. It just is.

And even though I may have eaten four of them in my entire life, just say the word and I can smell those sugary vapors that escape when you tear open the package. I remember what it's like to bite the yellow sponge-rubbery cushions of cake and into white filling with the resistance of shaving cream. I can feel the oleaginous residue left (for hours) on the roof of the mouth.

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ramenoodles.jpgI've been trying to convince my sons that ramen is good for them. They're both living on their own. They are serious about eating healthily and keeping to a budget. They keep down their costs by avoiding processed foods and fast food joints. They shop at Costco and buy in bulk.

Which is why I've been trying to get them to think about ramen. A package costs under $1.00 and if you make your own soup and add farmers' fresh vegetables, you'll have an economical, nutritious meal.

The problem is when they were kids they ate lots of Cup O'Noodles and Instant Ramen with hot water flavored with artificially flavored soup packets. In no way am I talking about that.

Tracking down a better kind of ramen takes a small amount of work. The local supermarket may only have Top Ramen which is ok but not preferred. If you live in an area with Asian markets, you'll find a wider selection of brands. In Los Angeles, we have Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and (my favorite) Korean markets where there are so many choices there's a ramen aisle.

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ImageI’ve always been a sucker for colorful vegetables. But hand me another dark, drizzly day, and you’ll find me going gaga at the grocery store for anything chartreuse…or fuchsia…or sunset orange. I need the color to stimulate my senses.

But sometimes I get myself in trouble. Take this whole green cauliflower thing. I love this stuff, which I happen to call Broccoflower®. Because that’s what it’s labeled at my grocery store. I included a side dish recipe for it in Fast, Fresh & Green, and developed a pasta recipe with it for my next book. The problem came when I asked my cross-testers, Jessica and Eliza, to go find Broccoflower in their grocery stores. Initially they both said they couldn’t find it. But both had the presence of mind to call me from the grocery store and describe what they did see. So after cell-phone exchanges and emailed photos, we determined that what both of them found was a very similar vegetable labeled “green cauliflower.”

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buttrub.jpgI have known my friend Vicki since we were twelve. Without being excessively specific, that’s a long, long time. I met her when I got involved with our community theater, where she was already in a play (I was, at that point, just providing a baby doll to serve as a prop) and I knew instantly that she was not only taller, but quite a lot cooler than I was. For the next seven years we were in plays, orchestras, quartets and classes together, and spent a fair amount of recreational time together, too. Her legs alone are taller than all of me, she is a math whiz, she is the only person I know who was simultaneously in band, choir and orchestra, she has a rapier-sharp wit, and (perhaps most important) she is a loyal and kind friend, and a really good mom.

We live in the same place again now, after my years of wandering, and she recently returned from a trip South with a bag of goodies for me including fig jam, barbecue sauce and the unfortunately named “Butt Rub.” (Hereinafter “Stuff.”) Since I am a delicate and ladylike person, it took me a little while to get over the shock of seeing the, um, “Stuff” on my counter. (I am one of those extraordinarily old fashioned mothers who will not allow my kids to say the word “butt,” at least not in my hearing). There is also the inevitable, and probably intentional evocation of Desitin to deal with. I am far, far too pure to live in this world of sin and crudity….

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First of all, I thought, no, assumed, I was popular, and all kinds of people were going to be asking to take me out to celebrate. I didn’t throw myself a party which I often do, so then I was thinking that some of my party regulars will get that I’m wanting to celebrate with every one of them individually, or in small groups. I’m not popular, I’m delusional.

It started kinda great. Two days before my birthday Robin and Libbie took me for a celebratory dinner at the Palm. Then on my birthday, I woke up to an email from Huffington Post saying the piece I wrote had been posted that day. Which I thought was a great sign because the story I wrote is all about my fear of dying at a young age like my mother. Then a small group of girlfriends met me for lunch on the patio of the Malibu Hotel where I was spending the weekend.   We ate, laughed, and I received some lovely gifts and amazing sentimental notes that I will always cherish. Libbie is re-gifting cards to me from our long friendship. So, there was this loving thing I wrote to her in the 1970’s about how beautiful she is and how much I love her, and on the other side she wrote an update to me. Kimberly wrote a card with words that made me cry (Libbie’s card made me cry too). It was going smoothly.

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