America’s Coronary Farmhouse

I love watching cooking shows. I don’t know why. I’m not a foodie. I’d rather spend $50 on eight shirts from Target than mushrooms. I don’t really cook. I make like three meals from a cookbook I found in my mom’s pantry that has the word “Easy” in the title (classy). I don’t particularly like being reminded that there’s tasty awesome food out there that I could be eating right now and I’m not for whatever reason…it doesn’t make sense.

But I will watch cooking shows for hours on end. I think it’s because my dad watched them when I was little and (much like the smell of bourbon) it reminds me of my childhood.

Oh God. I just read that sentence and it makes my father seem like a deadbeat dad who drank and watched TV all the time while toddler me sat in a pile of dirty clothes on the floor playing with a paper towel roll while Bobby Flay blared in the background. And that’s SO NOT how it happened. I just mean my dad likes cooking shows and we went to a lot of distilleries when I was little. Totally normal. Right?

Anyway. My current favorite is America’s Test Kitchen. Mostly because it lacks any and all of what made the Food Network so popular- interesting sets, interesting people, interesting food. None of that. Just boring old skinny guys and cooks who look like they’re genuinely unhappy to be there most of the time.

“Yes, Chris. We’re adding simple syrup to the egg whites. This cooks them and makes them rise. I’m pretty sure my husband is cheating on me and I woke up in the walk-in pantry over there covered in chocolate chip cookie crumbs this morning. I want to die a little bit.”

It’s fascinating.

And at first I loved that they were doing actual meals that people in the United States eat. I don’t care how many times the Neelys show me how to throw a Hawaiian-themed barbecue party, I am much more interested in chocolate layer cake.

They also use real ingredients, which I’m a huge fan of. I’m a big supporter of real food- I think most of the problem is that people don’t realize that all calories are not equal. And while calorie-counting is obviously important, especially if you need to lose weight, the vast majority of people would be far better off if they just ate real food. Now I get that I’m lucky in that I’m young and healthy and am not trying to lose weight, but it’s easier for me because I have to think less about it. And I’m all about the thinking less.

(I probably should have thought about that half a cake thing yesterday. But…it was tasty.)

But then I realized that while they were using actual foodstuffs as ingredients, they were using unbelievable amounts of them and then saying ridiculous things like, “We’re using twelve egg yolks because we wanted this shortbread to have a lot of richness.”

Uh. Yeah. Of course it’s the best recipe ever. That’s what happens when you use A DOZEN EGGS.

Seriously, their recipes are ridiculous. A full 16 oz loaf of bread for an 8×8 bread pudding. Gallon of heavy cream- we want this to be really creamy! A dozen egg yolks- just the yolks! We wouldn’t want it to actually taste like egg!

In fact, you know what? Just gnaw on this stick of butter. Just like Grandma used to make.

Netflix owns my soul. For real.

I pride myself on being pretty worldly. I read newspapers, I get outraged about injustice, I give to charity. As much as I joke about my hair and my makeup and the ridiculous amounts of money I would spend in H&M if only it were a little bit closer seriously guys, Whitefish Bay is, like, far, I honestly do understand that none of that matters while there are starving children in the world.

I get that.

But yesterday…oh, goodness.

I was all snuggly with my slanket (you know, as you do) watching Babies on my Netflix.

(Oh my gosh, you guys. Do you know about the “documentary” Babies? Because it’s simultaneously the most interesting and absolutely astoundingly ridiculous waste of time you will ever experience. They film four babies- two from rural areas and two from industrialized nations- for a year. And…that’s it. No dialogue. Parents rarely make appearances. Just 78 minutes of babies being…babies. AND IT SUCKS YOU IN. You end up picking your favorite baby and rooting for that baby and hoping that baby walks faster than the other babies…it’s probably the most insane thing I’ve done with my afternoons in quite some time.)

ANYWAY. Halfway through little Hattie’s first mommy and me yoga class, Netflix spazzes out. And won’t come back. And then the whole Blu-Ray player announces (quite haughtily, if I do say so) that they can’t find a valid IP address and maybe you should go find and IP address and STOP YELLING AT ME NETFLIX I DON’T KNOW WHAT AN IP ADDRESS IS REALLY EVEN AND I DON’T KNOW HOW TO FIND OUT WHAT MINE IS I JUST WANT TO KNOW IF THE GOAT IS GOING TO KICK OVER LITTLE MONGOLIAN BABY’S BATH!

I mean, honestly. When I hear IP address all I think of is what the Criminal Minds people use to find out all your dirty little secrets after you disappear.

And I swear, I’m not into anything weird and I haven’t ordered a bride/child/housekeeper from Russia/Mongolia/Czech Republic.


There was some freaking out. Perhaps a few tears. I may have thrown myself dramatically down on the floor in front of the cabinet because maybe then the Blu-Ray player would understand the extent of my emotional investment in this matter.

Then I realized that all you have to do is turn it off and then back on again.

Oh. Look. Valid IP address. There you go. Well, I handled that with aplomb, if I do say so myself. Yep, I am all over this being-an-adult thing.

And I was able to go back to staring at four children I don’t know grow up. Because that’s totally normal.

(The American walked first. I was pulling for the Mongolian.)

JPII, we love you.

For whatever reason (probably the combination of the rhyming and that guy playing guitar with his feet), one of the most enduring memories of my childhood is hearing the crowd chant “JPII, we love you” at World Youth Day in 1995.

I was seven years old, and didn’t really understand why they were chanting; I didn’t understand what World Youth Day was; and I certainly didn’t understand the theology or history of the papacy. But I did know that guy was the pope. And I knew that he was a really good man, and that I loved him.

I never saw him in person. I was supposed to, but things happened and people died and I think my mom felt worse about making us miss him than the fact that our grandmother was gone.

I’ve been Catholic all my life. Really Catholic, not just go-to-Mass-on-Easter-and-mumble-along-with-the-creed Catholic. I was seventeen when he died. The death of the only pope I’d ever known was huge. I went to Mass. I stayed up on Friday, waiting for news. I remember feeling like I was in some sort of weird vigil; I knew it made no difference if some girl in Milwaukee was awake when the pope died, but I wanted to be. When he did die, I cried. I got up at two in the morning to watch his funeral. I had to take the ACT the next morning, but I stayed awake through the whole thing. And two weeks later when the man who had celebrated his Mass of Christian Burial was elected Benedict XVI, I cried about that too.

(In fact, if you go back to my old blog and look at the entries from that week- wow. Why hello there, hyperbole. Are you planning on staying for the summer? Embarrassing. I was a horrible writer in high school.)

I loved him in the simple, childlike way he inspired in most people. I never read any of his writings while he was alive. While I was vaguely aware of his accomplishments and gratified by the outpouring of praise at his death, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of what he’d accomplished.

By happy circumstance, I’ve ended up in an academic field that allows me to study him.

I get it now. I’ve read his encyclicals, his books, his groundbreaking work in interfaith relations. Despite my last name, it’s not a nationalistic thing for me, but rather that same childlike love I felt when I was seven.

The concluding sentence- concluding chapter, really- of my thesis was about him. He wasn’t perfect. Many people disagreed with him, and there was a certain amount of criticism for his papacy that, while in most cases it can be disputed, cannot be ignored.

But, at least for me, nothing can alter the image of an elderly man, weakened by disease and moving clearly only with great personal pain, shuffling to the Wailing Wall and placing a prayer between the stones; a prayer begging forgiveness and understanding, a prayer directed not only at his childhood friends who suffered but at my children who will have to work for a better world.

I never saw him.

But I am going to World Youth Day this summer.

And I’m positive that Blessed John Paul II will see me.

Grad school rehab with Dr. Drew.

Guys, I’m going to own it. I have an unhealthy obsession with Dr. Drew.

(Not like…that. I mean, he’s Jewish…but no.)

(Although…there’s money there…and I desperately need to move out. Like, NOW.)

Sadly, during the semester my obsession kind of takes a back seat to things happening…oh, in and around my actual life and not in a staged rehab center in Pasadena. I know, right? Bor. Ring.

But during breaks I have way more free time. And by “way more” I mean “all of it.” Lately (and for reasons Dr. Drew could probably help me to better understand), I’ve had a constant stabbing sinus headache that makes reading really difficult but it’s downright comfy to lie on the couch under a Slanket and watch four straight hours of “Teen Mom” followed by “16 and Pregnant Finale Special: Life After Labor, hosted by Dr. Drew.”

Yesterday I still could barely move my head it hurt so much (my glaucoma was totally gone, though. Thank God.), so I really had no choice but to watch the marathon of “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.” Because…that guy from The Hills was on?

Look, my head hurt. It was that or just  eat constantly which…come to think of it, that’s something else Dr. Drew could probably help me with.

And then last night I had a dream about Dr. Drew. I mean, not about him. But he was there.  I was in Mackin Hall, except it wasn’t just Mackin Hall it was the library Grind? At school? And some other place that I know I’ve been but can’t place?

Dr. Drew was there, and he was one of my professors. He was a weird combination of my advisor and my conservatism professor from last semester, which is totally weird since both those guys where also there and sitting at a table. I…don’t know.

Dr. Drew offered to buy me coffee? And I was all, no, that’s okay, you really don’t have to do that…but then I realized it’s Dr. Drew, he can afford the $2.02 that the Grind charges for their ridiculously horrible coffee.

So he gave me a twenty and then disappeared in that way people in dreams do which sucked because I had to give him his change so I left it in his mailbox and no, I don’t know why Dr. Drew had a mailbox in the history department.

And when I walked outside I was standing outside that hobbit door on the side of Holton.

And then I woke up.

It was weird.


I have decided to take this as a sign that Dr. Drew should help me with any and all physical, mental, and spiritual ailments that may pop up.

I mean, they’re not very interesting. I have never been sixteen and pregnant. Or, indeed, any age and pregnant. Other than my fondness for NyQuil, I have never had a substance abuse problem. So that’s out.

But since my doctor’s office started to look like the set from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, I need a new internist. And a quick Google search indicates that Dr. Drew is perfectly capable and licensed to provide such a service.

I’m out of school now which actually leads to more stress than being in school because…look, I don’t really know, okay? It’s weird. My head is weird. I get it, we’re moving on.

But I have a feeling that after a fifty minute session with Dr. Drew I’d be tearfully mumbling, “I don’t know why I feel nauseated when I look at academic journals and I know I’m capable of learning German but that doesn’t make it any less scary and no, I don’t know why I picked a career path and focus in which I constantly have to justify my existence…” with mascara trails running down my cheeks.

In light of last night’s dream, I think this is a perfectly acceptable plan.