Monday, August 24, 2020

In the Kitchen with Susan Rubin #GuestBlog

When I was younger and ate a lot of meat, I was famous for cooking chicken breasts until they were so dried out and well done that my then boyfriend referred to them as chicken boots. I loved them. Nobody else would eat them.

After I left college I moved to the countryside in Western Massachusetts where my rural Mother in the Woods image took over for a very short time. I was within weeks, commuting back to New York to be in a play. But four days a week I was in the most beautiful, bucolic countryside with a tiny cottage where my boyfriend was supposed to sit and write a novel. He never wrote anything and I fear that is because I had inadvertently poisoned him with what cooking I had tried.

But I did try. I hadn’t yet mastered the chicken boot idea, but I was still eating red meat that amounted to about a cow a week for just me. We rarely bought steak, but I found a recipe for hamburger Stroganoff that I think was created by a cardiologist looking for his next heart attack patient. It involved a quart of sour cream, a stick of butter, a pound of ground beef, and if I felt like it, some onions. 

My boyfriend was so shamed by the lack of writing he was doing that I think he decided eating my cooking was what he deserved. So he doggedly ate any garbage I put out. I made the Stroganoff three times a week, and I was only with him for dinner four nights a week. 

After a while, being in New York several days every week, and rehearsing for a play, reminded me that I was not meant to be a country housewife. (I had made candles during my stint as Country Woman, the candles were probably better tasting than anything I cooked). In the city, I realized the Stroganoff came at a cost to my hips so I quickly reverted to my human self and lived on grapefruit and cottage cheese. I believe when I went back up to Massachusetts and first announced my cooking days were over my boyfriend went into the bathroom and secretly threw up everything I had cooked for the few months I had been a kitchen person.

Cut to years later. I am now a pescatarian, and fish is too hard for most people to do well, so me cooking it was never an issue. Instead, I developed a genuine talent for making salad. I became creative at plopping something green into the bowl and then adding a wide and diverse spread of ingredients. I would pour on the Ranch Dressing that came in the little aluminum packs, so my salads were pretty delicious. Eventually I would get invited to potlucks and told to bring one of my salads. This was thrilling.

I developed a recipe for what I named Bombay Tuna Salad. It involves albacore from the can, relish, mustard, mayonnaise, red onions chopped, and raisins. The whole thing gets drenched in curry powder and mashed together. It is actually quite delicious. This gave me the idea that maybe between my green salads and my tuna salad, perhaps the Curse of being the worst cook ever, was gone. Of course this was not true. And I didn’t really understand why.

I would make fresh French drip coffee for friends who would take a sip and leave the room for a minute. The discovery of the Keurig didn’t do much as I seem able to mess up even an automated cup of coffee. 

If you asked me why I think I am such a loser in the kitchen I would tell you that nobody taught me how to cook. My mother, an adamant anti-cook could make a really good salmon in dill sauce, but rarely did. And she made a chicken in wine that was as good as good could be. But again, she never cooked that.

I come from a family of none cooks. I have an inherent lack of talent for what goes well together. I have watched my husband follow recipes, go off the instructions in a creative way, and make one dinner after another that is delicious. Maybe if I watched more closely the talent for cooking would osmose into me. For now, I stick to offering salads.

To be fair to myself, as bad as I am at cooking, I am the best hostess I know for having dinner guests to our home. I can run through a grocery store and almost on instinct put together unique and fabulous appetizers that are followed by unique and fabulous prepared foods and finished off with glorious desserts I buy at the local bakery. I pride myself on having discovered Marconi almonds, Bella di Seragnola olives, and an orange cheese from Holland that some of my friends ask me about as if it were filled with an addictive drug. I am sorry I could not lie effectively and make up the wonders I have found in mixing oregano with something nobody else has thought of. I truly wonder why I am so club footed at creating food since I love to eat. And I am careful to eat organic, healthy things. I have given up meat and chicken many years ago for humane reasons at first, and then health reasons.

Anyway. If you want to join me in the kitchen, maybe you could help me. I am not averse to being taught things, but so far, it hasn’t worked.

The Road Not Taken    
Susan Rubin

Genre: Fiction: Women’s Fiction, SciFi/Time Travel, Fantasy
Publisher: Harvard Square Editions
Date of Publication: September 4, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-941861-68-4
Number of pages: 290

Tagline:  A trippy fantasy that uses time travel to explore the inner drives of a woman in midlife whose errand to a department store lipstick counter becomes an opportunity to unravel the mystery of self.

Book Description:

Widowed suddenly at age 50, Deborah is left with plenty of money but no direction to her life. Shedding her suburban housewife life, she moves back to the West Village where she grew up.

When she meets a woman who appears to be an identical twin, Deborah discovers the Lost: a group of 100 fully-formed people who were dropped off on Earth as it cooled down and who have lived on the planet as it developed.

The Lost show her the myriad dimensions of Spacetime, taking her to ancient Egypt, Weimar Germany, and planets without inhabitants. They reunite her with deceased loved ones. She forms relationships with an Egyptian god and a famous artist through whom she lives new truths and learns who she needs to become to walk the road not taken.

About the Author:

Susan Rubin has written for Funny or Die, and in contrast, she’s written more than two dozen documentaries that highlight international women’s issues like domestic violence, forced child marriage, and untested rape kits accumulating in police evidence rooms. Rubin has used her skill, empathy, and compassion to render these darkest of topics into accessible films distributed to tens of thousands of college classrooms.

As a playwright, Rubin has, for 20 years, been the recipient of Los Angeles County Arts Commission Grants and Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department Grants. She also was honored with a six-year residency at the prestigious Los Angeles Theatre Center. Her plays have been seen at New York Theatre Workshop, Baltimore Center Stage, and at every major 99 seat theatre in Los Angeles including co-productions with Bootleg Theatre, Circle X, Skylight Theatre to name a few. She is the recipient of Garland, Ovation and LA Weekly Awards.

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