Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Manicotti Festo

Here’s the deal: I love working on this blog! Tracking down a food truck and throwing myself into hot pursuit is an extension of every kid’s CIA agent fantasy. I say that irresponsibly, knowing that my sister and I preferred to play a strangely pedestrian and of course now outmoded round of “travel agent.” Phrases like “I can get you on the 2:30 to Cincinnatti, but you’ll have to race to make your 5-o-clock connection into Dallas,” were more our speed. Less spy, more fly.

And as I preferred, a lot less running. More like lots of swiveling around on a rolling office chair. My extensive knowledge of centrifugal force can be traced to that time. At 12, I  wouldn't have run from a fire. I would have rushed to find marshmallows though.

So there I am living out every OTHER kid’s fantasy, which is now mine as well. Of course, in Los Angeles “hot pursuit” means a stand-still on the 101, putting the windows down when the air conditioning begins to give you all that nice hot atmosphere you had been missing outside. And then I am rewarded with a sometimes one-day-only special, or the last grilled cheese sold, or something they’re just trying out, something they’re working on, something experimentally or reliably delicious.

And then I get to write about it.

I have always followed other amazing food blogs, and I’ve finally sat down to nail down what makes mine different. So here it is, one-time-only. My Manicotti Festo. And then let’s never speak of this again, because we’ll just KNOW, and be cool like that. (Incidentally, I really wanted KNOW to be in italics, not caps, but I can’t figure that out. So just imagine it.)

Lots of bloggers are also extremely talented photographers. Their voluptuous whipped cream snowcaps, and oozing brownies are nearly 3 dimensional. Each berry perfect in color and symmetry, each austere bunch of herbs sitting on a sparkling clean counter in an implied farmhouse, in the glowing natural shaft of golden light that comes to farmhouses to illuminate their countertop herbs, as we all know. Visit any of the wonderful blogs I've listed at the right to see what I mean.

Here’s what I do: I watch as my phone battery dwindles in the Falling Down traffic I’ve described above, hoping by the time I get there I will have enough juice to get some flashless pictures under the tinny anti-light of a roll-out awning. Then, I curse myself for having already eaten 90% of what I was supposed to photograph, and debate ordering another. Lastly, circumstances usually demand that I attempt to take my own photograph with the food. Anyone who has an iphone (not the newest one, the other one) knows this is a fool’s errand, and requires a physical flexibility and a realistic perception of the shape and size of one’s face to pull off. More on this later, when I post my greatest (worst) hits, illustrating how this whole thing goes terribly wrong.

Also, many food sites are focused on the cooking/baking of food. And thank god, because if they weren’t I would have to make my own damn banana caramel bundt cake every day. The lovely catharsis of seeing what others make, and make well, and then having access to their recipe to try yourself someday when you literally can-no-longer- take-it-and-absolutely-must-have-that-banana-caramel-cake, is why I am drawn to these sites again and again. It’s sort of like a living menu, and they do it extremely well, and with gorgeously scrumptious results and great personalities.

Here’s what I do: I power through a cookbook I now see myself as irreversibly committed to, as I have already gone to the sizeable effort of taking it off the shelf. I find something extremely complicated, with many many steps, widely unavailable ingredients, multiple components, and sensitive timing. And then I throw myself into it whole heartedly while eating half of it in the process, in the dubious spirit of “test-testing.”

And when it’s finished, and I’m completely exhausted, I take it to a dinner party, birthday, or movie night, pretend I’ve never tasted it, and attempt to conceal how incredibly time consuming it was-never mentioning of course the apocalyptic state it has left my kitchen in, or the third degree burn on my arm that “I can barely even feel anymore!”

SO, in the interest of Do As I Say, Not As I Do, I will not be focusing on cooking or baking myself. I do these things, I love doing them, but don’t be me. If I find something great, I’ll share it with you I promise.

So, here’s what you’ll get. A story, a solid recommendation, and several guerilla-style photos of some really really good food. I’d like to be the Christiane Amanpour of Los Angeles food truck reviews. But there might be one already…

In conclusion when you are forced to take a picture of yourself eating with one hand, and no sense of your own arm length, this is what you get. Take a picture awkwardly, get an awkward picture.

I call it “Vogue Meatball Sandwich.”


  1. Lovely writing style and refreshing honestly....keep up the good work!

  2. Love the manifesto! You nailed it. Most of the prettiness and 'oh this was so easy' is a's easy to make things look good on the internet :) Usually my posts are my 3rd or 4th time around making something! And I'm lucky to live with a professional photographer...I don't even own a camera :)

  3. Thank you so much you guys! Sarah, I can't believe it's really all a farce! I envy your serene mise en place, and gorgeous Chicago Dog. :) Keep making scrumptious stuff, and I'll keep eating it. :) And also put out an ad for "live-in Photographer..." ha!
    TravelChic, eaten anything good in Houston lately....?? ;)

  4. Very catchy column. Always enjoy your adventures.