War Womb

Posted by Tess on November 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

Last night I was drinking and free-associating in the shower. And my thoughts turned to a friend who had gotten pregnant at 40 something.  I thought she had dodged the bullet of no one having to talk about her in hushed tones about her “struggle.”


For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, congratulations on being young or men. Because once you enter your thirties as women, all other women want to talk about is your plans regarding that space for rent that’s vagina adjacent. Are you going to get tenants anytime soon? Remodel maybe?


If you say you’re planning on leaving it vacant until it’s condemned like some uterine Detroit, people want to know why you hate kids. They want to know why you hate them for having kids. They want to tell you why kids are just the best and you should have one even though they will also tell you they haven’t had an orgasm with their husband in three years.


If you announce your intentions to try to fill it, then they just keep asking whether you’ve found a renter yet. I get it; I’ve done it, too. You want to show an interest in your friends’ lives and if this is something they’ve said is important to them you want to show them it’s important to you, too.


But I’ve also seen it take a bad turn. After a few months you become the woman having “fertility issues.” Know-it-all friends under the guise of concern say, “I don’t know why she doesn’t try blank. I told her to try blank. Blank worked for me.”


I actually heard one woman snidely say, “She does know you actually have to have sex with your husband, right?” Because that’s supportive.


At first they have nothing but excitement for you. Yay! You’re going to join the exclusive club of people who don’t ever see friends again unless a bouncy house is involved! Then you get the pity. Then for some reason I have yet to figure out, you get their resentment. Somehow you have brought all of this on yourself and they just don’t have time to deal with you.


So I was happy for my friend who got knocked up at 40-whatever because she had avoided both traps A and B. But instead people found a way to talk about her anyway, because that’s what we do. No sooner had she defied science and had that baby then people started calling her a helicopter mom.


Look, some people are helicopter parents. I get it. If it walks like a duck and talks like someone who’s read too many parenting books, it probably really is a helicopter mom. But my issue is the way we as women have found yet another way to judge each other. If having it all is really as hard as I keep hearing it is, then where are all these women finding the time to talk badly about all of these other women? Don’t they have better things to do?


Women, is there nothing we won’t find to hate each other over? I can’t even blame men here and nothing makes me angrier at my own sex than not being able to blame men for something.



My friend Molly Mogren Katt wrote a very awesome piece about miscarriage and the fact that we don’t talk about it. Much has been written about why this is such a taboo subject. But I think the real reason we don’t talk about it is that we can’t be sure this won’t be just one more way other women will judge us.  I actually heard one friend say after another one’s miscarriage, “Big deal. Most women have them their first time.”


After reading this you might say I’ve known some shitty friends and you may very well be right. But I’ve been in the field some ten years witnessing this among people I know and the friends of people I know. And there are some good supportive people out there. But there are also a lot of twats. And when it comes to one of the most important decisions you can make in your life, a lot of women are twats.


Reproductive freedom is not just a fight between republicans and democrats; it has become a battleground for women ourselves, as if we needed one more of those. We’re using this most personal of issues as another excuse to mean girl each other, to make others feel inferior, to knock them down instead of building each other up. That’s why we don’t talk about it. Because we don’t want to be the woman who can’t have it all, or who admits to some inferiority or who by making our own decisions to abstain altogether, forces others to think theirs are being challenged.


And is it any shock that this is about our bodies? That this is just another way for us to be at odds with them? To hate their limitations and feel like our body is just not good enough. This is a women’s issue, not because it’s icky and deals with blood and uteruses, but because it strikes at our core of how we can’t relate to each other and how we define ourselves and our self-esteem with our bodies.


Is it biological? My two female cats hate each other so maybe there’s something to that theory. But while my cats have a cerbral cortex the size of a walnut and are therefore incapable of rational thought, I saw Hillary Clinton keep her shit together during 11 hours of Congressional testimony, so I have to at least think we can do better. But then with my own two ears I hear a woman say to my face, “You should always have a baby. Having a career and a baby will always make you feel superior to those who just have a career,” and I don’t know that we can. Maybe we’re just fucked.


Or maybe we all need to just back the fuck off. Back the fuck off of each other. And back the fuck off of ourselves.


For the Love of a god That It’s Totally Cool if You Do Or Don’t Believe in – Can we Please Stop Saying ‘PC?’

Posted by Tess on September 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

I hate the term “politically correct.” Which isn’t to say I hate the spirit behind it. I’m all about that. I just think it fails to accurately describe the intentions or the behavior. And even worse, it’s become a term loaded with derogatory meaning in an effort to undermine the cause, like “Obamacare” or “Sex and The City Fan.”



Here’s a brief history lesson: once every generation a group of diverse people raise up their voices and say, “Hey, just so you know, we think this is insensitive.” And every generation a group of not so diverse people raise up their voices even louder and say, “NO, IT’S NOT!” In the 90’s these two camps were called “politically correct” and “politically incorrect.” Today we just call them “straight white dudes” and “everyone else.”


OK, what I just said is potentially divisive and that’s wrong of me and I’m sorry. See what I did there, Straight White Dudes? OK, I apologize for that, too. But here’s the thing with the term “politically correct.” In the 90’s it quickly became this term that was sneered at. No one was called “politically correct” out of respect. It was said in the same tone they had been calling people “humorless, frigid, cunts” – or worse – for years.  So the fact that people are bringing this back now immediately changes the discussion to an adversarial one. They don’t want to be open to what people have to say. They want everyone to know these people are humorless, frigid, cunts.


But what I hate even more about the term “politically correct,” is that in and of itself it’s incorrect. Have you looked at the politics of our country lately? We have a major political party whose members consider it correct to govern women’s bodies for them, teach creationism, and shoot unarmed black kids. We’ve heard their “politically correct” language.  That’s why we’re here.


I think the term “politically correct” is lazy, in actuality it says nothing about what people are trying to do, but I get why we use it because it’s shorthand and what we are trying to do takes too long to say. I think what we’re trying to do is just raise awareness. Hey, here’s something you probably haven’t thought about because you’ve never had to or no one has felt comfortable bringing it up before now. That’s how I try to hear it when someone says it to me, because we’ve all been on both sides of this and we all we continue to be. And raising awareness is a good thing – it’s the only thing that got us out of The Stone Age. But maybe wanting to be out of The Stone Age is all about perspective. The Stone Age, and many ages afterwards, were bad for people like me. I like being out of The Stone Age. I can vote. I can earn my own money. I can keep that money. It is not my husband’s legal right to beat me or have sex with me whenever he wants. I have (for now) access to birth control and reproductive freedom. But The Stone Age was pretty sweet for some people. And maybe that’s why they’re so desperate to stay there.


The Most Revolutionary Thing I Ever Heard Part II

Posted by Tess on March 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

So why was, “I don’t want to change the way you feel,” the most revolutionary thing I ever heard?

As most people by now know, Patricia Arquette won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and made a statement for wage equality. Because I’m a class act, here’s what I immediately tweeted.

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I thought some of the wording in her speech was awkward but I quickly got past that because Wage Equality! It was easy for me to explain away: she’s nervous, she’s under pressure, she’s not a writer, I’m drinking, and of course I know what she really means.

But the next day I learned that, in fact, not every woman did want to go down on Patty Arquette. At issue was some of what she said, what I had dismissed as awkward. (And for a much more articulate explanation than I could hope to provide of what these specific issues were, please read here.) Once again, my first response when I saw the essays and comments on Facebook and twitter was to explain it away.

Two things stopped me. And I’m glad they did. Because I would have missed out if they hadn’t.

The first thing that stopped me was what my friend had said a few weeks earlier: I don’t want to change the way you feel. While it was never my intention to tell anybody who felt marginalized by Patricia Arquette’s comments they were wrong to feel that way, chiming in with the way I interpreted it amounted to the same thing. We both heard the same speech. Telling them the way I heard it wasn’t going to change the way they heard it. If anything, it really only illustrated the problem that white middle class feminists are out of touch with the issues of women of color and the LGBT community.

The second thing that stopped me was my own experiences with sexism. We are no longer fighting Mad Men era misogyny in the workplace and at home. It is no longer this obvious bogeyman in a men’s only club drawling over bourbon that ladies are delicate bird brains because of their periods. Sexism is now taking the form of guys who LOVE women, their moms were single women, why their wives work! They just don’t realize they just commended a guy for having the same idea a woman had ten minutes ago because they don’t remember that the woman said it. That they look at men who are under stress at work as being “important” and women who are under stress at work as “not being able to handle it.” Or they don’t realize why it’s such a problem that they call watching their own kids “babysitting” when they do it, and nothing when their wife does. And these are guys we like! We know they have good intentions. They don’t mean to perpetuate the patriarchy. But just because they don’t see it happening doesn’t mean it’s not.

I am a straight, white, middle class woman who experiences sexism. I don’t mean to perpetuate racism. I don’t mean to perpetuate homophobia. But just because I don’t see it happening, doesn’t mean it’s not. And it doesn’t mean that I’m not part of the problem.

I can’t know the experience of a person of color or LGBT because I am not one. And the more I thought about it and the more I thought about my experiences as a woman that I struggle to explain to the well-intentioned men in my life, the more I recognized that it’s not for me to explain away Patricia Arquette’s words.

Instead I wrote a friend, a woman of color who I knew had strong feelings about the speech. I initially expressed my sadness that this had become divisive. Like many well-intentioned people, I believe that we can better achieve our goals if we all stand together. But whose goals? If I don’t want to listen to your issues with what I’m standing for, then doesn’t that really mean that I want you to support my goals, but I have no interest in helping you support yours? Instead of bemoaning divisiveness, I have the ability to help get rid of it. I can listen. I can try to understand. I can find out why my goals fail your goals instead of assuming they are the same. And telling you that they should be.

I know there are dozens of times in my life when I would not have been able to have this conversation; I wouldn’t have even tried. But I was in a place where I was not out to change anyone’s feelings and I was open to the actuality that we’re not all having the same experience.  And I knew how fucking soul crushingly awful it felt to not be heard. I didn’t want to explain it away. I wanted to understand. And while having friends who have different opinions than you can be hard, it can also be an opportunity. If I like this person, then it’s harder to discount what they think so maybe I should find out a little bit more why they think it. It could be revolutionary if we all try to understand each other a little bit more. To not try to change the way someone feels, but to listen. And to recognize that just because you have good intentions, just because you don’t see it happening, doesn’t mean it’s not.

I’m very grateful that my friend was very patient with me in explaining her perspective. I’m sure she’s tired of it just like that meme that says, “I can’t believe I have to still fight for this shit.” I’m also grateful for my original friend – who in the interest of full disclosure was a man, and a straight one – who said, “I don’t want to change the way you feel.” And I’m really grateful for all the men, all the “good guys” who still don’t get it. Their sexism has made me a better feminist.







The Most Revolutionary Thing I Ever Heard: Part I

Posted by Tess on February 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

Recently a friend said the most revolutionary thing I’ve ever heard.


I was upset about something. It was one of those somethings that 99% of the time would have had little to no effect on me. But, as in comedy, the secret to being soul crushed is timing. And so this something that may have not been a big something at any other time of my life was a HUGE something. It wasn’t about the thing – it rarely is – it was about a pattern of behavior from a person in my life that left me feeling hurt and disappointed and alone and humiliated and angry and everything else that feels awful and can only be numbed by a good Italian red, which is what we were doing when he said this revolutionary thing.


As friends we want to help and be there for each other, which is why we often try to explain away the behavior that our friends found hurtful. And as it sounded like he was about to do the same I interjected with, “I understand what you’re saying, but it doesn’t change the way I feel.”


“Oh, I don’t want to change the way you feel,” he said. And then he looked me in the eye and said it again.


In that moment I felt relief. I didn’t feel judged as I had feared. I didn’t feel that my feelings were wrong and that I had to defend them. I felt like someone acknowledged that it was OK to feel the way I did whether he understood it or not. That he didn’t have to understand it for it to be valid. I felt heard.


I want to be clear: my instinct as a friend is never to do this. When the shoe is on the other foot I am the first in line to try to explain the bad feelings away. I know it almost always comes from a good place: my friend has a perceived hurt that just comes from some misinterpretation and if they can understand the miscommunication they wouldn’t be hurt. Well intentioned? Yes. Helpful? Almost never.


Yes, sometimes a friend can say, “Did it seem like they were mad at me?” And you can say, “Oh no, their goldfish died, that was all,” and it quickly goes away. But when it comes to feelings of sadness and despair and hurt and anger those are way too real even if you think the circumstances that caused them may not be. Your friend is past the point where you can erase it with a dead goldfish.


Trying to make it better (WHICH I DO – ALL THE TIME) by trying to explain what really happened or how you saw it or what they might have been thinking lacks what the person really needs: compassion. Saying, “But here’s why you shouldn’t feel so bad,” while well-intentioned – which I know it is because I do it ALL THE TIME -  sounds dismissive. Telling them not to feel that way is a waste of time because they ALREADY DO. The last thing a person needs to hear is that they shouldn’t feel that way because then it adds a feeling of inadequacy to their enormous pile of already shitty feelings.


It’s also easy to get frustrated with the person who’s feeling badly, as if they must want to wallow in their misery because they are not seizing on our brilliant explanation. I know, because I have been that person, too. We think, “Well, I guess they don’t want to feel better.” They do want to feel better! But what you’re saying isn’t going to make that happen. Saying “feel different” is not how to make people feel better.


So why is this the most revolutionary thing I ever heard?


For starters, it made me feel better in the midst of a spiral of truly awful feelings. And any non-food, non-beverage, non-clothing or non-trip to Italy that can do that is remarkable.


But more importantly it left me open to an important experience this week by inspiring me to get out of the way of my own shit long enough to hear someone else.


Stay tuned for “The Most Revolutionary Thing I Ever Heard Part Two…”


Greetings from the Skunk Tour!

Posted by Tess on October 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

In the last week I’ve told this story to about 3 different friends which makes me think it bears repeating. Also, I love being able to tell any story that involves an anecdote about my dear friend, Knoxie.


When I first moved to LA there was another Boston comic out here. Actually there were many. It was the end of the comedy boom and the streets were no longer paved with high six figure development deals for anyone with a tight 8 minute set, if in fact they ever were. Perhaps it was all just a story that got told so often people believed in it like Jesus or Silver Linings Playbook being a good movie. In any event, being a Boston comic in LA was a difficult adjustment for many. Boston was one of the few places in the country where you could be a relative unknown but work every night of the week and make a pretty decent living. There was a culture shock to coming to LA ,where you had to beg for random sets at gas station bathrooms, make no money doing it and still remain a relative unknown. Some comics stayed. Some eventually went back.


So this one comic moves back and we’re talking to our friend Knoxie, who never left, and we ask how the guy’s doing. And Knoxie answers with his usual honesty, “The first six months or so were great. He was working all the time, making money. Then he realized he was on the skunk tour like the rest of us.”


What Knox was referring to was the downside to working an hour a night, to working every night, to making money. Chasing the bookers down for your money. Chasing the bookers down for work. Driving 3 hours to a gig in some random New England town for the night. Getting short money to play the best club in town. Doing a hell gig in some place that has no business hosting a comedy night.


Over the years in our house “being on the skunk tour” has become synonymous with all the things you don’t like about your job. It’s shorthand for when someone gets an alleged dream job and then finds it’s rife with all the bullshit you had at your last 5 jobs. But it’s not a pretentious, inside baseball way for us to complain. It’s actually a way for us to remind ourselves that it’s OK.


In life there is no magic job where suddenly everything is expense accounts and hand jobs. I mean in Japan, probably, but you get my point. If you’re lucky, you’ve been able to chase a career that was your “dream job” and if you’re really lucky you landed somewhere near the bullseye. And sure, you probably thought, you’ll have to work hard, but it won’t ever suck. It’s my dream job! Here’s the truth: sometimes every job sucks, even in the bullseye. But here’s the other truth: it still can be your dream job. A dream job with no problems, with no challenges, with no disappointments or struggles is not a job, even with the word “dream” in front of it. Getting paid to do something that never makes you unhappy is not a job, it’s a fantasy, a story that got told so often people believed in it, like the French being rude or dogs being smarter than cats.


So when we or a friend of ours gets down about something work related, we remind them and ourselves that we’re all on the skunk tour. Not because life sucks, but because life is actually pretty amazing, but it’s never perfect.


Bridget Jones’s Surgery

Posted by Tess on October 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

OK I’m going to try to make this quick because the world needs another “Renee Zellwegger’s Face” think piece like it needs a brow tuck, which is to say, it doesn’t need a brow tuck, but it certainly is free to choose to have a brow tuck, so you’re free to read this or age gracefully.


(And not that it should matter, but for the record Bridget Jones’s Diary is the only chick flick I can or will watch, I adore it and I adore Renee Zellwegger and have tweeted something that may be a joke about that not looking like her face. Part of the problem? Part of the solution? Unfunny hypocrite? That’s your call to make. I’m just off for the week and have thoughts to share.)


Renee Zellwegger showed up this week looking different and everyone assumed she had plastic surgery and maybe she did. And because we all hate our jobs and are looking for anything to distract us from them, the internet responded, sometimes with jokes and sometimes with mean comments.  And then because we hate our spouses and children and are looking for anything to distract us from them, the internet responded again, this time defending Renee Zellwegger’s alleged plastic surgery, saying that Hollywood and society are mean to actresses and women, that we the public are mean to actresses and women, and that for years we criticized Zellwegger for having a puffy face and squinty eyes and so that we are somehow culpable if, in fact, she tried to change it.


For the record:


Yes, Hollywood and society are mean to actresses and women.


Yes, we the public are mean to actresses and women.


However Renee Zellwegger is a grown woman, a successful woman, capable of making her own choices in this world. To claim that anyone “made her” do what we don’t even know if she did or not, implies that she is some easily lead, weak, shallow woman incapable of any kind of cognitive thought, which is also insulting, also perpetuates a stereotype, and is just as destructive to women and our perception of ourselves and each other.


Because we have a choice.


I’m going to say it again. We have a choice.


Yes, there are very real pressures on all women to look a certain way. And every day we make choices to succumb to that pressure or not. Do I order a salad? Do I go for a run? Do I wear heels? Do I put on makeup? Do I rub some expensive fruit acid on my face? Would it be nice to just go about one’s business without all of this taking up bandwidth? Yes. But this problem is a luxury. There are places in the world where people would be stunned to hear that we have the choice to starve ourselves or not and that not everyone chooses the “or not.” And again it is a choice.


By defending someone’s plastic surgery, not by saying that we have the choice to do what we want to our bodies, but by saying societal pressures forced someone to do it, overlooks the power we have over our own lives. We can decide how we want to look, not society. We decide what we love about ourselves, what we find beautiful. We decide what we want to change, why we want to change it and how we will go about it. As much as I find it tiresome when Lena Dunham makes a get out the vote video all about her dancing in a onesie, I have to appreciate that it’s a woman making a positive choice about how she wants to be seen and what makes her feel good regardless of whatever pressure is out there.


The power is ours to lose. Let’s choose to keep it.

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Food Allergies: The Sweet & The Sour

Posted by Tess on August 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

Since I was about 12 years old I have suffered from food allergies. OK maybe not suffered. That sounds like I spent some portion of time shut up in a dark room, asking Jo to show me the seagulls one last time, like I’m Beth at the end of Little Women. Let’s just say that since that time I’ve lived with food allergies. It started with cantaloupe. Eating it would leave me with an itchy and thick feeling in my throat, like my throat was beginning to close. Next it was peaches. Gradually it started happening with other fruits. One day it was oranges, but fresh squeezed orange juice was still OK. Then one day that wasn’t either. Raw vegetables started giving me the same problem; then sometimes vegetables that weren’t cooked for very long. (In other words, vegetables that were cooked well and not by some Irish prison chef.)


This developed over several years and over those years, I had a few scary trips to the ER and many trips to a slew of allergists who always had new and conflicting information. When I asked what I should do, I was given a prescription for an Epipen and told to just avoid those foods. When I pointed out that it was fast becoming ALL fruits and most vegetables I was just stared at, like it wasn’t an entire group in the Food Pyramid scheme.  When I asked if I should take vitamins to supplement my nutrients, the doctors just shrugged and said, “If you want.”


The last doctor told me that they could go away but come back WORSE. AND WITH NO WARNING…like it was a scary story told at Halloween. I decided that what I needed to do for my own sanity was avoid these foods and move on. And that was a gift.


Yes, sure, it’s also a colossal pain in the ass. Even if I told you it wasn’t, anyone who’s had to cook for me or sit there while I ordered my food at a restaurant would call bullshit on that. I’m allergic to things like lemon juice, which people try to sneak into everything! Talking to a waiter is usually a series of questions. He usually has to go back and ask the chef a few things. Sometimes the well meaning staff sees how bare my plate is (No mango chutney for me, thanks!) and so they try to garnish it with a big thick juicy slice of watermelon…that leaks all over the plate, including the food I need to eat. Also, I hate talking about my allergies. There’s nothing better for me than going someplace I’ve already been and being able to order something without the usual round of 1000 questions, special instructions and skeptical glances. Because a grown woman saying she’s allergic to fruit and whatnot sounds like something I made up just to get out of eating my veggies. People love to tell you they’ve never heard of that, which they probably haven’t, but that doesn’t mean I’m lying. Plus, and here’s something one of the allergists was correct about, whatever it is that I am actually allergic to dissipates as the food is cooked and processed. I can eat cooked onions, but not raw ones. I can’t eat cooked green beans. But there is a chance I could have canned green beans as they’re cooked until they resemble something you’re more likely to find in a baby’s diaper than a Farmer’s Market, but why the hell would anyone want to? It’s why I can drink wine but can’t eat grapes. (Another thing that raises the eyebrow.) But I promise you: I would love to be able to just eat a pear and I am not doing this for the attention. I loathe the “attention.”


So yes, it’s challenging, and while I tell myself that I would probably be thinner if I could eat salads, I also know that I have the use of my legs and I should just shut the hell up. (And also, see “can drink wine” above) And now, more importantly, I’ve come to realize it’s a gift.


As it is, I can be the only one at the table who truly loves their dish.  I’m just so damn happy to be eating something that’s not going to kill me, I tend not to judge things as harshly as others might. And it’s made me a good cook, as I often have to learn adjustments and substitutes when cooking at home. I have to find a way to get 100% of the flavor with 25% less ingredients.


But during a recent vacation I realized it was more than that. I was actually lucky.


Seven years ago I was planning a trip to Italy and a little nervous about it. I had been there in college, but I was so much more limited now in what I could eat. The first thing anyone thinks of when they think of Italian food is red sauce, and tomatoes were out of the diet. Ordering in America was such a process. What was it going to be like in a foreign country where I couldn’t speak the language well?


But in Italy, not only does everything NOT have tomatoes in it, the food doesn’t have many things in it at all. If it says it’s pasta with mushrooms and cheese, it’s pasta with mushrooms and cheese. At restaurant after restaurant I would ask cautiously in my broken Italian if anything else was in it. Sure it was mushrooms, but you’ve probably also stuck some carrots or broccoli or lemon in it, right? Any weird lime foams or plum infusions or asparagus brines? These were all the hidden secret things that I had learned to look out for in America, but in Italy they just looked at me like I three tits.


“It says mushrooms and cheese. Why would there be anything else?”


Why indeed? When you have fresh pasta, in season mushrooms and local cheese you don’t want to drown the taste of those ingredients with a lot of other crap. In America we’ve gotten used to this orgy of ingredients, as if the sheer number of things is a substitute for flavor. It’s filler for the lack of quality in our produce, the frozen food we’re defrosting, the time we don’t take to prepare it well and the chemicals and preservatives we’re pumping through all of it. We’re putting more and more crap in our food and yet we’re not eating.


I always somewhat lamented my luck when I went with friends to these 5 course tasting menus and they we’re eating their salmon with a currant glaze over a fig custard with apple-turnip chutney and carrot milk… while I hade my grilled fish, plain, but I was actually the lucky one. I know what that fish actually tastes like! And if it’s fresh and cooked well, it can be sublime. It’s the people whose food is drowned in tomato foams and kumquat infusions and pecan essence who are missing out.


On my last trip to Italy I could not stop talking about the potatoes. They’re just roasted. Half time the time I don’t even see any herbs in them, just salt, pepper and olive oil. And yet in my American kitchen, I can’t copy how delicious they taste. I don’t have the same potatoes. My friend who lives there says when she comes home to the States our produce tastes like air. I’ve had rest stop sandwiches at the Autostrada that have blown my mind with how the cheese and bread tasted. I’ve seen a man come into the restaurant with a bunch of basil he just picked from the garden. “Biologique!” he proclaimed, waving it in the air and I swear I could smell it from the doorway.


I’ve had average meals in Italy. Sure. Usually it’s touristy places that tend to use more frozen ingredients. But sometimes it’s in the exact places that are supposed to be exceptional. The places serving fish in lime coconut sauce with pepper reduction and kidney remoulade. And at one such place last week I asked The Husband how his cuttlefish  – cooked the way the chef intended – was and he replied thoughtfully, but not enthusiastically, “It’s OK… Interesting.” Whereas mine, cooked the way natured intended, was delicious. And I realized that without these food allergies that I’ve been living with all these years, without these annoying dinner companions, I would miss out on the pure taste of so many foods. By missing out, I learned what I was really missing.


White Wine & Rosemary Granita

White Wine & Rosemary Granita


Rosemary White Wine Granita


This is my favorite dessert to make in the summer. So much so in fact that when a friend came to dinner recently she said it made her happy just to eat it because she knew summer was here.


I experimented with a lot of different granita recipes and one thing I found shocking was the amount of sugar they called for! The wine is already sweet and you want to taste the flavor of the rosemary. I’ve cut the sugar by over half and no one misses it.


For the wine I use a Vinho Verde which is inexpensive and has a lower alcohol content so you can eat your granita by the pool and not worry you’re going to fall in and drown.


4 ½ cups water

1/3 cup sugar

16 sprigs rosemary

3 cups white wine


Bring water, rosemary and sugar to a boil, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Once water comes to a boil, remove from heat and let steep, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove rosemary and add wine to the mixture. Once cooled, place in a shallow container and place in freezer. The mixture will need at least an hour to start to freeze. After the first hour, stir the mixture, being sure to scrape the sides, then repeat every 45 minutes to an hour, until the desired consistency is achieved. Once the granita is dry and flaky, like a slushy that will get you drunk, you can put it into an airtight container and it will keep for weeks, probably, but in our house it doesn’t last the weekend.



What Bugs Me About the Woody Allen Thing

Posted by Tess on February 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

When the accusations against Woody Allen first surfaced 20 years ago, I was gloriously unaware of pop culture and it was nothing more than background noise. I am not a rabid fan of his work: I’ve greatly enjoyed some of his movies and greatly hated others. I did find the whole marrying-your-sort-of-step-daughter-thing creepy, but many powerful men are known for that kind of younger girl creepiness. It’s the kind of creepy to which we’ve become desensitized. We tell men they should be envious of men who can date women that young, and tell women that they’re past their prime and of no use to men their own age and for some reason we all accept it as OK.

I rarely thought about this at all over the years until much ado was made about the Vanity Fair article in which Mia Farrow said her son Ronan might be Frank Sinatra’s son and not Woody Allen’s. What was truly shocking to me was what wasn’t getting talked about: that in the very same article, Dylan Farrow, twenty years later, stuck by her story about being molested by Woody Allen.

This wasn’t a scorned woman making accusations against her former lover. This wasn’t an easily dismissed 7 year old girl that no one had seen or heard tell her story. This was an adult woman talking about being sexually abused and no one was paying attention.

No one was paying attention.

And no one continued to pay attention until her brother wrote a tweet that no one wanted to ignore. A man was able to accomplish in 140 characters what this woman was unable to do in 20 years.

For the last several months something has bothered me about this and I couldn’t quite pinpoint what. I’m a fairly skeptical person, so while marrying your sort of step daughter is distasteful, I can’t say that it makes you a child molester. There’s arguments on both sides that make fine points. The truth is beyond my knowing. It is beyond all of our knowing.

But as of yesterday Dylan has come forward with her side of the story and she is standing by her accusations, just like she did months ago in Vanity Fair. And now I know what bothered me about this: that once again a woman is struggling to be heard in our society. A woman is trying to be heard and we don’t want to listen. We want to dismiss her as brainwashed and disturbed. It is much easier for people to believe the narrative of a scorned, vindictive mother coaching her daughter into making accusations, than that of a man who has a thing for much younger women having a thing for girls even younger. Too many would rather believe in the intricate plot to malign him than in the girl-now-woman who is telling us in the clearest language possible what happened.

This is all too familiar to myself and to many women. Whether it’s something as serious as sexual assault, or the feeling that you’re being treated differently in the workplace because of your gender, too often we are told that it’s all in our head. Are you sure? Did it really happen like that? Maybe you’re just reading into things. He wasn’t coming on to you, he was just being friendly. Maybe you led him on. Maybe you’re not getting ahead because you’re not good enough. Maybe you’re brainwashed and disturbed and vindictive and scorned and sensitive and jealous and wrong, wrong, wrong.

Are there cases of false accusations? Sure. But you know what else there are cases of? Accusations that are true. Things that seem unfathomable, but are true nonetheless. Many of them. In a society where the accused is innocent until proven guilty, why are the accusers not afforded the same courtesy?

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The Only Resolution I Have Time For

Posted by Tess on January 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

I have a troubled relationship with New Year’s resolutions. I used to be into resolutions because I used to believe that I could change my life. One year I vowed to not be intimidated by people and situations. Then I read my journal from the previous year. It seems the year before I had also vowed to not be intimidated by people and situations, so not only had I failed to nail that, at some point I became so intimidated by the situation of trying to do something about it, that I blocked it out altogether.

I am all for goal setting, but for me it always seems to be a way of pointing to exactly where I am not headed, like I’m Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club trying to get through customs with drugs so I look in the direction the drugs aren’t hidden to fake them out. Last year I forced The Husband and I to set goals for the coming year. Having probably not looked at them since, The Husband recently looked at his just last week only to realize he had achieved all of them with the exception of getting a “big comfy chair,” a situation that can be quickly remedied by the next sale at H.D. Buttercup. Meanwhile I am too afraid to look at mine. I know what I failed to achieve cannot be remedied by a sale, except to anesthetize my sense of failure with a new pair of shoes.

Not that my life in the last year turned out poorly – far from it. My life had many more ups than downs including travel, a new home and many, many great times spent with friends. I drank great wine. I made and ate great food. I discovered I could cook an amazing pork shoulder. But in terms of the things I wanted to achieve, I’m don’t think I hit one. Are my goals too high? Do I not work hard enough? Do I even care if I still managed to travel and drink and eat with friends?

So as the end of the year approached and I found myself in the normal holiday fugue of constant cooking, I realized the one resolution that I could get behind this year that seemed not just desirable but actually somewhat achievable, was:

Waste Less.

I hate wasting food. We like to cook. We like to have people over. There are always leftovers. We’re doing a better job at not having to throw leftovers out and that makes me happy. We can do better. I am learning to throw things in the freezer before I have to throw them in the trash. I am expanding my concept of when I think a food has gone off and trying to go by how it smells and tastes instead. I am also finding ways to re-purpose leftovers. The last day of the braised pork shoulder when thrown in the Cuisinart made excellent pork rillettes for toast points. Chicken can become soup. You can make risotto with farro if that’s all you have and leftover risotto becomes arancini. Friends and I have been growing comfortable bringing leftovers to each other’s houses, whether it’s a leftover side dish to add to dinner or a potluck of fantastic after Thanksgiving appetizers and cheeses.

Last night I looked in the fridge at the delicious food we had bought for New Year’s and thought, “I am not going to throw away this salami or bread or cheese because of a date on the calendar.” I’m tired of starting the new year with a list of things I tell myself I can’t eat, things I’m going to deprive myself of. Enough. When I’m good my weight never fluctuates as low as I would like, but when I’m bad it never fluctuates as high as it should, either. I should take that as what it is – a win. Who am I trying to be a size zero for? No one I give a whit of a fuck about cares. Not being a size zero has ever gotten in my way of traveling or reading a book or going to an art museum or making myself laugh or smiling at something clever my cats did.

Exercise? Pfft! I can already tell you I’m not going to have a lot of time. “But you need to make time.” Fuck you. I’ll make time for things that matter and that I enjoy and on the days that is a regimented exercise program I will do that. What I will make time to do is waste less gas. That means walking to the grocery store, the post office, the neighborhood restaurants and movie theaters. Being outside. Talking to neighbors.

That leaves me with one last thing to waste less of and that is time. This one is trickier. I like to think I’m already beginning by wasting less time with resolutions I either can’t or won’t or shouldn’t care to achieve. I’d like to find more time to be a tourist in my own town and check out the exhibits or shows that are often gone before I hear that they were here and awesome. I’d like to find more time to write things like this, things that I’m not getting paid to write and yet make me feel like just as much of a “legitimate” writer, sometimes moreso. In a world where our time is always feeling increasingly, irretrievably crunched, how do we do this? Maybe instead of making goals, I need to write a list of activities that are priorities so I know which ones matter when I feel pressed for time. Maybe I need to make sure that I do two of them a day or find one thing that wastes my time a week to eliminate. “Wasting less time” also means saying “No” to the things that I know won’t make me happy.

And sometimes I think what I need is to also redefine what “wasting time” is. Is staring out the window, looking at the sun falling on trees a “waste of time?” Is having a cup of coffee without paying bills or reading emails while I’m doing it? Is it “wrong” to binge watch a season of a TV show without being in bed with a fever? The guilt I feel over not doing a laundry list of things that include both laundry and making more lists would say, “Yes.” But why? Why deny myself something that makes me happy, that supports the hard work of others, and that gives my brain a break from the voices that tell me what I should be doing and why I’ve already failed. It only wastes more time thinking that time has been wasted. And that’s time I need to smile at something clever my cats did.

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A Light Supper Will Be Served

Posted by Tess on November 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Husband and I are serial entertainers whose schedule has just changed drastically. This has presented some challenges as to when we can do our serially entertaining. Like Dexter, the pressure of my “dark passenger” not being able to plan a dinner for 6 two nights a week has built up to the point where this week I had a psychotic break and found myself typing the phrase “we will have something on the stove for a light supper.”

I don’t really know what a light supper is either, and I typed those words. But if I had to guess, I would say that a light supper is something akin to a salad. When I close my eyes and picture it, is has melon balls on it. Neither of these things are prepared on the stove.

Light supper is something they say on invitations to pyramid scheme presentations and what it really means is, “Don’t get your hopes up.” And I guess that’s what I meant as I tried to navigate my new social frontier. “Don’t get your hopes up because we don’t quite know how this is going to work yet.”

What exactly is our new social frontier? Did we have a baby? Are we caring for an elderly parent? Being forced to not go within 100 yards of a middle school? No. We are simply getting up at 6am. Yes, I know, most of the world does this every day without using bullshit Junior League invitation phrases like “light supper.” Most of the world does this without having to develop a new social strategy.

I should add that in addition to the 6am wake up call, The Husband works until nine, ten o’clock at night. We’re not complaining, we’re thrilled! Yay work! But a lot of times this means Friday nights, too, and as I’ve said, we’re social people. This leaves Saturday nights as our only nights to socialize and one night isn’t enough for all of the people we love and want to see and catch up with. When you only have one night a week you find yourself booking into January and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

That leaves us Sunday to try to get creative with. As we’re up early Monday morning we’ve learned that doing anything Sunday night is a disaster. We stay out later than we plan. We drink more than we wanted. We leave things that need to be done before the week starts for when we get back from our “very reasonable, no reason this should go longer than 2 hours, 7pm dinner” only to find that is does go longer, sometimes by hours and now our week is, in a word, fucked.

We’ve experimented with brunches. Brunches out are a good alternative, although like some kind of hobbit, I find I have to have a meal before the brunch, otherwise I get way too hungry by the time we get there, get seated and actually get served. Brunches at home take a little getting used to. As fun as they can be, I can’t help thinking it defeats the purpose of a Sunday to have to get up, put on pants, a face of make up and get your house cleaned for guests. Plus after you have cocktails for breakfast, there’s not much direction for the day to go in but back to bed. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Why not do brunch without the cocktails?” Sure, and why not forgo breakfast altogether and just go with friends on a 2 hour hike while I’m at it? Neither option is going to drag my ass out of bed on a Sunday. I’m a serial entertainer. Not an exercise bulimic.

The next idea was late afternoon drinks. We could have breakfast on our own terms, get everything we needed done for the week by 4:00, and then have some wine and cheese. Seems like the perfect compromise. Unless you’re the psychotic person who realizes that you’re going to have to cook something for yourselves to eat for dinner anyway, and that it’s just as easy to cook for 4 as it is for 2 and besides you can’t quite kick people out of your house when you clearly have something simmering on the stove. It just seems rude. And speaking of rude, somehow you do feel you need to convey that while dinner now will be served, you need to be in your jams and watching Homeland by 8, so this dinner proposition is really more of an end of the night thing, not the beginning of it. And by the way, all of this is much more thought than most people give any social gathering they’ve ever participated in, including their own wedding. Most people would lead a quiet life of not seeing friends on Sundays and be happy with it. But I can’t say no and I suck at boundaries and I’m an extrovert and need to see people, according to my therapist, and that’s how I find myself employing the marketing school phrase “light supper” in an email to people whom I want to have something to do with again.

OUTCOME: I had a delightful time with friends, was in jams by 9, and am well-rested and hangover free this morning, so the 4:00 wine, cheese, “light supper” plan is not a bad one. Incidentally, the light supper was boeuf bourguignon and roasted potatoes which there is nothing “light” about. However, all can be prepped ahead of time, which makes is a perfect dish to literally “have on the stove” when you’re friends arrive.

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