Been & Going

[Citizen Filter]: Rainbow Chip, May Flights of Angels Lead You to Your Rest

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So how long does it really take to adjust to writing the new year in your dates? Because honest to god I expect to get fired in the next two days for dating everything as 2012. (Not really, my boss is chill like that and anyway, 2012 is so laughably anachronistic that he probably lets it slide because it’s funny. No, he’s actually just really great. Let us all hope he never reads this.)

So considering the new year has already been (globally) at huge levels of suck (“Sir! We’re now at Suck Level Orange!” “I know, soldier. Hold on to your ass!”), and my shrink has recommended I stay away from the news for my own sanity, today I’d like to introduce you to one of my permanent Chrome open tabs. Sort of like those Vogue features where they make some rich woman who is only famous to very rich people empty out her purse and talk about how awesome all her Totally Unsponsored products are. (“I couldn’t live without my $600 Undereye Fetus Bee Jelly Creme! It keeps me fresh even on stressful days!” Have you ever noticed how they never have fuzzy cough drops or shredded tissues or melted lip gloss in their handbags? Sure, a Birkin is worth more than my student loan debt, but even a Birkin has lint, right? Right? Is that why they’re so expensive? Are they really lint-free?!) Except not like that all, because I’m only showing you one and it’s not sponsored and I’m not making any money of this. (Only things that make money have value, right?)

Since my bag contains both a multi-tool that is mostly just knives and a truckload of lint, we’ll keep with the original tabs plan. I know, my personal internet usage is pretty fucking boring, and once my non-profit cuts funding for mental health insurance, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled rage.

My Favorite Tab: A Recipe For Homemade Rainbow Chip Icing

I grew up in the extremely forward-thinking kitchen of my mother, who was downright anti-American in her disdain of boxed mixes, preservatives, pre-made foods, artificial colors and flavors, and most of all, commercial baked goods. She was also an early adopter of bringing one’s own bag to the grocery store, organic produce, whole grains, and whole foods. (This was back in the day when you had to join a mail-order co-op to buy things like wheat germ and minimally processed rolled oats, which she did. Many an afternoon, my five year old self was in the backseat of our blue station wagon with fake wood panels on the doors, picking up dry goods from whoever was receiving the co-op order that week. In my memory, all those houses smell like patchouli or Nag Champa and everyone wears Birkenstocks. I thought my mother was out of her mind, baking us bread and cookies every week, making everything from scratch but jam and peanut butter. (And in a pinch, she’d make those too.)


So anyway, my childhood was very difficult with all its delicious homemade foods and I don’t think I even had rainbow chip icing until I was a teenager, secretly making Funfetti cake with my friends and hoping my mother didn’t smell the Blue Dye #40 on my breath. As we all know (unless you’re a dirty commie), funfetti cake is the superior boxed cake and must only be made with rainbow chip icing, unmodified, from the can. If you’re really wild, you can frost the cake while it’s still warm and get a beautiful sheer glaze of sweetness and slightly melted chips, but the real traditionalists know that the cake is properly made in a sheet pan, unleveled, unlayered, with one thick beautiful glorious swathe of Betty Crocker’s best on top, and thicker in the corners where the cake didn’t rise quite high enough.

I made and ate that beautiful cake many times over between high and college. After college, I didn’t have quite the stamina for the incredible sugar rush, and my beloved partner is fucking useless when it comes to cake because he doesn’t like frosting. (Clearly, a communist behavior. Communists are still bad, right? Um. What’s a group of people I can use as an insult with impunity now? Millennials. Goddamn millennials hate frosting.) Nevertheless, I knew it was there, waiting for me, on a dusty Von’s shelf just at my sightline. Funfetti cake and rainbow chip frosting is like Captain Planet–you don’t always need him, but he’s there when you call, if you use your heart.

And if you use your heart, you get a pet monkey.

And if you use your heart, you get a pet monkey.

I was shocked–SHOCKED, I tell you–when I found out a few days ago that last spring, in one of her many fits of pique, Betty fucking Crocker discontinued the much-beloved rainbow chip and replaced it with the far inferior Rainbow Sprinkle. What the hell, BC? What is your problem? Do you hate Jesus, Moses, AND Muhammad? How could you do this to us?

“But Sarah,” you’re saying, as you dial emergency services to place a 5150 hold on me, “What’s the big deal? It’s only frosting. How it can be so important if you haven’t even eaten it in four years?”

I’ll tell you, gentle reader. Because rainbow chips have a texture that is both tender and firm. A bite of springy, gentle cake with a little creamy frosting and–surprise! a nugget of colorful delight–is God’s way of saying, “You done good, kid. Have a textural epiphany.” The ideal balance of colors and flavors, the way to intrigue your mouth and enchant your palate, rainbow chip is what we should all aspire to be. Sweet, loving, gentle, and a little firm, they are the ultimate metaphor for humanity’s best hope. (Plus it’s damn delicious and both economically and perfect for both children’s parties and 90s-themed nostalgia orgies for today’s late-twenty-something.)

If you’d care to join the fight for the return of rainbow chip, you can read the deranged stylings of people who take themselves too seriously on the Rainbow Sprinkle webpage here, as I did when I first learned of the horror. Several moments later, after gaining control of sanity and laugh reflex, I trolled around online (read: googled homemade rainbow chip) and found, after years .086 seconds of searching, a wealth of recipes to make my own. It’s been up on my computer monitor for about a week and I expect it to remain there for another month or so, until I can recruit rainbow chip eaters to join me in a ceremonial making and eating of cake.

So if you’re out there, other worshippers of Our Frosting of Angels, drop me a line. Cake is our mission, cake is our guide, frosting is our reward.

[Desert Droppings] Cooked! Betty Crocker Gets Roasted

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It all began with a delivery of organic vegetables from ABQ’s Skarsgard Farms. A kind, healthy gift from family members.  Thanks!Desert--061214--squash
In the delivery cooler were several bright yellow disc shaped vegetables with scalloped edges like mini UFOs. From some far corner of my brain came the name “patty pan squash.” Was there such a thing and how do you cook it?  I could have googled it, but instead opted for a more homespun approach.  I took down my venerable, classic cookbook, Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book.  “New”- hah!  This tattered tome was copyrighted in 1961, making Betty Crocker (whose name still appears on cake mixes and instant mashed potatoes) really, really old!
That is, if the bright eyed, fortyish lady with neatly coiffed, brown with a touch of gray hair, and a modestly confident smile, was really, really real.  She’s not.  Never was. But even though Betty C. was a figment of General Mills’ marketing Desert--061214--bettyimagination, for homemakers in the 50’s and 60’s, she was the quintessentially perfect embodiment of womanhood.  Perfect wife.  Perfect Mother. And most important of all, perfect hostess.  From Baked Alaska to Yorkshire Pudding, Betty was a garnishing genius, mistress of meatloaf, queen of the quesadilla. Ha! Gotcha! There isn’t a quesadilla to be found in the Betty Crocker Cook Book. No arugula or cilantro either.  But, on the other hand, if you want to wow your dinner guests with “Cauliflower Porcupine” (toasted almonds stuck in a cheese sauce covered boiled cauliflower) or offend them with “Squaw Corn,”
(A skillet concoction of bacon,eggs, and canned creamed corn that would disgust a Native American quicker than the “R” word that football team uses), check pages 422 and 423.

Before Martha Stewart, before Rachel Ray, before Betty Friedan, Betty Crocker reigned –Desert--061214--cookbook
a dinner roll model, a souper star. In my search for a patty pan squash recipe, I began to look closely and critically at the cook book’s familiar, sauce spattered pages. And there it unfolded, like raw jelly-roll dough on a greased cookie sheet, a glimpse of the American woman over 50 years ago. I grinned, at first, at the retro illustrations and the preachy Home Ec/ Ladies Auxiliary tone of the text.
“Bake cake or cookies while washing dishes or cooking dinner.”

“Have a weekly plan for scheduling such tasks as washing, ironing, baking, shopping, cleaning the refrigerator, or washing floors.”Desert--061214--jobs

And this gem-
“Have a hobby. Garden, paint pictures, look through magazines for home planning ideas, read a good book, or attend club meetings. Be interested-and you’ll always be interesting!”

The grin gave way to a teeth grinding grimace.

And the pictures- They’re far  more  disquieting than quaint. There are dozens of Betty Crocker Cook Book illustrations of women Desert--061214--manwifestirring, saucing, and sautéing their little hearts out, while attired in cocktail dresses, pearls and little frilly aprons.  And in the background, the man of the house with hands clasped behind his back to avoid any suggestion that he might be Heaven Forbid! helping with kitchen chores, beams his avuncular approval at his little woman who (fond pat on the head) really knows the way to a man’s heart. (She’d better! To the moon, Alice!)

And then I came to page 14!  Page 14 is titled, “Kitchen Know -How.” Above a list of common recipe ingredients which may be substituted for others in  an “emergency”, is a drawing of a manicured housewife, all dolled up in a matching necklace and earring set, watching nervously from  the window. A group of executive types in hats and topcoats  are approaching the house.
It’s the hackneyed plot of  many a black and white, small screen sit-com:

Hubby is bringing the boss and a business buddy home…for dinner…at the last minute.Desert--061214--knowhow1

Wife: Heavens to Betsey! What will I do? I’m all out of buttermilk for the biscuits and cornstarch for the gravy. And the dog just knocked over my floral centerpiece!

Husband: (Chest puffed out boastfully)  Yes indeed, Mr. Bigster, my little bride can whip up a banquet in the blink of an eye. You’ll have a feast to remember. (Deep manly chuckle)

FX : The film speeds up to show the frantic housewife measuring, sifting, kneading, chopping, frying, whipping, straining, mixing, ladling, sprinkling, and wiping.
Just as she collapses onto a kitchen stool, husband and guests enter.

Husband: Honey, I’m home!
(Cue full-out laugh track.)

And that’s not all.
On the same page, another illustration.  This time, the happy housewife, again in cocktail dress, pearls, and frilly apron, is checking Desert--061214--knowhow2a recipe and punching numbers into the 60’s version of an ipad – a room sized data processing machine!
The title says it all, “If you are a Good Mathematician you may safely…Reduce Recipes and Increase Recipes.”
Did you catch the “If?”
My goodness! A dressed-up domestic dolly just couldn’t do hard math like multiplying and dividing in her pretty little head, now could she?  I mean, really! Math is man’s work.
And the idea of a woman with the brains to operate data processing equipment- why that’s like gals knowing how to drive…Did ya hear the one about the woman driver, the pig, and the fire hydrant?  Guffaw!
Grimace! Grimace!

Hey, 1961! You can have your cook book and your ladies last – breakfastlunchanddinner first  lifestyle back.Desert--061214--forbes
Give me high-fiber, low fat, gluten free, whole grain, microwaveable , lactose intolerant living any day!  Hooray for now when with the exception of Deep South Congressman and some other Neanderthal types, the idea that a woman has a mind, not just a mop and a menu has ceased to shock.
We may not all be Hillary, Mary,Michelle, Sheryl, Indra, or Oprah (to name a few of Forbes magazine’s “100 Most Powerful Women”), but in 53 years, many of us have broken through the scrubbed and polished homebetterbewhereyourheartis ceiling.

Oh, and about the patty pan squash…I may not be a “Good Mathematician,” but I “safely” found a recipe on the internet.

Betty, dearest, you’ve got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do!