Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Alton Brown, Popovers & the Mysteries in Life

I'm about to get slightly philosophical on you, so hang onto to your hats…

The other night I was on Twitter (and really? Who am I kidding…I’m always on Twitter), and a friend was commenting on an episode of Alton Brown on the Food Network. Now, if you have never watched Alton Brown, he delves into the science, history and inner-workings of various “food-stuffs.” He explains the proper way to roast a turkey, the most efficient way of boiling an egg….how to master the art of meringue peaks…that sort of thing.

In that particular night’s episode, Brown was unraveling the mystery that is popovers. Having witnessed the process of popover-production once or twice in my life, I know that mastering the popover can be a little tricky. “Un-popped Popovers” are a common occurrence, especially for first-times. [And in case you are curious, air in the batter is usually the culprit.]

Judging by my friend’s tweets about the episode, I could tell he was getting annoyed with Mr. Brown’s scientific explanations over the airy, doughy treats. At first I laughed at his annoyance because: one, it’s a popover. Second, it’s Alton Brown. Food geekiness is his schtick. I responded to his tweet and commented on how I like watching the show but sometimes I feel Brown takes the fun out of food. The brief conversation (it’s Twitter after all) went something like this:

Me: Sometimes his food-geekiness ruins the fun/mystery of the food

Friend: Sometimes I like having the mystery revealed. Other times, a popover is just a damn popover.

My initial response was laughter and a short tweet of “Ha! Agreed,” and I went to bed shortly thereafter. However, throughout the next day his response kept resonating. I know he didn’t intend the remark to be anything more than smart-ass commentary about the show’s content. But after marinating for a while, it really sounded profound.

See…I revel in the mysteries of life. I take pleasure in digging into a city’s history, a person’s motivations, a musician’s inspirations. I’m a questioner, a challenger, a thinker. Most of the times these are good qualities. They breed curiosity, empathy, creativity…a sensitivity to the subtle & the nuances of life. However, they also lend themselves to over-thinking.

If I am always stuck in pattern of seeking out the mystery, I sometimes miss the beauty of the thing itself…the simplicity of it. If I’m always looking for answers that may or may not be there, I may fail to see the beauty of the question. And sometimes there’s no question at all. It just is.

And so it rang true…Sometimes a popover is just a damn popover. They taste good. There’s not much too them. Enjoy them, and don’t over-think.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A little history & why today sucked

First of all, an apology: I acknowledge that I haven't blogged since March, and for that I am sorry. I spend much of my time on Twitter these days -- for many reasons, but I think that's another blog post in and of itself -- and therefore, the blog is neglected. Many of you follow my exploits on Twitter & Facebook, so I doubt you're missing much by my failure to update here.

But on to the point of today's post...Today I was involved in a minor fender-bender on my way to work. No big deal; no real damage done. I was stopped at a stoplight and moved when the light changed & cars started advancing. The only problem was the woman in front of me did not. Result? I rear-ended her car.

It took a [frustrating] minute or two to encourage her to move out of traffic to the parking lot to our right. Upon exiting my car I noticed that neither car was damaged, save a couple of white marks on her car's bumper. I approached her window, and asked if she'd like to exchange insurance information & assured her there was no major damage. Her response? "They're already on their way, baby....they're already on the way. I just need to collect myself. Please baby..." and she waved me away.

The activity of the next 30 minutes entailed: 1 full-sized firetruck w/ 3 firemen in full uniform, 1 ambulance w/ 2 paramedics, a flat-bed towtruck driver and one cop. She insisted upon going to the hospital -- on a stretcher, no less -- for neck pain.....from our 1mph "collision" a stop light.

I politely waited in my car and listened patiently as each of the emergency response personnel shook his/her head and assured me it would be okay, that the woman was "wasting all of our time." I managed to stay calm and cheerful as I waited it out. I accepted my ticket from the police officer for "following too closely," and I will pay my fine without question. None of this upset me.

However, the minute everyone had exited the scene, my emotional bottom fell out. Feelings of anger and frustration bubbled over, and I began to cry. The sheer unfairness and selfishness of the situation hit me like a brick. Here is why....

Seven years, four months and two days ago I was involved in an accident -- the last accident I experienced until today. I was traveling in a car behind my then-boyfriend/now-husband Tyler down an icy/snowy street. We were both passed on the right by a kid who was driving too fast for conditions. After passing Tyler's car he spun out of control. Tyler was able to avoid him; I was not so lucky. However, our impact was relatively minor.

I exited my car. When I stepped out I heard the other driver gasp. I looked up right as a car slammed into my vehicle, which proceeded to shove my car into my body like a Toyota Tercel-sized pinball flipper. Unbeknownst to me, a third car plowed into the car that rearended my vehicle which made the impact even greater. The pinball-flipper maneuver flipped my body into the lane next to our cars where I was struck by a moving vehicle trying to avoid the accident. I finally landed in the center turn lane, where I -- literally -- feared I would be run over by oncoming traffic in the opposite direction.

I lay on the icy road screaming for Tyler and waiting for help. I'm sure it was only seconds, but it felt like eons. My lip was bleeding, and I felt the most unbelievable pain in the middle of my back. It took approximately 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive...fifteen unbearable, freezing minutes.

The impact of the moving vehicle burst my L-1 vertabrae and cracked my T-12 veratabrae. It damaged my spinal cord and interrupted nerve signals to my bladder. I spent 10 days in the hospital and underwent a major surgery to repair my spine & correct the cauda equina damage to my bladder. I spent the next 3 months in a back brace & doped up on oxycontin, percocet, Neurontin and Bacolofen. I was told by my doctor that I was less than a quarter of an inch away from being paralyzed from the waist down.

I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to have survived this accident and to be spared paralysis. However, I still live with the effects of the nerve damage today....The pain. The inability to do things like ski/waterski....even hot yoga is off-limits. My left leg doesn't sweat at all; my right leg overheats. I fatigue easily in hot weather. I worry about how I will fare pregnancy & childbirth. But those are the cards I was dealt, and I deal with them. I have a wonderful support system in my husband, family and work. And honestly? Most days I would never change what happened to me because it made me who I am.

However, the woman in today's accident made me want to scream. Why? Because I lived through a real accident. I lived through the pain, the suffering, the uncertainty, the lasting effects on my health....the pain medicines that made me lose weight, throw up, itch and knock me out...the nightmares...the fear of being in an accident again. What did she do? She took advantage of an incredibly minor accident and exploited it. She wasted people's time & money in the hopes that she might make a buck from an insurance company. Or perhaps she just wanted the attention from the paramedics and emergency room doctors....who knows.

The infuriating thing is that serious accidents happen everyday. These emergency responders need to attend to these accidents rather than one that could be taken care of with a simple call to an insurance agent. Her overreaction or cry for attention belittles every person that suffers a real injury, and it makes all lawsuits seem frivolous...when in fact, many are legitimate.

I felt the need to post this because I couldn't go the rest of the night without letting it out. Perhaps it might help some better understand why I was so upset earlier in the day. It's not just a frustration to's personal. It hit me in my most vulnerable place. I couldn't go on without saying something.