Thursday, October 24, 2013

GUEST POST: The Café Files No.1

By Alec Bourgeois

A perfect espresso has many things in common with a perfect roux, not the least of which is the dark nutty brown color that defines success in each. My father, a New Orleans native, has a gentle way of telling you that your roux sucks. When you ask his opinion of your raw undercooked roux he reassuringly tells you that you've created a "nice blond roux" -- which makes it sound like it's a "thing". It's not a thing. A blond roux means it's raw and undercooked. The same goes for espresso, if your espresso is anything other than the deep brown hue of a hazelnut you probably shouldn't serve it.

THIS is an espresso.
THIS is a roux.

Friday, October 18, 2013


It's 2013, as you may or may not know, and if you can believe it, there are still people raging against the improper use of the adjective "awesome". This is not a recent complaint, of course, and as far as I know, the modern use of the word has been actively denounced and despised for at least a decade. In fact, the debate has been so heated that even my dog now knows that "awesome" should be used only to describe something sublime, wonderful and overwhelming, like a raging storm at sea, or a volcanic explosion. Today, instead, just brushing the aforementioned dog a couple of times a month will grant me an "awesome!" from my husband. Isn't that sublime indeed?

Dear readers, today I just want us all to raise a white flag of surrender. "Awesome!" is here to stay, possibly for a long time. Not forever, but at least as long as other irritating exclamations of approval. The reason behind my call for peace is simple. "Awesome" is not the first or the last word whose meaning has been crushed into meaninglessness. Most people who abhor awesome still use the word "cool" for phenomena that have nothing to do with temperature, and even those who think themselves superior to "cool" have used the word "adorable" to praise a baby other than the baby Jesus.

So, let's all be reasonable and stop complaining. If you don't want to use it, don't (I try not to describe anything as a "train wreck", for example). There are worthier causes to defend, and the natural constant changes of spoken language are really an enemy too big for us to defeat. And then, at least "groovy" is gone, right?

Friday, October 4, 2013


I know that look.
If you're reading this, it means I've just given birth to my second baby and that I'm therefore too busy/shocked/enraptured/panicked to write new content for the blog. Yes, this post is a rehash of an old one written for the Italian Dead Chef, edited just for you to let you know what I have learned about pregnancy now that I have done it twice.

The greatest revelation I had when I became a mother for the first time was that the horror in Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" does not lie in its hallucinatory and distorted representation of maternity, but in its extreme and unabashed realism. It should have been awarded an Oscar for Best Documentary. Dear future mothers, let's see how.

Rosemary's Paranoia 

Nausea, fiery and unstoppable heartburn, round ligament pain, insomnia... These are all horrendous symptoms that lead to a total sense of paranoia and hypocondria that you have to keep secret in order to conform to the stereotype of the blessed Earth Mother. The entire destiny of human civilization depends on this.

The Old Meddling Neighbors 

Immediately after you announce your pregnancy, parents and in-laws invade your life with completely unscientific and possibly life-threatening advice that is instead presented as completely valid. Castor oil? A full moon? A night of love to initiate labor?? Are you all out of your minds???

The Birth 

Surrounded by strangers who continually hail to your strength and courage with praise and sporting chants (I'm referring to the doctors, nurses, and midwives in the labor room), you can't help but wonder what their actual investment in the soon-to-be-born baby is. When you finally lay your eyes on your little screaming newborn disgustingly covered in various uterine debris, you realize you just gave birth to the Devil, but you love him/her nonetheless.

The First Days at Home 

After your first 48 hours at home with baby, you will wonder whether you will ever leave your bedroom or wear any clothing from your waist up. Your bedroom becomes a dark cave in which it is always night... the same night.

Your Partner 

As soon as you're home from the hospital, your partner receives a new career-defining project that requires late nights at work. Your family needs the money, but the truth is that your partner's soul is now ownership of Satan. Sorry.

The Cult 

In your case, the Cult is made up of friends who became parents before you. Before the birth, they reveal none of their secrets, only offering trite BS such as awesome post-partum exercises for your abs. But when you call them in tears asking them why breastfeeding is such an unbelievably painful torture, they will nonchalantly reveal to you that they went through the same thing and that for months after the birth of their baby they suffered from PTSD.

The General Atmosphere 

If you stop reading pregnancy and baby books even for a second, you realize your life feels like a Roman Polanski movie.

I'm sorry if this post is going to scare some future mothers-to-be. Please remember, pregnant readers, that this is ultimately only my personal experience.


Oh, whom am I kidding? You'll soon join the cult: The birth is only the initiation ritual. See you soon, my dears.

Read it in Italian: ROSEMARY'S BABY: E' tutto vero!