Beer. It’s so easy, even a woman can make it.

Last Friday at work, the office hosted a potluck to celebrate Diwali. I brought naan. Homemade naan, no less, crafted by me that same morning out of yeast, flour, water, yogurt, and salt. I cooked it on a super-hot cast iron skillet, and I must say, it turned out pretty well. So well that two people independently asked me, “Did you make the naan, or did your husband make it?”

It’s a little hard not to find that insulting. Fair credit: my husband Ted is a genius baker who runs Batch 58, a local catering company that specializes in scones, lemon curd, quiche, and other tasty baked treats. But STILL. Their question brought back memories of Easter at my sister-in-law’s house a few years ago. 

Background: I’ve been brewing beer since 2001, with pretty good results. Sometimes terrific results, and occasionally less so (like the carboy that exploded when the babysitter was here), but overall, I like to brew and I definitely like to drink beer…it’s my hobby. It’s a fun science project in the kitchen. Somehow I manage to be female as well.

Clearly this guy was a dick. Although, honestly, I might say the same thing.

A couple of years ago, we were invited to a family Easter celebration. My husband’s sister’s husband’s sister’s husband (for real), who happens to be a network administrator at a large company whose name rhymes with “E-Kay”, was poking around the big iced beer tub on the kitchen counter. We’ll call him Jeff, because that is his name.

I happened to be standing nearby while he perused the available bottles, and came to the large brown one with no label.

Jeff: “Do you know what this is?”

Me: “Oh, I brought that. It’s one of my home brews.”

Awkward pause.

Jeff, tilting down chin and using the tone one uses with a fibbing 3-year-old: “Lisa. Did YOU brew the beer, or did TED brew the beer?”

Me (in my head): “F**k you. F**k you and your outdated assumptions, and your freakishly blond family. Yes, women can brew beer, and vote, and build websites, and run companies. Didn’t you ever watch ‘Free to Be, You & Me?’ And by the way, no one else has worn a pager since 1997. The network will survive without you.” (It’s possible that I was a teeny bit fired up.) 

Me (out loud): “Yes, Jeff. I made the beer.”

But since then, despite being exceptionally irritated at the time, I’ve gotten so much mileage out of telling that story that it was totally worth it. Apologies to my sister-in-law if she reads this…it was a lovely event.

I guess this was before the Michelin Guide covered San Francisco

Last weekend Ted and I went through a few bookshelves at home in an attempt to lighten the load and get rid of books we’ll never read again. The easiest place to start was the cookbooks.

I came across one called “San Francisco a la Carte,” published by the Junior League of San Francisco in 1979. It bills itself as “An award-winning collection of over 500 recipes reflecting the culinary diversity of the Golden State City.” Keep in mind, the Bay Area is known to be a mecca for innovative, truly excellent food, and as far as I know, that was also true in the ’70s. Apparently none of that excellence made its way to the Junior League, because here are a few of the gems I came across in the book:

Veal and Water Chestnut Casserole (Yes. I’ll wait while you go throw up.) 

Ham Loaf (Starring ham, milk and breadcrumbs.’Nuff said.)

Cable Car Tuna Casserole (Featuring canned tuna, mayonnaise, and the ever-versatile cream of celery soup.)

Parsley Soup (WTF? 3 cups of parsley with chicken stock, soy sauce, and half-and-half, garnished with — you guessed it! — more parsley.)

And this may be the worst idea I’ve ever heard: Banana Rumaki. I can’t resist including the actual recipe.

Bananas = good. Bacon = good. Curry = good. All 3 together = food poisoning. 

You start by boiling the bacon…wait, what? Who BOILS bacon? And for the love of all that is holy, who takes watery, half-cooked bacon, wraps it around green bananas, and shakes curry powder on it? The same brilliant hostesses of the Junior League who also propose that you delight your guests with this treat: 

Attractive to whom? Maybe if “that small group” has come straight from the cannabis farm…

There’s really not much wrong with the title. “Stuffed Gouda?” Okay, I can get behind that. Good plan. The problem here seems to be in the execution. Admittedly, the ingredient list is rather straightforward, and doesn’t require a lot of forethought. It’s possible I just might have this stuff in my house when unexpected visitors swing by. (Well, sherry, anyway.) But any recipe that instructs me to “pile the cheese back into its shell” does not sound like something I want to make for people I actually like. So if you stop by our house one night and I offer you a fluffy, boozy, processed cheese ball, you may want to consider texting first. 

Stay tuned for the next installment, featuring “Carob and Honey Pie,” and “Borscht Jelly Salad.” Maybe we should have a dinner party of dishes made exclusively from this book, and see who our real friends are. 🙂