Recipe: Eleven Layer Bean Dip

We had a heat wave recently (which I blogged about here) which got me thinking about foods to eat in heat wave. Ideally I always want all food to be fresh and delicious, but since there’s a heat wave, I don’t necessarily want to spend a bunch of time making it, and I certainly don’t want to cook with heat. Also, you want to eat something chilled.

There are certainly salads, cold noodles, gazpacho, deli salads, ceviche… while I was brainstorming, I remembered grocery store bean dip. Often labeled as “five layer” or “seven layer” bean dips, and I’ve definitely seen “nine layer bean dips.”

Bean dip is brilliant because it’s cold refried beans. When else is a Spanish teacher going to tell you to bust out a can of refried beans, and eat it cold? It’s filling, it’s nutritious, it’s delicious, it’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s a little bit trashy for days when it’s too damn hot to be classy.

I’ll just tell you what my eleven layers are, you can put them down in any order you want, omit whatever you want, add whatever layers you want. Who cares? It’s bean dip, for goodness sakes, you’re not going to publish an article with a photo about bean dip, are you?

Beans. Traditionally this is the bottom layer, but who cares. You can refry your own beans from your friljoles de la olla, but I find that to be a lot of cooking, a lot of effort, and in total way too classy for a bean dip on a hot day. I, my friends, open a can of vegetarian refried beans from the supermarket. Yes.

Lately I’ve been mixing my can-o-beans with a third of a bar of cream cheese using the electric beater, because I read it somewhere. Some people add other dairy, some add a jar of salsa. Whatever, do what you want. I tried the cream cheese/electric beaters for kicks, and it’s good. Next time I’ll just use a plain can of beans.

Sour cream. Sure you can use crema, the “Mexican style cream,” or you can go to the Mexican grocery store and get the crema salvadoreña, la oaxaqueña, la guatemalteca, whatever! It’s a free country.

Diced Tomatoes. I mixed mine with chopped green onion, because I didn’t want a whole layer of green onion.

Cheese. Tonight I grated some extra sharp cheddar, but earlier this week I just bought some Mexican style pre-shred. Who cares.

Guacamolito. Listen, if you have perfect avocados, just slice them carefully and that’s the best. However, perfect avocados do turn brown, so if you need them to stay green for more than 30 min, I suggest you dice those avocados and toss them with lime juice. I threw in cilantro. There is no reason to make a complex, highly spiced guacamole; this is bean dip, people.

Sliced chiles. I don’t do this one in my house because of sensitive stomachs, but if it was just me, I would slice chiles.

Store-bought salsa from a jar. I don’t do this, because even though I’m trying not to be a snob about this recipe, I have to draw the line somewhere. I could make salsa in my molcajete but I don’t want to roast or boil chiles, and I don’t want to wash a molcajete or a blender. So I just omit salsa altogether. Also, salsas in bean dip often lead to pools of water in the bean dip, which is bad bean dip. No pooled liquid allowed!

Canned black olives. This is the funniest layer, because it confuses Mexican people and yet is still delicious. You can buy them pre-sliced or crushed, and then just crack open the can and slap on a layer.

The recipe is this: layer all the layers and serve with chips. In my opinion, the thicker the chips, the better. I hate those light crispy worthless tortilla chips that crumble like pastry. I want tortilla chips that came from tortillas.

You may be wondering about my title, “eleven layer bean dip” when I obviously did not list eleven layers. You’ll also notice that I even omit some the layers that I listed above, so I’m not even getting close to eleven layers. Here’s the secret: it’s a lie. The number eleven just makes it sound impressive. It’s eleven because eleven sounds better than nine. It’s really only five or six layers.

Just lie, and if people denounce you for it, tell them it was just some marketing. Don’t bother trying to list the three ingredients of the guacamolito, or try to say that the tomatoes and green onions count as two layers. Confess and come clean. Nobody cares.

Or tell them, it’s eleven because we turned the flavor up to eleven. They will have no choice but to concede.

My Dream House

I don’t really need to live in a fancy house; I don’t dream about a palace and a bunch of possessions. I’ve blogged before about the Life I Want to Lead, and I really would just enjoy having a view, and a bathroom that gets sunlight.

So I’m not saying that I’m horny about designing and building a palace for throwing lavish parties and shaming the neighbors. However, I have been watching Architectural Digest’s “Open Door” where celebrities give tours of their homes, and their choices are always an expression of the celebrities’ tastes and personalities; one soccer star had a bunch of arcade games and a tacky sculpture; someone else had an all white on white on white super modern house with movie projector in the bedroom. It’s an interesting exercise to see what kinds of places people choose to live in when they can create their own reality with all their money.

So as an exercise (and nothing more) I’ve thought about my dream house. At first I tried to nail down some design specifics, but that got boring, so I ended up making a list of constraints.

My dream house would not be a fortress of solitude, or a party zone, or a way to flaunt my wealth. I think I just want an extended family compound, where relatives could all live if we wanted to, or where relatives and friends could all visit and spend some downtime. I imagine I’d have a separate city residence (a high rise condo), and the family compound would be on the coast somehow; perhaps on an island.

My dream house would have a great room with an acoustic music rehearsal space/performance space off to the side. That would be a place for the band to rehearse on rainy days, or give intimate performances. I don’t want a lot of electronics in that space; maybe just a microphone PA but no amplification; everything should be unplugged, except for maybe the singer.

It would be nice to have a bar in that great room; for events, we could hire someone to serve drinks.

The family dining table should be round, with a lazy susan. For bigger events, there’s a longer banquet table on the covered patio, next to the outdoor kitchen. The indoor kitchen has a lot of natural wood; the cabinets are faded sea foam green on the bottoms and a faded sky blue on the uppers, just to not have the white kitchen.

Off of the great room, there’s a guest lounge, which serves as a lobby for three powder rooms. Constraint: the powder rooms must have sunlight during the day.

In the bedroom wing, there’s a laundry lounge with sofas, an island counter for folding clothes, a flat screen… the laundry lounge has a covered patio for hanging out laundry. There are garment racks and laundry carts for wheeling in baskets of dirty laundry, and wheeling out baskets of clean, folded laundry.

Every bedroom has an ensuite bathroom (with sunlight) and a walk in closet, so no one has to have clothing storing in their sleeping areas. Of course every room has a view, but no prominent screens.

The dream house has a study/library/office with a work table, reading coves and nooks, the necessary electronics, but I don’t want to see a lot of paper.

Back outside: I don’t want a swimming pool or a big spacious lawn. Besides the banquet table in the covered patio and the outdoor kitchen, I want some kind of courtyard with a water feature, maybe a small playground for kids and an area with shaded seating. I imagine the outdoor space to be for daytime and evening family gatherings. Bottom line, I want it to be a space for kid’s birthday parties; space for a bouncy house, somewhere to hang a piñata, a spot to set up musical chairs. Oh yes, a fire pit.

I’m not sure if there’s anything else I need in the house; no pool, no home theater, no recording studio, no bowling alley.

Songs for Little K: Butt on the Window

Little K is my niece, she’s one year old, she lives upstairs, I love her. We sing a lot of songs together, including “Butt on the Window,” which I wrote for her a while ago, last year.

I first did it to shock my sister. Whenever we sing the song, I plant Little K’s butt on the place in question; for example, when I sing “butt on the window” I plant her butt on the window. Pretty straight forward. My sister was shocked, and Little K enjoyed it.

The innovation came when I started putting the butt on mamá and papá. At first they whimpered, so I stepped it up by adding rhythmic bouncing and wiggling motions to the butt. Little K actually loved this innovation, and mamá started enjoying the butt time as well. Papá still whimpers.

The big break came when we sang the song over Facetime to the grandparents. They immediately started singing along and called for other locations to put the butt on. The chair! The stove! When the grandparents came to visit, they LOVED being the target of the butt, singing along and bouncing happily and snuggling Little K after the song, much to her delight.

Some notes about the song:

  • We vetoed putting the butt on the stove; it didn’t seem right.
  • For mamá, at the fermata we take an extended dub-step break (not shown on the sheet music) that includes setting up the beat, a frenzied build-up, and a mind-melting drop. It transitions seamlessly back into the final two written measures.
  • The melody is just the Beverly Hilbillies theme song.

Other songs I’ve written for Little K: Secret Lullaby; Baby Baby Baby (Twist Around); Moose-moose, If The Baby Wants More. I wrote a song for the shell game we play, but I’ve forgotten it. We’ll see if I get around to notating more of them.

Chilling Downtown

There’s a heat wave in Seattle; today is supposed to get to 108º F/42º C. In Seattle, where most houses don’t have AC, this is considered a heat wave, and for people who are used to mist and flannel this is grounds for people to lose their minds. My social media now is full of posts about avoiding heat stroke, places to find public AC during a pandemic, DIY air conditioners, and what to serve the family for dinner without actually cooking (I started that last conversation).

Anyway, we managed to keep the temperature in the house to 82º F. That’s actually fine for some of us, but for some reason the house gets messier at that temperature. We used the one year old baby as an excuse to get a hotel room; she actually didn’t seem that bothered by the heat, but she did lecture us several times about the messy house. Anyway, we paid for the hotel with credit card points, so now we’re chilling in a 10th floor room downtown. It was here or down by the airport; local hotels and casinos were all booked up by the time we started looking.

Check in was 4pm, but the baby was asleep; so my sister and I left her at home with her apá and came to check in at the hotel. It’s a good thing we left her, because the lobby was crowded, and not everyone was wearing masks. Sloppy. We brought the baby a few hours later, after the check-in rush had died down.

Downtown Seattle is actually pretty sleepy on a weekend during a global pandemic, and we don’t want to bring the baby anywhere because Delta variant. So for dinner I went down to H-Mart and bought some bentos that had a 30% end-of-day discount. Not everyone liked the bentos, due to hidden sugar!

Our view from the 10th floor is the probably the worst in the hotel; straight down onto I-5. There was construction in the southbound lanes, which stressed me out to look at. After the sun went down though, the night time traffic was kind of mesmerizing. I took a time lapse.

For breakfast the only option was the hotel café. Well, there are more options, but they all involved either a) us taking the baby somewhere and risk the Delta variant, or b) getting the car from the valet, which seems like a lot of trouble. I think the only part of my breakfast that contained salt was the pats of butter wrapped in foil.

After breakfast, K and I went on separate missions back to the house, where it was 90º F. On my way back, I stopped for gas and a bunch of grocery store sushi and poke. Not sure what to do for dinner.

It’s Sunday afternoon now, and we don’t check out of here until Tuesday. I’m actually cold in here, but that’s the point. Tomorrow, more places will be open, so I’ll forage for breakfast closer to the Market.

After our Tuesday check out, it’s back to the house. Temps will still be in the mid 80s.

Horrible Face Infection Diary

Day one. It’s a Thursday. I notice my ear feels hot. It looks red in the mirror. It’s kind of sore.

Day two. My ear is hot, throbby, and alarmingly swollen. It looks like an angry, meaty river raft. Must be an infection from Q-tipping too hard. This will go away soon.

Day three. The angry, meaty river raft has declared its intention to bring my face to hell. I eat seven low-dose aspirins, which gives me 560 grams of nothing. Is it an allergy? My sister tells me to take an Alegra… but I haven’t even had a histamine response. My ear begins to speak to snakes in Parseltongue.

Day four. I finally decide to send a message to my “care team,” knowing that it’s Sunday and I won’t hear from them until day five at the earliest. I send them a frightening photo so that that will understand the situation. I’m now taking Ibuprofen, who knows why… pain? I don’t know.

Puzzlingly, the swelling seems to be subsiding. The goats have stopped following me around. I rub it with some Benadryl gel and congratulate myself. Later the swelling and redness spread to my upper neck, back of my head, and side of my face.

Day five. I wake up and the swelling has taken up more of the side of my face; my temples and my jaw. My care team gets to the office and emails me to get my ass into the medical center. I can’t; I have to teach my classes and hold office hours. Believe me, it’s easier to be in the dark about a horrible infection invading your only face than to miss class for any reason.

After office hours, I make it to the clinic, and my BP is high, but my temp is normal, so they don’t send me to urgent care. Instead, they hear my whole narrative, poke at it gently with latexed hands, and then send me to the procedure room. There, a kind eastern European woman jabs me in the upper butt fat with syringes like spatulas, draining gallons of ant poison into my blood stream. Come back tomorrow.

I drive away, relieved, imagining the swelling is subsiding.

Day six. The angry swelling has consumed more of my face, I look like my regular self, plus a raw bratwurst clinging to my head. I teach my classes and find my way back to the medical center, where they send me back to the procedure room for two more shots to the upper but fat; pew pew. They also send me home with a bottle of glowing blue capsules; oral antibiotics to be taken four times a day for ten days. They warn me that the blue pills with massacre my microbiome (they called it “gut flora”) and leave me with diarrhea. The runs, they say. The shits. The squirts. At first I think they’re trying to ease the bite of it with humor, but actually I realize that they are preparing me for ten straight days of the aching streaks. Whimper.

On my way home, I stop at the store, and if you had looked in my cart, you’d have guessed that I was starting antibiotics. I bought all the probiotic products in the store: the yogurt, the kombucha. The miso. The tempeh, the natto, the unpasteurized cheese, the bagoong. The sauerkraut. My brain had sounded the hurricane warning, and my colon was boarding up its windows with plywood.

Day seven. Today. Finally the treatment seems to be working; the swelling and redness is subsiding. The parts of my ear and face that had swollen the most had shrunk back down and were peeling as if they had been sunburned. The care team congratulated themselves. At home, my mama declares it was salmonella and reminds me to keep that kitchen sink clean and spotless. My little sister gawks at the side of my face like I’m hideous, so situation normal.

What will the next week bring?

Diarrhea. The answer is diarrhea. More to come…

A Dinner I Would Prefer To Forget

There were many wonderful things about tonight, and dinner was almost one of them. However, things took a turn, and something horrible happened, and now I’m blogging about it instead of getting prepared for an early morning at the gym.

It was a simple menu: baked sockeye salmon, some fried brown rice, and a big salad made of green leaf lettuce, an orange, a kiwi, a handful of lightly salted pistachios, and some crumbled goat cheese. Olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

During dinner, I was concerned when my brother-in-law shouted, ran his plate back to the kitchen, and cleaned his mouth in the sink. He told me later that he wasn’t proud of the way he reacted, so I won’t go into exact details at this point. Let’s just say that he discovered a horrible disgusting living black slug crawling around on his plate in the salad.

I am also not proud of the way I reacted when I saw the slug on the plate. I thought that this is 100% my fault, and that I should be the adult and calmly discard the plate and offer my brother-in-law something edible, something that would not give him a brain parasite. But then I saw that the slug was very much alive, chanting, “U. S. A.” and flexing tackily up and down my fancy salad. Apparently I brought hand to my face, despaired, and said, “What are we going to do with the plate!” and then distanced myself before disassociating.

My sister said, “I’ll take care of it,” and brought the plate outside and tossed the salad, the salmon, and the rice onto the compost. By this point, Silas and slithered on top of the salmon, and stripped off his shirt and was whipping it around his head, as if it were an All-Blacks match.

Everyone was kind to me, but we sat around processing and rehashing the moment entirely too long for my taste. I asked if there was any way my brother-in-law had brought the Salad Invader in from working in the garden, but he said that no, he had taken a shower after working in the garden. I had to face that fact that I had served my family a salad with a slug in it.

I still don’t know where I went wrong, though. I had ripped the base off of the head of green leaf lettuce, soaked and washed the leaves in the colander, spun it all dry, and ripped every leaf into bite-sized pieces. How did I miss a disgusting live slug the size of my entire foot, its lungs rattling as it panted through the damage caused by emphysema? It was like a clammy bite sized harbor seal with probing moist antennae, peppering its speech with “goddamn” and referring to women as “chicks.” I’m pretty sure it had participated in the Capitol Insurrection of January 6th.

I know I will survive this; I will live to make another salad. But I intend to interrogate every single leaf that I serve, front and back, to see if there is some slug hiding in it. You guys, it was so bad.

Rainbow Moment

Photo courtesy of Sarah Lynn Jost Ruppert

It rained all day today, the raindrops were noisy against the window where I’m teaching my class every day (remotely, because pandemic). After class I was carrying my 9 month old niece K around the house, watching her while her parents were taking care of something upstairs.

We were in the kitchen and I noticed that there was a sun beam streaming into the living room from the kitchen window. I carried K over to the big living room window, the one with a view of most of Rainier Beach, with a little bit of Lake Washington and across to Mercer Island.

The sun was shining from straight behind us, so the rainbow looked like it was there expressly for our benefit, arching huge across the sky from past the library in the west, soaring and falling again at Seward Park Market, where the Korean family sells chicken and crinkly fries.

I didn’t have my camera with me, so little K and I just watched together. The rainbow was so bright and close to us. Below, we could see our neighbor and her dog taking a video from the street. There were faint echo rainbows both inside and above the main arc. By the time my sister came downstairs the shine had started to fade.

It was a special little moment I had with my niece, so I was so happy to see the picture (above). It’s not exactly the view from my living room, but it’s just around the block, and the effect of the raindrops on the windshield and the dark sky against the iconic King Doughnuts Teriyaki Laundromat (now serving Thai food) is spectacular, even with the tangle of overhead wires.

From Emily and Luna

From Emily and Luna

Inauguration and Vaccination

Five days ago, President Biden was sworn in a Washington DC under a huge military presence, there to prevent any more insurrections. The ceremony went off without a hitch. When Washington does pageantry, it’s a dorky mix of Hollywood and Buckingham. This year’s edition featured women in jewel-toned winter coats, an ASL Pledge of Allegiance, and a Bernie Sanders meme storm.

The highlight for an inauguration for me is always the poet. I remember Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of the Morning” vividly from 1993. This year it was Angela Gorman, and she was spectacular. After the ceremony I saw Bill Clinton talking to her, and I shouted at the screen, “Get away from her, Bill Clinton! Leave her alone!”

One last comment about inauguration; there was no further insurrection activity that day, at least not in public.

Later that day, I went to Campion Hall to volunteer at the vaccine clinic. It was organized but it definitely felt improvised. I signed up for patient registration, and I didn’t realize until people were lying to me about their eligibility that it was my job to send people away if they weren’t eligible. I found that stressful, but the highlight was that I got to talk to a patient in ASL. Later they gave me the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

It was a little stressful to volunteer, but I do enjoy volunteering, so I would do it again. I have an appointment for the second dose in a few weeks, and should be at peak immunity by the beginning of March. My sister and brother in law haven’t been able to get appointments yet, and since there’s a 9 month old baby who was born a preemie in the house, we’re not sure until we can get the all-clear. We’re waiting for science to tell us that the vaccine prevents transmission, or that we have herd immunity, or there is a vaccine for babies. Until then, we’ll keep masking and distancing.

My parents got their first doses today, and my aunties and uncles in Oly got theirs this week as well. Hopefully they’ll get to meet the baby soon. It seems the previous administration didn’t bother making any distribution plans for the vaccine, which shows their actual commitment to the medical and economic health of this country. They are assholes. Anyway, my point is that we have all had to hustle to get our vaccines. I volunteered, and I was just lucky to get a spot; people were clamoring. My older relatives were eligible for this phase due to their age, but even they had to hustle, calling vaccine clinics all day long and relying on the word-of-mouth whisper networks that have sprung up. I know some people who are exasperated by all the hustle and say that they’ll wait their turn. While I sympathize with them, waiting your turn only works when the system is fair, organized from top to bottom. It’s not; the trumpies never had a plan. I’m afraid my fairness friends will be waiting a long time for their name to be called. Also, when their name is called, I’m afraid they will still have to hustle.

It’s funny to me when people want to point to how well the economy was doing pre-pandemic, excluding the pandemic as if it was some fluke. This pandemic, and other disasters, are part of the economy, and no, you don’t get to exclude it when evaluating the performance of leaders. We are in this shithole due to a failure of leadership, starting with the president of the republic, Donald J. Trump, whose name I will continue to curse long after his death. Biden looks promising so far, but he better step it up, lest I curse him as well.

Finally, I don’t know why people are so horny to get back to in-person classes at school, at this point, the most dangerous and deadliest time in the pandemic. From what I gather, some kids are suffering as their social, emotional, and psychological needs are not being met. I keep thinking of Maslow’s hierarchy, that basic health and safety are more fundamental than social, emotional, and psychological needs. I resent that we teachers have to roll the dice with our lives and the lives of our families to provide some social stimulus for some kids. For me, the priority would be to make it out of the pandemic alive, but I guess some people would rather risk infection. My colleagues who are already in session have let me know that social distancing is not happening, that the kids are all over each other.

I don’t know how to go forward from there. It’s a mess.

Black Alert

Ok, when I saw this shot I immediately thought it would become an iconic GIF among DISCO fans as well as the Black community. I thought someone would GIF it immediately. Nobody did! So I went and did it myself.

Use this link for the GIF published on a GIF site. Copy it right here: https://media.giphy.com/media/XDgiWdG5aMqGJ1m4Su/giphy.gif. Or do your magic on one of the images below.

Highest quality
10 MB
5 MB
Video

2021 Events and Quarantine Plan

So here’s what’s happened. On January 6th, Trump supporters gathered in Washington DC for a rally, where they were told to walk down to the Capitol and fight for Trump to remain president. That was the day that Congress was certifying the 2020 election of Joe Biden; usually a ceremonial event rather than a consequential one. The ceremony was interrupted when the Trump supporters, armed, stormed the building and went looking for our Senators and Representatives. Based on the evidence, the intentions of the Trump supporters seemed to be to take congress members as prisoners, or do further harm to them, in effect a coup d’état. Insurrection.

Some Capitol Police were injured in the action, and one officer died; beaten to death by with a fire extinguisher. Backup was slow to arrive; those agencies are now being investigated. One congresswoman’s staff found the panic buttons in their office to have been disabled. Some are reporting that certain congress members gave personal tours of the building the day before, to case the joint.

After the Capitol building was secured, the Congress went back to the business of certifying the election. Some Republicans withdrew their objections to the certification in light of the insurrection; others carried on, citing unsubstantiated claims of fraud and improprieties.

A few days later, the House of Representatives impeached Donald Trump for his role in the insurrection. He and his extremist, neofascist allies are now largely being shunned by social media companies and donors.

In other news, the COVID pandemic is continuing to worsen and the vaccine rollout is frustratingly slow. There are new, more contagious strains now circulating, and many Americans remain belligerent about not observing precautions.

As a family we have decided to take more drastic measures. We are no longer going to risk entering the supermarket or the drug store. We are now using curbside pickup and delivery services for supplies, and we’re luckily enough to have an outdoor produce market in the neighborhood. We are going to “double mask” until our KN95 masks arrive.

Last March when this all was starting, we didn’t really understand how the disease was spread by respiratory particles, so we spent a lot of time wiping down packages and groceries; carrying hand sanitizers, gloves, Clorox wipes, and bandanas in a backpack wherever we went. I’m glad we don’t have to take those measures now.

Probably if I were still living alone, I’d be more casual about the risks; however now I live with an eight month old who I adore. Even after the adults are vaccinated, there’s still a chance we could bring home an infection to her. I wish there was a vaccine for babies. We will have to continue to take precautions and stay isolated to some degree until we’re sure my niece won’t get sick. It might take months or years.