Friends Who Cook

When A Frenchman Cooks You Dinner

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For a while, our friend Cris has wanted to cook us dinner. The fact that we didn’t make it happen immediately won’t seem like a big deal until I tell you that Cris is French. Yes, we had the opportunity to have dinner cooked for us by a French person and we didn’t take him up on it until last week when he and his boyfriend Harry had us over to their Echo Park apartment.

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Idle Hands

Becky Mann’s Thumb Pics

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One of the funniest people I have the pleasure of working with at my new job is Becky Mann who, along with her very funny writing partner Audra Sielaff, has written for such shows as Modern Family, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Raising Hope. Since most of our days as TV writers are spent using our brains, it’s often nice to find busy work for our hands. Some of us color, others doodle, but Becky–as you’re about to see–started taking portraits of her thumb in various guises. Her Instagram account, which you should all follow right away @pamsueinc, features thumb pics that have grown more and more epic. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where, for many of us, the highlight of our day is seeing Becky’s latest thumb masterpiece. Below you’ll find some of her best work, along with the captions she wrote for each picture.

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In The Kitchen

Chocolate Chip Cookie Hacks

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Controversial statement: all chocolate chip cookie recipes are basically the same.

Sure, some are better than others (The New York Times recipe is probably the best one out there) but they’re all different ratios of butter, brown sugar, regular sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chocolate. And though different ratios will yield slightly different results, in my experience what matters much more than the recipe are the specific techniques you use to make your cookies. For internet purposes, let’s call them hacks and I’ve got six of ’em that’ll work with any chocolate chip cookie recipe and produce consistently good cookies every time.

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TV Stuff

We’ve Got Magic To Do: Penn & Teller’s Fool Us

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There’s a certain kind of person–I’m one of them–who’s born eager to please. When you’re born a people-pleaser, the world can be a cruel place. Which is why people-pleasers tend to seek out communities of other people-pleasers. For me, that community has always been the world of musical theater. The first time I walked into Marie’s Crisis in New York, a piano bar filled with over-eager gay men and the women who love them, all singing show tunes in unison, I felt like I’d come home. That sense of belonging, of encountering other freaks who also knew every word to “Little Shop of Horrors,” was one of the great discoveries of my youth.

On Monday night, I found myself watching a show I hadn’t paid much attention to before: Penn & Teller’s Fool Us. The premise is simple: a bunch of Las Vegas magicians appear on stage before the real Penn & Teller and try to show them something they’ve never seen before. If Penn and Teller can’t figure out the trick, the magician “wins.” I put “wins” in quotes, because even though that seems like the point of the show, it’s not really the point of the show. The point of the show, I quickly discovered, is for fringe people-pleasers (aka: magicians) to engage in the ultimate form of people-pleasing—to try to impress their heroes in front of a live studio audience.

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Blog Stuff

I’ve Got A Name

The most frequent question I’d get, over my eleven years of being The Amateur Gourmet, was name-related. “How long can you keep being an amateur?” Or, variations on the theme: “Are you still an amateur after writing a cookbook?” “Are you still an amateur after making Bouillabaisse?” “Are you still an amateur if you’ve been doing porn for half a decade?” (Ignore that last one.)

At some point, I figured, I’d graduate to my name–like a David Lebovitz or a Michael Ruhlman–but then the blog felt so permanent, so fixed, that rebranding it and relabeling it felt like changing your 11 year-old child’s name from “Sarah” to “Bathsheba.” Meanwhile, my professional life began to shift a few months ago when I threw my hat into the TV-writing ring and got hired to write on a new ABC comedy called “The Real O’Neals.” Staying under the “food blog” umbrella felt too narrow for my new life; also, I was pretty bored by the pre-set expectations of a traditional food blog.

What I craved, more than anything, was a place to be myself. And lo and behold: here we are. A new blog, a new venture, with my name right there in the title. What does it mean? What will it be? That remains to be seen. But I’m feeling very excited about it, and that’s a good thing. So bid farewell to the amateur me, and say “hey” to the actual me. It’s nice to meet you, again.