I volunteered to make Thanksgiving dinner, now what?

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Dessert Spread from last Thanksgiving. I really like making pie.

Did you accidentally tell your friends and/or family that you wanted to make Thanksgiving dinner? Do you now realize that you’ve made a horrible time-consuming mistake? Don’t fear, I did the same thing, we’ll get through this together.

When I started my own custom-order baking business, I decided to take on the task of pie orders a few years in a row. This involved two weeks of ingredient gathering, pumpkin puree making, spending hours elbow deep in pie crust and pie filling, bribing my sister and best friend to help me, all in a tiny kitchen. I would show up at thanksgiving dinner, haggard, my arms fresh with new exhaustion-related carelessness burns, and a feeling of accomplishment. Despite the fact that I would have compromised my immune system by exhausting myself and ended up in Urgent Care on Christmas Morning each year, I still get the urge around November first to do it again. In recent years, I have successfully talked myself out of this desire, but the season just feels ripe for cooking, and so I have taken on the task of Thanksgiving dinner.

The trick is to treat your kitchen like a professional kitchen for the next week. If you are prepared you can pull that dinner together, with time to shower and change, and still get dinner on the table on time. How, don’t worry, I’ll tell you.

  1. Make a detailed menu.

If you haven’t made your menu yet. Make it today. I cannot emphasize this enough, if you do not do this, you will be going to the store blind. Write out each dish, what you will need to buy for each one, and whether or not it needs to be made the day of. Remember that Thanksgiving is probably not the time to try a recipe you are not familiar with, make things that you know you can make or at least make sure you aren’t overloading your menu with complicated recipes.

  1. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

I’ll admit, I am not good at asking for help in the kitchen. This is partially because I’m a little bit of a control freak when it comes to watching the way other people cook, but it is also because I can generally do it faster. This being said, I have to remember that I am just one person, and it is nice to have help with the dishes, prep work like slicing and dicing, setting the table, and running to the store. Ask your guests to bring beverages, or things like bread, hors d’oeuvres, and desserts (I always make my own desserts, but that’s just because they’re my favorite thing to make).

  1. Start your pies now.

So, you didn’t delegate the pies, don’t fret, you have time to get ahead. As soon as you are done reading this, make your pie crusts. You can freeze them, thaw them Sunday night, roll them out and put them in the tins on Monday. I freeze my crust like this until I am ready to bake off the pies on Wednesday. On Tuesday, make all of your pie fillings (if you are doing your own pumpkin puree, make it today, and freeze it until you’re ready to use it). This way you avoid spending all of Wednesday focused on making the pies, and you can just put them in the oven. I always think that pies should be made the day before, the filling benefits from sitting for a day, and you’ll need that oven space on Thursday. Cream pies should go in the fridge, but I leave my pumpkin, pecan and fruit pies out at room temp overnight, the refrigerator ruins the crust.

  1. Plan your schedule for the week, and the oven.

Do your last minute shopping this weekend. Yes, this weekend is last minute. Gather up all of the ingredients you need, this gives you plenty of time to look for harder to find ingredients, or change your menu. Consider how long everything needs to be in the oven and how long it needs to rest before being served. Write out a schedule for when you plan to bake off each item, consider which items can be baked off in the morning and then warmed over right before you serve.

Monday: Finalize your menu, that specialty item that you wanted to use on your sweet potatoes is a lost cause, save that dream for next year. If you are making stuffing from scratch, dry out your bread.

Tuesday: Brine the Turkey if you are planning on doing so. Cut any veggies that need to be diced, like onions, carrots and celery, trim the ends of your green beans, do all the little prep things that should be ready before you begin cooking

Wednesday: Make your salads, but do not dress them. This can also be done on Thursday morning if you find yourself short on fridge space. I also would get any casseroles prepped so that you can just pop them in the oven at their allotted time. Boil your potatoes so they are ready to be mashed on Thursday. Set your table and do any cosmetic things you need to do around the house.

Thursday: Get that turkey out of the fridge ASAP. You want your turkey to be room temperature before you put it in the oven, so get it out an hour before you intend to roast it. Keep to your schedule, and don’t fret if things don’t turn out perfectly.

  1. Take a spa day on Friday.

Seriously, do it. You’ll need it. At the very least, don’t get out of your PJ’s and watch a bunch of Netflix.

Hope this helps with the holiday madness! Feel free to comment below with any further questions, or tips I may have forgotten.

Why are the millennials grieving?

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Image via ABC News

For starters, I am not one to readily call myself a millennial. I think that it is an overly generic term that does not apply to the majority of my generation. So, let’s throw that term out the window. We are more than a term ascribed to us by the generation that has upended the economy, ruined the climate, and then called us whiny for expecting them to have some accountability. We are not a generation whose interests are fleeting and easily forgotten as soon as the next set of hashtags start trending on Twitter. We are just trying our hardest to speak to a world that has consistently shut us down.

I know what it is to experience this, even more so as a woman. In the wake of the election, I made a Facebook post about my disappointment with the election results, only to be warned that this was a “new beginning” and that “anything else is anarchy.” Thank you for the lesson on government systems, it’s something that I have devoted quite a bit of time to studying, but I’ll just throw that BA in United States history in the trash, because that’s how employers see it anyway. I have been told time and time again that I am far too young to possibly understand what I am talking about, and when I get older, I will understand the necessity for xenophobia. I have been scoffed at for trying to learn about women’s health issues. I have been told that I look white, so I should rewrite my ancestry. I have been objectified and demeaned by men on the street. When I cut my hair, customers at the café I worked at told me that I “ruined” my beauty.

These are just my experiences as a privileged straight woman. These are minuscule compared to the affronts experienced by friends and family that come from a multitude of different backgrounds.

This is what your votes for Trump advocated for. Your votes for Trump told us once again that our experiences don’t matter. They told us that there is no room for public discourse, no room for acceptance, no room for healing. Your votes told us that there is only one American experience and that we’d all better get in line. Your votes advocated oppression.

To those of you that want to write me off as a bleeding heart liberal, you need to take the blindfold off of your eyes. This is not matter of liberals being poor losers. I can lick my political wounds and concede to the win of a Republican president, what I cannot stand for is the death of communication. The purpose of democracy is to encourage conversation across party lines, to bring everyone together.

I know not all Trump supporters are racists, or bigots. I know that some of you are my friends and family members, and that as people you are wonderful. I know that your intentions were not to hurt this country, but you should have known better. You should
have looked up from your ideology, and listened. Where were you when the debates were on? Where were you when Trump interjected, called his opponent a “nasty woman” and didn’t even have the courtesy to address questions? Were you distracted by the apocalyptic
picture he was painting of America? Were you distracted by his Twitter feed? Did you realize that when you went to the polls on November 8th, that you weren’t voting for a presidential candidate and that you were voting for hostility?

This is the real problem that we face. Trump as president is secondary, the long term repercussions of this election have to do with the dialogue the nation has developed. When women cried out against Trump’s sexist comments, we saw his female supporters wear signs saying, “Trump can grab my pussy!” instead of confronting the very real problem of sexual violence. In the first day since his election we have heard countless stories of Muslim women getting their hijabs ripped off, Hispanic citizens being told to go back to their own country, and a gay man was called a faggot and beaten in California. Supporters have decided that they have free license to go out into the streets and spew the hate that has been bubbling beneath the surface until now. Trump let that hate out, he made it ok to discriminate.

If you have children and you supported Trump, shame on you especially. You have taught a new generation this hatred. You have allowed for yet another generation to turn a blind eye to the experiences of their peers. You have made it ok for your children to use hate-speech, and act without concern or compassion for those who have different experiences than they do. I am not saying that this is definitely who they will grow up to be, but this will be the climate they grow up in.

This is why my generation is grieving. This is why many took to the streets, and why I wish I was there to join them. This is why we will not call that man our president. It is not that we want to overthrow the government, we want to overturn systematic discrimination. We want to live in a country where our experiences matter, not where we are told that we are cry-babies that ruin everything. We want our government to be a representation of more than a tyrannous majority; we want actual inclusive representation of the American people.

Bridalplasty saved my wedding.

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Bridalplasty. If you haven’t seen this show yet, and you love trashy television, stop everything you are doing. Buy season one on iTunes, watch all ten hours of it, and then cry because there isn’t a second season. Well, it’s probably best that Bridalplasty wasn’t given a second season, because it is pure gilded trash.

At the height of the reality TV show golden age, when the producers were drunk on power, some evil genius pitched this beautiful train wreck. It has everything.

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Reality TV star with waning popularity as host: CHECK.
Brides, doing bridal things: yup.
Body shaming, immediately fixed by a creepy plastic surgeon: 100%
GORY SURGERY FOOTAGE: YAAAAS
Negative portrayal of women: Absolutely.

I rage watched this show the first time I tried to plan my wedding. It was everything I needed to feel ok about not wanting anything remotely traditional about my “special day.” Before I finished the show, I felt like I had to comply with tradition. I thought I needed to have a bridal party, and a theme, and care about what plates the food was going to be served on. I even convinced myself to go wedding dress shopping.

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Dream come true.

It did not end in happy tears. The dresses I wanted weren’t “bridal enough,” they weren’t floor length, and I refused to try on veils. I felt like I was disappointing everyone around me because this was something that I just did not enjoy. Brides magazine was mysteriously sent to my house (I still don’t know why, I never subscribed), and I would last maybe five minutes before I started to angry cry. My fiancée would come home, see the magazine, and just know that he was going to spend the next hour listening to a tirade on the atrocities of capitalism. Eventually, I decided to stop planning my wedding all together.

We did not break off the engagement, or decide not to have a wedding. I just decided to stop planning it. I could not have a positive experience with the process. I didn’t want to be a princess, and I definitely did not want to be the center of attention. I wanted to continue living my life with my partner, just as we had been doing for the last eight years. In my mind,  our “marriage” started long before we even got engaged. Every celebration, every milestone, every argument, every difficult conversation, every time we decided to stay, those were our vows to one another.

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LIPOSUCTION OF KNEE, JUST ONE?!?

So, instead of planning a wedding, I watched a reality show where women compete for plastic surgery and a “celebrity” wedding. Each challenge winner chooses from her wish list of procedures, and is granted a full two weeks of immunity. You know, because she was recovering from major surgery. The bride who was voted out of the house is sent on her way by Travis Barker’s ex-wife, who would muster up her best condescending face and say “Your wedding will still go on, it just may not be perfect.”

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Exec. Producer, Giuliana Rancic.

What! Why? Imperfect because of that tummy-tuck you really should’ve had before the wedding? Imperfect because you don’t get to have the same florist as Giuliana Rancic? Every frustration I had about the wedding industrial complex, I was able to hurl at the TV. I was able to watch the distilled absurdity of wedding planning. I finally felt like I was justified; I no longer had to pretend to be excited.

Eventually we went on with it, but in a way that I felt comfortable with. I cut all my hair off, even though people told me I should wait until after the wedding. I bought my dress online without consulting anyone. I handed over decoration and food planning to my grandmother (she was a saint for listening when I said “no” to everything remotely wedding like).  We got a friend to officiate. We didn’t rehearse our ceremony. There were no first dances. It wasn’t “perfect” by Bridalplasty standards, but it was great.

So thank you, Bridalplasty, you gorgeous abomination.

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Glamorous.

 

Vous êtes américaine?

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Musée D’Orsay

“Trump or Hillary?” I get asked this question as soon as someone realizes that I am an American. Uber drivers, fellow beer drinkers, the maintenance guy in my building, all of them. I smile after they ask, trying not to let it morph into a cringe. Then, we bumble through a conversation of broken French and (less-broken) English. There are a lot of shoulder shrugs, and “Je ne sais pas.” Inevitably, I begin to feel ashamed of the farce of democracy that has been playing out on the American stage for the better part of the last two years.

Let’s pause for a moment and think about that. Two. Fucking. Years. At least during the Democrat’s primary season, there was some substantive debate about policy. The Republicans tried, but eventually their message descended into “Dumpster Fire America, 2016.” I am not going to pretend like I am unbiased, I am a self-proclaimed socialist, but even the most die-hard conservatives must be disappointed in how this race has turned out.

We have given the candidates two years to explain why they are qualified for the highest office in the country and, arguably, the world. We have given them two years to flesh out their plans to improve international relations, the economy, and the lives of Americans. Yet, after the debates, I’m still not sure if I know where the candidates stand on any of the issues.

This is disappointing for all of us. We should be in mourning over the loss of the political process. When the first official presidential debate aired in 1960, the main purpose was to inform the electorate of the candidates’ positions. It was to give candidates the opportunity to go up against their opponents and give the American voters a clear idea of who they were voting into office. In other words, it was supposed to be a debate, one with questions and actual answers. A debate we deserve after enduring the last two years of campaigning. We deserve to have candidates that are prepared, and ready to talk about their plans for America. We do not deserve to have have one candidate talk over the other, and rob us of the political process.

This is the insidiousness of Trump’s candidacy. He shows up and preys on the anxieties that a decade of Republican fear mongering has created. He shows his supporters that he doesn’t have to respect the political process, because he is above it. He shows them that he doesn’t have to respect the American people, because he is above them, and they eat it up.

I may not completely agree with Clinton, but I am upset for her. She is a woman who has devoted her life to public policy, and thus opened herself up to the world that is, frankly, unkind to ambitious women. She is highly educated and qualified (if somewhat untrustworthy, but it’s a mistake to fully trust politicians), and her opponent is a misogynist, racist, xenophobe, whose greatest accomplishment is building an empire devoted to his own narcissism.

So, I get asked “Trump or Hillary?” and I want to scream. I want to say “Our process is more than this!” I want to wax poetic about political philosophy. I want to explain that American politics just made some questionable decisions in the 80’s, like all the good Boomers. I want to be proud that a woman is running for president, and not have that overshadowed by another puffy old white dude. Unfortunately, there is never quite enough time for that, so I go on my way and try to pretend that American politics is actually made of the things in Aaron Sorkin’s dreams.

Winter is Coming, so make some Bone Broth

 

Archie, begging for trash soup.

As many of you may have noticed from my overreaction to the cold a couple of weeks ago, temperatures are dropping in Paris.

I honestly have no concept of how winter works. Los Angeles winters are when everyone breaks out their sweaters, but have to take them off by noon because it is too hot. Sandals are still an acceptable footwear option. Scarves and hats are accessories, and puffy jackets are too hideous to be considered.

I broke out the puffy jacket. I didn’t care that it was shapeless and transformed me into a human marshmallow. I put it on and realized that it is the warmest thing I own, and there are about 6 more months of cold weather to come. Now is not the time for vanity.

My solution to this is to make bone broth. The glorious trash soup that hipsters will pay a stupid amount of money for.

The recipe for bone broth might as well be pour water over trash and herbs, bring to a simmer and forget about it. This may not sound appetizing, but it is delicious.

Now would also be a good time to fess up and admit that I make my dog’s food. This involves skinning and boiling 2 chickens, and then adding veggies, rice and lentils. It also means that I have a lot of chicken carcasses that I am loathe to throw away without using them first.

So, after I have stripped the chicken from the bones, I roast them and boil them with the skin from the chicken, vegetable scraps, herbs and a few spices. It is by no means glamorous, but bone broth shouldn’t be.

You can always go out and buy the ingredients for your broth, but I find it best to save up scraps from the week (either in the freezer, or in the fridge). This way you are saving money, and cutting back on food waste.

Also, don’t feel like you have to drink the broth straight. The flavor can be a little overwhelming, but it can also be used like a broth concentrate. If I am cooking anything that calls for chicken broth, I simply dilute my bone broth with water, the flavor is far superior to anything store bought.

Bone Broth Recipe

Bones from 2 chickens (skin too, if you have it)
Vegetable scraps (or whole vegetables)
-Carrot peels
-Onion  and garlic skins (I used some leftover leeks for this batch)
-Celery leaves
-Parsley stems
2 Bay leafs
3 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
10 peppercorns
2 tbs vinegar of your choice
Salt to taste

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Place your bones on a foil lined tray. I generally don’t boil my bones first because they are coming from boiled chicken, but if you are using raw bones, boil them first. Put tray in the oven, for 15 min.
  3. turn the bones over and roast until they are a nice golden brown. I usually check every 5 minutes.
  4. Place the bones in a large stock pot, along with the rest of the ingredients. Cover with water, and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce to a simmer, and let simmer for up to 12 hours. Your broth should congeal when it is cold.

Enjoy!

 

Nectarine Hand Pies

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The produce in France is incredible. The outdoor markets are lined with stalls of vibrant fruits and vegetables that taste the way they actually should. My problem is that I speak French like a five year old.

In the states, I can browse the farmer’s market for hours. I’ll make a minimum of three passes, carefully assessing the stands, and when I’m finally ready, I know exactly how to ask for what I want. It’s all a little harder in French. Now, I browse these gorgeous markets, but instead of focusing on the bounty in front of me, I am anxiously trying to filter between the three languages in my brain.

Try to speak three languages, its like having a world war in your brain every time you try to access a word. The other day, the sentence ,”Je trabajé en una cocina y necessité hablar español, ahora estoy en un ecole y necessito hablar français,” actually came out of my mouth when I tried to speak Spanish to the guy at the half-way decent Mexican restaurant. It’s a struggle, be nicer to people who try and speak multiple languages.

You can imagine the amount of courage it took to finally ask the vendor for “Quatre nectarines jaunes,” and to specify that I wanted them,”pas trop mûrs, s’il vous plait.” To my delight, he understood what I wanted, and since he didn’t have four slightly unripe nectarines, and it was the end of the day, he gave me extras for free!

These nectarines were originally intended for snacking and to be put over my morning yogurt, but I was suddenly faced with a bag of ripe nectarines that I had to use before they became mush. So obviously, I bought some beautiful figs and decided to make some pie.

Recipe

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Ingredients:

Enough pâté brisée for a double crusted 9″ pie
5-6 slightly ripe, yellow nectarines, cut into 1″ pieces
5-6 mission figs (or your preferred type), cut into 8ths
3/4 c white sugar
1/4 c instant tapioca (or 3 tbs cornstarch)
3tbs honey
2tbs balsamic vinegar
dash salt
dash cinnamon
egg yolk for egg wash
turbinado sugar for dusting
3 tbs butter, cut into small pieces

I will post a tutorial for pie crust soon, but this is a great recipe. Divide your dough into 8 disks before chilling.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cut nectarines and figs and place in a large bowl, set aside
  3. Mix sugar, instant tapioca (or cornstarch), salt and cinnamon together, set aside.
  4. Mix honey and balsamic vinegar, set aside
  5. Toss fruit with the sugar mixture, and then add the honey-balsamic mixture until evenly coated. Be careful, you don’t want to break up the figs. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  6. Beat egg yolk with 1/2 c water to make egg wash, set aside.
  7. Roll pie crust disks out on a lightly floured surface to 6″ and place 1/4c of filling in the middle, leaving at least 1″ of pastry around the sides.
  8. Brush clean space with egg wash, and place a piece of butter on top of the filling.
  9. Carefully fold up the sides of the pastry around the fruit. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle turbinado sugar on top.
  10. Carefully transfer pastries to the baking sheet, leaving 3″ between each pastry. Refrigerate for 20 minutes
  11. Place trays in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.

You can leave these at room temp for 1-2 days, or in the refrigerator for one week. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. Also, totally acceptable breakfast option, because fruit, and things.

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Winter is for other people.

I put on socks this morning,
I only own three pairs.
It’s only October,
but Winter might be here.

The season I only heard whispers of,
through the myths of my father’s childhood.

Visions of picturesque landscapes blanketed in white,
Bundles of clothing that claim to have people inside,
Breath escaping from them, as proof.

My winters were flip-flops,
the occasional scarf,
Beaches finally empty and serene.

I think this might be different here
freezing might be real,
instead of hyperbole.

Winter was for other people,
or so I had always thought,
But, as I put on socks this morning,
I realized Winter might be for me too.

Fuck.

Bon Voyage

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When I got the email that I had gotten into Columbia’s graduate program in Paris, I was at my job at a fine dining restaurant in LA. I literally almost cut my finger off, I was so shocked. I had submitted my application a week before, and the program was set to start in six weeks.

Six. Weeks.

Six weeks to quit my job and learn a new language. Six weeks for my unwaveringly supportive new husband to convince his boss to let him work remotely. Six weeks to pack my house, my dog, and my life.

It was garbage.

Change is a difficult thing for me, I tend to overthink, and when I overthink, inevitably I think of everything that can go wrong. I don’t know how I survived the process, but somehow I did, and after an eleven hour flight with a dog in my lap, I made it to Paris.

Best decision, ever.

I am so proud of myself, so thankful for my husband, and so excited for what is yet to come. I had a lot of people ask me what made me decide to leave, and it really came down to the fact that I would regret it forever if I didn’t. The universe provides you with opportunities, and it is up to you to take them. I could have gotten in my own way and convinced myself that this move was too hard or too impractical, but I didn’t.

This is all to say, this whole life we are on is a journey, you owe it to yourself to take it.

Breakfast at La Pitchoune

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Brief note: This was originally written to submit to AirBnB for a free stay at Julia Child’s house in Provence. Affectionately named La Pitchoune (the little one), it now functions as a cooking school, and is available for rent via AirBnB. I was never able to submit this piece because I wrote it thinking there was a 500 word limit, it was actually a 500 character limit. 

I rise as the first tendrils of sunlight are gently caressing my husband’s face. I can never quite sleep like he does. The newness of the day holds too much promise for me, I begin to feel guilt if I allow myself to sleep any of it away.

I relish the chill of the floor on my bare feet, it electrifies me. My body, usually ravaged by jet-lag after a transatlantic flight, is buoyed by the excitement of being in Provence. This place, this home, it is exactly where I am meant to be. The morning air embraces me like an old friend when I walk out into the garden.

I take a brief tour to see what I can look forward to harvesting for tonight’s dinner, and many more to come, before returning inside to make breakfast.

It isn’t an elaborate dish, but an omelette is the perfect way to settle into our first morning. There is something about watching the steam escape as you slice your fork into a fresh omelette that evokes “home,” more than anything else. I grab a few fresh sprigs of parsley to chop before I go inside.

I worry my husband may not be awake before I am finished, and consider waking him up. It’s not worth it. I will just eat the first one I make and savor it for myself. I deserve to relish that first bite, fresh off the stove. He won’t even know the difference.

I get to work, chopping the parsley, beating the eggs and setting out my pan and plates. To my delight, we remembered to get some fresh butter. I drop a sizable amount straight into the hot pan. It sizzles, and the tangy, toasted fragrance envelops the kitchen. I pour the eggs into their butter bath, and swirl the pan around with precision until they are ready to be flipped on to the plate. My husband still has not risen. It appears that I get to enjoy this one for myself. I sprinkle a bit of parsley on top of my omelette and head to the garden.

As soon as I am about to place my plate down on the table, I remember that I forgot to make myself a coffee to sip on. I look up, and to my delight, there he is, coming in through the gate with two espressos in hand, he must of slipped out without me noticing. He beams at me as soon as he notices me looking.

“Paul!” I exclaim, “How is it that I got so lucky?”

“Julia,” he says, sternly, “How many times do I have to tell you that I am the lucky one? Look, you’ve even made my favorite.”

He plunges the fork in, and offers me the first bite. Breakfast for two is always better anyway.