fifth new thing...

the catching up begins today. hopefully you all are prepared for a trip somewhere in time, because today's (first of hopefully many) return engagement to the 52 new things occurred on super bowl sunday. if you will, try to hearken back to the days when two things in the world seemed inevitable: the undefeated season of the new england patriots and the nomination of hillary clinton as the democratic presidential candidate. well, apparently the new york giants got the memo from will.i.am. and found that they were the ones that they had been waiting for. inevitability, schmenevitability. for the fifth of the 52 new things, i did not one-- but two-- new things: i used a crock pot for the first time and participated in a chili cook-off.

so, the first half of this fifth new thing addressed one of my long held biases in cooking. i simply don't like the idea of a crock pot. never have. i'm the first to admit that i am a little bit of a worrier, some might even say slightly paranoid. so the idea of plugging in an appliance, turning it on, and then leaving the house for up to 10 hours doesn't sit well with my doomsday mentality. i mean, i'm the girl who had a ridiculously vivid dream about my apartment in nashville being destroyed by some world war II axis of evil b-2 bombers and madison being trapped in the rubble in her wire kennel soon after finishing sarah waters' period lesbian novel the night watch. active imaginations aren't necessarily a good thing if you have a less than rosy picture of the "what ifs". but everyone must face their fears someday. so i dusted off the box for the hamilton beach crock pot my mom bought me for christmas two years ago (yes, it was still in the box) and set out to concoct a culinary masterpiece. first half of the fifth new thing accomplished.

the second half of the fifth new thing meant i would need a chili recipe which illustrates another of my odd characteristics. if placed in a competition where i know i am at a disadvantage (did i mention i had only made chili once in my life before this cook-off? no? huh, i wonder why i would keep that to myself? weird...), i always follow the will schroter way of thinking: go big or go home. so, with a little help from paula deen, i set out sunday morning on a white chicken chili makin' adventcha!

yummmmm. chopped chicken breasts. perfectly cooked and seasoned. aren't. they. fabulous? add some chicken broth, navy beans, garlic, onions and green chilies and you have a recipe for success. and you will have to take my word for it because i kinda forgot to document this part of the experience. i guess i was distracted by my own culinary genius. how could i not win with the only white chili and what would invariably be the most witty, original name at the cook-off. a win was, dare i say, inevitable.

with the chili simmering away in the crock pot, i packed up for my trip out to the boondocks for some company and a chili championship. once i arrived at our lovely hosts' humble abode, i unpacked my crock pot with the swagger of a preordained winner. surely i could whip the odd concoctions of 3 or 4 other people. it didn't matter that my "chili" hadn't thickened yet and looked more like a dr. seuss soup, all the who's down in whoville would love it anyway. but as the other participants trickled in it became glaringly apparent that i was facing an uphill battle. the ringer was no longer guaranteed a win.
9. that's how many chili contestants there were to sample. and i mean that in every sense of the word. just the very thought of eating 9 bowls of chili makes me want to loose my lunch. and the seriousness of this process. goodness. discussions of bison verses lean beef. sweet sausage verses spicy sausage. chocolate verses dr. pepper. measured ingredients verses the kitchen sink approach. and me. with my white bean chicken soup. awesome. though i garnered many compliments on my submission (i still sometimes think these people are nice to me because i am new to the group...) the overwhelming response was "it's not chili". alas, my first foray into cook-off territory ended poorly. and i had the evidence to prove it: two weeks worth of white chicken chili leftovers.

ps: the night of the super bowl also marked the awarding of the trophies for our fantasy football league the joey harrington era. i humbly accepted the metternich cup for all vanderbilt graduates everywhere. in true vanderbilt fashion, my team "jay cutler is a douche" (no, no. this jay cutler, not that jay cutler. though i am sure he is a douche, too.) opened the season 2 and 6 and then went on an 9 game winning streak, defeating team ericksen who had been crowned the inevitable winner of the league in the last game of the season. huh. there's that word again. inevitable. i do not think it means what you think it means.

yes we can.


fourth new thing...

Gosh. I think the new thing for one of my weeks coming up should be i caught up on blogging my 52 new things. but, alas, i am still dreadfully behind. let's try and put a dent in it, shall we? so, as i said at the beginning of this journey, some of the 52 new things that i do will take longer than a week to plan. and the seed for this week's foray into the new was planted way back in december. i decided for christmas this year that i wanted to do something to spend more time with my mother. we (read: i) are not big phone people (read: i have no idea why i have a cell phone) and so i thought something to "facilitate" communication would be appropriate. i must admit i spent the majority of my life keeping people at arm's length and then fretting about why i was so alone. apparently i just succeed really well at all my subconscious pursuits. god i miss shelly. but enough psychobabble, this week i brought to fruition my christmas wish, i started a book club with my mom.

i coyly asked my mom in early december what her favorite book was and she answered, completely unaware of my plan, gone with the wind. now, i knew this was amongst my mother's favorite movies, along with romancing the stone ("that was the end of grogan...the man who killed my father, raped and murdered my sister, burned my ranch, shot my dog and stole my bible"), jewel of the nile, and north and south (god, i should have know i was gay in 1985...i mean, seriously, lesley-anne down? M,MoG.), but i had no idea it was her favorite book. being a georgia peach myself, i have heard about margaret mitchell my whole life. i mean, she is sort of the unofficial first lady of the south. but i had never read the book. so i ordered them from amazon. i mean, how bad could it be, right?

ok. do you see how thick this book is? i mean, the last time i read something this long was in high school (i do love me some joseph heller). 959 pages? really mom? if we were going for sheer weight, i would have gone with the history of art. but i got myself into this mess, i suppose i must soldier on.

actually, i found ms. mitchell's prose enthralling. her use of color is amazing. seriously. it seems like every time she describes the scenery of north georgia it is saturated in reds and yellows and greens and blues. the book seems to be flying by. so kudos mom, i get it.

but ms. mitchell had even more up her sleeve than just imagery producing words ala mr. james fenimore cooper. in just the first part of this book, i learned many things about gone with the wind and-- in particular-- miss scarlett o'hara that i never knew from watching the movie. what follows is the top five. read. be enlightened. enjoy.

5 things i didn't know about gone with the wind
  1. scarlett o'hara was the original regina george from mean girls. first of all, she was only 16 when the book (and the movie) starts and she is so hung up on this boy (ashley wilkes)-- who was never really hers-- that she decides to ruin lives. the quintessential bitch. honestly, i think there is a little bit of scarlett in every mean-spirited character in modern cinema, including regina and the other plastics from mean girls, winona ryder's arch nemesis from heathers, and the "a" group from never been kissed.
  2. hell hath no fury like a child scorned. in retaliation for ashley getting engaged to melanie hamilton-- his cousin (insert southern joke here), scarlett marries a poor lovelorn man whom she cares nothing about, makes him feel inferior for the two months they are together before he leaves to fight for the south in the civil war, bears his child-- whom she foists off on her slaves-- and then bitches and moans about having to act like a widow after he is killed in battle. what a self-centered little tart! frankly, i don't think i would give a damn either, rhett.
  3. twenty years ain't a thing when it comes to picking your bride to be. scarlett's mother was only 15 when she left savannah with scarlett's father, a man she barely knew. as a role model for the future actions of her unborn daughter, ellen roubillard left everything she knew to punish her family for running off the man she truly wanted to marry and moved to fayetteville with gerald o'hara, a 43 year old man of no family and swindled property. so spitefulness seems to run in the family. hell, it practically gallops.
  4. pink may be the new black, but violet will always be the new green. scarlett o'hara is described in the opening line of the book as "not beautiful", but having alabaster skin, thick black eyebrows (and black hair i would assume) and eyes that were "pale green without a touch of hazel". now, vivien leigh, who played scarlett in the classic 1936 film version of gone with the wind was known for her violet eyes, that would change from blue to green depending on the scenery, costuming or lens used for filming. vivien leigh was hot and most likely entirely too pretty to play scarlett as mitchell imagined her. who knew?
  5. schoolin' ain't needed. as still holds true in much of the south, education was frowned upon in mitchell's north georgia, often presented as a cause for concern as to a gentleman's place in society. while scarlett claimed to love ashley, mr. o'hara never really cared for the boy because he liked books and opera and traveling. all things a good man need not do. scarlett o'hara did attend fayetteville female academy, an only slightly fictionalized institution based on the seminary attended by margaret mitchell's grandmother. but only to teach her how to be a good wife. and apparently she skipped the core classes of the day: how to be demure, the importance of obeying your husband, and how to be agreeable.

hopefully, this new thing will continue. at least for 800 more pages. i enjoy having something to talk to mom about, other than politics and my sister. then mom and i are on to my favorite book. i can't decide if i will make her read the scarlet letter, letters to a young poet or the odyssey. but i can guarantee one thing, it won't be 959 pages long.

*update* per my mother: charles, scarlett o'hara's husband, did not die in battle. he got sick while in south carolina waiting to join the fray. quote from page 142 paragraph 6 (thanks mom): "the unfortunate boy had been cheated not only of the love he thought he had won but also of his high hopes of honor and glory on the field of battle." ever the teacher.

*update part deux* per my cinemaphile friend mcpeak: gone with the wind was released as a major motion picture in 1939 not 1936. which i actually knew, but, alas, my dyslexia overtook my intellect and made me look foolish yet again. is it still dyslexia if you flip numbers instead of transposing them? my apologies. but, if you visit the link provided, it lists "the beginning" of the motion picture as 1936, not 1939. see, i can always find a technicality.


third new thing...

so with the struggles that were the first two of the 52 new things, i looked forward to planning and participating in an easy event. one that did not require a customer service representative or pine tar removing soap. and so, finally, my wish was granted and i accomplished something that didn't make me want to commit computercide or pollution. for my third new thing, i attended a reading of a book by the author.

since moving to atlanta in may, i have met some fascinating new people-- many at the non-profit think tank where i work. matthew and i work together on the same initiative and have shared many a divergent theory on politics and pop culture over a nice cup of tea (i prefer the exotic and spicy chai and matthew normally sticks with something white and fruity-- the antithesis of our choice in women, i have discovered.) matthew, from upstate new york, met his lovely wife melody, who grew up (mostly) in dayton, ohio, while the pair were in college together at wesleyan in connecticut. now you might be saying to yourself, "dayton? when i think of dayton, i don't exactly think 'exotic and spicy'. in fact, i kinda think 'white and fruity'. did you mix up your metaphors there, collins?" well, let's just say matthew managed to find himself a little fireball in the rolling hills of middleton.

melody moezzi is an activist, author, and attorney who happens to be iranian and muslim. and she is damn proud of all those qualifiers. she spent more than four years of her life-- a true labor of love-- to research, write, harangue, beg and finally publish her non-fiction work "war on error: real stories of american muslims". the book itself is a collection of interviews with twelve americans who are all very different but share one common bond, they are all muslim. melody uses their stories to tackle the misconceptions of islam that have run rampant in america in a post-9/11 world, some extreme and others simply naive (luckily, i fall into the latter category). her prose is melodic (no pun intended) and mirrors the way she speaks in person, minus the usual expletives peppered throughout, of course. i liked melody from the first moment i met her; she kissed me on both cheeks and said "damn" in the first 30 seconds. my kind of woman.

so, the event. melody spoke at wordsmiths books in downtown decatur on a friday evening. she approached the makeshift stage in her knee high boots and various bits of gold jewlery (and just on a side note...kudos matthew. that wedding ring is bitchin'!), sipping on a fresca and exuding a demure timidity. and then she opened her mouth. the only word i can think of to describe the reaction from the 30 some odd people there was captivated. complete captivation. melody read a selection from the book about time she spent in montana, drawing connections between disparate experiences and injecting humor into even the most serious and solemn of assertions. it, and she, was wonderful.

the reading was followed by a q&a which melody handled splendidly. eventhough atlanta is a big, diverse city, some crackers still creep in at events. but even potentially offensive comments and questions were disarmed by the empowered yet gentle reaction they elicited from melody. i was impressed with her command of the subject of islam and the qur'an, her wit, and her verbal filter. after dealing with the masses for a good 30 minutes, melody took her leave-- to a heavy dose of sincere applause-- and perched herself behind a folding table with a green sharpie for the book signing that was to follow.

i waited in line with the rest, making plans with alan-- the director of communications at our non-profit-- to head to birdie's (a very gay place on the square in decatur)afterwards. when i approached melody with my recently purchased copy of her tome, she excitedly grabbed it from me to sign. she politely asked how to spell my name (thanks to all the crazies who have tried to ghetto-ize the one true spelling of my first name, everyone now has to ask how to spell it). i said it was the standard way, uniteresting-- just like me. we chatted for a minute or two and then alan and i headed out, leaving matthew to deal with melody's parents. the next morning, when i cracked open "war on error" to see if i could find any embarassing tid-bits from the chapter about matthew to mock him with on monday morning, i came upon the inscription written on the title page from the night before. she had written: "to the very not uninteresting" collins and i smiled with the realization that maybe i wasn't that uninteresting after all.