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I Ate That

It’s becoming painfully apparent to me that the most regularly employed tag on this blog is “I Ate That,” and that we might be skewing a bit less “accidental Chicago” and a bit more “purposeful consumption of high fructose corn syrup.”

Never you mind, because yesterday was what my mother referred to when we were growing up as “Shrove Tuesday” (I have literally never heard anyone else call what is commonly known as “Mardi Gras” or “Fat Tuesday” as such, but apparently it’s a thing.)

In Chicago, our many Polish-American friends and neighbors also refer to this day as “Paczki Day,” named for the sweet, dense, doughnut-esque filled pastries that must contain lard, butter, and margarine in order to hold their particular shape. (Sidenote: this is the best cover story ever for using three kinds of shortening in one markedly shapeless pastry.)

I’ve never experienced the full reward born from the determination of being at Bridgeport Bakery at Archer and Loomis–where Paczkis are ordered weeks in advance and a traffic cop appears around 10 a.m. to arbitrate the vehicular melee–when they open in the wee small hours of this Tuesday morning each year (having closed as early as noon the day before to prepare), but my more determined coworker was there before the office opened yesterday, snagging the sweet horde pictured above and proving nice enough to share.

In our house, Fat Tuesday always meant pancakes for dinner, a tradition I find we carried over from our English family members (though we nixed the lemon juice and sugar topping favored in Northern Ireland). I couldn’t find anyone else in my circle familiar with this practice, but that didn’t stop them from accompanying me to iHop and partaking in a meal more side-laden than anything ever served at home, and involving a Leslie-Knope-approved-level of whipped cream.

Spiritual practices aside, it seems penance–of the dietary variety–may actually be in order.

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This is the cupcake. This is the cupcake I couldn’t stop thinking about.  The cupcake that beckoned me away from my apartment at 9 p.m.  The cupcake that meant I had to stand in line for twelve minutes at Molly’s while groups of teenagers who apparently don’t have enough homework somehow managed to be loud while texting and the kid behind me would seriously not stop touching my back and WHY did that kid look so much like Justin Beiber, honestly, he’s got like four earrings and that weird haircut and has he had lip injections? and GOOD LORD HOW DID THAT KID AND HIS BABYSITTER MANAGE TO CUT ME IN LINE WHILE MY CUPCAKE WAS BEING BOXED UP?!

Sometimes, it’s Monday and all you want is to eat a cupcake–this cupcake–while you watch Smash and wonder where Debra Messing got that belted sweater and, let’s be honest, maybe listen to “Let Me Be Your Star” a few hundred times while you read through your assignment file from Playwriting II and wonder where you went wrong.

Just a nice, normal little Monday with Cupcake.

Sidenote: In terms of things that are #trending, I could not care less about cupcakes.  (They’ve been here forever, really, let’s just all calm down, shall we?) That is, unless, they are either a) made by my mom, or b) from Molly’s Cupcakes on Clark, in which case I will leave my apartment at night and fight through throngs of youths and maaaaybe get in an argument with the son of family friends at a Fourth of July party after he miiiiiight have expressed an ignorant preference for cupcakes from a place that rhymes with “Wrinkles.”

I should start by saying that this dinner had its work cut out for it.  It took–count them–twenty-three emails to coordinate five people who live in the same city and see each other on a regular basis getting together for dinner on a Friday night.  Most of us had record-breakingly terrible weeks at work.  One of us exists solely on a diet of unseasoned chicken and cookies.  And a few of us slogged through ten blocks of late-onset-Chicago-winter slush to discover the restaurant had a parking lot and someone could have driven.
But when a Filipino friend offers to curate the experience of dinner at Isla Pilipina Restaurant in Lincoln Square, you don’t ask questions–you hop on that Brown Line and take it right to Western, bottle of BYOB white clutched between your mittens.

Warning: the amount of deep-fried pork you are about to witness may shock you.

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2012: The Year I Resolve to Do Everything No More Than Three Days Late.  (Or at least try).

New Years Eve ice skating at Daley Bicentennial Plaza; The Bean with East Coast friends
Introducing out-of-towners to reflective-bean-photography; Chicago Cultural Center
Festive friends; unbelievable NYE dinner (and sidecar) at Aquitaine in Lincoln Park
New year/new tie; aftermath: Clark Street, Chicago, January 1, 10 AM

German incense smoker; a glass of Christmas Eve Glühwein
My grandfather, the original Christmas enthusiast; German wooden village
Swiss fondue, our longest-standing Christmas Eve tradition
Christmas morning Panettone; Christmas afternoon eggnog
Christmas tree; feather fascinator
Ice sculpture at Lincoln Park Zoo Lights; Mom’s “incroyable” Bûche de Noël
My sister’s Christmas train; Licoln Park Zoo Lights

Being in a long-distance relationship, such as I am with New York Magazine, can be a mixed bag.  Articles about fare hikes, congestion, pollution, violence, danger, mayhem, and soaring rents?  Thank goodness my mail is delivered elsewhere!  Articles about the latest Williamsburg-iron-foundry-turned-pizza-kitchen-and-community-pottery-studio?  I simply seethe with thwarted curiosity.

When in New York I like to maximize the number of experiences I can punctuate with the worn-out trope, “I’ve read about that.”  It’s not always easy–once something’s been profiled it’s either over or totally overrun, and NY Mag doesn’t highlight too many of the $3 Margarita joints frequented by me and my ilk.  Thus it was all but a total accident that I found myself wandering in the neighborhood of Jane’s Sweet Buns with forty minutes to spare on my very last morning in town.

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