You just got home after a long day. From the front door to your bedroom, there’s a trail of the belongings you move around on a day-to-day basis. It leads to you, lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling as you ponder life’s many challenges. And during this reprieve from the outside world, the last thing you want to do is cook, which would explain how a jar of peanut butter ended up in one hand, and a spoon in the other.
The essence of the situation we just described is what inspired Gabi Moskowitz and Miranda Berman to co-write Hot Mess Kitchen: Recipes for Your Delicious Disastrous Life. Together, these two women took on this project because, in their own way, they each realized that cooking can help you take control of a life that feels anything but in-control. During the moments when you feel ready to give in to chaos, taking to the kitchen can offer you a chance to do something for yourself, to be at the helm of your health.
Ultimately, Hot Mess Kitchen is a reminder that cooking for yourself is caring for yourself, and that’s one thing we can all have control over when life takes a turn for the disastrous.
Out today, September 12th, this cookbook includes deliciously comical recipe names such as Bounced Check Burrito, No Cash Car Crash Carbonara, I’m a Fraud French Toast, My Ex is Engaged Enchiladas, I Created A Relationship In My Mind Cupcakes, and even Quarter-Life Crisis Queso (who needs Chipotle?). Fortunately, we have excerpts from the essays that accompany the latter two recipes — which means we get to give you a taste of what’s in store.
Quarter-Life Crisis Queso
“When my best friend Caitlin decided to move to California and asked me to make the two week drive with her, I figured what the hell. It would be a great bonding experience for us, and a fourteen-day vacation from worrying about what the hell I was going to do with my life. (I worried a little bit about missing my weekly quidditch match, but I figured the team would be okay drinking butterbeer without me for a couple of weeks.)
Caitlin and I sampled a lot of Southern cuisine along our drive, the cheaper the better. When we reached Austin, Texas (the mecca of cheap, delicious food), we found queso and chips on nearly every menu. At first I was a little freaked out. I loved the idea of queso dip (essentially melted cheese), save for the fact that it’s typically made with uberprocessed cheese (think Velveeta), which gives it its plastic-like, easy meltability…and is, in my opinion, utterly disgusting. Seriously, it tastes like a melted-down Mattel factory.
At every restaurant we visited, I asked if the queso was made with processed cheese. If they told me yes, I refused to try it. I may have been clueless, but I was not unprincipled.
Finally we stopped at a little taco shack where the hostess informed me that their queso was made from real cheddar cheese, not the fake stuff. “We add a little evaporated milk and cornstarch to stabilize it, but other than that, it’s all cheese and chilies.” I was sold.
And of course, it was delicious. Spicy, creamy, and most important, authentic. If ever there was life guidance in the form of a cheese dip, this was it.
Try my take on their version on tortilla chips for ballpark-style nachos, drizzled over grilled beef and corn tortillas for Southwestified tacos, or even atop a bowl of hot chili. And the best part? It reheats like a dream.”
I Created A Relationship In My Mind Cupcakes
Hello, you little cupcakes with overactive imaginations.
I have a dessert and story for you!
I’ve created many a relationship in my mind. There was the time a celebrity favorited three of my tweets and I thought we were in love. Or when I had coffee with a guy once a week to discuss his life (therapy) and thought it was going to turn into a marriage, and hopefully a long, strung-out artistic relationship before that. I mean, I have five pretend relationships happening in my mind right now, and fifteen Snapchat affairs that I have to keep track of as well. It’s so hard!
Every now and then, I forget that these relationships are in my mind and I believe they are real. I fall in love with the idea of someone, as we all do. Once I was very positive I had found the one, or a one, or a summer one. I was doing a boring internship and had plenty of time to let my mind wander. I got very friendly with one of the other interns, a guy named Sam. We ate lunch together every day and hung out almost every weekend at the beach. Slowly our relationship started to get flirtier. I made sure to wear a V-neck every day. That’s how I knew it was real. There was even a little bit of drunken snuggling in the backseat of a cab once. This, combined with my surefire analysis of his psyche (he’d never be as smart or successful as his father and therefore hated himself and I could save him), made me certain we were basically a couple.
One night he had a party at his house. Slowly everyone shuffled out and I, drunkenly, decided not to go. My friends wanted to go. I ignored all their texts and basically forced them to leave without me. This was my night.
Soon, when almost everyone was gone, Sam noticed I was still there. He came over and invited me to spend the night, but not at all in the way I would have liked him to. He said something like: “Well, it’s very late. I feel sorry for you. And all your friends are gone. Do you need to stay? Did you come alone?” Hopeful, I said yes. Sam grabbed my hand and walked me to his bedroom. Here it was. We were finally going to consummate our summerlong flirtation. It was The Notebook, but drunk and slobbery and falling over.
He turned the knob to his room, where we found ten dudes sharing two twin beds, and a few more on the floor. It was a slumber party for twenty-two-year-old college boys. Some of the guys were kind enough to get off the second bed and Jake and I shared it. Then there were knocks at the door. More of their friends were trying to file in. Joy! My night of love! Finally, someone took a stand. Sam’s best friend, Adam, valiantly said, “No, we hate those guys. Miranda, can you please make some believable sex noises so these assholes think you’re fucking Sam?” Sam was dead asleep at this point. This inquiry, while slightly offensive, did prove to me that Adam noticed I was a girl. I was happy about this. Wanting to save the night, I accepted the challenge. This seemed like something that would happen in a movie, so I had to say yes. Also, I felt I could probably turn a few of the guys on with my special noises, and I needed to raise my self-esteem however I could in that exact moment.
I was successful. The boys were turned away. Everyone cheered for me and then went to bed.
I rested my head next to snoring Sam and took off my bra just in case he snuggled me in the night. I think I stroked his hair or something as I lay next to him. He was drunk, and I wanted to take care of him, braless.
In the morning, he woke up surprised to find me next to him and immediately offered to drive me to my friend’s house. We were silent in the car. I do think there might have been something between us that summer, but it was probably just friendship.
When I got home the next night, I cried. I was all alone. My parents were out of town and I was staying with them. The weekend hangover was settling in and I realized there had never been a real relationship at all. There was only the idea of him, and that is a sad thing to lose. It’s a really sad thing to lose. Fantasies sometimes keep us going. Fantasies are the best drugs.
What I needed on that Sunday night was something sweet to make the comedown a little bit easier and an activity to distract myself. What I needed was to make these cupcakes. And I wish I had.
I live in fear. I know the police are coming to arrest me any day now. I’m not exactly sure what specific type of fraud I will be booked for, but by constantly spewing bullshit, all the time, always, I commit the act of fraud on a daily basis.
Maybe the officers can get me on identity theft? I didn’t steal anyone’s identity in particular, but I do know that the way I describe myself at cocktail parties has no relation to who I actually am. It’s true, I have a master list of identities I’d like to steal hidden away in a safe (Jemima Kirke, Jenna Lyons, this cool-looking person I once saw on the street and now casually stalk), but there’s no way the police force knows about that.
So why am I a fraud? Why do I deserve to spend tonight in a jail cell with murderous felons? Well, first of all, I call myself a comedy writer, but I’m not funny at all. The sixth grade class wit, Will Harper, told me so in the back of the school bus in 2001 and I know it’s true. So why in God’s name am I writing this book? I mean; I’m not a writer. Sure, sometimes I tweet, but I definitely don’t work as hard as I should. I should be locked away in a bunker like J. D. Salinger, writing my magnum opus. Further, everything good I have right now is the result of luck and not my own doing. I don’t deserve my job or anything else. And I’m not even doing enough with the opportunities I do have. I could be doing so much more. (I know this 21 year old girl who’s a nobel laureate or some shit.) Someone else would be doing so much more with what I have. Also, and this is just a small thing, but I’ve lied about my weight on my driver’s license, and everywhere else, since the beginning of time.
Shit, I hear a siren. The police are probably on their way right now. I wonder what kind of officers they send in situations like this. Are they, like, cool emotional police? Are their handcuffs made of mink because they know I’m not really a threat to anyone other than myself and the people I lie to on dates? I should start preparing. Hmm. I get one phone call, right? Should I call my mom? She’ll definitely say I’m not a fraud, and I think a bunch of my friends and Snapchat followers believe in me too. Trouble is, I think I’ll have to defend myself in this instance because I am the one imagining this metaphorical arrest. I can’t defend myself! I’m full of shit and I know it. Send me to jail forever!
I don’t want to go to jail yet though. I need to get through this season of Big Brother; I’m in a Draft! I’ll have to get myself out of this. I guess I can believe in myself a little bit, at least, in front of the police, to trick them. Or I can lie about believing in myself? Can I pretend I’m confident? But how does one do this? Should I genuinely accept a compliment—the hardest task on earth?
New plan: I’ll make them French toast when they arrive. My French toast is good, and when they tell me it’s good, I’ll believe them. They’ll see that I can accept compliments without collapsing and let me go free. This is a perfect plan. Let me get cooking.
Okay, guys, I have finished the French toast. I am just going to take one bite to taste it.
Wait, this is really good. This isn’t even a trick. The French toast is actually great. Maybe I’m not a fraud. I made this breakfast all on my own. I’m semicompetent. Okay, maybe writing and being an adult aren’t as easy as making French toast, but perhaps I can just acknowledge that I’m trying? Maybe everything good that has happened to me is because of me? Maybe it’s not all luck? Maybe it’s not the next great American novel I’m writing, but I am doing something, I think. Something is good, right? Things don’t have to be impossible for them to be good. Wait, guys, I’m not a fraud. This is huge. This means the police aren’t coming, which is important, because I finished all the French toast. At last I can relax. I’m gonna turn on the TV and finish my whole DVR tonight. No, actually I’m going to work.
Wait, shit, someone just buzzed my apartment. The police are here! And it’s the real police.
This might be about all those diamonds I stole earlier. I forgot to mention that movie, Entrapment, was based on me. Gotta go. Write me in prison!
For more, Hot Mess Kitchen can be bought on Amazon.
Excerpted from HOT MESS KITCHEN Recipes for Your Delicious Disastrous Life by Gabi Moskowitz and Miranda Berman. Copyright © 2017 by Gabi Moskowitz and Miranda Berman. Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.