Thursday, February 24, 2011
As I write this post, there are four dozen freshly baked gingerbread cookies still warm from the oven, covered in crackly sweet sugar, cooling on my kitchen counter. Food Network is muted on the television and I now have visions of homemade chocolate pudding dancing through my head. Giada and Ina both made cous cous which I take as a sign from the foodie gods that I should imbibe in some Middle Eastern cuisine for dinner tonight. On the bucket list for normal people are things like travel to Hawaii, go sky diving, and learn to ski. On my bucket list are things like eat the tempura fried bacon at The Red Cat, try the toasted marshmallow milkshake at Stand, and indulge in something, anything, by Eric Ripert.
Some people eat to live. I live to eat.
I don't have too many memories in my life that aren't directly (or in some cases, indirectly) connected to food. There are the more obvious ones like devouring my way through the cheese cart at Picholine, a dining experience I'm still paying off - but was worth every penny. There was the birthday dinner at Le Cirque where my date and I actually forgot to talk to each other, a very rare occasion, because the food was so damn delicious. Or the time my boyfriend and I drove all the way to Boston for lobster bisque in a bread bowl. Pure heaven!
Every New Year's I've ever spent with my parents has been rung in with lobsters, champagne, shrimp cocktail and crab dip. I work hard trying to re-create my mother's crab dip recipe: I'm sure she's holding out on her secret ingredient! Her "mushy chicken" can drag me out of the deepest depression and I'd rather eat that than any gourmet meal a superstar chef could prepare. My grandmother's Swedish meatballs are famous in our family and it took her hours to roll out hundreds and hundreds of them. She'd probably roll over in her grave knowing we buy packages of frozen Ikea imposters now, so please don't tell her! My grandfather's tomato garden was a legendary summer tradition, one that my father and I still painstakingly carry on year after year. He insists on peeling them the way his father did - first a dunk in boiling water, then shocked in an ice bath. He does this with his bare hands which I am never brave enough to do, seeing the skin peeling effect the process has on the tomatoes. Yet I tend to the herb garden (with all fourteen herbs) and my father and I both pray that just one batch of our sauce comes even close to his dad's Sunday Gravy.
Food, to me, represents love, tradition, family and friendship. It is a religious experience - one to be shared.
Every time my little brother comes home from the Coast Guard, he asks for my parents to make him Chicken Parmagiana and for me to make him chocolate chip cookies. The chicken dinner is always delicious - after all, what could be bad about crispy breading and melted cheese? I must admit with deepest shame though dear readers, that the cookies I make him come from a bagged mix. Betty Crocker to be exact. I've made a lot of desserts from scratch in my day and nothing comes close to these cookies. I put my own spin on them of course, but it's warms my heart knowing that my brother and I share a bond that cost me $1.79 and 12 minutes in the oven! We don't have much together but he and I demolish a tray of these with every visit. My little way of saying I Love You to my military hero.
Even my fondest memories of being overseas are flooded by the food I was eating. I can tell you where to get the best gelato in Rome (Il Giolitti - right by Piazza Navona), the best crepes in Paris (walk away from the Champs Elysees and tourist traps - head towards the parks), the best churros in Barcelona (the little breakfast place near the flower market with the huge orange tree outside that they actually make your orange juice from), and the best deep fried Mars Bars in Edinburgh (the chip shop with the tin ceiling imprinted with roses and thistles - on the corner near Prince.) My London food memories are a little less pleasant. Not being able to find a turkey to celebrate American Thanksgiving, curry powder in everything, and paying $14 for one box of Oreos. Oh, and if someone could please explain to me why they butter the bread on EVERY sandwich, I'd appreciate it.
*Note to England: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are delicious. Peanut butter and tomato is fucking weird!*
Of course, not every food experience is a good one. I have been attacked with surprise peppers enough times that I am terrified of even the "best" restaurants now. You don't really know an establishment until you've thrown up in their restroom. There was the amazing seafood place that didn't put peppers in the crabcakes (YES!!!) but chopped them in with the corn relish on the side and "forgot" to mention that. Kinda put a damper on the evening. There was the week in New Orleans that I managed to survive five whole days without getting sick in the gumbo / jambalaya capital of the world before Emeril LaGasse's restaurant hid cayenne in a macadamia nut cookie. That sucked. The worst one had to be at Disney World when my cinnamon cream cheese hot pretzel was accidentally switched for a jalapeno stuffed. That tied my stomach in knots worse than three straight rides on Space Mountain!
Yet despite the imminent danger at every turn, I crave excellent dining experiences the way most people crave sunlight. I feel like good food is not a luxury for the elite, rather a necessity for the fulfilling enjoyment of life. It catches me offguard when I meet a person who does not share this same view. Someone who thinks Kraft Mac n Cheese isn't just for kids. I'm as big a fan of comfort food as the next guy but having sampled Daniel Boulud's truffled mac n cheese, I fear I may never be able to return to simple life. Having eaten real Italian pizza while sitting across from the Trevi Fountain means that I can never go back to Domino's ever again. Food is a part of me, my family, my culture, my life. It is essential to my well-being. I don't know how to be with someone who does not understand my passion.
You see, I've rather harshly judged men in the past based (partly) on their concepts of food. Frankly, the guy who showed me the picture of himself on a billboard brought about his own demise! Everyone else I have gotten to know slowly and usually over conversations about food. Michael and I discussed bacon on our first three dates! Spidey Watch got a second chance because he showed me the best place to get tapas and chocolate martinis. Both the Jewish historian and the "100 pounds heavier than his picture" guy tried taking me for chain Italian. Sorry boys, but if it's in a Rite Aid shopping center, I can make better at home. Trekkie virgin was too nervous to eat anything in front of me and I can't have that. Oh, and don't even get me started on the man who would only eat brown food. That guy needed serious therapy.
Perhaps it's because I've been reading so many cookbook memoirs lately. Perhaps it's because I want to write my own. Perhaps it's because I've been dating men who just don't "get" me in the kitchen. Or perhaps it's because I haven't found my culinary soul mate yet. Something in bugging me in a way I can't describe. Yes, I want to be with a man who loves me but I also want to be with a man who loves what a crazy baker I am and how I cannot imagine life without lasagna. I want a man who thinks it's adorable that I eat ricotta like it's yogurt or that I stash chocolate truffles around the house for emergency cravings. I want a man who understands my deep seeded need for all things hummus dipped and feta stuffed and phyllo wrapped. And why sometimes, just sometimes, I have to make fudge at three o'clock in the morning.
If you need some late-night reading / love stories, might I suggest:
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg - her blog Orangette led to both her book and her husband
The Gastronomy of Marriage by Michelle Maisto - her marriage is one of Southern Italian vegetarian pledges I Do to years of Chinese tradition
I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Guilia Melucci - one failed relationship equals one great recipe and there are so many to choose from
Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard - when an American girl falls in love with a Frenchman, cheese and pears are sure to follow
My Life from Scratch by Gesine Bullock-Prado - what happens when Sandra Bullock's sister gives up life in LA and moves to Vermont to start her own pastry business? Yumminess - that's what!
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
By now, you've all read my Ode to Speed Dating - my first (and last?) attempt at poetry on this site. It was based on the evening before Valentine's Day when four girlfriends and I attended an event in the Meatpacking District in the hopes of some laughs and free Popburgers. The sliders have all been eaten, the fries and ketchup are gone. All that remains is the list of names with a few notes jotted down from each of us. I'll let the girls speak for themselves.
Kimberly: I just popped the button off my jeans. Am now being held together with a paperclip. Bad sign?
June: Alright, I'm prepared for this to be a whole bunch of losers. Can we just get started?
Millie: Who cares how dumb the dates are? There are free sliders!
Chelsea: This is my first time. Do I talk first or do they? How does this work?
Alli: I'm so excited, I'm nauseas. Does anybody have a mint?
Yup, here we are. Just five girls waiting to go on fifteen dates. Not gonna be awkward at all...
*Note to the Readers: I have written my first hand accounts of each date and where applicable, and included my girlfriends' comments about each one. Cocktails while rehashing the evening were a necessity!!!*
1) Will - sits down and I wish him a Happy Mistress Day. For those of you wondering, it's the official holiday the day before V-Day (Google it - I promise!) He laughs and says that he's not married but he wishes he was so I could be his mistress. I'm too pretty to be a wife, but I'd make a damn good mistress.
June said: Did he tell everybody else he was married?
Chelsea said: He kept making jokes about his wife and kids in Connecticut.
Millie said: Inappropriate!!!
Alli said: He sat down and introduced himself to me as "Hi, I'm Will and I'm drunk. You can say anything you want to me." Awesome!
2) Jostein - introduced himself as Justin but the name is really pronounced Yo-Stine. He's from Norway so we bonded over my bff in England who came from Trondheim. He was impressed that I knew a little about the country and traditions. Came to the US on a three month training program and was looking for nice women to spend time with while in New York.
Chelsea said: If his name is Yo-Stine, why did he say Justin?
Alli: He was wearing a Cookie Monster sweater.
Millie: Oh, he definitely looked like a weird sort of Muppet.
3) Kunal - has lots of personality. He's got a big grin and shining eyes and all the confidence in the world. Came from India when he was nine but speaks perfect English and loves New York. Especially loves New York women.
Alli said: I fully expect a match with him. He was sooo nice.
June said: Very cute. Really nice. Pretty much my type.
Chelsea said: At least he was fun to talk to.
4) Kamil - tells me that his name is Arabic for "perfect" - and it is. I looked it up. He's a corporate lawyer and loves his job. It's nice to see someone who enjoys his occupation although he doesn't shut up about it and I don't really get a chance to talk. Oh well.
Alli said: His breath stunk to high heaven.
Chelsea said: Was that the guy who smelled bad?
Millie said: Oh no, honey. Two words: personal hygiene.
5) Guru - alright, I know what this name means but Guru tells me he's not a teacher even though he's always wanted to be. Says that it would be too obvious if "Guru" was a teacher. He can't even do yoga because he feels he'd be made fun of. Poor thing.
Millie said: I think it's awesome. His name is Guru!
June said: Um, yeah. No.
6) Paul - asks me what I prefer: showers or baths? I say showers to be efficient, baths to read in (I'm a huge bookworm.) He counters that any book worth reading is not worth reading in the bath because if it's exciting, you'll flail around and inevitably drop your book at the best part, thus ruining it and never knowing how it ends. I ask what was the last "splash worthy" book he enjoyed? He retorts "Fiction? Non-fiction? Memoir? Be more specific!" and then goes on a diatribe about Black Swan - which is nothing related to the Natalie Portman movie - it's about how unpredictable huge events will impact Earth but we'll never see it coming and we're all going to be destroyed anyway so what's the point of all this in the first place? Pessimism at its finest!
Alli said: He has some sort of home brewing in his basement. Does anyone else think that's creepy?
Millie said: What was he? Like 12?
Chelsea said: That was the boy who looked like a 10 year old? Oh yeah, no.
7) Michael - I wrote nothing down for him. I literally took no notes. And even with my ridiculous memory, I couldn't tell you anything about him. Good thing I brought girlfriends!
Alli said: That was the pastry chef who sat down and started name dropping all the bakeries he's worked for. Little does he know I haven't got a clue who any of those people were!
*Note - I WISH he told me he was a pastry chef. I LOVE baking!*
8) Alex - is from Chicago and works in the trade show business which he really enjoys. He's a sales guy and gets to travel all the time. Talked about work the whole 4 minutes. I didn't get a word in.
June said: I don't care about trade shows.
Millie said: Does he ever shut up?
Chelsea said: Self-absorbed. But cute.
9) Hamad - tried to shock me by saying that he was from Kuwait. This is a Globetrotters event - it's like the United Nations of dating. Nothing shocks me. I kept dropping funny bomb after funny bomb, one-liner after one-liner. He laughed so hard and said "You're so funny, you should be a comedian. What do you do?" Dead serious, I replied "I'm a comedienne." He laughed even harder and when our 4 minutes were up, he kissed me on the cheek. Time well spent?
Alli said: He told me he was from Kuwait and then waited for the over-the-top shocked reaction. He didn't get one. I think he was disappointed.
Chelsea said: I didn't get a kiss. I'm kind of disappointed.
10) Stan - is a banker in charge of acquisitions and mergers. He assured me that it's not as boring as it sounds. I think he's lying. I tell him I'm a writer. He thinks that this is the most fascinating thing he's ever heard. I'm so lucky. How amazing! Wow, to be a writer is the coolest job in the world. That must be so awesome. Etc. Etc. Etc. He never recovers.
Alli said: I'm definitely putting him down for a match. He was fun.
Millie said: That guy was overly excited to be at speed dating.
11) Kevin - introduces himself as being new to NY. I ask where he's from. He says "a place I'm sure you've never heard of." Try me! "It's a small island in the Pacific Ocean." My first guess is Mauritius. He almost falls off his chair. Stunned. I smile smugly back at him, arms folded, legs crossed, eyebrows raised. "I told you I was good at geography!" He's in awe that I have not only heard of his island, but I know where it is (off the coast of Madagascar), and how to spell it. I have a friend from Mauritius. Living in England is good for diversifying your cultural associations!
Alli said: Did you know that his friends signed him up for this event because they're tired of hanging out with him?
June said: No, but I believe that.
12) Marco - is way skinny for my taste. He has a weak handshake and a quiet voice. I try to make him comfortable but this boy is in over his head. There's nervous and then there is shoulda-brought-a-barf-bag-to-speed-dating nervous. He's the latter.
Chelsea said: Marcos was cute-ish.
Alli said: I think it was Marco S. Not Marcos.
Chelsea said: Oh, I thought Marcos was a weird name.
Alli said: Was he the one with a handshake like a limp fish?
June said: Yup, that was him.
Millie said: Marco. Did I meet him???
June said: Exactly!!!
13) Oleg - and I know you won't believe this but it was a DIFFERENT Oleg!!! At this point, I'm thinking: What are the chances that I have never heard this name before and suddenly I meet two guys named Oleg, both at speed dating events. WEIRD. Wait - it gets better. Oleg tells me that he's in New York doing research as he's originally from Uganda where he works as a buffalo scientist. I have never heard of anyone being a buffalo scientist but he recounts how it was a career change for him as he originally studied big cats. Tigers? Leopards? Cheetahs? Nope - Lions! How lions are missing a certain gene found in other cats that correlates to fear so he came to NY to study mice and alter their "fear gene." According to Oleg the buffalo scientist, there is now video on YouTube of the first set of mice without the fear gene. One walked right up to a cat and smacked it in the face! Experiment complete! What comes next? They took that cat, altered its "fear gene" and it slashed a crocodile in South Florida because it wasn't afraid of the crocodile. Wow, this is some serious messing with nature!
Alli said: Oleg, that was the guy from Russia, right?
Chelsea said: Yeah, the mathematician.
Me: No, no, he was the Ugandan buffalo scientist.
All four girls: stare at me blankly.
14) Dave - is friends with Stan. He's from Taiwan and was in Egypt for the first two days of the riots. He loves that I do improv comedy and asks where I perform. Actually writes it down on his notepad and says he's always wanted to take classes there. Maybe we'll run into each other soon!
Millie said: Which one was Dave again?
June said: Exactly.
Overall impressions for the night?
June said: It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.
Millie said: I was charming and I got free burgers. This was fun.
Chelsea said: When can we do this again?
Alli said: I'm definitely not meeting the love of my life here but that was a blast. Let's do it again. This time, maybe Single
Professionals night. That way, I'll know nobody's looking for a Green Card!!!
As for me, I think this is my last speed dating event. It's fun but I don't have the energy to keep smiling like that all night. Gonna save my enthusiasm for the stage from now on. On the plus side, the host Rob was really cute. So maybe this wasn't a complete waste of time...
Monday, February 14, 2011
Twas the night before V-Day and all through the bar
Speed daters had come from near and from far
They came from Manhattan, from Brooklyn, from Queens
They came wearing dresses, or t-shirts and jeans
They ordered their beer, their wine and mixed drinks
To calm down their nerves and nausea, methinks
Girls came in groups of two, three or four
Each one was hungry and looking to score
I went in a cackling coven of five
Everyone stared at us once we arrived
For it sucks when someone likes you - not your friend
But we do not fight over trifles like men
It was time to begin, the host rang the gong
Four minutes each date - for some, that’s too long
For others, too short but those dates are few
When you wish he would just stop staring at you
Hello, nice to meet you, let’s make one thing clear
My breasts are down there - my eyes are up here
Smile, shake hands, and make some small talk
Then the women stay put and the men have to walk
Seventeen speed dates we had all in all
Ranged between thin, fat, short, and tall
Light-skinned and dark-skinned, blonde and brunette
Everyone wonder’ng how many “matches” they’d get
Halfway through the evening, there’s some time to mingle
The question arises: So why are you single?
You’re pretty / You’re smart / There’s no one like you!
Excuse me, I have to go use the loo
I meet some more guys: in sales, social work
One is a banker, one’s just a jerk
There are men from Chicago, Kuwait and Norway,
India, Canada and Sheepshead Bay
There are men who love reading, animals, travel
Each is a mystery I try to unravel
Some enjoy Scuba, trade shows, flying
The buffalo scientist is definitely lying
I smile at all of them, fingers crossed for one match
For I know in my heart that I’m a great catch
I’m here for the evening to have lots of fun
I don’t expect to find love or meet “the one”
It’d be great if tomorrow I wasn’t alone
But I have Netflix, wine and chocolate at home
I know I’ll survive another Valentine
Just in case though, I’m asking “Would you be mine?”
Thursday, February 10, 2011
As I get a little older, a little wiser, and up to my eyeballs in loser juice, I realize more and more things that I need from a relationship. Dating so many men in a short amount of time really puts things into perspective for a girl. The concept of not settling for anyone who didn't make me extremely happy was a foreign notion to me until a year ago. I just thought that guys gave whatever they wanted to and I was stuck accepting it. In the battle of "take it or leave it," I ALWAYS took it because I didn't know any better. Scratch that, I truly didn't believe that I deserved any better. If this is you, if you are thinking that your man is treating you like crap and you don't deserve any better, please do us both a favor right now: stop reading this blog. Step away from your computer and go take a good, long look in the mirror. Stare really hard into your own eyes and ask yourself "If this is as good as it gets, it that good enough for me???"
Go ahead, I'll wait.
Oh good, you're back! Well, what did you think? Are you willing to compromise who you are to stay with someone who doesn't make you laugh? Doesn't treat you well? Doesn't make you feel like the best you that you can possibly be? Before this project, I would've told you that I was the same way. Not demanding. Not looking for anything more than someone was willing to offer. Not anymore. Life is too short to wallow in your own unhappiness, especially if someone else is the source of it!
Let me ask you another question: if one of your girlfriends talked crap about you, was always in a pissy mood, didn't make you smile, refused to take care of you when you needed a shoulder to lean on, never initiated contact, etc - would you still call her a friend? Or would you muster the courage to walk away?
Dating is the same way! There are some really great guys out there if you're patient enough to wait for one to come along. I know it's hard, believe me. Many, many times I've found myself doing exactly what I tell you girls NOT to do. I sit by the phone waiting for some dipshit to call. I get aggravated when he doesn't and yet I find myself equally annoyed when he does. Or a boy I thought I was super interested in breaks things off with me and I cry about it because I let my feelings get hurt. Yet what was the real loss there? If he didn't want to be with me to begin with, then I have zero reason to be upset. Any man who makes you cry isn't worth ruining your mascara over in the first place.
You see, I don't want to be with a man who thinks that it would be "nice" to be with me. I don't want to be with someone who could "take me or leave me." I want to date someone who really, truly WANTS to date me. Someone who appreciates me, enjoys spending time with me, thinks he's lucky that he's the guy I'm dating. I want a man who loves waking up each morning and sending me a little 'hello' text and smiles when I'm the last person he says 'good night' to. I want a man who craves contact with me, giving each of us space to live our own lives, but also intertwining as much of ourselves as possible. I want to be with someone who adores me with every fiber of his being and doesn't freak out when I feel the same way about him. I know I deserve this just like I know I'll find it someday. And you, my dearest readers - you will too.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Singledom has distorted my views on life.
I now believe that stuffing is a food group. If I eat dinner standing up at the kitchen counter, it doesn't count as "eating alone." If I have a midnight snack but there is no one to catch me doing so, it never happened. Frozen chicken kievs, frozen blintzes, and frozen pasta are staple ingredients on my shopping list. Hors d'oeuvres can be baked all at once, thus making it feel like there's a party in my mouth and everyone is invited. Pudding has milk in it, therefore it constitutes my dairy intake for the day. If I consume an entire bag of chocolates but bury the bag in the bottom of the garbage pail, that bag never existed. Throwing together dinner means finding some old cold cuts and not-yet stale bread with the last-ditch scrapings of the Hellman's jar and the unmoldy half of a tomato from the vegetable crisper. I could easily survive for a week on Kraft singles and Wheat Thins.
My single life has taken over food as I know it. I was once a happy housewife (yes, they do exist) cooking dinner for myself and my husband every evening. I made pot pies and lasagnas and meatballs and eggplant parmesan and salads and soups and breads. I owned a Crock Pot. I owned a breadmaker. I owned several corkscrews and served wine at meals. I set the table with placemats, bowls, plates, glasses, napkins and utensils. We did not dine in front of the tv, even for mac n cheese. I made a dessert for every occasion: crumbles, cobblers, cakes, cookies, pies and pastries. It was a regular joke in our house about who else was coming for dinner because I always cooked enough for a small army. I loved having leftovers in the fridge for him to take into work the next day. His colleagues ran to the store on their lunch break but my husband had homemade meals waiting for him to heat up. It made me feel special sending him off with more than just a turkey sandwich. Like I was doing my job as a wife.
My mother visited us at our home in Surrey, England for a few days. It was our one year wedding anniversary and we planned a huge celebration and renewal of vows. Each night of her stay, she stared at me moving about the tiny British kitchen: hair curled, apron on, face made up, making dinner for my small but loving family. I must tell you that in 37 years of marriage to my father, my mom has not once worn an apron to make dinner. Not once. She hardly recognized this young, ambitious girl making tea in the electric kettle and washing dishes by hand. I had reverted to the perfect 1950's textbook woman - not quite the educated, world traveler she knew!
Our semi-detached house in one of the Home Counties was a big step up for us. We had a big backyard (by English standards anyway) which my husband mowed on weekends in nicer weather. We had a sunroom which served dual purpose as both a dining room and an office. We had one and a half bathrooms, unheard of in London. This was all spread out over two floors, quite spacious considering where we'd come from.
Our Catford flat was an open square of a thing. The bedroom was in an odd L shape, making it impossible to position furniture without injury. I managed to break my little toe twice on the corner of a wall while trying to avoid bumping into the dresser. It was on the seventh floor of an apartment building in the center of town, overlooking a McDonald's, a KFC, and a Domino's pizza. If it wasn't for the fish and chip shop and two horrendous Chinese take out places, one would not be able to tell this town from any other in the US. I live in New York though where we have good pizza and good Chinese take out. I therefore ate at none of these establishments.
The real reason we moved though was the kitchen. It was three cubic feet with a mere four cabinets - all too tall for my poor hubby to reach - and room for only half a fridge. I was at the grocery store every day seeing as we had no room to store more than one meal's worth of food. Forget having people over to eat! The sink wasn't even large enough to wash up in. We could dunk precisely one dish at a time and heaven help you if someone else wasn't doing the drying! Suffice it to say, counter space wasn't much better.
Despite our lack of culinary accommodations, I managed in that place until we finally moved to the suburbs. Yes, it was a longer commute and the rent was slightly higher for a two bedroom place, but having a garden and adopting two precious kittens was surely worthwhile. We hosted an American Thanksgiving meal for all my foreign friends since I now had room to cook a multi-course meal.
Once back on Long Island with a gorgeous home of our own, we continued the tradition of dinner on Sundays for friends and family. I spent six days at a time planning what to serve, fidgeting over menus and grocery budgets, several hours tidying the mess before company came, and one glorious evening eating and drinking with people we loved...only to throw everything in the dishwasher that night and look forward to a week of rest before doing it all again.
Now I am single, I find myself craving those parties, those dinners, those people to cook for. I watch Food Network religiously and have hundreds of recipes bookmarked but it feels hopeless with no one to appreciate all my effort. There is a cookbook specifically detailing The Pleasures of Cooking for One - this is essentially the single gal's guide to cuisine - but I can't be bothered. Why make a whole meal when one can have powdered mashed potatoes or shrimp cocktail? Is there really a reason to put on an apron and slave over sauces and stews when you know for damn certain that no man will come wrap his arms around you and tell you how beautiful you are?!?!
Besides, it's not like I'm completely alone. Tonight, I'm sleeping with a box of Girl Scout cookies. Calories for a cause! They don't count, right???