It was a crisp Saturday morning in March of 2013, and as I opened my eyes, I said to myself, "Today is the day I am going to make a lasagna." I should have known at this moment that the day would melt into a disaster area, but I was not yet very good at reading my own instincts. Lasagna? What in the hell...? I had never made a lasagna before. I mean, I loved eating lasagna. Who doesn't love a good piece of guilty pleasure lasagna? But why would I, on this day, someone who had just two weeks prior finally mastered the art of making a tidy omelet, decide to make such an intimidating, complex, time-consuming dish?
And also, last time I checked, I do not recall knowing of a small lacrosse team to invite over to eat the darn dish. Who did I think would actually eat this lasagna? Everyone and their chiropractor knows that one single batch of lasagna produces so many left-overs that they usually end up in the trash can via a 13-month stint in the freezer, only discovered when someone tries to stick a new bottle of vodka in the freezer and can't get it all the way in.
"Hey, this vodka won't fit. What do we have back here? What is this? This looks like frozen human organs."
"Oh, just throw that away. That's left-over lasagna from my ex-boyfriend's step-sister's new baby's communion party from three years ago in New Jersey. I forgot about that."
"Throw it out with the Tupperware and everything?"
"Yeah. Here, let me just take it outside into the trashcan on the corner. I don't want it in my house anymore. Not for another minute."
Left-over lasagna is pretty much a liability.
"Did you hear about Greg? He died. His wife couldn't fit his medicine in the freezer because of all this left-over lasagna they had in there since their wedding in '84. The medicine went bad. And so did Tommy."
Again, I will ask: Who on earth was this lasagna for?
I know it was not for my neighbors. Sure, I loved my neighbors. I lived in a building consisting of 20 studios and five floors, the inhabitants of which ranged from 20-something Caucasian girls to 50-something white women. I was one of these females. Sometimes I felt like I lived in a convent with no rules or stipulations. It was in the west 40s in Manhattan and it was rent-stabilized. The building had an elevator. I feel like I can say this out loud now because I don't live in the building anymore. If I still lived in the building, someone would probably Google my name and try to kill me for the apartment. But that won't happen now because I don't live in the building anymore. Which is why I can say that out loud. God, that felt therapeutic. It felt like a vocal arm stretch. Finally, I feel free.
Anyway, the tenants in the building were lovely. Everyone was great. But I was not making lasagna for them. With the exception of the occasional hurricane, black out, terrorist attack or snow-storm, nobody in the building ever got together. Actually, that's a lie. A lot of them got together. A lot of them were friends. I know this because on the occasional hurricane, black out, terrorist attack or snow-storm when we did all get together, I would always make note of everyone being very chummy and referencing "That time last week we sat in the apartment and played this board game" or "That time last month when we composted together in Brooklyn" or "So thrilled you got that job at the pet store, Betina. It was so fun to help you get dressed up for your interview." I think last time we convened together was during Hurricane Sandy. Side note: We were always seeking shelter in a ground floor apartment which makes no sense. But anyway, during Hurricane Sandy I think I remember there were eight women in the room and six of them were all trying on bridesmaid dresses for the seventh one's wedding coming up in the Spring. The eighth one was me. I took pictures of everyone. Nobody asked me to pose in the pictures. I joked "Wouldn't it be funny if I posed in my pajamas with you guys. Everyone would think I was the bride." Nobody laughed. Once I was back safe inside my fourth floor apartment, I tried to think up ways I could socialize more with my neighbors. The answer I came up with was certainly not "Make a lasagna." So, again, the mystery dish was not for them.
Turns out, the lasagna was simply an exercise to see if I could make a lasagna. But also, to give myself some ounce of credit, I did go through a phase of cooking on Saturday mornings because it relaxed me and started the weekend faster.
My weekends usually went like this:
Friday night: WIRED.
Saturday morning: WIRED
Saturday afternoon: Napping
Saturday evening: Eyelids-closing tired
Sunday morning: Relaxed, but also physically weak
Sunday afternoon: Looking online for flights to the Caribbean because "I CAN'T LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE"
Sunday night: Drunk, watching Sunday Night TV, setting my alarm and feeling really, really empowered
Cooking on Saturday mornings relaxed me a lot sooner than time did. On this particular day, I decided my relaxation would be a lasagna.
The lasagna, by the way, did not work out that well. The recipe I found online did not include enough sauce. The dish was dry. Everything kind of fell apart in what became a plate-fork-to-mouth disaster.
My friend Hannah came over to, well, just to look at it. She may even have a picture of it somewhere on Instagram. One of those "this happened" uploads.
I threw it straight into the trash can. I spared it the freezer. There were too many bottles of Vodka in my future that would need elbow room. But I did open the freezer for a minute in a moment of contemplation.
And that's when I saw it.
A left-over lasagna from a benefit show I did on Long island. Frozen in time, space and apparently, memory.
2014 is going to be the year that I focus on my talents and learn to stop myself when I start spiraling towards failure.
Some of those talents can be found in the form of videos, blogs, my book The Russian Drop and a calendar of live shows on my website:
Come to a show and tell me about your kitchen disaster!