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The Danny/Gwyneth Project Reboot

chickenwonton_shot_01_025_rgb-cropOver six long years ago, on the eve Osama bin Laden died, I began the Danny/Gwyneth Project. Nursing a broken heart and a simmering hatred for my shitty job in Portland, I purchased Gwyneth Paltrow’s first cookbook, My Father’s Daughter (alt title: Me), and made a solemn vow that I would cook every single recipe in that damn book within 9 months, a la the Julie/Julia Project. And then, within a matter of months, I got a job in New York, moved to Brooklyn, and promptly gave up on the project. I didn’t have time to schlep around Manhattan desperately searching for spelt flour and duck bacon, not when I was 23 and in the big city and gay and single and finally had a decent job offering me an actual salary that let me buy drinks and good food and more drinks!

So what’s changed after over half a decade to summon this project back from the dead? Well, not too much, quite frankly. I still work in advertising, and still don’t know if that’s what I want to do with my life. Bark Antony is still alive, despite his best efforts. Somehow, he’s 9 years old. Somehow, I’m 30.

A short scroll down this page and I find myself 23 years old again, new to New York, freshly out of the closet. I can barely look at those old posts, if I’m being honest. I try to read my old writing and cringe and start sweating and almost immediately close the tab. Frankly, it’s unreadable to me, and I’m astonished I’ve let it stand on the internet for so long. Why was I blogging about such personal things in my early 20s! Even the post I once lauded as my “favorite” and “best” is, with the distance of half a decade, full of wretched writing and the most juvenile pining for someone who, it turns out, was really, truly terrible for me. (Folks, take it from me: never, ever blog.)

This is all to say: we were all so young once, huh? Oh well.

But for the past few months (years, if we’re being honest), I’ve felt the inexplicable pull at unexpected moments to finally finish this Project. I’d be riding the subway, minding my business, trying to avoid eye contact with the 40 other people jostling to hold onto the same pole, and wham — I’d get the strong urge to hunt down an obscure Israeli spice that costs $15. Or I’d be at a bar, ordering another round of drinks for a couple friends, and holy shit — I’d get an irresistible desire to be in my kitchen, trying to figure out what to do with seven different kinds of flour.

When I’m honest with myself, the biggest headaches from Gwyneth were always the most fun, provided I didn’t get too wrapped up in the time-wasting, money-burning, hair-pulling of it all. And I did get some value out of the Project. I killed my first live animals for the purpose of eating just because Gwyneth told me to! (Which reminds me: by the end of this first cookbook, I will have to stab a live lobster in the face. Can’t wait.) I became a go-to-guy for all things duck bacon! (Logging into this blog for the first time in years — after resetting the password I had long forgotten — I discovered an average of 20 people a day still show up here after googling some form of “duck bacon where.” Sorry, folks, I still don’t know duck bacon where.) And, damnit, I have even found myself returning to a couple of her recipes again and again. (Her veggie chili is actually very good, you should know.)

Over the years, too, Gwyneth has stayed in the news, most recently for reasons she may not be too happy about. As one of her earliest and most-devoted online critics, I felt the need to continue and finish my quest, to experience the act of creating every single one of her recipes.

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Then, as if sensing my teeter on the edge and knowing the irresistible draw of a trilogy, Gwyneth debuted her third cookbook, throwing in a taunting title just to seal the deal.

It’s All Easy? Fine, Gwyneth. Let’s see how easy it all really is.

This is it. One man. Three cookbooks (well, more like 2 ¼ cookbooks at this point). Hopefully finishing this never-ending torment before I carry it into my 40s. Come back tomorrow for the beginning of the (long, long, still so fucking far-off) end. May god have mercy on my soul.


Oh! One more thing: if I’m going to survive this reboot, I’m going to need an outlet for non-Gwyneth Paltrow writing. So I’ve started a TinyLetter called DannyLetter, because I’m original. This will show up at random points in your inbox and will contain writing from me on whatever the hell I feel like. The first one is already out, in which I begin to talk about my trip to North Korea last year! You can read that one here, and you can sign up at tinyletter.com/DannyLetter

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‘Tis the Season(al Crumble)!

Okay, so, it’s time to get real with you guys: I fucked up. This is something I cooked basically a month ago but has been too uninspiring to even bother writing about until now. And somewhere in that time I, apparently, deleted all the photos I took of this recipe. Soooooo this one is pictureless. Use your imagination, I guess. Whoops. And if this terrible start hasn’t pulled you in, then you are just hopeless. (Also, the Portland Mercury wrote a little shout-out to me, and now I feel a lot of pressure to not let the wonderful Alison Hallett down.) Anyway, Seasonal Crumble!

Way back in November, faithful readers may remember I was still living on my friends’ couch, still hopelessly searching for an apartment, aided by nothing but my own determination, and a box full of cunt balls. Nora and Mandy, my two gracious hosts, were finally throwing a housewarming party a mere three months since moving in, and I wanted to contribute. A seasonal crumble seemed perfect, even though I was kicking myself for not making this during the summer, when I could have used peaches and blackberries. Instead I would be stuck with apple, which is fine, but not nearly as exciting. Alas, the plight of a lazy blogger.

But stuck with apple I was, so after a trip to Trader Joe’s (and oh my god am I happy not to live near a Trader Joe’s in Brooklyn because those places in the city are insane), we returned to the apartment to set up for the party. Nora made her famous dip and tried to mix an alcoholic cider while the rest of us criticized her hesitation at adding too much alcohol, Mandy made her famous red velvet cake balls, and I got to work on the crumble.

Much like the rest of this cookbook, the actual recipe was far too easy. Dice up your fruit, put it in a baking dish. I sliced up my apples and tossed them in, and then added my secret ingredient (blackberries, which I had purchased on a whim, even though they were out of season, because I wanted some more flavor in my crumble, SORRY FOR BREAKING THE RULES). On top of that I dumped some flour. I don’t remember how much; this happened a month ago.

To make the crumble topping, I mixed some softened butter, whole rolled oats, and brown sugar in a bowl with my hands, which is turning into one of my favorite things Gwyneth makes me do. I don’t know what it says about my fetishes, but I LOVE kneading softened butter with my fingers. I’m sure there’s a whole section on the NYC Craigslist where I could make money off of doing only that, but we’ll save that for when I get a little bit more desperate for money.

Anyway, I put the crumble on top of the fruit and baked it for however long Gwyneth told me to bake it for. And then I took it out and forced people to eat it with the ice cream, and everyone at the party commented on how wonderful the store-bought ice cream was. So that should tell you all you need to know about the crumble.

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Prelude to a Murder

Oh, god. Tonight’s the night. The first time I kill something. Excluding insects. And anything I may have accidentally, unknowingly hit with my car. I’ve fished, but the meager couple of things (if you can even call them fish) in my life I’ve ever caught, I’ve always thrown back.

But tonight I get up close and personal with my dinner. I don’t think I have the balls to stab a lobster — multiple lobsters, in fact! — in the face and slice them lengthwise like that bloodthirsty Gwyneth demands, so I’m going the gutless route (albeit even more painful for the animals, I’m sure): boiling crabs alive.

So, in a few hours, we shall be venturing down to a seafood store, picking out our victims, returning home, and tossing them in some boiling water. Pray for us.

And I’m pretty sure I only have glass lids for all my pots. I really don’t want to have to watch this go down.

Stay tuned.

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My apathy has become staggering. Used to be, even on my off-days I would at least flip through Gwyneth’s cookbook once a day, doing mental math problems (“If a man is driving 30 MPH to a grocery store 50 miles away, and the cost of ground duck breast is $10.99/lb., how many times will he consider quitting his stupid project?”) and attempting to plan the meals for the next week. Today I realized I can’t even remember the last time I picked up Gwyneth’s book.

Maybe it’s not apathy; maybe I’m just distracted. Portland is at its most beautiful this time of year, and the temptation to be outside of the house all day is too great to resist.  I’ve also been doing some actual, non-Gwyneth, fiction writing, in the hopes that I can pull out of my ass the perfect short story to impress the admissions departments of at least one of the big MFA programs in the country. And, of course, I just had the best weekend I’ve had in a long, long time, and it was all entirely unexpected, and now I’ve come down from it with my head spinning and feeling very disoriented about everything. (Here’s the best advice I can give from what I learned this weekend: Don’t go to the Elephant Garlic Festival. Or, if you must go, bring a bottle of wine covertly wrapped in a T-shirt.)

But I know I have a duty (a very, VERY important duty) to continue on this Sisyphean journey, and I know I stumbled a bit on this journey by not cooking yesterday like I had planned, but I ended up spending most of the day traipsing around (and practically beneath!) Mount St. Helens, which necessitates a simple pizza party for dinner when one returns to Portland. I do have a Gwyneth meal planned soon, and it should be a big one. I have to cook for someone in the near future that I would very much like to impress, so I’m thinking it will be time to take a stab (oh, god, and I unfortunately mean that so literally) at lobster. Fuck, I really don’t know if I can kill a living thing.

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A Long, Self-Indulgent Dispatch From a Vacation, Part One: Rome and The Vatican

So, this has nothing to do with Gwyneth Paltrow. Sorry. But maybe we need a bit of a break? A break from Gwyneth Paltrow is something the internet DEFINITELY needs. So, I apologize for derailing the blog for, like, ever. We’ll get back to the cooking soon! (Don’t worry, we’re well ahead of schedule on the recipes, anyway.) But for now, do you want to hear a lengthy, self-indulgent story about a wonderful trip someone you probably have never met took to Italy? Of course you do! So, let’s go to Rome.

First things first, I should explain some background: I went to Italy with my two sisters, Nikki and Sara, our Aunt Dana, and our grandma. There were a couple reasons for the trip. Our grandpa died a year ago almost exactly, my grandma was doing a writing seminar/adult summer camp/strange thing in Tuscany this summer, and also we just all wanted to go to Italy. So, we did. Lesson learned: any excuse you can make up for yourself to go to Italy, take it. Continue reading

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