Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Thanksgiving Rescue Story: a Sweet Ending to a Tale of Abandonment...

You hear about it every holiday season--Someone thinks it's a good idea to bring a sweet little thing into a home, only to find it being neglected, shut away, just not wanted. Then, tragically, it ends up being cast away like so much garbage. You always hear it happening to those other irresponsible people out there, but this Thanksgiving, it almost happened to me.

I had too many damned desserts.

Every year I write in my little faux-leather menu log book: "Made too many desserts, two next time!" but this year, it reached epic proportions. Part of it was that I had overestimated the appetite of my guests. We had ten people at our Thanksgiving feast, but when three of them are pre-teen boys with limited appetite-attention spans, and three of them are I-will-keep-my-diet-I-will-not-succumb! types, well, you're really cooking for a handful. 
Did I mention the pistachios?

I don't blame the desserts— only, perhaps, their dimensions. A towering spiced peach pie, made with the last of the fall peaches from the Farmer's Market and a cream cheese crust; a pear-cranberry ginger crisp with toasted pepitas, straight from the recipe books of Border Grill; and Caramel crunch chocolate bars. Plus a guest brought the always-necessary pumpkin pie. Each dessert delicious; each dessert gargantuan. Add to that a healthy mug of sweet mulled apple cider before the meal, deviled eggs, the Turkey feast itself and rapidly diminishing appetites: it was the Perfect Confectionary Storm.

May I blame the deviled eggs?

Great headway was made in the pumpkin pie and Caramel Bars on Thursday. Not coincidentally, these were the only desserts the boys wanted to eat. The other two, showier desserts languished on the sideboard, cut into/spooned up, yes, and appreciated, definitely, but by evening's end they seemed to have miraculously healed themselves and were practically whole.  The truly bizarre thing, however, was that though guests ate on them over an ENTIRE WEEKEND, hardly a dent was made in either one. Let me reiterate: these were truly tasty, not some dried/bland/gummy sweets fit only for obligatory nibbles. And yet they would not move. The crisp was apparently self-replenishing; the pie was able to sustain an infinite number of slices and yet not diminish. By Sunday evening, after all the guests had left, Doug and I were staring down at two desserts barely half-way eaten. 

(Really, they were good. I swear. Doug himself, a person not known for his culinary tact, declared them to be keepers. "But you can only eat so much pie and feel good about yourself" was his explanation. Damn these eaters of moderation!)

The pie that would not die.
I would usually have gorged myself over the next few days until I had scraped up every crumb, but I knew a trip to Mexico was only weeks away, and the thought of my squeezable Thanksgiving mid-section going with me on vacation was too frightening to contemplate. Doug was of similar mind. Benj was useless. We felt like the time to share with neighbors had passed. There was no other choice: the desserts had to go. The trash can beckoned. I couldn't bear to watch. Doug, the more remorseless of the two of us—waited for me to give the word. I squeezed my eyes shut, nodded.

And that's when Providence entered the picture, in a manner worthy of the most treacly of Hallmark feature films. The doorbell rang. It was my friend Renée, someone I had not seen in, literally, years. Being, among other things, an accomplished accordionist, Renée was instrumental (no pun intended) in the writing of my novel This is How It Begins, in which a red accordion figures prominently. When I finished the manuscript (then called Liberace Under Venetian Skies) I gave her a copy to read. This weekend she happened to be out on a hike in my neighborhood with her friend Shelley, and stopped by to return the manuscript.

I wasted no time with hello's or how'd ya do's. "You want some dessert?" I blurted out. Her eyes widened but she took it in stride. "Sure!" she said. "Pie or crisp? or both?" I demanded, a little crazed. We went to the car to confer with Shelley. Turns out (handkerchiefs ready?) that Shelley had been ill on Thanksgiving, and had to leave a turkey dinner at her friend's house with only a drumstick wrapped in foil for a souvenir. On the drive home she saw a homeless person on the side of the road and gave him her only Thanksgiving leftover. Did I mention that she also has a sweet tooth? WE WERE PAYING IT FORWARD, BABY!

Shelley and Renée gladly welcomed two deserving desserts into their lives, my crisp and my pie found a new home, and my gut receded back from its semi-gelatinous state. It's a Thanksgiving Miracle, and, knowing my compulsive baking habits... it may even become a tradition.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Vocal Harvest

Had a couple of days of voice-over work that I would love to replicate the whole year round. You know, the kind of days where you get a call in the early afternoon to send in an audition from home, then you get called by your agent at 5 telling you you've got the job and have to go in at 6 to record, then the producers call you in to their studio the next day to have you do some more. And I thought it was just a myth. More, please!

The best part was that  I was hired to be a sound-alike for none other than the uber-cool actor Ken Watanabe. Me! This validation's come at a good time— at all my Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness sessions I sit and marvel at the other actors: the amazing suppleness of their voices, their mercurial wit, their fast-and-furious banter, and I can't help, sometimes, but feel a bit... arthritic in comparison. So to nail an actor who's voice is far from mine is a great boost.

Let's see, all I need to do is Chow-Yun-Fat and Jet Li, and I'll have covered practically the entire pantheon of male Asian superstars!


And check.
Just wait 'til they hear my Katharine Hepburn!

Studying Mr. Watanabe's voice (mostly using The Last Samurai as a guide) yielded a lot of quiet pleasure. Jackie Chan (my patron saint in voice-overs) and Ken Watanabe come from the same lower register of my voice, but the differences in their speaking are quite distinct, even taking into account their different ethnicities. Mr. Chan, like the characters he plays, has a certain broadness to his speech; he's quite animated (no pun intended) and charming, but simple in his delivery—he saves his flexibility for his movement.

Mr. Watanabe, on the other hand, is first and foremost an actor, and it shows in his delivery. Listen to the colors of his voice, how he employs tone and nuance quite fluidly, and remember that this is not even in a language he was comfortable with at that time. It's quite impressive.

This gig comes on top of continuing Kung Fu Panda work (only five more episodes to record!) and a voice on the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Plus (speaking of pandas), I've got a good role in the new World of Warcraft game: Mists of Pandaria which has just come out. I still can't believe that I'm in this job that I love so very, very much, working (playing, really) with people of the highest caliber of talent, humor and kindness, making funny voices and getting paid for it.

Something to be thankful for, indeed.

Happy Turkey Day!