Muffins

August 5, 2019 | New York, NY

“How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.” – Oscar Wilde

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Gordon Ramsay never wanted to give the world another travel show it didn’t need. He didn’t want to roam around a random beach with a machete or pretend to be happy climbing trees while picking fruit off them or say things like “Onto my next adventure” while cooking on some rocks.

He wasn’t supposed to have a career defined by glorified bullying. It’s just that early on, a producer saw him lose his temper and said, “Gordon, you’ve really got that je ne sais quoi,” and Gordon Ramsay just went with it, y’know? Because when you’re young and trying to make something of yourself, sometimes you just have to Go With It and see where It takes you.

And look where It took him – straight to The Food Network. To Hell’s Kitchen and The F Word and Hotel Hell and Kitchen Nightmares. The stuff of dreams. Except, it wasn’t his dream to be the Angry Blonde (Male) Chef. He just wanted to be…himself: Actually Quite a Softie.

It wasn’t Gordon Ramsay’s dream to be the Angry Blonde (Male) Chef. He just wanted to be…himself: Actually Quite a Softie.

So the networks pitched him a new show, Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted and once again, no one asked him, “Gordon, in your heart of hearts, what do you want?”

Because if someone had asked him, he’d have told them what he wanted: Muffins.

A TV show all about muffins. Not the flat English kind, but the over-the-top American ones. “How beau-ti-fully comforting and complex they are all at once,” Gordon said somberly over a video call, “A warm, crumbly muffin with a small pat of butter, is there anything more perfect?”

Muffins, it turns out, are an unexplored landscape. Do people today know what constitutes a good muffin? How do you get the perfect round cup shape on top? What are the best muffin-jam duos? What kind of muffins do you serve your friends the morning after a raging game night, or your judgy mother-in-law who’s visiting from out of town? What are the best kinds of muffins to stuff in your backpack for when you’re hungry later? Which teas best compliment a nut muffin?

These are all questions, we as a society, haven’t answered yet. And people deserve to know.

“How beau-ti-fully comforting and complex muffins are all at once. A warm, crumbly muffin with a small pat of butter, is there anything more perfect?”

Because, as Gordon explains, muffins aren’t just a morning (or afternoon or evening) snack. They’re nuggets of unclaimed identity. Are you an apple muffin sort of gal? A traditionalist who goes for blueberry? Or do you charter your own course and only eat spud muffins?

He’d help us all figure out who we were through the simple, delightful lens of pastry. There’d be no fierce competition, no harsh critiques, just lots of…fun. We’d discover new possibilities along the way. Maybe there’d be an episode on brownie muffins for dessert, and another one on swapping boring weeknight dinners for garlic onion muffins.

It was going to be great. People would be obsessed. They’d tune into the virtual muffin basket that was Gordon Ramsay’s Muffins and laugh and be awed by the wondrous world of muffins with him. They’d be like, ‘Man, that Gordon, I really misjudged him.”

“It would’ve been better than the time I won my sixteenth Michelin star,” he said, salting a batch of muffins with tears.

For now, Gordon Ramsay’s riding off into the Moroccan (or Peruvian or Hawaiian) sunset. We’ll never really know the rest.

The Double Text

March 4, 2018 | New York, NY

Over 40 years ago, NASA launched the twin Voyager spacecraft into outer space with a special time capsule onboard: the Golden Record, a gold-plated copper record filled with images, sounds, and music detailing life on Earth. “Hey look at us!” we said to extraterrestrials, “We exist! Look how pretty we are!

Should advanced extraterrestrials intercept the Golden Record, they’ll be treated to 115 images depicting global diversity, a musical selection comprising Bach, Azerbaijani folk music, & Chuck Berry, a variety of sounds heard in nature, and spoken greetings from Earthlings in 55 languages.

There’s something to be said about our ability to hurl an intergalactic Frisbee into deep space before perfecting more basic things (e.g. equal pay), but c’est la vie on Earth.

Both Voyagers are now hurtling billions of miles from Earth and any minute now, we could receive a message back from outer space. Except, we haven’t. The silence is getting louder, and it seems as though we’re all eternal teenagers checking our phones waiting for the hot stranger to text us back.

Enter Drake.

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No one understands human angst quite like Drake. Aubrey Graham, aka “Heartbreak Drake”, has an unofficial PhD in communications. Hear him out. Literally, buy his albums.

Over a phone call today to discuss his latest hit, “God’s Plan,” the rapper/actor told me a plan of his own – NASA is commissioning him to spearhead a follow-up to the Golden Record (even though we haven’t heard back from our first attempt).

A double text, if you will.

There’s something to be said about our ability to hurl an intergalactic Frisbee into deep space before perfecting more basic things (e.g. equal pay), but c’est la vie on Earth.

“People don’t know this about me but in my free time, I’m really into space,” Drake said, “Why haven’t we followed up? It’s been over 40 years. That’s a nice even number. We gotta reach out again. Communication’s all about seizing the moment. It’s like I say in my song “One Dance,” ‘Soon as you see my text, reply me.’”

Well.

The creative supervisor of the original Golden Record was also a Drake – American astronomer Frank Drake. Not a coincidence, it turns out. “I knew there was a higher reason my middle name was Drake,” the musician said. This is all part of a plan, Drake’s bigger plan to take Earth to the next level.

So what would a follow-up message to extraterrestrials look like?

“A Golden iPhone,” Drake said, “See, the true Golden iPhone hasn’t been made yet. This one will have a higher calling.”

The scoped Golden iPhone would have everything:

  • Videos of President Obama’s greatest speeches (“To show extraterrestrials our greatness”)
  • Videos of SNL’s rendition of President Trump (“To show our silliness”)
  • Videos of Women’s Marches across the world (“To show our heart”)
  • Images of food (“Hey, food today looks incredible. Especially at The Cheesecake Factory”)
  • Today’s most popular music – Adele’s “Hello”, the Hamilton soundtrack, some Cardi B

But the best part of the Golden iPhone? Audio of Drake saying things.

“A couple years back, Ellen [DeGeneres], a great friend of mine, did this segment where I just said things. I read the side effects of Zoloft, talked about toner cartridge…I just make everything sound better. I have a real sultry voice. No alien’s going to turn that down.”

There you go. Of course, there are details to tend to. Like, what would Earth’s phone number be if extraterrestrials intercepted the iPhone and tried to call us? And what about battery power? But these are little things and Drake’s a big picture kind of guy.

“Communication’s all about seizing the moment. It’s like I say in my song “One Dance,” ‘Soon as you see my text, reply me.’”

“We’re being vulnerable and honest about ourselves with the universe, so it’s important to make ourselves irresistible, too. And you know what’s irresistible? Positivity. We’re just spreading joy here, we’re spreading love. That’s all it is,” Drake said.

Right now, though, Drake’s searching for a committee. The original Golden Record was created by a committee of astrophysicists, sound engineers, writers, and musicians. Creating the Golden iPhone is no small task. He recently reached out to Elon Musk to bring him onto the team, but word on the street is he’s feeling a little salty – space is his territory.

“That’s okay, I don’t let salt bring me down,” Drake said, “You get to the top by being kind. Look at me, I’m so high up, I’m heading to outer space. Started from the bottom, now I’m here.”

The Neurosis Suitcase

February 11, 2018 | New York, NY

When my stylish, doting mother taught me how to get dressed to go out, I wish, after hiding my teenage acne with foundation, she’d taught me how to hide my neuroses. A much handier skill for getting anywhere, it seems, in life. While flawless skin made me feel like I could effortlessly slide onto a Seventeen magazine cover, it didn’t keep me from hiding at parties wishing I was a little bit cooler.

Coolness, over the years, has become a hot commodity.

Today, Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg – America’s top lifestyle gurus – have an announcement. The BFFs and hosts of VH1’s “Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party” have embarked on a new collaboration: The Neurosis SuitcaseTM.

In a statement released online, the duo said: “The Neurosis Suitcase helps women carry their emotional baggage.”

Martha and Snoop divulged more details this morning over a brief FaceTime conversation.

“Making daily life easy keeps getting harder,” Martha said, “But we’re up to the challenge. After all, I taught the whole country how to make canapés and Snoop taught everyone how to Drop It Like It’s Hot.”

“We’re psyched to help women look more put together,” Snoop said, visibly psyched.

As it turns out, women have excessive emotional baggage. We distrust authority, fret about our appearance, and are often pitted against other women. We judge and get judged for skipping the gym or missing an eyebrow wax. We read women’s magazines searching for neatly bulleted ways to improve ourselves. We are survivors of sexual assault and exes who were serial cheaters. Sometimes, we really hate men. Other times, we measure our lives by good hair days.

When my stylish, doting mother taught me how to get dressed to go out, I wish, after hiding my teenage acne with foundation, she’d taught me how to hide my neuroses. A much handier skill for getting anywhere, it seems, in life.

“It’s crazy that we’ve been carrying these things around for so long and no one’s come up with a way to help us ease the load,” said Martha, “This is my fun little way to empower women. Bags say so much about who we are. But they can also say so much about who we’re not. Stylishly, of course. We’re not animals.”

The duo has designed the Neurosis Suitcase in collaboration with Rimowa®. Each Neurosis Suitcase features two key components: a notebook and a Book of Notes. While the notebook is for writing down your neuroses (and thus releasing them from your soul), the pocket-sized Book of Notes contains affirmations, such as “I am a phoenix who has risen from the ashes,” “I am a Good Human,” and “My brows are perfect, as am I.”

Suitcases also include ample Kleenex tissues, a spare set of pantyhose (“Ripped stockings should never bring a lady down,” said Martha), a football jersey for when you really must be the ‘Cool Chick,’ and a blunt (“Every lady who wants to keep it together needs a little bit of weed,” said Snoop). For days when your baggage gets too heavy to carry, there is a small set of detachable wheels.

“Each Neurosis Suitcase is a classic Rimowa bag, with a hard aluminum exterior. But we’ve topped them with little pink bows. Prettiness is a must!” Martha said, as Snoop nodded in agreement.

The essence of the Neurosis Suitcase is that it goes with everything, and so, you can take it everywhere. The next time you find yourself at a fashionable event – say, a benefit gala or a date with NYC’s most eligible bachelor – you can simply say, “I’m here. I’m my Best Self. Everything else is in this bag, which I’ll be checking with my coat, please.”

“The Neurosis Suitcase is for all those women who are go-getters, who need a fashionable way to cage their inner demons so they can keep blazing forward.”

“You know, our fears never really leave us but it’s nice to neatly tuck them away,” Martha said, “This bag is for all those women who are go-getters, who need a fashionable way to cage their inner demons so they can keep blazing forward.”

“You said ‘blazing,’” Snoop teased Martha, “I taught you that word.”

“Yes, you did,” Martha smiled.

The Neurosis Suitcase is expected to hit high-end department stores this spring. Each bag will retail at about $1,500. While an early waitlist is lined with names of Hollywood actresses, there are installment payment options for regular women. Saving yourself, of course, takes some saving up.

“Women can now announce to the world, ‘Here’s the Real Me, front and center!’ It’s never too late to make our lives more elegant. 2018’s just getting started,” Martha said, at the end of our call.

Later today, a Neurosis Suitcase prototype was delivered to my doorstep – the big moment my teenage self had been waiting for. I put all my journals from the past few decades into it, waiting to feel liberated…But now, the bag won’t close.

I need a suitcase to hold my Neurosis Suitcase.

Also, my hair still looks terrible.

Nuclear Lunch

December 10, 2017 | New York, NY

Hungry people make bad decisions.

It’s a renowned fact. Ask my friend, Teri, who skipped lunch and bought $43 worth of Funyuns. Why this would stop being true when world leaders sit around a table trying to reign in the apocalypse, beats me.

There’s been lots of talk lately about how the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran was “the worst nuclear deal in history.” Was it perfect? No. Luckily the reporter originally assigned to this story got mono, which means I get to show you what really went down.

The Cinnabon Cleanse

November 19, 2017 | New York, NY

If I were to picture my life as a journalist 10 years ago, as a junior at Dwight Hearst High School, I would tell you that I was going to be a war correspondent. I would tell you that I’d be brave enough to go into foreign territory, that I’d stand in the line of fire to inform viewers of God’s honest truth, that I’d be the front page byline that powerful men and women alike clambered to read every morning. I would be that good. I would be a voice that informed millions.

Either the world was that linear 10 years ago, or I was naïve in the perception of my strength. That, and the fact that the Internet exploded, print newspapers started shriveling up, and no sooner had I taken off my cap and gown post-college, that I was hired as an online pop culture reporter in New York City.

I line up these facts as I sit in the second row at the studio of the “The Dr. Oz Show.” I feel my Press badge as I prepare for what new, absurdist medical knowledge I’ll be sharing in the column this week. Nothing surprises me, and I stick to my aspirin-and-tea routine regardless of new breakthroughs audiences here seem so ready to gobble up.

Nevertheless, my pen is poised.

I watch Dr. Oz get mic’ed up. He strides onto the stage as the audience begins to cheer for him. Ah, another day, another show. Another chance to make his viewers smarter, healthier adults. He turns to face the audience.

“What if I told you that in 96 hours, you could have a better body? Would you like that?”

His voice is smooth, brisk, like morning coffee that speeds through your bloodstream. The audience (mostly females) gulps it down, cheering wildly.

“Well, I thought you might. Here to prove it, I have Kimmy Kimbon to share her brand new Cinnabon Cleanse with us! Come on out, Kimmy!”

Kimmy Kimbon walks out onto the stage and sits across Dr. Oz. She is giddy. Her face is round and friendly, and she wears her hair in a big bun. The audience cheers again.

“Nice to have you here, Kimmy. Now, this cleanse seems just too good to be true,” Dr. Oz says, on cue.

“Well, Doc Oz, as my real mother, Mrs. Fields, taught me, nothing is ever too good to be true,” Kimmy says.

Her face reminds me of my childhood. Of women on boxes of baked goods, smiling down at me, giving me their approval to go ahead, eat more, bake more, as doing so is the essence of life. As I watch her speak, I begin to feel nauseated. But Dr. Oz does not.

I would be the front page byline that powerful men and women alike clambered to read every morning. I would be that good. I would be a voice that informed millions.

“That’s a healthy perspective, if I say so myself. And I am a doctor. So it seems like the cleanse rage is getting bigger and bigger in the U.S. We have the Whole30 cleanse that’s big every year, the Master Cleanse, soup cleanses, and a little while ago, the women in California came out with an ice cream cleanse! Now here you are.”

Kimmy smiles, “Yes, yes, well, another thing my mother taught me is that you can have your cake and eat it too.”

Dr. Oz, eating it up, smiles back at her. “OK, so here are the rules, guys. The Cinnabon Cleanse is 4 days long and you eat 4 meals each day. So, Kimmy, give us the details here.”

“You got that right, Doc, that’s all it takes – 4 days. Each meal is our famous Cinnabon – which is the Makara Cinnamon topped with that oh-so-cheesy frosting, but they’ve got a little twist. For breakfast, you have the Sunny Bun. That’s the Cinnabon with maple syrup on top. Then, for lunch, you have the Lunch Bun. That’s the Cinnabon sprinkled with some bee pollen and fire salt…”

I force my vomit down. Keep writing, Soné.

“…Then you’ve got the Midday Snack Bun, which is the Cinnabon sprinkled with some cayenne pepper and lemon gumdrops.”

Dr. Oz looks slightly confused. “Huh, gumdrops. You’re right, that is an odd twist.”

Kimmy goes for the win. “And for dinner, you’ve got the healthiest Bun of all! It’s our famous Cinnabon rolled around in kale and sugar!”

The audience cheers wildly. Some women stand up to applause.

As if their approval of this diet is akin to the FDA’s, Dr. Oz beams at Kimmy. As his perfect coif reminds his audience, he is a cool doctor. “Now, Kimmy, that’s a very interesting lineup you’ve got there. But eating nothing but Cinnabons straight for four days- what kind of effects could that have on someone’s body?”

“There are a few side effects, of course. You might experience frequent bathroom trips with some discomfort. Because Cinnabons are all you’re eating, there is a 78% chance that you may excrete an entire Cinnabon during some of those bathroom visits. One may also develop a lifelong aversion to the word ‘bun,'” Kimmy says, a little too quickly.

The audience cheers wildly. Dr. Oz beams at Kimmy. As his perfect coif reminds his audience, he is a cool doctor.

The smell of the sample Cinnabon tray wafts two rows back towards my nose. I inhale all of it, unwillingly, like a jumble of cinnamon glaze, kale, cayenne pepper, breakfast syrup, and strong hairspray scrambling to the finish line that is my nostrils. I take in the absurdity of an audience that’s eyeing that very tray as their new medical savior. I feel dizzy, though to a rhythm, as Dr. Oz nods his head back and forth.

“Good to know, Kimmy, good to know. Before we finish up, would you like to tell our viewers why they should start the Cinnabon Cleanse now? After all, holiday season’s right around the corner.”

“Let me tell you, Doc, when you’re only eating Cinnabons, you stop confusing your body. It allows your fat cells to really, really flush everything out. You know, you go to the bathroom and plop, plop, plop! Out goes the fat! Plus you have fun! Who doesn’t like buns?”

The audience goes wild. More women stand up to applaud. Those who don’t, stomp their feet on their floor as they clap. The room rings with “Woo woo’s!”

I realize I have miscalculated. I am standing in foreign territory, I am informing pop culture readers of the truth and, as it turns out, the Truth has more to do with Cinnabons than I thought.

Kimmy Kimbon beams at the audience. Dr. Oz beams at Kimmy.

Then the lights fade out.