Follow The Purple Primate

Within these columns, Gentle Reader, I must admit I’m guilty of my own presumption of sagacity far too often.

It’s all Petey’s fault…well, mostly his.  There is though, woven within my very blood cells, the understanding of how everyone everywhere should behave, and the need to share that knowledge.  I am, like Lisa Simpson, a know-it-all with a big mouth.

But back to Petey.

Not long after we got our first computer, when The Kid was a toddler, my ever-loving spouse asked me to help him send an email to a high school friend of his whom I had never met.

I happen to glance at the note, and spotted my name, “…and I married a wise woman, named debbie.”  Not only had he never said this to me, no one that’s ever known me said that about me.  So, you’ll understand why my reaction may have been slightly abrupt. 

“Whadaya mean by that?”

Then Petey earned himself a batch of cookies when he said, “Well, you are.”

And really, doesn’t wise woman sound so very much nicer than busybody?

On a related vein, I’d like to tell you a parable from my life. 

The Kid and I had gone to Wake Forest and were on our way home.

We were on Highway 98 when we started seeing these signs.  You know how sometimes your memory of something can have a weird discrepancy with the IRL events?

Well for some reason, I remember a purple monkey at this point.  But The Kid assures me with a slightly worried frown, that there was in fact, no monkey.  But, as the wise man said, “Monkeys make everything funnier.”


The sign consisted of two words and one exclamation mark: Go Ape!

Now, I don’t know anything about your life, Gentle Reader, but in the lives of The Kid and me, it’s been a minute since we were invited to “Go Ape!”.  So it kinda got us talking.  For probably 15-20 miles, we discussed, half-jokingly, about whether we should “Go Ape!”.

But it was a very academic question because in a happy coincidence, the path to going ape just happened to lie on our path toward home (it really wouldn’t have surprised if the signs heralded our house, in the way that in the 1930s one might find a sign proclaiming the existence of an eight-foot chicken playing the violin).  

But then.

Our primate provocation, “Go Ape!” gave us a heads up that soon our paths would diverge, we had a decision to make—if we wanted.

It’s nuts, right?  Two grown people, actually, seriously considering going ape.  Whatever that meant.

And then it was there, the divergence.  And we…


we went team simian.

And, began driving further, and further, and further out of our way.  But we had thrown in our hand, and wherever this road led, The Kid and I, carried aloft by Agent Colson (The Kid’s wheels), were in it.

The road eventually led to the location of “Go Ape!”, a high ropes course of climbing, zip-lining, you get the picture.

And this time a possible dilemma had no horns; “Go Ape!” was closed.

We turned around in the parking lot and headed home, a little disappointed by the rather mundane nature of our destination.

But the charge we got from just going for it, just saying to the world, “Yeah, we’re following two-word road signs armed with equal parts abandon and ignorance, so what?”

So, every once in awhile, when you’re out with your kid, or squeeze, or squad, or alone; please, Gentle Reader, I implore you,

“Go Ape!”

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcitymom.

Care and Feeding

It wasn’t Merry Go Round, but very similar.

Many years ago, I managed a clothing store that catered to teenagers.  At back to school time, tons of kids came in with their moms for new fall wardrobes.

One afternoon I was helping a teenaged girl at the dressing room who’d come in with her mom.  I was familiar with them both and I’d gotten a chair for her mom while the daughter did a changing room fashion show, to pick out her new clothes for school.

At the time, I prided myself on an uncanny ability to discern pregnancy in women very early on.  An arrogant, very faulty ability, I was soon to learn.

I glanced at the mom and decided that she was with child.  Wishing to show off, I asked her, “When are you due?”

Oh yes, my friend, I royally screwed up.  But I pranced into faux pas land with my head held high, singing at the top of my lungs.

Her head swiveled around at the speed of light, and she gave me an incandescent side-eye.  “What did you say?”

I had already realized my idiotic mistake and since I couldn’t turn back time, or make myself disappear, I tried to obfuscate by distraction.

“What do you do?  Where do you work?”  If I’d had a bicycle, I could have backpedaled to Missouri. 

That was the day I decided to never assume a woman’s reproductive status unless there was a child actively exiting her body.

This policy was hammered home to me the day a woman ringing me up at Food Lion asked me if I was with child.  I answered her in a nasty tone that I felt her thoughtlessly cruel question deserved, “No.  I’m just fat.”

A few years later, a different clerk got the same tone and dirty look when she asked my forty-ish-year-old self, “Ma’am, do you want to use your senior discount?”

So, Gentle Reader, when in doubt, don’t…just don’t.

Very near our house is a new neighborhood full of young adults and empty nesters.  Once or twice a day my dog and I walk the streets.  With the combination of a large, striking dog, and an overly garrulous woman who could find something to chat about with a stone, we’ve made many friendly acquaintances. 

And I’ve been privileged to witness many young couples becoming young families (But I never jump the gun and assume—I wait until I’m told, or there’s no other explanation for what looks like the smuggling of a prize-winning pumpkin by a formerly svelte young woman).

Once baby’s arrived, seeing them reminds me of the sleep-deprived stew of cluelessness and terror in which Petey and I constantly swam after The Kid was born.  It’s sad, but true that almost all new parents spend the first few years worrying away what should be treasured and enjoyed. 

This precious time passes in what seems like the blink of an eye, and hindsight colored by fear and exhaustion is mightily skewed.

In an effort to help parents be more present, I have a few thoughts that I have shared with clearly overwhelmed moms and dads.  And, they’re either extremely polite and diplomatic, or my words are actually helpful.

I choose to believe helpful.

Here’s the sum total of my great parenting wisdom:  Relax, and cut yourself some slack.  You’re doing a much better job than you think you’re doing.  As long as you feed them, clean them, and love them, it’s gonna be ok.

And besides, humans don’t remember anything much before they turn three.  So that means you’ve got 36 months before any of the dumb stuff you’re sure to do actually counts.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Can You Spot The Difference?

I have a few words of wisdom that have served me well, Gentle Reader.

1.) Don’t buy the Costco sample the first time you try it no matter how much you like it.  If you’re still thinking about it on the next visit, go for it.

2.) If a corporation says that everything will stay the same when it buys a company, everything, and I mean Every.Single.Thing., will change.

3.) If someone tells you they’re a kid at heart, or a big kid, they almost always are not.  It’s the same type of weird narcissism as giving yourself a nickname. 

That guy’s not childlike.  They are almost certainly childish.  One trait is delightful and endearing, the other is arrogant and exhausting with a barely concealed mean streak.

A childlike person makes a wish list for birthdays and Christmas.  But they only offer it if asked.  And if they receive a gift from the list, they are honestly surprised and delighted.  A childish person posts their list to all social media accounts and emails it to their entire contact list.  Upon receiving a gift; if it’s not from their list, they have no problem venting their disappointment to the giver.

If childlike messes up, it shatters them.  Their hearts are worn flung around them like an oversized cloak.  The guilt that they have made a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings is overwhelming because like an actual child, feelings come hard, fast, and one at a time.

Childish is never to blame.  It’s not their fault and they have a whole encyclopedia of excuses and people to blame.  In fact, they are the victim and they deserve sympathy. 

Childlike is a butterfly.  Their attention span may be short, but everything is embraced with passion and enthusiasm.  Entrenched is a concept that doesn’t even occur to them.

Childish acts impulsively and without much thought to consequences.  But when the chips start falling and questions are asked, Childish embodies stubborn.  Backing off a position, or even listening to reason is not an option. 

Childlike might try to lie on occasion, but they are so open and transparent, they’re terrible at it.  And, they know it themselves.  So, lies are neither frequent nor successful, but usually hilarious.

Childish is the center of the universe.  If the truth is in the way, it is sacrificed to the altar of expediency.  That lies fly so fast and furiously means that Childish is good at them.  In fact, sometimes even when the truth is known it’s doubted because Childish appears to completely believe every pant-burning word that falls from their lips.

Childlike loves positive attention like the puppies they are.  They also adore celebrating the specialness of the people around them.  Negative attention toward themselves breaks them.  Negative attention toward others brings out the fighting spirit of a loyal defender.

Childish needs attention like plants need sunshine.  Positive attention reinforces their pathologically elevated opinion of themselves.  But negative attention is not unwelcome.  It brings out the rabid attack dog that does not stop until the enemy has been vanquished and ground into the dust, never to rise again.

We all have both childlike and childish inside us.  The struggle is to nurture childlike but not so much that we turn into a charmless Forest Gump.

The childish should be acknowledged for a fuller understanding of ourselves, but kept muzzled.

On the television show King of the Hill there was a character named Connie Souphanousinphone who summed up this perfectly when talking to a friend, “We all have those feelings, Bobby. But, we never act on them

Thanks for your time.

Advice for a newborn

The new year is only a few days old, and I offer a few thoughts and requests for it.

Dear 2018,baby 2018I know that in these early days it’s impossible to imagine anything other than shiny optimism, innocence, and clean diapers, but you only have to take a peek at poor old 2017 to see how very badly it all can go.  That pathetic year is a dirty, misshapen failure, half crawling, half dragged off the calendar and into the history books.  It had very few friends, and hardly anyone will miss it.  Even the folks who seemed to be having a good run ended the year in a less than glorious place.

It too was once a shiny, happy baby whom people adored.  Let it be a warning to you.  Every day is a new beginning, but it is a balance, and once the number of bad ones goes over 182, it’s game over, man. So, here are a few recommendations that might help to make you, 2018, less catastrophic than your older sibling.

Just because something is new, and seems exciting, does not mean it’s better.  One of these days, ask me about a little thing called New Coke.  Or movie remakes called Planet of the Apes or Arthur or The Wicker Man.  Or ask the Brady bunches’ cousin Oliver.

And expensive doesn’t mean it’s better either.  The point was brought home the other day in Costco where I low-key stalked a guy walking around in a pair of Gucci, fur-lined, backless leather slippers embroidered with tigers.

Shoes for crazy people.

I followed him around (discretely) because I had seen these “shoes” in the fashion press and couldn’t believe an actual human had purchased them for wearing.  It looked like the guy had either lost a bet or gotten dressed in the dark, during a fire.  When I got home, I was telling Petey about it and googled a picture of these masterpieces for him.

They cost $1100.

3 shoes

Ooh yeah, that’s the stuff…come to mama.

I have no problem with ridiculously expensive shoes.  Balenciaga has a breathtaking, glorious pair of pumps this season that goes for $995.  Chanel has an amazing pair of black-toed glittery boots for $1200, and St. Laurent’s fabulicious slouchy rhinestone boots are $10,000.  Would I happily sell my soul and/or both kidneys for the funds to purchase this walking art?

Of course, but these shoes are beautiful, not a hideous joke.

Sadly, some folks have more dollars than sense.There are many, many people who were completely caught off guard by you, 2018.  That’s because they had their heads buried in their smartphones.  These are the same people who’s lives will be over with nothing to show for it except for bathroom and brunch selfies, with no memory of why they were in that particular bathroom, or who else was at that picturesque meal.

So put down the phone and be present in your own life.

Those smartphones bring me to two more insidious results of these technological marvels; social media, and its flashy offspring, “going viral”.I have many perfectly nice and sane friends who regularly sing the praises of Facespace and Twattle.  They talk about how it keeps them in touch with family and connects them with treasured long-lost school chums.  Here’s my query: if they were so treasured, how’d you lose touch in the first place?Feverish social media use is illustrative of the human need for justice and the desire for complicated matters to have simple, black and white solutions.  That’s why people will learn of something that seems outrageous at breakfast and will have tried, convicted, and publicly pilloried the culprit by lunchtime.  Then three days later when the full story comes out which explains the unexplainable, nobody cares because everybody’s busy watching some Turkish dude salt meat (I swear-google it).

Salt dude.

I have a feeling, 2018, that you may turn out to be one huge, painful hangover.  That’s okay; just buckle in, eat a big greasy breakfast, drink lots of water, and sit quietly until 2019 shows up.nydThanks for your time.


Apostate Pasta

So a couple weeks ago a French website posted a recipe for carbonara and all of Italy lost their collective mind.

France, why do you want to piss this guy off?

The procedure called for the whole thing to be boiled altogether in one pot.  And while I’m a fan of the odd one-pot pasta, carbonara should not be trifled with in such a manner.

Boiled pancetta?  Really?

The classic recipe is extremely simple with just four ingredients: spaghetti, pancetta, eggs, and Parmesan cheese.

But simple, especially in the case of carbonara, absolutely does not mean easy.  It’s far easier to botch it and end up with a greasy congealed tangle of noodles that look more like a punishment than dinner.

As appetizing as a letter from the IRS.

What can go wrong: Over, or undercook the spaghetti.  You can burn, or conversely fail to render the pancetta and have limp, fatty pork.  And the most problematic of all are the eggs.  If the heat is too high, or you don’t stir briskly enough, you get scrambled eggs.  And if you do stir with enough vigor it’s possible to not have the now broken pasta hot enough to cook the eggs.

It is a dance that’s potentially dangerous enough to strike fear in the heart of the very finest dancing “celebrity”.

But done right?  Done right it’s a song sung by Freddy Mercury or Billie Holiday.  It’s a landscape by Ansel Adams, a shoe by Louboutin, a dress by Coco Chanel all rolled up into one creamy, unctuous, heart-breakingly delicious bowl of pasta.

See how that sauce clings like a bad boyfriend?  That’s what I’m talking about.

My advice from the trenches is to have every bit of your prep done before you turn on burner one.  If you’re not ready every step of the way, the whole thing will get away from you, and that way lies madness and scrambled disappointment.  Take your time—be the master of your culinary domain, and don’t let the food dictate your actions and state of mind.  You have to commit; you’re cooking something that’s a little advanced; don’t be tentative.

Attitude is half the battle.

My recipe has a healthy serving of attitude.  I had some beautiful fresh angel hair pasta and decided that it really needed to be used for carbonara.  But I had bacon, and not pancetta.  I was also very low on Parmesan, but had a nice big piece of aged Manchego, which is very hard and dry like Parm.

So I made an executive decision.  But purists might take issue with it.

Blasphemous Carbonara


9 ounces long pasta

4 or 5 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips

3 extra large eggs or 3 large + 1 large yolk

1/4 cup Manchego cheese, grated fine, plus more for garnishing

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup pasta water, reserved

Place eggs and cheese into bowl, season, and whisk until well-mixed.

In a large pot, cook pasta until al dente in heavily salted water.

In a separate large pan, render bacon.  Remove and set aside.  Pour off bacon fat until 2 tablespoons are left.  Turn pan down to low.

Remove cooked pasta from pot with tongs, reserving water. Place directly into pot with bacon fat.  Toss until well-coated.

Take pot off heat and slowly pour in egg mixture while constantly, vigorously, stirring pasta.  When it’s all added, continue stirring until egg mixture is heated and emulsified.  Briefly place pot back over a low burner if more heat is needed to thicken (sauce should be the consistency of heavy cream).  If it just looks like raw beaten eggs, it needs more gentle heat.  If it seems a little tight, add in abit of pasta water.

Place into two bowls and garnish with the bacon and more cheese.

Serves 2.

If the idea of this pasta dish appeals to you, I really hope you try making it.

And it’s entirely possible that you’ll screw it up the first time.  It’s probably wise to have a dinner backup plan that night, just in case.

But I’m telling you, getting this right has a huge payoff.

Not only do you get to enjoy what is arguably one of Italy’s finest gifts to mankind (even taking into account Ancient Rome and the Renaissance), you’ll have the thrill of being the kitchen swashbuckler who had the chops to put this ambrosia on the table.  You are fierce.


Fierce, I tells ya.

Thanks for your time.

Your Toast

In almost every facet of life there are fads.

Don’t believe me?  When’s the last time you sat at a harvest gold-colored kitchen counter while eating fondue, listening to Milli Vanilli and wearing acid wash denim and a Member’s Only jacket?



Because of the interwebs, the fads move faster than ever today.  Also, local dishes can go viral and become huge in a matter of days (hello, cronut).

I like to tell myself that I’m above fads and that I am not so easily swayed.

But to be perfectly honest, there have been times when the presence of a food on somebody’s list has persuaded me to at least try it.  I never ate kale until it was everywhere.  And you know what?  I’m glad I did; I like it creamed, in certain salads, and made into chips.   I love salted caramel, I don’t care who knows it, and I don’t think it can be over-exposed.

Last year, avocado toast was the shiny new thing.  But, I adore avocados, bread, and have eaten many sandwiches adorned with my squishy green friend.

My favorite foods are breakfast foods.  But, most of them are fatty, carby, fiber-less indulgences.  Toasts can easily be so nutritious that it redeems the whole plate.  Of course, it can also be just pure yum.  It all depends on the toast.

That’s the stuff. Arteries be damned!

Below are a few ideas for easy, quick, toast breakfasts that will fill your belly and quickly get you and the kids out the door in the AM.  Everything is completely adjustable—don’t like my bread recommendation?  Use a different type.

Classic Avocado- Mash a ripe avocado with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.  Add a bit of red pepper flake if you’re so inclined.  Smoosh on 2 pieces of toasted 9th St Bakery Omega 3 Seed.

And this is where Lavender and Honey’s toasts come in…

Lavender Goat Cheese-On two pieces of sunflower toast, spread goat cheese.  Sprinkle with a tiny bit of fresh lavender.  Top with freshly cracked black pepper, and a drizzle of honey.

Sourdough horseradish-Put some baby arugula on as a base.  Cover with a couple slices of crispy bacon, then top with horseradish jack cheese.  Put under a broiler to get nice and melty.

Child’s Play- Toast up a whole grain English muffin.  Top with Nutella and sliced bananas. 

Molto Bene-Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on toasted baguette. Place on top slices of the ripest, reddest tomato you can get your hands on.  Put under the broiler until it’s hot and a little bubbly.  Top with poached eggs and a bit of shaved Parmesan cheese or melted mozzerella.

Cherry Almond-On brioche or Challah toast, spread almond butter.  Warm a bit of cherry jam until it’s a little runny.  Drizzle onto almond butter, and sprinkle with toasted almond slivers, and a tiny bit of sea salt.

Greek Breakfast- Toast a pita.  Layer on a couple of thick slices of roasted chicken.  Top with Kalamata olives, feta, a spritz of lemon juice, and a little bit of fresh oregano.

Onion jam-Smear a couple tablespoons of herb Neufchâtel cheese onto a toasted rustic white.  On top spread some amber-colored caramelized onion.  Top with 1 piece crumbled bacon, and toasted sunflower seeds.

These ideas are just jumping off places.  Listen to your cravings and see what’s in your fridge.  No pressure.

Unless you’re dining with Oprah, breakfast should not make you break out into a cold sweat.


Please pass the jelly, Your Majesty.

Thanks for your time.