While still in college I worked as a newsroom clerk at the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the only daily newspaper for the northern California coastal town of – you guessed it – Santa Cruz. I made a whopping $8.88 per hour (big money back then!) and got to work alongside my best friend Cat, who worked as the assistant to the Editor in Chief, Tom.

One of Cat’s responsibilities was to read over all the letters to the Editor and select a few for Tom to review, comment on and publish in the paper. Tom would write his reply on a Post-It note, stick it on the original letter and leave it on Cat’s desk so she could type it into the system for publication.

I remember one letter in particular; it was was written in response to a photo we ran on a local Little League baseball team. The letter was from Kenny, the 8-year-old pitcher of the squad and apparently the paper ran a misspelling of his name. I just wanted to point it out but thank you for printing the photo, I am excited! Sincerely, Kenny. It was pretty adorable that the kid took time to write us the letter and Cat felt the same. She deemed it special enough to leave on Tom’s desk for a review.

The next day we came into the office and the letter was back on Cat’s desk with Tom’s Post-It. It read:

Dear Kenny,

Fuck you and your stupid baseball team.


The Editor

Of course it was a joke – Tom is actually a really nice guy with a wicked sense of humour. Still, I remember Cat being very aware that the Post-It comment could have accidentally made it in the paper, so she made sure to toss the joke comment in the trash immediately before going back to Tom for his real comment.


Flash to a decade later, when lightening-quick email and instant messaging were the preferred method of communication in most offices, and I found myself wishing I was back in the time of Post-It notes and handwritten letters. I was at my desk at a large Internet firm and in the middle of a terribly frustrating communication with Dan, our IT guy. I was venting via Yahoo Messenger to my co-worker Randy, complaining about Dan and how ignorant I thought he was. After taking a quick break to take a phone call, I continued my tirade.

I swear Dan is a fucking MORON! I typed.

A few seconds later, I got an instant response.

Hi. This IS Dan.

I felt my cheeks grow hot and my stomach turn. My mind was racing with ways to somehow climb out of this hole I’d dug for myself. But I’d typed his name and there was no one else named “Dan” in the office, so what could I do? He probably had an idea that I disliked him at that point anyway, so I decided to just face up to it.

Sorry Dan, but the truth is I don’t like you and I think you probably already know. That message was obviously for someone else but I should not have called you a moron.


I didn’t get a response back from Dan for 20 minutes, after which he simply replied, OK. We didn’t speak much after that, not that we ever really did before. Randy joked that if he ever heard shooting in the office he’d know it was Dan, coming for me.

I thought of the Dan incident the other day, when someone called me out on Twitter for seriously insulting one of the contestants on Come Dine With Me Ireland. It’s typical for viewers to Tweet their thoughts on the various personalities featured on the competitive cooking show, and last week’s calorie-counting, motor-mouthed Eimear was everyone’s favourite villain. In response to her non-stop lectures on weight and diet (talk about a kill-joy for a dinner party!) I wrote, Ugh that spastic Eimear is too much! A follower of mine responded, ‘Spastic’? These are human beings not things on television! Turns out “spastic” here means “retarded” or “mentally challenged” whereas in the US it generally means “hyperactive.”

Will I ever learn?

chapatti vindaloo chapatti

Veggie Vindaloo with Bulgur Wheat (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipes)

One thing that shuts me up is cooking (just ask Mountaineering Man). When I’m in the kitchen I’m miles away from everything else and though some people find cooking stressful I actually find it incredibly therapeutic. I could tinker around in there for hours mixing up pastes and rolling dough and flipping through cookbooks. The kitchen is my workspace and my retreat and it’s usually while I’m standing over a pot of boiling something-or-other that I reflect on the day or life in general.

I love this Vindaloo because it doesn’t use any ghee (clarified butter) and therefore is quite healthy. Also it’s very spicy – like me! Note: Omit the butter and make it vegan!

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon butter

2 medium onions, sliced thinly

4 gloves of garlic, minced

2 red chilies (or to taste) minced

thumb size piece of ginger root, peeled and minced

small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped

2 corgettes, cut into chunks

2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks

1/2 cup Vindaloo paste (recipe follows)

1 400 gram tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon honey

1/3 balsamic vinegar

1 cup of water

Sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot (heavy bottomed would work best) heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, chili, ginger and cilantro and cook for 10 minutes until softened. Add in the corgettes, carrots, potatoes and bell pepper and Vindaloo paste. Stir well and coat all the vegetables. Season generously with sea salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, honey and about 1 cup of water or enough to just cover the veg. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down and simmer for 45 minutes with the lid on. Stir regularly and add more water if necessary but the veg will omit some liquid so you probably won’t need any. Serve with chapatti or naan bread and a dollop of natural yogurt to cool things off a bit!

I prefer to serve this with bulgur wheat instead of rice as it’s lighter and healthier. You can buy coarse or medium bulgur wheat at health food, Indian or Asian shops. Follow package directions but for coarse bulgur simply use 2.25 parts water for 1 part bulgur wheat, place cold water and wheat into a pot and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Drain if there’s any liquid left and fluff with a fork.

Vindaloo Paste

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled

2 fresh red chilies

1 tablespoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

2 tablespoons tomato puree

Small bunch of fresh coriander

Spices for toasting:

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

4 cloves

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (available at most Indian markets)

In a dry pan, toast the seeds until you can smell their fragrance and then crush using a pestle and mortar or a food processor/spice grinder. In a food processor toss in the spice mix along with the rest of the ingredients and blitz until it’s a smooth paste. This makes just about 1/2 cup needed for the recipe!