Monday, February 28, 2011

An Open Letter to My Neighbor With the Car Alarm. Plus, Tomato and Bread Soup with Rosemary.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I do not know your identity. You may be a candystriping Girl Scout, or a grandmother who volunteers 20 hours a week at the Red Cross. You may work to save endangered species, and your dedication to social equity and human rights might make Mother Theresa look like Jeffrey Dahmer on a bad hair day. You may be kind to children, fair to animals, and a patron saint to environmental causes the world over.

I do know that you have a car alarm, and that it's gone off twice in the last week, at 3am, for 30 minutes each time. And that makes me hate you.

What is it with car alarms? They seem like leftovers from the '80s, the pride of hyper-vigilant teens and twentysomethings with shiny new Iroc-Zs to protect, presumably from menacing threats like wind and rain. (I do not know what else sets off car alarms.) Yet, especially in the Tri-State area, they are as prominent as Applebees and lower back tattoos. Why they haven't been relegated to the dustbin of history, along with stonewashed jackets and Ratt posters, is beyond me.

In fact, I have it good on authority (meaning: my own delusion) that, throughout the course of automotive history, car alarms have deterred exactly two burglars. The first was Borden P. Titmouse, a hapless petty thief doomed by his particularly sensitive hearing and lack of arms below the elbow. The second was a cat who mistook a Chrysler for a hunk of steak. Cats are dumb, see.

The number of people awoken, annoyed, and otherwise driven apoplectic by car alarms, however, numbers in the millions. The billions, even. McDonald's would kill for that kind of demo.

Someday, I may be a mother. And if your car alarm wakes my child - who I presume will have spent the whole day alternately being adorable and vomiting into my open mouth, if Facebook is any indication – I will key it into oblivion, then pound the remaining atoms into a pretty purple paperweight. I don't care if you are the Chairperson of Greenpeace, the head of Habitat for Humanity, and the potential broker of peace in the Middle East combined. You will be upset. Neighboring cars will weep. Charlie Sheen will question my destructive tendencies.

In closing, no one wants to steal your Honda. For the love of god, turn off the alarm.

The rest of Brooklyn

Oh yeah – the food. About two years ago, we ran a Jamie Oliver recipe for Pappa al Pomodoro, or Tomato and Bread Soup. It was pretty simple, involving some roasted cherry tomatoes, a few handfuls of basil, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Well, brace yourself, Waldo, because this one is even easier, tastes just as lovely, and can be made (almost) entirely from ingredients sitting around your pantry. Except rosemary. You have to buy that. The fresh stuff is worth it.

But, mmmm. So good. Make it now! And don't buy a car alarm.


If this looks real purty, you’ll be like, “Yeah, y’all!” to these:

Tomato and Bread Soup with Rosemary
Serves 3
Inspired by Jamie Oliver.

Without cheese
 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
28 ounces whole canned tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth (veggie broth for vegetarians)
About 1/3 large loaf Italian bread, chopped or torn into chunks:
Grated Parmesan, for serving

1) In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add rosemary and garlic. Sauté 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and broth. Turn heat to high. While mixture is coming to a boil, break tomatoes up with a wooden spoon or good set of kitchen shears. Once it starts boiling, drop heat to a healthy, rolling simmer and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2) Kill heat. Add bread. Gently stir so bread soaks, but doesn’t fall apart. Serve with Parmesan, if desired.

With cheese (avec frommage).
Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
183 calories, 5.9 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, 6.9 g protein, $1.05

2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin: 9 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, 0.4 g protein $0.10
1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary: 2 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0.2 g fiber, 0.1 g protein, $0.50
1 tablespoons olive oil: 119 calories, 13.5 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.10
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.02
28 ounces canned tomatoes: 151 calories, 0.8 g fat, 7.9 g fiber, 7.3 g protein, $1.25
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth: 25 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 4.9 g protein, $0.57
About 1/3 large loaf Italian bread, chopped or torn into chunks: 244 calories, 3.2 g fat, 2.4 g fiber, 7.9 g protein, $0.60
TOTAL: 550 calories, 17.6 g fat, 10.7 g fiber, 20.6 protein, $3.14
PER SERVING (TOTAL/3): 183 calories, 5.9 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, 6.9 g protein, $1.05

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I'm So Pretty said...

LOL! I have to confess that an old car of ours with an alarm (this would've been early '90s) went horribly awry one night, and we didn't hear it but the neighbors did. At 2am the cops are pounding down our door, which is what finally woke DH up. It was pouring rain outside and he couldn't see a thing under the hood even with three flashlights, so he just took a knife and cut all the wires to the alarm. Everyone slept much better after that :)

Erin said...

There's a small optician's office across the street from where we live. Its burglar alarm is apparently set so sensitively that a sneeze from a passing squirrel sets it off. At all hours. For many hours.

It makes me stabby, and it makes my wiener dogs howl. At all hours.

CTMOM said...

Your car alarm neighbors must be relatives of my neighbors who seem to think it's "cute" to continue to allow the inhabitants of a large SUV who frequently visit, to beep their horn at least 12 times as they pull into and later as they depart the neighbor's driveway (ok-arrive at 5 p.m. and leave at 11-that is not nice). We always know, too, when this family is out for the night, their 2 dogs bark incessantly until they pull into the drive around midnight. @@

Kristen » said...

Hunt's and Muir Glen both sell some super rad fire-roasted canned tomatoes which I suspect would be great in this recipe. I use 'em in my gazpacho when I need some summer in my life. Like, oh, now.

Jennifer said...


Anonymous said...

Stumbled across your blog today. When I read the story about the car alarm, I thought "she must live in Brooklyn"--car alarm central. I'm in Park Slope and those damn things wake up my kid every day.

Anonymous said...

I remember weekend trips visiting friends in Bay Ridge in the 90's. When a car alarm went off in their neighborhood it would go all night and all day because you cannot use electronics on the Sabbath....
30 minutes is a breeze.

jamie said...

It wasn't me. I live in Kentucky. In the sticks. ;)
I can just imagine though, how irritating that would have to be. I must say that I really enjoyed your letter! LOL

Melly said...

I have a neighbor like that. Grrrr.

Autumn said...

Gotta love car alarms. In the last rental we had, we hit the alarm button at Disney world to find the darn thing, then we couldn't turn it off.

I had the doors unlocked, the key in the ignition and the car running and it still was blaring away that it was being mugged. Stupid car. Apparently after 2 minutes it shuts itself off.

spikybombshell said...

I like your blog normally, I read it at least twice a week. But that post was disgusting.

Here in New Zealand we create relationships with our neighbours, we are there for one another.

How about making a trip next door and introducing yourself to your neighbour instead of leaving that passive aggressive nasty letter in their mail box? Man if I got that "letter bomb" from you I would want to deliberately set my alarm off!

You never know when you might need your neighbours. Give a smile, create a relationship I'm sure once you talk to them the problem will be sorted.

Kris said...

@spikybombshell: Thank you for reading the blog, and your suggestions, are good ones. Two quick things:

1) It was a hypothetical letter - more of a fun internet exercise than anything I would ever, ever leave on someone's windshield or in their mailbox.

2) I live in south Brooklyn, New York, and literally have hundreds (if not thousands) of neighbors within a one-block radius. If I ever did find the culprit, I would speak to him/her calmly and reasonably, but the odds are pretty slim. Of course, this also means that he/she didn't care he/she was waking up those hundreds/thousands of neighbors, as well, so maybe one of them can find him/her. And they might not be as nice.

Alex said...

Personally, I think that letter is hilarious.

But more importantly: made the soup last night - O! M! G! It's my new favorite.

spikybombshell said...

All good Kris, should have guessed it was a joke

Thanks for the awesome recipe tips!

Keep up the good work.

Kara said...

Have you ever seen the movie "Noise" with Tim Robbins? I read your post and immediately thought of the movie (which wasn't bad, btw - about a guy in NYC who finally flips out about the noise and become a vigilate car-alarm-destroyer).

Oh and the recipe looks really yummy!