If there’s one thing we Southerners have mastered, it’s food. Some of the best cuisine in the world is from Dixie, and I think it’s time we celebrate it. Here’s a list of ten of the most decadent classic Southern dishes. My hope is that you’ll read these recipes and be inspired to cook — and if you’re not familiar with Southern cuisine, maybe you’ll try something new.
Instead of a typical countdown list format, I’ve structured this list much in the way a meal may arrive at a restaurant table — starters, sides, main courses, and desserts. Enjoy!
10. Pimento Cheese
Pimento cheese is a staple in Southern refrigerators — a simple, versatile recipe. Creamy and smooth, yet with an appealing sharpness, pimento cheese is perfect on a sandwich (with or without bacon) or with crackers. The famed Varsity restaurant in Atlanta and Athens serves it on a chili dog, and Lisa De Pasquale and I recently discovered how good it is on a hamburger.
Maybe I’m biased, but my mom, Marcia Queen, makes the best pimento cheese I’ve ever tasted. You won’t find her name in any cookbooks that I know of, so here’s an exclusive recipe.
2 cups softened sharp cheddar cheese
1 4 oz can diced pimentos, drained
1/2 cup mayo
1 block softened cream cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
Mix and enjoy.
Because this experience is so rare, not only did I visit TellTheBell.com to answer their customer-service survey — something I never do — but I just came in from the mailbox (yes, the snail-mail box) where I placed this letter, and put up the red flag for the postman. I share it with you now, as I would a visit to a fine museum, an inspiring concert, or a thrilling spectator sport.
Taco Bell 022872, 11829 Abrams Rd., Dallas, TX 75243
To the Manager,
I had such an experience at your restaurant drive-through yesterday, I had to take a moment to let you know. Over the years, I have worked in customer service, in restaurants, in sales and in customer-service training. My family frequently visits Taco Bell and other fast-food places.
But yesterday was far and away the finest drive-through experience I have had…even better than Chik-fil-A, which was the previous standard-bearer.
Laquiata H. (as her name appears on my receipt), greeted me through the speaker with a clear and cheerful voice. She immediately let me know that she was ready to serve when I was ready to order, no hurry. This little touch I found immediately endearing and comforting. Drive-throughs always feel rushed, menus are complicated and, if you don’t have perfect vision, difficult to read. (BTW, the small type on yours meant that we had to read the choices aloud to my wife in the passenger seat, inevitably fouling your speed stats.)
Laquiata was an island of peace and happiness in a hectic day. When we got to the window, she greeted us with a smile. When she handed us our food, she repeated the order clearly to eliminate errors. That little gesture made me feel like she really cared about us, and wanted us to have a terrific experience.
I don’t know if you realize how extraordinary this is in your industry. I have come to loathe drive-throughs, with their squawk boxes, fast-talking, inarticulate automatons, and frequent errors. Most folks in this line of work seem more concerned with getting rid of you, than with serving you.
Please convey my gratitude to Laquiata, and the support team that made it possible for her to be the voice and face of joyful welcome.
She singled-handedly turned a commodity into a work of art.
One of the things that makes America great is folks like Laquiata, who bring this attitude to work each day.
Capitalism, after all, isn’t about prices, and markets, and margins, and finance.
It’s about people, and beauty, and emotion, and excellence, and human need, and joy, and love and liberty.
All of that other stuff is just mechanism.
This is heart.
This is real.
10. Jack in the Box
J-Box takes the term “fast food” quite literally. When they say that all of their food is made to order, what it means is that your burger is thrown on the grill before you’ve finished ordering food and will be assembled long before you pull up to the window. But although their punctual burgers are tasty, the tacos are truly unique. They arrive in a food truck sleeve and are served in a very crunchy shell overflowing with jalapenos and queso. Utter perfection.
J-Box would get a higher spot on the list if only their chicken game wasn’t so lackluster.
I recently had the incredible privilege of interviewing my all-time favorite MasterChef contestant, Season 3′s Top 5 finalist Monti Carlo. (Yes, Monti’s my favorite even though Season 4′s Jessie hails from my hometown.) She’s a really cool lady and a true inspiration. She dished on her days on MasterChef, the joys of motherhood, and her new show Make My Food Famous, which debuts this weekend on FYI.
1. What can you tell us about the new show?
I’m so stoked to be hosting Make My Food Famous! It’s a competitive cooking show filmed in some of the best restaurants in the country. Three home cooks get to battle it out in a professional kitchen to get their original recipe on a renowned chef’s menu. The pilot airs this Sunday August 31st on A&E’s FYI Network at 10PM ET/PT, though you should check your local listings since air times are subject to change. It was shot in Manhattan Beach, California, at Michelin-starred chef David LeFevre’s incredible MB Post.
Chef LeFevre has worked with some of modern cuisine’s culinary giants like Ferran Adria and Charlie Trotter. To impress this man enough to showcase your creation on his menu is an almost impossible feat. To do it as a home cook is a near miracle. The show isn’t just for foodies and culinary enthusiasts. It’s also for people that get a kick out of watching someone hustle to make their dreams come true. It is truly inspirational!
52 Things, 52 weeks is a blog where the author describes herself as “Entertainment attorney. IP nerd. Foodie. Coffee lover. Mac enthusiast. Yoga addict. Insomniac. Shutterbug. World traveler.” After reading my recent post, she decides this is the week she will try eating out alone:
Normally when I do something outside of my comfort zone on this blog it involves jumping out of a plane, walking on fire, or plunging into an ice-cold lake. While this week’s post seems mundane by comparison, it actually made me really uncomfortable to think about it. When I saw an article asking “Are You Ashamed to Eat Out Alone?” I decided it was time to mark this one off of the list.
Yes, I’ve grabbed a quick bite here and there by myself before. I have a favorite lunch spot back home that I sneak off to each time I visit and I’ve spent hundreds (probably thousands) of hours studying alone at coffee shops. But I have never gone to a nice restaurant and enjoyed an entire meal alone.
I set up a few ground rules:
How adventurous! Maybe next time, she should take along a copy of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking just to complete the evening.
image illustration via shutterstock / CandyBox Images
Chris Knox reports on the wee tiny corners Fred Franzia may cut from time to time to keep his Charles Shaw Wine so cheap:
A few things to keep in mind about his vineyards: one is that they are located in what is known as the Central Valley in the California wine world which is notoriously flat and quite hot producing massive yields of overripe grapes. The other thing is that Fred Franzia is no dummy – he planted those vineyards in such a way as the rows run north-south, giving the vines maximum sun exposure and he made the rows as long as he possibly could, minimizing the number of turns his tractors would need to make. And third, these aren’t hand-picked vineyards…they are all machine harvested. And that means these large tractors with huge claws go down the rows of vineyards grabbing the grapes and depositing them in its huge receptacle. And it not only grabs ripe grapes, but unripe and down right rotten ones as well and throws them all together. Add to that leaves, stems and any rodents, birds, or insects that may have made those vines their home – they all get thrown into the bin as well. And guess what? You think there’s going to be any sorting when that truck arrives at the winery (or should I say processing facility)? Nope. Everything, and I do mean everything (including all those unripe grapes, rotten grapes, leaves, stems, birds, rodents, and insects) gets tossed into the crusher and transferred to large tanks to ferment. So think about all the animal blood and parts that may have made their way into your wine next time you crack open that bottle of Two Buck Chuck! Hardly even seems worth the $2 does it?
If you were to taste that wine right after it was made, I guarantee you it would be undrinkable. They will then manipulate the finished wine in whatever way necessary, including adding sugar or unfermented grape juice if needed to make the wine palatable.
I need a drink.
Updated: “This blog post contained un-sourced claims about Two Buck Chuck and its proprietor, Bronco Wines. It has been removed from the site in accordance with our blogger terms.”
Editor’s Note: Since March, PJ Lifestyle has been highlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island, featuring interviews and story excerpts. Click here to see our collection of 24 so far. To learn more check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” Also see COO David S. Bernstein’s recent essay here in which he defines Liberty Island as, “an imaginative playground where brilliant and creative people can test their ideas without being harassed or threatened by the new breed of ‘community activists’ who police thought and speech in the media.” Also see Bellow’s recent cover story at National Review: “Let Your Right Brain Run Free.”
This is the second of several new stories that PJ Lifestyle will be excerpting. Check out this excerpt from Pierre Comtois’s yesterday: The Future That Used To Be. More author interviews will be coming soon too. Also check out some of Michael’s great articles on wine and culture at PJ Lifestyle:World’s First High 5 Discovered in Obscure French Film, 6 Things We Love and Hate about The New California Wine.
Here’s the beginning of his new story for your consideration:
They walked into my bar like they owned the place, the Major and this gangly female friend of his he calls “the Loon.”
The Major says to me, “According to the Internet, you make the best tropical drinks in the state. Do you make your Dark’n'Stormies with the proper Bermudian ingredients?”
He’s a bit formal, this guy. I didn’t know his name yet, but I already had him pegged as retired military. Too young for Vietnam, too old for Gulf War II. Hint of a southern accent, more Kentucky than Texas.
So I said to him, “Absolutely proper. Everything at Coco Rico’s is authentic. You want Mai Tais–mine are just like the Royal Hawaiian. Singapore Sling? You don’t have to go to Raffles. Dark’n'Stormy? I’m pouring Gosling’s Rum and their spicy ginger beer. Lime optional.”
“Sounds perfect.” He pulled out a stool for his friend and politely held her coat and bag while she climbed up. “We’ll have two Dark’n'Stormies,” he said. “No, make that three. Mix one up for yourself. I have a pretty good story to tell and you may want to listen in if you’re not too busy.”
I asked, “Are you one of those book clubs?” I was thinking those clubs fill a lot of seats, but with light drinkers.
Then I heard this sound, like: “Ahhhhhh-ha-ha-haa, aaahhh-ha-ha-ha, ak-ak, ak-akh, ahhhhh.” It was his lady friend laughing like she thinks my question is the funniest thing she ever heard. “We’re just here for conversation. But because he tends to do most of the talking, well, that makes it a story doesn’t it?”
I guess I must’ve looked at her funny, because he said to me, “You heard her laugh. She sounds like a lunatic. That’s why all her friends call her “the Loon,” and you should too.”
“I’ll do that,” I said, serving their drinks.
The Major said his name was Brayden Collins but I should call him the Major. I told them both they could call me Coco.
Then we lifted our glasses and toasted, “To new friends!” We’d barely had time to swallow when the Loon said to the Major, “Now for that story. You’ve been out of touch for nearly nine months, and–ahhhhhh-ha-ha-haa, aaahhh-ha-ha-ha, ak-ak, ak-akh, ahhhhh–I’m bursting with curiosity.”
The Major, always the gentleman, got right to it. “As the Loon knows, but you, Coco, certainly do not, I’ve been working on a desalination project in Bermuda for the last couple of years. That’s where I acquired my taste for Dark’n'Stormies, specifically, on the patio of the Coral Beach Club. It’s a beautiful old place. Clay tennis courts and a salt-water pool, set on a cliff above the pink sand beach and transparent water. Magical spot. The restaurant on the terrace is wonderful. Waiters in Bermuda shorts and knee socks, cheeky parrots in enormous brass cages.
“In any case, about six months ago I lunched there and then went down to the beach to relax. It’s a private beach and there are rows of turquoise chaises and yellow-and-white striped beach umbrellas, carefully lined up like an Army tent camp–except for the bright colors. It was crowded that day, hard to find a seat, and a lot of conversations going on. Children playing noisily and their parents not paying much mind as they were trying to relax themselves.
“In front of me was a nice group. Tall Indian fellow with his wife, clean-shaven and obviously brainy, talking quietly with a friend about their dinner plans. Seems they’d come to this part of the island on their yacht, over from Tucker’s Town, and were looking forward to some special event. I got the impression they were long-time members of the club.
“I was trying to nap, not successfully, when suddenly I heard this fellow–I might as well tell you his name even though I didn’t know it at the time. It’s Singh, Vinod Singh. And this Mr. Singh is looking back toward the club and saying, ‘Oh, oh, what’s going on over there? Oh-oh, this looks like trouble.’
“His wife and friend began looking too and Mr. Singh said, ‘Look at those children climbing up the cliffs. The sand is not stable and they should not be there.’
“They watched some more and talked it over. ‘Where are the parents?’ continued Mr. Singh. ‘Someone has to do something.’
“He walked across the beach and told the children to get down off the cliff.
“He might as well have assassinated an archduke, considering what happened next. The children’s mother–I assumed it was the mother because of her behavior, and of course I confirmed it later–the children’s mother was after him like a swarm of hornets. ‘How dare you talk to my children. You’ve got no right… Who do you think you are?’
“Of course it was all laced with profanity and a level of physical aggression that was surprising. This woman, Maude Rafferty-Fehr is her name, as I found out later, was young and trim. And she was wearing quite elaborate beach clothing with built-in sun and insect protection. And of course there was the Roger Federer hat…”
“The what? asked the Loon.
“The Roger Federer hat. The tennis player. Has his own logo. RF. It was pink, by the way. I found out later…’
“Ahhhhhh-ha-ha-haa, aaahhh-ha-ha-ha, ak-ak, ak-akh, ahhhhh. Ahhhhhh-ha-ha-haa,” the Loon hooted. “Nobody wears a Roger Federer hat except, ahhhhhh-ha-ha-haa, aaahhh-ha-ha-ha, his wife and, ak-ak, ak-akh, his mother.”
“Hmf. I suppose not. I’d never seen one before.” The Major continued, “I found out later she’s Swiss, or at least married to one. And they play tennis. So I suppose it’s possible she’d wear something like that. Anyway she kept after him in this manner–like a terrier or a mosquito–without letting up for quite some time. I decided to go in for a bit of snorkeling and I followed a school of angelfish around for a half-hour at least.
“I came back to my chaise and thought the stratagem had worked. Peace and quiet. Wonderful. Mr. Singh was relaxing, trying to read. I was pleased to see it was the latest Brad Thor thriller.
“Imagine my disappointment, then, as I noticed a man with his teeth and his fists clenched like worn-out disk brakes, looking down at Mr. Singh through thick lenses and struggling to breathe through a scraggly blondish moustache.
“‘I don’t like the way you were talking to my wife,’ he said, clearly trying to start a fight.
“Mr. Singh did not take the bait: ‘It isn’t safe to climb on the cliffs. It’s against the rules of the club and all I did was to ask the boys to come down. It was for their own safety.’
“Well, if Roger Federer was bad, her husband was worse by far. He was a jackal-piranha to her terrier-mosquito. ‘Damn the rules,’ he screamed. ‘You have no right to talk to my children or my wife.”
“Julius Fehr, that’s his name: Doctor Fehr was trembling with anger and still standing over Mr. Singh who remained seated and spoke in a calm and logical tone that was infuriating in its own way.
“The two went at it back and forth, until somehow Mr. Singh managed to escape. He gained a standing position without making physical contact with Dr. Fehr. And this small triumph must have somehow clouded his judgment because, at this point, he opened a new line of argument.”
“Always a mistake,” agreed the Loon. “Unless you can strike a lethal blow, the defense should always stay on defense. Otherwise you open yourself up to a new line of attack.”
image via shutterstock / DeliriumTrigger
Maybe you’ve never considered spending your hard-earned vacation time in Cleveland. It’s certainly understandable because many people only know the city as the “Mistake by the Lake” or the home of the burning Cuyahoga River. But things have changed on the North Coast, and you might be surprised at all the cultural attractions the city on the shores of Lake Erie has to offer — great food, museums, theater, and more. The RTA buses run between most Cleveland locations and Uber just announced that they’re starting service in Cleveland, which will make getting around even easier.
Here are the Top 10 Things to Do in Cleveland:
10. Little Italy
Historic Little Italy is on Cleveland’s East Side, located on “Murray Hill” not far from Case Western Reserve University. It features charming restaurants and bakeries, art galleries, and frequent festivals and art shows. Our favorite restaurant there is Trattoria on the Hill. If you go, try the Shrimp & Gnocchi Trattoria, which features their gnocchi served in Trattoria’s homemade cream sauce with mushrooms, scallions, and a hint of cayenne pepper. If you’re not in the mood for pasta, try the Spinach & Prosciutto Pizza with black olives, white garlic sauce, and feta cheese.
For dessert, stroll down Mayfield Road to Presti’s Bakery for a cannoli or a delicious gelato.
The Feast of the Assumption is the biggest event of the year in Little Italy. Held in August to commemorate Mary being taken to heaven, the festival is an unusual combination of Catholic religious ceremonies, carnival rides, fireworks, lots of incredible Italian food, and heavy, heavy drinking.
They’re coming to Minnesota, natch:
Self-serve beer stations are up and running in Target Field, so Minnesota Twins fans and those who attend the Major League Baseball All-Star festivities next week can decide what they want and even how much they want of it.
The machines, called DraftServ, are a partnership between concessionaire Delaware North and Anheuser-Busch.
My first (and only) experience with beer vending machines was as a 15-year-old on a monthlong summer tour of West Germany, where I and a gang of fellow 15-year-old boys spotted one in a train station in Köln. Dropped a 1DM coin in the slot, pushed a button, and out popped a can of staggeringly bad beer — and that was by the standards of a (relatively) inexperienced drinker.
Let’s hope Twins fans get a better selection.
10. Americans are all obese.
From the messy buildup in the fat folds of Mama June’s neck (affectionately known to her children as “neck crud”) to Honey’s proclivity for bathing in mayonnaise, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo embodies the myth that everyone in America weighs a minimum of 300 pounds. One of the best episodes involves Mama June dumping a 5 pound bag of sugar into 2 gallons of lemon juice in order to make homemade lemonade. For the record, 64% of Americans are not obese. But with shows like HHere Comes Honey Boo Boo, The Biggest Loser, Extreme Weight Loss, Shedding for the Wedding, Thintervention, Dance Your A** Off, Celebrity Fit Club, I Used To Be Fat, and Ruby, we’re just a bunch of big, fat Americans.
As the only coffee drinker here at Casa Verde, my Keurig K75 has been a godsend. I used to buy nothing but Starbucks’ Komodo blend, which I still love — but the consistency wasn’t there. The first cup was great, the second cup so-so, the third cup pretty much dead-cold. Making things worse, a one-pound bag would go stale before I could finish half of it. So I was getting one great cup of coffee a day, for maybe two weeks out of the month. The other cups… not so good.
Even the best K-Cups probably aren’t on par with your grind-it-right-before-brewing bean of choice. But my second K-Cup mug is better than my second drip mug, and the third one K-Cup is far superior. And now most afternoons I have a fourth cup, because why the heck not — it hasn’t been sitting there all day and there’s no extra mess to clean up.
And honestly, after a year I might actually prefer Barista Prima’s Italian roast K-Cup to most any other coffee I’ve ever had. It’s a real ass-kicker first thing in the morning. So, be choosey and you can do all right drinking Keurig.
The problem is that Keurig is trying to take away some of your choices by adding what amounts to DRM to future brewers:
At a Keurig tasting event in New York last week, an employee showed me how it worked. Or, rather, he showed me that it worked. Keurig isn’t saying much about the mechanism itself, presumably in the hopes of obscuring it from aspiring coffee pirates.
When the Keurig employee tried to use an old-model pod, one without a new ink marker on the foil top, the brewer wouldn’t run. “Oops!” read a message on the touchscreen display, explaining that the machine only works with specially designed pods and directing the user to a Keurig website and helpline. The employee wouldn’t elaborate on how it worked, except to say that the ink is proprietary and inspired by counterfeiting technology used by the US Mint. Ian Tinkler, Keurig’s vice president of brewer engineering, went into a bit more detail, explaining that an infrared light shines on the ink marking and registers the wavelength of the light reflected back.
My second-favorite K-Cup is Marley Coffee’s “One Love,” which isn’t blessed with the Keurig label because they use their own (better) filter system. Presumably Marley would have to start ponying up and towing the line to work in the new brewers.
I’m sure Keurig’s secret Masonic coffee handshake will be reversed-engineered or cracked within days or, at the most, within weeks, and I could go back to my Marley on the weekends. And I understand a company wanting to protect its business model. But I’d rather they charged more for their brewers (and engineered sturdier brewers) than to pull this kind of pointless malarkey.
The whole affair just looks tired and sad, which is the exact opposite of what a good cup of coffee is supposed to achieve.
When Lena Dunham can mock you effectively, you’ve hit rock bottom.
Time to sober up, bud.
-Your Friendly Neighborhood VodkaPundit
thumbnail photo via shutterstock / PAN Photo Agency
With so many things to worry about—millions of chronically unemployed Americans, the Iranian bomb, veterans going untreated, unparalleled government snooping—you’d think you could relax from time to time with, say, a nice California cabernet that helps you conjure up a feeling of temporary well-being as you savor a meal with family or friends.
Sorry to inform you, but that pleasure may no longer be available to you. According to a new book, The New California Wine (TNCW) by Jon Bonné, the California wines you’ve been enjoying are actually “a ubiquity of oaky, uninspired bottles,” that have fallen into “a stupor,” and those who make them and like them are “stuck in a self-satisfied funk.”
Who knew? I felt particularly humiliated because I had come to California wines relatively late in my drinking career. To my euro-centric palate, California wine always seemed too young and brash and fruity. Until, that is, I actually visited Napa Valley about 15 years ago.
My wife Ellie and I were having lunch outside at Tra Vigne, and we ordered a half-bottle of Shafer Firebreak. That’s a Super Tuscan blend of cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese—but California style, which means that the fruit is amplified. In the sunshine, with my beautiful wife, amidst the vines, eating short ribs… it felt like a seduction. From that moment forward, California started to make a lot of sense.
Now I’m thinking: Why, oh why, does Jon Bonné want to take that away from me? And it was my friend Pat, of all people, who’d suggested I read his book.
Ever just feel that the world is just too troubling a place and that you just have to get away for a time? I do. And I suspect that in this I am not alone. But sometimes there seems to be no time – and no place to get away too. Hey, this world is simply what we’ve got.
My own answer is to look for the little things. The things that make me smile. The things that tell me that God remains in his heaven.
What amazes me is that whenever I do this – whenever I force myself to do this – I realize, over and over again, that that “somewhere” I need to go is not really that far away at all. It’s out there, all the time, all around me, just waiting..
This morning for instance. I took my espresso – hot and steamy – out onto the porch and decided to just look for it. For Him.
I put away the cares of this world for a time and just allowed myself to wander. Not far. Just across the porch and out a ways onto the lawn. And when I did, this is what I saw…
It’s all about the chemistry, according to Reactions/ACS.
Now that you’ve watched that, watching Nancy Pelosi say that Obamacare is “beautiful” might not hurt so bad.
There are thousands of hot sauces to choose from today, and most of them are terrible. They’re novelty items designed with an amusing label and name. The sauce itself is inedible, with inferior ingredients and so much capsaicin from the peppers you’ll blister your tongue. A good hot sauce is a combination of great ingredients and a balance of heat and flavor.
These ten hot sauces are filled with zest, spice and peppery heat. Dash enough on your eggs or tacos and you’ll find your eyelids sweating, but no matter how hot the temperature gets you’ll still get a mouthful of great flavor. Let’s start with a surprising number 10 on the list:
10.) Taco Bell Hot Sauce
No need to squeeze the sauce from those tiny Taco Bell packets any more. The Taco Bell folks now provide bottles of their famous sauces, and the best is Taco Bell Hot Sauce. This is the Goldilocks of hot sauces, not as tomatoey as Mild Sauce but not as overwhemed by pepper as Fire Sauce. Don’t turn your nose up at Taco Bell just because Doritos Tacos are an orange abomination. Their Hot Sauce is delicious. Shake it on a homemade taco and enjoy.
While you likely already know that your crock-pot is fabulous for making mouth-watering stews, pot roasts, and soups, you might be surprised to learn just how wide a variety of concoctions you can create in your slow-cooker. Here are some surprising and unconventional uses for your crock-pot:
A good quality, jar-sized candle at a specialty store can cost you close to $30. Fortunately, they’re not that difficult to make at home and they’re much less expensive than the store-bought varieties. By following a few easy steps you’ll enjoy homemade candles at a fraction of the price. Your friends and family will also appreciate your lovely scented gifts!
This is a great opportunity to get creative with glass jars you’ve recycled or found at thrift stores or yard sales. As long as the jars will fit in your crock-pot, you’re free to use your imaginate to create unique candles. In addition to the jars, you’ll need wax (renewable soy wax is slow-burning and soot free), essential oil or candle fragrance, candle coloring dye, and wicks. All of these supplies are available at craft stores or from online sources.
As it turns out, the decade wasn’t all bad!
Here are a few things we remember fondly from the 1970s:
1. Department Store Gift-Wrapping
As a child I was completely enchanted by the dazzling array of bows and shiny gift wrap displayed on the wall in the gift-wrapping department at the May Company department store near my home in suburban Cleveland. The ladies were expert wrappers, with perfectly creased corners and stripes that lined up at every seam. The bows and gift cards were like icing on the tops of beautiful cakes. It was like watching magic happen before my eyes to see an ordinary salad bowl transformed into a sparkly work of art piled high with ribbon and lace. These days, most stores no longer offer gift-wrapping service (though a handful still do). More often than not you’ll be directed to the wrapping paper aisle and told to fend for you ham-handed self — explaining the exponential growth of the gift bag industry.
A story of pure awfulness on both sides and it comes to us from California? Say it isn’t so!
But it is so:
A tenth-grade California girl allegedly passed out cupcakes to bullies at her school which she said contained “bodily fluids.”
I was pretty sure she got the flour and sugar and whatnot down at the Safeway, but it was more difficult figuring out how exactly she obtained the male bodily fluids in question. But then there was this:
As it turns out, the cupcakes were made with mayonnaise, barbecue sauce and soy sauce.
Either way, students in the girl’s French class were left with a bad taste in their mouths during a food day event last week.
Before the Bakersfield Police Department announced that the cupcakes weren’t laced with anything other than condiments, it was believed they may have contained “pubic hair, semen and expired food and pills.”
image via shutterstock / Ruth Black
Learning how to drink responsibly is a basic lesson in growing up — as it is in wine-drinking France or in Germany, with its family-oriented beer gardens and festivals. Wine was built into my own Italian-American upbringing, where children were given sips of my grandfather’s home-made wine. This civilized practice descends from antiquity. Beer was a nourishing food in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and wine was identified with the life force in Greece and Rome: In vino veritas (in wine, truth). Wine as a sacred symbol of unity and regeneration remains in the Christian Communion service. Virginia Woolf wrote that wine with a fine meal lights a “subtle and subterranean glow, which is the rich yellow flame of rational intercourse.”
What this cruel 1984 law did is deprive young people of safe spaces where they could happily drink cheap beer, socialize, chat, and flirt in a free but controlled public environment. Hence in the 1980s we immediately got the scourge of crude binge drinking at campus fraternity keg parties, cut off from the adult world. Women in that boorish free-for-all were suddenly fighting off date rape. Club drugs — Ecstasy, methamphetamine, ketamine (a veterinary tranquilizer) — surged at raves for teenagers and on the gay male circuit scene.
Alcohol relaxes, facilitates interaction, inspires ideas, and promotes humor and hilarity.
image via shutterstock / Pressmaster
For Easter this year, Whole Foods sold Organic Timothy Grass for kids’ Easter baskets. The story sounds good, as usual—plastic is toxic and the stuff in the Easter baskets lingers for years on the planet. Not mentioned is how prevalent shredded, recycled paper has become for baskets or how the plastic grass lasts and gets reused year after year. That is, the menace of plastic grass is overstated. Also not mentioned in the real grass is great story, the price of the real grass.
As I first learned about the grass clippings in a Tweet from @johnrobison, “Salute the marketing geniuses at @WholeFoods for selling grass clippings for $23.96 a pound – More than good steak!”
A few months ago, Rhonda Robinson posted about a poor neighborhood that “ran off” a Trader Joe’s opening. The gist of the article and comments assumed the neighborhood had elevated politics over health and made a bad decision. She concluded, “The Portland African American Leadership Forum would much rather see empty decaying buildings in their neighborhood than give up their victim card.”
I doubt the neighborhood would rather keep vacant buildings. I also doubt that they objected to a grocery store opening. They likely objected to a Trader Joe’s opening.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in March of 2013 as “The 10 Best Places to Eat in Austin, Texas“ It is being reprinted as part of a weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Visit tomorrow for the conclusion of the series.
Austin, TX, home of SXSW, is known for its live music and its food. The fact is, you’d have to work pretty hard to find a bad meal in Austin. The people here take pride in being one of the food capitals of America. The weary SXSWer may have a hard time sorting the great places from the merely good, though, so as a local, I’m here to help out.
Locations: All over town.
This chain of wing stops was started by some UT students. Pluckers isn’t fancy but it’s local and good, and has restaurants all over town.