Go Browns! An Homage to the Beer and the Hometown Team

O-I-H-O! wait a sec...

O-I-H-O! …Wait a minute.

I’ve never been a follower of The Ohio State University’s sports: didn’t go there; don’t care. But everyone assumes I’m a fan because I exist within 60 miles of their stadium. In the fall it’s perfectly acceptable for a complete stranger to invade my space and hoot, “O-H!” gesturing wildly like a confused Village Person. They expect the proper response, which is not, I’ve discovered, “F-U.”

Football madness also rages strong 60 miles to my north in Cleveland. In the Browns stadium there is a section reserved for The Dawg Pound. This section is known for its rowdiness, excessive alcohol consumption, and for its population of tirelessly enthusiastic men in Browns jerseys and rubber dog masks. This all sounds suspiciously like the antics at an afternoon in the OSU Horseshoe, but I’m here to tell you that Browns fans are different. They maintain magestic reservoirs of hope and optimism and, having been dragged through the mud many times before, retain this loyalty and the there’s always next year mentality through the worst of seasons.

In the Dawg Pound

In the Dawg Pound

It is hard to be a Browns fan. We don’t win all that much. I was thinking of this just the other day as I stood in the craft beer aisle looking for a brown ale. Nothing. Not even that Honey Brown crap we considered to be “the good stuff” in college. It was all IPAs and pumpkin beer. The next store, more of the same. I couldn’t win. The third store had one kind of brown ale, Bell’s Best Brown out of Michigan. Score. Continue reading

Reasons I Would Have Made a Lousy 1950s Cook

50s cookThe other day, I happened upon this little horror show of an article, about the long-running column, “Can this Marriage Be Saved?” in Ladies Home Journal. The 1950s issues of the column were real beauties, mostly counseling women that it was their fault when their husbands acted like jerks. (If you don’t find the advice in the old articles disturbing, just read the comments, since clearly they’re written by your kind of people.) Anyway, I later found this academic article from the Journal of Social History, about what 1950s cookbooks have to say about the women who read them. The author, Jessamyn Neuhaus, is careful to point out that there’s a big difference between what these cookbooks suggest and how those suggestions were received, and, in fact, part of her argument is that 1950s housewives were probably more subversive than most people give them credit for. Even so, it’s hard not to read some of these lines and cringe, and I think it’s fair to say that whoever wrote these cookbooks probably wouldn’t be too impressed with my performance in the kitchen. Here’s why:

1.  I do not demonstrate adequate fondness for Jell-O.
limecheesesaladNothing against Jell-O Jigglers, which I always found kind of awesome, but these cookbooks would have you believe that you could survive on Jell-O alone. Neuhaus calls it a “fantasy food” that could be transformed into anything, and believe me, they tried. Tuna and Jell-O Pie, anyone? Jellied Tomato Refresher? Or how about the delicious Lime Cheese Salad, which involved putting lime Jell-O and cottage cheese into a mold and then filling the center with seafood salad?!

2. I have never felt the desire to throw a themed dinner party.
Apparently, 1950s cookbook authors thought it was a scream to stage things like a “Hawaiian company dinner” or a neighborhood party where “everyone on the block is dressed for the hoe-down,” (though I would sort of like to witness the bafflement on my West Indian neighbors faces if I really tried to sell that hoedown idea). I think the closest I got to a themed dinner party was in my early twenties when my college boyfriend threw a Food that Will Get You Drunk party, Continue reading

It’s All About the Dressings: Quick and Dirty Quinoa Tabbouleh

IMG_1415Quinoa is hip.  My supermarket, which is far from a healthfood store or anything particularly familiar to, say, a suburban shopper, now has at least four brands of it, all organic.  Hidden away is a Goya version for a third of the cost.

I’ve taken to making like a cup of the stuff at some point in the week (add a bouillon cube to the water to offset that metallic’y taste it sometimes gets) and using it as a salad or taco ingredient.  It should keep for the better part of the week in an air-tight container in the fridge.   The other night, used it to make a badass tabbouleh variant that took about fifteen minutes to prepare and was super filling.

  • Chop one bunch of parsley, including the more supple portions of some of the stems.
  • Mix it in a bowl with half-a-cup of the quinoa.
  • Add two teaspoons of capers.
  • Make a dressing of the juice from 2 lemons, olive oil to taste, a tablespoon of the caper brine, a shake of garlic powder, some fresh ground pepper, and a dash of chili powder.
  • Mix and eat

Paired with a slice of quality bread and some slices of tomato and cheese, this made an awesome meal that didn’t take, as is so often the case with me, half an evening to prepare.

Foods for the Agony and the Ecstasy


Is this strawberry purely happy? Or is there something else behind its smile?

This morning as I was running (or more accurately, as I was stumbling squelchily along in the extreme humidity), I was listening to a story on the Snap Judgment podcast. (By the way, if you don’t know Snap Judgment, stop reading this right now and go listen to some episodes. I’m serious. Go. Now.)  The story was about a song from the 1930s that was immensely popular, but was supposedly so unbearably sad that it was eventually banned on BBC Radio because of its links to cases of suicide. The song was called “Gloomy Sunday,” or, less formally, “The Hungarian Suicide Song.”

I should admit that I did not find the song unduly depressing, but I did find the idea intriguing. And it made me wonder: could a similar phenomenon be found in food? That is, could something you eat (independent of, say, your personal memories of that food) make you much happier or much sadder?

The internet is rife with lists and articles claiming to know the “Top Ten Foods That Will Make You Happier!!!!” I approached them with a great amount of skepticism, but was a little weirded out by how closely they mirrored my typical lunch choices. Suddenly, all of those tofu soups (relaxes the muscles) and avocado sandwiches (contains serotonin) made me feel like I might have a substance abuse problem. Incidentally, is this why I enjoy the company of my co-workers? Anyway, according to these lists, I am one spinach and walnut sandwich away from total bliss, so I decided to leave the cheering foods well enough alone and start looking for sad ones. Continue reading

All We Can Do Is Hop: Growing Beer in Your Garden

This is the "safe" ladder

This is the “safe” ladder

“Dad, that ladder is in miserable condition! You can’t stand on that; it won’t work!”
“It should work.” My father said, nonchalantly twisting one broken leg out from behind another. There is no convincing this man of safety sometimes, so I kept my distance and stayed on the same side of the hops arbor as him in case that ladder finally gave way.

My father and I spent part of this Labor Day together harvesting hops off the plants Ben and I planted in my parents’ garden last year. Considering the stress of being transplanted and the the half-assed way in which we watched over them, they weren’t doing all that bad. Aside from a Hindenburg-sized bag worm colony in the upper left corner that somehow everyone missed until just then, things were going well.

I learned earlier that hop vines are sticky and prickly and leave behind long pink welts on the inside of your arms, so I was wearing gloves and delicately snipping off each hop cone with a pair of scissors. My father grabbed at each cone with his hand, tore it off and tossed it in the direction of his bowl, much to the entertainment of our loud audience of stray cats.

Hops as big as my head!

Hops as big as my head!

These plants had thrived for several years at my in-law’s former home. At this point, we can no longer say with any accuracy exactly what variety each of our five plants is. They start as anonymous little sticks — or rhizomes, to be fancy-pants — that magically grow when you shove them in the ground. My husband is certain that when they were planted they had four different kinds: Cascade, Centennial, Golding, and Perle, which sound suspiciously like stripper names to me.  Continue reading

What Was On Hand No. 136: Slaw Dressing On the Shoulders of Mission Chinese

Pretty, but kinda wonky.

Pretty, but kinda wonky.

As part of my buddy Tancil’s birthday evening a while back, I ended up in Cobble Hill at Mission Chinese Food.  Mission Chinese used to live in the East Village, makes pretty much the best Chinese food I’ve ever had if you consider Chinese a cuisine that uses Chinese food as a launch pad into Chinese’ish awesomeness, and recently took up residence in Brooklyn after some kind of kerfuffle with rent in Manhattan.  These factors apparently combined to make The Times take notice and dedicate the “Eat” section of the Sunday Magazine to the place, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in my twelve or so years of subscribing to the Sunday Times.

So I went ahead and riffed on their recipe for Cabbage Salad with Sesame-Anchovy Dressing, which was okay except for the fact that I ended up ignoring the recipe’s measurements because I don’t know why and also substituting green-olive hummus or something like that for tahini because that’s what I had on-hand.  The results were pretty but mixed.

The next night, the fridge still full of unused cabbage and other CSA veggies looking for a fate, I combined the remaining “traditional” and red cabbages, spring onion greens, peeler- Continue reading

Driving-while-Drooling Road Trip Puzzle

Food-Road-SignIt’s Labor Day, everybody, your last chance for a summer road trip! And since (for me, at least), road trips go hand-in-hand with delicious local specialties, we’ve cooked up this little puzzle to test your knowledge of iconic dishes from specific cities. From the descriptions listed below, can you name the dish and the city with which it is most closely associated? Hint: if you’re in the continental U.S. right now, you could drive to any of these cities, though one would require a border crossing. A few of these are tricky, so if you manage to get ten out of twelve, consider yourself a road food champ.

  1. A crust pressed into a high-edged pan, filled with mozzarella cheese, chunky tomato sauce and toppings, and baked
  2. A French baguette stuffed with roast beef or fried seafood and dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickle and mayonnaise
  3. Shoestring fries topped with guacamole, sour cream, Cotija cheese and seared, chopped beef
  4. A particular kind of seafood, formed into a patty (often seasoned with Old Bay) and broiled, served with a lemon wedge and saltines
  5. A long roll (preferably an Amoroso roll) filled with thinly sliced beef and topped with provolone or Cheez Whiz
  6. An open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich, covered with Mornay cheese sauce and baked or broiled until brown
  7. Black-eyed peas mixed with diced vegetables in a vinegar-based sauce and usually served with tortilla chips
  8. French fries topped with fresh cheese curds and covered in brown gravy
  9. Buttered bread filled with roast pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese and thinly sliced dill pickles, pressed and toasted in a plancha
  10. A cream-based soup prepared with potatoes, onion and a particular shellfish, but definitely no tomatoes
  11. Cubed red meat, deep-fried and served with toothpicks as utensils, with salt, hot sauce and crackers on the side
  12. A meat sauce spiced with cinnamon and allspice, served atop spaghetti and finished with finely shredded cheddar cheese, onions and kidney beans

Don’t scroll down or click Continue until you’re ready for the answers… Continue reading

The Potable Tomato

potabletomatoTomato juice that comes in a can is nasty stuff. This opinion of mine, I think, has its roots in a childhood aversion to the sight of it coating the inside of a glass. My favorite aunt regularly drank V8 for breakfast, and though I loved that woman dearly, the memory of a red, viscous mess being poured down her throat that early in the morning is, even now, enough to make me queasy. No amount of vodka and olives can make up for what is wrong with canned tomato juice. No Bloody Marys for me.

But some time ago, Roger (a.k.a. Godfather of Cocktails) suggested that I would warm to the drink if I made my own tomato juice or, better yet, since it would eliminate the coating sediment, tomato water. This past weekend, between taxing bouts of sunning myself on a dock and sunning myself in a hammock, I finally gave it a try and was not disappointed in the results.

Here’s what you do: you core and quarter about six large tomatoes and throw them in a blender with a little salt. Puree those babies and then put them through a cheesecloth. (You can either put a wooden spoon over a pitcher and tie the cheesecloth to it, or, if your pitcher is sturdy, you can just use a couple clothespins to suspend the cheesecloth from the side of the pitcher.) After it strains, you can drink the juice straight, and it’s liquid summer sunshine. But let’s be honest. What you should really do is put some vodka in it. Continue reading

Small is the New Big: Drinking Local

Courtesy The Brewers Association

Courtesy The Brewers Association

The other day I was enjoying a beer on my porch when my neighbor, who lives a luxurious ten feet away, came out of his garage lecturing his friend about the evils of Wal-Mart. His friend, who floated lazily behind him on a skateboard, remained silent. My neighbor went on to say he hadn’t shopped there for years and stopped going to McDonald’s as well, since they were epitomes of capitalist nonsense (I’m paraphrasing). His friend attempted an ollie in the driveway.

His fervor surprised me because it’s not the usual rhetoric I hear spouted in neighborhoods like mine, which is to say, poor ones in central Ohio. It cheered me to hear someone outside my little blue bubble of artist friends who understood what megagiagantoconglamamarts do to the local economy. The word is spreading, my friends. And just as the buy local and eat local movements are gaining ground, so the drink local fad is rapidly becoming not a fad.

Allow me to share some statistics directly from the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade association that supports small and independent American brewers. They will blow your hops off! In 2013, there were a total of 2,822 breweries in the US. Of those, 2,768 were craft breweries. That’s 98%! Continue reading

Excuse Me, Waiter, But I Found a Tomato in My Gazpacho

gazpachoI’ve been on a gazpacho kick lately, since the cold tomato soup is easy to make and excellent summer fare. The other day, I was about to add a couple handfuls of basil to the blender, thinking, “Basil always goes well with tomatoes in Italian dishes.” And then I thought, “Wait, is this Italian or Spanish or something else?” And then I thought, “Man, I really don’t know much about gazpacho.” So I went hunting for some fun gazpacho history, and let me tell you, gazpacho has some murky little secrets it’s been keeping from you.

Gazpacho is, indeed, Spanish (though arguably Portuguese as well), specifically from the southern Andalusian region of the Iberian Peninsula. And it’s old, really old, though just how old is open to some debate. Some people think it might have its roots in Roman times, based on the fact that the oldest known recipes involve vinegar, and boy, those Romans loved their vinegar. But the more likely story is that the Moors brought over a soup from Morocco when they came to Andalusia around the 8th century, and the Andalusian peasants adopted it as their own since it was the perfect thing to eat while they were working in the fields.

Here’s the crazy part: wherever it came from, that original gazpacho had nary a tomato! It was a paste of garlic, stale bread, olive oil and vinegar, thinned into a soup with water. (A similar dish still exists in Andalusian cuisine, though it’s now called ajo blanco.) They might have added some vegetables and herbs when they were available, but tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers didn’t enter the gazpacho scene until much later, after Columbus brought them back to Europe from the Americas (What up, New World!?).

The name is also cloaked in mystery. Continue reading