12.27.2010

Two Straws in the Milkshake

I understand that there's an inherent level of smug dickery inherent in this tote bag, but the more I think about it the more I just love love love it.





$17, McSweeney's. Of course.


12.05.2010

QUESTION: Is Stevie Wonder's "What Christmas Means to Me" the best Christmas song ever?
ANSWER: Yes it is.

QUESTION: What is almost as good, and maybe even better, depending on your mood?
ANSWER: The Hanson version.
I mean really. Yes.

11.30.2010

Parody Comes Full Circle

Um hey. When did Buddy Christ — "a parody religious icon in the film Dogma. In the film, he is part of a campaign ("Catholicism Wow!") to renew the image of (and interest in) the Catholic Church." — become a real image attached to RSS ads for a browser plugin called Daily Bible Guide? And how does Kevin Smith feel about this? (Sorry 'bout the animation.)

11.26.2010

Important things that happened this weekend


Capitol, originally uploaded by helenlikesyou.


1) I went to D.C. for Thanksgiving. 2) I downloaded Hipstamatic for my iPhone.

Gutenberg Bible

Supreme Court

Library of Congress

11.24.2010

Tetris Bangle!

Tragically sold out, but now the song will be in my head all day. ParAmour Design, Etsy

11.18.2010

Fundação de Serralves, Porto

After the wicked rad Vampire Weekend pic, this image of Mr. B is probably my favorite Portugal picture. What do you do when you're at an art museum and the galleries are all closed but the museum is open? You stage an impromptu Caroline Trentini-style jumping-in-the-air photo shoot on their 18-hectare grounds, that's what.


Fundação de Serralves, Porto, originally uploaded by helenlikesyou.

11.17.2010

Gun Totin'

Pretty sure if I carry this around pretty much anywhere I will be detained immediately and it will be taken from me. But oh how glorious the moments will be before that happens! Guardian Angel Clutch, $234; Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art

11.14.2010

Rock Gods and Their Worshippers

Mr. B and I just spent a little over a week in Portugal, and while many many amazing things happened, including much consumption of cod and much consumption of vinho verde, the major highlight, for me, was going to see Vampire Weekend play at the Porto Coliseu. Not so much from a concertgoing perspective (I mean, I like their music — they're like the rich, preppy heirs to Paul Simon's musical legacy) but because I took maybe the most awesome concert photo ever? I expect a call from Rolling Stone any time now. That's still the cool hip music rag, right?

11.03.2010

Housekeeping

Oh hello. I redesigned the header up there (because that whole "overanalysis is the navy blue of India" thing was high-effing-larious like six years ago but now we are over Diana Vreeland, sorry) and considering how this blog has basically become an image dump for things I find online that I want to own, I made the column width bigger so the pictures can be prettier. Applause, please.

Holiday Insanity

Last year, Mr. B and I had our first Christmas tree. It was his umpteenth, but my first-ever, because of the whole Jew thing, which was kind of a thing, but we won't go into that. But the way I wrapped my head around it was by taking Christmas not as a religious occasion, but as an opportunity to go completely apeshit in the home decor category, which means that now I am kind of obsessed with Christmas ornaments. In particular, I have learned that I am a total sucker for a good minimalist animal. Like so:

Savannah Story Rhino, Millinocket Moose, and Snow Rabbit ornaments, all from Anthropologie
Or maybe this:
Owl Ornament, Jonathan Adler

Or we could just lose our fucking minds on Etsy:

Elephant Christmas Ornament, Sileas Highland Cow, and Lamb With a Blue Tweet Scarf, all Etsy
 Because honestly, doesn't that baby elephant holding a candy cane just make you want to claw your own face off with the cuteness? And the lamb? IT IS WEARING A TWEED SCARF. I mean, holy sweet crap. How can anyone not be completely obsessed with Christmas?

10.28.2010

Edible Plumage

So okay, Jonathan Adler now makes a Peacock Lollipop Holder.

It's $98, and I'm not sure if I really want it, or I really don't want it.

10.24.2010

Fantasy to Reality?

I'm for reals thinking about buying these. Ridiculous? Spectacular? Advice welcomed.


Crucial update, 10/26: I bought them.

10.22.2010

Wet Circuitry

Okay fine, if I had to wear a bathing suit at all times, I would probably go with the R2D2 one.

10.13.2010

Three's a Trend!

Speaking as the person who covets coloring-book dresses and marker-bleed dresses, of course I want this dress that mechanically drips paint all over itself.

9.14.2010

Helen's Q&A Corner

Q: Why are French fries called French fries?

A: Because "French frying" is an old-fashioned way to refer to deep-frying. The real term is "French-fried potatoes," but we dropped the descriptor in the same way that "pickled cucumbers" became "pickles," confusing everyone forever. The end, go away.

Not Seeing This One

A Little Bit of Heaven, starring Kate Hudson as the insufferably happy-go-lucky blonde, and Gael García Bernal as, as far as I can tell, a young Mr. Burns:

Do not want.

9.13.2010

Cheating

I think she is going to need therapy after baking all of these cupcakes in just two days, not to mention printing the toppers
So look, the idea of a cupcake mosaic is cool enough in the everything's-a-pixel! stream of zeitgeist that's going on and all, but it is FLAT-OUT CHEATING when you use printed-out edible paper instead of frosting. Then it's just a friggin paper mosaic where the paper has a piece of cake hanging out between it and the floor. Eff that. Call me when you've whipped up sixty-four batches of precisely hued buttercream.

9.03.2010

Behind the Diet: Jeffrey Steingarten

Grub Street's what-did-you-eat-this-week interview today is with Jeffrey Steingarten, and I basically was almost unable to breathe both before and during our phone call. Quite literally and without any hyperbole, Steingarten is the writer who got me interested in both journalism and food.*

In my awkward early teenage years, before I started religiously reading Esquire and New York and other purveyors of the well-executed long-form essay, my media consumption was limited to Seventeen, Teen — and Vogue, which is where I found Steingarten's essays on bluefin tuna and MSG (both of which were later published in his collection It Must Have Been Something I Ate) tucked between breathless writeups of Aerin Lauder's straightening iron and this season's must-have silk-velvet peplum blazer (it was the 90s). Here were these first-person, know-it-all accounts of completely boring things like salt, and they were riveting; they combined science, culture, history, food, snark, crotchetiness, and a fluid literary sensibility in a way that was, to Young Helen, transformative.

So it was with completely near-death-inducing levels of hero worship that I started arranging the interview, and then during the darn thing — which ran, I am not joking, to 154 minutes long, with a transcript topping 10,000 words. After much picking up of the jaw off the floor, and much post-interview streamlining, there's now a 3,800-word version online (plus an 800-word appendix, because come on), and I highly highly recommend that you read every single word.

*To the point where one of my main justifications for that period in time when I applied to, got in to, and considered going to law school was "Jeffrey Steingarten went to Harvard Law. I'm just following his path." I'm tragic.

8.10.2010

Being Like Betty

I don't know if I should be thrilled or mortified that of all the spectacular items of clothing Betty wears, the one she has that I have too is a totally ridiculous sailor dress. At least mine's navy with white stripes, so folks don't accidentally confuse us with one another.

8.05.2010

Sweater Kittens

So I now own this sweater.

Yes, it has a cat on it. So how do I wear this so as not to look like a creepy old cat lady? Or should I just own the cat lady thing and accessorize with unkempt hair and eau de pisse de chat?

7.16.2010

Copy Check

You are VISA. You are a GIGANTIC, INSANELY PROFITABLE,
MULTINATIONAL CORPORATION. Spend twenty bucks and
HIRE A FREAKING COPY EDITOR for your Facebook ads, okay?















OKAY. THANKS.

7.14.2010

:(

Is anyone else out there just sort of stunned and saddened that the subtitle of the new Cats & Dogs movie is "The Revenge of Kitty Galore"? Was this necessary? I get the whole "let's put some wink wink nudge jokes into the kiddie movie so the parents get a laugh too" thing, but this feels a wee bit excessive? And why hasn't whoever owns the rights to Pussy Galore sued the pants off of Warner Brothers? I refuse to believe the estates of Ian Fleming or Albert Broccoli or whoever signed off on this. ALSO: I dislike that if I ever see this movie (which god willing will not ever happen), I will spend the entire time looking at this main villain cat and thinking "VAGINA."

7.09.2010

Priorities


Let's play a game called Which Should I Buy.

1. The $595 Tsumori Chisato dress with an outer space/clouds pattern and a cloud-shaped obi patch, above.

2. Modernist Cuisine, Nathan Myhrvold's 2,200-page, four-volume, $625 mega-cookbook.

And the answer is Ha ha, neither, I have $67 in my checking account.

6.24.2010

Conspiracy Theory


This image shows up ALL THE TIME on stories about McDonalds, kids, fatness, and fat kids at McDonald's. And I just now had this weird realization: is he wearing a fat suit? Check out the seams at the neck and wrists. Or maybe, no, he's just a really fat kid at McDonald's.

6.16.2010

Phrasal Synchronicity


Well I guess we're using the verb "to diss" again.

(From top: Eater NY, Village Voice, Grub Street. No aspersions cast here; pretty sure everyone involved wrote these headlines entirely independently of one another.)

6.13.2010

Small World

I know some or all of the individuals in three of the couples profiled in today's New York Times weddings section. Maybe four, depending on how you count it. Sigh.

5.27.2010

"If I wasn't rich, I'd definitely just kill myself right away with a knife!"

Hello! If you haven't read Lindy West's epic, spectacular, hilarious takedown of Sex and the City 2, go do it right now. Yes, I linked to the same thing twice. That should indicate how strongly I feel about its wonderment.

I would quote indicative passages but really it'd just all end up here in a giant blockquote and no one wants that.

5.24.2010

Bugs


the bug, originally uploaded by helenlikesyou.

I was in South Carolina last weekend, and saw this red bug futzing around with what appears to be a larval cocoon of some sort? And despite the fact that bugs make me want to bathe myself in bleach, I overcame my fear and engaged my camera's finicky macro setting. In related news, if you have any idea what kind of insect this is, I'd be much obliged to know.

5.11.2010

Why are there no great women?

If you're one of the six people who read this blog, then you are probably already aware that on Friday I wrote a minor feminist polemic on the subject of sexism in the culinary world. It's inspired by a blog post put up by Dirt Candy chef Amanda Cohen, who's been historically unafraid to speak truth to power. I'm pretty chuffed by the whole everything.

While the public commentary around the issue (which was totally not limited to conversation on Grub Street) has died down pretty much, I've still been talking pretty extensively about the matter via email with a number of lovely folks who've written to me either with support or criticism of my position. A particular note that I keep coming back to - and something that was left out of the Grub post for obvious reasons - are the striking similarities between the operation of the culinary world and the operation of the fashion world.

In both cooking and fashion, the chef/designer is in the curious position of being both the executor of the brand and the brand itself, a balancing act whose successful execution requires a tremendous support team and dedicated financial backers. And because investors, for whatever reason, tend to prefer to throw their money behind dudes, we see more dudes rising to the top in both fields — this despite matters of both food and clothing being ostensibly "women's work."

And thanks to the food world's predominantly male A-list, as my pal Charlotte Druckman masterfully laid out in her recent article for Gastronomica [PDF], the kitchen - once the provenance of women - has been masculinized. The experience of the kitchen and the very parameters of culinary success have been redefined along stereotypically masculine lines. I imagine it's very easy to take these arguments and map them onto the world of fashion - we could as easily ask "why are there no great women designers?" as we could, as Charlotte does, as "why are there no great women chefs?" Well there would be great of each, only that as a culture we've redefined greatness to categorically exclude them.

5.04.2010

Occupational Hazards

At the Beard Awards last night, I took one bite of Jonathan Benno's vitello tonnato sandwich and the tonnato part squirted out all over the left side of my dress. It was really, really good, though, so I forgive him.

4.23.2010

Home Pantry Fail

This might not be a proper usage of the word "ironic," but it is certainly uniquely exasperating that last summer I went to all the trouble of making and freezing a giant batch of squash-blossom sauce to last me through the winter, promptly forgot about all the containers in the back of my freezer, and now squash blossoms are showing up on menus again. Blerg.

4.20.2010

Piece of Cake


This objet you see above is a dining table from the Versace home collection. But how insanely awesome would it be if it were shrunk down to 1/10th its size and were a cake stand? [via]

4.17.2010

Symphony on Ice


Men Spy On Icy Ho, originally uploaded by Epiclectic.

Mr. B and I ducked into a charity shop near our house that we'd never noticed before, where I found this utterly spectacular gem of an old record. This is totally being framed and hung up in the bathroom. Come visit and you can stare at it while you pee! $2 well spent indeed.

(Not my image - obviously someone else has already discovered this glory.)

4.16.2010

Magnolias


Magnolias, originally uploaded by helenlikesyou.

A few weekends ago. Heaven, no?

4.14.2010

Old Art, New Art

I wonder if at a certain point, paintings get too old to be considered "modern" and MoMA will send them off to the Met or some other "old art" museum. Kind of the opposite of the way the oldies station now plays stuff from the early 80s. (Which, it goes without saying, is completely unacceptable.)

Anyway it comes to mind in the course of watching this spectacular clip cycle of every painting at MoMA in two minutes. Also distracting: how similar the music is (intentionally?) to the soundtrack to the same-yet-different movie of Noah Kalina taking his self portrait every day for a million years.

4.12.2010

Nasal Ability vs. Stinkiness

I had this moment of sort of huffy self-righteousness when I saw this (otherwise hilarious) Onion headline in my RSS reader today:


And then just now when I settled in for my ritual post-dinner RSS updatery, I was overjoyed to find that the error, unlike so many other things in life, corrected itself.


It's been a good day.

A Last Look at Doyers


Doyers, originally uploaded by helenlikesyou.

The news that spectacular Chinatown Vietnamese restaurant Doyers is probably closed is all the reason I need to revisit one of my favorite photos that I've taken. Something about the fuzzy neon really gets me going.

4.07.2010

Bottoms Up

My latest object of interior decor lust: Jonathan Adler's Kiki's Derriere vase. I realize having a circle of porcelain asses in my living room might make some guests uncomfortable, but they need to man up. (When Mr. B's parents come visit, we can just hide it in the closet.)

4.02.2010

Super-Important Update: I just got an email from the website from which I bought the dress with boats on it informing me that there has been some kind of error and whatever and as a result I do not get my dress with boats on it. I'm stunned that they expect a $25 gift voucher to mend my broken heart.

3.24.2010

Boats!

I may have just bought a dress bearing a Jessica Simpson label, and that may be shameful, but goddamnit it has sailboats on it. And it was very on sale.

3.23.2010

Tower of Bread


Tower of Bread, originally uploaded by helenlikesyou.

I spent most of my Sunday afternoon in the company of my friends and loved one, pounding McSorley's and loudly demanding more beef. Yes, I was at the Brooklyn Beefsteak, and yes, I believe the hipster-servers were personally avoiding serving me specifically. Also, we built the best damn tower of bread ever.

How Nerds Brine Meat

In the grand tradition of my (in)famous attempt to determine via math the amount of zest you can get from a grapefruit based on the amount of zest you can get from a lemon, the inimitable Francis Lam dives into the question of exactly how much salt your meat picks up when you brine it. It's over at Salon.com, and reading it felt like taking a vacation into my own mind.

3.19.2010

By the Numbers

There is this one particular shopping website that I love, which I will not name here because I don't want to embarrass it. Somehow (for the life of me, I can't remember where I heard about it) I was one of the very first people to visit this shop when it opened over the summer, and I wound up buying a very cute shirt, for which the email confirmation was sent to me with the header "New Order # 100000032." And I was like SO EXCITED that I was only the THIRTY-SECOND PERSON to order something from this neato torpedo site.

That was in July. Just now, eight months later, I made my second purchase from this site. And my order number was 100000201. You guys, is that not so tragic? This great website — which did I mention I LOVE? Like they donate a portion of your purchase to charity, kind of love? — has only made 169 sales in eight months? I mean I guess that averages to one every business day but still. This site deserves better. And also maybe I wasn't one of the very first people to visit it back in the day, maybe I was just one of the very first to buy from it. I feel so much less cool.

Okay, fine, it's Tra Tutti, an online consignment shop that has surprisingly good wares (though, ew, some Ed Hardy) and gives 20% of the purchase price to the charity of your choice.

3.17.2010

Big Star, Soul Deep

Alex Chilton, terrific musician who everyone should love, has died at the age of 59.

Special ways I am connected to Alex Chilton: he was the lead singer of the Box Tops, the group that sings "Soul Deep," the song I have always misheard as being "so deep"; one of Chilton's later groups, Big Star, was the inspiration for the name of Paul Kahan's Chicago taco joint, at which I have eaten seriously spectacular pork belly tacos.

2.27.2010

Beef Stew Empanadas

Sometimes you will have a terrific dinner party and you'll make boeuf bourguignon (kind of Julia Child's recipe, but quicker, and because you're running low on beef broth you'll substitute something else in that you'll never, ever reveal, but it turns out amazing, way better than you expected) and you'll find yourself with leftovers at the end of the night.

When that happens you could have the stew for dinner the next day. Or you could realize that you have leftover pie crust (because that stupid snowstorm delayed the delivery of those crawfish tails you ordered, no joke, so no crawfish pie for those guests), and put the pie crust with the stew together, to make ...


BEEF STEW EMPANADAS. I am not kidding.



And you know, if you love your boyfriend a whole lot, and you have a little dough left over, you could make him feel a little special while you're at it.


As an aside, and this is wholly unrelated to culinary brilliance except that in a counterpointy kind of way it's about my tech idiocy, but can anyone tell me why the eff Blogger insists on robbing the saturation out of my photos? I do not get it. In contrast, here are the originals, on Flickr: Beef Stew Empanadas. Three of 'em. Total color. I DON'T GET IT.

2.26.2010

The Absolute Best

Helen's all-time favorite artist, Alex Katz, paints the London National Portrait Gallery image of Helen's all-time favorite person to read about in any medium, Anna Wintour.


Could the world be any better? Not at this moment, no.

2.22.2010

Mental Relocation

If you point your internet over to Grub Street New York and scroll down a bit until the masthead reveals itself on the right, you just might notice my name there. Yep, my head gets to live in New York alongside the rest of me now. The upsides are myriad. The downside is that I no longer have my failproof excuse for not going to events and parties.

Some Sort of Monster

By all accounts, Treat Trucks proprietor Kim Ima has a pretty perfect life. Hip and delicious mobile-bakery business? Check. Tweely adorbale, fully paid-for West Village apartment that's profiled in the New York Times? Check. Home furnishings that befit her status as a maker of sweets? Mais oui:


But dudes, New York Times, what are you smoking with that caption?


So all blue Muppets look the same to you? I'm sure some of your best friends are blue Muppets and all, guys, but that is definitely not Grover. Hint: Kim Ima bakes cookies for a living.

2.18.2010

When Your Girl Is Gone

Almost exactly two years ago I shared in this space the fact that for my entire freaking life I have misheard the lyrics to the classic Box Tops song as "My love is a river running [pause] so deep" instead of the actual lyrics ("soul deep," which can shove it).

And now, just now, in this very moment, I have learned that for the past twenty eight goddamn years I have also misheard the first line of the second verse of "Little Bit O Soul," the 1967 hit from The Music Explosion. The line is, apparently, "When your girl is gone and you're broke in two." (Spoiler: the prescription for this situation is a little bit o soul.) For absolutely ever I have heard this line as "When your girl is gone and your boogie too," implying that, you know, the dude is ladyless and also does not got his Gershwinesque rhythm and music. And it appears that, as with a "so deep" love-river, I am the only person on the internet who has aired this mishearing in public.

I would like the record to show that I think my lyric is much better.

2.16.2010

Mrs. Helen Downey Jr.

It's time for me to publicly acknowledge that after Mr. B, this man has pretty solidly displaced Alan Rickman, Hugh Laurie, and other cranky old Brits and is currently foremost in my affections.


Call me, RDJ. xoxo

2.09.2010

The Destruction of the Written Word?

From Publisher's Marketplace (sub req'd):

HCI Books has announced a new line, Vows, combining romance and memoir, to launch in October 2010. They dub it "reality-based romance," producing novels "based on personal interviews with real couples whose love stories read like the best in romantic fiction."
Personally I am not super into this, because love is gross, especially in written form, but: (A) "reality-based" fiction, oh my god, is this going to destroy books the way reality television destroyed TV? (B) Cue the personal-submission clusterfuck that will probably seriously surpass the query inbox for the NYT's Modern Love column. (C) VOWS. Vows! What a barfy imprint title. SPOILER: ALL OF THESE BOOKS PROBABLY END IN MARRIAGE.

2.08.2010

In the Red

Redheads have all the luck. Not only do they have a monopoly on those rare and coveted hair color hues from auburn to ginger ...
That's Style.com, the web presence of respected fashion mags like Vogue and W, noting in a brilliant fit of tautology that a set of individuals defined by possessing a certain characteristic ... are the only people possessing that characteristic. Helpful!

2.07.2010

Separated at Birth: Christoph Waltz and The Sartorialist

I loved Inglorious Basterds and all (omfg the Bear Jew, take me now), but most of the time I was sitting in that dark room watching the blood spurt all over Diane Kruger's pretty, pretty wartime clothes I was unable to shake the mental picture of The Sartorialist as a chillingly terrifying Nazi overlord. Having finally pulled my act together a full many months after having this thought, I present proof: Doesn't Christoph Waltz so totally look like Scott Schuman?


Ironically, the one who played the Nazi to wild acclaim is not the one with eyes as blue as a German sky. (Helpful hint: Waltz is on the left in both of the above images.)

Tangy Tortilla Soup


Tortilla Soup, originally uploaded by helenlikesyou.

Last Thursday I was, as a delightfully supportive friend pointed out to me, the least-illustrious of ten cooks contributing soup to the Brooklyn iteration of Soup & Bread, the awesome Chicago event that's every Wednesday night at the Hideout. The deal is you go to the bar and the soup (and bread) is free, but the bar benefits because you buy drinks, and then also you put some cash in the hat to support anti-hunger efforts. Yay! If I do say so myself, my soup was quite lovely, and stood its own against the more pedigreed contributions on hand from folks from places like Roberta's and Jimmy's No. 43.

It's an ugly picture (tortilla soup is never pretty, guys) but it's super delish, basically a kluged-together Mexican iteration of Tom Yum soup. Mr. B christened it "tangy tortilla soup," thanks probably to the vast quantities of lime juice, and so be it.

Marvelously, it only takes about 20 minutes to prepare (30 if you haven't pre-shredded the chicken) and only dirties one pot. It's very easily scalable.

Keep reading »

2.01.2010

Daddy, I Want a Pony

I'm oddly compelled by the Jessica Simpson fake ponytail. I might want this in my life. It might change everything. Everything.


If I get it, you'll still love me, right?

1.28.2010

Colombian Hot Dogs



Mr. B and I ate these in Miami. They are a garlic-bread bun filled with split-griddled hot dogs topped with pineapple, chimichurri, "pink sauce," and shoestring potatoes. My world may never be the same.

1.21.2010

This Particular Girl

I picked up a galley the other day of the memoir Some Girls, by Jillian Lauren, and I basically haven't been able to put it down until just now, when I finished it. Here's the deal: Lauren is now a heavily tattooed hot mom who is married to the bassist for Weezer. But! At at eighteen years old, in the mid-90s, she was recruited to go to Brunei to be part of the harem of the brother of the Sultan. For reals. Crazy jewels and envelopes of cash and no-limit Singaporean shopping sprees and weird royal hate-sex and intense dormitory-style psychological catfighting amongst the ladies and wow.

Of course a female memoir wouldn't be a female memoir without at least a few of the following: eating disorders, fraught parental relationships, a search for a birth mother, odd interactions with predatory pedophiles, spiritual self-discovery, meaningful tattoos, drugs, alcohol, experimental theater, and lucid fluency in the language of psychotherapy. All of which are, of course, present in Some Girls in abundance. (Think Girl, Interrupted: Malaysian Crypto-Whorehouse Unit.) I might or might not have flipped through some of the framing-devices-of-self-discovery and gone straight for the E: True Hollywood Story-style descriptions of harem lavishness, but I am not ashamed of that fact.

The book doesn't come out until April (I'm so cool, I know, shut up) and 2010 predix, y'all, it will be the chic beach read this summer. Get up on that.

1.15.2010

Wishlist

My culinary fantasies, in no particular order:

• A popcorn-tub-sized serving of Eric Ripert's tuna tartare, minus the wasabi.

• Buying a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, going home, and eating nothing but the skin. With my hands.

• A full dinnerplate serving of Alinea's black truffle explosion.

• A brown-bagged lunch containing a foie gras and pineapple jam sandwich, in manner of a pb&j, possibly with potato chips crushed into the sandwich.

• Chicken fingers breaded in crushed white-cheddar Cheez-Its.

• The best Italian sub in the history of the world.

1.12.2010

Thou Shalt Not Garden

I generally really hate the idea of siding with Caitlin Flanagan about anything, and this is probably going to lose me some of my more militant friends, but I have a sneaking suspicion that when it comes to Alice Waters's Edible Schoolyard program, Flanagan may be exactly right with the calling of bullshit. Maybe not so much with the outright accusations of racial suppression, but there's something rotten in the state of California.

Plenty of people I respect disagree vehemently with Flanagan (and, by extension, my agreement with her), but there are a couple who are on the same side I am. I think the folks who are disagreeing, and taking the anti-Flanagan stance, are generally responding to a perceived argument that teaching kids to garden is a bad idea. That's not Flanagan's point: her point is that the Waters-created curriculum has basically taken over a significant proportion of California schools, to absolutely no measurable effect in terms of improved testing and graduation rates. If you dig past some of Flanagan's more intentionally incendiary bits (the ludicrous opening paragraph, the Jim Crow analogy), there's some good truth-to-power happening here.

If you want the short version (girlfriend is long-winded), I pretty much summarized it for my day job.

1.11.2010

I Can't Cook

A few days ago I read a post put up by one of my absolute favorite food people, the marvy Carol Blymire of Alinea at Home, about how she suddenly hated food. This bout of loathing was brought on by a series of kitchen misfires: a powder failed to be powdery, a delicious-sounding recipe came out tasting awful, myriad petty culinary mistakes all conspired against her, which is kind of a thing, because Carol is an amazing cook, and for that much stuff to go wrong clearly there is something, as the kids say, afoot.

And I was like "aw," and "heh," and sympathetic if not entirely empathetic, but then this evening happened and you guys I am SUFFUSED WITH EMPATHY because the last four hours have been the most culinarily depressing perhaps OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. And, you know, I am not really such a shoddy cook. I'm in fact pretty darn good. OR AM I?

• A simple dinner of ground turkey and marinara over pasta went horrifically awry: the turkey somehow steamed in the skillet, I accidentally added garam masala instead of cinnamon to the sauce, resulting in a weird Indo-dessert-y situation that I misguidedly tried to remedy with capers in brine, which was REPULSIVE. Like, gag-inducingly so.

• So I threw away the meat sauce and sauteed some garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil, meanwhile the pasta overcooked and became gross and gummy, and while tending to the pasta the garlic overcooked and became rancid, but by then we were dying of hunger so we ate it anyway. BUT THEN the parmesan came off the microplane in clumps instead of the usual snowy shavings, and that was also gross.

• So I put all that behind me and turned to the cupcakes I was making for my boss's birthday tomorrow. Eggs, butter, flour, sugar, milk, vanilla. Batter was delicious. Poured into cups. Popped into the oven. 16 minutes, perfectly browned, out to cool. And once they were cool Mr. B and I tore into a sample one to find a sticky sponge that was full of holes and wouldn't detach from the paper and tasted like scrambled eggs.

• ...And which couldn't be masked by the chocolate buttercream, which I make so often and with such consistent success that SERIOUSLY I COULD MAKE IT IN MY SLEEP, except that for some unknown reason the sifted powdered sugar was grainy and crunchy and you know, that didn't even matter, because instead of using cocoa powder I accidentally used mocha powder and the result tasted like a burnt cup of coffee.

AND THIS HAS ALL BEEN SINCE 7 PM.

So anyway all of this would be fine and I would give up completely, and resign myself to a temporary exile to a land of Chinese takeout and Lean Cuisine, were it not for the fact that, oh, of course, I'm throwing this ludicrous dinner party this weekend for which I am, of course, cooking effing everything. GOD HELP US ALL.

1.05.2010

The Author's Résumé

The UK Guardian's books blog (my favorite blog on the internet? maybe!) turns its attention to the curious habit of author-bio pages to read like a litany of wacky employment:

Writers and readers alike remain fascinated, and a little bit in love, with the idea of the novelist as a sort of picaresque hero who struggles against all odds – once signified by a garret, now more likely to be illustrated by a string of character-building jobs – in order to make ends meet in the course of the journey to resolution and redemption in the form of publication. For those aspirant writers who are stuck working in jobs that are far from dreamy, I suppose it's encouraging to think that they, too, might rise above their current lot.
I remember reading an author bio when I was very young (pretty sure it was Louis Sachar's) and being stunned by how many jobs he'd had. I vowed that I, too, would have at least a dozen totally weird, awesome jobs to which I would bring dignity and joie de vivre and wisdom.

And then I grew up and became a blogger, which is a job that requires none of those three qualities, and in fact actively cultivates their opposites.

1.02.2010

How Not To Be Fat

Were it not for the fact that I have absolutely no idea where the closest Taco Bells are located vis a vis my home and office, and I don't have a spare hundo to drop on Wii Fit, I would totally take the advice of 96% of the commercials airing during yesterday's Law & Order: SVU marathon on USA and attempt to lose weight in the new year by doing nothing but eating tacos and playing video games.

Helen vs. Tilt Shift

Today I taught myself how to fake tilt-shift in Photoshop! Other things I have done on my vacation: start and defeat New Super Mario Bros. Wii, bike in the snow, wear red lipstick three days in a row. Productive!