Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Monday, February 26, 2007
Do my glasses seem to be twice as wide as my head? Argggh.
I have this book from one of my college photography classes called Another Way of Telling. In it, a photographer named Jean Mohr says this:
For myself, I'm not too fat, my nose is large but not unreasonably long. And yet for years I could not accept my own physical appearance. I used to dream of looking like Samuel Beckett. (To have a profile like his would perhaps also imply another way of life.) I took a number of self-portraits, and each time I "disguised" my face because I rejected it totally. I grimaced, I played tricks with the light, I deliberately moved the camera. The cure for this play-acting came when I was obliged to look at myself for the whole length of a television film . . . . There the dose was strong enough to cure me. This man whom I saw before me existed with all his weaknesses. He was real, and in a sense he was beyond my control. I was no longer responsible for his appearances.
I've always wondered if I could use this "cure" and desensitize myself. Somebody take this camera away from me...
Sunday, February 25, 2007
I did some cleaning this afternoon, including under the bed as the picture proves. It also proves, of course, that I've purchased a digital camera and intend to use it for the most frivolous purposes imaginable. Next up: What will Mary find in the shower drain?
My cleaning soundtrack was provided by brother John -- he sent me some mix CDs recently, including one titled "Omaha Rocks!" Well obviously. The CD consisted of tunes beloved by his kids. I discovered that his nine year old and I share a love of Cake. Also huge in Omaha: Fallout Boy, Chris LeDoux, and Porky Pig's version of Blue Christmas. It's that sense of adventure and eclectic taste that make this country great, people!
Note: Not only are these children musically gifted, they are also blindingly cute. Seriously, you have to wear special glasses and everything.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
I spent part of my evening discussing cultural hegemony with a Spanish ex-patriate living in the TC. (I'm going to start using the initials in the same way the kids do for "The O.C."-- i.e. "I brake for tumbleweeds ... that's how we roll in the TC.") He allowed that Europeans are just as racist and reactionary as Americans and was generously dismissive about that whole "freedom fries" thing. Europeans act the same way, he said.
I choose to be comforted by our sameness; we are all dumb-asses together.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The menu included five courses.
I wore my new reading glasses, because ladies who drink tea have reading glasses, ya know.
By the fourth course, we were starting to feel the effects.
Not wanting to waste a perfectly good sugar buzz, we repaired to the bar at the St. Paul Grill and let down our hair, so to speak.
Eventually, we even had dinner across the street at Pazzaluna. A lovely time and a great way to shake off the cold. Thanks ladies!
**Photos courtesy of Fiffy's cute new camera. Thanks Fiffy!
Sunday, February 18, 2007
This one had Billie Holiday on one side and Michelle Shocked on the other. He created this design with paper images and scotch tape in a way I have not been able to duplicate. It was a multi-layered design, on both the case and the tape itself:
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
1. Smokestack Lightnin' by Howlin' Wolf (really lives up to his name on that one)
2. My Favorite Mistake by Sheryl Crow (repeated Oooooos in the lead in)
3. Up on Cripple Creek by The Band (on the bridge -- a cross between ooooooing and yodeling)
4. Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon (more howling, natch)
5. At my Window Sad and Lonely by Wilco (and Billy Bragg? off Mermaid Ave.)
So what am I missing? Any suggestions? What other songs can give me the crooooooning I crave?
UPDATE: I thought of another one:
6. Doowutchyalike by Digital Underground ("oo ooo I see guys an' girls dancin'")
Monday, February 12, 2007
Sunday, February 11, 2007
He and I have come down on the same side of the coin on several issues (if by issues, I mean Sandra Lee) but he is much meaner about the whole thing. At least, I hope I wasn't that mean. And he addresses the trend discussed in the New Yorker article--the network's moving away from using classically trained chefs to more personalities who cook, such as Rachel Ray, Lee, and Paula Deen. I, in general, applaud this trend. I'm just not fond of some of the personalities they've chosen.
Bourdain gets all uppity about the shunting aside of the chefs and does some hand-wringing about how Mario Batali and Bobby Flay are treated. Gimme a break. Like somehow focusing on what will help home cooks is necessarily pandering to the lowest common denominator or something. He refers to Bobby Flay's show Throwdown, in which Flay is regularly beaten when challenging an amateur cook at his or her specialty. Indeed, Flay was in St. Paul last year, competing with the guy who runs Izzy's ice cream parlour--they each had to create a new flavor. (In a lovely not-everybody-has-cable moment, the Izzy's guy did not know who Flay was.)
Here's Bourdain on the whole concept: "Now…does ANYONE actually believe that Bobby Flay can’t make a better chili than a supermarket ground beef bearing amateur?" I believe that the amateur could make a chili that someone besides Bourdain would think was better--not everybody has your overwhelmingly sensitive palate, Tony. He mentions how Emeril and Flay are good chefs who run good restaurants, as though that's relevant to whether they'd make for good television or whether they'd be useful to the viewers. It's called the Food Network, not the Chef Network.
He also seems to believe that these chefs are being humiliated against their will. Bourdain on Batali: "Is there any more egregiously under-used, criminally mishandled, dismissively treated chef on television?" I think the key words there are "on television." He's one of very few, and there's no evidence to suggest he's shackled to his cutting board.
A trained chef doesn't necessarily make a great cooking-show host, nor does haute cuisine appeal to everybody. Imagine my presumption at liking shows with accessible hosts that are about simple-to-prepare meals with easy-to-find ingredients. Excuse me while I put down this ham sandwich and go find some foie gras.
Oy, do I appear to be unhealthily obsessed with food TV? I'm putting a moratorium on this topic for a while.
Friday, February 9, 2007
You may remember that I suggested that corporations and labor get together on the health care issue here. Apparently, Wal-Mart, Intel, and several other companies have joined labor union leaders to call for universal health care. Of course, Wal-Mart's been getting the government to pay for its health care for a while, by encouraging poorly paid employees to seek state aid. So, this is just the next logical step for them. But it's good!
I do love an unlikely alliance.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
I know I'm not the only one who gets all happy at random songs on the radio. Which one(s) make you go, "Sweet!" (or, if you're a Skynyrd fan, "Turn it up!")?
(Ooh! Speaking of Skynyrd, "I Know a Little" has the same effect.)
Sunday, February 4, 2007
But even when she's not cooking and they're just doing a show about her recent wedding, I'm totally invested.
I am not invested, however, in Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee on Food Network. Oh, Sandra Lee. What are we going to do with you? (Maybe I am invested, but not in a good way.) This show's premise is food that's made with 70% ready-made ingredients mixed with 30% fresh foods. Which, I don't know, it's possible that some of this stuff is decent tasting. But at some point, isn't it just as easy to pick up some chili powder rather than using a paper packet of taco seasoning? She does stuff like that a lot. On one show, she scooped the filling out of a couple of store-bought pumpkin pies to use in a dessert. I'm sorry, that's just weird. Also, rather than throwing out the pie crust, she suggested we use them as a topping for ice cream or something...
There's just an air of desperation about her show. Every episode features "cocktail time" with a recipe for a mixed drink. She has 101 uses for vanilla vodka. And it doesn't matter what kind of meal/event/holiday she's planning -- Halloween, brunch, kid's birthday -- she has invited adults, and they must have alcohol, apparently. And absolutely everything has a theme. She's like a Vegas hotel that way. Everything must address the theme in a clear and color-coordinated way. I don't know what happens without the theme -- extra drinking I guess.
The theme leads inexorably to the last segment of the show -- the "tablescape." Before we go, Sandra must show us what her fevered imagination has done to the dining table. It is always crowded with centerpieces, elaborate place settings, fanciful napkins, many layered tablecloths, party favors, and other geegaws, all generally created especially for this occasion (from the craft store!) and all looking like they could never serve another purpose, unless she chose to throw the exact same party again some time. Girlfriend loves her some fabric and a glue gun.
If you don't believe me, ask these people.
One Food Network show I feel I should like better is Everyday Italian. It's hosted by Giada De Laurentiis who seems pleasant enough, but I'm distracted by her giant teeth. It isn't so much that they are excessively large, but that she speaks and smiles in such a way as to be emphasizing them all the time. Or maybe her whole head is out of proportion? Plus, of course, she's always putting something in her mouth. Teeth again! Can't handle it. Her food seems like it would be quite good; I really should try one of her recipes sometime.
The more recent photo was taken at my birthday party a couple years ago. He drove all the way up to St. Paul to celebrate with his sister. Awww.
These days, he's got the cutest kid ever, and he's about to get married to Catherine, who's the greatest. Very exciting stuff. You deserve it honey! Hope you have an awesome birthday.
Saturday, February 3, 2007
I've become an avid watcher of cooking programs. The Food Network, the PBS shows, Anthony Bourdain, and even the random cooking segments on the weekend "news" programs, if I'm clicking through on my way someplace else--I'm an equal opportunity watcher. My viewing has become a bit more tentative since I began my current reducing plan--I can only handle so much delicious food photography these days before I have to run away and eat a Rykrisp. And foodies and chefs are notoriously averse to, say, removing the butter simply to make a dish healthier. Taste is their master, and the rest of us just have to control ourselves.
Indeed, most of the these shows are really focused on special-occasion food, even though the most talked about show currently is probably Rachel Ray's 30-Minute Meals. (And her magazine, Every Day with Rachel Ray.) In general, these people are making entrees that helpfully include most, if not all, your daily calories. You know, so you save the trouble of eating more than once a day.
The weird necessity of narrating something as mundane as cooking makes many a show tedious, but I love tracking the stuff that comes up over and over. Like, every time someone busts out a shallot, you hear some version of, "Shallots have a mild onion-y flavor that won't overwhelm the [main ingredient]." Every. Single. Time. And lord, the chicken. Everyone MUST treat it as a biohazard. Alton Brown's instructions for breading chicken that's about to be fried is like something the CDC would come up with. Wash your hands or the terrorists win!
But I'm spending a lot of time on the food shows. And I'm not the only one.
One of my favorites is America's Test Kitchen on PBS on Saturday mornings. It appeals to my irrational belief that there is in fact a best way to do everything. That's the whole premise of the test kitchen and the magazine it supports, Cooks Illustrated. They'll take a common dish (today it was Chicken Kiev) and create what they can call a definitive recipe. (In case you were wondering, no definitive recipes are ever low-fat or low-calorie.) Perhaps I'm also drawn in by the fact that the magazine's editor is the show's host, even though he's kind of a smarty-pants know-it-all. But, in my experience, most magazine editors are smarty-pants know-it-alls, so I guess I shouldn't hold it against him.
Everyday Food appears periodically on the Saturday morning PBS lineup--it's on at 10:30 a.m. these days. It's a typical offering from Martha Stewart Omnimedia. The kitchens look art directed. The hosts, ingredients, scripts, tone are flawless, which can be a little off-putting. (Omni is such a good prefix for Martha. Everything about her is so damn ... consistent.) But this show led me to the magazine of the same name that I've been evangelizing about for a while. I love its design, the choice of recipes and how each has a limited number of ingredients, the way they feature specific ingredients (Have you tried dried figs?), the index, and the fact that every recipe is provided with accompanying nutritional information. Say what you want about Martha, but she puts out excellent magazines.
Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals on the Food Network is mostly unwatchable, I think. Her voice is like a perky foghorn. I can actually feel my hair blow back when her show comes on and she starts in with the yelling. I haven't tried any of her recipes, so I don't know if her cooking stands up. I can't get past the voice and over-enthusiastic manner. I could pick up her magazine, I guess, but she's photographed to be a faithful print version of her television persona: waxy, airbrushed, and aggressively cheerful. I do appreciate that unlike most people on TV, she has a normal woman's body and doesn't seem to feel the need to turn herself into a stick. That crap is especially disingenuous in cooking-show hosts.
Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network is enjoyable, though she's definitely true to the whole "special-occasion food" thing. Everything she makes seems to have a million calories, though, to be fair, her show is really about entertaining. Also, I wish I knew how she got her hair so shiny.
I kind of like the idea of Rick Bayless's Mexico, One Plate at a Time on PBS. He travels around Mexico talking about food in the different regions, and he's obviously passionate about the cuisine. But he gets too close to the camera and talks in this weird affected way. You just know that in person he's a close-talker who totally corners people at parties and discusses random topics too earnestly while stroking their arm in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
The food show that I loved more than all of these was Cucina Toscana. Two guys, Damian and his nephew Johnny, who are equal parts Italian-American and Texan. It was this mishmash of barbeque and Tuscan cuisine, with "y'all" and "ciao bella!" bandied about in the same breath. They talked a lot about their extended family. They always had music playing, and Damian was always randomly bursting into song--usually some old country tune. Why oh why won't PBS bring this one back? Oh, I have the biggest crush on Damian.
Tomorrow: Giant teeth and the horror of "tablescapes."