Category Archives: Food and Drink

The Picky Eater Cooks

People who have seen photos of things I cook on social media are always surprised to learn that I’m a picky eater. I’m not “picky” as in no additives or arbitrarily restricted items, but “picky” as in I don’t like a lot of foods. I cook for my household of 2, and my husband isn’t a fan of eating the same thing every night, lol, and so I’m a picky eater in an omnivorous household.

I learned to cook from my mom at home. My sisters and I would sit at the kitchen table and peel and chop vegetables, or measure oil or sugar for cake batters, or grease baking pans with the wrappers from sticks of butter. We learned how to cook in an organized, fun way and we are all good cooks now.

I started cooking new things when I went to grad school. I had a few classes, the class I TA’d for, and lots of reading and free time. I used that time and my meager budget to master the basics—because while we were sous chefs for my mom, she was very protective of her stove and didn’t want us making a mess on it. I had a great cookbook too:

I have no idea where I got it, but I’m pretty sure I still have it.

From there I went off into the working world for a bit and moved to Boston. I ended up at a job where we loved to socialize outside of work together (a great group of scientists at Tufts Medical School). I invited the group over for dinner in my tiny studio and began to meal plan since one of my friends was a vegetarian who also ate fish. So I made filet of sole and a big pot of ratatouille. The one difficulty was that I don’t like vegetables, so I had to cook the pot solely via my nose. Everyone was amazed that I made it without tasting it. They absolutely loved it and insisted I bring the leftovers to work the next day since I wasn’t going to finish them myself. The rest of the lab got to taste it, and my informal career as a cook of things I don’t like to eat was launched.

Then it was back to grad school in DC and once again I had classes, a TA workload, and a ton of reading, so I perfected my tomato sauce, became an ace cookie baker, and mastered Arista di Maiale, a Tuscan pork roast studded with garlic and herbs, which became the centerpiece of my annual New Year’s Eve dinner. One year I was crazy enough to make my own buche de noel (Yule log cake) from scratch. And I bought my first popover pan. By this time I had traded the Penny Pincher cookbook for The Joy of Cooking.

Eventually I traded in school for work, and my cooking became minimal again, except for pots of bone broth that I’d make from the bones of the chicken breasts and thighs I ate just about every night. And then I moved from DC to the eastern panhandle of West Virginia after I got married and my 3 hour each way commute took away all of my cooking time, even after I got a few telework days each week.

When my workplace downsized and scores of us lost our jobs, my husband and I decided I’d lose that terrible commute and I began cooking again. I had an annual New Year’s Day dinner where I worked on my reverse sear prime rib roasts and began making popovers again. I roasted lots of chickens (and made lots of bone broth—after all, “waste not, want not”).

I started going to our local, excellent farmer’s market and learned how to cook with the various kinds of produce I didn’t see in the local grocery store. I made strawberry-rhubarb compote (that I didn’t like to eat), learned you could roast radishes, made pickles, peeled kohlrabi for salads, and learned to cook the leafy greens of the American south that I wasn’t exposed to growing up in a Polish-American household in Connecticut.

Because I wasn’t exhausted from my commute, I had time to become active in my church. My parish loves to eat. And we love to cook, so I once again started making things I didn’t actually like, but I knew others would. One of the prettiest dishes was an egg and cheese tart with vegetable rosettes.

And I also reinvented the ratatouille had been making from my Boston days, taking it from a stove top dish to an arranged baked dish that is now one of my signature dishes (along with my squash pancakes, which I also don’t eat, lol).

When the pandemic hit it became harder to get complete grocery orders, so when I was able to get everything I needed for a new recipe, it felt like a victory. This salad was one of the new salads I made since we weren’t eating out at all. Finally getting a mango was to make this mango/tomatillo/tomato/jalapeno salad was like finding the Holy Grail.

Local heirloom tomatoes called for making this crustless tomato tart.

Cooking colorful, beautiful dishes has been a way for me to deal with my anxiety during the pandemic (how bread making helped is another post). I won’t stop cooking food I don’t actually like after it’s over, but least then I’ll be able to share it with friends. I look forward to that day. Joy be with you all.

[The cover photo is the hot sauce shelf in our fridge. I thought it was funny since I ID as a picky eater. It’s also the banner of the blog I started but never pushed on because I don’t like recipe sites that function as diaries and until a friend posted this site– https://www.justtherecipe.com/–I didn’t think it was a kind of blog that people would want to read.]

Life In TFC: The Summer Of Our Discontent

I’m paraphrasing, not misquoting Shakespeare’s Richard III. The Stratford Man never lived through a New Orleans summer, so what did he know from seasonality? The TFC, of course, stands for This Fucking City my acerbic nickname for my city at its worst.

After Katrina and the Federal Flood, I called New Orleans Debrisville. Perhaps I should call it Diseaseville as the Delta variant has struck hard. This time, cases among children are on the rise.

I went to bed cranky last night and awakened even crankier. Yesterday was not a good day for residents of New Orleans or for me personally.

On the personal front, Dr. A and I dined out with a friend whose birthday is near mine. We went to a highly regarded and nationally known local eatery, Toups’ Meatery. I’d even rooted for Chef-Owner Isaac Toups when he competed on Top Chef.

The food was good, the service was slow and haphazard, but we were patient and polite. We’d ordered a three-course meal and at the 2 hour mark had not received dessert. Our first complaint was met with a sneer by our server who proceeded to ignore us. Our second complaint to the manager produced results but by then we’d been seated for 2 hours and 15 minutes. I’m a patient person but not that patient, especially since other diners received prompt service. I was angry, so I did not enjoy my dessert.

It was my second time at Toups’ Meatery: the first went well, the second was hell. The third time will not be the charm because it won’t happen. As the restauranteur Danny Meyer has said, “The first time you go for the food. The second time for the hospitality.” BTW, Meyer is requiring staff and indoor diners at his restaurants to provide proof of vaccination. Smart man.

It felt good to vent. Thanks for listening. On to more significant matters.

The big New Orleans news yesterday was the second cancellation of Jazz Fest 2021. I’d regarded the fall rescheduling as an act of hubris. Even then the Delta variant was at work in the UK, India, and elsewhere. The re-cancellation seemed inevitable, but I won’t say “I told you so” because I have friends among the players, vendors, and others who work Jazz Fest. They’re taking another hit after TFC and Jazz Fest bigwigs gave them false hope by moving the event to the fall. Wishing and hoping ain’t getting as the old saying goes.

Jazz Fest honcho Quint Davis tried to make it “too big to fail” by scheduling a Rolling Stones day. Again. The first was supposed to be in 2019, but it was cancelled due to Mick Jagger’s health problems. It would be funny if it didn’t affect the livelihoods of people I care about, but it does so it’s not funny.

This latest blow to the local culture and economy was greeted with anger and dismay by New Orleanians on social media. I share their anger at the selfishness and stupidity of the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. They’re why we can’t have nice things as the saying goes. Life in TFC has always been tough, tough, tough, but this is ridiculous.

A case study in Gret Stet COVID era malakatude occurred across Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish. It’s the richest and most Republican parish in Louisiana. One would expect prosperous people to be well-educated and receptive to science and medicine. For years, Gret Stet GOPers told us that all the good people of Louisiana are Republicans. The Trump regime blew that notion to smithereens.

Last week’s school board meeting was a clusterfuck. The Mask Warriors insisted that mandatory masking was a communistic infringement on their freedom, man. Trust me, if this were a communist country, they would have disappeared after their fatuous protests. Freedom, man.

This sort of idiotic protest is happening across the South and in Red States generally. They seem to believe the COVID BIG LIE that it’s no big whoop, just a worse form of the flu. If that’s the case, why are there 617K+ COVID related deaths?

I’ll call it what it is: the freedom to die and infect others. Freedom, man isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So much for being pro-life.

A reminder to all the stubborn and stupid people out there:

FYI, I dislike wearing a mask, but I do it to protect myself and others from the virus. It’s a simple act that saves lives, so the discomfort is worth it.

These are tough times, they do not need to be made tougher by rampant stupidity and selfishness. The Delta wave was going to happen, but it didn’t need to be this bad. That’s why I used the image from Samuel Fuller’s Underworld USA. We’re being mugged by a reality that other choose to ignore. Shame on them.

That concludes this rant about the Summer of our Discontent In TFC. The last word goes to the Rolling Stones with a song I quoted earlier. She-doo-be.

Fox News Pest In Budapest

I didn’t plan to become First Draft’s Tucker Carlson correspondent, it just turned out that way. He’s the most dangerous Fox News Pest ever: smarter than Hannity, more extreme than Bill-O. Those guys occasionally told the truth. The Mothertucker never does.

Tucker took his act to Hungary this week. I wonder if it has anything to do with this?

Sorry. That joke about the Swanson Frozen Food heir was from hunger, man. It’s a pity that there’s not a Hungry-Man goulash, but that would be too exotic for MAGA palates.

Hungarian strong man Viktor Orban has become the It Dictator for American wingnuts. He’s anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-Soros, and pro-Trump. Frankly, I think his country is in need of Orban renewal…

After the euphoria of the collapse of Communism faded, the former Warsaw Pact countries have been at risk at going from far left to far right dictatorships. The older members of the population are used to being told what to think and there’s nostalgia for more orderly times among many Eastern Europeans. In the case of Hungary, order meant the Soviet invasion to crush the 1956 revolution.

It’s downright bizarre that the Tucker Carlsons of the world are infatuated with crypto-Commies such as Viktor Orban and Vladimir Putin. I call them that as both are nostalgic for the Cold War and its accoutrements such as the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. I think the Magyar Menace DBA Viktor Orban is ready to erect a Paprika Curtain on the Danube to keep Western cooties out or some such shit.

Right-wing Americans used to groove on anti-Communist dictators such as Somoza, Marcos, and Pinochet. What’s next? The rehabilitation of former leftist Daniel Ortega? It makes as much sense as Putin love.

I, for one, have no Cold War nostalgia whatsoever. Nuclear war never appealed to me somehow. I was one of those liberals who was delighted when Thatcher and Reagan did business with Gorbachev. Perhaps the splotch on his head made him seem more trustworthy than Brezhnev or Andropov. I’m glad that they engaged and that the wall came down.

Another recent development I find vexing is Marxist nostalgia in some quarters on the authoritarian left. I’m not down with that at all. I remember hearing horror stories about the “family” policies of the Greek Communist Party during the 1946-49 Civil War. They thought families were bourgeois, so they opted to destroy them. This policy was a loser with your average Greek who was raised to trust only their own kin.

The world has been turned upside down in the last five years. In the 1990’s, we were told that dictatorship was dead and that free market capitalism was the wave of the future. In the last few years, we were told that democracy is at death’s door and right wing populism is the future. I was skeptical in the Nineties and I still am. Nothing is written.

Back to Tucker and his little buddy Viktor Orban. It’s creepy to watch the Magyar Menace suck up to the Mothertucker as if he were a future Oval One. He’s just a cable news hack with delusions of glory. Of course, former President* Pennywise was just a reality teevee hack when he threw his weave in the ring in 2016. Stay tuned.

The last word goes to Jethro Tull with a song written and recorded before the Iron Curtain was shredded:

A Postcard From Ashland Oregon

Ashland Oregon Postcard

Greetings from balmy Ashland Oregon where the temps today will stretch all the way to the mid 70’s and the cloud cover will, well, cover the sky most of the day.

It’s an interesting change from Sonoma where the temps will hit the hundreds while we’re away. Ah, too bad. Along the drive it was astounding to see the change in topography as we sped north, from the arid brown of the Golden State to the lush green forests of the Beaver State. No jokes please, we’re woke around here.

This is our first stop as we wind our way through the PacNorWest ™. Five hours from home, it’s one of the longer drives we’ll be making. That’s a good thing as the wife (Cruella) was just about done with my bad jokes and choice of music. Apparently Gregorian chanting isn’t her thing. Go figure.

Ashland is of course home to the world famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Since 1935 the Festival has presented a variety of plays both Shakespearian and modern in their five performance spaces. The most famous of the theaters is the Elizabethan outdoor stage, a model of Will’s own Globe theater. Fortunately the modern audience all get seats, no groundlings allowed. The season runs from early March to early November.

Of course COVID hit the Festival hard, cancelling the entire 2020 season and forcing a drastic cut down of the 2021 season. Usually 10-12 shows are done per season, this year there will only be two, a new musical called FANNIE about the life of civil rights pioneer Fannie Lou Hamer which will be presented in the outdoor theater starting July 1 (too late for this trip) and IT’S CHRISTMAS, CAROL a gender bending take on the Dicken’s classic opening in late November.

Actually the real reason we come to Ashland is to eat at this place:

Omar's Restaurant Ashland Oregon

This is Omar’s Steakhouse and with neon like that you just know it’s going to be good. And it has been for the last 75 years. A dry martini, a fine steak, some Dragonfly Tempranillo  wine, what more does a man need? A good story to go with? It’s got that too. Seems the man who started it was named Omer and that’s what the sign was supposed to say, but Noodnick Nate the Neon Man screwed up and old Omer didn’t want to offend so he just went with it.

We on the other hand just go with the mouth watering steaks and coma inducing desserts. This is old school eating. Bring your second stomach and be prepared to fill it.

steak at Omars

Coupe Denmark Sundae

Ashland is also home to Southern Oregon University, where “artsy” children are sent by their parents who have compromised in order to at least get them to go to college and not head up to Portland to live out their coffee house and poetry dreams. That and the fact you have a Shakespeare Disney World right next door might lead you to the conclusion the town is just a tad liberal. You would be correct. But it’s a small island of blue in a sea of Southern Oregon red.

The larger city nearby, Medford, for many years has been the home of Harry and David, the gift packaged fruit kings of the world. If you’ve ever opened your door to find a gift from your Aunt Gertrude containing fruits and nuts lovingly arranged in a reusable, if you use those sorts of things, gift basket it was probably from Harry and David. They are a huge company with 8000 employees but most of that is farmed out labor. They were purchased a few years ago by 1-800-Flowers and in the midst of the pandemic closed down all their stores, laid off all the store employees and went completely online. Complaints are up, mostly about the quality of the fruit and the customer service. The company’s response? Teach your Aunt Gertrude how to use a computer.

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A Postcard From Flavortown

Greetings From Flavortown

Can a clown be a hero?

It’s happened before. After all, it’s the clowns who are able to wring not only the laughs from the belly but the tears from the eyes and the dollars from the wallets. Sure Jerry Lewis played an imbecile on the big screen but there he was every Labor Day on the small screen wedeling millions out of the viewing public. At that point do you think the Muscular Dystrophy Association cared if he did prat falls for a living?

Same thing with Guy Fieri. That’s why he’s a hero around these parts. Up here in Northern California we’ve had plenty of local boys and girls make good, from Academy Award winners to Nobel Prize winners to Electoral College winners. Nobody is going to equate a restaurant owner/chef/television celebrity with the Vice-President of the US but hear me out about what he has done and the efforts he has made not just during the pandemic but for years before.

We’ll start with the money. Over $25 million dollars raised that has gone directly to impacted restaurants and their employees. Fieri’s taken his celebrity and basically said “Hey corporate America, you want us buying what you are selling then cough up so we can stay in business and you can keep selling”. Sort of his own American Restaurant Rescue plan. And his new show on the Food Network, “Tournament of Champions II” has the winner of each round being handed $10,000 to GIVE AWAY to a struggling restaurant of their choice.

You say big deal, get your hands dirty and we’ll talk? Okay, how about this. Three fully equipped food trucks have been pulling up to hospitals across the country to feed medical staffs bombarded by the pandemic. Nothing unusual for Fieri since these trucks are the scions of the work he did during the NorCal fires of the past few years. Hot meals for firefighters and those burned out. He was criticized for bringing a smoker to a burnt-out location but honestly folks isn’t it better to have a covered controlled cooking device than an open grill in that situation? Geez give the Guy a break.

Then there is his newest idea, Flavortown Ghost Kitchens. Take existing unused restaurant kitchens across the country and temporarily turn them into delivery only comfort food emporiums. No, Michelin chefs are not going to be cooking there, but the legions of line chefs, short order chefs, wait staff, and other mid-level and lower restaurant workers currently unemployed will be getting a paycheck and a bit of self-respect while the restaurants’ owners will be getting a much-needed cash influx.

But…but… what about his personality?

What about it? He has been known to ping pong from one idea to another but hey ADHD just works for some people. His adulteration of the English language is nothing new or did you think the etymology of twitter, buzzwords, or Frankenfood reflect their old English lineage? Would I don platinum spiked hair, big rings, and tattoos? I didn’t even do that in my punk days, but it works for him. Besides in these days of 24/7/365 bombastic culture you need something to make yourself stand out from the crowd. I’d rather have kids emulating Fieri’s personal style than have them emulating the Proud Boys or any of their ilk’s style.

And on the subject of kids, he has been quoted as saying:

“My wife always tells me, ‘Stop trying to teach every kid you meet,’ but I can’t help it.”

Wow, an accomplished adult who thinks he might have a chance of reaching a kid who otherwise could be struggling. Last month Fieri purchased the butcher shop he had his first job at as a 5th grader, in the first part to keep the only butcher shop in the county going, but also because the shop is an important contributor to 4-H and Future Farmers of America. You can’t have “farm to table” if you don’t have farms. And you can’t have farms if you don’t have farmers. Maybe the spiked hair is his way of being able to connect the dots.

Most of all he loves his industry. Even more so, he loves his end of the industry, the, well, diners, drive-ins, and dives end. He’s exposed hundreds of small mom and pop joints to national audiences, bringing those establishments boosts in sales no amount of “buy one get one free” coupons in the local Penny Saver ever could. Beyond that he keeps in touch with the owners, letting them know when their episodes are going to be rerun so they can be prepared for the attendant increase in customers. After a taping he has been known to linger at the locations, talking shop long past the hour he was supposed to leave, giving advice, soliciting thoughts, and in general being more than just a TV celebrity who blew into town one day.

Speaking of the great god television if you have ever watched one of the competition shows he hosts you’ll notice that the chefs competing are a solid mix of the American melting pot. All genders, all races, all sizes, all levels of accomplishment, they are all there, all given an equal opportunity to succeed. I would be willing to bet an hour of Guy’s Grocery Games has more diversity on it than any other hour on American television.

So I don’t care if you think he’s a clown. I don’t think he cares if you think he’s a clown. Just like Jerry Lewis, Guy Fieri has taken that image and made something not only for himself but for his community. While that community has spread worldwide its heart originates right here in NorCal, covered in Donkey Sauce, assuming the Big Ass Burger position, and most definitely the real deal.

And I’ll be happy to call him Mr. Mayor.

Shapiro Out.

 

 

 

Ashen Wednesday

The weirdest and coldest Mardi Gras Day of my lifetime ended with a whimper not a bang. There were rolling power outages in New Orleans last night, but we were spared. We seem to have good power karma: as you may recall, we didn’t lose power during Hurricane Zeta. Perhaps the whole Greek alphabet thing worked in my favor or the ghost of Maybe Cousin Telly has some pull with the power gods. Whatever it is, I’ll take it.

There was a minor icepocalypse this morning on the elevated highways in downtown New Orleans. We only had a mild freeze last night, but my people don’t know how to drive on ice and neither do I. It was that kind of morning in the Big Freezy. We are not ice people but we’re competent during hurricane season. I dare people in Frostbite Falls Minnesota to handle our summer climate.

It was too cold for me yesterday but Dr. A went out for a few hours to check out house floats and such. She brought me home a Moon Pie from our friends Bob and Julie’s joint. They did not float their house, but they had a beloved parade throw to pass out. Moon Pies are usually part of our Carnival diet then we don’t eat them for another year. I wish I could say that I gave them up for lent but that would be a fib. My motto is neither a lenter nor borrower be…

I should compensate for that groaner with some music from the North Country:

There’s a genuine winter apocalypse happening down Texas way. Their privatized electrical grid has had a meltdown leading to widespread outages throughout the Lone Star state. I don’t approve of those on social media who say that Texas had it coming. I’m with President Biden who declared miles and miles of Texas a disaster area. I know what it’s like to be neglected by national politicians. It happened to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. National disasters shouldn’t be wished on anyone even if Greg Abbot is one of the Trumpiest Trumpers out there.

A brief musical interlude before our next segment:

In any crisis, Republican politicians have gotta lie. Some Texas pols are blaming their problems on windmills. What is it with windmills and wingnuts? Windmills are harmless. The Dutch have been using them for centuries. Who’s more harmless than the Dutch or Dusty Springfield for that matter?

In other lying GOPers news, the stupidest man in the United States senate, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, is spinning fractured fairy tales about the Dipshit Insurrection:

But Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Monday argued that it’s wrong to describe the group as “armed” and accused Democrats of “selectively” editing videos to exaggerate the threat posed by a mob that came within feet of Vice President Mike Pence and other elected officials.

“This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me,” Johnson said on WISN. “When you hear the word ‘armed,’ don’t you think of firearms? Here’s the questions I would have liked to ask: How many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired?”

Johnson added, “If that was a planned armed insurrection, man, you had really a bunch of idiots.”

It takes one to know one, Senator. That’s why I call it the Dipshit Insurrection.

That’s it for this random and discursive potpourri post. The last word goes to John Lee Hooker with some blues for an ashen Wednesday:

The Shape I’m In

This is usually a slow news week but since the Impeached Insult Comedian has been in extended tantrum mode, there’s a lot of stuff happening. Repeat after me: it’s NOT a coup, it’s an extended tantrum.

Dr. A and I remain under quarantine after she tested positive for COVID. We’re still asymptomatic and it looks as if we’ll stay that way. Good news all around. We even had groceries delivered for the first time. It was a break from the routine but did not involve poutine. Mmm, poutine.

Some friends brought us Thanksgiving dinner. It was amazing, awesome, and many other A words. Fried turkey not only rocks, it rules. Did I really just say that? We also had three kinds of pie: apple, pecan, and sweet potato. Mmm, pie.

I enjoyed having a quiet Thanksgiving this year. Instead of doing a holiday triple-header, we watched The National Dog Show, The Last Waltz, and some episodes of Cold Justice to add some grit to the holiday. I was also able to bask in compliments for my annual tribute to my late mother, Now Be Thankful.

Cue the original version of the song:

President* Pennywise continues to whine about his electoral defeat. It’s a way to stay in the limelight as his star recedes. He remains the president* of the Republican party and not much else. The rest of us are sick of his shit and wish he’d go away. Piss off out of our lives, Donald.

I nearly wrote an instant analysis post about the Flynn pardon on the day it happened. I had a good title too: Lame Duck Pardons Turkey & Traitor. I decided to leave it to Michael F. I knew he wouldn’t let down the side:

The Flynn case was born in scandal, lived in scandal, and finally died in scandal. Did I say it was scandalous?

Bill Barr’s conduct should be investigated and result, at the very least, in his disbarment. His name is part of the word, after all. As for myself I would never dis a bar, only a Barr, but not former Giants pitcher Jim Barr:

Dig those crazy sideburns, y’all. They were mandatory in the Seventies. It was a bad time for the Giants but a great time for sideburns.

In other Trump news, Rupert Murdoch is also sick of his shit as reported by Gabriel Sherman:

According to two sources, Trump’s attacks on Fox News are causing alarm in the Murdoch family. Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch is considering a plan to offer Trump a $100 million package that would include HarperCollins publishing Trump’s post-presidential memoir and Fox News giving Trump a contributor deal or his own show, the sources say. On November 10, the Murdoch-owned New York Post reported Trump could land a $100 million book advance, but made no mention of the Murdochs. “Rupert is going to make a humongous offer,” one of the sources said. “The thinking is, Let’s buy Trump off so he shuts the fuck up.”

Trump STFU? You must be dreaming. He cannot even shut up during the holidays when thoughts turn to turkey and shopping, not “baseless claims” of electoral fraud. Did I just say baseless claims? Holy shit, I sound like the Failing New York Times.

In the same Gabe Sherman piece we learned why Trump didn’t retreat to his Florida Elba:

But according to a Republican close to the White House, Trump’s decision not to travel to Mar-a-Lago is actually an indication that, privately at least, he’s preparing to vacate the White House in January. Trump is in the midst of a major renovation to his private apartment at Mar-a-Lago, which has made it uninhabitable during the holiday, the source said. “He wants to make it more comfortable as a full-time residence. It’s actually not that big,” the source said. The Mar-a-Lago renovation adds more evidence to the widely assumed view that Trump will make Palm Beach his permanent home after he leaves office, given his toxic relationship with New York.

The Kaiser of Chaos has essentially been booed out of New York City. It’s a tough town. In Florida, Governor De Santis can be his yard man as well as his yes man. Trump likes yes men instead of being blasted by De Blasio and criticized by Cuomo. It’s a tough town. If you don’t believe me, listen to John Lennon:

That concludes this rambling post in which I tried to talk turkey or is that cold turkey?

The last word goes to The Band:

Quote Of The Day: Diplomatic Gumbo

As I listened to the incoming UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, I was proud to be an LSU graduate.

Here are edited highlights of her remarks yesterday:

I learned from my family. Mr. President elect, thank you for those generous words that you said about me. My parents had very little back in Louisiana where I grew up, but they gave me and my siblings everything they had and I know how proud they would be of this day. On this day, I’m also missing my mentor, Ambassador Ed Perkins, who served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations under President George HW Bush and President Clinton. And who was also from Louisiana. He told me constantly, “Linda, don’t undersell yourself.” And he would always do everything possible to lift me up.

He passed away last week, but I know he’s here with us today. And on this day, I’m thinking about the American people, my fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world. I want to say to you, “America is back, multi-lateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.” Mr. President elect, I’ve often heard you say how all politics is personal, and that’s how you build relationships of trust and bridge disagreements and find common ground. And in my 35 years in the foreign service across four continents, I put a Cajun spin on it. I called that gumbo diplomacy.

Wherever I was posted around the world, I’d invite people of different backgrounds and beliefs to help me make a roux and chop onions for the Holy Trinity and make homemade gumbo. It was my way of breaking down barriers, connecting with people, and starting to see each other on a human level. A bit of lagniappe is what we say in Louisiana. That’s the charge in front of us today. The challenges we face, a global pandemic, a global economy, a global climate change crisis, mass migration and extreme poverty, social justice are unrelenting and interconnected, but they’re not unresolvable if America is leading the way. Thank you.

I come from a food-oriented family and live in a food-oriented city, so this was a perfect message for this season. It’s also a refreshing antidote to the nonsense spouted for four years by Team Trump on the foreign policy side. To paraphrase Gordon Ramsey, isolationism can piss off out of my kitchen.

The entire Biden event was a refreshing antidote to the weeks of crazy following the election. The grown-ups are back in charge. Imagine appointing people on the basis of their qualifications, not on how they look. That’s what gave us the Exxon CEO as Secretary of State and he was by no means the worst appointee. He did, however, provide me with Tea for the Tillerson puns so it wasn’t all bad.

Speaking of puns, I’ve heard before that the incoming Secretary of State is a fellow punster. He certainly has a punworthy name: Blinken. I hope he does the pun community proud and doesn’t get in too much trouble with the media for having a sense of humor. It will be a refreshing change from the ponderous pomposity of Pompeo.

The appointment that pleased me the most was that of John Kerry as the climate guy. Appointing someone who’s an equal is a sign that Joe Biden is comfortable in his own skin and that the incoming president is serious about climate change, which is some serious shit.

Team Biden has a mess to clean up but it’s what Democratic presidents do. The magnitude of Team Trump’s corruption and incompetence makes it an even bigger challenge but most of it is reversible. Repeat after me: help is on the way.

Back to Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. She’s from Baker, Louisiana, which is right next to Red Stick, but I won’t hold that against her. I eagerly await the inevitable “she’ll be good for Louisiana” pieces from the Gret Stet punditocracy. In this case, they might be right. She does present a refreshing stylistic contrast to the cornpone shtick of our fake hick junior Senator, John Neely Kennedy.

The last word goes to Little Feat with the number 8 song on my Louisiana Top 50:

Headline Of The Day: GOP Sycophancy Edition

I awoke this morning feeling unproductive. It may have had something to with the 32 ounces of frozen margarita I imbibed last night. To paraphrase an old beer ad: Great taste, not so great feeling. Whiskey and beer are my jam, not tequila.

Shorter Adrastos, I’m feeling unproductive this morning. Did I say that already?

I may rally before the Friday Cocktail Hour but Charlie Pierce has bailed me out with this headline:

Ron Desantis’s Devotion To Trump Makes Brian Kemp Look Like Adam Schiff.

Both Florida and Georgia have governors who won close races against African American opponents. Kemp was helped by some good old-fashioned voter suppression and his refusal to resign as Secretary of State during the campaign

Neither DeSantis nor Kemp would have won without Trump’s support. Hence their endless sycophancy. They’ve both fiddled with the books to minimize the impact of the pandemic in their states. So much for the latest iteration of the New South. To paraphrase, H.L. Mencken: it’s the Sahara of the Trumper Bozart.

This tweet from the peerless Mr. Pierce set NOLA Twitter ablaze but left me nonplussed:

Been there, done that with Buy Us Back, Chirac. Pick up the phone, Macron doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The last word goes to The Champs:

The Age Of Overkill

It’s hard to know where to start some days. There’s so much happening that my mind reels like the drunk monkey in the ancient koan. Overkill is the koan of the realm in 2020. Pun intended; it always is.

It should come as no surprise that there’s rot at the core of the federal government. The Impeached Insult Comedian has been on a firing bender of late. A sinister one indeed: he’s been firing Inspectors General. They’re the ones in charge of keeping the various departments on the straight and narrow. That’s impossible during the Trump regime. Straight is out, crooked is in. It’s the age of overkill, after all.

The most worrisome of the firings is at the State Department where Mike Pompeo was being investigated for various abuses of power including turning his staff into servants. Inspectors Generals frown on civil servants walking their bosses’ dog. They’re only supposed to walk government dogs but since they don’t exist, dog walking is out.

I wonder if anyone in Trumpistan is literate enough to be familiar with Nikolai Gogol’s satirical play The Inspector General aka The Government Inspector. It mocked corrupt provincial officials in Tsarist Russia. In 1949, Hollywood reduced Gogol’s biting satire to imbecilic farce. Imbecilic farce certainly describes the Trump regime’s bumbling response to COVID-19. Make that deadly imbecilic farce.

Notice Danny Kaye’s orange skin in the poster below. I hesitate to make a Trump comparison since Kaye was a leading Hollywood liberal. Besides, he had much better hair than the Kaiser of Chaos:

Back to Gogol. Perhaps Mike Flynn discussed him in one of his many conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. You know, the ones he lied about to protect himself and President* Pennywise.

In other news, Trump has been making outlandish and untrue statements on a daily basis. No surprise there: he’s the personification of overkill, after all. He gave a whole new meaning to the term American exceptionalism with this deeply stupid remark:

When we have a lot of cases, I don’t look at that as a bad thing — I look at that in a certain respect as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better. … So I view it as a badge of honor, really.

Really? A badge of honor? The only good thing about this loony remark is that it gives me an excuse to post this:

Where is my badge? Indeed, sir.

You’ve surely heard the Trumpian claim that he’s taking hydroxychloroquine to keep the coronavirus at bay. He’s lying, deeply stupid or both. Given what Nancy Smash called his “morbid obesity,” I wonder if he’s ingesting these instead:

It’s hard to top that sight gag. Attempting to do so would be overkill.

The last word goes to Men At Work and Colin Hay with two versions of an insomnia song I forgot to post last week:

Friday Cocktail Hour: Drinking Again

Unless you’re a teetotaler or recovering alcoholic, the pandemic has either driven you to drink or you’re resisting its siren call. We’re lucky: we never run out of whiskey because people bring it as tribute during Carnival. Dr A makes the odd white wine run and I’m trying to limit my intake since booze lowers one’s immune system. We did, however, have Mint Juleps on un-Derby Day. I’m cautious, not a killjoy.

Drinking Again is a boozy torch song written by Johnny Mercer and Doris Tauber. Mercer was known as a drinking man as to Doris I’ve never kept taubers on her. Ouch. That was so bad it hurt.

We have three versions of this liquid tune for your cocktail hour listening pleasure: Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, and Frank Sinatra whose best friend’s initials were JD:

On with the music.

The last word goes to the cartoon Rat Pack:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Can’t Let Go

Masks by Jackson Pollock

We had some first world problems at Adrastos World HQ this week: a cable box containing 60 episodes of Law & Order died. I battled the provider to a draw but losing the season-5 episodes with the perfect L&O cast of Orbach, Noth, Merkerson, Waterson, Hennessy, and Hill hurt:

Law & Order is my pandemic jam and it’s not currently on a streaming service. I can’t let go of the craving.Told ya this was a first world problem.

I hope that those of you who have read my previously unpublished law school mystery, Tongue In The Mail, enjoyed it. If you haven’t read it, give it a shot by clicking on this link. The serialization is dead, long live the serialization.

This week we have a trio of theme songs with the same title. Our first Can’t Let Go was written by Bryan Ferry for his 1978 solo album The Bride Stripped Bare. Here’s a double dose with the studio original and Roxy Music live:

Our second Can’t Let Go was written by Lucinda Williams for her classic 1998 album, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road:

Our final Can’t Let Go was written by Bill Meyers, Maurice White, and Allee Willis for Earth Wind & Fire’s 1979 album I Am.

I don’t know about you but I’m having a hard time letting go. Perhaps a jump to the break is in order.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: The Ghost Of You Walks

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

Richard Thompson-Edward Hopper month concludes with a perverse pairing of Hopper’s most famous painting and a lesser known RT gem.

There’s not a lot to report this week since we’re on lockdown like everybody else. The polls don’t seem to reflect the Impeached Insult Comedian’s notion that people are desperate to resume normal life and take another bite out of the COVID-19 apple. Even 70% of rank and file Republicans would rather not die. Imagine that. So much for the Trump Death Cult.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson for his 1996 album You? Me? Us? Dig those crazy question marks. It also has a cool Max Ernst-like collage album cover, which may turn up some Wednesday. You never can tell.

We have two versions of The Ghost Of You Walks for your listening pleasure. The studio original and a live teevee performance on the BBC’s Later with Jools Holland. The latter is just the two unrelated Thompsons: Richard and Danny.

I’m not afraid of ghosts but if you are, let’s jump to the break to escape.

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Thank You

It’s been a whirlwind since Chef’s Brigade NOLA launched and I began soliciting donations. I’d like to thank everyone in the First Draft community who helped this worthy cause. Your generosity does not surprise me, but it still moves me.

As of this writing, they have raised $31,000+ at their GoFundMe site. The work continues as does the need for funds. I will revisit this subject again as it’s close to my heart. Thank you again.

Special thanks to Chef’s Brigade NOLA organizers Troy Gilbert and Robert Peyton for their passion, dedication, and hard work.

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New Orleans Needs Your Help

Dear First Draft Readers:

New Orleans needs your help again. The situation here is dire and getting worse. We have the 6th highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita in the country. It’s hard not to feel helpless in these terrible times but there are people trying to make a difference.

My friend and fellow Bayou Brief writer Troy Gilbert and local food writer Robert Peyton have a great idea about how to help our beleaguered restaurant industry. (Troy is one of the OG NOLA bloggers as well as one of the founders of Rising Tide.) Last week, Troy ran their idea by me, I was immediately impressed and urged them to go for it. Last weekend, Chef’s Brigade NOLA was born.

I’ll let them explain the details to you via two Facebook posts:

There’s a GoFundMe link at the bottom of the second post. Please join me in donating to help our restaurants survive and do what they do best: feed people.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

Thanks in advance,

Adrastos who is trying to keep the Spirit of ’05 alive.

Updates can be found after the break.

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Don’t Talk to Me About Fake News

Until you address this kind of crap, published on the notoriously dodgy internet website known as CFUCKINGNN: 

5W Public Relations said that 38% of Americans wouldn’t buy Corona “under any circumstances” because of the outbreak, and another 14% said they wouldn’t order a Corona in public. The survey encompasses polling from 737 beer drinkers in the United States.
In another survey conducted by YouGov, the firm found consumers’ intent to purchase Corona fell to its lowest level in two years. The survey also showed that Corona’s buzz score, a metric that that measures favorability, has dropped significantly since the beginning of the year.
Constellation’s Newlands said those reports do not reflect the company’s business performance, calling the “misinformation” about the virus’ impact on Corona’s business “extremely unfortunate.”
Online searches for “corona beer virus” spiked in early February, but have since declined.

Jesus Christ. After days of debunking, at least they fixed the headline, which spread across social last week lookin’ like this:

This kind of thing is horseshit and it’s a type of horseshit designed to appeal to people like me. College educated, middle class, no meteoric anything or other but probably not as dumb as the average bear. I’m deeply insecure because I know enough to know I’m not a supergenius, but look at all these idiots, who think Corona beer gives you coronavirus! HAR DEE HAR HAR.

This got shared all over amongst my fellow Xers with “we are a stupid country” and “this is how Trump got elected” and “man, people are dumb” and that the entire thing was designed for self-congratulatory shame-forwarding apparently didn’t ping anybody’s radar at all. That’s how canny it was: clickbait for people who are kinda smart. Like that Honey Boo Boo show or the Bachelor. Here’s a bunch of people to point and laugh at, you’re definitely not them!

And all of that is beside the point which is that we can have all the ethics panels we want about fighting “fake news” and teaching “media literacy” to children. As long as the ACTUAL NON-FAKE MEDIA have so little pride that they’re posting dubiously sourced press releases for traffic, nobody really has a keg to stand on here.

A.

Burst Bubble

I spent most of February in the Carnival bubble. On Ash Wednesday we hauled our ashes out of town to the Dallas area-Plano to be exact-to visit my seriously ill cousin, which placed us in the travel bubble as more news about Coronavirus bubbled to the surface.

We were on the road on Leap Day so here’s a belated shout out to Leap Day William:

My cousin has been battling cancer for 25 years. It finally seems to be winning. She’s in a nursing home now: The Healthcare Resort of Plano. I am not making this up. They resorted to calling a satisfactory nursing home a resort. Holy misnomer, Batman.

One oddity of my cousin’s condition is that, after a lifetime of being low maintenance, she’s become high maintenance. She’s turned into her mother who was a boss; not something I expected to happen. It’s okay. She deserves the extra attention after taking Dr. A, Pogo, Oscar, and me in after Katrina.

We finally met her grandchildren who are 15 and 13. They’re smart and funny kids who enjoyed the bag of Carnival throws we bestowed on them. They were particularly taken with the Tucks terlet that squirts water. It inspired a session of dark humor that convinced me that the 15-year-old could be the next Steven Wright. The kid is that deadpan.

This may be the last time we see my favorite cousin so it was worth spending two full days in the car. And in the Dallas metroplex, one must drive everywhere. Sidewalks are rare in Plano.

On the way home, we stopped for lunch at the Collin Street Bakery in Hideaway, Texas. It was a somewhat ironic stop because we’re not fruitcake lovers, which is what they’re famous for. Their sandwiches and other baked goods are awesome so I hope that Calvin Trillin will forgive me for spending time in close proximity to fruitcake.

I seem to have picked up a stomach virus during our trip. It’s not that bad if you don’t mind having a fever and the night sweats. At least it’s not Coronavirus, which means that the Impeached Insult Comedian won’t lie about it. The man is incapable of telling the truth even when it’s in his best interest. What can you say about a president* who puts Mike Pence in charge of this mishigas instead of Dr. Anthony Fauci. The doc’s an expert, what the hell does he know? Pence is ready to pray it away.

 

I didn’t look at political twitter while on the road. When I looked I saw Berners saying that Biden would lose in a landslide and Biden supporters saying the same about Sanders. They’re both wrong: Trump isn’t winning in a landslide against anyone. His path to re-election is a narrow one that likely involves winning the electoral college and losing the popular vote again.

The bubble has burst so things should be getting back to normal here at First Draft. Did I say normal? Make that normally abnormal. I don’t want to make any false claims. I’ll leave that to the Trump regime.

The last word involves some bubble songs. Mr. Bubble was invited to the party but declined.

Ride The Tigers

I’m uncertain if I have a coherent post in me today. You’re probably saying: when was he ever coherent? I started Monday off by giving y’all a straight line, be nice.

Since I still have King Cake on my mind, I’m going to cut this post into slices.

Geaux Tigers: I’m as nervous as Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof about tonight’s national championship game. I’m not sure if I’m Brick, Maggie, or Big Daddy; mercifully, there’s nary a no-neck monster in sight and PD is undercover as a big blue lump on the bed. Make that under the covers…

My LSU Tigers have had a magical season, but they face a formidable foe in the Clemson Tigers. Formidable as in defending national champs and winners of two of the last three titles. The good news is that Coach O gets it. He was in the same position as an assistant at USC when the Texas Longhorns hooked the defending champion Trojans in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

LSU doesn’t  have the mascot advantage for a change; it’s the Tussle of the Tigers. We do have two of the three colors of Carnival on our side: purple and gold. Clemson’s color is orange. Not one of my favorite colors even though the fruit is swell and citrusy.

It’s time for a semi-relevant musical interlude:

The long layoff has me worried. One team is apt to be rusty, the other to be prepared. Let’s hope it’s the right Tigers who do the riding or some such shit.

I’d like to call your attention to an article in the Failing New York Times, which gives my main man Coach O his due:

Ed is officially a folk hero now but that doesn’t ease my pre-game jitters. The last word of the segment goes to Brian Setzer:

Speaking of riding tigers, the impeachment process is finally moving to the Senate.

Cover Up, Trump Style: Speaker Pelosi tried to nudge and/or coerce the Senate into giving a shit about its reputation, but Moscow Mitch seems to have dug in his heels. He’s declined to relinquish his iron hold on his caucus, which makes a fair trial much less likely. Mitch doesn’t give a damn, Harry Reid said last year that his former colleague had ruined the Senate. The ruination continues apace.

I’m still glad that Nancy Smash pulled the Tribe Gambit. It has made GOPers look bad to fair-minded members of the public, and resulted in a series of meltdowns by the Impeached Insult Comedian.  He continues to play the victim card. Apparently, he’s the most mistreated and misunderstood president* in history. Who knew? Imagine a president being impeached with such a strong economy. Just ask Bill Clinton about that, Donald.

It’s time for a relevant musical interlude:

These opening lyrics could easily be sung by President* Pennywise:

Just want to be misunderstood
want to be feared in my neighborhood
Just want to be a moody man
Say things that nobody can understand
I want to be obscure and oblique
Inscrutable and vague
So hard to pin down
I want to leave open mouths when I speak
Want people to cry when I put them down

That Pete Townshend is a smart fella. He’s the Cyrano of rock music, after all.

Speaking of heels, Trump is refusing to let John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, and Mike Pompeo testify; even behind closed doors. Clearly, they have nothing to hide. #SARCASM

If the terrible trio had exonerating testimony, Trump would beg them to appear in public. This has nothing to do with executive privilege or national security. It’s defiance in the face of the facts. I suspect Pompeo is pleased not to have to perjure himself. He can stick to lying on the Sunday shows.

Frank Rich wrote a great piece for New York Magazine, What Will Happen To The Trump Toadies? In which he posits that they’ll get their comeuppance sooner or later. Nick Lowe said much the same thing way back in 1983:

Who knew that Pete Townshend and Nick Lowe would prove to be so prescient about the current president*? Not even a fan boy like me.

Let’s finish this potpourri post on a lighter note. It involves chicken, not tigers.

I Yam What I Yam: A contestant on the Canadian version of Family Feud mixed up her food groups; substituting chicken for spinach as Popeye the Sailor’s favorite food:

Love that chicken from Popeye’s.

I wonder if the toon liked yams since he was wont to say this:

His moocher pal, Wimpy, preferred hamburgers, and Olive Oyl seemed not to eat at all; certainly not fried chicken. Where the hell is this going? In the direction of the last word.

Since I originally called this post Monday Morning, the last word goes to Fleetwood Mac and Death Cab For Cutie:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Life Is A Minestrone

Campbell’s Tomato Soup Cans by Andy Warhol

It was a long, weird week in New Orleans. I’m one of the officers of the Krewe of Spank and krewe stuff ate my week. We have an early parade date, Saturday February 8th so the typical tumult and chaos have arrived early. If you’re religious, pray for me. If not, have a drink in my honor. This too will pass.

I selected this week’s theme song because all the talk in my latest 13th Ward Rambler column about Spaghetti Westerns gave me an earworm, which led, in turn, to the Warhol featured image. I seem to be more impressionable than I thought.

Life Is A Minestrone was written in 1975 by brothers-in-law Lol Creme and Eric Stewart for 10cc’s Original Soundtrack album. It’s a cheerful ditty with surreal, punny lyrics so, quite naturally, I like it

What’s not to love about a song whose chorus goes like this:

“Life is a minestrone, served up with parmesan cheese.

Death is a cold lasagne, suspended in deep freeze.”

Now that we’ve had soup and an entree, it’s time for dessert:

I had never thought of those tunes as musical kin before but they are. Surreal food wordplay reigns supreme as we jump to the break.

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Desertion

On January 2, I signed up for two meal-kit plans and two fitness apps due to some seriously unflattering Christmas photos and also feeling generally like hell after not working out for two months and eating like garbage. The apps were free, of course, til I started “unlocking features” and “connecting other apps” and shit, but the meal plans, together, added up to about $160.

For lunches and dinners for about two weeks.

Now, of course that is insane, and it was fueled by more of a desire for convenience than anything else. Even when I’m not getting suckered into questionable things by social media ads and moments of aging-related panic, I still spend on food. I buy perishable fruits and vegetables, I buy ingredients like sausage from a butcher or a high-end meat counter. I eat a $10 salad (downtown Chicago prices for lunch) instead of a $5 burrito or a peanut butter sandwich from home.

On Sunday I prepped lunches and snacks for me and Kick for the week. I filled and stacked little reusable containers of blueberries and carrots and pita chips and salami-cheese rolls in whole wheat tortilla, strips of fresh bell pepper, soy & rice crackers, quinoa and chicken salad. It took about an hour, was about $30 worth of food. I have both an hour, and $30. What would I do for us if I didn’t?

If you want people to eat healthier, to buy from sustainable farms and local farmers, to prepare their own food instead of using processed, to behave like you do, you need to give them what you have. Which isn’t fancy grocery stores. It’s money. And time.

If I get home at 6, I have time to cook dinner for the family (cauliflower rice, salmon, peanut sauce, veg). If I get home at 7, 7:30, 8, and the kids need homework supervised and the stove’s broken and everybody’s hangry GUESS WHAT WE’RE GOING TO KFC, because I can feed five people meat, potatoes and vegetables for $15 and sometimes you solve the problems in front of you.

These things aren’t inherent virtues. I’m not, like, a better person because I can afford to cook for my kid; I’m just lucky. This stuff is math and physics. Give people money and the time money buys, the leisure and mental room to cook and portion and prep (the “leisure” which was once upon a time referred to as “all the stuff mom did” for middle class kids when she didn’t have to work two jobs to pay her student loans), and they’ll eat healthy. Okay, maybe not AS healthy as our cheftepreneurs would like them to, since sometimes you just want some goddamn potato chips, but this isn’t a case of “if only there was a Whole Foods here nobody would have diabetes.”

This is a case of money buys less and less, and wages aren’t going up. This is a case of God forbid you need food assistance, which has been nickel-and-dimed all to shit by people worried about what the poor will buy for their children, and which of course you CAN use to buy oranges and apples, or, like, an entire week’s worth of cereal for the same price. Poor people aren’t idiots and they make the choices in front of them because that’s what we all do.

Food deserts aren’t just created by not having grocery stores. They’re created by the people in them not having any money to spend on food, having to make short-term choices in the little time poverty affords. It’s the people who’ve been deserted, not the landscape, and the problem isn’t getting solved by looking at a map and finding a vacant plot of land on which to plant a Wegman’s.

A.