THE TALE OF FAT SPIDERMAN...
Fat Spiderman, Fat Spiderman,
Had himself a little too much ham.
Will he sit? Or will he stand?
Or will he stretch-out his waistband?
Watch out! Or you'll walk into Fat Spiderman!
(alternate ending: Watch out! Or you'll have to walk quickly away from Fat Spiderman!)
And what's that? Fat Spiderman has a side kick!!??
Busted by Way Too Big Chaplin!
Earlier this summer I got a chance to introduce my children to one of the great wonders of the world, sleeping in a tent.
Like so many other stories on this blog, this one begins at Grandma and Pappa's house up in Westchester (who are at this very minute on a plane to Spain, where we'll be meeting them in just a very short couple of days). On this occasion we dusted off a dirty old tent, set it up in the backyard by the garden, threw some sleeping bags in and left it up to me to get them through the night as best I could.
Well after a few "scary" stories, a few hours of looking at the stars and fireflies, and a joke or two along the way, the kids did something I honestly didn't expect; they went to sleep and slept through the night like kids that had camped out of doors a hundred times before.
Additionally, one of the things I never got around to writing about Vermont (if you can believe that) is that on the way up we stopped and made what I hope is an important purchase for the future of the Gerloff Clan; a really good tent and some sleeping bags all our own (not for Liz though, I know... I know).
While we were up there we got in some really primo quality backyard camping and since I'll probably never get around to finishing up a mishmashed odds and ends post from Vermont, here's a couple pictures of it:
Here's out new tent:
Here's one that worries me a little:
And a picture of my roommates for the night:
Again, even in an unfamiliar backyard, with noticeably more noises, 75 % more sky, and (even with it being Northern Vermont) an unseasonably cool night into the lower 50's, the kids did great.
Better than great, they liked it!
Cut to this past weekend, with Liz out of town on one of her "blog weekends" I thought maybe I'd take the next logical step in their outdoor education and take them campsite camping.
Well, this being New York with it's 12-something million people, every site I looked into that was within realistic driving distance was booked up or prohibitively expensive (think $10 a night less than a hotel room).
So with a blind shot in the dark, I put a shout out on Facebook as to where we could go, and was rewarded with a friends reservation at a nearby campsite named Beaver Pond in Harrimon State Park up near Bear Mountain that they couldn't use, which happened to be right across the river from where we were, as we were already up at Liz's mom's in Croton.
On the way up, I made the huge mistake of filling the car with gas:
Although admittedly I do like the "666". I like to imagine anything oil company related as being "devil" related, since they are pretty much pure evil.
So completely unprepared (I happened to throw the tent and sleeping bags in the car to camp in their backyard if we didn't find anything else to do) we found a REI nearby in a Zombie Apocalypse-ish as-yet-unopened mall complex (I had to ask the construction workers if anything was opened at all, of which the REI and the movie theatre were the only two that were) and did some damage on the old credit card (holy shit! camping stuff is expensive!) and got on our way.
After a junk food filled stop at the grocery store and a quick stop in a discount store I'd rather not name nor admit that I went to out of liberal-guilt induced shame (although it was the first thing the kids told Liz when she got back home) we pulled into a lovely little campsite off of the Palisades Parkway, checked in and drove past tent on top of tent on top of tent on top of tent.
Nervous about the amount of sleep we'd get, but excited about the amount of Spanish we could pick up before our trip to Spain, we slowly made our way through the various sections until we found ours, maybe the only one separated off from all the other ones, and thus insuring enough privacy to at least pee in the woods without stares from other campers.
In fact, as we were pulling into reverse to back into the site, we were greeted by these guys:
And since this is supposedly a food blog, I was happy and sad to pull up next to these:
I was 99% sure they were chanterelles, but that 1% combined with the fact that I was alone with the girls and the fact that I didn't really have anything to cook them with (I had butter and salt though, dammit!) I left them on the wooded floor, probably failing some sort of test Mother Earth set out for me, and that's probably why it rained as much as it did the following day, but more on that later.
So we set up out little slice of wooded heaven (the kids were, like, NO help at all!):
looked around for more naturey things:
And then did silly things:
Which Sage thought was very funny:
After than we played in the tent for awhile:
and then settled in for that older-than-time-itself ritual of sitting around the fire eating dinner and telling stories:
Look! Food! There's food in this post! On the fire, I think it's either Spaggetti-o's or beef-a-roni or something horrible like that, but it's food!
Food blog cred re-stored!
The rest of the story is a wet messy disaster.
After spending the day as the only gringos at the beach on the lake (really nice lake, but I didn't bring my camera as I was by myself wrangling kids), I felt the weather start to shift so we ran back to the campsite to gather wood enough for two fires to keep dry and then waited out what was supposed to be occasional showers.
And we waited.
Finally after about 4 1/2 hours and well into dinner time, Thalia broke down and got super homesick. So we watched movies in the car and drove around looking at all the people with a better set up than we had (tarps and shelters for the fire, etc.) and at all the cheap looking tents that I was sure were going to leak.
Around 8:30 pm I started a fire in the middle of the rainstorm half to prove to myself that I could, and half determined to eat a hot dinner but half an hour and even heavier rain later we gave up and finished off the peanut butter and honey sandwiches and cheetos for dinner and got into the (surprisingly dry) tent to hunker down and hope for a dry night and next morning.
Several chapters of Harry Potter later the girls fell asleep, but wouldn't let me take off their headlamps...
And as I obsessed over the weather on my phone, eventually fell into a restless sleep waking up every hour or so checking on the tents for leaks (very few) and the girls (sound asleep). And hoped for a better, brighter tomorrow...
Which we didn't get.
Finally around 9:00 I thought it was letting up enough to start a fire and have breakfast, and then hopefully go to the beach for the day then get out of there in time for Liz to come home from her, what I can only assume was a drier, weekend in San Diego.
And then it started raining hard again.
So with promises of doughnuts for breakfast instead, I threw what was left of the firewood on the fire (determined to get my money's worth) and packed up a filthy wet tent and equipment.
As I looked around I noticed a big difference in the number of neighbors we had. The couple next to us, whom had arrived later in the evening the night before and set up in the rain, was gone when we got up, and I heard cars leaving all night, so I was proud of the girls for sticking it out and not complaining too much about how boring it is when it rains.
So we packed up and pulled out of the site, which immediately bought sunshine, and as we passed empty row upon empty row of where tents had been the night before, we came upon a sight I can only assume you'd see in New York...
Now, if that was someone calling a cab, or if someone who drives a cab was camping I don't know (I suspect the latter, but that was the first we had seen of it all weekend) either way it was a perfect way to end our first "real" camping experience, in the car with the girls laughing hysterically, having a great time...
I'm not sure if I'd ever go back to Beaver Pond (which is why I didn't hyper link to it's site) as it was pretty much what you'd expect from a campsite as close to NYC as this was. Rude people playing radios too loud too late into the night, broken glass everywhere, what seemed like billions of people at the beach with kids throwing rocks at each other right where my girls were swimming, gross bathrooms with a line a mile long in the morning, and really expensive firewood.
But whether or not we ever go back there is of no consequence, as the girls proved themselves more than capable campers.
Next time I'd like to go with more people (even just Liz being there would have made ot a lot easier/fun), and I'd like to get a little further from the city (big surprise there, I'm sure).
I'm sure the kids aren't ready for backpacking into the middle of nowhere and living off of the land or anything like that, but if I can continue to fan the flames of their interest in the outdoors, nature and camping, then hopefully it can be one of those things that we do together for the rest of our lives (except when they're teenagers, I'm sure I'll be doing a lot of camping alone at that time, possibly for years at a time...)
Or they'll lose interest in it and I'll have thousands of dollars in camping stuff that I can store next to the dozens of other hobbies that lay dormant in the basement, which is Liz's fear/assumption.
Either way, we had a great time this weekend, all things considered.
We also got everything cleaned and dried out for next time, so if any of you out there have any good ideas and are looking for company, give us a call! We have a car, a tent, and are willing to travel!
Till then, we'll have to be content with two weeks in Spain...
Difficult proposition, I know, but we'll just have to manage...
I'm gonna try and get at least one more post ready before we leave, but in the event (probability) that I don't, I'll see you guys when we get back!
Till then, chao!
I really don't mean to turn this blog into a dumping ground for all my "getting out of New York" yearnings.
Honest I don't.
But it just seems like that's the path my camera and summer is leading me down. It seems to me like this summer in particular, this magical time of the year, has been set up perfectly to not only be drastically more unproductive than I would like, but also to rub my face in it, as it were.
I mean other than one dinner party and some old pictures from last year this blog has been as much travel blog as food. With only more to come.
New Orleans (which I'd move to tomorrow,) Vermont, North Carolina, and of course our rapidly approaching tourturefest (from which I can't imagine coming home from); two weeks in Spain.
So for my favorite kind of measure (that would be "good") my sister decided to up and get hitched.
In Las Vegas.
I mean, it's not like I love and miss the desert almost every day or anything, so why not rub some salt flats in that jagged, sky-lined-looking wound of dispise for urbanity...
Not that Las Vegas itself is anything other than pure urbanity, but at least it admits it's a fantasy land filled with marks just lining up to waste their lives/money in it. It has the balls to be what New York isn't, horrible but honest about it.
Plus, I love the contentious locals vs. tourist relationship already, and it doesn't get much better than Vegas for some good old fashioned "they" bashing....
Anyways, neither here nor there my friends....
Neither here nor there.
What this post is, is a congratulations to my sister Jessi, and (even) new(er) brother-in-law Justin.
It was nice to see that weird thing called "my family" and long over due (my uncle Mark in this next picture I haven't seen since I was probably 6 or 7...)
The fact that she happens to live in Vegas is a nice change from the usual trip there on The Strip (not cheaper though!) as we got to see a whole other side of Vegas, much the same way that a visitor to NYC will have a much different experience visiting family/friends that live there rather than just hitting up the major tour spots.
So we did, and it was nice.
It was also a full moon, and watching the full moon rise over the desert every night I was there sent me spinning into missing the desert.
So here (because I was tethered to my stupid family the entire time!) are a couple pictures from my hotel room, as that was really as much of the desert I got to see.
It's still beautiful though!
So the desert. So majestic and awe inspiring.
I really do miss it. Living in Arizona for a year-ish really changed me, but even the deserts outside of LA and the general dryness of San Francisco. I really miss being on the west coast.
As if you didn't know.
But to wrap this up before blabber on again...
Yes, I lost a lot of money gambling.
Yes, we went to the strip.
And yes, of course I saw the Pawn Stars pawn shop...
One other cool thing we saw on the strip...
But lo! What is that little white dot in the arch of the Feiffle Tower?
Why, that's the sign for my BIL's construction company!
He's just building a night club in the Paris Casino.
So that's pretty just whatev's, right?
Anyway, really, congrats Jess... I love you and hope that we can be better about coming out to see you guys and being a better "this side of the family" guy.
Justin, welcome to the family! I'm sure that Jessi has warned you that we're sort of weird in an unrefined/white trash sorta way, but that's more to do with our upbringing, and less to do with who we are as people.
Once you get past the shock of the brevity of knowledge of anything not on the E! channel, or from Mormon-friendly movies from the 80's, you'll come to realize that (if you like fart and burp jokes) we're funny, and (if you think being mean to people is kind) kind.
Yes, I realize you and I (and I think everyone else but my mom) disagree on politics, and probably religion, but I'd rather have a thoughtful, kind person who loves my sister and treats her right as her husband than the most liberal atheist in the world (who would that be, like George Clooney? Or Alec Baldwin? Probably Matt Damon.)
We'll just never bring it up.
At least we have the harmonious Yankee/Red Sox rivalry to come to some sort of common ground on...
You like the red sox...
Well, what are you going to do?
Not everyone's as enlightened and intelligent and as devastatingly good looking as I am, so we'll have to agree to disagree on politics (I mostly hate all politics anyways, and definitely all politicians) and we'll have to just accept that the Yankees are a far superior team, and two little world series championships in the last 93 years isn't going to change that...
Twenty fuckin' seven, buddy. Okay?
Seriously though, I look forward to spending more time with you guys, and I hope that you'll come visit, and I promise we'll make it out there more frequently.
Especially now that the Red Rock Casino has so much of my money.
Anyways, congrats, mazel tov, l'chaim, chip chip cheroo, and all that good stuff!
Now if you'll excuse me I have many things to do.
To say that I want to leave New York is to say that a lion, originally captured from the wild whom has since sired a family in captivity, wants to leave the zoo. Like me I'm sure he dreams of taking his family to the wilds of "anywhere else but here," where a lion can hunt and a man can forge a new path, unencumbered by the cage that is New York, and it's full-throttle, billions of bees in an urban beehive, unapologetically impersonal, practically a green screen backdrop for a generic bullshit filled life of people that I hate, yet find myself one of, imposes on one whom doesn't want to be captured anymore by it's tarnished, crusty, fake-jewelry sparkles and dull, dirty shine, and it's "oh my god if we're not the center of the universe then what the fuck are we doing here?" puffed up sense of self denying self importance.
Yes. I just said that all in one sentence.
Yet, just like the lion in this proverb that I'm making up as I go along, maybe I too, am better off stuck in this cage, dying a slow meaningless death a little everyday, but at least we know there's a dinner every night and the kids will get a decent education (although one very different from the one we, the lion and I, would prefer them to have).
To say that I have a touch of "the grass is greener" is to say that I like speaking in hyperbole, which is to say; I do.
Which is why Vermont represents such a unique place in my fantastical world where everywhere else is better than New York.
On one hand, it represents everything I love about the anti-New-York-as-the-center-of-the-universe modus vivendi.
But on the other it's cold in the winter...
In one fell swoop it destroys everything that I hate about the sheer enormity of the completion in the bludgeoning of senses and connection to anything else other-than that New York City demands, even while we pretend otherwise.
Oh sure, we espouse farm-to-table, slow food, and "local" as much as almost any other city in America, but come on! Look around! The overpriced, capitalist-driven "green" market in Union Square isn't a farm, it's a chance for farmers to make money off of a bunch of idiots that think the very same farmers are either folk heroes, or yokels, or sometimes both at the same time. Even as we go back to our thousands-of-dollars-a-month slivers of apartments in our beehives and convince ourselves it all means something. And we helped some poor dumb country bumpkin at the same time! We're so great!
Oh how they laugh at us!
That's what's alluring for me about a Vermont. There's an authenticity about it that all the farm-to-table restaurants in the the city couldn't copy no matter how rustic and antique-y the interior is.
Danny Meyer can buy all the locally sourced meat and vegetables in the area, and it's great that he does, but it still all goes to feed the capitalist bourgeois machine that New York is.
Oh, sure. We'll boo and protest Walmart opening in the city, and we'll pay more at Whole Foods, but in the same breath we shove OUR brand of capitalism down the rest of the worlds throats. Our money markets, our venture capitalist, our movies, our morning shows, our commercials, our fashions, our trends, our marketing, our plays, our "real" housewives...
Mostly so the same few corporations that we boo and protest can make billions off of us.
Anyone who hates unadulterated Capitalism and unchecked Corporate greed, but lives in New York City, like I do, better feel like a slimy douchebag hypocrite, like I do.
Or at least be pissed off about it.
That's why it's at least nice to know that there are places like Vermont nearby. Take for example one of my favorite shops near the town we were staying in, Red Sky Trading.
I mean, doesn't it make you want to just puke all over your screen it's so adorable?
We were there (getting doughnuts obviously) and the proprietor was hanging out out front with a chicken in his arms talking to everyone... That's sickeningly adorable.
Right down the street is everyone's favorite shop,
Down the road a way is a great pizza shop that uses local everything for the pies, in addition to hosting a Tapas and Music night every thursday. A few towns over is Hardwick, one of the small towns at the forefront of the local ag business model (post forthcoming).
I swear everyday there was a farmers market at some small little town within driving distance, and the local supermarkets all sell goods from local farms.
It's people actually living the principals of slow food and community supported agriculture instead of just throwing money at the idea of it (which is our way in America).
And it's not a bunch of dumb hippies leftover from some bygone era, these people are young and educated, in many cases Ivy League educated that have all decided to leave the faux self-congratulating confines of the urban "locavore movement" and actually plant something in the earth. They're using their educations not only for better, smarter ways to farm, but better smarter ways to live in a community. To "be the change they want to see in the world" as it were.
We went to a farmers market in Hardwick and a lot of the people there say they have no desire to ship their stuff anywhere else, especially New York City where the "local" greenmarket system is prohibitively filled with the type of politics and bullshit unfairness that you'd expect from, well, New York City...
We met a woman who makes just about the best kimchi I've ever had:
And this woman, a Southern girl, just like you and me... (bonus points for song lyrics reference)
(bad picture, I know, but it was all I had...)
Born in raised in Northern Virginia, lived in NYC for awhile and now lives in Vermont selling maple soda and other things in farmers markets. And somehow she doesn't seem at all like she's missing out, and even has the nerve to seem... happy!!?? (At least one of us NOVA, NYC transplants made it! Hope survives!!)
So why don't I move to Vermont?
Well, I have just about zero interest in being a farmer for a living. I want to be a writer, and yes I could be a writer in Vermont (and would possibly love it) but it's basically a choice between Ideals and my family, and I'm not going to leave my family for all the local sustainable adorableness in the world. I have bigger "warmer winters" fish to fry when it comes to convincing my foot-firmly-down partner to rip apart her fantasy life in NYC for someone as pie in the sky eyed about just about everything else other than this as I am...
Besides, there are plenty of things that I love about New York (no there aren't, but I just have to live with it.)
That's why it's important for me to know that someone somewhere actually has the balls that I don't to actually do something about it. Whatever "it" is for whoever, thank god there are people with the courage to stop complaining for five fucking seconds and change it.
Maybe no one cares that the cheese that you're eating on the cheese plates at the wine bars you sit at on a thursday night after work was made by someone who was sick of the way things were and decided to do something about it, but I do.
Maybe some people give a passing thought to where the grass fed beef in their burger at whatever "gastropub" they're meeting their friends at came from, most often people probably don't. I'm sure if you asked them they'd be glad that they are supporting the farmers that raised it, but can you imagine the balls it takes to be the farmer that left their jobs in the city that they absolutely hated (just like most of us), and dumped their entire lives in to actually making a difference?
How many times have we all had similar thoughts and yet done nothing about it other than show up to work the next day like good little lemmings?
These people are the new punk rockers. Smart. Anti-government. Anti-establishment. Willing to open their eyes and fight to make a difference.
They're kicking down walls and begging us to help them.
Maybe I'll never be one of them.
Probably I'll never know what it's like to actually live for an ideal without so much compromise as to make it moot, but it makes me glad that there are people out there who do. I'll never blame anyone else for the decisions that they make, and I'll applaud good intentions, but for me I can't compromise being a slightly better cog in the machine when what we need to be doing is making new machines.
One good thing about being mired in a life you're not necessarily proud of is that it goes by quickly. Like so many other parents I can just easily hope that I can teach my children to be better than me, and slip quietly into new seasons of favorite TV shows, read books by people who weren't afraid to try, and there's always the built in societal fist shakers Sports and Politics to help the years march by.
But I'm not ready to give up yet.
Maybe it's too late for me to shake the world out of it's slumbering idiocy all by myself.
Maybe it's not.
And who knows? Maybe one day I'll figure out a way out of this city-cage. In the meantime I'll never stop believing that there's good out there just for the sake of doing what's right, and not for a newspaper write up or a way to sell something for slightly more money. I'll never stop believing in Change as an agent for good and not just a way for corporations to milk more money out of the system as they systematically march us down the path to our own ruination by continuing to centralize our food system even as the natural resources and the health of our land and soil dry up from what we're doing to it. Just so we can think we have cheap abundant food, all the while never connecting the dots between our health crises and our food system crises.
There needs to be a revolution in this country, and it might as well start somewhere. If the farmers in Vermont and all over this country are willing to stick their necks out for us, why shouldn't we do the same for them?
Even while the government and the Big Ag corporations are sending their goon squads after them, they are fighting for their rights, and our rights to choose. We need to do more than just throw money at it. We need to make it available to all the people, not just the ones who can afford it.
If we can use the sustainable methods for farming to bring us and the land better health and more options then the heavily subsidised over processed crap our own government is selling us, why shouldn't we rally behind them and help them? Ultimately it benefits us in as many real and intangible ways as it does the farmers, the farms, the animals, the whole fucking Earth.
It's easy to make a choice. And it's a good place to start. Choose to buy from the farms that are doing it the right way. Choose to spend a little more money on good things that you put into your body, rather than the cheapest thing possible.
I love that in this country people would rather die than not wear name brand designer shoes and clothes, always spending more for a logo, but then goes right for the cheapest, most unhealthy foods in a super market.
YOU PUT FOOD IN YOUR BODY!!!! You EAT it! How is that not more important than what fucking brand of shoes you wear?
Yet in this country we spend less than 10% of our annual income on food (that number isn't wholly accurate as it doesn't reflect the billions of dollars we give to the food industry in tax subsidies and tax credits. They also don't end up playing a lot of taxes off of the massive profits they make off us, but we should be pretty used to that by now in this "democratic" country.)
I'm certainly not suggesting that we all run for the hills and become farmers. But please, please at least take one moment to think about the courage it takes for those that do. I'm not against profit, but I'd rather it go to people that deserve it, people just trying get by rather than the fat cat assholes that have placed their top CEO's in positions of power in our government to choke out all competition and suffocate the people trying to do it the right way. Not for millions of dollars in profits mind you, but for enough money to just keep doing it.
And that's what Vermont represents to me. I realize there are farms and farmers much closer to home that are doing the same thing. I realize the same for small farmers all over the country and all over the world. And I support them all equally. Vermont represents the spirit of all these people, and all these farms. Rebels doing it for a cause. Punk rockers in spirit that just want things to be fair, and not decided by the people who stand to make the most profit off of them not being there.
We've all seen the corporate takeover of the government come to completion in our own lifetimes. I've voted for, and will vote for again the sham system of government we portray because as of now there's no viable third party option that could even make a dent in the corporate stranglehold of our "democratic" government. We've become too dumbed down, numbed, and passive as a people to do anything but vote for the puppet that we like most. While I'll fully admit things are slightly better under Obama in certain areas than they were under the unashamedly pro-corporate Bush, things aren't anywhere near good enough.
That's not because I believe Obama doesn't care or isn't trying, but because I feel the pro-Capitalist, corporate controlled media and governing body won't allow any changes that effect the one thing that they care about more than anything else in the whole world: their precious money.
So let's not give it to them.
Supporting local farming at a greenmarket is a vote with your wallet, and it's a good start, but then it just becomes a political, red tape filled bureaucratic nightmare that makes some people rich, while the farmers themselves barely break even. CSA's are a good idea, but can be prohibitively expensive, and if you join one like I did, you end up with all the leftover second rate stuff they can't sell at the greenmarkets.
If you can, go to local farmers markets near where the farms are. There are dozens of them every weekend all around, you just have to go. I'm not saying the green markets in NYC are bad (although they are decades behind the ones in Europe, San Francisco, Seattle, LA, and just about every other major metropolitan in the country,) but they aren't great. They're expensive, poorly managed, non-inclusive, and pretty lacking in variety of anything other than what their strict rules allow.
Outside of that I don't know what to tell you. But do something. If we can get enough people rattling the cages and demanding more form our government, we might actually be able to make a change.
Probably not until the last cent is squeezed out of the scorched, barren, chemically raped earth, or until the price of gas makes it unprofitable to ship food thousands of miles across the country,but sometimes it feels good to throw a rock at a mountain. And sometimes, although increasingly infrequently in this country, the good guys wins. And when and if we ever do, I want to be able to say I helped.
At the very least I want to be able to tell the idiots that just sat idly by letting it happen and blindly voting with their Fox News issued abridged-to-take-out-any-of-the-thought-provoking-parts bibles that they bought two for one at Walmart, that it was more their their faults than mine.
At least I tried.
And then I want to bury them in the mountains of processed shit that we call food in this country, and with thousands of news reports of the record profits the corporations are making off of us while they increase the price of every we thought was just a never ending buffet (won't be any fish on the buffet line soon), and then I want to dance on their graves...
This lion still wants to hunt.
I just need to figure out a way to get out of this cage.
(How's that? Long enough for you, or should I keep going?)
Next time I'll write a review of the Smurf movie or something.
In the meantime, if you've made it this far, let me know, I'll buy you a drink...
Loves and kisses...
So we did it.
We went to Vermont for a week with a random consort of sports utility vehicles filled with families that our daughters being in the same class was the commonest denominator.
We had fun even!
If you were me (and I know you are) you'd worry about getting along with that many people whom are completely different than you are for a whole week when you barely get along with people you actually know for that same amount of time.
But we did. We got along, and it was great. That's neither here nor there when it comes to this post however, because as I frequently have to remind myself, this is a food blog, and not a "Nate's feelings of inadequateness in the face of other, vastly more successful guys of a similar age" blog. Although I'd probably post a lot more often if it were...
Neither here nor there I say!
So I'm going to let you guess how this whole thing played out food wise. Do you think I cooked up a storm and it was awesome and I photographed it all and have five or six great posts to write?
Do you think I cooked up a storm and it was awesome and I didn't photograph any of it and as a result have to cobble together a few meandering posts about things in Vermont that have to do with food but nothing that I personally cooked, even though I cooked often and with great success that would have been PERFECT for a food blog?
I hate myself.
Anyways. Rest assured that I grilled a mean 4th of July dinner that we ate leftovers of for the rest of the week, as well as a killer breakfast of grits made with lots local cheese that we ate every day for the rest of the trip, as well as a potato hash with chorizo and ham sweetened with local Vermont maple syrup, and scrambled eggs with sauteed spinach and butter poached tomatoes and garden fresh basil...
They were great, but will only live on in infamy in the hearts and minds (and stomachs) of those whom were there to witness and testify to the Gospel of Nate's Cooking. I didn't even really show off that much, it was all pretty straight down the middle vacation cooking.
The world will never know.
What I do have is a couple of stories, along with a couple of pictures. Probably I'll try and eek out a couple/three posts out of this, so fear not, but we'll start on our first day...
...with a surprise!
On our way up to Barton (very far north) we need gas and pulled off on a random exit (exit 4 in Vermont if any of you find yourselves in similar proximity). Well, after filling the car up with gas (no pictures, sadly) my nose did notice a smell as comforting and intoxicating a smell as there is; burning wood.
I looked around to see if there was a house fire that needed to be called in when lo and behold my eyes did witness the sweetest of sights:
Thar be smoke in them hills!
Yes, a random BBQ spot next to a gas station in Vermont. I thought such miracles were only to be found south of the Mason Dixon line...
I've liked Vermont already, and not just for their gay marriages and liberal politics, but now I love Vermont. And it's only like 11:00!
9th wonder of the world!
So obviously we had an early lunch...
Here's how I know this place is going to be good (not racistly):
These guys look like they've been doing this for a loooooong time. I love the way a good pit master tends to his fire like it's a fucking baby...
If I could do something half as earnest and honorable for a living that created as much of a fervent, loyal, and impassioned following as a good pit master, I'd pack up my family and leave this fake, bullshit filled life in heartbeat.
I'm sure Liz would love it!
But seeing as how I'm the only one in my family that even likes BBQ, much less are willing to devote their entire lives to it, I'm just going to have to continue to romanticize the hours upon hours backbreaking labor for little to no profit in some shit hole town next to a gas station in North Carolina, or worse, Mississippi or the like, all just to be "real".
Doesn't mean it's not fun to think about!
So what did the ingrates that make up my family eat?
Same thing they'll eat anywhere else.
And a BAKED POTATO(!!??) for for Liz (I know... I know.)
Kill me now.
Oh well, at least they'll go with me to these places. Wonder how long it'll be until they figure out they can out-vote me and we'll eat at the bland, soulless, macaroni and cheese, pasta with butter "sauce," and sub-par burger filled "Denny's of Iniquity" that make up the majority of places without drive throughs one can stop while on the road...
I shudder while I type this.
But it's not all bad! There were gorgeous sunsets to be had, see?
And this was just the first night!
And speaking of the first-things, this is just the first post of my Vermont adventure (really more of just a trip, but...) so I'll leave you here as I really need to get ready for a trip to Las Vegas (sister's getting married), and plan a trip to Madrid with the kids in a month(!) and I've yet to really do so. Not to mention write this book that's supposed to be my ticket to non-restaurant-industry-employment that's not going to write it's self...
So I'll be back soon my little kittens...
Until then, send me "good luck" vibes as I'll be in Vegas and would love to win enough money to make this trip to Madrid unforgettable (seems like a realistic thing to assume will happen.)
Think legs of Pata Negra in our country house, and reservations at top restaurants in Madrid without looking at the bill. Let's shoot for the sky, huh? I'll even consider an extra week in Mallorca...
Here's to making it happen!
Farts and Kisses...
(I'm sure that most of my readers are hip enough to know this title is in reference to a NOFX album of a similar name, and not a racist, anti-semitic admission on my part- although the 'white trash' moniker does occasionally apply fittingly to myself...)
Ask me for a dish that I like better than really good rice and beans, and I'll tell you there aren't many.
Red, black, cranberry, white, purple, green doesn't matter. Throw some rice in the mix and serve with some sort of something "animal-y" (or not) and I'm usually a pretty happy guy.
That being said I've never made my own as I usually rely on the much more experienced hands (I'm sure) of the authentic (i.e. shitty holes-in-the-wall) cooks at the authentic shitty holes-in-the-wall that I love to visit whenever possible.
Good rice and beans is one of those dishes that I feel "chefs" try and fancy up too much and as a result loses some of the appeal for me. Thus my fear in making them myself is that I'd try and do the same.
It's not that "gourmet" rice and beans aren't good, they just aren't as soulful, or "real". And like most things pertaining to poor people food, poor people do it better. Call it out of necessity, but people making food the same way for hundreds of years because that's all they've had, have it down better than people who's toughest decision is which locally sourced organic farm to get their beans from. Again, not that anything is wrong with that, it just loses something in the "authentic" department along the way.
In other words, gringos usually fuck it up.
But, what can you do?
For me, I invited a South American friend and his gringa girlfriend to add some sort of credibility to the dinner (he's Colombian, but for the sake of this story let's pretend he's Mexican. They're all the same, right?) (I know that they aren't, I'm purposefully making broad generalizations to show Americans ignorance to all things non-white)
Here we are, like a veritable rainbow of beige-to-slightly-darker-beige...
We're the best!
(obviously I'm not pictured here, but I'm generally considered to be pretty white by the cooks at all the restaurants I've worked in...)
Let's get this train wreck back on course, shall we?
So as I'm sure you've deduced by now, I did eventually decide to cook black beans and rice, and I could think of no better accompaniment than a nice big, juicy, cumin and lime crusted pork loin...
So that's what I did.
Here's my "before" shot that I've become so famous for (I haven't):
After prepping the veggies, I started by sweating some chopped bacon, ham, and chorizo in bacon fat and lard (of course!);
Added the peppers (Anaheim in this case), celery, and onions:
When those were sweated down (10 minutes or so) I added some garlic, hot sauce, and a box of tomato along with a glug of cider vinegar, chicken stock, and some beer:
and brought that to a boil and then down to a simmer and simmered for a few minutes before adding the star of the show, the black beans:
See all that fat forming on the top? That's flavor, baby, and natural, good-for-you flavor too...
I then gave it all a stir:
And let it simmer for however-the-fuck-long-you-want, it might even benefit from a night in the fridge and a reheat. It certainly wouldn't suffer from it. But in this case it simmered long enough to make some white rice, a pork loin, and a chicken breast for Liz because she doesn't eat pork (I know... I know.)
So the pork.
I wanted to do an authentic-y spice rub so I toasted some cumin and ground it up and seared the shit out of it on a hot ass pan:
I for sure started this while I was building the beans to save time, but really, if you did the beans first and then did everything else, the beans are just going to be better for it...
That's the same pan I cooked the pork in, afterwards I strained the pan drippings into the bean through a china cap (why not?).
A note on pork:
Pork is the best thing ever in the whole world. That being said, the conditions that most supermarket pork is raised in is beyond reprehensible. If our government had any sort of balls of their own that weren't owned by the big corporations there would be sweeping changes made to our food system, and there'd be a lot of people in jail (including most of the government officials who let these heinous conditions thrive). However, where things of greed and corruptibility are concerned, the bad guys continue to win.
It's neither a close nor a fair fight.
So what can one do in the face of such insurmountable odds?
Don't buy it.
This pork is pasture raised and humanely slaughtered.
You know how I know that? I know the butcher.
In this case I bought it at Fairway and asked about it.
Is it more expensive?
Is it better tasting, better for the environment, better for the pig, and better for you?
As much as I love pork, steak, chicken, lamb, wild boar, buffalo, deer, and what-have-you, I'd rather not eat it than give money to the bad guys.
I'm lucky that I can make that choice. Not everyone can, and I can't hold anyone else responsible for the decisions they make to feed their families, but PLEASE! If you can, only buy free range humanely raised and slaughtered animals. It's like a vote with your money. If we can get enough people to not buy the horrible products that the big animal feed lots shove down our throats, then maybe they'll be forced to change their more-than evil ways.
Maybe not, but at least you'll be doing yourself, the environment, the farmer who chose to raise it humanely, and the animal who gave up it's life without being asked if it'd like to a big favor by respecting those things over cost.
Plus, and most importantly IT TASTE BETTER!
One of the many benefits of buying good pork is that you can cook it medium rare with no ill effects. Some people still aren't ready to take the leap of faith but even the USDA has recently changed it's position on the minimum temperature pork is safe to be eaten at.
So here's mine, deeply browned on the outside, and pink, juicy, and flavorful on the in...
I mean what goes better with black beans and rice with cumin scented pork loin than Pacifico?
(not a product endorsement)
So while I rest the meat (ALWAYS REST YOUR MEAT FOR A MINIMUM OF TEN MINUTES!!!!) I cooked up one of my favorite side dishes ever:
Doesn't that just scream "healthy!!"? It's just sauteed in olive oil with browned garlic and a touch of butter added at the end for richness... It goes with any dinner and is crazy delicious/good for you...
(also not an endorsement)
Anyways, these next shots are pretty much just food porn, so I'm gonna give 'em all to you as I couldn't decide on just one, so here's a bunch of shots of sliced pork:
...and then one more of the rice and beans:
and then (because this post is beyond long enough)...
I mean, come on...
So in the interest of time conservation (one of the things my blog will attest to the fact that I'm least interested in) I'm gonna wrap this up.
Just a quick aside; the next night(-ish) I chopped up the pork and heated it up in a pan with some green salsa, and heated up the rice and beans, some shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and hot sauce and made some killer stoner gringo burritos that were very, very good as well... Just in case you were at a loss for leftover possibilities...
Anyways... As my friend Oscar (he's my Mexican friend from the pictures) would say: "jajajajaja..."
(for some reason they say that instead of "hahahaha." They're so different from us...)
Thanks for coming over Oscar and Jane, I hope you'll be regular visitors to the old Leftover Foodie!
(I may even convince Tom to come over again one day!)
Not for nothing, but I missed a perfect meal to photograph the other night which makes me sad as this was a good one (grilled scallops in the shell!!!), and am off to Vermont for the week this coming week, so between the two things I don't have anything to post until I can download pictures from my Vermont trip. So, and I'm sure this will seem tragic for my ardent followers who've become accustomed to my prolific post rate, I probably won't post any real posts for a week or two (or thirty). But I'm going to try and remote post some pictures to the blog as a new "see, I haven't forgotten you" gesture, and hope to get crackin' on some good stuff over the rest of the summer (I can feel myself going on a "wood fire cooking" spree as many times as I can get my hands on a grill).
Apart from that, go fuck yourselves or something, I'm on vacation!
Love, and miss you guys already,
Call it a mishmash, call it one last bit of laziness, call it what you will, but here, at last, is the last of the scape themed posts.
By now you know the drill. Scapes are good. I like them. So let's just jump right into this one, shall we?
This first one is leftover from the last meal I had made in the last post (scroll down if you don't believe me).
The next morning I had some scapes, some bacon, and a dream. They all came together in what I like to call "breakfast."
Here's the pictures:
I rendered off some bacon and added scapes, then beat some eggs and made a scramble, which I put cheese on top of and put in a croissant (why not?)
It was very good, you should have one.
This next one is a side dish that I often make with various different components. In fact, I believe I was recently bemoaning the fact that I had made an orzo salad and not taken pictures of it when lo-and-behold! I was going through my old pictures and found not only this orzo salad, but one which has scapes in it (of all things! right when I was doing a scapes post! And I refuse to believe in a god...)
So here I boiled some orzo in heavily salted water (are you seeing a theme to my cooking yet?) and rinsed it off in cold water to stop the cooking so it didn't become mushy (what, you think food stops cooking just because you take it out of the water?)
In the meanwhile, I chopped up some nuts (and took a picture of it for some reason):
Some parmesan (look how artful!):
and of course, our hero!
I added them all to the orzo along with a good amount of good quality olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs (I usually like to use tarragon but any fresh herbs will be nice) in this case I used tarragon and fresh basil and added it all to a bowl.
and tossed it like a prison proverb...
...apparently there were also peas involved.
This is a good base for a just-about-anything dish. Especially in the warmer months it's become my "go to" dish for BBQ's, pot lucks, friends over, you name it...
Start with the orzo, parmesan cut into bigger chunks, some sort of nuts (I prefer slivered almonds that I toast up), and a fresh herb. Then add whatever vegetable you have lying around. I usually cook and then chill mine in an ice bath like we talked about in the last post and have used any number for season-appropriate things from corn and peppers, to peas and, well, scapes I guess...
Let your orzo-salad-related-imagination run wild...
Lastly we have a delicious dish that was supposed to be the second post on my "Maine Trip" post that I never got around to (I assume it's because I'm too awesome to finish things).
We start here with a good place to start in any occasion, scapes cooked with bacon (again).
And with this solid foundation, the only improvement-upon could only possibly be one thing, and that's farm fresh pork chops!
combine all three ingredients (butter, oil, salt and pepper aside)...
warm up a farmers market fresh biscuit,
And have yourself a camp out style pretty little picture of a dinner...
Worse ways to spend an evening, I promise.
So there they are, all of the garlic scape dishes that I cooked last year.
Funny thing is as much as I truly do enjoy enjoy them I haven't touched one this year. No real reason, and I'm sure if I saw any I'd gobble them right up, but so far my summer has been a scape-less as last summer was scape-full...
Oh, life. You silly little thing.
Anyways, I have a new-new post that I made last night that I'm just about to start working on, and then of course I have many many others planned that I just haven't gotten around to yet (I'm sure I will this time...).
So to brighter days, huh kiddo's?
To brighter days...
See you then,
I think we'd all agree it's such a great time of year, and what's better than a perfectly cooked steak in the summer?
How about a nice cooked steak with a nice cool potato salad?
Better than that?
How about a nice cooked steak with a cool potato salad with scapes in it?
You want more!?
How about a nice cooked steak with a garden-fresh scape-and-pea-filled potato salad and a lettuce wedge with homemade ranch dressing with bacon crumbled on it?
More than that? Go fuck yourselves, cause that's some good summertime eating right there...
(Now you have to remember that this was last year, so some of the deets are a little fuzzy, but I remember this being a pretty good one, so let's get started, shall we?)
We start with an always-good-place to start where potato salad is concerned; with potatoes.
As I'm sure no one has ever seen one before, here's what potatoes look like.
Notice the "skin"on the outside. That's where all the nutrients are (if you listen to common knowledge that is).
Anyhoo, for these you cut them up into "same size-y" pieces and boil them in heavily salted water until they are cooked through, but not over cooked (a cake tester or knife should slide through and back out with no resistance, but not be mushy).
In the meantime, I took the hero of our story: The garlic scapes...
and cut them up into pea sized pieces:
notice I left my knife in the shot in case you weren't sure what you cut things with, and I also left the ends uncut for reference...
I'm so great.
So take those pieces and boil them in heavily salted water.
and then the most important step, and one of the biggest differences between home cooks and restaurant cooking; using an ice bath.
How much ice used was one of the biggest surprises for me in a restaurant kitchen (along with how much salt, and how much heat), almost every vegetable cooked went into huge tubs of ice water to stop the cooking and lock in the color and flavor. Most home cooks just don't have the ice making capacity in their freezer so ice baths don't get used that often, but it makes a HUGE difference in freshness of vegetables. Even roasted vegetables got par-cooked in hot salted water and then iced down before being sauteed or roasted a la minute at pick up. It's a trick I use often at home, and the best part is that you can reuse the same water to do all your veggies if you time out the order (green stuff with make the water green so do them last).
So with this done, I turned my attention to some fresh peas and gave them the same treatment.
I then combined the now-room-temperature-to-slightly-still-warm-but-not-hot potatoes with salt pepper, scapes, peas, and mayo (homemade if you have the time, it's toooootaly worth it!) and mustard with some fresh herbs and voila!
Yummy, garlic-y potato salad.
That went in the fridge to cool.
Whenever later, I brought the steak out to come to room temp (another very, very important step that often gets overlooked at home).
I seasoned it,
remember, lots of salt (most of it falls off when cooking) and LOTS of heat (you want a rip-roaring pan for a big piece of meat like this one if you want a nice crust on it, like I know you do)
I apparently used some sort of reddish "other" seasonings as well besides kosher salt. If I had to guess I'd say Spanish Pimenton (smoked paprika) was involved, as well as ground cumin possibly (maybe not though) and as always lots of fresh ground pepper...
Give it a couple/few minutes on one side, and flip...
That crust is so nice it deserves another look...
So when it's done (pretty rare to med rare in this case) you HAVE to let your meat rest (another thing home cooks don't do often or long enough).
See all those juices pooling on the top? Those get absorbed back into the meat and make it nice and juicy, just like good meat is supposed to be...
So apart from that I took a whole head of Romain lettuce and cut it into quarters length-wise, seasoned with salt and pepper and poured over a homemade ranch dressing (it's worth it) along with some crumbled bacon on top of it, to make this:
All and all it's adds up to a pretty good dinner (Thalia actually ate some of the steak, but Sage says it "taste like Muenster cheese")...
Sure garlic scapes weren't the "star" of the show, but they were there!
I mean, hey! What do you want from me!? I made you a nice dinner and all you can do is complain about the fact that I sold this to you as a garlic scape heavy dinner when in fact it's just a component in one of the side dishes!!?
Well, fuck you! How about that?
Whatever. I'll try harder next time, okay? I'm sorry I didn't live up to your lofty expectations. Can't we just have one quiet dinner without you rubbing my deficiencies in my face the whole time? Just one fucking dinner!?
Fine. You know what? It's getting late and I have a lot of dishes to do. So...
Yeah, I'll call you tomorrow or whatever. Maybe. I just don't know...
I mean, yes. I will call you tomorrow. I'm sorry, my feelings are just a little hurt right now, so I'm probably just being contumelious, but I really do need to start on these dishes...
No, no, it's fine. I'll just do 'em, thanks for offering though. I'll call you tomorrow, okay?
Till then, dickwads...
Forgive me if it seems like I'm drawing this post out, but it might have to be a three parter...
Truthfully, it is three separate posts worth of stuff, but I'm sure you could probably guess that I've yet to put heat to pan and camera to results.
What can I say? At least I'm consistently disappointing.
So delving into my past (again) I came across a bunch of posts that I had been photographing over the course of the summer last year all pertaining to one of my favorite little green guys, the garlic scape.
What is a garlic scape you may be asking (probably not as I have pretty sophisticated reader(s)?
Well a garlic scape is a shoot that comes out of a garlic plant about this time of year that if not cut will inhibit the growth of the garlic pod, which is why most farmers cut it of either way. Good news? It's delicious. Bad news? There is no bad news! It's a win/win!
Hooray for nature!
So to begin our adventure, we start where we so often do, at grandma and poppa's house, more specifically this time, in their garden...
That last picture is the garlic plants in their natural state, the scapes are the shoots shooting up (as it were).
So what do you do with garlic scapes?
Well, I counter your dumb question with a smart one: what can't you do with garlic scapes... (see what I did there?)
They are like a mellow, less "spicy" version of garlic that will add a wonderful flavor and nice toothsome bite to just about anything you'd add any vegetable to. I like them cut into one to two inch pieces and sauteed in butter with salt best.
Last summer I went on a veritable garlic scape rampage and put them in just about everything, and that just-about-everything benefited from them.
But we'll get there, first let's spend some summertime-y time with my children in the garden.
Now my kids LOVE the garden. They love planting, they love watering, they love weeding, they love picking.
There's a calm and a seriousness that comes over them when they are in the garden that reminds me of the way people act when they are in a huge Cathedral even if they aren't religious. They respect the garden.
They love just about everything in the garden except the food that's grown in the garden.
With the exception of carrots and fat peas that is...
So what does one do with garden fresh garlic scapes?
Well, if you're trying to get three posts out of this like I am, you wait until next time.
So that's what imagonedo.
So until then, my friends...