Great use of type here. I'll see something like this and I'll think... sigh, brilliant.
You can get these lovely books here. I think I need a few. As of right now I just write things down on post-its... so I got all these post-its in tons of different spots all over my office and house. And some of them I don't even know what they mean anymore. I saw one the other day in one of my drawers and it said, "Ode to James Marsden"... that's all it said. I have no idea what I was thinking at the time.
I'm such a scatterbrain sometimes.
So I just love Anthony Bourdain. I think he's the coolest. And I think he has the coolest job of all time. He's a "chef/writer/traveler person who eats stuff." I think if I had to write down what my dream job would be, I'd write down "artist/writer/traveler person who eats stuff."
And when I heard that Anthony's show, No Reservations, was coming back to Louisiana for a "Cajun Country" episode, I couldn't wait to watch it. But for some reason, probably because I got terribly busy, it got stuck in my DVR for a few weeks before I actually sat down and watched it.
When I finally had a bit of time, I made myself a nice salad, poured myself a glass of wine and sat in front of the TV to watch Tony hang out in my adopted state for awhile. I was excited.
I watched him hang out with Wendell Pierce (Antoine from Tremé) for a little while, talk about jazz music and eat Yaka Mein... something I had never heard of and made sure to put on my extensive mental list of "things to try in New Orleans".
But then Anthony started hanging out with another guy... a fellow Tremé writer and BBQ enthusiast/journalist named Lolis Elie, who took him around Foubourg Tremé and treated him to the best fried chicken ever at Willie Mae's Scotch House. You can watch the clip here.
But Lolis (who I'm sure is a very lovely dude) also said some things that had me scowling.
You see, he seems to think that people outside of New Orleans only eat at McDonald's or Burger King and that they only listen to what's on the Top 40 radio station. When asked by Bourdain what other regions of the country could learn from New Orleans, he answers that the city should be an example for them. Other places should look deep inside themselves and bring back their culture.
And then he puts a nice cherry on top:
"I don't believe that the people in Ohio didn't have anything to eat before they got McDonald's."
To which I responded to my television,
Ye without a McDonald's in your city cast the first stone!
Okay. So, yes, New Orleans is awesome. It's a culinary mecca. It was voted Travel+Leisure's number one foodie city! New Orleans has it's own unique culture derived from the different people that have lived here over the centuries. Spanish, Africans, French, Haitians, Americans, etc... all of these people together made and continue to make a magical equation of New Orleans-ness. And yes, no other city in the country is quite like this one. At all. I've heard it described in ways such as "The only european city in the US"... or "The northern most caribbean city." And for all of these reasons, I love it here. I moved here. I now call it my home. And i'm proud of that.
But I do not pretend to think that other cities in this country do not have their own cultures and traditions too. They might not be quite as overt, but they exist. And to just dismiss all of that with a "oh, you eat at McDonald's and listen to boring music" is well... kinda mean and dismissive.
And you can say that I'm being too sensitive... but anyone from Ohio that heard those words probably felt the same twinge of "What the hell do you know?" And I guarantee that if a journalist from Ohio (or someone like, say Alan Richman) said anything quite as dismissive and thoughtless about New Orleans... there would be words. There would be some pen to paper action happening.
Even Anthony Bourdain, "a culinary elitist" from NYC, reluctantly traveled to Ohio to do a show a few years ago, in which his food writer-friend and beloved Ohioan Michael Ruhlman took him around the city of Cleveland. He was shown the hidden treasures of a midwestern industrial city that is trying to find its identity in an increasingly post-industrial world. And it featured the hottest chef ever, Lola's Michael Symon, shoving plate after plate of lovingly prepared local food in front of Bourdain's face. It was a great episode.
You know, "culture" doesn't just exist in those areas of the country that are not a part of the dreaded "fly-over" zones of these United States. And no, that culture does not totally consist of ugly concrete mini-malls, Applebee's and TGI Fridays, and to assume so is just thoughtless.
After the episode of No Reservations: Cajun Country was over, I decided to take Lolis Elie's advice and make myself a lovely meal that reminded me of home, you know... before Columbus, Ohio became a test-market town and we totally lost our culture. And before we forgot that corn was an actual vegetable and not just something that you turn into syrup.
So instead of going down the street to McDonald's to get a taste of my homeland, I decided to make a few fall recipes to remind me of one of my all-time favorite things--Autumn.
These recipes bring to mind the spices of fall. The smell of the turning leaves in the air. The beautiful red, orange and yellow in the trees... the crisp blue autumn sky. Food brings such great memories... and not just the ones I have of sitting in all those fast food drive-thrus.
These are two things that I've been making for a few years and that I must make at the first sign of Autumn (which happens to be the precise moment when the Pumpkin Spice Latte returns to Starbucks).
Apple, Brie & Bacon Sandwich
(and these wonderful food photos were brought to you by my iPhone... sorry)
What you need:
This is a very easy sandwich to make... and it's results are downright amazeballs.
Start by getting some sturdy bread that will hold up nice to grilling... I got this cute little french loaf at Rouse's that I got about 4 slices out of. Spread one side liberally with apple butter. Top with your thinly sliced apples.
Put on some brie slices... I like to use these "wee bries" that you find next to those "laughing cow" cheeses in round boxes. I think they taste great and you can spread the brie. You can also unwrap what you want and put the rest in the fridge without worrying about needing to use up all that expensive brie at once. But you can use whatever brie you like.
Top with a few slices of crispy bacon. This is the "center-cut" stuff. Slam the two halves together and put in a pan with a pat of butter so it can "grill". Keep the pan at a "medium"... you want everything to cook evenly and if the pan is too hot, the bread will just burn while the insides are still cold. A nice slow medium will get you a nice crust and everything warmed though.
Put a bit of butter on the top bread before you flip... so you make sure the other side gets nice and toasty too.
Sigh... enjoy. It's really one of the best things ever.
What you need:
I get some pasta going until "al dente"... and make sure the water is salted to season the pasta. I don't use the whole thing... I always leave a little bit left in the bag because I like a lot of sauce on my pasta. If you like pasta more than sauce... cook the whole thing.
I use this "chicken & apple" sausage and get it nice and crispy in the pan with a bit of olive oil... then I set it aside for a few. You can use whatever sausage you like, as long as the flavors would compliment the dish.
I then chop up some garlic and an onion and let it saute in the juices from the pan plus a little bit more olive oil. Let that get nice and translucent... it'll take a few minutes.
Add your half-cup of wine (or if you don't want to spend the money on the wine, just use more chicken stock... I was lucky because my boss handed me this bottle at a work event. Wow, am I lucky to work for a place where your boss hands you wine.) Anyways. Bring all this up to a nice bubble, reduce the wine by half. Throw in your bay leaf and sage. Your house is going to start smelling awesome at this point.
So after all that is reduced, pour in your chicken stock and throw in some salt to taste... and start tasting this stuff. Make sure it's properly seasoned. I don't give an exact measurement for salt because everyone is different. Start with a sprinkle here and a sprinkle there... let the flavors develop, and at the end, if it's still not salty enough, add a little more. But don't go crazy with the salt... there are many factors, like how salty the sausage is... and how much parmesan cheese you use at the end. Just keep tasting and be aware.
Start gently stirring in your pumpkin. Add the chicken sausage back in.
Bring all this up to a slow simmer. Put in your spices. I like to use about a half-teaspoon of cinnamon, a half-teaspoon of coriander, a few dashes of allspice and a few grates of nutmeg. If you don't like one of these spices, feel free to leave it out. This is just my perfect formula. Afterwards take a little taste... and if you think it could be a little spicier without starting to go into pumpkin pie territory, go ahead and add a little more until it's just right.
Stir in your cream. And at this point I like to put the lid on the pan and let it simmer at a low temperature for a little while to let the flavors develop.
Then mix up the al dente penne and your sauce in a pan.
Cover with a few hand fulls of mozzarella cheese and then with a handful of shredded parmesan. Or if you have that wonderful grated reggiano, go with it! I also top it with a few hand fulls of panko breadcrumbs for a nice cheesy crunch at the end.
Put that in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes, until the cheese is melty and the breadcrumbs have browned.
There's my pumpkin pasta dish all warm and bubbly and cheesy and pumpkiny among other Buckeye dishes for a football party. We lost... oh well. But at least we had good food!
And as I sit and feast upon these grown-up recipes featuring apples and blessed pumpkin puree, I'm not reminded of all that time that I must have spent at McDonald's as an Ohioan... but of all those family trips to pick apples and to buy gallons of the yummiest, spiciest local apple cider you can think of... and to the pumpkin patch, where you stuff your little face with pumpkin doughnuts and drink hot chocolate after you go on a hay-ride to find your perfect pumpkins to carve for the season. This is my favorite time of year... and it holds my favorite stash of recipes.
Do you have a favorite fall recipe? If so I'd love to hear it!
So one vampire series goes away (and sorry to say True Blood, I won't miss you that much)... and another one comes back. All is balanced within The Universe.
Hey, Vampire Diaries! I missed ya. You have no idea how hard it's been without you... though through your absence I started watching NBC re-runs on thursdays and discovered how funny Community is, and how great Rob Lowe is on Parks & Recreation. So, thanks!
And it's nice to know that some things never change... namely, Damon's "eye-thing" that he does.
Hi Damon's eyes! I've missed you.
So, about the show. The "ripper" thing? I don't like this. And it's not because I don't like the story and how awesome it is right off the bat... but because I feel like they just made all this shit up in the middle of last season.
What makes a "ripper" different than any other kind of vampire? They just like to rip people up more than regular vampires? If so... that's kinda lame. What makes Stefan so different from other vampires? His feelings?
He really loves to kill people and rip them up but he also has the ability to feel a ton of remorse over it and "go vegetarian" and be Mr. Zen Vampire. He's either "really bad" or "really good", there is no in-between. It's tiring.
The thing I used to like about Stefan was that he could be the "good vampire" without being totally lame like the other guys out there who channel the same archetype. I'm talking Edward, Angel... and to a certain extent, Bill. I liked that Stefan could be badass and good(ish) at the same time. Now it's just going to get ugly.
After all of this is done he's gonna be emo over this for at least half a season.
-Stuff I dug:
• Damon's longer hair. He looks good.
• Klaus's look of longing after it's clear to him that Stefan is only in this whole "ripper road trip" to keep his word. Poor Klaus looked positively heartbroken. Seems like all he wants is a real friend to enjoy killing people with. Aww, poor Klaus. I really think that deep down he's just a big puppy dog. A seriously effed up serial killer puppy dog.
• Stefan's play on Damon's "Heeeey brutha" from the very first episode. Very subtle Stefan, very subtle.
• Damon seems to be turning into a better dude since his near-fatal werewolf bite. He was actually treating Andi like a human being instead of his sex slave/personal blood-bag... even getting out of his morning bath to get his own damn champagne. Good for you Damon. Too bad Stefan killed her... that's okay though, right? Cause you've totally done that to him before (remember Lexie?)... Yeah. Brothers, such a complicated relationship.
• Caroline. She's developed into such a better character than what she was in Season 1. This is how you develop a character, writers (looking at you True Blood peeps). And can I just say that Caroline & Tyler's watered-down CW sex scene was way more awesome than any of that Eric/Sookie HBO boob-fest bullshit that we had to sit through. And that's sad. Very sad.. since TB writers probably had all the creative freedom in the world and HBO TV-MA abilities that they wanted. I am so disappointed in you, True Blood.
-Stuff that made me go... whaaa?
• Sigh... this makes me feel old.
• Damon & Alaric's ten minute drive to Tennessee. Whatever.
• The show decided to remember that Alaric is a history teacher at this school that several of the castmembers attend. This is so lame. Alaric attends a party where his students are drinking alcohol and smoking pot? ON WHAT PLANET is this cool? I keep forgetting that most of these people are in high school. That Elena is supposedly 18 years old. That Damon is more like 30 (well, thirty + 200 some odd years)... so his obsession with her is kinda... gross. Can we just move things along a little bit? At least have these kids attending college? They are not fooling anyone. Everyone is in their 20s & 30s. And maybe I'm not sure how cool it is to have this show geared towards a "CW" demographic with all of this totally cool, nonchalant drinking/drugging/walking around naked that goes on in this "high school" show. Or maybe I'm just not used to this kind of thing. Was this the norm for Dawson's Creek? 90210? When I was really young, the only "teen" show I watched was My So-Called Life where Rayanne's drinking was kind of looked down upon. Which makes me think of how cool it would be if Ricky Vasquez showed up on The Vampire Diaries and started to tell Elena to STFU every once in awhile. How cool would that be?
ANYWAYS. Moving on.
• Alaric. I don't like that Alaric is sad. I want him to be happy... he's too good-looking to be sad for so long. His wife left him to become some kind of historian/lesbian vampire and eventually committed sun-suicide... his new girlfriend died a horrible death after being forced to turn... I mean, the guy needs a break. He should just move in with Elena & Jeremy full-time. They can be one big happy, weird & inappropriate family.
• Elena finding Damon's seeeeecret ripper's quest-map o death. Please, can she stop? Can she stop being like Damonyouliedtome! Waaaah! I hate it. It's old. They need something else to fight about.
• Jeremy. So far, unless his ability to see dead people can bring down Klaus and give me my Elijah back... I just don't care about his problems.
-Hopes for the future:
Thinking about Ricky made me realize that this show is sorely lacking in gay people. The Vampire Diaries needs a gay dude. Can he be Klaus? Cause that would be awesome.
p.s. I'm trying to get myself to write more... so these little VD re-caps are a kind of a stupid assignment I gave myself. I'm gonna say right now that I'm planning to write about every single episode. Whether or not that actually happens... well, have you met me? ;-)
Am currently obsessed with this blog, If We Don't Remember Me.
It's a Tumblr dedicated to gracefully subtle movie still gifs. Some are beautiful. Some are downright unsettling.
This one? Depp, absinthe, laudenum... and a nice bath.
What a weekend, eh? All those Labor Day weekend plans...
I had every intention of going to see the Southern Decadence parade on Sunday, but staying inside and watching Ghostbusters on Comedy Central just seemed so much more comfortable than hanging out in the wind and the rain.
But there was one thing that couldn't keep me cooped up inside; Football. Specifically the Ohio State vs. Akron opener viewing at the Mid City Yacht Club.
Things like this become very important to you when you move to a different city. There's something very sacred about a home team. It doesn't matter where you move to... you'll always be a fan of the team you grew up loving. And being from Columbus, Ohio... the Buckeyes are everywhere. We don't have a professional football team... there are the Browns up north in Cleveland or there are the Bengals down south in Cincinnati. Take your pick.
So most people in Columbus put their love into the Buckeyes. They are the home team... and if you live there for any amount of time, there's an excellent chance that you either have gone to Ohio State or have been employed by Ohio State. There's also a good chance that the mention of Woody Hayes will invoke the same kind of reverence that you'd have for someone like Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. or your favorite president (sigh... Bill Clinton).
Living in New Orleans, especially when you first move here, can feel like living in a foreign country. Ya'll pride yourselves on being totally and completely different than the rest of the country. And that is certainly one of the reasons that I've fallen in love with the place... but it also makes things tough when you get a little homesick, which is inevitable. There have been times when I've gone into a Wendy's and ordered a frosty because that frosty from Metairie, LA tastes exactly the same as a frosty from Grove City, OH. If you're having a no good, awful, bad day, you want the comforts of home... you don't necessarily want to swim in a sea of "purple and gold"... you want to wrap yourself in the warmth of "scarlet and grey".
Homesickness can really get under your skin. It can play with your mind. I remember when I first moved down here, I had some car trouble and didn't have anyone to help me. If I was in Ohio, I'd call my dad and he'd come and jump my car... or my brother, or any of my friends. But in New Orleans, I didn't have anyone. It's times like that when you start thinking to yourself, screw these po' boys, crawfish and second lines... I'm going home!
But in the end, that doesn't help. You must learn to rely on yourself. Moving to a different city will test you. At times it will tear you apart... but you'll put the pieces back together to form a very strong person, and you'll start being able to do things you never thought you could. It will make you more resilient. And you'll realize that you were being silly... you really do love those po' boys and crawfish with all your heart.
When I moved down here, I didn't really know that many people. Actually, I knew just one person... my wonderful former roommate Elizabeth who was also from Ohio. Getting used to living in the deep south was tough, there are different rhythms here. And being a girl who loves the seasons, moving to a tropical area was pretty jarring. Hands down, the thing that I miss the most about Ohio is Autumn. I miss the leaves, the smell of the air when everything turns red, orange and gold. I miss the local apple cider and pumpkin doughnuts that are sold at every corner shop. I miss proper "football weather", when you break out the hoodies and comfy jeans. Autumn goes hand in hand with football.
So the thing that helped me get over my homesickness the most, in the beginning, was watching Buckeye games. It made me feel at home even if it was for just a few hours, and it helped me to meet people. And the number one thing that you need to have in a new place, is people.
(Elizabeth and I watching a Saints game)
At first, Elizabeth and I would go to our neighborhood bar on game day where everyone else in the hood would show up in their college shirts and we'd watch our game on a little flat-screen TV with no sound. If there was anyone else hanging out in the joint with a Big Ten shirt on we'd have a new drinking buddy for the night.
Then we graduated to Cooter Browns, where a LOT of people go to watch college football games. We started going with our neighbors who are Colorado State fans and that's probably the only place in town that would play their games. Plus, they have great oysters. But as awesome as it is, Cooter Browns also seemed to be the main hub for New Olreans' Michigan fans... and it just seemed like treason to continue to go there. You see, Michigan and Ohio State don't mix. We kind of hate each other... there's a whole HBO Documentary about it. The only time a Buckeye fan would ever root for Michigan was if they were playing an SEC team... then we'd be like, Go Blue! But only if they were playing a satan team like Florida or LSU... just kidding! No, not really.
After a few weeks of the neighborhood bar with tiny screens/no sound and hanging with Michigan fans at Cooter Browns, I became friends with one of my co-workers, Jenny... who miraculously was from Columbus as well. She took me to the Fox & Hound, which is where a lot of Ohio State alumni hang out for games. We had a whole room full of scarlet and grey. The first time I walked into that place and everyone was wearing Buckeye jerseys and yelling O-H... I-O, I almost cried. Imagine if you will, being a Saints fan from New Orleans... living in a new city and walking into a bar decked out in "black and gold" with people chanting Who Dat! You'd get the chills man, it's unreal.
And I gotta say, the Fox & Hound is great. There are some awesome people there, but we like more of a "neighborhood bar" feel. This was a family place, and I'm sure it'll be great if and when I have kids (and much to my dude's dismay, these future offspring will be decked out in Buckeye gear and not Tiger gear, so help me God). Also? The bill at the end of evening would always be outrageous. A few beers and some cheesy pretzels always seemed to be about 50 bucks. Granted, my memory is probably a little hazy... "a few" beers was probably more like "a lot" of beers... but details! This led to our continued search for the perfect place to watch Buckeye games. And as we all know, there is a universal law that says... "seek and ye shall find". And after a bit of searching, we found the Mid City Yacht Club via Facebook and the "Cajun Buckeyes".
(A bloody mary and a buckeye--peanut butter and chocolate... perfect for an 11 am game)
It's the perfect place. A neighborhood bar where everyone knows everybody. On game days, the Buckeye fans are plenty and the beer flows cheap. There is also free food... no 50 dollar cheesy pretzels! You see, one of the owners, M.J. (who is awesome) is Ohio State alumni... and she and her husband Jeremy put together such a great atmosphere to watch games. And not just Ohio State games... if you have a team you love, they will make sure to put the game on. It's also a great place to watch Saints games (a team I've come to love) and LSU games (a team that I will never love, sorry). And during crawfish season, they have the best boils on friday nights--always plenty of corn (an important thing to an Ohioan) and they put pineapple in the boil, which blew my mind it was so good.
(M.J. & my friend Nick)
Through this group of Buckeye people, I have made some awesome friends here in New Orleans. And friends are so very important when you're a transplant... your connections to people can make or break you. You need to be able to have like-minded people to talk to when you're feeling a little homesick.
Especially when you work at a place where you have to walk by this every day. Several times.
That right there is a commemorative poster celebrating LSU's national championship over Ohio State. It's lovely.
Or when you're a Buckeye fan transplanted deep in SEC country and you get comments from people (people who claim to love you, like your fiancé), like "hey... remember that one time when OSU played Florida in the national championship and lost? And then the very next year played LSU in the national championship and lost?"
Yes. That is when you will need your friends.
I had missed football. I had missed the Buckeyes... and Tropical Storm Lee wasn't going to keep me and my fellow Ohio State fans from opening day. Not even a whole off-season of controversy and head coaches resigning, and star-players being suspended, and being made fun of by my LSU dude and his friends about "sweater-vests".
I don't get as homesick as I used to, though there are still days when it's hard. My friends make those hard days a lot easier.
So my advice to anyone thinking of moving to New Orleans?
You'll get homesick. It's inevitable. Elevate the homesickness with your home team. Find a place to watch the games and make some friends. Have a po' boy. Realize how lucky you are, you live in New Orleans after all. It's awesome here.