28. October 2015 · Comments Off on A Brief Exploration of Shit that Comes With Age · Categories: Blog Miscellania, Gentlemanly Pursuits

It’s a rainy late-October evening, and after a bite and a pint or two at the regular watering hole, a few things occurred to me as essential as one attempts to age gracefully.

  1. A man over the age of 35 needs to acquire a local pub/tavern/bar. Where there is good beer, good conversation, and good whisk(e)y to be had. Where he tips well, comports himself in the manner of a grown man, and is known on a first name basis by the bar staff. If you can’t strike up a conversation over a sandwich and a beer at any random time, you’re doing it wrong.
  2. At said establishment, one must at the holidays drop a serious gratuity on your regular bartenders. Order a beer or a dram and drop a $20 tip with a hearty “Merry Christmas” and a tip of the hat. In general, treat service workers well – how you treat those whose job it is to serve you is a reflection on your true character.
  3. Speaking of which, at 40 it becomes acceptable to wear a classic hat in public without registering as a hipster asshole with unfortunate facial hair. However, if you’re still wearing a backwards ball cap at this age, someone needs to slap that shit off your head.
  4. Buy quality leather goods at this point. They’ll never go out of style, and they’ll last for a majority of your remaining years. Maybe beyond.
  5. If, by the age of 30-35 you haven’t learned to do basic repairs, turn a wrench when necessary, and pull out a power tool without everyone running for cover, you have failed at life.
  6. Also, if by this time you haven’t earned the love of a furry companion and/or endured the loss of a dear four-footed friend, you’ve likewise missed the boat. Shame on you.
  7. Real men know how to cook a meal. Not just grill a damned burger, but put together an actual full meal without panicking. This is not optional.
  8. If you drink, you should have learned how to drink for flavor. Not just to get hammered. If you’re pounding brewskis and Jagerbombs at 40, you need to examine your life. If you can’t pick out a decent wine at a restaurant, savor a whisk(e)y neat, or appreciate a good non-“lite” beer for its taste, maybe you should grow the hell up.
  9. T-shirts, jeans, and Nikes are not the daily uniform of a grown-ass man. Learn to dress up a pair of jeans and dress down a suit jacket. If you can afford it, have at least one foundation garment made to measure. In any case, always buy clothes that fit the size you are, and always aim to dress one step better than you would think normal.
  10. Know at least three skills that will get your ass out of a bad situation. Don’t be a helpless geezer. Be the tough old bastard on the block.
  11. Learn to appreciate art, music, the written word, and the live performance. A man with a clue doesn’t see culture as an uppity weakness. Knowing a Monet on sight as well as a 3-4 defense makes you a more interesting person.
  12. Eat everything, to the limit of your ability. Attempt to try everything at least once. Rarely does one regret taking an opportunity to expand one’s horizons, and missed chances are more often the cause for remorse. Food is a direct line to other cultures, and one of the easiest to share.
04. February 2015 · Comments Off on Why Mike Huckabee is Just Dead Wrong · Categories: Blog Miscellania

Erstwhile 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee recently proclaimed, with regards to same-sex marriage:

“It’s like asking someone who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli. We don’t want to do that — I mean, we’re not going to do that. Or like asking a Muslim to serve up something that is offensive to him, or to have dogs in his backyard … We’re so sensitive to make sure we don’t offend certain religions, but then we act like Christians can’t have the convictions that they’ve had for 2,000 years.”

Except here’s the deal, Mike. Your analogy is false. And silly.

Kosher Jewish delis don’t serve bacon-wrapped shrimp. They do serve kosher meals. And they’ll serve them to anyone, whether you are Jewish or not, whether you keep kosher or not. There’s no requirement to be circumcised, or have completed your bar/bat mitzvah in order to get a bowl of matzoh soup. You want to set a bar for civil marriage according to your religious principles. No one’s demanding that churches have to wed same sex couples or consecrate same-sex civil marriages. If you serve the wedding soup to some of the people with no religious qualification, you should serve it to everyone.

Additionally, owners of kosher delis don’t demand that all the other restaurants only serve a kosher menu as well. You and the conservative evangelical Christian cadre want to enforce your religious ideals through the civil process. And here, you don’t get to do that.

Finally, if you are Jewish, and you work for a non-kosher restaurant that *does* offer bacon-wrapped shrimp on its menu – then yeah, you’re expected to serve it to a customer who orders it. Not chow down to a plateful yourself, mind you. If you’re a religious person working for a government agency, you are not allowed to modify public policy and law to the parameters of your own personal beliefs.

Personal religious conviction is a fine thing for you and your community of believers, Mikey. However, you don’t get to mandate your personal code for the rest of us who don’t subscribe to your newsletter.

20. November 2014 · Comments Off on Let’s Make Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , , , ,

Late fall and early winter are the time of year to start craving comfort foods, especially ones where you can do a little prep work and then set them aside to cook while you get other stuff done. An old-fashioned example is the classic Carolina-style chicken and rice, with whole chicken parts simply simmered with stock in golden South Carolina rice. I’ve made it a few times before, and while it’s tasty, I always wanted something with a bit more punch flavor-wise.

So, when the co-op slings me a pound of wild rice from the Great Lakes and some free-range chicken breasts, I figure it’s time to step things up a bit. Protein and starch are fine, but I want some veg in there too – especially aromatic sorts. So let’s add some sweet red onion and carrots. Cumin goes with carrots and chicken nicely, so some toasted whole seed should be a part of this. Wild rice usually gets cooked with onion and celery, but I’m just gonna stick with celery seed for the flavor without the extra prep. For herbage, chicken loves sage and tarragon, so they’ll get simmered with the broth to extract their complex flavors.

The prep part of this takes about 15-20 minutes if you’re a decent multitasker, and about a half hour if you’re not. Then, you throw it all into an oven for and hour and a half. Which gives you plenty of time to work on your Thanksgiving menu or Christmas shopping list while your kitchen fills with fantastic smells. More »

15. August 2014 · Comments Off on Quick Review: Imperial Barber’s Fiber Pomade · Categories: Gentlemanly Pursuits, Old School Shaving and Grooming · Tags: , ,

Imperial Barber Products Fiber Pomade jar on white surface

Imperial’s water-based fiber pomade is a moderate hold product that suits medium to fine hair just fine, but might not be enough for thick or wavy locks.

It comes out of the jar pretty thick and sticky, but applied to damp hair works in and combs through very easily.

Imperial Fiber is not a high-gloss pomade, but it’s not a matte clay finish either. It gives some sheen, but it’s not of the perpetually-wet shine variety.

It’s mostly water based, so it washes out fairly easily. It does contain some petrolatum and castor oil though, so it doesn’t get crispy and start flaking. Multiple dry combings will eventually break down the hold, but a wet comb will bring things back together well.

The scent is that of a salon product – that vaguely “watermelon Jolly Rancher” fragrance. Not objectionable, but not a classic barbershop aroma if that’s what you’re after.

At $20-22 for a 6-oz. jar, it is on the high end price-wise for its category. It does perform well, and appears to be a high-quality product for the money.

12. August 2014 · Comments Off on Quick Review: Jack Dean Eau de Quinine · Categories: Gentlemanly Pursuits, Old School Shaving and Grooming · Tags: , , ,

Jack Dean Eau de Quinine Bottle

I was looking for a tonic akin to Lucky Tiger with a more masculine fragrance.

Jack Dean Eau de Quinine does not appreciably improve the texture of your hair.

Jack Dean Eau de Quinine does not noticeably help to style your hair.

Jack Dean Eau de Quinine does not distinctly provide any hold to your hair.

Jack Dean Eau de Quinine does give the impression that your grandmother’s rose-scented bathroom air freshener has detonated on your head.

Pass.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off on Quick Tip: Pickling Jalapeños · Categories: Cooking, Food, Quick Tips · Tags: ,

Sliced jalapeno peppers in steel bowl

Here’s a quickie – pickle your own jalapeño peppers for salsa, nachos, sandwiches, salads, or anywhere else you want some chili goodness. Plus, you get to grow your own favorite pepper variety for the heat level you desire. You should be able to achieve greater potency than those flaccid rounds you get in a jar from the store.

You need:

15-20 jalapeño peppers
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
4 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 large garlic cloves

Hardware:

Large saucepan with lid
Screw-top jar or plastic container of about a quart capacity
Latex gloves (optional)

Peel the garlic cloves, and slightly crush (use the bottom of a glass or the flat side of a chef’s knife).

Combine water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and garlic in the saucepan. Cover.

Wash the peppers with cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Don your gloves. Slice about ¼ inch thick, discarding the stem end. Set sliced peppers aside. Remove gloves, or if you didn’t use them – WASH YOUR HANDS WITH DISH DETERGENT BEFORE TOUCHING YOUR EYES, NOSE, MOUTH, OR TENDER BITS. This is a lesson you only need to learn once the hard way.

Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from heat, add pepper slices and re-cover. Let sit for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure all the peppers are soaked in the brine. They will turn from bright to olive green.

Remove pepper slices and garlic to your container, and pour over enough liquid to cover. Keep in refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. If they last that long.

04. August 2014 · Comments Off on The Rustic Tart: Impressive but Easy · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , , , , , ,

Rustic bacon, cheddar, and carmelized tartDepending on what you fill it with and who you talk to, the free-form tart is also known as a croustade or galette. It is, in essence, a round of simple pastry crust onto which a few layers of flavorful sweet or savory ingredients have been piled, and the edges folded up. A pie without a pan. They look and taste delicious, and can be really easy to do. The photo to the left is of a croustade made with caramelized onions, and pre-cooking the onions was the most difficult and time consuming part. They’re also a great intro to baking, because they don’t have to be picture-perfect. They’re supposed to be a little rough, a bit wonky… rustic’s right in the name. If you can roll out dough into a roughly circular shape and spread jam on bread, you can make one of these.

So, I give you Rustic Bacon, Cheddar, and Caramelized Onion Tart, or if you want to be fancy about it, Croustade aux fromage avec oignons et lardons. Put that on your dinner party e-vite or next potluck signup list!

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Bonnie0003

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11. July 2014 · Comments Off on Easy Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles · Categories: Food · Tags: , ,

Bread and Butter Pickles in Black Bowl

Summer yields the bounties of the fresh vegetable harvest. Sometimes, this means finding things to do with a surplus of a given veg. With cucumbers, it’s easy – make refrigerator pickles! These are great for sandwiches, salads, dicing for relish, burgers, or even just snacking.

You need:

Cucumbers, washed

and for each pound of cucumbers,

1 cup cider or distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp whole coriander
¼ tsp brown mustard seed, whole
¼ tsp yellow mustard seed, whole
1 bay leaf

Slice cucumbers on a mandolin or with a standard food processor slicing blade to 1/8″ thick. Place each pound of sliced cucumbers into a quart container/jar.

Bring the other ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, reduce heat and maintain a steady simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for another 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf(s). Pour over cucumber slices, seal the containers, and shake to combine. Let cool for 20-30 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, if not overnight.

If you like, red pepper flake or sliced fresh chilies can be added to the cucumbers to provide some heat to go along with the sweet/sour flavor of the standard recipe.

10. July 2014 · Comments Off on Police Shelter Dog Program Cancelled Due to Excessive Fatalities · Categories: Blog Miscellania

An experimental program to train shelter dogs for obedience and service to the disabled has been cancelled shortly after it began. The “Cops and Canines” program run by the county animal welfare agency was intended to allow volunteer police officers to be paired with a dog from a local shelter, and the two would attend basic obedience and Canine Good Citizen classes together. Four weeks later, there were no graduates and no survivors.

Spokeswoman Janice Hardy described the tragic breakdown of the plan: “It was just totally unpredictable. We lost more than half of the animals on the first day of introductions. The dogs were a little excitable on meeting their trainers for the first time. Little did we know that when they ‘lunged’ on the end of their leads at the police trainers, the officers would be forced to defend themselves with their service weapons. Over 500 rounds were expended in the first hour.”

Officer Timothy Walkens of the Southern Precinct, who unloaded his pistol into a 15-pound cairn terrier after it refused to respond to  “drop it” and growled when its squeaky toy was taken away, explains his actions.

“When I approached the subject animal, it was guarding its Wubba aggressively. When I attempted to remove the contraband, the suspect later identified as “Colin” adopted a defensive posture and resisted arrest. I had no choice but to use deadly force. I felt threatened. Canines are unpredictable, and we have to take the appropriate safety precautions.”

Officer Bill Graul, shortly before he was forced to fatally shoot the dogs pictured for "failing to obey a lawful order."

Officer Bill Graul, shortly before he was forced to fatally shoot the dogs pictured for “failing to obey a lawful order.”

County Police Chief Angela Shepherd was contacted about the failure of the pilot program.

“These officers responded to situations where they thought their safety was in jeopardy, and acted according to their training. It’s an unfortunate outcome, but entirely in keeping with departmental procedure.”

The final blow to the project came on Thursday, when Patrolman Leonard Higgins was forced to discharge his 12-gauge riot gun into the four remaining trainees when all of them advanced on him after failing to heed a “stay” command. He has since been reassigned to the animal control detail.

In response to queries about why officers participating in the sessions couldn’t just leave their weapons outside the facility, a police union spokesman replied, “In no circumstances will we allow a law enforcement officer to be put in a situation where their personal security could be compromised. Every uniformed policeman or woman has a right to protect themselves as they feel appropriate.”

In a related story, 24 additional dogs are dead after a SWAT team responded to a patrol officer’s report of a pack of unrestrained canines on county land. It was later determined to be the community off-leash dog park. The department has refused comment as of publication.

 

Of course, this is thinly-disguised satire. But pretty much every excuse here has been used by some officer to explain why they were forced to use lethal force as their first option when encountering a dog. Police-related shootings of dogs – family pets – are on the rise, and firearms have become the go-to response to any off-leash, barking, or perceived protective canine; even if your dog is contained in your yard or house when police are present. If you think there are better ways of dealing with canines than shooting them, make your voice known to your police leadership and local government.