food and drink

My Uncle Joe’s Garden – A Veterans Day Remembrance

Originally published November 11, 2011

Four Cut Sunflowers by Vincent Van GoghJoseph Papak was a carpenter, my great uncle, and the only natural-born gardener I ever met. A railroad track ran alongside the duplex he and my Aunt Sue shared with my dad’s family in Monongahela, Pa., and Uncle Joe claimed the strip of rocky soil across the track for his garden. Polio forced him to walk with a cane as long as I knew him, but he scaled the gravel rise along the tracks, “just threw seeds on the ground,” and raised everything without fail. Broccoli, strawberries, corn, massive sunflowers lighting the entrance to the driveway, all in the constant gray of southwestern Pennsylvania. He also took over every unused patch of ground around the house and yard, always growing something year round. Beautiful asparagus shot up randomly along the wooden fence, like they’d taken root in each of his footsteps. He was the first person I ever saw compost, when I was just a little kid. He’d dump table scraps into a perfectly dug hole in the garden, sides as smooth as a beer keg, and cover it with a garbage can lid.

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NotFoolingAnybody.com Lives!

Hat Creek in Austin, TXOn May 3, 2012 I drove past Michelle’s Donut House on Santa Monica Blvd., a hilariously mangled former Winchells Donut House. I snapped a picture and then lamented on this blog that I couldn’t submit it to the long-lived but defunct Internet chronicle of such beautifully stupid storefront conversions, Not Fooling Anybody. Well, today I can. Not Fooling Anybody lives, and lazy entrepreneurs should not sleep well at night.

I daydreamed in that post about taking over and resurrecting NFA, but it turned out that its founder Liz Clayton had never given up on the site. She just needed a hand to resurrect it after a hacking and guide it into the twentyohteens. So I lent her one, and this week NotFoolingAnybody.com stepped out of its limo onto the red carpet (discreetly covering its personal area) just in time for its tenth anniversary.

The site now features 171 joy-inducingly awful repurposings, captured by an intrepid group of rangers from across North America. A couple of my favorites are below, but I encourage you to improve your day by perusing all 171. Better yet, submit your own. Any of my Milwaukee readers want to grab a shot of Siva Truck Rental and Leasing on W. St. Paul Ave.? It’s the place with the backwards Avis sign.

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Guy Fieri is America’s Krusty the Clown

Guy Fieri's S'mores Indoors PizzaChef Guy Fieri rocketed to a sad, modern version of superstardom thanks to Food Network and despite his continuing devotion to the music of Sammy Hagar. He’s now deep into his return trajectory, plunging through the selloutosphere, spraying a trail of Ed Hardy flames, his last traces of respectability burned away. Fieri has become a real-life version of the ultimate celebrity marketing strumpet, The Simpsons’ Krusty the Clown. As Krusty is to comedy, Guy is to food — a living cartoon, a face to be plastered on any product presented to him alongside a slow-cooker full of coin, a hollow symbol of grub for which quality is no object.

The first hints of Fieri’s decline appeared last November with the opening and subsequent New York Times kebabing of his massive Times Square mothership, Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, 1Which materialized just a few feet from my old office, a new singularity in an epicurean black hole so vast that leaving my building for lunch required a trek across two crosstown blocks to get a decent slice of pizza. but his Krustydom has been ensured with the release of his latest frozen food-style product, Guy Fieri’s S’mores Indoors Pizza.

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1. Which materialized just a few feet from my old office, a new singularity in an epicurean black hole so vast that leaving my building for lunch required a trek across two crosstown blocks to get a decent slice of pizza.

#SethBuyMeLunch Lunch No. 19 – Matt Gourley

Matt Gourley#SethBuyMeLunch returned last month, after a 90-day hiatus due to my going on lunch strike to protest the formation of low-Earth orbit clam beds. (I’m happy to report that my strike was 100% successful!) But restarting the lunch-buying machinery turned out to be just like riding a bike, in that I rarely rode a bike as a child because I was too lazy and preferred watching TV. It was also similar to riding a bike in that I’ve never ridden a bike with Matt Gourley while eating sandwiches at The Village Bakery.

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James Bond, Fatty

Caspian beluga caviarIt’s worth reading James Bond novels just for the food. Ian Fleming obviously loved eating as much as he loved Cruella de Vil’s cigarette holders. Definitely an epicure and probably a gourmand, he uses his characters as an excuse for pages and pages of hot cuisine porn. Fleming made a point of justifying it from the get go; early in the first 007 book, Casino Royale, Bond orders an extravagant and exceptionally particular meal, then explains to Vesper Lynd:

“You must forgive me,” he said. “I take a ridiculous pleasure in what I eat and drink. It comes partly from being a bachelor, but mostly from a habit of taking a lot of trouble over details. It’s very pernickety and old-maidish really, but then when I’m working I generally have to eat my meals alone, and it makes them more interesting when one takes the trouble.”

Another unspoken reason for the lavishness is that Bond rolls with the 1950s British upper class, and those honkiest of honkies loved eating. 1I’m told that’s in part due to the fact that the UK was just emerging from the last remnants of wartime rationing and was ready to gorge. I’m reading Moonraker, and as Bond prepares to preserve England’s security by facing down millionaire industrialist Hugo Drax in a dire game of bridge (just go with it), Fleming pauses for a two-page scene of 007 and M ordering their dinner at London’s premier card club, Blades:

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1. I’m told that’s in part due to the fact that the UK was just emerging from the last remnants of wartime rationing and was ready to gorge.

Long Live NotFoolingAnybody.com

While I was out today not driving seven miles specifically to pile down 2400 calories of Crunchwrap Supremes, I stumbled upon an excellent NotFoolingAnybody.com candidate. Below on the left, 63-year-old California donut chain Winchell’s Donut House. On the right, Michelle’s Donut House on Santa Monica Blvd. and Heliotrope Dr. in Los Angeles.

Winchell's vs. Michelle's: Not Fooling Anybody

My joy at this discovery was quickly tempered when I discovered that NotFoolingAnybody.com is tragically defunct.

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