Archive for April 2017
My iKon S3S with the iKon “wave” handle is up for auction. This is really an excellent razor. The photo shows the bar-guard side. The other side has a comb guard, but the gap and angle are such that I use the razor exactly as I use a symmetric DE razor: use one side until it fills with lather, then switch to the other side. As I note in the listing, the heavy head (60g) drives the blade’s edge for a smooth efficiency in cutting. The razor is well balanced since the stainless handle is also fairly heavy (65g).
I’m also selling a Vie-Long horsehair brush:
I enjoyed the D.R. Harris Rose shaving cream as a change of pace. I squeeze out a little on my fingertip, smear it on my (washed, wet) stubble, then use a damp brush—in this case, my Copper Hat silvertip with the Delrin® handle—to work up the lather. It was a very nice lather, and the 102 with a newish blade did a flawless job. This really is a superb razor for me: extremely comfortable, highly efficient, and never producing razor burn and very rarely even a tiny nick. A splash of D.R. Harris Pink After Shave finished the job.
Possibly due to the two-day stubble, the result this morning was extremely smooth. What a great way to start the week!
This recipe we’ve had a couple of times, and it’s excellent. The original, by Melissa Clark, is here; the version below reflects my changes (one of which is to use Petrale sole in place of flounder, since I never see flounder here—must be an East Coast fish).
1 tablespoon avocado oil (high smoke point) or olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, more for drizzling
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch-thick slice peeled fresh ginger root, grated (about 2 tablespoons)
2 bunches mustard greens, cleaned and chopped, including stems
1 tablespoon soy sauce, more for drizzling
1 tablespoon Red Boat fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
1.5 pounds Dover sole (2 lbs is doable, but you have to cook it substantially longer)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat oils in a large skillet. Add garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add mustard greens, soy sauce, fish sauce, and water, and sauté until greens are partially cooked, 10 minutes longer.
Spread greens out in pan. Season sole with salt and pepper, and place on top of greens. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium, and let fish steam until just cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. If pan dries out before fish is cooked through, add a little more water, a teaspoon at a time. (That’s never been a problem)
Uncover pan and drizzle with a little sesame oil and soy sauce. Use a slotted spoon to transfer a section of the dish, fish and greens, to plates or bowls.
This good enough that we’ve repeated. The combination works very well.
Lauren Collins writes in the New Yorker:
In February of 2015, Kathleen Purvis, the food editor of the Charlotte Observer, drove to Birmingham, Alabama, to attend Food Media South, an annual symposium. The keynote session, “Hey, You, Pitch Me Something,” was meant to be a friendly wind-down to a weekend of talks. Participants were invited to get up in front of the editor of the Web magazine the Bitter Southerner and, well, pitch him something.
There were several hundred people in the room. Purvis knew that in the name of politeness she should probably stay quiet, but she couldn’t resist the opportunity to “toss a good word grenade,” she recalled later, into a clubby crowd that she felt tended to overlook, along with chiffon cakes and canning, some of the most complicated questions about Southern cuisine. She raised her hand, and the editor nodded her way.
“Men are the new carpetbaggers of Southern food writing,” she said.
He replied, “Sold.”
The resulting essay argues that “the Southern food-writing world has been unduly influenced, usurped, yes, even invaded, by a barbecue-entranced, bourbon-preoccupied and pork belly-obsessed horde of mostly testosterone-fueled scribes,” who dwell on hackneyed tales of Southern eccentricity without developing “the clear-eyed vision” to see them in a contemporary light. The piece generated controversy, though not as much as Purvis’s investigation into the racial dimensions of the practice of putting sugar in corn bread. “Honest to God, I really hate that hokey-jokey Hey-us-Southerners-aren’t-we-cute stuff,” she told me. “I’ve always said that my beat is food and the meaning of life.”
Gamely, the organizers invited her to the conference the next year as a speaker. “I was getting ready to get up and talk,” Purvis said. “I was sitting there very quietly in a corner, and a woman came up to me and said, ‘So, is it O.K. to go back to the Piggie Park?’ ”
The woman was referring to Maurice’s Piggie Park, a small chain of barbecue restaurants, established in West Columbia, South Carolina, in 1953. The original restaurant occupies a barnlike building on a busy intersection and is presided over by a regionally famous electric marquee that features the boast “world’s best bar-b-q,” along with a grinning piglet named Little Joe. The Piggie Park is important in the history of barbecue, which is more or less the history of America. One reason is that its founder, Maurice Bessinger, popularized the yellow, mustard-based sauce that typifies the barbecue of South Carolina’s Midlands area. Another is that Bessinger was a white supremacist who, in 1968, went to the Supreme Court in an unsuccessful fight against desegregation, and, in 1974, ran a losing gubernatorial campaign, wearing a white suit and riding a white horse.
In 2000, when the Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse dome, Bessinger raised Confederate flags over all his restaurants. (By then, there were nine.) A king-sheet-size version went up over the West Columbia location, where he had long distributed tracts alleging, for example, that “African slaves blessed the Lord for allowing them to be enslaved and sent to America.” He was a figure whose hate spawned contempt, leading a writer from the Charleston City Paper to fantasize about how “Satan and his minions would slather his body in mustard-based BBQ sauce before they dined.”
In 2007, Bessinger, who suffered from Alzheimer’s at the end of his life, handed the business over to his two sons, Paul and Lloyd, and a daughter, Debbie. In the months before his death, in 2014, they took down the flags and got rid of the slavery pamphlets. “Dad liked politics,” Lloyd, who serves as the public face of the operation, told a reporter. “That’s not something we’re interested in doing. We want to serve great barbecue.”
By the time the news reached Kathleen Purvis, she hadn’t eaten Bessinger’s barbecue in nearly three decades. She grew up in Wilson, North Carolina, where her father was an R.C. Cola salesman and barbecue sauce is made with vinegar. Early in her career, she’d become a fan of the Bessinger family’s line of packaged foods—“handy for a quick dinner when I was working nights”—but, she wrote, in an article in the Observer in December, “When I learned about Bessinger’s history, I stopped buying his products. I followed a simple policy on the Piggie Park: I didn’t go there. Ever.” During the flag scandal, thousands of South Carolinians made the same call, going cold turkey. “I first made Maurice’s acquaintance when I was a child,” the barbecue expert William McKinney wrote, on the Web site of the Southern Foodways Alliance. “His barbecue was sold in the freezer aisle of the grocery store. It would bubble up in our family’s oven, its orange sauce as vivid as a river of lava. My mother would pack his barbecue in my lunch bag routinely, and I ate those sandwiches all the way through high school, wrapped up in aluminum foil and still a touch warm once lunch time came around.” It was as though Jif peanut butter or Katz’s Deli had become irredeemably tainted.
The Piggie Park had bad vibes, but it retained a pull on the community. For barbecue obsessives, it held a special fascination as one of the few restaurants in the country to still cook entirely over hickory wood, using no electricity or gas. One prominent Columbia resident, a black man, told me that he was addicted to Bessinger’s sauce, but that he would never admit it in public. The regime shift, then, represented a touchy moment. Some people wanted to go only if things had changed (but, if they were going to go, they wanted to get there before things had changed too much). For others, no amount of change was ever going to mitigate the legacy of a man who had caused so much hurt. Even asking if it was O.K. to return was a form of blindness to that pain. “They could change the last name, redo the building, then dig the old man up . . . it still wouldn’t matter to those who continue to carry the ‘chip on the shoulder’ mentality,” a man named James Last, of Wilmington, North Carolina, wrote in response to Purvis’s article, prompting Durward White, of Katy, Texas, to reply, “Are you saying no matter how vile and disrespectful his actions were we should move on? People still can’t move on from Tom Brady and deflate gate and that was 3 years ago.”
Barbecue might be America’s most political food. The first significant reference to it that the barbecue scholar Robert F. Moss has been able to find is in “The Barbacue Feast: or, the three pigs of Peckham, broiled under an apple-tree,” an account of a 1706 banquet in Jamaica. The revellers were English colonists, but the pigs were “nicely cook’d after the West Indian manner”: whole, over coals, on long wooden spits on which they turned as a cook basted them in a spicy sauce (green Virginia pepper and Madeira wine), using a foxtail tied to a stick. Native Americans on the East Coast of North America used similar cooking techniques. But the main thing about barbecues is that they were social affairs, a day’s entertainment for the community. Between 1769 and 1774, George Washington attended at least six of them, he wrote in his diary, including “a Barbicue of my own giving at Accotinck.”
A whole hog can feed as many as a hundred people. Barbecues, often held on the Fourth of July, became overtly political in the nineteenth century. As Moss writes in “Barbecue: The History of an American Institution,” they were “the quintessential form of democratic public celebration, bringing together citizens from all stations to express and reaffirm their shared civic values.” They adhered to a ritualized format: parade, prayer, reading of the Declaration of Independence, oration, and dinner in a shady grove near a drinking spring, after which dignitaries gave a series of “regular” toasts (thirteen of them, on patriotic subjects), followed by “voluntary” toasts from the masses (thirty or forty, on issues ranging from local elections to the free navigation of the Mississippi, or whatever else happened to be the day’s concerns). Often, the festivities turned rowdy. If an antebellum politician had wanted to rile folks up about building a wall, he would have done it at a barbecue.
Before the Civil War, enslaved men often cooked these civic meals. They prepared their own feasts, too, either sanctioned by their owners or organized on the quiet. Much of the planning for the rebellions organized by Gabriel Prosser and Nat Turner took place at barbecues. After emancipation, black men continued to be some of the country’s leading pit masters, catering enormous spreads that featured everything from barbecued hogs, shoats, chickens, and lambs to stuffed potatoes, stewed corn, cheese relish, puddings, coffee, and cigars. In 1909, the Times noted the death of a man born around 1865, on a plantation in Edgefield County, South Carolina. “Pickens Wells, . . .
Adam Gopnik writes in the New Yorker:
Suddenly, Trump Derangement Syndrome is a thing, or is trying to become one.
We’re told by many wise and well-meaning people that it is a huge and even fatal mistake for liberals (and for constitutional conservatives) to respond negatively to every Trump initiative, every Trump policy, and every Trump idea. There are bound to be—in an Administration staffed not by orcs and ogres but for the most part by the usual run of military people and professional politicians—acceptable actions, even admirable initiatives, and we would do ourselves and our country a huge disservice by simply responding to them all with the same reflexive hatred. This may be especially true if that reflexive hatred, however unconsciously, mirrors and mimics the reflexive hatreds of the Trump White House itself. We owe it to our country and to our sanity to go on a case-by-case basis, empirically evaluating each action as it takes place, and refusing to succumb to the urge to turn politics into a series of set responses—exactly the habit, after all, that we so often deplore in Trump and the people around him.
This is a perfectly reasonable assertion, and one that would count for a lot in pretty much any semi-normal circumstance. The problem is that it refuses to see, or to entirely register, the actual nature of Trump and his actions. Our problem is not Trump Derangement Syndrome; our problem is Deranged Trump Self-Delusion. This is the habit of willfully substituting, as a motive for Trump’s latest action, a conventional political or geostrategic ambition, rather than recognizing the action as the daily spasm of narcissistic gratification and episodic vanity that it truly is.
The bombing of Syria, for instance, was not a sudden lurch either in the direction of liberal interventionism, à la Bill Clinton in the lands that were once Yugoslavia, nor was it a sudden reassertion of a neo-con version of American power, à la both Bushes in Iraq. It was, as best as anyone can understand, simply a reaction to an image, turned into a self-obsessed lashing out that involved the lives and deaths of many people. It was a detached gesture, unconnected to anything resembling a sequence of other actions, much less an ideology. Nothing followed from it, and no “doctrine” or even a single speech justified it. There is no credible evidence that Trump’s humanity was outraged by the act of poisoning children, only that Trump’s vanity was wounded by the seeming insult to America and, by extension, to him. It may be perfectly true that the failure of the Obama Administration to act sooner in Syria will go down forever, in the historical ledgers, as a reproach against it; or it may be that the wisdom of the Obama Administration in not getting engaged in another futile Middle Eastern folly will go down in its favor. But it is self-deluding to think that Trump’s action was meant to be in any way remedial. It was purely ritual, and the ritual acted out was the interminable Trumpist ritual of lashing out at those who fail to submit, the ritual act of someone whose inner accounting is conducted exclusively in terms of wounds given, worship received, and winnings displayed. (Perhaps his elder daughter, Ivanka, did play some small part in the action, as her brother Eric suggested in an interview, but this is hardly a comfort; the politics of a mad king with a court are no more reassuring than those of a mad king alone.)
Similarly, the current revival of a repeal-and-replace plan for Obamacare is clearly empty of all value, in its promoter’s mind, save that of publicity. It was painfully, absurdly apparent, in the last go-around, that Trump had no idea what Obamacare actually consists of or how it works, or what the Republican replacement bill did or how it worked, or, indeed, how medical insurance works in the first place and what exactly is involved in providing it. (The very rich are different from you and me; they have other people filling out forms for them.) The claim, made in the campaign, that he would supply universal insurance at a low cost, even to those with preëxisting conditions, didn’t even rise to the level of wishful thinking. Wishful thinking involves thought. Instead, it was, as with the Duke and Dauphin in “Huckleberry Finn,” a way of mouthing words that might placate a crowd or assert his own magical powers. It was simply an episode in a game show in which someone (always Trump) had to win and someone else (anyone who won’t submit to him) had to lose. Even to call this zero-sum thinking is to flatter it as thought. . .
Phillip Larkin writes with stunning clarity:
It is sometimes useful to remind ourselves of the simpler aspects of things normally regarded as complicated. Take, for instance, the writing of a poem. It consists of three stages: the first is when a man becomes obsessed with an emotional concept to such a degree that he is compelled to do something about it. What he does is the second stage, namely, construct a verbal device that will reproduce this emotional concept in anyone who cares to read it, anywhere, any time. The third stage is the recurrent situation of people in different times and places setting off the device and re-creating in themselves what the poet felt when he wrote it. The stages are interdependent and all necessary. If there has been no preliminary feeling, the device has nothing to reproduce and the reader will experience nothing. If the second stage has not been well done, the device will not deliver the goods, or will deliver only a few goods to a few people, or will stop delivering them after an absurdly short while. And if there is no third stage, no successful reading, the poem can hardly be said to exist in a practical sense at all.
What a description of this basic tripartite structure shows is that poetry is emotional in nature and theatrical in operation, a skilled recreation of emotion in other people, and that, conversely, a bad poem is one that never succeeds in doing this. All modes of critical derogation are no more than different ways of saying this, whatever literary, philosophical or moral terminology they employ, and it would not be necessary to point out anything so obvious if present-day poetry did not suggest that it had been forgotten. We seem to be producing a new kind of bad poetry, not the old kind that tries to move the reader and fails, but one that does not even try. Repeatedly he is confronted with pieces that cannot be understood without reference beyond their own limits or whose contented insipidity argues that their authors are merely reminding themselves of what they know already, rather than re-creating it for a third party. The reader, in fact, seems . . .
Nicholas Dodman, professor emeritus of behavioral pharmacology and animal behavior at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, writes in TheConversation.com:
Twitter’s been on fire with people amazed by cats that seem compelled to park themselves in squares of tape marked out on the floor. These felines appear powerless to resist the call of the #CatSquare.
This social media fascination is a variation on a question I heard over and over as a panelist on Animal Planet’s “America’s Cutest Pets” series. I was asked to watch video after video of cats climbing into cardboard boxes, suitcases, sinks, plastic storage bins, cupboards and even wide-necked flower vases.
“That’s so cute … but why do you think she does that?” was always the question. It was as if each climbing or squeezing incident had a completely different explanation.
It did not. It’s just a fact of life that cats like to squeeze into small spaces where they feel much safer and more secure. Instead of being exposed to the clamor and possible danger of wide open spaces, cats prefer to huddle in smaller, more clearly delineated areas.
When young, they used to snuggle with their mom and litter mates, feeling the warmth and soothing contact. Think of it as a kind of swaddling behavior. The close contact with the box’s interior, we believe, releases endorphins – nature’s own morphine-like substances – causing pleasure and reducing stress.
Along with Temple Grandin, I researched the comforting effect of “lateral side pressure.” We found that the drug naltrexone, which counteracts endorphins, reversed the soporific effect of gentle squeezing of pigs. Hugs, anyone?
Also remember that cats make nests – small, discrete areas where mother cats give birth and provide sanctuary for their kittens. Note that no behavior is entirely unique to any one particular sex, be they neutered or not. Small spaces are in cats’ behavioral repertoire and are generally good (except for the cat carrier, of course, which has negative connotations – like car rides or a visit to the vet).
One variation on this theme occurs . . .