Original Gravity

I enjoyed a first taste—to be honest, three first tastes— of Original Gravity brews at the Michigan Beer Festival late last month. I sampled their Belgian Training Wheels and 440 Pepper Smoker before an OG-veteran I was with persuaded me to try their Southpaw IPA. The Pepper Smoker was peculiar (smoky and peppery), but not the sort of thing I’m sure I’d want in a full glass. The Belgian Training Wheels was good, although I find a lingering banana-like note about which I remain undecided (i.e., better keep on the training wheels). But the Southpaw was one of the most memorable beers I had at the event, and OG’s setup was impressive down to their custom taps. I’d never visited their brewery in Milan, a small town 15-miles south from here along US-23, but after the Beer Fest and after hearing more about the place, I made mental note of it, adding it to a short list of places in the area worth visiting.

D., Is., and I spent Saturday morning and early afternoon at the Toledo Zoological Gardens, and the nice thing about the zoo, besides the baby elephant, the sloth bears (what I think of as my middle-age totem), and hippos, is that Original Gravity is located directly on the route back home. In fact, that could be the advertising pitch for our visit to the Toledo Zoo on Saturday: On the way home, you can exit in Milan, Mich., have a sandwich and a pint of Southpaw, and take a growler of Belgian Training Wheels to go.

We tried their veggie and grilled cheese sandwiches and ordered a side of hummus—all were better than expected, a definite cut above the competition. In fact, this has been one of my complaints about neighborhood brewery in Ypsi: the food is meh. OG doesn’t have an elaborate menu, but they’re doing it right. Great sandwiches made with fresh, local bread (Erie Bread Company, I think). The draw of Southpaw: great. And the growler of Training Wheels, well, probably more than I needed because I just won’t drink a full growler in a week. But I wanted to re-run the lingering notes experiment, and the growler—half of which remains in the fridge—was more than enough to collect new data.

Next time I get a growler, it’ll have to be before a cocktail party where I can share it with others interested in local/regional brews. And I don’t know whether OG will be bottling any time soon; either way, I’d happily go back, which of course means I am working to pencil in another family excursion to the Toledo Zoo soon.

Aisle Mich

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz lately about the Buy Michigan Now program. There’s a related festival in Northville this weekend. We didn’t make it over there, but the local television news coverage has portrayed it as a Michigan products showcase, with products amounting mostly to local foods, fashion, art.

This is the second annual festival, which means the BMN group has been around for a couple of years. Their web site challenges visitors to take a pledge. Nearly 5,000 people have done so to date. Like many pledges, with this one people promise they will think differently, that they will speak positively of Michigan:

I hereby pledge to play an active role in building a strong, vibrant, and diverse Michigan economy. I will be a part of the solution by speaking positively about the state, learning about our products and services, and making a concerted effort to buy from Michigan businesses. I will Think Michigan First!

I suppose this kind of thing will become increasingly common as we (all?) square with the consequences of economic dissipation–a products and services onslaught from elsewhere, too frequently from anywhere else but here. Despite the emphasis on economic stimulation via spending and consumption (also this fee structure for landing in a database), programs like these are reasonable attempts to affect how people think about the local. Granted, BMN is more Long Here than Long Now. But it’s a start, even if what the planet (and Detroit by proxy) really needs is more Long Here and Now.

It starts me thinking about related improvements. Ignoring for a second the spatio-categorical inertia common to all major grocery stores (specialty food markets seem willing to tinker with this), it would make sense for grocers to reconfigure ever so slightly around buy local programs like this one. BMN provides a PDF grocery guide, for example (Why is Bell’s not on the list?). But just think: if, instead of carrying the list around, I could walk into a store and pass through an area where products all came from the state I live in, I would be much more likely 1) to recall those products as viable options and 2) to purchase them. But radical rearrangement is at odds with an existing infrastructure unsuited to relocating some subset of dry goods, frozen foods, produce, and meats (even if Meijer already does something like this for a “Lunch on the go” cooler curiously positioned in the middle of aisle 7 or 8). Another route would be an added layer of labeling: big blue stickers on Michigan products (faceted classification for grocery products). And another would be some sort of intelligent environment device­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­–an app for the smartphone–that adds locative snapshots to a illuminate a product’s trail before arriving at the store and, while it’s at it, puts it in the context of a couple of recipes. Still a few years off (bad news for the ‘N’ in BMN, if so), yet redefining encounters with products in the spaces where we typically find and buy them might make appreciable progress toward a $10 per week spending habit that would, so the BMN promotional materials argue, scale all the way up to $38 million if adopted across the state.

Dinner Club

We are next up in the Dinner Club rotation. In just over three hours, we will welcome three families, ten guests total into our home for an evening of food and drink. Among them: teachers, environmental engineers, foodies, artists, and their tots. For most of the day, I have been preparing for this event. I am tired, sweating, allergic, etc. And I have been thinking about the rules of Dinner Club, which I will post intermittently throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening (in stolen moments), time permitting.

Rule 1. Sunshine.

Rule 2. Especially when you feel an argument brewing, do not mistake Dinner Club for Fight Club.

Rule 3. If the guests are pizzatarians, honor their special dietary needs as best you can.

Rule 4. No moving of furniture inside of 90 minutes to scheduled arrival.

Rule 5. No unplanned painting projects. Note: This is not only a Dinner Club rule, but a rule for any time guests are on their way.

Rule 6. Wolaver’s before, during, and after.

Brown Food

Brown Food

Y. enthusiastically eats a dish (appr. 2/3 cup) of Nutro Natural Choice Chicken Meal, Rice & Oatmeal Formula for Sensitive Stomachs every morning at 7:15 a.m. and every evening at 5:30 p.m. His food comes in a green bag. Soon we will convert him to one feeding daily. As you might recall, Y. is not a grazer; he must not be allowed to have constant access to his food or he will consume it until just beyond capacity.

Le Menu

My turn for grocery shopping this week, so I retrieved the goods on 2/10. And here is my plan, school lunch-menu style:

Monday: Vegetable chili (var. of this) with a loaf of thin-sliced sourdough.
Tuesday: Applesauce pancakes with veg-protein sausages and SW vegetable medley.
Wednesday: Homemade pizzas. Choice: ham, chicken, fresh basil, alfredo OR pepperoni, hot olive mix, tomato sauce.
Thursday: A tear-filled mug of lonesome (as the girls fly west for the weekend and Ph. and I enjoy bottomless bowl-o-cold-cereal?). Maybe a Stauffer’s bag meal. Also, I have the materials for chipped beef, a dish I haven’t had since 1985.
Friday: Cellophane delight leftovers (as Ph., too, vacates, gone skiing).
Saturday: Erawan Thai take-out in celebration of SU’s stunning win over Georgetown.
Sunday: Bowl of popcorn. Reminds me of a teammate in college who was not kidding (even though everyone laughed uncomfortably) when he said he curbed his hunger by filling up on water and going straightaway to sleep.

Ting-a-ling

Alone on a plate, a tingaling is not the most eye-appealing treat of the
season. But what of it? What their presentational aesthetic lacks is
recovered ten times over in their flavor. These are indulgent, easy cookies.

Ting-a-Ling

Just like I do every year (it is customary), I mixed together a batch of them
the other day. When I was a kid, these were a sure bet: a seasonal staple.
They were in all of my grandparents’ kitchens (or cookie tins, elsewhere
positioned) at the holidays. These simple cookies are, for me, like a portal to
another time and place. By scent alone they relocate me in Sheboygan, Wisc.,
fill my head with strong impressions of that happy, recurrent scene that played
out year after year throughout the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Tingalings

First, the family recipe:
1 – 8 oz. bag of butterscotch chips
1 – 6 oz. bag of semisweet chocolate chips
1 – 4 oz. can of chow mein noodles
1 – cup salted Spanish peanuts

When I made them the other day, however, I used the following combination
for a double-batch:
2 – 8 oz. bags of butterscotch chips
1 – 8 oz. bag of milk chocolate chips
2 – 6 oz. bags of chow mein noodles
2 – cups dry roasted peanuts

Combine the crunchy noodles and the peanuts in a medium bowl. In a
glass dish, melt the chips into a liquid. I did this using a medium
setting in the microwave. Pour the melted chocolate and butterscotch
over the dry ingredients in the bowl. Stir it together until
everything is covered. Spoon the mixture onto parchment, wax paper, or
aluminum foil, and let cool.

The
gobstuff archive
at E.W.M.–a well of alimentary delights–would not be
complete (nor ready for The Food Network to sponsor) without this recipe in it.

Poco de Pica


picoingredients

During the summer of ’00, I spent six weeks in Xalapa, Veracruzana, studying
language and culture at the Universidad de Veracruzana while on excursion from
UMKC, the institution from which I took my MA in Aughtgust of aught-aught
(language requirement completed). Typical arrangements: in pairs, students were matched with
families. I lived with a family on the south side of Xalapa, maybe two miles from the Universidad’s space near the central district; out the family’s dining
room windows, we looked toward
Orizaba
during most morning and evening meals.

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Notes from the Kitchen

Two gripes from the a.m.:
1. Separating the cheap coffee filters I bought recently requires an micro-beam
laser. Not that I could hold the device steady if I had one. I had
Is. in one arm while trying to pull away a single filter for what must have been
ten minutes. Like youthfulness, my dexterity is diminishing at an alarming
rate. Is. probably thought it was some kind of early morning game where I just
fiddle around with coffee filters for the pure pleasure in it (the crinkling,
the one-finger edge-brush, the sighs and grumping).
2. The wedge-dividing membranes in the naval oranges I bought Sunday at
P&C are far more chewy, thick, and pulpy than I could’ve imagined even in my
worse nightmares about eating oranges. Eating one danged orange wedge requires
more jaw work than mowing ten pieces of Super Bubble for half a day. Without removing the wrappers! Plain nasty, and with a thick, clingy albedo (I had to pull McPhee’s Oranges
from the shelf to remember what it was called, the white rind-like stuff…hate
it, even if it’s high in nutrients).

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T.G.I.P.B.P.F.

Sugar depressed? Down in the right-eating caloric dumps?
Suffering from post-holidaysal dietary balance? Worry not! Today is Peanut
Butter Pie Friday.

Peanut Butter Pie

Okay, so you get the picture. I cooked up a pair of delightfully
peanut-buttery PB pies a few minutes ago, working from a recipe given to me by a
co-worker in the gig I was working nine years ago. The conversation went
approximately as follows: D: That PB pie is really good. Co-worker: Want
the recipe? D: Okay, why not.

I have not had the peanut butter pie since. Not this peanut butter pie
nor any other. Not one time.

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