Tag Archives: food


2 Dec

At 8 a.m. we got breakfast. … It was a chicken biscuit sandwich, of course. It was the same deal for lunch at 12:30, which was chicken fingers. Dinner was a chicken sandwich served at senior citizen supper time, 5 p.m. There’s a snack later, around 9, which was chicken nuggets. I ate chicken four times in one day—fried chicken, no less. I can only really compare the feeling after that to how I felt after I ate a KFC Double Down.

From an account of the grand opening of the Chick-Fil-A in Merrillville, Indiana.

Being neither a Chick-Fil-A fan nor a consumer of fast-food meat, the entire ordeal—for which your reward is just more fried chicken, a year’s worth—sounds mostly terrifying, especially when you add in a Christian rock band that performed just for the parking-lot camp-out.

The  interview, however, is a fascinating read.

oscar cocktails, other pairings

17 Nov

Ken Walczak keeps up his cutting commentary and cocktail-making. The subject of his scourge this time around: everyone involved in the Oscar-host fiasco.

How do you give a dude like Brett Ratner a proper sendoff? How about with a shot of Kansas Spirit. … Kansas Spirit bills itself as “whiskey without the middle-aged yuck factor.” I bill it as nonsense, inspired by poseurs—and as the perfect pour for a Hollywood douchebag whose accomplishments include sleeping with women half his age, then publicly ridiculing their appearance, sexual performance, and ethnic background; linking the words “masturbation” and “shrimp grease” in the public imagination; and the music video for “Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag Being Crushed by Buildings.”

In other cocktail news, Drinkify pairs a drink to what you’re listening to. When listening to Gayngs’ 69-beats-per-minute groove, you should pour yourself six ounces of gin, served neat with a grapefruit twist. Phantogram requires a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale garnished with a cucumber. The “Of Montreal” is a bottle of Captain Morgan shaken up with a Monster energy drink.

I couldn’t stump it. They even had a drink recommendation for WU LYF: 10 oz. Microbrew, 10 oz. Lime juice, 6 oz. Damson Gin.

My musical tastes are apparently pretty narrow. Red wine was a popular pairing, from Wilco to Bon Iver to Mugison. The last I’m not sure about. More like eight ounces of Jack Daniels poured into a cup of boiling hot coffee, or a martini made with fish oil. SIMS was a surprise: water. Maybe the hip-hop artist doesn’t drink?

Check it out for yourself. I imagine there have been plenty of Drinkify-themed parties. People take turns choosing an artist and listening to the track the site plays while mixing up a new drink. Everyone has to finish it before the song ends. Could be fun. If I was DJ, though, everyone would apparently be asleep.

toast to the 9-9-9

9 Nov

I subscribed to GOOD’s Food Hub immediately. As an alternative media outlet, it promised to ignore conventional boundaries regularly. “We believe food is too important a topic to restrict the conversation to the usual suspects,” Nicola Twilley wrote when the online hub launched. “You’ll be as likely to meet a commodity trader, a synthetic biologist, or an industrial archaeologist as a chef or food activist … because both a neuroscientist and dishwasher have something interesting to tell us about what food is—and what it could be.”

But at some point I lost interest in what it was doing. The stories were becoming predictable (“New Farmers Markets Provide Health, Jobs Boost”) or sensational (“Child Slaves Made Your Halloween Candy. Stop Buying It.”) or just stupid (“The 10 Greatest Scanwiches Ever Scanned”). And yet, I didn’t delete it from my Reader. I kept checking in, browsing the headlines before clicking “Mark all as read.” Then today—snared no doubt by the name of a certain Republican candidate—I clicked “The 9-9-9: A Cocktail Inspired By Herman Cain.” Here’s what I discovered:  Continue reading

lab rats!

6 Sep

In my Google Reader today, stories of two very different laboratories.

Here in Chicago, Story Lab is just the latest in storytelling nights. The only requirement: the story is true. Seasoned writers or absolute amateurs are welcome, the creators say, as long as the piece is planned beforehand.

Story Lab happens every third Wednesday at the Black Rock Pub. This is an intriguing variation on Chicago’s increasing number of reading series, etc., in that though the works are prewritten, they aren’t necessarily published or even publishable. It’s just a night of true stories, possibly without a discernible point or punchline.

In a way it reminds me of El Stories, a short play composed entirely of true stories that took place on one of the city’s elevated trains. We went and saw ‘the Brown Line,’ and I was amazed at how absurd but entirely plausible each scene was. You ride the El long enough, and you come to believe anything is possible.

Michael McCauley told his tale at July's Story Lab.

Continue reading

golden corral, et al

31 Aug

Chicago Magazine‘s witty digital editor Whet Moser has cataloged his life according to chain restaurants. I can relate with the importance of Sonic and Golden Corral, but my favorite eatery was a place called Libby Hill, an apparently bubble-themed seafood restaurant located on the Eastern Seaboard. It was in a Libby Hill that Moser learned how much he “lived in his own head,” he says.

“One day I asked my mom to order for me because I couldn’t read the menu behind the counter. It didn’t occur to me I needed glasses. Good hush puppies.”

The brevity of that recollection had me chuckling for a while. His memories of Sonic are pretty good too:

“I’ll always associate Sonic with my one unhelpful experience in therapy. I’d talk for awhile, and my therapist would say, ‘I think what I’m hearing is…,’ and I’d think ‘Right, that’s why I told that story, that’s why people tell stories.’ I’ve always been better with stories than people. But I’d treat myself to the Sonic down the street as a reward for making it through the session, along with a stop at the used book store on the way home, because that really did help.”

I think my wife (about ten days from beginning a graduate program in marriage and family therapy) will appreciate—and agree, actually—with that one.

food service < factory work

20 Jul

In a report by GOOD on the state of the American waiter, the magazine notes that the food-service industry has added more than 216,000 jobs in the past 18 months, growth that is twice the national average. This has been going on for some time, not just in the past two years, and interestingly, these food-service jobs are what’s replacing old factory jobs. The benefits, however, are much worse.

“Back in the ’60s, so much of the working class was employed in factories. The jobs we’ve seen taking their place have been service sector jobs that don’t have labor protections. Only ten percent of workers get paid sick days and 90 percent don’t get health insurance from their employers. The fact is, most of these jobs are replacing work that used to be better.”

the barcode :: history & future

28 Jun

Today is the anniversary of the purchase of a pack of gum.

“On June 26, 1974, a white male by the name of Clyde Dawson entered Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio. He loaded up his cart with groceries and approached the checkout line. The cashier that day was Sharon Buchanan. At 8:01 a.m., she picked a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum out of his cart and scanned it. The gum has now been immortalized at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.”

The reason the gum has become something of a national treasure, writes Peter Smith for GOOD, is because it was the first item to be scanned using the Universal Product Code, or UPC, “the nondescript, monochrome rectangle that adorns nearly every retail item we purchase.”

Creative branding by Vanity Barcodes

Oddly, though the barcode has since been used as a “social surveillance tool, a sign of the devil, and an embodiment of the dull commercial uniformity of packaged supermarket goods,” the concept is evolving to something rather interesting. We look to Smith again (yet via a different article) to explain a phenomenon known as “ichthyologic name-swapping,” an intimidating term that simply refers to the fact that fish vendors are making up new types of fish, or selling one species as something else.

“Argentine Roughy, Cherry Snapper, and Salmon Trout only exist at the fish market. They’re fictitious names for fish that don’t exist. … Despite growing awareness about the origins of our food, we’re often served a completely different fish species than the ones we order. This comes with economic costs…[and] obfuscates the origins of fish, so contaminated or toxic food causing health problems often can’t be traced to the source.”

It’s in the next part that the barcode comes back into play.

“What’s interesting is that the same technology scientists and amateur sleuths have been using to detect mislabeled seafood could help combat the confusion and fraud. It’s called DNA barcoding, and it works by comparing gene sequences of a sample fish flesh to the 8,000 varieties stored in the International Barcode of Life Project.”

That project seeks to use its DNA barcodes to combat the market substitution Smith is talking about, but also assist researchers in understanding the natural history and ecology of fish species. Thirty-seven years ago, the barcode was first used to price a pack of chewing gum. In another ten, Smith conjectures, we might see inspectors with hand-held DNA sequencers, reading the genetic codes of the fish being sold around the world.

Bang Bang Coffee Show!

16 Jun

The Bang Bang Coffee Show is coming and, like most things these days, it could use some help to get off the ground—or onto the streets.

The concept: pie and coffee from a mobile truck with a carnivalesque theme, served up from some of the loveliest folks you’ll ever meet.

Those lovely people are Dave and Megan Miller, whom my wife and I are fortunate enough call friends, so we’ve watched this concept emerge, and I’m not joking when I say that this will be one of the coolest things tooling about on four wheels.

Even the Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile is no match for the Bang Bang Coffee Show’s exuberant spectacle, homemade pie, and small-batch coffee.

Here’s a bit from Dave and Megan:

Restaurants fear food trucks because if the food is good, they create competition. Our food and coffee is amazing, so they should shake in their pants. Speaking of shake…Megan’s shaker lemon pie is to die for.

A food truck requires a smaller budget than a cafe or restaurant which is perfect, because with our word of mouth fund raising we’ve already almost raised what we need. We spent the last few weeks acquiring the truck and learning what it takes to run a food truck properly. Now we’re ready.

I can vouch for just how sweet the truck is already, and when they’re not circling their block looking for a legal place to park the thing, they’re working on hard on putting the finishing touches on it.

Can’t wait for Bang Bang to get on the road, so donate a few bucks and get some sweet deals in return. Personally, I might throw in $100 just so I can have a pie named after me.

loco moco and other news

13 Mar

Reports from the lit world:

• our miniature universes are, in fact, connected

• DFW keeps writing from the grave

• Hawaii’s history is revealed through its incongruous eating habits

• design meets food (and everything meets everything else) via a British thesaurus

• and a Chicago poet elongates her vowels


Patrick Somerville’s delightfully titled The Universe in Miniature in Miniature has been getting a lot of local press recently, perhaps because many of its 30 interconnected short stories are set in Chicago, and it’s enough to pique my interest. The book breaks apart into “15 mini novels” and the limited-edition cover can be turned into a retro sci-fi mobile. Inside the stories are “aliens, universities dedicated to hair regrowth, and magical empathy-helmets,” writes Gapers Block.

Add to all this that Somerville will be reading at the release of The Pale King, David Foster Wallace’s latest posthumous effort, alongside Adam Levin, and I’m certain he’s someone worth paying attention to.


Sarah Vowell (comedic social commentator, This American Life contributing editor, and voice of the adorable Violet in The Incredibles)  tackles Hawaii’s incongruous diet (its love of plate lunches and loco moco) and makes an astonishingly fun trailer for it:

It brings new meaning to Anthony Doerr’s comments on books as recipes, which, according to GOOD, are ripe for a redesign.


Speaking of GOOD and recipe redesigns, The Flavour Thesaurus beautifully melds the worlds of design and food. By British food columnist Niki Segnit, the book “lists 99 flavors and common flavor pairings for home cooks, say, combining celery and horseradish or melding tomato and anchovy,” writes Peter Smith. “Each of the 900 pairings…comes with a short digression. You can learn about the history of the Bloody Mary, which didn’t originally include celery and horseradish, or read a brief description of pizza and umami.”


Finally, at a reading last night, I  got to see two local poets: the lovely Simone Muench, whom I’d heard of (she was featured recently in The Believer) and Jennifer Karmen, whom I had not but whose book, Aaaaaaalice, I am now on the hunt for. Neither of these women were the main event, but they were the stars of the show.