Sunday, October 25, 2015


When I was a kid I drank a lot of dandelion and burdock, a fizzy drink that I suppose was really just a kind of root beer.  I think it was made by Barr’s, although I haven’t been able to find any old image of the packaging that rings any nostalgic bells.  It definitely game in a bottle rather than a can, however “original.”

At the time I didn’t really know what I was drinking.  I knew what a dandelion was, but I didn’t see how you could drink it, and I had no idea whatsoever about burdock.

If there’d been a copy of Culpeper’s Herbal in the house I could have read this under “Government and Virtues.”
“Venus challengeth this herb for her own; and by its seed or leaf, you may draw the womb which way you please, either upward by applying it to the crown of the head, in case it falls out, or downward in fits of the mother, by applying it to the soles of the feet; or, if you would stay it in its place, apply it to the navel, and that is likewise a good way to stay the child in it.”

I’m not sure this would actually have left me much wiser.  But at least I do now know what the plant looks like – those indeed are the burrs, though the drink is evidently made from the root.

Now I discover that dandelion and burdock drinks are newly fashionable or retro or possibly even hipsterish.  Thus:

But wait, there's more. Just the other day I went to a Japanese restaurant called Toshi Sushi where I had these distinctly non-sushi-ish “burdock chips.”

And they tasted great; rooty, and quite a lot like parsnips.  Maybe there’s a gap in the market for parsnip soda.  Culpeper also tells us “the seed is much commended to break the stone, and causeth it to be expelled by urine,” which is well worth remembering.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Want to see some pictures of women with martinis?  Well of course you do.

In his rather good book Martini Straight Up Lowell Edmunds theorizes that the martini is a drink of ambiguities, civilized and uncivilized, sensitive and tough, a drink that unites and a drink that separates.

And one of its more interesting ambiguities, if you ask me, is that IT can be very masculine but also very feminine, or do I mean gender fluid?  Sure, it’s associated with the James Bonds and Roger Sterlings of this world, but it’s equally associated with women.

Nora Charles of Thin Man fame must have a good claim to be the first famous female character to be associated with the martini, although she was usually drinking them with husband Nick.

Actually I always had a bit of trouble with the Thin Man novels because it seemed to me that Nick and Nora drank so much it was hard to believe they’d ever find their way to the door, let alone out into the world to track down clues and villains. 

Perhaps the drinking wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, and in recent years the American sitcom has often featured, and sometimes it seems that it’s required to feature, the slutty, inebriate, martini-drinking gal pal.

I suspect Endora in Bewitched was a precursor of this, though it being the times, and she being a mother-in-law, she wasn’t slutty in the current sense.

But consider Christine Baranski in Cybill, and also consider her often quoted remark, “Really, can anyone drink several martinis at lunch?:

Consider Megan Mullalley in Will and Grace:

Consider Kim Cattrall in Sex and the City, here she is drinking a martini on a plane – which is very fancy, if a little improbable.

Consider Jessica Walter in Arrested Development:

Consider Krysten Ritter in (I think) Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23:

I’m sure there are those who’d say that alcoholism in women isn’t the very funniest of comedy tropes, but hey, it’s only entertainment.  However, if you really want a fictional, female martini drinker, it’s going to be hard to beat this fatal dame on the cover of Man Hater by J.X. Williams: 

The guy’s fallen over the balcony to his doom, and she’s still got half her drink left.  And although she’s naked, she’s kept her high heels on, which frankly is the kind of man hating that a lot of men can live with.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Having 8 or 9 hours to spare, and wanting to have a new smoked meat  adventure I dug out a recipe from the New York Times’ Sam Sifton for Pulled Lamb Shoulder.  And as he’d be the first to admit, it’s not actually not his recipe: it comes a book by Joe Carroll titled Feeding the Fire.

Sifton writes, “Mr. Carroll is hardly barbecue royalty. He’s a home cook from New Jersey with no formal culinary training who runs a small kingdom of bars and restaurants in Brooklyn and Philadelphia devoted to the pleasures of live-fire cooking, most notably Fette Sau and St. Anselm.”  He then adds, “This pulled lamb is an homage to the barbecued mutton of Western Kentucky. Smoke the meat over charcoal and wood, not gas. It’s bonkers delicious.”

Well, I know next to nothing about Western Kentucky or its barbecued mutton, though I’m now on the case.  The big attraction of the recipe was the rub featuring ground expresso beans – along with the usual brown sugar, garlic, cumin and whatnot.  (There’s a link to the recipe at the end of this post.)

Sifton (and perhaps Carroll) display the pulled lamb shoulder like this, which misses some of the grandeur, if you ask me.

Melina Hammer for The New York Times

Mine looked like this when it went in:

And like this when it came out (you understand that it’s not burned to a cinder – the black stuff is the smoked espresso rub):

And it looks like this when you cut (rather than pull) it:

It was indeed “bonkers delicious” – a phrase I shall be using more often from now on).  Not the least of the appeal; there’s still a bag of rub left in the fridge and I’m looking around for other things that need rubbing.  Well, what doesn’t?

That link:

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Is there nothing that a potato and wheat based stackable snack chip can’t do?  Apparently not.

 Image by Patrick Sisson.

Above are some artfully (all right, not all THAT artfully) arranged Pringles displayed by the Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto to show to show how he gets inspired.  They were on show at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, titled “Architecture is Everywhere”.    

Imagine what he could do with some genuine potato crisps/chips.  Like this?