About Me

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I'm a guy who likes to cook, eat, and drink, but not necessarily in that order. This blog is nothing fancy; just my random thoughts about anything that can be baked, roasted, or fried. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Is It Midnight Yet?

“For just one night let’s not be co-workers. Let's be co-people.”

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

© 2013 Chris Terrell
Don't have too many of these at the holiday office party!
This wild ride called 2016 is coming to a close. Some of us will, no doubt, wrap the year up with a traditional New Year's Eve party, an odd tradition that, for many us, means the first day of the new year is spent downing a lot of aspirin or even a little Hair-of-the-Dog.  The one advantage that a typical NYE party does have, however, is this: it is NOT the holiday office party—that annual party many of us survived several weeks ago and, one would hope, has now long been forgotten by its participants. 

There are many different types of office parties depending on where you work and in what kind of industry you work. (Lawyers can be pretty wild when let out of their pinstriped cages.) To better understand the myriad office parties/work parties (or any party for that matter), I decided to compare them to some of my favorite movies. And to keep this blog entry as closely related to food as possible, I’ve quoted a line from the movie that relates to food or eating. I’ve now decided to make this a fun movie game: find the foodie quote in movies not ostensibly related to food.

The Godfather (Part I or II)

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

These are the office parties where your boss expects you to attend. In fact, it is probably required. When you get the invitation, you can hear your boss, sitting in the cold recesses of his top floor corner office, speaking coldly to his secretary: “I'll make him an offer he can't refuse.” These are typically invite-only parties, reserved for “upper management.” This fact creates envy amongst your co-workers who were not invited, thereby adding to the stress of the evening. If they only knew that you would prefer to trade in your invite on some kind of invite exchange and stay home with a six-pack of PBR, a pizza, and the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

The Graduate

Mr. Braddock: Ben, this whole idea sounds pretty half-baked.

Benjamin: Oh, it's not. It's completely baked.

This is the kind of party in which a boozy Mrs. Robinson wanna-be is in attendance. She spends the whole night trying to drag you into the back corner, whilst telling you how bored she is. This particular party guest, however, is in excellent shape for her age (expensive Pilates classes) and shows up one step ahead of the competition in terms of how many drinks she’s had. Her dress is expensive and low-cut and she always stands too close, with one hand glued to the small of your back.  Now don’t get me wrong, I thought Anne Bancroft was hot as hell in that movie and Benjamin Braddock was a fool at first, but it is a lot different when your office party’s version of Mrs. Robinson is the wife of an executive VP who wants you to marry their daughter. Of course, you spend the whole time worrying that you don’t drink too much and do something stupid. To borrow a line from the movie above: “women are more dangerous than shotguns.”

Another use for this movie reference would be the party with the really bad food; food that tastes like…shall we say….plastic? Oh come on, you remember:

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

Forest Gump

“My momma always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.’”

Remember Bubba Blue from Forrest Gump? He was the guy who talked about 2,465 different ways to prepare shrimp: “You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it.” Well, this is the party where there’s always that one guest you try to avoid—maybe it’s Bob from accounting or Janice from the mail room—who thinks you are their best friend (or at least the only person too polite not to run away) and who proceeds to talk your ear off, as you try to figure out how to talk to that cute new girl in HR. They will tell you every boring detail of their otherwise dull life, as you try and pull away, reflexively drinking from a beer that you finished about twenty minutes ago. 

Titantic

“Why do they insist on announcing dinner like a damned cavalry charge?”

This is the office party where we know how it's going to end, and we know that it is going to end badly.  Like Mr. Fleet in the crow’s nest who first sees the iceberg dead ahead, the sense of inevitable doom is palpable.  These office parties are more typical for smaller companies  where everyone knows each other; the hierarchy is rather flat; and the workforce is young. Think dot com start-up or even a restaurant. I’ve been to these parties. Eventually, someone gets way too drunk. Someone gets way too belligerent. And someone gets way too frisky. And like The Hangover, Parts 1-16, no one ever remembers a damn thing in the morning. As a result, no one gets fired!

Midnight in Paris

“[B]ut I will say that we both like Indian food, not all Indian food, but the pita bread, we both like pita bread, I guess it’s called naan.”

This is the office party you haven’t been to in a long time, or one in which old friends or a girlfriend plans to attend, or even an party at the company or firm where you worked for many years. As a result, you have very unrealistic, if not downright romantic, notions about what to expect at such a party. As Gil discovers, the idealized past wilts in the blazing noonday sun of the present. But like the dialogue in Midnight in Paris, the conversation amongst old friends is relaxed and nostalgic and, like an old sweater, it feels comfortable even if a bit tight around the middle.

Well, there you have it—the unofficial five categories of office parties explained through the movies. Think of this as a public service announcement.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

What you hear coming from your radio this time of year is not Sleigh Ride or The Christmas Song, but a train whistle of inevitability. With only about 36 hours left, Christmas is coming at you like a Japanese bullet train. And speaking of bullet trains, there is real cause for concern that if I eat one more piece of rum cake and have one more glass of eggnog, that the button on my jeans may pop off and fly across the room and take out someone’s eye.

Christmas is as much about food (and drinking) as it is about presents. But at least the presents don't make us fat! So in the spirit of the season, let’s talk about Christmas food. After all, next month, we’ll all be talking about diets. Ugh.

And when it comes to Christmas food and drink, what two always come to mind (even if we never have any)? Yep, eggnog and fruit cake.

EGGNOG

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, eggnog is enjoying something of a comeback.  In the article, Joe Miller, director of marketing at Trickling Creamery in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, is quoted as saying, “[w]e’re getting a lot of coffee shops and restaurants doing interesting things with eggnog.” Really? I’m not sure I would put the word “interesting” and eggnog in the same sentence.

The second question most of ask about eggnog (the first one being, “why the hell would anyone drink that?”), is what is “nog”? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, nog was "a kind of strong beer brewed in East Anglia.” That makes sense, because about the only way to drink this stuff is with copious amounts of bourbon. And spiked ‘nog is certainly helpful at those holiday gatherings. If your Aunt Rita is going on and on about your Uncle Ralph, then slip her a little eggnog with a lot of Jim Beam.

FRUITCAKE

Around the holidays, I try to remember the less fortunate. I get toys for the angel tree at work. I put money in the Salvation Army kettles. I buy a fruitcake, that multi-colored, dusty brick orphan alone on the shelf at the Piggly Wiggly. (I don’t think a new fruitcake has been made since 1978; they just get passed from family to family, year after year.) 

It’s Christmas, and I get sentimental at this time of year, and I’ve always felt a bit sorry for fruitcake. Let’s face it: fruitcake may be the most maligned and ridiculed food in the Western world. But it shouldn’t. Fruit cake is nothing more than cake with dried fruit and nuts, hence the name. And based on that definition, fruitcake has been around a long time. The Romans ate a type of fruitcake that consisted of pomegranate seeds in a barley mash.  From there, it spread to the rest of Europe and then on to Aisle 4 at your local supermarket. 

And while I don’t eat fruitcake very often, when I do it’s Claxton. This iconic fruitcake has been made in Claxton, Georgia, for a hundred years. But just because Claxton has been around a long time, doesn’t mean it's not in step with the times. Claxton now makes something called ClaxSnax, which according to the company’s website is “Claxton Fruit Cake by the slice, individually wrapped for freshness.” What’s next ? One hundred calorie “ClaxSnax” packs? (For the record, that would be a piece of fruitcake the size of a quarter—have you read the calorie count on the back of the box?!)


I’ve been told that fruitcake is not that hard to make and can actually be made quite well. The jury is still out on that one and besides, the holidays are nearly done and I’m done with cooking, so maybe next year. Until then, grab a fruitcake from your local grocery store at half-off and scarf down the last few fatty calories before the new year, when we all will be forced to hit the gym!


Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Holiday on Ice

“Eggnog tastes 80% better in a collared cardigan sweater.” —Jack Nicholson—



Starting on Thanksgiving morning, with that first Bloody Mary, and ending with that last glass of Champagne on New Year’s Eve, the holidays are a liver-busting, moonshine marathon. There’s rum cake, rum balls, rum punch, red wine, white wine, brown water, and plenty of bubbly. It’s a wonder we remember the holidays at all. But then again, maybe that’s the point. Do you really want to remember your obnoxious brother-in-law and Aunt Ethel’s fruitcake?

Of course, at one point in our nation’s history, such revelry would have landed you in the pokey. We’ve forgotten how much easier (and legal) it is for us to get a little tipsy and flirt with our secretaries at the office holiday party.


And so during this time of giving and giving thanks, it is only proper that we remember an obscure date that went unnoticed about ten days ago: the end of Prohibition. On December 5, 1933, the humble State of Utah adopted the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, thus making it possible for many a husband to tolerate his mother-in-law at Christmas. 


But how the heck did Prohibition even happen in the first place? Did we really amend the oldest written constitution in the world to outlaw non-GMO drinks that have been around since ancient Egypt? 


Yep, we sure did.


Party Pooper!
On January 16, 1919, Nebraska became the 35th state to ratify the 18th amendment. And one year after ratification, on the  stroke of midnight on Saturday, January 17, 1920, the manufacture and the sale and the transportation of intoxicating liquor was prohibited in every corner of our great republic. Surely the irony is not lost on me that Prohibition began on a Saturday. 

To add insult to injury, the enabling act for the amendment was called the Volstead Act, named after Congressman Andrew Volstead of Minnesota. It is only fitting that an act to take all the fun out of Christmas was named after someone who sounds like a bad guy from a Harry Potter novel.

Prohibition’s proponents were mostly rural; its opponents, mostly urban—a political divide that endures to this day. And like all social and political movements, there were those who were true of heart in their motivations, and those who were not (in the North, there was a strong anti-immigrant motivation for prohibition; in the South, it was racial).


We all know what happened during the next thirteen years: bootleggers, Al Capone, speakeasies, bathtub gin, Jazz, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway (ok, the last two are not too bad).

What killed Prohibition was money. With the Great Depression dragging on into its fourth year, the federal government found itself short on revenue from the absence of alcohol taxes. And so on December 5, 1933, the State of Utah opened up the taps. Just in time for a holiday on ice. Cheers!