Tag Archives: travel

oh, america

Sometimes I get this niggling urge to go live in Europe, take public transit everywhere, enjoy raw milk cheeses, and explore cities established more than a few centuries ago. I like bridges, you see, and winding streets and architecture that’s had time to crumble. If I ever get my shit together, maybe this will happen. In the meantime,  I will admit to a deep and profound love of Americana in all its forms. This love, by the way, is completely without irony. Is sincere.

Chicago is sort of great simply because of its mid-century signage — oh, terminus of Route 66, how I appreciate your existence. Nostalgia for the west, the closing in of the prairie. It’s so spectacularly beautiful, even now. Totally the best thing about the Northwestern suburbs. Remember, guys, this used to to be the fucking frontier!

Now, while I do not love the back-and-forth trek to Kentucky– and please, no comments on Indiana as the great corn-growing crossroads of America, because while I like a tenderloin sandwich and GNR as much as the next girl–

It is still a fucking balls-ache of a state that takes HOURS to traverse in any direction, assaulting your senses with bad country music stations, billboards encouraging you to reverse your vasectomy and remember that you’ll meet Jesus after you die, and also the relentless smell of cow shit. And corn fields stretching to the horizon, industrial farming that makes me weep for the loss of the yeoman farmer (shut up, I’m allowed to romanticize just a wee bit here), and profoundly sad about the reach of agribusiness and the thumbhold of King Corn.

Last trip back, though, I did make a spectacular purchase at a truck stop. Possibly ironic, but it pleases me immensely.

WOLVES ON A DREAMCATCHER, people. It is no three-wolf moon shirt, I grant you, but it is my new writing talisman and I CHERISH IT.

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zucchini fritters

If you have a garden, or have a neighbor who’s growing things, the odds are good that you’ve been the recipient of a zucchini windfall at least once. At first it seems rather delightful, but as they start to increase in size, and inversely, decrease in flavor, it’s pretty easy to get sick of ’em pretty quick.

There is only so much zucchini bread you can make with those giant watery guys and they require a lot of prep to make them tolerable for a stir-fry or to grill.* As a culinary confession, I adore zucchini bread, in the same way I have a deep-seated fondness for all of that 1970s cooking that relies heavily on canola oil, yogurt, veggies used wantonly in desserts, and, like, raisins. This is no doubt because it was the kind of food I was raised eating (lots of casseroles, lots of grainy bread, lots of margarine, lots of canned fruit cocktail).

A friend once remarked to me that people tend to imprint the clothing styles of when they were younger (i.e. someone who started their professional life in the 1980s might still favor skinny ties, for example), and I think the same is definitely true for cuisines. We’re all time-stamped with the era when we came into our own as cooks, which may be part of the reason it can be so hard to expand one’s repertoire of staples.

That being said, if you’ve been bequeathed some zucchini, consider making these. They are so scrumptious that it is worth buying zucchini specifically for this purpose, I kid you not. Plus: vegetarian!

Zucchini Fritters

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer, makes about 2 dozen**

4 zucchini (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)

6 scallions, chopped fine

9 oz. feta cheese (get the good stuff, no grainy cow’s milk Athena here!)

small bunch parsley, chopped

small bunch mint, chopped

1 cup flour

salt and pepper to taste

3 eggs, beaten

olive oil for frying (not extra virgin)

3-4 limes for serving

Grate the zucchini and then remove excess moisture, either by spreading out in one layer on a clean kitchen towel or in a colander set over the sink, lined with paper towels.

When the zucchini is drained, put it in a bowl. Crumble over the feta, then add all the other ingredients except the eggs and flour. Add the eggs, mixing well to combine, and the fold in the flour, making sure all the dry bits are incorporated.

Heat a large skillet and add oil to a depth of about 1/4-1/3 inch. Fry tablespoons-sized spoonfuls of the mixture in the hot oil, pressing down a little so they cook evenly. They’ll need about 2 minutes a side, but you want them golden, so use your judgment.

Drain on paper towels. Serve with lime wedges. Pretend you’re on a terrace in Corsica, with the scent of salt water and the maquis in the air. Vacation for underachievers, right there.

*True confession: I kind of categorically refuse to salt things to get the extra water out. I know this probably means I am using about 18 metric tons of olive oil when I fry eggplant, but I just can’t ever get the salinity out without repeated rinsing, which means I’m pretty much putting back the water I just spent an hour of prep time waiting to get removed and, just, no.

**I halved this with no discernible loss in quality, just used 2 small eggs instead of 3.

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the southern states from afar

Incredibly amped to watch Rich Hall’s program for BBC4 on the American South — which seems particularly apropos in light of the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird. Both because he’s from the region and is more apt to sympathetic to its not-usually-very-favorable-representation-elsewhere, and because it will likely go into much more depth than similar kinds of fare that only flits over huge swathes of geographical territory in an attempt to make some kind of sweeping generalization utterly lacking in content.*

Hall contends that one Hollywood movie above all others has cemented our perception of Southerners as a bunch of deranged hicks: Deliverance. John Boorman’s searing 1972 picture about a group of city slickers on a rural white-water-rafting weekend who are ambushed and raped by a family of deadly, banjo- and shotgun-wielding yokels has imprinted itself on our minds as the authorised version of the South.

‘Because it’s so powerful,’ Hall says, ‘Deliverance has created this image of the toothless, small-town, inbred hill-billy that has stuck. When you start doing that banjo music, even kids who have never seen the film know what you’re talking about. That banjo riff has become shorthand for an entire region!’

Precisely. Every region, every country, every place has its yokels and freaks. I need only direct you to the terrifying white-power enclave that is Eastern Washington/Oregon, where folks consider themselves the “Real Confederacy.” (I don’t know what that means, either. But unlike many of the arguments about the Confederate flag, which often masquerade as ‘heritage’ or ‘history,’ this is about race, pure and simple).

Once, in Spokane, or as I now refer to it, scrub-brush-Devil-country, we stopped at a Perkins, where, in the smoking section, one booth away from us, was a guy who had three swastikas etched into his forehead. Like Vivian from The Young Ones, but less discreet. He sat there, snarling, with a cloud of flies encircling his head like some kind of mad insect entourage. (I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.)

I appreciate the effort at rehabilitation because it strikes me that Southerners are one of the last marginal groups that it’s okay to mock and ridicule. It’s why I make sure to intersperse my speech in high-falutin’ situations with y’all and all y’all** as much as possible, and why I contemplated spending a whole quarter at the University of Chicago talking like Julie from the first season of The Real World just to see what would happen and how differently people would treat me.

Wonderful that Mr. Hall has a dedicated following on the other side of the pond. I treasured his Sniglets books as a child. Example: Ufluation (yu flu ay’ shun) – n. The peculiar habit, when searching for a snack, of constantly returning to the refrigerator in hopes that something new will have materialized.***

*For which see: Stephen Fry in America. Just too much material to cover in too little time, it ends up looking like a crack-a-loon highlights reel of our shattered society swizzled together with some broad-brush strokes about the states and their inhabitants. And I am pretty much on board with anything Mr. Fry takes on, but this series did nothing for me. John Barrowman did a similar “road trip across America” for Children in Need, not that I’ve watched it. Because: why?

**This is the grammatically correct plural form of y’all. Really.

***Otherwise known as “How I spend the majority of my time, if you include the pantry in this definition.”

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road scholar (found item clothing)

Road Scholar: Visiting The Goonies House

I’m always up for a road trip, no matter how trivial. You want to drive 60 miles through central Kentucky to see a historical marker by the side of some windy rural highway (with no shoulder, natch)? Count me in. Make a hundred and thirty mile round-trip to get frozen custard and see the church where Joan of Arc allegedly heard the voice of God speaking to her, telling her to rise up against the English? Sold!

Road trips, in fact, have formed the basis of many of my closest relationships. When Mike (editor’s note: Erin’s better half) first moved to Portland, he was super excited to hear that we were only a few hours away from Astoria, Oregon, home of the house at the heart of The Goonies. When I confessed that I had never actually seen The Goonies (gasp! Truth be told, I hadn’t seen Star Wars until I was sixteen, either, and only when I had to watch it for an English class on archetypes. Yes, I was raised in a barrel…), he insisted that we rent and view it.

Another late night, chain smoking and drinking cheap bourbon, we hit upon the rather brilliant idea of taking a road trip to see the Goonies house. Not prepared to wait until morning, we hit the road at about three a.m. Did I mention that there was a massive storm brewing? (This is Oregon, mind you…) Well, there was. And we had rather inadvisedly spent the whole of the last week watching the first season of Twin Peaks, so we were already kind of on edge, thinking we saw Leland Palmer or Bob lurking around every corner. Driving through the dark, every rasp of branch or lash of rain against the car was, naturally, a sign that we were going to crash the car and have our livers eaten by a serial killer.

Highway 30 was pitch black, littered with the fallen limbs of pine trees that had cracked and been bashed to bits by gale-force winds. But, ever stubborn, we pressed on. Arriving in Astoria—and this was before GPS and iPhones and things that, you know, tell you where the fuck you are—we drove around in circles for a good hour before finding the house. The house! It was….truth be told, just a big ramshackle Victorian two-story. Nothing to write home about, I guess, save for the fact that it was the setting of that movie.

Having seen what we came to see, and quickly realizing that there was little else to do in Astoria at 4:30 in the morning, we turned the car around for the long drive back. But not before I had a chance to pee outside, next to a dumpster, behind a gas station (one that didn’t open for another three hours). Not exactly a hotbed of exciting city life, mind you.

Anyways, roadtrips? Awesome. But a bit of planning never hurt.

From the source material:

The gang’s all here:

Read more of Erin’s assorted musings at Up By Noon!

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best in-flight mag ever

Forget Stephen Colbert’s addiction to SkyMall. Delta’s Sky Magazine may actually be trying to kill me, given that they have put Slattery + Hendricks on their cover.

Popeater has all the Hendricks pics here. Sweet Jesus. That’s what I call in-flight entertainment.

lexington, stop making an ass of yourself, NOW

Oh my God. This is so appalling. I actually feel physically ill.  Funny that when I was visiting Lexington I heard nothing about it.

From Greg Skilling at the Louisville Examiner:

In the age of Twitter news travels fast. So when I heard that there were people at the Lexington July 4th Festival selling t-shirts with the slogan, “Yup, I’m a racist” emblazoned on the front, I just had to see for myself. So I jumped in the car with my trusty video camera in hand, and drove down to the festival. It was not long before I found what I was searching for.

You can read the full article here, and a bit more here from FailShirt.

On the front it says “Yup, I’m A Racist” and on the back it lists the reasons why:

1. I Support the Constitution,
2. Freedom of Speech
3. Right to Bear Arms
4. Bill of Rights
5. Capitalism
6. No Government Bailouts
7. Closing The Borders
8. The military
9. The Tea Party
10. Jesus Christ as our Savior

I mean, I support the Bill of Rights and Free Speech too, and I’m (hopefully) not a racist.* How IN THE HELL are those things related? Like, it’s okay to be a proud racist because of some cantankerous American sense of fucking moral entitlement? The hell?

Excuse me while I kick a doorframe, scream into a pillow, and curse my home state.** Kentucky, I expect a whole fucking lot better of you. I’ve already got to explain Mitch McConnell and KFC to the world.*** Help me out here.

Okay, blood pressure decreasing. Clooney is suave, adorable, gravelly-voiced, drunk off his ass, and charming, Kentucky. We are supposed  to be CHARMING like Clooney. Hop to it.

*Unless I have missed a very important memo.

**I mean, this kind of disgusting moral piggybacking bullshit happens everywhere, but I would be less ashamed if it happened somewhere gross that I already feel negatively about. Like, say, Arizona.

***Thank goodness for Clooney. That should be our STATE MOTTO.

suburbia

Back in Kentucky for the holiday weekend. My mom’s condo association is just mental*, as evidenced by the following letter outlining the rules and regulations for using the pool. Seriously, folks. This shit just writes itself.

I’m not sure what I like more: the injunction against hanging your wet towels and swimsuits up on your own enclosed patio (Looks like someone’s been using the facilities. Whoops!), the ban on booze (The hell?) or the reminder not to “smoke inside the pool.”

It begs to be answered– how do you get inside the pool, since it’s not actually a physically enclosed space? But I think the real questions are a)what is wrong with these people b)when did they last have sex, and c) is this pedantic nosy bullshit all I have to look forward to in my old age?

*Like the time she had a decorative holiday flag hanging outside our house, and received a very pointed letter telling her to take it down, since only the American flag could be flown. It was a fucking happy winter snowman, though they acted like she had just declared her undying allegiance to the Khmer Rouge.