- My college friends had a saying–or command, rather: “Build the house!” we’d say to one another if one of us was dragging, flailing, trying to stay afloat in open water as young adults must do. I think the origin of this saying was a conceit about a deserted island: if you had to get marooned with one of our peer group, the story went, it had better be with me or another girl also called Sarah. Sarah would team up with you and say encouraging things as you worked together to build a shelter and collect food; I would hand you a pile of wood and say “Build the house!” and walk away to gather supplies or build a fire.
The comparison was not unjust. “Build the house!” became our mantra for a good reason.
So I felt some surprise and grateful recognition when I saw “building the house” become a central motif of this lengthy, ruminative piece on the artisanal toast craze in San Francisco. Bear with me! John Gravois starts out by investigating who started the fad of selling toast as a standalone item, often with special toppings and at a price point that made me wince. (The $4 rate he mentions would have covered two meals when I spent my workdays as an underpaid TA: coffee and buttered toast for breakfast; hot tea and a small hot sandwich for lunch.) But as he talks to people about the toast, he eventually finds his way to Giuletta Carrelli of Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club, a coffee shop that is about as idiosyncratic and specialized as any coffee shop hipster could wish. But its quirks do not draw from market strategies or self-conscious attempts to be cute: Gravois sketches a compassionate portrait of a woman struggling to maintain stability, friendships, and comfort under the constraints of mental illness, and who in spite of everything is running a successful business from her personal totems of care, conversation, and survival. Carrelli believes in building the house–there is even a menu option under that name–but she also believes in numerous light but vital connections to human beings. Ultimately, the solution to the toast riddle is this woman’s powerful symbols and tenuous but widespread network; of course, by the time you get there, the point of this article is something else entirely. Rambling, but lovely.
- Also in the vein of “rambling but lovely,” NPR’s Linda Holmes gives an eloquent admonition against fat-shaming Chris Christie. I mean, at this point in the bridge investigations or even in his politics generally, why would anyone need to resort to fat-shaming? But Linda Holmes offers a calm, systematic takedown of the childish illogic of tearing down fat people simply because they are fat and particularly when they are seen or heard to work out, the casual meanness of talking about this in front of other fat folks, and the dumb so-called humor of it: so many good lines, but one of my favorites is when she describes fat humor as “not humor as much as something that takes the place of humor because it’s located where humor would normally be found.” (Jay Mohr, take note!)
- On a much less serious note, I really hope to see more posts from I Followed the Recipe Tumblr, which pokes fun at commenters on recipe websites who hate the recipe, which they followed exactly except for about five things, or who loved the recipe but just have to share the five things they changed to make it perfect.
Truth be told, I get most of my cooking inspiration from random internet pages. As I’ve confessed, I follow only one recipe blog, and although I own several cookbooks, most of them are not encyclopedic enough to be much use to me when I’ve a puzzle of random seasonsal ingredients to solve. Even when my CSA isn’t coming in, I’m still shopping seasonally and on-sale-ally, so I end up googling the two or three ingredients I need to use up: “peach butter oat bran,” “beet puree garlic,” and so forth. But despite its advantages in the speed and convenience departments, Googled and Pinned recipes require seasoned judgment and reading-between-the-lines skills. Some recipe blogs copy recipes incorrectly from their original sources (e.g. 2 tablespoons of baking powder in a dozen muffins); some make broad assumptions about your basic kitchen equipment or include arcane procedures of dubious value. . . . and then there are the comments, like one of the town hall meetings on Parks and Recreation, full of nonsequiturs and misplaced blame and almost as misplaced pride.
- The thought of so much spice going up in smoke is a little hard to bear, but this video is quite beautiful and almost smoothing in its orchestrated explosions:
I love watching the cloves and cilantro leaves gently tumbling in the air. I highly recommend watching it backwards, too!