I used to be a little smug about not drinking coffee. When you’re a weird, obnoxious kid trying to find out who you are, it’s often easier to find definitions based on what you’re not. In my case, I wasn’t “one of those coffee shop people.” I had a massive collection of tea in my cabinets at college for any reason and any taste. My friends jokingly called me a “tea shaman,” and if I really needed caffeine? That’s why God invented energy drinks.
As I write this 16 years later, sitting in a coffee shop with an empty cappuccino at my right hand, I can tell you I’m still not a coffee guy. I’m drinking a vibe… it just happens to be coffee based. “A man who can laugh at himself shall never cease to be amused.”
It’s almost 7pm, and I’m sitting at a two-top at the Horse Brass. I’m trying to think of what to write again, nursing a locally-made Baltic Porter and staring at the empty broiler boat that- until very recently- was holding about 8 pickle spears for $3.50. No sales tax.
Where else would I be now? I’m a beer nerd with a cloak on a rainy day in Portland near Mount Tabor. I’ve got the back half of a short week at the bakery to start tomorrow morning, the blessing of my boss, and ideas for how my weekend will go. Where else would I be but here?
I might be back in Jersey. That beer might be a more expensive local brew, but those pickles might have been the Pickle Plates at Downbeach Deli that still live in my memory- their selection of greyed full-sours and perky green half-sour pickles supporting recurring guest stars of Pickled Onion, a Cherry Pepper, and a few wedges of Green Tomato atop a pool of commingled brine. That is, if they were ever separated at all.
Maybe it’s the beer and time of year, but I can feel the rose-colored Nostalgia Glasses settling into place. I’m gonna tell you about some fond food memories.
Thank you for your patience during the radio silence over the last few weeks. It’s not something I’m especially proud of, but the headlong rush of Christmas preparations at the shop and a few personal issues cropping up meant that pretty much any time I was not working I was resting. Especially after my last post (and indeed reflecting more on the role of my spirituality in my life,) I didn’t want to scribble out some half-assed nothingburger post.
I know that “finished is better than perfect” but I’ve gotta have some standards, dammit.
Now that the rush is over and it’s time to look at the New Year and what that might entail, I figured I’d just let you know what’s been going on for me, the blog, and future projects.
The Horse Brass Pub is busy tonight. The cold and wind outside feels miles away when you are sitting at a small table over a hot meal and a pint of cold, dark, heavy beer. That is very much what I’m in the mood for.
My usual “writing table” is occupied, so I’ve found a similar two-top just to the right of the door and around the corner to better avoid drafts. Looking out the window at the darkening sky and swaying leaves, I know I’ve only go so long before I need to head home and eat dinner. I sit myself down, leaning my walking stick against the wall and out of the way, tuck my cloak under myself, and start to write.
Like most of the internet, I’ve gotten a real kick out of the Tik Tok videos of Dylan Hollis. The vintage style aficionado and self-described amateur food historian has carved a space for himself on the internet with his bombastic personality and humor while testing out recipes spanning the 1800s to early 2000s.
The recipes he tries vary wildly in quality, and the recurrence of typically timely ingredients (especially lard and gelatin) regularly turn into comedic gold. More than once, Dylan strikes oil in his search for tasty recipes (“magic” peanut butter cookies and an eggnog recipe from the 1800s spring quickly to mind) and I sometimes use his videos as inspiration for things I can make at the pie shop.
Most often, I find myself intrigued by the recipes he picks and the trends they exhibit. WHY so much lard in everything made before the 60s? Why so much gelatin in mid-century America? Just HOW freaking high, lonely, horny, or all three must someone have been to create the “Candlelight Salad?”
The answer is, simply, that these recipes- like the books, movies, and music that were enjoyed then- are products of their time. Foodways are a part of culture and one can track the historyand trends of a period of time as easily in a cookbook as you could a textbook.