Monthly Archives: November 2010

What Makes a Banana Republic?

I’ll be perfectly honest: I wouldn’t have read this Nicholas Kristof Op-Ed if it wasn’t the Most-Emailed story on the Times’ site as of early Monday afternoon and I hadn’t thought, “Boy, what exactly *is* a banana republic?”

According to Wikipedia, it is “a term that refers to a politically unstable country dependent upon limited agriculture (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt politico-economic clique.”

Granted, politics are not my territory — that’s T’s turf — but I wonder: Why would a quasi-upscale clothing retailer choose to named itself after this?

The answer lies on the Gap. Inc. (Banana Republic’s parent) website: In 1983, Gap Inc. acquired Banana Republic, “then a two-store safari and traveling company.”

This description makes it sound a lot like the J. Peterman Company, which I did not actually realize was a real thing until right this second.

So I guess “banana” is supposed to equal “travel and adventure” rather than “political instability.” And, heck, I’ve never really thought about it until now, so I can’t get self-righteous about it. I just think it’s interesting.

I also kinda like this Embroidered Velvet Blazer…and the accompanying description instantly makes me think of Elaine Benes:

On the moors.

Hair blowing in the wind.

Perfectly.

(Remember, no humidity in dreams.)

You were enrobed in a long, velvet blazer, walking, walking, seemingly lost, but not afraid.

Almost as if you were there for a purpose.

And then… on the horizon, your purpose.

On a silver steed your Lochinvar coming to rescue you.

Turns out you’re beautifully adorned for the Duke of Aston’s holiday party where you’ll dine on venison, plum pudding, mincemeat pie, and fine medieval wine. Embroidered Velvet Blazer (No. 2889) is made from pure cotton velvet. Silver embroidered leafy pattern subtly beckons. Further eye-catchers: peaked lapel, two-button front closure, modified princess seams at front and back. Slightly padded shoulders for shaping. Center back vent. Mid-thigh length. Enough grace to attend any event in any century.

Perfect for looking resplendent while walking Arthur, your Scottish Deer Hound. Or wearing it with leggings and just going to party. Imported.

Women’s sizes: 2 through 18.

Color: Garnet with Silver Embroidery.

Image via *clairity*/Flickr

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The Turkey That Wasn’t

Did you ever see that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond in which his mom made a tofurkey for Thanksgiving and it was all gelatinous and weird and hilarity ensued?

Doesn’t this Baskin-Robbins cake remind you of it a little?

Or at least seem ill-advised for holiday celebrations?

Maybe it’s the shiny brown icing? Or is it that it makes you think of turkey-flavored ice cream?

I can’t put my finger on it, but something’s not quite right…

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Martha Reimagined

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Baked Last Frontier

T and I were talking about Baked Alaska he has never had it before — and I thought, “I wonder where the name came from…” et, voila: blog post.

Per Wikipedia, “The name ‘Baked Alaska’ was coined at Delmonico’s Restaurant in 1876 to honor the recently acquired American territory. Both the name ‘Baked Alaska’ and ‘omelette à la norvégienne’/’Norwegian omelette’ come from the low temperatures of Alaska and Norway.” (Food Reference agrees.)

One of my J-school classmates invited me to an olive oil event at Delmonico’s not that long ago. So I am still enjoying my free bottle of Delmonico’s brand oil from Croatia.

I also think it would be fun to try my hand at Baked Alaska sometime (although probably only once).

If I did, I’d probably use this recipe for Strawberry Baked Alaska, but substitute raspberry sorbet and ice cream.

Or — ZOMG! — this Coffee Baked Alaska with Mocha Sauce. Wow!

Image via kimberlykv/Flickr

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Potential Rib Correction

T informs me that the ribs I had at Char No. 4 were short ribs, not spare ribs.

I still don’t quite understand the difference between short ribs and spare ribs — other than one is beef and one is pork — and most of the short rib recipes I’ve found have bones…so I don’t know how he’s so sure my deboned ribs were short ribs and not spare ribs. The online menu says spare ribs, but he insists that mine was different because it was a special. I think the actual menu at the restaurant was different than the one featured online and that it didn’t have the spare rib dish, but the joint added it anyway as a special. But I guess it’s sort of a potato/potatoh situation.

But, if it was in fact an error, I seriously regret it. (Seriously.)

(Thanks to Char No. 4 for the image.)

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Goodbye, Libby’s (At Least For Now)

This year, I carved my first pumpkin in a long, long time. The last pumpkin I carved was based on advice from Martha Stewart (or the like) when I was working at a credit union in Fairbanks. My office held a carving contest and my pumpkin was truly something to behold – I made a leaf pattern and cut out leaves around the pumpkin, carved veins in them, and then pushed the leaves partially back through the holes in the pumpkin so that when I lit it up, the leaves looked like they were floating around said pumpkin and glowed. But — story of my life — the pumpkin rotted and liquefied the night before judging and I lost.

I can’t say this year’s pumpkin was a triumphant return, but it was nice to feel festive again.

I *also* decided that for the first time ever, I would roast the seeds instead of tossing them out…and, boy, am I glad I did! It was sort of hard to find a recipe I liked…so I ended up just rinsing them, tossing them in olive oil, adding salt and roasting on a sheet pan at about 300 degrees for 45 minutes. They were perfect! My mother said it was really hard to get all the orange pumpkin gunk off of them, but I didn’t think it was actually that bad. And it turned out that T’s favorites were the ones that were a little darker because they were roasted with gunk on.

I also heard that you should consider boiling the seeds first…but I thought the roasted seeds were fine sans boiling.

Now my goal is to make a pie from an actual pumpkin. I’ve never done that before either. And even though my baking enthusiasm has dimmed considerably and may never be what it once was, I’d still like to try out real pie this year. Another friend had a taste test last year in which she made a pie from scratch and a pie from a can and asked guests to guess which was which. It seemed obvious to me — the pie made from real pumpkin was a darker color and sort of less pleasant to look at…although I don’t actually remember how they tasted (…which may actually be because I thought the canned pumpkin pie tasted better, but I am too ashamed to admit it).

But, as a general rule, I’ve been perfectly happy with Libby’s all my life. There – I said it. If that makes me Whiskey Tango, so be it.

So I’m not sure I’ll turn pie-from-an-actual-pumpkin into a holiday tradition for years to come. But, like seeing Mount Rushmore or going waterskiing, it seems like something I should do once in life.

And yet…the Web seems to be barren of useful pie-from-a-pumpkin resources. Could it be that the difference is negligible and so no one bothers?

Granted, my research was not as exhaustive as it perhaps could have been, but every pie recipe I saw on Epicurious.com (my favorite!) called for canned pumpkin. Ditto FoodNetwork.com.

And I’m surprised that given the annual food mag task of making old Thanksgiving news new again that they haven’t jumped all over this. I would think that Alton Brown of all people would have made a pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin at least once — after all, I saw him harvest coconut using a power drill — but, alas, I cannot find a recipe from him either.

Thankfully, my go-to cookbook when the Internet fails — The Joy of Cooking — has perfect instructions. I will give it a shot soon (and maybe make a Libby’s pie, too, just for old times’ sake) and report back.

And…just a reminder: There are rumors of another canned pumpkin shortage this year…so if you don’t want to experiment with real pumpkins, make sure to pick up a can of Libby’s before the Thanksgiving rush!

Image via cardamom/Flickr

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Filed under Alaska, books, Food Network, Halloween, holidays, pie, pumpkins

Damy Ephron: My Aspirational Future Self

In coming up with a tweet about my excitement over new books from Amy Sedaris, David Sedaris and Nora Ephron, I realized something about myself: I want to be them. As in, all three in one writer. A Damy Ephron, if you will. (Is that the stupidest thing I’ve ever said?)

Amy is so quirky and fun. I would love to have her confidence and to wear elaborate stage costumes on late-night TV shows and to fabricate a longshoreman boyfriend while seriously discussing my pet rabbits. (Except I don’t think I actually want a pet rabbit. I have more cat than I know what to do with thanks to the Evil Genius and his Dopey Sidekick.) And she’s crafty! (Obvs.) I should craft more. In fact, I’m going to make a bold statement: Crafting may become the new baking in my life.

David, on the other hand, is such a successful storyteller! I saw, “successful,” rather than, “good,” even though I think many of his stories *are* good in part because a one-time mentor said he thought the male Sedaris makes things up because his stories come together so nicely. And, no matter how wacky your life and/or your family’s, eventually you could totes pump the well dry and realize you have nothing left to write. Not so with David – he continues to come out with material. And they’re usually such entertaining reads! And he’s made such a nice career for himself after floundering around and failing horribly at life! I would like to do the same thing.

I had a J-school professor who once said I reminded him of a young Nora Ephron. HUGE ego boost. Nora tells David-Sedaris-esque tales, but she’s more lady-centric (natch) and that’s basically what I want to do. (No offense, fellas. I just don’t think we relate as well…) But Nora skews a little old – i.e., I don’t feel bad about my neck…yet…so I’d like to keep David’s youthful exuberance. And, you know, I certainly wouldn’t mind writing a screenplay with sharp lines that perhaps becomes emblematic of an entire decade and resonates with countless generations to come. But I’d settle for a short story collection.

It’s not easy though. I responded to an MSNBC query on HARO this afternoon (before the Olbermann brouhaha) entitled “Jobless and Hopeless.” Things could be worse, sure…but it’s kind of true. However, I *am* enjoying not having to come up with fodder for the super-effusive lady-blog (that will later be edited to sound like I’m a student at Sweet Valley High) and therefore having time to populate this little site.

PS: I wish I had Photoshop or something and could combine their three faces together to show you what I’m going to look like.

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