(spoon) Itâ€™s all about the little things.
dec - jan 2011
Ho... ho... holy crap, itâ€™s the holidays already.
Welcome to the premier issue of
l s c t m r m l e t q
life awesomeness community share spiration experiences happiness sar casm old-school holidays seasons go trivia new fun simplify indie diy han made pictures photographs words st ries food travel eat shop art vintage memories friends be do make learn live artisan entrepreneur music blog enjoy live laugh create love play history passions cook read book movies quotations how-to color mail explore Hey, Spooners!
It’s finally here! Welcome to the premier issue of Spoon, celebrating the holiday and winter season. There have been a lot of long days, numerous mugs of coffee and tea, and countless episodes of my legs (and me) falling asleep in my chair while working through this little project.
Spoon has been the idea I’ve been searching for for a very long time now. It’s no big mystery why I named my business Scatterbox, because it’s the most appropriate description of my brain and its state at any given moment. With so many ideas running around, it has been hard to try to find my niche, as so many would suggest I do to find my true creative calling. The idea for Spoon came to me not much over a month ago, but putting together a mini-magazine of sorts turned out to be the perfect way to corral all of the things I love: art and artisans, photography, craft, holidays, seasons, trivia, childhood memories, and all the little things that make life awesome... even though they sometimes get taken for granted or overlooked.
It is my hope that you will come on this journey with me. The themes found in Spoon are ones shared by pretty much everyone, and I’d love to have you contribute to it as much as possible. Keep your eyes peeled on the Spoon blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account to find out how you can share a bit of what makes you happy, too. There are so many fun, beautiful, and great things out there in life, and I’m on a mission to discover as many as possible. The production side of putting this whole enchilada together has been quite the learning experience, as it will continue to be, but I look forward to making each new issue even better than the last. If you’ve got any comments on anything you see here or elsewhere in the Spooniverse, give a shout! The mailbox is always open.
Writer/Editor/Publisher Photography, Art & Illustration Tina Jett
P.O. Box 580844 Elk Grove, CA 95758
Tina Jett is a maker of pictures, liker of vintage, and blurber of words and stories. Sheâ€™s done some freelance writing for Trazzler, knocked girls down for fun while skating with the Carolina Rollergirls, and is a big fan of sarcasm, travel, movies, and stuffing her face with good eats. She runs a blog called Scatterbox over at tinajett.com and has two shops on Etsy: Scatterbox for art and photography, and Monday Pie for vintage goods. She is a big fan of the freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie.
Michael Jett : Bacon Fat & Butter
All content ÂŠ 2010 Spoon, unless otherwise attributed. Please do not re-use, re-distribute, or re-anything without prior permission from Spoon. For comments or inquiries of any type, please contact us at the Spoon haus via one of the means listed above. Opinions expressed here in the zine, on the website/blog, or any other social media format are not necessarily those of the editor, contributors, or collaborators.
Michael Jett spent close to fifteen years in the restaurant industry before escaping in 2006. Though he lives the life of a culinary refugee, he still burns a candle brightly for his love of food. This makes his wife very happy. In his spare time, he dabbles in sports like basketball and Australian Footy, enjoys a fine wine or two, smokes the occasional pipe while contemplating the universe (usually when campfire is involved), and listens to old-school rap.
6 Flicks in review 10 Winter Solstice Winter doesn’t suck... that bad
14 Artisan Spotlight: Temple Coffee 16 New York City in December 22 Holiday favorites on the telly 23 When do the holidays kick in? 24 Hannukah 25 Not your grandmother’s menorah 26 Gift wrapping basics The good, the bad, & the ugly... Vintage holiday ads
The season of giving
The Christmas Seal tradition
37 Major award... The Christmas Story house 38 Real or artificial? The great tree debate 39 Treecycling and other holiday greenness 40 Colored lights vs. white lights... let’s fight! 41 WTF is Boxing Day? 42 New Year 2011 44 Bacon Fat & Butter: Culinary essentials 46 The big quote
For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with film. My parents were never ones to worry much about shielding me from “bad” movies. I thank them for teaching me right from wrong and, in turn, allowing me to enjoy gems like Blazing Saddles and Vincent Price when I was wee. There was a time when I was quite the Siskel and Ebert
clone, seeing just about every new release as it hit the theatres. (This may or may not have resulted from being friends with one of the managers.) Sadly, I’m not on top of my game anymore, but I still enjoy a production or three whenever I can. Here’s my two cents on the pile-up of new and old movies I’ve come across recently.
Art & Copy (2009) I’ve been interested in commercials ever since I can remember. Eventually, I became an advertising major in college, but nixed that pursuit after graduation because of my allergy to business office environments. I still love commercials very much, though, and was eager to see Art & Copy. This documentary beautifully zeroes in on the impact and ethical responsibility that advertising has on and in society.
Inception (2010) One of the most intense movies I’ve seen in a very long time. True, it is a tiny bit Matrix-y in theory, but really goes beyond the sci-fi and into the realm of interpersonal relationships. If you haven’t seen Inception yet, you need to get on it. Stat. P.S. - The hallway fight scene? NOT computergenerated.
New York, I Love You (2009) LOVE me some vignette movies. Mix together one part fantastic ensemble of actors, one part run of emotions, one part smart storytelling, and then cram into bite-size cinematic chunks that are just a few minutes each. To convey what a film vignette does in such a short time is brilliant. This movie was a snapshot of the various people, places, and experiences that can be found in the Big Apple, a love letter of sorts to the city.
Paris, je t’aime (2006) I saw New York first, but very soon after, stumbled across Paris, je t’aime on the cable box. New York seems to be essentially patterned after the Paris film, which similarly takes small snippets of life off the streets of the City of Lights. Celebrity trivia tidbit: Natalie Portman has roles in both movies. Downside: Inclusion of mimes. Can’t stand mimes.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) “An epic of epic epicness” If you’ve ever dabbled in video games or have a fondness for the 80s, you’ll love this flick. It’s definitely one of the most unique approaches to production I’ve seen, with the whole story played out as if it is a reality-based video game, complete with pixelly game graphics, old-school sound effects, and a flair of comic book, which Scott Pilgrim is based on. Love him or hate him, I can’t get enough of Michael Cera and his nerd-do-well characters.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) One of the go-to movies in the Spoon Haus is the 1999 Thomas Crowne Affair with Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russo. Youngin’s may not be aware that this was actually a remake of the 1968 original starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. I finally caught it on cable and loved seeing how this basic storyline was played out back then. It also includes Faye Dunaway’s duly-noted-at-the-time performance in the chess scene... quite the sexy hottie back in the day, she was.
The Town (2010) If I had to choose the better actor between Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, I’d go Damon, despite having an Affleck crush *almost* since Mallrats. That said, I do like the films that Affleck has been a part of behind the camera. The Town is a great movie, one where you’re rooting for the main character even when he’s essentially one of the bad guys. And if you never thought they could film an amazing high-speed chase through the tiny streets of old-town Boston, you’re in for a surprise.
Pirate Radio (2009)
Love music? Love the 1960s? Love 1960s rock ‘n roll? See this film. Based on true instances of renegade DJs taking their business to the open waters after finding their freedom of expression stifled by The Man. Great cast, including two of our favorites, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy, and a great nod to an amazing era of popular music.
Teenage Paparazzo (2010) Teenage Paparazzo is a documentary by Adrian Grenier, who plays Vincent Chase on HBO’s Entourage. Grenier learned about a 13-year-old paparazzo in LA who’d made quite the name for himself. His family had zero qualms letting him pursue celebrities for money, and his age and size allowed him to get closer than most veterans could. This is an amazing look at how celebrity obsession affects our culture and includes the angle of tables turning on the young photographer.
The Sound of Music (1965) As stated earlier, I consider myself to be a big lover of film. Yes, it’s true - After 36 years on this planet and knowing the song Do-Re-Mi for almost as long, I finally watched The Sound of Music. Good story, more deep than I anticipated, and Christopher Plummer was kinda hot.
The Social Network (2010) Even if you’re not on Facebook, it’s fascinating to see the circumstances that led up to the creation of one of the most powerful internet sites yet, not to mention the youngest billionaire. Despite lessthan-savory statements he’s made and personal opinions of him, at times in the movie, you find yourself kinda liking the guy. On a production note, I LOVED the use of tilt-shift photography in the filming of the rowing competition scenes.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) It’s sad to think that we’ll see no more of Heath Ledger on screen. His last film, only a third of the way into production when he died, is one that I love almost more for the set design and costumes than anything else. In a bet with the Devil, Dr. Parnassus uses a traveling theatre to win over souls for his victory. The storyline was modified to allow Ledger’s friends, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Collin Farrell, to play different embodiments of his character inside the Doctor’s world.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (2010) If you tell me you’ve never seen a Harry Potter movie, or that they are crap, I don’t think we can ever be friends. That is all.
Dec/Jan 2011 Spoon :
Lantern, Holly, and Mincepies photo by Petr Kratochvil
Winter Solstice December 21, 2010
December 21, 2010 at 11:58pm UTC in the Northern hemisphere, to be precise. Winter Solstice, a.k.a. Yule, occurs on the first day of winter. The shortest amount of daylight is present on that day and Yule is a celebration of the return of the Sun and longer days. Yule is celebrated around the world in many ways, but light and fire are the prevailing theme. Other celebrations of renewal and light also share this time, such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas. The symbols of all winter holidays mesh together: trees, decorations, candles, gifts, and merrymaking. Which, by the way, is a phrase that should totally come back into play.
• Don’t have a fireplace? Buy or make yourself one of those fancy schmancy log cakes. Tastes better than wood. • Light candles around the house as a way to usher out the darkness and bring in the light. • Decorate with holly, whose budding berries and bold green leaves symbolize rebirth during the bleak days of winter. Evergreens and other objects found in nature are always in good taste, as well. • Give potted trees as gifts to care for and plant in spring.
“Hey, what are you doing Friday night? Want to come over and help me pack?”
• Fill bird feeders or make homemade ones with pinecones spackled with peanut butter and rolled in seeds, then hang on a tree. Keep your neighborhood creatures fed during the cold months!
“No, sorry. I’ve got to go do some merrymaking.”
• Make some drinky-drinks like eggnog, wassail, mead, or spiced cider. Noms.
There are many great ways to celebrate the winter solstice, regardless of your faith or affiliation.
• Donate time or goods to charities and people in need. The theme of giving is universal, especially this time of year.
• One of the most common is the burning of the yule log, traditionally a piece of oak that stays lit for twelve straight days, but that’s probably a little excessive, no? It is customary to save remnants of this log for use as kindling in next year’s fire.
• Go green with your holiday activities, using your craftiness repurposing items to make cards, gift wrap and decorations. Winter solstice means more sun is just around the corner. Three cheers for no longer feeling like midnight at 6:00pm!
Winter Doesn’t Suck
Outdoor camping – I know that our sleeping bags say they’ll keep you warm down to -40F or something silly, but I don’t think I’d like to test the theory. If it stayed in the positive digits outside, I *might* give this one a whirl. Boy Scouts guide to winter camping
When I was little, winter was actually my favorite season. How can you argue with bonus perks like sled riding, snow forts, hot cocoa, elusive school snow days, and The Big Holiday? Plus, my birthday month is in the mix, too. It was an all-around swell time to be a kid. Then I grew up. Had to drive on packed snow and ice. Waited for buses and walked across a tundra on my way to college classes (it really was nicknamed “The Tundra”). Started to become a wuss when the temps dropped. And, apparently, got too big for my sled. BAH! I say! Time to take back winter and re-kindle my love for flakes and parkas. We may not get much of the white fluff here in the valleys of Northern Cali, but it’s just a quick hop over to a prime snow and ski region, so no excuses. If you’ve got access to some powder, here are some great activities to explore if you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling for it.
Drink it up – Hello? Hot cocoa, hot toddies, coffee, tea, and other hightemp bevvies that may or may not be spiked with a little sumthin’ sumthin’? I smell a game night of schnockered Wii tourneys! Alphabetical gallery of hot drink recipes
Indoor camping – Too much of a wuss to sleep outside? Set up that tent, sleeping bag, or slew of pillows indoors. Turn off the lights, unplug, light a fire in the fireplace, play some games, and bust out the s’mores. Bonus: no racoons.
Take the plunge – The polar bear plunge, that is. Strip down to your skivvies and dunk yourself in the iciness of your local watering hole. To which I personally give a hearty “eff that”. Find a polar bear club near you
Be a kid again – Get a new sled! At college, people would use cafeteria trays. Have snowball fights — When else is it perfectly acceptable to pelt the crap out of children? Make snow angels, igloos, and snow furniture. I always wanted these: Snow castle/snowball maker set
Explore a winter icon – Snowflakes are pretty cool. Research why no two are really alike and how they get that way. Take a collection of flake photos using a macro camera setting. Get your craft on. Make paper filigree snowflakes
Get sporty – Go skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, toboganning, snowshoeing, bobsledding, or play some hockey. Build a backyard ice rink
Eats and bevvies outside – Winter is a perfect time for outdoor grilling or bonfires with a side of wine and s’mores. Amazing handcrafted firebowls
Get cultured – The holidays are a great time to catch up on your arts. Visit museums, plays, and take in classics like A Christmas Carol, or my yearly fave, the Nutcracker ballet. Find a Nutcracker performance near you
Hibernate – Bears dig it, so it must have its benefits, right? When you just can’t stand the thought of sticking a pinkie toe outside... don’t. Everything you’d need to build a cocoon
Get off your tookus – All that staying indoors can take a toll on your physique and your mood. Get up, get out (or not) and get moving with a new class, hot yoga, a heated pool, or some dancing.
Dec/Jan 2011 Spoon : 11
- doug uglybaby.etsy.com
- rosalie unanimouscraft.com
- lynn -
- wend megibug.blog
ers submit their ite hot bevvies - em & tim todaysletters.com
- sandy robotinbloom.com
- janice -
artisan t spotligh
Walking into a certain A-frame in the heart of downtown Sacramento, California, you might be surprised to know that you’ve just entered the lair of a power-hitter in the coffee world. The Danishinspired wood, brick, and mortar bones of this former bookstore make up the premier location of Temple Coffee. Temple got its start just five years ago and has been voted the capital city’s best every year since, in addition to being named one of the top 50 coffeehouses in the US. Manning the helm is Sean Komescher, who oversees every aspect of operations, down to handcrafting furniture for Temple’s two retail locations. For those even mildly educated in the ways of the joe, you’re probably aware of the seemingly endless blends, origins, and flavors of those little roasted cherries. I don’t pretend to know what’s what when faced with such choices, but I do know that if I need the answers from some people in the know, Temple is the joint. Insanely passionate in the ways of coffee as much as any wine-junkie vineyard owner in nearby Napa Valley, they began roasting their very own signature beans this past March in their second location, a renovated urban spot in Sacramento’s Midtown area. In September, under the watch of roaster Ed Whitman and just a mere six months into the new venture, their heirloom Guatemala Antigua Hunapu was awarded a 97 out of 100 from the prestigious Coffee Review. This was the highest score given to any roast in all of North America in 2010, which basically translates to “pretty damn impressive”. Coffee not your thing? They’re also well-versed in the land of tea. Want to get your learn on? If you’re in the Sacramento area, Temple offers top-notch education classes for the curious and obsessed alike. Want some drinky-drink? Temple has online ordering for a vast array of beans and teas. (Sorry... that Guatemala is gone like yesterday’s Betamax.) www.templecoffee.com
14 : Spoon Dec/Jan 2011
The Big Apple in December
One of the best things about the holiday season is getting to see our favorite TV programs that we grew up watching each year. Here’s a little nugget of goodies to keep in mind.
Holida y favorite s on TV
All listings are Eastern Standard Time (EST). A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) - ABC: 12/7 (8:00pm), 12/16 (8:00pm)
Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977) - ABCFAM: 12/18 (8:00am), 12/24 (8:30am)
A Christmas Carol (1938) - TCM: 12/4 (9:00am), 12/10 (8:00pm), 12/25 (11:45am)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - ABCFAM: 12/4 (11:00pm) - DISN: 12/7 (8:00pm)
A Christmas Story (1983) - TNT: 12/18 (5:00pm) - TCM: 12/24 (8:00pm, 24-hour marathon)
Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976) - ABCFAM: 12/9 (6:00pm), 12/18 (2:00pm), 12/24 (10:00pm)
Christmas Vacation (1989) - TRVL: 12/11 (6:00pm), 12/20 (10:30am, 9:00pm), 12/24 (8:00pm), 12/25 (8:00am)
Scrooge (1970) - TCM: 12/10 (9:30pm), 12/19 (12:00pm), 12/24 (6:00pm)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) - ABCFAM: 12/1 (8:00pm & 10:00pm), 12/14 (8:00pm & 10:30pm), 12/25 (7:00pm & 9:30pm)
Scrooged (1988) - AMC: 12/1 (8:00pm, 10:00pm), 12/2 (8:00pm, 10:00pm), 12/9 (8:00pm, 10:00pm), 12/14 (8:00pm, 10:00pm), 12/25 (10:00am)
Frosty the Snowman (1969) - CBS: 12/11 (8:00pm), 12/18 (7:30pm) Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (1976) - ABCFAM: 12/7 (8:00pm), 12/12 (7:00am), 12/18 (11:00am), 12/24 (7:00pm)
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970) - ABC: 12/2 (8:00pm) - ABCFAM 12/9 (8:00pm), 12/10 (7:00pm), 12/18 (5:00pm, 10:00pm), 12/19 (5:00pm), 12/24 (8:00pm), 12/25 (8:00am)
Holiday Inn (1942) - AMC: 12/11 (1:30am), 12/12 (1:30am), 12/19 (12:30am & 8:00am), 12/20 (5:45pm), 12/21 (12:30am), 12/23 (9:15am)
The Santa Clause (1994) - ABCFAM: 12/2 (7:00pm 9:00pm), 12/10 (8:00pm), 12/11 (5:00pm), 12/22 (8:00pm), 12/23 (6:30pm), 12/25 (2:30pm)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) - NBC: 12/11 (8:00pm),12/24 (8:00pm)
av My f
The Little Drummer Boy (1968) - ABCFAM: 12/18 (7:00am), 12/24 (8:00am) Miracle on 34th Street (1947) - ABCFAM: 12/8 (8:30pm), 12/21 (6:00pm), 12/25 (10:00am) - AMC: 12/17 (8:00pm, 10:15pm), 12/18 (8:00pm, 10:15pm), 12/19 (8:00pm, 10:15pm), 12/20 (8:00pm, 10:15pm), 12/24 (10:00am, 3:00pm, 8:00pm), 12/25 (1:00am)
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974) - ABCFAM: 12/12 (7:30am), 12/18 (8:30am), 12/24 (1:00pm, 5:30pm, 7:30pm) White Christmas (1954) - AMC: 12/11 (8:00pm 10:45pm), 12/12 (8:00pm, 10:45pm), 12/16 (8:00pm, 10:45pm), 12/17 (5:15pm), 12/24 (12:15am, 5:15pm, 10:15pm), 12/25 (3:15am) The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974) - ABCFAM: 12/9 (9:00pm), 12/10 (6:00pm), 12/18 (3:00pm), 12/19 (4:00pm), 12/24 (9:00pm), 12/25 (9:00am)
When does the holiday season officially kick in for you? “I start feeling the panic around August for some reason.” - Rosalie, www.unanimouscraft.com
for me kick in to ts r en as sta ing, wh “Christm re Thanksgiv nd gifts fo ds a just be ing car n really n la p . But it s r I start e ick th e n we p t-tog and ge hristmas whe iving. eC nksg feels lik tree after Tha nts and r ame out ou the orn d decorate t u o k I brea ms an a as albu ile balancing tm is r h h C .” w r , e d th o nde a in the one ha o c o c t ho liet.com mug of akeupju .w w w a, w - Brian
“Usu wea ally som th e into er will fi time in nally cold Nov em n if it’s ights an FINALLY ber the d just - Me for a cooler d - chang gan, e a wee www k or ys, even .meg two. ibug ” .blog spot .com “When that fantastic 1970s Budweiser Clydesdale Christmas commercial with the hummy theme song comes on TV for the first time.” - Tina, www.tinajett.com
“I grew up in FL and now live in TX. For me, it’s the continuation of searing heat paired with a glance at a calendar telling me it’s mid-November and *shrug* I then decide it’s winter.” - Sandy, www.robotinbloom.com
December 1–9, 2010 “Hanukkah is... the Festival of Lights...” Sorry. I can’t start that sentence and not think of Adam Sandler. Anyway! Hanukkah IS the Festival of Lights, celebrated by people of the Jewish faith for eight nights every December. The holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In the 2nd century, BCE, the Macabees defeated the Seleucid Empire. The Holy Temple of the Macabees was desecrated during the battle, and following the victory, a re-dedication was held for it. There was only enough olive oil to light their eternal flame for one day, but it lasted for eight nights; the same amount of time it took to press and prepare more oil. Deeming this occurence a miracle, it was declared that the re-dedication should be remembered and celebrated for eight nights every year thereafter. The festival was named Hanukkah, which means “dedication” or “consecration”. Jewish followers celebrate Hanukkah with rituals and activities taking place both in the home and the community. Every night of the festival, one candle is lit on a menorah, or hanukiah. The menorah holds eight candles, one for each night, plus an additional candle from which the others are lit.
Traditions associated with Hanukkah include the giving of a gift for each night of the holiday, prayer, and games, Eating foods fried in oil (preferably olive oil to best coincide with the oil used at the re-dedication) is also popular. Potato pancakes, or latkes, are very common, as are types of jam-filled doughnuts or fritters. Games played include dreidel, which is a four-sided top bearing a Hebrew letter on each facet. These represent the first letter of each word in the phrase Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which translates to “A great miracle happened there”. In Israel, dreidels are slightly different, with the last word being Po, changing the translation to “A great miracle happened here”. Money, or gelt, is also traditionally given to children, typically in the form of coins. Larger amounts of money are sometimes given as one of the eight gifts. The dates for the holiday vary each year depending on the Hebrew calendar. Celebrations begin at sundown, which is the start of the new day, as opposed to midnight on the Gregorian calendar. No matter how you spell it, Hanukkah is a great reminder of peace and a beautiful way for the Jewish to honor their faith. Shalom!
Not Your Grandma’s Menorah Recycled Bicycle Chain Menorah, $24 www.tenthousandvillages.com
Like just about everything else out there, the world of Judaica has been hit by the handmade and eco-friendly bug. Sure, you could opt for a boring, streamlined menorah to light up your nights, but when you’ve got these babies to choose from, why would you?
Blue Moose Menorah, $225 www.dashkaroth.com
Limited Edition Star Menorah with Dreidel by Gary Rosenthal, $120 www.judaism.com Recycled LED Motherboard Menorah, $19.99 www.perpetualkid.com
iMenorah, $2.99 www.itunes.com Don’t act surprised.
Menorah of Trees, $185 www.menorah.com
The Chanukah Chair Menorah, $390 www.forgottenjudaica.com
Spread out your desired paper, face down. Place the gift, upside-down, on top of the paper and in the center. Cut enough paper so that each side can wrap up and over 2/3 to 3/4 of the way across the top of the box. Take one side of the paper up over the top and secure with a piece of tape.
On the opposite side, fold a small flap over towards the package and make the crease parallel to the package edge. This will create a nice, finished look that also conveniently hides uneven cut lines. Fold this side up and over and secure with tape.
To wrap the ends, first fold down the top flap, being sure to flatten it completely so that the creases meet the side edges of the box. You can secure this flap down with a small (don’t get crazy!) spot of tape. Repeat with the sides, folding each in tightly toward the center.
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Fold the bottom triangle up. You may notice that part of a side flap is peeking out. This is likely because one edge was cut too long. If you could care less, tape down the triangle and move along to step #6. If it’s making your eye twitch, do not panic! See step #5.
y edg e. Boo.
Let the bottom triangle go and open up the side that is being onery. Just fold a little bit more of that edge down, starting at the top corner where it meets the box. Continue folding that flap in and the last triangle flap up. Secure with tape.
Flip the box so that the open end is up. Repeat steps #3 and #4 (and #5, if needed). This end should go smoother since the other end is already secure. Once your ends are all folded up, flip the box right side up, celebrate a job well done with a cookie, and get all festive by adding a bow or something. I’d tell you how to do that, but I’m spent.
Dec/Jan 2011 Spoon : 27
Holiday fun with vintage advertising Retro ads are pretty priceless, especially those produced for the holiday season. Equal parts sensationalism and sexism with just a sprinkling of reindeer dust. Enjoy this trio of split-personalities. The Good: Classic, fun icons in wonderful color. I want my desserts to have gelatin in them and my tree bulbs to be the size of an Edsel. Santa should bring sweets and practical gifts and have an arsenal of waify elves at his command. The Bad: Hey now, doctors and even babies were used to promote ciggies back in the day, so why not Santa? Even better, make that carton all festivelike with drawn-on bows and flowers and other
fancy frillery. I’ll not only give you the gift of cancer, but also let you know that I’m lazy and you’re not special enough for me to bother properly wrapping the box. Take note that wouldn’t have happened anyway, since I picked it up at the gas station on the way home from the office. And The Ugly: Nothing says “I get you” quite like the gift of a Hoover vacuum! What do you mean, you don’t want a box of towels under the tree? I need some extras to get the grease off my hands when I’m working in the garage on my dream car. Of course you want them. Just like I want you to put three olives in my martinis, dear. Daddy’s 5 o’clock saucing doesn’t do ‘frugal’.
Creepiest Santa ever
He could totally buy me a Hoover if I could also have this dress
Those who know me may find it strange that this is not a cookie recipe. To be honest, I have too many holiday faves to pick just one, so I’ve chosen to go a different route. This fudge was always made for our Christmas Eve shindigs by either my mom or my aunt. I used to eat this stuff like it was crack. It’s been a while since I’ve had it, so you could say I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, too. This will most definitely be made for Holiday Nosh 2010.
olate r & Choc e t t u B t Peanu
ips utter ch b t u n a chips e 2 oz.) p hocolate ilk c t e e w 1 pkg. (1 -s ensed m oz.) semi ned cond e 1 pkg. (6 t e e w s oz.) r ned 1 can (14 or butte f sweete o e n p i u r c a g 1 r chips, ove 1/4 C. ma lly. Rem t butter a u n n o a i e s p a re t c c l nch squa epan, me r. Stir o c -i e 8 t u t a d u s e b n e . i g s d 2 Tb In lar paper-l ensed milk, an nto wax ned cond d i e e t s e e n r e e u w d t s n x xture i g co olate mi emainin Spread m c r . o , t h s a c l e e d h s firm. a r m re mo fro or until epan. Sp ocolate c s h r u c u a o s t l h l e l o M pan. ill tw in sma t into xture. Ch ff paper and cu d butter i n en. m a , r e k t l t i m and froz t bu el o u e d P n a . e a d e h r p a a f e o ting b be mad on top o onto cut ers. Can v e o g t d f u e f l Turn cover Tightly squares.
The Season of Giving The holidays mean it’s that time of year to rack your brains thinking of something better than sheets to give to your grandmother as a gift. While you’re hopefully avoiding crazy shopping lines and crowds, don’t forget to think about those in your community and around the world who might view having sheets on a bed as a luxury. Kids who need a pair of shoes more than a Playstation, or who would love to know what it’s like to have a teddy bear. No matter how hard things seem, there’s always someone out there less fortunate, and they want to be happy this season just as much as you do. Here are a few wonderful charities who would greatly benefit from your generosity. You can also check with local churches, hospitals, and animal shelters. Ask for donations or hold raffles at your holiday parties and offices, too!
Toys for Tots (www.toysfortots.org) Collecting new, unused toys for needy children in the local area. Sponsored by the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.
Operation Christmas Child (www.samaritanspurse.org) Shoeboxes are the carriers of daily essentials, small toys, and craft items for children overseas. Sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse.
Be an Elf (www.beanelf.org) Be an “elf” by visiting a local US Post Office, choosing a letter sent to Santa, and providing select wished-for gifts to needy children on the big day. This program is also known by the USPS as “Operation Santa”.
Red Kettles (www.salvationarmyusa.org) Yep, those red kettles with a side of jingle bell. The Salvation Army’s annual fundraiser to provide help to families, seniors, and homeless.
The Holiday Project (www.holiday-project.org) Donate your time with a local chapter and spread cheer to those spending time confined to hospitals, nursing homes, and institutions.
Dec/Jan 2011 Spoon : 33
In 1907, a small sanitarium in Delaware was faced with closure unless $30 sis, the leading cause of death at the time, were showing success, and it was learned about the facilityâ€™s plight after one of its doctors shared the news with h from a program in Denmark, created seals to be sold at the post office for one ing ten times the needed amount. With that, the American Lung Association C pling of seals dating from 1940-1969. To see the full gallery, learn more about
34 : Spoon Dec/Jan 2011
s Seal Tradition
00 could be raised to save it. Advancements in the fight against tuberculomore critical than ever to find help. A Red Cross volunteer named Emily Bissell her. Ms. Bissell was well-versed in the ways of fundraising, and taking inspiration cent. The effort caught on with the help of a nod from President Roosevelt, raisChristmas Seal program was born and continues to this day. Below is a samt the ALA, and to purchase your own 2010 seals, visit www.christmasseals.org.
Dec/Jan 2011 Spoon : 35
Visiting A Christmas Story: the House
Every year, the TBS marathon run of A Christmas Story takes top priority in the Spoon Haus holiday viewing lineup. For the mister, it’s one of his all-time favorite movies. For me, it’s retro holiday awesome, but mostly, it has to do with the fact that it was filmed in Cleveland, my ol’ town of home. The parade and department store scenes were filmed in Cleveland’s Public Square and the adjacent former Higbee’s, which was the real name of the store. My family made it a yearly tradition to brave the shopping crowds and head downtown for the lights, decorations, and festivities the day after Thanksgiving. (Adult me looks back at the thought of that insanity and reschedules it a week later.) We often took the metro train into Public Square, and we always hit up Higbee’s. It was filmed during my childhood, so a lot of what you see is a lot of what I experienced. (Though, Santa, if I recall correctly, hung out on the 4th floor where kids could go and do some secret shopping for their families.) The house that Ralphie and Co. lived in was a real house in Cleveland, as well, at least for the exterior and select interior shots not done in a studio. Many of the movie’s scenes were actually filmed in Toronto, Ontario.
Hubs doing his Randy-ina-snowsuit impression, pre-renovation, 2005.
image via achristmasstoryhouse.com A few Christmases ago, we learned that someone had just bought the house, via eBay, of all things, with the intention of turning it into a museum for the classic flick. They were also offering tours of the home, though it was in prerenovation stage at the time. We pulled up in front of the house, which sacreligeously had been “updated” on the outside by a previous owner. The new owner assured us that plans were in the works to restore it to its full yellow and green glory. Fast forward a couple years and the A Christmas Story house is alive and kicking. Not only do they offer tours, but they’ve also created and now host the annual A Christmas Story convention, and even converted a house across the street into a museum and gift shop. The online site is full of information, behind-the-scenes production tidbits from the movie, the actual eBay ad for the house, and a more extensive array of movie-related gifts, including the opportunity to purchase your very own pink-nightmare bunny costume. Don’t think I wasn’t tempted to slip that one into the shopping cart. As for Higbee’s, it ended up becoming a Dillard’s department store until its
ultimate closure in 2002. The innards are now home to Cleveland’s visitor center, though I find it somewhat depressing these days to peek in the windows and see cubicles. One window, however, became a bit of a time capsule; in 2008, the storefront spot where Ralphie drooled over the Red Rider BB-gun display served as a little shrine for the 25th anniversary of the film. If you’re ever in Cleveland (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it) and are a fan of A Christmas Story, it’s worth stopping by for a tour. If you happen to be in Seattle, you can catch the current production of A Christmas Story: the Musical, now playing at the 5th Street Theatre until December 19. While a lot has changed since my childhood holidays, I can always count on A Christmas Story to take me back to that special room in my brain where my grade-school self still lives quite the active life. Hopefully you have a go-to memory-maker in your repertoire, as well. Wishing a hearty “fra-gee-lay” to you and yours! www.achristmasstoryhouse.com Dec/Jan 2011 Spoon : 37
Real or Artificial? I grew up with a fake tree at Christmas. My grandparents had fake trees, my aunts and uncles had fake trees. As far as I was concerned, real trees were a pretty rare phenomenon and only in homes in very woodsy areas like New England or something. Then I get married, and husband’s all “Let’s go get a tree,” and I’m all “I think Target’s having a sale,” and he’s all “What the hell are you talking about?” Since I had never done the whole goout-and-strap-an-evergreen-to-yourcar thing, I was kind of excited, though I had thought it was a bit wasteful cutting down all these trees just for a few weeks of life-size air freshening in your home. As with everything else I’ve learned about being green, however, it turned out that life-size air fresheners are the way to go. Follow the same guidelines for trees as you would for foodstuffs: buy local, buy sustainable. Give your money directly to the local farmers who are harvesting the trees and setting up the roadside stands. Farm-stand trees aren’t that much more expensive (some are less)
Which is a better choice?
and you’re more likely to get a better tree and better service to boot. Look for trees grown on sustainable farms that use minimal or no pesticides. Like produce, Christmas trees can be certified organic, too. Real trees are grown in areas that are re-planted with each season of cuttings. This keeps a nice cycle going and prevents mass clearings of areas that will never see green again. If the idea of cutting down trees still doesn’t sit well with you, there are certainly unique options to help keep the spirit. One woman I read about does a bit of a flip-flop; she buys each of her children their own small potted tree that they can keep in their rooms and decorate in their own way. Once the season is over, the tree gets planted to begin its little permanent life in the earth. You can also craft a tree, with bonus points for recycling or repurposing items in the construction. There’s always the option of decorating an outdoor specimen already making its home in your yard. That said, let’s do some weighing of good versus bad.
Real Trees: PROS
True, they do require watering and tend to shed needles. BUT: • Tree farms create habitat for wildlife • Tree farms absorb carbon dioxide and 1 acre produces oxygen for 18 people • Very rarely involved in house fires • Decreases dust and pollen in the air • Smells like Christmas! • You can make getting one a tradition • Supports local farmers • Can be recycled and composted
Fake Trees: CONS
True, they don’t require water and (sometimes) are easier to put up, BUT: • Fake trees are commonly made from petroleum-based PVC which emits carcinogens during production • Toxic lead is also used in PVC production, which can be dispersed in your home in the form of dust • Non-recyclable and will either remain permanently in a landfill or release toxic gasses and carcinogens if incinerated. • 85% are imported from China, hurting the local economy and adding to gas emissions via transport • Susceptible to house fires (and remember those toxic nasties created when they’re burned?) The choice is yours! For more info, visit www.christmastree.org
Christmas Bauble and Green Branches photo by Petr Kratochvil
NEXT life for REAL trees When the time comes to finally take Mr. Tree down (and I’m not one to judge if this happens to be at the beginning of February), there are greener options and alternatives than the dumpster for this type of tree too.
and othe r post-hol iday eco-gree nery
Many cities and counties have recycling programs set up specifically for your real trees. If not, search for local organizations who do local pick-ups, such as Boy Scout troops who might be taking minimal donations for their services. Through recycling, your trees can get a new lease on life as: • Erosion barriers and dune restoration • Fish shelters and wildlife sanctuaries • Wood chips, mulch, and compost • fuel and electricity generators • influenza vaccines (!)
You can also re-purpose your tree at home. Check these nifty ideas: • Mix dried needles with whole spices, dried fruits, and dried flowers to make your own potpourri • Use the branches and trunk to make winter support stakes for your plants. Large branches can be used to make fencing, arbors, or garden crafts. • Use a wood chipper to make your own mulch or lay whole boughs over delicate plants for protection and drainage
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND If you do recycle your tree, keep in mind that you’ll need to remove all garland, tinsel, ornaments, or other debris that might interfere with its new job. As with fake trees, it is important to not burn your real tree inside your home. Certain types have high contents of sap and turpentine oils in them which are highly flammable. They will also increase your risk of a chimney fire with a buildup of creosote.
New life for fake trees Say you’re ready to make the switch to real trees, but you’ve still got Mr. Fakey hanging out like an unsavory relative taking up space in the attic. What to do? The one thing you do NOT want to do, if at all possible, is just put your artificial tree in the dumpster. The plastic and metal of a fake tree cannot be separated, rendering it incapbable of being recycled. This means that it will sit in a landfill for-eh-vurrr, OR, it will get incinerated. If you’ve read the page to the left (of course you have!), you’ll know that is a very bad option. So what are the good options? • Donate it to a local school, church, small business, or charity • Sell it on Craigslist or advertise in their Free section. You might even find someone older that would use it, someone who doesn’t want to deal with the physical responsibility of a real tree. Perhaps someone younger and just starting out on their own could take it off your hands to save money. If you still like the idea of a fake tree but are feeling guilty in the green department of your psyche, perhaps YOU are the perfect buyer of someone else’s veteran tree! • Re-use the tree branches. Depending on the style that you had, you or someone crafty you know could rework those needles into a nice wreath, garland, or other decoration for your pad. • Use it in an outdoor setting with suet to attract birds
For more great tips on holiday recycling, finding a recycling center or program near you, or for eco-friendly information in general, visit the chock-fullof-awesome website of Earth 911. www.earth911.com
vs. let’s fight! Since the dawn of man, or at least the dawn of electric bulbs taking over for real candles that would occasionally burn down trees, there have been battles waged over which hue is the better representative for the holiday. Many shapes and sizes have come and gone, but this decision remains. When hubs and I got together back in the day, our first Christmas rolled around and we quickly realized we sat on different sides of this fence. HIM: “Colored lights are tacky.” ME: “White lights have no soul.” For many years, he won out and white lights took over our tree. I think there was maybe one year or two when I was able to string up some multi-minis without too much of a rebuttal. Then, I found our compromise... in the most unlikely of compromise candidates: The C7. When I was a young spoon, we had a tree that held upon it the most glorious of all festive wattage, the C7 light bulb. For those of you who may not be familiar, the C7, and its larger sibling, the C9, are the roughly two-inch bulbs of transparent glass or painted ceramic, the latter of which are key for that perfect retro/vintage setting. They screw into a base just like a regular household light bulb, and have a most loverly egg shape and soft, warm glow. If you grew up around these strands, you’ll fondly recall the dull clinking sound they make when they knock 40 : Spoon Dec/Jan 2011
against each other... and a glorious sound it is, I say. They tend to be the bulb of choice for outdoor building decorations, or, for those of you in the States, the same lights you see strung about the inside of your neighborhood Hooters. (mmm... buffalo scrimps...) The C7 died out of popularity sometime in the late 80s/early 90s, but they forever have a hold on my holiday heart. Our annual tree now proudly sports the C7s, complete with our childhood ornaments, fat, gold tinsel garland, and double-decker glass bulb topper. An awesome replica of my childhood icon. White lights have a very long history and are the ones you see most often. They, and their candle predecessors, were seen as symbols of faith and hope and light in the darkness of winter. These days, they’re not just around during December, but also add a special little sprinkle of magicality to a room (yes, I made that word up) throughout the year. For the holidays, they compete with the multi-color variety, who in turn has competition with younger whippersnappers like all red, all green, or some other all-one-color, blue and white combos, red and green combos, blinkers, chasers, and the yet-to-berefined alien glow of LED lights. Though I have my preference, to be sure, I will admit that there is a place for both. White lights, as many will attest, are more elegant and classic, allowing them to blend most harmoniously with any color scheme. For certain, a row of buildings in a nice town setting that have been meticulously outlined
in white are a nice touch. They also have the advantage of staying up all year round. But let me ask you this, my friends: Have you ever gone out during the holidays to drive around and look at all the lights in the neighborhood? Maybe you went to a grand display at a nearby park, or zoo... down to Disney World for the Osborne family display... or maybe you feel a kinship with Clark Griswold. If you said yes, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you didn’t do it for the white lights. I’ll even go one further and say that if every bulb was white, you’d be pretty bored, pretty fast. Whaddya say? Agree to disagree? As long as you’re not mixing colors and styles all willy-nilly (as some of you are wont to do...) and having displays that look like they’ve got split personalities, I see no reason we can’t all just get along. It is the holidays, after all.
The C7. Always the winner in my book.
December 26 Like many other non-aware Americans, you may have heard about this day-afterChristmas holiday but not known squat about it. Perhaps you referenced it as “that thing Canadians do on December 26”. Boxing Day is actually celebrated by a number of countries around the globe and by different names such as St. Stephen’s Day, Day of Goodwill, or “Christmas II” (my personal favorite). In Canada, it is an optional holiday on the docket, with Ontario being the only province that lets you play hooky from work and still get paid.
after Thanksgiving. (As a side note, be nice to the retail and restaurant folks on these days. I’ve done both, and getting stuck working on Black Friday, for lack of a better PG word, sucks.)
There are many theories as to the origin of the term “boxing” in regard to this day, but tradition marks it as a time for charitable giving to those in need or in service positions. As with most modern takes on holidays in Westernized parts of the world, commercialism has stepped its big, fat foot in and stamped it a day to run retail sales out the wahoo. A step-sister of Black Friday, if you will, the American equivalent held the day
If you’re not in a country that celebrates Boxing Day but want to play pretend, you can always partake in some of the festivities in your own way. Go to a sporting event, distribute good tips to your servers or monetary bonuses to your employees, postal workers, and paperboys and girls, donate to charities, volunteer to help the needy, go shopping, or just relax and take care of that holiday hangover.
Sport also comes into play on Boxing Day, with some countries taking that meaning of the word literally, and holding actual boxing matches or other sporting events. Prize fights, ice hockey matches, horse races, rugby, cricket, and yachting competitions all have big showings on December 26.
When you want to know, you go to the source: Canadians.
What does Boxing Day mean to you? Boxing day ... is a “married child of divorce Christmas” hangover, day three spent on one (or more) of the 400series highways around the GTA (Greater Toronto Area)... driving with gifts, two dogs, now a baby and the occasional fake-vanillascented candle that makes your head pound and your gag reflex go into overdrive. It’s a time of reflection and of promises... promising myself that “next year” we will do Christmas at home. That broken promise is foreshadowing of New Year Resolutions and their eventual demise in February. :) - Sarah
WTF is boxing day?
Boxing Day is the day that you go to the buffet brunch at the Western Fair and typically lose about $20 betting on horse racing, which you know nothing about, despite having done this since you were a kid (your parents make the bet for you until you’re 18.) You try stupid bets like triactors and super trifectas because your grandfather used to do that and he actually won $178 one year. That night you eat sandwiches for dinner because you stuffed yourself at the buffet. - Trevor www.enterthehaggis.com
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A Little History
The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays, beginning in ancient Babylon about 4,000 years ago. The Babylonians marked the new year as beginning with the first visible crescent moon after the vernal equinox in March. This was an appropriate time, given that spring is the literal and symbolic time for rebirth, with nature coming into bloom and the planting of new crops. Their celebrations lasted for eleven days, with different activities for each day. Fast forward to the Romans, who continued to observe the tradition. Things took a turn, however, when the various emperors began jacking up the calendar, switching things around so that it no longer was in sync with the sun. In 46 BC, the Roman senate finally tried to nail it down, establishing the Julian calendar, which put the new year at January 1st. Because of the timetable of colonization and religious opposition, Western nations have only been celebrating New Year on January 1st for about 400 years. As with any other holiday, there are many customs and symbols associated with New Year’s Day. From naked babies hanging out with old men, to black-eyed peas, to odd objects sliding down poles, here’s a little back story on why you do that thing you do. 42 : Spoon Dec/Jan 2011
Making New Year’s resolutions also dates back to the Babylonians. The most popular vow in the day was a promise to return borrowed farm equipment. It’s nice to know that some habits die very hard.
Baby New Year
The little tyke showed up in Greece around 600 BC during the celebration of Dionysus, the god of wine. A baby in a basket was paraded around to represent the rebirth of the god into the spirit of fertility. The image of babycakes with his banner originated with Germans in the 14th century, who brought it to America.
In contrast, Father Time is an old guy playing the part of the year that has come to an end. Often seen trodding around the joint with a cane and flowy robe.
Noisemakers and Horns
The blaring of loud sounds was a long-standing effort to keep evil spirits at bay.
New Year’s Eve Celebrations
It was widely thought to be good luck to usher in the first day of the new year doing things that would be representative of the luck and happiness you wished for. Parties with friends and family and eating symbolic foods get together here.
As mentioned above, what you ate translated into what you wanted for yourself and your family in the upcoming months. Various cultures and regions in the United States and around the world have their own special dishes that are consumed on New Year’s Day. Black-eyed peas are reminders of money or coins. Having ham, or any meat, symbolized prosperity, as it was mainly the wealthy who were able to provide meat for the table on a regular basis. Fish is also popular. Cabbage is another go-to, with the leaves reminiscent of paper currency. Back home in Cleveland and parts of the Midwest, we ate pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings, while in the South, collards are king. The shape of a ring was also a symbol of luck, so round foods were heartily consumed. Many European countries eat doughnuts. I like this. Much better than cabbage. Less stench, too. Spain has an interesting custom of eating one of twelve grapes for each stroke of the clock at midnight. They represented the upcoming twelve months, so the quality of each grape corresponded to the quality of that particular month ahead.
Droppin’ it like it’s hot... or dead The biggest hoo-ha in the States is the dropping of the big ball in New York’s Times Square. This tradition began in 1907 to usher out the old and bring in the new. Once its popularity grew, smaller spawns and knock-offs began to appear in towns small and large across the country. To change things up a bit, they have gotten... creative... in their choice of droppings. You can visit Wikipedia to learn all about the odd things we Americans come up with. Here are a few of my faves. Tallapoosa, Georgia
Mt. Olive, North Carolina
A possum. The Tallapoosa Possum Drop. With a real possum inside a ball cage with lights on it. Possum provided by Bud Jones Taxidermy. A dead possum. www.thepossumdrop.com
A 22-foot sardine. And a maple leaf. At least they dress up the fish for the occasion. www.tidesinstitute.org/ newyearseve2010.html
A 3-foot pickle. The Mt. Olive Pickle Company drops the pickle down their flagpole into a wooden barrel at 7pm EST. This coincides with the official midnight in Greenwich and so “...we can get to bed at a decent hour. This is, after all, a small town.” www.mtolivepickles.com/ news/whats-new/
A giant Peeps candy chick. Takes place at the end of the annual PEEPS Fest, which is a whole other ball of awesome. www.firstnightbethlehem. com
The Song That Tripped-Up a Thousand Party-Goers Every New Year’s Eve at midnight, revelers start to bust out the classic tune of “Auld Lang Syne”. On top of being looped off of the bubbly and other spirits, half of them don’t seem to know the words, making it an auditory extravaganza. The lyrics to “Auld Lang Syne” are largely attributed to Scotland’s beloved poet, Robert Burns, who wrote them down based on a traditional tune he heard an old fellow Scot singing one day. While the words have been known to vary here and there by other writers, namely James Watson’s “Auld Long Syne” Burns still gets most of the credit. Scots came to sing this tune on Hogmanay, quickly spreading the custom wherever they went. Across the pond, it is American bandleader Guy Lombardo who holds the claim to fame of making it a tradition to sing (or attempt to sing) the song after the stroke of midnight when the calendar page turns. Lombardo used the song as his trademark when he began using it in his New Year’s broadcasts starting in 1929. “Auld Land Syne” is a song in rememberance of old friends. To the right is the original Robert Burns version, which will quickly show you why you should be thankful that we traditionally stop after the first verse and chorus. The chorus, in America, at least, is sung slightly different, with an English familiarity: For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne The rest of the verses have English translations as well, but I’m pretty certain by the time the slowness of the first two parts runs out, you’ll be ready for another drink.
Auld Lang Syne Robert Burns original lyrics Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne? For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp and surely I’ll be mine And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. We twa hae run about the braes, and pu’d the gowans fine But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit, sin auld lang syne We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn, frae morning sun till dine ; But seas between us braid hae roar’d sin auld lang syne And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere and gie’s a hand o’ thine And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught, for auld lang syne Dec/Jan 2011 Spoon : 43
I have a favorite quote that, for me, sums up the foundation of cooking for any budding chef or weekend warrior: “Learn a great recipe, and you can make a great dish. Learn a good technique, and you can make hundreds of them.” I like to rely on great ingredients and simple, well-executed techniques rather than discovering specific recipes in order to make a great dish. My vision is to use Bacon Fat & Butter to present basic concepts and techniques that will hopefully open up your confidence to interpret recipes, rather than depend on them. Sometimes this will take the form of ingredients; other times, maybe tools or methods. But they will always be simple and practical. In this inaugural BF&B, I want to share some very important basics that professional chefs utilize daily in their kitchens, but that too few of us at home understand the importance of.
by Michael Jett
Herbs This one is easy. Use fresh herbs instead of dried herbs whenever possible. They are easy to grow, don’t take up a lot of space, and significantly improve the depth and complexity of your dishes (although they are not as intense as dried herbs, and you will need to use more to get similar results). Depending on your climate, you can always hang and dry your own herbs for when you need them.
Salt Salt is not an ingredient. Salt is a seasoning. I emphasize this not only because of how often we misuse it, but also because we are conditioned to salt everything on the dinner table before we even take a bite. There is a reason you won’t find salt shakers on your table at a fine dining restaurant. Chefs would rather you come into the kitchen and punch them in the face than watch you ruin a demi-glace they spent ten hours laboring over by dumping several tablespoons of Morton’s all over your carefully roasted lamb. Don’t get me wrong here; salt is not a bad thing. It’s just that all salt is not created equal. First rule: get rid of generic table salt. There are very few uses for it, and there is almost always a better alternative. Without getting too technical, there are many different types of salt. They have varied sources, crystalline structures, and densities, all of which impact how they break down, taste, and feel. Table salt has an extremely dense crystal structure that is very difficult to break down. This means that you are rarely seasoning with it, but instead are just eating salt crystals with your food (thus it becomes an ingredient). Kosher salt is a great alternative when seasoning meats or dishes that will cook for a longer period of time (soups and stews, etc). Finishing salts, often different types of sea salt, add tremendous texture and flavor which enhance the food they’re added to, not just make them “salty”. Salt can become a passion, as it has a tremendous history and is extremely diverse. I would encourage anyone that enjoys cooking to learn more about the many types and uses for salt, as nothing will more quickly spark the following responses: “These are the best fries I have ever had!” or, “What in the world did you do to this broccoli?” 44 : Spoon Dec/Jan 2011
Seasonality Bottom line here, people: fresh food tastes better, not to mention, is better for you. There is a reason that watermelon is not a Thanksgiving tradition and pumpkin pie is. Most produce is not grown year-round and the methods used to provide them out of season to your local grocery store usually include some, if not all, of the following practices: harvesting under-ripe product, shipping that product thousands of miles, and ultimately treating the product with gasses to artificially ripen it. Eating seasonally also lends itself to eating locally. Sourcing local foods not only allows you to eat fresher, but also help support your local farmers. There are tons of great sites and resources today that can help you find a local farmer’s market and search for what is in season in your region (www.simplesteps.org/eat-local). Farmer’s markets can be the ultimate complete shopping experience, as you can often speak directly with the farmers and even potentially tour the farms that you are buying from. With farmer’s markets popping up all over our country, many grocery stores have also begun to feature locally-sourced produce (so there there are few excuses if this is something you want to do).
Sourcing Speaking of eating locally, knowing your food purveyors personally adds a tremendous amount of comfort and accountability to the whole process. I have been fortunate enough to visit several of the farms I have purchased from in the past. Being able to see where the plants and animals that I am eating come from, how they are held, and what they are fed and/or treated with allows me to buy my food with confidence. I won’t jump on my soapbox here, but there are some horrific things going on out there to inexpensively produce the food at your local MegaMarts year round. Getting to know the farmers, or at least being able to speak with them on a weekly basis, adds accountability for them as the owner of a business. If I have any concerns with the quality of the product I am receiving, who better to discuss that with than the person who planted/butchered it? If you do not have access to a quality farmer’s market, at least be sure to get on a first name basis with your butcher and produce manager. My butcher and I are on a first name basis. He always lets me know what is fresh, what he just cut, and often volunteers to run back and slice me specific or better cuts of meat whenever I need them. Until you begin to farm all of your own product or open your own butcher shop, getting to know the folks you depend on for that product is not only a good idea, but imperative for gathering the best ingredients.
I hope one of these basics has inspired you to try something new, no matter how small, with the sourcing or preparation of your food. All I can tell you is that these four basics will go a long way to improve the flavor and quality of your creations. We spend a lot of time planning dinners, prepping food, and washing dishes. We spend even more time with our families eating the food we have made. Doesn’t it make sense to commit to using better and fresher ingredients as well as giving those ingredients the respect they deserve when cooking them? I for one think so, and promise you your family and guests will notice. Happy cooking to you all!
BF &b Dec/Jan 2011 Spoon : 45
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes. - Charles Swindoll
A book of quotations Iâ€™ve compiled since my freshman year of college. This is my all-time favorite quote.
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Coming up next... Feb/Mar 2011 • • • • • •
The love of travel The art of correspondence A tradition of cake Red stuff & heart stuff A nod to St. Pat’s Inspirational tattoos
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(*It’s got a little poo in it!)
Welcome to the premier issue of Spoon! Spoon is a bi-monthly, digital zine based on the little things that make life awesome: inspirations,...