Category: Culture

#Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is not About Rape

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Unless you are dead and/or def, you’ve probably heard Robin #Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines.” If you are a sane, well-adjusted person, you agree that it’s the greatest gift to music since the invention of the major chord. But for some people, getting offended and complaining is as intoxicating as any drug. Because these people hate all things that are good, they’ve set their sites on the best song since the Star Spangled Banner. The reason? It promotes “rape culture.”

Has anyone heard Robin Thicke’s new rape song?” blogger Lisa Huyne wrote in a post in April. “Basically, the majority of the song…has the R&B singer murmuring ‘I know you want it’ over and over into a girl’s ear. Call me a cynic, but that phrase does not exactly encompass the notion of consent in sexual activity … Seriously, this song is disgusting

Oh for Chrissakes, go comb your armpit hair elsewhere and shut up. Just because you took a Womyn’s Studies class one time, that doesn’t mean you’re qualified to say what is and what isn’t a “rape song.” Her main issue with it is that #Thicke repeats the phrase “I know you want it” over and over. Ok, that could be considered a little rape-y, in the context of, I don’t know, an actual rape situation. But have you ever had consensual sex? By definition, both parties “want it,” and if you’re having the sex you know, in fact, that the other person “wants it.”

If anything, the idea of taking offense to something like “I know you want it” and dismissing it as rape undermines women. What if she does want it? Are you trying to say that women aren’t capable of wanting sex, so that when a man declares he “knows you want it,” it can only be an unwelcome advance? Sure, contextually that kind of thing could be negative, but this is just about a man trying to have some swagger, some bravado. I wasn’t aware that wasn’t allowed anymore.

DON’T WORRY, the video (which is fantastic and features beautiful women in various stages of undress) is under plenty of scrutiny too. I know, the gall of someone to hire women who look sexy for a living to look sexy in a music video. For his part, this is what #Thicke had to say about it:

We tried to do everything that was taboo. Bestiality, drug injections, and everything that is completely derogatory towards women. Because all three of us are happily married with children, we were like, “We’re the perfect guys to make fun of this.”

People say, “Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?” I’m like, “Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.”

Hmm. That sounds like an answer from a man who a) knows what’s up and understands the purpose of the thing he created and b) is probably sick and tired of people asking him if his music video is “rapey.” Of course it is, he made it that way on purpose. It’s not as though someone caught them with a hidden camera and leaked it to the web. It doesn’t matter, though, because we live in a world where art is dead, primarily because we’re all incapable of deciding what things we take seriously. Like, listen to this lady:

“[T]he fact that they are all married with kids does not make it OK for him to say these things or depict them in a song. Because songs like this are dangerous,” wrote blogger Liz Terry earlier this month.

Yes, this song is super dangerous. Here’s a tip – if your son or daughter grows up to be a rapist, it’s not because he saw and heard “Blurred Lines” by Robin #Thicke. It’s because they have a screw loose, or you’re a lousy parent, or both. If it’s too inconvenient for you to have a conversation with your child wherein you explain that things like music videos and video games are not real and should not be taken seriously, then you deserve for your child to grow up to become a rapist. You know the easiest way to take something like a music video and turn it into a big deal that can influence children? You incessantly blog and talk about how it’s a big deal that can influence children.

In breaking news, people are still idiots who get great big boners from complaining about otherwise innocuous things.

This Chili Recipe Fights Cancer

Chili

This is not my chili, but looks a little like it

Ok, so the recipe itself probably doesn’t fight cancer. I say that though because I created it for my friend’s Relay for Life chili cook-off, and all of the proceeds (entry fees, etc) went towards her team’s fundraising goal. Still, it won best meat chili out of a very competitive pool, so it’s worth sharing.

I almost feel bad calling this chili, because I think of chili as a kind of American peasant food. It’s hearty, it’s simple, something you’d picture two grizzled cowboys sharing over an open camp fire after a long day of driving cattle. Or, think of it as something to enjoy after coming in from a game of family touch football on a crisp New England fall afternoon. Maybe mom started the chili when you and dad and your cousins went out to play, and now that you’re done you come in, put on a cableknit fisherman’s sweater and sit down by the fire with a warm bowl of hearty chili, maybe discussing with your grandparents how your studies at Exeter are going this semester, and yeah ok I have no idea how those people actually live. Regardless, this chili is neither simple nor rustic. It’s tedious.

What it is, however, is chili so good that your friends will smack their own thighs after every bite. Chili so flavorful and savory that if you notice the crockpot’s missing, it’s because one of your guests has snuck off into a corner with it and is naked and crouched over it like a caveman, slathering it all over their body and forcing it into their mouth with their hands. That’s what I knew it would take to win, something with a crazy strong, savory, umami punch to it. That’s why there are approximately 1500 ingredients. Also, because I made it up as I went along.

Ingredients:

 1.25 lbs ground meat (any animal) 1/2 small can tomato paste Sriracha
1 can crushed tomatoes 2 onions Beer
1/2 can black beans All of the garlic 1/2 package of mushrooms
1 tiny can baked beans Soy Sauce Chili powder
Garlic powder Onion Powder Cumin
Red wine Dr. Pepper Ground coffee

 

Yeah, like I said, it’s a lot. The good thing about this chili is that instead of making the whole batch on the stove and having to baby it for several hours, once the prep work is done everything goes in the crock pot and you can leave it alone until you’re ready. Let’s make some chili.

Step one: Brown your meat. Do not do this the same way you would for meat sauce, which is to say do not plop your entire cake of ground beef into the pan and break it up with a spatula. Instead, use a knife to cut the meat cake into oh, say, 5 slices. Then using your hands, break each slice up into the hot pan one batch at a time. The goal here is for heartier chunks of beef. The other goal is to get the meat fucking brown, not grey. Get the pan good and hot, and get a good, crackly char on at least one side of each batch. Don’t worry, it’ll soften once we get the liquid in there, but for now we need that charred flavor. Each time a batch is finished, drain the grease off and shovel it into the crockpot, and then prepare the next batch. While each batch works, use this time to dice both onions (keep them separate) and mince all of that goddamned garlic. Don’t be afraid, I’m talking 8, 10 big cloves. Mincing garlic by hand is a colossal pain in the ass, so if you have a mincer or a food processor, I suggest using it.

Step two: Create the base. Using any leftover beef tallow (or just oil), get once of your diced onions sweating over medium heat. A little salt here might help speed things along, but use it sparingly. Once those look like they’re close to where they need to be, add all of that damned minced garlic and cook until it’s fragrant and getting soft. When that happens, dump in a bunch (A tablespoon? A tablespoon and a half?) of chili powder and mix it around to coat everything.

(A note on chili powder: In this case, I’m using store bought stuff. It probably doesn’t add a ton of flavor, per se, but it does create some incredible aroma and adds color. If you’re the kind of foodie dweeb who wants to make their own powder or base from your own dried chiles, be my guest. You’ll probably need a lot less of it, in that case.)

Once the chili powder has filled your home with the smell of TexMex, plop in a good tablespoon of tomato paste and mix that around to coat everything. Let that go until the color has mellowed a bit ad you can smell it, and then dump the whole mess into the crockpot with the beef. Mix it all up.

Step three: Go ahead and add the rest of the “standard ingredients” to the crockpot, which you can go ahead and crank to high at this point. Half the can of black beans, rinsed thoroughly. Not quite the whole can of crushed tomatoes. Lots and lots of cumin. Plenty of garlic and onion powder. Take your mushrooms and rough chop them into, I don’t know, 1/4″ square pieces (Leave larger if you like bigger, meatier chunks of mushroom. My wife does not). Go ahead and put these in raw, because the liquid they produce will both add a meaty punch and help with the consistency of the final dish. Pour in about 2/3 a bottle of beer.

Since this is a summer chili, I wanted something that would add floral and citrus notes, in which case the New Belgium “Rolle Bolle” in my fridge worked nicely. Sam Adams Summer Ale would probably be good here, as would Blue Moon. There’s nothing wrong with using plain old Budweiser if that’s all you have, but it won’t bring a whole lot to the party. Anything brewed for summer is best, stopping short of something as fruity as a Shandy beer. Finally, add just a few glugs of cheap red wine to restore some of that iron-y, meaty flavor we cooked out of the meat.

So what we now have is essentially a TexMex bolongese sauce, which is great but not at all chili. Part of that will resolve itself over time while cooking, and the rest we’ll sort out with the “secret” ingredients, as follows:

– Caramelized onions: These add a warmth and unidentifiable sweetness to the chili. When I say caramelized, I don’t mean “browned,” like you’d get at a burger joint that advertised them. I mean cooking an entire onion down to less than a cup of what amounts to onion marmalade, like you would for French onion soup. You can do this the old fashioned way over almost imperceptibly low heat, in which case your onions will be done sometime around the winter solstice. Or, you can follow Kenji’s lead over at Serious Eats and use higher heat and sugar combined with the occasional water de-glaze to speed things up significantly. Kenji got his time down to about 15 minutes; mine took about 20 because I wasn’t trying to mess with baking soda. Once they’re cooked down all the way, into the pool they go.

– Soy sauce: When I first started messing around with chili recipes a couple of years ago, this was the first “secret” ingredient I used to augment the initial recipe my mom provided. I use light soy sauce, because while it does add some needed salt to the dish, the real value is in the umami-y glutamates found in soy sauce. I’m not sure exactly how much I used, but I’d say somewhere around 1/3 of a bottle. Put it in little by little, mixing and tasting. I generally stop when the chili is closer to the burnt umber color of chili and less red.

– Baked beans: Lots of people opt for kidney or pinto beans over black beans in their chili, but I don’t know anyone who uses baked. Some chili recipes call for brown sugar and cinnamon, and while I’ve tried those with success, they’re too forward and warm in a summer chili. Baked beans give me the warm notes I want at a more acceptable intensity, add savoriness due to their bacon-cooked origins, and add further sweetness to help cut the tomato’s acidity. I buy and use one of those comically small cans they sell, sauce and all.

– Sriracha: Most people use cayenne to add heat, but my problem is that cayenne brings heat and nothing else in terms of flavor. Everything in my chili has to count, so a one-note ingredient like cayenne is out. Chipotle powder used to be my go-to, but it’s too temperamental. Not enough and you can’t taste it, but just a pinch too much and you’re overwhelmed with both heat and smoke. I put in several good squirts of sriracha, which adds not only an easily controlled amount of heat, but also the chile pepper flavor the dish is lacking at this point. Again, squirt, taste, and then adjust as needed.

(Note: I realize that I’m using a few distinctly Asian ingredients, which might lead you to believe this will end up tasting like Thai or Chinese chili. It won’t. Shut up.)

– Ground coffee: Odd sounding, but not so much when you consider that it’s often used in dry rubs for a lot of TexMex steak preparations. I happened to have mocha flavored coffee, which was nice seeing as how chocolate is found in mole, that distinctly Mexican sauce. When I say ground, I mean really ground, like into a powder (a spice grinder, blender, or food processor should accomplish this) because you don’t want anyone chewing on noticeable coffee grounds. You only need a teaspoon or so, and if you don’t have mocha coffee you can add some shavings of baker’s chocolate to make up for it.

– Dr. Pepper: This was the last thing I added, actually the day after it did most of the cooking because it still needed something. I used diet (because that’s what I had on-hand), and less than half a can. I can’t say it added any unique flavors of its own, but it did pull all the other flavors together and gave the finished dish what one taster described as a “left turn.” Again, this sounds super weird, but Dr. Pepper is a favorite braising liquid in some regional barbecue styles.

That’s it. Get it all into the crockpot, give it a stir, and let it go on high for a couple of hours. Once it gets to a low boil, turn it down to low and let it simmer until the sun collapses into a White Dwarf (or, y’know, 4 hours). This is a chili that definitely benefits from having some time to itself so the flavors can mingle. Once it’s done, let it sit overnight in the fridge, and when you go to eat it the next day, place a friendly wager with your friends to see who can go the longest before their eyeballs melt out of their sockets.

Tedious. Time-consuming. It’s everything chili shouldn’t be, but tastes like everything chili wishes it could be. It’s really more of a condiment than anything else, because it’s too flavorful to eat an entire bowl. Try it on a hotdog. Put some over pasta. Slather some on your lover’s private parts. It’s good on literally anything.

Beyonce Doesn’t Want You to See This Picture

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Or any picture not provided to you by her publicists, to be correct. If you are a member of the press covering Beyonce’s tour, you may be bootylicious, and you may be crazy in love, but you may not take any damned pictures. Via Buzzfeed (ugh, sorry):

Outside photographers have been banned from the singer’s Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, which began in April and ends in September. So publications wanting to run photos from the show have to use pre-approved ones her management provides.

“Everyone has a camera at concerts these days,” freelance photographer Kyle Gustafson told TBD.com at the time. “And it’s unfortunate that they are trying to crack down on the professional photographers. People that are given photo access have more restrictions than people sitting in the front row with their cameras and their flashes popping off.”

I don’t have a problem publishing the above photo, for one because I’m not a journalist. And two, fuck Beyonce. Beyonce Knowles Carter is a rare talent, a beautiful woman, and deserves at least some credit for promoting the third wave feminism of the early aughts. That said, in terms of our greater cultural cannon, she Doesn’t Fucking Matter. She didn’t create a new genre of music, nor did she perfect an existing one. To my knowledge, she’s no great humanitarian. She’s just a talented artist and a marketing genius. If anything, she should be thrilled that anyone still wants to take her picture 15 goddamned years after the release of her first hit single.

Obviously, when you hit a certain level of fame, you begin to believe that the rules governing society don’t apply to you. That’s why Beyonce thinks it’s ok to hire a videographer to follow her around for 16 hours per day, and why she thinks it’s ok to tell the free press (the reason she is famous to begin with) that they aren’t allowed to do press things on her tour which, incidentally, I would not have known was going on had I not read about it in the press. As to her motivations behind the crackdown, who knows? Being caught in unflattering poses would make her seem more “real” and “accessible”, but I think by now it’s clear that Beyonce sees herself as someone to be worshiped, not someone “of the people” (to be fair, many of her fans agree). Maybe she’s just getting older and doesn’t want to be reminded of it.

It’s also possible that for whatever reason (being married to Jay Z, having met the president a few times), Beyonce thinks she is an Important Person, someone who actually has the power to dictate the actions of the press. This is false. No celebrity is bigger than the press. The press creates them, and the press tears them down. You would think she’d have figured that out by now.

Please do not Smoke. It is Bad For Business.

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I am a smoker. That is, I am addicted to taking small paper tubes stuffed with impossibly dry tobacco and God knows how many toxic chemicals, lighting their ends on fire, and inhaling the resulting smoke. Whichever of our prehistoric ancestors first thought to light a plant on fire and then breathe in its vapors was equal parts genius, daring, and probably mentally handicapped. Regardless, if you’re a smoker, you get it. That reassuring rush that somehow calms your nerves while simultaneously increasing your heart rate is second to none. If you’re not a smoker, I should say that the momentary buzz is not nearly good enough to warrant starting. Smoking, like getting shot or struck by lightning, is very detrimental to your health.

Despite being a smoker, I’ve never been a big “smoker’s rights” kind of person. Not allowed to smoke in a bar anymore? Fine with me. Don’t want me to smoke near a door or window or whatever? Ugh, ok, you’re kind of being a pussy about it but if walking 15 feet means it annoys you less, I’ll do it. I avoid smoking near children, lest a minute wisp of second-hand smoke reach their lungs or skin, stunting their growth or giving them asthma or whatever other health defect their parents can blame the smoke for in place of their own inadequate, worrisome genes. If I insist on burning and inhaling a smelly, unhealthy thing, I will concede your right to not be forced to also inhale that smelly, unhealthy thing. As long as we’re outside and there’s sufficient distance between us, all should be quiet on the Western Front.

That’s the precise reason why I chose to rent an apartment with a balcony. I can be outdoors without having to go all the way downstairs, and yet the design and location of the balconies ensure that my neighbors are sufficiently protected from the noxious fumes that hang around for a second and then disperse harmlessly into the atmosphere. Drinking beers, smoking cigarettes, and listening to music on my balcony is one of my favorite summer pastimes, right up there with golf and baseball. Well, according to the do-gooders who manage my apartment building, that’s all about to change. The following is an email sent out to all residents (emphasis mine):

Dear Valued Resident of Archstone Courthouse Plaza:

In Fall of 2012, [Apartment Name] began the conversion to a smoke free community. With the recent change in ownership, I wanted to make you aware that we do intend to continue the conversion to smoke free living. This will prohibit smoking in individual apartments (including balconies and patios), any common areas (both indoor and outdoors), as well as within 25 feet of the community. We will continue implementing and enforcing this policy immediately, and a smoke free lease addendum is now a part of all lease agreements signed under [Management Company]. This transition will take time, as current lease agreements do not contain the smoke free addendum and will not until the lease has expired. All new leases and lease renewals will contain the smoke free addendum. You will find the smoke free addendum below for your review, so you can familiarize yourself with the policy and restrictions. We appreciate your patience and support while we continue to implement this policy. Please feel free to contact the leasing office with any questions or concerns or simply reply to this email.

SMOKE-FREE LEASE ADDENDUM
This Smoke Free Lease Addendum (“Addendum”) is dated and effective as of the date on the Residential Lease – Term Sheet (the “Term Sheet”) to which this Addendum is attached and made a part of (“the Lease”) and is made by and between Lessor and Resident for the Premises at the Community identified in the Lease.

You acknowledge that the building in which the Premises is located, and the Community as a whole, are smoke-free living environments. You and all of your occupants and guests are prohibited from smoking anywhere in the interior or exterior of the Premises (including balconies and patios), or anywhere else in the Community. This policy is intended to benefit all residents of the Community. You are responsible fo r any violation of this non-smoking policy by you, or any of your occupants or guests.

You understand that we will take reasonable steps to enforce the smoke-free terms of the Lease and to make the Community a smoke-free environment. However, because our ability to police, monitor or enforce the terms of this Addendum is dependent on the full cooperation of all residents, occupants and guests throughout the Community, we cannot guarantee that the Premises or the Community will be totally free from secondhand smoke.

If you or any of your occupants and guests violate the terms of this Addendum, such violation will be deemed a material default under the terms of the Lease, and we will be entitled to exercise all rights and remedies at law or in equity, consistent with the provisions of the Default Remedies paragraph in the Lease.

Sincerely,

[Name]
Community Manager

Leading up to this, the gist of their smoke-free messaging was basically “You talked, and WE listened!” There were claims of surveys being administered, complaints, etc. Bullshit. I’ve lived in this building since July of last year, and not once were we surveyed, nor were we notified of any complaints of people being bothered by cigarette smoke. And really, I don’t mind not smoking on our common rooftop area, even if it is completely outside and people are just being dweebs about it. But balconies and patios? Get bent.

I would be fine with it if this were a litter issue, because in fairness cigarette butts are gross and no one should have to pick up after you as a smoker. I could even get behind some kind of public health issue, even if that would be unlikely because again, I’m only smoking outside and there is an overabundance of air outside that is not smoke. If either of those were the case, they could just say so. But they don’t. The third, bolded paragraph tells me all I need to know about their motivations. Roughly translated, it says “We’re making this a rule, but in terms of practicality we cannot enforce it. We’ll rely on the community to police itself, and even then there isn’t much we can do about it.” So, there won’t be any smoking police, wearing crossing guard sashes and little train conductor hats adorned with a picture of a cigarette with in a red circle and slash emblem, to blow the whistle on nefarious balcony smokers. Why, then, would they implement a policy they’re incapable of enforcing?

Marketing. It’s all marketing. As a gigantic residential property company, my apartment’s owners are always looking for ways to make more money. The easiest way to do that is to attract wealthier customers, and you know who’s wealthier than an unemployed blogger and his questionably employed wife? Families. Families and their dirty, filthy children. A spawning pair of humans in the DC area is likely to be older, have more income, and be willing to pay more for a nicer place. What’s more, a family with kids is far less likely to pack up and move, meaning they’ll bend over and take rent increases year after year. By being able to tout their community as “100% Smoke Free!”, the management company can do a much better job of attracting fussy, neurotic parents and their disease-ridden offspring, even if the claim isn’t “technically” true.

Usually, when people hear a smoker complain about ridiculous policies, they say something like “well, if you don’t like it then maybe you shouldn’t have picked up such a disgusting habit in the first place.” Blow me. I’m the first person to admit that my “habit” (addiction) shouldn’t infringe on others’ right to clean air. I’m also the first to admit that a company shouldn’t bullshit and inconvenience its residents just to pad the bottom line.

Please do not smoke. It is bad for business.

The Secret to the Best Damn Sandwich

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A great looking sandwich that I did not make.

This blog is many things (or few things, depending on whom you ask), but a food blog is not one of them. I hate food blogs, for the most part. Mostly because they’re all nearly identical: A picture of a quality I am simply not capable of producing, 600 words of nonsense and/or verbal autofellatio, and then a recipe. No thanks. But, as someone who occasionally eats food with a handful of readers/followers who probably eat food sometimes as well, every once in a while I’ll dabble in the topic.

Other than a laboriously created entree plate or maybe a nice salad, sandwiches are about the only food worth eating on a regular basis. Hot sandwiches, that is. A cold, mushy, lifeless sandwich is no one’s first choice. No one looks forward to the pitiful union of meat and bread shrouded in a brown paper bag that’s spent the last 4 hours getting even colder and mealy in the office fridge. Yuck. Given the choice, everyone wants a hot sandwich. The satisfying crunch of the bread, the gooey cheese and meaty juiciness dripping down your arm like the blood of a slain rival, and the warmth permeating your body like a glowing orgasm. A good, hot sandwich speaks to us in ways a Poet Laureate can only dream of.

The problem with making the perfect grilled sandwich is that the key players (bread, the stuff that goes between the bread) are at odds with regard to treatment. Getting the kind of crust that threatens to perform reconstructive surgery on your alveolar ridge requires high heat, like the sun with scarlet fever. On the other hand, melting and heating the filling calls for lower heat, the kind usually found in a loveless marriage or a flashlight that’s been on too long. Grill a sandwich too hot, and you wind up with two pieces of toast with cold stuff between them, which is technically a sandwich the same way RuPaul is technically a man. Grill it low and slow, and while the inside stuff will get warm and melty, the bread will brown without really crusting, because all the shit you stuffed in there makes it steam more than anything. Life is hard.

The solution, I’ve found, is simple and just as fast as grilling a sandwich the old fashioned (crappy) way: Just cook the ingredients separately! No, seriously. Below is the procedure for making the best goddamned grilled sandwich, period.

You’ll need:

– A griddle, or two (nonstick) pans
– Bread (two slices, something hearty and nothing frou-frous)
– Meat (as much or as little as you like, but don’t go crazy)
– Cheese (something that melts, nothing hard and nothing expensive)
– Your preferred sandwich spread (optional)
– Vegetation (also optional, and again don’t go crazy)
– Liquid fat (preferably melted margarine, but oil if you must. Not butter)

Step 1:
Pre-heat your griddle/pans. Go for medium, close to medium high heat. Don’t be a pussy about it. Modern non-stick pans are fine up to medium high. If you’re smart and own an electric griddle, peg it at about 375 degrees.

Step 2:
If using, apply a small amount of sandwich spread to both pieces of bread. I have a home made version of Shake Shack’s “shack sauce” that I like, or if I’m using salty redeye ham (the world’s greatest sandwich meat) some honey mustard is nice. If you’re boring, use mayo. Squirt or spoon a little on each half, and then make them love each other. Pretend you’re making your Barbie and Ken dolls makeout like you used to in 7th grade, and rub the two halves together so you get a thin, even coating of spread on each side. Leave your mayonnaise sandwich intact, for now.

Step 3:
Arrange your meat pile. I don’t care how you do it, as long as it comes out to be roughly the same size as the bread. If using deli meat, I like to fold them in half and create a beautiful cascading meat waterfall. If you’re some kind of sicko, you can just stack them together to form a dense, disgusting meat puck. As long as you can move the entire assembly in one piece with a spatula, go wild.

Step 4:
Grease your bread. Take your mayonnaise sandwich and brush (yes, use a brush) a thin layer of melted margarine on each side. Avoid melted butter or olive oil because they tend to burn a little too fast, and we are not making Cajun style sandwiches. We’re also not making health food, so two teaspoons or so of margarine won’t kill you.

Step 5:
Put your meat pile in one hot pan, and then immediately separate your greasy mayonnaise sandwich and put it in the other. Wait about 30 seconds.

Step 6:
Flip your meat pile and cheese it. While the cheese melts, now is the time to add any vegetation, if using. This is a grilled sandwich, not some towering monument to sandwich superfluity. Be minimal. Maybe some pickles, tomato, or onion (OR, not AND) on what will be the bottom half of the bread, and some green leafy stuff on the top. The spread should keep everything stuck while providing just enough of a barrier to keep the green stuff from wilting.

Step 7:
Assemble. Transfer your meat pile to the bottom piece of bread. Put the top piece on top. Use your spatula to take a peek at the bottom. Whichever piece of bread is not yet perfectly browned, flip the assembled sandwich to that side and finish it off.

That’s it. Cooking the bread with nothing more than a thin layer of sauce allows steam to escape, creating a perfect crust. Cooking the middle parts on their own not only cooks out the nasty meat water that comes with packaged cold cuts, but also gets them piping hot without burdening the bread with heat transfer duties. The result is an ideal sandwich. Even though it’s seven steps long, the entire process doesn’t take more than 2-3 minutes.

Happy eating.

If You Want to Outsell Food Trucks, Make Better Food

Food_Truck_Facts_NJI-Media

Or, if you’re a DC restaurant, you bitch and moan about food trucks until the government steps in to fight your capitalist battles for you. After years of legislative uncertainty, new regulations for food trucks would effectively shut all but a handful out of DC’s busiest downtown areas. Trucks would be forced to compete for a handful of “lottery” parking spots. No other trucks would be allowed within a 500-foot radius of the allotted spots. The result is that most trucks would be forced to lower-traffic areas, and would probably go out of business. Why would DC’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs even consider legislation that would hurt small business owners and cost the city thousands in tax revenue? Is it a food safety issue? A public health concern? Nope. The city’s restaurants are just PMSing. Via Greater Greater Washington:

Many restaurateurs would prefer a downtown free from competitors, but it makes as much sense to give restaurants input on where food trucks can operate as it does to give food trucks control over prices restaurants can charge.

In heeding the concerns of restaurants, DCRA has strayed from the traditionally-accepted role of crafting regulations to preserve public health by attempting to control competition between businesses.

I get it. If you’re a restaurant, you aren’t thrilled about competition being able to park in front of your door. But what I want to know is which restaurants feel that they’re in competition with food trucks. If you are a regular, full service restaurant, complete with a full front of house and kitchen staff, you do not compete with food trucks. No one says “I was going to take my client to this nice restaurant, but let’s do a food truck instead.” So, not them. It’s also not the Subways, Chipotles, or McDonalds of the area. If you’ve ever been in downtown DC around lunch time, you know the chains aren’t hurting for business. Then who is it? who’s left that does most of their business during lunch, but offers neither a full-service environment nor the consistency of a chain? Ah, that’s right. Weigh ‘n pays.

If you’re not familiar with a weigh ‘n pay, it’s a combination of a buffet and sandwich counter that usually executes neither concept very well. The colloquial name comes from the fact that when purchasing food from the buffet, the price is determined by the weight. You weigh, then you pay. And oh, what a buffet it usually is. Imagine a spread of American and Chinese favorites, all either glopped in sauce or fried beyond the point of recognition. A weigh ‘n pay is no one’s first choice, reserved for when you’re super hungover or in search of a meal that matches the depths of your own personal failures. It should come as a surprise that tiny, mobile trucks are able to out-perform a brick and mortar establishment with a full kitchen and pantry, but for anyone who’s eaten at a weigh ‘n pay, it doesn’t.

The chief complaint among “restaurant owners” is that they pay property taxes to the community, while food trucks do not. Besides being an incorrect argument (food trucks pour plenty of money into the community through other things like parking tickets and sales taxes), it’s a pointless one. Brick and mortar establishments pay property taxes because they, in fact, have property. They offer space where their customers can dine, safe from the elements. They have full kitchens that (in theory) allow them to prepare a greater variety of food. They have refrigerators and freezers that should allow them to save money by buying in greater quantities. All of these things (storing, preparing, and serving food in the same place) should create economies of scale that allow them to offer food at market prices but for a higher margin. Apparently none of that is happening, because they’re getting beat out by a bunch of guys cooking food in the back of a truck.

Food truck operators have to store and prep food in one place, and then finish and serve in another, from a truck. Space does not allow for a support staff. Rules don’t allow them much time to settle in early in order to finish prepping. If an appliance in a restaurant breaks down, it’s an inconvenience to overcome. If anything breaks down on a food truck, they don’t make money that day. Still, food trucks consistently churn out better food than the average weigh ‘n pay, because the proprietors care. Weigh ‘n pays could probably obliterate food trucks by using cheaper, fresher ingredients and preparing them thoughtfully, but that would require planning, and work. Instead, rather than let the market decide who succeeds and who fails, DC restaurants would rather have the government create artificial barriers to entry.

If you want people to choose your food over a competitor’s, start making better food than them. If all else fails, the food trucks can always come to Arlington.

11 Things Your Bar Customer Won’t Tell You

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Bartending, despite being a fine profession, is often a thankless one. I’m not a bartender, but I’ve worked in restaurants and customer service before. Everyone who has knows that while most customers are decent and benign, some are nightmares. It comes with the territory. “The customer is always right” is more of a guideline than a rule, and having to explain to a customer that they are wrong without sending them into a fit of rage can be a real headache. Still, if you’re in a position that requires you to deal with other human beings, if you want to keep your job it’s necessary to learn to navigate those waters. That is, unless you’re a bartender, apparently.

Buzzfeed just published this article called “11 Things Your Bartender Won’t Tell You”, and as far as I can tell it’s the rantings and ravings of a group of people who believe that they aren’t required to practice good customer service by virtue of being gatekeepers to the liquor I’d like to pay them for. Here are some highlights (emphasis not mine):

Do not try to get our attention. At all. We know you’re there, and we know the order in which people got to the bar. We know you want something. That’s why you’re at the bar. Do not wave. Do not yell.”

Hey, your bar’s on fire, but I’m going to respect your desire for privacy in a public setting.

“Honestly, the best method is to be obviously ready to order without asking a ton of annoying questions. Don’t worry, if they make eye contact, they’ll get to you. If you wanted to not wait for a drink, go to 7-11.”

And I guess if you wanted to make below minimum wage without interacting with people, go to the unemployment office

“Unless it is entirely the wrong drink, do not send it back. if your martini needs a ‘smidgen more olive juice,’ then shut up. Make it yourself next time.

“Have your friend drink it.”

“Hey Ralph, thank you for this report that I paid you a ridiculous markup to produce, but it’s not quite right. Can you revise it?”

“No. Make it yourself next time.” Or,

“No. Give it to Gene in the procurement department. He likes his reports that way.”

“Paying with a credit card is annoying if you are buying one drink. If you’re buying a round or keeping a tab open, it’s completely reasonable. Customers often don’t realize how much money bars lose on credit card fees.”

Yes, exchanging money for goods and services in a way that doesn’t require you to test the limits of your education by doing simple arithmetic is a real ball-buster. No, I don’t know how much money the bar loses on credit card exchange fees, but I’m confident it’s less than the profit they make off my $10 cocktail.

“I worked in a Boston pub, so anything that required more than three ingredients was annoying. It was the type of place where you ordered a beer or a gin and tonic. Simple stuff. Not a cosmopolitan-type place.”

Oh, I didn’t realize that your full bar stocked with lots of high-margin spirits and cordials for which I’m willing to pay you money was just for show. My mistake, scratch the cosmo and make it a bud light. From a bottle, please. I wouldn’t want you to have to wash a glass.

The best way to tell if your glasses are clean is to look at the lacing as you drink your glass of beer — basically, does the head kind of stick to the side as you drink it, making little rings around the glass as you drink it? If it does, you’ve got a really clean glass.”

Oh, you don’t wash glasses. Nevermind, then. Draught is fine.

“I personally hate making Long Islands, because I know that people are drinking them just to get fucked up.”

I personally hate manufacturing cars, because I know people are buying them just to drive places. The nerve. Sometimes I wish that there was a source of authority that would make someone stop driving their car if they abused the privilege or used it in an unsafe way.

There’s more, so click over to buzzfeed for more top-secret insider info like “don’t ask them for free drinks.” Since I’ve seen dozens of lists like this, I decided to make my own, only in reverse. The following are 11 things your bar customer won’t tell you:

1) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

2) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

3) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

4) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

5) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

6) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

7) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

8) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

9) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

10) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

11) Shut up and make my drink, it is how you and this establishment make money.

That should cover it. A bartender deserves, like any other human being who hasn’t wronged you in any way, to be treated with a certain amount of dignity, patience, and respect, especially considering that they’re working when we see them. The same applies to a bartender’s customers, even if they happen to not be their platonic ideal of a patron. At my job, I can’t simply step back and be an asshat because I don’t like the people and/or practices I’m paid to deal with. The same should apply to bartenders.

Katherine Webb Looks Like a Man

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Photo: The Big Lead

 

People have been losing their shit over Katherine Webb ever since the BCS Championship game, and I see why. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a convincing post-op, let alone one what was able to beg her way into the SI Swimsuit Edition. Scratch that, yes I have. I’ve seen pre-ops that were hotter than this.

Her body (minus her legs that could benefit from a few squats/lunges/cardio) is fine. Bonerific even, as it were. Rather, it’s her face that makes her look like a meth dealer from the dregs of dixieland trying to decide whether he wants to spend his tip money at Applebees or Fudruckers. “Hrmm, ribs or burgers? I reckon I could do either.”

Guys are always like “who cares about her face, look at her body, broseph. What are you, gay?” Am I? I don’t know. How about I strap a nice set of cans on  a man. Who’s gay now, broseph?

Taylor Swift is Dating Another Teenage Boy; Predictable

If I were a betting man, I would wager that Taylor Swift, the nation’s favorite 22 year old bubblegum-country crooner, has more attention cast on her love life than literally any other celebrity. This is for a couple of reasons, one of which being her choice of men, but the other is more simple – she asks for it. Demands it, even.

Taylor has a much-publicized habit of writing songs about her relationships; more specifically, her breakups. Not only is she not shy about it, but it’s almost a point of pride for her, as though having a pop song that vaguely references how shitty of a boyfriend you were is a penance worse than death. I’ve read interviews where she speaks to the effect of “if we go out and you’re a jerk to me, it’s not my fault if you wind up in a song”. Oh no Taylor, anything but a saccharine pseudo-country jam about how mean I am! Let’s look at a sample of some of these blacklisting lyrics. These are taken from her song “Dear John”, presumably written about her stint with the much older and so-notoriously-douchey-you-should-have-known-better John Mayer:

Dear John, I see it all now it was wrong
Don’t you think nineteen’s too young
To be played by your dark, twisted games
When I loved you so, I should’ve known.

That’s pretty much the whole song, her trying to paint him as an asshole for apparently taking advantage of a then-19 year old Taylor’s naiveté. And sure, I guess you could read into it that way and think “man, that John Mayer guy sure is an asshole”. The problem is that literally anyone who follows the news or music has known that for the better part of a decade. He’s many things, including a talented musician, but a “settle down type of guy” isn’t one of them. What Swift doesn’t understand, as she walks around feeling smug and vindicated through the magic of song, is that all I see in those lyrics is an anecdote about how John Mayer, being the sweet bro that he is, successfully nailed and bailed on a gullible 19 year old super star. If I were him, every time I heard that song I would think “goddamn right I did”. He’s not pathetic for doing what he did; she’s pathetic for whining to the world about it in the standard pop verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus format.

Other than the John Mayer fiasco and some time spent playing a beard for the obviously gay Jake Gyllenhaal, Taylor tends to date men closer to her own age, most recently high school junior Connor Kennedy and now 18 year old One Direction member Harry Styles. You might wonder why as teenage boys are usually at the bottom of every woman over the age of 16’s dating list. Sure, the Kennedy name is an alluring one (if you’re here via a time warp from the 1980’s), and I’m sure Styles is charming enough, but Swift is pretty, blond, and built like a model – she could ostensibly have a go with any man she wanted. If you’re a more astute reader you’re thinking “Wait, those guys aren’t her age at all. She’s 22.” You’d be correct, kind of.

The reason she dates the guys she dates, and really the reason for everything she does, is that Taylor Swift is neither capable of nor allowed to be anything other than a perpetually 16 year old girl. Her first album, released in 2006, was a runaway hit, and because she writes her own songs her financial gains were massive. It figures then that that was the precise moment when her real-life experiences and personal development were allowed to stop, and why wouldn’t it? As gifted a songwriter as she is, she’s incapable of writing about anything other than high school puppy love, because that’s all she knows. That works out well for her from a business perspective, because that’s all her audience wants to hear. Ask any girl in her mid-20’s about her favorite T-Swift songs, and while preferences vary, one constant is that no grown woman points to any tracks from her latest album. That’s because the songs they do like, the songs that still resonate with them, were released years ago, when they teenagers themselves and related to the material. Throw in 9-5 jobs, mature relationships, and adult woes, and suddenly lyrics about sneaking out your bedroom window or going against your father’s wishes don’t really hit home. If Swift wants to continue her success, she must remain a 16 year old girl, because those are the only people buying her music.

If she wants to find love, she’ll have to grow into it, and that will be hard for her. Partly because no one wants her to, but also because that would require work, risk, and uncertainty on her part. If my options were continued financial success or forcing myself to grow as a person, I’d probably stick to boinking teenage boys too. Never stop being you, Taylor.

Newest Article On AskMen: Being a Young Conservative

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Heidi Montag, the consummate young conservative

If you’ve read my last two politically-minded posts, you’ve more or less read this one. I’m sorry. Thankfully for all of us, the election being over means I actually have to think of things to write about. Read the full article (and give it a “like”, it’s trucking along so far) here on AskMen