Happy Yule and New Year!

As we wind down 2018, I am glad to see it GO. Our fortunes have gone from bright to tarnished, as we were held in limbo for 7-8 months by the rich landlord. Our credit cards are maxed, our credit scores suck and it’ll be a miracle to get the pub open by March.

BUT. All that notwithstanding, we will survive and we will KILL IT when we open. Of that I am certain.

I’m grateful to everyone who has been supportive of our efforts and to everyone who contributed to our GoFundMe – that has enabled me to get a kegerator lined up and perhaps a reach-in for the bar as well. Couldn’t have happened without the people who have backed us. THANK YOU.

I’m also grateful to have my best friend as my partner in crime. Nick and I have been packed up each other’s asses in this house all year, and it’s not been too bad. We can read each other and we know how to ‘go to our corners’ when we feel like fighting. We work well together and I know we’ll work well to run this pub. <3

I’m grateful for our health – both mental and physical. We’ve had some ups and downs, but overall, I think we’ve weathered this year really well. Not everyone could handle the kind of pressure we’ve been under to make this happen with our limited funding.

We have grit and we’ll make this happen no matter what.

I look forward to getting GOING and seeing how our mad plans pan out. I feel optimistic that we’ll KILL and the pub will be a great success.

So, again, thank you to everyone who’s been supporting us along the way. WE SEE YOU. And we are grateful. XOXO

Buttermilk Pepper Soup

YES! I said buttermilk! This is a beautiful and light soup great in any season. To make vegetarian, use veg stock instead of chicken stock. I was inspired by these lovely “Aloha” striped bell peppers I found at the Farmers Mkt.

Buttermilk Pepper Soup
~2 cups large diced Red, Orange and Yellow Bell Peppers (about 3-4 peppers)
2/3-3/4 cup diced white onion (one med)
3 cloves garlic, minced (~2 tsp)
3 Tbl butter
2 Tbl A/P flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp chili paste (Amore brand is the one I use)
1 cup chicken (or Veg) stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

Melt butter in a large soup pot on med; add onions and garlic and cook until onions are transparent. Add peppers and salt. Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes. Add flour and stir thoroughly; cook another 3 mins. Add white pepper and chili paste, stir again. Add chicken stock, turn up head to med high and cook peppers for about 5-7 minutes, until they are softened.

Whiz the peppers with an immersion blender or in a countertop blender until smooth. Add cream and buttermilk and check seasoning – mine took another 1/2 tsp salt.

Synagogue Shooting and Ignorance

Y’all know I’ve got no love for E TN or the red South in general, but since the synagogue shooting, I’ve been reminded of something from elementary school.

I have no idea why, but we had a whole section of a year where we studied Judaism. Like a few weeks. We studied all about the faith, we did crafts (I made a Jewish star handkerchief – wish I still had it!) and had a menorah and everything. All this in racist E TN! I’ve always been shocked to hear of the racism towards Jews, I guess because I studied Judaism when I was young. To me, it’s always been just another religion (although I know it’s MUCH more than that to the Tribe).

While I’ll never know the subtleties of Judaism, I know the main tenets and I enjoyed learning about it as a kid. I wish my Jewish friends Shanah Tovah and Happy Hannukah – I even know what “sitting shiva” means.

So, once AGAIN, I assert that if kids are taught about different religions and different cultures and different foods when they are young, they’ll be a LOT less likely to be an ignorant racist hillbilly when they grow up. Knowledge is power and knowledge also erases fear of the unknown…because you know things. Lots of things are scary if you don’t understand them! I credit a lot of my fearlessness to being an information junkie.

America has allowed its citizenry to fall into ignorance in a very widespread way. The public school system is failing to teach, well, ANYTHING that I can discern. This failure of a core system is the very thing that has led to the hateful, ignorant masses who are afraid of everyone because they are so horribly incapable of logical thought and they’ve been taught nothing about history. If you don’t know what fascism is, it’s hard to see it.

When you are raised in a 10 mile radius and never step outside your peers and don’t have the intellect to read about other views, you’ll be an ignorant hillbilly. Plain and simple.

The public school system has failed. It is nothing more than a babysitter that teaches how to take a multiple choice test. The dropout rate in the US is only surpassed by five other developed countries! (2015 article from PBS.) And I say that no matter the rates, kids are NOT getting a well rounded, UNBIASED education in the first place.

And again, I must point to college as the answer to the insufficient primary/secondary school offered by the government. While I don’t feel that college is for everyone and the trades are VERY valuable, I do feel that college can fill in many holes left by half assed government education. Private schools are not accessible to most of the population, which is why I think that government schools should be held to higher standards. And I DON’T mean standardized tests, which are 100% bullshit.

The ESSA law signed in by Obama in 2015 is carrying on the No Child Left Behind act that came before it. At least he tried.

I truly feel sorry for the masses who send their kids to school, assuming they are being taught basic history, reading comprehension, mathematics, art and literature. They are not. They are being taught that the Native Americans “chose to move” to allow for white settlement. They graduate High School reading at a fifth grade level. They are taught fucked up “new math” that makes no sense. Art and music classes were cut long ago. Literature is barely skimmed.

College classes are the only cure available for the lack of education in primary and secondary schools. And college is out of reach for most kids nowadays. And, I’m sad to say, even colleges have succumbed to standardized testing.

Which is why we are a country full of ignorant, uneducated hillbillies. We’ve allowed this to happen. We can stop it, but it won’t be easy. All we can do is VOTE against ignorance and RESIST letting the mob of hillbillies rule this country.

Don’t think for an instant that a synagogue shooting has nothing to do with you. And don’t think that sending troops to the border to shoot people who throw rocks has nothing to do with you, either. These are fascist acts. Don’t wait until the jackboot is on YOUR throat. Because it will be if the majority (hillbillies) keep their Cheeto in office. Those who oppose him and his MAGAts will be next. That means you and me. It’s not just Jews and women. It will be anyone who dares to vote blue. This is how fascism starts. #RESIST

Speaking of Fair Treatment…

Just re-read this post from last year’s DragonCon shenanigans and I thought I’d post a short follow up to that.

We did not attend DragonCon at all this year. While there was lots of FOMO and pouting (on my part), overall, I don’t feel we missed much. What did happen was that our biz partner, who works with the bar that wanted us to do the whole con FOR FREE, actually got PAID. Yup, so while we were vilified for bowing up and not wanting to do a con for free, they ponied up real money for our biz partner to do the con. SO I GUESS WE WERE ON THE RIGHT TRACK, EH? I fucking hate that con and the people who treated us like shit, THEN turned around and did as we asked in the first place.

Which is the lead in to the fair treatment post from last year. Turns out that fair treatment is actually possible from the very bunch of folks to said it was “impossible” a year ago. Goes to show that you should not give in when you know things can be better. I’ve got a history of stirring the pot, and I’m glad that this time someone I know gets to benefit. We are VERY happy that our biz partner got the gig, got paid and got another gig out of it. He deserves it!!

Fair treatment is not an option. Our pub will be a harassment free zone on both sides of the bar. Our employees will have a colour coded system to subtly notify management if they are being harassed by a customer. Customers who harass my employees, use hate speech or abuse our games will be asked to leave. Simple. We are actually going to post the Rules of the House on the front of the menu (a là Vortex), so there is no confusion about what we expect.

Here are the Rules of the House you’ll see on the menu:
1. We have a zero tolerance policy for harassment towards our employees. If any of our employees feels harassed, you will be asked to leave. We reserve the right to eject anyone for bad behaviour.
2. We also have zero tolerance for hate speech of any kind, which includes offensive clothing. You will be asked to take off the hat or turn the shirt inside out. Or you can leave.
3. We will not tolerate abuse of our games. These games are expensive and we’ve spent hundreds of hours refurbing them. If you beat on the games, you will be asked to leave.
4. We are a no kid zone after 7pm. We are a pub, after all, and we want to allow adults time to play without children around. Teenagers are OK. We are open during the day Saturday and Sunday, so we feel there’s plenty of time for kids. We’ll also have restrictions on special events such as Drink n Draw, etc. We hope you understand that we’re trying to be fair to all.

I think that upholding our core beliefs is essential to creating a great work environment. We’ve even gone so far as to not have certain shooter games (Police Trainer, for one) that involve shooting people. We feel that this type of game is inappropriate with the current atmosphere of police shooting people in the face and rampant mass shootings. We have shooter games, but they are alien and/or carnival based ONLY.

We think that being aware and treating people fairly is just the way to run our business. We hope that people appreciate our efforts to start this pub up with the right attitude from the get-go.

We can’t wait to serve you!

Ponderings About Food

We were watching my current favourite TV food show, Ugly Delicious with David Chang the other night. It was the Home Cooking episode, and it brought up some interesting thoughts about food and our relation to it.

First of all, let me go on about Ugly Delicious. This show is probably the most cerebral food show I’ve ever seen. Bourdain’s No Reservations was along the same lines, but Ugly Delicious really gets into some deep thinking – which I adore. (Chang was a friend of Bourdain’s and had a chapter in The Nasty Bits.) David’s partner in this show and his magazine Lucky Peach, Peter Meehan, is a food writer who also owns a huge food oriented book store that I really need to go to. These two explore food in a way I’ve never seen in a show before. They look at the roots of it, the people who make it, the people who consume it and the social contexts of all this. It’s brilliant, really. You should watch it.

Anyway, aside from my fangirling, this show always leaves me thinking about it after I watch an episode. The episode we watched the other night was about home cooking, and it in, Chang and Meehan go to Chang’s family’s Thanksgiving feast. They cook the “white people” food and Chang’s mother does the Korean food. (The spread was MASSIVE!!) During the episode, Chang talks of his childhood spent watching his mother and grandmother in the kitchen, learning how to do the family recipes. He went to culinary school, where the French methods rule, and felt that his Korean food heritage was somehow less than the fancy French cuisine he learned in school and cooked in the restaurants he worked in. It took him a very long time to come around to the fact that his family’s comfort foods may not be pretty, but they are ugly delicious and they deserve to be represented in the world of cuisine. That’s what spurred him to open his first restaurant, Momofuku.

All this discussion about home cooking, made me reflect upon my own upbringing and the foods that I remember the most. I mostly remember my grandmother’s cooking. It was never fancy, but always good. We always had a massive garden (1/3 – 2/3 acre or so) and I clearly remember watching my Gran putting up Silver Queen corn (cream style), green beans, tomatoes (YES Alton Brown, you CAN can tomatoes!!) and making blackberry jelly. I also remember her making fudge and what she called cream puffs, but were actually éclairs, and chocolate pie (my favourite!). She’d make Stack Cake with homemade apple butter at holidays.

Speaking of holidays, my Aunt and Uncle (mom’s brother) would always host the holiday family gatherings. It was mostly Aunt Vera’s family and my grandmother’s sisters and brothers. There’d be a HUGE buffet with turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, all the standards. Some of the women would bring things, but it was mostly my grandmother and aunt who did the cooking.

Years later, we were visiting a friend’s grandmother during Thanksgiving and of course, we were encouraged to eat. So we did and I was surprised to find that her grandmother’s cooking was almost identical to what my family made. So, there’s your proof that cooking is indeed regional, perhaps more than even I suspected it was!

So, back to the family foods thread. My mother was not what I’d call a great cook. She knew all the standard stuff (regional dishes), but when she married my father, he demanded that she cook like his mother did. Apparently his mother was a fan of overcooked, very greasy food. So my mother cooked the stuff that he liked and in the way he liked it. Then came the 70s and casseroles – OY, so many casseroles. My mother could make a good fried chicken and a good turkey, but most everything else was mush. And she did not like to cook, so I really believe that her dislike of it is what ruined the taste and made her food unremarkable. My dislike of her food is why I started cooking for myself. I tell you, if the food culture back then had been what it is now, I’d already be a chef with 35 years experience. I watched Julia Child and Jacques Pépin when I was a kid and was fascinated, so the desire was there even then.

Then a friend on FB mentioned kids’ anxiety and how it seems to be related to being over scheduled, and how this has made them anxious if they don’t have something to do. She mentioned sitting on the porch snapping green beans with her grandmother as a kid – as I did. THAT got me to thinking about how perhaps all this stimulation and busy-ness could have something to do with the proliferation of all these chef boxes with prepped food that you just have to cook. For me, food prep is my happy place. I don’t listen to music, I just get into a groove of cutting and measuring and enjoying the process. I think that kids who’ve been brought up with helicopter parents and every minute scheduled and monitored don’t have the ability to just BE. They really can’t just do nothing or enjoy the simplicity of snapping green beans for an hour. We were never scheduled as kids. We thought up things to do or wandered around the neighborhood. I remember making up commercials and acting them out when I was bored. Kids don’t do that now, they are scheduled, anxious and antsy. No wonder the thought of an hour of standing in one spot cutting veg is horrifying to them!

It makes sense to me that kids brought up with never having downtime would be terrible at food prep. It is a meditative process. Ask anyone who does it for a living! Anne Burrell once commented on her cooking show that shelling peas is one of her favourite things to do, but she “doesn’t get to do it” now that she’s an executive chef. Notice the GET in that sentence. It’s not a chore, it’s something she LIKES to do. I totally feel that way, too. I can’t WAIT to do prep all day. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. (Now, ask me that after doing it for six months in a restaurant kitchen! LOL I might have a different view!)

The idea that I’d like to get across in this post is the thought provoking nature of Ugly Delicious and how much I really do think about food and how people relate to it. Everyone feels that their home cooking and comfort foods are no big deal and not worth cooking in a restaurant. BUT. Look at how dining out has changed in the last decade! Comfort foods are everywhere. There are grilled cheese restaurants FFS!! Pretty much all the ethnic foods you seek out are comfort foods for that culture. Western (European) cuisine has been about fancy and pretty for a very long time, and I, for one, am glad that we’re moving away from that. I really detest fussy food. Which is why I’m a great cook, but a terrible “Foodie”. I don’t like spending $100 a plate for things that I can replicate (even if they are fancy). I am almost always let down with fancy places, honestly.

I’m very, very happy that comfort food is its own culinary thing now. It is what I cook, what I’m good at, and hopefully what my customers will like. My recipes are literally from my kitchen. They may have exotic Asian ingredients, but they are truly what I cook for us. I don’t make much of the foods I grew up with, but I intend to remedy that. I’ve done canning for years and I’m going to try to see if I can channel my Gran and make some of her favourite desserts – especially that stack cake, which is an Appalachian regional item. I won’t make my own apple butter, but I am pretty sure I can make the cake part – it’s basically spice pancakes. I am a horrible baker, but I think I can give pâte à choux a go, and I know I can make pastry cream for éclairs. I’ve made chocolate pie before – it’s just pastry cream with chocolate in it. I am good with pies, madeleines, galettes and biscuits, but cookies elude me! Oh, and I can make lava cakes. I can even make soufflés, but cakes and cookies? Not so much. Come to think of it, Gran didn’t do cakes and cookies much, either. Perhaps it’s genetic! :D

I encourage YOU to think about the food you grew up with and your relationship with food. If you don’t cook, why not try some simple recipes? I’ve got dozens on this blog that are easy. If you do cook, do you make foods from your culture or region? Why or why not? Food sustains us, but it’s also a big part of our upbringing. I think that it is also an important part of our culture(s). I’m going to get out my Gran’s cookbook and see what I can find in there. I encourage you to do the same with your family’s cuisine. Bon appétit!