Heading to Texas for MLA, and grateful for all the breaks in my life that make this a trip I am looking forward to. I will be there with one Professor Robert Eaglestone, and we will be introducing this item. If you happen to be around Austin on Saturday, come on by.
So, yes. Anchower. It has been an exceptionally long time since I rapped at you. Today, on a Friday afternoon before a Saturday Halloween, on a day when about 99% of what didn't suck on the Internet ended up in a shitter in Bristol, CT, followed by the thinking woman's version of the Toast, well, it seemed like just the time to break a months-long blog silence and put on my slutty amateur cultural geographer costume and write about dogs I have, kids I don't, and candy. See previous. And enjoy. I am thinking that I might sometimes have ideas that are demonstrably unpublishable (see previous) and longer than 140 characters, and shorter than a book, so I might try to put them here. If you think you would read them, that would be helpful for me to know.
Three things you might well encounter in the fall of 2015:
1) A professional couple in their forties beaming at their infant child, who is of a different race.
2) A dog owner, who when asked what kind of dog she are walking, proudly tells you “not sure - she’s a rescue.”
3) A new homeowner, asking neighbors on social media how much Halloween candy to get, because he heard their new neighborhood “gets a lot of trick or treaters.”
It is possible that these three images could involve the same family. The family who adopts a child from China, or Russia, or Ethiopia, is the kind of family who would also go to the humane society for a dog, is the kind of family who would live in the kind of neighborhood that experiences a net influx of trick-or-treaters.
The first two phenomena have easily recognizable similarities. If you look on a world map, there are places where adopted babies originate, and other places where they wind up. One rarely hears of couples from Pyongyang visiting the United States, trying to make arrangements to adopt an infant from a lovely family in Evanston, IL. On a map of the US, the same is true for dogs. If you are looking to rescue a dog in Boston or New York, the chances are excellent that that dog was born in the southeastern US. This region remains a hotbed of rural poverty, and it costs money to spay and neuter a dog. It costs money to install a secure fence in the yard you may or may not have.
The baby part of the equation was not news, as a number of friends have struggled with the vagaries of the international adoption (one hates to use the word ‘market’). The dog part was more of a discovery. When my mother died in Vermont in 2009, we inherited Emma, the mutt she and my father had adopted from the Lucy McKenzie Humane Society in Windsor, VT in 1998. We brought her to South Carolina, where we work, and enjoyed some delightful sunset years together before she died in the spring of 2013. In the summer of 2014, while we were back up in Vermont, and ready to think about another dog, we visited Lucy McKenzie. Almost all of the dogs available for adoption there had just arrived from Tennessee, which we learned was typical. In the northeast US, the demand for rescue dogs outstrips the supply, so there is a brisk traffic in mutts from high kill shelters in the southeast to shelters in the northeast. This is a gross oversimplification, but does represent the flow of dogs from one part of the country to another. We figured the dogs in VT would be ok, so we decided to wait until we got back to South Carolina, where we found Dinah at the Greenville Humane Society.
It was great having a dog again. But the idea of a national traffic in rescue dogs as a national corollary to the global traffic in adoptable infants stayed with me. A few years ago, I got the chance to teach a class called “Global South/Dirty South,” under the auspices of Creative Inquiry, Clemson University’s undergraduate research program. The idea of the class was to rotate an analysis of Orientalist discourse from a West/East to a North/South axis, and to consider the ways in which places like South Carolina are conjured as part of a vague and mythical South in contemporary culture. This kind of language was a staple of animal rescue organizations: “we found this litter of Lab/terrier mixes by the side of the road down south, come visit us and make a forever friend!” Didn’t matter where in the South, or by what road, because, it seems, everything between DC and Miami is Dogpatch, basically. As a transplanted New Englander living and working in South Carolina, I was unhappy with the idea my friends and family would think of where I lived and worked as the kind of place where stray dogs just sort of roamed the streets. Unhappy because, I realized, the place where stray dogs roam the streets is the Third World, aka the Developing World, aka the Global South, and it’s much nicer to be able to think of one’s problems as first world problems, as the saying goes.
The approach of Halloween, and actual vehicular traffic, helped me see what the traffic in babies and the traffic in babies had in common. In the town where I live, there are a handful of neighborhoods (subdivisions, actually) that are mobbed with trick-or-treaters, to the degree that local police have to direct traffic in and out. Just as there are compressions and rarefactions for adoptions and rescues, there is the same thing for Snickers and Starbursts. For the residents of these neighborhoods, it is both a privilege and a burden, and if you have friends that live in these places, your social media will include real estate humblebrags about having to go get more candy in the middle of trick-or-treating hours, or real time counts of numbers of trick-or treaters up into the three digits.
If you drive around on Halloween, you can see where the trick-or-treaters are, and where they are not. It is easy to see why parents will tote their pirates and princesses where they do. The streets where children trick-or-treat are better lit and better paved than the streets where they live. There are even sidewalks. The people who live in these houses can afford an extra bag of good candy, so they can afford to put a pumpkin on the stoop and turn the porch light on. It is quite a spectacle to see a line of not so late model cars inching past McMansions in and out of a subdivision’s cul de sacs. It does, however, feel just a little bit feudal, as if this is the one day of the year the villagers are allowed on the grounds of the castle, where the King will give each of them a shiny coin.
It is a generous thing to adopt a child. It is a generous thing to rescue a dog. It is a generous thing to welcome trick-or-treaters from beyond your own neighborhood’s precincts. But those of us lucky enough to enjoy privilege often mistake that privilege for virtue. I have not adopted a child, and our neighborhood is probably about a push in terms of resident children vs. visiting trick-or-treaters. But I have rescued a dog, and I know that among other things, I can be smug about this. When Dinah meets another rescue pup at the dog park, there is that moment of mutual affirmation with the other dog’s owner. When we meet a dog bought from a breeder at the dog park, there is a slight moment of silent judgment. I imagine that the parents of adoptive children feel a similar frisson when they meet hard-won (and expensive) biological children. I have seen residents of popular trick-or-treat neighborhoods congratulating themselves on their Neighborhood’s largesse towards the Community.
I would like to suggest that the candy and the dogs and the babies are all part of an economy of smugness. It is an economy of smugness that operates at a global, national, and local level. There are worse things than being smug. For one thing, being poor is probably more of a burden than being smug. But most important thing these three common forms of smugness have in common is how they depend on economic inequality to produce the conditions that allow the actions that provoke smugness. Acts of charity almost always contain an element of self-indulgence or self-interest. Charity is kindness in a fiscal form. Locally, nationally, and globally, as the state retreats from a sense of responsibility for the welfare of its citizens, charity will like become a bigger and bigger part of the whatever solutions we can apply to problems in our town, our nation, and our world. Sustaining and extending these acts of fiscal kindness will be important for many. That said, it is a deeper kindness if the thought that attends an act of charity is reflection on what produces the need for this charity rather than more smugness.
I shared on the Twitter, (Did you know I have a Twitter account, where sometimes I post stuff between posts here?) in a spirit of support. Then, a question from a friend we will call Not Maurice made me think on it a little bit, asking "How is Scelfo's post anything other than inviting the doxxing and harassment of those women? It's punching down, and troublesome to me."
It's a fair question. My initial response to the q was that while the patrons were two women, they were not being called out by Scelfo on that basis, and it seemed like a legit response to the threat of Yelp bullying.
Having slept on it, I am not quite as sure. The inherent threat in Yelp bullying is to make a private issue public, and thereby amplify it.* Basically, the Yelp Bully's proposition is "TREAT ME LIKE I AM HENRY KISSINGER AND THIS IS LE CIRQUE, OR I WILL GIVE YOU NO STARS AND TELL THE INTERNET I SAW RATS IN YOUR WALK-IN." Most people agree that this is bad, in that threats of public shaming to get better service, a better table, or an extra crab cake in your order is not OK.
However, Scelfo's response to the threat of public shaming is... ...public shaming. If I ran a restaurant in the Boston area, I would have my FOH on the lookout for these crackerjacks, but in posting their images on Instagram, does Scelfo cede the moral high ground?
The situation is probably more or less untenable for the restaurant. I can think of three unappealing options:
1) Let the asshats carry on. I admire Scelfo for having his staff's back. In Fessering, I don't deal with bartenders, servers or patrons, but I do deal with TAs, lecturers and students, and I begin from a presumption that my crew is doing the right thing, unless proven otherwise. Telling your staff, indefinitely, to put up with this kind of BS seems like good way to lose your staff. So, nah.
2) Call the cops. Nah. Probably, the situation could have escalated to where these women could have become guests of the CPD, but cops dragging patrons out of your joint is not the vibe you want in the 02138, and especially not in the former home of Casa-fuckin-Blanca. So, nah.
3) Plan C. In this case, light them up on Instagram, thereby sticking up for your staff, and providing a public service other innkeepers in the Boston area. So, yeah, maybe? I guess.
This is not the Cod's first rodeo with the ethics of public shaming this school year. At the day job, back in December, there was an incident involving a "Cripmas" themed party -- right after the Mike Brown and Eric Garner non-verdicts. It began with an Instagram of white kids dressed like their idea of "gangstas," and there was much discussion locally and nationally about the pros and cons of blurring the faces of these wannabe Crips for news reports. I am still of two minds about that, and also about the A&H incident. (The Cod happened to be in at A&H later that night, but missed this excitement.) In general, though, as a Bold Take, I'll suggest that the way social media can accelerate and intensify public shaming is not my favorite thing about it.
*Yelp is a fine tool for identifying and locating restaurants. It is a lousy tool for evaluating restaurants. Given the average restaurateur's penchant for a midi-saturated, PDF riddled webpage, being able to find a restaurant's location and hours is a very useful service Yelp provides. That said, it puzzles and saddens me that there are evidently people who still use the opinions of grudge-holding tale-bearing strangers to inform the choices they make about where to eat. The axiom of "don't read the comments" so frequently invoked elsewhere on the Web is essential advice if you want to get the most out of Yelp.
It's been some time, yes, and this is 100% boosted from Professor David Shields, a friend and colleague at the University of South Carolina. It is, however, a comprehensive guide to mull -- "the signature autumnal stew of Georgia." And before you start laughing about a stew made from milk, crackers, and snakes, ask yourself: "Do I even have a signature atumnal stew to call my own"? Chances are good that you do not.
Take it away, Professor Shields:
MULL (I asked, and thanks to you, now I know)
The signature autumnal stew of Georgia has milk as its principal liquid, crackers for a thickener, a good deal of pepper as a seasoning, and chicken, game, wildfowl, turtles, or snakes as a protein. A quartet of vegetables often appears in the mix: onions, bell peppers, celery, and carrots. Potatoes also might appear. Streak-o-lean bacon provides the fat. A mull is usually prepared by a man, either outdoors, or in a rural restaurant. Like South Carolina’s Pine Bark Stew, Kentucky’s Burgoo, or Virginia’s Brunswick Stew, it appears as the principle communal meal dish of an event—a fair, a political stump meeting, a revival, a hunting party, a church social. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, “Mull is traditionally a cold-weather dish. Northeast Georgians speak of the ‘mull season.’ Chicken Mull is an occasional side at GA BBQ pits. (http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org /articles/arts-culture/mull).
The term probably derives from the first part of Mulligatawny Stew, a staple entry in nineteenth-century English language cookbooks. The vegetables, the chopped meat, the spice (curry sauce and black pepper), and cream of the classic Mulligatawny Stew provided a rough template for the Georgia Mull. The inclusion of rice in Mulligatawny Stew might account for some of the more peculiar usages of Mull as a descriptor of Georgian dishes. In the late 1950s a young Georgian woman who married a North Carolinian and moved to Greensboro described mull as rice, turnip greens, and cornbread mashed together in a little milk. Much more orthodox was the incorporation of rice in “Shrimp Mull,” a Lowcountry stew, the “pleasing union of shrimp and rice,” the rice being cooked to a porridge with pepper, salt, in milk and shrimp broth made from the shrimp shells. The shrimp meat was added at the end of the cooking. (“American Cookery Interesting,” Marietta Journal, August 5, 1964, 10).
Just as classic New England clam chowder transmuted into a tomato laden, vegetal Manhattan chowder, so society cooks and coastal resort chefs on the Georgia islands altered the classic shrimp mull into an amalgam of tomatoes, bacon, garlic, Worcestershire, tobasco, and even curry power in the last decades of the twentieth century. In the heyday of ramping up the scovill scale on Southern dishes, they turned a wholesome shrimp and rice dish into a tomato and shrimp launching pad for “fiery flavor.” This version was served on a bed of rice. (Poppy Cannon, “Georgia Shrimp Mull,” The Milwaukee Sentinel, April 4, 1969, 3).
Rice, however, is decidedly a secondary ingredient of Mull. Jim Christian of the University of Georgia in the 1980s laid out the norms for the dish. “Mull is very popular in the rural South and can be made with goat meat, catfish, chicken, squirrel, rabbit or dove. They cook the meat until it comes off the bone and put it back in the broth they cooked it in. Then it’s seasoned and most people put soda crackers, and its seasoned with flour and starch. Some people fry bacon and put that in there. They also use onions and bell peppers, celery, and carrots.” (“Southern Foods are Distinctive,” Augusta Chronicle, October 13, 1983, 9).
While availability often dictated which protein went into the Dutch Oven, certain cooks and certain venues became famous for particular forms of Mull. Roscoe’s Kountry Kitchen in Crawford, Georgia, in the late 1960s and through the 1970s became locally famous for Turtle Mull. Which kind of turtle? “Well, this here one is a mud turtle, and this is a snapper, and rest is just pure old turtles.” A native of Social Circle, Roscoe Long learned his culinary art there. “The mull is served in big bowls with plenty of crackers. It contains ground-up turtle meat, potatoes, onions, red pepper, juice of garlic, and milk. It sticks to the ribs.” Roscoe Long realized that even in 1970 he was the conservator of a waning tradition. “I’m the only restaurant around that serves turtle mull or soup or stew—call it whatever you want. Not a lot of people make it, and in the old days most everyone made it, but now they don’t.” (“Turtles go to Roscoe’s,” Augusta Chronicle, August 31, 1970, 24).
In the mid-1960s the Athens Bowhunters Club devoted its annual game dinner to the making of Snake Mull. At the Oconee National Forest campgrounds the club set up a cauldron and stewed the chopped me of copperheads and rattlesnakes. The newspapers annually reported the event, repeating the same tired joke, “Everyone ate copperhead mull but the cook.” (“Many do mull over this one,” Augusta Chronicle, October 10, 1965, C6).
If Chicken Mull constituted the commonest and plainest version of this hearty stew, (See http://wanderluck.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/chicken-mull/) perhaps the most piquant and beloved hunt season Mull featured another bird, Dove. Louise Thrash, Food Editor of the Augusta Chronicle, transcribed Bobby Neely’s recipe for Dove Mull in late May of 1979.
Dove Mull In a heavy iron pot with top, line bottom and lower sides of pot with sliced streak-o-lean bacon. Add 3 stalks of celery. 1 medium bell pepper chopped fine, cover this with more streak-o-lean. Salt and pepper birds then make a layer of birds in pot, then a layer of diced potatoes, then chopped onions. Another layer of birds, potatoes and onions. Be sure to salt and pepper the potatoes and onions as you put them in. Place top on pot tightly. Bring heat up until you hear the contents bubble. Cook for about one hour bubbling, not on high. Then add ½ small bottle of Worcestershire sauce and a stick of butter. Cover and cook ½ hour, then add about a cup of milk. Never stir the pot. Cook about 15 more minutes, take top off and serve in soup plates, since the mull makes its own juices. (“Burke County Chefs,” Augusta Chronicle, May 24, 1979, Food Section 1)
Thanks for everyone who contacted me with information in response to my query about Mull. I thought it would be useful to put the information out in one cogent profile of the dish.
Been a while, or Anchower, as they say. Enjoyed summer in VT, or what there was of it, and now back to the salt minesivory tower, day job. I am sorry that there has not been much in this space - much has migrated to my IRL FB page -- feel free to get at me there -- and many of the things that used to get The Cod riled up don't as much any more. And there have been some good meals, but not many exciting ones.
The one perennial source of post energy is the feature we call Guiteau Monday, where we honor America's favorite cartoon cat with the name of his namesake's assasin by rounding up what is awful in the world of food. The threshhold gets higher, though, and even abominations like "Rockin' Quesadilla Sliders" pass with a shrug. But the Cod still has bees in his bonnet, and rape culture, esp on campus, is a biggie. So this, via Mobute, jumped right on out.
Where to begin? The scare quotes around Date Rape, for one thing. It's like people still take the Roiphes seriously. The Cod last smoked weed around the time of the most recent Dan Marino Super Bowl appearance, but as I understand it, marijuana is not a very effective date rape drug, and indeed, may even prevent cunnilingus. Also, I understand that marihuana has become more potent in recent years, but this advertisement suggests that it allows time travel, in that we have an assailant wearing Bugle Boy jeans traveling to 1993 to feed marihuana cookies packaged like Luna bars to his victim. The Cod can only conclude that the folks who conceived of this ad were, you know, baked out of their skulls, and that it is, inevitably, another Guiteau Monday.
It's been a long time. And I'm back here to disapooint John T. Edge, to whom I made hasty promises of having discovered ya-ka-mein in Iceland, some 3,718 miles northeast of New Orleans. When the cinetrix and I visited this rather imposing church, the Cod noticed a truck and people eating soup nearby.
The soup was in tall styrofoam cups, and appeared to have noodles. We'd just lunched at Snaps, so there was no room for soup, but I was intrigued. Sneaking back later, I got a better look at the operation:
This is what they do:
It was an aptly named soup. Not the most spicy soup ever. But satisfying. I got a small, which probably looks smaller from the angle of the photo:
Ultimately, the only real similarity to ya-ka-mein is the serving container, somewhat surprisingly Styrofoam, given the pretty intense environmental ethos we felt elsewhere in Iceland. At least according to legend, the late night Iceland drunk food of choice is the hot dog, which was good, but not the transcendent experience I was primed for. There is, however, much to be said for a cilmate where you can have a business selling lamb soup in the summer. If it ever cools off here, I'll look forward to recreating. Finally, the two young women who seemed to make photobombing tourists at the cathedral their job.
So, this was in the inbox. It's a little disappointing. I know that TV is a ratings-driven business, and that Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri are personalities with huge followings, and that's important for getting a show like this off the ground. At the same time, if you're having a Kids Cook-Off, it seems kind of harsh to exclude the guy who developed the concept.
Been a while since I rapped at you. I have no excuse (blogging is dead). Anyway, stay tuned for news of a big trip to the Lowcountry, but until then, terrifying news from Dallas (is there any other kind):
As part of its new series of test concepts (including a chicken restaurant called Super Chix and a fast-casual taco shop), Yum! Brands, parent company to restaurants like Taco Bell and KFC, is indeed opening a banh mi sandwich shop. (Eater)
The banh mi is a delicious sandwich made with terrifying cold cuts, a few slivers of carrot and daikon, some dubious mayo, and cilantro.* What makes it delicious is the bread. The one thing the Yum! brands family has demonstrated is complete helplessness and indifference to any bread related food substance. The entire business model for Pizza Hut is "Hey! Let's put pizza toppings on fried dough and see if anyone notices." Are they going to bring in the guy who perfected KFC's biscuits to devise a perfect mini baguette with a shattering crust that can be produced by kids in a mall working at Banh Shop in the interval between quitting the Genius Bar and when Foot Locker starts hiring?
More generally, I am concerned about the martinification of one of my favorite sandwiches. Martinis got popular, and the next thing you knew, someone was trying to sell you a sour apple martini, or French toast martini, or some damn thing. The same thing is happening with banh mi. If you run a restaurant, and you a) buy your eyeglasses on the Internet, or b) you have a Twitter, then if you have a sandwich on a baguette on the menu, chances are you're calling it a banh mi. But it's not. I will take to the Twitter for the rest of the discussion. In any case, if proof were needed, it's just another Guiteau Monday.
As an adult, I'm with the Kings that you should not eat deep dish pizza unless you are Dennis Franz. The bagel question is a tougher one, what with the proliferation of really terrible New York-style bagels at NYC places that should know better. MTL style is not for everyone. Ironically, if I were looking for a reliable bagel in NYC, my first instinct would be to hit up Mile End for a MTL style bagel in Brooklyn.