Turducken Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had  a lovely thanksgiving. Just recently in a conversation with a friend I was saying how much I like thanksgiving because it’s one of the more calm holidays.  It’s not that I don’t have thrill seeker genes (I do), but just that for every New Years Eve or Halloween I think it’s nice that there’s a holiday that’s basically dedicated to good company, good food, and taking naps. I dare you to tell me any other party where nearly every person can fall asleep and the party is still a “success.”

This year I had two Thanksgivings. One with my partner’s family here in New York, and a second with some new-ish but very dear friends.  For T2-east, as i’m going to call it (not to be confused with a standing Thanksgiving 2 tradition in California), we actually carried out one of my food bucketlist projects. We made a Turducken.

In case any body doesn’t know what that is, a turducken is a Chicken, stuffed inside a Duck, stuffed inside a Turkey. and technically we made a turducken-hen because at the center of the chicken we stuffed a Cornish game hen.

Cornish Game Hen, Deboning

Alex goes after the Cornish Game Hen.

The entire process was long. It took 2-3 hours to prepare and 4-5 hours to cook. The reason the prep takes such a long time is that each bird has to be de-boned. Starting at the spine on each fowl, you can make an incision and then slowly, painstakingly peal away the meat from the carcass. When you’ve done this for all 3 (or 4) birds you basically have each bird flayed out, as if you unzipped them down the middle, took the “meat-coat” off the skeleton, and laid it down flat.

A perfectly de-boned duck, by Megan.

Me, having trouble with the turkey.

Then, once you have all 3 sheets of meat, you spice and salt the inside of the turkey “coat” before laying the flat duck on top. Then you season the inside of the duck, and lay the flat chicken on top.  Once you have all your layers you scoop the sides of the turkey back together and twine the meat, what is now essentially a roast,  shut. to use the coat metaphor once more, you zip the turkey closed with the other birds inside like russian dolls.  I have no pictures of this part of the process because it took all 6 hands in the kitchen to hold the slippery meat in place and tie the strings. From this point, you cook it as you would any turkey.  It goes into the oven for about 4 hours. You baste, you wait, you nibble other things.

As it was cooking Alex explained to me why the Turducken is great: it’s the duck.  Ducks are little fatties- and Turkey and Chicken breast can be dry. When you cook a turducken the duck meat is pressed between the turkey breast and the chicken breast. As the three birds cook the duck fat keeps everybody moist, so all the white meat on the turkey and chicken comes out succulent and moist (basically it makes it more like dark meat, which is generally more awesome).

The last thing that makes a turducken fun is that when it finally does come out of the oven you can litterally slice right down the center of it as if it was bread.  There no bones left (save the Turkey’s wings and drumsticks which you leave on) so if you slice right down the center you get an awesome cross-section that shows each of the birds and their different colored meats. You will Instagram with pride.

I had a great time putting it all together, but if I ever do it again I will look into buying previously de-boned birds, or I will pay a butcher to de-bone them in 5 minutes and save me and my guests the 1.5 hours of knife work. Nevertheless, I’m happy that we did it ourselves this time because it was bad-ass, and because it seriously works up your appetite.  :)

Yes We Can: A Hurricane Relief Story

I consider myself to be pretty adventurous, but sometimes even we adventurous folk fall into the awful trap of thinking you like your routine a lot more than you do.   Don’t get me wrong, routines are great. I like them for reasons of health, productivity, and comfort.  To me, workouts and healthy eating are a matter of waking up at the right time each morning and buying groceries with enough regularity that you don’t reach those scurvy-inducing busy weeks where floating pepper jack cheese into a bowl of ramen passes for dinner. I also believe that working toward your goals a little bit each day moves mountains, but man:  I’ve been caught in a rut where my Saturdays and Sundays are dedicated to half-assed work on a few yet-outstanding  projects… and I’ve forgotten to make time to, you know, live.

I think this is why I was so excited when a friend  invited me to volunteer for the hurricane relief effort with her.  By this point I had already spent a lot of breath explaining to out-of-towners that I was fine, Yes New York got crushed, Yeah I was in a lucky place, Yes I had internet, etc…. but that’s really just a lot of talk for a non-experience.  And I always feel like the biggest hurdles to any sort volunteering are knowing how to start and going alone. So thank you, Teresa, for tackling the hard part.

We met up in Williamsburg and took the G train out to Red Hook, the lower part of Brooklyn that got storm-pounded and very badly flooded. From the rally point we were asked to join a clean-up crew. We said yes, but stood stiffly while we waited for the sentence details to be given to us. Eventually we were scooped up by a group leader and were off to our task.

Teresa and I with Masks!

Masks multiplied the fun by two and only slightly stifled our discussion of New York Magazine vs. The New Yorker.

Along with a team of 3 others we were cleaning out a warehouse down near the water.  The warehouse had been flooded with up to 6 feet of water during the hurricane.  If we had been there for it we would have been drowning, Teresa observed. Inside we encountered an strange landscape of toppled boxes that had melted down into soppy gook.  The contents of the boxes, thousands of soda cans, were swimming in the sea-water and dirt muck. Let’s assume there were a lot of bacteria.

Our task was to break off into mini teams, separate cans from garbage, bathe the cans in a wheelbarrow of bleach and then send them through a series of tub water baths until the the can was clean and could be open without fear of infecting the drinker.  At the end of the line a team dried and stacked cans on a new pallet to be donated or sold on the cheap.

It ended up being a really fun adventure.  We made small chat with the volunteers around us, and at one point thought Mayor Bloomberg was outside. Mis-translating the Spanish of some Puerto Rican women sent Teresa scampering after the photo op that wasn’t there.

The ONLY thing that I wish had been different about this entire day is that we had been salvaging something other than soda. Wouldn’t it be a much better story if it was cans of FOOD that were being used to feed other hurricane victims in the city? I like that story. I like it so much better that I have half lied twice to certain acquaintances and suggested that there was food mixed in with the rubble and pop.

Noisy Internet

It’s the internet age. And the clacking on keyboards have replaced the masculine huff and puff of factory machinery as the sound of progress. Just like in the industrial revolution we are streamlining our digital processes, and pushing out more content faster, faster, faster.

But Haste Makes Waste, and already we are up against an ocean of unimportant filler. A few posts ago I talked about Robin Sloan’s tap Essay Fish about finding content you LOVE on the internet (a purposeful trumping of the work LIKE), and while it’s true that there are good articles, and great photos, and fascinating things to learn, there’s also a deluge of tweets and statuses and videos and nothingness to shift through.

And whats worse?  I’m creating some of it.  I suffer from a new disease called I-Don’t-Post-Enough-on-Facebook-phobia.  This disease is one part careerism, and one part not wanting to be forgotten.  Living in New York it’s easy to observe the super-networkers rising to the top. Very often these are the types that are pumping out social media statuses 10+ times a day.  My mind doesn’t seem to go there as naturally. In the middle of a fun conversation or an adventure with friends I never think to stop and say: “this would be better if I shared it on facebook!”

There’s a lot of philosophy that comes into this debate (and I don’t intend for this to be that kind of blog), but for now I just want to say that when I read headlines like Do You Hire For IQ, or for Klout Score? I wanna throw up my hands and shout Klout Score?? is this another thing we have to obsessively monitor?

Speed, More, Most, Largest, Fastest, First: These seem to be the internet’s core values. But I beseech any readers of this post, let’s make sure BEST stays in the mix. I personally am built for Quality, not Quantity, and I don’t want my kind to go extinct. So, I’ll try to add value (hard as that is when the reader determines the value of your posts!) and I’ll try to refrain from any fear induced posts that I don’t really want to make, and you don’t really want to read.  Am I wrong to think this?  Am I wrong to think “Let’s cut back on the noise!”

Am I wrong to blog it?

Hurricane Sandy: Curbing my Enthusiasm

It’s very strange to turn on the TV to images of havoc when ultimately I ended up having such a calm night in my neighborhood.  If I hadn’t known it was a Hurricane I would have thought last night was just kind of stormy, not devastating.  The mood was light where I lived. A small handful of people wandered out to bars to socialize in the stranger-than-normal calm of NYC.

What’s funny is that the sensationalism in the news reporting is very easy to catch when it already feels in-genuine  Looking at the TV screen, then looking outside my window to my calm street I wanted to shout: Liars! but knew that the storm really was brutal in some places.

At one point I even joined in the twitter fun by passing this image around:

Hurricane and Monsters

Hurricane Sandy unleashes her worst.

But in all seriousness, I feel very happy to have escaped last night without any danger. And it’s provided some nice cuddle time with the boyfriend.  Although he did make us watch the shining… on a night when things are already creaking and the power might go out at any minute.  Can you imagine?!

Fish, a Tap Essay

I let slip to my boss recently that something has changed in me and I may be now more interested in journalism than I actually am in theatre. I’m not quite sure why this is happening to me (it might be a phase!), but I know I’ve become enamored with the “ideas circuit” as I once heard it called. What’s the idea’s circuit?  I’m not quite sure who coined the phrase and what exactly they meant, but I imagine it to be entities like Slate, NPR, Ted Talks, RadioLab; and people like Neil Degrass Tyson,  Malcolm Gladwell, and (until recently?) Jonah Lehrer. Look at your Fish

Well recently  I came across a new one for me: Robin Sloan.  Robin has led what sounds like an interesting life being a Media Inventor.  In his own words, these are people that are “primarily interested in content—words, pictures, ideas—who also experiment with new formats, new tools, and new technology.”  Robin held a position in this vein at twitter in the early years of social media. And Why am i talking about him? well he’s created this mobile app called FISH which he describes as a TAP ESSAY. Basically it’s an essay broken up into slides, and you tap the screen of your iphone to advance while you read it one slide at a time. Each slide contains about one sentence (or sometimes one word, for dramatic effect) and is styled slightly differently in terms of font and colors to make the journey dynamic.  And I really love it. Sloan’s thesis of the essay you can read for yourself, but I want to say that I think the delivery of the message is one of my favorites that I’ve ever seen.  Here’s a list of reasons why:

  1. Something about the interactivity of tapping to advance makes it feel like play
  2. Because you’re not confronted with the FULL ESSAY at one time there’s no urge to scroll to the bottom and think: this is too long. And stop reading
  3. Because each line is carefully delivered and styled appropriately it feels like your hearing someone talk.

It’s a really well done product.  I have actually loved “slideshows” for a long time (mostly for that reason that you can control how  much writing is released and pull major focus to a point if that’s what you want).  A while before discovering Fish: A Tap Essay I created a “click-through” essay in service of my Undergraduate Alumni Association titled The Third Thing College Gets You, hosted on slideshare. The idea came to me out of nowhere and I’m actually quite proud of it. Every now and then I tweet it, or post it on facebook hoping that someone important sees it, stands up at their desk and shouts: That Kid’s a Great Communicator!

That will be Mission Accomplished. Enjoy The Third Thing…  below. :)

Men’s Bags: Hold-alls, Barrels, Messengers, Duffles.

Recently I went with some good friends to a “gay days” at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. We had an excellent time, and I got to ride the fastest and tallest roller coaster in North America. Although most of us were stone sober we did finally arrive back in New York exhausted at 2AM. As we piled out of the van and hugged good bye I collected a whole foods canvas bag which I had used to carry snacks in that afternoon. Justin and I said goodbye to our friends and walked home. The next morning I realized that I had left my shoulder bag in the trunk of the zipcar.

I’m not quite sure how it happened. I think that the Whole foods bag satisfied my need to be holding something, otherwise I probably would have felt naked and would have figured it out.  Also, we were tired.

Since I live in NYC and I’m ALWAYS carrying around books, gym clothes, extra food, etc. the loss of this bag has disrupted me immensely.  But before I I really go searching for a new bag I decided I would really shop around, and take some time to think about it. Here’s a picture of the bag I lost (the colors are a little different):

Fred Perry Blue Shoulder Bag

There are 3 things to consider for the replacement bag:

  • It needs to work in the office, or at least over casual office attire.
  • It needs to be big enough to hold my gyms stuff (the bulkiest part of that is my sneakers)
  • I like the Retro-look, Bright Colors, and typically don’t wear things with huge logos splashed across the front.

So here are some choices.  Since this bag was Fred Perry I decided that I’d look hard at some other Fred Perry bags, but eventually the search stretched out to other designers.  What does everyone like?

Fred Perry Blue and Gold Barrel

Fred Perry Black Hold-all

Goodale Grey Rain Duffle

Lacoste Blue (or Red) Gymnasium Bag

Speedo USA & UK Hands

Puma “Ferrari Collection” Brown Weekender

French Connection UK Red Shoulder Bag

 

Fashion aside, there are some pricing/sizing concerns,  but it’s fun to cast a wide net .

New Tech

I’m somebody that cycles through a lot of Google calendars. First of all, when you have close friends who don’t mind sharing their calendar with you it’s not hard to collect a whole fleet of them because it makes planning events much more easy. When can I force you to come over and make soup with me?  Well, it looks like you’re free Thursday!

[On the topic of soup.  I've been thinking lately about home much I like inviting people over and cooking for them.  It's such a nice thing that I don't think I have much opportunity to do in NYC. Part of the reason is because there's no room in our apartments, but also everyone is damn busy. My plan is to have a staggered dinner party that takes place on 4 different days throughout the month, that way you can invite everyone you like, and there's a chance they can make one of the 4 days.  I would tie the days all together with a common menu theme, like serving a different soup each night.  The entire series would be called "4 Great Soups," or maybe "Soup's On!"  don't you wanna be friends with me?]

Any anyway, calendars. I also I tend to set up a new google calendar for each project I’m’ involved in.  Lately I become a volunteer event coordinator for my college alumni group.  It’s a lot of fun but it fills my calendar with deadlines and events.  For this reason I created a new Google Calendar and, more than any other supporting calendar to date, i decided that I REALY needed this to sync alongside my general calendar on my iphone.

I’m just going to warn everybody.  This is more tricky than you expect, because you actually can’t do it from you device.  I snooped around in my settings menu for about 5 minutes before googling for the answer which takes exactly 1 more step than i would have expected in 2012.  You can visit this link for all the hairy details, but basically you’ve got a few steps to link you phone to your google account, THEN you gotta switch to your computer, sign into your google account and visit m.google.com, a place you’ve never been to before, to select what parts of your google calendar get sent over to your phone.

If you need to do this yourself. good luck. :)

People’s History

Why does school happen before you’re grown up?  There are so many things that I would have valued more now that I’ve grown.  there is a book called the People’s History of the United States, by historian Howard Zinn.  When I was a rising junior in high school I remember that we had to read this tome (it was a very thick book) as summer reading and write a summary of each chapter.   By the end of this assignment I should have had a solid overview of all of the major events and time periods between 1942 and Today.  HOWEVER, because i was young and dumb and on summer vacation, I somehow found a way to do the work without actually paying attention to anything.  And nowadays I feel like my historical knowledge is a little patchy, so I’m actually planning to read the whole book again!

Just think of the time I would have saved if I had cared more earlier.  But I guess you can just never predict when a future conversation about the musical  Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is going to make you regret your attentiveness in 11th grade.

I also occurs to me that I should probably look for those summaries the next time I’m home at my folks house.

Did this need to be invented?

I’ve got a lot of friends with gift registries right now: for babies, for weddings, etc.  Actually.  Those are the only two reasons I can think of.   the end result is that I’m getting a huge array of home goods paraded in front of me, and some of them are quite funny.  Usually I think their funny because they are so specific. Here’s on i saw today:

The All-in-one avocado tool

Now. I love avocado almost as much as I love air.  In fact,  you’ll notice it ranks well on my all time list of favorite things:

  1. Air
  2. Alligators/Hippos from Fantasia
  3. Avocado
  4. Playing the piano
  5. Singing
  6. NPR
  7. Stationary
  8. Funny Drag Queens
  9. Surprise Endings
  10. Bodybuilders

But do you really need an all-in-one avocado tool? maybe a knife and spoon would get the job done.

Meet your Hero 2 weeks from today

I have a pretty cool job, at a pretty cool place.  and that’s good enough for me.  But sometimes something really cool happens at my job that makes me giddy.  It just so happens that one of these things has happened!

Alan Alda is coming into my office in a few weeks and I’m totally stoked.   You’re all asking: are you a really be fan of M*A*S*H?  No, I’m not, but I was a somewhat regular viewer of the PBS show Scientific American Frontiers when I was growing up.  Something that I’ve always admired about Alan Alda is that he’s an artist (an actor) that spends a lot of time explaining and promoting science.  I actually once read him referred to as “actor and science communicator” because that’s what he does. He himself isn’t really a scientist, he just communicates the science, and makes it interesting and digest-able to laypeople.

Sometime this last year I decided that this exact activity, interpreting science for people using art and media, was just about my favorite thing in the world.  It happened when I got obsessed with NPR’s RadioLab and then I realized that my ideal job in life would be to host science documentaries.  My mind raced: who are my heroes in this field?  I came up with two answers:  1) Bill Nye the Science Guy.  I follow him on twitter, but unfortunately many people have told me he’s a jerk… or was it that his stand-up is really dirty? (or was that Bob Saget?)

2)  Alan Alda. Because He’s so genuinely fascinated by the science and I gotta love him.

Did I get to the point yet?  He wrote a book about Marie Currie and I work for the company that’s publishing it. And in a few weeks he’ll actually be coming into the office to meet everyone.  I have friends who claim they’re used the secret to make things happen. Perhaps this is my own version of that.