Operation Lucretia: New Skull Preservation Project

wifi and chocolate cake

WiFi, my first skull. And chocolate cake.

Lucretia is the 3rd pig skull I’ve preserved, so it’s definitely starting to seem like a thing. I strongly believe that the 3rd time you’ve done a thing means it’s become a “thing you do,” and you owe the world an explanation when you stop doing it. OTHERWISE THEY’LL SHAME YOU FOREVER.

I’ve done slightly more research on how to process Lucretia then I did for my previous pig skulls (which was nearly “none whatsoever”). The Bonelust Blog has been the most helpful. Though, honestly, for sort of hacking my way through the process, both WiFi and Piggy Stardust have turned out and held up pretty well.

Piggy Stardust was probably the least stressful to process since I had the benefit of a huge sunny yard, and was able to just plop him outside when I got frustrated with picking tiny bits of meat out of his teeth. Nature worked wonders on cleaning out his skull. However, I’ve moved to a new apartment now, and putting Lucretia outside would certainly worry the neighbors, or even worse, entice the neighbors.

piggy stardust outside

Piggy Stardust, processing outside.

I got Lucretia from the restaurant just today – I believe her face meat was made into head cheese, so just about all of the meat and fat on her face are gone – looks like her brain (or at least parts of it are) is still inside, and plenty of tissue and other gunky stuff inside the nostrils. But the hard work has really been done for me already.

 

lucretia bucket 1

I’m soaking her skull and her mandible in just plain water, and letting bacteria work some magic before I get into  manually cleaning out the rest. I used a combination of chop sticks, a toothbrush, and a table knife previously, and those will probably be my go-to tools this time as well, because I’m a professional who plows into skulls with chopsticks at weird hours of the night. After I feel like I’ve gotten her sufficiently clean enough, I’ll soak her in a hydrogen peroxide & water solution, which is what I’ve used before with great results, and seems to be strongly recommended via the Internet.com.

lucretia bucket 2

Lucretia will be living in the bucket for awhile. Will update when she emerges.

Honestly, I’m lucky that she comes to me already so clean, though having a skull that’s gone through a braising process probably weakens it some (I think?) and definitely colors the skull. It’ll probably take a bit longer to lighten her up.

I’m still learning a lot of this as I go, so if you’re reading this and have any experience or tips in skull processing, I am more than happy to hear them, or get set straight in some assumption I’m making.

 

Cheeseburger Based Resolutions and Other Failures

home burger 1

My beautiful monster.

My resolution to eat 3 cheeseburgers a week (#3xbrgr1week) (#notreally) ended the beginning of February. I decided to change things up, and didn’t end up blogging about it in a timely manner because I was too busy wearing leather jackets and shooting dice in the alley to inform the internet of significant life changes.

But also, I failed my 2016 resolution. Quickly.

I definitely didn’t get tired of eating cheeseburgers, but I definitely was tired of going out to eat for cheeseburgers. So I ended January In the Year of Our Lord Cheeseburger 2016 by making burgers for myself at home.

home burger 2

1/4 pound burgers, about to get SMASHED in a PAN that’s HOT.

For February I resolved to only eat at home – and have mostly not failed, but have slightly failed in the way that I have occasionally gone out to eat but not quite as much as normal.

meatloaf

Valentine’s Day dinner at home: Food Lab’s meatloaf, mashed potatoes w/ paprika garlic gravy, and asparagus tossed in anchovy & parsley butter and topped with fried shallots.

Eating at home has been really wonderful, actually. I’ve been prioritizing different recipes I’ve been wanting to try, making bread again, and being more resourceful & experimental with the ingredients I have around.

If I’ve wanted to hang out with people in the evenings, I’ve had to convince them to come over for dinner, instead of meeting up for beers and snacks somewhere. I discovered that the best way to get rid of leftovers is to put them inside of wontons and deep-fry them, tricked my boyfriend into eating yogurt in a burrito, and helped a friend develop a pie recipe to use in his restaurant.

apple pies

Fried apple pie research & development.

Anyhow, life is really good, and I’ve really enjoyed how I’ve been eating. It’s cheaper and makes me feel productive. Also, and probably most importantly, if I’ve spent my day at work being angry at food and people making food, I can come home and remember that cooking food is wonderful, people are wonderful, and cooking can be an act of peace and community. There’s really nothing like watching a pot of soup reach a simmer to dissolve your anger at the world into a meaningless pile of goo.

You might also think to yourself “and yeah! She probably feels so much healthier because she isn’t eating 3chzbrgers/1week!” and You would be completely incorrect. I think I had more energy last month, and I’ve already put on a pound since January. So, I hope you walk away with this message: Cheeseburgers are Good for Your Health, Will Keep You Thin, and Are For Grown-Ups.

alex val day 2

Cheeseburger Power Couple is still deadlier than ever. In this picture, Alex is scrumpfing down a delicious Bar Bar burger. 

 

 

 

RESOLUTION CHEESEBURGER 2016: Slow Burger, Kelly’s Olympian & Q Burger

 

alex slow burger

This week I really delayed eating cheeseburgers, and put myself into a pretty sticky spot: go back on my resolution and show the world the true meaning of caprice, or eat TWO CHEESEBURGERS in only ONE DAY.

I went with the latter choice, because I’m a hero. And because apparently I’m perfectly comfortable with compromising my health for the sake of strange promises made on blogs. I laid in bed afterward, gently shaking to myself, and like I had just consumed far too much salt, which I have never believed possible, and honestly still think I’m probably wrong about.

Slow Burger

slow burger

“Slow Burger. You should definitely go to Slow Burger. But get the Slow Burger at the Slow Bar. Wait, no, go to the Burger place – that’s where it’s good. Or maybe it’s at the bar. Definitely get it at the burger place but not the bar, or maybe it’s the other way around. But definitely go there.”

This cloud of sounds and words was how my friend recommended this burger to me.

“Start thinking about where you want to get a burger tonight.” My boyfriend texted me.

Slow Burger! I thought. But is it at the bar? Or just the burger place? 

“So, where’d you go for burgers last night?” My friend asked.

“I went to Slow Burger,” I answered. “It wasn’t that great.”

“Did you go to the bar?”

“No, the burger place.”

“See! I told you!”

“Did you?” I grabbed his collar and shook him. “DID YOU??!!” I threw him down on the ground. “IS THAT WHAT YOU SAID? ARE YOU SURE THAT’S WHAT YOU SAID?!”

“Please,” he cried.”Please, I just couldn’t…remember…”

“Well, MAYBE, you should FACT CHECK before you go Yelpin’ burgers at me, HUH?”

I picked him up, dusted him off, and said “Sorry. I’ve been listening to a lot of Biggie Smalls lately.”

So apparently, if you go to retrieve the entity entitled “Slow Burger”, you should retrieve it from the Slow Bar, for sure.

I, however, went to the Slow Burger the Burger Place, and wasn’t particularly impressed. I loved that you get to choose your patty size (rather enlightened move. Bravo. Cheers. Here, here. Get on my back and let me carry you around the stadium.), but my 1/3 lb patty cooked Medium came at me with some of the meat on the left side a bit pink, and the rest of the meat going over to the right side a dingy-gray. Truly, I care not if my burger is cooked all the way through, as long as its still juicy. But when it’s cooked strangely and unevenly, and not to what the order is specified, then why are we bothering with pretending that burgers should be treated like steaks?

P.S. They really shouldn’t be treated like steaks.

P.P.S. I’m an angsty little picnic basket full of opinions.

I was also frustrated that they hadn’t managed to cut my burger bun properly in half (go back up and look at the pic again), but, in the world’s defense, I was really grumpy due to a 2-day hangover of which I was celebrating day 1.

I got the 6oz Big Mike ($8), and Officer Boyfriend got The Original – which I thought was definitely a better burger. I normally try to get the most straightforward burger on a menu, but I deviated this time because the hangover was requiring me to eat bacon and order a Sprite.

Officer Boyfriend’s burger was also better cooked than mine, which suggests that my crappy burger might have been a fluke. I would definitely check out the burger at Slow Bar, and probably visit Slow Burger again and not be surprised by a better product.

 

Kelly’s Olympian

Kelly's Burger

To be perfectly honest, I don’t like saying anything to poopy about Kelly’s because I’ve had such a positive experience there since I’ve moved to Portland. It can be a pretty wacky and wild place, with a really diverse clientele, and the staff there is so kind and handles it all really gracefully. They get artists, drunks, service industry, Super Bros, business men and tourists, and it all sorta works out. I started going there when I first moved here because they play MUSIC VIDEOS every MONDAY NIGHT and it’s the best thing in the whole world.

But regardless, I had a really horrible burger there the other night.

The week was nearly up, and with only one burger under my belt, I needed to make another burger happen and FAST. If I’m going to eat at Kelly’s, I’d get their chicken strips and fries for SURE with every sauce they have, because their ranch and honey mustard are extra good, for some demonic reason.

I ordered the $5 happy hour burger, which turned out to not even have cheese on it (I understand if you don’t think this burger should count. I apologize.). I’m sure it was my mistake, because the bartender reiterated to me a few times that I indeed wanted the “Burger.” It came to me as a sort of dry, meaty, brick. It was surrounded by a big fluffy bun, which was fine except I could really only taste bun-fluff and the occasional dry meat brick. There was mayo and toppings, but it was all sort of absorbed by the bun, and being punched in the face by the brick.  I left with that feeling of sadness reserved only for when your parents forget to pick you up from soccer practice, or for when nice people feed you something bad.

 

And this was when I made the impulsive, yet brave choice, to eat a 2nd cheeseburger.

Two cheeseburgers. One day.

Q Burger

Q burger

Gingham Deli Paper Week up in this Biotch

I hopped on the Max, with the voice of a co-worker rumbling through my head:

I don’t know why you’re sleeping on my Q Burger recommendation. It’s really good, and might be the diner burger you’re looking for. Pete goes there all the time.

Which Pete ? I asked.

The nice one. Pete, tell her about Q Burger.

  The memory of Pete’s voice appeared in my head.

I go there all the time. Pete responded nicely.

Thanks, Pete.

I wouldn’t say I had been “sleeping” on Q Burger, but I had been slightly hesitant to go there due to health concerns.

Every burger has at LEAST bacon on it. They offer pulled pork AND brisket. It’s…insane…

I’d been planning on going there some day after a jog, or at least after smoking some legal and recreational Oregon marijuana, but instead I ended up there on the day I decided to cram two burgers down my gullet.

And me oh my was it delicious. It was INDEED the diner burger I was dreaming of, which almost is more about the toppings than the burger.

believe that the deal with this place was it opened as Seven Rivers BBQ, but then morphed into a burger place, and still retained all of it’s BBQ gear. They have a mile-long burger menu, but you can still go there and order regular BBQ if you wish – OR you can order a burger and have them pile BBQ on top of it. So there is that.

This place was about a mile down Lombard from the Max station on Interstate, so by the time I got there, it was dark, and I can’t say I was quite hungry again, but I can say I was thinking about how someday I might be hungry again.

I chose the Throwback burger ($7.75), which was the most average looking burger, adorned with only american cheese, and of course bacon. You can choose your toppings, but I chose “The works,” because I love ordering things like that, and it came with a lot ot stuff I liked. Grilled onions, dill pickles, mayo, mustard…and maybe some other stuff I can’t remember. The patty was 1/4lb (I’m pretty sure? It might have been a 1/3 – I was a little drowsy.), and was perfectly adequate, juicy, tasted like yummy, well-seasoned ground beef. I hadn’t had a nice sesame seed bun in a minute, and it worked out just fine. The burger held together really well, and I was able to get a bit of everything in a bite.

This is a burger that wants to taste good, be inside of your mouth, and then go bowling with it’s friends on a Friday night – it’s a straightforward nice time. I’d LOVE to go back there and try one of their BBQ Franken-burgers, and I feel slightly remiss at not having ordered one this time, but I had my stomach screaming at me for answers.

Well, smell you later – have a great week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RESOLUTION CHEESEBURGER 2016: Pause, The White Eagle & The Cafeteria At My Work

Every cheeseburger has a story, I guess. Or at least I tell a story about every cheeseburger.

Only two weeks in, and I’m already unsure how long I can keep this up. In case you forgot, my resolution for 2016 was to eat 3 cheeseburgers a week. It’s not just that this resolution is asking a lot of me calorie-wise, it’s asking a lot from me emotionally. It’s making me search the dark corners of my psyche to pull up every expectation I’ve ever had for any cheeseburger, and drag it out, center stage, stagelight blaring, and make me examine my cheeseburger cravings. Every cheeseburger has sent me hurtling down a tunnel to self-discovery, and the tunnel is tiled with dark profundity and partially-melted American Cheese.

Long story short, I’m figuring out I’m a real basic bitch when it comes to cheeseburgers, and this whole time I thought I was a hipster. It’s getting real “hey, could I get a pumpkin spice latte cheeseburger,” up in here and I’m standing around awkwardly, not sure what to say or where to put my hands.

If finding out I’m something I thought I hated is the worst part about eating so many cheeseburgers, then the best part is hearing other people explain their perfect cheeseburger to me. I ask a lot of people when they’re describing food, (“where’s the pickle?” “are the onions sweated?” “how far can you squish down the bun til you can feel some resistance?”) and people are SO ready most of the time.

Since I work in a kitchen, it hasn’t been hard for me to monopolize most of the conversations to be about cheeseburgers lately. I’ve gotten a slew of recommendations for local burgers, dreamy recollections about far-away and long-ago burgers, and even more narratives of “dream burgers.” Every person is a unique frickin’ snowflake, and their burgers are not quite as unique, but pretty close.

Bless everyone’s tender hearts – we’re all so very fascinating.

PAUSE

Pause

I started off this week by taking a recommendation from work. One of my co-workers recommended this spot to me, and the conversation went like this:

“Oh, and Pause has a good burger.”

“Paws?”

“Yup, Pause. On Interstate.”

“Paws. Bad name.”

“Pause. Yeah, not a great name. But good burger. Grassfed…”

“Oh! Pause. That place! It looks like a weird after-school Christian hang-out space.”

“Yeah, it has a weird font.”

At this point another co-worker joined in:

“I hate the way that place looks. Looks like a cafe from the early 2000s.”

“Yeah I was walking by it the other day, and I thought ‘god, I hate how that place looks.'”

I was happy to hear that nearly everyone agreed that the place had an odd look to it,  but I decided  I should stop being font-racist, step out of my comfort zone and check out Pause. Short-walk from my house, and the second I approached it, I shuddered. I mean, don’t get me wrong – it’s a perfectly nice looking place. Just the place makes me feel how I feel whenever I’m in Florida: all my dreams are dead.

The place was slightly more reassuring on the inside: wood-paneled bar, friendly bartender, Big Star, straight-forward menu. Maybe you shouldn’t be so rude about Florida, I chided myself. Mom is going to get upset about that one. 

“One cheeseburger.” The waitor repeated back to me. “Now, how would you like that cooked?”

My response drew to a halt as my mind’s soundtrack hired crickets to sing. How do I want my burger cooked? Whoa…I haven’t been asked that in awhile.

I used to be such a little prat about wanting my burgers cooked rare or medium rare, and lately all I’ve wanted is a fully-cooked through burger. Yikes- I’m being faced with my past, and I no longer know what to say.

“Err, umm Medium? Yeah, medium.” I coughed and tried to look like nothing was weird for me right then. Damn…I’ve been really feasting on diner burgers lately.

It was a nice cheddar cheeseburger. It was $11. Perfectly medium, fresh tasting, albeit under-seasoned beef, and a great bun. The “toppings” were also very nice, but they’re served on the side, which I find to be a big eye-roll. How safe. How free of personality.

How “we don’t really have an opinion about burgers, we just want your parents from out-of-town to not complain about over-priced Portland burgers on Yelp after eating here.”

And I guess that’s how I felt about the entire experience. This tastes like how a pause button feels – but not in a cool way,  I wrote down at the time. I looked back at that sentence before writing this blog, and I’m not entirely sure what was going through my mind at the time, but decided I should share it with you all anyway.

Eating a burger at Pause reminded me how I’ve changed, and how I don’t want to look back. Just because something is technically good doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good to me.

So that was that.

The White Eagle

White Eagle 2

“It’s so dark in here.” “Why don’t you put the burger by the light?” “Oh yeah.”

This is my boyfriend’s favorite burger, and it didn’t occur to me until the moment the burger was going into my mouth that if I didn’t like this cheeseburger he might dump me. Also, if that was the reason he dumped me, I would respect him so much. Now THAT is integrity.

Fortunately, a cheeseburger at The White Eagle ($10.50) is really tasty. Six ounce patty (which I much prefer to an 8 oz patty) which was really well-seasoned (FINALLY), a yummy sauce (THAT APPARENTLY IS A SECRET) that I thought was well-portioned, and good toppings. I was a little disappointed that all the toppings were at the bottom of the burger. Boyfriend Man say he likes that because he feels like it all stays in place better. I feel like it’s just being easy on yourself when you’re assembling the burger, and meanwhile compromising the integrity of the lettuce (which in this case was green leaf.)

I really enjoyed it, even though it didn’t feature some of my favorite elements of a burger. However, it definitely was on the “recommend to a friend” sphere.

White Eagle 1

Before I put the burger by the light. Hashtag: truth in food photography.

The Cafeteria at My Work

Cafeteria 3.JPG

As I mentioned before, I’ve been monopolizing my work place to be a continual Cheeseburger Discussion Zone. I had spent a good chunk of my morning trying to explain myself to my coworker Travis. It mostly orbited around my recent desire to have fully-cooked burgers, and how dorky that made me feel, but through enough pseudo-science and David Change references I might be able to explain how I’m not a complete idiot for wanting that.

“I’m sorry, Travis.” I said, after a particularly long paragraph of ranting. “I just need to explain myself.”

“I know!” He said cheerfully, and evacuated the room for a number of hours.

He eventually came back, pointing at me. “You!” he said.

“What?!!” I said.

“You won’t believe it. Cheeseburgers. In the cafeteria. Today.”

“Shut. Up. No. Way.”

“Way. There’s burgers. And cheese. And toppings. I made mine a double.”

I gasped.

Eventually, the entire kitchen became abuzz with the presence of cheeseburgers in the cafeteria, what this implied, how we were going to build our own, and if this would all be a big mistake.

I mean, I knew walking into this that this would be a “cafeteria burger”. This wasn’t about to be anything too delicious -but boy did it feel exciting.

I anxiously raced down to the cafeteria and hoped that there would still be enough of everything. I found a nearly empty cafeteria, and a sort-of delicious and wellish-stocked looking burger bar.

Cafeteria 1

Ok – straight-up: the patties were gross. Let’s not fool ourselves. Except that cafeteria patties DEFINITELY know how to be seasoned (mass-production is at least a genius in how to use salt), any patty held in a steamwell is going to be  a little freaky texture-wise. And indeed it was.

I followed Travis’s lead by making a double cheeseburger, which certainly was an error…it was just too much food, and I slogged back into work because of it. But I just couldn’t look at all this potential in front of me and not capitalize on it. There were just PILES of American cheese, waiting to be slapped into between layers of 1/4 pounds of pre-heated beef and three squirts of mustard.

Cafeteria 2

The main problem with the cafeteria burger was it’s inability to squish together and stay as a unit. Because I assembled this burger myself, I can also be to blame for it’s structure and integrity, but I mostly blamed the hard-sponge like texture of the patty  for it’s propensity to slide around like a unit inside of the bun. I’d go into take a bite, and the entire patty would try to escape, slipping off the burger and veering back toward the plate.

Or perhaps GMO patties have developed consciousness and are now self-aware of themselves  as a food substance and are revolting against being devoured by the gnashing teeth of the human race. That also seems just as likely.

Regardless, I had a lovely time in the cafeteria that day, pulling apart sticky tater tots from themselves, and dipping them in the remains of ketchup I was able to ejaculate from a nearly empty bottle.

 

This was an invigorating and emotional week. Can’t wait to see what the next has in store for me in RESOLUTION CHEESEBURGER 2016.

 

 

 

Riki Tiki Reveals: RESOLUTION CHEESEBURGER 2016

My goal for 2016 is to eat 3 Cheeseburgers a week. My goal for 2016 is to fully intend to eat 3 Cheeseburgers a week, and stop if I ever start feeling sick, gross, or done with cheeseburgers – but still, y’know, it is a REAL resolution.

It all started New Years Eve. I was en route to The White Eagle to watch a band cover the entire Ziggy Stardust album (which I mention here, because any way to bring up wonderful memories of David Bowie’s music is a great way to spend one’s time), when I realized I should probably first stop by Bar Bar to eat a burger.

I’d been there once before, loved the burger, and loved the style they were going for. The past few years I’ve dramatically shifted in the kind of burgers I prefer.

The biggest preferences that have changed for me lately:

-1/4lb to 1/3lb patty. Screw that huge patty stuff.

-Iceberg lettuce, preferably shredded. Nothing super green and fancy. I want a crunchy lettuce.

-‘Merican cheese rawks

-I want the whole thing to squish. I don’t want a burger tower.

Anyhoosies, there I was at Bar Bar, and I sat at the counter, right next to where the gal was making burgers.

“Oh, man. This is going to be a good burger.” I heard her say. “Yup. Lucky person who gets this burger.”

Please let it be number 47, I prayed to Ziggy Stardust. Pleeeeease.

It was. It was an incredible burger. I told the lady so.

“Well thanks. I raised the cow myself.” She replied.

“Uh, really?”

“Nope. Not really. I just season it, flip it, and put it together.”

“Well, it was so damn good. It tasted like a…it tasted like…a resolution…”

Maybe I meant to say revolution? Maybe I just had the New Year on the brain. But it got me thinking:

What if I ate as many cheeseburgers as I possibly could this year?

Hold on, what if I DON’T test the gods, and what if I just eat three cheeseburgers a week?

And so, I have started to do so. And looking back upon this week from the business side of things, it wasn’t so weird to eat three cheeseburgers in one week. It almost made me wonder if that’s normal for me and I’ve just never kept track before.

Here are the Three Cheeseburgers I ate this week, for your viewing and Rolodex pleasures.

Foster Burger

IMG_3404

Shitty picture of a pretty okay Foster Burger. Points for gingham deli paper.

This was my least favorite burger of the week. I ordered The Foster Burger ($6) plus American Cheese (.50). It didn’t send me into a shit-spiral of discontent (you would HATE to see that), but I did take issue with a few important points of it. I wanted more seasoning on the patty, and the meat was that wrong kinda mushy. Like, it got a little too warm when it was ground and schmeared a bit in the grinder. The lettuce was iceberg, which is super duper, but it was like three big slabs of it ungraciously thrown on top. That flustered my buttons, I’ll tell ya. I’m a real c-word about lettuce, and I’m not showing any signs of stopping.

I liked the sauce, and my boyfriend’s horseradish, gouda & bacon burger (I think it was their special?) was mighty tasty. Seems like it’s a pretty great place for toppings. I’d also say it’d be worth it for me to go there again and give the burger another shot, but this isn’t very official and my opinions aren’t very important, so why don’t I just ride the tiger and keep on trying new things, HUH??

McCools

Clackamas in the house, bitches.

IMG_3432

Slightly less shitty picture of the rather remarkable Double Cheeseburger from McCools. Looks almost identical to the Foster Burger above (holla, gingham deli paper), except for the swirl of the Kaiser roll…but did they taste identical?? NAY! Nay! Nay, one more time!

I was excited to try a burger from this place for a few reasons: 1) I was just randomly meeting up with friends there and wasn’t going anywhere to specifically seek out a cheeseburger. It felt like the burger-romance was still alive. 2) These are exactly the kinds of places I want to try burgers at. I’m MORE than happy to go to the canonical places for burgers, but when every goddamn restaurant has a burger, why not make the effort to put those inside of me, too? 3) The place is called McCools. Cool.

Like the rest of Clackamas, McCools is the rest of Oregon which is Not Portland. Probably Enough Said There, ahem.

Anyway, I ordered the double cheeseburger ($6.50) off the happy hour menu. I asked our kindly waitress how big the patties were, because I was feeling frisky, obnoxious, and not ready to eat over a half pound of ground beef.

“Oh! They’re the little kiddie 1/4 lb patties. Hope that’s enough for ya – I actually think they’re more delicious that way!”

I decided I loved that woman. The burger gospel spewed from her lips.

And it was a DAMN good burger. No frills, just that cheap cheeseburger that also happens to be well constructed that I dreamscape about. It really all came together for me with the bun – squishy, but crisped at the point it reaches the business of the burger. What I’m saying is – I want a soft bun that’s well toasted/griddled. They nailed it.

It would have been my favorite burger of the week, except then I went to Burger Guild.

 

Burger Guild

IMG_3447

This is a great picture. Classic Galesburger from Burger Guild. Delicious.

Fortunately for me, my boyfriend has been involved in the cheeseburger eating project – and Burger Guild was his highly recommended recommendation, and his Facebook Official 2nd Favorite Burger in Portland. (Whoof.) So, with fat worms at the end of my hook, I whetted my appetite for Burger Guild. (That analogy made sense, right?)

Yeah, it was dope. Flame-broiled stuffed burgers. I honestly don’t give a crap about whether or not burgers are flame-broiled (I guess it’s cool to say “I like the taste of Fire on my food”, but it’s not really true) – but the burger stuffing was NEAT. I didn’t think I would be so into it, but boy was I. I got the Classic Galesburger ($8.50) which was their most basic burger, stuffed with cheddar cheese. And man, I’ve been on an American Cheese kick, but this burger really put me in my place by saying “hey bitch, cheddar cheese tastes GREAT with ground beef. Stop romanticizing American cheese like some 1950s housewife.”

Really delicious sauce. The wrong kind of lettuce (green leaf, if I’m remembering correctly), but it didn’t even matter to me, which I pride myself in saying is a big deal at this point. It also featured a more wheat-y bun than I usually mythologize. It was very flavorful, and had a great texture that stood up to the weightyness of a stuffed burger. Lots to love.

My only wag-of-the-finger to Burger Guild was the size of their white onions. They were too big to be raw. I needed an onion punch in there with all the warm, rich, salty, gooey enveloping flavors of the proteins and sauce, but they looked like they were one-inch cuts of ringed white onions, and it was too large and distracting of a bite. If they were small diced, I think they would be ideal. Or they could stay the same size and be sweated, and also be just fine.

 

Anyhow, whatever. It was my favorite burger this week, and I would be tickled, honored and over-joyed to eat another one.

 

That’s all about Burgers this week.

Good bye, Bowie. We all love you so very much. I feel weird that I painted a pig skull to look like Ziggy Stardust earlier this week. Feels a bit like I’m responsible for your death.

IMG_3414

Piggy Stardust.

 

In Which Riki Tiki Gushes About One of Her Food Heroes

food lab pic

Mummy and Pop-pop got me Kenji’s book for Christmas (J. Kenji Lopez-Alt to YOU), and it’s incredibly exciting. I keep going to read particular sections, and then getting distracted en route, mid page-flip, by sections about when to add booze to sauces, how to get crispy chicken skin, and what exactly makes a hamburger a hamburger.

He’s been a hero of mine the past five years or so. My friend Charlie, who is smarter than everyone, was the first person to turn me on to The Food Lab blog.

“You won’t believe how in depth this guy gets.” Charlie told me.

In the interest of also being smarter than everyone, or at least as smart as Charlie, I checked out the blog, and was indeed blown away by how in depth this guy gets. If anything, just the amount of organized trial and error is what blows me away. I was continually going through trial & error with pie recipes, and it was always “wish-I-was-more-organized” chaos. He publishes articles with incredibly thorough results of his experiments, control groups and any variations on the recipe. Honestly, I think being organized and thorough is a much harder skill to learn than performing the actions of a recipe, and also harder than curating the creativity to come up with the recipe in the first place. Not to mention (except I’m obviously mentioning it), staying organized actually leaves you with a tangible and updated product in the end…

The Food Lab blog is invaluable, but I’m pretty excited to have a lot of his knowledge in book format. I absorb info better in a book, and he has a pretty inspirational intro about how he got into cooking and what makes him give such a huge shit (which maybe isn’t the best word choice for talking about food. or maybe it’s a great word choice, because what are we all talking about when we talk about food except Shit’s Tasty Prologue. anyway. enough of this parenthetical thought.) about food.

I’m at a point in my cooking life where I feel like I’m getting good at a lot of stuff, but I’m not particularly encouraged to ask questions. Questions take up a chef’s time, and sometimes makes a young cook sound insubordinate…it’s frustrating, but so it goes. Being able to read and experiment at home is as important, if not more important to me, than ever.

Here are some links to different recipes he’s published over the years that have changed my life:

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Rather Infamous Cook’s Illustrated Vodka Pie Crust Recipe (one of the first pie crust recipes I ever made)

Hard-Boiled Eggs

 

Riki Tiki Reflects Upon Laying in Bed: List of People Who Have Inspired Me

I’m laying in bed on my day off, thinking about how I should be washing the dishes right now and also that I probably should have been a success story by now.

IMG_3202

There. There’s a picture of me laying around in bed at 28 years old, December 7th, 2015, 1:55pm (13:55am, if you’re European), not having done the great thing I’m going to do, and probably should have done it already.

I would never say “I owe it to myself”  to have already been a success story by now, because I’m not sure how much I particularly care about my success. What I would say, however, is that “I owe it to the world.” I feel like I’ve been starving the world of my genius, and for that I am incredibly sorry. I’ve had roasted chicken in one of my hands, and stale bread particles in the other one of my hands, and I have repeatedly given the world the stale particle hand bread instead of roast chicken hands.

Sorry. I’ve failed you.

I’m 28 years old and laying in bed, wondering if that’s 28 years too long. Sometimes I nervously Google celebrities I like on Wikipedia (or whatever happens when you type people’s names into the internet now), just to see how old they were when they did that great thing they did. Then I ask myself “how much younger were they than you are now?” “how many years have you failed/is it okay to continue to fail?”.

The answers are sometimes depressing. Other times, I congratulate myself for still being so young.

Now that I’m laying in bed with really nothing to do, except the burden of everything I could be doing, I feel stressed. I’d rather not feel so stressed out about how I already should be done doing the thing I was intended to do on this earth. I’d like to feel the stress of “it’s still going to happen!” or the “you’re in the middle of that great thing you’re going to do!” Those sound like much better stresses to have. The stress I have now goes like this:

“The world is watching you not having done that thing you already should be done doing.”

And I know that all of you are thinking about it a lot.

 

Without Further Ado…

easystreet

Here’s a list of People Who Inspire Me Who Have Already Wrapped Up Doing That Great Thing They Did, As Well As The Great Thing They Did, The Year, And Their Age When They Did The Thing.*:

  1. Jimmy Stewart. His performance in The Philadelphia Story. 1940. Age 32.
5a7218a2ea7015c66091d54a5757a0443adae4aa

via YahooMovies.com

2. Harry Nilsson. The album Nilsson Schmilsson. 1971. Age 30.

51u6wzmjzil

via Amazon.com

3. Kate Bush. The album Hounds of Love. 1985. Age 27.

hol

via katebush.com

4. Scott Aukerman. Season 2 of Comedy Bang Bang. 2013. Age 43.

comedybangbang-season2-21

via dvdizzy.com

5. St. Vincent. The album St. Vincent. 2014. Age 31.

st_vincent_artwork

via wikipedia.org

6. Sous Chef I Met This One Time, I Think His Name Was Adam. Offered a Sous Chef Position at Fancy Restaurant I Should Know About. 2015. My age or younger.

7. John Wayne. Saying the line “Backwards, I always head backwards when I’m backing up,” in the movie True Grit. 1969. Age 62.

e19817b60d78a7c6692294965d8dcd64

via pinterest.com

8. Some People I Knew in High School. Have jobs where they sit all day. 2015. Age 28.

5bbc6cb18c474191981eeaeb3a59e5b8chair-621x414

article-1344424-0c9c13b3000005dc-886_224x423

via health24.com, polyvore.com and dailymail.co.uk

9. Guy At the Bar, Remarking on My Knife Roll. Had a sharper knife than me. 2014. Probably In His 30s.

gordon-ramsay-421885

via express.co.uk

 

10. Barack Hussein Obama. Met Pope Francis. 2015. Age 54.

20140327_112335_pope-francis-meets-president-obama

via denverpost.com

 

NOT ONLY THAT ONE. HE ALSO MET THIS POPE. #ALLTHEPOPES #MYHERO #BARRYOBAMA

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#allthepopes via express.co.uk

 

*And they certainly will never do anything great again! Good riddance!

Looking back at this list, I feel slightly less stressed out. Turns out I’m mostly inspired by people slightly older than I currently am. How refreshing, and I guess that settles that. I will continue to deny the world my genius, and lay around in bed for the next two years until I turn 30 years old. Seems like a perfectly sane gamble.

 

See you all then at “Launch of My Genius 2017” party! You’re all invited.

 

Exact Instructions on When to Call Someone “Chef”: Just Kidding, It’s Complicated.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a former co-worker of mine about his hang-ups over using the word “Chef.”

“I used to hate calling people ‘Chef’. It’s something that has a very distinct meaning, but people use it for anybody these days. Any goddamn person who is cooking is a ‘Chef’.”

I think we were drinking at the time, so imagine that we both paused here to take a swig.

*glug* So, do you still feel that way?” I asked.

“I think I’m over it for the most part, but it’s still frustrating. Restaurants run so differently, and sometimes it’s not appropriate at all, and other times you get in trouble if you don’t. And it rarely means anything. It’s just hard figuring out the times you’re supposed to say it, versus when people are just saying it.”

“I see that,” I answered, And letting the beer hit me a bit, “so it’s kind of like figuring out whether or not to say you love somebody?”

There’s a lot of different meanings of the word Chef, and a lot of people are feeling awkward and angry about it.

There’s a lot of different meanings of the word Love, and I don’t know what I could possibly link to here. Hopefully you just agree with me.

At the restaurant where he and I worked together, calling any one of our string of bosses a “Chef” would have sounded like a light jab; it would a big sarcastic italics descending upon whatever sentence we just said. A sort of snarky, “you’re taking your job too seriously and being really bossy about it.” I.e. “Yes, I’ll grab the lettuce right away, Chef.

The other day I was having a similar conversation with a new co-worker about using the word “Chef.” At this new restaurant, there are definitely chefs. People are definitely calling particular presences in the kitchen “chefs,” and that person fulfills that role of “Chef,” and the line of chefdom starts and stops inside their personhood.

“But sometimes, it kinda bothers me,” he said, “and I don’t really want to call such and such a person ‘Chef.’ I used to joke around and call them ‘coach.’ That made me feel better.”

Hearing that made me feel hilarious.

yes coach

via globalnr.com

Why does it bother people? Why is it so confusing? Why is the term chef being used so widely? Keep on reading for zero answers.

Before I started culinary school, if someone asked me, “What’s a word you find too confusing to use appropriately?. Or,” What’s the word you nervously tip-toe around, and hope that nobody notices you standing in the room, not using the word you’re supposed to be using?”

“Love. Big, fat Love.”

But a year later, after being water-boarded by the greater world of cooking, I’d change my answer to:

“Chef, but also, probably, still Love.”

I think my discomfort regarding those two words is actually stemming from exactly the same place.

1. Both words have been programmed into me, albeit from different parts of society. Love, with religious and familial connotations,  and Chef, with professional & personal respect connotations.

2. The programming of these words necessitates a de-programming of these words, when you realize that these terms are for more complicated than whatever initial teacher you had implied. Welcome to the great big world where Love is a dirty pile of rags, and not everybody is a Chef.

This is love. This is what love looks like. via bohemianjunktion.com

This is love. This is what love looks like. via bohemianjunktion.com

3. Both can be used easily to save a lot of goddamn time.

4. Both can be frustrating to hear when used out of context.

5. When it comes down to it, anyone who tells you “you HAVE to love that person,” or “you HAVE to call that person Chef,” is wrong. Sometimes you don’t call that person chef, and sometimes you don’t love that person.

6. The overuse of either makes one sound like a pernicious suck-up.

Culinary school made it very easy to call authority figures “Chef”. The person with the huge hat telling you what to do was “Chef.” If you called them Chef at the end of every sentence, they wouldn’t make fun of you (to your face, at least.) If you screamed out, “WHY HELLO, CHEF!” in the hallway, they’d either appreciate it, or swallow it with the grain of salty prepubescence.

“They’ll get it someday. Their body is undergoing changes and they just got their first case of acne. Be nice.”

We learned about the traditional French brigade system in school. This is supposed to clear some stuff up.

“Now, you can be the ‘chef’ OF a station, but you’re not the THE chef. You can also be the chef in charge of the other chefs, but there might also be a chef in charge of you, and they might be THE chef. Or perhaps not. It all depends.”

My first time staging at a large, more traditional restaurant, I had no idea who all to call chef. The head chef made it pretty obvious that he was in charge, but the hierarchy beneath him just looked like a big swamp for the first few hours. I was introduced to just about every person in the kitchen, but no one’s titles were announced. Since I was staging, pretty much everyone was telling me what to do, and therefore everyone was an authority figure. I decided to call people just by their first names for the first few hours (which somehow I remembered), but then I started to feel like I was doing something wrong.

I then reversed my tactic and started calling every frickin’ person Chef. I think I even bonked into the prep table at one point and said “sorry, Chef” to the prep table.

What a mess.

Walking into a kitchen is like walking into a clock. It’s ticking away, and everyone is interacting with each other how they will, and then THERE YOU ARE! Suddenly! Trying to get into the tick-zone as quickly as possible. I’ve found myself hoping that someone just tells me to pick up my knife and says “chop this for hours,” so at least I have something productive to do, instead of standing around like a ding-dong.

WHAT A DING-DONG.

WHAT A DING-DONG.

At this place I was first staging, I had to somehow find a way to be a part of the organism, but also observe the organism so I could stop calling every frickin’ person Chef. I think I was starting to weird people out.

I sat in my corner, chopping herbs, and spying on whatever hierarchy I could watch. “Ok, people seem to be submitting to this guy ‘Steve.’ He puts on his sweatshirt, and spends a long time in the walk-in with the head chef. He must be the ‘sous-chef.’ I should probably call him Chef. People seem to be paying a lot of attention to ‘Brenda,’ but she doesn’t really seem to be in charge of anything, she must just be competent. I will not call her ‘Chef’.”

But, now, to briefly touch on my anxieties over the word Love…

tina meme

Get on with your point, dummy.

I grew up in a religious family. We went to church every Sunday. At this church every Sunday, at some point we would be told that as Christians, we are called upon to “love every person, no matter what, as Christ loves us.” I would nod and say, “Ok, got it. Can I go be less bored now.” And I would leave, with this blank feeling on my heart, that I would hope was love that I could ejaculate onto the world, no matter what, just as Christ ejaculated love onto us.

Apparently this is what love looks like. via genius.com

Apparently this is what love looks like. via genius.com

What did this love mean? Just be generally nice? Bring homeless people into my parent’s house for the night? Don’t be racist? Have a crush on everyone? Every week I was given Love as the answer, and the answer rarely answered any questions.

I continued to be religious throughout high school, and I started to seek out more mystical expressions of my faith. I remember being on a retreat with a lot of my cool Christian friends, and it was my first time I felt that I truly experienced the “presence of God.” We spent hours upon hours playing music, singing along, and dancing. After a few hours of this, I remember feeling my mind elevated to a brand new place. I felt warm, excited, and my eyes were opened to a brand new world. I looked around the room, and inexplicably felt this warmness and excitement come out of me and onto the other people in the room.

“These are my people! I love them!”

It never made more sense to me as it did in this moment, and retelling this story now, it doesn’t really make sense to me. I only really feel that experience through vocabulary right now, and the memory that “it really felt like something.”

I wanted to tell everyone that I truly loved them, because that felt like the true and honest thing to say at the time.

I remember being in my early 20’s, sitting in a car with a brand-new boyfriend. I rather liked him, but my feelings were still rather tangled, and not on solid ground yet. He kissed me good night, and said  “I love you.” Judging from what I saw his face do next, my face must have done something crazy in reaction to it.

MFW new bae say he love me. lol.

MFW new bae say he love me. lol.

My mind was blank. I had nothing to say back.

“I’m sorry!” He said. “It just came out. But it’s true. I just had to say it.”

I wished he had just called me “coach.” Being called “Chef” was a lot of pressure.

A few months ago, I started working at these once a month pop-up dinners here in Portland. Every month there is a new chef putting together a menu to feed about 70 people in an obscure and nifty location. My first dinner was with a rather impressive chef, who had a very complicated menu and intricate plating. I felt that it was way over my head. I spent a day prepping with this guy before the dinner.

“I’m Pete.” He said.

“Hi Pete.” I responded. “I’m Theresa.”

He was a sweet lamb I could talk with casually, though his credentials and abilities were so far above my own. He didn’t make me feel intimidated. We stood next to each other by the stove, him making a chicken gumbo, and me lacquering and searing duck breasts. We chatted about food, about molecular gastronomy, and how he’d mess with his “cooks”  when they pissed him off at the restaurant by asking them to totally deconstruct and reconstruct a tomato using a series of mad science. It was a pretty fun time. At the end of the prep day, I said “Bye Pete.”

The next night was the dinner. I showed up to the warehouse where we were serving, and stress was palpable. Despite this, Pete was trying to keep his cool. He designed all aspects of the menu, and there was no other Chef to hide behind. Even if some schmuck like me screwed something up, in the end his name was attached to all mistakes. I could see him quietly freaking out inside, but still he tried to be nice to everyone. My personal theory for his attitude is he must have worked with enough angry chefs and decided he didn’t want to be “that guy.” He didn’t want people to spend their time working for him being miserable – he wanted it to be fun. And hey, what boss, chef, coach, etc., would want their grundlings to be completely miserable?

(Perhaps for him, and also for me, the use of the word “chef” denoted a generational difference. We are the next generation of food producers, and we have a different set of rules. He wasn’t an old man who required people to call him “chef.” He wouldn’t force “chef” on us. Chef was a verb, not a pronoun, for him. The word didn’t need to be spoken for it to be present..perhaps.)

Before the dinner, we had a back of house line-up.

“Guys, I want this to be fun.” Pete said, further solidifying my theory. “I’m pro high-five. We can high-five! And you don’t need to call me Chef. I don’t care.”

Well, okay, great, I thought. I’ve been calling him Pete this entire time.

“All I care about is call-backs. But you can say whatever you want. ‘Heard’ is great.'”

Ah yes, the great call-back of the egalitarian kitchen. “Heard.”

We started plating the dinner. Seven courses, all with at least 10 components that if not plated precisely, ended up looking like piles of garbage on the plate. We were working in a make-shift restaurant inside of a warehouse, with limited ingredients. There were no back-ups, no person running prep in the back. Any mistake that was made resonated loudly. Things got pretty tense. Communication shortened considerably. Pete was getting stressed, and I liked the guy a lot and didn’t want to let him down. I did. My heart fell when he watched me plate up a sauce and said, “Please avoid doing that.”

Please avoid doing that. That crushed my spirit more than if he had said, “What incompetent asshole would plate up sauce like POOP? YOU! You pooped on the plate!!”

I was getting nervous. I was getting paid no matter what, and my name wasn’t the one attached to the dinner, but I wanted to be valuable. I wanted to do the right thing. I was trying to cling to everything Pete said to make sure I was plating correctly. And then it slipped out of me:

“Yes, Chef.”

I didn’t know why I chose to say it then. I was stressed, and I needed to answer him. And maybe rather importantly, I really wanted to call him chef. I sort of needed it. It danced around on the tip of my tongue, until it burst out into the ether. It felt good. It felt right. I called him Chef for the rest of the dinner, and felt a huge relief.

At the end of the night, he shook my hand, his other hand clutching a beer, and said “Thanks for all the help, Theresa.”

“You’re welcome, Pete.”

17 Signs You MIGHT Be In Culinary School

Unsure whether or not you’re in culinary school?? Check out this handy list to clear that one right up!

Is she in culinary school? What do YOU think?

Is she in culinary school? What do YOU think?

1. You’re forced to iron your pajamas.

2. You’re kind of a twat.

3. You’ve started pronouncing the word “stage” and “place” kinda weird and sometimes it makes you nervous.

4. You call everything “Chef,” just to be safe.

5. You’re kind of a twat.

6. Overnight, you’ve become the authority on a lot of different issues, and nobody can do anything right anymore.

7. You’re kind of a twat.

8. Instead of saying “hello” or “good morning” or “hey hey hey” or “what up doc” or “hey asshole,” you only greet people with “I’m so tired.” You’re starting to wonder if someone else is ever going to care, instead of just telling you how tired they are back. You’re starting to wonder if there is only so much tiredness to go around, and you’re competing for limited resources. You deserve this, dammit! You’re potentially in culinary school after all!

9. You’re currently enrolled in culinary school.

10. You’re kind of a twat.

11. You have a big bag of knives, want more knives, and every morning when you wake up, you scrape your fingernails against the mirror, and ask yourself if you’re too tired to be a twat today. But you’re not. You’re a hero.

12. When you’re at school you talk about work, when you’re at work you talk about school, and when you’re at home you talk to your big, bag of knives and call it “chef,” just to be safe.

13. Good morning, chef. Hey chef. How’s it going chef. Hey chef, I have question. Uh, chef? chef. CHEF. CHEFFFFF!!!! THE KITCHEN IS 44% ON FIRE AND APPEARS AMBITIOUS FOR MORE GROWTH.

14. What’s the French word for twat?

15. You’re reading this list and you’re feeling kind of insulted, but you also have $50 getting itchy in your pocket and you want to fling it at me. Come on.

16. Have you ever heard of Anthony Bourdain? You haven’t? Oh, you have? Oh, you watch his shows? Oh, well I sorta see myself doing something like THAT someday. Like, I think being paid to travel and eat food and be a celebrity and talk about it would be a really good job for me. That’d be sort of a good match for all my skills and it might even be fun.

17. “Ya ever heard of ‘The Industry,’ kid?”

“Only in legend and stories, chef.”

“Of course, of course, you’ve heard what they’re willing to tell you. Let me guess, it’s a magical place of hard work, legitimacy and promise, isn’t it?”

“Why, yes. It sounds like a magical place. I can finally get real deep-fryer burns, go out drinking at night into the morning, get addicted to cocaine and make fun of culinary students for wearing their pants outside of school.”

“I know it’s sounds amazing, and that’s what they tell ya, kid. But let me tell you what they don’t want you to know.” He checks to see that the coast is clear and lowers his voice to a tense whisper. “You can only get there by boat, and the boat only takes passengers to The Industry, but never back. They’ll never admit that. Ya ever wonder what happens to all the potatoes you’ve attempted to tourne? They go with you on the boat to The Industry. They use you to build a city out of all the shitty tourne potatoes you culinary students create, and you can only use risotto as mortar. You build the city, and you never stop building the city. You can never live in the city – the city built from your own failures, blood and arborio mortar. Ever wondered why we need you to practice tournes so much? Huh?! Ever wonder THAT kid?” The chef catches himself, and lowers his voice back down. “The Industry will never be complete, and you will never be free. This is your life now…” The chef takes a step back and straightens out his pajamas. “This life isn’t for everyone kid, but someone needs to do it.”

And with that, the chef walks away.

Your mind is spinning with what he’s just told you, as another chef walks up to you in the hall.

“Good morning!” he says.

“Good morning, chef.” You mumble.

“Been practicing those tournes? You know what I always say: until you’ve done three cases of potatoes, you can’t say you’re bad at them! Now, get to practicing!”

 

You start rummaging in your knife roll for your paring knife, and find yourself stifling a sob. It all makes sense now.

 

 

 

 

As a sidenote: I finally bought a new laptop, after nearly four months without one. I have the problem of being poor, as well as an unbridled cheapskate, so I got the cheapest laptop I could find that held up a review of “generally fine.” And I must say, I am continually shocked by how crappy this laptop is. I’m almost impressed with how bad it is.

The keyboard sticks, it constantly crashes, sometimes it won’t even turn on, and at the risk of DEFINITELY sounding age-ist: when I first fired up this computer, I said to myself, “shit. This looks like an old person’s computer.” There were thousands of pop-ups, free search bars installing themselves, constant reminders of the dangers of spyware, and a little picture of a tech-support guy that I could click on for 24 hour guidance – though doing so would certainly cause the computer to crash. I spent the last four days trying to get Google Chrome or Firefox to install, but McAfee wagged it’s sassy little safety-finger and say “no, no, girlfriend. Internet explorer is for you. Google Chrome is UNSAFE like HERPES or MUMPS.” I’d spend 20 minutes pounding at the keyboard and mouse with caveman fingers, and cursing out “Mr. Assface” – what I named the smarmy tech-support guy who constantly bobbled at the top of every browser window.

Anyway, I had some free time today to uninstall all the bloatware and bundleware that ASUS laptops come with (pronounced “Asses”.) It actually kind of works now! I can at least use Google Chrome now like a person born in the 80s, (or like hip older people – in the hopes of saving myself from previously-made age-ist remarks. My apologies.)

All this goes to say – I’m able to blog now. I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

The Microbrewery is Not a Meth Lab

They’re brewing beer in the garage today! 

photo (1)

My host Wally and his son Josh are trying their first test batch of beer in the microbrewery Wally has been constructing in his garage. I was leaving for a walk this morning, and I heard a little yelp and a laugh. I look into the garage, and see Wally soaked with water. 

“Yeah…luckily it wasn’t quite up to temp yet.” He said, grinning. “I heard a story about someone at [such and such] brewery. They, uh…I think they’re disabled..now…” He sort of trailed off with that story, as he got distracted by Josh handing him something.

When I got back from my walk, the air smelled like bread and one of the tanks was getting filled with hot beer water (yup. That’s what I’m calling it). It was exciting stuff.

I really don’t know too much about brewing beer. Wally has walked me through the microbrewery a few times and explained all the different tanks (a total of six) and the function of each one, and I still get pretty confused from it all. For something that people have been drinking for a very long time, it’s a very complex process with piles of variables at every step. The only conversation I can reasonably participate in is when we talk about using spent grains from beer for baking…which is something I’m pretty geeked about.

I’ve been affectionately calling the microbrewery the Space Lab. When I walked out today and saw all the lights on, machines whirring, and tubes running from tank to tank – it felt like the rocket was almost ready to launch.

photo 1 (1)

I’m just about positive that these are his two fermenters.

I’ve been tempted to tell Wally that I feel like I’ve stumbled onto the set of Breaking Bad. I’ve really been wanting to tell people it’s actually a meth lab, especially after he was talking to me about the nitric acid melting through some copper threading. 

“Wow, you must need hazmat suits or something.”

“Yeah, we got those.” He pointed over to the corner at the yellow suits. 

Oh my god. I thought. He even has the same initials as Walter White.

His son Josh would make a pretty okay Jesse Pinkman. He would need to come off a little less happy to make it work. I’ll see what I can do.

Hops growing along the side of the garage.

Hops growing along the side of the garage.

photo 3

Wally decided to start up Brother Ass Brewing after he retired. (The name is explained on the website. It’s a St. Francis thing.) He’d been home-brewing for a few years, decided it was something he wanted to be doing on a bigger scale, and thus began the 217 steps to open up a business, and the additional 58 steps it takes if that business is a microbrewery. Every day he’s in the garage building, connecting things together, sending a stream of water down the driveway or realizing he needs more parts for another process. I really enjoy it because I can go down and chat and ask lots of questions like the nosy little beaver that I am. 

Wally and his wife Liz have four kids who all still live in the area, and come by a lot. So far, I like every single one of them. They were home-schooled, like me, so we can sit around and make excuses for ourselves being different than everyone else. Their daughter Sara is a coffee-person, and Wally’s long-term dream business is to have Josh & him running a pub, and Sara running a coffee joint out of the same building. Like Walter White, he’s “doing it for his family.” 

Crash-landing across the country into their home is suiting me pretty well. Being around a busy family is staving off homesickness and loneliness, and they’ve made me feel more than welcome. Their house is sort of out in the boonies of Vancouver, which is such a switch from living in the exotic and bizarre chaos of downtown Ypsilanti the past 8 years. Everything is a lot more quiet out here –  eerily quiet. Everyone has fruit trees in their lawn. People don’t seem to pick their fruit too often, so I can scoop up an apple or a plum when I’m out for a walk. There’s a hefty patch of blackberries growing across from their house, so I made them some blackberry hand pies last week, because, well, I want them to like me. And I got bored.

I go on a lot of walks out here. There’s not too much around except houses and plants, but I have to stretch my legs and stare at things at least once a day in order to stay sane. This life is a big switch for me.

Wally likes to talk religion. I like talking religion with Wally. We have pretty different beliefs, and he always seems pretty curious about mine. We were running errands and talking about beer, and then he jumped topics and asked “When you were younger, what were your views on hell?” 

photo (2)

Beer and Jesus – those have been the persistent themes of my first weeks out here. Everyone has an opinion about Jesus, and you’ll hear those opinions once you’re drinking beer. 

I’m with Wally & Liz until September 20th, and then I move into the city and start up school. Yeehaw.

I’ll let you guys know what happens with the test batch.