For the love of bitter humans.

The Goldfinch

Life, I think, is like a champagne cocktail: best enjoyed while still fizzy, sublime in its bitter sweetness.

******

In my next life, if my karmic inheritance takes me to the next level of transcendence, I will return as a Quaker, serenely imparting peace among people.

If you’re wondering why I don’t just study up and become a Quaker right here in this good life (on the theory there may not be a next), understand that I am fully committed to completing this life as a lioness. Mess with one of my cubs and you’ll see just how un-Quaker I am. In fact, mess with one of my cubs and you’ll meet some fist-raising, foul-mouthed, redneck woman who somehow has my name on her driver’s license. Do not mess with my cubs.

Anyway, next go-round I’m hoping for Quaker. Not the made-up wanna-be Quaker, but real, genuine-in-my heart Quaker. And when I come back as a Quaker I’m hoping I’ll still be a writer, and I hope I’ll write articles like the one I read once about how we all should just say no to watching bad, violent, hateful things. If I could find the article, I’d just repost it; but I can’t, so here’s the gist:

Seeing the image of a bad thing happening leaves a scar on your soul. Once that image is seen, you can’t un-see it, and it leaves a terrible mark.

A friend, a Quaker, brought this article to me after we had a conversation about watching Law & Order. My friend is a lawyer, a former public defender, and on a regular basis I would ask her questions like “was the unspeakable thing that happened on Law & Order SVU really like that unspeakable thing that happened right here in Memphis, Tennessee last year?” And she would shrug and be non-committal, and then the next week I’d ask a similar question about a different unspeakable thing. There’s always something unspeakable happening, here, there, everywhere, so it was easy to spew an endless stream of ick.

Then one day she, my friend, brought a copy of her Friends newsletter, opened to the page with the article about how horrible things scar our psyches, and after I read it I didn’t ask her about Law & Order any more. In fact, I didn’t watch Law & Order any more because, once I thought about it, I didn’t want any of that mess in my head either.

Once you, too, give it a minute’s thought, you may also decide to give up Law & Order, or whatever other similar thing you watch. And if you’re a fine person who doesn’t watch TV and who instead just reads news articles and journals in print and online, then maybe you’ll think about scarred psyches and decide never again, for example, to read the comments that follow every Huffington Post article because all those comments do is give you nightmares of trolls, whether or not you believe in fairy tales. In fact, you’ll probably give up Huff Post entirely.

And once you give up Law & Order and Huff Post and you stop following any local news station or neighborhood security group (dear God, is there any end to the horror?), then just exactly where are you going to go when you want to look beyond your navel and see what’s happening in the world without scarring your psyche?

I’ll tell you. You’re going to The Bitter Southerner and Humans of New York.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably already at least stumbled across Brandon Stanton’s incredible brain child, Humans of New York. It’s pretty darned close to my favorite thing in the world, outside of my family, dark chocolate, and champagne.

If you’re familiar with Brandon’s work but haven’t checked in lately, then go visit, right now. His UN series (he’s currently in Iraq) is heart-stoppingly beautiful. Each post is its own tiny champagne cocktail, fizzy, sweet and bitter in every marvelous sip.

Buy his books, follow his blog, and, for the love of everything holy, read the comments because that wise and clever Brandon, after realizing that it was pretty easy to tell the difference between people who were being constructive and people who were being dicks (his words), decided he was going to publish only the good stuff that could make us all believe in humanity again.

The Bitter SouthernerWhen you’re finished being amazed by all those wonderfully imperfect humans, take a slow stroll over to The Bitter Southerner, my favorite new publication, and let your love grow a little more.

“Bitter Southerner?” you sneer. Yeah, we’ll that’s sort of the point. You see, a few ingenious folks from Atlanta got their hackles up that people were always dissing the South, so they decided to do something constructive about it. And what they decided to do was tell stories, more specifically one great story every Tuesday, that could open the heart of the South, its threads of bitter and sweet, for all to love.

Not sure where to start in this unfamiliar terrain? Try this quintessentially Southern short story, Abba Dabba Dab. Or, and surely you’d know I’d include this, read The Republic of Swine, a tribute to the Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Contest. Or if you just want the gestalt, read first BS post, We Are Bitter, and you’ll get it, even if you’re not from the South. And you won’t feel one tiny bit scarred or bitter. In fact, you’ll feel better, wherever you live. And then you’ll want a cocktail, but in a good way, enjoyed with friends and laughter and a touch of Quaker-style peace.

Happy week, y’all.

*******

Sunflowers May 2014

FOOD | Week of August 11, 2014

So, not that you need to send me presents or anything, but it’s my birthday week (month), and we’re celebrating. I pledge to drink champagne and eat dark chocolate every day, mostly likely when I’m helping my children with their math homework and struggling against the denial that school has started. In this week’s food line-up you’ll see that every dinner leads with a champagne cocktail, paired with appropriate food. Why we would ever do that pairing in reverse, I just don’t know.

French 75 | Sausage, Grits & Greens

A French 75 might be my favorite cocktail, preferably made with Hendrick’s gin instead of cognac, but really I’m an equal opportunity drinker when it comes to French 75s. The easiest way to make one light enough to drink on a weeknight is this: 1 T. gin, 1 T. fresh lemon juice, 1 T. simple syrup, and champagne to the top of the glass. Vary those ingredients to suit your taste, or swap the gin for cognac if you want to feel warm and frisky. The gin version is a light, refreshing drink that can handle some sturdy food like basic grits and braised greens, with or without some grilled sausage.

Arucana Lulu

Mimosa | Poached Eggs, Sourdough Toast & Canadian Bacon

Breakfast for dinner is a popular concept in our house, and since it’s birthday breakfast for dinner, a traditional mimosa seems appropriate: just OJ and champagne, maybe with a fresh raspberry or two. Bernard is the master egg poacher in this house; I just stand back and watch. If you’ve never poached eggs, here are Jamie Oliver’s instructions, which are a good place to start. Serve with buttered sourdough toast and some grilled Canadian bacon.

Champagne Mojito | Pulled Pork Tacos

The food part of this meal is a cheater’s dinner: I’ll buy pulled pork from The BBQ Shop instead of cooking at home (birthday – hello!). I’ll then serve it family style at the table with corn tortillas, chopped onions, cilantro, tomato, sour cream, lime and some salsas. It’s as popular a meal as breakfast for dinner at our house. The cocktail is a new one, with a recipe from John Besh for champagne mojitos (how could that be anything other than tasty?).

True Vine celery

Kir Royale | Smoked Trout Lettuce Wraps

For a lighter turn, how about some smoked fish and a classic Kir Royale? This recipe for lettuce wraps with smoked trout is a twist on the traditional pork preparation that somehow seems more festive and summery. Smoked salmon would work in the place of the trout, if that’s easier to find.

Champagne | Linguini with Caviar

If you want an elegant and festive dinner that feels extravagant but really isn’t, this pasta dish is it. I’ve had a similar recipe from Gourmet in my cooking journal since 1989, and every time I make it I wonder why I don’t make it more often. The bonus for this week is that one of my favorite farmers at the market had beautiful fresh parsley that he’s nursed along all summer, truly a gift of our unseasonably mild summer.

 

7 Comments

  1. Can’t wait to start reading The Bitter Southerner and Humans of New York! Thanks for the suggestions!

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  2. Totally looking forward to checking these blogs out.
    And as for the ugly in our head, that was my Breaking Bad excuse. My husband and I tried to Netflix binge on it but he kept falling asleep. So I was left to hit play, play, play as these horrible scenes unfolded. Then I’d try to sleep next to my snoring husband while my brain tried to whizz through these violent images like Roald Dahl’s BFG’s (Big Friendly Giant… Such a horrifically good read for little kids) worst nightmare. I quit Breaking Bad soon thereafter.
    Your writing is just gorgeous, by the way. (As are the photos…)

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    1. Just re-reading your menu portion and noticed that a boisterous “Happy Birthday!” is called for! Enjoy the chocolate and champagne. You deserve it.

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  3. aworrell26

    I’m loving your blog, Jennifer! I already follow HONY, but thanks for the Bitter Southerner recommendation! Miss you!

    Like

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