Pumpkin Friday and Critical Nonsense

1. Louis, 2. Allen, 3. Hester, 4. Grand, 5. Rivington, 6. Suffolk IIX, 7. Elizabeth (I named them, too.)

Dedicated readers may remember a weird little phase I went through this time last fall:  I carved pumpkins, constantly.

Every Friday morning I would wake up extra early, carve a Jack-o-Lantern, and display it on a busy intersection a block from my apartment.  Pumpkin Fridays were social experiments.  They were meant to answer 2 questions:

  1. How long could a shiny new Jack-o-Lantern survive in one of the most trafficked and drunken intersections in Manhattan?
  2. Could I move the needle of the Lower East Side’s festivity meter by introducing a steady stream of gourd art?

The answers, respectively, were about 2.5 days and maybe a little.  But it turns out they weren’t the important questions anyway.  The real insights of Pumpkin Fridays were in how they affected me.  I have to admit, that month and a half was especially grueling.  The jack-o-lantern process – even when streamlined – is long and messy.  You’d be surprised how badly a pumpkin a week can carve into your own free time (and sleep cycle, as it were).

Still, there was something intensely energizing about the whole thing.  So much so that as I remember it now, I feel that same electricity charging me up again.  Not because the pumpkins were making a splash in the community, not because they were particularly well done, not really because they were important in any way.  In fact, I found the process so exciting for just the opposite reason – carving the pumpkins had no immediate value.  It was an act of pure, impulsive, creativity… and zero reason.  Acting on that impulse – and freeing myself from the constraints of utilitarian time management – was one of the most refreshing experiences I’ve ever had.

It’s pretty wild how often being in this program has made me forget that lesson.  Time is very precious here, and when any resource starts to thin, it’s the superfluous nonsense that gets chopped first.  But what if the superfluous nonsense is what keeps you going?  Exhibit 1: It’s October 6th and my pumpkin count is still at zero.  Exhibit 2: How many new eating goodly posts have you read since September?  This blog may be a huge time drain, but it’s also one of my greatest sources of inspiration.  It sucks how easily the really important stuff can get reasoned away.

This is the last day before fall break.  I’ve got a midterm in an hour, a couple projects to hand in after that, and I’m out the door.  In the days to come, I really hope to rediscover my balance between what’s sensibly critical and what’s critical nonsense.  Of course – seeing as how I woke up early to study, but ended up writing about pumpkins instead – I might be well on my way.


Deception through Brownies (In the Name of Science)

Pictured: beets, brownies, and bounty.

Apologies for not posting in a while… it’s been pretty busy in Ithaca.  Here’s one of things I’ve been working on that you all might find interesting:

1 of the 2 blogs

For my consumer research class, my classmates and I conducted social experiments on a group of defenseless undergrads.  My study (unsurprisingly) involved food blogs.  Surprisingly, it also involved me baking.

The basic question was this: What will make a food recommendation more effective: if the source has expertise or familiarity?  The design was pretty simple.  First, I made subjects read 1 of 2 fake food blogs.  They were both identical except for 1 thing: the author.  One blog was supposedly “written” by the executive chef of all Wegman’s grocery stores (someone with high expertise) while the other was “written” by a fellow Cornell student (someone with high familiarity).

The blog posts were recipes for 2 different foods: Beet-Apple Sauce and Fudgy Yogurt Brownies.  After subjects were finished reading, I gave them all samples of the food (homemade, of course) and asked them what they thought about them (in a ton of different ways).

The results?  Actually, I have no idea – but I’ve got to code them all by 1:30 tomorrow, so you won’t have to wait long!

P.S. How do you like my new, manic writing style?  When you’ve got no time, you’ve got no time for nonsense.  That’s a fact.

Science in action.

Kale, Peach, and Cheddar Salad

While I’m at it, I might as well mention the other dish I stole from Northern Spy Co that fateful day last summer.  It was actually served alongside the Spicy Watermelon Gazpacho, and it was equally fantastic.  Can you blame me for plagiarizing both? *

What’s in it:

  • Kale
  • Sliced peaches
  • Slivered almonds
  • Cheddar
  • Onions
  • Dressing: OO, lemon juice, honey, S+P
  • Topped with Pecorino

I recently made this salad for a COME ETE! event… it was simple, summery, and pleasantly different.  Bonus points if you pretend you came up with it yourself!

*I’m especially off the hook because Nathan Foot, the chef behind Northern Spy, already published the recipe in NYMag.  This one looks like it was adapted for fall (with red kale and squash)… interesting idea.

Spicy Watermelon Gazpacho

I just realized I referenced Spicy Watermelon Gazpacho in my last post, but never actually wrote about it.   It’s not that I’m such a stickler for journalistic integrity (ahem… Corn Futures Part III?), this soup is just too good to keep to myself.  I first had it about a year ago with Laura at one of our favorite restaurants, Northern Spy Co., in the East Village. It’s a great farm-to-table spot (the inside actually looks like a chicken coop), and their gazpacho is pretty mind-blowing. Luckily, it’s also pretty easy to copy.

You’ll need:

  • Half a watermelon
  • 1 can of tomatoes (28 oz)
  • 1 fresh tomato
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 small jalepeno
  • 2 limes
  • red wine vinegar (about 1/2 cup)
  • fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

To make the soup, chop the cucumber and 1/2 onion in half.  Then, put them in a food processor with most of the watermelon, the canned tomatoes, jalapeno, limes, vinegar, and thyme.  Blend it all like crazy and then strain it to get out the chunks.  To finish, dice the remaining cucumber, onion, watermelon, and fresh tomato and throw it all in the strained soup.  Salt, pepper, enjoy.

Whether or not you make the gazpacho this year (the window of summer is quickly closing), I definitely recommending holding on to this recipe.  It may be stolen, but it’s still one of my best.

Too Much of a Good Thing: My Fallout with Watermelon

Everyone’s got the “food fallout story”.  You know, the kind that starts with “I used to love oysters” and ends with a fought-off gag reflex and a hollow-eyed “…never again.”  Whatever nightmare sandwiched in between is traumatic enough to turn our most cherished comfort foods completely nauseating.  Total fallout.

Before it all began... we were all so innocent then.

That said, I used to love watermelon.  I’ve actually written about it a few times – from the Watermelon Rule I lived by these past couple summers (“Thou shalt always have it in the fridge”) to my very tasty Watermelon Gazpacho.  It’s delicious, it’s iconic, it’s fun.  I mean, common – it’s watermelon.   

Recently, for better or worse, my love for the stuff went very public.  On behalf of my grad program’s volunteer committee, I threw a “No-holds barred” contest to see who could eat the most watermelon for charity.  It was the Ithaca is Gorging on Watermelon Eating Contest, and it was held smack in the center of downtown Ithaca.  Obviously, my reputation as an eater, as a volunteer, and as a man was on the line, and I entered to win. 

The structure of the contest was simple.  12 competitors, 2 rounds.  The first round was all about speed.  The competitors – broken up into 3 heats – would each eat half a watermelon as fast as they could.  Whoever ate the most at the end of 2 minutes advanced to the final round.  Essentially a slug-match, round 2 gave the three remaining eaters 5 minutes to eat as much as they could force down.  The winner was whoever could do the most damage.  Continue reading

“You know what I want.”

The wecome aesthetic of the LES.

For the first time in a long time, I’m writing from what used to me my captain’s chair: NYC, the Starbucks at Delancey and Allen, seat by the window. I’m in the city for a couple days while on break, and let me tell you it is good to be back. Last night I finally got to hang out with my old roommates at Laura’s new restaurant – Ellabess in Nolita – a very cool place. I ordered “The Capri”, a house cocktail made with vodka, muddled peach and cucumber, St. Germaine, and sparkling wine. It was a total powerhouse… really awesome. Drinking it took me back to my own days behind the bar, specifically to lessons learned from one of my favorite regulars.

the view from the chair

This guy’s name was Alan. Now as a bartender, as I’m sure is the case with a lot of service jobs, you encounter a ton of personalities. Over time, and especially with alcohol, it gets to be pretty obvious which ones float to the top and which ones don’t. Alan didn’t just float – he was like a styrofoam ball. For all intents and purposes, picture country music legend Kenny Rogers (menwholooklikekennyrogers.com). Too Santa Clause-y to be cool? You’d be surprised. When Alan sat down at the bar, owned it. Continue reading

Fresh Look, Fresh Lemonade

Never-before-heard lemonade stand quote: "Marina! Don't forget the garnish!"

A few matters of business:

1) Welcome to the new EatingGoodly.com! You may have noticed there’s a different look in here…the grainy picture of that faceless mustachioed man has been replaced by the crisp, clean lines of Americana-Andy. For those who didn’t know, the owner of that mysterious mustache was my good friend, Sam. I’m sure his presence will be missed by some.  More style updates should be on the way…

2) If you’re waiting with baited breath for Part 3 of the Corn Futures series, hang in there. It’s coming. Promise.

Okay, now about that lemonade…

For those who’ve never been to Ithaca, it’s a bit different up here.  My girlfriend, who went to school up here, explains it well: “You know the whole organic/local movement that’s really big right now?  Ithaca’s pretty much the capital of it – but they don’t even know its in style. It’s a way of life.”  A case in point is that lemonade from above, which came from the first organic lemonade stand I’ve ever come across.

I didn’t ask for organic certification (should I have?), but I did ask permission to photograph Marina and her brother’s operation.  Cool kids, delicious chocolate chip cookie, organic lemonade.  Not a bad day in Ithaca.

Times they are a changing.