Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mmmm... Teprikash.

My sister doesn't read my blog. I believe her aversion to it stems from embarrassment (of me, of our childhood) and that generational divide that makes the word "blog" offensive to her 36-year-old ears. But it’s the fact that I know she won’t read it that allows me to talk about her birthday gift.

My family has always listened to NPR. The NPR classical station in Boulder was always playing on our kitchen radio, an ancient thing with fake wood grain panels and paint spatter on it. Every so often, All Things Considered would interrupt the music, and we would all absorb the news osmotically.

I bought my first car – a 1985 Toyota Tercel – to commute in. My drive to work was about an hour each way, and I listened to NPR going both directions. I started to recognize voices and develop opinions of some of the reporters.

First, there was Sylvia Poggioli, who, at the time, was reporting from Yugoslavia. Her accent made foreign places sound more approachable: Belgrade, Serbia; Kosovo; Montenegro. And for awhile I knew the important differences between these places.

Then there was Snigdha Prakash, whom I pictured to be a cute Irish girl named Snick Teprikash. (To this day, I think the name is great, however imaginary it may be. But I also thought that “teprikash” sounded like a good Irish meal consisting of equal parts cabbage, butter, potatoes, and lamb.) I swear I can remember her reporting on Sinn Féin and Northern Ireland, but her profile says that she concentrates on business news. Had I seen her actual name in print, I would have been all the wiser (the d-H-a in her first name seems to suggest that she might be from India), and I would have had fewer late night cravings for teprikash.

But, in the last few years, there has been someone I've loved to hear on NPR: Andrei Codrescu. His voice is thick and miserable like cigar smoke, and his Romanian accent makes me think of Siberian winters. But his message is always upbeat and playful. In a column for Gambit Weekly, he wrote, "I say, like Jesus, bring on the children. Their messes are understandable: peanut butter and snot, ketchup and blood, play dangerously close to traffic, make physical contact with your pals until the world spins, take a ball seriously enough to cry."

My sister loves listening to Andrei Codrescu, too, and we've talked a few times about him. I bought her his book of essays called New Orleans, Mon Amour, a perfect gift for my sister because she spent two weeks volunteering for disaster relief in New Orleans and consequently fell in love with that city. But no one can appreciate it in quite the same way as Andrei Codrescu.

Have a listen for yourself: The Long Route with New Orleans' Oldest Cabbie.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sa-VOOOOR. Sa-VIEWer. SA-vyerrr.

Over the last year, I've gotten into cooking as a hobby, and no food enthusiast's kitchen is complete without a darn good knife, a decent cookbook, and an issue or two of Saveur magazine.

I cooked more when Joli was in town. It was probably the meals I cooked her - breakfasts of schmeared bagels and frittatas loaded with bacon, dinners of tender lamb and pan-seared artichoke hearts - that made her love me.

The Saveur 100 "Saveur magazine's annual list of favorite restaurants, food, drink, people, places and things" came in the mail this morning, and I'm puzzled by some of the selections for this year's list.

The kinds of things I really enjoy finding on the list are the little out-of-the way items, such as #72: chocolate caviar, which contain no actual fish eggs, only little nuggets of chocolate that spoon up in a similar way. Or the appreciation that they have for classics, literally - #69: the White Castle Classic hamburger, pictured, I'm almost certain, exactly as it was served from one of the restaurants.

But list items #31: White Foods, and #73: Ovens threw me off a bit.

I love mashed potatoes and milk just as much as the next guy, and I really don't know where we'd be without ovens (perhaps lost and cakeless?), but I didn't really think these items deserved praise this year more than, say, last year. I also feel like these items are just as deserving of places on this list as, say, crunchy food (who doesn't love crunchiness?) or hands (they're totally awesome), which is to say, perhaps not at all.

Giving recognition to these items is a lot like the commercial where we see a raft floating downstream, one paddler at each end of the vessel. They hit some rapids, and a six-pack is thrown from the craft. We zoom in and see someone reach into the water and grab the cans, held together with plastic rings and generically labeled "cola", and pull them back into the boat. Then the title card appears: Aluminum; keeping America strong.

What is the intent here? Is someone supposed to watch this commercial and say, "I need to get me some of that aluminum. Honey, we're going to the store!" I also do not think that the strength of America rests on the shoulders of aluminum.

I buy aluminum because it is wrapped around the cola. I do not go out in search of this metal. No amount of advertising will make me buy cola in cans rather than plastic; I drink what is available to me. Like ovens in kitchens, it's something I normally don't think about - a powerfully unmentionable non-issue.

Thank you, Saveur, for enriching my kitchen with the knowledge of the other 98 items. They are totally worth mentioning.