It has been a Time here at the day job. The main administration building at Clemson has been occupied by students for a week. You can read how come here. The short version? People of color at Clemson are tired of being treated like stepchildren of the much vaunted "Clemson Family." I am pushing a little bit of my time, a few dollars of my treasure, and as much talent as I can steal from the Momofuku cookbook to the center of the table and cooking up some bo ssam tacos to serve tonight (Wed 4/20 at 6pm) - come by if you can. More important, if you have a minute, and you are behind these brave young men and women, add your name this doc, print it out, take a picture holding it, and send it back to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will put them together here. Thank you. Our administration seems a little bit overwhelmed by these events so some helpful guidance from our peers and friends would help.
Been a minute since I rapped at you, for which I am truly sorry. There is worse to tell, right on the same corner of campus, but, shouldn't we all stick to something, instead of noticing the raging dumpster fire all around us? Theoretically, I claim the proud title of semi-retired food blogger, so, food:
Here is a picture of the food truck that visited my day job today. I have probably complained a few times about working in a food desert, IE a campus w/ an Aramark food contract. Also, the physical layout of the campus means that it is impossible to park on public/IE not campus/Aramark controlled space, so there is not the robust food truck culture that some campuses have enjoyed for decades. Elsewhere in the United States, food trucks have been "hep" for a decade or so. In an effort to provide Clemson with the top-notch amenities Clemson deserves, it appears that in 2016, the year of our Lord, there is a spot for one food truck. But! It's the food truck arm of Table 301, the Greenville, SC restaurant group that controls most of the high-end spots in Greenville, (also many of the ones John Mariani inexplicably extolled in Esquire). This is the same restaurant group whose flagship hosted a fundraiser for a prominent dog abuser, and whose flagship embodies the antithesis of the Coco Chanel edict to get rid of one thing before you go out. And Table 301 restaurants were among the "downtown restaurants" that "felt threatened" by food trucks, and worked to enact laws to keep them out of downtown Greenville in 2013.
So! Fast forward to 2016, and the powers that be decide that occasional visits from a food truck are a good Amenity. (Aramark, one imagines, gets its pound of flesh.) Do they reach out to one of the actual food trucks? They do not. Instead, Clemson invites a fake, shades of Applebee's truck bankrolled by a restaurant group that doubles down on its rep for mediocrity and, drumroll, brings cheeseburgers and quesadillas to the people! This is the food truck version of astroturfing, which makes it just another Guiteau Monday.
It is Mardi Gras Day. I am 22 years, 589.9 miles, and 721 feet above sea level removed from living in New Orleans. Like many of you, I watched the Formation video over the weekend, and saw Beyoncé's halftime performance. There is a lot to think about. The world does not need more Formation thinkpieces, so I will keep this brief.
The video is anchored by Katrina imagery -- specifically Beyonce on a sinking NOPD cop car with flooded houses in the background. There is what looks like real post-K destruction footage. Elsewhere the video invokes New Orleans via American Horror Story: Coven / Pretty Baby iconography. After Beyoncé mentions Red Lobster, there is a cut to a shot of crawfish. Geographically and culturally, New Orleans is close to at the center of the persona Beyoncé produces here: "My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana. You mix that Negro with that Creole make a Texas bama."
"Formation" dropped around lunchtime this past Saturday, or as Isis was getting rolling, followed by Tucks.
Beyoncé's live performance of "Formation" occurred during halftime of the Super Bowl on Sunday. It was cool to see a Super Bowl halftime show that answered the question of "what if the S1Ws were women, and dressed like Black Panther reenactors"? That said, if you went to Bacchus, you probably missed it.
All of this is to say that on first and repeated viewing, there is something about seeing Katrina invoked as a trope in a music video -- even one as righteous as this -- that makes me a little bit uneasy. I can only imagine how hard it must be for some Katrina survivors to watch this. At the same time, I've not seen much pushback in this vein (I am sure there is some I missed). I have a guess about why.
Releasing a NOLA-themed video like this right in the middle of the climactic weekend of Carnival is a strange move, when most New Orleans folks are a) celebrating b) serving food and drink to revelers c) hiding out from the revelry -- but it makes a lot of sense if your Big Chief is the Super Bowl. Beyoncé drops the single on the Internet on Saturday afternoon, performs it in San Francisco at the Super Bowl on Sunday evening, and announces a tour on Sunday night (one that bypasses New Orleans). As she tells us herself, the best revenge is your paper, but I will be curious to see what New Orleans folks have to say about all this once Lent gets rolling.
And yes, it has been a while since I rapped at you, but that Awl piece today about the Pete Wells Per Se review has been getting some love on the internet today, and I am not sure why. I've been a fan of the Awl since its inception, wrote for it one time, and a fan of Alex Balk since TMF/TML. This piece, though, I do not get. As it happens, I'm teaching a class about criticism at the day job this semester, and mentioned Wells' Fieri review as an example of why negative reviews are more fun to read than the other kind. But this piece? IDK. I have not read much of Matt Buchanan's stuff. He is admirably well versed in the recent history of NYT restaurant reviewers, though I was sad not to see Grimes in the conversation.
As impressive as it is to see this knowledge, it bears on an argument that is rendered basically incoherent by its embrace of a single word -- the subhed is "The ceaseless downshifting of 'populism' in dining."
There are at least two completely different was that this does not make sense, which is something in itself. In both cases, "downshifting" is just not the word Buchanan needs. In a literal sense, to "downshift" is to shift from a higher to a lower gear. It's not a great word to use figuratively, because you might downshift a) to accelerate to pass a slower car or b) to use engine braking to slow your vehicle. Given the evident prominence of Uber in Buchanan's opus, it's likely he does not drive stick, and the nuances of this word escape him.
That said, if you get out of the car, and imagine that he is using "downshift" in the more literal (figurative?) sense of actually shifting something down, the article gets more confusing, because what is getting "downshifted" is "populism." If we assume that "downshift" means something like to "diminish" or "reduce," in the same way that men like Mike Gundy use "downgrade" when they mean "denigrate," it only gets more confusing. Is a diminished populism one that is more or less populist than the original? Eventually the piece gets around to something like the idea that maybe it's not so cool that a Michelin-starred chef getting involved in a fast-casual chicken sandwich place makes them William Jennings Bryan 2.0. Indeed, it is messed up to live in a world where a heavily capitalized salad chain can identify Greenwich Village as a "food desert," but it would help if we knew ahead of time if a "downshifted" populism was more or less elitist than the regular kind.
Very excited that MTV has rescued not one, but three very talented writers from the wreckage of Grantland. Holly Anderson? Dayenu. But! Brian Phillips, and Molly Lambert, too, though as I said earlier about a puppy, at some point, it's not rescuing, it's 'crootin. Very excited to see what happens, BUT! The Cod cannot help remembering when he was but a fingerling, and hating MTV was very Important, if you were Serious about the Music. Some favorite MTV-hating jams -- feel free to add more in the comments.
and even lest we forget, the band fronted by Mark Knopfler, AKA The Least Interesting Man In The World, got in on the game:
Heading to Texas for MLA, and grateful for all the breaks in my life that make this a trip I am looking forward to. I will be there with one Professor Robert Eaglestone, and we will be introducing this item. If you happen to be around Austin on Saturday, come on by.
So, yes. Anchower. It has been an exceptionally long time since I rapped at you. Today, on a Friday afternoon before a Saturday Halloween, on a day when about 99% of what didn't suck on the Internet ended up in a shitter in Bristol, CT, followed by the thinking woman's version of the Toast, well, it seemed like just the time to break a months-long blog silence and put on my slutty amateur cultural geographer costume and write about dogs I have, kids I don't, and candy. See previous. And enjoy. I am thinking that I might sometimes have ideas that are demonstrably unpublishable (see previous) and longer than 140 characters, and shorter than a book, so I might try to put them here. If you think you would read them, that would be helpful for me to know.
Three things you might well encounter in the fall of 2015:
1) A professional couple in their forties beaming at their infant child, who is of a different race.
2) A dog owner, who when asked what kind of dog she are walking, proudly tells you “not sure - she’s a rescue.”
3) A new homeowner, asking neighbors on social media how much Halloween candy to get, because he heard their new neighborhood “gets a lot of trick or treaters.”
It is possible that these three images could involve the same family. The family who adopts a child from China, or Russia, or Ethiopia, is the kind of family who would also go to the humane society for a dog, is the kind of family who would live in the kind of neighborhood that experiences a net influx of trick-or-treaters.
The first two phenomena have easily recognizable similarities. If you look on a world map, there are places where adopted babies originate, and other places where they wind up. One rarely hears of couples from Pyongyang visiting the United States, trying to make arrangements to adopt an infant from a lovely family in Evanston, IL. On a map of the US, the same is true for dogs. If you are looking to rescue a dog in Boston or New York, the chances are excellent that that dog was born in the southeastern US. This region remains a hotbed of rural poverty, and it costs money to spay and neuter a dog. It costs money to install a secure fence in the yard you may or may not have.
The baby part of the equation was not news, as a number of friends have struggled with the vagaries of the international adoption (one hates to use the word ‘market’). The dog part was more of a discovery. When my mother died in Vermont in 2009, we inherited Emma, the mutt she and my father had adopted from the Lucy McKenzie Humane Society in Windsor, VT in 1998. We brought her to South Carolina, where we work, and enjoyed some delightful sunset years together before she died in the spring of 2013. In the summer of 2014, while we were back up in Vermont, and ready to think about another dog, we visited Lucy McKenzie. Almost all of the dogs available for adoption there had just arrived from Tennessee, which we learned was typical. In the northeast US, the demand for rescue dogs outstrips the supply, so there is a brisk traffic in mutts from high kill shelters in the southeast to shelters in the northeast. This is a gross oversimplification, but does represent the flow of dogs from one part of the country to another. We figured the dogs in VT would be ok, so we decided to wait until we got back to South Carolina, where we found Dinah at the Greenville Humane Society.
It was great having a dog again. But the idea of a national traffic in rescue dogs as a national corollary to the global traffic in adoptable infants stayed with me. A few years ago, I got the chance to teach a class called “Global South/Dirty South,” under the auspices of Creative Inquiry, Clemson University’s undergraduate research program. The idea of the class was to rotate an analysis of Orientalist discourse from a West/East to a North/South axis, and to consider the ways in which places like South Carolina are conjured as part of a vague and mythical South in contemporary culture. This kind of language was a staple of animal rescue organizations: “we found this litter of Lab/terrier mixes by the side of the road down south, come visit us and make a forever friend!” Didn’t matter where in the South, or by what road, because, it seems, everything between DC and Miami is Dogpatch, basically. As a transplanted New Englander living and working in South Carolina, I was unhappy with the idea my friends and family would think of where I lived and worked as the kind of place where stray dogs just sort of roamed the streets. Unhappy because, I realized, the place where stray dogs roam the streets is the Third World, aka the Developing World, aka the Global South, and it’s much nicer to be able to think of one’s problems as first world problems, as the saying goes.
The approach of Halloween, and actual vehicular traffic, helped me see what the traffic in babies and the traffic in babies had in common. In the town where I live, there are a handful of neighborhoods (subdivisions, actually) that are mobbed with trick-or-treaters, to the degree that local police have to direct traffic in and out. Just as there are compressions and rarefactions for adoptions and rescues, there is the same thing for Snickers and Starbursts. For the residents of these neighborhoods, it is both a privilege and a burden, and if you have friends that live in these places, your social media will include real estate humblebrags about having to go get more candy in the middle of trick-or-treating hours, or real time counts of numbers of trick-or treaters up into the three digits.
If you drive around on Halloween, you can see where the trick-or-treaters are, and where they are not. It is easy to see why parents will tote their pirates and princesses where they do. The streets where children trick-or-treat are better lit and better paved than the streets where they live. There are even sidewalks. The people who live in these houses can afford an extra bag of good candy, so they can afford to put a pumpkin on the stoop and turn the porch light on. It is quite a spectacle to see a line of not so late model cars inching past McMansions in and out of a subdivision’s cul de sacs. It does, however, feel just a little bit feudal, as if this is the one day of the year the villagers are allowed on the grounds of the castle, where the King will give each of them a shiny coin.
It is a generous thing to adopt a child. It is a generous thing to rescue a dog. It is a generous thing to welcome trick-or-treaters from beyond your own neighborhood’s precincts. But those of us lucky enough to enjoy privilege often mistake that privilege for virtue. I have not adopted a child, and our neighborhood is probably about a push in terms of resident children vs. visiting trick-or-treaters. But I have rescued a dog, and I know that among other things, I can be smug about this. When Dinah meets another rescue pup at the dog park, there is that moment of mutual affirmation with the other dog’s owner. When we meet a dog bought from a breeder at the dog park, there is a slight moment of silent judgment. I imagine that the parents of adoptive children feel a similar frisson when they meet hard-won (and expensive) biological children. I have seen residents of popular trick-or-treat neighborhoods congratulating themselves on their Neighborhood’s largesse towards the Community.
I would like to suggest that the candy and the dogs and the babies are all part of an economy of smugness. It is an economy of smugness that operates at a global, national, and local level. There are worse things than being smug. For one thing, being poor is probably more of a burden than being smug. But most important thing these three common forms of smugness have in common is how they depend on economic inequality to produce the conditions that allow the actions that provoke smugness. Acts of charity almost always contain an element of self-indulgence or self-interest. Charity is kindness in a fiscal form. Locally, nationally, and globally, as the state retreats from a sense of responsibility for the welfare of its citizens, charity will like become a bigger and bigger part of the whatever solutions we can apply to problems in our town, our nation, and our world. Sustaining and extending these acts of fiscal kindness will be important for many. That said, it is a deeper kindness if the thought that attends an act of charity is reflection on what produces the need for this charity rather than more smugness.
I shared on the Twitter, (Did you know I have a Twitter account, where sometimes I post stuff between posts here?) in a spirit of support. Then, a question from a friend we will call Not Maurice made me think on it a little bit, asking "How is Scelfo's post anything other than inviting the doxxing and harassment of those women? It's punching down, and troublesome to me."
It's a fair question. My initial response to the q was that while the patrons were two women, they were not being called out by Scelfo on that basis, and it seemed like a legit response to the threat of Yelp bullying.
Having slept on it, I am not quite as sure. The inherent threat in Yelp bullying is to make a private issue public, and thereby amplify it.* Basically, the Yelp Bully's proposition is "TREAT ME LIKE I AM HENRY KISSINGER AND THIS IS LE CIRQUE, OR I WILL GIVE YOU NO STARS AND TELL THE INTERNET I SAW RATS IN YOUR WALK-IN." Most people agree that this is bad, in that threats of public shaming to get better service, a better table, or an extra crab cake in your order is not OK.
However, Scelfo's response to the threat of public shaming is... ...public shaming. If I ran a restaurant in the Boston area, I would have my FOH on the lookout for these crackerjacks, but in posting their images on Instagram, does Scelfo cede the moral high ground?
The situation is probably more or less untenable for the restaurant. I can think of three unappealing options:
1) Let the asshats carry on. I admire Scelfo for having his staff's back. In Fessering, I don't deal with bartenders, servers or patrons, but I do deal with TAs, lecturers and students, and I begin from a presumption that my crew is doing the right thing, unless proven otherwise. Telling your staff, indefinitely, to put up with this kind of BS seems like good way to lose your staff. So, nah.
2) Call the cops. Nah. Probably, the situation could have escalated to where these women could have become guests of the CPD, but cops dragging patrons out of your joint is not the vibe you want in the 02138, and especially not in the former home of Casa-fuckin-Blanca. So, nah.
3) Plan C. In this case, light them up on Instagram, thereby sticking up for your staff, and providing a public service other innkeepers in the Boston area. So, yeah, maybe? I guess.
This is not the Cod's first rodeo with the ethics of public shaming this school year. At the day job, back in December, there was an incident involving a "Cripmas" themed party -- right after the Mike Brown and Eric Garner non-verdicts. It began with an Instagram of white kids dressed like their idea of "gangstas," and there was much discussion locally and nationally about the pros and cons of blurring the faces of these wannabe Crips for news reports. I am still of two minds about that, and also about the A&H incident. (The Cod happened to be in at A&H later that night, but missed this excitement.) In general, though, as a Bold Take, I'll suggest that the way social media can accelerate and intensify public shaming is not my favorite thing about it.
*Yelp is a fine tool for identifying and locating restaurants. It is a lousy tool for evaluating restaurants. Given the average restaurateur's penchant for a midi-saturated, PDF riddled webpage, being able to find a restaurant's location and hours is a very useful service Yelp provides. That said, it puzzles and saddens me that there are evidently people who still use the opinions of grudge-holding tale-bearing strangers to inform the choices they make about where to eat. The axiom of "don't read the comments" so frequently invoked elsewhere on the Web is essential advice if you want to get the most out of Yelp.
It's been some time, yes, and this is 100% boosted from Professor David Shields, a friend and colleague at the University of South Carolina. It is, however, a comprehensive guide to mull -- "the signature autumnal stew of Georgia." And before you start laughing about a stew made from milk, crackers, and snakes, ask yourself: "Do I even have a signature atumnal stew to call my own"? Chances are good that you do not.
Take it away, Professor Shields:
MULL (I asked, and thanks to you, now I know)
The signature autumnal stew of Georgia has milk as its principal liquid, crackers for a thickener, a good deal of pepper as a seasoning, and chicken, game, wildfowl, turtles, or snakes as a protein. A quartet of vegetables often appears in the mix: onions, bell peppers, celery, and carrots. Potatoes also might appear. Streak-o-lean bacon provides the fat. A mull is usually prepared by a man, either outdoors, or in a rural restaurant. Like South Carolina’s Pine Bark Stew, Kentucky’s Burgoo, or Virginia’s Brunswick Stew, it appears as the principle communal meal dish of an event—a fair, a political stump meeting, a revival, a hunting party, a church social. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, “Mull is traditionally a cold-weather dish. Northeast Georgians speak of the ‘mull season.’ Chicken Mull is an occasional side at GA BBQ pits. (http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org /articles/arts-culture/mull).
The term probably derives from the first part of Mulligatawny Stew, a staple entry in nineteenth-century English language cookbooks. The vegetables, the chopped meat, the spice (curry sauce and black pepper), and cream of the classic Mulligatawny Stew provided a rough template for the Georgia Mull. The inclusion of rice in Mulligatawny Stew might account for some of the more peculiar usages of Mull as a descriptor of Georgian dishes. In the late 1950s a young Georgian woman who married a North Carolinian and moved to Greensboro described mull as rice, turnip greens, and cornbread mashed together in a little milk. Much more orthodox was the incorporation of rice in “Shrimp Mull,” a Lowcountry stew, the “pleasing union of shrimp and rice,” the rice being cooked to a porridge with pepper, salt, in milk and shrimp broth made from the shrimp shells. The shrimp meat was added at the end of the cooking. (“American Cookery Interesting,” Marietta Journal, August 5, 1964, 10).
Just as classic New England clam chowder transmuted into a tomato laden, vegetal Manhattan chowder, so society cooks and coastal resort chefs on the Georgia islands altered the classic shrimp mull into an amalgam of tomatoes, bacon, garlic, Worcestershire, tobasco, and even curry power in the last decades of the twentieth century. In the heyday of ramping up the scovill scale on Southern dishes, they turned a wholesome shrimp and rice dish into a tomato and shrimp launching pad for “fiery flavor.” This version was served on a bed of rice. (Poppy Cannon, “Georgia Shrimp Mull,” The Milwaukee Sentinel, April 4, 1969, 3).
Rice, however, is decidedly a secondary ingredient of Mull. Jim Christian of the University of Georgia in the 1980s laid out the norms for the dish. “Mull is very popular in the rural South and can be made with goat meat, catfish, chicken, squirrel, rabbit or dove. They cook the meat until it comes off the bone and put it back in the broth they cooked it in. Then it’s seasoned and most people put soda crackers, and its seasoned with flour and starch. Some people fry bacon and put that in there. They also use onions and bell peppers, celery, and carrots.” (“Southern Foods are Distinctive,” Augusta Chronicle, October 13, 1983, 9).
While availability often dictated which protein went into the Dutch Oven, certain cooks and certain venues became famous for particular forms of Mull. Roscoe’s Kountry Kitchen in Crawford, Georgia, in the late 1960s and through the 1970s became locally famous for Turtle Mull. Which kind of turtle? “Well, this here one is a mud turtle, and this is a snapper, and rest is just pure old turtles.” A native of Social Circle, Roscoe Long learned his culinary art there. “The mull is served in big bowls with plenty of crackers. It contains ground-up turtle meat, potatoes, onions, red pepper, juice of garlic, and milk. It sticks to the ribs.” Roscoe Long realized that even in 1970 he was the conservator of a waning tradition. “I’m the only restaurant around that serves turtle mull or soup or stew—call it whatever you want. Not a lot of people make it, and in the old days most everyone made it, but now they don’t.” (“Turtles go to Roscoe’s,” Augusta Chronicle, August 31, 1970, 24).
In the mid-1960s the Athens Bowhunters Club devoted its annual game dinner to the making of Snake Mull. At the Oconee National Forest campgrounds the club set up a cauldron and stewed the chopped me of copperheads and rattlesnakes. The newspapers annually reported the event, repeating the same tired joke, “Everyone ate copperhead mull but the cook.” (“Many do mull over this one,” Augusta Chronicle, October 10, 1965, C6).
If Chicken Mull constituted the commonest and plainest version of this hearty stew, (See http://wanderluck.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/chicken-mull/) perhaps the most piquant and beloved hunt season Mull featured another bird, Dove. Louise Thrash, Food Editor of the Augusta Chronicle, transcribed Bobby Neely’s recipe for Dove Mull in late May of 1979.
Dove Mull In a heavy iron pot with top, line bottom and lower sides of pot with sliced streak-o-lean bacon. Add 3 stalks of celery. 1 medium bell pepper chopped fine, cover this with more streak-o-lean. Salt and pepper birds then make a layer of birds in pot, then a layer of diced potatoes, then chopped onions. Another layer of birds, potatoes and onions. Be sure to salt and pepper the potatoes and onions as you put them in. Place top on pot tightly. Bring heat up until you hear the contents bubble. Cook for about one hour bubbling, not on high. Then add ½ small bottle of Worcestershire sauce and a stick of butter. Cover and cook ½ hour, then add about a cup of milk. Never stir the pot. Cook about 15 more minutes, take top off and serve in soup plates, since the mull makes its own juices. (“Burke County Chefs,” Augusta Chronicle, May 24, 1979, Food Section 1)
Thanks for everyone who contacted me with information in response to my query about Mull. I thought it would be useful to put the information out in one cogent profile of the dish.