Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Best Learning About the Old Days

Last week I read The Autobiography of Parley P Pratt. It was a real great adventure full of so much learning and information. I am definitely smarter now than I was when I started it. If I have any criticism for Elder Pratt it's that his book (and his life, I guess) has all the most interesting and funny stuff near the beginning . . . then it gets pretty much serious for the rest of the time.

For an example of the humorous stuff, consider the following incident from Chapter 16 and how lightly he treats his travails:

Taking an affectionate leave of my family and friends in New Portage, I repaired to Kirtland, ready to accompany my brethren. While they made ready I paid a visit to an adjoining township called Mentor; and visiting from house to house, I attempted to preach to them; but they were full of lying and prejudice, and would not hear the Word. I then appointed a meeting in the open air, on the steps of a meeting house owned by a people called "Campbellites," one Mr. Alexander Campbell being their leader; they having refused to open the house to me. Some came to hear, and some to disturb the meeting; and one Mr. Newel soon appeared at the head of a mob of some fifty men and a band of music. These formed in order of battle and marched round several times near where I stood, drowning my voice with the noise of their drums and other instruments. I suspended my discourse several times as they passed, and then resumed. At length, finding that no disturbance of this kind would prevent the attempt to discharge my duty, they rushed upon me with one accord at a given signal, every man throwing an egg at my person. My forehead, bosom, and most of my body was completely covered with broken eggs. At this I departed, and walked slowly away, being insulted and followed by this rabble for some distance. I soon arrived in Kirtland, and was assisted by my kind friends in cleansing myself and clothes from the effects of this Christian benevolence.

Another classic passage is Elder Pratt's proposal of marriage to his beloved Thankful:

With a quick step, a beating heart, and an intense, indescribable feeling of joy, sorrow, hope, despondency and happiness, I approached the door of Mr. Halsey, and knocked; it was opened by an aged female, a stranger to me; I entered and inquired for Miss Thankful Halsey-in a moment more she had me by the hand, with a look of welcome which showed she had not forgotten me.

I spent the day and evening with her; explained to her all my losses, my poverty and prospects, and the lone retreat where I had spent the previous winter; and the preparations I had made for a future home. I also opened my religious views to her, and my desire, which I sometimes had, to try and teach the red man.

"In view of all these things," said I to her, "If you still love me and desire to share my fortune you are worthy to be my wife. If not, we will agree to be friends forever; but part to meet no more in time." "I have loved you during three years' absence," said she, "and I never can be happy without you."

But what Parley doesn't tell you (it's in the footnotes, though) is that Thankful was 30 when this happened and he was 20.

Of course, the most famous bit of entertainment from the history is probably the story of the Sheriff and Stu Boy (this story takes place after Parley has been jailed for an evening):

In the morning the officer appeared and took me to breakfast; this over, we sat waiting in the inn for all things to be ready to conduct me to prison. In the meantime my fellow travellers came past on their journey, and called to see me. I told them in an undertone to pursue their journey and leave me to manage my own affairs, promising to overtake them soon. They did so. After sitting awhile by the fire in charge of the officer, I requested to step out. I walked out into the public square accompanied by him. Said I, "Mr. Peabody, are you good at a race?" "No," said he, "but my big bull dog is, and he has been trained to assist me in my office these several years; he will take any man down at my bidding. Well, Mr. Peabody, you compelled me to go a mile, I have gone with you two miles. You have given me an opportunity to preach, sing, and have also entertained me with lodging and breakfast. I must now go on my journey; if you are good at a race you can accompany me. I thank you for all your kindness--good day, sir."

I then started on my journey, while he stood amazed and not able to step one foot before the other. Seeing this, I halted, turned to him and again invited him to a race. He still stood amazed. I then renewed my exertions, and soon increased my speed to something like that of a deer. He did not awake from his astonishment sufficiently to start in pursuit till I had gained, perhaps, two hundred yards. I had already leaped a fence, and was making my way through a field to the forest on the right of the road. He now came hallowing after me, and shouting to his dog to seize me. The dog, being one of the largest I ever saw, came close on my footsteps with all his fury; the officer behind still in pursuit, clapping his hands and hallooing, "stu-boy, stu-boy--take him--watch--lay hold of him, I say--down with him," and pointing his finger in the direction I was running. The dog was fast overtaking me, and in the act of leaping upon me, when, quick as lightning, the thought struck me, to assist the officer, in sending the dog with all fury to the forest a little distance before me. I pointed my finger in that direction, clapped my hands, and shouted in imitation of the officer. The dog hastened past me with redoubled speed towards the forest; being urged by the officer and myself, and both of us running in the same direction.

Gaining the forest, I soon lost sight of the officer and dog, and have not seen them since.

If you're interested in reading this excellent history I encourage you to do so. Don't worry, there is more good stuff that I didn't excerpt.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Best Reaping as I Sew

Listen, I'm too humble to tell you about the ambitious mission of charity and kindness that I embarked upon this morning, but I will definitely tell you about the incredible blessings I received nearly immediately after completing Phase One of my charitable mission...

They had the pig tails at the Noodle Bar today!! I was just walking by on my way home from my good works and checked the menu in the window and BLAM! the pig tails, which appear and disappear from the menu unpredictably, were there and ready to be eaten. By me!

How do the crispy pig tails with asian pear taste? Like the best chicken wings in the world. Imagine a hot wing made of pork and you're headed in the right direction.

Little piggies' tail bones. At first I ate slices of pear between tails like ginger for sushi, but then I wised up and saved it to eat with all the leftover sauce and scallions.

I followed the pig tails up with a plate of the braised ox esophagus. KIDDING! These are newish roasted rice cakes with roasted onions, garlic, and scallions. Very sweet and tasty and I think quite possibly vegetarian?

This lunch was so good that when I left the restaurant I punched the air like I had just won the big arm-wrestling contest—the combination of having done good and then eaten better was nearly too much for me to take.

Hurray. Hurray for everything.

Best Return to Murderland

I spent most of last week with my family in DC. On Friday we went down to Baltimore, Mom and Dad and I hadn't been there together in nearly 30 years. Nothing had changed! Nothing at all!

Hundreds of photos to come.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Best Victory for the Panthers

Coach Taylor, always keeping it cool, even at a time like this.

Friday Night Lights, renewed for TWO more seasons!
(hey, it's good enough for me)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Best: Let's Hope For It

I'm away from the internet all day and the Where the Wild Things Are trailer comes out.
Check it.

Best This Blog is Classy

Seriously, I have been LOLing so much lately.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Best Please Eat Food That Is Good For You, II

Fact: Vegetables are good for you. Always. Even if they've been battered and deep fried. Vegetables are the very best thing you can possibly eat.

In the late fall (or was it the early winter?) I became aware of a new restaurant in the east village called Dirt Candy where the chef wanted to do for vegetables what Peter Luger does for steak. That's the sort of statement that gets my attention, and while I'm adverse to visiting a restaurant boasting to be vegetarian, I'm curious about restaurants dedicated to vegetables. What generally turns me off about vegetarian restaurants is all the posturing like the restaurant is all cosmic and magical and going to save your life and the world, you know what I mean? But on the Dirt Candy website the chef comes right out and says (perhaps a little brashly) "I don’t care about your health. And I don’t care about your politics either. But I do care about cooking vegetables." And that's the sort of thing that gets me interested . . . that and a rather curious little menu of rather creative-sounding dishes. Well, fast-forward through many months of a taco and Momofuku-centric diet to an FHE conversation on restaurants where decisive plans were made and all of a sudden it's Wednesday night and Hillary and I are getting down to some vegetable business on East 9th Street.

On the whole, I regard the restaurant and the meal positively. The space is small, well designed, and fun. The staff attentive and friendly. The food, pleasing to the eye and enjoyable . . . except I feel very weird eating food utterly devoid of the flavor of pork fat. I want to be real clear: I enjoyed my meal and would definitely go back but something was definitely a little off for me and it took me several days to really realize what it was. The problem I had was the food wasn't bland but it was lacking a certain element of flavorfulness, or better said, it lacked a variety of flavors. The dishes all pretty much embodied a singular flavor and the flavors they embodied weren't particularly punchy. So each forkful satisfied, but nothing made me want to smack the table, and that's one of the reasons I eat: for the table-smacking moments of happiness.

That said, this is what we ate:

Jalepeño Hush Puppies with Maple Butter:
Totally excellent little hush puppies with bits of jalepeño in them . . . not peppery enough to qualify as spicy, but I enjoyed. And the maple butter was nice and sweet, but I'd have preferred a more savory flavor combination. Ok, frankly, I didn't want sweet butter at all. I wanted kimchi butter or black pepper butter (gee, wonder where I got the idea for those two from...) or chipotle butter, not fancy honey butter.

Greek Salad with Trumpet Royale Mushrooms and Preserved Lemon Mayo:
Favorite dish of the evening, a chopped interpretation of a fairly traditional greek salad with olives and feta topped with crispy, crusty deep-fried mushroom rings posing as calamari. The combination of the squidshrooms, olives, and feta with the pickled onions served on the side of the salad was the punchiest thing I ate that night and now, as I write on a very hungry late Sunday night, I definitely crave it.

Mixed Greens with Grilled Cheese Croutons, Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette and Candied Grapefruit Pops:
Okay, first of all, grapefruit is not a vegetable and this was supposed to be a vegetable restaurant. Second of all, I don't like grapefruit and I don't understand what I was supposed to do with the skewers of candied grapefruit that were served on top of this salad. Like, the salad I could eat in the normal fashion with my fork, but then I was left holding this sugar-encased piece of fruit on a stick. I was perplexed.

What I was not confused about was how great the grilled cheese croutons on this salad were. Yeah, grilled cheese croutons. Basically they made a nice little grilled cheese sandwich, cut it up in pieces, and topped our salad with it. I was down with that.

Another good thing to top a salad with would probably be a McDonalds cheeseburger. Just an idea I had.

Crispy Tofu with Green Ragout, Kaffir Lime Beurre Blanc:
One thing that can be said with certainty about the grub at Dirt Candy is that it comes out looking pretty and this dish might have been the prettiest. A beautiful piece of tofu (really, did I just type that?) that one could mistake at first glance for a piece white fish with real crispy skin served on top of a stack of fibrous greens in a little pool of yellow-green sauce, it was pretty. And it tasted a lot like the greens that came with this chicken I had at Jean Georges for lunch last April. So it was satisfying, but between the tofu, the veggies, and the sauce that complimented the flavor of everything else on the plate a little too well, once again, I wasn't punching anything with delight. But I'm feeling real, real hungry right now and would totally eat this again in a second.

Stone Ground Grits, Pickled Shitakes and a Tempura Poached Egg:
From the first time that I read the Dirt Candy menu, this was the dish I was most curious about--what I really wanted to know about was the tempura poached egg, especially after delighting in a few dishes featuring deep fried poached eggs at the Milk Bar. The plate came out looking like a thing of beauty and the poached egg a joy to rupture but, when everything about this dish is said and done, really what it tasted like was grits with a runny egg mixed around in it. Except for their texture, the mushrooms essentially disappeared into it.

Ok, that's what I think of Dirt Candy. I'll go there again someday. But maybe after trying the vegetarian tasting menu at Per Se? Or the bo ssam?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Best Oh Good

I was at this.
I'm grateful for dance critics, without them, I wouldn't know what I saw was so exceptional.

In reference to the article, the part of the show where tapes were being slid across the floor in the dark was kind of scary. I didn't know if my feet were going to get hit or not.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Best Previously Unused Photos

Many tales never told.