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SAVE THE DATE!

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Cocktail Fodder is back. But a little different. Photo by Hector Garcia.

Cocktail Fodder is back! Save the date! One week from today, on October 11th, your favorite conversation-starting, fun-fact generating, snarktastic blog will be back, producing new content.

Yes, the Fodder has been on hiatus for a little longer than expected. Yes, we’re officially down a founding member. Yes, we’ll have to slim down content for the time being before we find a bright young mind to join the cause. Yes, Captain Adam is still churning out the good ole alcohol related humor. No, we will not waver from our goal or stop rocking your world with brain-stimulating, morally challenging opinions and espresso machine fodder tidbits. No, you won’t get those 30 minutes back each day you spend on Cocktail Fodder. Sorry.

So mark you calendar. Put it in your Blackberry. Throw it in your iCal on your iPad or iPhone. Do what you need to do. Just remember, we’re back and better than ever. Get ready.

A Guide to Heirloom Tomatoes

Look at their splendor! Photo by Vmenkov, 21 August 2006, Wikimedia Commons

As we all know, farmers markets are all the rage. Green, trendy and the best place to get fresh produce, they are popping up in towns all across the country. We thought, in honor of the farmers market trend and our food/beverage Wednesdays, we’d ask our local farm girl to give you all you need to rock out at the local stands and impress your hipster crush. So without further adieu, enjoy the Horticulture Queen’s first guest blog…

During my twelve years working at a New England farm, I pushed a lot of produce at Boston-area farmers markets. Customers periodically held up a beautiful piece of produce, squinted their eyes at it, and asked doubtfully, “Is it good?” “Um, yes, of course it is. We would not sell it to you if it was not good.” During my time as a farm girl, I quickly realized that fruits and vegetables, especially specialty varieties, aren’t easily understood by the general population. If you are one of the many who wouldn’t know what to do will calaloo*, fear not! Even though I work for the Man now, I stick to my roots. Your local farm girl is here to guide you.

Today, I’d like to discuss something near and dear to my heart: heirloom tomatoes. To the untrained eye, an heirloom tomato is ugly and unappealing. To someone who knows better, it is pure heaven. Your average tomato has been bred to be red, round and easy to grow. They are grown specifically to withstand the shipping process before sitting pretty on a grocery store shelf for an extended period of time. As a result of this breeding process, the flavor of a common tomato is severely sacrificed. Heirloom tomatoes, on the other hand, are antique tomato varieties whose seeds have been passed down for generations. There are countless varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and they come in every color imaginable. They grow in strange shapes, and tend to split and crack.  Most heirlooms are not hardy plants; about 20% to 30% of what we grow can’t withstand the trip from the field, to the tomato barn, to the truck, to the market. So what makes these tomatoes SO great? The TASTE! Believe me — it deserves the caps-lock.

My favorite heirloom variety is called a Purple Cherokee. It is a round, medium-sized tomato that is black/purple with a dark green shoulder. It has a deep, smoky flavor that perfectly compliments all types of cheese. Toss a few slices in a grilled cheese sandwich, and I swear, your life will be changed. I also enjoy Pineapple: a large yellow tomato with a red blush that has a sweet, non-acidic flavor. Feeling adventurous? Try chopping up a Green Zebra tomato in your next homemade salsa. When ripe, this tomato has a light yellow flesh with thick green stripes and a fun, zesty flavor. If you’re a little unsure about all these crazy tomatoes, start off with a Pink Brandywine. These tomatoes tend to be huge; so have a couple friends over and a big recipe ready to try it. Their taste is similar to a regular tomato but amplified by about 300%. One of the most popular varieties, Brandywines are beefsteaks, meaning that when you slice them up, there is hardly any seed inside. It’s all meat! If you’re looking for a good sauce tomato, I’d recommend Costoluto Genevese. These tomatoes taste as Italian as their names sound and they come in an absolutely beautiful shape.

Since heirlooms come in so many colors, the best way to tell if they are ripe is by how soft they are. An heirloom is softer than a regular tomato, so it should feel as if it is slightly gone by. If it’s still firm, just let it sit on your counter for a few days. Be sure to cut it with a sharp knife. One of my favorite things to do is pick out a tomato in every color and slice them all up into a salad with some mozzarella and basil. Drizzle on some balsamic vinaigrette (I prefer homemade, but as my boyfriend tells me, I’m a snob when it comes to these things. Whatever, he’s the one who buys his corn at the grocery store) and you are ready for the perfect taste-test! One last tip—NEVER put tomatoes in the refrigerator. It ruins their taste. As I always tell my customers, try at least one heirloom tomato, and you’ll come back next week and buy more tomatoes than you can possibly eat, all the while telling me how right I am. I am always right when it comes to produce.

*For those still wondering about calaloo, it is Jamaican spinach and it is one of the most delicious things on this earth. If you’re able to find it, sautee it with some garlic and onions (don’t eat it raw) and you’ll never go back to another leafy green again. If you live in the Boston/Cambridge area, check out the farmers markets in Central Square on Monday and Davis Square on Wednesday—if you come early, Kimball’s Fruit Farm (Shout out! Get your heirloom tomatoes here too!!) and Farmer Al should both have calaloo for the next month or so.

Cocktailfodder.com

July 22, 2010 Leave a comment

cocktailfodder.com!!!

We are now at cocktailfodder.com! That’s right, we made the jump.

That is all.

The Week in Fodder

July 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Another Friday and another Week in Fodder. Some new formatting, the first Poll of the Week and plenty of scrumptious morsels of knowledge, you’ll be sure to find something to like. Al-Shabaab, the Iranian scientist, the Barefoot Bandit, Eskil Ronningsbakken (You have to read on to find out who he is!), 18th century ships at Ground Zero and the lamest moments in technology… we hope you enjoy!

World Views

Al-Shabaab leaves Somalia.

Ugandan Blasts: Last Sunday, as revelers watched the finale of Africa’s first World Cup, the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab struck, utilizing suicide bombers, two viewing locations in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.  Killing 74 civilians, the attack was the first by the hard-line militia outside of its Somali homeland. Heavily linked to al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow the transitional Somali government for over three years. It’s widely believed – disputed by some, however – that Uganda was specifically targeted for its soldiers that are in Somalia protecting the transitional government as part of the larger AU-mandated peacekeeping force. Al-Shabaab is an exceedingly dangerous (perhaps more so than al-Qaeda) militant group. Striking outside of its borders is a truly alarming development.

Argentina Legalizes Same-sex Marriage: On Thursday, the Argentinean Parliament passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Argentina becomes the first country in all of Latin America to pass such a progressive, tolerant piece of gay rights legislation. This is somewhat surprising given the overwhelming Catholicism of the Argentine population; over 90% of the country identifies with the Church. Argentinean dioceses actively tried to sustain opposition to passage of the bill. Despite the organized resistance to the measure, it passed and now gay and lesbian couples can enjoy the same rights at heterosexual couples.

Sharia Women: Earlier this week, Malaysia Islamic officials appointed the first ever women to the country’s Sharia court. Malaysian sharia, the strictest interpretation of Islamic law, cases are tried by judges that are the guides of Islamic law within the country. The fact that two women were appointed to this position is a very big deal. Strict interpretations of the Qur’an call for women and men to be completed segregated from each other’s company outside of the familial home; you can clearly understand the controversy in letting female judges decide the fate of defendants. Although the extent of the women’s powers are still unclear, this is a pioneering step. Watch this, as a possibly model for other progressive Islamic countries, with a keen eye.

Healthcare and Kim Jong-il: This week, Amnesty International released a report on the healthcare system in the People’s Republic of Korea. The results of the report are unfathomable. Findings of doctors working at hospitals without basic medicine, performing surgeries by candlelight and amputating limbs without anesthesia litter the testimonial. Unsettling details about conditions under the world’s most reclusive regime are nothing new; stories of the nation’s food crisis, among other things, have trickled out from defectors. That being said, the international community is not close to putting together a full picture of what life is like under Kim Jong-il. We should cross our fingers and hope it’s not worse that what we know.

Feuding Neighbors: India and Pakistan are officially talking again. After almost two years of ice-cold relations, stemming from the Mumbai terror attacks, the two countries are back at the table trying to iron out their differences concerning the disputed and volatile region of Kashmir. Historical rivals, dating back to Partition, the two countries attitudes towards each other took a turn for the worse when Lashkar-e-Taiba trained militants struck the Indian commercial hotbed of Mumbai killing at least 170. This is a productive step forward for the region and the two countries to be talking about tinderbox issues once again.

American Matters

The CIA and the Iranian: At this point, you have all undoubtedly heard about the rouge Iranian scientist, Shahram Amiri, who went missing for months and only to surface this week in Washington, DC.  Mr. Amiri’s whereabots had been the subject of debate for months. Since his appearance, the story has unfolded at a breakneck pace. He and the Iranian government claim that he was abducted and tortured by the CIA. The Agency asserts that he was a willing defector and informant on the Iranian nuclear program. Reports have confirmed that Mr. Amiri was paid at least $5 million by the CIA for services rendered. He returned to the Islamic Republic to a hero’s welcome. We will probably never know what the truth of this latest international espionage episode is but it provides another reminder of the shadow games continually played by the world’s governments

The Barefoot Bandit's favorite loot.

Double-dip?: Economic news for the past two to three months has been mostly positive; gradual reduction in unemployment, stronger consumer confidence and a slowly growing economy. All of a sudden, however, the US is staring a double-dip housing crisis in the face. Reports this week indicate that foreclosures will hit the 1 million mark in 2010. This high number can be attributed to a backlog of mortgage holders; still, though, it’s a very scary statistic. So faced with this knowledge and the growing stagnation of the nation’s housing market, economists are feeling a bit weary. The whole world will be watching the US housing numbers with bated breath.

Barefoot Bandito: The Barefoot Bandit, otherwise known as Colton A. Harris, was finally caught in the Bahamas this week. A new American folk hero, Mr. Harris had been on the run for over two years, a plethora of states and the Caribbean for a litany of robberies from stealing airplanes to cold, hard cash. After finally yielding to the pressure of law enforcement officials, Mr. Harris was quick to plead guilty. At the age of 19, the Barefoot Bandit and his escapades will be the subject of American lore and pop culture for years, possibly decades, to come. Hats off to you Mr. Harris. You may be a criminal, but you’re a damn good one.

Death of a Hero: Vernon Baker, the only non-posthumous African American recipient of the Medal of Honor, died this week at the age of 90. He received the honor for his service with his platoon in Italy during WWII. He left the military in 1968 as a First Lieutenant. Mr. Baker returned to the United States after his military service and lived the rest of his years in Northern Idaho. In a time of war, it is important to remember those pioneers and heroes that so valiantly served our country. We’re forever indebted to you, Mr. Baker. Thank you.

Henry in America: French legend Thierry Henry is officially a member of the New York Red Bulls. A prolific scorer for both club and country, Henry comes to Major League Soccer (MLS) as the biggest signing in its history. (And YES, this includes David Beckham.) Unlike Mr. Beckham, Henry was made to score goals. He will clinically finish in front of goal and bring Red Bulls’ fans to their feet. It is quite possible Henry is the European star the MLS has been long searching for to bring Americans to its stadiums. Just wait, Henry will have too many Sportscenter Top Plays to count.

Off the Beaten Path

Secrets, secrets.

Mona’s Secrets: This may be only interesting to me and art enthusiasts but I thought it would be a nice little bit of Fodder for all. Using x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, Dr. Philippe Walter has uncovered the nitty-gritty details of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “sfumato” technique. The spectrometry procedure even allowed Dr. Walter to attain the recipes of Da Vinci’s paints and glazes. The glazes, mixed by Leonard himself, were layered in an impressively micro-manner. From the Da Vinci Code to this newest report, it seems that the vaguely smiling Mona will eternally hold a place in the world’s hearts.

Anchors at Ground Zero: Construction workers at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan have found the remains of an 18th Century ship used by traders in the mouth of the Hudson River. Next to the uncovered wooden hull, the excavators also found a 100lb anchor. A truly impressive historical find in the middle of the world’s busiest city. Everyone involved hopes to have the treasure removed by the end of the week. It just goes to show, there is history everywhere; even where you least expect it.

Eskil Ronningsbakken: There is not much to say about Eskil Ronningsbakken. He’s the world’s foremost extreme balancing act. Just check out this gallery and the YouTube video embedded below. As AWC says, “CRAZY Norwegians!” That is all.

Raccoon News: Last week’s Week in Fodder gave you a ridiculous and colloquial story about the Boston area so I’ll return the favor to NYC this week. Earlier this week, a raccoon – channeling his inner burglargot into the basement of the Brooklyn Public Library. Closing the storage area to staff for the week, the raccoon caused quite the nuisance and unfortunately did not get the library card it had applied for. (KNEE-SLAPPER!!)

Too Uncool for School: In our final news synopsis of the week, we offer you your first “Poll of the Week.” The other day, MSNBC ran a story chronicling the “10 Most Uncool Moments in Tech.” Click on that link, take a look at a couple of the videos and tell us which one you think is the LAMEST. It has to be the Sony rap, right?

Idiom of the Week

“Get you knickers in a twist”

Victorian knickers. Insert British accent.

This week’s Idiom of the Week should be said in an English accent at all times. Something about the word knickers makes me immediately think of good ‘ole England. To “get your knickers in a twist:” when you are angry, nervous, or perturbed with a particular situation.

Example #1: “Larry, don’t get your knickers in a twist with this one. Everything will work out.”

Example #2: “Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, recently got his knickers in a twist with the departure of Lebron James. As a result, he was fined 100,000 dollars by the NBA–true story.”

Song of the Week

This week’s song of the week comes from the Scandinavian group Who Made Who. I found this gem while listening to the radio of Nova Planet, a music website from France (http://www.novaplanet.com)

That’s all folks! Until next week, keep on reading the Fodder and living the good life!

The Week in Fodder

July 9, 2010 2 comments

A comical new Cold War.

Here we are, back again, for our third installment of the Week in Fodder. (Well, technically only the second considering last week’s was never published.) We have a full slate of Fodderific nuggets for you today: the spy swap, more shenanigans from Silvio Berlusconi, same-sex marriage’s proponent in Massachusetts, LeBron’s ego and a man who swam 750 miles down the Yangtze to visit the World Expo. Enjoy!

World Views:

Spy Swap: Unless you live under a rock or in the Laurentian Abyss (thank you, Hunt for Red October), you have undoubtedly heard about the Russian spies caught last week and their unfolding ordeal with the Justice Department. Last night, the U.S. and Russian governments performed the spy swap that had been the subject of rumblings and grumblings for the past week. Landing in Vienna, the 10 Russians switched positions with the 4 Americans on the inbound plane from Moscow and headed back to the Russian Federation. That was that. I’m sure something more will come out of this whole absurd and bizarre spectacle. Until then, however, it seems that 14 people engaged in a service for their countries and are on their way home to debrief and continue their lives. Comical?

Oh Silvio!: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is up to it again. Citing personal privacy protection, Mr. Berlusconi and his Government are pushing a law that would severely restrict law enforcement use of wiretaps. In America, some would see this as a welcome change from privacy encroachments established by the Patriot Act. In Italy, wiretaps are seen in a very different light: they catch corrupt corporate and federal authorities. As recently as last month, wiretap utilization helped discover the extent of a public works contract scandal that ended up involving the Vatican. Considering Mr. Berlusconi  and some of his Cabinet are under scrutiny in ongoing corruption investigations, it seems fishy, at the VERY least , that he would be pushing these new restrictions with such force. But then again, we should not be surprised, it’s just Silvio up to his old tricks.

Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani: As of early Thursday Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani, an Iranian and mother of two, was awaiting her “death by stoning” sentence to be carried out by the Iranian government. Reports late yesterday are saying that the sentence will be stayed and that Ms. Ashtiani will not die in such a barbaric manner. The fact that stoning is still a legal and practiced form of capital punishment is truly reprehensible, but this stay, if real, is a victory for human rights campaigners and activists; as it was brought about by a sustained internet campaign started by her lawyer. Just as importantly, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government is not one to kowtow to international pressure. Let’s all hope for the brave Ms. Ashtiani.

Torpedos and the UN: Today, the UN Security Council released a statement on the North Korean sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan. Expressing “deep concern,” the statement lacked any real teeth; avoiding the words torpedo or intent. North Korea even called it a “great diplomatic victory.” Once again, the glaring inability of the Security Council to affect any real pressure on problematic regimes is troubling. I guess we can look at the silver lining here: the statement at least called the sinking an attack.

Raul’s Cuba: Raul Castro assumed power in Cuba in 2006 after Fidel’s health deteriorated to a point where he could no longer run his Communist paradise. Hailed as a possible reformer, the Cuban diaspora saw his ascension to power as a path to loosened personal freedoms, travel restrictions and overall political oppression. However, in his first year or so in office, the world was disappointed with the lack of progress on any of these fronts. It seems though, Cuba might be turning a corner. Yesterday, the Cuban government agreed to release 52 political prisoners; bringing the total number of political prisoners in Cuba to the lowest level since 1959. For sure, a step in the right direction.

American Matters:

Downtown Oakland - familiar with riots.

Mayhem in Oakland: Yesterday, a California jury returned a verdict of involuntary manslaughter in the murder trial of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. Mr. Mehserle shot Mr. Oscar Grant, unarmed and facedown on a train platform, once in the back, killing him on January 1st, 2009. Mr. Mehserle maintains that he was reaching for his taser and inadvertently pulled out his gun. Finding enough merit in this argument, the jury did not convict on the greater charge of murder in the second degree. Residents of Oakland did not agree with that verdict. Taking to the streets, in a scene reminiscent of riots past, the people of Oakland made their opinion known. I am obviously not condoning rioting, but I understand it. It seems unfathomable – in a city that KNOWS, so intimately, of racial tension and violence – that this kind of bias can still exist. Keep an eye on this story.

Same-Sex Marriage: On Thursday, Judge Joseph L. Tauro, a federal district judge in Massachusetts, ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Judge Tauro cited the right to access all privileges granted to heterosexual couples and an infringement on state’s right as the backbone of the Act’s unconstitutionality. While it is too early to tell how this ruling will stand up against the plethora of appeals soon to follow, it will add legal kerosene to the fiery debate. Either way, it’s a win for same-sex advocates everywhere! Love those hippies in MA.

Richardson Joins the Fray: In response to the Arizona immigration law, and the fallout between Mexico and the US that has followed, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has offered to mediate the negotiations to keep the Border Governors Conference from folding under the controversy. Mr. Richardson, the former ambassador to the UN, is adept diplomat and should bring a level head to the discussions. Cross your fingers he can keep the conference above water.

Summer Fatigue: A week long heat wave has been plastering the Northeast since last Monday. Stressing power grids, engendering uncomfortable walks for all city dweller and heating bulldogs to the point of utter exhaustion, the heat has brought summer in with a sucker punch. New York City hit 100 degrees twice this week while Philly hit 102, Baltimore 103 and DC 102. So until the heat advisories and water bans are lifted, Northeastern residents will be struggling to do anything more than sit at their computer and read the Fodder all day.

James’ Joke: “King” James left one city in despair and inflated another with his announcement on primetime national television to “take his talents” to the Miami Heat and play with superstars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The “Decision” was quintessential, popcorn-eating, American sensationalism. That it was held at the Greenwich, CT Boys and Girls Club is patently hilarious—I had no idea there was even a Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich. At any rate, this watershed moment in American sports only serves to reinforce the unattractive reality that loyalty is cheap and sports are a business first and foremost. Cowardly decision? I think so. As a wise Mainer says: “I calls it like I sees it.”

The Yangtze - Don't you want to go for a swim?

Off the Beaten Path:

Yangtze Madness: How badly do you want to attend the Shanghai World Expo? Desperately? You’ll do anything? Well Bao Zhengbing did anything. Mr. Bao swam 750 miles down the Yangtze from central China to Shanghai. Now, 750 miles is a scarily daunting swim under any conditions but just look at that picture to your left. See that? The Yangtze is so polluted it actually turned red. We’ve all been swimming; in a pool, river, ocean, pond. If you swim for more than half an hour, you’re bound to get water in your mouth at some point. It’s an inevitability. Now, extrapolate that out over the time you would need to swim 750 miles. Nope, I don’t think the World Expo is worth it. On the other hand, good for Mr. Bao, that definitely takes some intestinal fortitude.

Cyrano de Bergerac: Just when you thought there were limits to what the internet could replace in human interaction, the burgeoning world of cyber dating has added a wrinkle: one can hire the services of an individual— known as a ghost writer– to essentially write their personal profile in an effort to increase the number of views to their dating page. Wow. There’s steep demand for this ghost writer outsourcing service and as is seen in this testimonial in the BBC article, some people are actually satisfied with the service. More importantly, how does something like this make us feel about the internet? What can you actually believe on the web? Or is this just like applying to a job or having a college counselor look over your resume to make you a more attractive candidate? I don’t know, but maybe all those people on eHarmony.com aren’t the good Christians they claim to be.

Airhead: This story is probably too colloquial and local, but it’s just too good to pass up. A 20 year old man walked in to a Boston-area Mercedes dealership and asked to take a car for a test drive. He then proceeded to try to steal the car with a FAKE grenade. I’m not even sure where to start. Why a fake grenade and not a water-gun assault rifle like the immortal Brendan Fraser? And who is he kidding, how was a real grenade supposed to be confined to hurting the Mercedes employee? Idiocy. Utterly ridiculous.

Winnebago Man: The Winnebago Man. We’ve all seen the YouTube video. (If you haven’t, it’s imbedded below!) Over twenty million views later, a documentary is coming to a theater near you about the man behind the outtakes and profanity. Jack Rebney, the Man himself, now lives a semi-hermetical life in California shirking the technology that has made him an international icon. A truly bizarre story on all fronts… but yeah, I’ll probably pay to see that movie.

Leviathan: Stolen from last week’s missing Fodder, you have to read all the links in this little synopsis. The Peruvian desert has given the world a brand new monstrous creature to inspire fascination: Leviathan. Formally named Leviathan melvillei (yes, in honor of Herman Melville), this beast dined on other whales for snacks and brought 14 inch long (!!!!!) teeth to the predatory table. To put that into perspective, the Great White’s teeth grow up to 3 inches long. I think the real question here is: who would win in a prehistoric ocean fight, Leviathan or Megalodon?

I bet most of our readers think they're the cat's whiskers.

Idiom of the Week:

Tasked with finding the idiom of the week, AWC came back with one that fit for any cat lover: the cat’s whiskers!

This expression comes in handy to describe someone who believes they are better than others in a particular area –beauty, competence, sports, skills, etc.

Example #1: “Ever since she got that promotion, she thinks she’s the cat’s whiskers!”

Example #2: “LeBron James thinks he’s the cat’s whiskers but he hasn’t even won a single championship!

Leave some of your own examples!

Song of the Week: Weekend Girl by the SOS Band

This week’s Song of the Week is going to go back into time to the 1980s when music was delightfully cheesy and slow jams with synthesizers were in full effect. (So, in fact, it’s not really transporting you anywhere because if you turn on your local hip-hop station, you’re sure to find about the same today!) Anyway, “Weekend Girl” by the SOS Band is a classic single from 1985. I would recommend just putting this in the background and fixing yourself one of Captain Adam’s cocktails.

That’s your Week in Fodder ladies and gentleman. Hope you found a conversation starter for the bar, the beach or the cookout this weekend. Until Monday, keep living the good life!