Tag Archives: food

Roadside: BBQ Chip Road Trip

Michigan has game when it comes to 20th century snack foods.

Michigan has game when it comes to 20th century snack foods aka the beginnings of helping Americans make themselves fat.

In 2013 I went on a road trip through 11 states in 8 days. Along the road there were plenty of stops at gas stations, and at each one I tried to find something different that I hadn’t seen before. A couple states in I started to realize that there was something regional in the potato chip aisle. Though now-national brands like Lays are well represented across the U.S., little odd ball and generic-y brands would pop up. I decided to make it my road trip quest to find the best of the BBQ chips.

I don’t eat a lot of chips these days, but as a kid BBQ Ruffles were one of my favorites. As an adult I’m a big fan of the spicy heat of Grippo’s BBQ chips, my Dad’s hometown crispy potato. During the road trip from Colorado to Ohio, and then up through Michigan to Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, a few chips came close along the way, but I still didn’t find a chip to surpass the Grippo’s spice.

I resurrected the BBQ chip hunt on my latest road trip jaunt through Arkansas and East Texas and figure it’s time to start recording all those BBQ feelings before I complete forget. Still no new champions, but the quest continues. The contenders so far, along with my completely subjective and non-scientific opinions:

Regional BBQ Chip Rankings as of 2015 June:

  1. Grippo’s Bar-B-Q
  2. Better Made Special Barbecue
  3. Golden Flake Sweet Heat Barbecue
  4. Old Dutch Bar-B-Q
  5. Urge Barbeque
  6. Guy’s Barbeque

The Rust Belt region understands the fine art of properly spiced BBQ chips. This is only a scratch on the BBQ dust coated surface, so the rankings will grow as I get the chance to snack in new places. BBQ chip recommendations welcome.

Peanut Butter and Romanticizing the Past

The beverages I drink don’t usually have words like “win,” “athletic,” and “epic” wrapped around the bottle. Thanks to a stomach bug I’ve been on the crackers and Gatorade diet for the better part of this week, drinking epic athletic liquid with artificially colored win.

I graduated to crackers + peanut butter on Friday and that was pretty exciting. Eating peanut butter spread on crackers always makes me think of one of my favorite people-from-the-past-I’ve-never-met-but-like-to-romanticize.

I have a soft spot for writers. My undergrad and grad school theses were both on 1930s film fan magazines. While I spent a lot of pages analyzing the contemporary context, consumerism, and content, I also spent a decent chunk of time looking at the writers and editors of the publications.

Some of the writers had prolific enough careers that they also wrote for other publications, leaving a big trail of evidence behind them. Others are a little trickier to track, though Anthony Slide’s Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine does a really fabulous job of profiling many of the writers that are tougher to track elsewhere. When I was writing my undergrad thesis I took a lot of information from an issue of Picture Play, which had a great two part feature on contributing writers written by Samuel Richard Mook in the February and March 1930 issues.

I would definitely want to do some fact checking before taking anything in the article as fact, but there’s always that non-factual value  – the mood and message that it conveys. One of the anecdotes that’s always stuck with me is about Myrtle Gebhart. Early in her career before writing for fan magazines, she bounced from one writing job to another and worked addressing envelopes at a rate of three dollars for every thousand. According to Mook, her diet at that point “consisted chiefly of peanut butter bought in bulk and spread thinly on crackers.”

So now every time I have peanut butter spread on crackers I think of Myrtle Gebhart, this writer I have very little knowledge of and have definitely never met (she died in 1958 according to Slide). But I have a soft spot for Gebhart and her Mook portrait. As he notes, “there is something splendid about a girl who has been through the mill as Myrtle has.”

In my thesis I got all analytical historian up in the article about the portrayal of women and the rags to riches angle, but that and fact checking aside, there is just something completely enchanting about these little writer portraits in Picture Play.

Mook himself is author of one of my all time favorite quotes: “I prefer dives to palaces, as I feel that in dives you see life, and in palaces you look on an artificial glitter.” True that.

Today I think I can finally eat real food again (hooray), but the brightside to my downside week was the thought of Myrtle and me eating our peanut butter crackers, decades apart but together in spirit.

Poodle Springs.

Big Bear Lake, California

Big Bear Lake, California

I went to Big Bear and all I got was this lousy cold.

Well, actually I also picked up some postcards and some nice scenic shots of the lake and had a good time playing games with friends. Some germs I picked up while in Big Bear just came back to haunt me the following weekend when I was in Palm Springs for an archivist conference. Super drag!

In Palm Springs I managed to lead a pretty awesomesauce panel on privacy issues in archives (yay panel), and then came back to LA Saturday night and spent the rest of the weekend flopping between the living room couch and my bed. I’ve been doing my best to not hack up my lungs, but only with moderate success.

So while I’m confined to spreading my germs within the limited square footage of my apartment I thought it would be a great time to think about not being caged by illness and to relive the past two out of town weekends.

The view from my hotel room balcony, Palm Springs

The view from my hotel room balcony, Palm Springs

When I think about Palm Springs it’s really tough for me to not call it Poodle Springs, since my knowledge of the area was very recently limited to little more than Raymond Chandler’s mocking pseudonym for the city and an awareness of the existence of a crapload of midcentury modern architecture.

I’ve driven by the town on the way to Arizona and Texas.  It’s an easy 2 hour drive from my corner of the LA metropolitan region, but for whatever reason I’d not made my way out there yet.  Now that I’ve been I’d say it’s worth a revisit.  Between getting as much out of the conference as possible and then becoming miserably sick I didn’t get to see as much of the town as I’d hoped, but I saw enough that I now know I want to go back.

The conference hotel was ridiculously expensive so I looked for alternatives.  My inner hipster really wanted to stay at the ACE hotel, but it was even more expensive than the conference hotel!  Instead I ended up three hotels down at the Curve, which despite lukewarm Yelp and tripadvisor reviews is actually a pretty nifty little hotel.

The Curve has the bones of an old motel, but an updated outer appearance.  I got an upgrade from a standard peasant room to a a mountain and pool view room.  I was a little worried that the noise from the pool would be bothersome, but I wasn’t in the room much during the day and they were good about shutting down music and controlling noise after 10pm.

The hotel was great and I’d stay there again.  I had lunch and evening drinks at the ACE, and though the ambience in the diner was retro-fun, the hotel itself didn’t seem all that fancy.  I didn’t see the inside of any hotel rooms there, so I can’t speak to that, but the hotel bar, pool area, and corridors weren’t much swankier than the place I stayed at.

I should probably frame my hotel reviews with the statement that I’m not too picky of a hotel goer.  Sometimes I read hotel reviews and feel like the reviewers’ expectations are way too grand.  I once stayed in a motel in Monterey that my traveling companion said was the type of place where hookers take their clients.  I really didn’t see it that way, but I’m a pretty easy going traveler.

Mostly when I look for hotels I like to find non-chain locations in older well maintained buildings that retain some old timey charm.  Not everyone I know appreciates this aesthetic, but that’s what you’re going to end up with if I’m left organizing the travel plans.

Balcony at the Curve hotel, Palm Springs

Balcony at the Curve hotel, Palm Springs

So the Curve was perfect for my requirements.  I had some mediocre food at Lulu’s Bistro in downtown Palm Springs, but had a pretty exciting blueberry lemon lavender shake at Great Shakes around the corner.  Mixed reviews on other food I also ate there, but there are so many restaurants I think I’ll have to go back and try out a few other places.

I got a little peek at opulent midcentury design with the chance to visit Sunnylands for the conference reception.  I’m not really sure which architectural style is my favorite, but I’ve got an ever growing appreciation of midcentury modern design.  All those strong clean lines and industrial materials are pretty sexy.

Sunnylands, Palm Springs

Sunnylands, Palm Springs

Being out in the desert means seeing stars!  I didn’t drive far enough outside of town in the dark to really appreciate the night sky, but that is definitely at the top of my list of reasons to drive back out into the desert.  I probably should try desert camping one of these weekends to really get to see the universe.

Now, if I could just kick this cold I think I could call last weekend a smashing success.

MONSTER.

I have an on-again-off-again relationship with coffee.  So far 2013 has been a weekday morning love affair with coffee, with weekends spent apart.

I had some business things to attend to after work today and felt tired before 5pm even rolled around,  so I broke from my recent caffeine only in the morning pattern and drank a Monster.  It’s not something I buy and I don’t think I’d even had one before.  I got it for free when I ran the OC half marathon the other week.  It definitely helped me focus on the task at hand, BUT HOLY CRAP I AM SO WIDE AWAKE NOW.  I probably should’ve just drank half.  Oops.

Hello Thursday morning!  (where did Wednesday evening go?)

The Monster also left a funny aftertaste – I’m not a fan.  Back in the day when I was pulling long hours for grad school or driving long distances my poison of choice was a Starbucks double shot.  Mmmm.  Those things actually taste good at least.  Monster just tastes like liquid chemical.

Tomorrow’s gonna hurt.  I’m gonna have to bust out the uber motivational tunes for all that data entry/descriptive work I have to do on the archives I’m working on.

Why write? Why not?

I have to admit, I’m kind of disgusted with myself for ending a blog post with “Next up: running nutrition!  I’m doing a little research and crafting a meal game plan that I’ll share in another post.”  I apologize, not to any imaginary readers, so much as I apologize to myself.

I’m still running, running is awesome.  I sorta eat better, except for the pizza I wolfed down yesterday and today.  I’d be a(n anorexic) twig if I just stopped eating cheese, bread, and beer.  So tasty.

Two comments from people this past weekend fueled my desire to post here again.  I went on a 10 mile run with my half marathon buddy.  She admitted she builds her dream house as she runs, and I admitted I write blog posts as I run.  Blog posts that will never see the light of day, but that are bounced around in my head until they have very specific points to make.  My friend asked why I never recorded my brain blogs (<—- my phrase)?

I don’t know.  Half the time I’m so high off running endorphins that I forget everything I was dreaming up as I ran.  It’s a blur of lower minutes per mile averages, people (and butterfly!) watching, and parsing out that day’s weather.

Then, at a birthday BBQ on Saturday evening somehow I got to talking about how I’ve tried writing fiction several times over the past year, but my writing engine only turns over and never catches.  The people there were very encouraging about JUST FUCKING DO IT ALREADY.  But you know, without the f-bomb and without the caps.  My brain added those parts.

So far I’ve started a Western themed zombie story, a fantasy yarn about a woman with magical ocean powers, a mystical tale about death and people interred in mountains, and then there was the one about self-centered indulgences set amidst a post-apocalyptic world.

So, I have something about death (zombies, dead people buried in mountains, post-apocalyptic world).  My protagonists are mostly female (except for the Western zombie story, which was going to be multiple perspective).

I even downloaded a local wiki program to start building a fantasy world for the ocean powers/connected to water story.  I don’t even like the ocean that much.  It’s pretty to look at, but I prefer forests.

Then there are also maybe half a dozen documents with a few paragraphs or a few lines.  One quirky handful of paragraphs about a woman becoming involved in her uncle’s mysterious train station death is alllllllmost long enough to be on the story attempt list.

The only writing I’ve done in the past few years that I’ve actually liked is some short stream of consciousness diarrhea and poetry.  I sort of like my post-apocalyptic story, but that’s because I really needed to get that one out of my system when I wrote it.  And now I’m good.

Most of all, my urge to write again is being fueled by the intermittent melancholia of loneliness, and a realization that since I stopped writing lengthy research papers writing has slowly become more and more difficult.  I hate that thought even more than the thought of writing terrible stories with no middle or ending.  So I’ll keep turning the engine over and maybe something will catch.

Vroom.  Vroom.

So much for this being about my professional life.

1. Studying for Archival Certification exam.  Drank a beer and then dropped (too much) money on books (the beer softened the financial blow) for book order part one (it’s like being in college, except you don’t get student loans, instead you are simultaneous trying to pay the undergrad and grad loans back while becoming an employable professional, hah, oh life). I already have a handful of books from grad school and there are a few places around town where I can read the older ones, but nearby libraries don’t have the newer archival books – too expensive and specialized I guess?

2. Nothing makes me feel more feminist than insurance companies and the way they handle birth control in the U.S.  I’ve had four different health insurance companies over the past three years (both PPO and HMO) and none of these companies will let me pick up more than one month’s worth of birth control at a time, even if the doctor’s prescription specifies 3 pack pick up at a time.  Ridiculous.  What am I going to do, OD on hormones?  Give them out to teenage girls with disapproving parents?  All it does is cause me extra hassle and trips to the pharmacy for the same exact number of pills I would get whether or not I picked them up every month or every three months.

My friend who recently returned from studying and living in Germany for two years told her German doctor that she would be without health insurance for a few months once she got back to the U.S.  The doctor prescribed a year’s worth of birth control (like in the U.S.), and then my friend went to the pharmacy and picked up the year’s worth of birth control (not like in the U.S.).  Why can’t it be that simple here?

3. Game of Thrones is over for another season, sigh. But True Blood is coming back next week, hooray!

4. I’ve decided to write a fictional horror western story.  I have some ideas floating around, should be fun.

5. I’m going to Oklahoma and Texas in a few weeks for family time vacation.  I can’t wait for these next weeks to go by.

6. I feel like I’m treading water at work, treading in a sea of newspaper clippings.  I never thought I’d look forward to rehousing sheet music, but I sure am!

7. I’ve become addicted to a 2.5 mile loop at Griffith Park and the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook stairs by Culver City

8. Visited Amir’s Garden in Griffith Park last weekend.  It was lovely!  Sadly I hiked up without a camera.

This is the only recent picture I’ve taken:

Image

Mr. H made Aloo Gobi from scratch lastlast weekend. It was delicious! This weekend I made blackened chicken again and a chopped salad, but didn’t take pictures. Tonight I discovered how simple it is to jazz up couscous from the bulk bins instead of buying the boxed stuff with the powder flavorings. Winwinwin.

MEAT.

I have a very strange relationship with meat.  I’m not sure how to explain how I feel about this food category.  I guess in a way I’m like a little kid refusing to eat their vegetables without much other reason than “they look weird!”

I was a really picky eater as a kid, though now I’ve outgrown nearly every picky eating habit – except my weird feelings toward meat.  Actually, if anything, I eat way less meat nowadays than I did as a kid (kid meat being things like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, sandwich lunch meat)

When I look at a piece of steak I think, “Cow goes moo.”  Even though a slab of steak is so far removed from its original home, I still associate it with cows, and cows are cute and scary and wonderful and I don’t want to eat Bessie.

When I look at a piece of chicken I think, “Yum!”  Especially if I don’t have to cook it and its white meat/chicken breast.  I’m weirded out by brown meat and anything with bones and grizzle and any piece that resembles a former body part.  There is something comforting and edible about homogenous chicken breast meat.  No surprises.

And fish.  Oh man, such a strange thing.  I think I ate some fish sticks back when my age was in the single-digits range, but at some point I just turned away from them (just like I stopped eating hamburgers at age 3).

In my play kitchen I’d put pieces of plastic neon-green lettuce in the toy frying pan.  I’d cook up a mean sauteed lettuce.  At the time I thought I was being innovative – who cooks lettuce in a frying pan! – but now that I’m an adult I can see that the magic of cooking lettuce was only magical because my parents never put lettuce in a pan.  Now I do it all the time (and I imaginary fist bump my 3 year old self for being so vegetarian and forward looking without even knowing that it was not abnormal – though being “normal” has never ever really been a goal of mine).

So yeah, meat.  You can take it, I’ll leave it.  Token gestures to the chicken gods, occasional pig prayers (skinny slices of bacon cooked until burnt, no-surprises sausage – familiar, mostly homogenous), and the rest will be lettuce for me.  Warm up that skillet!