Ready to tie yourself to Martha’s whipping post?
Apparently fall is the time our pal Martha, fresh from a few restful weeks of torturing the locals for pleasure in Maine, really starts feeling ambitious and decides to crank up the domestic wheel of pain. Not content with flogging Louis Quatorze lawn parties and Gatsby-themed luncheons as the best way to throw a picnic, the evil one has recently shifted the MSL lifestyle dream-machine into overdrive. Her timing is, as ever, impeccable. Once fall is upon us, any reasonable adult can finally breathe free with the kids back at school, the house guests out of her hair and the in-laws safely stashed back in their golf community, at least until the Thanksgiving horror/torture begins. Unless, of course, you live in Martha world.
I don’t, but I like to peek through the keyhole from time to time, and in the past week or so I’ve had ample opportunity after receiving about a hundred emails from the Domestic Death Star
nagging inviting me to do the following:
Start your Halloween preparations early, like now.
Madame Stewart suggests using September to get a jump on updating last year’s party-planning spreadsheet, start crafting spiders from pipe cleaners and hot glue and prepare the fifty-piece pumpkin carving and microsurgery tool set for this, the most festive holiday of the year.
And of course it’s never too early to begin planning your costume, because there is nothing pathetic about a sixty-year old woman in a French maid’s costume or a fright wig.
Now I don’t know about you, but I hate Halloween, and frankly I’d rather set myself on fire than spend a full month gearing up for it, unless by that you mean buying and consuming six dozen bags of “fun size” Snickers bars, Twizzlers and mini Dove Bars, but somehow I don’t think that’s what she has in mind.
Create savory lunch box meals your kids “will want to eat.” Now, of course these days the little slattern is away at college and in charge of her own meals, but I can say with certainty that never, in eighteen years of lunchbox slavery, did I encounter a situation in which a “bento box” featuring cold Asian noodle salad, or an avocado-cream cheese-cucumber-sprout sandwich on grainy bread, or cute little lettuce leaf cups filled with apple and chicken salad would have been greeted with anything but misery followed by pitiful efforts to trade.
Let me tell you, nobody in the lunchroom is going to give up half a PB&J for anything that involves even the suggestion of a lettuce leaf. They might, however, tease your child unmercifully for the rest of her academic life on the basis of such a meal, so there’s that added incentive to provide it — as if you needed another reason to spend three hours every night preparing the next day’s lunch so that it could be thrown in the trash and your child could arrive home exhausted, bullied, and in the middle of a full-on low-blood-sugar meltdown. Parenting, the Martha way.
Learn the venerable art of découpage with Martha’s five part video tutorial after which you can run out and buy all fifty items in her new découpage product line. Yup, DECOUPAGE. Look!
Those of you who have succeeded in repressing memories of sleep-away camp — where arts & crafts classes were the only alternative to swimming in a freezing lake, hiking fifty miles carrying a two-hundred pound pack or spending a sleepless night on the ground quivering in a stinky sleeping bag all the while freaking out about bugs, bats and snakes — will no doubt be pleased to revisit this wonderful crafting activity via Martha’s instructional videos.
In FIVE installments!
I mean really, what is there to say beyond, cut some pictures out, glue them on something then shellac the hell out of the whole mess? I’ll tell you what else, NOTHING, except maybe, “Here’s how to spend a hundred bucks and three days making a shitty old picture frame/lamp/piece of furniture look like a craft project you did at Camp Wankaweewee in 1979.”
Okay, that’s enough. I’m going out to get a pizza and a six-pack for lunch, then I’m going to toilet paper and egg that witch’s house but good. Happy freakin’ fall, Martha.
The Slattern is out. To lunch.
Like my childhood idol Lucy Van Pelt, I have built a spectacularly un-lucrative business around giving out practical, yet almost entirely useless, advice on a variety of topics. In my case, much of what I’ve written this past year has had a culinary rather than psychiatric focus, though I reckon the frequent side trips through the cesspit of my psyche could also serve as a cautionary tale for the observant reader or licensed mental health professional. In any case, a stroll through the archives will show you how to make a pie, roast a chicken, whip up a tasty vinaigrette, bake a killer brownie and shake an authentic Sazerac. These are just the highlights, of course, but I think I can say that I have assembled a fair, if bare bones, primer on how to provide reasonably high quality sustenance for both family and friends without losing your mind, which was, after all, the goal I set during the initial planning meeting for Kitchen Slattern, aka one extremely drunken dinner party in the summer of 2011 during which the capable and persuasive Jen bought the name on my behalf and the enthusiastic and persuasive Robin egged us both on. Good times.
So as I say, over the past year I think I’ve made a reasonable contribution to gastronomy, much as Roseanne Barr did for unique musical performances a couple of decades past. As previously noted, a cautionary tale, but a memorable one nonetheless. And though I like writing about food in many ways, I find I may have “shot my wad,” if you’ll pardon the vulgarity, as far as cooking goes. I just don’t have that much more to offer on the subject. In addition, the little Slattern is off at college, Mr. Slattern long ago disavowed mammal consumption and lately is off sugar, salt and cheese, and I have placed my diet and health, for better or hellaciously worse, in the hands of Dr. Feelbad in an effort to lose the “sampling weight” I accumulated while overseeing quality control for such delightful treats as chocolate crinkles, lemon ginger pie and easy clafouti. I miss them all, I won’t lie.
Bottom line here: If I can’t sample, I can’t offer recipes. And though I could set this up as an improve-your-life-through-healthy-eating concern, who would want to read that? More importantly, how would I ever stop drinking if I had to write it? As such, I’m closing the kitchen and making it official. Going forward, I may offer up the odd culinary tidbit, and might even recycle some of the older chestnuts for the holidays, but in general, I’m going to confine my comments to the vast, weird territory that lies well beyond the limits of my cluttery, now under-provisioned, pantry.
Stay with me folks. It could get interesting.
Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen
Capsule Review: Oh God, make it stop!
If you’re like me, you probably wonder what would happen if Pee Wee Herman married Snookie, they had a baby and then they set up housekeeping. On Riker’s Island. Well tax your brain no further; I have the answer. They’d have named the offspring Nadia G and you’d be watching her on Bitchin’ Kitchen.
Now, I get it. She’s a comedienne and a chef, she cooks in stilettos (gasp!) and has a zany cast of characters. Sound familiar? But the show’s on the Cooking Channel, and holy good God, how can you even begin to pay attention to what she’s cooking (cookin’?) with all that adenoidal yammering, scenery chewing and gesticulating going on all at once? Makes me feel like I’m having a grand mal seizure after about forty seconds. And it’s not even funny.
My advice: mix yourself a margarita and stick with Pee Wee, the original and still the best.
Recipe: Mussels in Garlic and Wine
So as you’ve probably guessed, I spend a fair amount of time sucking tube in the form of cooking programs. In truth, I’m something of a whore for TV cooks and will watch almost anything, so long as it involves chopping and stirring, and generally the more outrageous, out-of-control and outré the chef the better. Witness my love for Paula Deen. So out there, so over the top, so Southern — I just cannot get enough, y’all. Similarly, I’ll jack into YouTube and watch Mrs. Child, the Two Fat Ladies or Graham Kerr for hours on end. It’s like crack for me.
Imagine my excitement then, when my pal Joe Hoover over at Londonsurvival introduced me to the manic, magical, utterly soused world of Keith Floyd. Though no longer with us, the great Floyd virtually created the cooking show genre in the UK, or so I gather. Now, if you search on YouTube, you’ll find dozens of fabulous episodes all guaranteed to please. My personal favorite involves our hero preparing ostrich meat and eggs on a brazier in the Outback, surrounded by a gaggle of free-range ostriches, who are apparently oblivious to the cannibalism going on right under their beaks. It’s pure kitchen magic, folks.
But here’s the thing. The guy could actually cook, and most of the time he made it look effortless — and even if it wasn’t effortless, it still looked really fun. So here he is with a lesson in the preparation of mussels. It’s not one of his more outrageous episodes, but it is one of the more instructive. If you have questions about how to choose mussels, or any other seafood, there’s a vintage Slattern post that covers the subject pretty completely.
Hot tip: If you buy farm-raised mussels, they’re much less apt to be sandy and thus are less fiddly to prepare.
I don’t claim to have cornered the market on slattern-dom, and I certainly didn’t invent it. I have, however, done my level best to elevate the art form over the past twenty years or so, and as I look back on the cluttered landscape of middling meals, drunken dinner parties and neglected housekeeping that has been my life, it occurs to me that none of this could have been so easily accomplished outside the urban jungle. Let me explain.
First of all, the urban environment is easy on the domestic tippler. Let’s say it’s five o’clock and you and a couple of pals have been having a friendly chat over a bottle of vodka for the past few hours. You realize you were supposed to pick up your kids from soccer practice, but getting behind the wheel is no longer an option. No need to endanger the driving public, disturb your better half or give up your parking space — just call a livery service and send a car to pick them up. After three or four instances of this, most city teens will learn to take a twenty from your purse before leaving the house, store the car service number in their phones and call the ride themselves after waiting around for an hour or so. Kids these days!