Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Amazing Free Travel Game: A Summer Road-trip Gift Just for You!

Image courtesy of Hammacher-Schlemmer's unawareness that I'm borrowing it.
Is this a photo of the amazing free travel game? No, Silly. It is not. It is the Hammacher-Schlemmer Big Top Calliope! But if we were *playing* the amazing free travel game, I would read you the description of it, and you would have to guess the price. Here's a choice excerpt: "A bass synthesizer provides a tuba sound. In concert, the bandwagon replicates the whimsical tooting, clashing, and sparkle of the past by playing 25 classic march tunes, such as Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Ain’t We Got Fun, and A Tribute To Uncle Sam from a built-in microprocessor. Typically part of a circus’ arrival parade and drawn by miniature pony, goat, or a stout dog . . ." Miniature stout dog not included. Okay, so guess the price. Don't forget: Synthesized tuba sound! Ain't We Got Fun from the built-in microprocessor! Whimsical tooting! I mean, how much *wouldn't* you pay, right? 

If I wanted to, I might give you a clue about the numbers, a la The Price Is Right. "There is only a single digit, which is a multiple of 3," I might say. "The rest are zeros." Got your guess? 





Give up?

30,000 dollars!

(I have this idea that when you click "Buy," the device you're holding should automatically electrocute you and redistribute your assets among the needy. But that's a side issue.)

Part of what makes it such a great game is that then someone reads you about the Selfie Toaster, which brands bread with a picture of your OWN FACE! And you're like, "I could bite into my own face for breakfast every morning? I don't know. $300,000?" 

We play that everyone who's not giving the clue yells out their guess at the same time. But you could doubtless take turns or play in some other way.

But it's only $69.95!

Make no mistake: I am not (merely) trash-talking Hammacher-Schlemmer! I am earnestly recommending this game, with which we have passed many hours of happy car travel, and I'm specifically recommending that you play in the part of the H-S website, called, "The Unexpected" (aka "Let's try to rid ourselves of some of this pesky cash!") True, you need some sort of device with cellular data to play it. But even as I write that, I'm realizing that you can request a paper catalogue here. I'm thinking you could also play it with other catalogues and websites. And it's totally not Socialist Propaganda. #unlessitis 

Ben (with the rest of us for scale, yukking it up at a funeral, because that's the kind of people we are).
This game is, of course, a Ben invention. And it came only out of his unironic love of all things Hammacher-Schlemmer. But even Alex P. Keaton Ben will admit that a $35,500 Time Machine, with no especial guarantee that you will be able to snatch the camera from your mother's hands and smash it on the ground after she snaps a picture of your two-year-old self sitting on the potty, is a little steep.

Anyways, you're welcome. Happy summer road tripping!


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wild Weed Quesadillas + 7 Asparagus Recipes

Quesadillas with raw garlic mustard leaves, steamed cattail shoots, and sauteed daylily greens.
I have written about foraging before. Here, for example, just last year. But oh, if you have not availed yourself of the green green thrill of cramming bitter wild leaves into your winter-starved mouth, please try it. Even if you live in, say, New York City, where someone you know may or may not have eaten wild garlic mustard that was growing near the reservoir in Central Park. (Sorry, Ma. But urban foraging is all the rage!)

My Mother's Day card from Birdy. Inside it says, "I can't wait to continue eating our way through the outdoors." ("Yew (oops!)" refers to a poisonous little incident we once got ourselves into. A story for another day.)
Birdy is my partner in foraging, and it is just a heavenly way to spend a spring afternoon: consulting our guides, picking and tasting, soaking up sunshine and screaming about snakes. If a person were starting to drift towards a kind of hormonal situation of the teenaged kind, this would be the perfect hearty, companionable antidote, if you get what I'm saying. Besides that all the slap-in-the-face bitterness of the greens themselves pretty much constitutes life at its most bracing.

Steamed garlic mustard and cattail shoots with hollandaise. I used this Foolproof 2-Minute Hollandaise recipe, and it was perfect.
I'll recommend, again, the marvelous Backyard Foraging by Ellen Zachos. We had checked it out of the library for such an unconscionably long time that we finally just went ahead and bought a copy. The other book we bought after careful consideration was Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas. It contains plants only, but has very detailed descriptions and photographs of common edibles at different stages of growth. But even if all you do is go outside, yank a dandelion (you'll know it's a dandelion because there will be a dandelion flower), and chew its wildly bitter leaves, you'll still be a happier and healthier person for it.
12 and 15. WHAT? I wrote something here about babies and how I don't have any.
I should note, however, that the thrill seems, at least to some extent, related to the happy-survival neurochemicals your brain rewards you with for finding food: the people who foraged the plants always LOVE to eat them, while the people who are simply served the weedy meals feel decidedly MEDIOCRE about them. 

Oh, spring! Tis the season of the cigar-tube vase. 
And if this is all too much for you, buy a nice, fat bunch of nice, fat asparagus and prepare those instead. I'm still at the exclusively steamed-with-butter phase of my seasonal gorging, but in a couple weeks I'll start to diverge. Here are some recipes, some recently moved here from farflung earlier postings.

Asparagus with Brown Butter
Asparagus with Pink-Grapefruit Sauce
Asparagus Bread Pudding
Roasted Asparagus with Lemon and Parmesan
Brown Rice Salad with Asparagus, Feta, and Lemon
Asparagus with Savory Lemon Jam
Edited to add: Asparagus with Delicious Dip

Happy spring, my darlings. xo