Between working crazy hours and being an expectant dad, I'm probably the last guy in your Google reader who's qualified to be dishing on dinner party-themed cookbooks. My wife and I haven't properly entertained for more than one or two people in quite a while, and with the above details in mind, I can't see that changing until the little tyke can mix or stir on command. Furthermore, one of the authors of this particular book is someone I've known for fifteen years. Granted, I haven't actually seen her for the last ten of them, but I'm not the sort to pull punches when writing about the creative endeavors of pals anyway. (And I've got the ever-shrinking Christmas card list to prove it, bub.) Nevertheless, Zora O'Neill and Tamara Reynolds' new Forking Fantastic!: Put the Party back in Dinner Party is exactly the kind of food writing I'd want to be coached by on the way to an epic, in-house gathering.
You may have heard about Zora and Tamara without even knowing it, as their reputation is something of a legend in its own time. They're responsible for Astoria's fabled underground supper club, which, to have attended, earns one a special brand of cache amongst the food cognoscenti of the outer boroughs. With heavyweights like Anthony Bourdain and Jamie Oliver counted in their fan base, these ladies are clearly not to be taken lightly or dismissed as yet more self-aggrandizing food bloggistas who somehow bullshat their way into a book deal. Zora and Tamara walk the walk, talk the talk (profanity included! just like in a real kitchen!), and could easily outgun any dinner party I've ever conjured.
Their secret? It's the food, dummy! The book has an appealing DIY aesthetic to it which wastes no time in dismissing all the crap that often weighs so heavily on the minds of potential party throwers. Suffice to say, matching cloth napkins, elaborate centerpieces, and heirloom crystal wine glasses have no place in the Forking Fantastic mindset. Put another way, if the sight of that skinny blonde woman on the Food Network who's always yabbering on about her "tablescape" makes you want to hurl a brick at the television, this book is your ticket to dinner party salvation. In it are recipes for all manner of crowd pleasing dishes from the simple to the complex, and the familiar to the utterly obscure. Best of all, the journey is loaded with tips and personal anecdotes from Zora and Tamara's own experiences in the trenches. As such, they'll tell you where it is and isn't OK to cut corners, but they'll also reveal why Led Zeppelin is perfectly acceptable dinnertime music, and why it's alright to ask a few of your guests to bring their own chairs, or to make due with drinking wine out of jelly jars... there's even a chart that breaks down why home cooking beats sex as a routine activity! It's that kind of disarming irreverence that mounts this guide as a perfect kitchen companion for creative weirdos who love cooking, especially for their friends. If you're anything like me, you'll have read Forking Fantastic cover to cover long before soiling a single skillet at its behest.
The Forking Fantastic homepage is here. Zora blogs at Roving Gastronome, and Tamara recounts the Sunday Night Dinner beeswax over at One Ass Kitchen. Both can be heard discussing the book and giggling like crazies on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show by following this link.
37. Bad Brains: City Gardens, Trenton. The I Against I tour, when HR was still in the band. Some rasta guys in the parking lot peeled out in gravel, expelling rocks at punkers waiting in line to get in. Skinheads chased their car down Calhoun Street, and I spent next 3 hours bleeding through my jeans from a rock wound. The band was surprisingly boring, though I'll bet I'd be more into it now, as their wonky, jazz/metal period stuff has grown on me a lot over the years. NYHC titans Leeway also played, which means that Metalcore was in full effect. I attended this show alone, which is something I did frequently when I was in my teens and early 20s. [Listen to Bad Brains perform "Sacred Love"]
38. Token Entry: A Sunday hardcore matinee at City Gardens that also featured a bunch of NYHC jokers and their suburban Jersey counterpart wannabes. During the high school weirdo years, the Token Entry logo (heisted from pre-Metro Card NYC subway turnstiles) adorned both the bottom of my skateboard and the inside of my locker. I also had a Token Entry pin, which somehow got blood on it and was then lit on fire in a primitive gesture of sterilization. The crispy remains of this artifact still adorn the shoulder bag that I cart my junk around the city in every day, although it's also worth pointing out that I dumped my Token Entry records on eBay years ago to help finance the purchase of a Hugo Boss suit for my wedding. When the pin outlasts the music, it's probably time for some re-evaluation. These posts have been very therapeutic in that way. [Listen to Token Entry perform "Antidote"]
39. Soundgarden: With 20 other people, at City Gardens. They completely sucked—a fact made even more apparent by how handily they were blown off the stage by the opening band. [Listen to Soundgarden, on a much better night, performing the song "HIV Baby"]
40. Bullet Lavolta: Opened for Soundgarden. See above. [Listen to Bullet Lavolta perform "X-Fire"]
41. Fugazi: Ft. Reno Park in DC. 1990. A friend and I had driven down to the nation's capital for a spur-of-the-moment visit. Not having any sense of what do once we got there, we marched into the 9:30 Club (because we'd read about it in fanzines), pounded exactly one rum & coke apiece, and then met two guidos from Florida who were interested in finding this park where Fugazi was alleged to be playing in 15 minutes. Some weird girl named Anne attached herself to us, we all piled into the guidomobile, and she directed us to the venue. We arrived just as the band began their set. Anne disappeared for a while, then re-emerged with a case of Bud tallboys which she began passing out to the crowd. The guidos vanished, the band played for two hours, and it rained. (Yes, this was my Woodstock.) Later on, Anne took pity on my friend and I who were underage, hours from home, and slightly drunk. As such, she paid for a hotel room for us at a pretty nice place in downtown DC. We crashed there for a little bit, but got spooked when Anne showed up at 2 AM, very drunk and wanting to come in. After some discussion, we fled for New Jersey and arrived back home just as the sun was coming up. Every teenager has a day/night like this that is remembered forever, right? [Listen to Fugazi perform "Exit Only" | Fugazi photo by Imagora Editions, licensed for re-use by Creative Commons]
42. Crash Worship: Maxwell's, 1991. Someone lit a smokebomb in the club and it only got crazier from there. Primitive warpaint, strobe lights, pounding drums, maniacal firebreathing and pyrotechnics, people going berserk... It was utterly tribal. The "singer" fought his way through the surging crowd with a wineskin, which he squirted in the general direction of people's mouths, but often just splashed on their shirts and faces. Someone produced a huge pumpkin, which was smashed in the center of the room and its guts whipped around and smeared on everyone's faces and clothes. No kidding, this was one of the best shows ever! The lore of Crash Worship was that they deployed tones at such sternum-rattling decibels, live shows were alleged to make show-goers lose control of their bowels, but (fortunately) that turned out to be only rumor. Nevertheless, the action continued on the drive home: Somewhere on the Turnpike, my car's electrical system crapped out. I coasted into a rest area in neutral with my headlights barely aglow, and after a few phone calls, learned that Triple A wouldn't service motorists on the Turnpike because it's a privately owned road. (Thanks, Jerze!) Two hours and $139 later, a Turnpike approved tow truck deposited me and my wounded vehicle back home, where I attempted to explain to my parents why I was hours late, covered in pumpkin guts, and smelled like a winery. [Listen to Crash Worship perform "Wild Mountain" | Check this clip on YouTube for visuals of the experience descibed above.]
43. Satan's Pilgrims: At Brownies, with the Original Sins and Swingin' Neckbreakers. Satan's Pilgrims were one of the few 90s surf bands aside from Man or Astroman whose records were worth listening to. They kept the gimmicks to a minimum (OK, they wore capes on stage) and just belted out one great song after another. After the show, friends and I somehow wound up in line behind Henry Rollins at the Astor Place Starbucks. Unrelated to that detail, the Starbucks employee serving us smashed a tray of glasses, cussed out his boss, and quit his job just as Hank was about to give his order. [Listen to Satan's Pilgrims perform "Ragtop"]
44. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Early aughts, in the basement of the College Ave. dorms at Rutgers. One of the first hints that I was way over the intended target age for this band was when I arrived at the show and found... my nieces. The last time our musical interests had intersected was when they'd been really little, and Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance" had been the anthem for every girl with neon clothes and a collection of bangle bracelets. Nevertheless, the YYYs were a young band with little hype at the time, and any memory of their performance is overshadowed by the fierce hipcheck Karen O inflicted upon me while on her way to the stage. In other words, I hated them before you did.
45. Don Caballero: At Terrace Club, late 90s. As usual, Damon Che was down to his sweat-soaked skivvies by the set's end, which inspired poor little Kathleen from WRSU (who'd been crouching stage left) to conclude: "I think his penis juice got on me". That remains one of the most shocking things anyone has ever said to me, ever, in all the years I've been talking to people.
46. The Humpers: The Continental, mid 90s, with 1000 horrible bands. The hype surrounding the Humpers was at a fever pitch, since their live shows were notoriously unhinged. At the encouragement of some lackey working PR for them, Jen and I were scheduled to interview the band, but that fell through when we realized they were all totally drunk hours before boarding the stage. The club would not permit ins/outs, so we were stuck inside for hours watching garbagey opening acts, as well as the Candy Snatchers, whose guitar player intentionally set himself on fire. (Often the best one could hope for on a typical night out in the East Village during this era.) The Humpers eventually came on at 2 AM, played one song, and their singer passed out. Honestly, I'm surprised I ever bothered going to any show ever again after this. [Listen to the Humpers perform the prophetic "Wake Up and Lose"]
47. The Bellrays: Maxwell's. Lisa from the Bellrays grabbed some punk rock doofus by the scalp and screamed the lyrics of a whole song directly into his face. The poor kid looked like a frightened animal when she was through with him, but I imagine the experience will be character-building in the long run. A paper route to the stars, if you will. On the way home, I was almost killed by the poor driving skills of a WFMU DJ who shall remain nameless. Let's just say that s/he isn't someone I'd recommend ever getting in a car with, especially after s/he began speeding into oncoming traffic on the wrong side of a highway meridian. The terrified facial expression made by Brian (who was riding shotgun) remains one of my most priceless memories ever. [Listen to the Bellrays perform "Fire on the Moon" | Bellrays photo by Dena Flows, licensed for re-use by Creative Commons]
48. Iggy Pop: The Instinct tour, sometime in the late 80s. Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols on guitar. Amazing show, way better than the recent Stooges reunions. Iggy was on Letterman two nights prior to this! Afterwards, a friend climbed out onto the window ledge of the moving vehicle we were traveling in. We got pulled over, and both he and the driver (his cousin) got tickets for something called "Riding on Parts Unintended", which remains one of my favorite turns of phrase to this day. [Listen to Iggy Pop perform "The Passenger"]
[Clockwise, from top left]
1. Grapes. Easy enough. Everybody put your hands together for noble rot!
2. Crushing. Isn't it crazy how much more delicious everything looks when it's oozing through the mouth of a pool hose?
3. Barrels. Made almost exclusively by superhuman European guys called coopers. If there's a better reason to slash and burn our way through the world's oldest and most majestic forests, I've yet to hear about it.
4. Bottling. The thing you've been working towards for a year. You're not planning on storing these babies in that blast furnace you call an apartment, I hope!
Certainly, there are other steps along the way like pressing, racking, worrying, second-guessing, panicking, and labeling. Not to mention a whole lot of chemistry. There's also the physical labor, cuts, bruises, stained clothing, soaked workboots, and of course: sampling... delicious and wonderful sampling... But that would take up too much space, so you get the abbreviated version. Now the only question is whether or not we can resist the urge for an early taste before our projected uncorking date in late November. This, my friends, is a true test of self control.
Listen: Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood consider it all over a bottle of Summer Wine.
Needless to say, after the hellish day I'd had, buttery sweets that scrape the upper regions of the heart attack index were just what I was in the mood for, and these dumplings met the challenge with style. We didn't have any ice cream to serve with them, which is just as well, since even our scaled-back version caused my left arm to seize up a few times. With cardiac arrest only a few daunting mouthfuls away, I switched to red wine in a useless effort to undo the damage. Several hours later, I was still trying to brush the residual sugar out of my teeth before retiring to bed with what felt like a basketball in my stomach. I still have my doubts about cooking anything with Mountain Dew (and really, because I cannot stress this enough: we skipped that ingredient!), but even without, these apple treats were pretty damn godhead.
Listen: Bill Cosby deconstructs the apple.
And you'll be sure to knock a few years off your time in purgatory by making a pledge sometime this week. Miracle Man and longtime radio co-conspirator Jon Solomon kicks off the festivities at 7 PM, so get your dialing/mouse clicking finger warmed up now!
Jon's got an interstellar lineup of live performances and special guests slated for this opening volley of the '09 fundraiser, including Jennifer O'Connor, Obits, Screaming Females, Danielson, Caterpillar, Rebecca Gates, and Tim Midgett. And really, do you need more incentive to support creative independent broadcast media in the Delaware Valley? (If so, I suggest hanging out at Quakerbridge Mall for an entire day. By mid-afternoon, the mere mention of a Death of Samantha record will summon all kinds of inexplicable jitters.)
All the pledge and swag info is available for your perusal right here. Allez!
25. Born Against: Saw them several times, though the most memorable was at Middlesex County College, when a mini-stampede erupted in the wake of their performance with a bunch of dopey straightedge bands. B.A.'s bassist never showed up, but they played anyway—with most of their fans on stage with them for safety's sake. (Violent moron crowd in full effect.) Tempers flared, the band played maybe five or six songs, Sam McPheeters chastised the crowd, and then some Jersey hardcore meathead revealed a gun tucked into his sweatpants, which sent dozens of punk rock kids scattering into the night. During my hasty exodus to the parking lot, I passed a girl who'd had her face pushed into the water spigot she'd been drinking from as a crowd ran by. She was pitched forward, wild-eyed, and grappling frantically at the bloody space where her front teeth had been a moment earlier. [Born Against photo by Sgsf. Licensed for re-use via Creative Commons]
26. Smart Went Crazy: A brilliant and totally underappreciated band from DC who were responsible for one of the best and weirdest albums released by Dischord Records. Musically, they could be called off-kilter or left-of-center pop, only their lyrics often usurped any sense of familiarity inspired by the instrumentation. (Tuneful songs about killing people and stuffing their bodies into car trunks can have that effect.) They played at Brownies to almost no one, and the guitar player looked weirdly like a guy who'd appeared on Conan O'Brien the previous night for his ability to mimic classical music by making farty sounds with his hands. I only remember this detail because it freaked me out to imagine that maybe it was the same guy.
27. Barbara Manning: Terrace Club. Can't remember if this was solo or with a backup band, but it was totally great. She ate dinner with a bunch of us WPRB people and regaled us with stories of New Zealand and hanging out with all the cool Dunedin rockers. [Listen to Barbara Manning & the SF Seals perform "Ipecac"]
28. Bettie Serveert: Maxwell's, early 90s. Tomboy is one of those records that reminds everyone of college. It doesn't matter if the person has ever been to college, or if it happened to be in the early 90s when the album came out. There's just something about its wistful tenor that feels in step with the age at which most of us leave home for the first time. Most of the WPRB crew was pretty psyched to see them, and that included one guy who was also a member of the campus mime club. Yes, that's right -- mimes. They of the white face paint and I-don't-seem-to-be-able-to-find-my-way-out-of-this-glass-enclosure gags. Hours before our departure from the station, he announced to us that mime club was meeting until late in the evening, and he "might not have time" to take off his makeup before the show. Recognizing these words as a very real threat, we all spent the next several hours gripped by the kind of fear that is exclusive to humans who have just learned they are to be seen in public with a guy in full mime regalia. Not surprisingly, this rather crippling terror has overpowered any memory of the band's performance. I can't even remember if the mime came with us, or if we banished him to a rest stop somewhere along the Jersey Turnpike. I did get to see Bettie Serveert again many years later and they were still real good (and still made me think of college.)
29. GWAR: City Gardens, Halloween, 1988 or 89. Like Jandek, GWAR is better to talk about than to actually suffer through. This was before they became heroes of the doofus-metal scene, and were just regarded as a bizarre, performance art group who had a record on Shimmy Disc. (The guys at the Princeton Record Exchange consistently filed all of the Jim Nabors records in the GWAR section.) I wore a "Jersey Beat" t-shirt to this show which got soaked with blood and other, less glamorous body fluids during the set. I kept it, unwashed, for years afterward as a trophy piece of sorts. I think I finally threw it away in 2008, pissed that I'd wasted the energy to move it in and out of various apartments over a span of twenty years.
30. Arcwelder: Maxwell's, 1996-ish. None of the annoying Steve Albini worshippers ever seemed to like these guys much,which is a shame because they released some of my favorite records on their beloved Touch n' Go Records. Nevertheless, I was happy to see them include a stop at Maxwell's while on tour for their just released Entropy album. Too bad hardly anyone bothered to watch them. (Those there for headliners Skeleton Key—who were at that time relatively unknown— didn't seem interested in checking out any other music, as they stayed on the restaurant side of the club for most of the evening.) As such, Arcwelder was visibly pissed off, but they channeled that aggression into their instruments and played one of the most furiously awesome sets I've ever witnessed. The ten or so people watching hooted and hollered at 'em between songs, and at one point, we were all invited on stage to "perform" with the band for the enjoyment of the soundman and bartender. [Arcwelder picture by Larrybobsf. Licensed via Creative Commons.]"Captain Allen" by Arcwelder
31. Man or Astroman?: At the D-Bar, in Princeton, 1999. The D-Bar is a mysterious hangout for Princeton grad students which one must produce P.U. identification in order to be admitted to. I had friends who were grad students, and so was able to attend as their guest. This was the same night that Hurricane Floyd tore through New Jersey, and I observed three very peculiar things over the course of the set. 1) A drunk man who appeared not to understand how to drink out of cans. He kept pouring beer on his shoulder—clearly not in the physics department. 2) A shockingly lengthy fistfight between two patrons. 3) A guy inexplicably wearing a full Santa Claus outfit. (It was September.) The band was good, even though the storm knocked the power out about 1/2 way through their set.
32. The Poster Children: Everyone at WPRB had a crush on Rose, the Poster Children's badass bass player. After the show, we watched in horror as one drunken DJ attempted to impress her with his reenactment of the exciting butterfly kick used in final scene of The Karate Kid. Rose was patient and visibly amused. The DJ in question has denied frequent re-tellings of this story for the last 15+ years.
34. Computer Cougar (by request): At a truck stop in rural Pennsylvania during a blizzard. Far and away, one of the oddest audiences I have ever been a part of, and not just because it included many proud-bellied truck drivers who stoically ate their chicken dinners amidst scruffy kids and their blaring guitars. Some guys who were WPRB fans had put the show together. I'd talked to them on the phone before, but did not realize they were twin brothers, which threw me for a loop when I met them in person at the show. Later in the evening, still not realizing they were two different guys, I asked one of them the dumbest question of my life: "Why do you keep changing your shirt?" That band Frodus also played, who were impossibly loud."190 BPM" by Computer Cougar
35. U.S. Maple: Crazy Girl Altercation #1. At the Khyber, 1998-ish. I drove into Philly direct from a week of lounging at the Jersey Shore. The Talker LP had just come out, and the band was being heralded as the next big thing for having been tapped to open for Pavement on their coinciding tour. As such, the club was packed with Pavement fans, anxious to have a look at their new darlings-in-waiting. My friend Greg and I pushed our way all the way up front and soaked up one of the more unsettling (and great) live presentations in memory. When they finished up, I turned around excitedly to talk to my friend Martha, and found that she, Greg, and maybe a dozen strangers were now the only people left in the room. Apparently, U.S. Maple was a bit too much for the indie rock scenesters to handle, which tells you most of what you need to know about the average Pavement fan. As we were preparing to leave the club, things went real bad as I made my way towards the men's room. Some random girl started yelling at me, calling me a faggot, and threatening to have her boyfriend beat me up. The boyfriend appeared, as per her prophecy, and I attempted to reason with him. Oddly, he instead joined in the name-calling and threats. Confused, I pressed into the bathroom and locked the door in order to consider my options. With judgment most assuredly clouded by whatever I was drinking that night, I emerged from the men's room, foolishly ready for "fight". In my absence, the crazy girl and her boyfriend had been removed from the premises by the bartender and good-hearted Philadelphians, they having apparently tolerated enough of this pair's idiocy. Nevertheless, I took care to hide behind Martha during the walk back to our vehicle. [Listen to U.S. Maple perform "Magic Job"]
36. Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments: Crazy Girl Altercation #2. This time, at Brownies. Some drunk woman came out of nowhere and tried to pry my camera out of my hands. She had
long nails that were digging into my skin, but I would not relent. It
was pretty apparent to others in the crowd that this woman was crazy,
but no one would help me until the band stopped mid song, and the
drummer leaped over his kit and into the crowd to find out what was
happening. (A small circle had formed around us by this
point.) It took some sincere explaining on my part to convince the TJSA
drummer that I wasn't, in fact, "attacking" the girl, which is what
he'd thought was going on. The band resumed their set, and she climed on stage and did that stupid and embarrassing "sexy dance" thing that drunk girls tend to do in such instances. I took a picture of her planting one on vocalist Ron House's cheek, but I have no idea what ever happened to it. Later in the evening, I was talking to some
friends at the bar as the crowd cleared out. The chat turned into a
series of post-show drinks, and as I watched riot gates being pulled down at the restaurants and bars across Avenue A, I suddenly realized that I'd stayed out much too late and had drank to excess. A random woman wandered in, convinced the bartender (who was trying to close up) to pour her one drink, and then turned her back to us. Her long
hair accidentally dipped down into one of the candles on
the bar, instantly igniting it. She jerked forward, and her hair
flipped up and extinguished the huge flame that had been climbing from
her neck to her scalp. She turned around in a cloud of putrid smoke,
uttered the phrase: "was that you?", and then ran out into the night in
a state of total shock and disorientation. The bartender, who was just as freaked out as we were, decided that *everyone*
needed another drink after that and poured a round on the house. [Listen to the Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments perform "My Mysterious Death"]
[Click here to listen with your preferred media player]
Behold! My last weekly show on WFMU (for now, anyway.) Yep, there's waaaaaay too much going on around here for me to continue getting up at the asscrack of dawn for 6 AM radio duties, so it's back to the bench I go. As usual, I'll still be around once in a while for fill-in duties, all of which will be announced right here on r:m:b. If you'd rather be notified via email, drop me one and I'll add you to the notification list. Thanks for a great summer back at the Magic Factory!
Half Japanese - "Heaven Sent" - Heaven Sent [Indeed, this song is one hour long!]
Kukumbas - "Respect" - Psych Funk 101: A Global Psychedelic Funk Curriculum *
Half Man Half Biscuit - "Architecture, Morality, Ted, & Alice" - The Trumpton Riots EP
Untold - "Discipline" - Mary Anne Hobbs' Wild Angels * [compilation]
Visitations & Big Blood - "[CD, Track 6]" - 'Lectric 'Lashes 7" + CD *
The Boys - "You Can't Hurt a Memory" - To Hell With the Boys
Sam Castendet et Son Orchestra Antillais - "La Rue Zambye" - Excavated Shellac, Vol. 3
Michael Yonkers with The Blind Shake - "Soft Zodiac" - Michael Yonkers with the Blind Shake *