Episode 9 is up! Available at Edacious – Food Talk for Gluttons, on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and your regular podcast outlets. Meet Hunter Smith of Champion Brewery. Hunter is a brewmaster extraordinaire dedicated to experimenting and creating new flavors of beer and providing a comfortable space with which to enjoy them. He collaborates often with local chefs and his favorite musicians to bring you the most inventive, tasty brews around. I found his passion infectious. Champion Brewery is a meeting place with huge amounts of space inside and out to hang out, talk, and of course, sip your favorites including his Missile IPA, Megalodon, Maibock, Stickin’ in my Rye IPA, and my personal favorite the Black Me Stout. For years, I’ve wished for a Downtown Mall meeting place slash beer garden. Champion delivers. In this interview we talk about all the great food trucks that converge here (a different one every night!) and of course the best pairings. How is starting a brewery like buying a house? Where did he take food writer Josh Ozersky for a burger when he was in town (before his untimely passing last month). Can I ever learn to like sour beer? What is the pig for Hunter’s yearly Champion barbecue raised on? This and other important questions answered in Episode 9! I found Hunter to be engaging, thoughtful and you can hear his enthusiasm and fervor for his craft. I hope you enjoy it. Cheers!
“We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.”
Mad Men has ended. I find myself wishing for 2007, when I was still living in Pittsburgh and watching the show’s premiere. Wishing for new eyes, eyes that hadn’t seen Don’s grimace, Peggy’s eagerness, Roger’s ease and swagger, and Joan’s mask of confidence that says she always knows more than you. I want that first time high. Never again will I be able to watch without analysis, without looking for clues, symbolism, themes, and meaning. Of which there are many.
The quote is from Season 4’s The Summer Man, and is the heart and soul. Matthew Weiner has created a television monument replete with memory paintings which drive the point home over and over again. We’re always looking to the future, hoping for what will be. We’re always looking backward, wishing we had the things we misplaced. Time is ephemeral. We only have now, so we are lost. We must endure that gap.
It’s a show that requires multiple viewings. It can be discussed, argued over, and ruminated on like great literature. It moves slowly, ponderously, with unexpected moments of “BANG!” and “BOOM!” A lot like life. People complain about its tedium, but the show replicates our quiet lives of desperation. We plod on and then “BAM!” something happens like an unexpected accident, a firing, a death, a promotion. It shakes us to our core for just a moment before we catch our breath and settle back into the monotony of the day to day.
And all the while as we plod and plot we wish for what we had. Nostalgia is a powerful theme, one that lives alongside others like identity, time, honor, pride, work, family, feminism, race and why are we here? Do people really change or just change for a while before settling back into their inherent natures? How do you face radical upheaval within the decade you exist? So many layers.
Nostalgia drew me in initially because I was born in the 60’s, and the women of the show look and sound like the most important women in my life. I’m triggered by every scene whether its Trudy’s hair in 1970 which looks exactly like my Aunt’s, or Megan’s Zou Bisou dress which was something Momma wore. This isn’t just a period piece. It’s a time capsule. For just a moment every week I can have what I had. I can see Momma as she looked when she was young. Before she was a mother. Before children narrowed her world. That’s powerful stuff. I’ll miss it.
So many of the show’s women-centric moments snag something inside me and give it a good yank. Betty, perfectly coiffed and attired at 7am pries open a can of frozen orange juice concentrate then dumps the slime into a pitcher with a sick plopping sound. As a girl, that was my job. I almost blow a memory gasket. I’d forgotten. Nostalgia, what Milan Kundera defines as, “…the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return,” has always been my albatross. I remember everything. I yearn over everything. And Matthew Weiner yearns even more than me.
Peggy Olsen flings out her IBM Selectric cover like it’s a blanket, using it to secure her typewriter against that evening’s dust. A memory file drawer is thrust open and I’m a secretary again, working for a small group of lawyers, typing their letters, their invoices, their envelopes. I wear a pink angora sweater dress to my interview. Months later my boss confesses it got me the job. It curves in all the right places. Suddenly I’m Joan.
For a short while at 19 I am Joan, fending off advances, proposals that aren’t marriage, reveling in that kind of attention because I’ve never gotten any before. I should be aghast, but instead I blush. I’m flattered. I’ve never been viewed as a sexpot. To my utter astonishment, I love it. It feels powerful. Every woman should work her inner Joan sometimes.
For women of that generation, clothes are powerful. When you spend an hour securing your underthings you can’t help but walk a certain way. In one of my favorite scenes several neighborhood women are sitting around, looking 1960’s fabulous, smoking and drinking cocktails in the middle of the afternoon. Quietly projecting that kind of unadvertised, secretive power only kid gloves, kitten heels, red lips, leopard print hats, and ornate costume jewelry impart. These women sure as hell project power through their clothes.
Amidst all of this Sally and Bobby Draper come rushing in, wearing dry cleaning bags and screaming, “Look Mommy! I’m a spaceman!” Betty tersely replies, “If my clothes are lying in a big wrinkle in the bottom of my closet you’re going to be in BIG trouble.” Drag on the cigarette. Sip of the cocktail. After a withering look to the kids, another look to the ladies that says, “God! These kids today.” I howled with laughter because this snapshot could’ve been pulled directly from my family album. Minus the dry cleaner bags though. Momma was the original helicopter parent when it came to possibly suffocating.
Clothes are a major nostalgia trigger. My mother and grandmothers must’ve had HUNDREDS of housecoats. And all those frilly nylon nightgowns Trudy is bouncing around the house in? Looking for all the world like a Stepford wife? Spitting image of Momma. I used to dig through her dresser to examine those flouncy oh-so-flammable gowns, fingering the material, wondering if I’d ever be able to fill one out. They always seemed more like costumes than clothes. Like flimsy little Kleenex. Or Tinkerbell’s wings. Momma had hundreds. Because she loved them, but also because Nana worked in the lingerie department at Newberry’s. Momma could count on one every Christmas and birthday. I’ve so many memories of Momma lying in bed in one of those things, sometimes in the middle of the afternoon, talking about how she didn’t feel well. Or she’s tired. She doesn’t have time to talk to me. That’s one good hard hurtful memory yank at the heart. It’s too accurate to be comfortable. It makes my stomach hurt, but in a really good way. Because I’m a nostalgia masochist.
Momma was Betty in that everything had to be “just so” for company, but once the curtains were closed it was wine, housecoats, and flouncy gowns. Her dinner parties were true practices in early 1960’s Camelot-meets-Jacqueline-Kennedy protocol. As befitting a woman who majored in Home Economics at a woman’s college. The buffet was her work of art – a special serving plate for every offering, real cloth napkins. We even had a multi-tiered “tree” for cookies. And Sinatra on vinyl. Ol’ Blue Eyes is back? He never left.
I’m obsessed with Mad Men Women because I know them. I lived with them. I was them. I am them. Momma looked like Megan, but acted like Betty. Nana looked like Peggy, but acted like Megan. I was Sally, wondering why all the adults were so mean and stupid and crazy. Constantly wondering if I’d ever be free to do what I want, when I want. Hating my mother. I’m still Sally at my core, watching the world and wondering what the fuck is going on.
In my 20’s I was Peggy, working three jobs just to make ends meet, wondering if any of my male superiors respected the effort or even noticed, hoping I’d make it to my next paycheck. Now I’m Betty. And I’m Joan. I find myself at a crossroads. Wondering where I fit in, worrying about my fading youth. Making sure my hair and makeup are just so before I leave the house. Trying to figure out my place in the world. Realizing it’s finally my time to be the most essential part of myself. To do something memorable. Hoping I don’t turn around and find a major traumatic life event staring me in the face the way Betty did. The way Momma did. So many women of that generation ended up this way, living and caring for others, smoking and drinking and eating away their troubles, frustrated by their limited options. Realizing the gilded cage isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. When they find the courage to live authentically, here comes cancer. Or something else. Mad Men reminds me to get off my ass and not wait around. Because you never know.
I’m Peggy too. Because I want it all. The work and the love. I want the myth and I’ll fight like hell to get it with a cigarette dangling from my lips and a naughty print under my arm. I’ll continue to aim for the unattainable ideal. Because I am all these women. Matthew Weiner has created such in-depth archetypes I can recognize myself in all of them. How ironic it took a man to remind me I’m not alone.
Yes, it’s just a TV show. But it’s provided me with a story to fall into when I need to fill the gap. A place to escape when I can’t stop thinking about the shit I have to do. It’s my version of Don and Peggy going to the movies to clear out the cobwebs. The show reminds me I’m not alone in my hopelessness, futility, desperation, and longing. We all experience this. It’s our lives.
Like a beloved photograph album Mad Men reminds me of forgotten moments. It’s a Kodak carousel slideshow I’ll watch again and again whenever I need to escape the ponderous NOW. Whenever I find that demon Nostalgia tapping me on the shoulder, crooking its finger, luring me away. Recollections are ephemeral and inaccurate, but Mad Men will stand as record of where we’ve been. And help us reflect on where we’re headed. I thank him for that.
New episode up now! Available at Edacious – Food Talk for Gluttons, on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and your regular podcast outlets. Food Writer C. Simon Davidson’s passion for food began young, ordering an extra appetizer at dinner when the rest of the family was ordering dessert. His website, The Charlottesville 29, is a hall of fame of sorts for restaurants in our area. Named after the road slicing through our community, it names the top 29 restaurants in our area – an impossible task given the circumstances, and one Simon is happy to tackle. In this discussion we talk about the challenges and rewards of being a food writer in Charlottesville, and the changes and growing pains the food writing industry is encountering because of the explosion of interest in recent years.
An engaging discussion for anyone who loves restaurants! What do famous restaurant reviewers like Tom Sietsema do to ensure chefs don’t recognize them? How does Simon’s “Five Finds on Friday” column promote community and conversations around food in Charlottesville? How did a lawyer find a passion for food and turn it into a rewarding side career as a food writer? What’s the reasoning behind Simon’s belief that “…a rising tide lifts all boats?” Is a favorite restaurant in town about to close? And may have closed by the time this airs? Listen now to find out!
Food Writing Discussed During the Episode:
A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway eats his way through Paris. A food writing classic.
Chicken of the Trees by Mike Sula – Award-winning piece about why eating the urban squirrel makes perfect sense.
Consider the Food Writer by Josh Ozersky – Was MFK Fischer a hack? Does food writing need to undergo a major shift? You decide.
Food for the Thoughtless – one of my favorite food writers, Michael Procopio
How Food Journalism Got as Stale as Day-Old Bread – Chef Marc Vetri of Philadelphia’s Vetri, Osteria, and numerous other restaurants laments the state of food writing.
On Food Writing – A Response to Marc Vetri by C. Simon Davidson – Charlottesville food writer and star of Episode 7 responds, wondering if the state of food writing is as bad as all that. Great read!
Plated Stories – Jamie Schler and Ilva Beretta create gorgeous words and photographs that revolve around a single theme.
Remembrance of Things Lost – Is recording every minute of our lives on a device affecting the way we remember things? Walter Kirn thinks so. Thought-provoking and timely.
The Soul of a Chef – The one that started it all for me. I read this book and thought, “I could do that.” Michael Ruhlman presents three stories, about Chef Thomas Keller, Chef Michael Symon, and his own journey through cooking school. A fascinating look behind the scenes. Ruhlman is the most talented food writer working today.
The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food by Michael Moss – Why Cheetos rock. Hard.
Up at the Old Hotel – If there’s one writer in this world I dream of being, it’s Joseph Mitchell. His collection of essays from his 50+ years at The New Yorker is stunning. And his food pieces bring to life a time long past. They never fail to amaze me. Read them.