Every Friday, in this space, I’m going to be recapping the past week’s discoveries as a sort of incentive to myself, as well as a sort of menu for you guys. This’ll provide an easy navigation tool to what’s happened this past week, as well as providing me a opportunity to provide a little commentary in retrospect.
This week has largely been occupied with two overriding missions which have kept me from a whole lot of pop culture soul-searching. One mission was the post-college job search. Check! Now have one of those, and I am tickled, truly tickled, at the prospect. The other mission was organizing myself and doing a little bit of research so I could give this blog more structure. Check! Expect more ongoing features as I put some of my plans into effect here. One has been outlined already:
– Inspired by Entertainment Weekly’s Best 25 Animated Series list, I’ve set out to familiarize myself with every show on the list, as well as whatever other shows strike my fancy. I’ll look into everything from the completely unfamiliar (Liquid Television) to the undeniably hip (Archer) to the appealingly nostalgic (Scooby Doo) as I try to sort through what I like about the list and what I don’t. Along those lines, I also had a peremptory debate about which show should ultimately finish atop the rankings, splitting the decision between The Simpsons (what made you feel better than you thought you could) and South Park (what makes you feel good now).
One of the many things I’ve got planned as I try to up the quality of this blog. Another, inspired by my getting lost in the lush, humid marshes of Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides, has taken up a lot of my time, as I’ve researched a course of action for a sort of pop culture road trip (which, to save money, will probably have to take place within the confines of my apartment unless anyone is willing to give me money… Ahem… Bueller?) through the American South — through its great literature, its representation in cinema and on television, its diverse music, its comedy, and well, whatever else I can get my hands on. Like any road trip, it will be meticulously planned out, and then completely spontaneous when all that planning falls to pieces. As I meander my way from the coastal marshes of the Carolinas to the French Quarter, and from Porgy and Bess to Treme, I hope to find out a little something about the South, a place considered both Edenic and repulsive by the American public at large. It is a place seen as both mythical and kind, as well as dark, gothic and backwards. I am so excited to jump in.
In the meantime, I’m still making those little delightful (or horrifying) discoveries which characterize the day-to-day interaction we all share with the stuff that comes on the tube or fills up the megaplex:
– I shared my thoughts on Thor after my second viewing. I also shared my excitement at having eloquently and passionately argued these thoughts outside the movie theater after my friends and I came to a head over our opinions on the direction of the overall Marvel movie universe. It’s as nerdy as it sounds. Probably even nerdier. And all the more fun for that.
– I was scared out of my mind by the sheer audacity and utter seriousness of Justin Bieber’s ad campaign for his new perfume for women, “Someday.” It aired during Glee, and totally stole all the thunder from an hour of joyful show choir pizzaz by being so thoroughly absurd and mildly traumatizing. I mean… at least it got my attention, so I guess that’s working for the ad, right?
– After taking a day to recover from the shock of Bieber flying through the air with a girl who looked ten years his senior on his back, I got around to forming my opinion on Glee. The show had me worried, especially after a mashup of really bad songs about New York that, by putting the songs together, made both songs even worse. I thought I was watching the death spasms of a show I had once adored, but the show managed to pull it all together pretty quickly, hit a great emotional tone as it went off the air, and is hopefully taking to bed-rest for the summer as it recovers from a shaky sophomore season that saw it suffer a well-deserved critical backlash.
– I listened to Lil’ Wayne’s new single, a tender love song backed by a lush arrangement of acoustic guitars. Yes. Lil Wayne. Acoustic guitars. Love song. I was as surprised as you are right now.
This Week’s Bonus Discovery:
Blueberries. This week I discovered blueberries. Lots of them. I just wanted to say that before this week passes into the annals of memory. This week has been largely defined, strangely enough, by thousands of little blueberries.
I think people always seem to forget that food is probably our greatest from of shared culture. Quick: I say the South. What comes to mind? Biscuits and sweet tea, or Faulkner and Wolfe? Ya, I thought so. Teaching people how to cook like famous cooks is a huge industry. Chefs are celebrities. We go out to share food at these institutions of fine dining like we share movies. Food is the centerpiece for a night out. We demand quality from it, rank it and review it, because we use food as the centerpiece for so much of our cultural existence: for romance and reclaiming childhood, for celebration and sadness, for pleasure and for art. I won’t believe it any other way. Food is our most popular popular culture.
Through the sheer will of one girl who loves blueberries and who wanted to share them with her friends, this week became a week where I learned the wonders of blueberries and where blueberries taught me the wonders of sharing food with friends. You see, Amber’s family owns a blueberry farm. It is this vast, open space which, so close to the messy, college apartment I call home, encompasses you in all its sun-drenched beauty. Rows upon rows of low-lying, humid greens covered in these endless colonies of adorable little blueberries fighting for their place in the sun. They just sit their in these huge bunches, twenty or thirty or forty on a plant the size of my arm, one of thousands of these little plants, and as you pass, the blueberries ask you, “Please, throw as many of us in your bucket as you can! If you want, because there are so many of us, you could actually eat some of us right now!”And so, for a day, we obeyed their orders. And for a day, it was all ours.
I don’t quite understand the science of it, but apparently there is a stretch where Florida blueberries reign supreme. This farm serves that purpose, profiting off that window when the Florida blueberry is king. Then, for some reason, Georgia takes over, and this giant blueberry farm becomes an idyllic, unfathomably large family garden – the kind of lush, green patch of Earth perfect for hosting an epic beggining-of-summer barbecue you can invite everyone you know to partake in. That is exactly what Amber’s family did. So we ate. Watermelon, chicken, steak, hot dogs, chips, blueberries, blueberries, blueberries, blueberries, and blueberries. We picked blueberries for hours until the setting sun forced the last of our intrepid blueberry warriors from the darkening fields. We transferred our haul from plastic buckets to Ziploc bags. A lot of bags! And, as our group went its separate ways, we populated various enclaves of this college town with more juicy, dark, berries then they had ever seen before. We stuffed refrigerators and freezers to the point where they couldn’t close any more.
To combat this overabundance of berries, when our friends would accept them as gifts no longer, we had an “Iron Chef: Blueberry” cook-off. Appropriating the format of a popular show we all loved, we put our fresh blueberries to the test. I’ve never really liked blueberries before. Like cherries, by themselves, to me, they have always seemed frivolously sweet and somewhat awkward. I’ve really only liked both these fruits in pies, where they are caked effectively in a syrup which transforms their earthy bitterness into a sugar-rush my brain can process. Considering my apprehension toward the berry, I didn’t expect to like a meal comprised of six courses of blueberry-inspired dishes.
I didn’t like the meal. I loved it! And, more shocking, we made it ourselves. From conception (there are surprisingly few non-pie blueberry recipes out there) to table-setting, it was ours – it was the work of a bunch of young adults in the process of forsaking the term teenager and all the ideas which come along with it, discovering the joy of cooking with each other and for each other, a signifier of friendship which seems to pull people together like nothing else can. We bubbled over with pride when our blueberry meal was done. We used hundreds of blueberries we picked ourselves to craft a meal that had us sighing in delight. We took pictures. That’s how overjoyed we were.
A quick overview of the menu (I’m about to butcher some of these descriptions, but as I am corrected by my more knowledgeable friends, I will correct my errors):
– A tomato and mozzarella salad covered in a blueberry balsamic glaze. So simple. So good.
– Spring rolls, with a peanut-jalapeno sauce which became infused with blueberries. This probably shouldn’t have worked. It did. It was the best thing out there. The sauce tasted like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with an Asian twist. On the spring rolls, it was divine. Who am I kidding? On a spoon, it was divine!
– Blueberry soup. I made this one. Blueberries, peppercorns, and red wine, served cold, with heavy cream. I thought I had made to little, but this is one of those rich, savory soups that you only need a few spoonfuls of to truly appreciate.
– Chips and blueberry salsa. Spicy, sweet, yum.
– Tempura-fried blueberries over noodles. When I put the peanut sauce on this concoction, my mouth did somersaults.
– Salmon, covered in a blueberry-vinegar sauce. This sauce was very different from the blueberry glaze that covered the salad, but it suited the salmon perfectly.
– For desert, a zesty lemon-blueberry polenta cake. This was the opposite of a blueberry pie, really taking advantage of the natural sweetness of a blueberry in a thick, zesty lemon cake. I couldn’t stop eating this.
– We also made cocktails. Actually I made them, which was a huge source of joy for my friends. I muddled blueberries, agave nectar, and lemon juice and then mixed that concoction with gin and pomegranate martini mix in a cocktail mixer. Poured them in martini glasses with crushed ice. Garnished with blueberries and lime wedges. So, so good. And that means a lot coming from me, trust me.
It was the perfect night. Truly. (The fact that the Heat finished off the Bulls that evening did not harm the joyous atmosphere one bit for me!) I love discovering a new food just as much as I love discovering a new movie, but really this correlation should not be that shocking. We eat food for how it makes us feel and how it shapes our experiences just as much as we do for sustenance. It’s why we share it with others, why we collect its triumphs in books, and why we lift those who make art with food to celebrity status. For that reason, don’t be surprised if food shows up on this blog pretty regularly. I love discovering good food just as much as anyone else, and I sure as heck want to share when it makes an impression on me. This week, an impression was made, and you want to know something funny. We didn’t even use half the blueberries! Anyone want blueberries? I’m in a sharing mood.