In my childhood home, there were always three sodas: caffeine-free Coke, root beer, and ginger ale (preferable Canada Dry). My Papa and my brother were the real soda drinkers, but given those options, I usually gravitated toward the ginger ale. As I got older, I learned that most canned ginger ale is a lot tamer than many bottled varieties, and my allegiance lay with Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew. I like the burn, friends. I like a ginger ale that doesn’t just politely ring your doorbell but instead bashes in your front door, shakes the rain off its coat, and leaves muddy footprints in the entryway. That’s a soda I know I can bro down with—not just a delicately flavored vehicle for sugar and empty calories, but a soda that feels like a full-bodied treat, loaded with nuance and spice.
Two years ago today, Heather and Mike became Heather+Mike! Here’s to many wonderful moments together and many more anniversaries to come!
Last year, I asked my food-loving friend Lauren if she’d like to undertake a culinary project with me. When I was small, my family made big-batch gifts all the time—jars and jars of homemade pickles or jam, preserved bounty from our garden, etc.—and often my Papa and Dede make ambitious trios for Christmas presents. One year: chili oil, Worcestershire sauce, raspberry vinegar. Another year: chili powder (Papa smoked the chiles), Herbes de Provence (Dede picked and dried the lavender), curry powder (Papa toasted and ground all the spices). Clearly, this is in my blood, but I live in New York City. Storage space is tight and I live far from at least half the intended recipients. A food gift seemed unmanageable. READ MORE
Last year, my Papa sent me a surprise package of goods, unbeknownst to me. He’s the kind of guy who does that, you know? I opened a nondescript box and out tumbled these curious green objects. What on earth were they? I did some googling and figured out he’d sent me finger limes, a microcitrus from Australia (not a true lime at all, actually). This wild fruit has only been cultivated commercially in the last couple decades and only within the last few years have they really come to the U.S. In the last couple years, a farm in California has been growing and selling them from trees they imported. And friends? They are delicious! They taste a bit like a lemon-lime combo with a slightly floral note. And they’re fun as hell.
I was a camp counselor for many years at an amazing summer camp in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. Camp Huston works with an international company that matches young people abroad with camps in the States that want foreign staff members. Huston ends up with a number of amazing exchange counselors each summer (though exchange is a misnomer, as few Americans go abroad for similar reasons, since “summer camp” is an almost uniquely American conceit). The kids love it, the staff love it, and I’ve personally ended up with some amazing friendships as a result (shoutout to my best Dutch pal, Ivo).
One year, we had a lovely young man from Ukraine named Alex. Alex mostly wore too-short nylon running shorts with tank tops and had a real enthusiasm for American culture. We worked together one session and, on a rainy campout, set about making a vegetable stew for supper. I asked one camper to dice the potatoes and toss them in the aluminum cooking pot; Alex fairly flew off his tree-stump stool. “You must peel them first!” he insisted. I shook my head. “No, don’t peel them. We want the peel! The peel is where the nutrients are!” Alex shook his head gravely. “No, the peel is where the radiation is.” Alex had grown up near Chernobyl, I discovered, and his relationship with food from the ground was very, very different from mine. This is my best example of the way “edible” means different things to different people. My uncle eats apple cores. As kids, my brother and I met someone who ate the frilly green tops of strawberries so we took up the practice in what I can only assume was a state of half bravado and half contrariness. Someone once told me that kiwi peel is edible so I learned to rub the fuzz off and eat the whole fruit at once, out of hand. The prospect of all three of these things has horrified countless people in my life.
I‘m not sure I remember the last time my hair was completely and totally lacking in artificial color. Bless my parents’ hearts, their general attitude was that I could do whatever I wanted with my appearance as long as it wasn’t permanently physically altering (crazy “permanent” hair color that would eventually grow out = fine, stupid fingernail polish = fine, glitter-ringed eyes = fine, facial piercings or tattoos = not okay). In junior high, I started adding chunky blonde streaks into my brunette hair, which I sometimes colored with food coloring for a temporary change-up. At my high-school graduation, I began my love affair with bright colors, showing up for commencement with fire-engine-red streaks instead of my typical ’do. Then I went purple. Then I went black with thin blue streaks, which I called “Superman Hair.” There was an enormously ill-fated attempt to go calico and also try a pixie cut—I wound up looking like a Presidential wife. I had jet-black hair for a while, and I’ve had some pink more often than anything else. My attitude has always been that hair is an accessory and it grows back, so I should have fun and not be scared to try new things. In the time that Mike and I have been together, I’ve worn at least eight different cuts/styles, and a few different colors.
Despite all this experimentation, there’s always been a fly in the ointment. I absolutely love playing around with my hair color, but I never, ever want to look like a person who is intentionally covering up her grey hair. My stylists roll their eyes when I say it, but if there were a way to color just my brown hairs but leave the grey ones alone, I’d do it in a heartbeat, damn the cost. I love my grey hair. I always have. And when I say “always,” I mean that I began going grey at age 16. Yes, you read that right: sixteen. I distinctly remember my old pal Nico standing above me at our lunch table, gleefully counting out the grey hairs he saw along my part. I always thought they made me look distinguished, and I wore my sporadic grey hairs as badges of an old soul.
Sometimes, Heather leaves the apartment for a while during mealtime and I am left to my own devices. Now, I can cook—my mama raised me right—and I enjoy it, but sometimes there are more important things to do like play video games or watch The Dark Knight for the second dozenth time. In times like these, I prefer to prepare a quick and simple meal for myself that is still reasonably delicious and healthy. This usually includes a lean protein like grilled chicken breast or salmon, a simple carb like rice or tater tots, and a green vegetable. Bucking the cliché, broccoli has always been one of my favorites. I used to prefer it simply steamed, served with a little bit of salt and pepper, but recently I have become obsessed with roasting it. Here’s what I do, in five ridiculously simple steps:
You may have noticed that a little web ad now appears in our sidebar. This is a widget from the site Panthera.org, whose mission is “to ensure the future of wild cats through scientific leadership and global conservation action.” Heather and I care a lot about animals—endangered or otherwise—and big cats are a particular passion of mine, so we felt that giving a little web real estate to a good cause was appropriate. Please take a few minutes to read about Panthera’s work and, if you can, get involved in some way. If you can’t dedicate your time or money, at least spread the word. The big cats of the world will thank you (or at least they would if they weren’t so busy being awesome).
We now return you to our regularly scheduled deliciousness.
Yeah, I know Cinco de Mayo was on Saturday, but really, salsa didn’t become America’s favorite condiment based on one barely-understood holiday’s consumption alone. (According to Jerry Seinfeld, it’s America’s favorite condiment because people like to say “SAAAALSAAA.”) The thing about salsa is that it is, hands down, one of the easiest things to make. I’m not kidding you, screwing up salsa is very, very hard to do. I almost never make it the same way twice, because I’m always playing around with what I have on hand, and salsa really just means “sauce,” so you can have fruity salsas and chunky salsas and very smooth salsas and salsas with cheese in them and oh gosh, some folks even say guacamole is a kind of salsa. My mind is bended! What I’m saying is, your salsa can go in a lot of different directions, and it’s easy to fix mistakes, particularly in a fresh salsa. READ MORE
Well, we finally did it. For more than a year, I have been promising to set up a “family” blog where Heather and I could write about Youngcentric things like cooking, craft projects, our various adventures and, of course, our cats. Anyone else would simply have installed WordPress, selected a stately prebuilt theme, and called it a day. However “anyone else” is not a prideful and persnickety graphic designer. So, for about a year, I tinkered and procrastinated, chasing other interests—video games, comics, freelance projects, my own website—like a puppy chasing butterflies through a meadow. When Heather was forced to publish an amazing how-to about menu planning to her old LiveJournal page a couple months ago, I decided it was finally time to knuckle down and get to work. Welcome to the fruits of our planning, design, and passive-aggressive fights with WordPress!
Heather+Mike is “the official Young family blog.” We’ll write about whatever tickles our fancy, but it will most likely most often take the form of a food and crafting blog with random asides. (Sharing about cooking and crafting might be the only thing Heather loves more than actually cooking and crafting.) There will almost certainly also be a significant number of cat pictures and videos. Because that’s how we roll.
Keep checking back and enjoy!