Sunday, July 15, 2012

Some things never change.

- Prologue –

After reading about why my friend doesn’t eat meat, I started reflecting on why I do. Like her, I make no judgments about people of either persuasion.  And we both agree about health and nutrition, at least on an academic level.  So, how we developed different eating habits seems to have very little to do with pride, health, or nutrition, and very much to do with simple disgust or fondness of what we are eating, as the case may be.

- Lecture -

Is it possible I am predisposed to want certain foods – or is it just called being a hungry man?  Ever since I was a child, I have had an urge to eat real meat – much to my mother’s dismay.  Of course, from an early age my mother could not bring herself to eat real meat, or anything that had once had eyes – much to her mother’s dismay. But, there has probably never been a child that didn’t disturb its parents with its eating habits.  In my case, perhaps my ancestral Vikings left their mark.  Maybe I am genetically gifted with the ability to appreciate meat of all kinds, even sardines (though pickled herring is a stretch).  Genetics aside however, I’m sure the Vikings, despite their rather unsavory lifestyle, had some very savory cooking techniques. Roaming all over Sweden, Ireland, and who knows where else, they had free access to all sorts of things that would be excellent BBQ, roasted on a spit because that’s the coolest way.  I imagine this BBQ included lots of beef, pork, lamb, because why would they hunt when they could just pillage a farmer’s barn.

But enough with Vikings, hopefully the majority of my relatives were honest, hard-working citizens.  The point here is: people have always needed to eat, and for almost as long have been eating meat. Even here in Loma Linda, the blue zone, the nonhippie-vegetarian capital of the world, people spend large amounts of money buying “veggie foods”, or soy and gluten based meat alternatives.

Even though I would prefer to camp at the Ritz Carlton, I can be coaxed out camping in some wilderness if it involves cooking over a fire.  You see, I get excited when I see something like, “How to cook fish on a rock,” or “cooking chicken using a primitive method.”  A few years ago I went on a church campout with my campfire rotisserie.  A friend brought a leg of lamb, and we roasted over the main fire one night.  There is nothing quite so satisfying as roasting leg of lamb on an outdoor rotisserie.  Of course, the vegetarians were not excited – but when they realized it could roast 8 tofu-dogs at a time, they were ready to patent the rotisserie as a vegetarian’s campout essential.

I live about 45 minutes from what is known as “The happiest place on earth.”  But once a year, Disneyland loses that distinction to the little farm in the Pacific Northwest hosting the Burning Beast.  This year, the feast in a field happens today, July 15, 2012.  Some of Seattle’s best and brightest chefs head out to help everyone reconnect with their primal roots in cooking.  The fires, the wood smoke, the smell of BBQ filling the valley… Disneyland is probably deserted. 

- Epilogue -

For me, eating meat is not a matter of morals, spirituality, or principal, rather it’s a matter of enjoying the culinary experience – no matter how primitive.  At the same time, it is important to be a responsible meat eater.  It is getting harder to be a carnivore – especially when it comes to seafood.  State fishing and hunting packets now include warnings about the health hazards of consuming wild game, due to chemical contamination.  It makes the Tofurky a little more appealing, but I hope there will always be ways to go outside and roast some meat on a spit - or at least order from the grill at a Ritz Carlton.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Wristwear of the Month: Chainmail

As a designer, I spend time searching for new materials and keep tabs on the pulse of wristwear.  As a consequence, I come across some pretty cool stuff occasionally. At Riceling, my main focus is design for men – a challenging task. In this series, I highlight the best designs of others that I think match the goals set here at Riceling.

The inaugural entry is Anne Shirley’s chainmaille bracelet for men.

Most of us probably think of think of medieval knights jousting, castles, and motes when we hear the word chainmail.  Of course that’s expected; mail has probably been used most as armor.  But there are modern applications for the techniques of mailsmithing – one is the byzantine weave chain.  Most of us don’t fight using swards or dive with sharks, but that shouldn’t stop us from investing in some quality chainmail.

There are several specific, yet subtle, things that make this bracelet especially masculine: finish, material, manufacturing technique, and fastener.

Anne uses liver of sulfur to achieve a fabulous dark brown patina on the copper.  As it wears, in a few weeks it will look like something you’ve been wearing all your life.  That’s important, because most men like things that are casual, and things that look natural. The finish on the copper completes this look.

Copper itself is a working metal.  It’s relatively inexpensive, and it is hard to maintain in a lustrous finish.  The patina mentioned above would naturally occur given enough time.  All that means it is not associated with fancy jewelry. But that’s good in this case because this bracelet is meant to look worn, and it is meant to be worn… all the time. I mean why not? it’s indestructible.  Of course, if you must, you can order it in sterling silver (that might actually be pretty cool). But you better have money, and lots of it!

Anne has used a manufacturing technique that is timeless: forging.  Imagine a brawny cave man pounding on a red hot piece of metal.  Ok… that’s probably not what’s going on in Anne’s studio, but the technique is very similar.  She has hammered the metal by hand to give it that rustic look. This looks like you purchased it on the muddy streets of some prehistoric city. Yeah, that’s what a man would wear.

The hand-forged toggle/clasp is also timeless.  Before cool new technology like zippers and snaps, people used buttons.  This is essentially the same thing – ancient, simple, and awesome.

So, this piece of man jewelry is perfect because you can wear it on the trail, in the gym, or at a nice restaurant in your suit. It just shows there’s a bit of ancient adventurer in each of us.

If you feel extra tough she also makes a couple heavier versions.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

I got henna on my shirt! (In other news: a cure for cancer, and the world is coming to an end)

As some of you may know, and most of you probably don’t, henna is a plant-based method of applying temporary tattoos. It is a very strong dye, and is often associated with East Indian cultures. The problem is: it dyes your clothes almost as well as it does your skin. So when the wet paste is applied, you must be placed under general anesthetic to prevent yourself from accidentally rubbing your newly tatted appendage all over your fine clothes (…where I messed up). This may explain why traditional East Indian garb is so ornate –you’d never see a henna (or curry) stain in a million years on that pattern.

Now, if you’re like me, you have a beloved garment dying in your arms… ok bad pun. And in your mind you’re wringing my neck saying, “Knock it off with the prose, and tell me how to fix this wardrobe tragedy!” … ok fine - be like that. Here it is: according to the infinite wisdom of YouTube, a wash (not soak) with warm water and laundry soap (scrubbing the stain with a toothbrush) will remove henna. I can confirm this. Another source, from the great bank of truths that is the Internet, suggested a soak in milk as a last resort. But, I got the henna out with warm water and laundry soap, so I soaked my breakfast cereal in the milk instead…

There you have it: a simple and effective way to bring the sunshine back into your life, or at least your favorite shirt. And in my case, the shirt was a light blue and white stripe – if it works for that it’ll work for anything.

And now, I have urgent YouTube research to do on the behavior of unicorns – it might lead to a cure for cancer.