But this year it was in her blog that I found the recipe for "Green Soup with Ginger." The sassy bits of root make it fragrant, and it's loaded with healthy greens and hunks of sweet potatoes. Even though I try to experiment lots, it's rare that a dish enters "the repertoire." The Green Soup did. It makes me feel good.
2. "Let's Go Surfing" by The Drums...Ditto for feel good.
It actually came out in late 2008, but I learned about it this year thanks to Samir and Matt. It's a zany manifesto on synchronicity. An excerpt:
"The average raindrop exists for twenty-three minutes......But this was a raindrop destined to live fast and die young, the vanguard of a mighty storm, an oversized dollop pitched from the center of a churning free-for-all, spinning like a glass speedball toward a home run, streaking out of the sky like it was late for a waterfall, a shimmering, pulsing bead reflecting a world on the brink of chaos and beauty."
I have a mini minibar obsession. It's not that I enjoy taking things from them (too expensive), I just love looking at them. They're like carefully edited treasure chests. You never know what you're going to get and they usually express the style of a hotel.
At Ace there's nothing mini about them. They're full-sized old-fashioned refrigerators with everything from bottles of St. Germain to potato chips from far-flung lands.
But I loved the Ace Hotel for way more than the minibar.
Such as its little slogans...
And its restaurant, the Breslin Bar and Dining Room (from chef April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig), where I sank my incisors into a juicy lamb burger topped with a thin slice of feta and spread with cumin mayonnaise.
5. This band.
The guys from Parachute Musical let me climb onto their green van and travel with them for 1,200 miles while writing about their every move. I laughed more that week than I might have all year. I sort of turned into a dude temporarily. But most importantly they let me ask them anything and never held back the truth. For a journalist that's heaven. Oh and they're wicked talented.
I spent time learning about a few of them this year and fell in love with the people from Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms just outside Nashville. A doctor couple, who live on the main property, started the farm to help save their community from development. They built fences while tearing others down and pretty much handed over their land to a 23-year-old farmer. On Tuesday nights they also hand over the kitchen to the farm's workers and volunteers for a group meal and celebration of harvest.
I can't stop talking about them. The people with the SFA help preserve Southern culture and discuss food in intelligent, alternative ways. They also throw a great party.
At the symposium in Oxford this year, we heard a lecture on hip hop and chicken. We watched a New Orleans food critic come to tears over his city and Springsteen, and we listened as a Columbia University professor peppered his lecture with snippets of Billie Holiday and James Brown's Keep it Funky. Later, we boarded a bus bound for a catfish fry while passing around a bottle of Evan Williams. H1N1? Pshhh.
Perhaps I'm biased, but there's a certain eccentricity among some Southern people that I adore. It's as if the humidity seeps into our bones and made us a little crazy. Good-crazy, that is. The people with the SFA seem to embrace that, too.
My grandfather called her Sunshine. And when my grandmother wanted a simple meal, she called it a nasty bite. Sometimes that meant a bowl of homemade soup -- other times just a Little Debbie snack cake.
But more than food, it was often a memory or a moment that went beyond sustaining life to making it.
Those are the moments I seek. So like Sunshine, I'm just looking for a nasty bite too.