Book Review: A Square Meal

square-meal A Square Meal by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe looks at an especially interesting moment in American culinary history — the Great Depression. At a time when capitalism failed the country so spectacularly — when unemployment was high, poverty deep and hope on the run, we still had to eat. And it was not easy for many. Businesses were closing or contracting so laborers were out of jobs and agricultural prices were low so farmers were broke, and there was no relief in sight for either group. Everyone was forced to do more with less, especially those — and there were many — close or already below the poverty line, who had to stretch a handful of ingredients in depleted pantries to feed entire families.

The authors shine a light on that struggle to survive and procure food balanced against efforts to make nutritious satisfying and, occasionally, delicious meals. Along the way, they look at the regional specialties, national culinary trends, scientific thinking, state, federal and local relief efforts and some pretty interesting recipes (like creamed lima beans, deviled eggs in tomato sauce, stuffed onions, Milkorno [an unholy nutritional supplement of dehydrated corn and dried milk] chop suey or prune pudding). Read the rest of this entry »

The Cowboy and the Vampire: What every bunker library needs

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Joining us today from the pages of The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection is Lenny, a survivalist and improvised weapons expert with some peculiar political views. He’s the long-time friend of Tucker and has, by necessity, become an expert in making weapons capable of dispatching the undead.

Hello Lenny, welcome. What did you bring with you today? This? It’s a reverse surveillance tracker I made out of an old cassette recorder, a GPS unit and an electric toothbrush. I want to be able to monitor whoever it is monitoring this conversation to find out where they are broadcasting from.

Lenny, is fair to say you are a conspiracy theorist? Not really, no. “Theorist” implies that it’s hypothetical. There’s nothing in doubt here. I prefer to think of myself as a conspiracy realist.

Can you describe a few of the plots you think are real? You’d like that, wouldn’t you?

Pardon me? I mean, you’re part of the mainstream media. You’re in on it. You have your role to play, keeping us distracted and uninformed, and you’re doing a great job by the way, but I know you’re in on it. You’re all in on it.

What is “it,” exactly? Only the single largest transfer of wealth since the 19th century rise of the robber barons.

And the wealth is being transferred to … ? You are really going to make me say it, aren’t you? Off planet.

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Book Review: Legends of Arthur

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Why do we still find so meaningful and moving these tall tales of knights and ladies, of kings and magicians from the almost-forgotten mists of time?

This is a solid collection of multiple historical manuscripts offering a look at the Arthurian legends — his rise and fall and the epic adventures, and doomed romances, of his Knights. The stories include the origins of Arthur, his success as a military strategist and his ultimate downfall at the hands of Mordred (and wounded return to mythical Avalon); the romance (and betrayal) of Lancelot and Guinevere; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, along with another elaborate Gawain adventure featuring a flying chessboard, a talking fox and a sword that kills those who lack perfect virtue; and, the doomed romance of Tristan and Iseult.

So many of the elements from these stories have lodged — like a poisoned shard from a shattered sword — in our collective psyches that reading them feels like a constant rediscovery of precious things once thought lost forever: the sword in the stone, mysterious Merlin, the sorrowful Lady of the Lake. So why do we still find so meaningful and moving these tall tales of knights and ladies, of kings and magicians from the almost-forgotten mists of time? Read the rest of this entry »

Cold, cold (undead) heart: A classic country play list for the collection

JonesIt’s just past midnight in the middle of nowhere. A battered old blue pickup truck is parked haphazardly, abandoned, by the side of a deserted highway. The engine is running and the driver’s door is thrown open. The headlights are on but fading fast, barely able to light up the barbed wire fence and the sagebrush beyond. Just beyond that, where the night seems even darker, something moves in the shadows. Inside the empty truck, the radio is blaring. The song, crackling with static: Hank Williams, “Your Cheating Heart.”

The soundtrack to true terror is classic country. Only classic country from the 1950s and 1960s has the raw, heartbroken emotion of bone-deep despair that makes the blood run cold. The people of LonePine, Wyoming, like in most small towns in the slowly dying American West, know about heartbreak and economic despair. And ever since the undead showed up, they know about terror too. That’s probably why every pickup truck radio, every jukebox in every saloon, and every portable radio is belting out classic country while the rest of the world has moved on. Read the rest of this entry »