15 years

ago yesterday I got an email from some random Indian kid. And now all this time later, here we are. Chicago. More on that after I calm down.

You can make French bread at home!

No you can’t. I’ve been trying to do this at home for years. And I’ve made some good bread but I have never made real French bread. Like-it-tastes-in-France French bread.

Recently Claire Saffitz, a YouTube chef, formerly of Bon Appetit (until that all exploded and went to shit) had a New York Times recipe and attendant Youtube video for make-French-bread-at-home. (the recipe is here and the video is here) And really when she cut hers open I thought OK that looks like something I’d get in Paris. So, yup, I fell for it. When I announced my intention to make the bread—three loaves for 3 different events—I was shrilly admonished by a certain know-it-all husband with whom I am acquainted, “Follow the recipe!!”

Well, duh. Of course. The problem comes in when you actually try to do that. The recipe is precise about ingredients but vague and confusing about procedures and timing. And in French-bread-making timing seems to be everything. I started with a poolish (look it up). Then made a shaggy dough that eventually seemed just about perfect. The recipe was enough for 3 loaves and I am confused by this. As far as I know you have to pretty much eat them the same day for maximum deliciousness. Why make 3? Anyway, I was following the recipe!! and I made three. Leaving the dough in the refrigerator and baking each loaf on day of consumption.

The third day I let the dough rise twice as long as the recipe said and baked it 10 minutes longer. It was the best of the batch. Still. It was not what I was hoping for. I may have to go to Paris for that.

Be prepared

I’m thinking that’s the Boy Scout’s motto. Or possibly the State of Wisconsin’s, or maybe it’s Appleby’s. I dunno but I am prepared.

When my sister sent me this grizzly pic of the vicious destruction of the first ripening tomato in her garden I leapt into action.

My own first tomato is just around the corner and to prevent this sort of mayhem I surrounded it with those prickly bird-away dealios. I’m not sure if it will do any good but as Appleby’s says, “Be Prepared.” I am, and I’ll sleep better.

And for the record Appleby’s may be prepared but their food still sucks and their tables are not clean.

I hope the neighbors aren’t home

I’m not sure what they’d make of the manly shout I gave when I saw this spectacle. Well, it was more like a scream than a shout. And possibly not as manly as I am recalling. But, well, I’ve been waiting for the better part of a year for this. One can be forgiven a little enthusiastic shriek from time to time.

The squirrels can’t get at ’em

Is why I have potatoes. Well, that and a certain know-it-all told me to grow them and I did. They are surprisingly easy and considering the amount of fuss I don’t spend on them they are pretty productive. All of the dire warnings about disease and insect attacks have proven false (not that I don’t worry about those things anyway) but my biggest nemesis is not a concern here. While they seem to spend a good deal of their time and energy digging holes all over the damn place they are apparently uninterested in the underground goings on in the wide world of potatoes.

So mashed potatoes and gravy here I come. I may even break out that envelope of McCormick’s turkey gravy.


I made bread for a recent dinner. It was hot and I baked it in my grill which while effective requires a lot of attention. The temperature swings wildly and I was constantly having to adjust the damn deal. But it worked. The meal was fine and I was left with about a quarter of the loaf which came in real handy-like when I was gonna have breakfast. Well, more like, uh, brunch? Minus the bottomless mimosa.

I don’t usually eat breakfast and often skip lunch but when I’m hungry I eat.

Eggs and toast. Horse and carriage. Love and marriage. Donald Trump and prison. Things that just go hand in hand.

The only downside was getting the butter smell off my mustache. I just hate that.

Inedible sausages

Thirty years ago I created the costumes for and ran in what would become a national craze. A relatively minor one but still . . . The Milwaukee Brewer’s Racing Sausages. They were the first racing mascots in Major League Baseball. Now over half the teams have them.

Then twenty years after that first race, my friend Karen, the Chocolate Sommelier, convinced the Brewers to have me throw out the first pitch, much to my chagrin—but I did as I was told.

Tonight (Or possibly yesterday, depending on when I publish this—a few days ago now, it turns out) I throw/threw out the first pitch at the Brewer’s game in honor of that first race. Thirty years ago. OMG. I am old.

The first sausages were these cartoons. I did not draw them. They existed—not unlike the sun or Wednesday—when I got my hands on them.

There’s me, the bratwurst in the middle. I won, of course. I insisted on winning, I made the damn things after all. Even if they were just tubes of foam rubber.

So the Brewers called me last week and asked me to throw out the first pitch on the 30 year anniversary. I was hesitant because I am not the world’s greatest pitcher. In fact, on a scale of one to twenty, I’d rank in the 4 to 6 range. But I accepted. And when they asked if I wouldn’t mind a few interviews. I mean, what the hell, why not?

Below is a radio interview with. WKLH.

And then, later that day I had a television interview which you can see here:

But these were nothing compared to what happened when I got there. OMG. For the twentieth anniversary when I threw out the first pitch, I just threw out the ball and walked off the field relieved that I’d gotten the ball over the plate. And that was that. This time it was like Cleopatra’s triumphant entrance into, I dunno, Thebes?

When the guy came to get me out in the Miller Park concourse (yes, I know it’s some other name now but it will always be Miller Park to me, unless American Family wants to sponsor my blog in which case It would be thestuffamericanfamilyeats.com) he first gave me a Brewer’s jersey with my name on it and the number 30. (I was thrilled!!!) Then when he began to explain what was gonna transpire, I could tell it was a little more elaborate but OK, throwing out the ball a little hoopla, another interview. I dunno, fine. But we walked out onto the field it turned out I was the star of the show.

There was an elaborate introductory video about me and the sausages up on the gigantical television screen and then it was time for me to I walk out . . . me up there in full view of everyone, poised on the verge of a panic attack, and in full terror mode, prepared to make a fool of myself in front of approximately 40 billion people. The sausages behind silently judging me.

My fears were unfounded. I got the ball to the pitcher, OK, yes, there was a bounce but it got there that’s all I cared about. My sister made this great video. You can see the jersey and the toss which looks a lot better than it felt in the moment:

And then, in the second inning I was interviewed standing on the dugout, again up on that huge screen. I hope my parents were watching. They probably were because that thing is big enough to see from heaven, fer chrissake.

That’s me up on the Jumbotron gassbagging on about what-the-fuck-ever, being clever and charmingly amusing, not that anyone could hear a thing there. Then I walked off fist pumping, high-fiving and handshaking my way up the stands. It was exhilarating beyond words.

A week of mind-numbing anxiety in exchange for 15 minutes of thrilling fame. Seems a decent trade off. And now I return to my humdrum life. I’m going to have to wait for another 10 years for a repeat, I guess. I can wait.

On the def plus side I’ve got something to wear for weddings and funerals.

Produce report 2023

Among other things this year I planted some “wasabi” radishes. They came in a seed order as some sort of special add-on. Organic, farm-raised, free-range and in the top 10% of their class, I planted a couple rows not fully sure what to expect.

I cannot say I even know what wasabi looks like but I know what it tastes like and while, yes, it makes my eyes bleed, I do love it.

I tasted this cautiously. Yup, radish. No bloody eyes not that I was disappointed.

When you run out of hot dogs

And you still have buns. This is a fantastic substitute. Dill pickle chips are the perfect size. Although a whole pickle might be more appropriate shape-wise. The deliciousness quotient is may not quite the same as a hot dog with mustard and relish but this works for me.

Just a suggestion.