music friday: noel gallagher (happy birthday, robin!)

I am aware of Oasis, and I don't hate them. I barely have an opinion about them, but I know they were a big deal and I should probably come up with an angle. For me, they were a few great singles at a time when I was getting older (I turned 40 in 1993) and my ability to "keep up" with new music was lessening. I was confused about why Oasis was compared to The Beatles. I was probably in the same place as Robert Christgau, who wrote later:

One of the many things I never got about this band was where the Beatles were. Where was the ebullience, the wit, the harmonies, God just the singing, and, uh, the songwriting? Cotton Mather made me understand that when Oasis say they love the Beatles they really mean they love the post-Help!, pre-Sgt. Pepper Beatles. Since that span encompasses Rubber Soul and Revolver, many would say tally ho, but (a) not me 'cause I love the Beatles start to finish and (b) only if you're writing songs as good as, uh, "We Can Work It Out."

This is coming out too negative. Mostly I'm trying to explain why I am more clueless about Oasis than I should be.

Their biggest hit was "Live Forever":

Maybe I just want to fly
I want to live I don't want to die
Maybe I just want to breathe
Maybe I just don't believe
Maybe you're the same as me
We see things they'll never see
You and I are gonna live forever

In the following video, Noel Gallagher talks about writing songs, pre-and-post fame. "When I was writing in the early days of Oasis, I was in the same circumstances as the audience. You're writing for the people that are coming to your gigs. And then there will come a period where the big checks arrive."

He wrote "Live Forever" pre-fame, when he could say, "Maybe you're the same as me."

This video is from the YouTube series Hot Ones, a current obsession of mine. The never-wrong Wikipedia tells us that "Its basic premise involves celebrities being interviewed by host Sean Evans over a platter of increasingly spicy chicken wings." The trick is two-fold: the hot sauces make the celebrities increasingly vulnerable, which opens them up to an arguably more honest conversation, and Sean Evans is an excellent interviewer, always well-prepared with great questions. This week's guest in Noel Gallagher, and to be honest, it's a so-so episode ... I wondered if I should post it here since newbies might decide the show isn't any good. But it's Music Friday, so here you go:

Here is one of the best episodes, where Halle Berry shames every other participant with her Hot Ones greatness:

Finally, since this is Music Friday, here is fellow Manchester native A Guy Called Gerald, mentioned by Noel in his episode:


impossible burgers

Just read an article about Impossible Burgers (disclosure: I haven't eaten one yet). In "Impossible Foods’ rising empire of almost-meat", Chris Ip tells the story of Impossible Foods, which among other things will be making an "Impossible Whopper" for a Burger King in St. Louis:

Something in the story took me back to this one time when I dropped acid ... would have been early-70s, I guess. It starts with this video:

At one point, the Director of Research for Impossible Foods explains that flavor comes to us in part via our nose ... the nose "tells you what you're eating". It was that point which led to my "acid flashback". As is often the case with seemingly mundane events that happened when I was tripping, I can remember this as if it were yesterday.

I was sitting at the dinner table at home ... I was living there, as were my three youngest siblings. We were eating hot dogs, and I had done some psychedelics. I was holding a hot dog with no condiments, staring into space, trying to act "normal" so Mom and Dad wouldn't suspect anything. One sibling passed the mustard across the table to another sibling. I could smell mustard as it crossed my line of sight. And then, suddenly, I could also taste the mustard, just as I would have if I'd put it on my hot dog in the first place. I smelled it ... I tasted it.

Now I know that was science at work. Or nature, not sure what to call it, exactly.


on weed

It has turned out just about how I expected, although I didn't think it would take until I was 64 for it to happen.

Cannabis becomes "legal" in California on January 1. The San Francisco Chronicle included a 40-page pull-out section, "Green State", with information, awards, and (who'da thunk?) lots and lots of advertising.

They called my hometown, Berkeley, the "Best Cannabis City":

Berkeley blazed the trail to safe access to medical cannabis nearly two decades ago, and in 2017 set the curve for implementing recreational legalization locally. They were the first city in the state to create a pathway for its dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana in the New Year — part of a history of firsts. Berkeley adopted organic-like standards for medical cannabis years before the state considered it. The city was the first to formalize rules mandating free medicine for low-income folks, and Berkeley helped champion the entire dispensary model before patients had any stores to shop at. Personal gardeners and cannabis fans also enjoy some of the most relaxed rules in the state, making the East Bay city arguably the Best Cannabis City in California, if not the world.

And they gave an award to a favorite edible of mine, Kiva Confections:

The California edibles scene is extremely crowded, but sitting pretty at the top of them all is Kiva Confections. Founded in a San Leandro kitchen in 2010, Kiva now has 85 employees and a 13,000 square-foot factory in Oakland that serves 1,000 stores in California alone. Co-founder Kristi Knoblich Palmer hand-selects the company’s chocolate from wholesalers, and Kiva makes its own cannabis extract from cannabis trim that’s been tested for 280 pesticides. The hand-crafted, artisanal chocolate bars come in multiple flavors and strengths, and the chocolate-covered espresso beans and blueberries have garnered multiple awards and fans.

I'm fond of those espresso beans.

So, let's see. Special sections in the newspaper? Advertising featuring the cannabis industry? Awards? Did I mention advertising? Yep, it's pretty much how I expected it to be.

I'll be honest. I've never liked hunting down dealers, so although I've been smoking since I was 15 or so, I rarely have any lying around. And when medicinal became legal, I was too lazy to get a patient card. But on January 1, all I have to do is go to the dispensary.

 


al collins, grasshopper pie, and me

I want to call Al “Jazzbo” Collins a local legend, except “local” is hard to define. His long radio career included extended stays in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and many smaller areas, most in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Besides radio, he was briefly a host for The Tonight Show when they were looking for a new person (they eventually decided on Jack Paar). He had a morning TV show in San Francisco in the early-60s. He even cut a few records, hip fairy tales they were called:

His radio shows, no matter the station, were always broadcast from “The Purple Grotto”, several floors underground. His theme song was “Blues in Hoss Flat” by Count Basie:

Starting in 1959, he was on KSFO in San Francisco. They (and he) played my parents’ kind of music, and hey, I was only six. It wasn’t exactly a “normal” show:

His shtick with the Mexican banditos from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, well, I don’t know how it started. But if you were a guest on his show, you had to get “majuberized”, which meant you had to recite the quote from the movie. (Later in his career, he had a call-in talk show, and people would call solely to get majuberized.)

Then he added that morning TV show, and it was a joy, even for a tyke. Memories are tricky things, but among the stuff he did, I can remember this little toy where you put a coin in it and a little hand came out and grabbed the coin and pulled it inside. Jazzbo loved crepes, and he was always having a chef making crepes on live TV.

Eventually in, I think it was the late-70s, he ended up with that call-in talk show. The channel, KGO, had nothing but talk shows, and reached all along the West Coast at night. Once in awhile, someone would call in berating Jazzbo for not talking about politics, but he would kindly explain that his show was a little different.

It is here where we finally get to the grasshopper pie. As always, Jazzbo loved to talk about his favorite foods, and he frequently spoke of how much he loved grasshopper pie. He’d talk about the recipe ... you started with grasshoppers ... I can’t really remember it very well, and I had never heard of grasshopper pie, but he got my attention as I drove home from the factory after midnight.

Eventually, I figured out that the pie was based on a cocktail my mom used to make called “grasshoppers”. I thought for a long time that grasshoppers were fairly traditional ... I mean, my mom made pitchers at home ... but apparently it’s one of those remnants of post-war American culture, and they went out of fashion. I haven’t had a grasshopper since I was old enough to drink legally (admittedly, I don’t go to bars just looking for the cocktail). But once, 30+ years ago, I was on a jury, and the city paid for our lunch. We went to some fancy restaurant in Oakland, and on the dessert menu was Grasshopper Pie. I had to order it, see what it tasted like, and yum!

Here is a video showing how to make “real” grasshopper pie:

And here’s a bartender making a cocktail:

My mom made hers in a blender.

So now you know my personal history with grasshopper pie. It turns out there’s a restaurant in Oakland that has grasshopper pie on the dessert menu, so my wife and I went there for dinner. The restaurant is called Homeroom, and they pretty much only serve macaroni and cheese. We both got the “classic mac”, and it was delicious (also v.good microwaved the next day ... the servings are huge, you can’t finish one). Then I ordered grasshopper pie for dessert:

grasshopper pie

It was yummy yummy. It wasn’t “real” grasshopper pie, and I knew in advance ... in place of crème de menthe and crème de cacao, they used chocolate mint ice cream, and apparently, this is standard nowadays. It tasted like a really good Baskin-Robbins cake. The taste was like a real grasshopper if it didn’t have alcohol.

Of course, I had to tell our waitress all of this. I wasn’t surprised she knew nothing of the cocktail, but I admit I felt very old when she said she had never heard of crème de menthe. Even my wife, whose parents didn’t drink like mine, had crème de menthe on the shelf when she was a kid, to pour on ice cream.

Anyway, I’m satisfied now. I hope Jazzbo heard about it in the Purple Grotto.

Here’s a link to an article about the cocktail:

It’s Not Easy Being Green: The Weird History of The Grasshopper


throw back the crunch

Checking the shelves at a local chain drug store for some yummy treats, I came across a mini-box of my favorite cereal of all time, Cap’n Crunch. This delicious cereal was introduced in 1963, when I was 10 years old. Here is the very first commercial for Cap’n Crunch, created by former Berkeley resident Jay Ward, the animator who gave us such great characters as Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Sherman and Mr. Peabody, and George of the Jungle. (A baby-boomer Hall of Fame.)

One sign of the times is that they promoted the cereal as “sugar sweet” ... at least they kept the word “sugar” out of the name, meaning it is still called Cap’n Crunch, just as it was in 1963. (Other cereals were not so lucky, resulting in name changes as times changed ... to the best of my knowledge, you can still buy Sugar Puffs, Sugar Smacks, Sugar Pops, Sugar Crisp, and Sugar Frosted Flakes, to name a few ... you just won’t see those names on the boxes, the word “sugar” being removed.)

The commercial also notes the importance of “crunch”. Cap’n Crunch is true to its name ... it is indeed quite crunchy. The ad tells us that this is because it stays crunchy, even in milk. My wife, who can’t stand the stuff, points out that the crunchiness, combined with the shape of each morsel, means you hurt the roof of your mouth with every bite.

The ever-trustworthy Wikipedia tells us that Cap’n Crunch actually has roots in something almost traditional, despite the aura it gives of being concocted in a lab out of sugar and chemicals:

Pamela Low, a flavorist at Arthur D. Little and 1951 graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a microbiology degree, developed the original Cap'n Crunch flavor in 1963—recalling a recipe of brown sugar and butter her grandmother Luella Low served over rice at her home in Derry, New Hampshire.

And:

Grandma would make this concoction with rice and the sauce that she had; it was a combination of brown sugar and butter. It tasted good, obviously. They'd put it over the rice and eat it as a kind of a treat on Sundays...
—William Low, Pamela Low's brother

All due respect to my own grandmothers, who were wonderful women, but I think Luella Low belongs in the main wing of the Grandmother’s Hall of Fame.

Wikipedia lists more than two dozen offshoots of the original cereal, beginning with Crunch Berries in 1967, but I always saw them as interlopers. My Cap’n Crunch never needed to be tarted up with berries and such.

I had a bowl last night. I was as delicious as ever.


pizza moda

For many years, Robin and I enjoyed dining at Fellini Restaurant. I’ve mentioned it here a few times. The guy in charge, Jeff Davis, left, and after a couple of visits, so did we … it just wasn’t the same. Eventually it shut down.

A couple of days ago, we were driving around looking for somewhere to eat, and Robin said “let’s try that new place where Fellini used to be.” So we did, in part because they have parking. We entered the restaurant, called Pizza Moda … and there was Jeff! Turns out he’d returned to the restaurant biz. We are glad he did. The food was excellent across the board (we had an interesting salad, yummy pepperoni pizza, mac and cheese, ice cream with chocolate sauce, and apple/pear/cranberry crisp), the service was perfect, and Jeff was his usual effusive self. Basically, Pizza Moda is good at the same things Fellini used to be good at.

We look forward to stopping by in the future. We have our basics: Homemade Cafe for breakfast on Saturdays and Mondays, Juan’s Place every week or so for Mexican, Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe for comfort food accompanied by punk rock, and delivery, always delivery. We’ve gotten accustomed to going to Paisan for our semi-fancy Italian food, and it’s as good as ever, plus it’s very close to our house. But the parking sucks, Pizza Moda isn’t much farther away, and … well, you get the idea. I suspect we’ve found our new semi-fancy Italian place. And the cool thing is, it’s our old favorite semi-fancy Italian place, with a makeover!