Almond Joy or Almond Despair?

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Every Friday morning, Bon Appétit senior staff writer Alex Beggs shares weekly highlights from the BA offices, from awesome new recipes to office drama to restaurant recs, with some weird (food!) stuff she saw on the internet thrown in. It gets better: If you sign up for our newsletter, you’ll get this letter before everyone else.

bas best green bean casserole

Alex Lau

A moment of silence

Rest in peace, dear Dorcas Reilly, inventor of the green bean casserole. Let’s toast a can of cream of mushroom soup in honor of the woman whose vision not only saw how a soup could bind a pot of green beans, but topped the whole thing with crunchy fried onions. Reilly worked in the Campbell’s test kitchen and loved cooking so much that after a full day of developing recipes, she’d go home and cook some more—a lot of soup, according to her husband. While our recipe gets a little bougie with homemade mushroom béchamel, the French’s fried onions on top stay true to the 1955 original. According to Campbell’s, over 20 million homes will serve green bean casserole on Thanksgiving, which is an incredible culinary legacy to leave, if you ask me.

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skellies

Boo

Severed plastic arms hung from the ceiling of Hunter House Hamburgers in Birmingham, Michigan, where I recently stopped in with my family for an early dinner of slider-sized cheeseburgers, root beer floats made with 6 inches of soft serve afloat a cup of Barq’s, tots, and very salty fries. Meaning perfectly salted. A zombie slouched over the ATM. On our drive home, we passed a house with a skeleton family arranged in a barbecue scene, with a plastic baby on a Weber grill, and my appreciation for Halloween decor has never been surpassed. Suddenly I’m craving some popcorn balls.

curious creations christine

Courtesy of Netflix

Speaking of spooky

I’ve been watching The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell on Netflix, a freaky scripted cooking show about a woman who sculpts edible art and her motley crew of misfit muppet housemates. At first I thought all of the Sudafed/NyQuil I’ve been taking was to blame for how weird the show was, and then I realized nope, it’s just a very weird show. I love every minute. The pastel, vintage Pyrex-stocked kitchen and McConnell’s spotless wardrobe contrast against the hairy, bloodthirsty, but lovable creatures who live with her, my favorite being the chocoholic raccoon with a fork for a paw. Yep. I’m entranced by her sculptural skills, the hours and adept (human) hand it takes to make a realistic Ouija board cookie out of shortbread and molten hot isomalt (to make the hardened, polished finish), airbrushed to resemble antique mahogany. She deep-fries werewolf paw doughnuts in a smoking cauldron on her stovetop. McConnell’s character is like Stepford Wives meets Witches of Eastwick, soft-spoken with a hint of evil, something to aspire to, really.

DAY OF THE DEAD BREAD (51 of 3)

Alex Lau

Bread of the dead

Rick Martinez’s sweet and fragrant pan de muertos—Mexican Day of the Dead bread—is a lot easier than McConnell’s ouija board, if you’re looking for a sweet to get in touch with your ancestors. It’s a tender, eggy dough spiced with anise, orange blossom water, and rich with a stick and a half of butter.

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I’m chaotic neutral.

bigos 2

Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Kate Buckens

Meat me up

I need this meaty kielbasa stew like a roaring fireplace and flannel underwear. All. Winter. Long. Serves 14. 😮

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Unnecessary food feud of the week

There are some candies you only see around Halloween. People have strong feelings about these candies. Poor snaggle-toothed candy corn, it never stood a chance for year-round glory! Who the hell is Mr. Goodbar? Why are Almond Joys so good? “@abeggs obviously you’re out of touch with America,” said Carla Lalli Music. “Never heard of a SNICKERS???” Touché. “How can you sit here and disrespect Reese’s like this?” replied Aliza Abarbanel. “Milk duds = the duds,” womp-womped Sarah Jampel, respecter of molars. “Mounds are so much better than Almond Joy what the heck @abeggs,” Kate Fenoglio piled on. “Halloween is the one time of the year I eat a Butterfinger,” Sasha Levine typed through slippery fingers. “I want to know the psychopaths who walk among us who call them ‘Reesie’s Piecies’’ Christina Chaey whispered. “I once made Halloween decor of Reese Witherspoon and Reese’s products,” Alyse Whitney shared. And with that image in mind, I’ll quietly step out now.

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Ora Wise Is Building Community Through Food and Finding Joy on the Dance Floor | Healthyish

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In our new series Person of Interest, we talk to the people catching our eye right now about what they’re doing, eating, reading, and loving right now. Up first, multi-talented activist and chef Ora Wise.

When you meet Ora Wise, it makes perfect sense that her name means ‘light’ in Hebrew. For the better part of two decades, she’s worked as a community organizer and mobilizer for decolonial movement building. Though her career has wandered across media, arts, and culture, including a grassroots hip-hop documentary, work with Palestinian youth, and a queer wellness collective, food is her grounding creative outlet. Lately, it’s also been a wellspring for enacting change.

As culinary director for the Allied Media Conference (AMC) in Detroit, Wise has helped organize meaningful community dinners, co-created educational tracks focused on making food systems more just, and, this year, in partnership with Food Lab Detroit, contributed to“an epic experiment in food and community” called the Dream Cafe. Headquartered inside the walls of the Cass Cafe, the Dream Cafe brought to life a vision of what’s possible when food and dining centers on communities of color and collective action turns equitable ideas into reality. Ora shares her“it takes a village” mentality, her take on reshaping food media, and the playlist that keeps her cooking in the kitchen. Wanna know her guilty pleasure snack? Read on.

The best thing I did this year was… the Dream Cafe at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit, which grew out of soil that has been cultivated by a bunch of different people and movements. It took a village, and many, many hands. It was a culinary center, a lab for practicing food production and service that could be equitable, cooperative, sustainable and community-centered. The mission was to leave us all better than when we started––to leave us with more resources, more relationships, more opportunities to do what we love to do, and do it better.

My love language is… food, of course. I moved toward food work at a time when I needed something more sensual and physical than the work I was doing. Food systems are at the crux of colonial systems of exploitation and destruction; they are also at the heart of community building and liberation. Food has always been my art, my central creative practice.

I feel grounded when… I’m by the ocean, as corny as that sounds. It has always been uplifting for me. I have a tattoo of waves on my right shoulder because the ocean literally held me during one of the hardest times in my life.

One of my greatest pleasures is… working with fellow food travelers who want to do things differently.

My village includes… Jenny Lee (Director of Allied Media Projects) who helped envision the Dream Cafe. The community of chefs and activists who helped produce three years worth of community dinners at AMC. Munira Lokhandwala, who initiated the food track with me at AMC in 2017. My co-director Kimberly Chou, who was essential to our success this year. Devita Davison and the Food Lab Detroit team who curated the all-day cafe and connected us to black-owned food businesses. And Shane Bernardo, our farm coordinator, who helped source local produce from a network of twelve urban farms led by people of color.

Real activism is… in answering questions like, “What are you doing to redistribute power and real resources?” not just symbolic representation. Culture shifting, like the kind you see playing out in food media, is important because it creates room to open up more space in broader society. It is part of the work, but it’s important to not mistake it for the work.

I’m nourished by… my kitchen and my garden, especially all of the flowers on my deck and my vegetable garden. My partner and I built three raised beds where we’ve got kale and a billion tomatoes as well as peppers and herbs.

I lose it when I’m around… Chips. All kinds. All of my friends are very amused by my intense love of Chex Mix (bold flavor, of course). It’s rare that I indulge in it but when I do, it goes down!

Right now I’m reading… Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, & the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen,
The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Tsing, and The Italians by John Hooper.

The playlist I have on repeat includes… Like Sugar (Chaka Khan), Phone Down (Erykah Badu), Mornin‘ (Star Slinger), Death by Disco (TOKiMONSTA), Little Bit More (Jidenna), Best Life (Cardi B+ Chance the Rapper), HEAVN (Jamila Wood), So Close (Tom Misch), Cómo Me Quires (Khruangbin). Think Twice (J Dilla) is a good one for evening cooking, and throwbacks from En Vogue to Kelis to Janis Joplin and Bobby Womack.

A good morning looks like… waking up early, feeling rested. I drink lemon water before my morning meditation and movement practice, then I might have some maté on my deck. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to bike to yoga.

My ideal end-of-day situation would be… aperitivo hour either somewhere at a restaurant sidewalk or at home, having food ready so that I can eat on my deck watching the sunset (and not actually still cooking at that time which is usually the case).

I find joy… dancing outside in queer spaces, in wine, and in drag culture. My perfect night would end with me dancing wildly all night long.

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