Tuesday September 4th 12.10pm Butter & Scotch Bar and Bakery.

Tuesday September 4th

12.10pm Butter & Scotch Bar and Bakery.

Bar AND bakery, I hear you say. Yes, bar and bakery. Why does this concept not happen more? They open at 9am and offer brunch options until mid-afternoon. Think sandwiches in the American sense ie hot fillings sometimes toasted and often in a bun not bread, biscuits/savoury scones, sweet pies, cake, ice cream – cause, you know, America.

This morning I tried to go to the Museum of Women’s Resistance but, alas, it appears to be no more. Damn internet! Promising a vibrant experience that in reality is a nondescript townhouse with a for sale sign hanging out front. Of course, it was bound to happen at least once this trip. Occasionally, the internet doesn’t always tell the truth. Who knew.

So that’s how I made it to this oasis earlier than planned. On this trip, I’m trying not to consume alcohol before noon although the crossing of time zones can mess with one’s sense of whose noon it really is. It’s quiet in here; there are a couple of guys sitting at the bar drinking coffee plus me. The air conditioning is strong and welcome. My 4000 steps this morning were hard work in the relentless sunshine.

‘How you doing this warm day?’ The barman stands behind the bar polishing glasses in the way that barmen all over the world do.

‘Better now,’ is my response.

‘Yeah, it’s getting warm out there.’

I slide along the wall, edging past the two guys perched on the chrome and vinyl bar stools. Black and white chequered tiles on the floor, painted, colour-blocked walls and a feature wall of red lips by the bathrooms signal the fun, casual vibe of the place. The mirrored wall behind the display of extensive spirits indicates it’s a bar in more than just name only. I grab a table near the bar for ease of service as much as conversation.

Traveling by myself has its pros and its cons. I don’t have to please anyone else but at times I crave human interaction beyond the cursory. In the mornings, as I’m having my mandatory two cups of tea, I listen to podcasts. It helps prepare me to interact with the big wide world outside my bedroom door. This trip is an ideal mix of time alone, time with family and time with friends old and new.

The obligatory glass of water is delivered with the menu. I opt to begin with a coffee with the encouragement of the barman despite my reticence for American coffee. He promises to attempt a piccolo latte for me. I’ve coached him through it and I reckon I’ll get something close. I do, in fact, receive a passable piccolo latte. The espresso shot has enough oomph for my liking and it’s not been watered down with too much milk. In reality, it is a flat white presented in a glass mug with a handle. Some sugar helps balance the dominant bitterness.

I scour the menu for a smaller-sized breakfast dish and I want to leave room for something sweet afterwards. Steve would be disappointed if I didn’t. I settle on the chicken, chilli and cheddar hand pie with salad. A hand pie is a filled pastry triangle by another name. The buttery pastry is flaky and tasty all on its own. The diced filling is good value on the chicken front with enough heat not to warrant any extra use of hot sauce or chilli-infused honey that sits on the table. A little light on the cheddar for my liking, it’s a small, insignificant criticism on my behalf. The mixed salad greens are perfectly dressed in a country where I often find dressings overwhelming the salad they’re supposed to complement.

Coffee downed and I decide to step things up a notch with a michelada. A tall glass is rimmed with spicy salt, then half-filled with ice, doused with hot sauce, and finished off with a crisp lager and a wedge of lime. I need to embrace these more in my summer life. It’s thirst quenching and substantial at the same time. I take photos, all the time thinking Steve would love it here.

The menu which is currently discarded on the table next to me promises desserts in a variety of styles: key lime pie, s’mores pie, daily special pie, unicorn cake, salted chocolate cookies, six flavours of ice cream. All these are made in the bakery section next door which I can see into through a doorway behind the bar. I finish up my breakfast grateful for the small serving and embark upon an in-depth consultation with my friendly barman. Between us we concoct a boozy milkshake based upon the key lime pie with coconut ice cream and added rum.

When it arrives, I’m not disappointed. It’s thick and creamy with generous amounts lime zest sprinkled on top. The rum comes through immediately and I give it a thorough stir in case I’m drinking all the rum first. I slurp again and it’s just as good. I don’t often order sweet things and I think I’ve only done it this time in honour of my absent partner. I’m delighted that I did and even more grateful that he’s not here because I don’t have to share it. It’s mine, all mine I tell you!

Top ten food podcasts worth your time

Top ten food podcasts worth your time

1. The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry – Lee Tran Lam interviews chefs, bartenders and more about their experiences – good and bad – in the food industry.

2. Gravy – Produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance, this podcast showcases food stories from America’s south.

3. Eat Your Words — Recorded live in Brooklyn, Eat Your Words’ host Cathy Erway navigates the world of food through its literature.

4. Good Food – Though Los Angeles focussed, Evan Kleiman does a great job bridging the local with the global.

5. The Sporkful – Dan Pashman’s tagline – ‘The Sporkful isn’t for foodies; it’s for eaters’ – says it all. Whether debating if a hot dog is a sandwich, or if tomatoes should be stored in the fridge (no, obviously), Dan does so with humour and insight.

6. The Racist Sandwich – An intersectional look at food through the lenses of class, gender, race and politics.

7. Ingredipedia – Ben Birchall and Emily Naismith tackle one ingredient per episode over three rounds in a bid to sway listeners’ votes.

8. Gastropod – If you like your food podcasts with a generous helping of history and science, then this is one for you.

9. The Pass – If you want an insider’s take on Australian restaurants served with honesty and wit, The Pass is top of the list.

10. Radio Cherry Bombe – Interviews with some of the most exciting women working in food and hospitality in America to inform and entertain.

Elkton, OR to Bend, OR – Tuesday 23rd August

Elkton, OR to Bend, OR – Tuesday 23rd August

A deep sleep buried under layers of feather and white linen and quieter than I am used to means that pulling myself out of slumber land requires genuine effort. Steve is sitting in bed next to me, shoulders poking out of the bedding. Phone in hand reading, he turns to face me.

‘I wondered if you ever going to wake up.’

I contemplate closing my eyes and rolling over. ‘What time is it?’

‘Nine o’clock. Want a cuppa?’

‘Always.’

I spread further out in the bed and into the warm patch vacated by his body. I feel myself sink deeper into the mattress. This is a dangerous bed. I might never get out. If not for a persistent discomfort from my bladder, we may never make it to our next destination today.

Dragging clothes on, I stumble to the cedar clad ensuite and squint at myself in the mirror on the wall under the skylight. Slightly sunburnt nose from all this sunshine even though I religiously apply SPF cream every morning. I tug at my hair with a brush grateful for a month without high levels of daily personal presentation demands. Two lipsticks, one eyeshadow and some mascara are enough make up supplies for a month holiday. I know that make up is cheaper here in the States but I’ve never been interested in that kind of thing. I have no childhood memories of putting on my mother’s make up. Like me, my mum is pretty low maintenance. No monthly manicures or facials for us. I’d rather spend that money on smothering more enjoyable like a meal out or a fabulous bottle of wine.

I manage to make it to the couch where my morning cup of tea, in the largest mug available, is waiting for me on the coffee table. Against the wall, a record player and a milk crate of vinyl records sits optimistically. The gentle sounds of wildlife outside, the very occasional passing car and Steve pottering around in the kitchen are all that I could want right now so the record player will just have to remain untouched.

An hour later we are packed up and closing the farm gate on the vineyard behind us. Each night when we arrive at our Air BnB it seems so foreign and someone else’s. Each morning, I feel I have just gotten used to the way the taps turn on, their particular creak of the floorboard near the bathroom or the heft with which you have to close the front door. Traveling is that odd combination of seeking out the unfamiliar and trying to make that fit with what you already know about the world. A curiosity about the world keeps the brain engaged and active. I can’t imagine ever being tired of new places. My parents in their seventies still travel, though the plane legs get shorter and the rest stops become more frequent. That will be Steve and I in another thirty years.

One podcast episode later, we are arriving in Eugene. A university town, Eugene hugs the Willamette River and in the late summer its established trees provide much needed shade. Fisherman’s Market is first on our list. This seafood place came too our attention due to a guilty pleasure of a tv show called Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The name is fairly self-explanatory. A loud, brash host with white-tipped hair drives around everyday America in a red retro sports car calling in on dining establishments nominated by the show’s audience. The premise is clear. Guy is shining the spotlight on hidden gems of America’s often overlooked dining scene – the Korean restaurant in the strip mall, the fried chicken joint attached to a rest stop and the vegan taco truck at the local park. The episodes are easily consumed, not running much longer than twenty minutes and, like the meals showcased, leaves you craving more.

With the parking challenge sorted, we find ourselves inside this part seafood retail space and a eatery.

‘Guy said the Cajun crawfish pie is the way to go,’ reminds Steve as we stand both gawping up at the menu board.

‘Ummm, sure.’ It’s another extensive menu in an otherwise unassuming place. Burgers, sandwiches, pies as well as all manner of fried concoctions fill the menu. I can’t be bothered to read it all properly so am happy to be lead by Steve and Guy.

‘I’m going to have the fried snapper sandwich. Can’t go past something with bang bang sauce.’I leave him to order and step out into a patio area. Unsurprisingly, we are the only people here eating seafood burgers and pies before noon.

Minutes later, the food arrives. My pie even comes with colourful salad. Chunks of crawfish meat held together by a thick creamy sauce, even the pastry is a delight. Flakey and buttery, I lift it off to eat first with my fingers. A habit leftover from my childhood, I always eat the top of a pie first before scooping out the insides and eating the base last by itself, now stodgy from the moist filling. Don’t judge me.

The salad is fresh lettuce, crunchy cucumber pieces, wedges of juicy tomato and thick rings of red onion all capped with slices of smoked salmon just in case you needed more fish. The obligatory ranch dressing sits in a plastic cup between pie and salad. I know Steve wants to try some and I want a bite of his sandwich but neither of us want to share. It tastes too damn good. Reluctantly, we each portion off a miserly part of our meal. While he’s distracted cutting off some of his sandwich, I steal a couple of his waffle fries.

Leaning back into the wood bench, I now notice the tubs of dirty dishes against the wall by the door and the flies they are attracting. My arms touch the laminate table top and it is sticky on my skin. The sun streaming in on the back of my neck is a portent of the heat of the day to come. Steve laps up the last of the bang bang sauce with some waffle fries. Hands are wiped as best they can with the inadequate napkins provided and I’m grateful when he says, ‘Let’s blow this popsicle stand.’

Ninkasi Brewing Company is located a walkable distance that we drive in the same amount of time. A vacant lot down the street as an impromptu parking lot as we park next to a growing number of other cars. I check the fences for signs to no avail. An expansive mural of a Mother Earth figure covers the wall of an adjacent factory. Her arms opened wide, leaves in all shades of green dripping down. I step back to get a photo but can’t fit her in. I do manage to get a photo of the next fence though. Alternating in blue and red, one meter high letters spell out B-e-r-n-i-e-16. By August 2016, Bernie Sanders was no longer in the running to become the US president. Though there was no hope for Bernie, at that stage we still couldn’t imagine Donald Trump gaining office. Like Brexit before it, the 2016 US election was a shock and surprise to most people I know.

Waiting a few minutes for noon to arrive and the gates to open, we loiter on the shady footpath.

‘Poor Bernie.’

‘Huh?’

‘I said poor Bernie.’ I repeat, gesturing towards the sign on the fence.

‘Bernie was never going to win.’

‘Why’s that?’ I am genuinely curious.

‘He is too overtly socialist and that scares Americans. They like to think of themselves as democratic cause that’s all flag waving fun but socialism sounds too close to communism and that makes them uncomfortable.’

We don’t often talk about politics. It’s not that we disagree. We fundamentally have the same take of things politically. Steve is wider read on these thing than I am. I stick my head in the sand too often as I get sick of the lies that seem to get perpetuated. My grandfather taught me not to bring up politics at the dining table. It can be a volatile subject matter and in the wrong hands, test relationships to the breaking point. I’m grateful that we have similar outlooks on politics and the world. Living in close quarters with another person can be very trying at times, but sharing the same basic political views is one less arena of conflict.

The gates are opened and we file in behind several other eager beer tasters. The black tasting room, teal green wall and corrugated stainless steel tank resplendent in the sun. Entering the tasting room we walk straight to the bar while the others let their eyes adjust and get their bearings. We are old hands at this by now. I hang back and let Steve order, knowing he’s already checked these guys on social media and consulted his private beer forums.

‘Two tasting paddles, please.’

‘Anything particular you want to try?’ The bartender asks, leaning on one of the tap handles.

‘A range of your most popular. Whatever you recommend.’ We are rubbing off on each other by now. Steve loves the research as much as he loves the travel but he’s also been pleasantly surprised by allowing staff to guide our choices. After years spent in hospitality and more spent eating out, I know that effective staff know their own product inside and out.

We grab the narrow steel trays that hold our beers and exit to find a shady spot on the patio. Slabs of concrete form perching spots but we grab a small table under a marquee. I’m sure this place is shoulder to shoulder at peak times. Each beer sits in front of a well designed card advertising its brand and varietal. In the style of a graphic novel, these cards are part marketing part collectible. A light seasonal release lager, a session-able IPA, a hoppy red ale, a deliciously bitter double IPA and an oatmeal stout are my introduction to Ninkasi and I’m happy to report that I like them all. It’s almost as if I can’t remember a time that I didn’t like craft beer.

When someone tells me that they don’t like beer, I can only assume they haven’t spent enough time tasting good craft beer. In fact, I have made it a challenge in the past to convert people. Beer can be sweet, it can be dry, it can be bitter and it can be light. Beer can be almost anything. I’ve had a beer so aged that it was thick and syrupy like a fortified wine. I’ve served a lambic style beer in champagne flutes so that guests assumed it was a sparkling wine.

Slightly disappointed not to be able to stay longer, we leave our now empty paddles behind, the cards liberated as souvenirs and head back towards the car. This is another bar that we would want as a local if we lived nearby.

‘Hashtag, our new favourite place?’ I propose, not for the first time this trip.

‘Definitely.’

The Big Idea

Our school puts on a great little event called Word Con at the end of each semester. We get to listen to a range of presenters on a range of topics, most of which are of interest. Rob Griffith presented on a session on ‘THE BIG IDEA.’ Now I wouldn’t say that I have a big burning idea. That’s ok. Big ideas sometimes come to us when we least expect them, during what I like to call my pre-thought stage that other people call daydreaming.

So meanwhile, I will continue to work on the ideas I do have. I’ve simplified my tag line for the podcast – stories from The Middle Third of life. I’m sorting out questions for a couple of people I want to interview. The Middle Third is still going to be predominantly focused on female stories as an attempt to redress the gender inequality in society in general.

I haven’t figured how to work the microphone I have with my iPad yet but I’ll figure that out. I’m planning on interviewing my best friend initially as way to ease my way into these things. She also happens to have a really spot-on story that fits with the theme of The Middle Third. She re-trained as a lawyer after the birth of her second child.

After that I am going to interview a woman I collaborated with a few years ago on an exciting project. Sensual Seed oracle cards brought together four women to birth a project aimed at encouraging women to celebrate them as sensual beings. These new directions and new experiences are precisely the kinds of stories I want to tell.

When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate by any stretch how flexible life experiences could be. I never had any burning ambition to have a particular career and it felt like a deficit. I forgave myself this a long time ago.

Now I’m in my middle third, I’m enjoying looking around and learning new things.

inspire

MY FAVOURITE PODCASTS

MY FAVOURITE PODCASTS

Naturally what I want to listen to depends on the mood I’m in and how much time I have.

Short and sweet
I don’t always have an hour to get deep into a subject so these short 20-25 minutes episodes are an ideal ‘lighter meal option’.

Reply All
These guys help us older folks decipher the internet and its quirks
The Sporkful
‘It’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters’ I whole-heartedly approve of Dan
Pashman’s attitude to food and food culture.

A bit more serious but good for showing me how little I know about the wider world

On The Media
I came to this show during one of my Summer school intensive subjects and realized how little I knew about some things. I’d given up on news some years ago and stayed away for good reason but this has lured me back in a method I’ve figured out I quite like. I can walk, ride or drive and still participate in the world. This probably sums up the over-arching reason I am attracted to podcasts

Radio Lab
As above only with a more science bent.

99% Invisible
Seriously this guy has the most ‘take me to bed and just talk to me’ voice. And I love their motto – “Always read the plaque”

When I want a laugh and learn something at the same time

Answer Me This
Okay, these guys can have annoying voices to some people I’ve discovered. Just not to me. I like that they’re British as opposed to the American accents I often hear on podcasts.

The Guilty Feminist
Funny, insightful and illuminating. It makes me take a second look at many things in my life – all in all that is not a bad thing.
The Allusionist
Love her voice and her obvious fondness for the English language in equal measures.
And where it all began for me

Being Honest With My Ex
I like these guys. Yeah Peter can be annoying at times but his brutal honesty is actually refreshing and SJ’s raw exposure of herself can draw tears (mostly her’s). I like their concept (self-evident in the title really) as well as the execution.
There are so many platforms to get your podcasts. The hyper-links here lead to their websites. On my phone, I’ve got the app Podbean which has always serviced me well.
I am in the process of setting up my own podcast. This year will hopefully see greater leaps and bounds on the front for me. The Middle Third check out its early steps at the link. Please message me or leave feedback. I’d really appreciate it.
I’m starting on the whole iTunes thing now that I’ve stepped into the dark side – Apple products. New programs to learn, new equipment required to be purchased no doubt.

Onwards and upwards people!

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