“Being in a wheelchair didn’t change me; it just made things harder to do.”
From the Flora-Bama to Vietnam, Claudia Young has sprinted through life. We got together to talk about running songwriting workshops in Nashville, redesigning the menu for the hippest bar in Cleveland, living in the Chelsea Hotel as a teen, and being confined to a wheelchair for the past 35 years. We also talk about food-blogging, southeast Asia’s pull on her, the place she regrets she’ll never visit, what she’s reading, and getting the sear on a scallop! It’s a fascinating conversation, so give it a listen!
About our Guest
Claudia Young used to blog at CookEatFret. She should probably get back to that.
Credits: This episode’s music is The Wheel by Roseann Cash. The conversation was recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Ms. Young by me, photo of both of us by Amy Roth.
It’s a Black Friday installment of Unrequired Reading! Quit shopping and start clicking!
It was a long, tedious week at a conference, but at least I got to see some friends and got home in time to get you a fresh dose of Unrequired Reading! Enjoy!
No Unrequired Reading next Friday! I’ll be traveling all week, so live it up with this installment!
Here’s an out-take from yesterday’s insanely long rambling post. Which is to say, it could actually have been longer and ramblinger:
On the last night of the conference, Amy & I went out to meet her pal Mike for ribs. He promised that the place â€” a little hole-in-the-wall on the Lower East Side named Georgia’s â€” had the best ribs anywhere. There were, in fact, awfully darn good. The waitress, who didn’t have one angle of viewing from which you could say, “She’s kinda hot,” placed our plate of two-and-a-half ribs in front of Amy, which we felt implied that she should eat them all. The waitress contended it would give her a fighting chance, since Mike & I were likely going to demolish the whole platter.
After dinner, we meandered on to Mike’s subway stop, taking a side trip into an immense Whole Foods that contained an amazing selection of beer. It made me kinda sad that I don’t really like beer.
(That said, I had an awesome beer two nights earlier, out at dinner at August with Amy & her pals Kate & Carl. It was Alba Scots Pale Ale, and Carl, who’s British, took one sip of mine and said, “It tastes like . . . Christmas,” before ordering a bottle for himself.)
Amy & I decided to stop at Madam Geneva on the way home. It’s a bar connected to the Double Crown, a restaurant where we had brunch on Easter. Allegedly, it has the greatest selection of gin in the city. What was I supposed to do? Let it go unchallenged?
The outside door to the bar had a sign saying the entry was from the restaurant, around the corner. We headed into the Double Crown, walked back to the second dining room, which should have connected to the bar. There were tables set up, but no patrons in the back room. Also, there was no door to Madam Geneva. We walked back out, puzzled, into the main room of the restaurant. Amy started to look downstairs for a sign that would lead to the bar. I walked to another area that turned out to be the kitchen. One of the busboys saw me, and asked if I was looking for the bar. I said I was, and he directed me back into the empty dining room. He pointed to the corner of the room, and I realized there was a hidden door, painted and wainscoted to look like the dining-room wall. I took that as a good sign, in a speakeasy-ish kinda way, and headed into the bar.
It took a while to get the bartender’s attention. During that time, I looked over the gin selection, while Amy headed back out to the restaurant area to use the restroom. The bar did have a couple of bottles that I haven’t tried yet, so I took that as a good sign. Bols Genever caught my eye, and I thought I’d try a G&T with it.
“What can I get for you?” asked the bartender.
“I’d like a G&T with the Bols,” I told him. “What tonic do you use? Q-Tonic? Stirrings?” I thought this might be one of those joints that actually makes its own tonic water, and I’d come off as a gin-philistine.
“Nah,” the bartender said. He pointed to the nozzle on the bar: “We just use the shitty stuff.”
I looked at him for a second or two, then said, “Really?”
“Yeah,” he confirmed.
I said, “Thanks,” and walked out. Amy was just heading into the bar, and asked why we were leaving. “Tap tonic water,” I said.
She blanched. “Really?”
Really. I know I’m going to come off as a gin snob, but non-corn-syrup tonic water is like a revelation. It makes you realize that the shitty tonic water demolishes most of the flavors and subtlety of gin. So serving up high-end gin with low-grade tonic water is . . . well, it’s like Anthony Bourdain’s rant about burgers made of kobe beef. I’m lifting this from this guy, since the Maxim interview it’s from isn’t online. (But, to paraphrase Liz Lemon, Maxim’s “I’d Rape That” list is downloadable.)
“Why meatheads eat Kobe burgers” by Anthony Bourdain
Enterprising restaurants are now offering the “Kobe beef burger,” enticingly priced at near or above $100 a pop. And if there’s a better way to prove one’s total ignorance of all three words â€” Kobe, beef, and burger â€” this, my friends, is it. It’s the trifecta of dumb-ass. The Kobe experience is principally about the marbling, the even distribution of fat through lean. A hamburger is a bunch of lean beef thrown into a grinder with varying degrees of fat. If you are foolish enough to order a Kobe burger, you are entirely missing the point. Firstly, the fat will melt right out of the thing while cooking. Secondly, you are asking the chef to destroy the very textural notes for which Kobe is valued by smarter people. Thirdly, for an eight-ounce Kobe burger, you are paying for the chef to feed you all the outer fat and scrap bits he trimmed off the outside of his “real” Kobe so he can afford to serve properly trimmed steaks to wiser patrons who know what the hell they’re doing. And fourthly, you’re paying a hundred bucks for a freakin’ hamburger! Get over yourself! You’ve already established you’re too drunk and stupid to enjoy it in the first place.
I could also liken it to people who light cigars by applying the flame directly to the tobacco and huffing and puffing on the other end. See, when you do that, you’re scorching the tobacco and destroying the taste of the cigar, because the air you’re drawing in is coming into contact with the carbonized mess you left. Instead, hold the cigar slightly out of contact with the source of the flame, letting it heat the edge and â€”
Oh, forget it. My point is, if you drink high-end gin with supermarket tonic water, you’re a dumb poser. Go read another blog.