Archive for January, 2012

Tropical Caramel

January 30, 2012 - 12:54 am 1 Comment

Or as I like to call it, the mouthgasm.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a food blog, and I don’t think I’ve ever blogged anything sweet even though my friends would insist I’m a much better dessert chef than a savory chef, which is especially weird because I only very rarely enjoy sweets.

Tonight was one of those nights when I wanted something sweet.

I hope you do too.

What It Is:

Tropical Caramel, an amazing topping for… Fuck, I don’t know, everything ever? I used mine to top some right-out-of-the-box just-add-hot-milk banana oatmeal.

What You’ll Need:

1/2 banana, sliced into coins
3 tablespoons canned pineapple chunks(reserve some juice)
1/4 cup sugar (I used white)
1 tablespoon butter
1 dash cayenne pepper, powdered
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
A small non-stick frying pan

How to Do It (No Not Like That):

Heat yo’ pan, yo’. Put your frying pan over medium low heat, until it’s hot enough that when you drop your butter in it, the butter immediately sizzles but does not burn. If it doesn’t sizzle, turn up the heat.

Add the sugar into the melted butter and add just enough of the pineapple juice so that the sugar is damp. You won’t need very much at all. Let that ooey-gooey mixture bubble a bit. The moment it starts to take on any color, any at all, add the banana coins and the pineapple chunks.

Now wait. Okay, don’t just stand there. If you’ve got teh skillz, you can saute the fruit – and I do mean saute; make sure all of the pineapple bits and banana slices get flipped over at least once. If you ain’t got the skills, you can use a spoon or a fork or something I guess.

Once the fruits have taken on some nice, brown color, add the cayenne and the vanilla.

But wait! It’s time for science!

Why are we adding the vanilla now? Why don’t we just add it at the beginning when the sugar needs more moisture anyway?

Vanilla extract, as you probably know, is like 99% alcohol (okay, it’s actually a minimum of 35% and unless you’ve got the extra-strength stuff, it’s probably not much more than that) and if you paid attention in science class or have ever had a bonfire, you know that alcohol is pretty darn flammable. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean your caramel will catch fire (well, not if you’re careful) (I mean, unless that’s what you’re going for, but I wouldn’t attempt a flambe in my non-stick cookware), but it does mean that if you add the vanilla too soon, not only will all of the alcohol cook out, the flavor will as well and you just wasted, what, a buck fifty’s worth of vanilla.

That was science!

After you’ve added the pepper and the vanilla, another 30 seconds at a slightly-higher medium heat should give your fruits a nice color and a little bit of a singe.

It should look a bit like this:
Tropical Caramel
…but it wouldn’t hurt to be a bit darker.

That’s it. Seriously, that’s it. Use it like I did to top some really boring oatmeal, pour it over ice cream, or, fuck, eat it with a spoon.

Oh, and for the record? You’re welcome.

The Art of the Mixtape

January 3, 2012 - 9:36 pm 2 Comments

Let me tell you.

There is a hell of a lot more to making a mixtape then just throwing some songs together.

I talk about music a lot on this blog, because it’s always been a major part of my life. From the time I was born, it was more to me than just melodies and lyrics. My dad is a guitarist; my mom played the piano. Both of them are very, shall we say, musically active; they keep up with new stuff, they take an active interest in knowing what’s out there, they still go to shows. Hell, I take them to shows. They even named me after a song. They played music for me in the cradle, everything from Black Sabbath to The Beatles to Bach. I knew how to work a record player before I knew how to work a microwave. (I’m still not entirely sure why a microwave has so many options. If it’s that difficult, put it on the stove.)

Now that I’m older, to repay them, for my parents I make mixtapes.

As gifts for my nearest and dearest friends, I make mixtapes.

When I’m feeling bored or sad or lonely I make mixtapes.

But there is so much more than just throwing a bunch of tracks together.

Mixtapes are something that should be crafted with purpose: an idea pops into your head and you think you could show someone exactly what you mean with music; you hear a song that doesn’t just remind you of another song, it speaks to you about another song; a time in your life is defined by a series of tracks you can’t ever hear again without thinking about that moment, and you can’t ever think about that moment without hearing those songs. Mixtapes are like chapters in books that make up our lives; they’re the narration, not the soundtrack, and all we do is following along. Giving someone a mixtape, a well thought-out mixtape, is a gift that speaks to thoughtfulness and concern and shared emotions and memories.

When you make a mixtape, every song has to say something. It could be musically or lyrically, but it has to be part of a consistent flow. One off song can ruin the entire mix. A truly successful mixtape should go so smoothly from song to song you hardly realised the track changed, but should hold you so captive you wait and watch for each song to pass to the next.

When you make a mixtape, you have to think like you’re writing a paper. You need an introduction, and then you need a thesis statement. You need supporting information but you can’t be redundant. You need a conclusion supported by the information you’ve just given, and more than that, you need each paragraph to be in the right order. And then, if you’re feeling really, very confident, you can say something clever in closing that’ll stick with the reader – or in this case, the listener – even after they’ve reviewed the paper and moved on. Even after they’ve taken their headphones off and walked away.

A mixtape, all on its own, all by itself, with no additional media, should convey a message.

It should create an environment, or a moment, or a relationship, inside your head.

It should be one, whole, complete entity.

A mixtape is not just a collection of similar tracks thrown together.

A mixtape is a collaboration on the part of artists and one independent adjudicator, working together without ever speaking.

A mixtape is powerful and meaningful and beautiful.

A mixtape, when properly constructed, is a work of art.


Someone whose mixtape-creating ability I have always respected is William the Bloody, formerly of William’s Bloody Hell. You can now find him on his Twitter, still making awesome mixes. He sent me two for Christmas. Don’t let me forget, I owe him.

Lately I’ve been exchanging a lot of mixtapes with MannequinneHands. You can see a little of her work on her 8tracks account. Her mixtapes are so carefully crafted. They’re utterly magical.

If you want to see some of my own mixtapes, you’re more than welcome to check out my 8tracks, where I am Paperclippe as per usual. I’ve been adding about one a week, on average, and I always update old mixes when I hear something new that belongs.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received was a mixtape from @wackfiend. I put it on on New Year’s Eve and I’m pretty sure it made my year.

If you’re asking yourself what an 8tracks is, you should really go to http://8tracks.com and check it out. It’s the rebirth of mixtapes as we know it, especially for people who are a) too broke to buy blank CDs or b) make mixtapes too long to fit on CDs or c) want to share a mix with someone instantly. I am all three of those things. Even if you don’t make your own mixes, it’s worth a look just to see what other people create. It’s also an amazing way to discover new music in a more personal way than something like Pandora or last.fm, and I’ve found it’s also a hell of a lot more accurate. You can never substitute the human touch entirely.

So go on. Get mixing. Make some art.