Switchel: Making Nature’s Gatorade

Welcome to part three of the four part series breaking down the latest additions to my cookbook collection, Lemons, Cucumbers, Honey, and Strawberries from Short Stack Editions, short form, ingredient-specific cookbooks.

On the last episode of Under the Parrot Umbrella, we solved the world’s problems and answered the age old question: is there good way to bake a cucumber? Answer: no.

This week, we tackle honey.

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Specifically, switchel, a predecessor of sports drinks and hailed as “nature’s Gatorade.”

Which is appropriate because today, I’m pretty sure I had the hardest workout of my life. But I don’t know that’s saying much.

Aside from a short window in grad school, I’ve never been much of a runner, instead preferring a steady and forceful stroll. My friends actually make fun of me when I find myself running because my technique is more of a horse-prance. Come to think of it…is there such a think as dressage for humans? Because I think I just found my niche.

And when I was a dance class regular as a child, I won “best smile,” as opposed to best anything else that has to do with dance.

Middle school gym was a horror. One of my teacher volunteered me during our track unit to demonstrate jumping hurdles. What I did instead was show the class how to knock every one of those hurdles over because I was a child who won best smile in dance class. You think that’s a child that’s good at methodical jumping?

In college, my finest fitness class performance was jazz aerobics, so there’s that.

But this week, I boxed, and it was amazing but rough.

Fitness week, a week where gyms around town offer special promotions and free classes, just wrapped up. I had grand, but unfulfilled intentions of visiting no fewer than five gyms, but I slept through and forgot about the classes at all but one.

Which is more than zero though, so….I think I’m doing pretty well.

On Thursday night I attended an intro to boxing. My exact review I texted my mom and sisters after was, “IT WAS AWESOME.” It was 95% women who wanted to learn a new skill and would encourage each other and cheer each other on. There were also two guys who very earnestly made Mortal Kombat style fighting noises whenever they were punching. It was all I could do not to respond with “Pew! Pew pew! Pew!” with each of my punches. It was free promotional Intro to Boxing class, guys. Calm down.

I tried another boxing class this morning. It packed more of a……punch.

HaaaaaahahahahhahhahahaaaahahahahahhahhHAHAHHAshhahahahahaha!

No, but really. It was brutal. Awesome, but hard. And when it was all said and done, I hobbled my way next door to my favorite local coffee shop, and collapsed at a table, trying not to yell for a breakfast sandwich the way people on television yell for doctors in the emergency room.

“HELP! Someone! I need a breakfast sandwich! Please! A breakfast sandwich! With bacon preferably! And make sure there’s cheese! Please don’t forget about the cheese! There’s no time to waste!”

I needed to replenish. Obviously my first instinct was a breakfast sandwich for reasons that are cheese, but there’s a chance I could have done a better job with some electrolytes.

Which brings me back to switchel.

And guys. I’m officially not going to feel bad about what I’m about to type.

Switchel is really interesting! This drink, the typical recipe consisting of water, ginger, vinegar, and a sweetener (molasses, honey, or syrup), is an all natural way to replace electrolytes that dates back to colonial America, it’s predecessor oxymel, a drink of water, honey, and vinegar dating back to the fifth century.

It was the drink of choice of farmers, the Amish, and, naturally, Congress!

Because of the close quarters and lack of air circulation in earlier congressional buildings, there was always a large bowl of switchel on hand. Though they added rum to theirs.

It’s as they say, “ain’t no congressional session like a John C. Calhoun congressional session, because a John C. Calhoun congressional session has switchel.”

They say that. All the time.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of a sweetener: molasses, syrup, or honey. (But guys, go with honey, or what even is the point of this blogpost?)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of finely grated ginger
  • 1 mason jar

Mix the honey, vinegar, ginger, and lemon in the mason jar.

Fill the rest of the jar with water. Recommendation: this isn’t called out in any recipe, but I used bottled sparkling water 1) because water in my neighborhood tastes like a stapler, and 2) what drink wasn’t ever helped along by a fizz? (see: seven years of diet Dr. Pepper)

Review:

All in all, I could see how this is probably not a drink I will have all the time. It’s an acquired taste, but once acquired, this would be a nice drink to have when you need to rehydrate!

And all in all, I liked Honey by Rebekah Pepper! It might be my favorite so far! I’ve already been crunching the numbers trying to decide when to have the honey-sesame bacon from her “Little Bites” section. And then I’ve been trying to decide who I can swindle with promises of compliments and cheese to make me the roast chicken with lemon and pink pepper honey butter. And then there’s the honey malt ice cream recipe.

Guys, Honey is winning this race.

Coming soon and bringing up the rear: Strawberries!

For previous recipes:

Cucumbers 

Lemons

Home A-Loan

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WWII poster encouraging women to reenter the workforce

It wasn’t what I expected. But then again, I’m not sure what I was expecting.

If you have student loans they become a part of your life. Of your morning routine. Of your trip to the grocery store. Of your weekend plans, deciding whether you should take the weekend trip to Minneapolis, or if you should just go see the matinee of Crazy, Rich, Asians.

Answer: I went to the matinee of Operation Finale. It had both history and also Oscar Isaac.

If you’re like me, equipped with a steady paycheck, something I realize I’m fortunate to claim, you reach a point where you stop noticing your loans. That money just quietly disappears from your bank account. But every once in awhile, you spend a little too much time on your loan provider website, calculating how much interest you’re accruing in a day, in a week, in a month; tracking how far your loans have come since you started paying them; crunching the numbers to see how many months it will take you *now*…..and what about *now*? But- and hear me out- what about *now*? And that’s when they get back in your head. When you start realizing, sure, how far you’ve come, but also how far you have left to go. When you start calculating how many car payments you could make with your monthly wad of cash that you send your student loan provider. How many trips to Minnesota? How many tickets to Oscar Isaac movies?

Answer: so many.

That’s when I signed up for a class offered through my job, teaching you “how to pay off your student loans.”

I’ve always been averse to talking finances with people. Not because it’s considered particularly bad social etiquette, which it is, but because I’m afraid someone will find me out! That I don’t have enough saved. That I should have invested more. That I’m spending too much on nautical, striped shirts, plants, and macrame rope for all my macrame hanging baskets for my plants that I start and never finish. That I have plants that are just sitting on the floor- the floor!- like some yokel! Continue reading

“Be Yourself! I’m talking to you, Cucumbers!”: Butter-Baked Cucumbers

Welcome to part two of the four part series breaking down the latest additions to my cookbook collection, Lemons, Cucumbers, Honey, and Strawberries from Short Stack Editions, short form, ingredient-specific cookbooks.

On the last episode of Under the Parrot Umbrella: We made the angriest lemonade, a recipe based off of the “whole lemonade” recipe from Lemons by Alison Roman.

Next up…

Cucumbers! More like Cool-cumbers! Am I right??!

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Answer: no. I’m not right.

I’ve loved cucumbers ever since I stole my dad’s from his house salads on the periodic Friday-night trips to Outback. I love them in salads. Pickled. Or even just chopped in a bowl with a nice salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice.

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“When Life Gives You Lemons…”: Making The Angriest Lemonade

Every Saturday morning, I get up early. I throw on some semi-respectable jeans, as opposed to my jeans that pick their nose and non-ironically like Kevin James. And I go to my county’s farmers’ market.

Walking through the market with a cup of coffee and an episode of my favorite podcast is one of my very favorite things, and one would think I’d be better at it by now. One would think after all the times I’ve left the grocery store with a seven layer taco dip, biscuits and gravy flavored potato chips, three boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese, a jar of crunchy peanut butter, and a mango just because I was slightly peckish, I’d know that you should never go food shopping without a plan. But I don’t know that I’ve ever been to the farmers’ market with any idea of what I’m looking for.

And that leads to me buying things for reasons like:

  • “Aren’t those beets pretty? Pretty beets are probably the best beets.”
  • “That farmer is quite handsome, better buy some of his swiss chard.”
  • “I’ve had too many cheese samples. I should probably buy something. Or I could just make a run for it! Eh…I’ll buy something.”
  • “Kohlrabi looks like something from Harry Potter. Better buy some.”
  • “Hey! Pie!”

And when I get home, I have to figure out what to do with very pretty beets, squash blossoms, cucumbers, one mini eggplant, a bouquet of fresh flowers, two bunches of swiss chard, a bag of cheese curds, a loaf of bread, and one cherry hand pie.  Continue reading

The Almost-Travel Blogger Tours Wisconsin: Nick Engelbert’s Grandview

People often ask how I dig up my detours, adventures, and excursions around Wisconsin.

Not to reveal too much of the googling behind the curtain, the short answer is…the internet. It’s the internet, and one serendipitous coworker with his finger on the pulse.

“What are you up to this weekend?”
“Hearing a Kardashian-themed opera out of a stranger’s garage.”
“Of course you are.”

Next weekend…

“Playing stand-up paddleboard water polo.”
“Obviously.”

The next weekend…

“Hearing a video game anthropologist speak at a local brewery.”
“…can I come?”

He’s handy to have around- and also happens to be a delight- but I mostly check sites like Atlas Obscura and Roadside America.

And one destination that’s been on my list for awhile was Nick Engelbert’s Grandview, a showcase of concrete folk art sculptures crafted by a dairy farmer with some time to kill.

Grandview

One summer, my brother built a tower of SAT flash cards that reached the ceiling of our family’s basement for no other reason than he had cards and he had time. You got the impression watching him build it that if the ceiling wasn’t a limiting factor, he would have kept going. He had a lot of time! Continue reading

We’re All Thinking It.

As an overeducated millennial with a blog, it was only a matter of time before I brought up Malcolm Gladwell.

In David and Goliath, Gladwell argues the case for students attending lesser known colleges as opposed to more well-known, elite institutions, explaining that the learning environments of smaller schools allows for more tailored learning and greater confidence in the students. By taking away the intimidation of the more prestigious school’s classes, students can feel free to ask questions and to more aggressively seek information without fear of embarrassment.

I originally listened to the book on a drive with my mom. I don’t remember where we were going, and I don’t remember the specifics of his argument. But I do clearly remember him explaining in the context of how confidence manifests in the classroom, if you are confused, someone else is probably confused too. If you have a question, someone else probably has the same question. It’s just a matter of being in a room where you feel like you can speak up.

This was the first time it occurred to me that I wasn’t the only bozo who means well roaming the streets. That other people might be just as confused as I am all the time, but none of us are actually saying it out loud. It was a lesson I tried to hang on to with mixed success.

During the first few weeks at my job, there was a class that introduced us to the practice of quality assurance testing, and the instructor posed the question: how would you test a soda machine?

People around the room started chiming in:

  • What happens if you pay with cash?
  • What happens if you pay with coins?
  • What happens if you kick the machine?
  • Why does the font on the machine look like that?
  • What if I try to pay with a hundred dollar bill?

I quietly sat in the corner, thinking, “did it give me my soda? Yes? This is the world’s best soda machine! Also, who would pay for a soda with a hundred dollar bill? Are my new coworkers actually Mr. Monopoly disguised as a bunch of excitable twenty-two year olds?” Other people were so clearly getting something that I wasn’t, and seeing as my inner monologue, my worst enemy and known alarmist, typically defaults to a state of panic, this so clearly felt like a sign that my new job would be a disaster. Continue reading

Gretchen Roehrs

Sometimes in the course of my research/googles-gone-awry, I run into things that are too charming, interesting, or striking for me not to share. No advice, no pearls of wisdom- I’m definitely, pretty much, mostly very certain those are reasons you decide to stop by- just something cool that might brighten your day. This week? The fashion illustrations of Gretchen Roehrs.

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