twelve things i probably didn't need to grab from the giveaway table at work (but have been hoarding in and under my desk anyway):

01 csi: miami the board game
02 "wickedly hot chocolate" three-in-one body wash, bubble bath and shampoo*
03 chardonnay napa valley wine jelly
04 your astrology guide 2008
05 too faced shimmer veils glittering eye gloss in "unicorn tears"
06 nature's pearl muscadine grape jelly
07 dr. hauschka's apis belladonna sore throat rescue
08 csi: crime scene investigation crime game booster pack #2
09 five feet of yellow grosgrain ribbon
10 green limited edition benetton chain scarf
11 guerlain golden lash top coat mascara**
12 mustard yellow mossimo "rock steady" purse

there are clear and often really creepy patterns here. shiny makeup, predictable for me (though not as it would have been a decade ago: now i'm a beady-eyed magpie, not a sparkly-faced alien). accessories in strange colors, less so: i adore green, but i never wear scarves, and i have a near-pathological need to carry the same purse every day. exotic, gross-sounding jellies: what? multiple csi-themed board games: what?***

*so, so gross. i always grab the food-scented stuff (i have a small collection of weird cologne spray freebies from demeter fragrance library so that, if conversation lags when we have people over, i can say, "hey, check me out smelling like a green tomato!"), and chocolate-scented things are always disgusting.

**which totally doesn't work! metallic mascara is a lie that breaks my heart every year!

***okay, joe and i are sort of fixated on david caruso as horatio kane on csi: miami. he is a force of nature.


when i fired up the ol' laptop yesterday morning, i hadn't planned to hate on tina fey; turning on the half of saturday night live we'd recorded the night before derailed me. i'd intended to criticize something even more objectively innocuous - that is, overstyled bookshelves. i loathe them, especially when they're arranged...god, it hurts just to say it...by color.

now, i'll be the first to admit that our shelves could use some styling. our lone bookcase is jammed, and the good stuff is squeezed between weird publisher's freebies and things we've been too lazy to throw away.* books aside, i don't even like half of the tchotchkes we're rocking here:

the (top half of the) bookcase

one can get stuck at the other end of the spectrum. i acknowlege this - but that's not the end we're here to hate.

back to arranging by color. would you be anxious to eat with someone who arranged his pantry that way? i wouldn't make sweeping assumptions about someone's literacy based on the color thing, but i would assume (until i had reason to think otherwise) that their books' appearance was more important than their contents. that they might be the sort of people who get books by the foot at the strand.**

i'm not saying one should ignore books' physical properties altogether. lord knows i love the smell of old leather and binding, the monstrous weight of oversized art books, and - yes - the visual impact of covers. these colorful cookbooks strike that last note nicely: they're already grouped by content, so arranging for visual impact doesn't compromise anything. the celebrated "rainbow bookshelf," though - [meatloaf] no, no, no, i won't do that. [/meatloaf]

again, i'm probably overreacting. what do you think when you do the shelf scan (and you know you do) at someone else's place? what do yours look like, and why?

*i haven't been able to get rid of books since college, when the bookstore wanted to buy our expensive textbooks back for pennies on the dollar (oh hell no). i always think of that when i hear frank black's "headache" ("this wrinkle in time / can't give it no credit..."). then i think of how my mother is still storing 75% of my books at her tiny house in davis, and how i am a worthless daughter.

**books by the foot are wildly useful if you're creating a stage or film set, mind you. for personal collections, though? why would you let someone else have the fun of building your hoard?


sometimes i feel like the only young woman in america who doesn't want to have a cosmo and/or a giggly sleepover with tina fey; as far as breeder crushes go, she's the female equivalent of barack obama. i've never been able to put my finger on my distaste for her, but i think last night's first-post-writers'-strike saturday night live cleared things up: she's mean.

much is already being made of how, in her weekend update "women's news" segment, fey defended hillary clinton and ridiculed women who make "whatever choice oprah tells them to." i'm more interested in the first half of the segment, when she crapped on lindsay lohan - who starred in (cough) mean girls, fey's movie based on queen bees and wannabes: helping your daughter survive cliques, gossip, boyfriends, and other realities of adolescence* - for looking old in her marilyn monroe photo shoot, older women who consider themselves "middle-aged," and fat kirstie alley. she then praised clinton (a "bitch") and...nuns? tough love has always been an integral part of good comedy, but what's the takeaway here? heaven help you if you aren't as prudish, tiny, or brainy as tina fey? when, exactly, did (pick-a-wave) feminism become an excuse for women to savage each other?

snark has its place; for whatever reason, it disappointed me to see TF, girlcrush to the masses, taking unfunny swipes at other "ladies." throw in her opening monologue (in which steve martin slapped her repeatedly to demonstrate the rule of three), and...that was the most regressive comedy i've seen in a while. if her jokes weren't tongue-in-cheek, well, how depressing.

...but i could be in an unusually thin-skinned mood this afternoon. am i being unfair, (lady) internets?

in unrelated news, we saw michael clayton last night (and i updated my oscar predictions accordingly). in a leaner year, clooney or tom wilkinson might have had a chance; no love in '08, i think. also, as it's already four, we're probably going to skip the splashy uptown party. i mean, i've only been wearing pants for the last hour.

*aka that psychology book about how machiavelli would tremble at the brutal shit girls inflict on one another in junior high.


the dirty dozen, concluded: the snow we've merited

09 the song of the day, via the weekly popbitch newsletter, is soko's "i will never love you more." i have a feeling that an entire album of her amelie-folk stylings (she's kinda "audrey tautou sings kimya dawson") would be too much for me, but these lyrics ("i will never love you more than my boyfriend when i was 14 / even if he's now an asshole;" "i will never love you more than 'god only knows'") warm my shriveled little heart of tar. it's streaming on her myspace page (linked to her name above).

10 i've been trying to settle on a nasty-ass alcohol of the day, but the two contenders are so strong: sparkling vodka* or mansinthe, "the official marilyn manson absinthe"? actually, now that i'm typing it out, mansinthe wins, hands down. tasters over at epicurious report that it tastes like shit, and, c'mon, "mansinthe"? poor old marilyn manson and his accidentally comical attempts at product spin-offs. remember when he said he wanted to market "a perfume that smelled like children"? so...baby powder? transgressive!

11 we're invited to a rather large oscar party on sunday, and while my social habits make hobbits look daring, time is running out on my 101 in 1001 list. what will become of 087 win a costume contest if i don't have a go at the celebrity look-a-like contest? there are a few obvious problems here: my short hair makes it difficult for me to riff on most actresses' looks, and i'd have to chloroform joe to get him into costume (going as a celebrity couple isn't mandatory, but i figure it can't hurt). my sister suggested i recreate lizzy gardiner's american express dress from '95, and the construction would be lots of fun - but i'd freeze to death, and wearing long underwear beneath the credit cards wouldn't be very sporting. my latest theory is that joe could be daniel day-lewis in there will be blood (surely he'd wear a vintage suit, or at least a shawl-collar sweater) and i could build an oil well out of wood skewers on top of my head. and then wear black? internets, i need your help again.

12 at the risk of sounding like a broken record: snow day!

snow on the glass roof

*LAUREN: dear god, why?

GEORGE: because they're british, and they don't know any better.


the dirty dozen, continued: slacker (!) thursday

o, the metashame! i was dragging my feet on putting together a regular post, then dragging my feet on a numbered post (when was the last time i made it to twelve?) - then jen rocked a list of thirteen. why is my output so peer-sensitive?

05 on last night a dj saved my life: the history of the disc jockey:

[a blood bank, at the juice and cookies table.]

WOMAN: [to NURSE] your job must be exhausting. watching people eat cookies all day!

NURSE: ...

WOMAN: [to LAUREN]: what are you reading?

LAUREN: a history of the dj. it was a gift.

WOMAN: are you a dj?

LAUREN: no. i don't even like going to clubs, actually. it's really interesting, though.

WOMAN: i hate the cover. i'd not want to read it just because of that.


i put last night on my amazon wish list several years ago at the urging of...someone or other, and forgot about it until my sister sent it to me this christmas. though i hate dancing more than...george and my sister and i hate audrey hepburn, the book is really interesting: a lot of audio techniques (especially the disco-era tricks) were pioneered in and around midtown manhattan, so i'm learning lots of fun and disturbing things about my 'hood (the giant meat restaurant next door used to be a big gay disco! george lives around the corner from one of the most notorious clubs of the '70s!). i also know next to nothing about reggae and first-generation hip hop, so i've appreciated the primer. to be honest, i haven't yet gotten to the bits about paul oakenfold and the ministry of sound (i'm only 250 pages in), but i'm...kind of looking forward to learning about that lot as well. i still refuse to dance, though.

06 i'm also reading suze orman's women & money: owning the power to control your destiny (offered as a free pdf last week) for a group finance blog / book club a friend of mine just started. both orman's comments in the book and the other gals' posts about their money habits are resonating all over the place with me: it's both shocking and comforting to learn that my particular dysfunctional relationship with my finances is a common one. as of march 1, the book will be kicking us all off on a five-month plan to get our crap in order. it won't be pretty, but i get the feeling that it's worth doing. go go gadget financial hygiene! also, i am so old and boring!

07 mothwar, my since-'05 tussle with the clothing-destroyers in our bedroom closet, has been going about as well as our war in...no, that's not a tasteful comparison. suffice it to say that our losses have been severe, and that a moth-gang actually managed to spell FUCK YOU with holes in one of joe's sweaters. this weekend, it was time for mothballs (which are famous for stinking, but i always assumed the stink would be "extra-strength grandma's house," not "napalm in the morning"). mothballs do not smell like victory, internets: there are no words for what mothballs smell like. we gave up and threw them all away on sunday night. if you're better at repelling moths than we are, please help.

08 joe, returning home from work the other night: "hey, i've got the new york with lindsay lohan's boobs!" let us not speak of the lohan / marilyn monroe / bert stern photos, for they horrify me. let us speak instead of the much smaller and more clothed piece in that new york magazine about people with monochromatic wardrobes - specifically, of the magnetic fields' stephin merritt, who claims to wear only brown.* yeah, i said claims: at the lincoln center shows we saw in '02, merritt made a point of talking about his colorful striped shirt, saying that it was expensive and designer and a vice of his, he had several (paul, jacob, and joe, can you back me up on this?). i realize that was six years ago, and SM could certainly have browned out in the interim. but! if one is to be featured in a magazine for one's sartorial eccentricity (the four other new yorkers in the piece are the real, wacky-substitute-teacher deal - with the possible exception of karim rashid, who wears pink AND white), one should really commit, is what i'm saying. stephin, you are no karim rashid!

*i know, i know, that's a link to a village voice blog post on the new york piece; the new york site eats browser windows like those damn moths eat joe's fancy suit pants. also, the voice post makes the excellent, unrelated point that amy winehouse is a dead ringer for janice from friends.


the miracle fruit experiment was a success! we were all a bit skeptical (and skeeved out) as i attempted to portion out the lump of freeze-dried pulp, and the initial flavor of the berries (which i'd liken to...upscale fruit roll-up?) was unexceptional, but their promised tastebud-transforming effect was noticeable almost immediately. in the taste tests, citric acid and fructose were the winning components by a mile: citrus fruit, especially the marvelous little meyer lemon quarters, really did become sweet enough to eat like candy. miracle fruit fiddles with food's knobs, if you will, so that sourness recedes and sweeter notes come forward.* other flavor components aren't affected as strongly, and weren't as interesting: the olives still tasted like olives, and the aggressive danish blue cheese became a polite cambozola (but bore no resemblance to cream cheese frosting, as other tasters had reported it would). the most notable fizzle, though, was the alcohol (i'd picked up a mixed pack of stouts - dragon, old rasputin, mackeson's, samuel smith's, and a few others - in hopes of achieving the wall street journal's milkshake effect): the stout fans (joe, george, dave) and skeptics (me, melissa) alike thought the sweetened beer tasted like ass. i'm glad we didn't mess around with a pint of guinness, for compromising that flavor would have broken george's heart. conclusion: it's still a little weird to have paid $30 for an anonymous envelope from the UK, but given that six of us were entertained for several hours, the food trip was worthwhile. if miracle fruit becomes available to you, give it a try - but give beer a wide berth.

*this was also notable with our vast supply of condiments - i was able to drink (and enjoy) both brown rice and red wine vinegar. i'd have tried more, but a belly full of vinegar (and lemons, and raw rhubarb) didn't seem like a good idea.


a few weeks ago, i stumbled upon an old wall street journal article on miracle fruit:
ARLINGTON, Va. -- At a party here one recent Friday, Jacob Grier stood on a chair, pulled out a plastic bag full of small berries, and invited everyone to eat one apiece. "Make sure it coats your tongue," he said.

Mr. Grier's guests were about to go under the influence of miracle fruit, a slightly tart West African berry with a strange property: For about an hour after you eat it, everything sour tastes sweet.

Within minutes of consuming the berries, guests were devouring lime wedges as if they were candy. Straight lemon juice went down like lemonade, and goat cheese tasted as if it was "covered in powdered sugar," said one astonished partygoer. A rich stout beer seemed "like a milkshake," said another.
the snozzberries taste like snozzberries! i was fascinated, so i found an overseas seller; two weeks later, my mysterious package from england is here. the miraculin granules (freeze-dried bits of the berries) look like a handful of especially unlucky gumballs, and the baggie they're in is taped to a random british club flyer, but i'm willing to take a chance for some real-life willy wonka action. the missus and i are having our very own foodiepalooza tomorrow: we've already got a zillion kinds of vinegar, i picked up some meyer lemons, danish blue cheese, and mean little olives, and friends are bringing over things like umeboshi (pickled plums). i feel like i'm forgetting some obvious experimental opportunities, though: what am i missing? what else should we try?


valentine's day mishap #5803:

i wanted to make red velvet cupcakes.

red velvet cupcakes pink cocoa muffins. a few years ago, i read an interview with some dark-haired hipster bombshell - dita von teese, maybe, or rose mcgowan - who bragged about how she made a kick-ass red velvet cake. i've never been any good at baking, but i took in the idea that spooky homemakers should specialize in red velvet cakes. i found a plausible recipe (from cake man raven, who seems like an expert), hit the grocery store for supplies on the way home, ran a few miles to excuse the consumption of a bunch of cupcakes, and...baked miserably, hooray! a ringer here at work urged me to replace buttermilk with evaporated milk, which sapped a bit of the cake's expected tang; joe then demanded a double helping of cocoa powder, which probably compromised sweetness. finally, i didn't buy nearly enough red food coloring and left the little guys in the oven a bit too long, so: pink cocoa muffins. joe has been steadily thinning the muffin herd (baked-good-lion-style) since last night, though, and they were meant to be his valentine's day present, so i guess that's something. happy fourteenth to you, internets: here's hoping your failures are edible.


though we just closed an issue of the magazine and i've got some time on my hands, i don't think i'll be liveblogging chesapeake tuesday. i would, however, like to draw your attention to an interesting salon review of william poundstone's gaming the vote: why elections aren't fair. it begins with a discussion of why nader voters were foolish sacks of crap - that is, why the spoiler effect will always sink plurality voting - and ends with praise for hot or not (that is, range voting).
After examining a raft of alternatives to the plurality vote with what sometimes seems like numbing attention to their details and flaws, Poundstone ends by suggesting a voting method that seems to evade Arrow's impossibility theorem altogether. In virtually every way, under any condition, this voting system seems fair. What's more, it didn't grow out of the research on voting. It arose more naturally -- on the Internet, out of the Web's affinity for reviewing pop culture.

The method is called "range voting," and it works in the same way you rate movies on Netflix, books on Amazon, or people on Hot or Not. When you go to vote, you give each candidate on the ballot a rating on a 10- or 100-point scale. Maybe you say Bush is 1 out of 10, Nader is 8, Gore is 5. The winner is the candidate who has the highest average score. Range voting has a number of advantages over how we vote today: Like IRV, it prevents spoilers, but it also obeys monotonocity (a winner can't lose by getting more votes), it's quite impervious to strategic voting (it's hard to game the system by giving false ratings to your candidate or his opponents), and it's "expressive" -- you get to say not only that you like one candidate more than another, but by how much you like him.


The best way to choose the president, it turns out, is the same way you decide whether the drunk sorority girl who just posted her picture on the Web has nice skin.
it's an interesting idea, though i think it would sink hillary clinton in a head-to-head with john mccain. many of the liberals i know, myself included, are kind of fond of mccain, while almost all of the conservatives i know (and many of the liberals, come to think of it) loathe clinton. range voting in an obama-mccain race, on the other hand, would be a thing to see: i would imagine that a lot of people who wouldn't give obama their vote still have mild crushes on him. he's a dapper guy, that obama.


the dirty dozen: super? friday

i'll finish one of these in a single day if it kills me. maybe not this single day, but y'know.

01 remember jim, the bitchin' photographer who took the magical photos of dead books in detroit? he opened an etsy shop last week, and i happened by just in time for one of his prints. we have very little blank space on our walls, to be sure, but the print i seized was number 12 in an edition of 30; there is a nanobot in my bloodstream that forces me to purchase when it sees the number 12. also, jim was then kind enough to compliment my (extremely amateur) photos. the nanobot saw this coming, you see.

02 i'll be defeating 101 in 101: 038 participate in a charity walk next month via the the new york city colon cancer challenge. since i've been diligent gymgoer for the past few months, the 4-mile run is more appealing than the 1.7-mile remembrance & prevention walk; i'm doing my best to rock the list honestly (read: literally), though, and there will be other runs. a few more months of prep at the treadmill never hurt anyone.

03 simplest pasta recipe of all time (punched up and canned down from a dish we featured in the ladymag):

- 1 lb. spaghettini or capellini
- 1/3-1/2 c extra virgin olive oil* (joe prefers more; i go light)
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1-2 tbsp red pepper flakes (i go heavy, for i am pele, goddess of fire)
- large (28 oz.) can whole plum tomatoes*
- 1 c chopped pitted kalamata-ish olives (anything dark and tart will do)
- 1/2 c rough-chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1/3 c toasted pine nuts

add oil to a large wok (large enough for the pasta when cooked), then saute the garlic and red pepper flakes for a few minutes. stir in the tomatoes and olives, cook for another minute, then set aside. cook and drain the pasta, then dump it into the wok and toss until coated. stir in the parsley and pine nuts.

grated parmesan or pecorino is nice on top, but there's enough oil and fat in the dish that it feels hearty as is (and reheats really nicely, which is perfect for us, as it yields 4 big portions).

04 speaking of recipes, today's design*sponge "in the kitchen with" recipe - homemade granola - looks delicious.*** both granola and trail mix are really expensive in manhattan, and i recently discovered a good local source for cheap(ish) dried fruit and nuts, so i'm going to start experimenting with making my own. if any of you have favorite versions, i could use the direction!

*did anyone else throw up in their mouth a little bit when rachael ray started selling e.v.o.o.?

**you could just buy diced tomatoes, but joe feels a lot better about eating them if he's pulverized them himself. either way, use the juice, too.

***dish dork aside: the fiestaware and lorena barrezueta pieces in those prep photos are hot.


oh, mcsweeney's. you couldn't post a tintin list before i spent an hour paging through five brothers: the romney campaign blog for my list submission? i'm not claiming superiority, i just - that's a lot of romney. anyway:


1. What Happened at Midnight
2. Grazing with the Elephants
3. The Mysterious Caravan
4. Turkey Bowl!
5. By the Company They Keep
6. The Great Airport Mystery
7. The Missing Chums
8. The Tale of the Tape
9. Danger on Vampire Trail

Hardy Boys: 1, 3, 6, 7, 9
Romney Boys: 2, 4, 5, 8

in other romney boys news, "five on five" in this week's new yorker fuels my girl-crush on lauren collins. her "talk of the town" pieces are boss:
It’s not hard to wonder: Do all sibling pentads get along this well, and, if they do, how would they get along with the Romneys? The question was put to Ron Hassoun, the Israeli-born proprietor of Five Brothers Audio and Video, in Williamsburg. The thirty-seven-year-old second son of what he describes as a “pretty boring” and “not very close” family, Ron—who’d been supporting Rudy Giuliani—said that he wasn’t really interested in the Romneys, or in the fact that they, too, constitute Five Brothers. With a little prodding, however, he agreed to play ambassador on behalf of his siblings Ethan (thirty-nine), Jimmy (thirty-five), Stephen (twenty-five), and David (twenty-one) on a telephone call to Tagg Romney.
in other crush news, in turn, i indulged the missus and made a donation (in the amount of his tax return) to team obama - and immediately received a fundraising note from the clinton campaign. awkward.*

how's super...thursday treating you?

*speaking of awkward, those of you who know of my phobias will appreciate how difficult it was for me to research this (these?) at the office this morning. gah - i'd rather read about the romney boys.

02.05.08 primary notes from nyc: updated throughout the day

23:08 listed on etsy today: barack obama valentines. "if you want, you can still run for VICE president of my heart."

22:52 an e-blast of thanks from the clinton campaign:***
From Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Arkansas, to New Jersey, Massachusetts, and my home state of New York, the good news just keeps coming in. We're off to a great start tonight, and I know it would not have been possible without you.

It's not over yet. Votes are still being counted and we may not know the full results until tomorrow. But I wanted to make sure I thanked you for all you have done because, yet again, your support has given us the momentum tonight.
obama supporters in minnesota are getting similar notes, according to the hypnotic twitter/google map. that thing's better than a tropical fish tank.

22:36 terry mcauliffe's hot new strategy for fielding pesky questions from msnbc: fake deafness!** connecticut is called for obama, killing the anticipated "tri-state trifecta" for clinton (i also suspect new york, currently at about 57% to 40%, will tighten up a bit).

22:12 for your viewing pleasure, a flickr shot of one of our superbootleg new york city voting machines.

21:48 various pundits are remarking on obama's strong polling results with white males. no surprise here: i think every guy i know has a man-crush on him.

20:59 joe has started calling a certain eastern population "massholes."

20:32 illinois for obama, oklahoma for clinton, and some random talking head just called john mccain "lazarus, the great survivor." what?

20:20 as i did my best hamster impression at the gym, georgia went for obama and ny1's dominic carter tried to trick howard dean into saying he would lo-ove a clinton/obama ticket; dean responded that a mccain win would be "a third bush term." that's awfully low, howard, but way to effectively change the subject! also, tennessee (according to keith olbermann) went for clinton. no word on how arrested development feels about this, but joe is "nervous."

16:42 a gothamist tipster reports that selecting all delegates below obama's name (instead of 6 of 7) invalidated his/her vote, though commenters seem to think he/she's full of shit. also, baby jo reports from california that dad is indeed an independent: "Which, and I didn’t know this until this morning, means that he can still vote Democrat but NOT Republican. Funny, huh? A guy in line in front of me was Independent too, and he wanted to vote Republican but was turned down. We also had a slew of Indian casino propositions to vote on, which I’m sure you missed dearly."

14:39 the new york times reports on this morning's republican rally at rockefeller center:
Many of the supporters held signs reading “Veterans,” “Women,” and “Irish” for McCain. Mr. McCain, who was flanked by Rudy Giuliani and Joe Lieberman, his wife and his 95-year-old mother, gave a hawkish speech and drew cheers by telling the crowd, “If I have to follow Osama Bin Laden to the gates of hell, I will find him.”
i knew it! bin laden is at stanford!

13:26 just in time for a few final pity votes, hillary clinton picks her all-time worst outfits for us weekly ("I'm a big believer in recycling - even carpets!").

12:41 when celebrities attack endorse, part 557: obama-morrissey 2008.

12:10 from the ap wire: "for the first time in decades, nj voters have influence in primary." not george! come to think of it, my dad might still be registered as an independent in california. also, jersey doesn't exist.

10:35 coming to order at an especially boisterous work meeting: "are you all excited about the election? oh, there's the giants parade."

10:15 a colleague confesses that the hell's kitchen vote-o-matic she used only allowed her to select five of the six delegates beneath her chosen candidate. we're all being vague about pronouns and "chosen candidates."

09:15 to my great relief, my voter registration hasn't lapsed. to my chagrin, i'm expected to select pledged delegates in addition to a candidate. i've barely settled on a candidate, new york - why must you confuse me? i feel rebecca traister's pain ("[F]or the first time in my life, barring some truly dramatic last-minute development, I am going to walk into a voting booth on Tuesday, pull a curtain closed, and see how the spirit moves me.").*

*traister's admission has earned her 613 comments already. the salon crowd is always feisty, but - wow.

**so lame. i miss the ragin' cajun.

***i'm still on fourteen of their mailing lists. stupid marc jacobs hillary shirt.


citizens of the internets (who are interested in replicating metropolitan english kebab van chips with available-in-the-US ingredients): relief is here! after nearly two years of pining for ahmed's chips and cheese (last enjoyed when mom and joe and i went on our oxford wedding scouting trip in march of '06) and telling myself that it would be asinine to approximate a £1.40 dish with like thirty bucks' worth of local ingredients (vaffanculo, midtown grocery stores!), i cracked and gave it a try. exchange rates being what they are, i won't be having the real thing for another few years, and that ain't right either.

the bad news: it was super-expensive to make chips and cheese at home. the good news: they sort of tasted vaguely authentic-ish! which translates to "twelve times better than any american fast food could ever hope to be."

ahmed's chips and cheese (take manhattan)

- alexia yukon gold julienne fries with sea salt

no, i didn't fry my own chips. i realize how wildly inauthentic that is, but i couldn't handle wasting a whole vat of oil on two people. the risk was a good one: these were a bit crispier than chips should be, but they were the right size and shape, and the malt vinegar softened them up anyway.

- gilway malt vinegar

the cheaper of the two english vinegars i found. the other, much smaller bottle claimed that it was PERFECT FOR FISH AND CHIPS! like four times, so i was pretty sure it was lying.

- kraft cracker barrel sharp white cheddar cheese

i suspect that almost any white cheddar would work.

- delouis fils garlic mayonnaise

totally could have made this myself, too (who doesn't love roasting garlic?). i reasoned that most chippers don't make aioli from scratch, though, and it would in fact be more authentic to purchase some. i even transferred the mayo to an industrial condiment squeezer to kick it up that last notch.

- ketchup (whatever, everyone has ketchup)

impossible to screw up, unless you get colored ketchup or the foofy stuff with gourmet additives, in which case you don't merit chips.

- cholula hot sauce

nobody (but nobody) wanted to sell me middle eastern hot sauce. cholula tastes good on everything else, so i took a chance.

i baked half of the bag of chips in a cake pan until they were plausibly stiff but not especially browned (about 25-30 minutes), transferred to a 6" bowl, gave a few good splashes of the vinegar, covered with two handfuls of grated cheese, drizzled with garlic mayo and ketchup, and finished with the cholula. the smell was exactly right, and the taste was close enough that i got a little misty when i had my first few bites. not priceless, exactly, but worth every penny: we miss you, ahmed!

on a related note, joe won my heart in oxford long, long ago by bringing me tortillas all the way from wales. they were a far cry from the real thing, of course, but a man who understands regional food nostalgia is a fine man indeed.