browned ground

There are lots of big problems in the world. Most of them are caused by or have been exacerbated by social media.

This is the one I’ll make my moral stand on.

As you scroll through any feed, you often see cutesy time lapsed recipes like this:


Most of these are awful. They’re either too complex or overly rely on combining pre-processed foods which is not “cooking”. But I will not devolve here into the wild frontier that are online recipe comments.

Many of these posts involve ground beef. Invariably, just like the one above, the stop motion has them adding garlic, onions, salt, etc before or with the beef. They then drain the grease and LOSE ALL THE FLAVOR from those items. (Or they don’t drain which is even nastier.)

Brown ground beef first. Drain the fat. (Maybe even deglaze pan at this point.) THEN add your aromatics, spices, etc. Add ground beef back to the pan. Then continue with your madness to add your cream-of-soup, rice krispies, or whatever.

you’re disappointing the kids

Last Friday, Barnes & Noble (tagline: We still sell books!) hosted a nationwide “Cool off with Olaf” event that was centered around the characters and songs in Disney’s Frozen.

We went because someone in our house (not me) is a major Frozen fan. There was minor disappointment in Bowling Green as the crowd (parents & kids) figured out that there was no Olaf character. Rather, it was a cardboard cutout that you could take your picture with.
Right. Fun times.
Actually, aside from the fact the 7pm event started at 7:15, it was still a decent time with singalongs, stories, craft, etc.

bad elsa frozenBut as life teaches you, no matter how bad you think you have it, someone else has it worse. The inter-webs are alive with this week with this picture from someone who waited in line for two hours at another Barnes and Noble to meet Elsa and Anna. Yikes.
(Compare this to the Florida teen who is also burning up media channels and launching a career as Elsa’s doppelgänger.)

What’s the lesson? If you’re going to do something, do it right. Many events I attend are poorly put together and you can tell there was little planning and no common sense.

On a larger scale, businesses are now trying to talk to a savvy-CGI-iPad-polished media consumer — from the old folks right down to toddlers. On one hand, it’s sad that we’ve lost some of the suspension of disbelief that made things like this fun. On the other, the old Willard Scott Ronald McDonald doesn’t cut it in a promoted event. It has to look slick and produced or many times it just won’t work. If you can’t do it to the level it needs to be done, step back and rework it on a level you can.

weakest link

Most restaurant menus are bad. Really bad. If you’re a restaurateur, here are some tips to help you create your restaurant menu.

An eager entrepreneur is passionate about food. He scrimps and saves with the dream of opening his own restaurant.

Why invest in other restaurant startup costs if you're going to butcher your restaurant menu in Microsoft WordOne day, the opportunity presents itself. He sinks all of his financial resources into the building, fit-up, and other start-up costs. His success hinges on the success of that restaurant. He has spared no expense to make it the best it can be.

Opening day approaches.

He cranks up Microsoft Word and makes the menu complete with typos and freakish justification.

The end.

***************

While I’m on a rant about restaurant menus…

  • If I’m eating something in a restaurant, then logically it CANNOT be “homemade” (unless you’re in trouble with the health dept). The word you’re looking for is “homestyle”.
  • Do you sell salads? Most people eat salad dressing on those. How about a listing of your salad dressing choices?
  • Own a restaurant? Have a website for it? Do you know why people come to a restaurant website? The menu. Why have you hidden it, strung it out on 8 different pages, and made it a 25MB PDF?
  • Dear Fast Food Behemoth: How about listing what you have and the prices on the menu boards instead of blinky-flashy tv screens that change about the time I start reading them?
  • And to the original point of this post – If you own a restaurant, please hire a graphic designer to design a menu that works. Proofread it. Pass it around to people who are not your friends to see if it makes sense to them. It’s amazing that the single most important marketing piece for a restaurant is so badly butchered by so many restaurateurs.

read your veggies

After many late nights of eating ramen noodles, rolling my eyes at a publisher’s style guides, and general frustration with the book retail system while publishing Brand Zeitgeist, I swore I would never write another book.

I have written another book. And to borrow the line from Monty Python, it’s something completely different. It’s not about marketing. It’s not about business. It’s not about media.

It’s about vegetable gardening.

Back up. How did we get here?

I’ve been aware for a few years of the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program at Amazon. Even though it’s platform exclusive, it’s an egalitarian idea that puts content creators closer to book consumers in the same disruptive fashion we’ve seen in things like music and media publishing. It eliminates many of the frustrations and problems with traditional, self, or POD publishing.

I had a few ideas of short e-books for marketing topics I wanted to publish in the Amazon program. Before putting a massive amount of work into those projects, I wanted a guinea pig project to learn more about the program firsthand and just for fun.

I also needed to step away from writing about marketing for a bit. As I’ve said before, I’ve exhausted my commentary on traditional marketing and there‘s too much being said about digital.

I had written a column for a local alt-monthly newspaper for a few months about vegetable gardening. I used those columns as a nucleus and wrote an e-book around them.

Kentucky Dirt - A practical guide to vegetable gardeningThat short e-book (about 6500 words) is now available on Amazon as “Kentucky Dirt: A practical guide to vegetable gardening”. The book takes you through a year in the garden with tips and common sense advice on how to grow a garden and why the effort is worth it.

It’s written in a very laid-back first-person style. It’s like Lewis Grizzard, P. Allen Smith, and Justin Wilson got together and wrote something. Kentucky Dirt offers an eclectic mix of folksy humor, recipes, and stories.

It is available exclusively through the Amazon Kindle platform. The download is priced at 99 cents. The book has also been accepted into the Amazon KDP Select program which means, among other things, that Amazon Prime members can borrow the book for free from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

So won’t you buy a copy? It’s only 99 cents!

one thing I hate about the Internet

Actually, there are many things I hate about Internet culture. Nearly all of them involve the way the web highlights and hastens the ignorance and decline of modern culture.

However, one in particular gets me everytime and a great case study to showcase my consternation just occurred. The very funny @badbanana just tweeted “Seventy percent chance Zooey Deschanel has a pet owl.”

In the @replies and in the comments where he feeds into Facebook, there were several retweets and likes. But there were also a few people who tweeted/commented “Who is Zooey Deschanel?”

I’m not mocking people for their lack of knowledge of Zooey Deschanel. If they’re that sheltered from modern culture, good for them.

BUT… In the time it took to type “Who is Zooey Deschanel?” into the Facebook or Twitter box, you could have typed the same phrase into something called Google (or even Bing!) and it would have told you who Zooey Deschanel was. There would have been pictures and links and videos and you would have become a minor expert about Zooey Deschanel.

But no. You took that time to shout your ignorance from the highest rooftops.

And I can’t figure out why.

And yes, I’m a grouchy old man. Get off my lawn.

(And before someone gets smart in the comments: Zooey Deschanel)

tradition

freedom from wantI am a staunch traditionalist.

There’s a reason things have been done the same way for a long time. It’s because those things work. Ain’t broke, don’t fix.

Every year around this time, magazines and TV shows start to wear on my traditionalist vein.

“New and exciting recipes for Thanksgiving” is the call of the headline. The magazine’s test kitchen or the celebrity chefs are rolling out alternatives as they reinvent the traditional bird and sides.

And I ask why.

How often does the average American roast an entire turkey EXCEPT in November or December? Do people not crave the holiday feast since it’s such a rarity? People cook this meal so infrequently that there’s a hotline to help them with questions.

And yet, turn on the TV or open the magazine to find someone telling you that you should prepare “Fruit-Loop encrusted turkey drumsticks for a new and exciting taste”. “Forget the whole bird and impress your guests with roadside turkey sliders with a Sriracha cranberry sauce!”

Even as I write this, my wife is planning to abandon a traditional pumpkin pie for something called Black Bottom Pumpkin Pie which sounds like a November mashup concert between Queen and AC/DC. Doesn’t bother me though as I deem any sort of pumpkin pie as a cooled jiggly inedible jack-o-lantern leftover. That recipe came straight out of the pages of this month’s Southern Living magazine. Southern Living used to be a good barometer of the traditional South, but now has been taken over by hipster editors and writers who overly rely on tales of grits and football to fake true Southern credentials.

It’s not just food. “Traditions” are now created to sell things like Elf on the Shelf. The masses are hooked into a faux tradition that was only conjured in 2005 to sell a book. The value of holiday traditions have been replaced with marauding crowds and the economic effects of Black Friday.

Change is inevitable. We wouldn’t pick out the stuff on a Thanksgiving table even 100 years ago and certainly not the original feast with Squanto and Company. Change will happen to us like frogs in the boiling pot. One day, there will be questions of why more people don’t eat the traditional Fruit-Loop encrusted turkey drumsticks anymore. The folks who ask that question will be accused of being square and out of touch.

Who’s responsible? As with most things, I blame the media. The media’s daily job is to convince millions of people to abandon what they know from experience to be true/right only to be replaced with an idea created by a few fresh-out-of-college 20-somethings looking for a hip story or trend.

So I ask you to join the rebellion this year. This Thanksgiving and Christmas, try something truly daring and off the wall. Ignore the hipster media kids. Do everything that way it would have been done in your childhood. Tell your friends to have a Merry Christmas.

Tradition is the new black.