Happy anniversary to one of the most popular and influential sci-fi icons of all time! On September 8th, 1966, the original Star Trek series premiered on NBC. Though its initial low ratings caused it to be canceled after only three seasons (on June 3, 1969), Star Trek’s enduring cult popularity eventually led to syndication and a ton of spin-off material including books, games, five additional TV series and 12 feature films.
Star Trek’s enduring popularity can lately be attributed to the awesome special effects, sterling acting, and excellent writing that have graced the two most recent Star Trek films. Those things were not really a part of the original series, but it garnered and maintained popularity nonetheless. Which brings us to Star Trek’s single greatest attribute: it was science fiction that actually was about science. Sure, the original series may have been laughably overacted. Sure it was incredibly corny. Yes, it literally used the same set every week to portray various alien planets. But none of that matters, because Star Trek’s great saving grace was that it was really all about humanity’s insatiable curiosity. Star Trek taught us that even in three hundred years when humanity is traveling through space with no more inconvenience than what we fly with now, there will still be things to discover. There will still be challenges to overcome. In short, there will still be a search for meaning. Gene Roddenberry was a freakin’ genius.
Honey is one of the oldest sweeteners known to man. There is evidence of humans gathering honey to eat as far in the past as 8,000 years ago (as compared to common table sugar, which, at the earliest, may have been discovered and used around 800 B.C.) Sugar only began to rival honey as a sweetening agent after the Crusades, and it remained a luxury item until the 19th century when it finally completed its transformation to basic human necessity. So honey has been a pretty big deal for most of human history.
And baklava is pretty much the best thing you can make with honey. (Although honey is also great in a variety of beverages like tea and lemonade!) If you’ve never had baklava, let me break it down for you. Baklava is a pastry from the former Ottoman Empire (though variations exist in many of the surrounding cultures and most people think baklava originated in Greece!) and it is made by layering filo, chopped nuts, butter, and a syrup made with honey. And it is damned delectable.
But National Honey Month isn’t all about the amazing treats one can make with honey. Any discussion of honey must include bees, which a) are totally cool, and b) are in decline. Which sucks, both because the cause of the bees’ decline remains unknown and because the loss of honeybee populations would have severely adverse effects on agriculture. (And the amount of honey that might be available for use in baklava and other recipes in the future.)
So make sure you get you some honey this month and make delicious treats with it. And appreciate the bees! They may not be around forever!
And! As an added bonus, here’s the baklava recipe that I use! I generally use pecans or walnuts for my baklava, though pistachios are traditional and I read something recently about using hazelnuts, so I’m probably definitely going to try that some time soon. Enjoy!
1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped nuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan.
2. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 — 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 — 8 sheets deep.
3. Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
4. Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
5. Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.
Oh man, you guys. I love September so much. It’s my favorite month. And yes, my birthday is in September, but I love it for so many more reasons than that! September has some of the best weather of the year: still warm enough for shorts and tees, but not stupid hot, September is back to school time, which is getting more and more nostalgic the longer I’m away from school, and September has a whole bunch of great events too! Click READ MORE to find out what’s up!
August 29th is More Herbs, Less Salt Day! Herbs are fantastic, guys. Herbs are what takes food from drab to fab, they’re the saving grace of such bland things as potatoes and quinoa, they are, in short, food’s reason for living.
Where would that healthy grilled chicken be without a little rub of rosemary? Blahsville, that’s where. And those cute little new potatoes? Without some chives or some parsley, you may as well be eating balls of paste. And of course, though it’s not quite universally loved, who can forget the culinary might of cilantro in a salsa or a chutney?
More Herbs, Less Salt Day is a day to remember both the risks of over-salting one’s food and the pleasures of using fresh herbs in one’s cooking (and eating.) Seriously, is there anything that can make you feel more like a real chef than adding a pinch of fresh oregano to a simmering dish? There is not.
So for real, get you some herbs, make some food, and enjoy the delicious and complex flavors that only herbs can provide. Salt is great, but in the end it just makes things salty. Herbs are way more useful.
It’s National Farmer’s Market Week, city slickers! When I was a kid, my mom used to take us to the Farmer’s Market in the parking lot of the Pittsburgh Zoo and it was one of the best parts of the summer. I didn’t really appreciate the local produce then, but man did I love the sno-cones. There was this great vendor with one of those totally bitchin’ ice shaving machines and all these great flavored syrups like Piña Colada and mango and stuff. It ruled.
There’s no FM in the zoo parking lot anymore, but there are plenty of them around Pittsburgh during the spring/summer/fall, and the FM is the very best place to get fruits, vegetables, and a bunch of other delicious foodstuffs. My favorites to get recently are fresh baked breads, whole barbecued chickens, and there’s this berry farmer who makes these fantastic berry-flavored syrups that go great in lemonade and on ice cream and stuff.
Sno-cones, breads, and syrups, though, all pale in comparison to freshly picked corn on the cob. There may indeed be no better summer food than fresh corn. It’s great just shucked and boiled, it’s fantastic grilled, and it’s amazing cut off the cob and cooked with olive oil and fresh Poblano peppers. (Also available at FMs!)
Pretty much what I’m saying here is that the Farmer’s Market is absolutely the place to go for fresh summer foods. There’s at least one somewhere in Pittsburgh every day except Saturday for the rest of the summer and into the fall. Find out exactly where/when here! I’ll see you there!
Well, friends, we got through the hectic, crazy fun that was July and now it’s time to settle in for the long, hot haul that is August. Just kidding, it’s still summer and that means more fun! Sure, it feels like you’re swimming through molten lava each time you walk outside, but that’s part of summer’s charm! Or whatever. Anyway, there’s plenty of great stuff happening at KU during August, so click READ MORE to find out what!
Peter Rabbit, as you may know, is the most famous character of the wonderful children’s author Beatrix Potter. (Whose birthday is July 28th!) When I was a kid, there were several film adaptations of Beatrix Potter’s works that I loved to watch over and over and over. They, along with the Disney movie Dumbo and the cartoon Charlotte’s Web, were a hugely formative part of my childhood. They were instrumental in giving me a love of nature and animals that endures to this day.
Peter Rabbit was a rebel. His mom was all, “Don’t go in Mr. McGregor’s garden or he will literally eat you like some sort of fairy tale monster only he’s real.” But Peter was like, “Yeah, whatever!” And he raided that garden righteously. It was so metal. Then he had to escape the garden when Mr. McGregor happened to see and chase him and he barely got away! AND, having lost his waistcoat (a rabbit in a waistcoat?!) and shoes and contracted a cold from hiding in a watering can, Peter was sent to bed with no supper and just a dose of Chamomile tea. Whew.
So yes, Peter probably could have avoided all that unpleasantness by simply listening to his mother, but sometimes you just have to let people make their own mistakes. And eat delicious carrots.
Beatrix Potter was pretty rad too. She was a shrewd businesswoman, patenting a Peter Rabbit doll shortly after the book became such a huge hit and buying a ton of farmland in the north of England over the course of her life (which she donated to the National Trust and later much of it became the Lake District National Park) and just generally being a boss. Plus her name was Beatrix which rules. So happy birthday, Beatrix! <3!
The life of a comic book nerd is not easy. Misunderstood, dismissed, and much maligned, the graphic novel/comic medium is in reality just as complex and varied as is traditional fiction, it just happens to include freakin’ awesome illustrations. If you’re someone who has, in the past, dismissed comics because you thought they were all about superheroes with onomatopoetic sound effects like ‘biff’ or if you’re someone who’s never even considered diving into the rich and wonderful world of the graphic novel, give these books a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Batman, R.I.P.: What it’s about: Batman, obviously. He dies in this one! (Maybe…)
Why you should read it: Batman R.I.P. is pretty much the culmination of Grant Morrison’s (aka, the Leo Tolstoy of graphic novels) work with the Batman character. It’s huge, complex, and challenging. Not your run of the mill superhero comic.
Lucifer: What it’s about: Yes, that Lucifer. In the DC universe, the character of Lucifer appears in many stories, most notably in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, which is where the stand alone Lucifer series got its start.
Why you should read it: Sorry, did I not mention the part where it’s about the devil and that the stand alone series is a spin-off from Sandman. Additionally, because re-vamps of the traditional devil character are fascinating. And finally because Lucifer is just an incredibly cool character. He’s got it going on, is what I’m saying.
The Filth: What it’s about: A weird, crazy romp through post-modern interpretations of the status quo!
Why you should read it: Another piece from the genius mind of Grant Morrison, The Filth is one of those things that you just have to see to believe. If you’re into media that looks at the line between appropriate and inappropriate and then promptly obliterates it, The Filth is for you.
John Constantine: Hellblazer: What it’s about: One of DC’s longest running characters, antihero magician, chain-smoker, and pro-level snark factory John Constantine and all his supernatural adventures.
Why you should read it: It’s a fantastic exploration of the humanist antihero. If misanthropes who are committed to doing something good are your thing, look up my man John.
Saga of the Swamp Thing: What it’s about: Pretty self-explanatory, actually. He’s a Thing. That lives in a Swamp. Loves plants and the environment and stuff.
Why you should read it: Self-explanatorability notwithstanding, it’s actually really cool! A global environmentally aware comic book character is a fabulous protagonist. For real.
A Game of Thrones: I don’t need to tell you what it’s about because you’ve probably seen the show. I hope.
Why you should read it: Again, feel like I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but I will say that the graphic novelization of ASOIAF is like a really incredible mash-up of the show and the books, which is baller.
100 Bullets: What it’s about: It’s basically everything fantastic about noir, pulp, and revenge thrillers all rolled into one stylized, metaphor-rich creation.
Why you should read it: See above. It’s like the breakfast burrito of the crime story world.