Crêpes of Wrath

Food Network chefs hate me for sharing this one weird trick

This video of Chef Jacques Pépin explaining how to make crêpes is a game changer. It’s simple, easy, only takes a few minutes, and the results are delicious. Turns out that if you want to learn how to make something, going to the person who is famous for making them is a good idea.

Even if you don’t feel like making them, it’s just fun to hear him say “crêpe” over and over again.

I’ve tried making them before, with recipes from Epicurious, Bon Apetit, Alton Brown via the Food Network, and various random let-me-tell-you-my-life-story-before-I-get-to-the-recipe blogs, and the results have ranged from “inedible” to “unremarkable and definitely not worth the effort.” The consensus online seems to be that making crepes requires a blender and at least a couple of hours, at which point you have to wonder who’s got that kind of time. Pépin’s method is so simple and straightforward that I can finally see the appeal.

The other cool thing about Pépin’s video is that it shows crepes can easy to make and easy to serve. For years there’s been such a proliferation of crepe restaurants around the Bay Area, that I just kind assumed you had to go crazy with bananas and strawberries and whipped cream and ham and cheese and greens, and if you’re not stuffing them with tons of food, are you even making crepes at all? But as it turns out, nothing but a spoonful of jelly and a sprinkle of sugar afterwards is beyond perfect.

I feel like Food Network and the proliferation of cooking shows created an arms race where home cooking had to make for interesting programming instead of good food. I like the idea of getting back to keeping it simple. Frankly, I think I got steered down a bad path by Alton Brown, who I finally realized is a lot better at being a TV personality than any kind of authority on food. The “multi-taskers” cult are free to come at me.

An important and dire warning: I can only endorse the recipe in the above video. The first time I tried it, it was super-easy and the results were fantastic. There’s at least one variant of an “official” Jacques Pépin recipe for crêpes going around that I’ve tried three times so far with no success. If it includes any vegetable or canola oil, the results come out less like crepes and more like those “movie magic” shows where a makeup artist is preparing a prosthetic. They’re rubbery and oily; you can see them in the pan just sweating oil.

I spend most of my time these days watching Disney & Universal YouTubers going through the parks, and everybody’s been raving about a new crepe stand that opened at Universal Studios. I get a craving every time I see them, so now I can sit back and pretend I’m in Orlando. All I’d need is a bunch of heat lamps and someone telling me over and over that I can’t ride anything because I’m too fat.1From eating crêpes.

Sewing for Hapless Man-children

Another side effect of a social media detox: realizing how far I am from being a functioning adult.

Something I hadn’t considered before I started cutting myself off of social media: I don’t have anywhere to ask questions to higher-functioning adults. What can I use basil for? Where’s a good place to go camping? Any advice on renting an RV? How are you supposed to wash grease out of a pan when a soapy sponge just spreads it all over the place? Do I need a financial advisor? How do you keep vegetables from going bad?

For a while I’ve been wanting to learn how to sew, because at some point in the past couple of years, all the world’s clothing manufacturers got together and decided that making shirts that fit fat people was for chumps. I’m eager to become one of those white-bearded middle-aged men who makes his own Aloha shirts, and wears them with shorts and sandals all year round, everywhere except funerals.

I was lucky to have a friend I could DM for tips on what I needed from a sewing machine and what I should be looking for. After months of looking around online, I finally found a sewing machine that wasn’t sold out or being sold for $100 over MSRP because of COVID.

But my plans on sliding into 50 like an eccentric uncle have been stymied by the fact I can’t thread the damn thing. No matter how many times I’ve tried. I’ve watched multiple YouTube videos showing how to do it, 1Which raises the question: how the hell did I ever survive before YouTube?! and I still can’t figure it out. I need to be able to go to someone and just say “explain this to me like I’m an idiot.” Because that’s apparently the case.

In high school I took the closest thing my school offered to home economics, but it was all personal finance-type stuff, like “here’s how to sign a check” (useful at the time), or “never ever buy a new car” (absolutely not useful, since after my first POS left me stranded the fifteenth time I swore I’d never again buy a used car). Knowing my school in the 80s, I’m skeptical they would’ve ever let a boy take a sewing or cooking class, anyway.

Maybe that’s the kind of disruptive idea that will drive the next wave of internet start-ups: now that there are start-ups to keep you from having to drive yourself, cook your own food, buy your clothes, or leave the house to talk to someone, maybe we can have services that teach us how to be functional adults again.

Portrait of the artist as a bald man

More than just narcissism, selfies keep me from repeating past mistakes.

Earlier this year, I shaved my head bald for the first time. It looked like this:

Not a big deal for most people, but it was a huge novelty for me. I kept it for a month and a half or so, and I have to say I really dug it. It was surprisingly nice to be able to wake up and not even do the barest minimum of hair maintenance that I put up with now.

I don’t think I could live as a baldman permanently, though — unless nature intervenes, which seems unlikely at this point. I’m just too lazy for the amount of work it’d take to keep it shiny, so I’ve got newfound respect for all the guys who put up with it. Also I know I’d never remember to put on sunscreen, which would be a problem if we ever reach a point where I can leave the house again.

I also briefly had a mohawk, which looked like this:

Fun for goofing off, but I could tell I wouldn’t be able to maintain the mohawk lifestyle.

One of the advantages of having an Instagram account was that I was slowly building a library of pictures of myself with almost every possible hair and beard configuration I could think of. Then, whenever I got in the mood to change things up, I could just look back through the records and be reminded that it didn’t actually look as good as it does in my memory.

Now, I feel like the guy in Memento, forced to re-learn over and over again that muttonchops just make me look super old, and as much as I’d like to, I just can’t pull off the biker mustache.


Mundane Observations from a Recovering Social Media Addict

Remember when people used to write blogs?

Before Twitter and Facebook arrived to make billions of dollars by making people sad, fearful, and poorly informed, my internet oversharing platform of choice was the Straight Dope Message Boards. The Straight Dope was a newspaper column that gave genuine, researched (if not entirely respectful) answers to reader-submitted questions about any conceivable topic. The message boards started as a forum for more detailed conversation about the columns, but by the time I’d arrived, had already developed into a solid and surprisingly supportive community of pedantic nerds like myself.

My favorite section of the boards was called “Mundane Pointless Stuff I Must Share.” It was for pretty much any topic you wanted, with the explicit acknowledgement that it didn’t have to be worthy of conversation with hundreds or thousands of other people. It didn’t even need to be all that interesting. In 2020, that concept is known as “the entire internet,” but back in the early 2000s it was a novel concept for me. 1I never got into livejournal because I thought it was silly over-indulgence for arrested development adults behaving as if they were still emotional teens, which is hilarious to think of now because that’s me 10,000%.

Since I’m currently in the process of weening myself off of Facebook and Instagram, I’m trying to see if I can turn back the clock to the turn-of-the-century blogosphere. That means lowering my standards for what counts as “blog worthy,” and not feeling like I have to come up with a well-thought-out essay for every single topic. 2Believe it or not, I have at least been trying to come up with well-thought-out essays.

It’s weird, though. I wish I knew why; the only thing that Facebook and Twitter did to change the formula was add a social graph, lots of ads, and take ownership of the whole thing. I think something feels fundamentally different when you’re essentially putting pages from your personal journal online for other people to read, without being surrounded by a bunch of other people all doing the same thing. That tacit approval. The acknowledgement, “No, you don’t actually need to be sharing every random thought that enters your head, but it’s okay because everybody else is doing it, too.”

Maybe is worth looking into again. I tried it a while back, and I quickly realized that the real strength of Twitter isn’t its format or its spontaneity, but its social graph. As much as I tell myself that it’s all about getting thoughts out of my head, and I don’t really care about followers, it does feel odd shouting out into a well-intentioned but sparsely-populated, echoing room.

If you use and like it, let me know! It’s entirely possible I just need to follow more people.

Until then, I’ll start a category for nonessential thoughts and see if I can get back into the swing of embracing pointless communication.