All the Fixin’s: An Introduction

Hello lovelies! Over the past year, one of our favorite series to write — and one of the most popular with you guys, according to an overwhelming majority of folks who filled out our reader survey — has been “Eat This, Drink That.” Scout has explored many wonders of the Southern culinary canon, and Zelda has really honed her cocktail skills. Some of the recipes have gone brilliantly according to plan; others, not so much. But all of them have taught us more about our food heritage, not to mention pastry skills, simple syrups, and how to handle a cocktail shaker.

With this new year, we wanted to turn a new page in the blog as well, but we didn’t want to abandon the food and drink posts that we, and y’all, have come to enjoy. And we also wanted to get back to the original concept of the blog: exploring the idea of home and heritage and what it means to us, in this time and this place, to be “Southern.”

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So without further ado, we present to you our brand-new series, “All the Fixin’s.” The idea comes from a few places: wanting to learn more about Southern cooking and expand our kitchen repertoires, wanting to get in touch with our specific Southern heritages and what they mean to us, and wanting to explore not just the mechanics of making Southern dishes but also the history and stories and cultural weight that they carry. As Zelda wrote in her last Required Reading, food is an essential piece of what binds a culture together, feeding both our bodies and our souls. So much of our history and traditions are bound up in the bread we break together, be it challah or cornbread or buttermilk biscuits. And so with this series, we’re diving deep, each into a cookbook that pulls together the specific flavors of our family trees.

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For Scout, that book is Victuals: An Appalachian Journey with Recipes. Recently written by Ronni Lundy, Scout’s somewhat-distant-but-not-that-distant cousin (she’s not quite sure combination of first’s, second’s, removed’s, etc. applies here), it combines recipes with narrative and history, and really gives some context to the dishes. Most of Scout’s Southern recipes come from her grandmother’s binder, cut from local papers or back issues of Southern Living and stuck together from being carted around for so long and splattered with various batters, and Victuals basically takes those conversations around the kitchen table and puts them in book form. It also doesn’t hurt that the book itself is beautiful, with full-color photos, courtesy of Johnny Autry, of the mountains and the people and the food that accompany their story.

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As for Zelda, she’s taking on Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. A good quarter of her blood comes spiced with Cajun flavors, Tabasco and okra and andouille and the like. Some of the recipes in this very book are childhood dishes she grew up with (see, the jambalaya her mom makes every year for Mardi Gras), and all of the dishes bring up memories of childhood story time, when she and her siblings would beg her dad to tell them stories of his childhood, and his dad’s childhood, in the bayou of Louisiana. Those were summers spent under magnolia trees, watching gumbo or étouffée appear like magic under a great aunt’s spoon. And while the most essential Cajun recipes in her house come on stained and crumpled scraps of paper, passed down from generation to generation, when asked to pick an actual, publicly sold text from which to learn the region’s cooking, this is the one both of her folks picked.

So that’s where we’re going, and we hope you’re as excited to come along with us as we are to get started. There’s shrimp creole and chicken and dumplings and maybe even beignets in our future. Some things may (hopefully) go brilliantly. Others may fall flat. But all will teach us something about who we are and where we come from. And it doesn’t hurt that it will make for damn good eats.

Adventures in Organization: School Supplies

“Don’t you just love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies.”

I’m the overly organized one at my office. My labelling has become the stuff of legend. I’m basically an organization superhero: Color Code Girl: Volume I — Adventures in Scheduling. I’ve taken to buying my own Post-It notes because I have a very intricate system that would use up our office supply. I’m so specific about color and size and and general usage that it’s really best that I feed my habit myself. I think the whole thing goes back to school supplies — the highlight of any young person’s school year, right? [Zelda’s Note: Of course right.] I loved back to school shopping so much, some years I would do it before second semester too.

 

As a kid, I loved going back to school, mostly because of those afternoons spent perusing the Five-Star products like it was my job. I liked getting all new binders and notebooks and what have you for the beginning of the school year — the idea being that if I liked the stuff I had to take to class enough, I would enjoy class more. I say “more” because I was at my core definitely the kind of kid that enjoyed school already, or at least the learning part (the social part is a story for another day). It’s the same idea behind buying cute exercise outfits in an attempt to make yourself work out more. I looked at every new school year as a chance to improve my note-taking regimen until it was at peak efficiency and peak aesthetic appeal, and each new semester found me prowling the Target aisles with annotated list in hand.

In grade school, I stocked up on Lisa Frank folders, because it was the 90’s and that what you did. In middle school, I made the switch to the more austere five-subject notebooks, but I still spent a good hour searching bin after bin for the right colors, and then parsing out each section for one of my main classes: English, Math, Science, History, and Foreign Language.

Every year of high school had a new approach, until I eventually settled on the utilitarian yellow legal pad and a folder for each class. This was largely because they didn’t have rings and were easier to fit in my messenger bag (and also maybe because they made me feel like a cool intelligentsia type of person — I think I probably stole the idea from either Rory Gilmore or Jess Mariano, or possibly both, since they were at the time the epitomes of nerd chic). These legal pads were used for taking notes during the school year, and then when finals rolled around, those notes were ripped out and, along with various handouts, hole-punched and placed in meticulously color-coded binders used for test prep (this strategy was brought back during grad school). This was often coupled with Zelda and I recording videos of ourselves narrating key events in European history — anything to make AP Euro prep fun.

 

My supplies gradually went from what I found prettiest to what was most useful. In high school art history, my real love affair with Post-It notes began when I started putting them in my textbook next to the art, so I could take notes with the art illustrated right there. Later, when I ran out of Post-It’s, I started writing directly in the margins; art history textbooks are notoriously hard to re-sell anyway, and I’m pretty sure the girl I lent my books to the next year appreciated the annotations. In college, I switched to steno notebooks so I could carry smaller bags and write on both sides of the page without having the wire rings cut into my hand when I flipped the page over. In grad school, upon finding out that my “textbooks” consisted of over 1,000 pages of scanned PDF documents, I bought an iPad and a stylus and downloaded a note-taking app — all my notes right there in one place. The point is, I put a lot of thought into the supplies that got me through the school year, and even though I am three years out of any type of school at this point, I haven’t quite kicked the habit. 

Now to be fair, my current position revolves largely around schools, so the beginning of the academic year is still a big milestone for me. And so I find myself back once again in that aisle at Target, stocking up on Post-It notes and new pens and colored paper and…everything, really. We spent the last week cleaning the office, and my desk is newly refreshed and ready, my calendar color-coded just as meticulously as my high school binders. I still find it a little hard to kick off a new school year without new stuff. Maybe this is materialistic of me, but it helps me stay on my game.  And there’s something thrilling about sitting down in this little area you call your own and seeing everything neatly organized and color-coded, reaching for pens that you picked out and letting your personality shine through in a world of cubicles.


One of the things I miss most about my schooldays is the way that every year got to be its own, with its own identity. With each semester, you got a chance to start fresh. This isn’t true with most adult jobs. As we grow up, we stop marking the year by semesters, stop having finals to pass and grades to make. We just have to keep going, get through another day, and then another, and then another. And maybe if we’re lucky, we have a job that gives us something concrete to show for it. I think that’s one of the hardest things about being an adult: So often, what you do every day may not be working towards anything tangible. It can feel like it’s just something to do, something to pass the time. We’re not learning or hitting milestones; we’re moving forward without seeming to travel anywhere. So I’m lucky, because my job revolves around the school year. I get benchmarks, and holiday breaks, and my time gets marked by semesters, by finals, by in-service days. Most of all, I’m lucky because every year in September, I get to start again and try to make this year better than next.

Academics aside, from where I’m sitting, September still is the beginning of a new year: the Jewish one. I like that Rosh Hashanah often coincides with the beginning of the school year. We get a spiritual clean slate, and I’m lucky enough to get a professional clean slate as well.  And as our calendar (at least mine and Zelda’s) flips from 5776 to 5777, kids get on buses, we welcome new interns, leaves change, I get new office supplies. That’s just how it is.

Required Reading: Volume Nine

My mother collects cookbooks. It started (she thinks) with the Moosewood Cookbook, purchased in March of 1983. She had always loved to cook, and to bake especially, learning hamantaschen and icebox cookies in her mother’s Pittsburgh kitchen. From one book, her collection grew, adding Jewish Cookery and Cookie Cookery (related in name only). When my father entered the narrative, he brought a healthy dose of Cajun cuisine to their marriage and the Joy of Cooking, referred to more commonly in my house as simply “The Bible.”

At some point along the way, one cookbook blossomed into a dozen, which grew to a shelf, which ballooned into two full bookshelves and counting. My kitchen in Kentucky holds an estimated 200 cookbooks at minimum, sprawling across specialties and cuisines. I may have learned to cook in the days before Google, but our house was its own encyclopedia of recipes, with my mom the helpful librarian. I’d ask her how to make a particular dish — say, strawberry rhubarb pie — and without missing a beat she’d start pulling volumes from shelves, not to mention scraps of newsprint and magazine cut outs from her Heinz recipe box.

A tiny excerpt from my mother's collection, the "Family Heritage Shelf"

A tiny excerpt from my mother’s collection, the “Family Heritage Shelf”

This is all to say that I come by my addiction to books — cook- and otherwise — honestly. It’s in my DNA: I never really stood a chance. My parents started me off with the classics: Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volumes One and Two), The New York Times Cookbook, Moosewood, and, of course, my own personally inscribed copy of “The Bible.” In it, my parents wrote, “In our family, cooking is an expression of love.” And while this is definitely true of our quirky little clan, I don’t think it’s a uniquely Zelda trait. Food, in its best form, is weighted with memory and steeped in sentiment. It nurtures our bodies and our souls, providing comfort or piquing curiosity as it tickles our taste buds. And it’s a cultural touchstone, too — perhaps the most essential and elemental piece of what binds a group or a region together. Who we are, as families or communities, so often comes down to the bread we break together.

Take the South as just one example. The first thing most folks think of when they hear the word Southern is food. You know exactly which kind I mean: soul food, comfort food, food of the people that sticks to the bones and comes from the heart. So much of my own personal understanding of my heritage (Southern and otherwise) is culinary: the gumbo recipe passed down from my grandfather, the hot fudge sauce that appears so effortlessly under the touch of my grandmother’s spoon, the hamantaschen that would arrive at our house each year from Queen Esther, who apparently resided in Osprey, Florida. As an adult, I started to explore Southern cooking as a way of understanding the South and my place in it. Some of my lessons were hands-on — Derby pie with a high school bestie, fried chicken from Scout’s Gaga — but many of them were from books.

My grandmother in Home Economics class at her Atlanta school, age 14 (yes, you read that correctly)

My grandmother in Home Economics class at her Atlanta school, age 14 (yes, you read that correctly)

Though I still have a long way to go to match my mother’s collection (and nowhere near enough shelf space to accommodate such a repertoire), I have amassed quite a few cookbooks of my own. I love them for the poetry of their descriptions, the beauty of their photographs, the wry wit and wisdom inked into the page by their authors. And I love them for their potential, all those untapped recipes just waiting to be brought to life. To write up all my favorites would take far too many pages, so I’ll start on theme, with the culture that brings us together in this particular corner of the internet. Some of these I own, some reside on my mom’s shelves, and many are still on my wishlist. If you want to get to know the Southern people, you must get to know their eats. This is where I’d start.

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General Knowledge:

The Southerner’s Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories (2015): Compiled by the editors of Garden and Gun Magazine, this recent addition to my shelves runs the gamut from classics to regional delicacies, with anecdotes and advice woven in between. I’m a particular fan of the gorgeous copper detailing on the front cover, and of the glossary titled “The Southern Larder,” which goes through many of the quirkier ingredients called for in the book and explains what they are and where you might find them.

Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking (2012): Winner of the 2013 James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence in American Cooking, this tome is Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart’s answer to Julia Child’s similarly named masterpieces. Dupree calls Southern cooking “the Mother Cuisine of America,” and this extensive guide will walk you through all the essentials, from biscuits to gravy.

The Heritage of Southern Cooking (1986): Camille Glenn, pictured in charming cartoon detail on the books cover, used to be the food editor at Scout’s and my hometown paper, the Courier-Journal. She left no stoneware unturned when compiling this book, which holds 550 recipes, from duck to dessert. My mom swears by her recipe for pecan pie, an essential in any Southern baker’s wheelhouse.

At My Grandmother’s Knee: Recipes and Memories Handed Down by Women of the South (2011): Faye Porter dedicated this book to “all the women in my life who have shared with me the joy of cooking, baking, loving, making a home, and giving from their hands and hearts.” And while we hate to indulge gender stereotypes (Southern dudes can cook too!), it is true that most of what we learned about cooking, and about the love of cooking, came from our mothers, our grandmothers, and the other great women in our lives.

The Taste of Country Cooking (1976/2006): It is impossible to talk about Southern cooking without talking about black Southern cooking and the essential contributions that so many African-American chefs made to the region’s culinary identity, often without receiving any acknowledgement or credit. Edna Lewis, thankfully, is a great chef who did get the spotlight she deserved, and her tribute to the foods of her childhood home in Freetown, Virginia, is considered one of the great classic Southern cookbooks.

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Sweet Treats:

The Southern Baker: Sweet and Savory Treats to Share with Friends and Family (2015): It’s the subtitle of this volume, compiled by the editors of Southern Living, that I think gets at the heart of what makes Southern cooking so unique. A Southern dish is not meant to be precious. It is not fussed over or plated with surgical precision. It is meant to be shared, served up in big sloppy spoonfuls or generous slices and always, always with love.

Kentucky Sweets: Bourbon Balls, Spoonbread, and Mile-High Pie (2014): I actually interviewed Sarah Baird, back when I was writing for the Louisville Eccentric Observer and her book was just coming out. Sarah’s training is as a culinary anthropologist, and she told me, “ I have a deep interest in how food impacts culture and society: the intersections between culture, society and food; how those work together; and specifically, underrepresented or underserved stories about food.” This book was her attempt to tell some of those stories, from the often overlooked corners of her (and my and Scout’s) home state.

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Regional Specialties:

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen (1984): My personal Southern heritage comes well-seasoned with Tabasco and filé, and this, my father claims, is the best Louisiana cookbook out there. Whether you’re looking for gumbo or jambalaya or Prudhomme’s famous blackened redfish, this book has all the Cajun and Creole classics your stomach could desire.

The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery (1992): Where my Southern roots come from the bayou, Scout’s are grounded in mountain soil. In true Appalachian spirit, the recipes in this book are interspersed with a healthy dose of storytelling and advice. The recipes in this book are unpretentious and full of flavor, just like the folks that make them.

Community Cookbooks: The South has a great tradition of hometown cookbooks, put together by Junior Leagues or women’s groups and offering the best portrait of a town, an identity, and a cuisine. Some of the best (in my, my mom’s, or Scout’s opinion) include The Mountain Laurel Festival Cookbook (Bell County, Kentucky), Talk About Good! (The Junior League of Lafayette, Louisiana), The Plantation Cookbook (Junior League of New Orleans), and Recipes to Remember: A Kentucky Cookbook (Kosair Children’s Hospital Auxiliary; Louisville, Kentucky).

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The New South:

Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville’s New South Kitchen (2011): Brian Sonoskus, chef and founder of the Tupelo Honey Cafe, was one of the founders of the farm-to-table movement, which has since spread from North Carolina to Williamsburg, Portland, and beyond. But what is normally written off nowadays as hipster posturing is in fact a very traditional Southern concept: that you should use the best of what your region has to offer, that you should know the folks who grow your ingredients, that quality ingredients assembled with love and care will offer a far greater reward than your fussiest amuse-bouche.

Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen (2013): Chef Edward Lee was born to Korean immigrant parents and raised in Brooklyn. So how did he become the most famous chef in Louisville, and one of the most innovative culinary voices in America today? This book tells the tale of his unique, Southern cooking, which mixes together flavors and techniques from his heritage with the traditions of his adopted home.

images via: Zelda’s mama’s photo archives, GARDEN AND GUN, SOUTHERN FOODWAYS ALLIANCE, TUPELO HONEY CAFE

August Playlist: Summertime Sunshine

Summer is coming to a close, and we’re all very sad about it. While we won’t miss the heat or the humidity or the smells of a New York summer, there is a distinctive scent of reality check in the air as we head into fall. So before the last of these long, lazy days fades away, we thought for our first playlist of our third year we’d give you a dose of sunshine and joy! These are songs that make us smile, that make us want to jump and wiggle and dance around our kitchens. Sometimes, that’s all we need.

Spanning several genres, we’ve incorporated some old favorites (The Avett Brothers, Tegan and Sara, Stevie Wonder) and some new ones (Lizzo, Nick Santino, Vulfpeck). We’ve got some of Zelda’s go-to pick-me-ups (see: Pink Martini) and some of Scout’s (see: dat new JT tho). There’s jazz and rap and folk and indie tunes so sweet they’ll make your teeth hurt. Hopefully, there’s something on here to make everyone do their happy dance of choice. And as always, you can listen here on the blog or join us on Spotify or YouTube.

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Year Three

We’re back! Thanks so much for bearing with us while we took some much-needed vacation (Zelda literally, Scout’s in the more metaphorical, lie-on-the-couch-with-no-pants-on sense of the word). And a huge shout out and massive thank you to all of you that took our reader survey! We are so appreciative and hope you’ll stick around as we enter our third year.

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Our lives have changed a lot since we first started this blog in August 2014. We’ve been through multiple jobs and apartments, made new friends and taken on other projects. The gusto of our first year faded after several months of three posts a week. So we took it down to two, hoping that would help us continue to see this as a fun creative outlet, rather than an onerous obligation. And for a while, that seemed to work. But we’ll be honest y’all: We’ve been adulting hard lately, and free time is severely limited, so there have been many weeks where getting even two posts up has been a struggle. And we don’t want that. We want to want to post: because we care about our readers, because we want to be proud of the content we’re sharing, and because this blog is, first and foremost, about two best friends and their labor of love.

So we are once again shaking things up. We’ve been through our naive infancy; suffered through the growing pains of our sometimes terrific, sometimes terrible, twos; and now we enter year three a little older, a little wiser, and brimming with excitement for what’s to come.

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What does this mean for you, our beloved readers? You’ll still get all your favorites (mostly) — playlists, required reading, food and cocktails posts, introspective ramblings about our lives. All of those will continue, and we’ve got some fun ideas about ways to keep them fresh and interesting. But these posts will only be coming to you once a week. We know, we know, most of you survey takers wanted us to keep it at two (or go back to three), but to be perfectly honest, we just don’t have it in us. We are busy ladies with busy lives, and if we were to attempt to keep up the current schedule, we fear the quality of our posts (and our friendship) would suffer for it.

This is not to say that you won’t occasionally get a multi-post week. Sometimes, we’ve got thoughts and feels that just need to come out. But in general, Tuesday will now be your Z&S day. And we promise to bring you one bangerang post every week that we’re proud of and feel is worth sharing, not just something we’re posting for the sake of having another day of content.

We’re super excited about what’s ahead, and we hope you are too. And if you have thoughts, feelings, gifs, etc. to share on the subject, find us on all of our social media channels or drop us a line at zeldaandscout@gmail.com! We’d love to hear from y’all. Come sit on our digital front porch for a spell: The sweet tea is cold, and the rockers have just enough squeak.

Until next week!

Love,
Zelda and Scout

Vacation, and A Little Homework

Hello lovelies, and happy August to you all! We can’t believe how quickly this summer is flying by; it feels like the past two months have vanished into a puddle of sweat and sunscreen. August is a special month for us here at Z&S. It’s the time when we take stock of where we are and how far we’ve come, when we look ahead to the next year and the path we want to take going forward. And it’s the month when we celebrate our blog’s birthday by taking a break.

That’s right folks, we’re off for vacation! Technically, Zelda is the only one following this statement literally, fleeing the streets of Brooklyn for the lakeside paths of her beloved New Hampshire. Scout’s vacation will be of the psychological and metaphorical variety, hopefully filled with beer and theatre amid the usual work and everyday adulting. But in blog terms, we’re both taking a breather — two weeks’ worth, to be exact — while we recharge and reassess. And that’s where we need your help.

See we don’t operate this blog in a bubble. To paraphrase the author John Green, we make this gift for those we love — namely, y’all. And so as we enter our third year in the blogosphere, we want to know how we can make this corner of the internet a more inviting home for you, somewhere you want to stop and sit a while with a glass of proverbial iced tea on our little digital porch.

So here it is: The First Ever Zelda and Scout Reader Survey!

What do you like? What don’t you like? What do you want to see more of? What do you never, ever want to read again? We want to hear it all, unfiltered and no holds barred. We hope you won’t resent us for giving you a bit of summer vacation homework.

Thank you in advance. You all make our lives — online and off — so much brighter. And we’ll see y’all in two weeks!

Love,

Zelda and Scout

July Round Up

It’s summertime in the city, and the living in our parts is decidedly sweaty. The heat has seeped in everywhere, even in places that should remain blessedly cool (see: Scout’s workplace, Zelda’s apartment). Zelda spent much of this month drowning in politics (#newsroomlyfe), while Scout was besieged by hordes of summer campers (#museumlyfe). But we did manage to have some fun. The banner headline goes to our trip home for Forecastle, the music festival by now much-discussed in the Z&S sphere. We danced and sang along and drank good beer and ate fresh pork rinds. We came home minus several hours of sleep but plus several freckles and a healthy dose of sun. It does a body good to spend an evening in a grassy field with one’s friends, swaying along to a melody, while a Kentucky sunset paints the sky cotton candy shades of pink. So thanks, July. We needed that.

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What We’re Doing: This month was definitely on trend, with summer posts ranging from the culinary to the literary and beyond. Scout talked music festival tips and breakfast. Zelda shared a Fourth of July recipe and some great Southern summer reads. We prepped for Forecastle with a playlist, made chocolate chess pie and strawberry gin smashes, and pulled together some Tuesday inspiration fit for a summer storm. But the post we’re most excited about is the return of Just Folks! This month we talked to Andi Morrow, Tennessee native and New York actress, filmmaker, etc. about dogs and community and Patti Smith and being “Southern as shit.”

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What We’re Listening To: This month was pretty much all about Forecastle for us, musically at least. While we looked forward to seeing old favorites like The Avett Brothers and Andrew McMahon, we spent the first half of the month prepping with this playlist of potential, soon-to-be favorites. The leaders of the pack after the festival were Sarah Jarosz and The Seratones. Sarah’s melancholy, mountain-tinged melodies shot straight to our hearts, and The Seratones rock kicked off our festival with a little dash of Louisiana, which is never a bad thing in our minds. But the real winner? Brandi Carlile closed us out on a warm Sunday night, under a brilliant sunset and the light of a rising moon. She was everything we wanted from Forecastle. Her cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” was the soundtrack to our exit, and will forever be linked to the whole experience in our memory.

We also love: We’re always happy to hear new music from blog favorite The Secret Sisters, so this cover of Hank Cochran’s “Make the World Go Away” made us happy, however sad the song may actually be.  And another blog favorite, Watsky, announced a new album and a new tour, and even released a couple of tracks. You can bet we’ve pre-ordered our copies and gotten our tickets. He also dropped the track list last week, and while a new Watsky album always has us excited, we are especially stoked for appearances by Julia Nunes, Dumbfounded, Chinaka Hodge, Rafael Casal, and Tony-winner Daveed Diggs.

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What We’re Watching: The long-awaited remake of Ghostbusters hit theaters this month, and you can bet our butts were in those seats (which is saying something, because and it takes a lot to get us to a theater in New York City — $15+ is a lot for a movie, y’all). And Scout would probably sell her soul (or at least donate it for cool science purposes) to Jillian Holtzmann, (played impeccably by Kate McKinnon), who was the highlight of the film for her. It was funny, irreverent, with a good number of nods to the original, and packed with girl power. Go see it. Women are funny: It’s time for the haters to deal with it.

We Also Love: Maybe you’re living under a rock, or maybe you just don’t care, but if you haven’t heard, Gilmore Girls is coming back for an encore this fall. Netflix recently dropped the release date (Thanksgiving Weekend plans, made) and this teaser, and got us all aquiver with excitement to revisit Stars Hollow. Over on YouTube, Scout continued her McElroy Brothers kick with gut-busting viewings of Monster Factory, their show where they use video games to build crazy looking characters and hilarity ensues. And our favorites over at Shipwrecked Comedy dropped the trailer for the upcoming “Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner” (#PoeParty) starring some of our internet favorites: Ashley Clements, Mary Kate Wiles, Lauren Lopez, Sean Persaud, etc. We are totally pumped.

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What We’re Reading: This fascinating look at how American dining has changed over the last 30 years (Bon Appétit), along with this compilation of the most popular foods and/or cocktails for every year from 1970 to 2016 (Fondue! Kiwis! Cool Ranch Doritos!) (Good Housekeeping). This story about the infamous quiz every applicant to the Strand bookstore must take, which goes a long way to explain why the store is so freaking great (The New York Times). Play along at home and see if you make the cut! This (maybe a bit too real) guide to surviving an air conditioning-less summer in the wilds of Brooklyn (Bushwick Daily). This scathing peek behind the curtain of our nation’s Cheeto-hued would-be leader, told by the man who actually wrote The Art of the Deal (which, were he to write it today, he would more aptly title The Sociopath) (The New Yorker). Speaking of politics, we generally refrain from discussing them too deeply on this here blog, but this spoof of every outfit-analyzing, intellect-minimizing analysis of a candidate’s spouse is really delightful (Quartz), and this essay by Ghazala Khan, the mother of slain Muslim soldier Humayan Khan, to explain why she appeared silent behind her husband, Khizr, while he reminded watchers of the Democratic convention what makes us American and why this election matters so much, is a must-read (Washington Post). In other news from the department of “reading that makes us better, more thoughtful humans,” check out this reminder of why representation in the media matters (don’t be fooled by the listicle format — this sucker will hit you right in the feels) (BuzzFeed), as is this discussion of the politics of the AWESOME new “Ghostbusters” movie (The New York Times). And finally, to end on a charming note, as a former constructor of her own fairy huts, Zelda was particularly enchanted by this profile of the woman who filled the forests of New Jersey’s Rahway Trail with houses fit for Thumbeline (The New York Times).

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What We’re Eating: Scout cooked up a chocolate chess pie for our monthly dose of Eat This, Drink That. It’s a classic Southern treat but with a chocolate twist, because chocolate makes everything better. While it didn’t quite live up to our Homemade Pie Kitchen expectations (but we really can’t expect Scout’s creations to live up to that — she’s pleased when they’re mostly edible), it was pretty tasty, and we enjoyed it both for dessert and for breakfast the next morning.

We Also Love: Our trip home wouldn’t have been complete without a few trips to our favorite hometown eating establishments. We brunched at The Silver Dollar, because we always have room for their chilaquiles. We swung by Wild Eggs for an everything muffin. And we even managed a slice of Mellow Mushroom while still on the festival grounds. 

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What We’re Drinking: Zelda stirred up some strawberry gin smashes for Eat This, Drink That, and they were tasty as hell. This summery spin on a classic straight out of the Roaring Twenties was totally refreshing in the July heat. Honestly, we are always down for any drink that incorporates strawberries and/or smashing, and we highly recommend the pitcher version of this recipe for easier smashing and more strawberry flavor.

We Also Love: In the midst of our Forecastle adventures, we left the festival grounds for dinner at hometown (and internationally acclaimed) brewery, Against the Grain. We had exemplary food, exemplary service, and above all exemplary beer. Speaking of exemplary beer, our trip home wouldn’t have been complete without stops at the Louisville Beer Store and The Holy Grale. Louisville, we love you, and you clearly love good beer as much as we do.

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What’s On Our Wishlist: Despite our pre-orders, our copies of the newest addition to the Harry Potter universe have yet to arrive. Dearest Amazon, please dispatch the Cursed Child to us by the next owl, lest we be forced to send you a howler expressing our impatience and displeasure! We also wouldn’t complain if you threw in a popsicle maker, the better (i.e. colder) to convey deliciousness, boozy or otherwise, into our mouths.

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images via: SCREENRANT, BUSHWICK DAILY, SLASHFILM