Archive for the twentieth century Category

Reverse Engineering the Funyun

Posted in twentieth century with tags , , on April 21, 2009 by hoveringdog

When Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson died earlier this month, barely a year after the other co-creator Gary Gygax passed away, I knew I had to write something. Over thirty-five years ago, when Gygax and Arneson created the game that would become known as Dungeons & Dragons, no publisher would touch it. So, instead, long before zines were cool and the DIY ethic had a name, the two decided to turn that bitch out themselves, and within the first year, sold all one-thousand hand-assembled copies from their first print run.

Reverse Engineering the Funyun

Within only a few years, D&D would become iconic for a whole generation of marginalized geeks.  By the early 80s, the game was popular enough to attract the ire of concerned parents and the nascent religious right, who claimed without evidence that the game was harming the youth. Eventually, actual sociological research (Imagine that!) would vindicate gamers, finding that teen gamers suffered no measurable harm from the game and in a number of measures were actually better adjusted socially than their non-gaming peers. In the meantime, though, the controversy did manage to produce a spectacularly shitty Tom Hanks film

Anyway, a session of D&D can easily go on for hours, during which time significant quantities of crappy snack foods are often consumed. And for some reason, the phrase “Funyuns and Mountain Dew” has become a common shorthand for gamers’ eating habits. So, in tribute to Gygax and Arneson, here’s my effort to make something at home that vaguely resembles the iconic geek snackfood. I wasn’t able to get the texture quite crispy enough, but after the fold is the formula for my first attempt. Perhaps you food fans can improve on it.

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Posted in twentieth century with tags , , , on January 28, 2009 by hoveringdog


Making homemade tots is hardly rocket science, so I can’t figure out how so many of the recipes online get it so badly wrong. Seriously, mashed potatoes? The traditional method, apparently, is to lightly steam the taters, grate them, season, press the gratings into a mold, chill, and let the potato starch do the binding. I don’t have that much patience, nor do I possess a suitable mold, so I add a bit of all-purpose flour, about a half tablespoon to a tablespoon per potato, and in lieu of a tot mold, I press them into shape by hand, using a little force to squeeze out any excess wetness. Works just fine. Fry ’em up until they’re golden—if you don’t have a deep fryer, oil in a cast-iron skillet will do the job nicely—and then bake ’em on a baking sheet until they’re crispy and suitably tot-like.

I was going to write about the history of the tot, but John Kessler at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has already written in some detail about the Tater Tot’s secret origin and the resurgent interest in tots among hipsters and foodies. And now that I’ve eaten a heaping plateful of childhood nostalgia, I’m feeling a bit like nap time is overdue…

Lentil Cakes

Posted in twentieth century with tags , , , , on May 2, 2008 by hoveringdog

Modern vegetarianism as an organized movement, oddly enough, derives historically not from the self-flagellating liberal middle class with whom many associate it today, but rather, from nineteenth-century working-class radicals in England’s industrialized north. The first official vegetarian society (apart from the short-lived and awkwardly named British and Foreign Society for the Promotion of Humanity and Abstinence from Animal Food) was founded in 1847 by activists in Salford, England. The movement took off, and by 1914, there was a vegetarian society in nearly every country of Europe. Hell, in 1908, there was even an International Union of Vegetarian Esperantists, who advocated vegetarianism and … Esperanto. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Lentil Cakes

Anyway, back to the lentil cakes: By the early 1900s, and well before the founding of the Vegan Society in 1944, several members of the UK Vegetarian Society had already begun questioning the ethics of egg and dairy consumption. From this discussion was born the first vegan cookbook, although the word vegan itself had not yet been coined: In the year 1910 appeared the cookbook No Animal Food by Rupert H. Wheldon, who, after filling almost half the volume with preachy advocacy for a diet completely free of animal products, finally got around to providing a few recipes. After the fold is my updated version of Wheldon’s original recipe for lentil cakes.

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