Caroline shared a charming bike story about our neighborhood last month, which prompted me to tell one of my own from a couple of weeks ago. Having biked in New York since I moved here three years ago and crossed the Manhattan bridge more times than I care to count, I’ve become a reasonably strong rider. To the point where I pass something like 9 out of 10 riders I encounter on my commute (and I don’t doubt there are a number of speed demons I never see because I never catch up to them). The point being, if I see someone else on a bike, it’s usually not too long before I pass them, and if I’m still trailing (or if they pass me) I often push myself to keep up. It’s just a way to keep things interesting.
So it was that I found myself on the crown of the Manhattan bridge pedaling hard, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone gaining on me. As we both began our decline and sped into Chinatown, he kept gaining on me and it was all I could do to keep a few feet ahead. Finally, on the last stretch of the path before the winding exit ramp, he pulled up alongside me and to my surprise, spoke:
"You dropped five dollars!"
"The guy behind me has it."
And with that, he sped on, and I slowed to the bottom of the ramp where I waited as a few bikers passed until the man carrying my money came around the bend.
Only later did it occur to me that even on a moderately calm day, a $5 bill wouldn’t last long on the windy surface of the bike path. So it’s somewhat remarkable that two people busily in their own commute managed this little rescue (and much appreciated, considering that back then $5 was all the money I had on me and probably more than 1/10 of my net worth). New Yorkers are (contrary to some stereotypes) generally helpful people, but this is the kind of experience that you can only find amongst those who brave the city by bike.
Feeding meat and bone meal to cows was insane. Feeding it to pigs, whose natural diet incorporates a fair bit of meat, makes sense, as long as it is rendered properly. The same goes for swill. Giving sterilised scraps to pigs solves two problems at once: waste disposal and the diversion of grain. Instead we now dump or incinerate millions of tonnes of possible pig food and replace it with soya whose production trashes the Amazon. Waste food in the UK, Fairlie calculates, could make 800,000 tonnes of pork, or one sixth of our total meat consumption.
Nothing there that I wouldn’t have been prepared to agree with before, mind you. But the book which Monbiot is discussing, Meat: A Benign Extravagance, apparently gives the topic a rigorous treatment and makes a strong case for animals as a beneficial (albeit smaller) part of our diet.
Last year, our inaugural Brooklyn Skillshare drew some 450+ people out to the Gowanus Studio Space for a day of five blocks of three classes each, ranging from Make Your Own Butter to Balloon Animals. The day was awesome but also insane, as we dealt with larger-than-expected crowds who swarmed the classes, making it difficult to everyone to see and hear. The crowd also overwhelmed what we had prepared for our free lunch, with the situation devolving into a (literal) bread line as dozens of hungry hipsters lined up for a slice of french loaf.
This year, we had a new location at the Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School (BCAM) in Bed-Stuy, more teachers (five blocks of five + a couple of ongoing activities), and a strict cap of 25 people per class, due to fire safety regulations at the school. We had a smaller crowd, with maybe half of 2009’s attendance, but it ensured that everyone was able to hear and participate in their classes. We also gave up on providing free lunch.
The crowd this year was a lot less hipster-y and more diverse: a number of BCAM students volunteered and/or attended classes, and we had more older Brooklyn residents, as well as some parent-child pairs attending. This is maybe because the Bed-Stuy/Clinton Hill area is more accessible than Gowanus, and also we had more mainstream press this year, including this TimeOut New York write-up. (Unfortunately, we had less of a social media presence this time around, due to the Fight Back New York campaign taking away our awesome social media whiz this year, and the Women’s Media Center occupying our press lady’s time. Yeah, we do some awesome shit when we’re not organizing skillshares).
So, all in all, I would characterize BKSS 2010 as less hipster, less chaotic, and more learning-centered than last year. Did you attend this year? What did you think?
Recipe: Spicy Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Because it’s autumn, and also because there were a number of special events this week at work (two birthdays, someone coming back from maternity leave, someone else leaving), I decided it was time to break out the pumpkin cupcakes.
The recipe comes from a scanned page of my mother’s cookbook, in which she had a pasted a number of recipes cut out from the newspaper. Though there’s no date on the clipping, the neighboring recipes suggest that it’s from the early 80s. The clipping gives credit to one Carol Poling, of Vincent (wherever that is), who found the recipe in Farm Wife News magazine and sent it in.
I’ve updated the recipe quite a bit, replacing margarine with butter and “salad oil,” whatever that is, with canola oil. I also reduced the sugar and added spice.
Here it is:
1 cup of flour
1 and 1/4 to 1 and 1/2 cups sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin
Preheat your oven to 350 F
Mix the dry ingredients together (up to the salt)
Mix in the rest of the ingredients
Use a mixer or just stir it really hard for about a minute, until the batter is of uniform consistency.
pour batter into a lined cupcake tray (I found this made 16 cupcakes), filling the cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full
bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top bounces back when you lightly touch it.
While your cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. You should take the butter and cream cheese out of the fridge to warm up as soon as you decide that you’re going to make cupcakes.
one stick of butter
one 8 oz. packet of cream cheese
2-3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
beat the softened (but not melted) butter and cream cheese together
add powdered sugar in increments, until you’ve achieved your desired consistency
mix in the vanilla
Once the cupcakes have cooled down, frost ‘em.
Once you’ve frosted them all, lick the bowl and beaters clean:
Later, at the bar, we realized that we both had frosting in our hair.
As garden season nears an end in Brooklyn, Anthony and I are left with the decidedly pleasant task of disposing with our basil.
Our basil did spectacularly well this year. We started them from seeds in May, and in June they looked like this:
Today, each one of those stalks has turned into a bush like this:
Therefore, it’s pesto time. (You may or may not want to sing that in your head to the tune of Flight of the Conchord’s “It’s Business Time.” Up to you.)
If you have a food processor, making pesto is as easy as throwing a few ingredients in and pressing a button. You can also make pesto in a blender, kind of, but doing so will be a pain in the ass and probably shorten your blender’s life, as it did to one or two of mine.
Seriously, though, if you’re into food, you should listen to Mark Bitman and get yourself a food processor. It will make your life better. You can find them used everywhere, though you should make sure to set it up and turn on a secondhand processor before buying to ensure that you have all the parts you need.
I break with tradition slightly in my pesto-making. First, I use walnuts instead of pine nuts, because they’re much cheaper. Second, I use less olive oil than most recipes call for. Third, I add a little bit of lemon juice. Crazypants, I know.
Here’s how I make pesto.
Throw into a food processor all of the following:
a few densely packed handfuls of basil leaves, washed well, since you’re not going to be cooking them.
1 to 3 cloves of peeled garlic, depending on how much you like garlic
about half a cup of walnuts
a quarter cup or so of parmesan cheese
a quarter cup of olive oil
the juice of half a lemon
pinch of salt and pepper
Then turn on the food processor until the ingredients are broken down into pesto.
Note that these proportions are very rough. Really, you should just start with conservative amounts of garlic, walnuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt/pepper and then add more to taste. (You can always add more of each of these, but there’s very little you can do if you’ve overdone it besides adding more basil). I don’t like mine with too much olive oil, but you can decide for yourself how you like your pesto.
Last weekend, Anthony and I made a big batch of pesto. Since then, we’ve had pesto and goat cheese bruschetta, pesto grilled cheese sandwiches, and pesto on our pizza:
However, once you’ve got a ton of basil on your hands like we do, you’re not going to be able to eat all that pesto before it goes bad.
Freeze the pesto in small batches, either in small plastic bags or in ice cube tray-shaped blocks.
If you’re in the New York area, you really should check out the Skillshare on Saturday. In addition to our worm composting class, there are a whole bunch of other amazing classes, from yogurt making to improv, and, really, you should just look at the class list on the website.
This is the Skillshare’s second year in existence, my second year as a co-organizer, and the first time for both of us teaching. Last year 450 people came out to learn things with us! Hopefully this year will be EVEN AWESOMER.