Archive | June, 2012

Twist and Sprout

17 Jun

While most popular music is starved of melodic creativity, some  artists are “pop”-ing out unexpectedly witty lyrics. Or, at least, making an admirable effort in that department. I’m not so hip that I can give you examples gleaned exclusively from songs you were just tuning into in the car. But if you can withstand another throwback, much gentler than last’s week (only to 2005 rather than 1965), we WILL end up with the Biebs:

Chris Brown, sporting hipster glasses.

2005: On Chris Brown’s debut album, Chris Brown (and that’s the way to go when album-naming, if you want to make it big) the song “Ya Man Ain’t Me” has a concise set of lyrics. I appreciate Chris’s bluntness in explaining, to the girl dating the man who isn’t Chris Brown, the character flaws of said man. My personal favorite is the line: “He ain’t fly, he don’t even drive.” Excellent points – there is nothing worse than chauffering around your unattractive boyfriend.

The Dream, looking ever so sassy.

2010: The Dream, contributing to Drake’s album Thank me Later on the song “Shut it Down,” makes several witticisms. In his discussion of a girl who is apparently using her beauty to shut down towns and computers – she’s dangerous – The Dream sings: “Ice cream conversations, they all want the scoop.” Pretty pithy for the very same man who, when commenting on his divorce from first wife Nivea in 2004, said “Like, ’cause love isn’t just where it’s gonna end.” Don’t you think?

2011: Nicki Minaj, on her album Pink Love makes a memorable proclamation of her love  on the song “Your Love.” I find her ability to blend romance with classic action film brilliant, with this line: “For your lovin Imma Die Hard like Bruce Willis.

J. Cole, living the sideline story.

2011: J. Cole, on his album Cole World – The Sideline Story,  slips a clever wordplay into the song “Work Out.” Nestled between references to “jeans too fat for her” and “carolina blue kicks fresh off the scene” is the line: “Money can’t buy you love cause it’s overpriced.” A cynical spin-off of  the 1964 Beatles song “Can’t Buy Me Love,” but nonetheless a thought-provoking one.

A twofer – Nicki and the Biebs.

2012: We’re arriving at the Biebs, as promised. “Swaggie,” the term Justin Bieber introduced to the world on his latest single, “Boyfriend,” is likely the end-result of a happy and uneventful  upbringing in London, Ontario. I respect his venture, despite lack of experience in the streets of Brooklyn, to come up with a phrase or two fitting for those hailing from Canadian hoods.

If you’re going to tune into the radio, listen carefully – you might be surprised to hear a clever line or two now and then.  Speaking of surprises, I have a little food twist to share that you might just find as clever as Nicki’s Bruce Willis reference, or the Biebs’s creation of slang acceptable for use by those who grew up in the semi-hood. OK, no, my twist is not nearly that exciting. But here it is: the addition of vegetables to Easy Mac and flavored noodle packets, such as Knorr’s Pasta Sides.



– 1 bowl Easy Mac

– 1 cup fresh spinach


Prepare Easy Mac following the instructions on the bowl. After adding water, also add in the spinach leaves. The spinach leaves will cook with the noodles.




– Any Knorr’s pasta side + required ingredients

– 1 cup frozen broccoli


Prepare the pasta side according to the instructions on the  package. Cook frozen broccoli and serve over pasta side. The best thing about this combo is leftovers. I like to save 1/2 of the pasta for the next day. I place the frozen broccoli directly on top of the pasta and leave it overnight; this ‘reconstitutes’ the pasta, because the water from the frozen broccoli oozes into it.

CALORIES (per 1/2 ‘Parmesan Pasta Side’ with 1% milk): 280

Tweaks – you could substitute another vegetable in either the Easy Mac or Pasta Side – broccoli might work in the Easy Mac, frozen asparagus in a Pasta Side. It’s your choice, your tweak.

When Salad Met Sandwich

10 Jun

Strange-seeming food pairings often turn into classics – fries dipped in ice cream, cheddar cheese on apple pie. It often works the same way when people double up. From the perspective of one of my favorite subjects, celebrity couples, many duos with what seem like incompatibly different personalities have long-lasting relationships.

No, I’m not going to discuss Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, or even John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I’d actually like to kick it altogether old school, and visit a couple of couples who fall under the category of “historical pop culture.” (I wish you could get a Ph.D. in that, preferably at Columbia). My selections were both inspired from a recent biography-reading stint.

I discovered my first couple while reading Personal History by Katherine Graham, who most notably headed the The Washington Post during the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. The Johnsons, Lyndon B. and Lady Bird, were alluded to often.  From Graham’s descriptions, the Johnson’s relationship struck me as “classy Southern Belle meets Boorish caveman.”

Lyndon B. (right) giving the “Johnson treatment” to Abe Fortas (left), newly nominated as associate justice of the Supreme Court, July 1965.

Lyndon B., throughout his political career, was known for administering the “Johnson treatment” – a combination of flattery, logic, and threats (including physical ones) – when negotiating with powerful politicians. President Eisenhower once had to safeguard himself from the Johnson treatment with his Director of Congressional Relations, Jerry Persons.  “Jerry,” said President Eisenhower, “I want you to stand between Lyndon and me.  My bursitis is kicking up, and I don’t want him to grab me by the arm.” Lyndon B. was also known for his far-south-of-refined use of language. Lyndon B. was quoted in 1971 in the New York Times, commenting on then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover,  “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” And that’s LBJ-light, really.

Classic classy Lady Bird

Meanwhile, Lady Bird quietly and shrewdly managed the couple’s finances, eventually turning the couple into millionaires with the purchase of a radio and a TV station in Austin, TX. She steadfastly supported her husband’s career, for example covering 35,000 miles to campaign for the Kennedy/Johnson ticket in 1960. The always carefully coiffed, pearl-necklaced first lady humbly summarized her position as her oft-unrestrained husband’s manager, “The first lady is an unpaid public servant elected by one person – her husband.”

The Buckley Family: Patricia (left); Chris (center); William (right)

Moving to the opposite side of the political spectrum, I struck upon my second couple by reading Losing Mum and Pup, a memoir by Christopher Buckley about his “larger-than-life” parents. I’ve already mentioned Mr. Buckley (see: Sating Leafy Longings), but he’s worth re-mentioning. Excepting their mutual sharp-wit, the Buckleys were polar opposites. Hailing from Vancouver, Patricia Taylor Buckley reigned supreme as a New York socialite for many years.  Besides fundraising for numerous charitable organizations, she was best known for her fashion sensibilities, being named into Eleanor Lambert’s International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame in 1975.  Generally a non-conformist, she would garden at the Buckley’s Connecticut home in her bikini and ignored the essential implications of non-smoking areas of restaurants. “Life is very difficult and everything kills you,” she once said. “The only thing you can do nowadays is sit fully clothed in the woods and eat fruit.”

William F. Buckley, Jr., shaped the rhetoric of the modern American Conservative movement. He broke onto the scene with his first book, God and Man at Yale, at the green age of 24. He went on to apply his eloquent pen to greater conquests, founding the National Review in 1955, and serving as editor-in-chief until 1990. He was deeply Catholic, and never missed weekly mass. “I grew up, as reported, in a large family of Catholics without even a decent ration of tentativeness among the lot of us about our religious faith,” he once said.

I hope I’ve gotten my point across – the Johnsons and the Buckleys, despite clashing personalities, managed to remain married until death did them part. And I believe I created a food-pairing that can stick it out in the long run, too. Keep reading…

SALAD WRAP (Makes 4 Serving):

– 4 cups lettuce (iceberg or romaine)

– 1/2 cup black beans

– 8 oz. chicken breasts, thawed

– Seasoning: S&P, chili powder,

garlic salt, onion powder, cumin

– 1/4 cup cheddar cheese

– 1/4 cup corn

– 2 plum tomatos, diced

– 1 red onion, diced

– 2-3 Tbs. salsa

– 4 small tortillas


1. Place chicken in skillet on stove top; set burner to low heat. Sprinkle seasonings on chicken, on both sides, and cook.

2. Cut cooked, seasoned chicken into strips. Set aside.

3. Combine lettuce, black beans, cheddar cheese, corn, tomato, onion. Add in chicken.

4. Toast tortillas, in oven or toaster oven.

5. Assemble sandwich/wrap: Place salad on top of toasted tortilla; top with salsa. Enjoy!

CALORIES (per serving): 270

To start off the tweaks: What about a salad-quesadilla? You could toast the tortilla topped with chicken and cheese (add a little extra cheese), then top with the salad and salsa…Tweak away some more, please; I’m off to run and have some Chris Brown time!