Once upon a time in the mid ’90s, my family regularly enjoyed lunch or dinner at Applebee’s. The national restaurant chain was founded in my home state of Georgia and rapidly expanded across the country that same decade. Americans loved the affordable comfort food, as did my father. Our whole family did really. So we ate there often.
Fifteen years ago, that all came to a screeching halt. After the last of an increasingly disappointing, if not unappetizing, meal, my twenty-something wife and I turned to each other and announced, “Let’s not eat here again.” So we didn’t.
Since much of the world is still partially closed or weird, I’ve taken a lot of comfort over the last year in the “simple things.” By that I mean everyday common things that are perpetually satisfying.
The story first published to blakesnow.com in the fall of 2012
With the help of two babysitting grandmas, a good job, and lots of decisiveness, Lindsey and I vacationed in Paris this year for her birthday. It was our first time to Yurp. (And I thought Boston was old!)
Travel bragging aside, I learned several things on the trip, including a few reoccurring generalizations. They are as follows: Continue reading…
I like it because the toast and crunchy peanut butter are perfectly balanced by the creaminess of the butter and soft bananas on top that cushion the roof of your mouth. And the cinnamon adds just the right kick of spice!
Better yet, it’s packed with carbs, proteins, and fats to give your body all the macro nutrients it needs to start the day. Pair with whole milk. Hope you enjoy!
You don’t have to cross borders or cook from home to taste some of the world’s greatest foods. Looking for fresh ideas to spice up your quarantine cuisine? Try one of these, although your mileage may vary depending on current state restrictions: Continue reading…
Many years ago, Disney released a Pixar film that had a profound impact on the course of my professional life.
At the time I was a full-time video game critic for several online magazines. I had a knack for raking mediocre games and announcements over the coals. I gained a reputation for publishing smart but scathing copy. Back then, I felt it was my job, if not duty, to critique everything I touched as if the orbit of the Earth depended on it. Continue reading…
In the early 1900s, bananas may have been named the world’s first superfood. At the time, even The American Medical Association praised them for being “sealed by nature in practically germ-proof packages.”*
Although still one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, bananas are no longer consider a superfood. (I eat one every morning, however, as they’re always in season). Trendy things like acai berries, green tea, quinoa, kale and other manufactured foods are. It’s gotten so out of hand, that the FDA issued a warning letter recently about falsely advertised “superfoods.” As of 2007, the European Union has prohibited food makers from using the term “superfood.”
So how can we distinguish marketing hype from science when seeking out nutrient-rich foods? Highbrow did just that recently. This is what they came up with—the top 10 superfoods backed by science. Continue reading…
My wife and I recently returned from the most adventurous vacation we’ve ever taken. I have a lot more to say on the subject, but I’ll start with the most important: food. A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? Continue reading…
Smart people don’t make better decisions because they’re smart. They make better decisions, research shows, because they habitually do the following:
1. Remove unimportant decisions. If a decision doesn’t have an impact on your work, relationships, or spirit, then remove it from consideration. For example, many CEOs, heads of states, or creative people wear the same thing every day. Steve Jobs wore blue jeans and a black turtleneck everyday. Mark Zuckerberg only wears blue jeans and a gray t-shirt. Similarly, the leader of the free world only wears blue or gray suits, “Because I have too many other decisions to make,” the president recently told Vanity Fair. “I’m trying to pare down decisions,” he added. “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing.”
For those of us without a personal chef, deciding what kinds of food to eat is a very important decision. But removing or outsourcing unimportant decisions to other people helps us make more meaningful decisions. One of the ways I achieve this is by removing TV from my life, limiting the number of sportsball games I watch, and restricting the number of news sources I read to only three per day. Doing so introduces more social encounters, analog experiences, and thought-provoking literature into my life, which make me a better writer (instead of regurgitator). Continue reading…
Thanks to my wife, I’ve grown to appreciate winter instead of loathing it. Still, the persistent cold, dormant life, and extended darkness can take its toll on our mood, especially near the tail end of the season.
Eat healthy, from scratch foods; mostly plants, no seconds, but don’t vilify entire food groups (including sugar). The right nutrition can improve your mood.
Schedule leisure. Lunch with friends, night out with a loved one, or your next vacation. Anticipating events does wonders for your mood. Planning yearly vacations in late January (after the tax man takes his cut) has served my family well.
Get moving. Exercise is a dead horse. But I’ll kick it again, because it works. Don’t know where to start? Try a 20 minute outdoor walk everyday or the scientifically proven 7 minute workout.
So health.com caught my eye last month after crunching the numbers on foods that may shorten life, specifically those that harm our DNA’s ability to protect itself from disease. The four that made their list: Continue reading…
Beyond the obvious weight loss and cardiovascular benefits of regular fitness, here are a few bonus consequences of working on your body:
Your skin improves. If vanity is your top goal for getting in shape, I’ve got good news: Regular exercise, particularly when coupled with a healthy diet, does wonders to your hue. If you’re white and pasty like me, your skin starts glowing the longer you work out. It looks healthy, full of color, slightly tan. The reason: “Exercise enhances blood flow to skin,” says Dr. David Katz. Plus, sweating works as a natural cleaning agent, unclogging pores and removing oil and dirt for fewer zits. My skin has never looked healthier. What a pleasant surprise. Continue reading…
God, how did you get pork ribs to taste so delicious and why didn’t you make beef or chicken ribs this scrumptious?
That’s what I’d ask him. Here’s why: Lindsey and I have made these oven baked ribs several times this summer. They’re ridiculously easy. Can be made using baby or spare ribs. The meat falls of the bone with the slightest of bites. And there are virtually no ligaments or tendons to mess with — the closest thing to cartoon characters eating hunks of meat off single bones.
If there’s one certainty I’ve observed in life, it is this: Rather than just eating more produce, less meat, and smaller portions of food, humans will vilify something in an effort to simplify complex food choices. Instead of accepting a “moderation in all things” approach to life — which limits superiority complexes and indulgence — they insist on inventing artificial food guidelines to live by.
For example: In the ’80s, butter and natual sugar was bad, so Americans (at least) ate lots of margarine and artificial sweeteners. But those turned out to be worse, so now butter and sugar are back on the menu. In the ’90s, it was the low-fat diet, which in many ways still influences our culture, although not to the extent the diet did in its hey day. In the 2000s, it was low-carbs: Atkin’s diet, South Beach, and other variations. Nowadays, popular grains like wheat bread, oats, and barley are suddenly the enemy. Even though we’ve been eating gluten for thousands of years, it’s just as bad for us as other fad diets. Which is to say it’s not.
I’m a cheese lover. I’ve sampled some of the finest from three different continents. In fact, I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like, except for Colby. (Yuck!)
My absolute favorite varient of cheese, however, is Cabot’s Seriously Sharp Cheddar. It comes from grass-fed cows in Vermont that sleep on warm blankets and are often whispered words of encouragement by loving humans. It’s gluten-free, low-carb, 100% organic, and makes your bowel movements smell like cinnamon. It’s aged for 24 hours, helps save the planet, and will even impress your sycophant friends.
Not really. But Seriously Sharp is the most pungent and satisfying cheese I’ve ever tasted. It’s perfectly textured—slightly crumbly without being overly dry. Dense and mouthwatering. It’s so delectable, I often sink in my chair after savoring the final slice.
Goes well with red grapes, almonds, crackers, french bread and salami, strawberries, cantaloup, and white sauces. I buy it at Walmart right after doorbell ditching struggling mom-and-pop grocers.
Eating well is hard to do. Here are a 13 lucky food strategies I follow to keep extravagance at bay.
Never order a cheeseburger. I said never. “But, Blake,” you ask, “Don’t you like cheese and beef?” Yes. Both are bursting with flavor. But there’s no sense overdoing it when each are good on their own. “I really wish this delicious burger had cheese on it,” said no one ever. “I really wish this grill cheese had meat on it,” also said no one ever. Pick one and enjoy.
Hold the mayo and sour cream. Speaking of burgers, my wife and I made homemade ones over the weekend. Mine was topped with red onion, lettuce, tomato, Dijon mustard, and ketchup on a Texas toasted bun. It was a taste explosion, even without the mayo. Same goes for the tacos we had tonight. Beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, on a freshly cooked tortilla. No sour cream required. Again, sour cream and mayo are delicious, but there’s no sense in adding them to an already heavily-flavored meal. Continue reading…
Always read the label. You are in charge of educating yourself on what you digest. When in doubt, pick food with the fewest included ingredients and artificial-sounding names (like xanthum gum)
Avoid emotional eating. No food rewards, bribes for kids, or eating out of boredom or depression. Hard to do. Brushing your teeth can help. So can striking up a conversation with someone to take your mind off food.
Avoid short-order or otherwise “fast” food. With exception to simple meals like bread and cheese, food that is fast (snacks, microwavable, drive-though etc) is usually filled with unnatural preservatives and additives that dilute the nutritional value of the food you consume. Continue reading…
Basically, it’s our version of the Chipotle craze sweeping the nation, only better for the following reasons: Joe, the owner, takes orders and waits tables like you wouldn’t believe. Dude is everywhere; serving chips, giving out organic lollipops to my kids, clearing my table. He knew my name after two visits. Impressive.
Not only that, but the tortillas, meat, produce etc are all locally sourced. Place even claims they don’t own a can opener! My taste buds concur.
As adherents of the Word of Wisdom, my family tries to avoid drinking tea — more specifically, anything derived from the Camellia sinensis plant (which results in black, green, white, yellow and oolong tea).
I say try because we used to suck down Chai like it was nobody’s business. That is, until we discovered that it contains black tea, in addition to delicious Indian spices. (Ignorance is bliss, people. Should have never read the label.)
But fear-not, non-tea drinkers. There are still a lot of tasty herbal alternatives, some of which are even better than the real thing. Continue reading…
Few things in life are better than a fresh tomato.
While discussing food this morning (it’s a hobby of mine), a friend exclaimed, “I can’t stand raw tomatoes.” He’s obviously crazy, so of course I chastised him with, “No way—they’re like salty watermelons, man!!!”
Admittedly, I haven’t always enjoyed tomatoes. In fact, I was ordering cheeseburgers sans tomato as recently as 18. That all changed a year later, however, after moving to Brazil. There, when they serve “salad,” it’s all tomato, doused in vinegar and oil. To not come off as a snobbish American, I reluctantly accepted said salad. In time, I grew to love the primary ingredient.
I stiffed my take-out waiter for the first time this weekend and got an ugly look for it.
Normally I tip receptionists a buck for boxing my meal and carrying it all the way from the kitchen to the reception desk. (Excruciating work, I know.) But this time I grew a pair and followed my wife’s example: Don’t tip a restaurant worker for putting carry-out in a bag for you.
Again, I’m fine tipping someone that actually “waits on you” in a dining room. Servers don’t get paid a minimum wage. They’re normally hard workers and/or are struggling to make ends meet. So I’m happy to throw a few Washingtons their way for good service.
But I’m done tipping for carry-out, since the person handing me my food doesn’t add any value to my patronage, nor do they serve. I don’t care if it’s the bartender, the host, or some other receptionist. And I’m not going to let awkward attempts to “serve me” a bag or ugly looks deter me. Unless, of course, you can convince me otherwise.
As a general rule, food and video games are about as compatible as texting and driving (hint: they’re not). You might be able to get away with cold pizza with a controller in hand, but never stuff your pie-hole with this messiness during play: Continue reading…
I haven’t taken a fortune cookie serious — let alone keep one — since… well, forever. Rather than predicting actual fortunes, almost all of them instead state the obvious or reference vague generalizations like, “Your friends have heartbeats,” or, “You’ll never know what you can do until you try.”
My latest fortune cookie, acquired last month after overpaying for an uneasy meal, was a keeper, however: “The project you have in mind will soon gain momentum.” I excitedly thought to myself, “Really? Which one? How soon? Tell me, omniscient Confucius!” I then slipped the two-inch piece of paper into my pocket and later onto my desk as a reminder of my fortune. After a discouraging precursor to Q1, I was willing to let even a cheap, dry cookie have an effect on my professional life.
Yesterday, I closed one of those deals — a reputable and ongoing account that is sure to bolster my portfolio and bank account. As a result, my faith in fortune cookies has been restored. My faith in suspect Chinese joints, on the other hand, has not.
Locals only: A colleague took me to lunch last month to Yamato in Orem. It was my first time. From the outside, the place looks like a dump — definitly not a somewhere you’d want to eat, unless you like that fake soy-chicken garbage that cheap Chinese restaurants serve.
To my surprise, however, the inside is not only immaculate, but the decor “feels” authentic, and the atmosphere is soothing. More importantly, the Japanese cuisine is some of the finest I’ve ever had at a price that makes me wonder how the shop stays in business — it’s more than reasonable. Ask for the Orem lunch, which comes with soup, salad, 5-6 delicious dumplings, steamed rice, and succulent teriyaki chicken. Sushi is thankfully optional.
So for any Utah natives looking for any new place to eat, look no further. Yamato is Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto. That didn’t make any sense… suffice it to say the place is really good. Thanks, Eliot!
Louisianians fry more food than my native Georgia. Impressive.
As has been customary, I’m entering the travel period of my year as the gaming industry gears up for its big fall push. I travel only 6-7 times a year, and prefer it that way. I’m an unadventurous city-slicker who is also a homebody. I even choke up a little when leaving for a short trip.
Maddie, my six-month old looks really cute in shades.
My wife’s sausage manicotti is delicious.
Regular exercise is difficult for me. After three weeks of steady running, I let it slip this week.
On a personal note, I just learned of the sudden passing of Jeff Jones in December at the hands of Leukemia. I considered Jeff a close, friendly, and respected professional colleague and worked extensively with him in 2006 and early 2007 before losing touch last summer. I would have his surviving family, friends, and associates know that Jeff was genuinely one of the kindest individuals I’ve had the pleasure of working with. He will be missed.
For whatever reason, Lindsey started making delicious cheese and chocolate fondue for dinner last December. We’ve had it five or six times in little more than three months now, and I’m in love — particularly with the cheese dipped French bread.
My wife’s recipe is even better than the Melting Pot (no kidding) and comes at a substantial discount. For a mere $40, you can feed six adults fresh bread, strawberries, apples, bananas, lil’ smokies, pound cake, pretzels, marshmallows, and oreos with chocolate to spare. It’s so win.
So dust off that fondue set you received as a wedding gift but never used. You won’t be disappointed. In the off chance you are, I’ll harass you like sushi-junkie.
Fun fact: The Swiss invented fondue to enable the digestion of stale bread that had become so hard it could be “chopped with an ax.” Oh, and don’t mouth the dipping fork, you pig.
Publicly professing your gratitude once a year makes up for an otherwise selfish individual, right? Whatever the case, here are 10 things I’m thankful for in 2007, a day before Thanksgiving — some genuine, others with tongue in cheek. Continue reading…