Meryl Streep: MMA’s Newest Villain or Harbinger of Mainstream Acceptance?

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It seems Meryl Streep is MMA’s latest and greatest villain. Not a roided up Brock Lesnar. Not the unfair pay and restrictive contracts. And certainly not CTE. Nope. Permanent damage inflicted by juicers on people who have almost universally short careers and who are unable to properly monetize said careers take a backseat to the latest plague upon the landscape. That plague is named Meryl Streep.

While accepting a Golden Globe award on Sunday night, she gave a speech that was staunchly anti-Trump and typically Hollywood, steeped in self-congratulatory hoopla. She addressed mixed martial arts only to say that if all the foreigners were kicked out of acting, and the diversity removed, as a country we would be left with football and mixed martial arts, which, she reminded everyone was not, “the arts.” Simple and seemingly benign.

It did not take long for the MMA community to explode with its own self-righteous indignation, as Twitter accounts boiled over in frothing 140 character chunks. Few things come as a surprise in the fight world anymore, but the response this garnered was shocking. The mere passing utterance of “mixed martial arts” within the context of a larger speech sent fighters, promoters, and journalists alike into a tail-spin of defensive hyperbole. The kind one might expect from a thespian rather than from a group of individuals routinely touted as being among the toughest on the planet.

There is an art to martial arts, but it is not “the arts,” as are they are typically referred to. Parochial as any reference to “the arts” is these days, her point was clear: sports are not generally contained within that framework. Go tell your college counselor you want to take a judo class to fulfill art credits and see how far that gets you.

Reactions have been so disproportionate that one wonders how many people actually took the time to listen to her speech. If fighters get their news the same way most people do, a safe guess is that very few did; a quick glance over a link or a Tweet probably, before unleashing a fully formed opinion based on very little fact, held up mostly by emotion. The same thing those same people would accuse Streep of doing. We need to quell this short sighted thinking and look at the situation anew.

Much of life comes down to perspective. How one looks at something, the ability to turn life on its side and view it differently goes a long way. The same applies here.

Foremost, Meryl Streep, arguably the greatest actress to ever live, mentioned MMA at the Golden Globe Awards, which is an international gathering of Hollywood’s elite, viewed by millions. Any press is good press, and that is quite a lot of press. She didn’t call it UFC or human cockfighting. She referred to it properly as mixed martial arts, and on an enormous platform. That is huge.

Moreover, Streep chose to use MMA instead of any other sport, pairing it with the NFL, a money making leviathan and worldwide presence. Not basketball, not baseball, not hockey. MM-freaking-A. Put on par with the biggest sports organization in America, and as an example of what would be left with out “the arts,” which once again, is the bigger picture here. She said nothing negative about either sport, made no mockery of its participants. She merely defended her own profession by using another as a point of reference.

The biggest oversight by all those who’ve come unglued at Streep’s speech is that, within its context, MMA was the only sport that fit into the verbal scheme she was working with. Saying “you’d be left with football and bowling, which are not the arts” lacks the nice ring that using mixed martial arts does. It was a transitional phrase, one which, as a writer, I have to recognize was well done. She threw a deft, well timed combination rather than winging clumsy arm punches.

I doubt that Meryl Streep is a big fan of MMA. I’m equally doubtful she has anything against it. The truth of the matter is likely that she (or the person who wrote her speech) knows enough about the sport to use it in that situation, and with confidence the millions of people watching would all know it as well. It didn’t need to be qualified and no one in the audience yelled out, “mixed martial what?” They took it in stride. I wish I could same the same for the MMA world.

What Streep did on Sunday night was not an attack on mixed martial arts. She did not belittle those who give their lives to the sport, didn’t castigate the practice as inhuman, and certainly didn’t profess to knowing anything about it other than to say it exists. We should consider the possibility that Meryl Streep has accepted MMA into her her life, and in doing so, spoke for the world at large. MMA is a so much a part of our social fabric it can be used by an aging spokeswoman of an enormous industry that is completely removed from combat sports and everyone understood.

It is time we put away the notion of MMA being an underdog sport. For better or worse, mixed martial arts is a part of popular discourse. Meryl Streep knows it. Now we must embrace it.

My 2017 Beer-Year Schedule

I recently discovered a file on my computer called “Master Beer List.” It was my attempt circa 2010 to compile a record of the different beers I tried. More recently Untapped became the means by which myself and many a beer geek maintained a similar list.  More recently Instagram has taken over these duties, my feed giving now revolving almost entirely around beer. The point I am getting at that a part of my enthusiasm for beer is curating the personal collection that grows with each new brew tasted. As a historian I have long been enamored by such things;  maintenance of factoids and information, research and investigation of random topics of inquiry. Those predilections have carried over to craft beer nicely.

In an effort to further cultivate this, and to obfuscate the fact I’m a total booze-bag with something I can refer to as “research,” I have created a beer schedule for 2017. Each month I will drink only beers selected from a preset category. The word only is used loosely here. I’ll not turn down a beer given to me by someone because it doesn’t fit within the monthly scheme I’ve set up, nor will I be so stringent as to pass on something I’m not likely to see again, or that promises to be exemplary. The themes are meant to direct my consumption, with the goal of better understanding some aspect of beer as a result; my adherence to them will be strict, but reasonable. It should also be noted that the twelve themes here are intended to be loose. While an overarching principle will shepherd me, there is no telling what each month may bring in terms of trends, availability, and the like. The end result might be wildly different than what I have laid out here. I encourage everyone who reads this to plan their own Beer-Year schedule, or at he very least put in some effort to better educate yourself on beer in whatever ways you can.

January – Research Month

Rather than kick things off by restricting myself to a specific beer, my intent for the New Year is to begin by doing as much research as I can. Read, read, read. In the interest of breadth over depth, I anticipate utilizing mostly magazine articles and journals  rather than books, and hope to leave a small synopsis of everything I read, or a proper citation at the very least so that others might find the same articles. No specific beer will be assigned to the month, instead I will stick to the theme of research by trying only beers that are new to me.

February – All Beer Week Related Beers and Activities

This one is based on two presumptions: that I will still be living in San Francisco through February of 2017 (SF Beer Week runs from the 10th to the 19th) and that enough beer will be made for that event that I’ll be able to find it all month. Both are good possibilities. A move might come more suddenly that I can account for, but my experience with SF Beer Week is that there is often enough beer in the form of specialty brews, one-offs, and collaborations, that it can still be had in the weeks following the event.

March – All European Beers

My knowledge of European beers has been hampered by the American Craft Beer movement. There is simply too much good beer being made domestically to spend time on imports. This will be the month I try to find a global beer balance. I’d initially thought to do all Irish beers in honor of St. Patrick’s day, but realized it might prove too limiting and expanded to include the whole continent.

April – No IPA April

This should be simultaneously the easiest and most difficult month to get through. Finding a place with something other than IPAs on the menu is going to be easy. Not ordering one, either out of habit or desire is going to the be the hard part. I love IPAs like everyone else, but they have become my default beer. Too often I’ll give a draft list a cursory glance, spot the IPA, and make my order. They’ve become too easy. Last July I did 31 Days With No IPA on a whim and inspired this while mess I’m concocting now. I changed to to April or two reasons. Firstly, going one month without an IPA is a cruel joke of a kind, making April an appropriate time to do so. Second No IPApril has a nice ring to it and, frankly, will make a great hashtag.

May – Saisons, Sours, Wild Ales, Brets, etc.

By May we should be opening up the summer beer season, so it seemed a likely time to get in touch with saisons. My fear, however, is that on top of being slightly less available than other styles, I’ll get completely sick of them after a couple of weeks. Because of this, I’ve added sours, wild ales, and brets to the theme for May. Sweet, sour, and funky flavors will rule the month.

June – All Local Beers

For June the goal is to drink only beers produced within 25 mile radius of where I live,  expanding that boundary should I exhaust everything in that range. This will also be a good change to visit and tour the few breweries near me that I’ve not had a chance to, and to spend money only within my community, a goal I would like to work towards in more aspects of my life than just beer, but isn’t always so easily achievable.

July – All Lagers and Pilsners

With summer in full swing, lagers and pilsners are in order to beat the heat. I plan on revisiting the standard American lagers we all cut our teeth on, like Budweiser and Coors, but also seeking out the many versions of these styles being produced by the craft world.

August – All SMASH, Single Hop, and Summer Beers

I’m a big fan of SMASH and single hop beers. Though I harbor very few delusions about ever having such a refined palate that I’ll have the ability to confidently pick out a particular malt or hop variety from a given brew, I do enjoy the process of trying to get to that place, and spending time with a beer I know has specific ingredients to consider. Though increasingly popular, these might prove hard to find with regularity, so I’ve also added anything that bills itself as a summer beer to my options for the month.

September – Amber and Red Ales

Moving into the fall, this month is good to turn towards dark beer. I want to pivot out of lighter summer beers gently, so amber ales make the most sense. Nothing lighter in color than copper shall pass my lips in September. Ambers and Reds are both styles that I generally ignore, not because I dislike them, but because I find others tastier and more interesting.

October – Anti-Pumkin Spice Month and Oktoberfest

I never cared for pumpkin spice beers to begin with, but in the last few years they’ve become shamefully overblown. This October will be about seeking out anything that is characterized as being a fall beer and that is not fouled with pumpkin spices. Oktoberfest beers should be plentiful then, too, offering some more variety. Should I run out of options, there is the possibility of steering into the pumpkin spice craze; maybe by embracing it I will come to understand, or even like it, though the later is doubtful.

November – Aged Beers and Strong Ales

I’ll have to tread lightly this month, and try not to drink myself blind on the oldest, strongest beers I can find, with the aim of consuming nothing under 8% ABV. Given the time of year and the availability of high alcohol brews I don’t see this theme being a problem.

December – Winter Warmers and Dark Beers

I’m not the biggest fan of winter warmer beers, but this is the year I change that. I’ll seek out winter warmers and drink them until I love them (or make myself sick trying). Should I find myself in a place where none are found, I’ll substitute a warmer for the darkest thing on tap. This seems like a good compromise and a fine way to continue beating the December cold.

As stated above, the themes presented here will remain loose. They are not meant to be too proscriptive, but intended to guide my hand through the myriad beers available to me, to ensure I keep trying to new things, and most importantly to make sure I am thinking about what I drink rather than mindlessly guzzling it down. I’m certain that some of these will change in some small part, if not entirely as the year unfolds; there will be times I break my self-imposed rules (I’ll likely have an IPA in April). But I am also certain that at the end of each month I’l have discovered something previously unknown to me; some subtly, some nuance, or some bit of information that I’d never have discovered otherwise, making me a more knowledgable and better educated beer drinker, which is something we should all strive for.

Beer Brewed With Artificial Intelligence

IntelligentX Brewing Company is now brewing beer using artificial intelligence. Using algorithms and a bunch of other science-speak they’ve figured out a way to further dehumanize a part of the craft beer movement and in doing so, have missed the point altogether.

It is important to listen to your consumers, but ultimately recipes cannot be dictated by their tastes, especially if it’s an ever evolving process that operates on users inputting what they like or dislike, and what they might want to see in a beer. I can see future press releases now. “Our customers have spoken and our machines have come up with a beer that is in line with all their desires. It’s hoppy, but not hoppy at all. It’s super malty, but also has no malt character. It is also fruity and savory, is session-able but but high in alcohol, and at once hazy and clear. Did we mention it contains eight varieties of yeast? Yes, eight. You know that muddled gray that is a result of mixing all the paint in a water color set? It’s like that, but the beer version. That’s what the people want, apparently.”

The fact that an English company seems to be helming this abomination is also striking given the 45 year history of England’s Campaign for Real Ale. The whole thing stinks, and I can’t wait to watch it turn sour.

The Evolution of Jon Jones’ Lies

Earlier this week the Nevada Athletic Commission reach and agreement with Jon Jones, suspending him for one year, retroactive to July 6 when his failed tests were announced. The terms of the decision are in line with those Jones and USADA previously agreed to, making the Jackson-Winkeljohn phenom eligible to fight again midway through summer 2017. For fight fans this is good news. Jones is a marvel in the cage and at 29 years of age has many good years of fighting left in him.

In the months leading up to this, Jones has maintained his innocence, along with a period of well-advised media silence. A notable exception came on December 1 when he appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast for a lengthy, candid interview. From his admission to getting black out drunk the week before every fight, to the details of his hit and run car accident in New Mexico, Jones seemed an open book. When it came to his most recent kerfuffle, a positive test for two banned substances, Jones was equally forthcoming. However, a closer look at  the conversation with Rogan, along with previous attempts to explain the events leading up to his ingesting a tainted “dick pill,” revealed disturbing inconsistencies.

At an hour and fourteen minutes into the podcast Jones stated that his teammate’s girlfriend is a pharmacist and because of this, had access to things like Viagra and Vicodin. When Rogan asked where she obtained the pills, Jones claimed he did not know. This might seem like a plausible story if it did not contradict previous statements regarding the now much talked about male enhancement pill.

That Jones got the pill from a teammate seems to be the only part of the story which remains unchanged. The teammate in question is Eric Blasich. Blasich submitted to evidence a written statement on the events that lead up to his giving Jones a tainted tadalafil pill, as did Jones. Even these statements go against what had been previously said; written testimony indicates Jones and Blasich were having dinner with multiple teammates when the exchange took place, while the oral evidence states that only their wrestling coach, Israel Martinez was present. Blasich also went on to produce invoices as proof he purchased the pills, without any mention of his pharmacist girlfriend.

These disparities were noted by many, including the the very panel in charge of Jone’s hearing, which went so far as to note the written evidence provided by Jones and Blasich seemed cooked by Jones’ manager Malki Kawa. Stephie Haynes pointed them out in an article for Bloody Elbow, as did Iain Kidd

In spite of such dubious circumstances, both USADA and the NAC have gone easy on Jones. Don’t forget the NAC is the same sanctioning body that tried to levy a half million dollar fine and five year suspension on Nick Diaz after he tested positive for marijuana, and dropped a lifetime ban on Wanderlei Silva for not testing at all. Jones has been compliant through this process, something neither of the afore mentioned seemed to be, but compliance should not cancel out what appear to be blatant lies.

What’s done is done. A verdict has been rendered and come next July, Jones will be free to fight again. Whatever aspersions we might cast on his character certainly do not carry over to the cage. He will go down as one of, if not the greatest, of all time. During the interview with Rogan Jones mentioned how much tape he studies, watching things over and over, noting which combinations opponents favor, which side they prefer to shoot, and so on until he knows exactly what a person will do in any given circumstance. In fighting, Jones knows that often times the devil is in the details. The same is true for lies; it’s not always the lie that will get a person caught, it’s the story used to support a lie that become its undoing. It’s the pharmacist girlfriend with dick-pills-aplenty or the dinner with teammates or maybe just one teammate or the hastily typed statement by a manager that doesn’t jive with what has already been said.

The whole truth of this will likely never be known. Save for a tell all memoir years from now or perhaps some new hard evidence coming to light, what really happened will remain locked inside the heart and mind of a small few. For now, the only place we should expect the truth out of Jon Jones is in the cage.

I Do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but I Don’t Want to Talk About It.

I Do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but I Don’t Want to Talk About It.

I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. There. I said it. This isn’t some kind of dirty confession, nor is it something I feel must remain a secret. I just, as a general rule, don’t want to talk about.

It’s a year and change into my journey. I’ve toed the waters slowly, as other, more substantial life goals took precedence over training. I have earned a single stripe on my white belt and feel rather accomplished for having done so.* Skill level aside, I can be relied upon as a solid training partner who works hard to improve; if I get nothing else out of this undertaking, I hope it’s that, and trust of my teammates. But I still don’t want to talk about it.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is something I wanted to do for quite some time. It was easily a decade in the making. The desire to become proficient, if not expert, in a martial art has long been a pursuit, one that was generally pushed off to the side along with many other “someday I’ll get around to it” type projects. Well, I still can’t read latin, but I can apply and arm-bar, or triangle, or collar choke to varying degrees of success. You just won’t catch me talking about it.

Some people know I do this. My wife. My family. My close friends.They will occasionally if I have been to class, but for the most part, they don’t want to talk about it either. And I’m fine with that.

At work I sometimes show up with a hickey-like gi mark running it’s way across my neck or face. Round, fingertip size splotches serve as little beliers of the death grip someone had on my wrist the day before and talk to my co-workers for me. They tell of a life outside the cozy walls we find ourselves confined by; they speak of impact, and of violence, the kind which most people avoid. The rules of polite conversation prevent most from asking what kind of trouble has befallen me, and that’s fine. The bruises can whisper to people about what I do in my free time, because I don’t want to talk about it.

Occasionally people do ask why I am bruised up or why I am limping. I usually say I hurt myself exercising. If pressed, I will tell them the specific means by which an injury occurred; I do Brazilian jiu jitsu. It is the near inevitable follow up questions that are the reason for my reluctance to talk about it. “What is it that?” It’s a martial art. “Like karate?” No, not at all. It’s grappling based. “Oh, like wrestling?” A little, but only in the vaguest sense. “Do you want to be a fighter?” Uh-huh. Nearing forty years of age isn’t when most really great careers in the fight game take off. “Can you kick my ass?” I don’t know, but if I can, jiu jitsu will not likely have much to do with it. “Why do you do that?” I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it.

BJJ occupies a similar space to MMA. People have heard of it, have maybe seen it a little, and yet even a negligible grasp on how it works doesn’t curb the ignorant pontificating that dominates public discourse on the matter. I once sat cringing on my sister’s couch, while I listened to some guy give a detailed and completely false account of the way UFC fighters go about purposefully breaking their hands in order to strengthen them. As someone who keeps up a ruthless pursuit of even the most minute details of the MMA world, and who has actually broken his hand only to have it heal as a disfigured shadow of its former self rather than a better, stronger version of the original, I can tell you the mess this blockhead peddled was patently wrong. I hear things like this all the time; rarely with such unbridled and proud ignorance, but more often than not, when the topic of fighting comes up, I remain quiet. I’m too obsessive and I remember everything I read; the burden of caring enough to know enough keeps me silent, lest I spend many a conversation correcting people’s inaccuracies and coming off like a pedantic dick. So I don’t talk about it.

The same holds true for jiu jitsu. People just don’t know enough about it to warrant negotiating a conversation in which they will assuredly be uninformed. Unless they do jiu jitsu too. While I tend to demur when it comes to my martial arts participation, many are effusive. They’ll happily espouse on all manner of things about the jiu jitsu lifestyle; how doing BJJ changed their life; how they got a sweet new Shoyoroll gi; are you a leg-lock guy? And on and on and on. Much noise is made about living this coveted “jiu jitsu lifestyle.” Other than always talking about jiu jitsu, the only things I can reliably associate with a jiu jitsu lifestyle are a curious, and culturally skewed preoccupation with acai fruit, and an equally incongruent usage of the Hawaiian hang-loose-shaka-hand thing. These types share a similarity to crossfitters in that you’ll know they do jiu jitsu, because they’ll tell you they do jiu jitsu. You won’t have to ask questions in this case because they really want to talk about it.

“Jiu jitsu changed my life!” is a common exhortation. It certainly has change my life, and I’ll tell you why: because I do jiu jitsu now. Before, I didn’t. Now, I do. So indeed, my life has changed. But it hasn’t become my reason for being, nor has it made such an impact as to affect my life in the manifold ways some claim it has. Certainly there are positive by products of jiu jitsu: From outwards appearances, I am in better shape now than I have been in a good many years; when I watch MMA I appreciate and understand grappling in a new way, observing a universe of details I never knew, or knew to look for. Largely though, there is no difference. If I eat better, it’s because that is a change I was ready to make in my life, and one which might also come along with the decision to get into a new sport. Perhaps there was an overall lifestyle change that jiu jitsu was one portion of. I think far fewer people are changing their lives because of jiu jitsu than the case is that people wanted to change their lives, and started doing jiu jitsu. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not a fire-sale of self belief, positivity, and healthy living; it is merely a form of exercise favored by a small percentage of people. Even unhealthy people do it: overweight people; drunks; smokers; people unafraid of gluten. Many of them do jiu jitsu, and do it quite well, but are otherwise very unhealthy. If jiu jitsu were a magic, cross cultural panacea of sorts, I wouldn’t have to explain what am arm-bar is to my mother, which is especially hard when I don’t want to talk about it.

Maybe the jiu jitsu lifestyle is just a matter of having at any and all times no less three outstanding injuries. I have torn intercostal muscles in my ribs and screwed up both knees. My legs are a patch work of amorphous bruises in various shades of purple, brown, and yellow, each one a badge of honor, or more probably, feeble attempts to retain guard. My lower back stings with random sciatic pain that shoots through it and down my leg. The middle of my back cracks when I inhale deeply (this I actually like). My right shoulder pops when I wipe my ass, my left shoulder can barely stand to have a seatbelt strap placed over it, and they both have tendonitis bad enough it sometimes keeps me awake at night. My neck stings and freezes if I look left or right too acutely. My fingers crack with a violence and frequency they’ve never before known. Everyone who has put even a minimum of regular mat time in must have a list of their own, but complaining seems to be universally maligned in the jiu jitsu lifestyle, so we try not to talk about it too much.

I struggle with the “why?” portion of this whole equation sometimes, too. That I should find it difficult to explain to others is no surprise. There are a lot of reasons I suppose, no one having much more weight than the other. It’s empowering; not that I have any delusions about an ability to defend myself, but, because every single class I get through without giving up is a victory. A confirmation of my ability to endure. I do it because it occupies the same part of my brain as other activities I love. I was shocked to find I obsess on jiu jitsu the way I do when I’m in the middle of a long research project or paper. I lay awake in bed at night mentally rearranging jiu jitsu moves they way I would words in a sentence or putting together the melody for a song. What if this goes here, then that goes there? What will that look like? Will that work? The variations and combinations are endless, the pursuit for perfect technique relentless, and for a person like myself who has an excess of mental energy that needs to be channeled into something positive, jiu jitsu is a tremendous vehicle. Mostly though, I do jiu jitsu because it is fun. In spite of the sweat, the blood, the pain and discomfort, I never end a roll, whether I was the hammer or the nail, without a huge smile on my face and feeling excited for the next one.

A few months back, after a particularly good round of sparring, I rolled off another grown man, sweaty, heaving, out of breath, and said to him, “that was beautiful,” as though it was the night of our wedding and we’d just consummated marriage. I recounted the absurdity of this incident to a friend and he asked, “Who was the guy?” I didn’t have an answer. It was someone I’d never seen before that class and who I haven’t seen since. I have plenty of regular training partners whose names I do know, but aside from a name, mostly I don’t know anything about these people. One of them seems to be in labor of some kind, a few in the tech business, a couple others perhaps students. It occurred to me how strangely intimate training jiu jitsu is, how much trust we must place in the people we practice with, and that we do so not really knowing the person at all. We don’t speak at length about our jobs or our lives, yet we lie around on top of one another for hours on end, chest to chest, cheek to cheek, huffing and puffing, and doing our damnedest to kill one another. We slap hands, we smile, we say “see you next time,” and go about our business. We exist outside the walls of the academy, but we don’t really talk about it.

“It sounds like Fight Club,” the friend joked to me. “Are you allowed to talk about it?” he asked. Maybe it’s just that. Perhaps my need for this is a symptom of my condition; that of a modern man seeking out some primordial struggle as a means of getting in touch with my wounded masculinity, and my sense that life, as wondrous as it can sometimes be, is too often rendered dull as we slog through the monotony of it all, bearing the weight of the blunt force trauma of morning alarm clocks and traffic and unfulfilled wishes that isn’t quite strong enough to kill us outright. I am Jack’s acceptance of life in the middle. I am his boredom. I am his disappointment at never being a child star, his search for something visceral, his underlying horror at the futility of it all. I am Jack, balled up on the floor in a sweat soaked gi, trying to breathe while life slowly digs its hooks in and chokes me out. But I don’t want to talk about it.

*In the week and change I spent writing this I earned a second stripe on my white belt.

Playing With My Food: At Home Randall Infusions

Inspired by an article that suggested using a french press for at-home randalling, I recently spent a Saturday evening experimenting with different flavor infusions in my beer. I chose North Coast Brewing Company’s Old Rasputin Imperial Stout as my base; it is big enough to stand up to whatever I put in the press with it, and at twenty minutes recommended steeping time, I wanted a style that didn’t need too much carbonation and wouldn’t suffer from sitting open for so long. The combinations I decide on were: blueberry, mint, and cocoa powder; coffee and bacon; jalapeño and banana; Butterfinger.

Blueberry, mint, and cocoa was the most successful. The mint came through strong, followed by a touch of blueberry. The cocoa powder was negligible; Old Rassy has plenty of  chocolate bitterness on its own and did not need any help in that department. Such strong mint flavor was refreshing, though, and balanced the stout’s heavier qualities, making it easier to drink than normal. 

Bacon and Coffee was a no brainer, and a grossly uninspired choice at that, one mostly made out of economic concerns. A part of this experiment was to use things I already had at home as much as possible. Coffee and cocoa powder I had. Two strips of bacon from the deli counter were less than a dollar.

This was a real mess in the press. I decided to add the bacon grease as well as the meat and coffee, hoping to get as much porky/salty flavor out of it as possible. It was still a little warm and coagulated quickly in the cold beer, turning into gross little globules of fat. The end result was a coffee bomb with maybe a faint bit of smoke from the bacon. That said, if you like coffee stouts, this is a a sure-fire way to get huge java flavor, and maybe a little caffeine, in your beer. And the leftover stout soaked bacon was a relatively tasty by-product.

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Jalapeño and banana was a last minute decision. Jalapeño on its own didn’t seem quite up to the spirit of my undertaking, so I decided a banana might sweeten and soften some of the heat from the chili. It also sounded like an odd-ball combination, which was very much in the spirit of things. My intuition about the banana rounding things out was dead wrong. It was a rush of jalapeño to the head, in brutal fashion, as though the heat of the chili had been condensed and was able to unleash the whole of its power at once. Thankfully it dissipated quickly, and even allowed a little bit of the fruity, floral flavors the the pepper to come through. The banana may as well not even have been there. I should have mashed it instead of just chopping it up.

Butterfinger stout seemed like a beautiful abomination; half stroke-of-fat-kid-genius, half reason-the-rest-of-the-world-hates-America. I had high hopes for my dessert combination, but the Butterfinger flavor wasn’t nearly as strong as I’d hoped it would be. Candy sediment stuck to the edges of my glass and hung in the beer giving it an orange tint, but the stronger flavors of the stout overpowered the sweetness. 

A french press certainly won’t do for you what a randall will, but for some cheap fun at home, it is a good way to impart flavor quickly, easily, and with some tasty results.

Why Food and Fighting?

Why food and fighting? The simple answer is why not? Of course, there is more to it than that.

Food has long been a driving force in my life. As a kid I went through my mom’s spice cabinet sampling everything. I watched weird, pre-Foodnetwork food television that most people do not remember; I knew who the Galloping Gourmet was at an age when I didn’t know what it mean to be a gourmet. Pasquale Carpino, the opera singing Italian chef was also a favorite of mine. As a teenager, these weren’t things I could discuss with my friends. Not because I was embarrassed, but because no one shared my interest, and certainly not my enthusiasm. “Did you guys see the Frugal Gourmet yesterday? He made all blue food!” These sentiments were not fodder for discussion in the mid 90s.

Much the same can be said for fighting. The two earliest versions of “I want to be a (fill in the blank) when I grow up” that I can remember expressing were stuntman and boxer. I liked jumping off things, and I loved Larry Holmes and Sugar Ray Leonard (still do). But as time wore on, I became sensible enough to know jumping off things was scary, and that, in spite of the fact I was drawn to the act of mutually agreed combat, I was indeed, kind of soft. Not what you would call a wimp, I don’t think, but a very sensitive kid who couldn’t separate emotions from physical conflict. Crying during a fight doesn’t encourage one to get in many fights, let alone pursue it as an occupation.

One thing I have always been is a writer. I have been compelled to do it for as long as I can remember. Though there are times when months will pass that I don’t put pen to paper, the words are always there. Some phrase, some string of verbiage that I can’t shake. I talk to myself constantly, my inner dialogue threatening to escape at every turn. Maybe I think I’m a little more clever than I really am, or for some self-absorbed reason I think my way of putting things is cute enough that other people need to hear it. Writing has won me awards, gotten me published in a variety of places, made me a meager (very, very meager) amount of money, and even, on a few occasions, gotten me in some trouble. Whatever the reason behind my compulsion, I can’t stop.

In the past I wrote mostly about music. I filled the pages of numerous fanzines with the inane drivel of an overly opinionated, uneducated kid, without an inkling of the self awareness required to realize I had no idea what I was doing. And it was fun for quite a long time. I got in to shows for free, met a lot of cool people, many of whom I really looked up to, and for the first time in my life felt as though I was an insider (to however small a degree) and as though I might be able to make a stab a writing as a career. Within a few years though, my interest in music journalism waned. Interviews were fun, show reviews got me through the doors for free, and the rare editorial gave me a place to spout off about whatever I wanted. But more and more I was doing records reviews. At that time, a band needed only to send a copy of their CD in for review and it was almost guaranteed someone would have to do so. Too often that person had to be me. Month after month I had to spend time listening to albums worth of garbage, all the while trying to think of new and exciting ways to say something was garbage. Putting out so much negative criticism took a toll on me. It didn’t feel good, and having never played in a band at the time, I was slowly starting to realize that I was in no place to be judging what other people took the time to create. Compounding this was dissatisfaction with progress towards anything that looked like a move towards paid writing jobs. My main publisher was making a good living off the advertising he brought in each month, and seemed to be increasingly critical of his writers, for small errors or not turing things in on time, in spite of the fact no one was being paid. So I stopped. I decided to devote myself to school and all my writing efforts were geared towards academics.

In college I started writing about food history and around the same time, found an interest in mixed martial arts. Two very different things, but as time has passed, those are the two places I feel my words will mean most. In grad school I continually shoved my square peg of food history in round holes of classes, yet somehow I made it work. I had papers published and was lucky enough to go around the country presenting my oddball research. All the while I have been watching and studying combat sports, too. I’ve contributed to Mixedmartialarts.com on a few occasions, almost had a job writing for King of the Cage (back when they actually mattered) and have spent hours on end writing opinion pieces and fight recaps for my own blogs that next to no one would ever read. My Twitter feed is awash with fight and food news. They are the two things I think about more than any other, so why not write about both of them in one place? Indeed, why not?

Occasionally I might fire off some quick words about something unrelated to one or the other. I might link some of my academic work here, just to prove it actually exists, but I don’t expect anyone will be interested, let alone read it. By and large, though, this is a place to make an honest effort at writing about the two things that, for some odd reason are the most compelling things in life: food and fighting.