One of my favorite longform internet-type writers, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, has a profile of the new-and-improved Paula Deen business empire, built on ashes and martyrdom and Southern charm:
a new company had been announced— Paula Deen Ventures—which had been bankrolled to the tune of a reported $75 to $100 million by an investor named Jahm Najafi. His website says he “seeks to make strategic investments in undervalued assets,” but really, homeboy loves a fire sale: he was the last known owner of Book of the Month Club and BMG Music Service — you remember, 12 tapes for a penny — and in 2011 considered buying Borders, which had dwindled to 405 all-but-dead stores. He specializes in businesses that still have some juice in them; he doesn’t care how much because he buys them so cheap and a profit is a profit. (You can only imagine how quickly calls made to the Najafi headquarters were not returned for this story. Paula Deen’s publicists also denied my many interview requests on the boat and after; they did not respond to our many fact-checking queries.)
And there is still profit to be squeezed from the Paula Deen brand. Deen’s products — through collaborations with Meyer Corporation, among others—had seen a reported 35 percent sales increase in the first two quarters of this year; subscriptions to her magazine reportedly grew by 40 percent. (For perspective, in those two quarters, paid subscriptions for magazines in general faltered 1.8 percent and single-copy newsstand sales fell a significant 11.9 percent from a year before.)
There are many fascinating facts embedded in this essay. For one, it can cost $75,000 per episode to make a cooking show. How is that ever profitable or worth it? For another, Glenn Beck sells discounted NRA subscriptions. Mostly though it’s an interesting story about a self-made woman who publicly self-destructed and is now trying to self-make again, in part by drawing on the sympathy of folks like her with a soft spot for butter. An American tale, indeed.
How much do you spend on coffee a day? Is it worth it? Slate (via Inc) says hell no:
that euphoric short-term state that you enter after drinking coffee is what nonhabitual caffeine consumers are experiencing all of the time. The difference is that for coffee drinkers, the feeling doesn’t last. “Coming off caffeine reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood. The only way to get back to normal is to drink caffeine, and when you do drink it, you feel like it’s taking you to new heights,” Bradberry explained. “In reality, the caffeine is just taking your performance back to normal for a short period.”
It’s bad for your sleep cycles, your productivity, and your wallet. Sorry, lovers of Joe.
I can be smug about this since I’ve never drunk coffee. It’s strong and bitter and I do not get it at all, unless you muffle it in so many layers of milk and sugar that it doesn’t taste anything like coffee, at which point it’s 5,000 calories and $500 and turns your irises into pinwheels.
On the other hand, I get my daily caffeine fix from Diet Coke, which doesn’t even have the defense of being a naturally occurring, organic upper. It’s water and chemicals and fizz and God help me, I love it, even though it is probably wreaking havoc on my gut flora. Who am I to judge? Let he who is without beverage sin cast the first stone.
illo by Charrow, possibly the most serious coffee person I know.
Everyone knows that secrets to living frugally include 1) cooking as much as possible, and 2) more cooking. But cooking, man! It’s time consuming, exhausting, stressful, and then, even after all that effort, unreliable.
When I finally went to bed after hours of cooking and cleaning up, having achieved absolutely nothing — having impressed no one, including myself, with the food I made — I said to my boyfriend, “Cooking is really stupid.” He said that he agreed. I said that I was never cooking again. He said he thought that was a great idea. I said, “I have to make homemade tomato sauce with C on Saturday. And I have to make some more galettes because the last ones sucked.”
“That sounds like a lot of cooking,” he said.
“I know,” I said. “I’m going to make the galettes and the sauce and then, I am never cooking again.”
Is cooking really that much of a money-saver, asks Get Rich Slowly? The answer is yes, mostly (and the site offers some hacks). But that still doesn’t answer the question of whether for you, individual reader, it’s worth it.
Anything that contributes to you living your Best Life falls under the purview of the Billfold, or so I’ve decided, so this, from Food52, about having perfectly reheated pizza — certainly a cornerstone of living your best life — is relevant to our readership. It’s also budget-friendly, in that you’ve already spent the money, so having pizza for lunch the next day is BASICALLY FREE.
When I was fresh out of college, back in the days where we still thought email was a substitute for letter-writing instead of a method of assigning and confirming responsibilities, I wrote a friend a long email letter about my low-paying telemarketing job and the realization that grocery shopping was my only form of discretionary spending.
(Later, when I watched The Office, I got to the part where Ryan Howard says “Now that I’m back to doing the job of a temp, again, I find that food is one thing I can control,” and laughed uncomfortably.)
So I used to spend more time in the grocery store, looking at everything and thinking about what I could buy.
POINT: Baby carrots are the devil, argues generally sensible dad writer Brian Gresko. They cost more, waste more, and perpetuate the fiction that our food does not come from the ground.
The name “baby carrots” seems apt, not just because they look like baby versions of carrots, but because they infantilize the consumer, who has only to open the bag and start munching without a care in the world.
And don’t get him started on juice boxes:
According to PBS Kids, juice boxes are built from six layers of paper, polyethylene plastic, and a thin layer of aluminum. They also, of course, come with plastic straws. The plastic in these packages will likely take at least 300 years to break down, though that’s a conservative estimate.
The contents of the boxes don’t get much better, as many juice brands are loaded with sugar. AsEveryday Health reports, sugary drinks lead to an increased risk of obesity and diabetes, and establish taste preferences for sweet beverages in young children that may get out of hand when they enter their teenage years. (On top of this, Dr. Oz caused a stir in 2011 when he found certain apple juices contained high levels of arsenic.) Kids who drink a lot of juice are avoiding healthier fluids like milk and water.
COUNTERPOINT: Fine, juice boxes, whatever, but baby carrots taste better than the regular kind. I don’t know why but they do! Is it the chlorine? Or the convenience?
A friend of mine recently told me about a new Sunday ritual of his: He and his girlfriend like to have a late breakfast, and then they skip lunch and have a dinner at 5:30 p.m. at a place of their choosing. There is never a wait, no matter where they want to go, he explains, and they get to be home at a reasonable hour before starting the workweek.
If someone were to construct a food pyramid of my diet, hummus would definitely be one of its foundational layers. I’ve dutifully carted a hummus and cheese sandwich to work for nearly four years. I get the hummus plate from the local Greek place when my office orders out. Why branch out from something so versatile, filling and widely accessible?
Erika Anderson writes about being born on The Farm, the commune in Tennessee made famous by midwife Ina May Gaskin – and led, in “counter-cultural” but still patriarchal fashion, by Ina May’s husband. (#BanMen) What is a personal reflection about the pros and cons intentional living in the rural south doing in Vanity Fair? Who cares? If you’ve ever been curious about small-scale socialism, this is an essay for you:
Life on the inside had its charms and quirks. A Farm store operated like community-supported agriculture; I remember each house getting a box of cooking oil, Ajax, a bar of soap, margarine, salt, and seasonal vegetables, except most couldn’t supplement these with trips to a grocery store. Noodles and peanut butter were forbidden treasures for us, things my dad might buy with his weekly allowance to feed his masonry crew, since anyone who worked off The Farm had additional, necessary privileges.
While we were growing up, there was no refrigeration, but there were telephones and a laundromat. To get in line, you placed a call first thing in the morning so you could wash clothes for your entire house, which might hold a single family or 50 people. “It was a lot like calling in to win a prize at a radio station,” my mom told me, laughing. ““You are caller number four!’” Within minutes, all 15 spots would be full.
While men worked in the fields, or off The Farm to earn money, women had weekly or biweekly “house days.” One or two women would look after the kids in their home, make meals and do the laundry if they could. Then they would spend the other days of the week working in the community, outside the home. “I got to have a varied life,” my mom has said. “That was one of the things you missed when you moved away. But it was the only thing you missed.” That and friends, who had all but become family.
There’s also Lauren Groff’s novel Arcadia, about communal New York State living in the ’60s, if you want more.