The Most Correct Way to Grill Vegetables on a Stick

In a few days, grills will be ceremonially set ablaze for Labor Day (“it’s the end of summer,” we’ll say, even though the first three weeks of September are still summer, technically and temperamentally). Many of those grills will be piled high with vegetables. Good: Direct heat and smoke can do lovely things to plant matter. But the most common technique for grilling vegetables, the kebab, is performed incorrectly by the vast majority of American grillmasters of the universe—even though most other countries mastered the technique sometime around the time it was discovered that fire hurts when you touch it.

Stabbing things with a skewer and putting them over open flame is just about as primitive as it gets, and we still do it because it’s 1) a convenient way to grill bite-sized pieces of food 2) fun and 3) delicious. Pretty much every culture has independently invented some version of the kebab, whether it’s brochette or yakitori or pinchos or satay or döner. For some reason, we Americans have chosen to ignore all of these kebab styles in favor of just one: shish kebab, a mutant version of Turkish şiş kebab that is a fairly simple riff on skewered grilling. If one had to pick a single way to grill vegetables until the end of civilization, it’s not a bad choice at all, with dominant flavors of lemon, oregano, mint, and olive oil.


Journalism Funded

The Huffington Post asks:

What happens in Ferguson and the St. Louis metro area the day after everybody leaves?

I’m not sure.

We plan to be there as it all unfolds.

Great. I feel better knowing that AOL, a large, profitable media company, supports the Huffington Post’s real, on-the-ground reporting.

For The Huffington Post, this’ll involve a first-of-its-kind collaboration with readers, the local community and the Beacon Reader to create what we’re calling the Ferguson Fellowship.

Oh wow, I love it when the community gets involved.

Local resident Mariah Stewart has been covering the Ferguson protests as a citizen journalist with the support of readers through Beacon’s platform. With HuffPost readers’ support, we can make sure Stewart can continue her work.

I’m happy to support her! What do I retweet?

Six Months, One Week, and Four Days With Zelda

I pulled out my first gray hair today at 9:32 a.m. It wasn’t the first gray hair I’ve had, just the first one I’ve pulled out. I didn’t pull it out with a sense of purpose; it just came out with the rest of its classmates. No one tells you—well, no one told me, until I’d already noticed—that after you have a baby, all that lustrous, glorious pregnancy hair sheds quickly, replaced by your former, less exciting and less beautiful hair.

I examined this gray hair momentarily. (Time is of the essence, I only have a moment.) I deemed it not much coarser than my regular hair, and looked up at myself in the mirror. There was the wrinkle in the middle of my forehead, just like my mother’s, which appeared when I was around twenty and only shows itself when I am thinking.

Am I thinking? Is this wrinkle deeper?

I looked at myself and realized that my hair was longer now than it’s been in at least twenty years. Twenty years ago I was seventeen. I’m thirty-six. No, thirty-seven. I forgot to get a haircut for a year.

I heard the baby stir. (My moment was up.) I left the bathroom, went into her room, and was greeted by her smiling face. It was 9:36 a.m. Right on schedule.

Two and a half hours later, she was sleeping again and I needed to scan my passport. My unused passport, issued last August, when I was two months pregnant. My hair was at least six or seven inches shorter, my face a little thinner. “Wow, I do not look happy in this photo,” I thought to myself. “Are there any photos where I look happy?”

My Short Career in the Internet Outrage Business

The target demographic: white males, Rust Belt, fifty-plus. We came in early; I saw the sunrise every morning. We worked in New York City, but I don’t think a single coworker lived there. They commuted from Long Island and Jersey and Philly, daily, to be in the office. I lived alone in Brooklyn and it was a straight shot on the M to Bryant Park. I could see the lawn and the library from my desk—the gold and yellow and green filtered light. I went home in the afternoon and got ready for bed before my friends clocked off, so I drank alone. I wasn’t alienated from the labor; the labor alienated me from everything else.

We made up the New York office of a conservative media company based in the South. In hindsight, the politics seem both hyper-specific and nebulous; the one constant is that they orbited around white-hot outrage and fear. This was not obvious to me when I replied to the “Digital Reporter” listing. I’d been in the business for a few years by then, writing candidly about art and music and related topics, and my track record wasn’t hard to come by: it would have been clear to anyone checking that I stood on the liberal side of things. But the earnest man conducting my interview assured me that my politics had nothing to do with the scope of the work I’d be doing. For the most part, he was correct. We’re all actors on the internet, right?

“Fuck it,” I said to myself, “You’ll have a job writing news.” Which is not to be confused with breaking news (getting a tip, making the wire) or reporting news (collecting a first-hand account) or making news happen (punching someone at a wedding). I was writing the news, over and over and over again. Some people call this aggregating or blogging; I called it a job. My necessary skillset was narrow.

The War on Christmas was a big topic around the office. When the shooting at Sandy Hook happened, the answer was “more guns.” These were positions I was not used to hearing directly. Not that I hadn’t worked at news organizations with conservatives before. This was just so clear cut, and an orthodoxy: To assign pitched outrage to mundane news items for the sake of clicks. That was the job: to trawl Twitter, and the rest of the internet, for conspiracy and evidence of liberal malice. Then, to repackage these stories or posts or memes for the target demo. This is a common job description for a certain large—and largely invisible—class of web writer. And it is tedious, mind-numbing work.

“Your career will be over,” my friend Sam told me. I considered this as my unemployment shrank.

What Killed the Metrosexual?

When was the last time you considered the metrosexual? If you are a reasonable person—not this guy—it’s been about ten years. Or at least I thought so, until, after a decade of silence, three people mentioned metrosexuals to me in the same week. Perhaps because it’s the twentieth anniversary of its coining and the tenth(ish) anniversary of Queer Eye.

In reconsidering the metrosexual, we must first distinguish between the metrosexual’s imagined and actual properties. Like hipsterism, metrosexuality is an insult more readily slung than substantiated. According to canon, David Beckham is the ur-metro. Although Beckham initially goes unmentioned in the word’s first printing (in 1994), the word’s progenitor, Mark Simpson, introduced American readers to metrosexuality through the British football star in 2002, when he called Beckham a “screaming, shrieking, flaming, freaking metrosexual…famous for wearing sarongs and pink nail polish and panties…and posing naked and oiled up on the cover of Esquire.” Other icons of metrosexuality of the time included Mark Wahlberg and P. Diddy. This was somewhat shocking to me, since I associate metrosexuality with men who resemble heterosexual twinks—your Zac Efrons, your Ryan Seacrests. Hair that swoops, cheeks that apple.

Polly Asks: New York Magazine Wants Me to Write Ask Polly For Them. Should I Tell Them to Piss Off?

Dear Readers,

I need to tell you a story. That means this will be just like every other Ask Polly column, except this story is a little longer than usual, and at first, when you read it, you’ll ask, “Where’s the tepid dude of the week?” Just bear with me.

In September of 2012, after reading and admiring The Awl for years, and writing a few short humor pieces for them, I sent Choire Sicha an email.

Subject: Existential advice column That’s what I should be writing for The Awl.

Come on, pay me a tiny bit and it’s yours! Just enough $ so my husband doesn’t roll his eyes and spit whenever he hears the word “Awl.”

Choire’s one-word reply was:


Two days later, I sent in my first column and The Awl published it, and thus began one of the best gigs of my career. My first editor, Carrie Frye, let the term “pious fuckwinder’ run in my second column. My second editor, Choire, was even more tolerant of dubious strings of adjectives. (He also once forgot to pay me for five months, but when I responded with a three-thousand-word screed on the madness of freelance writing, he sent me a check and published my screed and paid me for that, too.) My third editor, Matt Buchanan, let the term “dickweasel” run. In a world full of pious fuckwinders and dickweasels, in other words, The Awl is an island of sanity, and originality, and humility. I had hoped to never leave.

Worst Man: I’m the Friend You Didn’t Invite to Your Wedding

My friend Stephen planned his wedding very carefully. He picked Howe Caverns, in upstate New York, for the ceremony because it was a favorite weird-but-cool destination of himself and his then-finance. He roped in a mutual friend of ours to perform the ceremony; he timed the whole thing to coincide with the annual Perseids meteor shower. I wasn’t invited.

Stephen told me later that only the immediate families were there. He didn’t want to deal with having a big event, he said—“fretting over orders of centerpieces or picking hydrangeas versus birds of paradise”—or the logistics of wrangling friends to leave the city. “Plus, we knew we’d be having a nice big party here in the city,” he said with a nervous laugh. “You weren’t invited to that, either.”

In fact, none of my adult friends have ever invited me to their weddings. Not Stephen or Tom and Kim or Mary and James or Annabel and Nick or anyone else. When I bring this up, people laugh, and they almost always say, “No! Really?”

The Time I Worked at That Celebrity Bakery

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, Becca Laurie tells us more about some famous people who enjoy eating cupcakes.

@katespencer i worked at a bakery that a lot of celebs liked. i still remember who treated me well (and tipped more than a few pennies)

— Becca Laurie (@imbeccable) August 12, 2014

Becca! So what happened here?

A decade ago, I applied for a bakery job on a whim. I had no experience, and I’d never been to this specific bakery before. I was out to dinner with friends, and we stopped in for dessert. I filled out an application and started training the next week. 

The bakery was having a moment: It was featured on a TV show, and that meant a ton of tourists and a handful of celebrities. I worked there for two consecutive summers. By the end of the second year, the hype started to die down, and so did the frequency of famous customers. My memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be, but here’s who I remember:

The Cover Job

Peter Mendelsund is associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf Books, which makes him perhaps the preeminent expert among those who judge books by their covers. He’s designed covers for everything from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to classics by Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Joyce, and De Beauvoir. Last week, he published two books: What We See When We Read, an incisive exploration of the phenomenology of reading, and Cover, a monograph of his best work, which includes his thoughts on designing and several short essays from authors.

I talked to Peter the other day about his work as a cover designer, which began eleven years ago, after a past life as a classical pianist.

So, you were a classical pianist for many, many years, and you mention in Cover that that you still self-identify as such. Is the pleasure you get out of designing at all different than the one you get playing?

Oh yeah, it’s different in kind and degree. The joy I get out of playing piano—there are very, very few things in life that match that particular form of communion. Of course, it’s also hard work, but when it’s going well it’s just one of the great feelings a person can have. If one is playing great music, if you’re playing Bach or Beethoven, and you’re playing it in a way where things are working properly, then your self dissolves, and it’s absolutely a transcendent experience. And nothing, nothing, in design matches that.

It’s not like I’m sitting in front of my InDesign documents swooning. I wish I did. Designing evokes a much narrower range of emotions; that range is somewhere between cool, which is one response, and oh, that’s pretty.

You say in Cover that with book design “clever” and “pretty” are the main benchmarks of quality—that design doesn’t need to deal in profundity. Is that really true, though? Looking at some of your covers, I find profundity. Is that incidental, or do you aim for that?

Well, what you’re trying to do is make something that structurally maps the text. So if there is some unintentional profundity, it has to do with the way the author has written the book and the way the reader has read the book. You’re gonna bring your own experience and feelings to bear on it. I don’t think there’s ever been a moment where I’ve said or felt, “this cover is really profound.” It’s really profundity by association—if it’s a great text, Dostoevsky or whatever, then you connect the experience of reading with the paratext.

What Not to Stream

Center Stage 2: Turn It Up

The Eleanor Roosevelt Story 

Music of the Heart

Chalet Girl

Eyes of an Angel

Without a Paddle

Sherri Shepherd: It’s My Time to Talk

Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred

The Dark Side of the Sun

The Big Wedding

Slightly Single in L.A.