Tortilla, But Not What You’re Thinking

When I lived in Spain, I spent a sort of stupid amount of time trying to explain to the people I lived with that I didn’t eat meat (what kinds of meat? All kinds. Not chicken? No. Not fishes? No. Not pork? No. Well, surely you eat ham. Ham is a vegetable.). This really put a crimp in several of my relationships.

As it turns out, the Andalusian diet is not particularly vegetarian-friendly, so about three weeks in I reverted to my omnivorous state to avoid starving to death. In that time, however, I got a pretty great tour of the six-to-eight meat-free dishes in the  cuisine, some of which remain my favorites. Today, I bring you tortilla española.

This is actually not an omelet.
This is actually not an omelet.

No, it’s not beautiful, but you know, neither was Eleanor Roosevelt and we’re still able to come up with dozens of nice things to say about her. The same holds true for tortilla. It’s good hot, cold, and room temperature, keeps for a couple days, costs less than 50 cents a serving, and makes a great sandwich. If that isn’t the Eleanor Roosevelt of weeknight dinners, I don’t know what is.

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Hotel Great Barrington

It’s weird to think that Wes Anderson has always exactly like one of his characters. Whenever I watch one of his movies, I feel like I’m kind of watching an idealized version of what he himself is like. It’s kind of nice to have it confirmed. In this 1999 article NYT archives, our hero goes to the country to fetch an aging New Yorker writer, beg her to watch Rushmore. She is very ill and frail, doesn’t drive. She takes a couple sly shots at Bottle Rocket and tells him to change his name. He is at once exhilarated, hopeful, turned on, disgusted, and slightly disappointed. She gives him a book. She dies not long after.

No, but seriously, that’s a Wes Anderson movie.

Tea Party Tuesday: Charleston Breakfast

On account of ALL MY TEA being in storage while I seek a more permanent living arrangement, I haven’t been able to bring you tea updates each week, which has made me sad. Of all the things Charleston has, a great loose-leaf tea store is not one of them, and thus, I went cold-tur-tea. See what I did there? I’m very funny.

But I’m doing okay because Charleston has a tea culture of its own, and it’s an interesting one: it’s traditionally the only place in America where tea is grown. That’s right: they grow tea on a commercial scale in the Palmetto State and nowhere else in the U.S. of A.*

I know I'm on the record about teabags, but desperate times. Also: these are pretty good.
I know I’m on the record about teabags, but desperate times. If you’re going to do a sachet, the triangular ones are the best by far.

About every single time I talk to a locavore about tea, one of them asks me where they can get “local tea.” Well, you can’t. Ask pretty much any dedicated homesteader, organic farmer, or tea enthusiast and they’ll tell you a story about how they tried to grow tea this one time and so on and so forth and the story goes on for like, an hour, and finally they’re telling you they’d have been better off blowing their noses with the dollar bills they used to buy the seeds/plants/cuttings. Tea is a persnickety thing; it grows in Asia and that’s about it. Any teas from somewhere else are likely herbal teas and….well, briefly, herbal teas are not tea. They are tasty steeped beverages with health benefits, but they don’t have tea leaves in them and thus are not tea. This is akin to how you bake both potatoes and bread and they are both starches and a source of fiber, but a potato is not bread.

For some reason, Charleston’s subtropical, below-sea-level environment gets along well with tea trees, so they’ve been growing the stuff here for about 250 years. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I tried Charleston Tea Plantation’s Charleston Breakfast Tea, since you can’t very well say, “oh, I usually like American teas so this is probably like ______.”

Good news: this tea is right nice. It is very, very robust and is quite caffeinated. It’s a blended tea, and tastes like it’s perhaps a Ceylon/assam mix. The CTP has been using the same plants since colonial times, which is not impressive by old world standards, but is something at which to marvel in America. The Charleston Breakfast speaks to a distinctly American audience; unlike its more far-flung, sometimes delicate cousins, it’s suited to someone who might describe himself as a “coffee person.” Much like global stereotypes of Americans, the Charleston Breakfast is BOLD. FRIENDLY. DEFINITELY IMBUED WITH A STRONG SENSE OF IDENTITY WITH REGARDS TO ITS PLACE OF ORIGIN.

If that sounds like your deal, you can buy 12 pyramidal sachets for $7.50.

Have you tried this one? Do you want to or did I make it sound like your annoying flag-waving uncle? Tried any cool teas since I’ve been away?


*there are a couple places growing tea on a tea-ny (been saving these for a few weeks) scale in Washington, Alabama, and Hawaii, but they’ve only existed for a few years and no one is able to really scale it up for more than their own use and that of a few other folks.

Happy Birthday, Zip Codes!

Today is the 50th birthday of the zip code system! I’m about to learn you something about location-based, governmental number systems! First, enjoy this list of noteworthy zip codes (HOLLER, MISSISSIPPI!) and this Marvelettes song about when you just called an operator and listed the neighborhood someone lived in and a four digit number and that somehow got them on the phone. 


Okay, so this is cool. When I was finishing college and praying I would manage through a class called “probability” (a.k.a. the “valley in the shadow of death” Psalm 23 talks about), I stopped shuddering in the corner long enough to hear my (very sweet, very competent, very Mormon) TA explain something about zip and area codes!

So zip codes were assigned more or less northeast to southwest, emanating from New York City metro area. They’re more or less random numbers, though there isn’t a 00000 or a 99999. Other than that, a zip code in the low numbers is east coast, high numbers is west coast, and in the 50,000 range is going to be Iowa. 40241 isn’t necessarily next to 40242, but they’re both in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s almost-sensical, but not quite.

Area codes, though. Area codes. Originally, area codes were either 212 or 202. This is to say the middle number had to be 0 or 1. Each state, more or less, got one or two, depending on its size. Hence, Kentucky: 502 is Louisville, for example. 606 is everything east of Lexington. Everything else (270, 859) got invented later when they ran out of numbers in that format. Some states, like Wyoming, only have one still (307).  So now, if you meet someone from a _0_ area code, you know they’re either from a big city and a longtime resident (see Los Angeles 310), or from a state with few people (Rhode Island, 401). If they’re from a 954, you know it’s a secondary city or a boomtown.

I swear, this sounds boring, but you REALLY impress people when they give you their number and you’re like, “oh, Steve, you said you’re from North Carolina…984, what is that, outside Durham?” People think you’re so smart.