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Jun 23, 2020

How to: Start a Campfire with One Match

how to start a campfire

Knowing how to start a campfire is an essential life skill, for sure, and most of us have our preferred technique: the lean-to, the tepee, the log cabin. But, even though most fires aren't started in emergency, or even in one-match situations, that's part of the fun. Once you've learned how to do it without turning a gas knob or lighting one of those Duralast logs, lighting a fire with one match (or spark from a starter) becomes part of the game, even if you have a whole box at your side.    

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Jun 22, 2020

What to Do When Your Craft Doesn't Pay (Yet)

Congratulations, you found a craft that calls to you! 

You dove down into the rabbit hole to see how deep it goes, and in your pursuit of excellence, you've gone pro—harnessing those hours spent doing something else to make a living, transferring them into your trade. The only problem: quitting your day job suddenly means the weight of your income rests squarely on your craft's shoulders, and it's rare to make a decent wage as a beginner. 

The good news is that no time spent in your craft is wasted, so even while you're hustling and just barely making it, you can build some really valuable resources that will provide immense payoffs later.

Read on for a modest proposal of what to do when the wider world doesn't yet recognize the value of your work!

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Jun 11, 2020

The Vanilla Wet Dog: The Summer Coffee Drink You Never Knew You Needed

Vanilla Wet Dog recipe

In my post Head Tea: The Greatest Cold Remedy Known to Man, I mentioned a funky little coffee shop on the main street of the historic town where I went to college. As far as shops go, it's definitely part of the pre-hipster wave of hippie shops: you're likely to find ratty couches, a castoff mannequin dressed according to the season, a take-a-book-leave-a-book shelf, and cryptic messages like "Evolution is not bound by recipes" scrawled on the walls.

Speaking of recipes, most of the drinks you can order are on the "underground" menu because rather than having a comprehensive list on display, there are only some house drinks scribbled on small chalkboards suspended above the front counter. By far the best of these official house drinks is the Vanilla Wet Dog, which certainly does not smell like man's best friend after it jumped in the lake.

Here's how to make the summer coffee drink you never knew you needed.        

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Jun 10, 2020

7 Solid Father/Son Movies to Watch This Father's Day

Dads: we've all got 'em. They impact our lives enormously, whether present or absent. And boy, that father-son dynamic—it's a particularly potent combination, especially as sons grow into men. The relationship between dads and sons can be really satisfying, or really sour. 

One thing's for sure: whether he wants to admit it or not, every man wants to hear some form of a hearty, sincere "good job, son" from his dad. And when he doesn't get it—either from straight-up disapproval or, more often, distance, the relationship strains under the weight of the son's resentment. 

Whether your dad's your hero or your frenemy, whether you're mourning his loss or you want to live on the opposite end of the world as him, here's a short Father's Day list of father-son film pairings guaranteed to give you a bad case of sweaty eyes.

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Jun 08, 2020

How To: Grill a Scotch Egg

How to grill a scotch egg

I love eggs and will eat them just about any way you can possibly imagine: fried in a pan (runny yolks, please), scrambled with cheese, gently poached in water or tomato sauce, structured into an omelet or frittata, emulsified into a perfect egg salad. I quote Michael Ruhlman in The Elements of Cooking:

My reverence for the egg borders on religious devotion. It is the perfect food—an inexpensive package, dense with nutrients and exquisitely flavored, that's both easily and simply prepared but that is also capable of unmatched versatility in the kitchen.

And then there's that wonderful pub concoction, the Scotch egg, which totally sounds like the kind of food a couple of dudes came up with at about 3 in the morning. "Let's wrap an egg in meat and DEEP FRY IT!"

Since it's summer and I'll take any excuse to whip on the charcoal, I took it upon myself to create a simple grilled version.         

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May 22, 2020

How to: Sharpen a Pencil with a Pocketknife

Let's say you've read up on the merits of woodcase pencils and you've decided to become an inveterate pencil carrier. You've sorted your B's from your HB's, you've picked your favorite finishes and ferrules.  You've bought your dozen (or two) and are scribbling smoothly... until one day you find yourself with a dull point and no sharpener. 

But if you've got your pocketknife, you're just a few minutes from a fresh point! Let's take a look at how to sharpen a pencil by hand.

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May 14, 2020

A Primer on Pu-ehr: Your New Favorite Morning Beverage

The power of fermentation: instead of fighting off microbes, you invite the right kind to your party. It doesn't take a lot of culinary know-how to acknowledge that certain fermented foods get better the longer they ferment, like wines and cheeses. The more sourdough starter ages, the more complex its flavors become. Then you've got your fermentation standards like pickles, dairy products like kefir, soy-based miso and natto, and even Russia's beet-based kvass.

But did you know that occasionally tea gets invited to the bacillus party? Welcome to the world of pu-ehr!

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May 12, 2020

What the Heck is Apfelschorle? And Here's How to Make It

After I graduated from high school in the early 2000's, I had the privilege of taking a Wanderjahr in Germany before college, spending a year as a foreign exchange student with a host family about an hour's train ride west from Berlin. Two things from that year still stick with me 15 years after packing up my stuff and touching back down on American soil: 1) German, which my firm-but-kind host family helped me learn, and 2) German food. 

I had no idea about German cuisine prior to that year, but I've loved it ever since. Traditional German food is hearty, full of bread, meat, cheese, beer, and hardy vegetables like potatoes. It's the ultimate comfort food. The king of fruit in Germany is the apple, which lends its juice to the delightful, concoction known as Apfelschorle.

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Apr 22, 2020

How to: Make an Inexpensive DIY Rain Barrel

One of the first big projects I completed when I bought my house was digging a large garden in the backyard, and we just barely made it in time for a summer full of tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, eggplant, peppers, and squash. The 20 x 30' patch somehow wasn't big enough for both eating and canning, so when spring rolled around again, I set out to expand our patch. Gardens are never finished, after all! (Check out our tutorial on how to hand-dig a garden here.) 

The only thing I wasn't interested in expanding, though, was my water bill. Since we get on average 4 inches of rain per month during the growing season here in North Carolina (Apr–Nov), it was time to let the clouds handle the water supply rather than the city. Since this is mostly a money-saving project, I kept my budget really low because I preferred to have the materials pay for themselves as quickly as possible.

Read on for how to make a rain barrel on a budget!

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Apr 17, 2020

Ten Great Food Moments from Ten Great Books (with Recipes!)

The best kind of writing, fiction or otherwise, is the kind that produces a strong mental image of what you're reading about. It's vivid and concrete; it's why metaphors and parables exist. To quote Strunk & White: "The greatest writers—Homer, Dante, Shakespeare—are effective largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter. Their words call up pictures."

One of my favorite ways that writers bring their stories closer to reality is when they plop descriptions onto my mental dinner table. Maybe it's because I just love eating, so I don't need a lot of arm-twisting to think about food; maybe it's that I like it when the lines between fiction and reality blur, like Mac Barnett waxes about in his TED talk "Why a good book is like a secret door." Regardless, I'm fascinated with collecting moments of characters interacting with their victuals.

Here are some of my favorite food mentions in books, linked up with recipes.

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