Formerly Lettters From A Young American

Thursday, September 20, 2012


That second pic is real. I'm not making this up.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Obama's New Front: College Students

My friends and I here at school are getting hammered with Obama ads tailor-made for students, like these:

There's a video and some audio ads from YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify too that go along with them, and if I find copies, I'll post those as well.

I'm pretty sure most of us are smarter than that, to know shopping around is what you do when you are looking for a car, a house, a loan, a college. We're not stupid. We know our unemployment is atrocious.

If Romney hammers back now with some clever ads directed at our generation, we could win big in that demographic. Romney just needs to tell us what exactly what he plans to do.

BBQ Break! Cody's Wicked Good Smokehouse Chili

I'm trying something new, and if y'all like this I'll probably do this on Fridays before the sports-hectic weekends.

I'm a huge barbecue afficianado. You can't touch me. I own books on how to barbecue. I've done research. I've written papers. I'm an addict. It's a sickness.

But seriously. I got grillin' in my genes and bbqin' in my blood.

But let's say that you, like me, are interested in serving up tasty smokey deliciousness, but still want to be free to watch football all weekend.

Introducing Cody's Wicked Good Smokehouse Chili. I didn't steal this from a book. This is mine.

When I cook, I like to cook for an army. 99.99999 percent of bbq is better the next day. As is most chilis you make, so combine those two, and you've got heaven. Plus, if you're cooking for a party, this works too.

Suffice to say, serves however many you think it serves.

2 cans white beans
2 cans black beans
2 cans pinto beans
2 cans black eyed beans
2 cans kidney beans
4 cans diced tomatoes (or 2, I don't really care)
2 cans tomato paste
1 beer (I've played with Michelob Ultra and a few others, but I'm inclined to think darker is better)
2 diced onions
5-6 cloves of garlic

And then all this to taste:
Diced jalapenos
Liquid smoke (hickory if you want a sweeter taste, mesquite if you want it to bite you)
Chili powder
Worcester sauce

You may need to throw in a little water if it gets too thick.

Throw all that together in a big pot on the stove or in a crock pot, if you have a big enough one. Remember you gotta have enough room to put the meat in.

Speaking of meat, you can choose whatever cut you want, but you're looking for something that will hold together well being slow-cooked.

For something like this, honestly, my favorite cut is the London Broil, a cut of meat that gets far too much derision from butchers, grillers, and cooks these days. It's cheap, and if you treat it right, it can be succulent.

Rub them with a little bit of oil, then shake some kosher salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and worcester sauce on both sides and rub the seasoning in so that it coats the whole cut evenly. I'd recommend doing two good-sized steaks, but it's up to you. You're looking for a decent crust, not a mountain of seasoning, so make sure you can see the meat through the flavor.

Let that sit, wash your hands, and go get your grill. If you've got a gas grill, sorry, I can't help you. You know, a grill says a lot about a man. If you have one of those four thousand dollar whiz-bang insta-light bells and whistles grill...that tells me you're lazy. Just slap your steak on a pan on the stove if you're going that route.

Trust me, chuck your gas grill out the window, and go buy one of these.

You will thank yourself later.

Get yourself a bag of mesquite wood chips or chunks. Sift through them--you're looking for bigger chunks with little or no bark on them, which will give you the great mesquite flavor without a cigarette butt bite afterwards. You want 3-4 handfuls, which you take and stick in a bowl filled with water. The chips should all be wet. Stir them every once in a while.

Get your grill, and since you bought the one I recommended, you can use the handy dandy arm to sweep out all the ashes before you get started. Put 10-15 briquettes on two opposite sides of the grill. Fill one of those aluminum pans your grandma always brings that mysterious nameless casserole dish to Thanksgiving in with water maybe 1/3 of the way full and set it in the middle of your grill.

Lighter fluid those puppies, drop a match or two in, and let them be.

Stir your chili. Don't let it burn. Please don't let it burn. You can taste it now and decide if you want more of anything spicewise, but just taste the sauce. The beans will be like bricks and that's no fun.

When your coals are getting toward hot--you should see spots where 3-4 briquettes close to each other are starting to glow orange, drag your steaks out and set them in the direct middle of the grill. I can't emphasize that enough. If they're over the coals, they won't smoke--they'll char.

Make sure the vent on the bottom is closed almost all the way, same with the vent on the top.

Now come the wood chips. If you bought the grill I recommended (which you should, the commission on that will get me one step closer to the truck I've been eyeing) there should be handy dandy wings you can flip up to drop the chips in on each side. I really don't know how you'd do it otherwise, but good luck. Add a decent handful to each side, put the lid on, and walk away.

Let it sit. Both your chili and your meat. Heat, fire, and smoke are working their magic. Go out and check your steaks every 30 minutes or so. If your fire is too hot, close the vents more. You should be able to hold your hand over it for 5-7 seconds without it hurting. Remember, you're not looking to sear the meat or cook it all the way through, you're looking to impart it with smokey goodness.

Add more woodchips when you check on it, or stir the ones that aren't burnt to a crisp into the coals. You want a good level of smoke going most of the time.

After about 2 hours, pull those suckers off. They shouldn't be done cooking, but if they are, no worries. You're looking for a still-healthy read on the inside, but there's no problem if it's a decent pink.

Cube 'em. A cutting board with a gutter is fantastic, cuz you wanna get all those wonderful juices into the chili if you can. I make my cubes about the size of the first joint on your first finger, but you can go bigger or smaller if you feel like it. If you're trying to make a lot of people happy, smaller is better, because it will go farther.

Throw it all in your chili. Stir periodically, otherwise just let it be. It will cook itself. One of the best parts about this chili is it's tantalizing odor that wafts throughout the house, and is just intricate enough to keep your nose intrigued. In other words, everyone walking into your home will annouce "Dude, it smells freaking amazing in here!"

When the time comes, set out the following for people to garnish the pure awesomeness with:

Sliced (NOT diced) avacado
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Yellow Cake Cornbread (grab a cornbread recipe, throw in a yellow cake mix recipe, stir together, kablam: awesomeness)

Let me know how it goes in the comments.

Happy 'cuein!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Freedom of Speech is in the First Amendment for a Reason

I had a fantastic conversation the other night with a friend from home who's not very politically inclined about the Citizens United decision. She had to write a paper about whether the decision was beneficial or bad for democracy, and from the tone of the question itself and the snippets of the textbook, it was obvious what the authors and teacher thought.

She didn't have much knowledge about the case, and from the heavily biased information she was presented, she had sided with the authors. Fortunately, she's smart (hi Chels!) so all I had to do was fill her in on the facts and the arguments for the other side and she caught on right away the fundamental problem with McCain-Feingold: freedom of speech is vital to a free society.

Did we open a can of worms by allowing corporations to create and control Super-PACs? Sort of. But you have to take the bad with the good. That's how freedom works. As she wrote so brilliantly in her essay:

Yes there are some negative effects but there are also many positive ones, and in a free society that is how it works. The bad must be taken with the good unless both must be thrown away. For instance, you get businesses but you also get strip clubs. You get the History Channel but you also get Jersey Shore. If we decide to let the government determine what is worth having and what benefits voters, we are no longer a free electorate, but rather an electorate whose information is controlled by the government.
 That's why when I see the President and the State Department out there condemning the video "Innocence of Muslims" and blaming it for the murder of Americans in the Middle East, I become so frustrated.

When government-sponsored "artists" create despicable works of art that combine bodily fluids with Christian symbols, the artists are not only defended but praised for their "groundbreaking" work in self-expression. The few Christians who do express outrage are pooh-poohed.

But when someone creates what amounts to an atrociously bad amateur film, suddenly the current administration feels not only responsible but issues statements condemning the violence that resulted in the deaths of Americans and the movie with the same "strength of condemnation," if there is such a thing. There have already been calls among the "elite" to hold the director legally responsible for the deaths overseas.

And now Press Secretary Jay Carney says the White House has asked YouTube to "review" the film and see if it violates their terms of use.

We have made clear that we find it offensive and reprehensible and disgusting. We have denounced it. We have said we find it offensive and reprehensible, but we will not — you know, we cannot and will not squelch freedom of expression in this country.
 Sure, they won't crush freedom of expression directly, but if they can talk YouTube into doing the dirty work for them, that's fine too.

Back to my friend's argument--for a society to be truly free you have to take the bad with the good. The anger and condemnation should be directed at the Muslims rioting and protesting overseas, not with a filmmaker here in the States. They are the ones rioting and killing and storming embassies.

Capitulating to their demands by condemning a stupid video (and granted, the video does seem like more trouble than it's worth) and encouraging YouTube to take down the video gives those mobs power they wouldn't have unless we gave it to them.

Instead of reaching out to YouTube, how about reaching out to local governments to crack down on these thugs? Instead of hauling in the filmmaker for questioning, how about bolstering security at embassies and consulates or, you know, attending your intelligence briefings?

If we don't protect these filmmakers' freedom of speech, we are no longer free, but ruled by mobs of religious fanatics oceans away.