Monday, November 23, 2009

Daddy Daycare

Hello Friends,

Today was the first day of my six week long paternity leave. Yes, one of the benefits of having a baby (besides, of course, the baby itself) is taking a bunch of time off work. The last time I had that much time off at once was before I started my job- 13 years ago! I'm looking forward to spending lots of time with my family during this extended break, as well as doing a little traveling to see relatives during the holiday season. But if you think I'll be sleeping in 'til noon, playing video games, drinking beer, and watching Oprah...well, guess again. I've got a baby to take care of, folks. And it just so happens that Mrs. Concord went back to work today, so it was just me and the baby. This wouldn't normally be a difficult situation, except that Baby C does not like bottle-feeding. If she doesn't get the breast, she gets teary-eyed, starts screaming, and flails her arms around (come to think of it, I do the exact same thing). Given these circumstances, the day went by better than expected. Yes, Baby C did get upset, but milk was ingested, wills were broken, and progress was made. I only have two more days to get through (Mrs. C is quitting her job to spend more time with the baby), and then I'll finally be able to kick back and relax. Oprah, here I come!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I ♥ Gluten

Dear readers,

Is there anything more satisfying than a warm, freshly baked loaf of bread? I mean, besides a giant bowl of Concord grapes? I don't think so. As many of you know, I am obsessed with bread. It is by far my favorite of the four food groups. And I feel lucky that we as Americans are currently living in a golden age of bread. Every city has a bakery that bakes high-quality loaves and sells them at grocery stores all over town. But it was not always like this. When I was a kid the grocery stores stocked only pre-packaged sliced bread, and it was pretty mediocre stuff. But sometime during the past two decades European-style artisan bread became more common. Although it wasn't sliced, it had a much crispier crust and heartier flavor, a welcome change from the bland, mushy bread of my youth. It was, quite literally, the best thing since sliced bread. Nowadays, there is no excuse for not enjoying a delicious, crusty loaf. And yet, this wondrous thing has recently gotten a lot of bad press, and for no good reason. Several years ago, the Atkins diet craze swept the nation, and suddenly anything with a carbohydrate in it (e.g., bread) was the enemy. Of course, it was just another fad diet that came and went, but some of the stigma remained. Additionally, there has been a recent movement in some food circles towards gluten-free products, and this has once again has given bread a bad name. Now, I have nothing but sympathy for people with celiac disease, but that condition is pretty rare and doesn't justify the increasing popularity of gluten-free products. There's no reason for the vast majority of Americans to deny themselves the pleasure of yummy, gluten-packed bread.
Probably the best way to enjoy bread is to make it from scratch in your own home, which is exactly what I did last weekend. The house smelled wonderful while it was baking, and the bread was amazingly fresh, warm, and tasty. And just tonight, Mrs. Concord baked two loaves of brioche (pictured above), and it was even more incredible. This sort of thing is time-consuming, however, and it's not something that most people have time to do on a regular basis. If you're not up for baking your own bread, then you can still buy a nice, freshly baked loaf for a few bucks at your nearest grocer. And if that's not available, you can always settle for this: the Alexia Garlic Baguette. This is, in my opinion, the best frozen garlic bread (or frozen anything) of all-time. It is so good that I could eat a whole one in one sitting, which is something I've actually done. You see, there are so many ways to enjoy bread, and I've just scratched the surface. Gluten lovers of the world, rejoice!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Goin' Down South

Dear friends,

People often ask me what kind of music gets played around the Concord household. The answer is not as simple as you may think. While much of what we listen to falls squarely within the category of indie rock, we do like to mix it up every now and then. You know, a little Raffi here, a little Barney the Dinosaur there (just kidding- Baby Concord hasn't learned how to control the stereo yet). Lately we've been listening to a bunch of CDs from the fine folks at Oxford American. This is a literary magazine that focuses on writers from the South, and every December they put out a music issue that includes a compilation CD. Now, I'm not going to pretend that I have any interest in Southern literature (in fact, I never actually read the magazine), but that CD is a must-have. Each year the writers and editors put together a wide-ranging selection of songs from musicians with Southern roots, spanning several decades and genres of music. As you would expect, there's a lot of old country, blues, and rock & roll that fills the disc, but the choices are never obvious and usually interesting in one way or another. It's like a really good mixtape made by someone with an amazingly eclectic record collection. And they always manage to throw in a few truly oddball songs- Van Dyke Parks' weirdly catchy "G-Man Hoover", for example, or a cheesy 70's-era tune by Muhammad Ali. Mostly, though, it's a fascinating trip through the roots of American music, as represented by some of its lesser-known artists. A new one comes out next month, so take Uncle Concord's advice and pick up a copy at your local newsstand- you'll be glad you did.