You Might Be an Idiot

...If You Can't Roast a Chicken

You Might Be an Idiot

The Chicken (with apologies to Gav Martell and Thomas Keller)

At this time of partisan statements and grand political posturing it's important to stand by your own convictions. I am going to stand by one particular tenet: If you can’t roast a whole chicken, you are a complete idiot.

Here’s a quick list of things that are considerably more difficult than cooking a chicken:

  • Putting a diaper on a squirming baby
  • Climbing stars while carrying two large bags of topsoil
  • Programming the clock in a 1988 Cutlass Sierra
  • Ordering dinner at a Pan-Asian restaurant
  • Trying to remember who has the right-of-way at a traffic circle.

The only vaguely complicated aspect of roasting a chicken is the purchasing of the chicken itself.

Here’s how to do this:
Go to a butcher (supermarkets are fine but developing a rapport with your local butcher is going to save your ass on a number of occasions in the future so get on it.)

Choose a fresh chicken—go with the non-medicated type. You're looking for one about 2-3lbs and will probably cost anywhere from $14 - $22. For you first foray, the size of the chicken really doesn’t matter that much. If you are feeding more than 4 people, consider buying two small birds.

Take your chosen chicken home and put it in the sink. It will have a ghastly pale complexion and should resemble nothing you’ve ever ingested from KFC. Unwrap the chicken from its plastic sheath. Reach inside—yup, that’s right—inside, and pull out the neck and possibly a small plastic bag containing the ‘giblets.’ Disregard these bits for the time being as we are not going to be dealing with them on this trip around the block.

Rinse the chicken inside and out. Dry it as best you can with paper towels. Be sure to dry the inside of the bird as well. This seemingly minor step will actually make you look damn good in about an hour and half so don’t skip it.

Turn on the oven to 450 degrees F. Seems hot but don’t worry, it’s perfect.

Find an oven-proof roasting pan, frying pan, or cast-iron pan (the latter is highly recommended). This means nothing that has any exposed plastic, rubber, or anything that would succumb like high heat—the whole thing is going in the oven.

Now, the hardest part. Truss that bird. Tie it up. You could also skip this step but it will lower the cool factor later and if you don’t tie up the bird it’ll end up looking kind of, well, ‘tart-ish’ when it’s done. It will also be more dry if you don’t tie it up.

Find some string—there is specific kitchen twine but you could use pretty much any natural fibre cord. Don’t use dental floss—I know you were thinking it.

Take a reasonably long section and, with the legs of the bird pointing at you, run the string under the bird, take the string and pull it from in between the legs, cross it over and outwards over and around the outer leg joint. Pull it back together in the middle and tie the legs together at the outer joint. Makes sense? No? Thomas Keller will expertly demonstrate the process.

Another staggeringly hard part. Adding salt. You want the skin to crisp up (hence drying the bird earlier…) and the best way to do this is to add salt to dry skin. There is absolutely nothing precise about this exercise. Use a coarse salt, not table salt, and basically drop it from about elbow height from the counter over the bird. Use at least three good pinches of salt for this part.

Smash a couple cloves of garlic and find some thyme and/or rosemary and throw them into the cavity of the bird.

Your bird prep is done.

If you have a roasting rack, great—you can finally use it. Otherwise, grab some celery and make a rough cross-hatch frame for the bird in the bottom of the pan. You don’t want the chicken to sit in its fat so this will get it a bit elevated.

Roughly chop some potatoes or any other hearty edible thing that comes from the earth (squash, turnip, carrots, leeks, onions, etc) into the pan, drizzle some olive oil over the veg/tubers and grind some salt and pepper over them. Drizzle some olive oil over everything that doesn’t look like a chicken.

The penultimate bit—open the oven. Put in the bird. Set timer for 1 hour.

Go do something for an hour.

Take perfect bird out of oven and if you happen to have a thermometer you actually believe in, plunge it into the inside of a leg. It should read 165 degrees. If not, it’s not done.) You can also be sure it’s done by untying one of the legs and wiggling it. It should move freely in the socket.

If it’s done, let it sit under some foil for 10 minutes. Don’t forget to turn off the oven.

If you’re feeling fancy, put some plates in the cooling oven and set the table.

Call folks to the table, pour some wine, sippy cups of milk or a nice IPA and get ready to carve that perfect bird just like you remember that guy in the Norman Rockwell painting doing.

Look what you've done. You’ve got a new tradition and you're no longer an idiot.


You Were Once Cool—What the Hell Happened?

From Scene-Maker to Tantrum-Soother—an uneasy transition

You Were Once Cool—What the Hell Happened?

There is a current cohort that is striving to a romantic zeitgeist of how our grandparents' generation lived. A seemingly simple life paired with jazz, canning winter vegetables and lining the labels out on paper-lined shelves; repairing what was broken instead of buying the new cheap version and wearing clothes that worked without having to check style blogs for affirmation.

There are magazines dedicated to the art of reproducing this romantic, often working-class life with as much style as possible. Breezy linens and lights strung just so to accent ‘cobbled’ together rustic-ness pulled from university clad Tumblr blogs and dreamy Pinterest profiles.

If you’ve had any doubt about the upcoming generation’s aspirations, rest assured that romance is alive and well and has settled on the spleens of 25-35 year olds. They can tomatoes and employ the coolest, most tattooed butcher in town. They strap on mustaches and suspenders and drink from antique mason jars. They carve their own cutlery handles from antlers they found while hiking along alpine wildflower encrusted ridges and make bedside tables from beachwood scavenged from their recent excursion to Montauk/Tofino/San Luis Obispo/Georgian Bay. They are culturally flexible; they are aware of how their jeans need to be cuffed, they are buying their beer in growlers and they are right now. They have become what everyone wanted their grandfather to be.

You are a new dad and are none of these things. You used to be cool. You used to know these things—you knew where to go for the best after-hours bourbon scene, you had a line on the pulse. You were the nerve centre and others looked to you to provide the bravado and the guts to claim when the next set of waves was on the horizon and the first to decry a fad dead.

What the hell happened? You sling a DiaperDude over your shoulder without a second thought and you feel a deep sense of satisfaction when you find a great sleep set with feet and a zipper.

You might have thoughts of canning vegetables; not to be stylish but to have easy to access food ready to go for the winter stews your kids will devour after soccer practice. There are stacks of artwork by the newest neighbourhood masters ready for the proper framing and your mixology has been taken to a new level thanks to a signature banana-blueberry smoothie.

So how, exactly, are you supposed to live up to that historic generation of style and creative ingenuity? Thankfully, your grandfather didn’t know how to cook beyond the grill and it is quite possible that he made it to be the patriarch without ever changing an epic, blow-out diaper. You may be the same in only one way—the most important way possible. At a certain point he no longer measured his life in his personal accomplishments or his sartorial style (which may have impeccable— – more on this later). The similarity lies in that you suddenly see the future as he did. He saw it in you. He saw your parent arrive and his mortality rose to him as you arrived. He now looked forward to every new step, every sports award and spelling bee; each passing holiday and each graduation. If he was lucky, he got to see your children arrive and witness the look of pride and awe you had when you suddenly held the future screaming in your arms. The next generation has begun and you begin stumbling lightly towards experience.


Parenting Lessons From James Bond

5 tips to conquering your nemesis and look good doing it

Parenting Lessons From James Bond

Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel was published in 1953, on the heels of the conclusion of the Korean War and the death of Stalin. It was in these stumbling, toddler steps of the cold war that Casino Royale and its titular character James Bond were released to the world. A James Bond book, or collection of short stories was published each year for the next 14 years and by the time Dr. No was released in theatres in 1962 with Sean Connery in the lead, Bond was well on his way to becoming an international icon.

With twenty-two films and the much lauded Skyfall now in theatres, Bond remains an emblem of style, erudition, and ‘blunt force’ physicality. With the debate over the ‘best’ on-screen Bond best left for online chat rooms, it’s best we use the original (yes, printed) source material to gain our insight. It may seem a bit of a stretch to compare Bond to parents but it’s high time to consider what parents might learn from a quick dive through the James Bond canon.

So I will tell you. … There is more to this place than bird dung. Your instincts do not betray you.” Dr. No paused for emphasis. “This island, Mr. Bond, is about to be developed into the most valuable technical intelligence centre in the world. —Dr. No - Chapter 16

1. The Lesson: Just ask your foes what their plans are—they’ll likely tell you.

Any toddler caught in full stride heading towards the white sofa in the living room while holding a black felt marker will tell you he is going to scribble the hell out of that sofa. Like Bond villains, children truly lack the belief that you are capable of stopping their ingenious scheme. This belief is so steadfast that they will announce their plan with enough detail for you to distract with a cookie, half a grape or, in the case of Dr. No, a massive, stinking pile of bird shit.


His other hand went to Bond’s shoulder. “Our Commissioner’s got a motto: ‘Never send a man when you can send a bullet.’ You might remember that. So long, Commander. —For Your Eyes Only

2. The Lesson: Don’t take a gun to a gun fight—you need something better than a gun.

There is a time for gadgetry in the parental arsenal. Traditionally, lullabies were created to gently lull restless children to sleep with the familiar, dulcet tones of their parent’s voice. This is all fine but when the cards are on the table (and there is more than one adversary to get to sleep) there is no harm in including some tactical combat. Parents can’t be in two places at once but they can employ technology. Parents of foes in the very early stages of development will find that sending in a SleepSheep or some other ingenious white noise creator is a sanity inducing weapon. That, or you will get stuck singing the national anthem twenty times in a row and falling asleep before the target does.


He washed the wound with the coffee and whiskey, and then took a thick slice of bread from his haversack and bound it over the wound.—For Your Eyes Only

3. The Lesson: Improvisation and confidence can go a long way.

Using coffee and whiskey to clean a bullet wound is a bit of a paradox. It is both extremely cool and extremely stupid. Yes, using coffee and whiskey as a cleaning agent is about as medicinal as using motor oil for the job and using bread as a sponge is a bit strange but it is the confidence with which Bond goes about using part of a sandwich to heal that is most telling. The injured will likely get infected but this really doesn’t matter—the poor person with bread strapped to their arm believes this will help. A child will present you with many chances to provide rapid triage. The next time a toddler approaches with an “owie,” use some string to strap a piece of rye bread or half a bagel to the injured sector and tell him the dog will let him know when the bandage can be removed.


…Bond always had the same thing—bitter Campari, Cinzano, a large slice of lemon peel, and soda. For the soda he always stipulated Perrier, for in his opinion expensive soda water was the cheapest way to improve a poor drink. —A View to a Kill

4. The Lesson: A little Tom Ford goes a long way.

Bond has always had a reputation as a clothes-horse. In print he had a personal tailor on Saville Row and in the Daniel Craig epoch, he is currently impeccably clothed by Tom Ford. Parents, and especially new parents, usually look like crap and feel like crap. Sweat shirts, yoga pants, and puke-stained shoulders are the sartorial uniform. It is sobering to walk past a mirror and see the aforementioned creature in the flesh. At this point it is best to look for little victories. It’s time to improve a poor drink.

 Get a good haircut. You’ve likely forgotten how good this can feel. Go to an old-school barber and get a hot towel treatment.

 Get some new designer sunglasses. Your face will look cool and you’ll feel cool. This won’t help the rest of your wardrobe but it’ll help when you’re sitting down, or in the minivan.

 Make a cocktail. This is a bit literal but drinking a proper whiskey sour after the kids have fallen asleep is as close to Bond as you’re going to get for a while.


He had been left alone in Goldfinger’s house, alone with its secrets. Why? Bond walked over to the drink tray and poured himself a strong gin and tonic. —Goldfinger – Chapter 10

5. The Lesson: Perplexed? Have a drink.

Bond’s first reaction when left alone in the lair of his foe is to have a drink. He doesn’t over-react and get all emotional. He takes it down a notch and eases into a solution with a G&T. For parents, after being asked ‘Why?’ to a cascading litany of responses, each more absurd than the next, the only real solution is to dilute the situation entirely in order to see the world from your nemesis’ perspective. From a basic philosophical point of view, why are some flowers orange and why do squirrels and dolphins make similar sounds? Pour yourself some simplicity and the nemesis’ perspective may just slide into view. You’ll also find the final answer is usually either Science or Gravity.