Pleb Summer: Solstice Fun

by on June 20th, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer!

No matter what your summer plans, the sun has plans for all of us, so today’s post is on the Summer Solstice.

Observing the solstice is a great way to experience one of the hundreds of traditions that have come down to us. Some traditions are somber, some are occasions for revelry. Here are just a few of the many ways to party, solemnize, or otherwise celebrate the solstice:

– On the solstice, the sun aligns with the stones of Stonehenge every year, but just because you can’t wing your way to Wiltshire doesn’t mean you can’t build your very own hengeBuild it with marshmallows and you have an excellent closer for that rooftop barbecue. (Other U.S. Stonehenges here.)

– The ancient Chinese celebrated femininity and “yin” on the day of the Summer Solstice. Identify how you identify and celebrate femininity today!

– Since 1996, the Summer Solstice has marked National Aboriginal Day in Canada (or Journée nationale des Autochtones as they call it in French Canada). You Canadian readers can see a list of activities here. For those of you who can’t attend an event, the government of Canada has published this helpful list of suggested activities.

– There are many Pow Wows around the time of the summer solstice, and they are open to non-Natives. If there is no Pow Wow nearby, you may attend virtually.

– In ancient Greece, slaves could feast and compete in games, and participate in solstice celebrations with freemen. (Seems like the least they could do in an ancient democracy, right?) Some calendars began the countdown to the Olympics from the solstice. You can start counting down now.

– Lots of cultures celebrate with bonfires (good – it’s not hot enough). In France and Scandinavia, and Estonia, where they build a bonfire and then jump over it. All you need for this is a match and something to burn. Cheap!

– In fact, if you’re up for some fire jumping (hey, Estonians!), along with other entertaining and educational events, you might spend the evening at the Peabody and the other Harvard Museums.

– In the United States, you can celebrate the solstice at social gatherings such as picnics and potlucks, scientific lectures and demonstrations, and cultural events and religious rites open to the public. Check your local listings, then get out and experience the pluribus of our unum!

Pleb Summer: Green-Wood Cemetery

by on June 7th, 2017

It’s nearly summer, which means it’s almost time for trips to the beach house, traveling across country, or to other exotic locales.

Except for those of us who can’t spare the time or money or leave our jobs for long stretches of time. This summer is Pleb Summer at the Guild – we’ll be posing about summer for the rest of us.

Today’s post is about an unlikely place where working-class New Yorkers used to go to relax in nice weather: Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.

Founded in 1838 on the site of a Revolutionary War battle, Green-Wood quickly become a major tourist attraction. Why? 478 acres of wooded hillsides, gardens, and ponds, covered with statuary and mausoleums. Before there was Central Park and before there was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Green-Wood was the place your average urban New Yorker could go to experience nature and art. Back in those days the mausoleums were open to the public, so picnickers could explore all kinds of lovely architecture as they strolled down Green-Wood’s paths.

It may seem odd to treat a cemetery like a public park, but people had a different relationship to death back in those days. And in fact, the popularity of Green-Wood led to a competition to deign a park in Manhattan that became – you guessed it – Central Park.

Green-Wood is now a National Historic Landmark and still a lovely place to stroll – for free! – on a nice summer day. It’s also an exceptional place to bird watch, with its own colony of parakeets!

So if you’re stuck in a city somewhere this summer, check out your local cemetery. The people there are much quieter and considerate than the people at the beach.

The Taco Salad

by on May 23rd, 2017

National Salad Month is a time for reflection as well as for celebrating. A month designated by a venerable professional association – the Association for Dressings and Sauces – reminds us that the corporate and the cultural have been deeply fused for a longer time than we may realize.

Take the Taco Salad. Truly, an American innovation worth celebrating. Sure, it may be disparaged by more discerning palates, but the taco salad is a Tex-Mex classic, right up there with nachos, chimichangas, and chili con carne. Who can resist the two kinds of crunchiness – crisp icebox lettuce, and crunchy fried tortillas? And come on, you have to love a food that allows you to eat the bowl it comes in.

But the story behind the taco salad is a bit different than those others. It’s a story of collusion between two American greats: the Walt Disney Company and Frito-Lay.

Elmer Doolin, the founder of Frito-Lay, known for Fritos as well as other delicious snacks, petitioned Disney to allow Frito-Lay to open their very own “Mexican” restaurant at Disneyland. Casa de Fritos opened in August 1955, just down the way from Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House. Casa de Fritos specialized in basic Mexican-style dishes, each served with a bag of Fritos. And if you wanted more Fritos, there was an animatronic vending machine on the way out.

Besides inventing the Dorito (by frying their stale tortillas rather than throwing them away), Casa de Fritos invented the venerable taco salad.

As you can see, at the top of this menu is “taco in a ‘tacup’,” which was in fact, a tiny taco salad – ground beef, beans, sour cream, and cheese, served in a hard “taco cup” made out of a frito shell.

As word spread, the taco in a “tacup” was copied by other restaurants and grew in size into the taco salad. By the 1960s, taco salad was appearing in recipe books.

And as its fame spread, so did its mystique. To this very day, this American classic brings a fiesta wherever it goes.

So three cheers for the manufactured-yet-beloved taco salad and to the corporate powers which made it possible!

Everyone loves taco salads!


by on May 16th, 2017

We wouldn’t be responsibly celebrating National Salad Month if we didn’t dedicate at least one post to salad dressing. After all, National Salad Month is promoted by the Association for Dressings and Sauces.

Today’s post is about two dressings which frustratingly are often considered interchangeable: Russian and Thousand Island.

Which is which???

“They look the same,” you may say. “They’re made from the same general ingredients,” you might also say. “They do pretty much taste the same,” you may also also say.

Well then, you would be wrong.

Let’s start with Russian dressing. Russian dressing is more of a sauce than a dressing. You really don’t want it on your salad. You want it on a sandwich. It’s too thick and just plain wrong for a salad.

Russian dressing, like Thousand Island, begins with a ketchup and mayonnaise base, but unlike Thousand Island, it contains horseradish along with spices, sometimes pimentos and chives.

Not only are people misinformed about Russian vs Thousand Island, and what exactly it is, its very name is a misnomer. Russian dressing? Not even Russian.

Thousand Island dressing is mostly used for salads, although it can sometimes be considered a condiment. It is mayonnaise based, with just a touch of ketchup, and also relies on pickle relish and a hard boiled egg for its distinct thick and sweet taste, opposed to the more tart, vinegary taste of Russian dressing.

Named after the Thousand Islands region on the upper St. Lawrence River between the U.S. and Canada, the exact origin of this dressing is up for debate, but it was likely invented in the early 20th century, around the same time as Russian dressing.

Thousand Island dressing is usually reserved for salads, although sometimes it is used as a “special sauce” on sandwiches at diners. In-N-Out Burger’s “spread” is in fact Thousand Island dressing.

So before you consider these two dressings to be interchangeable, think again. But now that you know the difference, don’t get boastful about it. No one likes a salad know-it-all.

Candle Salad

by on May 9th, 2017

May is National Salad Month and we at the Guild are celebrating salads all month long!

One of the more disturbing salads we’ve come across is Candle Salad, one of those dishes from mid-20th century American cookbooks that leaves you wondering about the mental state of housewives of the era.

It was Sigmund Freud’s birthday on May 6th, so we thought it was fit to celebrate the day with a Candle Salad. Of course being 21st century Americans, we had to document it.

So here’s how you make a Candle Salad.

The ingredients. Lettuce is optional. We chose not to take the option.

Always wash your hands before making a salad. Salad is food too!

Open the can of pineapple slices.

When the tab rips off the can before you can open it, use a can opener.

When the can opener is too dull to fully open the can, use a knife.

Just be careful not to cut the pineapple slices with the knife.

Place a pineapple slice in the center of a plate. You could also use multiple slices – just make sure to stack them.

Peel a banana.

Slice the banana. You really want a not-too-large slice (one banana can certainly make two salads) but we wanted ours to be as long as possible for maximum effect.

Place your banana firmly on the pineapple ring. Whipped cream or cottage cheese can also be used to adhere it in place, but we’re purists.

Apply whipped cream (to mimic candle wax)

Apply a cherry (for the flame)

Et voilà!


Finally, document it for Instagram.

A repast worthy of Freud!

Happy National Salad Month!

by on May 3rd, 2017

Since 1992, May has been designated as National Salad Month by the Association for Dressings and Sauces.

So we’ve decided to join the bandwagon and celebrate the wonderful world of salads all May long!

Green salads! Fruit salads! Meat salads! Dessert salads! The wonders of salad extend to every eating opportunity.

(and in honor of the Association for Dressings and Sauces, don’t forget the dressing)

To get the month rolling, here are some lovely salads. Feel free to list your favorite kind of salad in the comments.

Chef salad

Fruit salad

Macaroni salad

Wedge salad

Bean salad

Tuna salad

Greek salad

Potato salad

Caesar salad

Taco salad

Mesclun salad




Waldorf salad


by on April 28th, 2017

April is National Poetry Month, so this month we’re writing poems inspired by our wares. Today’s poem:

You really do, you really do
On my fridge, stick to
The magnetic surface of it;
The shiny, metal surface.
Your magnetic head sticks there like glue.
Sylvie, I have had to buy you.
A puppet on my finger——
A magnet on my ‘frigerator.
Poetess clad in soft green cloth;
Small as a baby’s shoe.
And a head next to the GE logo
Near the rest of my puppet crew.
Yes, I’m a bit of a magnet hoarder.
But that’s better than having too few.
In the kitchen, near the sink and the stove
You watch over the food
I cook, cook, cook.
But you cannot eat any of it
My puppet friend.
Your puppet face looks a bit blue.
Your glare suggests I should eschew
Butter and sugar;
Other foods that are ecru.
Lipids stuck in my veins.
Your hair is a fluffy beige tuft
Held by a band
That matches your dress.
A designer took time styling you:
A mouth that’s not smiling,
Not frowning; not frowning
Outright, but likely you do.
You do frown on my awful poems.
I know that it’s likely you do.
I think it’s OK that you do.

The poor diction, weak syntax, the nonsensical lines
Are not very pure or true.
But your visage on my fridge inspires me
And my poetry and my poetry.
I wish I could write like you do.
I’ve always been in awe of you,
With your red hair and man-eating, too.
And your neat novel
And that Paltrow film that I rue.
Poetess, poetess, O You——
Not You but a puppet toy
Small enough to carry through,
From apartment to apartment all
Of the times that I have moved,
Moved around this urban zoo.
You stick upon my fridge, Sylvie,
So I have no picture of you.
Just a soft, fluffy puppet with no feet
But no less a delight for that, no not
Any less the woman who
Inspired my artwork; still do.
I was ten when I discovered you.
OK, twenty more likely
When I read, read, read of you.
And now this fine puppet will do
To help me recite Lady L——
To recall the words quickly and true.
I thank the UPG crew
That made a model of you,
A gal in green with a sulky look
And a youthful face, unlike a shrew.
You are so pleasant to view.
So Sylvie, I already knew
That I’d probably gift you to friends
When other gifts just won’t do.

If I gifted one, I’ve got two——
This small puppet that looks just like you.
I imagine your strong voice
Coming out of the tiny doll. 
But her lips don’t move at all. 

There’s a magnet in your small head
And you’re lined up in the puppet queue.
And though the others don’t have a clue,
My favorite puppet is you. 
Sylvie, Sylvie, you goddess, I’m through.

Stopping by a Brothel on a Snowy Evening

by on April 25th, 2017

April is National Poetry Month, so this month we’re writing poems inspired by our wares. Today’s poem:

Stopping by a Brothel on a Snowy Evening

Whose ear this is I think I know.
His house in town is bright yellow;
He often wanders inside here
Even on cold nights full of snow.

Everyone in town thinks him queer
His speech is slurred and oft unclear
And when they see the art he makes,
They laugh at how the strokes appear.

He looks so lost it makes me ache
To see someone with such heartbreak
Though now it seems my kindness caused
Him to leave me this strange keepsake.

The package lies there in a heap,
Turns out Van Gogh is a big creep,
I do not think this ear I’ll keep,
I do not think this ear I’ll keep.

Ode to the Lost Art of Penmanship Mug

by on April 18th, 2017

April is National Poetry Month, so this month we’re writing poems about our wares. Today’s poem:

Ode to the Lost Art of Penmanship Mug

O! ceramic chalice ringed with script
Enlined with blue and red
What lost art do you tempt us to decrypt
With utensil encor’d with lead?
For what purpose were you bred? 

O! companioned with paper pad
And pencil bold and true
Blissfully free of trend or fad
The modern age you do eschew.
You confront us with what we once knew. 

O! letters curved, with perfect form
Your arrows guide our hand
With the Zaner-Bloser method thou dost conform
Your instruction is our command
And may our future scribbling be rendered grand. 

O! what shall your stoneware depths enclose?
Coffee, tea, milk, or other?
Nectar, manna or ambros’
Absinthe, wine or broth o’ yak’s butter?
What might quench the thirst of yon script lover? 

The art of penmanship shall ne’er be lost
Immortalized ‘pon yonder grail
This knowledge worth immeasurable cost
Is yours today for $13.95 retail.

National Poetry Month: I Heart Sholom Aleichem

by on April 4th, 2017

April is National Poetry Month, and we’re celebrating by posting poems inspired by our wares.

Today’s poem:

I Heart Sholom Aleichem

The play “Fiddler on the Roof”
Was based on some fictional stuff
By a writer called Sholom
The whole world should know him
Aleichem, and this poem’s the proof!

– Secret Admirer