Apple Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal

Campfire or no, you too can make this scrumptious oatmeal that I took on last weekend’s camping trip right in your own kitchen. This recipe takes only a few more minutes than making one of those over-priced, over-processed instant package thingies and (shocker) this oatmeal will actually be hearty enough to keep you full all morning long.

I mean seriously, who are they trying to fool with those dehydrated apple slices? GIMME A BREAK WITH THAT NOISE. The first ingredient in the name of this recipe is APPLE and I promise you, the apples are the real star of the show here. We’re going to start off the process by doing something to the apples that we don’t usually do when making oatmeal… we’re gonna caramelize those sweet little autumnal joy bombs.

Caramelizing apples over campfire
Boiling water while we caramelize our apples is the secret to cooking the oatmeal quickly, without over cooking.

Once your pot is heated to medium on the stove (or the fire!), in goes the butter (Don’t worry, coconut oil will work great too, if you’re the non-dairy type), followed by the apples and the cinnamon. Allow those to brown slightly before finally adding sugar.

After adding the sugar, stir to incorporate until it is evenly distributed and begins to dissolve. When the sugar starts to bubble ever so slightly, it’s time to add half of our raisins, along with the boiling water. Why half? I like to let some of the raisins break apart to add extra sweetness and flavor to the liquid. Then, later on, we’ll add the other half, for a change in texture!

Apples cooking in liquid over fire.
That thar is some steamy, tasty oatmeal stock!

Now we’re just going to let the apple and half of the raisins stew in this sexy liquid for a sec, until the apples are semi-soft and the raisins begin to disintegrate, about 3-5 minutes.

Finally we’ll add the oatmeal in little by little, along with the other half of the raisins. Don’t be afraid to adjust the amount of liquid as you go. Honestly, the hardest part about this recipe is adapting it to your personal taste, which isn’t really that hard at all! Just add a little more water if it looks too thick, or allow to cook down slightly if it’s too thin for you. Same goes for sweetness. Add sugar or subtract, based on your preference.

Which ever way you like it, you’re about to be a happy, full morning person.*

*Absolutely unauthorized to make such a claim. Have not now, nor will I ever be a morning person, but the oatmeal helps.

apple, cinnamon, raisin, oatmeal, breakfast, camping, dutch oven, camping gear, campfire cooking
Sure, you could eat this in a bowl, but then where would your sense of adventure be?

Apple Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Recipe (serves 4)


1 medium apple, skin on, cored and diced

1/3 cup raisins

1.5 cups quick cooking oats

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (or coconut oil, for my vegan friends!)

1/4 cup brown sugar (more or less to taste)

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

pinch of salt

3.5 cups boiling water

  1. Bring 3.5 cups water to boil in a kettle or covered pot.
  2. Heat dutch oven over medium high heat and add butter.
  3. Toss apples, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt into the melted butter and allow to brown slightly, 3-5 minutes.
  4. When apples have browned, add sugar to pot. Stir frequently to prevent scorching, until mixture is dissolved and just begins to bubble.
  5. Add boiling water to the pot, along with remainder of raisins. Allow to simmer for another 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add oats a little at a time and cook until oats just absorb the liquid, or until desired consistency is achieved.
  7. Adjust sweetness to your taste and enjoy!
carabiner, camping utensils, gay, cookout, tools
Bonus gay points for enjoying your oatmeal with camping utensils that attach via carabiner!

On The Banks of the Gay Mississippi

Alright, so maybe there’s nothing inherently gay about the Mississippi, but we did happen to spend this National Coming Out Day camping and hiking at Mississippi Palisades State Park, on the Illinois side of the river, just a stone’s throw from Iowa.

It’s a significant day for us because, prior to last National Coming Out Day last year, we were just acquaintance-y friends from the Chicago Performing Arts community. Then, we saw each other’s social media posts, each broadcasting our out and proudness and began a several month online flirtship, culminating in finally, as luck would have it, playing a fateful gig together in December (that gig happened to be a live album recording of a world premiere musical and you can listen to me belt my face off/Rachel playing gorgeous cello here).

We began dating seriously almost immediately and, of course, with the pandemic, so came the U-haul. The rest, as they say, is them-story. So it seemed like as good a day as any to commemorate by scaling the face of a small mountain (yes, the very same big rock thing we’re standing in front of in this photo).

queer love, camping, hiking, National Coming Out Day
Sure, we looked super cute and happy before we climbed the mountain…

Now, I don’t want to over-represent my skillset here. When I say “scaling the face of the mountain”, what I really mean is, “losing the trail and just going off-road, grabbing ahold of whatever roots, rocks, or trees we could find, and continuing our ascent by any stupid means necessary”, or something like that.

I’m a crazy hiker from the old school. Losing myself on trails was how I initially started losing weight many summers ago in the Cuyahoga Valley National Forest and I was absolutely giddy to be losing myself in the woods again, especially since elevation of any kind is something sorely lacking on the Chicago landscape. I might have been a bit too gung-ho though, nearly giving Rachel a panic attack on the way up.

We definitely weren’t the only group on the trail with novice hikers among us. City folx seeking socially distant diversion had come to the state park in droves this weekend, pushing the limits of this natural space’s infrastructure. Some trails were too narrow for groups to safely pass each other, while some were simply poorly marked or maintained (see also: CLIMBING A FREAKING MOUNTAIN BECAUSE WE THOUGHT IT WAS A TRAIL).

And then I realized, this was a CCC park, meaning it was built largely by the Civilian Conservation Corps, an FDR-era New Deal Initiative that provided work AND housing for homeless, jobless, unmarried men (ok that part is sketchy and weird by today’s standards), while bolstering infrastructure and literally creating endless miles of trails all across the country.

state parks, civilian conservation corps, camping, hiking, illinois state map
Yes, I am 100% that person who reads every little plaque at the museum.

Interesting. With participation in outdoor activities at an all time high (I’m telling you, this campground was PACKED, y’all.), right there along with joblessness and homelessness, maybe we need A NEW CCC? Just a thought…

But enough of the boring history stuff (amirite?) and onto the reason I was most excited for this trip- cooking three square meals for 8 people on a dutch oven over a campfire, because I’m crazy like that.

one pot pasta, dutch oven, no-knead bread, garlic bread, campfire cooking, gemelli pasta
A jar of homemade pesto is the perfect addition to some pasta with fire roasted veggies. Served with Mark Bittman’s famous No-Knead Bread (baked in my own kitchen the day prior), slathered with butter and garlic, wrapped in foil and thrown into the fire.

Pasta was the perfect night one dinner. After settling in and unpacking, it was easy enough just to boil water and toss in some gorgeous gemelli pasta, along with pesto gleaned from the last of my window box basil, and an array of veggies roasted right on the grill plate! Mmmmm…. you can’t make pasta that tastes like this at home!

Campfire, fire roasted veggies, dutch oven, red enamel dutch oven, zucchini, peppers

Toss in a bunch of shredded mozzarella, get a whole roasted Vidalia onion from your friends at the campsite across the way, and you are in for a good time, my friends. Our full bellies surely made the ground an easier sleep that night!

campfire cooking, pasta, gemelli pasta, campfire garlic toast, no-knead bread, vidalia onion, fire roasted vegetables
The dirt under my fingernails all weekend was the sexiest part, IMHO.

BUT WHAT ON EARTH DID YOU EAT FOR THE REST OF THE TRIP, MEGAN? Relax, would ya? I’ll be back tomorrow with an actual recipe for my delicious Apple Cinnamon Raisin Campfire Oatmeal, but don’t worry, this is one you can easily make at home, though the process might surprise you!

The Fat Chick-Pea Burger

Har har har. It’s a terrible joke, but like I said yesterday, if I had a chance to cook something ultra-healthy for a fat dude like our commander in chief (It’s Ok to Call Him Fat, he is.) who loves a fast food hamburger, I’d definitely make him eat a fat chick-pea burger!

Not only are these babies vegan, they’re also gluten free, but you would never know it! This hearty burger gets its smoky, tangy flavor from vegan Worcestershire (I use Kroger brand! I KNOW, right?!) , Apple cider vinegar, Louisiana hot sauce, and Liquid Smoke, along with a hefty spice injection of paprika and ground chipotle pepper.

food prep for veggie burgers, chickpeas, oats, spices, flax eggs
Is this artsier and fartsier than it needs to be with all that late afternoon sunlight in my kitchen? Sure, but who doesn’t need more arts and more farts?!

Oh yeah, and beyond the obvious health benefits of swapping your ground chuck for chickpeas, oatmeal, flaxseed and veggies, this is a SUPER CHEAP pantry recipe to throw together. These nutritional powerhouses ring up at only about $.50 a piece, so making these will really make you feel good about yourself in more ways than one!

The real genius of this recipe (if I do say so myself) is the use of quick oats and flax eggs to act as vegan, gluten free binders! If you’ve never worked with flax eggs, don’t sweat. Here’s how I break it down:

1 Tablespoon of milled flaxseed+2 Tablespoons of water+5 minutes to set= 1 flax egg

But don’t worry, if you’re all like, “eww gross/what the heck is that/do I really have to buy a special ingredient??,” you can just use a regular old egg, if you’re not vegan, that is!

quick oats, meal prep, food photography, chickpea burgers
I’m feelin’ my oats here, y’all.

Once your prep is out of the way, sauté your veg with a few little sprigs of fresh thyme. If your herb garden is already done for the season, feel free to substitute with 1/4 tsp of the dried stuff! Start with just your onions and sauté with thyme and kosher salt until translucent. Then, add your peppers until soft, followed by garlic for one hot minute, watching carefully to avoid burning!

Vegetable sauté, fresh thyme, cast iron skillet, 5'oclock somewhere
Go ahead, pour yourself a drink. It’s 5:19 somewhere…

Remove fresh thyme sprigs from the pan and then dump this gorgeous veg into a mixing bowl, along with your chickpeas, spices, flax egg, and liquid ingredients. Mash it up until a loose batter forms.

Chick peas, spices, chick pea burger, flax egg, meal prep
(If you don’t know what the next line is, I’m not sure you can get with my friends)

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, let’s add those oats and mash the whole thing until it resembles the WEIRDEST cookie dough known to man.

veggie burger dough, chickpeas, oats, veggies
Oh great, now I’m hungry for REAL cookies…

Now (and this is where that beverage is gonna come in handy), pop the bowl in the fridge for about 30 minutes, until the oats have fully absorbed all of the flavors and the dough has stiffened enough to form into four FAT patties.

homemade veggie burger patties, oats, chickpeas, meal prep
Yep, still want cookies.

Place cookies, er, I mean, patties onto parchment paper or silicone pad on a large baking sheet and bake at 400 deg for 35 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Remove from oven and build your burger how you like it. I chose bbq sauce and cheddar cheese with a sliver of romaine on my famous homemade brioche buns, but you do you boo!

Did you make this and LOVE it? Let me know! Hit me up on IG @Plated_With_Pride !


1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 medium onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 flax egg (1 tbsp milled flaxseed+2 tbsp water), or 1 egg

½ cup quick cooking oats

2 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme (or ¼ tsp dried)

1 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar 

1 tsp Louisiana hot sauce

½ tsp liquid smoke

1 tsp paprika

¼ tsp ground black pepper

 ¼ tsp kosher salt

⅛ tsp ground chipotle pepper (optional)

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

  1. Combine flaxseed and water to create flax eggs, set aside.
  2. Heat skillet to medium, sauté onions and thyme with kosher salt until translucent.
  3. Add bell peppers and cook until soft.
  4. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  5. Remove thyme from pan and combine vegetables in large mixing bowl with flax eggs, chick peas, spices, and wet ingredients, mash until a loose batter forms.
  6. Continuing mashing and add oats until thoroughly combined.
  7. Place mixing bowl in refrigerator to set for 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 400 deg
  9. Form dough into 4 large patties
  10. Bake for 35 minutes, flipping halfway
  11. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, and enjoy the burger of your own creation!
homemade veggie burger, homemade brioche, cheddar cheese, bbq sauce
It doesn’t have to be pretty or fancy to pack a BIG flavor punch!

It’s Ok to Call Him Fat, He Is.

As a young person, I was many things- a budding opera singer, a poet, an angst-ridden step child, an activist, but more than any of those things (that I wish I could have seen as being as utterly incredible as they were at the time), I was one thing above all to anyone who laid eyes on me, I was fat. I know this because I was reminded of this constantly, by children and adults alike.

Before and After Photo, Weight loss, Health and Fitness, Healthy eating, Body positivity, mindfulness, cooking for weight loss
Left: Me in Austria (June 2000), Right: Me in Chicago (June 2020)

Actually, if you take my BMI into consideration, I am still fat. At 29.8, my BMI places me in the upper echelons of the “overweight” category, a mere tenth of a percentage point from obesity and that’s after maintaining an almost 130 pound weightloss for almost 20 years. I exercise daily, eat my veggies, and am still overweight, although admittedly, it’s been a very long time since anyone has called me fat

After all, it is entirely possible that one could exhibit an overweight BMI and not look fat at all. By now, most of us are aware that BMI is an imperfect measurement that fails to take into account either muscle mass, bone density, or body fat percentage, meaning a professional athlete could very well appear to be overweight or obese, if assessed solely by their BMI. Take Cam Newton, the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots, for instance. Cam, like me, weighs in at a 29 odd point BMI. When you look at it that way, I’m in pretty good company!

Embed from Getty Images

Except that I’m not. Because you know you know who else registers between a 29.5-30.5 BMI, that is, if you can believe a single piece of information released by his administration? You guessed it, the current president of our great nation (whose name and image I will not dignify with representation in this space). So, if the three of us are, more or less, overweight/cusp of obese, how do we determine who earns the descriptor, “fat”? 

The truth is, there’s not really a standard definition of fat. It is an almost entirely subjective designation, further complicated by the fact that fat is a noun that we use largely as an adjective. I have fat. You have fat. The average uterus-having American has about 40% body fat, while the average non-uterus-having American has around 30%. Cam Newton has about 13%. We all have fat, if we didn’t, we’d die.

But when can we call someone fat in the subjective sense exactly? Well, it’s worth noting that many, many folx claim the word fat as a matter-of-fact point of pride, much in the same way that I claim the word gay. For people who identify this way, the word fat may be an accurate and accepted descriptor but it’s, I don’t know, a little obvious maybe? The real question is, why do you want to call them fat? Let’s consider the possibilities here.

If you want to call someone fat because you’ve had a long-standing social media rivalry with them and don’t understand how they were able to snag such a hottie for a sexual partner while you, a person you subjectively consider to be somehow less fat than them wither on the Tinder vine, well, you might not be that nice of a person. But also, I’m so sorry that you’ve been brainwashed by the patriarchy into thinking that fatness is somehow unsexy. You’re probably missing out on lots of super dope thicc folks who’d gladly help you find your O face and, more than likely, you’re pointing that fat-hatred inward toward yourself as well, making it harder than it should be for you to actually be available for another person, in terms of physical intimacy…

Bedroom photo, Lingerie, Cleavage, Body positivity
Like, could you imagine if I actually withheld all this from people because I believed fat people weren’t sexy AF?
Photo: Amber Patrick//aterrormusicalphotgraphy

Or, let’s say, you want to call someone fat solely as a point of differentiation, in order to distinguish between that person and another person. Maybe you could think of all the other differences between them to highlight prior to fatness? Sure, Karen might be overweight, but is that the most obvious difference between her and Becky? No, of course not. Karen has the “I need to speak to the manager” Kate Gosselin chop while Becky, naturally, has the good hair. There you go, we didn’t need to use the F word at all, did we?

NOW, if you want to call someone fat because he is the leader of the free world, a leader who has repeatedly hurled the word as an insult at uterus having folx (some of whom he has been accused of sexually assaulting), and that man has recently contracted a disease for which obesity is one of the leading comorbidities, a pandemic about which he has repeatedly lied and disseminated false information, in this one case, I think sweet irony gives us license to use the word. 

So go ahead, call him fat. He is fat, but I’m going to issue a major caveat here. Let’s not marry the word to other words as we criticize our leader. Yes, he is ugly. The unabashed xenophobic blood lust coursing through his veins is easily visible on the surface of his ugly, dumb dermis. Yes, he is woefully undereducated, as evidenced by his grasp (or lack thereof) of the English language, United States civics, and science in general. Yes, he is a million other derogatory words, as evidenced by the way he treats others but, if we accept the marriage of fat with other words, we unwittingly add those other words to our own definition of fat.

I may be fat, but I am hot as hell and certainly no dumb dumb. So, do me a favor, if you want to call him fat, call him fat, but end the sentence there- unless you want to call him a fat hypocrite, that is. For a fat guy that felt bold enough to criticize the body composition of contestants in the freaking Miss Universe Pageant, I’ll allow it. 

Want to know what I’d cook for the leader of the free world if I had the chance? Stay tuned tomorrow for my antidote to his fast food burger addiction- THE FAT CHICKpea burger!!

Kohlrabi greens and eggs

In amongst a patch of peppers in our friend Julie’s garden, we found the strangest, most magical, most out of place little beast. Rachel called it a mandrake (ala Harry Potter, for the kids who aren’t hip). I marvelled at the thing because I had never actually seen one outside of a supermarket where, of course, I would never actually buy one. 

Let’s be honest, even if they’re cheap (and they usually aren’t), we don’t often buy the super weird vegetables in the grocery store. They’re just daunting. We don’t know what to do with them and it’s easy to recall our more adventurous moments when we have brought home such oddities, only to let them rot in the fridge, unexplored. 

So my delight at seeing this monster, this creation was because I have learned from many garden visits this summer to many pandemic gardening friends (who sometimes have NO IDEA what to do with everything they’ve grown) that I could probably get Julie to give me this beautiful kohlrabi.

The beast in all of its glory. Mandrake, right?

You want this thing??”, she joked, “I just don’t have a taste for it.”

And with that, she yanked the mandrake, er, I mean, kohlrabi out of the earth. Yes, it shrieked (we’re pretty sure). Oh, and Ravenclaw, thanks for asking. 

None of us were sure if the leaves could be eaten, but here is the very important takeaway from this entire little experiment- THE LEAVES ARE THE BEST PART. It’s like a more substantial collard green with an essence of, I don’t know, broccoli? 

Sure, you can peel that big bulb, cut it up into one inch chunks, douse it with olive oil and S+P and roast the crap out of it like I did (no photos please, she was NOT pretty) and it will be fine, but the real revelation here are the leaves. Cook them down with some sauteed onions and peppers and crack some eggs right into the pan. 

Look at those COLORS!!

There are two great things about this recipe. First, you can make it with just about ANY hearty green- collard, chard, kale, beet greens, whatever you’ve got! Second, this is a beautiful, healthy plate of food in every color of the rainbow, just like I like it! Now that’s plating with pride. 

Brb, just have to smash this real quick.

Alright, alright. I won’t keep you waiting any longer. Here it is: 

Ingredients (serves 2):

Leaves from one large kohlrabi, trimmed, washed, and thinly sliced

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon reserved bacon fat (or olive oil)

2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar

4 large eggs

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like heat)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional, to finish)

  1. Bring a large skillet to medium high heat, cook onions in bacon fat (or oil) until just translucent. Add peppers. Saute until just soft,  3-4 minutes
  2. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes to onion and pepper mixture. Saute for one minute, turning frequently, being careful not to allow garlic to burn.
  3. Deglaze pan with apple cider vinegar, scraping any browned bits from the bottom. 
  4. Add greens and cook down for 5-10 minutes- until greens soften and turn a bright, bright green.
  5. Once greens are soft, make four little wells in the pan and carefully crack eggs into it. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Allow to cook, uncovered, until white is almost set (about 3-5 minutes). 
  7. Add lid to the pan until the white sets and the yoke just barely steams over with white (about 1-2 minutes). The yolk should still jiggle a bit when you shake the pan.
  8. Top with your favorite grate cheese, nutritional yeast, furikake- whatever you like- and enjoy!!

Brats And Beers and BBQ civics

Last weekend, Rachel and I took a much needed day trip out of town. As we drove north of Chicago to the suburbs of Milwaukee, the buildings seemed to grow farther and farther apart. Trees, meadows, and shopping plazas planted themselves in the negative space, the landscape flattening the farther away from Cook County we got.

I won’t lie. It’s been a challenging seven months in the city and this wasn’t our first trip to “the outside”. We had previously enjoyed a camping trip with a group of friends downstate and had also taken a long road trip to see my family (chosen and otherwise) in Ohio and Pennsylvania, while the weather was still nice enough to visit with folks in the out of doors. 

In whichever direction we’ve driven- North, South, East, West- the changes in the landscape looked slightly different depending on where we were heading, but one stark change remained the same no matter where we were headed- the names on the political signage.

We shifted in our seats a bit each time we saw one. She removed her hand from my lap. I stopped running my fingers through her hair from behind the headrest. We were having feelings we never have in our progressive little urban community- feelings of fear for simply being ourselves and loving each other, and the deep seated knowledge that we were humans whose existence was outside the realm of what an entire political party deemed natural and good.

Approaching the steeple-specked skyline of Waukesha, we began to relax a bit, finally seeing some blue signs mixed in among the red. We were ready for a beer and a brat, specifically a much coveted New Glarus beer (which is delicious and ONLY distributed in Wisconsin, for those not in the know). Our hosts, Julie and Derek, did not disappoint.

Derek serves up some mean slaw with our brats!

Actually, I should say that Derek did not disappoint. This was my first time visiting their home and it was impressive and endearing the way Derek buzzed around the kitchen, ever the attentive husband, making apple strudel dough and throwing together a simple, fresh slaw from the purple cabbage cut just moments prior from their garden. Julie gave us a tour as she harvested poblanos, foisting a kohlrabi upon us, the size of which we had never seen (find out what I did with it here).  “Is that a mandrake?!”, Rachel exclaimed. We were both sure we heard it shriek when it was picked.

I will now figure out how to eat this thing.

As we sat down on the patio to eat, we first complained the standard unpleasant pandemic pleasantries, so as to get them out of the way, but quickly shifted talk of Julie’s struggles as an in-person classroom teacher and my challenge at having to generate arts programming for the digital classroom to the far less maddening thing we both we held in common, a love for reality cooking shows.

Our latest collective obsession? The American Barbecue Showdown. Eight cooks from different parts of the South complete various long-smoked meat challenges for a panel of expert judges. It’s not exactly a ground-breaking television format, but it is Netflix, so it’s at least got a strong aesthetic sensibility and an eye toward inclusion and diversity. The black and white hosts huddle together laughing in the straw-filled bed of an old Studebaker and sit down to taste each entry at a big, rustic outdoor table on carefully curated, mismatched vintage lawn chairs. 

We northerners admittedly don’t know much about barbeque (that is, aside from quickly grilling off a cheddar brat over propane) and the four of us found the allure of this program to be twofold. On one level, it offered us an opportunity to learn technically how best to make everything from smoked brisket to possum stew. On an entirely different level, it provided us a glimpse into the culture and food folkways of the South, divided dutifully and equally along diverse racial lines by the network.

In many ways, this show is cringey in the way that almost all television in the Pandemic era is. “People are so close to each other! They’re hugging! They’re holding hands in anticipation of the announcement of the challenge winner! Ew! Germs!” But, beyond that, there’s another nagging little problem in this show that smacks of inauthenticity. Everyone is so nice to each other. They seem to really like each other, root for each other, and get along. That’s not how I, a dyed in the wool Yankee, have been educated regarding race relations in the South.

I know, I know. I’m stereotyping white Southerners! I haven’t spent enough time in the south and I don’t have enough southern friends to speak with any firsthand knowledge about what white southerners are actually like, but I am a pretty avid student of American History and understand well the Jim Crow laws, segregation, lynchings, and general second class citizenry that black folks throughout the south have been subjected to in the centuries since the North “won” the war.

It’s no secret that the losing confederate states have been, almost exclusively, Republican strongholds since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, so it is not difficult for me to imagine that the political signs dotting the idyllic Georgia countryside where this program was filmed might look very similar to the signs of white resistance to our country’s shifting demographics found along the road in suburban Wisconsin. 

How then, does Netflix manage to paint such a rosy picture? Yes, there is a brief nod to pre-colonial cooking techniques and ingredients, as there is also mention of Antebellum techniques used by sharecroppers to roast whole animals in the ground, but these moments of true social import seem almost obscured and overshadowed by the friendliness of the competitors.

When good ol’ North Carolina boy, Ashley, becomes frustrated and nearly throws in the towel, weeping in grief over the passing of his friend, Big Worm (itself a laudable and rare display of male emotion); Jamaican-born Rasheed holds him, comforts him, and encourages him. I wonder if they still hang out- if Ashley went home and started proudly proclaiming to his friends that Black Lives Matter. I wonder if it made them think differently about immigration, voting rights, healthcare… Maybe they’d even strip the confederate flags from their bumpers once and for all?

Now don’t get me wrong, all of this is not so much criticism as observation. All four of us agreed- we had watched the show and thoroughly enjoyed it. More than that even, we needed it, needed to see the possibility of harmony, needed a trip to race-relations Disneyland the same way we needed this quick escape to the Badger State. In a time when it has become so difficult for us to travel, the show helped us to explore something far outside ourselves and, in the meantime, portrayed a South we’d like to believe in, one of cooperation, equality, and collegiality, a hope for the future of our country.

But, to my knowledge, the ills of humanity had not yet been settled over beers and brats and, before we knew it, afternoon turned to evening, the early autumn air turning cold along with it. The four of us said our goodbyes and, as we were leaving, Julie told me that she couldn’t wait to read my new cooking blog, to see what I had done with that giant kohlrabi! 

“Oh, thank you,” I blushed, “but it’s going to be about much more than that…”