REO Top Ten: Church Potluck Items (Part 2)

There are few things that are more emblematic of Southern Evangelical culture than the church potluck. Many jokes (some funny) have been made at the expense of faithful churchgoers enjoying a smorgasbord-type feast after service. Deal with it, we like to eat and we like to eat with our friends and fellow believers. Of course, when you open up the menu to any item that any person wants to bring, things can get a little tricky. It takes wisdom and quick decision-making to ensure that your plate is filled with only the best foods available. That’s where REO comes in. We’ve spent the last few months meticulously sifting through every potluck food imaginable to create our top ten. These are the ten items that consistently rise to the top – the cream of the crop, if you will. Unless something in the preparation process goes horribly wrong, these are the ten items that will not fail you. Today, we bring you the best of the best. We crown our victor and celebrate with all our fans.


Recap: 10-6:

10. Meatballs
9. Velveeta Rotel Dip and Chips
8. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
7. Mexican Cornbread
6. Pigs-in-a-blanket


5. Ham N Cheese Hawaiian Rolls

Hawaiian Rolls were created by the King’s Hawaiian Company in the late 1950s. By 1960, California man Joe Cooper had taken an entire bag of these delicious rolls, cut through the middle, and melted ham and cheese inside them. They were a huge hit with Joe’s family and friends, but Joe was an atheist so his creation never made it to a church potluck. It wasn’t until 1983 when Edna Clarkson took Ham and Cheese Hawaiian rolls to an event at First United Methodist Church in Starkville, Mississippi that the phenomenon was truly born. Lives were changed that day and the church tripled in attendance. The rest, they say, is history. (Mike Lytle)


4. Chili

Picture this…you’re standing at the front of the food line and you’ve just grabbed a styrofoam plate and your plasticware. You scan down the tables of glorious food spread out before you, but something catches your eye…wait…is that??? No…it can’t be! But it is! Someone has haphazardly thrown a bunch of meat, beans and peppers together into a crockpot, added a bunch of spicy chili powder to it, and proudly set it out for all to enjoy. (Rarely have I had a chili that I didn’t like. And when I did eat a chili that wasn’t great, a little extra Tabasco sauce or cheese is all it took to kick it up to a normative level again.) You reach down and pick up a styrofoam bowl as well. Time to feast. (D.A. Speer)

For something so delicious the recipe for chili is actually quite simple (look at me pretending I know how to cook!). Despite its basic ingredients, a pot of chili can taste very different from one potluck to another. Yet nearly every kind of chili is delicious. Unless it’s canned chili which is an affront to nature! I’ve read that many churches have amended their bylaws to include the following, “Thou shalt not bring canned chili to church potlucks”*. I digress. Plain chili is wonderful. But when cheese and crackers/corn chips are added it transforms into something divine!

REO pro tip: Chili holds heat better than most foods. So, at potlucks where the food is prepped well before the designated meal time always go for the chili as it will still be hot. (Mark Sass)

*I read this on the internet so it must be completely factual.


3. Fried Chicken

I could be wrong, but I suspect that if potluck chicken was as consistently good and hot as freshly made fried chicken, this would be higher on this list. Maybe this would be the case. However, Number 3 is still very respectable and is well earned. I do know that it is my close second favorite behind deviled eggs. It is so close that it is pretty much a tie. Yeah, sure, potluck chicken is often a mite on the coldish side—maybe lukewarm—but I still love it. It and deviled eggs are always my go-to potluck foods. (Ben Plunkett)

I have deeply fond memories of Homecoming Sunday every October at Horse Branch Free Will Baptist as a child in the 80s and 90s. It meant I got to see the late NFL games since there was no Sunday night service. But it also meant this extravagant, bountiful smorgasbord of a buffet right after church. And every year I made a beeline for the chicken. It was often cold but it was still so good. Other than Uncle Remu’s at Walmart, I’ve never had a bad piece of fried chicken. And those Church potluck dinners in my childhood were no exception. (Gordy Cannon)


2. Sausage Balls

A well-made sausage ball is hard to beat. Unfortunately, I have developed a weird pork allergy/intolerance so I am now deprived of all the wonderful pork related foods, including sausage balls. Still, even with my new-found ailment, I cannot deny the glory and the wonder of the classic sausage ball. You can eat these things hot, cold, warm, or lukewarm. You can dip them in a sauce or you can eat them just as they are. While they do vary in taste depending on the spice level of the sausage used, they are pretty great in any form.

REO pro tip: The spicier sausage used the better. Also, do not use too much breading. You want these to have a nice balance of meat, cheese, and breading. We don’t call them bread balls, after all. (Phill Lytle)


1. Deviled Eggs

Many ill-advised haters of deviled eggs love to point out that it has “devil” in the name and that therefore it is obviously a thing of great evil. However, back in the 1700’s when deviled eggs first became a thing, “deviled” meant “spiced.” That’s not a joke. Look it up. Anyway, that makes deviled eggs a thing of great good. And indeed, it is, my friends, this soft and supple culinary masterpiece deserves to be in here in the upper reaches of the potluck top ten. Its haters be boggled. They’re the ones of great evil, so there. (Ben Plunkett)

There is nothing devilish about these delightful creations. Look. I get it. If you don’t like eggs, or mayo, or deliciousness, you might find these little bite-sized beauties a bit repulsive. That is entirely your loss and entirely okay with me as that will leave more eggs for me to eat. At any church potluck, one of the first items to be completely eaten are the deviled eggs. Mark it down. That is why they finished number one in our bracket. They might be polarizing but for those of us that love them, they are the go-to item at any potluck dinner. A church potluck without deviled eggs is a truly horrific thing. We want no part of that. (Phill Lytle)

To me the beauty of the deviled egg is the balance of the two main ingredients. I used to watch my mom make the yolk mixture and then eat the leftovers and it was so good, but not nearly as good as when it was with the white of the egg. The two together are just sublime and hence, #1 for this group. (Gordy Cannon)


That’s our list. We’re sure everyone will completely agree with all of our choices. Be sure to post your kind and encouraging reactions in the comment section below. We look forward to reading them and celebrating all these great potluck foods together.




REO Top Ten: Church Potluck Items (Part 1)

There are few things that are more emblematic of Southern Evangelical culture than the church potluck. Many jokes (some funny) have been made at the expense of faithful churchgoers enjoying a smorgasbord-type feast after service. Deal with it, we like to eat and we like to eat with our friends and fellow believers. Of course, when you open up the menu to any item that any person wants to bring, things can get a little tricky. It takes wisdom and quick decision-making to ensure that your plate is filled with only the best foods available. That’s where REO comes in. We’ve spent the last few months meticulously sifting through every potluck food imaginable to create our top ten. These are the ten items that consistently rise to the top – the cream of the crop, if you will. Unless something in the preparation process goes horribly wrong, these are the ten items that will not fail you. Today, we give you one item that just barely missed the cut as well as numbers 10 through 6. Come back for seconds tomorrow to fill up on the top five.


Honorable Mention

Lasagna

I’m a picky eater. This is not news to anyone who knows me. So, for those kindred souls potlucks can be slim pickins. As I wander down the aisles I often find myself lost amidst a sea of food. Fear and dread build as I press onward into the unknown waters. Will I find something… anything to eat? Or will I collapse from hunger and exhaustion at the row’s end? But the moment when all hope seems lost my eyes discern a twinkle. A pan of golden goodness–lasagna! Shining and radiant like a lighthouse of hope in the darkest of night! Picky eaters gather near and find sanctuary inside the walls of its glass or aluminum pan. (Mark Sass)


10. Meatballs

Is there anything that sounds more appetizing than meatballs? Who is dumb enough to pass up eating balls made out of meat? Not this guy. At any church potluck I have attended, I am sure to look around as quickly as possible to find this most savory dish. Just find the crockpots. Sometimes, the crockpots will have lesser culinary items in them like roast beef or some sort of soggy vegetable, but if you are fortunate, you will find glorious meatballs swimming in a delicious BBQ sauce. I pile my plate high with the balls of meat with no concern for my fellow potluckers. It is their loss if they didn’t go for the meatballs first. (Phill Lytle)


9. Velveeta Rotel Dip and Chips

There are a few foods that I know are truly horrific for my health, but I can’t stop eating them. This is one of those. If you have ever looked at the Velveeta Rotel dip after it has cooled, you will know that this is a substance that you should never introduce into your gastrointestinal system. We all know it. Yet that doesn’t seem to matter to any of us because it tastes so good! Does this make us bad people? Yes, yes it does. Oh well. Pass the chips… (Phill Lytle)


8. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

There’s nothing to home-cooked food to me quite like a perfectly prepared piece of meat and a perfect side right next to it. Often in my mom’s kitchen, and at countless church potlucks around the USA, mashed potatoes and gravy fits that bill. I’ve loaded my plate with them a couple of times in my life to the point of drawing stares from the other people in line. (Gowdy Cannon)


7. Mexican Cornbread

I enjoy almost any type of cornbread, but this variety takes it up several levels. Mixing cheese and chili peppers into a traditional sweet cornbread recipe is simply genius. The best version of Mexican cornbread is made in a mini muffin pan. I am pretty confident that I could eat my weight in those muffins. Even though Mexican cornbread muffins are not as well known across the country as some items on our list, for me they are a clear number 1. One of the 10 worst moments of my life occurred in April of 2012. I was so far back in line at a church potluck that I missed out on the Mexican cornbread. The wounds from that day have healed, but I still bear the scars. #NeverForget (Mike Lytle)


6. Pigs-in-a-blanket

Somehow I missed out on these as a small child and first tasted them as a teenager outside of my hometown. And I was totally impressed. It wasn’t just a miniature hotdog. It was a miniature hot dog in a pastry where both are packed with flavor. I have probably been to a few potlucks where 80% of what I ate was just these things, especially when it’s mostly finger foods and not a lot of meat is present. God bless the genius who invented them. (Gowdy Cannon)


So there’s the first half of this list. Feedback about it is strongly welcomed below. But don’t judge us too harshly yet! We have the top half coming tomorrow.




REO Presents: New Year’s Recommendations

We write reviews often. We’ve also had a semi-consistent book review/recommendation series. (We really need to update that…) This will be a little different. Instead of focusing on one thing: movies, books, music, etc… we are going to try to paint a broad view of things we love that we think you should check out. These blurbs are going to be fast and furious – all around 200 words and all about things we think are pretty great. Consider them our New Year’s gift to you.


Gowdy Cannon

TV Show – Chuck

This is not a popular show but my wife and I watched it this year on Amazon Prime Video. I was blown away. It’s not like any other TV show I’ve watched. It defies any genre box. It may be a comedy at its heart but it has extremely well-executed action scenes and its most important story arc is romance. In a world full of Ross and Rachels it dared to give us Bartwoski and Walker. This show reached deep and pulled wonderful emotion from me often.

Levi, Stahovski, Gomez, and Baldwin are unforgettable as the main players and like any TV show worth watching the role players are dynamite, highlighted by Jeffster! and their hijinks and musical concerts (which were basically the same thing). It is also replete with unforgettable guest stars and if you loved the 80s as much as I did, you will probably get giddy with their choices.

It can be a tad campy and goofy at times, but that never bothered me. It is exceptional at its strengths and it was fantastic entertainment for five seasons.

Food – Bojangles

It’s a shame that so often in America if you claim you like something, people sometimes interpret that to mean you do not like other similar things. I love Chick-Fil-A and think it is blessed by God, but I also eat and thoroughly enjoy KFC and Popeye’s. And to me, the second best chicken place I’ve had in my life is Bojangles, which seems to be less known than these other three. Probably because it is so regional (though its regional fans are pretty passionate from what I can tell).

Whether sandwiches, strips, sides, or those glorious biscuits, Bojangles has excellent quality in taste. There used to be one in Turbeville, SC and any time I was down there visiting family and someone said, “Let’s just pick up some Bojangles for lunch” I would get quite excited. No place has equaled CFA to me but this place is close. And it deserves a huge fanbase.


Ben Plunkett

Book – Strange Stories, Amazing Facts of America’s Past

Throughout most of the second decade of my childhood (about 11-18) I was obsessed with what I called fact books (Most people know them as books of trivia, but I prefer fact books. I suppose they might not be useful for a person’s day to day life, but is any information actually useless? I think not.)

Anyway, when I was 16 my parents got me this particular quality hardback fact book for Christmas. While I am no longer consumed with fact books and have sold most of them, I still have this one and still read portions of it now and then. This book does not attempt to cover all the important basics of American history. What it does do is to highlight fascinating stories about its history that are not discussed much or at all in history class. My edition was published by Reader’s Digest in 1989. They published a new edition in 2007. I cannot comment on that edition since I have not read it yet.

TV Show – Better Call Saul

I realize this show is fairly popular but I don’t understand why this show isn’t more popular than it is. My guess is that people were disappointed that Better Call Saul, which serves as a prequel to Breaking Bad, wasn’t a clone of its predecessor regarding its how the story plays out. It is true that the two shows have the same basic outer feel and framework. It is also abundantly clear that the two are part of the same universe (if you are familiar with both, that is). But the individual stories themselves are very different. Better Call Saul is less dark, intense than Breaking Bad. It is also basically an extremely well fleshed out legal story with multiple intriguing plotlines and angles. The show stars Bob Odenkirk who plays Jimmy McGill AKA Saul Goodman but also stars an amazing ensemble cast. Odenkirk and every one of his co-stars bring it every episode. Forgive the hyperbole but most of them deserve every acting award in the history of mankind.

I will probably be destroyed for saying this, but I believe Better Call Saul is better than Break. In fact, it is in the running for my favorite show of all time. It had an extremely good first season and has been greater every season (It recently finished its fourth).


D.A. Speer

Board Game: Dropmix

One of the most off-the-radar board games right now sounds like something right out of the future. DropMix (created by Harmonix studios…you know, the same team that created Rock Band) has players placing cards onto an electronic, Bluetooth-powered board with six spaces for cards. Each card in the deck has a chip inside of it, and each card space is equipped with a wireless chip reader. When you place a card on the board, the game (which runs on a tablet or phone that sits at the front of the board) reads it, syncs it to BPM and the set key, and then incorporates the loop into the mix. There are cards that have drum loops, vocal tracks, instrument tracks, or even custom-designed effects.

You can DJ your own set in “Freestyle” mode, go head to head in a VS mode, or even play a new Puzzle game based on a surprisingly interesting card game that is incorporated. The music source material is all over the place (electronic, rock, country, pop), and more expansion packs are coming out all the time. You can find the base set on sale frequently…I bought a new one for $30! At the very least, check it out on YouTube and marvel at the technical genius:


Phill Lytle

Food – Aldi “Journey to India” Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce

In the past few years, my wife and I have fallen in love with Indian food. Unfortunately, it’s cost-prohibitive to get it as often as we would like. Enter: Aldi and their amazing sauce in a jar. I was skeptical it would taste anywhere close to restaurant quality, but I was wrong. We keep things simple with some seasoned chicken we sauté in olive oil and some steamed veggies added to the sauce to make it a bit more “healthy.” We serve it over white Basmati rice and we are good to go. It’s moderately spicy so if that’s not your thing, you shouldn’t be eating Indian food anyway.

Comedian – Nate Bargatze

Maybe you’ve seen him on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Maybe you’ve seen his special on Netflix. Perhaps you’ve just seen clips on YouTube. Or maybe, sadly, you’ve never heard of Nate Bargatze. Well, be sad no more! If you like your comedy clean (yet not lame), dry, and just a little bit odd, then Nate is the man for the job. He holds a special place in my heart because he graduated from the school where my wife teaches and my children attend (Donelson Christian Academy). If Nate came from DCA, then there is hope for my family as well.




Sonic, Buoyed by Success of the Pickle Juice Slush, Seeks to Corner the Market on Wacky Menu Items

Delighted by the response to the pickle juice slush, Sonic now plans to offer up a variety of other shocking food options. Here are some of their more inspired creations:

 

Trash Burger – Employees literally walk out to the dumpster, grab some trash, slap it between two buns and deliver it to your car. Delicious!

 

Brown Bag Extra Special – 9/10 chance you will get a regular brown bag special. 1/10 chance you will get a brown bag full of mustard and ketchup.

 

Burnt Tots – Just like Mom used to make. The tots are engulfed in flames until they are smoldering ashes, then they are served directly to your taste buds. Yum!

 

Decent Chicken Sandwich – Nothing weird about this one, except that they just haven’t been able to crack the code on the chicken sandwich yet. Adequate!

 

Lunch Burrito – Tired of breakfast burritos? Ready to level up? Get ready for a lunch burrito, which is basically any regular lunch menu item lazily wrapped in a burrito shell. It costs twice as much, but you’ll love it.

 

Flat Dr. Pepper – They bought a two-liter of Dr. Pepper, opened the cap, put it back on and left it in the cooler for a month. Who will be brave enough to drink it?! FLAT!

 

Tap Water – It’s tap! GROSS!

 

Hamburger Sundae – Nothing says “frozen treat” like a big chunk of steaming hot burger slapped down right in the middle of it. Eat it up, meatheads!

 

Bacon Peanut Butter Shake – Basically just a peanut butter shake with what seems to be a solitary, torn up piece of bacon at the very bottom. Surprise!

 

Mystery Food – Someone found an unmarked food item with an expired date on it in a dark corner of the pantry. Nobody seems to know what it is, or what it used to be. You know you want to eat it though! Comes with a mystery drink.

 




In Undying Devotion to the Royal Fork

Last February when I related the manifold greatnesses of the mighty spoon, I made fun of the fork a little bit. My forky friends were a little hurt. They wept long and hard right to the tips of their prongy, prong, prongs. Just kidding. I don’t really have any forky friends. That being said, I still love forks. Last year I said that, along with knives, forks have their own superior clique. While this is true, they kind of deserve their superior snootiness. Here are five great things about forks:


The Table Fork is the King of Eating Utensils

At home we have two kinds of eating forks: Table forks and salad forks. I don’t know how or when in the history of my family we picked up the salad forks, but I have grown to greatly loathe them with a deep and abiding hatred. I am convinced that they are Satan’s personal utensil of choice and this is what he uses instead of a pitchfork. A more effeminate utensil than the salad fork has never before graced the table of man. I want nothing to do with its fat, stubby, losery prongs. I suppose they are the proper tool for salads, and there are forks for fish, and there are forks for desert, and there are forks for this and for that. I think there is even a fork combing your hair before dinner. I think. It’s all snooty, pretentious stuff, so I don’t care. Pretentious paupers, all of ‘em. Long live the table fork, I always say, may its prongs always remain long and shiny. May the Man Fork of our hearts ever be true.


The Blue Raja is the Ambassador of the King Fork and His Kingdom

If you are not familiar with the Blue Raja of Mystery Men fame, you are missing out on one of the greatest superheroes of all time. Girded with his spoons and forks, he seeks to rid the world of evil. According to Old Blue, himself his weapon of choice is the trusty fork. In the midst of his busy and daily good guy living and bad person fighting he has ascended to become the perfect ambassador of the forky king and its cutlery kingdom. I will never—never!—forget the immortal words of this giant of forkdom: “May the forks be with us!”


The Royalty of the Special Royal Fork is Nostalgic

About 100 or so years ago when I was growing up we had a very rare fork in our utensil drawer. We called it the royal fork. It was rare because I thought so; and, if something is rare, dude, that makes it way more special. In actuality, it was probably just picked up at Kmart or Sears or something. Anyway, it was extra special to me and my siblings because the handle was all flowery, totally unlike the plain peasant forks that we used every day. There was always loud jubilation and heavy boasting on the part of the happy person who happened to get this prized utensil.


Its Worthy Name Lends itself Beautifully to Several Different Sayings

Some of the greatest sayings in history owe their existence to the fork. I’m looking at you “A fork of in the road”, “fork it over”, and “stick a fork in it.” We have no idea what a great debt of gratitude we owe to this little silver invention. Without it, these sayings (and maybe others) would be forced to use another less effective utensil. It is possible that another utensil could have taken its place, but somehow it seems morally and ethically and confusingly wrong to say “a knife in the road” or “spoon it over” or “stick a ladle in it.”


It is the Finest Eating Utensil Know to Civilized Mankind

Although the spoon and knife are both older, the fork was a much more civilized eating utensil and has been used at the dinner table in some form or other since around 400 B.C. You will notice that normal civilized people these days don’t stick food in their mouths with a knife. (Plus, it’s stupid since you might accidentally stab your tongue.) The spoon is often used for the whole plate/bowl to mouth routine, but the fork is used by grownups most of the time. Most of the time. The modern fork is totally cool if you just want to use your hands like a caveman.




Rambling Ever On Presents: Overrated/Underrated

We’re back with more infallible opinions on those things in our culture that are a little too respected and things that need more love.


Ben Plunkett

Overrated – Big Toe
Everyone thinks he’s the cool guy on the foot campus because he’s this big old Hoss fella and he’s the only piggy that actually does any work by going to market. All that is well and good, but he is also the only piggy that gets hurt. You ever think about that? So you’re getting up in the middle of the night. Nine times out of ten, you are going to stub a toe and every single one of those times it the big toe and his bulbous ways.

Underrated – Pinky Toe
This is the dude that went wee, wee, wee all the way home. Okay, that does seem pretty lame, but people aren’t asking about the context. It’s all because all the other toes are so mean and stuff. So really, it all comes down to his sorry family life: His miserable brothers. There’s the hifalutin biggest brother, the second eldest who stays at home all day playing video games, the third oldest who always eats all the food, and the pretentious fourth brother who constantly preaches on the many excellences of veganism. All in all, the poor guy has sorry role models and therefore has good reason to wee, wee, wee all time. Bless his heart.


Mike Lytle

Overrated – Funyuns. I am not a fan of these artificial, processed, disgusting things that are made to look like the letter “o”. They are a disgrace to the chip family as well as the onion ring family. It is really hard to bring shame to two different types of food, but Funyuns pull it off easily. The fact that the word “fun” is in their name when they are opposite of fun is the cherry on top of this failure sundae. When most of your main ingredients sound like the names of villains in Harry Potter[2. Ferrous Sulfate would be exhibit A] then you have a problem.

Underrated – Pork Rinds. NOW WE ARE TALKING! Sorry about yelling, but I get excited about frying pork skin. They are natural, they are low in carbs, they are a great source of protein, but most importantly they are delicious. Whether you prefer plain, bbq, or hot and spicy, there is a pork rind for you. They are great served fresh at a state or county fair, but they are also great in a bag from your local Walmart or gas station convenience store. Sure they are high in sodium and fat, but most of us need more sodium and fat in our diet anyway so that is not necessarily a negative[3. This is completely false as most of us do NOT need more fat or sodium in our diets.]. In Spanish, they are called chicharrones which makes them sound even more scrumptious.


Gowdy Cannon

Overrated: Deep Dish Pizza from anywhere
Underrated: Frozen $2.29 Pizza from Aldi

Oh, do I get made fun of for this in my church in Chicago. But I must keep it since the movie Creed taught me to. For pizza, I prefer a balance of ingredients. Deep dish has far too much sauce, which I assume is the point. The tomato sauce is a role player on a good pizza to me, not the Allen Iverson of tastes. Hogging the ball.

I can, and have, eaten the big frozen Aldi pizzas five times in a week. They are simple yet thoroughly satisfying. I still remember when they raised the price from $1.99 to $2.29 at my local store. I wept for days. Because 30 cents over thousands of pizzas really adds up.


Phill Lytle

Overrated: Candy Corn
In 2016, USA Today conducted a survey to determine the favorite candy for each state. The people of the great state of Tennessee, my state, picked Candy Corn as their favorite.

Candy Corn.

I don’t want to speak ill of my state, but this might be the dumbest thing Tennessee has ever done. Candy Corn is vile. It is a disgrace to candy. It is a disgrace to corn. It is sickly-sweet with the consistency and texture of hardened ear wax.

Underrated: Corn
Corn is the most underrated of all vegetables[1. I realize there is a lot of debate on this point. Some consider corn a vegetable, a fruit, and a grain. Basically, it’s the holy trinity of food.]. It is versatile: you can put corn in just about anything and it makes that dish better. Corn on the cob – particularly grilled corn on the cob – is about the tastiest thing in the world. Other great examples of corn usage: Corn Casserole. Cornbread. Corn tortillas. Corn chowder. Cornhole!!!

Corn is king.


Ben Plunkett

Overrated – White Coffee (Overcreamed coffee)
This is what I call cups of creamer/milk with a little bit of coffee added. A lot of people apparently consider this the greatest thing since the invention of goat yoga. I have no problem with milk. I love milk. Milk is good people. But when I drink milk, I drink milk. When I drink coffee, I drink coffee. A wise coffee drinker once told me that you should never trust coffee drinkers who corrupt their coffee. I think there might be something to that.

Underrated – Black Coffee
And that brings me to the underrated king of coffees. It ain’t just me, folks. There are dozens of us! Dozens! I’m thinking about starting a Black Coffee Matters movement. I think such a group has potential to make a true difference in the Java world. Who’s with me?!


Phill Lytle

Overrated: Sleeping in
Sleeping in was fun when I was 13. Sleeping in stopped being fun when I became a man. Sleeping in is painful now that I am nearly 40. If I sleep in (basically any time after 9:00 AM) I feel like death the rest of the day. Plus, I feel like I wasted a good portion of my day.

Underrated: Naps
Naps were awful when I was a kid. Naps were essential when I was in college. Naps are glorious retreats to the world of slumber now that I am nearly 40! As much as it drives my wife crazy, I am able to take a nap every day at work on my lunch break. As a teacher, she is unable to do that, and so she resents my happiness and sleep.[1. She doesn’t resent it. That was a joke. Or maybe she does resent it a little. I don’t know. I’m too relaxed and rested to really notice or care…due to all the naps.]

 


Mike Lytle

Overrated – Day old sushi. I am going to get very personal with this one. I once ate day old sushi that I purchased at a grocery store. I ate half of it the day I bought it and it was fine. I ate the other half the next day and it was not fine. Or perhaps I should say I was not fine. I have a pretty impressive record of stomach issues during my lifetime. This was especially true when I was younger. The sushi I ate that day messed me up for over a month. Most every topic covered in this article is a matter of personal opinion, but this one is fact – DON’T EAT DAY OLD SUSHI!

Underrated – Day old chili. I love fresh chili. I have had the honor and privilege of being judge/scorekeeper for several chili cook-offs and have tasted hundreds of chili varieties that were entered for competition. I have savored every moment. That being said, there is just something about eating chili the day after (or even a couple days after) it was first prepared. The flavors have more time to coalesce. The spices and seasonings have much needed time to meld with all the other ingredients and produce something truly special. Take your time, don’t rush…you will thank me later.


Gowdy Cannon

Overrated: Pronouncing ‘gif’ with a Hard G
Underrated: Pronouncing ‘gif’ with a Soft G

“Gift” is an exception to an English pronunciation rule. “Giraffe” is the rule. I’m not even going to argue this. As a Level 1 ESL teacher I already spend way too much time trying to explain why OU has six pronunciations, why “both” and “bother” have completely different O and TH sounds and why “February” and “Wednesday” have the most random, ridiculous silent Rs and Ds (and if you think about it, the second E in Wednesday is silent as well…you can’t make this stuff up). All words we add henceforth need to be consistent. Think of the children! (And the immigrants)

 

 

 




The Five Best Reasons To Go To Peru

Warm hearted welcomes, the ruins of the greatest pre-Columbian Native civilization, sunsets on the beach, mountain hikes, and jungle adventures—these are all great reason to take to trip the heart of Spain’s former Empire in South America. As attractive as these may be, I offer five even better reasons to go to Peru. Because, after all, just about every country has nice people and cool things to see. Only Peru has:

1.   Lomo Saltado

This is the nation’s signature dish. It’s a beef stir-fry with tomatoes and onions, served over garlic rice and crispy fries. Just about anywhere you go, Peruvians know how to season this dish perfectly. It’s the perfect fusion of Latin American tastes like cilantro and garlic with soy sauce borrowed from Chinese immigrants. Perhaps even better is Lomo Saltado’s cousin Tallarin Saltado, which is basically the same stir-fry mixed with noodles instead of rice and fries.


2.   El Chicharron

Like so many words in Latin America Chicharron means something different everywhere you go. In Peru, it is not simply fried pork rinds, but rather the most delicious sandwich you’ve probably never tasted. It begins with crisping up some slow cooked pork belly, but the outcome is much more meat than fat. You place this bit of magic on a nice French bread roll along with some slices of boiled sweet potato. You have sweet, you have salty-fatty, and now it’s time for something bold: salsa criolla.

Salsa criolla is a condiment that’s ubiquitous in Peru and makes everything taste better. Criolla is thinly sliced red onion, cilantro, key lime, and some aji (spicy yellow pepper). Make sure whoever serves it to you applies plenty of the salsa on there. These three flavors placed in-between the French bread roll unite to form something truly special.  Peruvians eat it for breakfast, which sounds to me like the best way to possibly start your day.


3.   Tallarin Verde

The Chinese were not the only immigrant population to make Peru taste better. The Italians brought pesto and Peruvians perfected it. Peruvian pesto is creamy, making genius use of traditional Latin American cheese, queso fresco. You can find generous portions of Tallarin Verde at just about any Menu del Dia restaurant where it is served with a thinly pounded, breaded chicken breast cutlet and salsa criolla. If you are lucky, you may even be able to get an over-easy egg on top to make your pasta sauce even more incredible.


4.   Empanadas

Sure, these are not unique to Peru, but Peru does them better than anyone. (I mean, my Peruvian wife does them better than anyone.)  Sometimes on the street, you can find some pretty subpar empanadas in Peru, but you don’t have to look hard to find a good bakery or sandwich place that makes the empanadas that will change you life. A beautiful little pastry with ground beef, onions, and olive inside. What makes Peruvian empanadas so unique is that they are savory but sprinkled with powered sugar and garnished with key lime. The result is a great flavor combo that makes a great snack.


5.   Anticuchos

One of the best foods in any country is usually grilled meat on a sick. This is certainly true of Peru. Anticuchos are made with beef heart, which has a texture that is a cross between tenderloin and calamari. Peruvian Anticuchos are marinated in vinegar, cumin, garlic, and chilies. They are a tangy and succulent street food that is often served over crisped-up slices of boiled potato. Although just about all Peruvian food boasts bold flavors, Anticuchos are a delicious cut above.




Easter Poll: What Is Your Favorite Easter Food?

Eating is fun. Food is good. Is there anyone out there that is going to argue with those two statements? As Americans, we love to eat. We will use any event as an excuse to eat. Here at REO, we respect and honor that tradition. So, in light of our shared love of food and eating, we have prepared a poll to determine the most important part of the Easter dinner. Every family will have its own unique spin on what you eat at Easter, so in an attempt to keep this as simple as possible, we have decided to use the most common dishes found in Easter dinners all over the country. You only get one vote. Vote for your favorite. Some of the options are as general as possible to include the most possible responses. See “potatoes” for instance. If you have a specific potato dish that is your favorite, vote for “potatoes” and then post your dish in the comment section. If you can’t find any option that works for you, select “other” and explain your selection in the comment section. If that is too difficult for you, then you are very lazy.

Let’s hear it people! What is your favorite part of the Easter dinner?

 

Favorite Easter Dinner Food

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500 Words or Less Reviews: The Jack in the Box Taco

Dear Jack in the Box,
Your tacos are cheap and delicious. Never change them.

Now, I hear the precious foodies sputter and stammer, as they shudder in disgust at the description of the aforementioned tacos. “They are loathsome!” they bemoan. “How dare they call these monstrosities food?” they rage. I have no problem admitting that the Jack in the Box tacos leave something to be desired from a purely aesthetic perspective. They are rather ugly. I would even go one-step further and posit that broken down into each ingredient, these tacos should not work. Allow me to elaborate.

Examine the shell. It is a corn-like substance that is one part hard as a rock–risking dental injury if you bite down too aggressively–and one part oily mess. Typically, I avoid foods that are dripping in grease and this taco is a major offender in this regard. Somehow, on the Jack in the Box taco, the grease is inviting and seductive. It is a siren call that unexpected pleasure is waiting just inside the soft and soggy center. I have repeatedly succumbed to the call and am not remotely ashamed.

Next, consider the “meat.” We are all adults here, so I will be as frank as possible: I am dubious of Jack in the Box’s claim that there is any meat in this substance. At my most generous, I can only call it a brownish paste. I say brownish because I rarely even see the “meat” when I am shoveling one of them in my mouth. The deep fried, hard and soggy shell does a fantastic job of hiding the meat from plain site. From a biological standpoint, I believe that Jack in the Box uses this meat paste in an effort to assist in the digestive process. The meat paste needs no additional digestion to work its way through the body.

Finally, we have the toppings: American cheese, lettuce, and sauce. American cheese is the Ringo Starr of cheese. Yes, we all know who he is. We hear him play on most Beatles’ songs. Yet, nobody loves Ringo. He’s just there. It is pretty clear the shredded lettuce comes from scraps they use for other food items, tossed on the tacos to make them appear a little more legitimate. And the sauce is just their pre-packaged taco sauce–mostly bland and innocuous.

Based on this description, you would think the Jack in the Box taco is unpalatable. You would be utterly mistaken. The disparate ingredients, all more unbecoming and repulsive than the last, form a scrumptious and supremely satisfying delight.

Jack in the Box; do not bend to modern whims. Do not attempt to “jazz” up your taco recipe. Do not make it healthier by using fresh ingredients. Flee from any requests to take it off the menu because it is probably killing people. A death by the Jack in the Box taco would be a worthy death.

Long live the Jack in the Box taco!