November 2017

Here’s where the “I” in “team” can be found

by Joey deVilla on November 15, 2017

If you’ve ever worked on a team with one or more a-holes, you know this is true.

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The correct Hawaiian pizza-to-pineapple ratio

by Joey deVilla on November 14, 2017

Thank you, fellow Canadian Sam Panopoulos, for this wonderful culinary invention.

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That’s what I love about Florida: just when you think it can’t get any weirder, someone says “hold my beer”. Case in point: Adam, a man from Tampa says that while he was born a white guy, deep down inside, he feels Filipino, goes by the name “Ja Du”, and identifies as “transracial”:

But given his not-so-Filipino-sounding nickname, hair, clothes, and especially the shoes, he needs to do a lot more research, practice, or maybe just face-time with actual Filipinos (and no, this is not me volunteering my time):

Crocs? Ay nako! If you really want to be Filipino, you’d best up your shoe game.

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Soon after starting my colorful academic career at Crazy Go Nuts University (a.k.a. Queen’s University) in Kingston, Ontario in 1987, Brian’s Record Option — an ever-chaotic shambles of a record/CD/tape shop — ended up being one of my regular go-to places. I would’ve figured that Brian would’ve retired and closed the shop already, but it turns out that he’s still there, running the business (and I’m using the terms “running” and “business” very loosely). Read more about one of the hangouts of my wonderfully misspent youth in this Noisey article, Brian Lipsin Is Kingston, Ontario’s Anarchist Record Shop Owner.

From Improve your life by thinking marginally:

“Try to answer the following two questions as honestly as you can:

  • If you found yourself with an extra hour a week of free time – what would you do more of?
  • And if you found yourself with an hour a week less of free time – what would you do less of?

If your answers to these questions differ, then you’re not doing a good job managing your life, and you should just go ahead and replace things from your second answer with things from your first answer.”

What happens when you think that all you need to excel at something is passion, and you skip the other prerequisites such as skills, knowledge, experience, good fortune, and perhaps a modicum of common sense? You get stories like Toronto foodie turned failed restaurateur Robert Maxwell’s A Restaurant Ruined My Life. It’s the latest in a series of Toronto Life articles written by people with more money than brains who are also hard to sympathize with (such as Catherine Jheon’s infamous article of her family’s gentrification move gone terribly wrong, We Bought a Crack House).

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Easy 4-ingredient homemade pumpkin soup in half an hour

by Joey deVilla on November 7, 2017

November means cooler weather, even here in Tampa, where’s it’s expected to drop to a relatively brisk 68°F/20°C this evening (I did say “relatively”). That means it’s soup season, and for most people most of the time, soup means this:

Thanks to a combination of Hallowe’en and marketing, it’s not just soup season, but pumpkin season, which for most people mean these:

But let me convince you that pumpkin is for more than pies and sickly-sweet coffee — it’s great for dinner as well! As proof, here’s my dirt-simple recipe for pumpkin soup.

It has only four main ingredients…

  • One pie pumpkin (about 2 pounds / 1 kilo)
  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 1 liter (about 32 ounces) of your favorite broth
  • 4 or more tablespoons of butter or your favorite butter substitute

…plus whatever herbs, spices, or garnishes you’d like to add. There’s lot of room to be creative in that department.

You’ll also need:

  • A big pot
  • A microwave oven large enough to hold the pumpkin (luckily, pie pumpkins are smaller than Jack O’ Lantern pumpkins)
  • An immersion blender, a.k.a. stick mixer

You’ll do most of the cooking in the pot. Chop the onions, toss them into the pot with the butter and cook them until the onions are soft. The following are photos that I took on Sunday, when I made my most recent batch of soup:

While the onions cook, heat up the pumpkin so that it’s soft enough to scoop out. I do it the lazy way: I poke a slit in it with a paring knife, and put in the microwave at high (my microwave is 1200 watts; cooking times vary with power) for 15 minutes. Remember to poke a slit into the pumpkin if you don’t want your microwave to end up like a Cronenberg movie

Once the onions are soft, add the broth. Bring it to a simmer, which means “bring it to boiling, then dial the heat down just below boiling”. You’ll know that the stock is simmering when tiny bubbles pop up here and there on its surface, with irregular wisps of steam appearing from time to time:

When the pumpkin’s done — it’ll be darker, and its stem will snap off easily — cut it open, remove the seeds, and…

…add its innards to the pot. Bring it to a simmer again:

Let the pot simmer for about 7 minutes, then turn off the heat. Use the immersion blender to purée the mixture until you have a smooth, creamy soup:

Season as you see fit. Some recommendations:

  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic powder, garlic salt, or garlic pepper
  • Herbes de provence
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Paprika
  • Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
  • Curry powder
  • Sazon
  • Oregano, or if you’re feeling Middle Eastern, zataar
  • Top with a dollop of sour cream

And serve!

The great thing about this recipe is that you can replace the pumpkin with all sorts of other vegetables. For example, to get a beautiful green pea soup, use peas. Two pounds of frozen peas will do the trick, and they’re soft enough in their raw state that you don’t have to heat them; just add them after you add the stock and bring the mixture to a simmer:

In the end, you’ll have a beautiful, simple, delicious, and healthy homemade soup, and all in about half an hour!

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Anitra Pavka in the big chair at Cheese Boutique, Toronto.

I took these at the Cheese Boutique during a recent trip to Toronto and then forgot about them until yesterday, when I was going through my photos. I hereby declare them the new official photos of Anitra Pavka and Joey deVilla, suitable for use in the intro slides of presentations, author’s photos on book jackets, album covers, t-shirts and plain old general admiration.

(But seriously: If you’re ever in Cheese Boutique, do yourself a favor and pose for a photo in this chair. It makes you look good.)

Joey deVilla in the big chair at Cheese Boutique, Toronto.

I’m also making this the official photo of being 50.

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