I was at the dentist’s office last week, and like every other time seems to be, I ended up having to wait for a good half an hour before getting into the cleaning. That meant I had plenty of time to peruse the magazine selection, and I have to say folks, it made me mighty sad. All these recipes for kale chips and desserts with vegetables and “ancient” grain that are supposed to taste just like the original. Well, let me be the first to tell you, they don’t.
Sometimes, things aren’t supposed to be good for you. Isn’t that the point of dessert in the first place?
So, I wanted to take a minute on the blog today to give a well-deserved tribute to the classic American foods that are being attacked in every page for being unhealthy. And they’re not healthy, but they’re damn filling and they make you feel good. Isn’t there a place for that in the cooking magazines anymore? Apparently not.
Here’s a few favorites that I loved as a kid and still love today.
There’s something about messy food, isn’t there? It makes you just like a kid again. Sloppy joes are the great social leveler. Doesn’t matter if you’re a preacher or a plumber, nobody eats a sloppy joe gracefully. They’ve got all the best things, too: hamburg, ketchup, a bun… it’s like having a burger that’s also a lasagna. Mmm. And no, they can’t be made with Quinoa.
These are my favorite cookies ever, mostly because they remind me of my Mom. There was nothing like the smell of coming home from school and seeing a plate of fresh snickerdoodles on the kitchen table. I still make them now and again when I think of her, and you can’t do Christmas without them. Yes, Christmas. None of this Happy Holidays stuff. When did that become normal? I swear I haven’t heard a single Merry Christmas this year. Sad times, folks.
Enough said. (that’s one of the only slang phrases these days I actually like using… seems apt in this context. Nothing more American than meatloaf!).
Macaroni and Cheese
Here’s one thing that’s been thoroughly ruined by the “gourmet”, snob society. Macaroni and cheese should be simple and easy. Mom just used pasta, cheese, some flour, milk, and bread crumbs on the top. That’s it. You don’t need to add shaved whatever, or truffle oil nonsense. And it needs American cheese, not gouda or any of those other European ones. The best things in life aren’t complicated. Nothing better than mac and cheese on a cold day, or after a long tinkering session in the garage.
I couldn’t talk about food without talking about apple pie. It’s the only thing more American than meatloaf, I stand corrected by myself. Again, it’s about keeping things simple. Apple, sugar, cinnamon, and tons of butter. An apple a day, right? How can they say this isn’t healthy? Anyway, that’s all for this week, just some thoughts about how good we had it with food back in the day.
Today I wanted to talk about my main hobby, passion, and as my wife would say, obsession: vintage cars. I’ve been collecting cars since I got my first real job, and I still have the first Thunderbird I ever owned.
So, why do I run multiple vintage cars?
First off, they’re so satisfying to drive. They used real motors back then, none of this eco-boost nonsense. Until you’ve heard the roar of a ‘50s Chevy V12, you haven’t truly driven. And since gas is so cheap right now, I don’t really have anything to worry about cost-wise.
Second, these old workhorses have a personality that you just don’t find nowadays with these indistinguishable hatchbacks and boxy SUVs. Sure, they’re not as practical for a road trip, but those designers actually designed. They didn’t just slap some plating on the sides of the frame.
Besides the looks and power, the one thing that keeps me coming back to my ‘50s and ‘60s cars is the fact that they’re pretty much indestructible.They’re also the easiest things in the world to maintain. I can’t tell you how many of those new little sedans my wife buys have gone kaput because of a crappy part, or because the computer failed.
There’s no computer on my cars, it goes without saying. When something goes wrong, it’s a physical part that’s easy to find and replace or repair. If you need tips for maintaining your car, just like how I do with mine, read on.
It keeps my cars on the road for decades longer than anything that’s built today and it gives me the chance to get to be a better mechanic, and to appreciate better how much thought went into these machines when they first went down the assembly line.
So, to keep mine on the road, I’ve taken a few steps. First things first, the upholstery had to go. Much as I love the rest of the parts on these cars, no cloth is going to stand up well over half a century! I’m really pleased with what I’ve done to the fleet. I found a restoration guy in Cincinnati who does a great job using upholstery that’s dead-on to what the original was. I’ll put up some pictures soon.
I also clean the hell out of the fuel injectors on any old cars I acquire. And I use an additive to keep it from coming back. Back in the day, nobody really thought about fuel injectors. They just burned through gas like nobody’s business, and it was dirt cheap. I can’t remember a single time my parents complained about gas prices before the ‘70s. And I’ve found that most old motors are actually fine in a mechanical sense, but they lose all their power since the injectors are all gummed.
Honestly, I know as well as the next person that injector cleaner looks like snake oil on the shelves at the auto shop, but it’s made a bigger difference in the overall performance of my fleet than any single mechanical improvement I’ve made. I think it’s safe to say that slow accumulation of crud is the most powerful car killer, and this is the stuff to clear it all out.
Anyhow, my experience is that blasting out the injectors gives a lot of those escaped horsepowers back the the engine, and it does get you some better mileage, although I would never exactly call a Thunderbird a gas sipper.
And, of course, you can’t be a vintage car driver without spending an arm and a leg on a beautiful new coat of paint. It’s a painstaking process to find the exact right color being made these days, but there’s no better feeling than getting it right. I spend months on each paint job, but when I’m done, I can rest easy knowing I’m going to wax and polish these beauties so I never have to do it again.
You get to problem-solve like a puzzle, and you can do it all yourself without having to have somebody look at a control panel, or call their tech support.
Anyway, that’s a little bit more about why I restore and drive old cars, and about my general process. Each car takes its own special care, but I have to say that each one is worth every penny I’ve put into them for sheer joy. If you guys have any restoration projects to share, I’d be very excited to see them in the forum. Thanks.
These days, it’s hard to find things that are still made here in the States. Even brands that sound patriotic usually have some fine print further down past the eagles on the packaging saying they’ve shipped things from China or somewhere similar.
I’ve been on a hunt the past few years to find companies I can support that make their products here still. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. After all, as the saying goes, they just don’t make things like they used to, but here are a few places that do.
I wouldn’t call myself a good guitarist by any stretch, but I do a very good run through of the 4-chord classic rock canon. This company makes a bunch of guitar straps from old car upholstery and seat belts, which couldn’t really be any cooler. They do belts and wallets, too, all out of CA and for very reasonable prices. Glad to give them my business for men’s accessories.
Darn Tough (what a name, right?) is a sock company from the tiny state of Vermont. They make socks that are guaranteed to last forever. Now, they don’t actually last indefinitely, and I’ve worn through a pair or two myself. They last for years, though, and when they get holes, you can bring them back to the store to swap them for some fresh ones. I don’t always do that, mostly because I’m pleased with the service they give me, and I like to support a good business instead of taking advantage of them. Highly recommended in the hosiery department, folks.
When I take my cars out for a road trip, the first thing I grab is my Duluth Pack. These bags last forever, much longer than cheap Chinese luggage. You pay a small fortune up front, but it’s well worth it over the long term, trust me. They’re heavy-duty leather, with solid metal clasps and rivets. Indestructible, and they’re something you end up just holding to appreciate the quality.
Whenever it gets cold, there’s nothing better than a good wool blanket, right? I don’t know how much more to say about Pendleton besides that they make sweaters and mittens as well. Just good simple wool products from here in the heartland.
As I’ve written many times, I’m a classic American eater. Nothing too fancy, just good home cooking. When I get to making supper for my wife and I, I generally use a cast iron pan. They’re pretty near bullet proof, and they’re the only thing you could possibly use for southern cooking. Lodge is a family company making cast iron here in the Appalachians.
I don’t color much anymore, like most guys my age, but when I was out buying Christmas presents for the grandkids, I got the urge to take a look at the box, and lo and behold, everyone’s favorite crayons are still made here! Well done, Crayola.
Guitars: Fender, Gibson, Martin
Guitars are one of the most distinctive pieces of American manufacturing after cars, I’d say. These three big makers all make their instruments here, although Gibson imports their Epiphone instruments and Fender has a few different offshoots made in Mexico or Asia. Still, when it comes to premier sound, pretty much every artist buys one of these three brands, which is a big victory for our craftsmen
Fuel injector cleaners, additives, and spare car parts
The more I’ve gotten involved in restoring and repairing my fleet of vintage cars, the more I’ve learned that when it comes to where the best mechanical products and parts are made, some things don’t change.
Pretty much every single tool, solution, or additive I use in my garage is from right here in the states. I get all my fuel injector cleaners, fuel additives, wrenches, and spare parts here. All my upholstery in the redone interiors is US vinyl, too. I mean, you couldn’t ruin a perfectly beautiful American vehicle with cheap Chinese junk, could you?
So, not only do we still make the best cars in the world (I think that’s indisputable since Ford got their act together last decade), we still make all the things you need to keep them running like the best in the world.
There you have it-my list of American companies you should give your patronage. If you’ve got any suggestions for additions, please let me know in the forum. I’d be interested to see what I’ve missed. Let’s hear it for American manufacturing.