News of the Week: Best Places to Live, Good Health Habits, and Some Great American Pies
What Do San Francisco and Boise Have in Common?
Every year, U.S. News & World Report issues a list of the best metro areas in the U.S. to live in, based on a survey of readers. The list is based on many things, including cost of living, jobs, crime statistics, access to good education and healthcare, and other factors. Here’s this year’s list of the top 25.
Number 25 is Omaha, Nebraska, for its affordability. Number 15 is the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area, for the growth and job market. And number one? It’s not Boston (which comes in at number 8 for the low unemployment rate and high salaries) but it does rhyme with it.
The worst place to live in America? For the 30th year in a row, it’s Cabot Cove, Maine. Everybody gets murdered there!
Don’t Eat at Midnight
The common wisdom has always been that if you eat the right kinds of foods (vegetables, fruits, low-fat and low-carb foods) and avoid the bad stuff (too much pasta, too much saturated fats, boxes of Ring Dings) and get some exercise, you’ll be all set. Now we find out that we have to be aware of when we eat foods, too.
Researchers at the American Heart Association say that people who eat breakfast are healthier in general than people who skip it; they have less heart disease and are less likely to have high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Even their blood sugar levels and metabolism are better. Yeah, the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” saying comes to mind.
Research also suggests that if you eat most of your meals and calories earlier in the day, you’ll be healthier. In other words, try to skip that leftover pizza or that bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups while you’re watching The Tonight Show.
I’m not saying I ate a bag of Reese’s Peanut Cups last night at midnight, but I’m sure somebody somewhere did.
RIP Richard Hatch, Professor Irwin Corey, and Alec McCowen
Richard Hatch was best known as Captain Apollo on the original Battlestar Galactica. He also took over for Michael Douglas on The Streets of San Francisco when Douglas left the series in the last season, and had roles on All My Children, Hawaii Five-0, Murder, She Wrote, Dynasty, Santa Barbara, and many other shows and movies. He wrote three Battlestar Galactica novels and tried to get an updated version of the show on the air in the late ’90s but it didn’t happen. A different version did become a hit show in 2004, and Hatch appeared as a different character, Tom Zarek.
Hatch died after a battle with cancer. He was 71.
Professor Irwin Corey is a rather hard–to-describe personality. He was a comic famous for long riffs that included weird wordplay, but he was also an actor, appearing in such movies as Car Wash, I’m Not Rappaport, Jack, and Woody Allen’s The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, as well as TV shows like The Phil Silvers Show and Doc. He also appeared on stage with Richard Dreyfuss in Sly Fox and Marlo Thomas in Thieves. And he had appeared on many variety shows and game shows since the 1950s.
Corey was 102. Here he is on Late Night with David Letterman in 1983.
British actor Alec McCowen had many acclaimed roles on the stage, including in St. Mark’s Gospel, Ivanov, King Lear, Equus, Waiting for Godot, The Philanthropist, and Kipling, but he was a film actor as well. He played the inspector in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller Frenzy, and even played gadget-guru Q in the unofficial James Bond movie Never Say Never Again. He was also in Gangs of New York, A Night to Remember, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, and Hanover Street, along with dozens of British and American TV shows.
McCowen passed away Monday at the age of 91.
Throwing Shade at Arancini in Your Safe Space
Back in September I told you about the new words being added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Now Merriam-Webster has released its list of new words too.
The list released this past week includes ghosting, which is when you suddenly cut off contact with a friend; throwing shade, where you insult someone in a subtle way; microaggression, a term we heard a lot during the presidential election that means (supposedly) a discriminatory action or comment that hurts another person or group; binge-watch, where you watch several episodes of a TV show in a row, thereby getting caught up and probably ruining the experience for you; and safe space, a term popular on college campuses now that Merriam-Webster defines as “a place intended to be free of bias, conflict, and criticism.” In other words, a place that doesn’t or shouldn’t exist.
They’re also adding arancini, which are rice balls. I have no idea why that wasn’t a word already or why it’s suddenly in vogue to the level that it needs to be added in 2017. Was there an arancini meme or hashtag I missed on social media?
Do we even need new words in the dictionary? I don’t think we’ve used all the old ones yet.
Vera Lynn to Release Album for 100th Birthday
I’ll be completely honest and say that I didn’t even realize Vera Lynn was still with us. Not only is she still going strong at 99 (she turns 100 on March 20), she’s going to release an album! The British singer’s Vera Lynn 100 will feature her original vocals — on songs such as “The White Cliffs of Dover” and “Auf Wiederseh’n, Sweetheart” — set to new orchestral arrangements.
The London Palladium will also hold a special concert in honor of Lynn on March 18.
This Week in History
Aaron Burr Born (February 6, 1756)
The Broadway musical Hamilton is massively popular. But does it get Aaron Burr wrong?
The Boy Scouts of America Founded (February 8, 1910)
Here’s a great essay from Jeff Csatari, who modeled for Norman Rockwell’s last calendar painting for The Boy Scouts of America, “Spirit of 1976.”
February Is Great American Pies Month
I have a weird confession to make: I don’t really like homemade pie. It’s not that I dislike it, it’s just that I find that it’s often too flaky, and the apples aren’t what they should be. And I absolutely hate hot pie. I can’t eat a pie hot (or warm). It has to be ice cold. I’m pretty sure this is because I used to eat store-bought Table Talk pies when I was a kid, and they’re still the pies I go to when I buy pies. I just think they taste better.
But most people like hot, homemade pie, so don’t let me stop you from making them!
Apple pie is probably the most American of the American pies, so to celebrate Great American Pie Month in a real American way, here’s a classic recipe from the most American of magazines. Here’s one from Curtis Stone, Spiced Apple Pie. And if you’d like to put apple pie in some historical perspective, here’s an interesting piece from the July 25, 1942, issue of The Saturday Evening Post, “The Decline of Apple Pie.”
Just make sure you don’t make eating pie at midnight a regular habit.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
Valentine’s Day (February 14)
Sure, you could look at all of the great love-related Saturday Evening Post covers or spend a special night out with your significant other, but what if you don’t have someone? You can celebrate Singles Awareness Day, which is officially February 15 but often celebrated on Valentine’s Day. And please note what the acronym is.
National Drink Wine Day (February 18)
If you didn’t drink enough wine on Valentine’s Day, you can do it today. There’s even an official web site for it. I suggest a nice Cabernet Sauvignon.
Curtis Stone’s Spiced Apple Pie
The power of apple pie is awesome: This simple dessert has been making grannies famous for generations. There is something about the smell of cinnamon, cloves, and apples baking in a buttery crust that makes you feel good. I use different varieties of apples to get the best qualities of each, but feel free to use your favorite type. I always make my pastry dough in a food processor, because it is so fast, but I provide a handmade version as a variation here.
Spiced Apple Pie
(Makes 8 servings)
- 2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
- ½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ½ cup ice-cold water
- ⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose four
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Pinch of ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch wedges
- 2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled cored, and cut into ½-inch wedges
- 2 Gala apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch wedges
- ⅓ cup dark raisins
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced
- About 1 teaspoon whole milk
- 2 teaspoons raw or granulated sugar
- Vanilla ice cream, for serving
- To make crust: In food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt to blend. Add butter and pulse about 10 times, until butter is in pea-size pieces. While pulsing food processor, drizzle ice water through feed tube and process just until moist clumps form. Transfer dough to work surface, divide it in half, making one half slightly larger than other half, and form into 2 thick discs. Wrap each one in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1 day.
- Position rack on lowest rung of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. (Being near source of heat helps bottom crust of the pie to bake and brown properly.)
- To make filling: In large bowl, whisk brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt together. Add apple wedges and raisins and mix to combine.
- Unwrap larger disc of dough and set it on a floured surface. Lightly dust top of dough. (If dough is too cold and firm to roll out, let it stand at room temperature, covered, until it softens slightly.) Starting from center of dough and rolling toward edges, roll out dough into 13-inch round, occasionally rotating dough and dusting surface with flour to prevent dough from sticking. Brush away excess flour. Place rolling pin on edge of dough that’s farthest away from you and gently and loosely roll dough up around pin until you have half of it on pin. Hold pin over edge of 9- to 9 ½-inch glass pie plate and unroll dough into dish. Trim overhang to ½ inch. Refrigerate pie shell. Roll out other disc of dough on floured surface into 12-inch round.
- Spread apple mixture in pie shell, then scatter sliced butter on top. Cover pie with remaining dough round. Trim overhang to ½ inch and press edges together, fold dough under itself so it is flush with edge of pie plate. Crimp dough edge decoratively.
- Lightly brush top of pie with milk and sprinkle all over with raw sugar. Using small sharp knife, cut 4 stream vents in the top crust. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° and bake pie for about 55 minutes longer, or, until crust is golden and filling is bubbling through steam vents. Let pie cool on wire rack until warm.
- Cut pie into wedges and serve with ice cream.
Variation: Handmade Pie Dough
In large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, and salt together. Add butter. Using pastry blender or two forks, cut butter into flour until butter is in pea-size pieces. Drizzle ice water over flour and gently toss mixture together to moisten. Turn mixture out onto work surface and gently gather it to form dough.