The Friday Football Foodie: Homemade Pumpkin Sage Crackers & The Existential Crisis
“In August I’m so excited for football season I could just wet myself, but by the middle of the season it’s a slog.”
I forget who said it, but earlier this week someone either made this remark in passing or posted it on Twitter or maybe I just overheard it at the grocery store, but there is a certain truth to the sentiment. There has been enough of a shakeout in talent you know which teams have the impossible road to reach the playoffs (Bills, Lions, Panthers, Cowboys. Wait, Cowboys? I thought they were the team of Super Bowl hosting destiny?), who are the mediocre teams that could either go on a tear or flame-out soon (Redskins, Green Bay, Chiefs), uneven (the entire AFC South), and who we could live without (the entire NFC West).
There’s been Braylon Edwards DUI-gate, Ines Sainz harassment-gate, Reggie Bush’s returned Heisman-gate, return of Roethlisberger-gate, redemption of Michael Vick-gate, return of Santonio Holmes-gates, Dez Bryant buys dinner-gate, Brett Farve penis-gate (almost forgot that one), Randy Moss trade-gate, NFL agents paying college recruit-gate, not to mention the unending talk about a player lockout and the owner proposed 18-week season.
And here we are, Week 7; Helmet-to-helmet-gate. (Which, incidentally, is also unjustly overshadowing Pat McAfee drunk and swimming topless in an Indianapolis canal-gate. Indianapolis has canals?)
I’ve been having a lot of discussions lately with close friends about how we’ve grown weary of the instant web-reaction — and in many cases, overreaction — to the news of the day, whether political, sports or entertainment coverage. It’s not the glory hole quick joke gallows humor of Twitter that wears us down, rather it’s 500-900 word content filler pseudo op-eds that take hollow stands either for or against a particular topic or person which seem to make us feel grayer with each and everyday. Reactions and analysis to stories that are so far from complete, they’ve barely reached their first chapter.
Helmet-to-helmet-gate week has had far too much of this, and I’m exhausted by it all. Posts proclaiming that it’s not fair that James Harrison is playing this week and Josh Cribbs is not and Dunta Robinson should be run out of the league for the hit on DeSean Jackson. These calls are coming from people who have been watching football for years — years! — but suddenly just opened their eyes this past weekend?
On the other side, fans and players have suggested changing the name of the league to the National Flag Football League, the Ballet League (obviously made by people who have never danced or simply do not know that professional ballet has an injury rate between 60-90%, depending on the study), and a fevered few using Facebook to pay what they consider Harrison’s “bogus” fine. Few mentions Mike Webster, Terry Long, Andre Waters and Justin Strzelczyk in this camp.
The new helmet-to-helmet Week 6-fallout rules haven’t even been seen in action, but yet everyone seems to have a side.
But I should be honest here and say that I had an initial gut reaction that took some time for me to work through.
As a fan, my initial reaction and what I said to friends in my fantasy football league was that Goodell’s and the league’s move to crackdown (no pun intended) on hard hits was purely window dressing and insulting to everyone who has been watching the NFL for any extended amount of time. None of the types of hits featured in the NFL safety video were anything new. And if I as a someone who watches the game from the safety of their sofa or the higher-up-the-ramp-more-reasonably-priced-tickets thought those hits were the same-old, same-old, how would the players who have been taught how to make these hits react? So far the player reactions have been mixed, but leaning towards disapproval and confusion. Their views, however, shouldn’t reinforce or excuse my own opinions. Just because someone trusts their ability to walk a tightrope between two high rises doesn’t not mean there isn’t a chance they’re going to go splat onto the ground. Which brings us to our personal responsibility as fans.
Watching any form of entertainment means you are a party to the risk and personal destruction. (Unless your favorite past time is watching clouds, and even then you’re going facing changing weather patterns because you drove to the field in gas guzzling car, so HAHAHA you’re not holier-than-thou either, cloud watchers.) JACKASS 3D made $50 million dollars last weekend at the box office, another smash-hit from a group of people known for, well, smash-hits. Buster Keaton broke his neck during the filming of SHERLOCK JR and is hailed as one of the best physical performers ever on screen. We attend concerts of musicians and comics we know suffer through serious bouts of alcohol and drug abuse to get through performances, and tragically we lose artists every year to these vices. A Michael Bay directed commercial ended in a tragic helicopter crash and an extra from TRANSFORMERS 3 is now in a coma. John Landis and Steven Spielberg still have careers after THE TWILIGHT ZONE and there is a remake of THE CROW in development.
I have Versus on in the background as I type this post and the highlight they run at the end of a bull riding reel is a man being stomped on by giant steer. I paid to see that man stomped on by a bull and my DirecTV payment helped pay for that man to fall on the ground underneath a massive, angry animal.
Are professional athletes another form of stunt performer? Highly trained stunt performers, who we watch in real time and who will not spare us from the visual of tragedy should it occur? Live feeds do not spare us should the unbearable happen before our own eyes. There is no editor cut away the frame before Brandon Lee dies.
This is FOOTBALL, man. We can’t tolerate missed tackles. We want receivers to fear the middle. We watch the linebacker close in behind the quarterback, the blind side, and the quarterback can’t see him coming, and we know it, and the cheers grow louder, the anticipation thicker, we wait impatiently for it, a hit so hard that the ball will go flying and the quarterback will seem to bend backward and …
But we don’t want anyone to get injured. Not seriously injured, for sure. That’s the worst, that moment when the game has stopped, the doctors are huddled over someone on the ground (“He’s not moving!”) and the players surround the scene, many of them with their helmets off, on one knee, like they’re praying — some ARE praying — the football game has turned into a funeral scene. No, nobody wants that. Isn’t that why fans always cheer as players come off the field, either under their own power or on a stretcher? We are with you! We are thinking about you! Nobody wants to see a player seriously hurt, his life forever altered. Nobody wants to meet a former NFL hero in a mall or an airport, and see them limp and groan as they walk. No, nobody wants that. We want them all to pop back up, like Wile E. Coyote always pops up, no matter how many times he falls off a cliff, no matter how many times he is crushed by a boulder, no matter how many times his Acme rocket collides head-on with a cactus.
No, no one really wants to see anyone get permanently hurt. (Other than the demented fools who continue to buy copies of the FACES OF DEATH — Now in HD! — more than thirty years after its initial release.) We’ve become so addicted to the thrill of the near tragic violence it is going to be very difficult back down from the high, so like bunch of sugar addled children and coke sniffing Brooklyn hipsters, NONONONO don’t change the rules is natural reaction, even if we have not yet seen what the rule changes will bring to the game, both in the short and long term.
Those who believe the sudden rule change will improve player safety, again without seeing a single game under the new guidelines, may have their guilty conscience assuaged for at least one more weekend.
I long ago made my separate peace with the fact I am a horrible spirit for taking part in a violent and tragic culture. I watch violence sports, FUCK, I post recipes for people to eat while someone might be getting their spine severed (akin to picnicking at the First Battle of Bull Run, I suppose), I play violent video games, saw xXx in the theater and I’ve supported artists both directly and indirectly while they destroy themselves and others.
Maybe reminding football players not to hit each other in the head is a good idea and in ten years Clinton Portis will have the same cognitive function he has today, or better yet, the same cognitive function he had two years ago before his last concussion. Maybe it will lead to a different type of dangerous injury, say, higher instances of whiplash, and we’ll be faced with more paralyzed players. My opinion shouldn’t be fully formed until we see what happens as a result from the new NFL safer game mandate.
I don’t want anyone to get hurt, but truth of the matter is the only way to avoid destruction is not to play the game.
Now to crackers.
Usually, I post a whole string of photos on how to make these recipes, fill it with some half-funny jokes and vague references to fat players.
Considering the long walk I took above, well. Just look at the photo set here and read the below directions. You’ll figure it out. These are really awesome crackers and I’d be lying to say I haven’t eaten an entire other batch of them while typing this post.
I won’t think you’re a monster for eating them tonight, tomorrow during college football, or even Sunday, when apparently the sun will crack open because NFL defenders are the worst people on the planet.
You will need:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 bunch of fresh sage leaves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons of cold butter (1/2 cup, or one stick of butter)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2-4 tablespoons of half and half or milk
Preheat your oven to 400º.
Either with a pastry blender or in food processor, chop together 2 cups of flour, 1 bunch of sage leaves, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup of cold butter like you were making a pie dough to the granular stage. Add 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree and blend well, until you have a big dough ball. Working a a tablespoon at a time, mix in your half and half or milk until the dough is pliable enough to roll out.
Working with half of the dough at a time, roll out until very thin on a floured surface. Cracker thin. (Tip! I usually roll my dough out on parchment paper that has already been sized for my baking sheet so I know how much space I am working with and because it makes it easier to drop on the pan. No mucking about with tearing the dough when you move it.)
Score into squares with either a pizza wheel, pastry wheel, or a sharp knife. Bake for 15-20 minutes until toasty brown and let cool completely. The crackers will easily break apart. If you want them even crisper, return to a 225º degree oven for about 20 minutes. (Tip! Sometimes when the crackers are still just baking, but reaching the brown just about to burn stage, I turn off the oven, crack the oven door open, and let them finish crisping inside the cooling oven.)
Based loosely on and inspired by, Parmesan Cream Crackers, The New York Times.