During my recent trip to Cleveland, I stopped in to see my friend Steven Tatar, the man behind the very wonderful Ohio Knitting Mills brand. He always has lots of new projects and schemes percolating, and this time around he was eager to show me a big cache of vintage 1970s belt buckles he’d recently procured. “A lot of them are sports-themed,” he said, “Look, there’s even a Mets logo buckle — that’s got you written all over it!”
Unfortunately, as I explained to Steven, I’m not really the gaudy 1970s belt buckle type, not even when a Mets logo buckle is involved. (Like, it’s not as though I’ve never seen one before. Just not my bag.) “Okay,” he said, reaching into the box of buckles, “but I think you’ll be interested in taking a look at these, even if you don’t want to wear them.”
He began handing over a bunch of buckles. They were interesting. Some were cheesy, some were classy (or at least as classy as a gaudy 1970s belt buckle can be), but almost all were rendered a style I hadn’t seen before. So I started photographing them, figuring they’d make for a good blog post:
Then Steven handed me a buckle that was head and shoulders above the rest. It was a bit smaller than the others, and it depicted — well, here, see for yourself:
Is that magnificent or what? Look at those stirrups! “Okay,” I said, “this I would wear.”
“Well then,” said Steven, “let’s make you a belt.” And just like that, he began making it. First he had me select a leather color (black). Then he began hammering snaps into one end of the belt, where the buckle would eventually be secured (for all of these belt-making pics, you can click to get a larger version)
Then he had me put the belt on, so he could judge how long it should be and where the holes should be located. After I took it off, he began marking the hole positions with a Sharpie and cutting them with a leather punch:
The next step entailed using a cutter to create a tapered point at the end of the belt:
And the final touch — snapping the buckle into place:
And how does it look when being worn with a pair of Levi’s? Not too shabby (with thanks to my pal Liz Clayton for taking this shot):
Interested in having Steven make a belt for you, or maybe you just want one of those buckles? Contact him here.
One final thought: Steven’s studio was full of cool stuff, including this excellent print that nicely summed up my Buckeye State experience…
Culinary Corner: Roasted marrowbones have been showing up on menus all over the place in recent years. I can understand why, since they’re easy to prepare, wholesale purveyors charge next to nothing for them, and a restaurant can sell them as an appetizer for, say, $10, which is almost pure profit. But now I’ve learned there may be another reason for the recent spike in marrowbone popularity.
First, some background: Marrowbones are the shanks (read: shinbones) of beef steers or veal calves. For centuries they’ve been cut cross-wise and served standing upright. There’s even a specialized implement to extract the marrow, called a marrow spoon, which you’ll still see in a few old-school restaurants, although most places now just provide a conventional small spoon or even a long-handled sundae spoon. (Antique marrow spoons can command substantial sums, if you’re into that kinda thing.)
About five years ago, however, I noticed a few NYC restaurants serving marrowbones that had were cut lengthwise and presented horizontally. This quickly caught on, and it’s now by far the dominant marrowbone style in New York (and will soon be in other places too, if it isn’t already, for reasons I’ll get to in a sec). I actually pitched this to several food editors at the time, as a trend story, but they all said it was too esoteric.
When I took that butchery course with Fleisher’s last summer, I learned that this horizontal format is known in the biz as “canoed,” because the lengthwise-cut bone is curved on the bottom, like a canoe.
Canoed marrowbones have their pluses and minuses:
• On the plus side, the lengthy strip of exposed marrow makes it easy to apply a topping prior to cooking — breadcrumbs, herbs, capers, whatever. This, to me, is the single best thing about the canoed format.
• On the minus side, there’s the issue of size. Upright marrowbones can’t be too lengthy, because there’s only so far you can dig with a marrow spoon to extract the goo. But since the marrow in a canoed bone is exposed, there’s no limit to how long the bones can be cut (well, except for the length of the shin itself), which has led some restaurants to serve freakishly long marrowbones. This trend, which I called the Flintstone factor, is usually a bad thing for any kind of food. I mean, I’m all for giant steaks, humungous beef ribs, and so on, but plus-sized food too often turns into a novelty act at best, a frat-boy carnival at worst. I worry that that’s where canoed marrowbones are headed.
• And then there’s this: The canoed style makes it much, much easier to extract the marrow. I realize most people would count this as a plus, and there have certainly been times when I’ve enjoyed the convenience of canoed marrowbones. But marrow is rich, heady stuff — you should have to work for it, and you don’t want to consume too much of it too quickly. And there’s something really nice about the ritual of scooping out the gelatinous goop with a marrow spoon. Personally, I think the canoed style is actually too convenient.
That was pretty much the sum total of my thoughts about marrowbones until a few days ago, when former Uni Watch intern Vince Grzegorek blew my mind by alerting me to this.
As you can see, some enterprising folks have figured out how to turn marrowbones into a booze ritual. According to this article, this party trick was born in L.A. and popularized in Portland. Somewhat predictably, there’s a Tebow version in Denver.
Naturally, restaurants love this stunt (sorry, but I just can’t refer to it by its given name), because now their profitable $10 appetizer can generate bar sales, which are even more profitable. So I think we’re gonna see more of it — a lot more. And I think it probably spells a death knell for the old, upright marrowbone style.
Now, I can see that drinking booze via a marrowbone probably seems kinda fun, in a bachelor party sort of way. I can even see that it might taste good — after all, I like booze and I like marrow.
HOWEVER … come on. This is like Jackass reconfigured for the foodie crowd. It’s like doing Jello-O shots off the back of a cow. It’s like sticking a bottle of Jägermeister inside a turducken. Plus it’s a sure thing that Guy Fieri wishes he’d thought of it first, which tells you everything you need to know. Or in the words of my friend Shane: “Boring. Nero probably did this already, with the marrow of Christians.”
So if you’re presented with the opportunity to engage in this new fad, try to have some fucking dignity and politely decline, won’t you please? Thanks.
On a serious note: As most of you are probably aware, a certain activity is taking place in many corners of the internet today, and you may have been wondering if I would be participating. As you can see, I am not. That decision has less to do with my personal feelings on the issue than with certain professional strictures that I face. (Think hard enough and you can probably figure it out.) Suffice it to say that nobody should interpret my non-participation in today’s activities as an endorsement of the initiative that those activities are protesting, or as a negative commentary on those protests.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Did a really good phone interview yesterday with illustrator Sean Kane, who creates these amazing painted baseball gloves. Big feature to follow soon-ish. … This is interesting: LeBron James was wearing a two-stripe Adidas logo last night. Hmmmm (as noted by Jamin Svendsen). … Robert Golden and Derek Earls, both from Arizona, played together on the same team in the Casino Del Sol All-Star Game (that’s a college football game) in Tucson on Monday night. But Golden wore Arizona’s blue helmet and Earls wore white. … First my top two football teams make it to the conference title game, and now this (from Gordon Blau). What a week! … Kansas football is bringing back NOBs (from Matt Straus). … Ohio State played Michigan in the Frozen Diamond Faceoff at Jacobs Field in Cleveland last Sunday, and Andrew McCarthy has several observations: “(1) It was a color-on-color matchup. (2) Ohio State wore new commemorative uniforms for the game. (3) OSU is becoming the Oregon of NCAA hockey, as this was the fifth different uni they have worn this year, with No. 6 to be broken out Saturday night vs. Ferris State.” … Here’s something I’ve never seen before: purses made out of soccer balls (thanks, Kirsten). … Towson lacrosse coach Shawn Nadelen isn’t letting players wear Towson-branded gear until they “earn” it. Details in the second item on this page (from Charlie Edwards). … What the hell was going on here? Anyone..? (From Jonathan Leib.) … “About a month or so ago I I noticed Rob Ninkovich’s helmet decal was missing in the Pats/Redskins game, but I couldn’t find a picture,” says Chris Batzinger. “Now I’ve stumbled upon a screen shot.” … New logo for Loyola of Chicago. … Here’s a fairly rare sight: Johnny U wearing low-tops. Why? “Super Bowl V was on artificial turf,” explains Ronnie Poore. … What’s with the crazy shoes and socks? “That’s Colonial High School in Florida,” says David Eversten. “I spoke to a game official and he said the coach let them do it as a reward for all their hard work and having a great season.” … “I recently got around to initiating a project called the Bobblehead All-Americans,” says Brock Towler. “It involves me assembling a full team, position by position, of the best, most creative, and most bizarre bobbleheads given away at baseball stadia in a given season. The first annual team is here, and further information is available here.”