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Funbag

Some Annoying Recipes Are Worth It. LIKE MY KICK-ASS POT PIE.

Chicken Pot Pie from Costco. Note....Meagen Ogilvie story.(September 26 11RICK EGLINTON/TORONTO STAR.
Rick Eglinton/Toronto Star

Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about mental health, prayer, wiping your butt with your non-dominant hand, and more.

Your letters:

Jeff:

It’s been a while since you’ve talked about cooking in the Funbag and I’m curious: what’s the best thing you’ve made lately and why was it so good?

I made a kick-ass chicken pot pie the other night. The key is the roux, which I learned from watching my mother-in-law cook. My mother-in-law is German, not Cajun. If you’re from Louisiana, deal with it. All I do for the roux is take a couple tablespoons of butter (call it an inch of the stick), melt it on medium-low heat, add equal parts flour, and then stir it around until it’s nice and dark. Not black, but deep, deep brown. Sometimes I have to add a little extra flour or butter depending on the thickness of the roux. I don’t want it to ball up like dough, but I don’t want it super liquid-y. I want it on the border between syrup and paste.

But before I make the roux, I gotta make the chicken. I buy a raw split breast at the store, cover it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning, and then bake it atop a piece of foil at 350 until the skin is light brown. I take that out of the oven and let it cool, picking at the skin when no one is looking. That’s my right as both a chef and a dad. Once the chicken is room temperature, I break it down, discarding the bones and chopping up the meat/skin. I do NOT throw out the drippings on the foil. Instead, I put all the chicken meat into a bowl, dump the drippings and scrapings of fond on top of them, and set it all aside.

Once the roux is the right color, I add a diced onion, two diced carrots, and two diced celery ribs. More salt and pepper to taste. Once the veggies are soft, I add a handful of frozen peas, the chicken mixture, and two cups of chicken broth. I let that simmer until the liquid in the pan is the consistency of gravy. Once it is, I pour all of it into a big casserole pan, and then cover it with a store-made pie crust dough. If you want this recipe to take several more hours and give you carpal tunnel syndrome, you can make your own pie crust. I never have and never will. I crimp the dough along the edges of the casserole dish, brush it with an egg wash, sprinkle the top with salt, poke a few holes in the crust, and then shove it all back into the oven for another 20–30 minutes, until the crust is brown and bubbling.

There are a lot of steps to this recipe, perhaps enough to make it a dealbreaker for you. But one thing I’ve discovered in all my years of cooking is that there are involved recipes that are genuinely fun to make, as opposed to being a straight pain in the ass. This pot pie falls into the former category, as do chili, homemade cookies, and a few other classics. The work is the point. The work is the love, and I love making chicken pot pie. I love watching shitty football as I go through every step in the recipe. I love my kids asking what’s for dinner and hearing them go OOOH! when I tell them the news. I love how the pie tastes, especially if it’s cold out. And mostly, I love that I long ago abandoned making small individual pies for everyone in favor of just one big one. The former truly IS a pain in the ass.

I never thought much of chicken pot pie when I was a kid. It was shitty cafeteria food to me. Some foods remain that way in my mind, even when cooked well (looking at you, meatloaf), but pot pie has escaped from that prison of memory. I can cook the FUCK out of a pot pie. Just don’t ask me to make the crust from scratch. Won’t happen.

Eric:

My uncle was a pastor at a Michigan church that Kirk Cousins family attended. He says he prays for him every day. My question is, does prayer work?

Yes, and that’s not strictly if you’re a religious person. We all know that I, Drew Magary, am a devout Promise Keeper. Prayer clearly works for me and my fellow men of worship. But luckily for heathens, prayer also has proven psychological and even physical benefits for everyone. This makes perfect sense, when you think about it. If I’m sick and I pray to whoever or whatever, that prayer gives me comfort. If someone prays for me at my bedside, I’m comforted by their act of love and my mind and body pep up accordingly. Same as if a therapy dog visits you when you’re in the hospital. Any interpersonal or intrapersonal act that conveys love and goodwill is likely to have a positive effect on you, even if it’s psychosomatic.

It gets a little dicier once if you insert multiple degrees of separation. If I see Kirk Cousins face-to-face and tell him, “I have prayed for you,” and I say it in a non-Minnesotan way, Kirk Cousins is gonna feel better about his day. He might even convert a third down. But if I pray for him when he’s not there—when I’m standing in some pulpit and he’s busy out there on the field checking down to his third read only because his first two reads aren’t open by 10 yards each—that doesn’t mean fuck all. Ditto if I stand here at my desk and type out, “Please God, I pray for you to send Kirk Cousins to Houston in an enormously lopsided trade,” that will do neither Kirk Cousins nor I any good. Kirk can’t hear me. God can’t, either. I know because I’ve already openly prayed for such occurrences many times, and look what I have to show for it.

For prayer to work, you actually have to mean it. You have to believe in it, even if you don’t believe in God per se. If the prayer you’re incanting, or the prayer that someone is incanting for you, has been made in good faith, then that’s where the proven benefits come in. But I grew up in the golden age of televangelism, and am now living through the current Evangelical scourge plaguing the redlands of America, so I know what bad-faith prayer looks like. It looks like this:

I know when people are praying for their own gain and nothing more. I hear these prayers a LOT during election season. God ain’t gonna hear a word of that shit. Real prayers work and fake ones don’t.

David:

How often do you have to remind yourself during an NFL game that the players can’t see the first down line?

It’s more that I have to remind myself that it’s not official. Even when the play-by-play guy issues their standard “the yellow line is not official!” PSA, I’m still like OK but he was still clearly fucking short. The ceremonial “bringing out of the chains from the far end of the field” ceremony then disabuses me of that thought. The first-down line SHOULD be official, as far as I’m concerned. It should appear on the field itself, via some kind of subterranean lighting system, and everyone should obey it. I’m sick of the chains. Fuck the chains. I pray for Line to become real.

Matt:

Wouldn’t football benefit my returning goal posts to their original position along the goal line? NFL owners elected to move them to the back of the end zone at the end of the 1974 season, apparently because they wanted to incentivize teams to try to score touchdowns instead of field goals. However given how the game has evolved, especially offense, and how much better kickers are, wouldn’t it be fun to return the goal posts to increase scoring? Teams could reasonably attempt a field goal even if they didn’t cross midfield.

You refuted your own proposal when you noted how much better kickers are in today’s NFL. And holy shit, are they ever. Of the 29 field goals in NFL history that have been made from 60 yards and beyond, 25 of them were made this century. Seven of them were made in the past three seasons alone. I have never seen head coaches more open to attempting long field goals than they are right now, and that’s not merely because I’ve lived through Jeff Fisher’s entire coaching career. It’s often a legit scoring option. Wil Lutz of the Saints attempted not one but TWO 60-plus-yarders against Minnesota, and was a double-doink away from making them both.

Is it WISE to settle for an attempt at that range? The past two months of Denver Broncos football have taught us that it is not. But the point remains: If you want teams to be more ambitious about attempting long field goals instead of punting the ball away, that’s already happening. So I’m content with the goalposts remaining exactly where they are. You should have to move the ball a LITTLE on offense to score those three points. You shouldn’t get a field goal as your reward for a drive that goes three plays and nets minus-six yards. That’s horseshit.

Also: if you move the goalposts back to the front of the end zone, someone on the Chargers will run into them and die.

Mark:

You ever get so high you shit yourself? Trying to cut back on drinking means more weed, but today I didn’t quite make it to the toilet in time. Especially not to go full naked, as per usual (yes, naked shits rule).

I haven’t. I’ve DRANK until shitting myself, which I do not recommend. But I’ve yet to have a marijuana experience so transcendent that my bowels free themselves from their usual constraints. But fingers crossed, amigo.

More important, I wonder if Mark, who has written in about his naked shitting habit in the past, is so eager to shit in the nude that he disrobes in any public restroom stall. I’d admire that level of commitment.

Larry:

Mike McDaniel went from young, refreshing, and non-coachspeak guy to alpha weirdo dumbass in a single quote, AMIRIGHT? “Everything’s reactionary anyway,” he said. “So if people want to [give their opinion], whatever. If I’m spending time thinking about that, let’s say Monday night for five seconds, that’s five seconds that I’m not thinking about all the other things that relate to the team and the upcoming game.”

I stood by Mike McDaniel in this column right before that Thursday night game where Tua Tagovailoa’s brain got turned into oat slurry and McDaniel toed the company line in the postgame by saying his concussion before that was actually a lil backache. So I’m taking a great (GREAT!) risk in endorsing him here yet again. But fuck it, I live to be wrong. I’m addicted to being wrong. I hope to be so wrong one day that I shit myself. So I still think McDaniel is a great coach. That above quote doesn’t dissuade me in any way. If you invoke the words “cancel culture” or “woke” in a derisive manner, then I know you’ve crossed the fabled Aaron Rodgers Threshold. But the above quip is just boilerplate coachspeak, which even the new and improved generation of NFL head coaches use from time to time, because it works. It gives the media something to print, but it doesn’t open the coach up to resentment from his players or his assistants. The best coaches lie to the public, and McDaniel isn’t exempt from that.

Also, he’s right. Everything IS reactionary. I’ve been online long enough to know that. Shit, being a reactionary is what I get paid to do. Tuning my ass out is not only in your self-interest, it’s practically mandatory.

HALFTIME!

Joe:

When one of my children spills a glass of milk I turn into a Buddhist monk. “No crying over spilt milk” has made it impossible for me, and I assume millions of other parents, to lose my temper. What other situations would you like to have a “no crying over spilt milk” style incantation for?

The funny thing is that if my kid spills something, I’m like Joe in being fairly sanguine about it. I say, “That’s OK, just clean it up,” and then they clean it up. It’s an entirely different matter if I’m the one who spills something. I’m not a child. I have no excuses. But when I accidentally knock over a full glass of water, right before I’m about to eat a breakfast taco, no less? I scream FUCK OFF so loud it shows up on local seismographs. Pisses me off to no end. Makes me want to kill God. Double that fury if I spill any type of granular substance: sugar, coffee grounds, Metamucil, etc. I try so hard to not spill sugar, because spilling sugar is the worst thing since World War II. I dip the spoon into the sugar jar carefully and then extract it like I’m taking a new baby out of the incubator. Then I ding it on the lip of the jar, it goes flying all over the counter and even down onto the floor, and then I throw that motherfucking sugar jar through the kitchen window. Fuck you, sugar. You can eat my ass.

I see that I haven’t answered Joe’s question. Clearly I need a mantra for spilling my own sugar. I could also use one for standard traffic irritants: people who don’t signal when they’re about to turn left, local lanes closed due to private construction (where do they get the BALLS), gravel trucks that are covered in a deliberately loose fashion so that a pebble will fly out of them and shotgun my windshield, Pennsylvanians, etc. I have lived in an annoying traffic area for decades now. I should be used to this shit. I should say to myself, “This is where you chose to live,” and be done with it. But for real, you should see some of the motherfuckers here who think they have the right of way over the rest of the world because they have to make a U-turn.

Elsewhere, I have two incantations that I already live by. The first one is the cliché, “It is what it is.” It’s my reminder to not spend my entire day angry at the world. Yes, it’s fucked up. Yes, people are wronged every second of every day. But I ultimately only have so much power to change any of that. The world will never be perfect in my lifetime or yours, and so I have come to grips with the fact that certain things are the way they are. God, grant me the serenity, etc. Another prayer that works, if you ask me. If the bad things change one day—be it with my assistance or not—then great. If not, I can’t wallow in that shit. Climate change is upon us? It is what it is. Donald Trump will never go to prison? It is what it is. Russell Bufalino wants me to put Jimmy Hoffa in the cold, hard ground? It is what it is.

I don’t want these things and I don’t accept them, but also: I only have one life to live. I can’t spend that life tapping my foot impatiently waiting for everything it un-fuck itself, like I’m hoping for a train to arrive. I have to take the world on its terms, appreciate the nice shit it has to offer (BIKE!), and try to live as best I can from there. That’s true of my personal being, as well. I can’t do anything more about my lack of smell, or my hearing loss, or my bad back. I’ve done what I can to mitigate those losses, and I have to be satisfied that’s enough. If things deteriorate further—and the laws of both time and biology make that a certainty—it is what it is. I don’t wanna spend my whole life fighting everything.

The second one is something that my therapist told me in passing, but stuck with me ever since. I was ruminating on something. This was the chief problem I dealt with after suffering from Adjustment Disorder in the wake of my brain hemorrhage: I would ruminate. I would stew. I would fixate on something that bothered me and then imagine entire arguments with other people based on those fixations. I have gotten much better about not ruminating thanks to therapy, but I still lapse. Anyone who’s had issues upstairs is familiar with such lapses. So I told my therapist that I was ruminating on something that pissed me off, and at one point in our exchange she said, “You can notice the thought and then let it pass.” This wasn’t some shit she etched onto a stone tablet and gave me. But it was so CORRECT that I now reflexively think of it anytime I get existentially angry about something that doesn’t merit that level of ire. I notice the irritation, give it the acknowledgement it craves, and then I let the thought swim away.

This is easier said than done at first, but I’ve learned how to distract my grudging mind with other thoughts or, more important, other things to DO: cooking a pot pie, reading, playing video games, etc. I put a distance between myself and the bitterness, and often that distance holds.

But fuck that sugar, man.

Jamoosh:

I recently went to the hospital for a procedure and sans the wait time, filling out forms was the longest part of the ordeal. I work in tech and you should not be surprised if a hospital has equipment still running on Windows Server 2008. I did a project at a hospital in 2016 and they were still installing Windows XP on desktops with discs (not even CDs), for goodness sake. And Windows 7 was released in 2009! Shouldn’t patient intake be the easy part of the equation?

The health care system is bullshit? My friend, it is what it ***YOU SHOOT ME IN THE FACE***

Here in the DC area, I’ve gone to a lot of doctor’s offices that ask you to sign in using an iPad. Or you can check in virtually 24 hours beforehand on their website. I am conditioned to gripe about filling out forms and about all tech in general, so you better believe that when a doctor’s receptionist asks me, “Have you tried using our portal?” my reflexive answer is, “Go fuck yourself, tiger!”

However, the bulk of the digital intake tools really do make everything easier and faster. That’s one of the advantages of living in one of the more affluent metropolises in this country. The medical infrastructure here is, predictably, better than in a lot of other places. Less advantaged areas have doctors and hospitals that have to scratch and claw for every dollar, which is how they end up running all of their systems through a single Commodore 64. It’s not right. But please don’t tell some self-appointed tech savior like Elon Musk about it, because their solution to the problem will be both redundant and also worse.

George:

I’ve noticed when I wipe after taking a shit, I always use my off-hand (I’m a lefty but wipe with my right). I’m curious if everyone does this or just me, so I wanted to ask you and the commentariat: is this common?

I doubt it’s the norm, but you’re not a circus freak or anything. I don’t use my dominant hand (right) when I use my phone. This too is atypical, but guess who gets to scroll through his Gmail WHILE wiping? –>This lucky fella!<–

Nick:

Which NFL team do you think has the lowest percentage of players who stay in their team’s city once the season is over? Does ANYONE from the Packers roster just hang out in Green Bay for February in the upper Midwest? Can you run into Bills players at the Walgreens in Buffalo over the summer? It has to be one of those two teams, right?

At the upper salary levels, every team has transient players. If you’re filthy rich and you only have to work in your team’s city for five months a year, you don’t live there. You keep your home in Orlando (pro athletes LOVE to live in Orlando for some reason), or in California, or in your hometown, and then you commute as necessary. Gets dicier if you have a family and have to put down roots in one place for the sake of schools etc., but the big-name guys still have enough money and enough access to child care to make it work.

But if you’re a fourth-rounder making the rookie minimum? Well then you’re stuck living wherever the nefarious draft put you. The good news is that if you stay in Cincinnati for years and pretend to like it, both the local media and the NFL media will beatify you without hesitation. “Tee Higgins not only plays for Cincinnati, he also belongs to a local bowling team here, too! Special guy!”

Matt:

What are a few movies you most think deserve a sequel? 

Undercover Brother. Really, that’s the entire list. Every other movie that needs a sequel already got one.

Shane:

What are your thoughts about talking to your own kids about seeking mental health if they need it? What age would you have that talk with them, or should they find their own way?

My oldest kid goes to a therapist. She’s hardly alone. I know a ton of other parents whose kids are in therapy, with the pandemic as the chief underlying culprit. Because I suffered an acute brain trauma that left ME in need of therapy, I’ve never been hesitant since to talk to any of my kids about that stuff. It’s like teaching your kids about any other serious issue: You give them the pertinent information, you offer to answer any questions they might have about it, you model your own behavior appropriately, and then you let them take the reins from there. Kids work better when they feel like they have some power over the choices they make in life.

That’s true of mental health as well. And while I have some issues with how America still treats the mentally ill, there is a refreshing number of role models and discourse out in the greater culture to edge my kids in the direction of seeking help if they think they need it. They’re even taught this at school. All of that is a welcome development. Also, my daughter wants to be a psych major now. She got a 5 on the AP Psych exam. I’m a very proud dad, but I won’t make that my Twitter bio or anything.

Email of the week!

Steve:

So we all have things that we know are legit weird but we do them anyway. For me, it’s taping live sports and watching them late at night. It started out of necessity. Having three young kids, doing the typical night time routines & activities usually made watching a Mets or Knicks game at 7:30 a near impossibility. So instead, I would tape the games. Once everyone in the house was in bed, usually around 10 if I was lucky, I would put on the taped game. I’d fast forward through commercials or dead spots (baseball is full of them) and usually be done within 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Now doing this meant that, in order to not know what happened, I couldn’t check social media and basically had to silence all texts. After a while, most of my friends and family knew not to randomly not to text me or call me since they knew I wouldn’t be watching until later.

Now my kids are older and handle themselves. If I wanted to, I probably could watch the Knicks at 7pm like every other normal person. But I don’t want to. This forces me to stay off Twitter until I finish the game (not a bad thing) and avoid any texts or calls from friends (also not terrible). I know it’s weird, but it’s how I prefer it and I’m sticking to it.

I respect it. I could NEVER have that kind of personal discipline myself. Kills me if everyone else is watching sports and I’m not.