Cooking Issues

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If We Make It Through December

December 12th, 2009 · 9 Comments · skoal

posted by Nastassia Lopez with Dave Arnold

Legendary country music rock star, Merle Haggard

We have wrangled our first celebrity wish list skoaler! If you are not familiar with Merle Haggard stop what you are doing and get yourself to Google.  

Dave is a huge fan of this country music icon. Dave sings Merle tunes around the office, and he has his two young sons singing ‘em too. Picture a four year old drawling “toniiiight, the bottle let me dowwwn…”  

Merle had a cancerous piece of his lung removed last year, but he’s still touring and doing shows– a true badass.  We like badasses.  Haggard has written some of the all-time best songs on the subject of drinking.  We like drinking.  His other main themes– love, redemption, and the US of A –ain’t so bad either. Check out I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink and you’ll understand why Dave made it his mission to fly to the January 3 show in Modesto, California.   But would Merle skoal?I put to use one of my special skills: meeting rock stars. I can get backstage at any concert with any artist anywhere, and not the way you think.  Just talking.  Some Merle research indicated that he had stopped doing interviews of any sort — it took him five years to complete a recent Rolling Stone feature and he was pretty much all set. I was undeterred. I tracked down Mr. Haggard’s publicist and pointed her to the Cooking Issues Skoal Project. Too good to be true: her husband is Swedish. She immediately aligned herself with our cause.  But my luck did not end there: Merle’s daughter wants to go to culinary school. The publicist would present our case.  

The next day she called. Merle wants to skoal!   

Now the Cooking Issues team must Make it Through December before Dave hops a plane to Modesto (which, incidently, is the town 13-year-old Merle fled to after escaping juvenile detention in 1950 –badass). Dave needs a ride from the airport, so we’ve recruited Californiano and fellow badass Harold McGee to join the Haggard quest. For those of you who want to join us in the crowd, visit this site for tickets!


9 Comments so far ↓

  • diaana

    hi guys. sorry to ask you such a random question, but i’ve been reading your website for a few months now and i love it. i was hoping you can figure something out for me though… i’m obsessed with making chinese pulled noodles. the ones that get pulled and folded and pulled and folded ending with a bunch of delicious noodles. if you can figure that out for me, i’d be a fan of yours for life.

    • Dave A

      Hi Diaana,
      We have done some work with pulled noodles cause Dave Chang was obsessed with them for a while. They’re made by overworking the dough until the gluten breaks, which is why they are soft. It does take some practice (I never got good at it). There are a couple of Youtube videos. I’ll try to find them and remember my mental notes. Chang wanted to do a hand-pulled noodle that also had some bite. I don’t think its possible. What do you think?

      • diaana

        that had some bite?? what does that mean? like spicy? spicy noodles in spicy soup? haha.. that would be a little overkill. gluten has to break huh… my experimenting will continue then. i asked an old chinese man, and he said give up and just slice the noodles from the dough. but i can’t give up that easy… thanks dave a for some insight.

        • Dave A

          Howdy Diaana,
          For me the pulled noodles are always a little soft (in texture). By bite I meant noodles that have a little more tooth to them. I know Dave Chang likes his noodles with bite (or snap), cause that’s why he got interested in Kansui (alkali solution for making noodles like ramen). Don’t give up on the pulled noodles. The real problem with techniques like that is that there is little detailed technical information available, there are some key “secrets” in the recipe and technique (like breaking the gluten, hydration level, etc), and it takes practice. It is hard to practice if your dough isn’t right, and it is hard to know if your dough is right if you haven’t already successfully practiced! It is one of those techniques best taught by a mentor. I have a lot of things here at the school I’m trying to finish, but I will try to remember to work on the noodles again in the new year.

  • Paul A.


    That reminds me, there’s a great collection of country songs for kids entitled “The Bottle Let Me Down”:

  • Michael Natkin

    You gotta like that Merle Haggard is his real name too, he didn’t take Haggard just to *sound* like a badass.

  • Gregory Amenoff

    Hey Dave, I had no idea you were a merle the pearl fan. I took my daughter whom you may remember to see him in BRANSON Mo. in93. She went backstage alone and hung with the band. I have a great photo of my nine year old with Merle in her gray cowboy boot. Anyway. can you email me directly. I am trying to get in touch. thanks. I have an idea . g