Smug Bowl = Smug Nature Experience

Big city Smug people, unlike their woodsy New England and Pacific Northwest counterparts, have an ambivalent relationship with nature. On the one hand, they love its dramatic beauty and lovely pre-reclaimed raw materials. On the other hand, it can be messy and disgusting, even dangerous. This is why big city Smug people, for example, tend not to like sleeping in a nylon bag on top of insect-infested dirt or grass, an unsavory activity also known as “camping.” Smug Scout recently read in a Smug West Coast magazine called “Sunset” about a popular new Smug activity known as “glamping.” She has a strong distaste for such inane neologisms, but now she understands what this one means: large tents with reclaimed pine plank floors, king size feather beds (naturally including turndown service), elk-antler bedside lamps, and private bathrooms with heated slate floors. It means local seasonal organic cuisine, often featuring local seasonal organic wild animals, served in a rustic lodge dining room or by some bearded laconic peon directly to the tent. It means outdoor activities that require North Face or Patagonia faux roughing-it costumes and, for legal reasons, an extremely experienced team of local guides. Smug Scout believes that this pale, defanged adventure can cost about $500 a night.

Smug Scout will be blunt: she is no more interested in glamping than she is in camping. She does not want to sleep in some foppish tent. She does not want to eat local seasonal organic wild animals. In fact, she hopes their living relatives will pillage those overwrought “tents” while the phony campers are away on some trumped-up “wilderness experience.” She certainly does not go “rafting” or “fly-fishing.” Her desire for all things rustic seems to have one massive limitation: she does not like to visit the scene of the rusticity; she really only wants a precious souvenir from it. For this precise and utterly cockeyed reason, she recently fell in love with the reclaimed wood bowl you may have already spotted in the above photo of a reclaimed wood bowl. This reclaimed wood bowl is a Smug masterpiece because it has the rare distinction of simultaneously embodying both the stunning beauty and unpredictable ferocity of nature. You can see the lovely rings and the handcrafted looking shape. You can guess that it was as expensive as handcrafted objects with zero practical utility usually are ($80) and purchased at a Smug venue (the artisanal Piedrasassi wine tasting room in Lompoc, California). What you may not see, what you must feel, is that it has extremely sharp, rough edges. You could get a splinter. You could cut yourself. You could catch your hand-knit fair trade humane non-mulesed-wool sweater on its feral points.

So we are left with the following paradox: Smug people would rather bring nature indoors than bring themselves outdoors. So be it. This pretentious tomfoolery is much better for the local economy than a bunch of primitives in sleeping bags who use trees for toilets.

Smug Cocktail in Santa Monica

Here is a revelation for approximately none of you: Smug Scout consumes many Smug cocktails. She has mixed feelings about these, if mainly glowingly positive, so you may in fact be wondering what exactly makes a cocktail Smug. Here are the crucial criteria:

  • It will take a ridiculously long time to make, perhaps ten or fifteen minutes, because every single element will be painstakingly layered and mixed (seldom shaken), of course very, very slowly, which is to create excitement as well as to justify a breathtakingly high price that Smug customers will call “the cost of artisanal molecular labor.”
  • It will be made by a bartender, called a mixologist, most likely a man in a three piece suit and laughable Civil War era facial hair. He may have a watch chain, but this is purely decorative, as he only knows how to use his iPhone to tell time.
  • It will feature local artisanal small batch spirits with brand names unknown to almost all customers, including some of the Smug ones. You will not find anything as gauche as Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, etc. You will find handmade looking labels that are covered in text in old fashioned looking fonts. The most Smug spirits today, especially rye and bourbon, will not come from a flyover red and redneck state but rather New England or the West Coast.
  • It will include any of the following ingredients: local organic fruit, possibly marinated or infused in the booze; local organic vegetables, possibly pickled in house and displayed in mason jars; spices, always in their whole, unground form; and heirloom eggs, usually minus the anorexia-unfriendly yolks.
  • It may require devices not commonly associated with drinks, perhaps a mini blowtorch to char a citrus peel, or a compressor to pressurize nitrogen for a dramatic, even potentially deadly, chemical coldness without the boring pedestrian quality of ice cubes. Still, Dr. Smug Scout would like to point out that no one has needed to have her stomach violently removed after eating plain old dull ice cubes; on a Smug scale, having your stomach chopped out is ultimately less Smug than drinking a cocktail with ice.
  • If it is a drink on the rocks, it will feature one single rock. Smug cocktails do not need more than one specially shaped gigantic ice cube that in Smug Scout’s opinion drastically reduces the amount of alcohol she is paying an extortionate sum to drink.
  • It may feature foams, bubbles, airs, mists, vapors, smoke, and flames. Smug Scout finds this presentation no more than vaguely interesting. After impatiently waiting an eternity for her drink, she does not care that it arrives in a cloud of smoke or mist or fog or smog or whatever the fuck it is. All of that drama disappears after one sip and leaves no trace beyond a massive bill.
  • It may feature garnishes you will not want to eat, such as a raw bean or unripe berry or blackened lemon rind (see above), or absolutely should not eat, such as a piece of leather or tobacco for “Wild West” style cocktails, or removable parts of trees, such as twigs, bark, acorns, and leaves. Smug Scout imagines those latter items in Smug New England cocktails.

Smug Scout may not be Smug enough for all of those elements, but she is Smug enough for some of them. She recently had an incredibly Smug and lovely cocktail at a Smug restaurant in Santa Monica called Rustic Canyon. It is called Lift Off and features Old Tom heirloom small batch artisanal gin, arugula, fresh cranberry, lime, agave, and artisanal ginger beer. It may not have arrived enshrouded by mist, but its Smug pedigree is strong:

  • It took ten minutes to make by a somber bartender in a brown three piece suit and 19th Century facial hair.
  • It contains local arugula. Arugula. No additional commentary necessary.
  • It contains a raw cranberry that Smug Scout was strongly advised not to put in her mouth and chew.
  • It contains a gin Smug Scout did not know: Old Tom. At first she thought it was an obscure brand, but then later she learned that it is a rare recipe from the mid-1800s. This is more Smug even than Prohibition-era cocktails because when it comes to drinks, the older the recipe, the more Smug the concoction. Still, Smug Scout wonders cynically what is next. American Revolution-era pirate-imported rum cocktails made by bartenders in waistcoats and tricornes?
For anyone seeking further information on Old Tom gin, here is a description from the incredibly Smug Ransom Spirits web site. Smug Scout is not sure if this exact gin was part of her Smug Cocktail–not one of the cagey Rustic Canyon employees she asked revealed the brand–but it was either that or one of three like it available in this country.
N.B. Someone at Ransom needs to learn correct apostrophe placement.

“This Old Tom Gin is a historically accurate revival of the predominant Gin in fashion during the mid 1800’s and the golden age of American cocktails. The recipe was developed in collaboration with historian, author, and mixologist extraordinaire David Wondrich. Old Tom is the Gin for mixing classic cocktails dating from the days before prohibition. Its subtle maltiness is the result of using a base wort of malted barley, combined with an infusion of botanicals in high proof corn spirits. The final distillation is run through an alambic pot still in order to preserve the maximum amount of aromatics, flavor and body. Only the ‘heart of the hearts’ (the very best portion of distillate) is retained for this special bottling.”


Smug Recycling Contraption

If there is a Smug recycling contraption somewhere in the world, where do you, my Smug readers, think it could possibly be? Take this test:

  • A. Switzerland, which has the highest rate of recycling worldwide
  • B. San Francisco, which has the most comprehensive recycling program in the U.S.
  • C. Los Angeles, which offers full recycling and composting at area farmers’ markets
  • D. Portsmouth, which is in the state of New Hampshire

You will be astonished to find out that the winner is D, Portsmouth. Enough with the Portsmouth mania, you non-Portsmouth residents may be crying out. Too bad Portsmouth routinely outdoes all other epicenters in virtually any Smugness competition. Smug Scout simply cannot ignore the fact that Portsmouth all but invented Smug Scout.

And now Portsmouth has this new bossy and redundant recycling contraption. Smug Scout is fascinated that it not only tells you what to do, it also repeats that same information as what not to do. For example, the left side is for “No Trash” but the right side is for “Trash.” Similarly, the left side demands “Cans” which the right side rejects: “No Cans.” This redundancy is moron-friendly. In essence, a moron only needs to read one set of instructions to operate the contraption accurately, but if he/she is too befuddled, the other set gives the same instructions negated, so the chance of accurate placement of disposed items increases. What a Smug and savvy system, Portsmouth!

The other aspect Smug Scout loves is the implicit dire warning involved in the sign on the right: “Landfill.” For Smug people, “landfill” may as well mean “nuclear waste dump site.” For Smug Portsmouth residents, it may also mean “Turnkey Landfill,” which is a grotesquely large fetid stinking mass of a garbage dump in the nearby town of Rochester. Smug Scout only knows about this because a Smug Portsmouth Bartender friend took her there as part of an extensive tour of his hometown and its environs. He thought it would be funny for Smug Scout to be utterly disgusted. Smug Scout was actually more disgusted by the anti-Smug restaurant he brought her to afterwards, but she digresses.

In short, you do not want to need the “Landfill” side. You do not want to buy anything you have to dispose of there. You do not want that self-righteous judgment from spying Smug bystanders. If you cannot finish, for example, that revolting pasty, gummy, flavorless, vicious-insult-to- the-New-England-tradition clam chowder from, for example, New Hampshire’s worst restaurant (could it be in…Rochester?), you would be better off dumping it in the toilet and renaming it “puke.” After all, in an eco-obsessed Smug context, “threw it up” is somehow less egregious than “threw it out.”

Smug Tattoo

Smug Scout does not like tattoos. Not one bit. She knows this is not a popular position, but she stands by her unpopular positions because she knows that ultimately they are inconsequential anyway. She believes tattoos usually fall into three broad categories:

  1. Pure delinquent. These belong to actual convicted criminals. This may be the most unexpectedly and unwittingly Smug, even artisanal, category of tattoo because a number of them are hand designed and handmade (albeit in a penitentiary), often with found materials and under conditions that, for lack of a more prison-centric term, we could call “rustic.” The images are often highly symbolic (such as teardrops to signify murder), religious (if in a primarily stylized rather than observant way), and violent (particularly in reference to gang life). Smug Scout finds these rather interesting because they function as grisly autobiography. Smug Scout likes this sort of thing in the same way as other people whose firsthand exposure to violence does not extend far beyond hostile parking space stalking in the FM parking lot or pushing ahead of some Smug mob to get the last bunch of wild arugula.
  2. Pure roughneck. These belong to an anti-Smug group of people. Not only are they members of the non-moneyed lower classes, but they are not trying to hide this status. Their hobbies may include motorcycles, raucous music, cheap processed food, large batch liquor and canned beer, hunting creatures smarter than they are (deer, moose, women, etc.) and using tools Smug Scout cannot identify. The images are often vulgar (women with exaggerated assets) or maudlin (dead people). They may contain messages of questionable relevance in florid, illegible script. Smug Scout finds these rather sad and unsightly, especially when age and weight gain distort them grotesquely.
  3. Pure bullshit. These belong to people who may want to convey an air of the delinquent or the roughneck or the edgy or even just the vaguely interesting, though their lives are socially acceptable and painfully mundane. This group would never have gotten tattoos fifty years ago when it was not hip to permanently memorialize some clichéd whim on your body (though Smug Scout imagines butterflies everywhere must be delighted to see themselves on so many ankles). What used to be the trashy domain of professional sailors and truck drivers is now called “body art” or “using the body as a canvas.” Smug Scout sees it more as “using the body as a narcissistic billboard.”

So except for the handcrafted prisoner tattoos, Smug Scout did not see much Smugness in tattoos. She did not see it until her recent visit to her favorite Smug epicenter, Portsmouth NH. A Smug friend of hers introduced her to its owner (also the artist) at a Smug local bar where she was lucky enough to photograph it (and, yes, this is typical of Smug Scout’s silly drinking shenanigans). It is the most Smug tattoo she could have ever imagined: a hand etched looking deer with powerful antlers leaping through a forest of birch trees. Antlers are Smug because in their dead form Smug people–who would never dream of anything as barbaric as actually hunting the deer–feel they match reclaimed wood furniture and frivolous local handcrafted household accessories. Birch trees are Smug because they are pale, thin, uniquely colored, grow wild in New Hampshire, and, most importantly, look beautiful even when other trees are bare and the landscape displays a deathly bleakness. This tattoo conveys a fascinating phenomenon to Smug Scout: a local, seasonal, artisanal person, in essence a Smug product in human form. Smug Scout would probably never get a tattoo herself, but she does wonder what tattoo would suit her. She feels certain it would involve black kale.

Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 11/4

This week’s Smug Farmers’ Market find is not a vegetable, a fruit, a mode of display, or even putrid compost: it is a human, and it is Smug Scout’s nemesis. Now you may think it an unwise use of time to scrutinize the Smugness of other FM shoppers, but Smug Scout simply cannot help comparing herself and her Smug habits to those of every single person she sees at every single FM she visits. Part of the very essence of Smugness is how you rate in a Smug closed system that virtually no one cares about.

Sometimes a person comes along whose superior Smugness takes  Smug Scout down a few notches. Such is the case with Smug Basket and Container Woman. While Smug Scout was selecting local organic Early Girl cherry tomatoes, of course individually, she spotted a woman who also selected them one by one, but this woman put hers in an organic cotton mesh bag. At this point Smug Scout inspected her competitor’s diverse other receptacles. In addition to multiple organic cotton mesh bags, she also had large European plastic containers and green plastic pint containers. All of these sat Smugly in a basket hand crafted by a barefoot native child in some famine-stricken banana republic. Smug Scout felt good about her Sea Bag, a recycled sail tote made by native Maine women, until she saw the woman turn a contemptuous eye to the Sea Bag’s overflowing reused plastic bag collection. This woman did not deign to speak to Smug Scout, but if she had, this is how the conversation would have gone:

  • Smug Basket and Container Woman: Your bags look over-reused and toxic. I would not dream of carrying around so many old plastic bags when I can use organic cotton mesh bags that I wash with eco-friendly detergent in my own harvested rainwater.
  • Smug Scout: Who are you? Zeus? Chaac? Indra?
  • Smug Basket and Container Woman: What kind of crazy talk is that?
  • Smug Scout: You are mythologically illiterate if you do not know the Greek, Mayan, and Hindu rain gods.
  • Smug Basket and Container Woman: What does that have to do with your filthy old plastic bags?
  • Smug Scout: It has everything to do with your filthy organic cotton mesh bags. It does not rain here. You could not possibly be harvesting more than a few drops of acid dew every night. 
  • Smug Basket and Container Woman: I live in Portsmouth.
  • Smug Scout: Of course you do.   

Smug Scout readily admits that many others out-Smug her. She is not a resident of Portsmouth, Brooklyn, or San Francisco. She does not drive a Prius, buy vegan shoes, or live in a repurposed shipping container full of Scandinavian reclaimed wood furniture. She even takes pride in her absolute refusal to buy an iPhone. However, since she also has a thriving and carefully curated collection of German plastic containers, she will not let Smug Basket and Container Woman out-Smug her for long.

Smug Scout’s newly Smug car

Smug Scout has something shameful to confess: she does not own a Smug car. She does not have a Prius. She does not have a Subaru Outback or Forester. She does not have any car that would be welcome in Portsmouth or San Francisco or Brooklyn. She drives a Honda Accord coupe, which might be somewhat acceptable were it not for its gas-guzzling V6 engine. Smug Scout wonders if you will understand that she did not have a clue what V6 meant when she bought this car. All she really knew was that it had nothing to do with that processed vegetable juice. She now understands that this car is at its very thirstiest when she is aggressively fighting for parking at the Mar Vista FM or trying to prevent her death on L.A. freeways. As sacrilegious as this will sound, she would rather buy more gas than be splattered all over the road because some useless mongoloid was texting a stream of useless gibberish into an iPhone.

To make matters worse, she does not have an endangered or protected animal on her license plate. She does have an arts plate, which means she pays $50 a year for one art deco palm tree, but she knows that is not as Smug as a moose.

That is why she was delighted when she met a Smug Santa Monica resident at the Mar Vista FM this morning. This woman chatted with Smug Scout on Smug topics such as Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically engineered food. Then this woman introduced Smug Scout to some other Smug people who gave her a big sign and a bumper sticker with a cute ear of corn on it. Smug Scout put these on her car immediately.  Now her car advertises her Smug value system despite the eco-hostile engine. If anyone asks, her car is bi-polar.