Trail mix bar cookies

For many, the highlight of a hike is when snacks are distributed. A mix of nuts, dried fruit and chocolate is probably one of the most common snacks people bring to enjoy while hiking a long trail or when they reach the peak of a mountain.

Of course, you don’t have to hike to eat trail mix, nor do you have to use those particular ingredients for trail mix.

Let me introduce you to trail mix bar cookies. Filled with dried cranberries, pecans and white chocolate chips, they offer a fine mix of sweet, tart and crunchy. Plus, all of those sensations are delivered in a moist and sturdy bar cookie.

Although I am a fan of almost all varieties of cookies, I love the simplicity of a bar cookie. All the dough goes into one pan for one round of baking. Not that it’s difficult to bake two or three batches of cookies, but these cookies reward a little bit of laziness.

Even better than the easy baking is the fact that these treats are great for whatever cookout or barbecue you will be attending or hosting. Once they’re cooled, just cover the pan with some plastic wrap and you’re ready to go.

We’re in the midst of summer. You probably have gatherings to attend. The next time you’re asked to bring a dessert, give these bar cookies a try.

Michele Pesula Kuegler has been thinking about food her entire life. Since 2007, the New Hampshire native has been sharing these food thoughts and recipes at her blog, Think Tasty. Visit to find more of her recipes.

Trail mix bar cookies
Makes 24

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar on speed 2 for 4 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate each.
Add vanilla, and mix.
Add baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour, and mix until incorporated.
Add oatmeal, stirring until combined.
Add white chocolate chips, dried cranberries and pecans, stirring until incorporated.
Grease the sides and bottoms of a 13×9 pan with butter.
Transfer batter to pan, using the back of a spoon or spatula to spread it evenly in the pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool in the baking pan on a wire baking rack before serving.

Photo: Trail Mix Bar cookies. Courtesy photo.

Take a load off

The Weight Band plays drive-in show

Though named after The Band’s most iconic song, with sets featuring “Up On Cripple Creek” and other gems from their catalog, The Weight Band is a flame keeper, not a tribute act.

Guitarist and singer Jim Weider cofounded the group after Levon Helm died in 2012, but prior to that he’d assumed the role Robbie Robertson famously quit in The Last Waltz, touring with a reunited Band for 15 years, and playing on their final three studio albums, Jericho, High on the Hog and Jubilation.

Weider’s ties go deeper than that, however. In the mid-1960s, he began bumping into Band members while working at a stereo store in his hometown of Woodstock, New York. Owner Kermit Schwartz, an oddball who’d smoke two cigarettes at a time and had a constant Maalox ring around his mouth, endeared himself to musicians with a generous credit policy.

“He would just give everything out; pay later, they loved it. They would bring in their newest record and stuff they were working on and play it on the Macs and Crowns,” Weider said in a recent phone interview — the latter reference not to computers but to high-end receivers made by McIntosh and Crown Audio. “I met Levon very early on back then.”

After the seismic impact of Music From Big Pink, the Woodstock scene dissipated as The Band hit the road and Weider began his professional music career. By the mid-’80s, everyone was back. The Band had reunited in 1983 with The Cate Brothers Band backing them, but by 1985 the four founding members were considering a lineup shuffle.

Weider, who’d been in Helm’s All Star Band post-Waltz, got a call.

“Levon said, ‘Come on down, the four of us are here at The Getaway playing,’” Weider said. “I sat in with them and we did a whole night of music with the original Band. … They realized they wanted to go back to five pieces after playing with me.”

His first gig was in front of 25,000 people, opening for Crosby, Stills & Nash.

“Dallas, Texas, no rehearsal, just boom,” he said, recalling an inebriated Richard Manuel being carried onstage by two roadies. “I got to kick off all the tunes. … They all have guitar intros, because the guitar player wrote most of them. It was pretty nerve-wracking.”

When Manuel died a year later, they continued to tour; the reunion ended when Danko succumbed to a heart attack in 1999. Later, Weider was part of Helm’s band The Midnight Ramblers during their legendary run of Rambles in his hand-built Catskills barn.

“Levon was in his glory there,” Weider said. “He loved having Allen Toussaint up with us, or John Hiatt or John Prine. Everybody wanted to come and take part. … It was like a big barn dance.”

The Weight Band now includes keyboard player Brian Mitchell, Albert Rogers and Michael Bram on bass and drums, and newest member Matt Zeiner on keyboards. Along with Weider, each brings a long list of credits to the mix, including Bob Dylan, Dicky Betts, Willie Nelson, B.B. King and Al Green.

The energy that moved The Band’s rebirth — honoring the past, while continuing to create new music — is alive with The Weight Band. In 2018, they released World Gone Mad: eight originals, with covers of Jericho’s “Remedy” and Grateful Dead’s “Deal.” In December they completed a follow-up, due later this year or in early 2022.

Shows still feature lots of Band songs, “but now it’s to pull people in,” Weider said. “I’m just carrying on some of the music, and we’ve got our whole catalog of our own sound.”

The night always ends with the song that gives them a name, one many call the national anthem of Americana. Why does “The Weight” endure?

“People can relate to it, they can sing it, and the melody — it’s just, help your brother, take a load off,” Weider said. “It’s just a good feel song, one that everybody wants to play and sing. Robbie wrote a good one.”

The Weight Band
Sunday, July 11, 3 & 6 p.m.
Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry
Tickets: $75 per car, $22 per person at

Featured photo: The Weight Band. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/07/08

Local music news & events

Chicken fried: Zac Brown Band guitarist Clay Cook performs solo after a 6:30 p.m. cocktail hour. Prior to joining the Grammy-winning country rock band, he formed the Lo-Fi Masters with John Mayer. The two met at Berklee, and Cook co-wrote Mayer’s breakout hit “No Such Thing” and a few other songs on his debut album. Cook was also a member of his uncle Doug Gray’s group, Marshall Tucker Band. Thursday, July 8, 7:30 p.m., LaBelle Winery Derry, 14 Route 111, Derry, $29 at

Rock woman: Kick off the weekend with an al fresco performance from singer/guitarist Lisa Guyer. Fronting Mama Kicks in Manchester nightclubs for decades, making records with Boston (the band, not the city) guitarist Barry Goudreau, traveling the world backing Godsmack’s Sully Erna, and founding her own youth music empowerment program, Guyer is one of the region’s most accomplished musicians. Friday, July 9, 7 p.m., Auburn Pitts, 167 Rockingham Road, Auburn,

Celebration day: Christian pop rock band Right Hand Shade debuts its second album, Rise, in a devotional setting. The evening will feature the new disc in its entirety, along with a discussion of the inspiration for the songs — everything from Switchfoot to The Beach Boys — and the making of the album with Old Bear Records producer and co-writer Chris Hoisington. Saturday, July 10, 7 p.m., Centerpoint Community Church, 101 School St., Salem, tickets $5 to $35 at

Last laughs: After eight years, a changing of the alt comedy guard as Joyelle Nicole Johnson headlines the first of eight weekly shows before Nick Lavallee and Dave Carter hand the night off to Ruby Room Comedy. Upcoming for the final run are Mark Recine (July 21), Louis Katz (July 28), Caitlin Reese (Aug. 4), Jordan Jensen (Aug. 11), Ray Harrington (Aug. 18), Dan Lamorte (Aug. 25) and SNL staff writer Sam Jay (Sept. 1). Wednesday, July 14, 8 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester, $10 at the door,

Album Reviews 21/07/08

Velvet Insane, Rock ‘n’ Roll Glitter Suit (Sound Pollution Records)

Wait, can it be something cool for a change? I mean, it’s not like a few dozen old-school blues-based records don’t waltz into my email every month, and sure, I usually just send them straight to Trash, knowing in my bones that none of them will be the next New York Dolls or Kiss (come on, millennials and Zoomers, get in touch with your generational disgruntlements already), or, on occasion, I’ll listen to one out of misguided benevolence and pay the price by experiencing black-hole-level suckage I never would have imagined being physically possible. This one had promise, a Swedish band that was somehow able to “entice” former Kiss fixture Bruce Kulick into hopping a flight and shredding some lead guitar in the studio (yes, I did keep in mind the fact that everyone in the arts has their price — remember when German hack filmmaker Uwe Boll fooled Ben freaking Kingsley into joining the cast of BloodRayne?). The results? Well, it’s basically Poison for dummies. Opener “Driving Down The Mountain” had me going for a second, like I thought it was going to be a punkabilly thing, but then it turned into Trixter or whatever. Great ambiance for your backyard barbecue for when you want the kiddies to spazz all over the place and annoy your spouse. B- — Eric W. Saeger

Blood Honey, Blood Honey EP (self-released)

Debut release for a Los Angeles boy-girl ’80s-technopop duo which, as is so common these days, comes with a couple of interesting backstories (his: he was studying cognitive neuroscience but ultimately dropped out of a Ph.D. program to make records; hers: tragic story about surviving ovarian cancer). Not saying they get a free pass or anything, but at the very least, their collective level of personal bravery does help explain their rather soothing, eminently mature take on ’80s-mania: this stuff isn’t just another Simple Minds/Flock Of Seagulls slam-dunk. It’s quite apparent that they’ve listened to Human League, probably even Roxette, and not just out of basic necessity but for deeper study. The song structures are almost experimental compared to all the other Stranger Things prostration that’s being released every five minutes while the gravy train is still on its tracks (“Favorite Fever” starts with eerie darkwave and slowly settles into a Mummy Calls-ish chillout). Oddly comforting; above average songwriting for sure. B


• July 9 is bearing down on us, bringing with it its usual “Ha ha, neener, summer’s half over, and before you know it you’ll be shoveling whatever crazy amount of snow is set to fall this year!” I usually like to take a bunch of four-day weekends during the summer, and that’s my deal again this year; it’s a million times better than torching a couple of separate weeks of vacation all at once and then having to sit there, going quietly insane on the final Sunday, beating myself up for not having single-handedly inspired world peace and cured cancer like I’d planned all year. No, gimme four-day weekends every other week for the entire summer and I won’t even take all of them, because I start feeling sorry for my co-workers, having all those glorious Fridays and Mondays off every other week. I mean, three-day weekends are stupid, aren’t they? All I end up doing is running around on Friday doing all my Saturday catch-up nonsense, and then spending Saturday dreading that I only have two days to chase the cats around the house and do “me stuff,” such as listening to new albums from such “essential artistes” as The Wallflowers, whose new album Exit Wounds is on my to-do list. A prime example of the joys of nepotism in the music business, Wallflowers is the solo project of Jakob Dylan, the son of a fashion model lady and some struggling hack named Bob. One of the new singles, “Roots And Wings,” shows us just what Jakob is made of, basically doing a Rich Little impersonation of his dad over a folk-rock beat that’s sort of like Train but with less going on (I know, mind-blowing concept, but try, really try, to picture it). (Please bear in mind that my distaste for nepotism in any endeavor only comes from my appreciation for Aristotle, that guy who used to be in Monty Python or whatever it was.)

• Yay, so pumped, I wonder what other rich and delicious goodies are in store this week — oh looky, it’s Mythopoetics, from Half Waif, whoever they are! I only added the “whoever they are” part because most music critics won’t admit when they have no idea what some band is about, and my mission is to fix the entire music critic industry if it’s the last thing I do, and plus, I literally haven’t heard of Half Waif, ever, like, I didn’t know “the band” is just some girl named Nandi Rose Plunkett, she was in the band Pinegrove, and she’s from Mass. The single, “Sodium & Cigarettes,” is like Lana Del Rey but fortified with some P!nk-level dramatics. The tune isn’t bad at all; it actually has a pretty cool crescendo, meaning it’s well-written, meaning it will be ignored, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing or whatever, in these times.

• Next we have Australian indie-twee-pop trio The Goon Sax, with Mirror II, their new album! Actually, their rubric isn’t ’80s-indie-twee-pop, it’s a genre called “dolewave,” which just means “’80s-indie-twee-pop’, but spoken in an Australian accent by a random music critic blowhard.” “Psychic” is the teaser tune, and it’s actually kind of awesome, despite sounding like Depeche Mode trying to be Simple Minds. You’d probably like it, honestly.

• We’ll wrap up this week’s nonsense with Museum of Love’s Life Of Mammals, a project headed by LCD Soundsystem’s drummer, Pat Mahoney! The new song is “Cluttered World,” yet another stab at ’80s-pop by random pikers who can’t write songs (think Thomas Dolby collaborating with Tears For Fears, and no, I would never encourage such a thing).

Retro Playlist

So four score and however-many blah blah blah whatever, it was somewhere around this same week 10 years ago that I was blatantly using this space to brag about the fact that I’d been offered Katy Perry tickets to her TD Garden show. This was before she suddenly became about as cool as tapioca served at a Ladies auxiliary club meeting. Anyone remember when Katy Perry was edgy? No? Well, whatever, at one time, she was cool, and so was I, which led some public relations guy to think it made sense to offer me tickets, which I refused, because I would have maxed out my hypocrisy allowance for like the whole year. I’m easy, not sleazy, guys.

One of the albums getting the treatment that week was Happeners, an album from White Wives, a Pennsylvania pub-punk band that, I wrote, sounded like — and try to contain yourself — “Kaiser Chiefs upfitted with good songs and a case of Four Loko,” a bunch of not-entirely-bad musicians whose aim was ”conjuring a vision of what a young Springsteen would be if he had to make a name for himself today.” There was some early Clash going on in “Paper Chaser,” but overall the key to the entire album was “Sky Started Crying,” a Bruce-ized ripoff of Airborne Toxic Event’s “The Kids Are Ready to Die,” an angsty melody that pops up constantly throughout the record. I guessed that it would make the band famous, and permeate “every corner of date-night backgrounding, from Cineplex lobbies to Red Lobsters.” I was wrong, for the first time ever, in my entire life. I’m still getting over my error in judgment, so if we can just drop it at this point, that’d be great.

The only other thing of any note that week was Rocket Science, from Bela Fleck and The Flecktones. My review was obviously texted-in, with bons mots like “at the very least we can say that Fleck is to banjo what Chick Corea is to piano” and “a roots return of sorts for Fleck, providing listeners with a simultaneous dose of pure bluegrass and pure jazz fusion, unique stuff that’d serve as perfect backgrounding to long summer drives into the wilderness.” Guys, I really feel bad about not caring about hipster-banjo albums, I really do.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

At the Sofaplex 21/07/08

Summer of Soul (PG-13)

Questlove (billed here as Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson) directs this documentary/concert film about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of awesome concerts that took place in a park in Harlem. The concerts were free and, based on the crowd shots throughout the footage of the concerts, they brought in an audience of all ages from the surrounding community of Black and Latin American neighborhoods — we see little kids next to parents, teens and 20-somethings, middle-aged people and older concertgoers. The music reflects this too, with performances of soul, blues, gospel, funk, jazz, Afro-Latin music, African music, pop and Motown. In addition to these performances, the documentary gives us interviews with some of the artists who performed, their kids, concertgoers, music fans (including Chris Rock and Lin-Manuel Miranda and his father, Luis Miranda) and those with insight on how the concerts were put together.

Perhaps the most shocking element of this knock-out collection of talent under one performance umbrella is that the series was filmed but then sat, unsold, even after a promoter went out trying to pitch it as the “Black Woodstock.” This movie starts to right that cultural wrong, which also puts the concert in the political context of the time.

Thank you, Questlove, for bringing Summer of Soul (…Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) to a wide audience. Now please find a way to release an extended soundtrack album. A+ Available on Hulu and in theaters.

Dream Horse (PG)

Toni Collette, Damian Lewis.

If your initial response to this movie was sort of “meh, horse movie,” the better bucket to put it in would be the one with Calendar Girls, Full Monty and 2020’s Military Wives: Plucky U.K. community rallies around underdog competitor in whatever — in this case, it’s a town in Wales and the competitor is a racehorse owned by a syndicate of locals. Dream Alliance, as they call the horse, is cared for by Jan Vokes (Toni Collette) and her husband, called Daisy (Owen Teale), after it is born. Jan was the one who had the idea to buy a mare, hire the stud services of a much-lauded racehorse and pay for it all with a group of owners including her boss at the pub where she works, a coworker at the supermarket where she also works and others in her town. Howard (Lewis), a local accountant who was burned by syndicate horse ownership once before, is nonetheless interested in getting back in the game — even if he’s promised his wife he won’t do it again. 

This just-folks group of owners find themselves dealing in the upper-crust world of horse racing and racehorse ownership, with other owners seeming to look down their noses at the group and even the trainer initially uninterested in working with them. But, of course, who doesn’t love an underdog — when Dream Alliance starts to win, the horse and the group become The Story in local races.

This is a perfectly fine movie for family movie night (assuming an audience of probably about 10 or 12 or so and up; old enough to get enough of the comedy and to be excited and not bored by the talking and the races). I think I’d heard about this movie most in reference to its being one of the first movies that film reviewers and other pop culture commentator types saw back in theaters, and this feels like the kind of movie that you might meet up with multi-generations of the family to see. It’s pleasant — well-crafted enough and with overall solid performances such that you won’t find yourself picking at flaws, but not particularly taxing in any way. These are amiable people to spend time with and the story is just charming and uplifting enough. B In theaters and available to rent or own.

The Tomorrow War

The Tomorrow War (PG-13)

Chris Pratt stars in the old-fashioned summer save-the-world popcorn movie The Tomorrow War, released on Amazon Prime Video.

Dan Forester (Pratt) is having difficulty getting ahead in his career (science something or other) but has all sorts of admiration from his wife, Emmy (Betty Gilpin), and young daughter, Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). He’s in the middle of a consoling snuggle with the two of them while watching World Cup soccer when a wormhole opens up on midfield and soldiers come pouring through. They announce that they are from about 30 years in the future and are losing a war with an alien force. Come and fight with us to save humanity, they say, and, as news clips explain, the countries of the world eventually agree to a draft. The people drafted are both random and specific: They are men and women, fit and doughy, but most tend to be older — perhaps because, as Dan and fellow draftee Charlie (Sam Richardson) surmise, they will all be dead by 2052 and therefore won’t accidentally meet their older selves and cause a paradox.

When Dan is called up, it’s after nearly a year of the present sending soldiers to the future, with few returning and no sign that humanity’s prospects for winning the war are improving. He learns that draftees get very little training and not much in the way of uniforms; it’s just “here’s a gun, try not to get eaten.” The aliens, white insect/crustacean-y creatures, don’t have weapons (except for the sharp spikes that shoot out of their tentacles, hence their name “white spikes”) or even an organizing structure. They eat, people and whatever other animals cross their path, and once a week they go back to their nest-holes and rest (or, as we later learn, breed, which is why there are now so many of them). White spikes move fast and only lucky neck or abdomen shots take them out, so when Dan shows up in the future for his seven-day stint in the war, it’s clear that the outlook for humanity is bleak.

Dan, who once served in the military and did a tour of duty in Iraq (where he had a leadership role), is also a science teacher who has shared his love of science with his daughter. Charlie is also a former science professor who now works in tech research and development and makes up for his lack of military prowess with quips. Dan has a difficult relationship with his father, James (J.K. Simmons), who also has a military background and now has a shifty job fixing planes and skirting the law. I could list a few other Chekhov guns in the packed metaphorical armory of the first segment of this movie that go off in the final action set piece. There are a lot.

And that’s OK.

Like an Independence Day with a smaller budget and a lower wattage of stars, The Tomorrow War hits a lot of the familiar apocalypse action movie beats with a nice mix of shooting and explosions and humor and basically appealing characters played by actors who have more in them than this movie asks of them. It’s microwave popcorn fare, in the sense that it isn’t quite the fresh popcorn with real butter of summer blockbusters past and in the sense that you’ll be enjoying this one at home, which perhaps lowers the bar a little. If you need it, you can look for some deeper commentary about climate change and the ability of humans to come together (or not) when they really need to. But you also don’t need to dig that deep for a reason to basically enjoy this (long but forgivably so) lightweight summer movie. B-

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and some suggestive references, according to the MPA on Directed by Chris McKay with a screenplay by Zach Dean, The Tomorrow War is two hours and 20 minutes long and is distributed by Paramount Pictures but somehow available on Amazon Prime Video.

The Boss Baby: Family Business (PG)

The suit-and-tie baby of the 2017 The Boss Baby returns in The Boss Baby: Family Business, a cute animated movie that isn’t quite as rich as the original version but is still family-friendly.

And by that I mean not only that it is kid-appropriate (for, I don’t know, elementary schoolers and up) but also all about family. In the first movie, Boss Baby, also named Ted (voice of Alec Baldwin), is the younger brother of Tim (voiced in this movie by James Marsden). Though appearing to be a regular goo-goo-gaa-gaa baby, Boss Baby is actually a 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy-style corporate ladder-climber sent by his company, Baby Corp., on a mission. Tim deeply resented new baby Ted at first but eventually learned to live with him, in part by helping him with his corporate ambitions at Baby Corp., the company that is bullish on babies and tries to keep their affection rankings higher than those of, say, puppies.

In the years since, Ted and Tim have grown up and grown apart. (Actually, in the years since 2017, Boss Baby and Tim have had continuing adventures in a Netflix TV series called The Boss Baby: Back in Business, which has an enjoyably oddball sense of humor. For example: Boss Baby finds himself battling an outside consultant brought in to evaluate Baby Corp. managers and makes regular cracks about why you can’t trust the marketing department. In one episode, when the boys’ grandma fights with a department store over returning a blouse, she ends up unionizing the store workers. It’s weird and I recommend it.)

But now adult Tim is living in his parents’ (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow) old house with his wife Carol (voice of Eva Longoria) and their two daughters, second-grader Tabitha (voice of Ariana Greenblatt) and baby Tina (voice of Amy Sedaris). Tabitha has recently started at a new school and seems stressed out by its expectation for advanced math and proficiency in Mandarin. Tim, a stay-at-home dad, is worried that she is growing up too fast and growing away from him, not unlike how he and Ted have grown apart. Though they were once best friends, Ted is now very busy with his executive businessman lifestyle and mostly interacts with Tim by turning down invitations to come and visit and sending overly elaborate gifts.

This can not stand, decides Tina, who is, like her uncle before her, a Baby Corp. executive. She needs both Ted and Tim to help fight a new threat: Dr. Armstrong (voice of a very Jeff Goldblum-y Jeff Goldblum), the head of the international chain of high-achievement-focused schools (including Tabitha’s). Tina and Baby Corp. are certain he has some sort of shifty plan and they need Boss Baby to help them. Thus does Tina lure Ted to the family home and then dose both Ted and Tim with special de-aging formula that temporarily turns them back to roughly Tabitha-aged Tim and Boss Baby.

The first movie used the Boss Baby conceit as a way to play out Tim’s feelings about going from only child to oldest child with a pushy infant sibling. Likewise, this movie uses it to work through various family relationships — Tim and Ted, Tim and Tabitha and maybe Tim and his own sense of self if his oldest daughter doesn’t need him as much. And it works about as well as the first movie did, but this feels less kid-focused. Though he appears in a kid’s body, Tim is really an adult person with his adult person worries and the movie is more centered on those than on executive baby humor or kid antics.

That said, the movie did seem to have enough wackiness to entertain kids — there’s a lot of silliness with a horse, we do still get some “the horror of other babies” moments with Boss Baby. Goldblum brings a nice element of weirdness to his character who is a villain but not violent or particularly mean.

I think I liked the original The Boss Baby (which doesn’t appear to be streaming anywhere but is available for rent or purchase) more than a lot of reviewers. I still like the overall universe, as presented here, even if the sequel doesn’t quite match up. B

Rated PG for rude humor, mild language and some action, according to the MPA on Directed by Tom McGrath with a screenplay by Michael McCullers (based on the books by Marla Frazee), The Boss Baby: Family Business is an hour and 47 minutes long and is distributed by Universal Studios in theaters and on Peacock.

The Forever Purge (R)

The Purge-supporting totalitarian government of the U.S. is threatened by an even more violent social-media-organized group in The Forever Purge.

Don’t worry if you haven’t seen or have forgotten previous Purge entries (this is No. 5 in the series). This movie sort of catches you up/reorients you in the Purge universe: The Purge is the annual 12-hour period when people can commit any crimes they want and apparently what they want is to wear menacing animal masks and go on spree killings. It went away for a while but is back now, thanks to the recent elections favoring the Purge-supporting New Founding Fathers. They were reelected because of increased crime and anti-immigration sentiment and something something The Purge will fix it.

This movie, though, isn’t really about the Purge. While we see two main sets of characters prepare for and weather the Purge, most of the story takes place in the hours after it’s over.

The wealthy cattle ranching family in rural Texas the Tuckers gathers at their large, secure home for the Purge: there’s the paterfamilias Caleb (Will Patton), his adult daughter Harper (Leven Rambin), his sullen adult son Dylan (Josh Lucas) and Dylan’s pregnant wife, Emma Kate (Cassidy Freeman). None of them seem to be on Team Purge or Team Current Administration, though Dylan has some general resentment because his father and everybody else at the ranch knows that he’s not such a great cowboy. Certainly, he’s not a great cowboy compared to Juan (Tenoch Huerta), one of the ranch workers, and this makes Dylan all jealous, which he expresses via racism.

Juan and his wife Adela (Ana de la Reguera) are recent immigrants from Mexico and are aware of the weird annual festival of violence of their new home but they are determined to make it work, especially Adela. They spend Purge night hunkered down with other families in a fortified and guarded warehouse. And yet she remains optimistic about America and their future as the Purge ends and she heads back to her life. Optimistic right up to the moment when she is trapped and nearly killed by some mask-wearing loons telling her that it’s “purge ever after.” The Forever Purgers have decided one day of violence is not enough and want to continue the killing until everyone who doesn’t agree with their brand of white supremacist fascism is dead.

She and Juan and their friend (Alejandro Edda) and the Tuckers trying to find their way to safety — which is eventually identified as refuge in Mexico — makes up the bulk of this movie’s action, making it not really about some “organized chaos” day but about actual anarchy and the collapse of society.

I’ll try to separate what has always annoyed me about the Purge movies and the overall “watching a reenactment of your root canal” feel of this movie with what worked about it — and there are small elements that work.

I have always found the Purge as a concept maddening, both as public policy (how does it reduce crime and stimulate the economy? Even in a bread-and-circus sense it seems stupid) and as a story-telling device. The movies use the Purge as a sort of dippy murder fest — either thrill killing or petty revenge — without going much beyond that. There is a general “saying something about wealth inequality” sheen on these movies but they don’t really say that much; “rich people are jerks” is maybe as far as it goes.

So what works here? The movie gets its pacing right. It takes us from Juan and Adela’s backstory to Purge night to post-Purge pretty quickly. And it keeps up the energy without lingering too much on grisly violence for grisly violence’s sake.

Ana de la Reguera is a fun action heroine. We are probably with her more frequently than with any other one character and she definitely has that believable, can-do butt-kicking energy.

The movie also has some visual cleverness about juxtaposing Mexico and the chaotic U.S.; one of the final shots in particular made me think “huh, neat” for the way it referenced so many other movies.

Overall, though, The Forever Purge was a bummer, but I guess if Purge movies are your thing, this is maybe one of the better ones. C

Rated R for strong/bloody violence and language throughout, according to the MPA on Directed by Everado Gout with a screenplay by James DeMonaco, The Forever Purge is an hour and 43 minutes long and is distributed by Universal Studios, in theaters.

Featured photo: The Tomorrow War

Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner (Alfred A. Knopf, 239 pages)

The first time that I, a southerner raised on white bread, meat loaf and McDonald’s, went to an H Mart, the traffic shocked me as much as the food offerings. In Burlington, Massachusetts, the closest H Mart to Manchester, you can hardly find a parking place any time of day.

For the uninitiated, H Mart is a supermarket that specializes in Korean food and products. Its name derives from a Korean phrase, han ah reum, which means an armload of groceries. And the store is stocked with things you don’t often come across at the Hannaford, such as frozen sliced octopus.

But I didn’t understand until reading Michelle Zauner’s powerful memoir why H Mart is always packed and rapidly expanding across the U.S., and it has little to do with the groceries and Korea’s famed beauty products. H Mart sells food, of course, but it taps into something deeper for Americans of Korean descent. As much as meat, produce and authentic ramen, H Mart sells a sense of home. Zauner reflects on this in her opening, as she describes people-watching at the H Mart food court, which typically offers sushi and Chinese and Korean food, fast-food style.

“It’s a beautiful, holy place. A cafeteria full of people from all over the world who have been displaced in a foreign country, each with a different history,” she writes. “Where did they come from and how far did they travel? Why are they all here?” They’re there to buy products that Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry, but ultimately for more. “I’m not just on the hunt for cuttlefish and three bunches of scallions for a buck; I’m searching for memories,” she says.

Zauner doesn’t travel far to the H Mart where she shops, near Philadelphia, and she grew up in Eugene, Oregon. But she cries at the H Mart because it reminds her of her mother, a Korean woman who married an American man, but took her daughter to visit relatives in Seoul every other year. Food, Zauner writes, was how her mother conveyed love; “I could always feel her affection radiating from the lunches she packed and the meals she prepared for me just the way I liked them.”

She was often harsh, yelling at her daughter if she got injured while playing, and once reacted to Zauner’s getting fired at a waitressing job by saying, “Well, Michelle, anyone can carry a tray.” By her teens Zauner had developed the adolescent revulsion to her mother’s touch, and the relationship further soured as her mother’s behavior bordered on full-blown abuse.

But when her mother developed Stage IV pancreatic cancer when Zauner was 25, she was devastated. The memoir is her account of a painful reckoning that they both endured during the mother’s treatment and final months of life, a cold and gritty look at the realities of hospital (“The house was quiet aside from her breathing, a horrible sucking like the last sputtering of a coffee pot”) and also the small moments of grace.

The memoir continues after the mother’s passing, as Zauner comes to fully understand her mother in ways she couldn’t while she was alive. It is taut and elegant, with no descent into melodrama: just a matter-of-fact but beautifully written elegy that explores the challenges of loving difficult people. But it is a deeply hopeful book, despite being centered around death. And don’t let the title fool you — while H Mart may appeal most to Koreans and other Americans of Asian descent, Zauner’s story is universal, as is the connection that she forges with her mother, both in life and in death, through food. To cope with her mother’s death, she starts seeing a therapist, but it wasn’t helping, so she starts cooking her mother’s Korean recipes, ultimately making so much that she had to start giving it to friends.

“The smell of vegetables fermenting in a fragrant bouquet of fish sauce, garlic, ginger and gochugaru radiated through my small Greenpoint kitchen, and I would think of how my mother always used to tell me never to fall in love with someone who doesn’t like kimchi. They’ll always smell it on you, seeping through your pores.”

Zauner did fall in love with someone who liked kimchi, a Korean side dish, and who married her during her mother’s treatment, so it wasn’t just cooking that helped her heal. There are other memoirs that make that claim; Zauner’s isn’t that simplistic. But hers is a surprisingly engrossing account of a mother and daughter’s struggle to love each other, and a crash course in a culture with which you might not be familiar. Familiarity with H Mart is not a prerequisite, but you’ll likely want to visit after reading this book. B+

Book Notes

Last week’s review of The Anthropocene Reviewed noted that the book’s genesis was the podcast of novelist John Green and his younger brother, Hank Green. This was interesting because podcasts are now a common form of book promotion, and so it’s becoming increasingly common for authors to start their own, after getting familiar with the medium.

I subscribe to two podcasts because I previously read books by the hosts: Rich Roll, the ultra-athlete who wrote Finding Ultra (Crown, 288 pages), and Tim Ferris, who wrote Tools of Titans (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 736 pages) and the four-hour-everything series.

Podcasts are a weirdly intimate form of conversation, even more than radio, since they’re not on public airwaves. They feel like it’s just you, the host and a guest, sitting around the kitchen table. As such, they can give you a connection with authors beyond what you get on the printed page. Here’s a look at podcasts by well-known authors.

“Dear Sugars” is an advice podcast by Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild (Vintage, 336 pages), and Steve Almond.

Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt obtained literary fame with their 2005 book Freakonomics (William Morrow, 256 pages); their podcast is “Freakonomics Radio.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, most famous for Eat, Pray, Love (Riverhead, 352 pages), also wrote a book called Big Magic (Riverhead, 288 pages), which she’s parlayed into a podcast called “Magic Lessons.”

Roxane Gay, author of Hunger (Harper, 320 pages), Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial, 336 pages) and other books, has a podcast with Tressie McMillan Cottom, author of Thick, and Other Essays (The New Press, 224 pages). It’s called “Hear to Slay.”

Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote Outliers (Little, Brown & Co., 309 pages), Blink (Little, Brown & Co., 288 pages) and other bestselling nonfiction books, has a podcast called “Revisionist History.”

And don’t forget, there are plenty of podcasts about books, most notably NPR’s “The Book Show” with Joe Donahue and “The Great Books Podcast” from John J. Miller and National Review. Locally, Concord’s Gibson’s Bookstore produces “The Laydown” podcast, with new episodes released monthly.


Author events

TERRY FARISH Meet-and-greet with picture book and young adult author. Kingston Community Library, 2 Library Lane, Kingston. Thurs., July 8, 3:30 p.m. Registration required. Visit

CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE Author presents The Exiles. Hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Tues., July 13, 7 p.m. Virtual. Tickets cost $5. Visit or call 436-2400.

MEGAN MIRANDA Author presents Such a Quiet Place. Hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Tues., July 20, 7 p.m. Virtual. Tickets cost $5. Visit or call 436-2400.

JOYCE MAYNARD Author presents Count the Ways. Toadstool Bookstore, 12 Depot Square, Peterborough. Sat., July 24, 11 a.m. Visit or call 924-3543.

GIGI GEORGES Author presents Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America. Toadstool Bookstore, Somerset Plaza, 375 Amherst St., Route 101A, Nashua. Sat., July 24, 2 to 4 p.m. Visit or call 673-1734.

JESS KIMBALL Author presents My Pseudo-College Experience. Virtual event, hosted by Toadstool Bookstores, located in Nashua, Peterborough and Keene. Tues., July 27, 6 to 7 p.m. Visit or call 673-1734.

CATHLEEN ELLE Author presents Shattered Together. Virtual event, hosted by Toadstool Bookstores, located in Nashua, Peterborough and Keene. Thurs., July 29, 6 p.m. Visit or call 673-1734.


DOWN CELLAR POETRY SALON Poetry event series presented by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Monthly. First Sunday. Visit

SLAM FREE OR DIE Series of open mic nights for poets and spoken-word artists. Stark Tavern, 500 N. Commercial St., Manchester. Weekly. Thursday, doors open and sign-ups beginning at 7 p.m., open mic at 8 p.m. The series also features several poetry slams every month. Events are open to all ages. Cover charge of $3 to $5 at the door, which can be paid with cash or by Venmo. Visit, e-mail or call 858-3286.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Online. Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. Bookstore based in Manchester. Visit or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit or call 224-0562.

TO SHARE BREWING CO. 720 Union St., Manchester. Monthly. Second Thursday, 6 p.m. RSVP required. Visit or call 836-6947.

GOFFSTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY 2 High St., Goffstown. Monthly. Third Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Call 497-2102, email or visit

BELKNAP MILL Online. Monthly. Last Wednesday, 6 p.m. Based in Laconia. Email

NASHUA PUBLIC LIBRARY Online. Monthly. Second Friday, 3 p.m. Call 589-4611, email or visit

Featured photo: Crying in H Mart.

Zin for your barbecue

Three variations on the versatile zinfandel

Zinfandel wine has a long and storied past.

Those of a certain age may remember it as a jug wine, bottled in huge tear-shaped bottles, or as a rosé, known as white zinfandel. But zinfandel has been around a lot longer than Gallo. The roots of this grape varietal can be traced to the southern “heel” of Italy, where it is known as primitivo, and well before that to Croatia, where it is indigenous, and was likely cultivated by ancient Greek colonists. Arriving in the United States in 1829, and cultivated in greenhouses on the East Coast as a table grape, it made its way west in the Gold Rush of 1849, where it became known as zinfandel by the 1870’s. In fact, some of these original vines still exist, known as “old vine” zinfandel — though the whole topic of what can be called or classified as “old vine” can be taken up in a separate column. Zinfandel grapes survived Prohibition in large numbers because they could be used in the production of homemade wine, which remained legal.

While it is grown across the United States, California takes the lead, by far. It can be made into late harvest dessert wines, rosés and Beaujolais-style light reds, all the way to big hearty reds and fortified wine in the style of port. As in all wine, the quality and character of the wine depends on the climate, location and age of the vineyard (terroir) as well as the technology and skill employed by the winemaker. Because of this wide spectrum of color, nose, taste, body and, yes, alcoholic content, zinfandel can accompany perhaps the widest of culinary offerings. It is especially good with barbecued meat: chicken and pork with sweet sauces, grilled beef, braised meats and casseroles, strong and bold cheeses from a dry Jack to aged goat cheese to Parmesan. It can be paired with spicy Mexican food and pasta dishes with robust red sauces, pizza, and root or grilled vegetables. The possibilities are virtually endless, surpassing most other wine types when paired with food.

Our first wine, Hierogram 2016 Vineyard Block 8 Old Vine Zinfandel (originally priced at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $45.99, reduced to $22.99), is from Lodi, San Joaquin County, in the Central Valley of California, where some of the oldest zinfandel vines in California are planted. This wine results from them. It is dark maroon in color, and to the nose it has cherry and dark berry notes. These notes carry through to the tongue, with a full mouth feel and a bit of tangy spiciness and chocolate. Mild tannins from aging 15 months in 60 percent new American oak accompany the fruit to impart a rich, full sensation.

Our second wine, Neal Family Vineyards 2018 Rutherford Dust Vineyard Zinfandel (originally priced at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $32.99, reduced to $29.99), hails from the floor of Napa Valley. This is a fully organically grown and produced wine with a low production of 613 cases coming from the Rutherford AVA. A blend of 91 percent zinfandel and 9 percent petite syrah, it is co-fermented and aged for 15 months in 40 percent new Hungarian oak puncheons. The adjacently planted two grape varietals complement one another. The color is a deep maroon, the nose is full of fruit — plum, with touches of vanilla. This carries through to the mouth, with a touch of tobacco from the oak along with an elusive herbal quality. A perfect wine for a weekend barbecue.

Our third wine, Shannon Reserve 2015 Two Bud Block Zinfandel (originally priced at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $37.99, reduced to $17.99), is from Lake County, California. It is also a blend of 95 percent zinfandel and 5 percent petite syrah. It is aged for 20 months in 35 percent new French and American oak. The vineyards are sustainably farmed with sheep controlling the weeds and fertilizing the vines. The color is of a deep maroon, the nose of rich blackberries and vanilla, which carries through to the mouth enriched by a hint of chocolate. The oak imparts subtle tannins, all made for pairing to great barbecued fare.

So explore the subtle differences not only of these three zinfandels but of the other seemingly countless approachable “zins” to be enjoyed with a vast array of foods and cuisines.

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 21/07/08

News from the local food scene

New spot for Granite State Naturals: After temporarily closing over the holiday weekend, longtime health store Granite State Naturals opened a new location on July 6, in the adjacent property on the corner of Granite Avenue and North State Street in Concord. Executive Chef Rob Cone has worked with owner Matt Jeannotte to expand the business into more of a superette — new items include grab-and-go sandwiches made with meats from North Country Smokehouse, as well as a variety of house side dishes, grain salads, house marinated meats, and dairy products sourced from both Brookford Farm in Canterbury and Huckins Farm in New Hampton. There is also now a selection of about 40 beers, ciders, seltzers, ready-to-drink cocktails and hard kombuchas, plus various wines from organic and biodynamic vineyards. The new location is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit

Canning and pickling: Join the Rodgers Memorial Library (194 Derry Road, Hudson) for Preserving the Harvest, a virtual program in pickling, canning, freezing and drying your own food that’s scheduled for Monday, July 12, from 7 to 8 p.m. Mark Gostkiewicz of Tri Gable Lea Farm in eastern Connecticut will discuss the pros and cons of each of these methods, as well as what details to pay attention to in order to avoid spoilage or food poisoning. Simple at-home projects using basic kitchen equipment will also be introduced during this live Zoom presentation. Participants can register at If you can’t make the live class but still want to learn the information, a recording will be emailed to you, in addition to handouts and references that will be covered during the talk.

Wine and barbecue: Get your tickets now for the next monthly wine dinners at the Colby Hill Inn (33 The Oaks, Henniker), set for Friday, July 16, and Saturday, July 17, in The Grazing Room. The event will feature a three-course dinner with wine on Friday evening, followed by an a la carte barbecue lunch beginning at noon on Saturday, then a three-course dinner that evening at 6 p.m. with pairings of McPrice Myers wines. The Colby Hill is also continuing its Sunday night out events with seatings on Sunday, July 11, from 4 to 7 p.m., where you can enjoy local seafood, barbecue items, and flight trios of wine, beer and sake. Visit

Eating local: Half of Granite Staters report buying food from local farms at least twice a month, according to a University of New Hampshire news release. The research, which was conducted by UNH’s Carsey School of Public Policy, found that the frequency of local farm food purchases varies across the state, with the highest rates along the Vermont border. Between one-third and one-half of adults buy local at least occasionally across Hillsborough, Rockingham and Strafford counties. The study also noted that 88 percent of Granite Staters reported that in-person sales models like farm stands and farmers markets were easily accessible, while, despite a rise in online shopping during the pandemic, only 23 percent of people said the same about online market platforms for local food.

Cucumber gimlet

My grandparents were civilized people. One of my favorite memories of them is their rigorous observance of Cocktail Hour.

Every evening, when Opa got home from work, he would change clothes, then he and my Oma would sit down for a cocktail. This was not precisely a formal ritual, but it was one thoroughly saturated with respect. For an hour or so, they would sit together without distractions and focus on each other. Opa would slip in some form of compliment for my grandmother — her name was Grace, but he called her “Dolly” — and at some point, he would usually lean back, sigh with contentment and wonder out loud, “what the poor people” were up to that night.

For me, the classiest part of the whole ceremony — because, really, that’s what this was — was that they always had a small bowl of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish with their cocktails.

I remember once asking my grandmother if I could have a sip of her cocktail. Amused, she let me have one. It was the worst thing I had ever tasted up to that point in my life (I was about 8).

“What IS that?!” I asked, overcome with feelings of betrayal and disgust.

“It’s a gimlet,” she told me serenely, and it was seared into my memory. She let me have a handful of goldfish to clear my palate, and those are there, too.

I wish I had a profound lesson to tie this story to — other than the fact that Oma and Opa have both been gone for about 40 years, and I still miss them achingly.

Anyway, here is a recipe for a take on a classic summer gimlet, with cucumber.

Cucumber Gimlet

45 grams (3 thick slices) cucumber

1/2 ounce cucumber syrup (see below)

2 ounces gin (I’m using Wiggly Bridge this week, given to me by a friend who distributes it in New Hampshire.)

3/4 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed (see below)

1. Muddle the cucumber and cucumber syrup aggressively in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Be careful not to splash yourself.

2. Add the ice, gin and lime juice. If you have a choice, go with the lime that has been sitting around your kitchen for a week or so and is looking a little tired. If you think you can see his ribs showing, he’s the one you want. His juice will taste extra-limey.

3. Shake until the condensation on the side of the shaker starts to freeze.

4. Strain into a coupé glass.

5. Drink this while giving someone your undivided attention.

Gin and lime are a classic combination. The cucumber makes this drink more summery and refreshing. It provides a framework to hang the crispness of the gin and the fruitiness of the lime.

Is there a way to make this even more cucumbery?

Yes — I would shred half of an unpeeled cucumber with a box grater, and use it to infuse an equal amount of gin for a week or so. (I say I “would”; in point of fact, I am infusing a batch of it right now, but it’s hot out and I’m feeling nostalgic. I’d like a gimlet right now, please.)

Cucumber simple syrup

I tried and compared several different methods for making this syrup. I’ll spare you the details of my testing protocols, but here is the least fiddly method that gave me the sharpest cucumber flavor:

1. Wash an English cucumber, then roughly dice it, with the skin still on. Freeze it for an hour or two; ice crystals will help break down the cell walls and persuade the cucumber to give up its juice more generously.

2. Combine the frozen cucumber and an equal amount (by weight) of sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring regularly.

3. Remove from heat, then mash the cucumber pieces with a potato masher. Don’t be gentle.

4. Cover the pot and let the cucumber steep for half an hour.

5. Strain with a fine-meshed strainer, and use a funnel to bottle it.

Featured photo: Cucumber gimlet (with accompaniments). Photo by John Fladd.

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