Still standing (up)

Kathy Griffin’s ‘My Life on the PTSD List’ hits Portsmouth

Every comic has their story about a joke that didn’t land, and the heckler or projectile that resulted. For Kathy Griffin, an ill-considered attempt to riff on Donald Trump’s “blood coming out of her whatever” comment about debate moderator Megyn Kelly was more consequential. She lost jobs, lost friends and, worse, unleashed a federal investigation — all because of a photo of her holding a ketchup-soaked mask.

It turned out that was just one of many setbacks for Griffin. Along with repeatedly being detained by Interpol during a world tour documented in the film Hell of a Story, she lost her sister to cancer, her mother and longtime foil died at the start of the Covid pandemic, and Griffin herself battled both a pill addiction and lung cancer.

Beyond all that turmoil, she found a way to laugh, even at being the target of a weaponized government.

“I make fun of all of it,” Griffin said by phone from her home in Malibu. “After this long and storied career, to think that I was under investigation by the DOJ and then diagnosed with PTSD, like I’m a combat veteran or something? You have to laugh at it. There’s too much comedy there.”

For example, her cancer, which resulted in the removal of half a lung. “I’m cancer-free, and I’m a proud member of the one-and-a-half lungs community, which needs a face for the brand,” Griffin said. “I’m doing it for free, gratis and happily, and I don’t appreciate you flaunting your two lungs in my face.”

There is, however, one topic she’s trying to steer clear of. “I will say — shocker — as of this moment, I don’t mention Trump at this new show. It’s not like I’m afraid of him or anything because he can’t really do anything worse than he already has.” She polls the audience at most shows to gauge whether they’re interested in the political or personal and goes from there.

On Feb. 2, she opened in Des Moines, Iowa, to a decent-sized crowd, but not every market is as welcoming. With conservative celebrities like Laura Loomer working to re-ignite the outrage that derailed Griffin’s career in 2017, ticket sales are lagging for shows in red states like Texas, Kentucky and Indiana. However, less than 100 or so seats remain for her “My Life on the PTSD List” tour stop in New Hampshire.

Many likened the backlash she received to The Dixie Chicks in the aughts — even that band’s singer Natalie Maines reached out to Griffin to offer support. “That was so cool,” she said. “We were going to get together, then something happened, and we couldn’t. But I want to find her number again and say, remember me? Let’s do it.”

Still, the band now called The Chicks was able to go on tour and make an album with Rick Rubin. Griffin lost much more, for a longer time. Comparisons to Lenny Bruce’s obscenity battles in the 1960s also miss the point, she continued. “He had cops arrest him, not the feds. I even called Kelly Carlin, George’s daughter, and she said the same thing … ‘My dad never had the feds.’ This was a full investigation, testifying under oath, and the no-fly list.”

The comedian famous for never meeting a line she wouldn’t cross eventually learned to lean into the firestorm she’d created.

“I don’t care if you’re a stay-at-home mom or you have an office job, but to then not be doing that which you do for six long years, and to have it come at the behest of the f-ing president, that was the awful part,” she said. “The phone not ringing, the people turning on me, the networks telling me, ‘We love you; we think you’re funny, but you’re too toxic for Middle America’ is of course something I took as a challenge.”

Ironically, Griffin’s number is on a special kind of speed dial list.

“I’m the patron saint of celebrities who’ve gotten canceled for screwed up reasons, and so I will get called,” she said. “Bette Midler called me one time during the Trump’s administration … he was mad at her about a tweet, and she got a call from the Secret Service. She wanted to know what to do and I’m like, do this, this and this, and you say this, and don’t say this.”

On the other hand, “Don’t talk to me about the people who deserve to get canceled,” she continued. “The ones who pissed off the previous administration, I know how to handle those calls. Like, Rudy Giuliani’s daughter … she contacted me and she’s like, ‘I’m so embarrassed about my dad, what do I do?’ I said, ‘You’re stuck with him, honey, just smile and stay gay.’ She’s like, ‘I love you!’ So, I never know about what kind of calls I’m going to get.”

Did any positives come out of her ordeal? “Honestly, I don’t have a lot of good news to report except that it gave me clarity,” she said. “Most of the people that turned on me are still turned against me … it’s particularly people in my industry. I’m just going to call it out, and of course I’ll get in trouble for this as usual, but it was old white guys who identify with Trump far more than they identify with me.”

Griffin is excited to be back in front of audiences. Much of her new cadre of material sticks to the celebrity-dragging and barbs that helped feed her success.

“I’ve always been a magnet for crazy, that’s a gift that I’ve accepted and no longer fight, so, I go into certain situations sometimes, and I just know they’re going to be comedy gold,” she said. “I have a whole new half hour about going to Paris Hilton’s Christmas party that I cannot wait to talk about in Portsmouth. Because it was like a time capsule. First of all, she looks exactly the same, she still wears the pink sparkly dresses and such. It was like going back to 2003. Nothing has changed. I went with Rosie O’Donnell, so it was like the Rosie O’Donnell show was still on daytime, My Life on the D List was still on TV, it was hilarious…. I also like that Paris didn’t let us in the house, which is my favorite thing about when rich people have parties, they have police caution tape, like don’t even think about it. I don’t blame her; she’s been through hell herself.”

She’ll also riff on a certain pop singer but may go a bit gentler on her.

“We can’t not talk about Britney!” she said. “I feel very maternal toward her, I certainly went in hard on her in the ’90s and 2000s, because at that time I was making fun of a young lady that was a multi-multi-multi-millionaire as a teenager and was behaving in ways that sometimes were unique, but no, I’m not making fun of her mental illness. But am I gonna talk about her Instagram? Yes, I am. Can I look away from it? No, I can’t.”

The gloves are off for her former Hamptons neighbor Kanye West, now remarried and causing international incidents with his new wife. “Getting kicked out of Italy, I’ve never heard of that,” Griffin wondered. “I can see getting kicked out of an Italian restaurant but getting kicked out of the entire country because you’re walking around with a pillow and plastic heels? I’ve got to get to the bottom of it.”

Griffin also thinks Kanye is missing his former wife, Kim Kardashian. “A couple of days ago, his pants fell down, and you could see his butt crack. Doesn’t he have a team of people to tell him, pull your pants up, get it together? That’s what I feel Kim did. She would do a little bit of Cher in Moonstruck — ‘snap out of it!’ Because he was a little bit functional then; now he’s just off the rails. I know he has a mental illness, but I don’t care. I’m going right for the misogyny.”

Whatever awaits her as she embarks on her first big domestic tour since her world came crashing down, Kathy Griffin remains defiant. “I have cemented my place in history,” she said. “Actually, as I’m getting older, I’m getting a little proud of it. The fact that I’m still out there, going to work within the same 10-day period of E. Jean Carroll getting her $83 million judgment, I’m starting to have a bit of optimism about this little divided country of ours.”

An Evening with Kathy Griffin
When: Saturday, Feb. 17, 8 p.m.
Where: The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth
Tickets: $57.50 and up at

Featured photo: Kathy Griffin. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 24/02/15

Local music news & events

Dad tribute: The first song A.J. Croce recorded from his father’s catalog after doing Croce by Croce concerts for many years was “I Got A Name.” When Jim Croce died in a 1973 plane crash, his son was 2 years old. Later, one way he got to know him was by studying reels of tape for clues to his artistic process; this led him to realize that they both loved the same American Songbook artists. Thursday, Feb. 15, 7 p.m., Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord, $53.75 and up at

Rock’s voice: When Deep Purple made the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Glenn Hughes, their co-vocalist and bassist in the mid-’70s, was among those accepting the honor. Hughes plays Deep Purple classics at a local show, with Enuff Z’Nuff opening. Friday, Feb. 16, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $50 and up

Laugh time: Monthly comedy shows continue at a grand buffet Italian restaurant with Paul Nardizzi topping a lineup that also includes Dave Rattigan and Chris Cameron; arrive early for the food and stay for the hilarity. Former Boston Comedy Festival winner Nardizzi has appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central, NESN and Fox Sports’ Best Damn Sports Show Period. Saturday, Feb. 17, 8 pm., Cello’s Farmhouse Italian, 143 Raymond Road, Candia, $30 at

Duo show: A release show celebrates Call and Response, a new EP from Matt Pond PA & Alexa Rose, who decided to connect and make music together after Rose name-checked the band in her song “Wild Peppermint.” The disc includes a lovely take on the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” and the original “Side Eye Rolls,” a Tom Petty-esque rocker that nods to The Big Lebowski’s rug. Sunday, Feb. 18, 7 p.m., The Word Barn, 66 Newfields Road, Exeter, $16 and up at

Celtic connection: With less than a month until St. Patrick’s Day, it’s a good time to enjoy the weekly Irish Sessions at a venerable Concord pub, recently revived after a long hiatus. Settle into a six-dollar pint of Guinness or Smithwick’s, or a Black & Tan combo of the two, paired with fish and chips, beef stew or a Dublin burger, alongside a lively and frequently surprising evening of traditional music. Tuesday, Feb. 20, 6 p.m., The Barley House, 132 N. Main St., Concord,

Lisa Frankenstein (PG-13)

A 1980s teen, like, totally grieving for her deceased mother while everybody, even her father, has moved on, finds a friend in a long dead, suddenly reanimated floopy-haired boy who looks good in a Violent Femmes shirt in Lisa Frankenstein, a movie written by Diablo Cody and directed by Zelda Williams (daughter of Robin).

Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton) is the new kid in school, in this her senior year, because she and her dad (Joe Chrest) have moved in with his new wife Janet (Carla Gugino) and her teen daughter Taffy (Liza Soberano). Lisa was already deeply traumatized by her mother’s death — at the hands of a serial killer while Lisa hid in a nearby closet, according to Taffy — and seems further traumatized by her father’s remarrying within months and then moving them to a new town. Lisa barely speaks and doesn’t socialize much despite popular Taffy’s genuine and basically good-hearted attempts to pull her out into high school society.

Lisa does allow herself to be dragged to a party where she sees Michael Trent (Henry Eikenberry), head of the high school’s literary magazine, who she is crushing on. Attempts to flirt with him get sidetracked by Tamara (Joey Bree Harris), a gothy girl clearly also crushing on Mike. Tamara sarcastically offers Lisa her drink and Lisa, to prove she’s not the quiet shut-in everyone thinks she is, takes a big swig of it. Unfortunately, it’s a weird high school “wine punch”-or-something drink and she immediately finds herself drunk or high or maybe both. After some puking and dodging a boy who tries to get nonconsensual, Lisa runs out of the party and into a nearby overgrown graveyard.

Luckily, Lisa is familiar with Bachelor Grove Graveyard — she often hangs out there taking rubbings of the headstones and doing other sad-girl things. She even has a favorite headstone, the headstone of a man (the only part of his name we can see is the “ein” end of his last name) whose monument includes a bust with his sad pale face.

As we learned in the movie’s opening shadow-puppet credits, this man was an old-timey unmarried guy who played piano and fell in love with a woman who left him for what I think was a mandolin player. He mopes around and is later killed by a lightning strike.

In the present (late 1980s) day, as Lisa is stumbling around the graveyard, she finds his grave. She had given him her mother’s rosary and as she contemplates her crappy night she makes a wish that she could be with him. Meaning, as she later explains, that she wishes she could be six feet under. But the universe and a mysterious green lightning strike takes it the other way and sends the somewhat decomposed and missing-some-parts man, listed in IMDb as The Creature (Cole Sprouse), back above ground.

The next evening, as Lisa watches a scary movie, the Creature comes stumbling and moaning into her house. She is at first all screaming and running and throwing horrible Janet’s horrible Precious Moments figurines at him. But then she figures out who he is — thanks to a grave rubbing and some pointing (a tongue is one of the parts the Creature is missing). She gets him to take a shower and to keep the crying to a minimum — his tears smell like a hot carnival toilet, she says — and change clothes, eventually finding the kind of blazer-and-band-shirt combo you could picture on a John Cusack character of the same vintage. The Creature becomes someone she can talk to about her feelings and her crush on Michael. He is so nice that when he semi-accidentally kills Janet, Lisa helps him bury Janet’s body and sew Janet’s ear on to the spot where one of his ears has gone missing. At first it doesn’t fully become a part of him but then Lisa remembers Taffy’s malfunctioning tanning bed that electrocutes everybody who uses it.

As the Creature continues to replace his missing parts, he also helps Lisa improve her fashion sense, going from “clothes that make you invisible” to “late 1980s Winona Ryder character at the prom.” He also gets hotter every time he electrocutes himself, going from “obviously undead” to “lightly made-up goth boy.”

There’s a lot here in this emo rom-com with a Heathers throwback vibe that reaches the level of “cute” or even “sorta funny” and there is a genuine human relationship between Lisa and Taffy that you could really build something on. The movie sets a tone that had me willing to go along with whatever silliness it wanted to give me. But, unlike the Creature, this thing never quite zapped to life for me, the nostalgic setting and classic horror movie allusions and extreme examples of crimped hair just didn’t pull together into something that was more than what you get just by hearing the phrase “Diablo Cody writes an ’80s set horror comedy love teen story.” There is a sharpness missing in the comedy or in the romance or somewhere in the mix of this movie that would elevate it from just a throwback curio.

Even though I’d place this movie at around a C+ I’m ultimately not sorry I watched it and, when it is inevitably available for streaming at home, I suspect it will feel like a passable B-.

Rated PG-13 for violent content, bloody images, sexual material, language, sexual assault, teen drinking and drug content, according to the MPA on Directed by Zelda Williams with a screenplay by Diablo Cody, Lisa Frankenstein is an hour and 41 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Focus Features.

Featured photo: Lisa Frankenstein.

Good Material, by Dolly Alderton

Whether it’s because the holidays were unbearable or Valentine’s Day is even worse, we’re in the time of year that most breakups happen. If you happen to be nursing a broken heart, Good Material, the second novel by British writer Dolly Alderton, will be an excellent companion. And if you’re not, it’s a very good distraction from the post-holiday, mid-winter, my-team’s-wasn’t-in/didn’t-win-the-Super-Bowl blahs.

The novel is centered around the debilitating heartbreak of Andy Dawson, a 35-year-old comedian who just broke up with Jen, his girlfriend of four years. He doesn’t understand what happened — they’d just had a lovely weekend together in Paris, he mournfully tells friends, when Jen tells him that she doesn’t want to be with him anymore. Unfortunately for Andy, that means he’s not only out of a relationship, but out of housing — they’d lived together and Jen’s salary had enabled them to live in much nicer housing than could Andy’s cobbled-together income from comedy gigs and corporate training events.

There is also the not-insignificant problem of their friend group — Jen’s close friend, Jane, is the wife of Andy’s best friend, Avi, and the two couples had been besties for years, leading to all sorts of painful complications in the aftermath of the breakup when Andy moves in with the friends while he’s searching for a place to live and monitoring his newly worrisome bald spot.

But all these problems are secondary to Andy’s heartbreak, which he is desperately and unsuccessfully trying to rid himself of. When he passes a woman wearing Jen’s signature perfume, for example, he goes to the store and buys all they have of that brand and pitches the bottles into a river, saying that’s four fewer times he’ll have to smell Jen again. He obsesses for weeks over whether it’s OK to send her a “happy birthday” text and, if so, what it should say. When that doesn’t go well, he devises a list “of all the other possible events in the coming year that might open the gateway for casual texting,” such as Christmas, his birthday, nuclear disaster and the death of someone they both know.

He tries engaging with other women, and even moving into a houseboat, in order to effect a fresh start. Friends beg him to stop thinking about her. Andy says he wishes he could, but “thinking about her is not a choice … the room inside my mind that has been occupied by her for the last four years still exists. I want to convert it into a home gym or meditation room or get in a new tenant, but I can’t.”

Alderton wrote about love and loss in her 2021 memoir Everything I Know About Love, and she has been called a Nora Ephron (Heartburn) for millennials. Andy the lovelorn is evidence of her experience with the subject matter, as in when she writes of the couple awkwardly meeting to close a joint bank account post-breakup and Andy says it feels like he’s encountering a celebrity: “A couple of months ago, Jen was the woman whose pants I put in the washing machine with mine when I put a load on. Now, she is unfamiliar and untouchable; someone I have a one-way relationship with in photos and memories and in my imagination.”

But it’s going to get even worse a few months later when Andy awakes in the morning to see “one of the worst texts you can wake up to other than being informed of a death” — Hey mate, saw what’s happening online. Hope you’re ok.

As miserable as Andy is throughout much of the story, this is still a very funny book. The protagonist is a comedian, after all, who does things like making mental lists of what he would agree to do in order to have Jen be in love with him again (lose hair at the front of his head, go to her parents’ house every weekend for lunch, never eat ham again) and Alderton’s own comic sense powers even the darkest scenes. There’s also a very funny subplot involving Andy’s eventual landlord, a conspiracy theorist devoted to Julian Assange (there are lots of contemporary references throughout the book) who is trying to get a historical placard for his house because George Harrison once slept there.

In every relationship that fails, Andy reflects four months after the breakup, something called “The Flip” occurs, a change in who wields the most power in the relationship: “The person who is in charge in a relationship is the one who loves the least.” This is among the relationship wisdom that Good Material imparts, another being that when we move on from one partner, we look for the next to provide in spades the 10 percent of whatever was missing from the last one.

But the greatness of the novel comes not from any of this, but from Alderton’s decision to flip the perspective from Andy to Jen at the end of the book, finally answering Andy’s lament, “Why did she break up with me?” — but only to the reader. It’s a masterful technique, one that adds heft and complexity to a story that was already satisfying. A

Album Reviews 24/02/15

Becky Hill, Believe Me Now? (Astralwerks Records)

As you know, I complain about a lot of things, but to be honest, Astralwerks Records has never sent me something I didn’t like. This zillion-seller British dance-pop queen isn’t a household name here in the States, although chances are good that you’ve heard her 2019 Meduza and Goodboys-guested single “Lose Control” someplace. Like a souped-up Kylie Minogue, she’s all about the sexytime stuff, tinkering with drum ‘n’ bass, anthemic house, techno and atmospheric trance. Liftoff single “Side Effects” features Lewis Thompson, not that there’s much he does to improve on the bouncy club-kitten beat purring underneath. I really like “Disconnect,” with its buzzy, woofer-zapping rinseout noodlings holding Hill’s early-Katy Perry-style voice aloft, and p.s., the absolutely stunning hook should come with a Surgeon General’s warning. “Never Be Alone” is the ballad, spotlighting the Lorde/Adele sort of timbre that puts her voice at the top of her class. If anything, this stuff is too perfect. A+

The Philosophers, Vartamana (self-released)

Here we have a France-based sextet whose deeply mellow style more or less evokes a Weather Report-informed Miami Sound Machine, in other words the ’70s jazz-pop vibe is strong in this one. Replace Chuck Mangione’s trumpet with a sax and you’d be in the ballpark, but it leans more toward Sade in its level of chillness. It’s the latest project from guitarist Mark Bullock, a British transplant who simply wanted to put together a group in which each musician’s abilities were at least mildly tested. The project is ambitious enough, the standout piece being Alain Szpiro’s sax, which tables some fine runs that sound as though they cost a lot more to record than they likely actually did. Bullock’s guitar keeps the tunes centered and balanced when he’s not noodling away with some lead passages; singer Emeline Gouban strives for a mixture of bedroom/lounge ambiance, which she accomplishes sublimely, fitting in well enough with the rest of it. A


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Friday, Feb. 16, is on the way, and new albums are coming with it, so let’s slog forward and get winter over with, shall we, folks? Actually, let’s slog back to the Aughts era, when indie rock was so awful that many albums came stamped with a Surgeon General’s warning that listening to their music would turn you into a toad, remember those days, fam, when college-rock taste was dictated by white Brooklyn scenesters, and it was all a big plot to legitimize Captain Beefheart or whatever the idea was? Ha ha, it was so awful, except for a brief part of the nu-rave scene, but other than that it was artists like El Perro del Mar, which is the stage name of Swedish singer Sarah Assbring, whose new album, Big Anonymous, is out this week! I literally hadn’t heard any of this person’s annoying music since around 2005, when I reviewed her self-titled debut LP in these very pages, so I’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do. Right, the last thing I heard from her was that album’s minor hit, “Here Comes That Feeling,” a mixture of French ’60s girl-group unlistenability and Assbring’s Betty Boop vocals. Listening to it now, I hope I trashed that stupid album from stem to stern most righteously, but chances are that I didn’t, given that back then I was a relatively new player in the whole “making fun of bad bands in city newspapers” game, so I probably praised it just so that people would like me. Given that I no longer care about people liking me (there will always be haters no matter what, so what’s the point), I shall now head over to the YouTube to see if Assbring still sucks as badly as she did 19 years ago. Oh come on, I’m listening to the new single, “Kiss of Death,” and it’s just a Sigur Ros-ified Lana Del Rey bringdown, slow and mildly shoegazey. The only good thing about it is that it’s musical in its way, I wish she’d just give up. The video is gross and disturbing too, something about someone committing a moidah, and there’s fake blood on the actress. This is what it’s all come down to, folks, mediocrity and fake blood, let me try to forget I paid any attention to this nonsense.

• Lolol, it’s Jennifer Lopez, with a new album, can you believe it, folks? Last I knew she was trying to lead a progressive house resurgence, or was that Britney, or was it all of them? Ha ha, who’s she re-married to now, Ben Affleck or that rotten egomaniacal baseball man, A-Rod? You know she’s just going to get re-divorced to whichever of those cheating alien clowns she’s with, like, there’ll be a spicy story in National Enquirer any minute now, even it’s just completely misconstrued nonsense, a few pix of Affleck paying some Domino’s driver for a pizza so he can “bulk up” in order to play the movie version of Broderick Crawford, get where I’m going with this? No? Well it doesn’t matter, the point is that I have to go listen to something off J-Lo’s new album, This Is Me … Now. Yup, the title track is trance-infused Ke$ha. Whatever.

• Uh-oh, it’s California-based indie-rock band Grandaddy. I never liked anything I heard from them nor understood why they had so many fans. This should be a load of fun, because I forget what they sound like. Their new album, Blu Wav, is on YouTube, yes, the whole thing, so that’s nice of them. I’m listening to the single, “Cabin In My Mind,” and, ah, there we go, nowww I remember, their trip is sort of like a Guster-tinged Spacemen 3. Yesss, that’s why hipsters liked them, because they’re tedious.

• We’ll wrap it up with Adult Contemporary, the new LP from Chromeo, an electro-funk duo from Montreal, Canada; I never liked these guys either. This’ll probably be ’90s garage-house, their new single, “Personal Effects.” Nope, it’s their same old milquetoast trash, Weeknd meets Kool and the Gang. Spoiler alert: I totally hate it.

The Brain Cell

About a week ago I found a truly excellent photo online of Walter the Muppet and the Great Gonzo posing for a selfie at Epcot Center. If you are unsure who Walter and Gonzo are, just know that they are extremely cool to nerdy Muppet enthusiasts.

I saved the picture to a file on my computer, not entirely sure what I would do with it. I have a habit of doing this; I have a collection of hundreds of funny, strange or just interesting pictures to attach to emails or use in presentations. I never know when one of them might come in handy, so I keep them around, just in case. Yes, I suppose this is hoarding, but it’s digital hoarding, so at least I can still navigate my living room.

After an hour or so, I thought, “You know who would love this picture? The Artist.” Our only child is a freshman at art school in Chicago, and this might make a nice surprise.

So I uploaded the photo to a drug store to be printed. Later that afternoon I picked up my prints, then went to an art supply store and bought a frame. I had to juggle a couple of cards and my cellphone at the register while I tried to find a coupon for the frame, and ended up throwing everything into my bag as I left the store, because I didn’t want to hold up the line behind me.

When I mailed the framed Muppet photo to The Artist, I used the art supply store bag as cushioning, to protect the glass in the frame, and long story short, I’m pretty sure I mailed my debit card to Chicago.

I’ve dedicated this week’s cocktail to my lone remaining brain cell.

The Brain Cell

  • 1 ounce Ol’ Major Bacon Bourbon
  • 1 ounce Howler Head Banana Bourbon
  • 1 ounce Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
  • 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 ounce ginger beer – not ginger ale; this drink needs the extra bit of ginger
  • 4 drops Tabasco sauce

Combine all three whiskeys, the lime juice, and the Tabasco over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake to chill.

Add the ginger beer and stir gently.

Strain over fresh ice in a rocks or coupé glass.

Sip, while listening to “Yalili Ya Aini,” by Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart. It’s a strange and beautiful song that will match your — OK, my — mental state.

This can be a slightly befuddling cocktail, even before you make it. The list of its ingredients are surprising, perhaps even intimidating. Bourbon, bacon, banana and peanut butter don’t seem to make a lot of sense together. And yet the combination works.

Many people are familiar with an “Elvis Sandwich” — peanut butter and banana. It seems pleasantly wacky, but the sweetness of the banana complements the proteiny solidity of the peanut butter. What most people don’t know is that the sandwich Elvis Presley actually loved was a grilled peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich. There’s a common thread there of saltiness, sweetness and umami. (Clearly, my own exhausted brain cells have a strange priority in what they are dedicated to.)

So there’s our drink’s whiskey taken care of. We know that bourbon pairs well with sweet tastes, and certainly with other whiskeys. But won’t that leave this drink too sweet? It would, if not for the lime juice, which brings everything back in line. Its acidity and fruitiness pair well with the peanut butter and banana flavors.

The ginger beer and the Tabasco give a little bit of a bite to the operation, and the ginger beer also adds a slight tingle of effervescence.

This is one of those cocktails that comes at you in waves. The bacon and peanut butter hit you first, followed by fruity, tingly aftertaste. You’ll know that you like it, as soon as you taste it, but you will probably drink at least two of these, trying to wrap your head around it.

Without having to go to Chicago.

Featured photo: The Brain Cell. Photo by John Fladd.

Get a taste of Africa

Learn from Mola Foods founder at Nashua North this spring

By Eleanor Quarles

LaFortune Djabea, founder of local African food company Mola Foods, is bringing African cooking to New Hampshire. This spring Djabea will be hosting an African cooking course as one of Nashua Adult Education’s enrichment programs. The class will run on Thursday evenings from March 28 to June 6 at Nashua High School North.

The goal of the course is to introduce people to African foods and dive into the history and culture of the cuisine.

“Those who want to learn are welcome to join and learn how to cook authentic African food the simplest way possible,” Djabea said. The class is not only about introducing new dishes, but also about adapting them to be made easily at home.

If you’re still a beginner chef, don’t feel intimidated. When Djabea started learning to cook at 10 years old, she “didn’t have any knife skills or anything like that … you just jump in and start!” she said. The class is open to all abilities. The only thing you need is a willingness to learn, she said.

Growing up in Cameroon, Djabea learned how to cook dishes from all over Africa. She credits this experience to Cameroon’s unique diversity among African countries.

“Cameroonians call themselves ‘the continent,’ as in the African continent, because we have all the other African countries [represented] in Cameroon,” she said. That environment gave her versatility, and she has a passion for sharing that with the community through her business, Mola Foods.

While the specific dishes taught in the class are still to be decided, Djabea shared two of her personal go-tos when introducing people to African cuisine. She likes to make thieboudienne, a Senegalese rice dish with fish and vegetables, of which Cameroon has its own Jollof version.

Another one of her favorites is ndolé, a classic Cameroonian dish made with ndolé (also known as bitter leaf) and meat or shrimp in a peanut sauce, eaten with boiled plantains or fermented cassava. When washed well, the ndolé leaves have a distinct bittersweet taste to them. To easily make the dish in New Hampshire, she often replaces ndolé with spinach, as it’s much easier to get, and peanuts with cashews, to accommodate peanut allergies.

African cuisine tends to be flexible that way. You can make a lot of dishes to be vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, etc. Most diets can be accommodated, Djabea said.

In the class, students will get the chance to practice with everything: meat, poultry, fish and vegetables. They’ll use Mola Food’s spice blends to season dishes authentically without having to hunt down specific spices and ingredients that could be hard to find in stores here.

Mola Foods also hosts Taste of Africa dinners, where diners get a chance to try cuisine that is usually completely new to them. And these are not just food events; they’re cultural experiences with music, dancing and conversation. Djabea finds that some people come into the dinners not understanding African cuisine or having preconceived notions about it, but when they try the food, they love it.

There are 54 countries in Africa, she pointed out, so it’s impossible to get a taste of every country or even every region in one dinner, and every dinner is unique. There are not currently any upcoming Taste of Africa events scheduled, but they will be returning in the future.

It’s Djabea’s first time formally instructing a cooking course, but it’s not her “first rodeo” as an instructor, she said. She taught her kids and her best friend how to cook African cuisine, and before Mola Foods, she was a medical coding instructor for several years.

“It’s heartwarming to be able to go back and be an instructor again, this time just doing something that I love to do. I am excited to share the gift of cooking that my grandmother taught me when I was younger with the rest of the community that wants to join me,” she said.

African Cooking class
When: Thursdays, March 28 through June 6, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: Nashua High School North, 8 Titan Way, Nashua
Cost: $105 for Nashua residents, $130 for non-residents, plus $100 fee for lab/food

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 24/02/15

News from the local food scene

Unwined open: The wine bar Unwined (1 Nashua St. in Milford; was slated to hold its grand opening on Tuesday, Feb. 13, and will be opening for reservations only through February, according to a post on its Facebook page, where you can also get a look at its menu. Offerings include bar snacks (such as curry toasted chickpeas and hand-cut fries with feta cheese, lemon zest and garlic oil served with a house aioli), salads, tapas (such as cheesy arancini, creamy bacon Brussels sprouts and fried calamari, as well as a mezze platter and cheese board), entrees and desserts.

Goings on at WineNot: On Thursday, Feb. 22, from 4 to 7 p.m., WineNot Boutique (25 Main St. in Nashua; will hold a “Tasting of Big and Bold Winter Wines.” Admission costs $25. The evening will feature 15 wines paired with cheeses and a light appetizer, according to the event website.

Tasty vacation camp: The Culinary Playground (16 Manning St. in Derry;, 339-1664) has some vacation week classes for kids. On Tuesday, Feb. 27, there’s an adult and child (age 5+) “Homemade pizza and cupcake decorating” class at 3 p.m. ($45 for an adult/child team). On Wednesday, Feb. 28, there’s a “Sushi for T(w)eens” class at 3 p.m.; an adult/child team will make veggie and California rolls for $55. On Thursday, Feb. 29, from 3 to 5 p.m. there’s a “Make-A-Meal” class (featuring baked chicken chimichanga, Mexican rice and Tres Leches Cake) for $58 for an adult/kid pair (8+).

On The Job – LeeAnn Fay-Ellis

Owner of Smittens

LeeAnn Fay-Ellis is the owner of Smittens, a family-run business in Gilford that specializes in crafting mittens from upcycled and repurposed sweaters.

Explain your job and what it entails.

As a small business, so much of the job is staying organized. Scheduling events, accounting, ordering enough fleece for the liners, inventorying the stores we sell in and being sure we have enough product for each event. … Searching and thrifting for good sweaters can be fun, especially when I get to shop with my daughter. My husband does all of the cutting and matching of patterns and colors before sending them to me to be sewn. This starts our assembly line process.

How long have you had this job?

Smittens was started in 2011.

What led you to this career field and your current job?

In 2011 I saw a vendor selling sweater mittens at a craft fair that our 10-year-old daughter was selling at. She did a trade with her for a pair of sweater mittens for me. When we got home and I tried them on again I realized they didn’t fit well. I commented to my husband, David, that they felt more like an oven mitt and not very comfortable. He replied, ‘Why don’t you make your own?’ So we did. We went to our local thrift store to stock up on sweaters, found a pattern online, which I modified to tailor our mittens to fit better.

What kind of education or training did you need?

I have been a crafter for as long as I can remember. Both my mother and grandmother sewed and taught me the basics. I also took quilting classes. But as far as the modification of the sweater mittens, it was trial and error to get them to fit properly.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?

The majority of our work is done at home … so I am fortunate to wear sweatpants or yoga pants and be as comfortable as possible. [For] during the selling season … we had fleece vests made with our names by another local artisan (Forever Memories in the Mall of New Hampshire.)

What is the most challenging thing about your work, and how do you deal with it?

Finding good wool sweaters. … Another challenge is making enough to supply for the multiple stores we are in and events we do.

What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

When we first started, we would only make two or three pairs at a time. We now focus on making 50 at a time and have more of an assembly line process.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

We, like many artisans, create year-round and have a very limited selling time, especially with mittens. The unknown expenses can be great and what we sell each pair for is not what we actually make.

Five favorites
Favorite book: No More Excuses by Sam Silverstein and Don’t Bullsh*t Yourself! – Crush the Excuses by Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue
Favorite movie: August Rush
Favorite music: My daughter’s Spotify account! Music from the ’70s to today.
Favorite food: Blackened Mahi Mahi
Favorite thing about NH: I love the beauty of the seasons. I was fortunate to grow up in the Lakes Region with the lakes and mountains as our backyard.

Featured photo: LeeAnn Fay-Ellis. Courtesy photo.

Treasure Hunt 24/02/15

Dear Donna,

No time better than now to ask about these. They are paper heart boxes marked ‘Japan’ on the bottom. I have had them for years now and always wondered their age and what was the purpose.

Can you give me any information?

Thanks, Donna.


Dear Lee,

Belated happy Valentine’s Day!

The purposes for your sweet paper heart boxes could be many. They are novelty boxes and could be for candy, jewelry, trinkets etc., for the holiday or for other love-related events.

The mark ‘Japan’ on the back bottom shows they are from between the late 1920s to 1940s. This is when that mark was used.

Lee, they are very sweet and made me smile. I would think the value on them would be in the $15 range in good condition. Thanks for sharing your tiny treasures with us.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!