Two weekends ago, in celebration of some weather that actually felt like Pittsburgh in December, we decided to have a what we referred to as Winter Yinzer Fest. Although we didn’t put a chair in a parking space or anything drastic (yet), we did put on our slipper socks, watch some Pittsburgh documentary classics and have a bunch of drinks. Because, you know, that’s what we Yinzers do when the weather gets cold.
If you grew up in Pittsburgh or spent any amount of time here as a child, I imagine you’ve seen a Rick Sebak documentary or two. In fact, if you were like me, they were part of your elementary school curriculum. There’s even a teacher’s guide out there for The Mon, the Al, and the O, which teaches you everything you need to know about our three fabulous bodies of water and, if I remember correctly, Boy George-worthy riverboating. (I spent most of the 80s thinking that video was filmed here on the Ohio river. Despite the fact that it clearly says ‘Mississippi’ in the start of the video. Yeah. I’m a Yinzer.)
Anyway, in case you don’t know about our local treasure (I’d call him a national treasure, but sorry rest of the United States, we Pittsburghers called dibs), Rick Sebak, let me tell you: he makes the most fantastic Pittsburgh shows of all time. These short documentaries (most are an hour long) take you through various topics about our fair city, with a witty and quirky approach, and interviews and memorable quotes provided throughout by your fellow Yinzers. My favorites while growing up where the old things series: Things that Aren’t There Anymore and Stuff That’s Gone take you through memories of a Pittsburgh lost in time, like the old West View amusement park (which is now a shopping center where my old dance studio was), and Forbes Field (which is now the Forbes Quad at Pitt, which I don’t think is even the term the current students use anymore lol).
Anyway, trust me when I say that around these parts, Rick Sebak is a pretty big deal. You can understand how absolutely thrilled and fan-girl-ish I was acting when I found out he follows me on Twitter (I guess he likes reading about the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dancing with the Stars, which account for about 80% of my Twitter postings).
Michael, having not come to Pittsburgh until he was 11ish, knew who Rick Sebak was, but hadn’t actually seen any of the movies. So, we set our DVR for a few of the specials (they run regularly on the fantastic WQED here in the ‘Burgh) and decided to combine the night with our theme drink Achievement and make some Christmas-themed drinks while we learned a little bit about our favorite city.
I wasn’t sure how this was going to taste (and as we know, our previous theme drink nights were not the finest), but I tried to be upbeat.
This was a fascinating show, featuring not only the Christmas traditions in Pittsburgh, but Hanukkah and Kwanza celebrations as well, and Ramadan, which fell during the same time as these other winter holidays near the time the documentary was filmed. I loved the diversity of this episode, going from the crazy comments of Pittsburghers hanging Christmas lights (each one of them sounding like the guys who call into WDVE every day), to the ‘reason for the season’ clips with a more serious, thoughtful tone.
We watched clips of Light Up Night, saw the insane Polar Bear Plunge (one of these years, that’s going to make it onto our list lol), and of course, ogled alllllll the traditional holiday food. Oh wow, holiday food is the best, and this took us through the feast of the fishes, Scandanaivan Christmas dinner (complete with the parade of mini-Santa Lucias! so cute!), and batches and batches of latkes. I was starving by the end of this episode, I cannot lie. (Rick Sebak always does a good feature on food, for the record. Some of his shows are entirely *about* food, but I feel like almost all of them find a way to sneak food in, and for this, he is worthy of living in our lovely city.)
About halfway through, it was time for our next drink!
Although our first round was pretty good, I was still a little skeptical. Both of the first two drinks did not smell very good (and I am very strict about sniffing my booze before I actually drink it).
I was still not entirely sure after the first sip. The ‘Christmas cookie’ actually tasted more like a Peppermint Patty. It wasn’t bad by any means, but the peppermint was a little overpowering. Honestly, I think this would make an excellent shot, but for sipping… it’s a bit much.
After Happy Holidays in Pittsburgh, it was on to our second Rick Sebak film, Things that Are Still Here. Although we love the nostalgic films, this one took us to places from the past that are still hanging around. And oh yes, I was taking notes for our 2012 list! On the movie were Meadowcroft, which is the oldest site of human habitation in North America, Oram’s Donut Shop in Beaver Falls, and the collectable Fiestaware dinnerware.
What I love about these Rick Sebak documentaries is this: these are three things I’ve never heard or known much about. In the days following watching this documentary:
~ We went to the Fort Pitt Museum and got a flyer about visiting Meadowcroft.
~ I found out that each year on her birthday, my aunt makes a coworker who lives in Beaver Falls bring her Oram’s cinnamon buns.
~ I have seen Fiestaware EVERYWHERE: restaurants, department stores, AND apparently, my great-grandmother, whose kitchen holds a very dear place in my heart, collected them.
And I would never have known any of these things if we hadn’t watched this show!
I would also not have known how delicious the following Martha Stewart cocktail is.
This cocktail was fantastic!! It was almost like a cosmopolitan with a cool, minty finish. I never knew there was such a thing as strawberry vodka, but now that I know, I’m pretty glad it exists. I would drink this cocktail in the middle of summer if it was available!
Drink #4: Hot Candy Cane
1 oz peppermint Schnapps
1 oz Bailey’s
Another winning drink – I’d definitely drink this one again, although maybe cut back a bit on the peppermint, so it’s just a hint of mint (like those little Andes chocolates). I bought these special Snoopy Christmas mugs for this specific drink, but I have been enjoying my morning coffee in them as well, to keep me in the Christmas mood!
We had a great time watching our Rick Sebak documentaries, and I am excited to show Michael some of my other favorites in 2012, like the one where you learn all about the different buildings in downtown Pittsburgh (one of them flashes the word ‘Pittsburgh’ in Morse Code!). I’m also glad that we FINALLY made some theme drinks that are actually drinkable! A successful night all around!