Briefings: Pasta, Vampires, Beer Machines, Mosquitos, and Euro 2012

Our attention this week was on things practical rather than academic: eating carbs, drinking beer, watching sports, and protecting ourselves from vampires with Victorian-era slaying kits. Remember: practical.

It’s a big and complicated world. We’re at tips [at] if you think there’s something we should know about.

1. What to Eat | Pasta from the Store

We’ve all got the go-to winter ragu or summer pesto for an impressive meal in a pinch. Freeze the stuff and produce it on a date, surprise visit from the parents, in the midst of a bender. Making pasta isn’t so easy in a pinch, and it may not be necessary. Bon Appetit does a taste test with Mark Ladner, chef at New York’s Michelin-star restaurant Del Posto, who finds that De Cecco and Barilla make some very good pasta indeed. Ronzoni? “The color of this is so bizarre, I can’t even figure it out–it looks like it’s almost whole-wheat flour.”

2. What to Hunt | Vampires

Here’s the thing about novelty kits: They had a slightly different sense of humor in Victorian England. Take this vampire-slaying kit up for auction in Yorkshire. It’s got a pistol, wooden stakes, a mallet, glass bottles with holy water, holy earth and garlic paste, plus a handwritten extract from the Bible quoting Luke 19:27. “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” Toys were so much more fun back then.

3. What to Tackle | Vending Machines

It goes without saying that we’ve all gone tete-a-tete with a vending machine that failed to deliver its end of the exchange — tipping it, reaching in for the dangling peanut butter crackers, doubling down on the Fritos above the peanut butter crackers in hopes of getting them both. What we really want to do is bash the thing to pieces. In Argentina, Cerveza Salta’s “rugbeer” vending machines won’t drop your beer unless you put your shoulder into them something serious first. We like it, beats muscling your way up to a crowded bar.

4. What to Respect | The Mosquito

It’s time for a brief exercise in perspective. Respect, even. Mosquitoes, really the only thing we kill on a regular basis without much remorse, are actually pretty cool. It turns out they manage to negotiate a perilous circumstances every time it rains, according to an article in Smithsonian. “For a mosquito, getting hit with a raindrop is the equivalent of a human getting hit by a 3 ton object—something roughly the size of a pickup truck.” Read on to find out how they do it and why their tactics don’t work against the mighty human hand.

5. What to Watch (And Where to Watch It) | Euro 2012

We’ve been told to “get our priorities straight” more than a few times over the years. The good news is we finally sorted this one out: Euro 2012 has our full attention for the rest of the month. Here are a few places to watch the games in some of our favorite American cities.

Edi & The Wolf (New York, NY). This Austrian tavern in the East Village will open for lunch and show the games on a big screen. Order the schnitzel burger.

Mad Dog in the Fog (San Francisco, CA). English breakfasts all day, lots of imports on draft, and a garden out back.

The Gerald (Seattle, WA). Dottie’s mac & cheese, chicken pot pie, old-school cocktails, and all the games on a 120” projector.