5 Questions with Stu + Briar

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5 Questions with Stu + Briar

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    Asheville Grit is what Asheville has to say. It's a free-form, curated forum for Ashevillians to submit blog posts on music, art, food and drink, opinions on local things and more. Contact us if you...

A few short months ago, Briar DeHaven knew neither hide nor hair of Stu Helm, the illustrious Facebook food critic. But when Ashvegas hosted a contest to win a free lunch with Stu, Briar felt compelled to chime in. She suggested they dine at The Barleycorn (giving full disclosure that she worked there). Though Stu didn't pick Briar for the free lunch, the Ashvegas comments thread sparked the beginning of a meaningful friendship. We suppose it's their love of the f-bomb that binds them. In fact, their new-found friendship would make a great book title: The Triumphant Tales of Briar & Stu.
Here's an interview where they ask each other 5 questions. Be warned: this text is not suitable for children or the faint of heart. Enjoy.
Briar DeHaven - Not only do we know and love you as Stu Helm, the bawdy, naughty, mouth-like-a-potty food critic, but you also illustrate neato flyers for kids. Firstly, why kids? And secondly, would you ever consider joining your two pursuits and doing, say, your food reviews as comic strips?
Stu Helm - Yay, Briar! I know and love you too! Thanks for asking about Asheville Flyer for Kids! I started it two years ago, with my partner on the project Tim Arem, basically because I think it is a million dollar idea! There's no other paper like it in the country, and the kids seem to love it. Plus, kids are fun and challenging to draw and write for. On the one hand there are more restrictions re: what they can understand and appreciate, as well as what's acceptable and appropriate, but there are no limitations in terms of how goofy I can be, or how crazy my drawings or ideas are. Kids love goofy shit.
As far as doing a comic version of my food reviews... maybe... one day... I'm not sure about that, Briar. The truth is that drawing comics is hard! And work intensive. Writing is easier, and grown-up people seem to like my writing better than they ever liked my comics, so for now at least, I'm sticking with words for the Food Critic and drawings for AFK!
BD - For the sake of humor, might you describe, in detail, your most embarrassing moment on God's green earth? F-bombs encouraged.
SH - I farted once while I was getting a BJ. Hands down most embarrassing moment of my life, no contest. Now aren't you super glad you asked?
BD - Little known fact, you got your BFA from the Art Institute of Boston. What interests you most in visual art? Are there any visual artists you admire working in Asheville?
SH - It's hard to pinpoint what interests me most in the visual arts, Briar, but I can say that I enjoy all kinds of art, from super lowbrow to super high concept. Kind of like with food! I love hot dogs, and as much as I love haute cuisine. With art, I love a good old fashioned drawing of a sexy lady riding on a giant hot dog, and as much as I enjoy l'art majeur! n'est-ce pas?
There are lots of visual artists living in Asheville that I admire! Alli Good is one of them, and Joshua Spiceland. Ursula Gullow is awesome, and I really love a lot of what I see in Haen and Blue Spiral Galleries as well as at Satellite Gallery. My GF, Dawn, is a fantastic artist, and she curates Window Gallery on Broadway. Our adorable friend Sebastian is a great photographer, and there's Michael Traister, Parker Pfister, and Stewart O'Shields.
There are too many to mention them all, but I listed Alli first because I think she might be my fave. I love her line work, and her themes, and I admire her ability to work on different materials with different shapes and such. I like shapes. Her work makes me feel slightly overwhelmed by how awesome it is. I have an art crush on her for sure.
BD - What was the food of your youth like? Any special cooks in your home?
SH - Everyone in my house was and is a good cook! My mom can cook just about anything and make it come out really good. We always ate fresh food in our house growing up, typical things like chicken, beef, pork, hamburgers, and hot dogs, plus broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, and all that stuff. We ate some processed crap, like Nestle's Quick and the rare TV dinner, but for the most part I have good memories of good food, mostly of the Suburban American variety. Pot roasts and such.
We also ate out a lot, and since my sister and I were very well behaved children (AHEM!) our parents even took us to fancy places in addition to the burger joints like Friendly's and A&W. I have really nice memories of going to Ken's Steak House in my little hometown, where it was dark and quiet, with highback booths, upholstered in pleather. We'd also go to The Moroccan in the biggest, closest city, Worcester, Ma, were we sat on the floor and ate shish kabob. I loved that! Plus pizza. Lots and lots of pizza.
BD - And finally, what meal would you want to put in your pie hole if humanity was facing the end times?
SH - I have some bad news for you , Briar... Those End Times of which you speak? Yeah. In them. Now. Which is part of why I'm stuffing said pie-hole with at least two of every animal... Plus dessert... and coffee.
Now, if you're asking about some kind of post-society dystopia, then I just hope that Katie Button has a nice little bistro set up inside Thunderdome, or wherever.
"The mutated wombat confit on soylet green waffles was delicate, yet substantial, and had just the right geiger of radioactive sea salt to make my tummy glow!"
Stu's Questions for Briar
SH - You seem to wear a lot of hats. Can you describe all of the many things that you do for Barleycorn, Asheville Grit, Asheville Poetry Review, Orison Books, Ultimate Body Press, etc? What's a typical week like for you?
First of all, awesome questions Stu!
I'm the Social Media & Marketing Director for The Barleycorn, which is my primary job. I work to refine the brand of the restaurant, plan and run all events, create ads, do in-house graphic design, update and improve our website, manage our social media platforms, and act as the point person on all marketing efforts. I also eat a lot of pub grub like it's mah job, cuz it is. Tater tots, what?
I'm a part-time blogger for Ultimate Body Press, where I write food and fitness articles (and mention nothing about the tater tots). I also donate my time for passion projects like Asheville Poetry Review and Orison Books. For these ventures I do a lot of reading and writing, so I can't complain.
SH - Do you also literally wear a lot of hats? Some people look cute in hats, and other people not so much, Where would you put yourself on that spectrum? Any hat advice for the ladies out there? Dish it, Sister! The subject is hats. GO!
Dude, Stu, I fucking love hats. (Yea, I use the f-bombs too.) I don't think folks wear enough hats in this day and age. Sure, you get hat hair, you look like a jackass if you wear one inside, and they can be sweaty as fuck, but aside from those minor annoyances, hats are the dope shit!
I think wearing a hat well is all about confidence. In fact, just the other night I was at a poetry reading, and this guy got up to read during the open mic portion. He was sporting a straw bowler hat with fake leaves attached to it, and he wore than dang thang like there was nothing strange about it. And I had mad respect for him beacause of the way he wore his hat. True story.
SH - Here's a scenario: It's Sunday in Asheville, it's 2PM and you're hungry as fuck, but you're too groggy to cook for yourself, (from an evening of witchcraft or craft brew or whatever it is people in Asheville do on a Saturday night), so where do you go to eat?!?
Stu, I'm about to get personal with you and share a bit of information I keep very tight to the hip. There's a small joint in my neighborhood that I frequent with embarassing regularity. That small joint is Tacos Jalisco. I eat from Tacos Jalisco so many times in a week, I have them on speed dial, and I know the exact cost of my order down to the damn penny. Stu, I realize this place might be a long bike ride for you, but do yourself a favor and cart your ass over there. Eat exactly 4 tacos of the following variety: fish, shrimp, steak, pastor. You shant be disapointed.
Oh, and why not toss in a little self-promotion. Eat the fucking brunch at The Barleycorn! It's damn good.... or fuckin' aye good as you say, Stu. Saturdays & Sundays,11am-3pm. Do it and leave us an amazing review.
SH- I couldn't help but notice that you're a good writer, Briar, which is rare these days. Did you go to school for writing? Have you always been a good writer? Can you give us three tips that might help us all to become better writers?
Stu, thanks for noticing! I've always been a writer, and my dad was a writer too....wrote the same book his whole life. When anyone asked him what his book was about, he'd reply, “It's about 1,500 pages.” Hardy har har.
Stu, I've got several tips that will no doubt guide you in your writerly pursuits. There are several so let's bullet point this shit.

  • First, omit needless words. That's from the amazing Strunk & White in their perfect book, The Elements of Style. Brilliant right? Cut, slash, and burn your little darlings, which is to say, don't be so in love with the flair of your writing you hold onto unnecessary content that doesn't move the reader along.
  • Second, ask yourself, what makes the reader turn the page? Or in your case, keep scrolling through your review? Remind yourself, every blessed sentence has to move the story forward. I heard that quip of advice from author, Stephen Messer, who knows, for goodness sake, to move the dang plot along!
  • Third, show, don't tell. No one wants to read, “She felt nervous.” Instead they want to read, “Karen's breath shortened as she tip-toed to the half-opened door.” Ooh, I just got the creeps writing that! See how that change in writing style evoked a visceral reaction?!
  • Fourth, avoid adverbs—seriously, definitively, courageously, unbelievably. Adverbs are mostly boring. Avoid them. See how your writing improves without those dastardly bastards.
  • Fifth, write in the dang damn active voice! Stephen King nails down this perfect example in his book, On Writing. Instead of saying: “The meeting will be held atseven o'clock”, just buck up, stick out your chest, and say with conviction, “The meeting's at seven.” Ya dig?

Stu, my best advice is, if you want to be a great writer, be a great reader. Read articles, blog posts, poetry collections, and novels. Read and read and read as if you need to read to live. And your writing will improve with every word you gobble.
SH - Question number five is an essay question, Briar, and is worth 50% of your overall grade for this exam: Please give us a comprehensive review of the last book you read.
Gosh Stu, great question! The last book I read is a poetry collection by Wislawa Szymborska called Miracle Fair. Known for her brevity of wit, Szymborska's poems are examples of complexity within simplicity. My favorite lines are from a poem called Drinking Wine:
A table is a table, wine is wine
in a wineglass, which is a wineglass
and it stands standing on a table
but I am a phantasm,
a phantasm beyond belief,
a phantasm to the core.
Isn't that lovely, Stu? I'd like to think of myself as a phantasm to the core, wouldn't you? With all the trappings of daily life, Szymborska is the emboldened advocate for meaning in the mundane.
Stu, thanks for the banter. This is the most fun I've had all week.