recipes for four text-based vinaigrettes by max mitchell

“My Name”

Max Mitchell, Max Mitchell, Maxwell Metzger Mitchell Mitchell. Mitchell Maxwell Metzger Maxwell. Max Metzger Maxwell Mitchell. My parents picked it because they liked it, and because they could yell it, just like my older brother’s name, Sam. For formal occasions - Maxwell; for everyday things - Max. I was also named, in part, for my grandmother’s grandfather on my mother’s side, or my great-great-great grandfather, Maxwell Metzger. Incidentally, however, I am also named for some dude way back when on my father’s side, Maxwell, who, quite ironically, had a younger brother named Samuel. I don’t know anything about any of these people, I just know their names.

I don’t like that computers hear Mack’s or Mac’s or Matt’s instead of Max if I say my name. I don’t like like that there are names that sound like mine, like Mack and Mac and Matt. And I definitely don’t like that so many people have the same name as I. Because when someone says Max and three heads turn, confusion abounds.

But I like that my name has a ring to it, and that it has alliteration. I like that most everyone can spell it without trouble. I like that my last name is also a first name. I like that my initials are M.M.M., Maxwell Metzger Mitchell, and that no one has a middle name like that. But most of all, I like my name because it feels right, when people say Max it feels like it’s my name, and there isn’t really a way to quantify that emotion, but I think my name suits me well.

“Best Room”

My guitar, which I designed and then built with a help from my father.

The best room is my music room. This is my favorite room because I made it. Formerly known as the ‘library’, this room is set off from all the other rooms on the first floor of my house. It is directly beneath my bedroom, next to the stairs.

My first solid body guitar, an Ibanez GIO, a gift from my Uncle Michael a few months after I started playing guitar in 2014. Formerly my cousin Ernesto's guitar, but had not seen use in years.
My first guitar, a Fender Telecoustic, which my parents bought for me when I was 13 years old

Originally, this room was used for nothing as far as I am concerned but storage of furniture and books and glass coffee tables that get about as much use as a ‘Happy Leap Day!’ sign would. At a point probably last year, when the area my musical instruments took up became greater than the square footage of my room, the instruments were moved into the guest room. When the cumbersome move of instruments every time someone came over became far too heavy an annoyance, the music instruments, in their complete, were transported to the library.

Deering 'Goodtime' Banjo which my parents bought for me in the summer of 2016.
My two keyboards. The top, smaller one is a Yamaha I bought at a yard sale a year or so ago along with a miniature amplifier. The larger, bottom one is a Casio that was gift from one of my parent's friends. Over the summer, he heard about the music room and was kind enough to give me a keyboard which was not in use at his house.

Initially intended to be a temporary move, it became permanent when I realized the convenience of this new locale for my instruments. And since the room got such little use, no one noticed the filling of the room until the residence of my instruments was so solid that initiating another move would cause an earthquake of distress.

My brother Sam's Epiphone Thunder-IV Bass, which he was given for his 16th birthday. It resides in the Music Room.
Pearl drum kit, featuring Zildjan 'Amir' cymbals and Remo heads. This was a gift from my Uncle Michael. This was an old drum kit of his which he had loaned to a friend, and when he heard I was interested in acquiring and using a drum kit, he gave it to me.

I am so proud of this room is because I turned it from an uninhabitable wasteland into a land of opportunity. Before I came into this room with my instruments, there were two lamps in the room. One small desk lamp was activated by a switch, and another could be turned on if you walked over to it and got the finicky switch just so. At night, the room was dimly lit. I brought in over ten lamps that were being unused around the house, and, with the help of outlet splitters and many extension cords, managed to wire all of them to one outlet, one switch.

The one outlet controlled controlled by a switch in the music room. One of these cables is for a lamp, while three others are extension cords/outlet splitters to many other lamps in the room.
An end table in which I store my tapes, and on top of which I store my lava lamp.

One flick of a switch and ten lights go on, every time I see it, it feels like magic. Not to mention the extension cord movements needed to wire up the two amplifiers, two keyboards, three speakers, radio/tape deck, and multitudes of effect pedals. ¼” cables abound, and speaker cables fly like silly string, taped to walls and ceiling like a spider web of sound.

My effects pedals board. Featuring (from left to right, top to bottom) Electro-Harmonix Holy Stain, Zoom G3, Catalinbread Echorec, Vox V845 Wah, Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff Pi, Ibanez LF-7 Lo-Fi, and Ibanez CP-10 Compressor and Sustainer.
A great example of the cord messes one might encounter in the Music Room.

There is ample cramped seating. A recliner here, a settee there, a chair here. The room is filled with books and knick knacks, that make it homey, like the pendulum clock on the wall that’s only right twice a day, or the strange iron figurines above the fireplace, or the piles of folders and books and old computers, and the garbage of the house that is too nostalgic or fragile for the basement or the attic, but too strange for the sitting room. The things in there that are personal to me, though not mine in any way. I organize the room, and I know what there is and where there is, things tossed in a pile by a younger version of my parents and forgotten about and left to grow dust until disturbed. Things that exist only to me.

The focal table of the Music Room, one of three surfaces.
One of the side tables in the Music Room.

The room is cramped with all the instruments and things, but I find it cozy. It’s always the warmest room in the house, even though the brick hearth gets no use. When others try to get around they have difficulty, sometimes tripping over a cymbal or a saxophone, but I find it easy to get around. The room, which was once the darkest room in the house, is now the most brightly lit place I know of. The music room is my own personal home. I made it, it is mine, and I love it.

“Grandpa Wears Plaid”

Plaid and denim, plaid and denim, plaid and denim. My grandfather dresses a certain way, and for as long as I can remember, and to this day, he continues to dress this same way. My mother’s father always wears flannel or plaid button-down shirts and jeans, when he isn't wearing something more formal for a more formal occasion. I don’t know particularly why he does, and I’ve never asked, maybe he just likes the plaid pattern, perhaps this outfit is the perfect medium between style and comfort for him, I couldn’t tell you. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he only owns and dresses in plaid shirts and jeans, but nine times out of ten you’ll catch him in that outfit. Perhaps this certain clothing scheme means more to him than meets the eye, but my grandfather is a practical man, and I believe he dresses that way because he wants to. And every time I see someone wearing plaid, I think of my grandfather.


I am a foolish person in many regards, but most prominently, I am foolish when it comes to common sensical things most people understand. As I have aged, I have learned more and more about common sense and become a more sensible person, but not by much. So when I say, ‘when I was younger, I was foolish’ I don’t mean to imply I am not still foolish, because I am. Ask anyone.

When I was younger, I was foolish. By younger, I mean 7 or 8 or 9 years old. I state all those ages because this embarrassing experience took place over multiple years. 7 and 8 and 9 year old me didn’t get clocks.

If the reader recalls, first grade is when children are taught how an analog clock is to be read. We had small, plastic, brightly-colored toy analog clocks on which to learn how to read times. This was considered part of the ‘math’ unit. Time was spent each day learning how to read clocks.

7-year-old me couldn’t learn to read analog clocks. This young 7-year-old struggled not with other aspects of first grade, such as spelling, writing- even other aspects of math! In fact, 7-year-old me not only succeeded in first grade addition and subtraction, but also with a supplementary multiplication unit(which, at the time, was an elite group, not to toot my own 7-year-old horn). It was a mystery to both my teachers, classmates, and parents. However, I was not alone. The ‘clock’ section of math was also taught in second grade, so everyone was sure that young Maxwell would excel at analog clock reading the subsequent year.

Along rolled second grade, and the year passed without 8-year-old me learning his clocks! At this point, teachers and the 8-year-old were mystified at the phenomenon. A perfectly good 8-year-old boy, no trouble with his school work, no trouble with aspects of his care-free childhood. But this 8-year-old named Max, he didn’t get clocks. At this point in my recollection, I believe young Maxwell felt a bit of cynicism at the whole idea of analogous clockwork devices. Digital clocks occupied my house, there being only one analog in the whole house, and a stopped one at that. Why should I learn some ancient system of timekeeping when I can just read numbers? But cynical about the concept or not, 8-year-old me didn’t get clocks. If 8-year-old me had gotten clocks, I am sure he would have forgotten cynicism for another day and moved on with his life, but alas, along came third grade nonetheless.

9 years old was a turning point in my life. Because 9-year-old me, after considerable analog clock education from Mrs. Wintle, my beloved third grade teacher, got clocks. The ‘a-ha’ moment of understanding clocks is a strong memory in my mind, and of all my accomplishments, by far the least notable and recognized by others. Whenever someone talks about ‘a-ha’ moments, I recall the moment 9-year-old me learned clocks. If ever you have struggled with a problem in any subject, to the point of solving it and gaining that fantastic ‘a-ha’ moment, then you know the feeling. But imagine you are much younger, and for years now have struggled with a problem all your peers and the adults surrounding you fully understand, but could not figure it out for your life. Now imagine the moment it all makes sense. The same blue carpet in every children’s classroom covered the floor, the rough yet soft rug with patterns and words and shapes for learning too was spread. The mud hall, with no carpet and where the cubbies covered the wall in ordered chaos, is where I was taken. The mud hall, past the red, blue yellow, and green buckets filled with classroom tools and toys. The mud hall with the clocks. And while other students did something or other with a teaching aide, per the usual, I was taken aside for ‘clock practice’. Things went as they had gone at other clock practice sessions, until I just, I just got it. I just understood clocks. And I did the classic ‘Ohhhhhhhh’ and ‘I get it now’ and Mrs Wintle said do you understand it Max and very good Max. And I looked around the room and it was still the same room. No applause, no realization. No one impressed, save for Mrs. Wintle. Soon thereafter class returned to normal, but I felt different. Profound. And despite being embarrassed before, I felt great.


Created with images by hannibal1107 - "The Persistence of Memory (1931) by Salvador Dali"

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