Archive for the ‘food’ Category

GOOD GOD, DON’T EAT THAT! – Thanksgiving Leftover Edition

November 29, 2010

Since I’ve occasionally used this space to write about Frankenstein-like food concoctions I’ve created that would frighten Rachel Ray, I’ve been thinking it might be time to start a catchily-titled series of on-again, off-again posts about off-kilter, improvised recipes I’ve come up with — maybe something like, GOOD GOD, DON’T EAT THAT!

This installment of GOOD GOD, DON’T EAT THAT! revolves around a typical Thanksgiving dinner leftover: herbed potatoes. You know the kind; potatoes are cut up into small pieces, mixed with a blend of oil and herbs, and baked in the oven. Normal people will typically use red potatoes to do this.

However, we had Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house this year, and my parents don’t qualify as “normal people.” They know less about cooking than I do. My mom’s favorite food is boiled chicken. That’s right, plain boiled chicken. For seasoning, there might or might not be a stray bullion cube casually tossed into the water. One year for my birthday, I got to feast upon an unrisen orange cake. Then there was the Christmas my mom made sugar cookies and forgot to add the sugar. That one worked out okay, though, because my sister had a very bad cold at the time, so we just fed all of them to her since she couldn’t taste anything. She didn’t know their flavor was practically inedible until after she’d eaten all of them. I won’t go into details about The Great Scone Incident of 1981, other than to say that it explains the origin of the mysterious dent in the kitchen floor of their old house. My dad used to try to make something he called “snowballs” during the holidays, except they ended up looking like underwater mines and managed to suck all the moisture out of your mouth in addition to being totally devoid of flavor.

Anyway, the potatoes they baked this Thanksgiving were a mix of red potatoes, white potatoes, yellow potatoes and sweet potatoes. None of these — especially not the sweet potatoes — cook at the same rate. So, some of the potato chunks were a little al dente while others had turned to paste. Also, the herb dressing the potatoes received was a little unorthodox. My parents had purchased some fresh tarragon to use for the potatoes, because that’s what they heard you’re supposed to use. They didn’t use the tarragon, however, because, according to my mom, “It smelled kind of funny, like it was going bad.” It turns out the smell my mom interpreted as rancid was actually the smell of fresh tarragon.

At any rate, at the end of the day we were given a vat of the oddly un-herbed “herbed” potato leftovers to take home. They sat in the fridge until this afternoon, when I decided I’d better use them up. Since they were a little weird to begin with, heating them up in the microwave didn’t seem like the best option. Plus, I had about half of a leftover onion in the fridge, as well as a few corn tortillas that were nearing their expiration date, so I decided to combine all of them.

The potatoes were already herbed and oiled, but I added more olive oil to the pan for the onion. Once it was hot, I added the potatoes and onion and let them sauté/fry for a while. When they were done, I put them into a bowl with some shredded cheddar cheese and let the cheese melt. Then I added the corn tortillas, one at a time to the still-greasy pan, and spooned the potato and onion mixture into them and let them cook some more (and absorb more oil in the process). To each of the “tacos,” I then added a little bit of Tabasco Sauce, quite a bit of ranch dressing, and a shred of romaine lettuce.

The result was like a mutant offering to the Gods of Taco Bell. I’ve convinced myself that these inbred tacos aren’t as horrifically unhealthy as they certainly are, because:

  1. I added olive oil to the already oiled potatoes. That’s healthy, right?
  2. Corn tortillas are whole grain, which everybody knows has fiber and crap.
  3. Romaine lettuce is supposed to have vitamins and shiznit.
  4. I used fat free ranch dressing, which we all know makes it totally okay. Actually, I purchased the fat free variety by accident, but that’s neither here nor there.
  5. The potato mixture contained sweet potatoes, which according to all the latest dietary research are supposed to be able to summon Jesus or something.

The result ended up tasting surprisingly good, although the kids refused to touch them. Unlike me, they know better.

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Stupid Political Pressure Groups of Yore: S.P.U.D.

October 12, 2010

From the so-stupid-it’s-hard-to-believe-it’s-true department, did you know that in 18th century Britain, there was an organization called the “Society for the Prevention of an Unwholesome Diet” (the acronym of which, S.P.U.D., may or may not have been a possible origin of the English nickname for the potato)?

The group was dedicated to keeping potato cultivation out of the United Kingdom. Its members had, in their minds, iron-clad reasons for keeping the potato out of the country, like the fact that because it was never mentioned in the Bible, therefore it had to be evil. As a member of the nightshade family, the potato probably contained atropine as well, which all God-fearing, upstanding citizens knew was the substance witches used to make themselves fly.

 

A lot of potatoes.

The face of evil, from Wikipedia.

 

So, obviously, one of the most nutritious foods on the planet had to be, to SPUD’s members, completely unwholesome, and it had to be banned. They would also make outlandish and unsubstantiated claims that the potato caused rickets, syphilis, tuberculosis, and obesity, not to mention rampant lust and general societal collapse.

Exactly how an obese tuberculosis sufferer with rickets was going to be filled with lust is frankly beyond my ability to comprehend, but at least “tuberculosis” has the word “tuber” in it. I’m sure somebody on television today could make a big chalkboard diagram highlighting that connection and demonstrating how it all relates to moral relativism and socialist conspiracies devised by the U.N. and anyone who ever met Bill Ayers to sap away our precious, but strangely undefined, American freedom.

Of course, while these fine moralists were trying to block the potato from Britain as part of their noble effort to keep lust and hyperbolic Witchcraft at bay, other, less fortunate people were dying of malnutrition that could have been prevented by the tuber’s widespread adoption. But, the fates of the little people didn’t matter when there were Big Ideas to defend at all costs.

Eventually, common sense won the day and the sanctimonious fools of SPUD were consigned to the ashbin of historical punchlines, but it took some time to do so — too much time for the malnourished unfortunates of their era.

Infer whatever parallels between then and now you’d like.

Bean Fueled Mayhem

September 28, 2010

Rocket Martin flies off into the sunset! What do you run on, Rocket Martin? [Pause. Whispered:] Say, ‘beans.’

[Pause] I run on beans!

— Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band, Trout Mask Replica

Album cover for Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.

From Wikipedia.

Since I began running regularly again a couple of months ago in an effort to get a little more fast and a little less bulbous, I’ve had to readjust to running in the late evening, usually shortly after sunset. I used to run first thing in the morning years ago, but that isn’t possible now with a three year-old and a one year-old who tend to wake up at unpredictable times in the morning.

One of the biggest challenges of nighttime running is that it’s basically impossible to go on a nearly empty stomach like one would first thing in the morning. It can present some, umm, rather unique challenges. Usually I try to avoid them by waiting to eat dinner until after I get back from my run.

Last night was a different story, though. It was a scheduled day off from running for me, but upon looking at the weather forecast for this evening, which called for severe thunderstorms, and the weather conditions last night, which consisted of on-and-off drizzle, I decided to get my run in last night and make today my day off instead.

The problem was I’d already eaten dinner: black beans and brown rice with peppers, onions, garlic, and lots of allspice. A lot of black beans with a lot of jerk-style seasonings were already bouncing around my digestive tract.

Luckily, the worst-case scenario triggered by such a combination of stomach contents and distance running didn’t materialize last night. It was, however, a highly — uhh — musical evening, and quite aromatic as well.

I really pity my wife sometimes.

You Searched For What?!

September 15, 2010

There have been some extra weird search engine queries taking people to this site over the last week:

  • Turkey bidet toilet combo” — As much as it baffles me that someone would be scouring the Internet for this word combination, I was even more confused by my inability to recall ever having used the word “bidet” here. It turns out my memory was wrong: here it is, from November 2008. The same post begins by mentioning High School Musical. I must have a sicker mind that I previously believed.
  • Continuing with the international theme, “German Slanket” — I’m not sure what would make a Slanket German. Would it be in the colors of the German flag, or would it yell, “MACH SCHELL!” if you don’t flip through channels using your TV remote quickly enough?
  • Pennsylvania Dutch food humor” — Exhibit A: Scrapple. Exhibit B: Cup Cheese. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t actually eat any of those things; we just like seeing tourists wince at the sight of them. The funniest of all are the tourists who decide to be brave and eat them; the joke’s on you, folks.
  • Chemistry funny” — Yes, chemistry is very funny. I found balancing chemical equations to be a delightful hoot in high school.
  • Chupacabra Crossing sign poster.

    From Cafepress.com

    Chupacabra crossing signs” — I never thought of such a thing before seeing those words together just now. Now, having seen them, I’m not sure how it’s possible for my life to go on without one. I MUST HAVE A CHUPACABRA CROSSING SIGN FOR MYSELF!

  • Quotes about long winded stories” — I once knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy’s cousin who’s twice-related sister-in-law’s mother’s daughter knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who once said something about Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones. But to put it into proper context, we’ll have to go back to the War of the Austrian Succession . . .
  • Mechanical parrots” — Unlike the chupacabra crossing sign, these are things I could really do without.
  • The best Yugo” — Speaking of things I don’t want . . .
  • la-veterana@hotmit.liver” — This can’t possibly be a legit email address, unless the nation of hepatitis has its own domain now.

So there’s a rundown of some of the search terms that have brought some really twisted people to this site over the past week. Luckily for them, I’ve been twisted enough to have somehow created content that would send them here in the first place.

Thanks to this post, it’s only a matter of time before I start getting hits for “hepatitis” combined with something else weird, too. Now that I think about it, “nation of hepatitis” is a weird enough phrase on its own.

What would be the most utterly revolting restaurant name ever? I vote “The Hepatitis Bidet.”

Die Diet, Die!

August 3, 2010

While the kids were eating egg-in-the-basket for lunch today, a truly evil culinary idea struck me: you could build a sandwich around this.

For those who don’t know, you make egg-in-the-basket by heating a pan and cutting a hole out of the middle of a piece of bread. After heating butter in the pan, add the bread sans hole, and crack an egg into the hole. If you want, you can use the bread cut out to form the hole for dipping. Egg-in-the-basket occupies a strange nether-realm between fried eggs with toast and monte cristo since the egg seeps into the surrounding bread, and you can either leave it sunny side up or flip it and cook it over easy. It’s ridiculously simple to make and ridiculously good. If made over easy, it looks sort of like this:

Egg-in-the-basket.

From Wikipedia.

Since I really don’t want my kids getting salmonella from eating undercooked eggs, I make it for them fried on both sides with the egg cooked the whole way through. They love it. Done this way, it also holds together in one piece surprisingly well, which makes it an ideal starting point for all sorts of unhealthy concoctions I’m fearful of trying like:

  1. Egg-in-the-Basket Grilled Cheese. Why stop at using bread to make a grilled cheese sandwich, when you can use two pieces of egg-in-the-basket instead? You can fry two pieces sunny side up in a buttered pan, take them out, add more butter to the pan, add one of the eggs-in-the basket flipped over, put your cheese (and maybe a tomato slice if you’re into that) on top of it, and place the other egg-in-the-basket sunny side up over that. When the side on the bottom is done cooking, take it out, add more butter to the pan, and flip over the whole sandwich to cook the other side. Personally, that’s as far as I’d go since I don’t eat meat. However, if you’re a carnivore, why stop at grilled cheese when you could instead make an:
  2. Egg-in-the-Basket Patty Melt. Oh, yes. I know what you’re thinking, and, yes, you really should cook the hamburger first so that you can use a combination of hamburger grease and butter for frying the rest of the sandwich. But really, why stop there when you could instead make an:
  3. Egg-in-the-Basket Bacon Patty Melt. If you believe bacon makes everything better, this one’s for you. Cook the bacon in the pan first. Cook the hamburger in the bacon grease. Fry the egg-in-the-basket in the bacon/hamburger grease/butter. You get the picture. You know you want it.

I wonder how many diets I’ll destroy by putting this on the Internet . . .

Confounding Rampant Genderism, Then and Now

July 21, 2010
Cover of "Bob the Builder: Let's Find Shapes"

From Amazon.com

Right now my 18 month-old daughter is in that stage where she wants to have the same book read to her over and over, and over and over, and over and over . . . The book of choice is Bob the Builder: Let’s Find Shapes, which isn’t the least bit surprising considering her favorite toys have always been things like dump trucks and toy construction equipment.

The book is a little unsettling, though, due to the context in which the only clearly female character in the book appears. I realize that on the Bob the Builder TV show, many of the construction vehicles have female voices, but we don’t normally watch the show, and you can’t tell the machines’ genders from the book. Instead, the only woman, Wendy, appears holding a tray of cookies with the caption, “Wendy has star-shaped cookies for Bob.”

It’s flabbergasting, considering the book was published in 2002. As bad as that is, the book isn’t nearly as cringeworthy as some of the older things we have around the house.

Take, for example, the series of 25 pamphlet-style cookbooks I somehow wound up with from my parents that were published in the early 1960s. They’re littered with such gems of statements as, “Here are 250 recipes gathered . . . to help the hostess increase her repertory and add variety to her family’s everyday menus,” and “Sunday night suppers . . . give Mother an opportunity for training the children in the entertaining of their own guests.” Throughout the series of books, the person for whom the recipes are compiled is always assumed to be a woman, a mother, and a “homemaker.”

Better yet, the recipes in question are always for things like “Chicken á la King with Ham Rolls,” “Paté de Foie Gras,” “Chicken Pie de Luxe,” pies, cakes, cookies, and even candy made from scratch, because the female homemaker and parent in question clearly has nothing better to do than spend all day cooking an absurdly complicated evening dinner. There’s even a category of “After Sports Suppers” to be made when, you guessed it, the men are all sitting around watching sports on TV. My personal favorite is a recipe for something called “Chicken Calcutta,” because adding a pinch of curry powder and a pinch of chili powder to something apparently makes it Indian (it’s part of a “Cosmopolitan” recipe section of “Oriental” food).

I can’t help but wonder what a person who helped compile that crap would think of our household today, where I stay home with the kids while my wife goes to work, and our daughter plays with toy dump trucks and rugby balls when she isn’t busy trying to wrestle her two year-old brother to the ground. To top it off, our son likes to pretend to go to work. When he does this, he says, “Go to work,” and puts on one of my wife’s necklaces, rather than a tie.

I hope that individual could withstand passing out from shock just long enough to hear me to say, “Welcome to the 21st Century, dickhead.” It wouldn’t matter if the cookbook author in question was male or female; you don’t need to have one to be one. This is the 21st Century, after all.

Customer Satisfaction Survey

May 23, 2010

We Value Your Money Opinion!

Welcome to our Customer Satisfaction Survey.
Thank you for unwittingly selling us your soul agreeing to participate.

Void where prohibited. View Sweepstakes Rules for details.

Visit Malbolge our Winner’s Page to see who some of our lucky customers have been. Click here for additional contact information. Information collected in this survey will not be provided to any third-party vendors. It’s open season for second and fourth-party vendors, though. View our nonexistent Privacy Policy for more obfuscation details.

Please locate the slop heap restaurant number on the front of your receipt.  It may say “store number,” “restaurant number,” or “shop number”.  Enter the number in the space below exactly as it appears on the receipt.  Click Next to continue.  (Please be sure to include any letters or numbers.)

We appreciate your taking the time to give us your feedback, suckers. You have now been automatically entered into our nefarious database weekly sweepstakes. You’ll know at the end of the survey if you are a finalist for our weekly sweepstakes drawing (You won’t be). Good luck!

When responding, please think only about your most recent visit to this sty restaurant.

Did you use the drive-thru?
( ) Yes.
( ) No.
( ) Heliport, baby!

How many days ago did you visit this restaurant?

( ) Today
( ) Yesterday
( ) 2 days ago
( ) 3 days ago
( ) 4 days ago
( ) 5 days ago
( ) 6 days ago
( ) 7 days ago
( ) 8 days ago
( ) Too stoned to remember

Based on your most recent experience, would you recommend this restaurant to a friend or family member?

( ) Yes
( ) No
( ) Yes, but only because I hate said family member
( ) I’m filling out this survey because I patronize Taco Bell and/or Long John Silvers, ergo I have no friends, ergo this question is irrelevant

If you choose, you can leave vengeful screeds comments for the overworked and underpaid employees or manager.

Thank you for your feedback, which we will print out and use for kindling. Unsurprisingly Unfortunately, you are not a finalist for this week’s sweepstakes drawing.  We like to make you think Your opinion matters, so please try again in six weeks!

“Food Product” Showcase: Mango Flavored Pineapple

April 7, 2010
Mango Flavored Pineapple

"Mango Flavored Pineapple." Was this really necessary?

There are rare moments of monumental discovery that redefine the limits of human potentiality. One such glimmer of our collective greatness occurred recently when I happened upon a box of “Champion Mango Flavored Pineapple.”

If people are capable of taking one fruit and making it taste somewhat like the chemical approximation of another fruit, we are champions indeed.

So many burning questions arise from the contemplation of mango-flavored chunks of dried pineapple that cut to the very core of our being. Why create something like this at all? Why not just sell a mixture of dried mangoes and dried pineapples if you want to get the flavor of both? Or, if you just want the mango flavor, why not just use mangoes? Why instead take a bunch of dried pineapples and sprinkle them with magic mango-ish pixie dust (called “natural mango flavor” on the label, whatever that’s supposed to mean)?

Why climb a mountain? We climb it because it is there, and because we can. Such is the power and wonder of our ambition.

This Day in Weird Baby Food

March 9, 2010
A turnip.

Apparently, great baby food.

I just discovered that our 14 month-old daughter absolutely loves raw turnips, of all things. It’s not the first thing you think of when you think of popular baby and toddler foods, but I guess it fits the pattern in our family. Her two year-old brother is still just as fiercely attached to capers and Kalamata olives as he was when he was her age.

Besides, if there’s one thing the English side of my family knows how to do well, it’s sneak turnips into things you’d never expect. Case in point, the turnip our daughter was munching on (I shredded it with a potato peeler and tore up the shreds so that the pieces were small and malleable enough for a baby to eat by hand safely) was a little bit left over from the red beans and rice I’m making in the crock pot today. One of my favorite ways of making mashed potatoes is to throw a turnip or two into the pot of potatoes, and one of my all-time favorite foods is this weird mashed turnip-and-carrot concoction that my grandmother makes. Unfortunately, I don’t know the recipe for that one.

With that in mind, maybe her love of turnips isn’t so weird, but the fact that she screams like a banshee when her tray isn’t refilled with them quickly enough still seems kind of strange.

A Health-Conscious Gastronome’s Tour of Southeastern Pennsylvania

February 27, 2010

Via the Philadelphia Independence Twitter feed:

Help her out #Philly fans! RT @karinaleblanc Just got in trouble…Cheesesteak = not healthy. What else u got, Philly (that’s healthy)? #wps

Picture of a cheesesteak from Pat's in Philadelphia.
I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that this isn’t good for you.

Being expansion clubs, it’s likely that many Philadelphia Independence and Philadelphia Union players — not just Karina LeBlanc — are unfamiliar with the unique foods of southeastern Pennsylvania and are anxious to try them. It’s also likely that, being professional athletes, they would like to seek out healthy eating options.

While the cheesesteak — grilled mystery meat and onion shreds on a bun smothered in Cheez Whiz —may not be the healthiest dining option, we in this corner of the country have plenty of nutritious foods befitting highly active lifestyles.

Philadelphians cannot live on cheesesteaks alone, which is why there are many other gastronomic emblems of the city. Among them are the soft pretzel: carbohydrate-laden dough baked until fluffy, covered in big chunks of salt, and usually smothered in Cheez Whiz — okay, never mind about that one, either. But never fear, there are also cheese fries: nutritious, all-natural potatoes sliced into strips, deep fried until crispy, and smothered in Cheez Whiz — okay, this clearly isn’t working.

A plate of scrapple.

Scrapple. Appetizing, eh?

While the city of Philadelphia may itself be a cesspool of Cheez Whiz, the surrounding area will certainly have healthier eating options. Let’s look at that wholesome region called “the Pennsylvania Dutch Country,” to which the Independence headquarters in Downingtown is conveniently adjacent. One regional delicacy here is something called “scrapple.” Basically, you take whatever’s still left over after hot dogs have been made, grind it up and press it into a vaguely loaf-like shape with the consistency of chunky pudding intermingled with goo. The best way to serve scrapple is to cut it into slices like bread, fry them up in a pan, and them mash them up with a bucketload of ketchup.

This being Pennsylvania, you must know that there is only one kind of ketchup, and that is Heinz. Nothing else counts.

So maybe scrapple isn’t so healthy, either. But don’t worry, we also have things like “Lebanon bologna” and “sweet bologna.” These are tubes of mystery meat generally made from whatever’s left over after scrapple has been made and eaten in chunks. Another very traditional delicacy is something called “pig stomach,” which, you guessed it, is a pig’s stomach stuffed with sausage, potatoes, and spices, baked for several hours and basted in its own juices.

Shoo-fly pie.

Sugar goo and sugar powder. What could possibly go wrong?

Okay, maybe you can forget about meat-based healthy main-course traditional dining options around here. One good local vegetarian (but not vegan) dish is called “corn pie.” Healthy corn, potatoes, and celery are baked into a crusty pie with lots of eggs, butter, whole milk and heavy cream. Okay, maybe you can forget about all healthy main-course traditional dining options around here. But, I’m sure we have some healthy desserts and snacks.

One iconic Pennsylvania Dutch dessert is something called “shoo-fly pie,” which allegedly received its unusual moniker because it is so full of molasses and sugar that it attracts flies. It attracts so many flies, in fact, that you constantly have to shoo them away while eating it. We are also quite proud of our snack foods. The first commercial pretzel bakery in the nation was founded in Lititz, Lancaster County, and our local potato chips are much better than any national brand, probably because we fry them in lard instead of oil.

I won’t even bother getting into Fastnacht Day, and cup cheese should probably never be mentioned by anyone in polite company.

So, in summary, “what else u got” that’s healthy? Nothing. We got nothing. Sorry, folks. Wilkum, and try not to starve while you’re here.


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