24 December 2007

Merry Yule!

We're looking out for Santa here on the East Coast.

And when it comes to Santa, I can only think of one thing: that belly that shook like a bowl full of jelly. So what are we leaving for Santa and the reindeer this year as a yuletide snack? Try rainbow sprinkle sugar cookies and a couple Sam Adams Winter Lagers... and a few nutritious baby carrots for the deer.

You have no idea how happy I am that the object of affection of merry wishers worldwide is a bearded funky guy with a potbelly and red nose who flies around with magical reindeer and lives in an old house way out of the way. Gives me hope.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a full belly.

Blowout

So, Canada.

I remember there we were driving across the great province of Ontario in a late-model 740 with two babies strapped into carseats in the back. I recall we actually had mentioned something about how idyllic our life had become, as though we were living a dream.

We'd just stopped for a bite to eat at an excellent roadside diner -- not one of those American Interstate places, but a real off-the-beaten-path roadhouse built of wood and bone.

It proved an excellent choice. We were the only diners there and had the place to ourselves. We fed the boys and had no problems. We were feeling really good about ourselves.

Note to young and future parents: if you sense that you are feeling good about yourselves, it is a sign that the worst wrath nature can offer is about to be shed upon you.

We leave the diner and strap everyone in the car. I hadn't even left the parking lot. And then, that sound.

It must be sort of like what a mudslide sounds like, though I've never had the pleasure of encountering one of those.

Within seconds, the entire interior of the 740 smelled of potent, noxious, mind-altering, fuming fecal matter.

Both boys had spontaneously combusted. Poop was everywhere. All over them. All over the carseats. I opened the door and half of the great province of Ontario stopped in their tracks, lifted their keen Canadian noses to the sky, and asked, "What's that smell?"

It was the greatest double twin blowout ever witnessed. It was so fierce, the restaurant offered us tablecloths (not napkins) to clean it up.

22 December 2007

Learn Karate

So, this was in Toronto a few years ago.

Toronto is probably my favorite of the North American cities I've visited. It even beats Dayton, OH. Anyhow, there we are having pulled into the b&b we'd call home for a few days. It was run by this guy with a serious royalty-fetish. Over a beer in the basement tavern, he expressed to us his love for the queen, and each room of his hotel was dedicated to a different Windsor.

The boys were just little then, so we plopped them into a double stroller and went out looking for grub Toronto-style. Unbeknownst to us, Toronto had seen a recent snap of stings by the teetotalling-police and none of the restaurants that served alcohol would allow us in with the children. Seriously now, did they think we'd be feeding Harvey Wallbangers to the 16 month-olds?

So we continue on our way looking for a dive that'll let us in with kids. And we eventually find that the sting had been limited to the neurotic royalty-praising neighborhood we were lubbing in and in fact it was easy to buy your toddler booze in the rest of the city.

I say all of this to bring you to what was an occasion on which I received some of the better advice I've ever received on the street. It came from a weary-eyed man living on an avenue along an intersection near the University. Seeing the twin boys, he leaned in with a word of guru-like advice: "Love your mother. Don't do drugs. Love Jesus. Learn Karate."

There you have it, friends. The four-part key to happiness in this world (or at least what it takes one man to live on the rough streets of the most pleasant city in this hemisphere).

19 December 2007

Foxy

Not really food related, except in that I would assume that like myself, the critics and editors at Foxy Digitalis also eat food...


Foxy Digitalis gave 'The Violencestring' (my new CD) 9 out of 10... check out the review.

http://www.digitalisindustries.com/foxyd/reviews.php?which=3016


Should you find yrself in desire of a physical copy, just see:
http://www.fallrecords.com/store.html

Or a virtual copy at:
http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?id=268874146&s=143441

mind you, the virtual copy does not include the artwork or summary of the story (it's a musical, after all)...

18 December 2007

Top Ten Foodish Experiences of 2007

I hate year-end lists... so here's mine.


Top Ten Foodish Experiences of 2007

1. MJ and I moving the dining room table into the dining room! (Go figure, but it's the little things that make so much difference...)

2. Eating two full meals at two competing bowling alleys within thirty-minutes of one another as a taste-testing mission with Aaron Henkin.

3. Having Tom Boram and Dan Breen make Rice Krispy / bacon / licorice / garlic treats for the kids while jamming broken-down synth beats in my kitchen.

4. Cabeca Gorda! (The restaurant so secret, I shouldn't even be putting it on this list.)

5. Discovering Vegetarian Jerky Substitute. Because every vegetarian needs an all-natural jerky substitute.

6. Judging afternoon beers at the One World Cafe. As the guy next to me said: "Tough job."

7. Falling madly in love with the avacado.

8. Afghan food at The Helmand with Jenny and Dwight. Almost makes me want to take a vacation to Afghanistan... er... on second thought...

9. $100 lunch for two at Minato courtesy of B.M. (Thanks, buddy...)

10. Starting this blog.

17 December 2007

LTSRPotatoes Vid! Coming soon!


The excitement rises. Like a blister.

Tonight, SNACKS (Tom Boram / Dan Breen) is coming over to the house and we're shooting the first LTSRPotatoes video! Yes, it will be a cooking show. And yes, it will ruin your opinion of cooking shows.

Beware.

14 December 2007

More tofu, please!

The kids are alright.

They like asparagus. And broccoli.

When they were just little, we used to treat broccoli like it was a prize: "Finish all your baby slop and you can have more BROCCOLI!"

I remember one night hearing a chorus of "Can we have more tofu and green beans, PLEASE!"

For a while we convinced them that Trail Mix was a better snack than potato chips, or ice cream, or gum drops.

That worked for a while. Before the world moved in.

Now my children come home from school and demand candy. And I refuse. And a battle of wills begins.

I miss the "more tofu, please" days.

Nonetheless, the other night one of the boys ate three servings of spinach and seitan.

I've still got the touch.

13 December 2007

Oscar Mayer Commercial -1973

My aunt worked in the Oscar Meyer plant in Philadelphia around the time this commericial was made. She worked on the scrapple line.

For those of you not well-informed, scrapple translates as "everything else, ground up into yummy mush".

Anyhow, my aunt found herself in the odd position of losing a finger to the assembly line choppers. That is, she lost a finger that was mangled and smashed into the scrapple you may have served for breakfast in 1973.

Yeah, they didn't bother to stop the presses. Like you woulda known.

Yum.

09 December 2007

Crash

Let's just say that this old car commercial pretty much sums up why I haven't posted in a few days.

05 December 2007

Damned Chai!

So here I am... preparing all day for my big experiment. I've got a clothes pin and a scarf and I'm ready to close down my olfactory sense for the sake of science.

You are guessing there is a hitch, no?

Ok, so I'm driving home during our day's MASSIVE BLIZZARD (2 inches) and I decide I just can't stand the traffic without a little spruce-juice. So I roll into a Wawa on 24 and pour myself a 16 ounce Chai. Just like being in the Himalayas. Except I'm at sea-level. And in a Wawa.

I get back in the car. There is a program on NPR about people who study the screams of baboons. [Ridiculously interesting, BTW]. And without thinking, I proceed to gulp down a mouthful of SCALDING HOT HIMILAYAN TEA!

Yes, all of the tastebuds are burnt off the topside of my tongue. I can't taste a thing. So much for the experiment.

All I'm hoping is that I'm able to return to action before the season is over (holiday season, that is).

The experiment is going to have to wait. I'm hanging up the clothespin in a spot where I won't forget why it's there. Because you and I need to know; and science must progress.

04 December 2007

Smell This!



If Proust is right and our sense of smell is a vital part of our nostalgic memory, then should those of us with sinus problems wait to have meaningful dinner conversations until the clogged passages clear up?

Tomorrow, my nose should be ready again for eating. The steady diet of Robitussin is paying off; I plan to be running at full-speed tomorrow.

So, folks have been responding both in posts and in person that the 'bad / not' taste you get when you've got a sinus infection comes from the inability to smell the food you are eating. Hmm. I've sort of thought it had more to do with the dried snot covering the back of my throat.

So tomorrow: an experiment in the most Roger Bacon manner. I will eat dinner wearing a clothespin over my nose and post my observations. You are invited to do the same.

03 December 2007

Is there a doctor in the house?

I've been eating food.

Haven't been near the computer in a few days. Too busy eating food. And then came down with a late-autumn sinus thing which actually makes tasting food impossible. Strange sensation.

On Sat we had a pre-birthday birthday thing for MJ -- this followed a massively stomach-filling trip to Akbar with Aaron for the afternoon buffet-- yesterday morning was a coffee-fueled brunch for Melissa's birthday and last night Dierker (whose birthday it also is) and family came over for some of my own Indian cooking.

And then this morning I wake up and can't breathe. Which leads me to the question of the week: why does stuff taste funny when you are sick?

I am counting on all you doctors out there to set me straight on this one. Post away.

28 November 2007

The Dirty Fork

I'm one of those people who gets a headache and within five minutes I'm absolutely convinced I'm having an aneurysm. Just today I convinced myself I had hepatitis; it was indigestion. So when it comes to restaurant-ing, let's just say that business ain't for me – see video to understand what I mean.

26 November 2007

Stupid Me: a vegetarian rant

Ok, so I'm not like the militant vegetarian type, but when some guy comes off and tells me I'm "stupid" for carrying on the diet I've assumed, all I gotta say is: "You eat dead rotting carcass and baked flesh and you call me 'stupid'? Go visit a slaughterhouse. Better yet, here's a hatchet -- go catch yr own animal and butcher it."

With all due respect to all of my meat-eating friends, the butchery in yr local supermarket is proof that marketing works. They sell you dead animals for you to eat. We've all just gotten used to it because it no longer resembles the animal it once was. Nuggets are the ultimate example of marketed amnesia.

Butcher dogs and cats and see how long those lines at the deli would be.

Go veggie. Take yr vitamins. Live healthy and try your best not to kill things or do things that result in the death of other things. Sometimes there's a little killing that needs to be done around the barn. But, sparingly folks... please.

I'll tell you this, I stopped eating mammals back in my teens and I quit poultry and fish three years ago. With the exception of one crab feast, I haven't knowingly eaten a dead animal in that time. And I didn't go veggie for some political or ethical reason; I went veggie because I thought it might help me get back to a reasonable weight and because folks laughed at me and said I'd never be able to give up chicken. I considered that a great challenge.

But since going on what some folks refer to as a 'strict' diet, I've noticed something peculiar. In fact it was a lot like giving up smoking back when I was in my early twenties. Once I did it, I started to realize that the whole thing was a matter of marketed mind-control. I wonder how many people would choose to eat cattle if they had to be present at the time of death to do it. I wonder how many people would eat beef if it came with the head attached. And those big, beautiful eyes.

That said, I'm no saint. Still wear a leather belt and use a leather guitar strap and I'm not making any excuses. I'm a hypocrite; this I know. Trust me, I know. Listen, I'm not trying to preach; I just don't like to eat dead animals. And please pardon my insouciance and suffer me this moment to rant because I take great exception to being insulted on account of my diet.

Now go eat some tripe. I've got to polish my boots.

24 November 2007

23 November 2007

T-day Round-up

Three Thanksgivings and plenty to be thankful for.

On Weds, MJ and I had the neighbors along our old country main street over for a pre-Thanksgiving get-together. Talked Matisse with the potter who lives across the road and got into a debate over the nature of Indo-European sound-shift with my next-door neighbor's mom who is up here from Texas. If anyone in this country should understand sound-shift it should be folks from Texas.

Last night, we had T-day dinner over at the in-laws' house. My death-metal buddy Carmen and his wife and son came over, as did my mom and sisters and Dave. Jules and Emily stopped in with the baby, too. We spent the night eating and talking and listening to Carmen's son bang away on the old parlor piano. The boy needs a piano in his life. Or a drum set.

The best dish to grace the table was MJ's baked cornucopia pastries stuffed with sage-marinated squash, purple cauliflowers, and zucchini. Quite possibly -- in fact probably -- the tastiest Thanksgiving dish I've ever had the pleasure to devour.

Thanksgiving is funny. In elementary school you learn all the hooey about pilgrims and Indians getting together, but what it really comes down to now is just a day set aside to enjoy the family. In that way, everyday should be Thanksgiving -- indians and pilgrims and supersales and football be damned.

This evening, MJ and the kids and I went over to Melissa and Andrea's for a post-Thanksgiving dinner with a handful of friends. The kids hung out in the basement decorating gourds and watching West Side Story (watched as far as 'Maria...'; probably a good thing...) while the adults feasted on an amazing variety of tastes wile listening to Mississippi John Hurt chirp away on the hi-fi.

The holidays can be a really stressful time; and when stressors are already hitting at full-blast, it can easily become overwhelming. But I realize here as this Thanksgiving weekend morphs into the march to Christmas, that the most important thing is to recognize those people who without whom thanks would be but an empty word.

20 November 2007

Is Leonard Cohen a Vegetable?



I am listening to Leonard Cohen over the stereo in the adjoining room. This is not an uncommon evening event.

As I'm here by the keyboard in the kitchen listening to Lenny in the other room singing about 'Dear Heather', the thought popped into my mind to figure what sort of vegetable Leonard Cohen would be if Leonard Cohen happened to be a vegetable -- which he is not.

First thing that came to mind was a radish. Looks attractive, but pretty straightforward; like, you'd perhaps consider asking it for directions. But then you bite into it and -- boom! Avalanche. You didn't even know there was a war between the radish and the human.

Second thing that came to mind was a Savoy cabbage. Strong cabbage flavor, but let it sit for a while in the juices of a potato-stew and you've got yrself one vegetable difficult to evict come Closing Time.

So what veggie is Leonard? This is up to you to decide, fair reader.

19 November 2007

An Allegory of Sorts

I'm about to go to bed. But I just had to tell the world that I just ate a fantastic tomato.

A big red and green organic plum tomato. And it makes me wonder just how in the hell in this great big universe of ours me and this beautiful tomato ever came together. And I'm not talking about who planted the seed or who watered it or who picked it or who drove it to the store or who sold it to my wife who left it in the fridge for me to find and eat. I'm talking about how the molecules that made up that tomato now reside in my belly and how the nutrients which that tomato ate from the ground now mix with my blood.

That kind of universe thing, man.

And it all gives me a great feeling of security knowing the little I do about the Law of Conservation of Mass and the tenents of Karma. Look at us: me and the tomato. We shall always be.

(Mary Jean, thanks for the tomato).

18 November 2007

Spam

Nothing quite like canned meat by-product.

Fortunately, this fact was recognized in time for it to evolve into both a tasty dish and a weapon of mass destruction.

Thank You

Thank you to EVERYBODY who came out tonight. Thank you Thank you Thank you.

15 November 2007

Dada Food Review -- inspired by Jaap Blonk

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13 November 2007

Gathering on Saturday!

Thinking of the perfect chip / salsa combination to serve for nibbling... in the meantime, check it out. If you are in Baltimore on Saturday, here's the place you should be!


Stockholm's Umlaut Records and Baltimore's Fall Records
invite you out to a gathering celebrating the release of

'The Violencestring'

the new CD produced by Shelly Blake-Plock and Matthew H. Welch

7PM doors
Performance starts promptly at 7:30;
live music runs until 10:30PM followed by DJ music.

Saturday, November 17th, 2007
This show is being held at a private residence; contact me for directions!

Introductions: Shelly Blake-Plock
First Set: Susan Alcorn and Eve Risser
Second Set: Joel Grip and Ryan Dorsey
Third Set: Matthew H. Welch and Craig Bowen
Fourth Set: Nathan Bell, Jenny Graf Sheppard, and Shelly Blake-Plock
Fifth Set: The Violencestring
Epilogue: Susan Alcorn, Joel Grip, and Shelly Blake-Plock

$5 suggested donation; $12 gets you in with a copy of the new CD.
All profit from the sale of the CD goes to the non-profits Chesapeake
Habitat for Humanity and Public Health Music.

12 November 2007

Deadly Turnips!

I’m pretty sure my last post made no sense at all.

Speaking of things that make no sense at all: what about jícama, the Mexican turnip? This is an edible root I just can’t get my mind around.

I ate this yam-bean for the first time two weekends ago and I just can’t get it out of my mind. I think it had something to do with the fact that sitting on the plate there it looked like potato, but in my mouth it tasted NOTHING like potato. Pretty spooky.

I also come to find out that the root is the only part of the jícama you’d want to eat: because the rest of it is DEADLY!

Wow. Turns out that the seeds contain Rotenone -- which is used as a pesticide.

I need a t-shirt: “I survived eating a pesticidal Mexican turnip”.

Blowfish is next.

I am trying to understand food humor

"I-am-dying-and-I-need-your-help".

I Googled this about fifteen minutes ago, and apparently no one in the history of recorded humanity has ever spoken these words in English one after the other (or at least as was ever reported to the Internet) ...

I wonder why this is.

I would think that, perhaps, this is one of the more common requests by people who are dying and need help.

That said, I'm very surprised that this phrase has apparently NEVER been uttered on or across the Internet.

In English, at least.

Perhaps Huns, Icelanders, and the Swiss are constantly asking for help, or not asking for help. Don't know. I'm handling a limited run here.

Perhaps this says something about the real value of Internet friends. I mean, could you imagine a MySpace comment that reads: "I am dying and I need your help"?

The response would be like: "So what?" or "I'm sure you'll love our new song!" [typed 15 hours later and in hopes to pick up more 'friends' from the return post as if the former statement would make the stiff feel more or less inclined to return a congeniality volley essentially].

So, let's try to fit this into a post that has something to do with food...

What if the person were dying of... spoiled cabbage?!?

Nah.

No, it really ain't that funny and it actually has nothing to do with food. Unless in fact it were darn funny and had anything to do with food. Like in "he's dying of gluttonous epicurean sea-urchin intake". And even then... well... yeah, though that would be relatively funny, it would still be... Well, it would actually be kinda funny.

10 November 2007

Local College Hoops Has Chickened Out

Went to a basketball game this evening. Season opener for the local America East Conference team.

So, MJ and I tow Granddad and the kids to the game. Took our bleacher seats and dug in trying to remember how basketball worked enough that I at least seemed to know what I was talking about explaining the game to the kids. That's really my style of fathering.

It's not that I don't know the rules and whatnot... basketball was one of the only things we had to do around here as kids. I just don't understand why they spend so much time calling fouls and taking time-outs. That said, at least all the stoppage in play gives the pep band a good amount of time to jam.

So what's this got to do with food? I'm glad you asked.

Now the mascot for the local team is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. That's a dog. A big, loyal, brown dog. Sort of like a Golden Retriever, but less dumb. Nothing against Golden Retrievers; Bay Retrievers make me look dumb too. They're smart dogs. One named Cookie saved my life once. I was walking him through an alley in Washington, D.C. when a mean-ass Doberman burst through a hole in a wooden fence and came up on me. The Bay Retriever leaned into the Dobby and gave it such a snarl the dog retreated in a whimper. So, I have a thing for Bay dogs.

Anyhow, I'm there at the game with the kids looking for the mascot because that's what you do at a basketball game with kids. And I don't see the Retriever. But I do see a giant cow.

A cow. White with black spots.

Huh?

Turns out, this was a guy in a cow suit there to promote a big chain fast-food chicken restaurant. What's up with that? You mean to tell me, I have to explain to my six year-old that the guy in the cow suit isn't really a sports mascot: he's there to sell you chicken.

And this at an Atlantic East Conference game? I mean, we're not talking Big Ten here. We're not talking ACC money. We're talking a commuter school.

Yet more proof that athletics (and the wonder they used to inspire in little boys and girls who went home to play hoops on the back of a bedroom door after seeing a game) have been even further sold-out than one could think possible.

What's next? Tattooing advertisements on the players?

09 November 2007

Show Tonight / Is a Berry a Fruit?... I'm Rambling

Just got back from a show.

Joel has been in town for a few weeks. He, Eve, and I played a set together two weekends back. This evening it was just he and I. This was actually our first duo performance since the 48 Hour Show. For those of you who didn't catch that one, that was a 48 hour long continuous traveling performance as a duo. For 48 hours we neither slept nor stopped playing music. We traveled from Baltimore to Philadelphia and back again playing everywhere from record stores to public parks to inside office buildings to a rest stop on I-95. And yes, we had the VW retrofitted with amplifiers and synths so that we could actually play in transit at all times as well.

Tonight was a little different than that.

Tonight we played for 22 minutes. And it was 22 minutes of real improvisation. I started on piano and moved to drumkit; Joel played doublebass and a little piano. 22 minutes to discuss musically all that's happened to each of us over the last year and a half. 22 minutes of life.

Tonight was a benefit for University of Maryland Children’s' Cancer Center. There's some brave kids over there. Brave, brave, brave.

So after the show, Joel and I stopped at a WaWa. For our international readers, WaWa is like the Quickie Mart on the Simpsons. I picked out an orange Gatorade and Joel a blue one. In line, we debated whether or not a blueberry was a fruit. I insisted it was. Joel said berries aren't fruits. I said that's ridiculous.

So what of it, friends? Is a berry a fruit?

(These are the thoughts that go through one's mind late on a Friday after a gig and a long drive home).

06 November 2007

Veggie Thanksgiving Ideas

Ok. So inquiring minds wanna know: What makes for a hearty Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner? And I don't mean Tofurky.

Give me ideas.

05 November 2007

Afhgan Yum

Wow.

It's been a while since I've tasted my buds at the Helmand. Named after one of the southwestern provinces of Afghanistan, this is a neighborhood restaurant that specializes in FANTASTIC.

Started off with a bit of the Kaddo Borawni which has become my new favorite Halloween treat (despite the fact that... ok... yes... you are smarter than the average troll... go with it...). Something about garlic-pumpkin just makes perfect sense to me.

Jeez. I'm so egotistical. Especially around the holidays. I apologize in advance.

But when it comes down to it, I want food that makes sense to me. In fact, I'd rather just make it myself. Me = Chef (x4). And that's pretty much what I'm looking for in a chef: someone who channels me but who makes food that tastes better.

Luckily, the Helmand chefs are wired to my brain. It's like an unlikely '80s movie.

Bowlawni batted second. A bit too thick, but sort of referencing my beloved potato pancakes in a weird way, these worked pretty well with the house sauce. Definitely an appetizer.

Took the Mushroom Lawand as my entree. I'm a sucker for the 'Choose Yr Own Adventure' dishes. This one came in three parts and required the completion of a telephone-survey to put together.

Not true, actually.

The mushrooms were served in a yogurt sauce. Yummy stuff; tomato and green accompanied. Silky spinach accompanied. All of this over a bed of dreamy challow. Served expertly.

In a way, I hate going to a restaurant that makes it happen so well. The one big suggestion: "Hey waiters and waitresses! We notice you. Perhaps as much as you notice us. Some of us were waiters and waitresses at some point; in fact we may be again real soon. We know you are having to deal with the kitchen. But dig: We're spending $30 for you to uncork a bottle of wine... so look happy. We tip 20%.

I must say, it had been at least a decade since MJ and I had set bottom to Afghan chair, and perhaps because of this the food -- and perhaps the realization of what the cuisine represents -- went down like the savory bits of political gossip. But I must say, Helmand of Baltimore -- right there off Charles and Monument -- continues to impress.

03 November 2007

Dolma Murch for Two!


Going to the Helmand tonight.

Yaa-hoo! The best Afghan restaurant in Baltimore and MJ and I are headed there on a double-date with Dwight and Jenny. Dwight of diner-cuisine fame. I wonder if there are diners in Afghanistan?

Expect a review next post.

30 October 2007

The Revolution Will Be Made of Ham?

My sons are obsessed with ham sandwiches.

I don't know why. Perhaps it is their first act of rebellion. The ham eaters versus the vegetarians. Hmm.

I am wondering if any of you of parenting-experience have this sort of thing happening. I just let them go ahead and eat whatever they want so long as it's relatively healthy. By the same token, I only cook veggie (and mostly vegan) at home.

I feel like if I try to 'make' them eat a certain thing, I'm sure to raise a Dick Cheney. So, I let 'em go and figure out their own taste. That said, they of course depend on me for either making or buying the grub. Thus, they are huge fans of tofu and seitan.

28 October 2007

Best Halloween Candy Ever

Halloween is coming up. Around here that means two things: tummy aches and a front yard strewn with skulls and Styrofoam gravestones.

On the tummy ache front: I'm conducting a poll.

Here's your question:

What's the all-time best Halloween treat? (And I'm talking candy here, folks. If you give out apples or pennies this year, you've let the Terrorists win).

25 October 2007

Chicken Bones

Has anyone else noticed all the chicken bones lying around the sidewalks and gutters of Baltimore? All over the place.

What's with this? I went down to visit Edgar Allan Poe's grave and leading into the graveyard there was a trail of chicken bones. And then, right there sitting on the site of Poe's original resting place (they moved him... he's still in the same churchyard, just in a spot with better lighting...) there's a pair of Blair Witch - style chicken bone totems.

Weird.

MJ said the area around Charles Center is littered with bones. And Khan said he saw a lady get out of a car downtown and when she opened the door a ton of chicken bones fell out of the car.

What's with this? Anyone else in town notice this? Any of you living in other cities notice bones littering your neighborhoods? And what about this mysterious lady and her mobile collection of chicken skeletons?

23 October 2007

[I'm] No[t] Nuts!

My wife doesn't believe I'm allergic to nuts.

I remember when I was little. My mother told my aunt: "Oh, don't give him those. He's allergic to nuts."

Fact of the matter is, I have no idea whether or not I'm allergic to nuts. But I am prone to issues with anxiety. So I don't eat nuts.

Don't even get near 'em.

MJ thinks it's just so I can get out of making peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches in the mornings for the kids. Yeah? Well, I don't even care if a peanut isn't really a nut. Someone should have thought about that back when they were brainstorming. It's got 'nut' in the name, my mom told an aunt that an early version of me is allergic to nuts, people who really are allergic to nuts die from breathing in nut-powder, I'm anxiety-prone.

Deal.

Ok. So, I've dealt with pine-nuts. But that's before I knew they were in Pesto. These days, Pesto Gnocchi is off the menu. I'm allergic.

I don't even like coconuts.

I'll deal with pumpkin seeds. And dried soybeans. That's as nutty as I'll go. And yeah, I know that neither of them are nuts. So now we have come to a clear understanding of just how far I will go.

No nuts. My mom said I was allergic.

22 October 2007

Monty Python - Bavarian restaurant

MC'ed a 'traditional' Oktoberfest last weekend. Not sure I was up to this caliber, but I definately was beyond good and evil.

19 October 2007

Bad Waiter

I'm not one to complain about waiters. But let me tell you a little tale about the worst waiter I've ever had the pleasure of being served by.

This was at the TGIF in Harvard Sq. To this day, I have no idea what compelled MJ and I to go into this travesty of a restaurant to begin with, alas life is not all rationale.

The place was empty. A couple sat at the bar and a few televisions mimed soundlessly under the din of piped-in modern rock. Our waiter -- I'll call him Steve -- decided to check on us a few minutes after being sat.

He approached the table and immediately proceeded to take our order. I think he was annoyed when in reply we asked him for menus.

Obviously figuring folks of our ilk would need plenty of time to SLOWLY put together the phonemes and syllables that comprised the words on the menu, Steve gave us a good fifteen minutes before returning with our salads.

Not that we had ordered salads.

Taking our drink orders, he wandered off somewhere (East Cambridge, perhaps) returning ten minutes later with two glasses of tap water.

By now, my wife's patience was growing thin. I, on the other hand was cool, calm, and collected (of course).

Finally Steve took our food orders. I recall ordering a portabella mushroom burger (or something of that ilk); MJ ordered something similar.

Thirty minutes later, Steve returns and asks if we'd like dessert. I suggested we'd like our meal first.

Steve runs off frantically.

MJ and I are relatively smart people, so we decided enough is enough. I tell the host (who is sitting at the bar watching the silent TV over a few drinks) that we're leaving.

As we exit the restaurant, there is a sudden commotion. Here we are standing in the cold of a Massachusetts evening and Steve, the waiter, burst out the door of the restaurant screaming and crying: "What!?! You leave without leaving a tip!?! Can't you see that I'm working here?!? No tip!?! F*CK YOU, MISTER!!!"

Just goes to show that all experiences are just a matter of yr point of view.

16 October 2007

On Flying Pizzas and Astrophysics

Not sure what started the food fights. But once they started, there was no stopping them.

This was back in high school. In an all boy's catholic school in west baltimore, to be more precise. Among the things I remember about the cafeteria was that there was a huge over-sized portrait of the founder of the order of Religious Brothers that ran the place. He was a dead-ringer for Mr. Drummond from 'Diff'rent Strokes'.

Which is one of the reasons I remember the image of an opened-and-tossed pudding-cup staining his jowls.

The cafeteria was a dangerous place. If you weren't on the inside, you were toast. So, let me give you an insider's view.

Mind you: 1) I never actually took part in a food fight. I was what you might call an anthropological investigator -- at the time, I think the boys tossing the pizzas had another name for me. 2) I do not condone wasting food in any way; I will be the first to admit that what happened back then was immature and despicable... and obviously the fault of a lax administration.

It started off innocently enough... a whiplashed french-fry here, a spit-balled straw-wrapper there. Pretty soon there was meat and cheese flying through the air.

Coincidentally, one of our most celebrated food-tossers is now an astrophysicist. So go figure.

Anyway, let's get into one of the more audacious events. John drowning the Freshman.

See, the foodfights had become so common and the administration was so woefully unprepared to deal with them, that they started to get boring. You can only see so many flying cheeseburgers before they all start to run together.

So, John -- a boy thrice the scale of the ordinary nerd -- decided upon a campaign of direct guerrilla action.

I remember it like it was yesterday. The most disturbing food-fight technique I've ever seen demonstrated. John picks up a large cup of soda, walks over to a table of Freshmen, and doesn't fling the drink, nor toss it over his shoulder -- he actually removes the lid and proceeds to pour the soda directly onto an unwitting boy. This was food-fight gone bully-style. Bad news. Yet memorable. I've long thought this could make a perfect characterization in a high school movie.

The greatest of all food-fighters was the aforementioned astrophysicist. A man who could fling half a pizza thirty yards under the radar of the lone teacher-on-duty. A man who could take out a Channel-One TV with a half-eaten apple. A man who single-handedly could cause a riot among 200 high school boys using nothing other than a popsicle and a Sprite.

Immature? Absolutely. The stuff of legend? Right again.

The young astrophysicist was actually the only student I've ever known either when I was a student, or now as a teacher, who was such a threat to society that he actually got banned from the cafeteria. For two years.

Haven't seen a food fight in some time. Good riddance. Food is scarce these days and it seems that kids have more respect for it. They're busy getting in trouble in other ways. Good for them.

But there's something about that image of a pizza flying through the air that is so surreal, so stupid, so wrong. It just ingrains itself on yr brain and there-ever-after stands not as an image of waste, but an image of youth -- which, come to think of it, are two things often confused with one another.

15 October 2007

Green Green Green

Thinking about the business of green, it being Blog Action Day and all that.

Thinking about the hoopla about the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and about people talking about whether or not he'd run for president and then getting into a whole other argument about the candidates who are running for president and all that. Digg is full of B.S. the last few days about whether people like or dislike Al Gore and whether the Nobel Prize is legit or not.

I mean, come on. Does any of this really matter?

Meanwhile, the environment part of this all gets obscured through the process of all the bickering and showmanship both by politicians and bloggers alike.

I tend to think of the environment in 'bite-sized' terms. The melting of Greenland scares me, but it really seems just so far away... I mean, I barely know what's going on in Harford County. So, I try to do my part by doing the little things that I am able to do and that make life easier for me. Such as:

1) Recycling. Easy. Just like throwing out trash, but you sort it first. Makes yr trash haul smaller each week and less trash cans means less likelihood of a raccoon ruining yr morning.

2) Eating locally grown food. Two words: tastes better. And this time of the year, it's a whole helluva lot cheaper than the grocery. Last weekend, I picked up 17 green peppers for 8 bucks. Try that at the grocery store.

3) Composting. MJ got a little tin and we just through unusable bits of things in it. Again, it helps with the raccoons around here. We dump it each morning in the composting bin and now we don't have to pay an arm and a leg on fertilizer for our garden each Spring.

4) Driving a gas efficient car. My Yaris is getting between 40 and 45 MPG on the highway. I commute 45 minutes up I-95 to work. Consider my neighbor's GMC Yukon (17 MPG highway) and do the math. I fit three kids, my wife, and a load of groceries in the car with ease. When I've got gigs, I use the VW wagon (32 MPG highway) to carry amps and stuff. Go figure: save the environment AND have more money left over to buy new guitars...

5) Don't be a jerk. Jerks are bad for the environment. You know who you are. Shape up.

And that sort of governs my personal guide to environmental activism. Oh yeah, and enjoy yr State Parks and city green spaces. Buy a Frisbee. Pick up a walking stick and pretend it has magical powers. Use yr imagination. I think that's all good stuff. And eat well... which means cook good food and enjoy it. This is the kind of stuff that changes the planet with or without Al Gore and the bloggers.

12 October 2007

Blog Action Day



12,000 bloggers can't be wrong.

Talk about audacious. The Blog Action Day project dares beyond dare. Here's info:

"On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the
environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim
is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

Blog Action Day is about MASS participation. That means we need you! Here are 3 ways to participate:

1. Post on your blog relating to the environment on Blog Action Day ( http://blogactionday.org )
2. Donate your day’s earnings to an environmental charity
3. Promote Blog Action Day around the web"

So me here at LTSRP is thinking... maybe something on the fantastic little Farmers' Market I stumbled upon last week in a parking lot in Cooksville, MD? How about an initiative to start planting a community garden in the empty space behind a nearby high school soccer field? Or maybe I can just write another article about eating bark.

Feel free to leave ideas in my comments.

And in relevant news: Al Gore and the UN receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the EU's getting ready to hold a global chat on the environment, and I just finished a fantastic tomato and edamame dish. Could things possibly be on the up?

Coming tomorrow... the story of a man and his food fight. 'Til then, have a good night's sleep... and consider it from the bed bugs' point-of-view.

11 October 2007

Food Divine with Itself



Upstairs frenzied in knife slices, pointing fingers, barked laughs, and spumes of red dust; downstairs candlelit smoky aware, laughs and yelps yelping laughs, and flowing wine weighted into glassy hollow devious.

Upstairs preparation come together whole in holy helpless improvised recipe. Sestina myth writer, cut yr tofu into floppy diamonds.

The garlic went off like land mines on the refugee tender tongue.

Full-assault food. Pickled red cabbage caverns dusty with cayenne pepper. Seitan thrice sautéed in crusty Old Bay paprika fix.

Food that works on yr glands.

But not all hot and sweaty. Sweet lemon peppers and rosemary crushed and mixed with minced Greek oregano, simmered in margarine and Atlantic sea-salt and drizzled over wild rice and oats stuffed into gnarly bell peppers. Pears slow cooked in Brandy and white wine flourished with raisins and served with milky Chai. Krishna stuff.

Chick Peas rolled in olive oil, shuddered red pepper, and coarse salt. Cucumber sliced raw and served on plate with ice.

Early Sunday morning I fell into a deep sleep. No dreams. Just the sensation of olfactory memory flashbacks occasionally dragging me forth into half-consciousness like ghosts hungry in the pre-dawn mist.

Ah, Food.

08 October 2007

Peppers and Pears



There were a lot of peppers.

Green peppers. Red, Yellow, and Orange peppers. Jalapeño peppers. Lemon peppers. Cayenne peppers. Black pepper. Lots of peppers.

There were tears. There were laughs... lots of laughs. But there were tears. Tears full of pepper oil. Like I said before: this was an exercise in challenging the senses. Roughing up the taste buds.

This was food that looked back at you and dared you to eat it.

Confrontational food.

But food that cared. Food that wanted the best for you. Food for food-eaters like a mountain for a mountain-climber. Good for you; necessary; dangerous.

This was the scene at a little EOG in Canton this last Saturday. And while I'll leave any reviews of the meal to the connoisseurs who wined and dined on it, I'd like to give you the view from the kitchen. A kitchen serving friends; a kitchen alive.

***

Didn't really speak for the first hour I was there. Was solely dedicated in my concentration to the pears.

The plan was to prepare and serve an organic vegan meal for a dozen friends and a small kitchen staff. Prep began on the thing to be served last: Brandied Pears.

Simple recipe: pears, raisins, VSOP, white wine, and sugar. Slow cooked covered for four and a half hours.

Those pears were among the most gnarled I'd ever seen. They were pears who'd spent a lot of time thinking about being pears. Scarred by even the lightest rake of a fingernail, I sliced them slowly and with as much patience as I can ever muster -- Lao-Tzu on the mind.

I liked the idea of starting prep on the last thing that would be served. It gave me a sense of where the story would lead. It was really my job just to bring the story to fruition.

Now and then people would walk passed the open kitchen window. And I felt funny. Like I was more pear than person.

(continued tomorrow...)

07 October 2007

Tales from the Big Head


Still recovering from the experience of cooking for seventeen people last night. What a night! Posted above is a pic of Jorge holding the Spinach and Soy Salad.

There will be a bigger and bolder post on this tomorrow, but for now may it suffice to say that I've got a ring finger swollen to twice its normal size (jalapeno oil under the nail) and I haven't been able to focus my mind all day (raw peppers... Portuguese liqueurs...)

Last night's theme: extremes.

On the hot side: Seitan sautéed in Old Bay and Cayenne pepper.

On the cold side: An icecube. (literally).

Ok. So tomorrow you get the whole story (I've gotta go rest my finger).

04 October 2007

Exquisite Dancin' Corpses

Here's part of a video installation from Snacks' 'Snack Shack' piece from ArtScape.

We're gonna be sitting down with Snacks talking food and music soon. So consider this a preview!

03 October 2007

Lost my Tooth at an Airshow

First time I lost a tooth was at a Roy Roger's fast-food joint. We'd all just been to an airshow. Old-time dare-devils, new time dare-devils... airshow stuff. I was around five years old.

I remember I was eating a chicken wing when I noticed something funny in my mouth. I still equate the smell of fried chicken with losing teeth.

I didn't get to keep that first tooth. I swallowed it with the chicken and it either passed through a few days later or I've still got bone in my gut. Don't remember if the Tooth-Fairy came.

Got a love-hate relationship with my teeth these days. Seems like I just can't keep ahead of 'em. But I wanna keep 'em.

Some years ago I wrote a song about losing my first tooth. All I remember now is the first verse. It went something like this:

Lost my tooth at an airshow,
Never stopped to think why;
But now I got so much older,
All I do is think about the sky...

30 September 2007

The Bug -- Part Five -- the conclusion

I think it was the fifth day of my stay in the hospital that the doctor told me what I had.

Food poisoning.

Go figure. You mean I don't have TB, after all? Rats. I was just getting used to this ward.

At least, for all my trouble, I could boast that I had survived a particularly nasty strain of E. coli. Apparently, it entered my body, set up shop, and began purging my intestines of unnecessary things -- like its own lining. Too bad any and all the scars are on the inside. I mean, could you have imagined me in that scene in the boat from 'Jaws'!

"Oh yeah? You think that's something? Well check this out. This is from when a bug tried to eat my colon."

When I got back to work on Monday, my buddy Bob had a welcome-back present for me: a plant.

Potted in a carry-out box.

28 September 2007

The Bug -- Part 4

It followed me around.

Well, not right away.

Explanation: MJ figured out pretty quick I was probably suffering a bad case of food poisoning. (The doctors apparently had no idea what I had as they put me in the TB ward for a night). But MJ deduced that I had caught something from the last thing I had eaten: that egg roll. You see, she had eaten everything else that I had eaten that night except the egg roll. And so, she figured that if she gave the egg roll to the doctor, they'd be able to look at it under the microscope and say: "Yeah. That's where he caught the bug. Thanks, MJ."

They didn't do that.

Yeah, MJ brought the half-eaten egg roll to the hospital. And yeah, the nurses had said they would give it to the doctor.

They didn't do that.

Instead they put the white plastic bag with a Styrofoam box inside filled with mutant egg roll in the hospital room's closet. Right next to my street clothes.

Let me tell you something. As I laid there for the next five days eating out of a bag (drip method) and spending lonely nights watching Scorsese's 'The Blues' series on PBS on the hospital TV (a high point of the ordeal... especially the Farka piece), the meal began to rot. And rot. And rot.

And despite my pleas, the nurses just couldn't "figure out" why the room smelled so bad.

Here's a few reasons:

1) You had me give "samples" to a bucket in the bathroom you never bothered to collect.

2) I didn't take a bath for a week as the toxins sweat themselves out of my body.

3) A genetically-altered egg roll was growing a beard in the closet of my room.

American health care. Alas.

(and tomorrow the conclusion...)

25 September 2007

The Bug -- Part 3

There I was standing in the middle of the emergency room hooked up to an I.V., staring at a spear stuck in the ceiling.

Earlier that night, I'd walked passed a curtained-off hospital bed where a team of nurses was pulling the spear out of a young woman who was screaming in pain. Bright red blood covered the floor. The screaming echoed and reverberated throughout the ER.

I looked up at the spear in the ceiling. Didn't look like much now. Not like the spear I'd seen the evening previous.

That was while I was driving up the Baltimore Beltway. Long before the fire-demons started appearing.

I was driving north when a Jeep Cherokee passed on the left. Suddenly, from out of the rear window, a spear shot towards my car. I don't recall swerving. I do recall being snapped awake, or at least more alert. "You ok?" asked MJ.

"Yeah. Fine"

The fire demons lived in the grain of the door. I recall asking a doctor to pull the curtain over so that I'd be out of their line of vision. The fire demons never approached me. They just stayed there in the doorway waiting. Glimmering. Flickering.

I was the one who had called 911. Actually, as luck would have it, Phil was visiting and I asked him to call for me.

I was thinking at the time that I had gone insane. I also thought I was having a heart-attack.

I remember standing alone in front of the bathroom mirror holding in one hand what I was sure was my detached finger. I remember being curled in a wheelchair comatose in the waiting room. I remember making bloody treks down the hall of the ER and back. I remember the mad stare of the janitor on duty.

I was insane.

(To be continued...)

24 September 2007

The Bug -- Part Two

Ok. Thanks to those of you who are still with us on this story. Please note: this is not meant to be an indictment of Chinese food. That would be ridiculous. I have had some amazing Chinese meals. This doesn't really have to do with the style of food.

It has to do with refrigeration. And the nine easy steps.

Dig: as I said before, following the hurricane power was out in some parts for almost a week.

That's probably when the bug festered. And grew. And planted itself deep within the crevices of each and every piece of warm butchered flesh.

Now, some of you are asking: But, Shelly, aren't you a vegetarian? How could you possibly catch a meat-borne illness?

Alas. This is the story of the filthy kitchen knife. Here's what I figure:

Step One: power goes out.
Step Two: the owners figure the power will come back on.
Step Three: the power is still not on (days later).
Step Four: owners toss things that smell bad.
Step Five: power comes on.
Step Six: carry-out business picks up because folks don't have groceries.
Step Seven: cook slices a piece of infected (not-quite-smelly-enough) beef and then uses the same kitchen knife to slice up some veggie-innards for an egg roll.
Step Eight: I walk in and purchase said eggroll.
Step Nine: I eat said eggroll, hallucinate for days, and come close to death.

There you go. Nine easy steps.

(Tomorrow's installment: cool E. Coli hallucinations... bring on the spears and demons!)

23 September 2007

The Bug -- Part 1



The bug.

By the time I knew it was living inside of me, I was already hallucinating spears and disembodied fingers.

There I was standing in the upstairs bathroom of my in-law's house. I pulled off my thumb and stuck it where my ring finger should have been. No, I didn't. Did I?

The confusion brought on by the fever accompanied by the stress produced by my anxiety and hypochondria only made things worse. Twelve hours previous I had been driving up 695 when I saw a spear fly out the back window of a Jeep Cherokee. Ten hours since I had a freak-out in a parking lot in Towson. I was now standing in a bathroom bleeding, feeling like I was going to die.

And it all began with an egg roll.

Days earlier, Baltimore had caught the brunt of a hurricane that had come right up the Chesapeake. Fell's Point flooded to the roofs of cars and boats throughout the east-side marinas were dumped onto land and onto one another. Power in some parts was out for days. One of my students said his family had lost twenty-one trees on their wooded lot.

We got off fairly well. Maybe some torn siding was the worst any of the local family had suffered. MJ and I were actually preparing to settle on our house at the time and had been nervous. The house is relatively ancient by American standards (built in 1840), and the roof at time of purchase was in terrible shape. We were relieved that the storm hadn't seemed to inflict any serious damage.

And so, on the evening before we were to settle, I decided to surprise everyone by bringing home Chinese carry-out.

This turned out to have been one of the worst mistakes I've ever made.

(...to be continued...)

21 September 2007

Delicatessen (1991) trailer

Ok. So I had to add one more in our series of "food"-movie trailers.

I remember the first time I saw this. It was like someone had crawled into my brain and planted images in my memory and from then on it just all made sense. This is the best movie ever made revolving around food.

And the title sequence to this movie is among the top three ever.

20 September 2007

Those Were the Good Ol' Days [a study in irony]

Seems like every single thing I heard on the radio or read in the paper today had something bad to say about the 'War on Terror'. Jeez. And just when I thought things were looking up!

There was the story about the number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan rising in a way that the folks there really can't understand since the likelihood of getting blown up by a suicide bomber five years ago in that country was about equivalent to the likelihood of getting blown up by a suicide bomber in Des Moines and the likelihood of getting bombed now is equivalent to the likelihood of catching a commercial for a Chevy planet-killer during the viewing of any of America's favorite autumn sports. Well, you know what they say: if you choose to live in a country that is obviously as dangerous as Afghanistan, then you are just some crazy kind of freewheeler to begin with! [note from editor: 'The previous was an example of an ironic statement. Please direct all hate-mail to your congressman -- we here at LTSRP sure as heck don't need it... you frigging crazies!'].

Next up, young Afghani child-actors are being threatened in Kabul for appearing in a film that depicts the Taliban as being... um... a men's club full of crazy frigging violent fundamentalists. Nice. I hope the film's production company worked that one into their budget: lighting rigs, catering, bodyguards and / or forged exit visas.

And lastly, there in that foremost of pre-9/11 terrorist hotspots -- Iraq -- the civilian death toll has risen to the greatest levels of the war (which, incidentally, is not over). And the prognosis of the American Leader (TM) amounts to: it'll be better when it gets better.

Makes me yearn for the days after 9/11 when the American people spoke in one voice. When the producers of canned meat stood beside fellow patriots in discouraging acts of terrorism.

19 September 2007

Sharon Hill Punch

Sharon Hill Punch.

That's what my grandfather called the water that came out of his tap in South-West Philadelphia.

Maybe it was like an Ent thing (sorry... Tolkien reference...). The Ent water was nourishing to some and made others a bit dozy; but everyone recognized that there was something magical about it. I think the Sharon Hill Punch harbored the same qualities.

Grandpa used to call us into the kitchen for a drink. We'd rush in expecting orange-juice or apple-juice or some other fruity blend. Instead we'd be presented with twelve-ounce glasses of Philly H20. But protesting got us nowhere. My Grandpa had been a train-yard and ship-yard pipe-fitter his whole adult life. He was a presence, even during the onset of old age. You just didn't mess with Grandpa.

And so we drank the Sharon Hill Punch. In fact, as we grew older, we learned to play the trick on our own younger siblings. "Hey, want a glass of Sharon Hill Punch?"; "Well, okay."; "Here you go!"; "Hey! This is just water!"

Funny how things like that come back to you. These days, my grandfather is stumbling along bravely as a 90 year-old man. My grandmother is long passed.

There are days now and then that I could use some Sharon Hill Punch.

18 September 2007

The Truth.

Some things go together. Others do not. Therein lies a tale.

Several years ago -- over a decade ago, actually -- I was living in a walk-up in Mt. Vernon right there in the center of Baltimore City. I walked out my front door and the Walter's Art Museum greeted me. Turning right put me in-between the Basilica and the Pratt Central Library. A left put me a block from the best sandwich in town. It was a good place to be and it was a good time for me to be there.

In those heady days, I was always looking for new sensations. This was often tempered by my empty-as-usual wallet. During a particularly hairy financial crunch, I was forced to eat nothing but Idaho potatoes. The Epicurean in me got by by spicing up the diet trying any and all condiments with my daily potatoes. Classics like mustard and sour cream worked just fine. Mayonnaise was strangely addictive. Relish didn't work for me at all, but straight dill and vinegar -- excellent. Old Bay and butter is classic around here, Wasabi made me cry, lemon juice made me pucker. I used to bring home little take-home samples of all the condiments from the place I was working; though the Wasabi was left-over from a jaunt to a sushi buffet. I guess I didn't so much live on potatoes as I lived on condiments. The potato was just for texture.

Anyhow, all this mix and match got me itching to try out all kinds of new concoctions. That's where I came up with what is either the greatest idea I've ever had or the most utterly useless taste sensation known to humankind.

It started with a bag of ground coffee beans.

At this point in my life, I was completely and utterly addicted to coffee. It was useless trying to get anything done in the morning before my third cup of Colombian. I was averaging two pots a day. A late night could easily turn that into three or four. (For the kids in the audience, this was in the days before Starbucks... a cup of joe cost maybe $0.75 and refills were free. Yeah. That's why we hate Starbucks).

So there I was trying my best to distort the natural readings off of every synapse in my body. I was made for coffee.

I had a second love, however. A food item that to this day I consider the greatest of the earth's spoils. (Ironic I remember this story today after my post of yesterday about the fish). You see, dear reader, I humbly concede that I am a slave to GARLIC.

Dear Lord. Honestly. I bet heaven smells like garlic bread.

Can't get enough of the stuff. I can still remember the first time I ever tasted garlic. I was a kid and we were visiting my grandparents in New Britain, CT. This was after they had left their homeland of Jersey City, NJ. They were old, but there is some sort of connection between the very old and the very young and I remember I loved my grandmother any much. Anyway, we all went out to a pizzeria one evening.

Now, my grandfather was blind. Went off to W.W.II. with sight, came back without. He actually had a pinhole of blurred sight in one eye, so he'd often aim his eye at what ever he was trying to make out and lean his whole body forward towards the thing (menu, TV, cash in his wallet). I always imagined he must be using his whole body's energy to see through this tiny pinhole. I couldn't imagine how frustrating it must have been for him. Nonetheless, there he was in the pizza joint trying to make out the condiments on the table. My father put them in front of him in a line: crushed dry parmesan, dried red pepper, powdered garlic.

I watched him make his choice. He picked up the cheese first and shook it near his ear. No, that wasn't the stuff. He picked up the red pepper and did the same. Bingo. He shook the flakes onto his slice of NY cheese. Then came the garlic. I swear as he poured it out the whole environment changed. I was like the kid in a Joyce short story. Suddenly it all came together.

The old man put down the glass jar. I picked it up. "You don't want that," said my mother. I ignored her (a mechanism which would prove useful for the next eighteen-or-so years).

I shook out a little too much garlic. It sat in a little mustaba-like mound in the center of my slice. That pyramid represented my future.

Back to that little apartment in Baltimore.

I confess. I'm an idea man. Very rarely do I ever actually finish anything. There's the opera libretto based on the story of Germanicus and Agrippina. There's the children's book about the rabbit-creature and the giraffe and the trio of ladybugs. And there's the screenplay about the guy who thinks he's a werewolf. And the sci-fi novel about tribal androids. It's a wonder I actually finished the new album. Amazing, actually. I'm mostly good for ideas.

So, I get these ideas. Sometimes they are just temporal sorts of things. Other times they become like these wild obsessions. I roll them over and over and over in my mind. And the best of these ideas turn into experiments. Like when I got the notion to use tinfoil as a musical instrument.

This thing that went down in that apartment was one of these sorts of things.

There I am, living a quiet existence when it comes to me:

I love coffee; I love garlic.

Good Lord.

I can tell by your smile that you know where this is headed. For the less erudite among you, I offer these two words:

garlic

coffee

Yup. Say it together, now:

GARLIC COFFEE!!!

Friends, I tell you this. It was only seconds after I came up with the idea of mixing garlic and coffee together into one blend that I was convinced that my genius had revealed itself to me.

I immediately went to the cupboard (in times like this, there is no time to waste... just ask Archimedes).

As luck would have it, I had a quart-sized plastic container of powdered garlic on hand. I stole it away from the shelf and immediately threw a pot of French Roast ground-bean in the great god-like icon we call the coffee-maker.

But instead of just brewing the coffee straight -- and for those of you keeping score at home, this is where the 'genius' moniker earns points -- I flipped out a filter and filled it two-thirds of the way with ground beans and the other third with straight garlic powder. A third.

You know how sometimes you have dreams and you can smell stuff in the dream? I hope this happens to you because it is one of the most incredible psycho-physiological events our bodies offer us. So, I have this now-and-again dream where I am in a pizza parlor and someone is brewing coffee back in the kitchen. That smell -- the scent of fresh pizza, crushed peppers, garlic, and the distant brew of a dark coffee -- is what I would consider the closest thing to a perfect smell. A perfect smell is -- well, for you folks who remember 'Northern Exposure', it's the nasal equivalent of a perfect moment. It defines beauty. It's like what the Sistine Chapel is to the eyes; what Stevie Ray Vaughan's Strat is to the ears.

So that's the place I'm in as this perfect blend is working its slow magic in my little rental kitchen.

And before I realize time has passed, it's ready.

Slowly, I take my favorite cup from off the counter. With the care of a biomedical researcher examining the latest form of Ebola, I gently pour the GARLIC COFFEE (TM) from the glass pitcher.

I stare at it. Somewhere deep down, I realize that in there lies all my dreams and aspirations. I realize that this cup contains all I know about what is good in the world. This cup represents the highest level of my sophistication -- the highest level of my artistry.

This cup defines me.

And so it is with great deliberation and trepidation that I bring the steaming cup to my lips.

I take a swallow.

And in an instant I know.

I know a secret truth no human ever before had dared to know.

I know a secret that only today dare I share with those of you who actually read through this whole post.

The truth is:

Garlic Coffee tastes like hot spit.

17 September 2007

Cannibal Fish

I feed my fish fish.

Not a typo. I just realized -- sitting here looking at the ingredients in a 28g container of Top Fin Betta Bits -- that I contribute to my fish's cannibalism.

Let's take a quick peek at the main ingredients.

1) Fish meal. Now, I'm pretty sure that this means very finely ground up fish. Why is this considered a reasonable thing to feed fish? We don't feed dogs ground-Lab. But, I guess fish eat each other, don' they? (Big fish swallows the little fish). Never before did I pause to reflect on just how gross that is. Eesshh.

2) Shrimp meal. Mind you these are Betta Bits. Meant for little Betta fish. How in the heck could a Betta fish eat a shrimp in the wild? Do you think they've all developed a taste for shrimp after generations of eating Betta Bits? I'm gonna plump a single grilled jumbo shrimp in Mick's bowl and see what he does.

3) Soybeans. Really? Soybeans? Lord knows it's a great source of protein, but do you really think there is anything remotely natural about feeding sea creatures a bean that grows in Kansas?

Ok. Ok. So on and on the list goes: wheat, corn meal, fish oil, squid. And then I get to the big one. The one that may explain why Mick is alone in that little tank...

Garlic.

That's right, folks. Fish can't get enough of the garlic.

I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why my cannibal fish needs garlic in his diet. Must help with digestion.

16 September 2007

The Blob-Movie Trailer

With Steve McQueen and a cast of 'exciting new people', how can this film be anything less than the progenitor of all films where an inner-galactic being eats all the residents of a cheap-50's home-planet bred on kitchen-aprons and double-features? The last of our series,

14 September 2007

Night Of The Living Dead Trailer

Ok. So night 2 in our little Trailer-Fest is an 'eating' movie of a whole other kind. This is actually one of my top ten favorite films. A piece that deals not only with the technical aspects of making a zombie-flick, but also the racial and societal problems of the time, this is more than an eat-'em-up. It's a real thriller. And check out those hungry zombies!

13 September 2007

Soylent Green (1973) - Trailer

I've decided to start collecting trailers of movies related to food. This was the obvious first choice. I've got a friend whose father gave this to her on video for Christmas. Scary.

12 September 2007

He ate what?!?

Monsieur Mangetout. Remember this guy?

Any kid who ever got lost in a dog-eared copy of the Guinness Book of World Records sooner or later came across Monsieur Mangetout. He's the guy who ate a bicycle.

Since c. 1960, the Frenchman with the stomach of steel (born Michel Lotito) has eaten everything from bicycles to television sets. His greatest coup was stomaching a Cessna 150 (a feat which took two years... fortunately Cessnas don't need to be refrigerated).

I was thinking about this on the way home today.

Remember back in high school there was 'that kid' who would eat/drink anything for a buck? I remember we had one of these immortals among our crowd at school and for a buck a head, he'd drink whatever you put in his 16 oz paper cup. Got Dr. Pepper? Pour it in. Mix it up with Mustard? In goes the Mustard. Relish? Coffee? The grease off the top of a slice of cafeteria pizza? Pour it all in, that'll be a buck an ingredient.

Stir it up and down it goes.

And let's not even get into bodily fluids.

So I was thinking about how there is this fascination we have with people who will eat 'weird' things. We have television shows where contestants are rewarded for eating live insects. Cannibalism is always a sure bet to make the front page of cnn.com (US edition).

In the Old Irish sagas, heroes became so awash in rage that they might eat their enemies on the battlefield.

And there's Monsieur Mangetout with his bicycles and airplanes, that kid with his blended gross-out shake, Divine and the dog-poo.

What's left to eat? What is the Everest of eating-oddities? What mountain is left to eat?

11 September 2007

Iraq is Over (if you want it)

Can't eat tonight. It all makes me sick. All of it.

From folks who lost parents and siblings and cousins and friends and neighbors to folks who lost their innocence in front of a corporate TV screen. And from folks who've been brought back from overseas just-not-quite-right to folks being prepared for new duties and new separations from families. And from folks who trusted that their government would do the right thing to those who got blisters walking in protest against the start of this whole damned useless war.

It all makes me sick.

Do yourself a favor tonight. Skip dinner and read some Robert Fisk. There's a good chance that that man's the voice through which this history will be understood by future generations.

10 September 2007

Kids' Game

Watched a 10-month-old eat last night.

He was really into the mashed potatoes. Liked peas too. And he bore a striking resemblance to Henry Rollins.

Kids are funny about food. I've got a niece who won't eat anything but chocolate and French fries. Talk about living the life. If I could eat nothing but chocolate and French fries and maintain a reasonable weight and metabolism, you'd never see me out of the house. I'd sit in the kitchen all day with the Hershey's and the Utz.

I bet that would get really gross after a while.

But kids can pull off food-things that adults can't touch. Example: baby-food. Why do we spend money buying food for our most vulnerable human friends that we wouldn't feed our cats?

Baby-food sucks.

Babies know this. Ever watched a baby being fed? That face they make? Uh-huh. That's the beginning of profanity right there.

But they deal.

My kids' favorite is sushi. Every couple of weeks I pick up a pack of Nori sheets from the grocer and roll avacados and cucumbers for dinner. The kids have helped me discover a few things, too. I think it was their idea to put strawberries in the sushi. Talk about genius. If you've never eaten strawberries with sticky rice and seaweed, you just haven't lived.

Funny. When I was a kid, my favorite was Count Chocula. And I don't just mean that it was my favorite high-octane teeth-rotter. I mean it was my absolute favorite food. Count Chocula and bowling-alley pizza. More proof that I was a born Epicurian.

07 September 2007

Milkshakes. Yum.

I prefer milkshakes to mosquitoes.

It's been humid this week. Mid-Atlantic humid. Which according to my cousin Steve is blissfully pleasurable. Steve lives in Houston. He said it was 105 degrees most of last week with humidity at 70%. Yup. And they've got mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. So I guess I won't complain.

Nonetheless, out recent heat-wave and our recent purchase of a killer new Kitchen-Aid blender got me thinking about one thing:

Milkshakes.

When I was a kid, we used to get in the old VW Rabbit and mom would take us out for fast-food milkshakes. Chocolate was my favorite. I remember a good day was a day spent walking around with a chocolate milkshake dirt-mustache.

Now, the trick to enjoying a good milkshake is in the manner of consumption. You're gonna need a straw. But you won't be sucking the milkshake through it. No, the proper way to eat a milkshake [notice I said 'eat' rather than 'drink'] is by spooning the frothy goodness into yr maw via a striped plastic straw. If you have never eaten a milkshake in this fashion, well shame on you. For those of you who know exactly what I'm talking about, well, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Milkshakes. Yum.

06 September 2007

Field Trip!

So I'm gonna send you on a field trip today.

Go on over to this article in City Paper and read yrself my first food-related thing published in that neck of the woods.

More here tomorrow.

05 September 2007

Fruit Salad Makes for a Great Gift


My mother-in-law and my four-year-old daughter made my wife and I a fruit salad to celebrate out anniversary.

That was a very nice thing to do.

I think I'm going to start giving fruit salad as a gift. I write this with no trace of irony. I really think fruit salad is a great gift.

Receive fruit salad as a gift and you will understand.

04 September 2007

I can't imagine the damage I'm doing...

While it seemed like a good idea at first, I can now tell you expertly that it is not a good idea to feast Falstaffian on extra-spiced vegetarian beef-jerky substitute and call it lunch. But in the moment, all I can say is: wow.

Ladies and gentlemen, I've seen the Promised Land. And it is stocked with Stonewall's Jerquee. Yes, and if I've said it a million times, well that's just not enough. Because throughout the land, all good people should know that there is an alternative to putting a bolt through the brain of a thousand-pound animal, skinning and dicing said animal, heat and salt curing left-over parts of said animal, and then selling those cured parts of said dead animal in truckstops and convenience stores across the highways of this nation.

The answer is Stonewall's!

And just today I discover I can purchase this stuff in 5-pound boxes! Hallelujah!

By the time my insides get done with today's lunch they'll look like I swallowed depleted uranium. But no matter.

Jerky calls.

03 September 2007

Beware the Wedding Chicken

Ok. So I was gone for a couple of days wrapped up with events related to my sister's wedding.

Ah... wedding food, the pros and cons.

On the plus side, there was an excellent tasting veggie option of a conch-shell sized noodle filled with ricotta cheese. In my mind, I sort of visualized this situation in which vegetarian Scots found themselves inventing the world's first veggie haggis substitute.

On the con side, the salad. My brother-and-law spent about ten minutes botanically analyzing the contents of our bowls. We know there were dandelions in there. Perhaps stalks of grass, too. If it was grass, it wasn't that bad. For eating grass, that is. But you're not going to see sod on my pantry shelf anytime soon.

My cousin gave great kudos to the bride and groom for refraining from serving the wedding-chicken. I think wedding-chicken must be a special breed. I'm sure I saw them displayed at the State Fair last week. Prize-winning wedding-chickens. They're lean, they're mean, and they come with some weird sauce.

Finally we came to dessert. Why is it that only at weddings do folks serve desserts that no one wants to eat? I don't understand why people spend $500 on a cake covered in velvet and shellac when a $12 sheet-cake from the supermarket would do the trick. And don't tell me that I'm just not sophisticated. It is a proven fact that no one actually prefers wedding cake to sheet cake. And if you do, well you're the freak. Go see a doctor. There's something wrong with you.

That said, the desserts at this wedding were pretty darn tasty. We especially liked the chocolate dollops with sliced peanut ears made to look like little mice. Yummy.

All in all, I'd say that this wedding was a gastronomical success. I didn't meet anyone who had anything less than stellar to say about their entree, be it sirloin, salmon, or veggie haggis. And the wine kept flowing and the band kept the dancefloor shaking.

And not a wedding-chicken seen all night.

Congrats to the bride and groom.

30 August 2007

All Praise the Mighty Falafel!

MJ made falafel this evening.

I cook almost every night, but for some reason I was occupied this evening so MJ took over the duties.

I know that different folks have different feelings about falafel. For me, it always reminds me of Louie's Bookstore Cafe in Baltimore.

I've posted before about my time working at Louie's. For a while I was a dishwasher. However, once they realized that I was indeed the most inept dishwasher on Earth, I got sent up to work the front of house in the bookstore.

Allow me to give some description. This joint was located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore in an old warehouse / loft sort of building.

The front of the place looked out onto Charles St. via a huge plate window. This is where the bookstore was. Even in my juvenile state, I was sure that without a doubt we were the most kick-ass bookstore in town. This was back before the big chain bookstores had really taken over. I still challenge any Barns-and-Un-Noble to ever even find half the stuff we had in regular stock. Everything from the complete Black Sparrow catalogue to hand-printed chapbooks. We had it down.

Anyway, back to the falafel.

I guess there's something about working in a restaurant that sets you against eating its food. Not that the food here was bad; by the contrary, we served up some mean sandwiches and great post-symphony desserts. It's just that you kinda get bored with what's at home in the kitchen each night, you know?

Except for the falafel.

Louie's falafel sandwich -- three dollops in a pita with lettuce, tomato, and white tangy sauce -- was a worthy benefit in the days before health-insurance and FICA. (BTW: what the heck is FICA? Is this a benefit of some sort? I honestly have no idea what this is or why these people take money out of my paycheck.)

Back to the falafel.

This sandwich was in my most humble opinion, the greatest sandwich ever served under the shadow of Baltimore's Washington Monument. I watched love affairs live and die within olfactory resonance of these sandwiches. I watched the wealthiest of Baltimoreans pick lettuce out of their teeth thanks to these sandwiches.

Needless to say, there will be more about Louie's in future posts.

29 August 2007

Silence is Golden

Sister could clap really loud.

She was a Sister of Notre Dame. Maybe that had something to do with it.

She was also principal of our little elementary school, and thus commanded the respect of every little cretin in the lunchroom.

As I recall, it was winter-time. I was wearing an enormous black and orange coat my mom had bought at Burlington Coat Factory. It was the kind that zipped down the center of the hood so you could unzip and wear the flaps over each shoulder.

Somebody please bring back that fashion statement.

Anyway, there we were in the cafeteria. Standing at attention. Waiting for Sister to let us go.

She had just clapped, which was nun-communication at the time for "Yo, twerps! Shut yr mouths and listen up!"

Being winter, the heater was on full-blast. Because if it weren't for running the heater constantly, the parish would never have had reason for taking a second collection on Sundays.

I was standing behind a kid I didn't know that well. He was wearing a black and silver winter-coat very similar to my own.

I had just eaten a cheese sandwich.

Now, this had been no ordinary sandwich. This was one of my mother's "we couldn't afford liverwurst this week" cheese sandwiches. Several slices of white American cheese lodged between two mayonnaise-slathered slices of Wonder Bread. Salt and pepper optional.

I don't know just how long we stood in that line. Perhaps three minutes. But in first-grader-mind that equals at least a half-hour.

About a minute and a half into the ordeal of standing in silence, I felt the cheese sandwich changing direction. Somewhere around the entrance to the stomach it decided to throw on the air-brakes and do an about-face. Fleeing that bubbling caldron of 2% milk and gastric juices, it headed north pausing for just a moment near the Adam's apple before bursting through the flood-gates and pouring directly into the hood of the jacket of the poor boy standing in front of me.

I still remember it today as having attained an iridescent pinkish quality during the brief respite it had made in my esophagus.

And to this very day, I always equate listening to directions whilst being forced to stand still in silence with the smell of hot vomit.

27 August 2007

Lunch-ladies in Love: a back-to-school ode

In deference to John Berryman's 'Washington in Love'


I
A quiet cheeseburger, and the rattled vinegar fries

II
The music of our condiment is: vulgar?

III
Dear Ms. Lunch-lady, have you my change?

IV
Spaghetti, no sauce. I'll pass on the soup.

V
Hairnets. Saran-wrap gloves. Morning, hon.

VI
Elevation of the fountain drinks from the bus tray line 2.5'.

VII
Bring the hungry, Martha! Bring the hungry freshmen.

26 August 2007

Nice animal. Can you put it on a stick?

What is it about State Fairs?

MJ and I took the kids to the Maryland State Fair this afternoon. Her brother had gotten tickets through his work, so how could we refuse?

I remember going to the State Fair as a kid. Loved it. Lots of animals, rides, games. Even now, the idea of going to the fair takes me back to those days.

So we all went a-fairing. And I think we had a good time. Watched a cow giving birth. Stepped in horse-dung. The kids ate something on a stick.

Yeah. The stick. The one with food on it.

Whoever came up with this idea?

You spend an hour walking through the Cow Palace looking at beautiful, big-eyed, local heifers and then you enter a line that leads to a counter where you can order that beautiful, big-eyed, local heifer (or at least a distant relation) on a stick.

How sick is that?

Could you imagine a family reunion where Uncle Bob was being served on toast?

And then they want us to spend $5 to get on the Tilt-A-Whirl and not throw up.

24 August 2007

I Hate Recipes

Ok.

I understand that your average food blog is supposed to contain recipes and nice pictures of drizzled entrees and bubbly desserts.

I've even thrown in a recipe or two early on.

But get it straight, Jack. And I make no bones about it: I Hate Recipes.

If you can show me a picture of a particular dish and then take me through the steps to make that dish and my dish looks the same as that dish, then something is terribly amiss in the universe.

My reality just don't work like that.

I don't want to make your food. And I don't really want you to make my food.

And above all, I don't want to spend my precious time reading a recipe.

I just wanna cook. And eat.

That's it: I want to cook and eat.

Downtime in cooking is for reading Yeats and Eliot and Beckett and Berryman. For reading mystery novels. For reading interviews with Mark E. Smith. For reading blogs about electric guitars.

I find nothing compelling about reading recipes.

It's about as interesting as reading directions for putting together shelving.

The occasional recipe is alright. Just don't expect to get inundated with them around here.

I think it's got something to do with my childhood.

My teachers noticed early on that despite a quick memory and a 'creative' outlook on life, it was just fundamentally beyond my range of intellectual capabilities to follow directions from point A to point B and produce a product anything remotely like what was intended.

It got to the point of sheer embarrassment just about the time we dissected frogs in 8th grade.

I personally saw no reason why one should check out the digestive system before moving on to the skeletal system. Skeletons are cool. All that digestive stuff just looked icky.

And to this day, I'll swear that my frog had neither a heart nor lungs. I don't care what the instructions said. They weren't there.

I think all this trouble with directions bred in me a deep distrust of anything involving a stated objective and a set of instructions for attaining said objective.

I also get lost easily.

It once took me an hour and twenty minutes to figure out how to get out of the city of Boston by car. And yes, in hindsight maybe I should have realized that I lived only three blocks from the entrance to the Mass Pike.

I don't see hindsight ever using a map.

Which brings me to recipes.

In my jaded opinion, recipes are nothing less than death traps. The death of the pioneer spirit must be directly attributed to the first time someone followed a recipe for making Swedish meatballs.

I don't know. It's probably just me. But I can't think of anyone who’s really made a difference in this world by following someone else's recipe. Even Julia Child threw her own two-cents (and several ounces of sherry) into whatever she happened to be making.

This is my idea of a good recipe:

Spaghetti al fungi

1. Get spaghetti and mushrooms and some other stuff you think is tasty.
2. Do stuff to it.
3. Eat.

There are two important kinds of recipes.

1) Recipies for making wine / destilling moonshine. Do this wrong and you'll have fungus growing out your burned-out esophagus.

2) Recipies for making dangerous dishes like blowfish. I don't know about you, but I'm not eating any amateur blowfish.

This is not to say that some people don't make the most of a recipe. If it works for you, great. But for me, it's like the difference between composed and improvised music. And I've never really had the attention span to concentrate on reading when I could just as well make something with just my ears and fingers.

Of course, no one has to eat my music.

23 August 2007

Is it Possible to Get Sponsored as a Cheese-Eater?

I think I need to see a doctor. Or a shrink. Or maybe be I could just pay someone to tie me to a tree and spoon feed me for a week.

You see, I’ve got an addiction.

And it’s not going away.

I’m addicted to cheese.

That’s not some hep code word for some psychotropic wonder pill. I mean cheese pure and simple. The yellow stuff. The stuff that makes a cheesesteak more than flesh on a bun.

Cheese.

I looked up my addiction online and all I could find were people who took themselves way too seriously who were prepared to wean me off cheddar.

I’m not ready for that. I’m gonna take my chances. You’re not gonna take my cheese away, weird internet-cheese-intervention person. If you want to take my cheese away, you’re gonna have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

Ok. Now that I’ve proven that I’m a completely reasonable person…

One of my favorites here is a little block of wonder known as Dill Havarti. I think those little flecks of green twig are really miniature suicidal alien beings holding a thousand miniature tractor-beams. They pull my face close to the Dill Havarti until I have no choice but consumption.

Just a theory.

I hold a special place in my heart for fresh mozzarella. Possibly my finest cheese memory comes from sitting outside a little café off Piazza Navona in the shadow of Sant’Agnese in Agone eating Insalata Caprese. A simple salad of tomato slices, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil, this stuff takes on an epic tone in the City Eternal. Mozzarella chill, soft and wet, drizzled in extra virgin and bespeckled with tiny charms. The fact of the matter is: this is the cheese that conquers all. The only cheese that can honestly heave its own reputation into the fold and come out an equal on the square of Borromini and Bernini’s great architectural arguments.

Alas.

Asiago, Feta, Danablu, Dubliner, Beaufort, Munster, Edam, Svecia, Paneer, Monterey Jack, and (my favorite) New York Extra Sharp Cheddar… these are the names that haunt my dreams. Sometimes stinky, sometimes hard, sometimes gooey, sometimes moldy. I just can’t get enough.