21 October 2008

Check, please...

How do you know when it's time to let a blog go?

I don't know, but I think it's got something to do with whether you've posted in a month. Or whether the blog still comes up in conversation. Or whether you dream about your next post.

I started this blog some two years ago with the intention of writing about food and the people who eat it. I wanted to explore my voice and get away from the poetic and burn the mysterious and just write plain and natural and honestly. I've done a bit of that.

Now it's time to move on into different things. Not that I'm gonna stop eating or thinking about eating any time soon. Just that I've done most of what I wanted to do here. Or maybe I'm just burnt out. One way or the other, it's time.

I'd like to thank all the folks who helped with this endeavor, including MJ and all the folks who worked on videos, docs, and general food gossip.

And as a last thought...

Last weekend, my grandfather died. He was 92 years old and in bad shape. When I last saw him, a few days before he passed, he had stopped eating. I fed him some iron and water through a straw. But it was obvious he wasn't going to make it.

He'd stopped eating.

Stopped eating.

And that's when you know someone is ready to move on.

And in this final LTSRP post, as I move on to new things to do and write about, I think about him moving on from his food-loving earthly body to a form I can't yet understand, but one which I think is probably sustained by a food unlike any other. And here's to hoping that all of you find your sustenance and that you learn to cherish it.

Because in the end, it's all just the stuff on the end of your fork.

Eat well,
Shelly

02 October 2008

Eat It

Watched the VP debates this eve, and this is really the only thing that came to mind.

22 September 2008

Jenny Graf Sheppard Throws a Feast at High Zero

Spent all week here.

Now I feel like I've re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. Headed towards the ocean. Ah, the cool of the ocean.

Surprisingly, ironically, (not really, not around here anyway), I think the best -- really really the best as in one of the best concert experiences I've ever had (and I've had a few) -- was Jenny Sheppard's second performance on Sat afternoon:

2. Threshold for Action and Sound

threshold-
1 A level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not.
2 The point that must be exceeded to begin producing a given effect or result or to elicit a response.

This piece transforms the audience into creators and the creators into audience. All are involved in the live production of a sound score to which the High Zero musicians respond. Building the piece together, the audience and performers are co-dependent in this improvised composition of sound and activity.

The consumption of a nutritious meal will be central to this composition for sound, instigating action by the group. Those in attendance will be given several menus to choose from. A vegan option will be provided.

Musicians:
Tetuzi Akiyama: acoustic guitar
John Berndt: electronics, reeds, inventions
Tom Boram: synthesizer, voice
Alessandro Bosetti: electronics, voice
Tony Buck: drums
G. Lucas Crane: tapes
John Eaton: alto saxophone, voice
Camel Zekri: oud, guitar, electronics



Basically, Jenny turned the stage into a big dinner for the audience. And in short order it turned as rowdy as a Bad Brains show. There will surely be video coming out documenting this soon, but to put it in perspective, the performance turned into a sort of surreal manifestation of the sort of spirit evoked in the sorted stories of the infamous dinner Picasso and his friends threw in honor of H. Rousseau in 1908, I believe. This is most wonderfully described in Richardson's biography (I think in the first volume). Apparently everyone in attendance -- including Gertrude Stein and Max Jacob and the like -- got completely nuts and by the end of the party, Rousseau wound up sleeping on a makeshift throne wearing a crown of candles dripping down his forehead.

Richardson called it something along the lines of the last optimistic thing to happen in the 20th century. I think Jenny just brought optimism back.

14 September 2008

Ceres

Thinking about Aeneas.

I've mentioned before on this blog that when Aeneas leaves Troy, the last thing he sees in the flames is the Temple of Ceres, goddess of the grain. When he finally washes up on some godforsaken beach, it is what is left of his crew's meager grain supply that Vergil describes floating up onto the beach and mingling with the sand.

Grain in fire and death; grain in water with potential of life, if not gone to rot.

The ancients understood that at the edges of experience lies sustenance.Everything else flows therein.

10 September 2008

Carmina Burana -- The Tavern Song

Went down to the Maryland Renaissance Festival last weekend. Two day pass - Saturday and Sunday.

Hurricane Hanna hit us on Saturday. It was sublime.

The only folks at the festival are the people who work there, the absolutely freakish die-hards, and MJ and I. So there we are, sitting in a tavern with a few dozen folks tapping feet and mugs and pounding on tables and ladies dancing jigs and men hooting and bagpipes and bass drum blaring out a beat as the clouds circle and wind and rain rip holes in the dirt paths. We are in the 1530's. We are in the tavern.

In taberna quando sumus,
non curamus, quid sit humus,
sed ad ludum properamus,
cui semper insudamus.

When we are in the tavern,
we have no cares, whatever the earth may be,
but let us be hasty to the games,
which always make us break a sweat.

This snippet of a tavern song from the Carmina Burana is an excellent indication that our Medieval forebears knew where to find a little respite from the sludge of life. Written sometime in the 13th century, the Burana manuscript contains love songs as well as admonishing moralistic lyrics, but it's the drinking songs that really bring the period to life.

In the tavern, there's playing and drinking and living indiscreetly...

Quidam ludunt, quidam bibunt,
quidam indiscrete vivunt...


It's a place where nobody's afraid of death because everybody's on the side of good ol' Bacchus.

Ibi nullus timet mortem,
sed pro Baccho mittunt sortem.

This isn't the scary, judgmental Middle Ages... this is the Age of the Gothic -- party time and prep for the coming Renaissance!

This is an age in which tavern goers will raise a glass and sing together:

Bibit hera, bibit herus,
bibit miles, bibit clerus,
bibit ille, bibit illa,
bibit servus cum ancilla,
bibit velox, bibit piger,
bibit albus, bibit niger,
bibit constans, bibit vagus,
bibit rudis, bibit magus.
Bibit pauper et egrotus,
bibit exul et ignotus,
bibit puer, bibit canus,
bibit presul et decanus,
bibit soror, bibit frater,
bibit anus, bibit mater,
bibit ista, bibit ille,
bibunt centum, bibunt mille.

What a night that must have been all those years ago. Drink poor man and rich man, known and unknown, boy and dog, sister and brother, old woman and young mother, this one that one, a hundred, a thousand...

I think it is the sense of being together -- the physicality of community -- that we've steadily been losing to Internets and Skype and iPhones that bodes poorly on our future. Facebook is not a tavern. Of course this has all been said before. But even as I write this post and consider the silliness of what I type, some Gothic or Renaissance DNA-thingie somewhere in my spine compels me to long for song and dance and spitting in the face of a hurricane -- a bunch of friends and strangers alike all bundled together with nowhere else to go. And because there is no where else to go, no webpage to turn to, no text to answer, we turn to one another and address the truth of the short time we all have together.

09 September 2008

Freshening Up the Produce

Just realized that I've been keeping this blog now for some sixteen months. That's like seven years in dog years. Or maybe the half-life of a 15 bean salad.

Anyhow, I am feeling that this blog needs some direction. Been all over the kitchen lately from the presidential campaign to the Olympics to the usual mush I serve here. So it's time to shake loose the hairnet, open up the spice rack, and let it all fly.

And that's why I'm starting here anew.

Let's take a look at food from the historical and literary perspective. See where that gets us, dear readers. Oh, yes, there will still be the Monty Python and Muppet Show songs, the rants about meat-eaters, and the occasional story about a dog eaten by a shark, but let's up the ante a bit. Go big. Make it obvious that our brains serve more purpose than merely a doorstop.

Enter Shakespeare. He, after all, is the guy who put the title of this blog into the mouth of Falstaff. Grumio's "oats have eaten the horses" and Queen Mab drives an empty hazelnut; his Dukes eat venison and his Clowns compare fair maidens to sweet majoram in a salad. The guy knew his food.

And thus a plan becomes obvious. For the next sixteen months or so, it will be my goal several times a week to take into consideration and to discuss food as represented in literature and food as an object of historical significance. I hope I do this job justice. And I hope this blog is renewed with new vigor (or may I live with cheese and garlic in a windmill...)

05 September 2008

MSNBC Countdown : Mousse or Moose?

OK. So, it comes at 2:57 in the clip.

Conspiracy theory: Was this an early Palin hint?!?

And 'Passion-fruit'. Wow.

30 August 2008

Alaska... really?


I don't care who you are, I ain't eating moose.

- Shelly

26 August 2008

Super Villain Vegetable Challange



Beware the Zucchini Moose! Look into his eyes and you may fall under his infamous summer squash spell!

(Now it's your turn to create your own vegetable-related super villain).

Be creative. Post away.

20 August 2008

Little Swim

This has nothing to do with food. Ironically given the last few posts, it has everything to do with swimming.

Four or five weeks ago I joined the Y. Besides just getting on a regular exercise regimen, I had an express purpose for shelling out the dough. I wanted to teach the kids to swim.

Not pay for swim lessons.

Not hire some guy to teach the tykes.

I wanted to do it myself.

Well, today my 5 year old daughter swam unassisted and without any flotation devices three time back and forth from the diving wall to the 8' mark in the center of the lane.

Awesome.

18 August 2008

You Just Dominated the Olympics, What's Next?

Ok. So much for my dream of Michael Phelps dissing McDonalds:

The first thing he craved after becoming the greatest Olympian ever?

"A big, fat cheeseburger and some fries," he said, smiling at the memory.


Heck, why not... we're only talking about 300 calories. Heck, have four or five of 'em, Michael! And supersize those fries... another 500 or so calories (and only 220 'from fat'!).

Oh well. At least now fat-cheeseburger eating kids across the nation know that if they just put their minds to it, they too can win in the Olympics. Here's a nutrition guide from Mickey D's to chart your progress.

16 August 2008

Big Swim

I don't think I could even afford to eat 12,000 calories a day. Of course, I'm not exactly Michael Phelps.

Did discover that 3,500 fat calories can put three pounds on the average male. That's more than it's weight in Doritos.

Hmm. Wonder what Michael Phelps would swim like if he ate 12,000 calories of Doritos a day...

15 August 2008

O-Blymp-ic Coverage

NBC's coverage of the 2008 Olympics is horrible.

We're almost a week in and I haven't seen a damned thing besides swimming, gymnastics, and volleyball. Meanwhile, weightlifting, boxing, and even basketball (!) are getting little coverage.

When I was a kid, I thought the cool thing about the Olympics was all the sports I learned about that I'd known nothing about. Archery! Judo! Fencing! Handball! You know, something different.

I had thought in the beginning of these games that the coverage of the bicycle race was a sign that coverage was gonna be more varied. Alas. They've spent so much time in the pool, my television is wet.

I understand all the hype around Michael Phelps, sure. But do we really need second by second coverage of fifteen-minute long prelim swims?

The Ancient Greeks didn't even swim, did they?

Nor did they eat hamburgers. Which brings me to my second point.

What's with McDonalds and the Olympics? Do you really think ANY Olympic athlete would dare put that grease into their systems? They'd probably fail the drug test!

Yet, every other commercial is a McDonalds commercial.

I recently heard on NPR that McDonalds was updating its image. In the face of economic decline, McDonalds is capitalizing on the T.G.I.F. crowd not being able to afford T.G.I.F. So you know what they did? They've been installing lamps over tables.

Lamps!

Mood lighting and supersized heart-attack fries. How sophisticated. Before you know it, they'll be hanging license-plates on the walls. Radical.

I wish health food stores could afford commercial coverage during the Olympics. What would be even better is if after winning his 78th gold medal of this Games, someone offers Michael Phelps a Big Mac during the post-swim interview and he just said, "Are you crazy?!? I'm not eating that crap!"

13 August 2008

12 August 2008

Local Chef goes for the Gold in Beijing


Wonder what the world thinks about Crab Cakes and Boh?

11 August 2008

This one won't make sense unless you follow the link, but then it suddenly becomes hilarious...

I have no idea how people keep their blogs going. Especially during the Olympics.

I've got Olympic fever so bad, it makes food poisoning look like the sniffles.

So what about those Olympic games? And what about those Olympic tastebuds? Well, how about goose liver and a 'thousand-layer' beancurd cake? Yum.

Yum?

Well, if it's good enough for a handful of diplomats, it's good enough for thousands of Tibetans, no? Well... no.

86 the melon cup for the peasants.

31 July 2008

Shelly Blake-Plock gets Food Poisoning... Again.


I am the perfect guy to ask about food poisoning. So, some of you know about the notorious bout of E. Coli that got me laid up in St. Agnes Hospital a few years back. Well, guess what happens last weekend?

SALMONELLA!

I have to admit, Salmonella (so named because the man who discovered it was one Dr. Salmon) can't hold a finger to E. Coli. Yes, there's much more on the vomiting end (16 times in two hours...), but the diarrhea is weak and stomach cramps can't touch dehydration-hallucinations.

So what's left to catch? Any more good food-borne illnesses out there?

BTW, here's a short film we made a ways back inspired by my first bout. Enjoy.

21 July 2008

$4 dollar pretzel, my ass

What is it about a four-dollar soft pretzel that makes me nauseous?

This weekend was Artscape in Baltimore. Billed as the 'Largest Public Arts Festival in America', the festival draws something like a half-million visitors to the city over four days. Beings that Baltimore only has a population of around 750,000 city dwellers, this extra half-million makes quite a mark both on parking and the local economy.

But fear not, those of you concerned about the children of Baltimore's pretzel-sellers. Because this year they were lining up in the 98 degree heat to buy $4 pretzels.

Don't get me wrong. I love pretzels. I buy a big bag of Utz on a weekly basis. But I've got issues when it comes to vendors totally taking advantage of the public and the public being too short-sighted to come to the festival prepared (with snacks in pocket, as it were).

Isn't it illegal for individual service stations to raise the price of gas to absurd levels during a gas crunch or a catastrophe? Isn't that called 'price-gouging'? So what's the difference between that and charging heat-exhausted customers five dollars for a lemonade?

Art-Festival-Goers-of-the-World (TM) Unite!

Refuse to pay more than a reasonable price for your food. If you refuse to pay $4 for a pretzel, sooner or later the vendor is gonna realize that they are gonna have to charge less or wind up with a whole lot of excess dough on their hands.

I suggest a slogan for our movement: '$4 pretzel, my ass'.

10 July 2008

A Senseless Waste of Human Life... and Cheese?

Speaking from an entirely cheesy point-of-view, I do think that this may be the greatest bit of food-related comedy/theatre/art ever created. That probably says a great deal about me.

Anyhow, we here at LTSRP are taking suggestions for contenders. Have you any?

08 July 2008

Scooby Doo Doo?


This is the kind of question that pops into your head when you spend the morning driving around with two seven year olds and a five year old in the back seat: With all those Scooby Snacks having been chowed down, how come no one ever has to take Scooby Doo for a walk?

03 July 2008

Update on the Terra Kettle Boycott

So, I've gotten my first response from Consumer Relations at Hain, the makers of those infernal Maryland-wannabe beer chips, concerning my boycott. It appears that the Leadership Team at Hain is meeting as we speak to plot their next move. (And note that their Consumer Relations meets on 'Mountain Time' -- even FURTHER removed from the Chesapeake Bay!)

I've included the letter below. Notice there is a phone number. I say, it's part of your patriotic duty to call these folks over this Independence Day weekend and especially today, tomorrow, and Monday. Tell them that you will not buy Terra Chip products so long as they continue to falsely market one of their chips as 'Cheseapeake Bay and Beer' flavor, which of course as I've pointed out it's not even remotely close in resemblance.

Thank you, fair readers!
- Shelly


M. Blake-Plock,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding our Terra Kettle Chesapeake Bay & Beer. We strive to maintain the highest quality products and appreciate your patronage.

We appreciate your comments and they have been forwarded on to our Leadership Team.


Thank you for your continued support. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-434-4246, Monday through Friday from 7AM - 5PM Mountain Time.

Pamela
Consumer Relations Representative


Ref # 1680966

02 July 2008

Pierogi Guilt


I fed the kids pierogies for both lunch and dinner today. I'm sorry. I already know I'm going to Hell.

01 July 2008

Leave my Flavor Alone: a call for a Terra Kettle boycott


Ok. So there I am in the snacks aisle of my favorite local organic grocer (Mom's on 175 in Joppa) and I make a surprising discovery. There's another beer-flavored potato chip on the market.

For those of you who are familiar with this blog, you will recognize my love for the Kettle Cheddar Beer Potato Chip. I think I've previously referred to it in relation to how it changed my outlook on life.

So when I saw this new Terra Kettles Chesapeake Bay and Beer Potato Chips, I took quick notice.

So, here we've got a chip that posits itself not only as a beer chip, but also a 'Chesapeake Bay' chip.

So who is this 'Terra Kettle' Chip Maker?

Turns out they are a division of the Hain Celestial Group of Melville, New York.

So, since when did the frigging Chesapeake Bay stretch up to New York? Jeez. Do you guys have to claim everything? As any Baltimoron will tell you, 'Chesapeake Bay-flavor' = 'Old Bay Seasoning'. And let me tell you, the Terra Kettles ain't got no Old Bay, hon.

In fact, these are chips that in a taste-test my lovely wife described as 'subtle'. Where, there ain't no 'subtle' when it comes to Chesapeake Bay flavor. Old Bay is strong, kick-your-ass flavor. Something these 'subtle-seasoning' New Yorkers apparently don't understand.

So, listen up Terra Kettle Chips: first of all, change your name. You are just confusing people who are actually looking for Kettle Chips. Second: don't you dare continue to market your weak snacks as 'Chesapeake Bay'. I hereby call on all Marylanders to boycott the purchase of Terra Kettle Chesapeake Bay and Beer Potato Chips. Our flavor will not be co-opted!

24 June 2008

Trojan Lunch


So, the Suitors have just sat down for a meal (dining as usual on Odysseus' food, mind you) and suddenly - BAM - an eclipse! At this, Theoclymenus the Seer predicts their demise though he doesn't foresee the definitely PG-13 rating for gratuitous violence.

Well, guess what? Scientists are poking their whiskers over an unlikely finding.

Seems that an actual solar eclipse occurred around lunchtime on 16 April 1178 B.C.

Most Classical Philologists are poo-pooing the idea. But screw 'em. They were wrong about the existence of Troy too.

I think it's fantastic. An actual eclipse happening in a reasonable time-frame to actually be the eclipse the Suitors witnessed over lunch. Kinda makes the world seem that much more real.

21 June 2008

I Eat China

I ate Chinese food this evening.

To some of you, this means nothing.

Others of you visited me during a week-long hospital stay after chowing down on an infected spring roll a few years back.

I hadn't even stepped into a Chinese restaurant since. And get this straight: I used to love Chinese food. When I lived in DC, carry-out stir-fry and egg-drop soup were on the lunch menu no less than three times a week.

But after that bout fighting the demons and leaking from several orifices, it took this long to get back into the chop suey line.

So I just want to give a shout out to Fortune Palace Buffet on 175 in Jessup. Your decor was reasonable (if a bit frigging bright) and your chow mein was right on the money. May you live long and prosper and may you never fill your customers with e.Coli.

19 June 2008

O-R-I-O-L-E-S

Took the kids to the ballpark today. Just on a whim. $9 left field bleachers. Inter-league play. O's vs. Astros. A real storied rivalry.

They loved it. Camden Yards is far too polite a ballpark, but it's fun nonetheless. If you can put the blinders on and ignore the folks on cellphones in the mezzanine, it's actually pretty homey.

And the food. It takes a little searching and conniving, but you actually can leave the ballpark with a full belly for less than the price of dinner at any of those chain places with the license plates on the wall.

The trick is condiments and sides.

All the concession stands have lettuce and tomato. And most have grilled peppers and onions. They use this stuff to top Polish Sausages. Well, no reason they can't make a sandwich out of it. In fact, I asked them to put salad on one side of the carb-fueled bun and the peppers on the other and boom it was like a big filling sloppy migraine buster. The peppers go well with the fries, too. Bring in your own pretzels, grab 16 ounces of the coldest swill you can hustle and voila! Bon appetite, hon.

12 June 2008

Tin Foil

I've got a thing for tin foil. I think it's because when you wrap things in it... they change. Anyhow, here's a couple-years-old video of how I like to use tin foil.

11 June 2008

Lumbini

Oh, it's been such a long wait... where have you been LTSRP? Staking out Hillary's house in DC? Getting duped into a flight to Chi-Town by Obama? Trying to understand what John McCain is actually saying when he is speaking the English language?

No, I've just been hanging at Lumbini.

Lumbini is a relatively new Nepalese restaurant on Charles St. in Baltimore's sunny Mt. Vernon neighborhood.

First thing you notice: "Whoa. This is a kinda big space."

Second thing: "Whoa. I like Buddha as much as the next guy, but someone around here has got to call a designer."

Third thing: "Wow. This is the best Nepalese food on Charles St."

It's true. Lumbini knocks Kumari off the top spot as Baltimore's best (and only) Nepalese restaurant. Reasons? You want reasons? Notice the sweet yogurty flavor of the saag with real big chunks of paneer -- not those wussy chunks you find at heathen Mughal Garden up the street. More reasons? How about your choice of basmati or saffron rice? Whoa. Somebody stop me. And the best reason: the house-made pumpkin curry! What a great use of the most useless vegetable on earth!

Now, it should be noted that Lumbini defines itself as 'Nepalese/Indian', and indeed the majority of the dishes seem to be Himalayan takes on Indian standards. Unfortunately, there's none of the great Nepalese cold dishes on the buffet line. That said, the kitchen should get props for getting funky with what otherwise would be the norm.

Ok. Starve yrself for a few days and then get yrself to the $9.99 lunch buffet. Here's the addy. Tell 'em Shelly sent you: 322 N. Charles St.

03 June 2008

Does John McCain Use a Grocery List?

So, listening to John McCain’s speech this evening I notice that he says that grocery bills are going up because of tariffs.

Tariffs?

Last I checked, you could still grow a tomato within the continental United States.

Grocery bills have gone up because the distribution system is so screwed up. Rather than grow tomatoes here, we outsource to burned-out Amazon farms and the like. And then we have to pay to get the stuff back here and into our stores. You been to a gas pump recently?

You want grocery bills to go down? Buy local. Buy local obsessively. Help your own community by being an active part of it.

And, just for yuks… when’s the last time you think John McCain shopped for groceries?

27 May 2008

Reflections on Food in Art #3


The Dutch knew what was up. At least in the early 17th century.

Booze, bread, and oysters. Oh, man. Good times. Check out the nose on our merrymaker from Shovetide (the big guy in the black cap). You can tell what's going through his mind: 'It's good to be Dutch'.

This scene reminds me of one of my favorite taverns in the whole darn world: The Brickskeller in Washington, DC.

MJ and I used to cozy up to one of the little tables for two and down a plate of pierogies with one of what seemed like at least 500 possible beer selections. As for Dutch beers, I can't understand how a country that can produce a beer as good as Konigshoeven Dubble can produce such crap as Amstel Light. Of course, look who's shelling out for Amstel Light.

Anyway, I'm sure that the Merrymen weren't drinking Amstel. They were probably actually drinking Gin. Local stilled Jenever. You don't get a nose like that drinking light beer. Back in the 17th century, Gin (for awhile) was thought to be sort of an elixir. How true. It wasn't until Gin-fueled mobs began freaking out from the slums of London to the slums of Amsterdam that folks caught on to the true gift of Gin: mania!

Anyhow, here's to Frans Hals. Proost!

25 May 2008

Sci-Fi Poles!

Ok, so Dwight has found the World's Best Restaurant and it's hiding in Philadelphia. So I guess both Dwight and PA generally speaking are now scratched of my enemies list. Check out Dwight's blurbing and excellent blog.

21 May 2008

Hey Honey!

Ok. More food art tomorrow. Today, take a trip over to City Paper for a stroll with the bees.

15 May 2008

Reflections on Food [and drink] In Art #2


One of the things I love about this Johns sculpture is that the subject matter is not just cans of beer. It's cans of really lousy, nearly undrinkable-unless-the-only-other-option-were-hairspray beer.

I remember years ago -- in the days of my impressionable youth -- going to the Johns retrospective at MoMA. I remember three things about that show. First, it was being protested because the sponsor was Phillip Morris. Go figure. Second, I liked that so many of the pictures seemed to me like psychological games. That gave me something to latch onto. Third was these beer cans. Upon returning home, I immediately shellac'ed a bottle of british ale and called it art.

I like this sculpture because in its way it does this faux-autobiography thing. But I also like how it's more real than most sculpture because it is so obviously useless. And I think sculpture should be useless. Useless in the sense that it won't do anything you want it to. It's just there. There and beautiful and there.

13 May 2008

Reflections on Food in Art #1


This is the first in a series of posts where we'll take a look at food depicted in visual art. By no means is this meant to be an exhaustive list, rather just the personal thoughts of one simple me to the representation of cuisine.

I could think of no better painting with which to begin this study than Picasso's Charnel House of c. 1945. On a table -- drawn in loose line -- sits a warm meal uneaten. On the floor below the table lies the remains of a tortured family, gagged and broken.

Such an image of unrequited sustenance and grotesque death conjures in my mind a scene from the Aeneid. Aeneas and his men have just been shipwrecked and the sailors are trying to strain loose grain that had tumbled from barrels into the water during the chaos of the storm. They will cook these grains on fires lit on the soaked shore. This marks the first time the Trojans had set foot on land since leaving Troy -- a Troy burning in flame. And as they had left the burning city, Aeneas had paused for just a moment in reflection and shock before the Temple of Ceres, goddess of grain. In Vergil's image, we see the forces of life and death subverted and reinstalled.

Likewise in Picasso's meditation of rage on the senseless killing of the Second World War, we see the necessary and the whole and the true perverted. All that remains is the casserole that speaks volumes more about senselessness and suffering than any voice ungagged ever could.

11 May 2008

BBQ is better than Politics

Fantastic BBQ yesterday. There was so much flesh on the grill I hardly had room in which to plop my split eggplant.

Great music -- echoey King Tubby records and the sounds of broken speakers emanating over the neighborhood. A great quiet set of Dobro and guitar w/ Susan Alcorn and Melissa Moore. Big spasmatic noisey shakey music in the yard with Dani and Stu and Bonnie and folks while a half dozen kids and a few adults jump and scream on the netted trampoline. BBQ music-thing Baltimore-style.

And then I wake up to the latest news: Ground breaking journalism from the New York Times this morning.

"Some of Mr. McCain’s advisers said they also thought that Mr. Obama had displayed a number of vulnerabilities as a candidate that they would seek to exploit: they argued that he was prone to becoming irritated when tired or pressed on tough questions..."

Meanwhile, on the other side...

"In the eyes of the Obama campaign, Mr. McCain’s chief weaknesses include continuing to embrace the Iraq war, his support for extending the administration’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (he once opposed the idea) and his suggestion that the economy had made “great progress” in the last eight years."

So there you have it, obviously getting grumpy when you are tired is the equivalent of advocating for a failed war policy that has thrown several countries and countless millions of lives into chaos. Grumpy is the new Bellicose.

I'd rather be barbequeing.

10 May 2008

Sunny Day! BBQ! Summer Time!


Going to the first BBQ of the season! Summer is here!

Grilled eggplant (w/ olive oil and a dash of Montreal Steak Seasoning), grilled fresh zucchini, and ridiculously overpriced veggie-dogs ($4.19 -- for the love of god...)

A review is up next post. Right now, it's time to party.

Sunny day, sunny day!

05 May 2008

Scandal 2008! My Pirogies!

Alright. Regular readers will understand what I'm talking about here.

So, I've been upbraided by residents of the fine city of Pittsburgh. Just goes to show that I can't exactly put full faith in a certain correspondent in the field whose name happens to rhyme with 'Blight'.

Allow me to set the record straight: Pittsburgh did the right thing; I got bad information (ok, so maybe I should have actually like read the paper or something to verify facts rather than just reference a guy from Philly with a diner fetish...). After all that, it was Allegheny County which I should have been boycotting.

All this information distresses me. BECAUSE I LOST AN ENTIRE WEEK OF SWEET PIROGI EATING!

Dwight, how could you! How could you pass on this faulty intelligence and then let it slide as I suffered through a week without cheese filled potato dumplings!

This is going to take time. I need to heal.

01 May 2008

Science! (and I'm calling a truce with Pittsburgh).


New Blog Alert!

My friend Carrie has started a new blog. It's called 'The Stay At Home Scientist' and tends to focus on fun stuff like DIY science experiments and environmental projects for kids. She also has a peculiarly strong penchant for invertebrates. How can you not dig that? Here's the link to her page.

In local news, I have formally ended my boycott of pirogies. But don't think I'm not still keeping an eye on you, Pittsburgh. My friend Dani is moving to your town and he's gonna be keeping notes for me. Don't cross him, Iron City. Or you'll be hearing from me again.

Ok. Back to reading about Fairy Shrimp.

28 April 2008

It's not Coca-Cola; it's Rice.

As Americans fret about whether to shop at Whole Foods or Wal Mart, much of the world is preparing for a coming disaster.

American consumers will have realized that grocery store prices are skyrocketing. Thirty-percent price increases in staple goods; rations on bulk rice; prices driven through the roof due in part to antiquated systems of distribution and the ubiquitous reliance on gasoline: these are ominous and distressing signals.

Now, if you live in the US and are feeling the pinch, just imagine if you are one of the billion citizens of the Earth living on less than a dollar a day.

The rice market is the big one. A doomed rice market and we'll be looking at mass starvation on an unprecedented scale. Not to mention wheat. The wheat harvest for the year is gauged to be well off the mark. And what is causing this scenario?

Drought in Australia. American farmers forgoing wheat for corn-as-biofuel. Population explosion throughout Asia and Africa. In other words, as the Post calls it: the interconnectedness of our global food distribution system. In our effort to expand markets, we are dooming local economies. And now, we're bringing it all back home.

27 April 2008

CNN Breaking News: Whole Foods is Pricey

CNN has once again broken a major story: Whole Foods is expensive.

The article states that the market for 'green' items may have peaked. A combination of high prices and healthy (?) skepticism is turning American consumers away from organic grocers like the aforementioned Whole Foods.

And now, only 45% of consumers think that organic food is "good for them".

I guess Whole Foods forgot to buy ad space on CNN this month.

As all of us who shop organic know by now, Whole Foods is a behemoth evil chain capitalizing on the expendable dollars of hipsters and yuppies (and the poor folks who have no other nearby option for buying organic). Savvy organic buyers have long ago moved on to smaller organic grocers, farmers markets, and the Internet. The idea that because a gallon of milk at Whole Foods runs $7.00, the American consumer won't buy organic milk is like saying that because a Cadillac costs $60K, American consumers won't buy cars.

If folks are concerned about the high price of organic items, then do the responsible thing: buy them. It's a basic law of economics: the more people buy something, the lower the price will go. Local organic grocers have no interest in ripping people off. That's an easy way to go out of business. If organic grocers could sell their products for less, they would. But the demand has to be there.

If consumers would insist on organic goods and refrain from shopping at the local Safeway or Super Fresh or Food Lion or Wal Mart or whatever your local corporate mega-grocer happens to be, then the price would even out.

Don't let the dupes at CNN -- America's greatest source for selective reporting -- tell you otherwise.

24 April 2008

Pittsburgh... how could you?!?


Ok. So my friend Dwight set me straight. I should not be taking out my frustration on Philly Cheesesteaks. Philly actually voted Obama.

So he set me straight. I've made mistakes. I'm out of touch. An elitist. My economic distress causes me to cling to toasted white bread and melted cheese.

Instead, I am compelled to take out my frustration on the city of Pittsburgh. Dwight suggested I say something along the lines of "I hope you choke on your delicious Primanti Brothers french fry sandwiches." But I can't bring myself to do it. Somehow it's easier to hurl insults at the City of Brotherly Love than it is to dog Iron City.

Alas, I must do what I must do.

Philly, you are off the hook.

Pittsburgh, I hereby declare myself abstaining from pierogies for one week.

I think I'll be able to forgive you in about a week's time. Then I gonna max out the Visa at pierogiesplus.com

23 April 2008

I feel like I have no friends in PA


Dear Pennsylvania,

I hope you choke on yr cheesesteak.

Love,
Shelly

21 April 2008

This is Not Rambling (work, badminton, 60,000 bees, plagairized food recipies)


It's been tough to keep up with the blog lately... with the campaign and badminton and all.

Spent the week working out the kinks on a new webpage -- shellyblake.com -- as well as preparing for a ridiculously epic badminton tournament.

Concerning badminton, I suggest the following: before entering a badminton tournament, do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with the rules of badminton. It also may help to actually practice hitting the shuttlecock with your 'badminton stick' rather than just tossing it up in the air, catching it, and laughing about its being called a shuttlecock.

But this is all part of the process of becoming more wisened and mature.

On the food front, I'm working on an assignment for the paper. I can tell you nothing about it. But what I can tell you is that 60,000 bees is a lot of bees. Really a lot.

Anyhow, this post is just to say that I am continuing on; I have not given up on this thing. In fact, for your patience, I have decided to grant you one of my few recipes. I guess it's sort of a meta-recipe really. Sort of a completely non-irony-laden recipe that has nothing to do with the absolute ludicrousness of certain people in the American presidential campaign. I think of it as 'inspired' by Cindy McCain (or at least some rouge elements of the McCain website team).

I give you:

Shelly's Quik[TM] Fix Fav

1 part vacuousness
3 parts pandering
2 1/2 ounces of Tabasco

Mix in bowl. Put bowl aside. Go to Food Network website. Choose any Officially American looking recipe (No curries! Pierogies are a maybe.) Make that dish.

Call it your own and serve to jewel-encrusted friends and party bosses. Call other people elitist.

Enjoy.

15 April 2008

The Market


MJ was surprised by my reaction to the displays of butchered meat. "Haven't you ever walked through Lexington Market?" she asked.

Well of course, but something was different here. Something aesthetic. You see, I was falling for the beauty of the butchery.

I attempt to shirk off the morbidity of that remark now as I type. But to deny the artistry in the display of the splayed ribs, the disembodied tongues, the severed hearts... come now. Never before that Stockholm afternoon -- cold and blustery, full of the chill that drives you into a store for a scarf -- that I really noticed the translucent pink of skinless butchered meat nor the glassy strange stare of the herring. What's more I never had considered the artistry of the display -- this edifice to death arranged as beguiling commercial fancy.

For some reason, being in the commonness of the market gave me paced chance to see out of the corner of my eye the strangeness of celebrated death in its daily and habitual incarnation.

And then we moved out into the city.

14 April 2008

Tale of a Potato Eater





Ok. So I said I'd post about the Swedish markets. Sorry. Turns out a bunch of folks wanted more depiction on the all-you-can-eat-potato joint. So here are a few photos MJ shot documenting the "during" / "in-search-of-escalpation" / and "walking away" / "relevation" moments of eating. Go figure. Dig.

11 April 2008

Stockholm Stomach!



So, Sweden!

Let's start with Stockholm. A very beautiful and sprawling city / archipelago, Stockholm has the most varied cuisine we found in Sweden. That's not surprising given that it is overwhelmingly the largest city in Scandinavia.

Today: the Smörgåsbord.

This little joint was actually overlooking a big indoor market sort of in the center of town. Up two flights of stairs and there you are in this big pre-WWI throwback drawing room. small tables are scattered about. MJ and I grab a spot, drop our winter survival gear, and head for the buffet.

And about that buffet... let's just say no one will accuse the Swedes of being closeminded when it comes to all the myriad ways to serve potatoes.

Stewed potatoes. Baked potatoes. Potatoes with cheese. French fries. Something that looked like refried hash browns.

Yup. Potatoes. It's what's for dinner.

There were other things on the menu, though not particularly what I had in mind when we went looking for traditional Swedish fare. Had an excellent curry based around carrots and, um, potatoes.

Did pick up an excellent idea however. One I don't mind stealing. Pitchers of ice-water with sliced cucumbers floating about. Nice touch.

Tomorrow I'll take a look at the market and all the ways to display butchered animals.

08 April 2008

Eat More Grease

I'm back. Can't post much at present. Too busy unpacking and getting back to eating grease.

21 March 2008

On Tour...

On tour in Scandinavia!

Will post all about Swedish cuisine when I get home and back to a computer in a couple weeks. Til then -- enjoy your food and don't eat with your mouth full.

- Shel

16 March 2008

Good Milk

I was listening to an interview with Jim Hightower and was happy to find that he and I drink the same milk! Well, at least I drink it when we manage to get down to the organic grocer.

A lot of people complain about the price of organic milk. Yeah, it's frigging expensive. But you are actually putting this stuff in your body. Isn't it weird that we'll buy name-brand CD-Rs because they are more trust-worthy, but we won't think twice about the utters producing the milk we consume.

And I'm as much a part of this as anyone; the idea of regularly spending $5 on a gallon of milk is appalling. Though I don't blink spending that on a six-pack.

Time to re-evaluate the dairy thing. Have managed to go Stonybrook Farms Organic on yogurt, so that's a start -- and only ten cents more a cup. But milk seems like something that shouldn't cost $5 a gallon.

Of course, milk is kind of like voting. You know all those people who go on about voting 'scientifically'? Like folks who say, "I'd vote for Kucinich, but he'd never win; so I'll vote for someone else instead." Of course, we all know, a vote is a vote and whomever receives more gets the nice tableware. But it's sort of like that with milk. Folks say: "Yeah, organic tastes better, but so few people buy it they have to make the price so high. And I just feel like a putz spending $5 on a gallon of milk." What we need to do is get everyone to buy organic milk so the price will have to come down. Let's put the big commercial dairy farms out of business and let them sell their cows to the organic farms. When it really comes down to the brass tacks, it's only a matter of a few extra bucks a month.

13 March 2008

Take It!

The operative word is 'cabbage'.

12 March 2008

Nice Can

It's amazing just how much food I grew up on that came out of a can.

From tuna fish (which BTW, is one of the few seafoods that we call by type and species) to SPAM, an aluminum shell was where it was at. And vegetables! I remember all of our veggies came from cans -- from those 'French-style' string-beans to the button mushrooms and right down to canned white potatoes. All in cans.

Thinking back on it, I wonder if this was a cultural thing -- like some by-product of the Cold War. Or my mother's reactivist backlash against Hippie agrarians.

I've got a spot for cans next to the toaster in the kitchen. Mostly kidney beans and tomato paste. The occasional soup.

I can't even imagine how heavy my mother's grocery bags must have been.

09 March 2008

Car crashes, hailstorms, and pizza... a day in the life of an independent filmmaker

Been away from the blog for a couple days. Working on directing a new movie. And what a day we had today.

1) An actor went missing in Texas at the last moment [he was supposed to be in Maryland].

2) We got stuck with a hailstorm on what the script called for as a pleasant day.

3) We unintentionally were involved in a car crash en route to a location.

But worst of all: the lunch pizza was kinda lousy.

You see, I've noticed something about being on a film shoot: you tend to eat lots of pizza and junk food. This could help to explain all those hefty directors: Hitch, Peter Jackson, Michael Moore...

My buddy Chris and I decided back when we worked out how to shoot this film that our goal was to finish a full-feature film that would get distributed and make us enough money so that on our next film we could afford a car crash.

Alas, we got the car crash... just not the sort we intended.

Maybe we'll make our next goal to hire a catering truck.

03 March 2008

Chocolate Jesus

For those of you following the ever-evolving epic of my personal relationship with vegetarian jerky, may I just offer this:

Now that we have Chocolate Jesus, let's put our heads together and forge a lobby to instigate some great and progressive food producing company to take this to the next stage -- Veggie Jerky Jesus.

I'll start working on the song.

29 February 2008

Leap Year

I still remember, I think it was at one of my father's company Christmas parties. This was in the '70's.

It was in this big old house and to my eyes everything seemed to be covered in red velvet. I recall a long buffet line with all the classics: cheese fondue, glazed strawberries, a carving station. The '70's.

In those early days, I had awful hair. I still have awful hair. But not like that. I had this big poofy beehive thing going on. It was the kind of haircut where if you catch yourself in between two mirrors in 1979 with your mom making you try on cherry-colored blazers, you just begin to cry.

Here I was, weird hair kid wondering up and down the buffet aisle pilfering deviled eggs. And then I came upon something I hadn't seen before. Amid all the plethora of gaudy decadence and fatty ambivalence sat a sterno-fueled tray of odd breaded smidgens of what I assumed to be food.

Yet everyone passed these smidgens by.

So I walked that buffet line three whole times up and down before finally I took hold of the little courage my beehive offered me, and I tonged a trio of these odd smidgens down on a warm dish.

I began to walk away.

"Hey kid," said the voice. "You know what that is?"

I turned to notice three waitstaff peering in my direction like some ill-willed trifecta. I looked up at them.

"That there, kid," the Antony of the group smirked, "is frog legs."

I let an eye slip plate-ward. "Really," I coyly replied.

"Yeah, kid," his swarmy reply. "So, you really gonna eat that?"

To wit, I looked the man in the eye and replied: "I heard it goes well with cottage cheese."

Sorry. The story actually doesn't get any better than that. Perhaps you'd rather read some other writer describe the witty send-up that arrived on his tongue. But not here. No, the best my single-digit brain could manifest was: "I heard it goes well with cottage cheese."

But you will find, dear readers, that even today amid the hassle of a 24-hour world, that parcel of rebuttle will go a long way. I urge you to try it out first chance you get.

28 February 2008

Food Prices Rise in Tandem With Fuel Costs

Yet another reason to skip the meat. [I'm still fuming].

27 February 2008

If so, Rage! [an anagram]

Article recently read: celebrates the delicacy of eating the fattened livers of force-fed ducks. Dismisses the opinions of folks protesting the manufacture of these duck livers as uninformed if not uninspired. Complains that said protesters should busy themselves griping in front of big poultry farms pushing dead abused chicken into the American market rather than bother with a few thousand innocent force-fed and killed ducks.

Blog commentors agree with this view by and large.

I go and throw up.

I used to eat meat. I particularly loved chicken livers. They were cheap and tasty with a bit of sage and I really didn't think twice about it. Then, basically on a dare, I became a strict vegetarian. And that -- with the exception of a plate of crabs at a pool-side feast one year -- was that. I never became a vegetarian with any political or social goals. I just figured it wasn't that hard to do and further, I'd save some money and get healthier.

Years pass.

Here I am reading this article and I get the same feeling that I got not long after I quit smoking years ago: it's all marketing. I smoked for years. Despite the fact that family members died of lung cancer. Despite the fact that I kept getting sick. I smoked because I smoked. And that was that.

Until I went cold turkey.

And before long, I started to have these feelings of anxiety. But it wasn't just lack of nicotine. It was the feeling that for so long I'd been duped into buying smokes. I felt like I had been abused by marketing.

And I feel the same way about meat. I quit eating red meat around age seventeen and I cut everything else -- poultry, fish -- from the diet maybe three or so years ago. And reading this article brought back the same feelings that I had when I quit smoking -- I felt like through all those years eating meat, I had been a pawn in a marketing game.

Because we don't need to eat meat. It is, in fact, the ultimate created need. We are sold the idea that we need to eat meat. We are sold the idea that we need to eat the dead flesh of a bird for dinner. We are sold the idea that we have to use our superior intellect to fatten and kill lesser beings for the purpose of giving thanks or fulfilling our culinary curiosity.

Fact is: we pleasure in the death of innocent beings.

And I will not be a part of it anymore. I am made sick by this article I read today. My old leather jacket will become siding. My dress shoes memento mori.

Alas. I am no saint. Who knows how many animals suffer on my behalf. I do my best, but I'm a realist.

And I am not condemning sustenance. There are people who depend on meat in lieu of alternatives. I have no right to judge and I ask forgiveness from you my friends for being so egotistical.

But where someone makes the effort to order such a dish as foie gras, in light of what that represents -- nothing more than sheer luxury, a created need -- I can not hold back my criticism.

Food should be something enjoyed that nourishes the body and celebrates and sustains the diversity of our ecology. The fattened livers of force-fed birds don't qualify as such.

24 February 2008

The Oscars Love Trash

Watching the Oscars. Eating Veggie Jerky. Suffering through the 'Best Song Nominees'.

22 February 2008

Life is Absurd, Cruel, but Tasty



Aujourd'hui, le poisson est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas. J'ai reçu un télégramme de l'asile: Poisson décédée. Enterrement demain. Sentiments distingués. Cela ne veut rien dire. C'était peut-être hier.

I haven’t been posting as often as I’d like. Caught up in the burial of Mick, the fish. Mick’s dead. Long live Mick.

So today, I take all three kids to the store. We spend a half-hour picking out a new Betta fish. We name him Gil.

Gil, the fish.

That was two hours ago. It’s now 6:54PM EST.

And Gil, the fish is dead.

Therein lies a tale. Or at least a moral. A maxim, perhaps: DON’T DUMP THE NEW FISH INTO THE WATER WHILE THE KIDS ARE WATCHING. Turns out the fish didn’t take to the water. Sped around like his tail was on fire and then just… pfft.

So we buried Gil. Right next to Mick’s fresh ground. Many tears were shed.

The kids made a memorial for both fish. I went to the beer store.

Brought home the best I could find: Dogfish Head ‘Raison D’Être’ Mahogany Ale and Rogue Brewery’s ‘Dead Guy Ale’. I brought them home, opened two bottles and poured them both in a pint glass. I made dinner and the wife and I spent the night pondering the absurd and nursing pints of our very own ‘Dead Fish Ale’.

19 February 2008

18 February 2008

R.I.P. -- Mick, the Fish -- 2007-2008



I can't believe people eat fish.

I can't believe I used to eat fish. And I used to enjoy it. Alas.

Rest in Peace, Mick. The water was better for having you in it.

15 February 2008

Yes, We Have No Bananas

My high school Spanish teacher used to sing this song all the time. He'd sing his heart out.

14 February 2008

13 February 2008

Valentine's Day Field Trip

A Valentine's story for the vegans in the audience (and for those who are in love with, but fundamentally misunderstand vegans). Check out my latest article in City Paper and leave a comment!

12 February 2008

Olives, Toothpicks, Painful Death

Talking about aphrodisiacs, of course alcohol has long been employed in the service of desire. But it really just don't cut it. Consider the following:

On this day in 1872, Silas Noble and James P. Cooley of the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts patented a machine that would produce toothpicks. Toothpicks, as everyone agrees, serve one purpose finer than any other. They make it easy to pry an olive from a Martini without spilling gin all over oneself.

Fast-forward into the more recent past. On March 8th, 1942, author Sherwood Anderson (of Winesburg, Ohio fame) died of a case of peritonitis picked up in the Panama Canal Zone after swallowing a bit of a toothpick stuck in a Martini olive.

Anderson's epitaph: "Life Not Death is the Great Adventure".

Anderson was married and divorced three times, so one might presume he'd pecked a few lusty olives from out a lady's drink.

So there you have it; my next dissertation: "Toothpick of Desire: Totem of the Final Threshold". No, how about: "Toothpick of Lust: Death's Ultimate Weapon".

Hmm. It'll never beat a frying pan. Though it's more difficult to hide a frying pan in an olive.

10 February 2008

Brody Kills Jaws

R.I.P.
Roy Scheider

He managed not to get eaten.

And he was among those of us who saw what Iraq was going to be before it became was what it is.

May we not get eaten.

The Truth About Rhinos



Rhino Horn.

Throughout much of the world, the keratin Rhino horn is valued as a phallic enhancer. The aphrodisiac of aphrodisiacs.

The horn isn't bone. It's actually made of very tightly compacted hair that basically solidifies into something resembling bone. The only way to remove it form a Rhino is to kill the animal.

Despite a loose resemblance to the most well-endowed of endowments, the horn -- which is ground into a protein-fueled dust -- does nothing to benefit the ladies’ man. Just about the only thing it fuels is the poaching industry.

And it contributes to the endangered state most Rhinos find themselves in.

Here's some info on helping the Rhinos. And why not you and yr honey skip the chocolate and instead donate to help a couple Rhinos this Valentine's Day; it's the sexy thing to do? Here's the link: http://www.rhinos-irf.org/

08 February 2008

Pancake Monster!


I promised you all this picture. My friend Carrie shot it. I find it vaguely terrifying.

Sit awhile staring at this picture and see how long it takes before it gets creepy.

Japanese Puffer Fish

Like I've said before: you gotta be willing to die for love.

06 February 2008

The Road to Love is Paved with Dead Shellfish

Saul Bellow once noted that writers are their own aphrodisiacs. Be that as it may, even the Humboldts among us find need on occasion to employ nature’s best seducers, mythic herbs, and sympathetically magical objets de l'amour.

From now until Valentine's Day, we here at LTSRP will be giving advice culinary and otherwise on food and the art of love and how to be more cusiniaphrodizzying.

First bit of info:

Two purported lust-igniters are privy to any discussion of practical seduction. First is the oft-mentioned Spanish Fly. Known alternatively as ‘Cantharides’ or ‘Blister Beetles’, these minced insects are mostly used in livestock breeding and are known to cause great pain when ingested by humans. Has something to do with their tendency to tear up the urinary tract. Ohh, how sexy!

A bit less severe is Yohimbine, an alkaloid sucked from the bark of an African tree that purports to be the natural man’s Viagra. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with trying out whatever nature has to offer; but where’s the romance in cattle breeding and tree bark?

A safer bet rests with the classic culinary aphrodisiacs. And nothing says passion like potentially fatal bottom-feeders...

Oysters have been considered a fleshy bit of magic based on looks; some varieties even play sexual ID games: Ostrea edulis manages to flip its sex from male to female and back again depending on the season. Kinky trick, but perhaps not for all of us.

Caviar has long been considered more than just salty fish roe. The rare and heady golden eggs of the little sterlet fish were once so prized that you would have had to have been seduced by the Tsar to taste them. Imperial swagger notwithstanding, caviar is high in zinc content which possibly produces slight elevations in testosterone. Nonetheless, the amount of caviar one would need to consume to gain the benefit would likely gross out any worthy object of desire.

Rounding out the sex magnets of the sea is the pufferfish. Known as fugu in Japan, buyer beware: though believed to be a substantive aphrodisiac, the fish also produces tetraodontoxin in its glands. Mis-cook it and you’ll be cruising among the dead.

Have any sea-borne aphrodisiacs up your sleeve? Sexy Sea Monkeys? Exotic urchins?

Lay 'em on us. In the meantime, bone up on yr Jacques Cousteau. Because tomorrow, we're headed way underwater.

03 February 2008

1. Tom T Hall: I Like Beer

Because Vodka puts my mouth in gear, and because there's really no reason to top this list with any number of tragic booze songs, I've gone to one of the great unpretentious songwriters for a song that pretty much says it all in three words: "I like Beer".

It was Lawrence Lanahan who first brought this song to my attention. We were preparing for a gig and I said we should play a booze song. "I like beer," replied Lawrence. "Well, I do to," I said. "No," he intoned, "I Like Beer".

And thus I came one step closer in this life to knowing what it's all about.

It should be noted, I sort of purposely left out a number of great booze songs from this list: Whiskey River, There Sits the Glass, Waiting Around to Die, One More for My Baby... This list just represents songs that I've got a personal connection to and that I think belong in any musical beer fridge.

So enjoy in moderation, and I'll be back with something utterly strange regarding pancake people tomorrow.

01 February 2008

2. Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life (played by Phineas Newborn, Jr.)

This is booze writ large. The great american existential drunk. Job wanders into a tavern. Leviathan.

Strayhorn's lyrics (go look 'em up -- this is obviously an instrumental version) are the greatest poetry ever comitted to paper regarding drink. The reason I picked this version is two-fold...

First: the melody stands on its own like no other melodyin any song ever written about booze. The melody is your bartender. For my money, Johnny Hartman's reading of the melody is the best vocal delivery (better than Ella's and I think precisely because it is delivered in such a detatched way it is better than Vaughn's although her version is scary in its beauty). But I wanted to do this version for another reason...

Newborn himself. At the time, he was already suffering mental problems exacerbated by the critical blowhards who dogged his style. He might have been one of the greats, but instead the early '60's saw Phineas fall precipitously into near obscurity. Evans and Tyner and later on Hancock would come along and redefine the sound of jazz piano and Newborn's sound -- rooted between Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson -- would fade into a gauche memory hole. But on this tune and at this time, he does it, man. You can hear it in those blue notes. He's putting it on the line.

And you could want nothing more from the interpretation of such an existential song.

31 January 2008

3. Tom Waits: The Piano Has Been Drinking

So this one shouldn't need an explaination, yet I feel compelled to offer one.

This is a clip of just the song from a longer interview/skit. I used to really be into early Waits; not so much anymore. I find his whole presentation too focused at that point in his career. He knows it's a gag, but I am unsure of whether he realizes that we realize it's a gag.

But, like Charlie Chaplin said: " In the end, everything is a gag."

That said, I think his work from Swordfishtrombones on up to the present -- especially his collaborations with Robert Wilson -- comprise the best American (pop?) music of the late-20th / early 21st century. The Black Rider alone is -- along with Robert Ashley's later work -- the most inspired opera of our time.

And that said, I look back on this video and I see a guy who was more idea than anything else -- not yet near his prime; but from whom often very beautiful things came. And the lyrics to this little ditty -- in all their obvious Bukowski homage -- are word by word things of beauty.

30 January 2008

4. The Kinks: Alcohol

And the countdown of the Greatest Booze Songs Ever Recorded continues...

And what a fantastic song and what a fantastic performance. Yes, that Demon Alcohol has ruined many a poor lad; but all in the name of art, no?

Ok. So if #4 is this good, you have to imagine that the top three gotta really be something!

Fiery Demons

Let's take a little field trip over to theCity Paper and learn a little bit about food poisoning...

And don't worry, they'll be another post today with the next song on our list!

29 January 2008

5. Joni Mitchell: A Case of You

Ok. Now it's getting serious. We're in the Top Five of the Greatest Booze Songs Ever Recorded.

This song is proof that Canadian beer and Canadian Ice Wine produce more than drunk hockey fans.

28 January 2008

6. The Champs: Tequila

For those of you who have stumbled upon this list midway, we are trying to chart the Greatest Booze Songs Ever Recorded. Here's a one-hit-wonder from 1958. The guy who says 'tequila' was named Daniel Flores, but went by 'Chuck Rio' on stage.

Whatever you call him, he scored with a #1 hit and places at #6 on my list.

This clip, BTW, just happens to be from one of the greatest films ever made. A work of stupifying genius.

And for the kids reading this, that thing Pee Wee is talking into in the beginning of the clip is called a 'pay phone'. Google it.

26 January 2008

8. Leonard Cohen: Closing Time

One from the Master. As much about life, death, and God as it is about whiskey and dancing.

24 January 2008

10. Loudon Wainwright: White Wine

I think it was when I was in the hospital...

I got sucked into an awful television program about the greatest Country and Western Booze Songs ever written. And I remember thinking to myself, with all the great Booze Songs out there, I can't believe they actually put together a list this godawful.

So, anyway, I've taken it on as my duty over the next ten days to present to you my version of the 10 Greatest Booze Songs (country and western or otherwise) Ever Written.

Here's number ten. A song that makes me think about my own mum.

20 January 2008

Cloned Meat! Finally!


The FDA has approved CLONED-MEAT!!! Yes! Finally!

Now all of America can put on their dinner tables what been served in high school cafeterias, hospital rooms, and on British Airways flights for years! Talk about egalitarianism!

My question is, if they can clone a cow, why not just clone a hamburger? That way we could do away with the whole nasty business of the slaughterhouse and all that.

Yum. Cloned meat. Finally something I can feed to my cloned cat and cloned fish.

19 January 2008

The Nerve!


I'm having very mixed feelings right now.

As most of you know, I have been a devout propagandist for Stonewall's Jerquee since day one. You could say I am obsessed with the stuff. [Just finished off two packs while I was thinking of what to type in that last sentence.]

Well, what do you know... Stonewalls goes and redesigns their packaging. And they don't even bother to ask me what I think!

You'll notice on the right, here (in my left hand) the red package that screams: "Jerky Substitute!"

But what's that in my right hand? "The Tasty Vegetarian Snack"?

It's bad enough they go with the wimpy orange-fade background. But to change the slogan from "The Incredible, Animal-free, All Natural Jerky Substitute" to "The Tasty Vegetarian Snack"?

Pretzels are a "tasty vegetarian snack". Stonewall's Jerquee is supposed to fill a jerky-shaped void in your life. I don't know what to make of this. How will I go on?

I can't go on eating jerky substitute. I'll go on eating jerky substitute.

18 January 2008

The Cheese is Sweating


Okay. So, how many of you recognize this scenario.

Your workplace is throwing some sort of function revolving around food. Not a big, fancy thing like a banquet or anything like that. Just lunch. Or even worse... breakfast.

Our correspondent in the field -- Todd of Baltimore -- files this report.

"Whenever we have a work function around 'breakfast' time, we always have the same thing: a pile of breakfast desserts, muffins and danishes and bagels, and an as-yet-unnamed and wholly incongruous pile of dairy and second-tier vegetables. Now, I am not a delicate flower when it comes to food. I started down this road by eating fish eyes around age three. I think I can say that I might eat any part of any non-human animal if served with the right sauce. But this dairy pile freaks me out. The ham-fisted mash of cream , swiss, and muenster cheese with green pepper and olive foliage make me nauseous (yet hungry), as if my brain and my stomach were like the poles of a magnet."

I'm fortunate enough to work at a place that's got a relatively decent catering service. Though in the early days, it was tough times as a vegetarian -- food options as they were. Basically you had a choice between two entrees: salt and pepper. But, times have changed and these days, I eat like a king -- a king with a thing for salad and dinner rolls, but a king nonetheless.

I still have one gripe, though.

I don't understand what these caterers have against green peppers.

Maybe I just haven't heard about the great shortage of condiment vessels, but I don't get why they go about boring holes in nice plump green peppers just to fill them with mustard and mayo. Have you seen this? Is this a widespread practice? A sign of cult involvement?

Some secrets are too deep to bother wading into. Anyhow, I've got nothing to complain about. Todd, on the other hand... his cheese is sweating.

17 January 2008

Dinner Music presents "Snacks"!

Dinner Music -- for better or worse, it's a new idea in cooking shows!

In this, the premiere episode, we meet Tom Boram and Dan Breen in the kitchen for a demonstration of how to make 'Bacon Crispy Treats'!

Enjoy!

16 January 2008

Tell your friends and relatives

Tomorrow's post is going to change your life.

This is just a head's up.

13 January 2008

Sushi, Birthdays, Tom Brady

Took the boys out to dinner for their birthday.

Sushi at Matsuri! And can I just say, "Wow, how that place has really become the premier Japanese restaurant in Baltimore."

Seems like just yesterday Cross Street was a haven for indecency and projectile vomit and now here it is offering wine bars and dynamite rolls.

Actually, to be fair, Matsuri is a mainstay and has both been a source of inspiration for the growth of the neighborhood as well as a regular in all the "Best Of" lists around town for a decade [a decade?!?]. I guess it's just that my frame of reference places Federal Hill closer to the market than what surrounds it (like I played at the 8x10 when it was still actually 8x10).

Anyway: the boys.

Sushi has long been their favorite dish. Eons ago when they were born in Boston and the whole family communed as fans of the Pat's second stringer -- a guy named Tom Brady -- we used to go to a joint in Brookline called Mr. Sushi. And, let me just say: Mr. Sushi of Brookline may well have been the greatest sushi-house to have ever existed.

We used to carry the twins in these car-seat / rocker like contraptions which you'd never even consider until you have children and we use to put these things right on the table. And so the four-month-old connoisseurs used to barf and fart right there in the midst of great Japanese cuisine, surrounded by both sushi and sashimi (and should never the two be confused).

And so, here we are seven years on and the boys are able to devour massive pieces of wasabi and Tom Brady is leading the Pats to the greatest season on record.

Funny what time can do.

09 January 2008

Dulces Vero

My friend Susan is from Houston. She recently brought back some candy with her.




This is not any ordinary East Coast candy I'd ever seen. This is candy with designs to bruise you.




Vero Elotes is the name and twisting the East Coast tongue into shrapnel is its game. But then, who wouldn't love a strawberry flavored lollipop both filled with and glazed in straight-up chili pepper?





Susan swore by these things. And I'm apt to trust her. She's got great taste in enchiladas and music. But when it comes to chili pepper encrusted hard candy... who can you trust actually?





Well, I must admit: this is the first candy of the new year to force me to live up to my pledge of eating dangerously. And in that vein, I can honestly say to you dear reader: get yrself a stick of Vero Elotes paleta de caramelo macizo acidulado sabor fresa cubierta de chile and may your tongue get its tastebuds whooped... yum!


08 January 2008

Round Table

We had a round table once. Bought it at IKEA. No knights, though.

Notice how the fruit is kicked around in Camelot. With abandon bordering on deliquency. Yet one more reason why you can never trust a knight.

06 January 2008

Yum Yum

Speaking etymology here, folks.

So some online hacks will have you believe that 'yum yum' is a phrase indicative of baby-talk and first came into usage as an interjection in the later Victorian period. I'm having trouble believing that.

The American Heritage Dictionary (probably the best portable book on American usage) says 'yum' is onomatopoeia, presumably having to do with the sound induced by gastro-olfactory hypersensitivity. I think this more likely.

However, there is a third rail.

The Indo-European root 'yeu-' is the source of the Latin word 'iuventis' and the Germanic words also meaning 'youth' or 'vigor'. Now, I realize from an etymological point of view that it is highly unlikely, but wouldn't it be nice if the word 'yum' was a generations-removed derivation from the very ancient Indo-European word meaning 'possessing youthful vigor'.

Would that be the case, perhaps it would suggest that yummy food is indeed the source of the fountain of youth.

04 January 2008

Nice Dump

Went to the dump three times today. Had a lot of junk to get rid of and recycle.

There's a long road once you get onto the property of the dump. It leads for about a half mile up to the entrance to the dump proper. And about half-way there, along the side of the service road, there is a gazebo and a picnic table.

At the dump.

So, I am asking, would anyone out there like to book an oom-pah band and have an afternoon picnic with me at the dump?

What's good dump food anyway?

02 January 2008

Polyglottal Pierogies


Starting the new year off right... a great dinner and a blog post.

This evening's dish: Palak Paneer Pierogies!

Served with marinated Seitan, a side of minced ginger, and a milk chocolate garnish. And of course accompanied by an Alsace Trimbach Riesling!

Nothing says 'yum' like polyglottal pierogies.

Hmm. Where does the word 'yum' come from?

01 January 2008

Two-Thousand-Ate

Greetings, fellow eaters;

I hereby decree, with the power vested in me by me, that 2008 be the Year of Eating Dangerously.

No more 'tasty' food. I want confrontational food. Food that challenges you to eat it. Food with a bone to pick (but, boneless of course).

I don't want food to 'satisfy' me. I want food that kicks my gastrological senses into overdrive. I don't want nice food. I want food that holds my head to the plate and says, "I dare you to eat it, Food-boy." I want Klaus Kinski in the role of appetizer and a first course of Harvey Keitel on crack.

This is the Year of Eating Dangerously, and dear readers, I promise to be your point-man on the Gunship FieryTongue.

Happy New Year,
Shelly