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

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.