Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Colossal, mutant, swollen ovaries

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Wha…?

You’re still here?

Even with that title?

And you honestly want to read whatever goes with a title like that?

(Weirdos.)

Man, what it is going to take to get rid of you people? Something extremely wrong and possibly illegal, it seems.

(Sickos.)

Nevertheless, as long as you’re here…

That's a quarter...for context.

That's a quarter...for context.

To be perfectly honest, I was going to call this post “The fine art of growing inedible vegetables,” but then I did a little research and learned that the alternative title was entirely appropriate in an inappropriate way.

So I decided to go with it instead.

There were, of course, the standard word choice dilemmas: Do I call the ovaries behemoth or monstrous or maybe just honking…but colossal spoke to me in a Colonel Sanders meets Coliseum kind of way.

Batter up!

Batter up!

So what the hell are you reading about, anyway?

As it turns out, nothing all that exciting.

Basically – as you probably know (unless you’re Jose) – I was gone for a couple weeks. And in that time, my garden produced not one, not two, but three sperm whales.

Okay, not whales so much as baseball bats.

Okay, not baseball bats so much as ridiculously oversized zucchini.

Which – by the way – I believe they call ‘courgettes’ in Great Britain (or else this oddball British guy in a hostel somewhere in Europe was screwing with me that he didn’t know what a ‘zucchini’ was just to seem interesting or compelling in an annoying way or whatever bad ideas go through the head of odd guys from Britain. Perhaps someone out there can illuminate???)

Twins. Twice the work. Twice the joy.

Twins. Twice the work. Twice the joy.

Anyway, in the interest of stretching this minor and only mildly entertaining incident into an entire blog, I looked up zucchinis on Wikipedia (I would think – and hope – by now you guys realize that my purpose in life was to wait around for the internet to be created, [Thanks, Al Gore!!!] and then look stupid stuff up. It’s not much of a calling, but it’s what I’ve got.)

So during the course of my always-compelling research, I learned some alarming and freaky facts that have caused me to relocate the offending vegetable body parts onto the back deck.

Read and learn:

“In a culinary context, zucchini is treated as a vegetable. Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower.”

Ummm….what!? Gross! (That fact  right there was enough to compel me to take the monsters outside. I don’t need no competition from any other ovaries in my own home…)

“Zucchini, like all summer squash, has its ancestry in the Americas. While most summer squash were introduced to Europe during the time of European colonization of the Americas, zucchini is Italian in origin. It was the result of spontaneously occurring mutations (also called “sports”).”

Nice how the Italians call mutations “sports”. Do they also call freaks “funs” and monsters “entertainments”?

Way to be misleading, Italy.

“Mature zucchini can be as much as three feet long, but are often fibrous and not appetizing to eat.”

Tell me about it.

“Zucchini with the flowers attached are a sign of a truly fresh and immature fruit, and are especially sought by many people.”

What people? People, if you’re out there, can you call me? I can get you what you’re looking for. They ain’t cheap, but it’s worth it. Right???

“In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed the zucchini (courgette???) to be the Britain’s 10th favorite culinary vegetable.”

Woo hoo!

Tenth place!

Let’s see…gold, silver, bronze… So tenth place is what? Aluminum? Tin? Cardboard?

That is a fact so boring and worthless, it is barely worth repeating. In fact, I urge you not to repeat it, lest you drive off an otherwise interested potential mate.

“One good way to control over-abundance is to harvest the flowers, which are an expensive delicacy in markets because of the difficulty in storing and transporting them.”

Again, would someone looking for this expensive zucchini crap please contact me? I can set you up…for a price.


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Butterfish Blowout

Monday, January 26th, 2009
Yea, baby! Raw! This oughtta get the job done twice as fast!

Yea, baby! Raw! This oughtta get the job done twice as fast!

A little over a year ago, the Butterfish and I first met. It was a cold, snowy night on the lake in western New York – isn’t it always? In hindsight, I was just an innocent babe then; trusting and carefree. But not for long.

Although it spent just minutes in my mouth, the Butterfish legacy is a memory that will haunt me for many years to come.

I was in Buffalo attending some meetings, and since my boss never wanted to spring for a rental car, I had to slog a half a mile twice each day in three feet of snow past drug dealers and panhandlers and uphill and in four-inch heels. Worst of all, I was more or less trapped at the Hampton Inn each night. Food options were scarce, but there was an Asian fusion restaurant downstairs that offered room service. I’d eaten there the night before and opted for some Thai soup and a salad, which was pretty good. However, on this particular night I was tempted by the butterfish, touted as the ‘filet mignon of the sea.’

Filet mignon, you say? And for just $17.99? Bring it on!!!

A half an hour later, it was delivered to me in a Styrofoam box along with some plastic cutlery. Despite the unassuming presentation, I will say that on the way down it was delicious. Rich, flavorful, and quite buttery – it really was some damn good fish. I still recall savoring the last bites, as little did I know that the filet mignon of the sea doubles as the Ex-Lax of the sea.

But more about that in a second.

What I’m about to describe you will not doubt find disturbing. Not quite as disturbing as I did that cold December week…but disturbing. Nonetheless, I consider it a critical public service to warn you about the dire threat this unassuming salt water dweller poses to your underwear, your pants, and yes, even your couch.

Remember “Olestra”? The fake oil put into “WOW” potato chips, potent enough to require that warnings be posted on the bags?

Kudos to wwwpmcaregiverscom where I found this image.

Kudos to www.pmcaregivers.com, where I found this image.

Well, move over, Olestra. Butter fish would like to show you how it’s done.

You see, although it’s oh-so-good on the way down, Butter fish – thanks to its high content of indigestible wax esters – makes orange oil shoot out of your @ss. Whenever it so pleases. For a week.

Why am I bringing this up?

Well, because I saw it on two menus in Hawaii! And I only ate out three times. And it was presented there as a viable entree, without any kind of posted warning or danger symbol or requirements to sign a waiver. And because I’m just insane enough that I was tempted to get it just to see if it was as good as I remembered and – of course – for blogging purposes. Because no one loves stories about inadvertently ruining rental cars and plane seats more than me. Guaranteed hilarity! But then thoughts of my window seat on a packed six-hour red eye – and the reality that they probably wouldn’t let me switch seats after I ruined mine – knocked me back to my senses.

Anyway, when heading into battle, it’s important to know the enemy. Like any good demonic entity, the fish is known by many names:

  • “Butterfish”

  • “Hawaiian Walu”

  • Sphincter Surprise”

  • Escolar”

  • Thar She Blows!”

  • Fire Butt”

  • “Super white Tuna”

  • Say Goodbye to Those Khakis”

and

  • King Tuna”

And if that isn’t enough, take a gander at this little nugget of investigative reporting I swiped from another site reporting this alarming but absurd (but true!) story as hard-hitting news:

‘As early as 1990, the FDA issued a warning bulletin recommending the cessation of escolar exportation due to the unpleasant evacuation results. It was lifted a short time later because the fish was found to be “nontoxic.” Meanwhile, Japan banned sale of it the fish outright, a ban that continues to this day. In 2007, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a “fact sheet” about escolar that alerted customers to the potential for adverse effects.’

And from this I conclude three things:

  1. The American obesity epidemic might be greatly reduced if we started subbing escolar into all Friday ‘Fish and Chips’ school lunches.

  2. The Japanese are an imminently sane and rational people.

  3. Should you decide to try a little Butterfish for yourself, insist that the waiter provide you with a doggie bag full of Depends adult diapers and a Tide Stain Stick ToGo. And make sure you have an aisle seat for the flight home.

Bon Appetit!

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Tourist killed by angry mob of peacocks.

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
Trying to look nonchalent despite the growing crowd behind me

Trying to look nonchalent despite the growing crowd behind me

This is the headline I envisioned as no less than 50 of them inched closer and closer and closer to me at the ‘Hidden Forest’ in Plaka here on Kos island. For such a pretty bird, they have mean faces. Menacing. And did that one just give me the evil eye? Lest you think a bird is a bird is a bird, follow me in this logic: Parakeets, and finches have cute faces. Owls look smart. And vultures? Enough said.

Anyway, on paper it sounded really cool, if not a wee bit complicated. Go about 30 kilometers out of town, just past the airport and shortly after the road bends to the left, take a right by the small blue and white church (they’re ALL small blue and white churches, but that’s just details), follow the road, cross the bridge and you’re there. A magical forest in the middle of the island.

At first, I sat on an empty bench near a couple with a German Shepherd puppy. A happy, exuberant little four-month old puppy that kept tearing after the peacocks like they were littermates, sending the birds – terrified – up into the trees. Then she would run over to me, and jump up waiting to be praised while her owners called for her by a name she was too young to recognize as her own. I wasn’t able to explain in Greek that I LOVED the attention from their dog and she was no bother whatsoever, so soon they put her on a leash, and walked away.

The cats know who's in charge at the Secret Forest

The cats know who's in charge at the Secret Forest

Shortly thereafter a female peacock (peahen? Is that right?) arrived to fill the lonely space left by the puppy. And then another and another and another, until there was no loneliness, but a fair amount of anxiety. Why are they getting so CLOSE? Is this normal?

A picnic table opened up, and I moved over there…and all the birds came. And it started to seem like a scene from an M. Night Shamalyan movie. And those so rarely end well.

It was at this point that a car full of Australians pulled up, and for a good long while they had to settle for pictures of the birds with me in the midst. One of the guy commented that it was “very Jurassic park”. Another series of movies that don’t always end so well.

I guess I felt nervous because I don’t really know anything about peacocks. I don’t know how to read their body language, and I don’t know if they’re dangerous or placid or bite or peck or get an inch from your ear and let out a shrill call just to see if you’ll drop dead. And I suppose all these ideas got in my head when it became clear that the three resident cats were afraid of the peacocks. This didn’t require anthropomorphizing on my part: The cats would try to slink by the peacocks, the peacocks would notice, get pissed, and start lunging, and the cats would run 15 up a tree to get away from them.

Your own private beach oasis in Ag. Stefanos

Your own private beach oasis on Ag. Stefanos

If you’d asked me yesterday: Peacock versus island cat, my money would have been on the cat. No questions asked. Thus, watching a lone female peacock threaten a cat…and the cat back down was a little intimidating to me. Vanessa versus peacock? I say put your money on me. Vanessa versus 50 peacocks plus however many are still in the trees waiting to swoop down and peck out my eyes? Well, let’s just say it might end up being a closed-coffin funeral. To paraphrase Julius Caesar: I came, I saw, I cowered.  And when a big one jumped up onto the picnic bench next to me, I left!

In other news, it’s only been about 48 hours, but my stomach is revolting against the buffets. I don’t know if it’s the quality or the repetition, but either way, I’ve spent some time on the gastrointestinal equivalent of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. At the same time, not only does the buffet menu repeat regularly, so does the music. Every day it’s the exact same rotation of 20 songs. Its kind of like the movie Groundhog Day. Hey, wasn’t I eating greasy pork and listening to Endless Love last night? WAS that last night? What day is this!? Wasn’t Tom Jones Delilah playing the last time I had oily chocolate cake with clove-flavored ‘Coca Cold’? However, I will admit that I enjoy that part of “Let’s Dance” where she transitions from a slow ballad about “last chance for romance” into the thumping disco groove. Almost makes you want to get up, dance to the keg, and pour yourself another glass of carbonated red wine. Opa!

Ag. Stefanos beach on Kos, Greece

Ag. Stefanos beach on Kos, Greece

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You’re either in or you’re out

Monday, October 20th, 2008

There are some things in life where there is no gray area: Cat Person or Cat Hater. Winner or Loser. Kosher or who cares. Capitalism or Communism.

Buffets,it seems, are such a thing. So is Las Vegas. You either love them or you hate them. And the two combined might be your heaven or your hell.

I happen to love Las Vegas. I don’t really gamble. I just like the lights and the energy and the sheer audacity of the place. It’s big, it’s bright, and it’s larger than life. It’s like a party that never ends. Similarly, I feel the same way about buffets. Particularly Vegas buffets. My favorite is the one at the Wynn, followed by The Paris. As much as I like being able to walk from New York to Paris to Venice in 45 minutes, I also like to see my pizza rubbing elbows with my California rolls, Alaskan crab legs, and prime rib. Buffets represent the glory of choice.

However, I have standards. And I don’t get excited about just ANY buffet. Like the one in Vegas Vacation where you decide between the green stuff and the blue stuff? Not so much. Or your average cruise ship? No thank you. That’s why it was probably a sight – even to myself to a certain extent – to see me going to town on the Gaia Garden breakfast buffet this morning.

Let’s be honest here. This buffet would’ve been laughed out of Circus Circus. It wouldn’t even be up to snuff at the Four Queens..but it was the first such morning feast I’d seen in almost three months. Sure the bacon was raw, and the eggs sunny side up – and made seven hours ago. Admittedly, the coffee was cold and the apples had cinnamon on them to hide the brown spots, but it was a big spread of sub par products, and the cost was included with my room.

Put it all together, and I was positively thrilled.

If you haven’t guessed, the last few weeks have been a little tough in the food department, and I’ve got some calories to make up for! Although I’m a fairly intrepid eater, and a big fan of the schwarma/kebap/gyro/kebab/souvlaki pita, I have seen and sampled some wares that would make your toes curl:

  • Pizza covered in canned corn

  • Pizza covered in canned corn, canned peas, and canned carrots

  • Pizza covered in canned corn, peas, and carrots and then taken over to a counter by the pizza cart and drenched in ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise (Surely this is dinner in hell?)

  • Schwarma (gyros) heavy with French fries (what IS that!?)

  • Sidewalk corn on the cob that looks (and tastes! Oh yes. I bought one like a fool) better suited to a scarecrow decoration than to eating

  • Sidewalk fried pig’s ears

I actually have to stop here, because even recalling some of this makes me feel a little ill….

That stated, I find myself particularly pleased with my choice of an all-inclusive option on Kos. Is the food wonderful? Well…not really. I’d say somewhere between public school cafeteria and cheap cruise. Is there variety? Ummmmmmm….not so much. All in all, the Greeks slap some stuff between pastry or grill meat. There you go. Greek food. And there are only so many variations on two songs.

But is there plenty of it? Check!

And it is free? Absolutely!

And is there unlimited horrible wine, cheap beer, and Greek ouzo? Oh yeah, baby.

And you can blame the third for the reason this post is so short.

So forgive me. I took good notes in Athens, and I have tales to tell. I just need to be slightly more clear-headed to write clean copy. So, tomorrow, tomorrow! It’s only a day away…

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Kaleidescope of phlegm

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Let’s talk about eating AND gross bodily emissions, shall we?

Well, there are a lot of different kinds of Italian food and they change up rather dramatically depending upon the region. However, where I’ve been, it all seems to center around the four basic food groups: milk, cheese, oil, and wheat. As near as I can tell, most Italian recipes evolved from the concept of, “I wonder if I could stuff cheese in this?” As in, “Hey, here’s a tube-like pasta, I wonder if I could stuff cheese in it?”

Check out these big squash blossoms, I wonder if I could stuff cheese in them and then deep fat fry them?”

Hey, look at this spare tire I found abandoned on the freeway, what do you say we coat it in oil, stuff cheese in it, and bathe it in a cream sauce?”

Not to say they don’t do it with a lot of panache. One of my favorite offerings was the artichoke Roman style – they take a whole artichoke, dip it in batter, and deep fry it. It’s like the “awesome blossom” of artichokes. Sounds like a good idea, but it leaves you feeling like you’ve gone swimming in the wake of the Exxon Valdez.

Anyway, whether you love or hate the super rich food is probably more a matter of one’s own palette and mucous situation. And right now, thanks to the southerly progression of my cold, I have a pretty serious phlegm crisis playing out in my chest right now. You don’t need a medical degree to figure that all this dairy ain’t helping…although it has introduced some interesting forms and color variations that someone out there may want to document and study, if only they knew how to find me.

As for the Big G – GELATO – I have sampled. I figured you can’t come here and not eat gelato, so I have had two smallish cups with two flavors each time. For these samples I sought out the (alleged) two best purveyors in Florence, the birthplace of getato. First off, it’s high quality and impressive and the first bite is beyond amazing, and your head swims a little…but, for me anyway, it’s all downhill from there. It’s just too much. Frankly, it’s like eating a bowl of cold batter. And while there’s nothing wrong with a finger scoop of batter, I draw the line at a quarter cup.

So at the risk of offending all the sugar junkies, sweet tooths, and chocoholics out there, I offer up my own translation guide on the gelato flavors I tried:

  • cioccolato mousse – cold brownie batter enriched with melted chocolate bars

  • nocciolo – the beige side of those Nutella-like spreads where the chocolate and hazelnut are separate, only higher quality…and cold

  • cioccolato arancia – cold brownie batter with melted chocolate bars and orange liqueur

  • crema – cold yellow cake batter made with plenty of yolks and loads of butter

I tell you what, I wish they offered a painter’s palette where they would give you a taste of each flavor. Like two mini-gelato spoon’s worth. Enough that you can try them all, and get an impression, but no more. That would get me in the door. When they start selling that – even if it’s at an unfair and clearly inflated price – I’ll be the first in line.

That stated, my hands down favorite thing I’ve had thus far in six days in Italy? Bruchette. little grilled toast rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil with a heap of fresh chopped tomatoes and arugula or olives or anchovies or basil or some other fresh and wonderful thing piled on top. If only I could have one with a nice plate of sashimi or maybe some oysters and a gin martini, a little tiny bit dirty… (Now I remember why i don’t talk about food. Not that I’m starving to death or anything, but it makes me hungry for things that aren’t available or out of my budget if they were! This is the same reason I never mention dogs.)

As for my time in Florence, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am an un-tourist. In fact, rather than criticize, I’m suggesting we celebrate it I am not the person whose giant head is blocking your photo of Boticellis Birth of Venus. that’s because what I like to do is walk around, people watch, see the architecture, and get the feel for a place. If there’s something amazingly ancient (as in thousands of years old) or a particularly good zoo or aquarium, then I’m probably in. I love modern art, and I get sick of the ‘church art’ pretty quickly. I’m starting to resent the zombified tour groups as much as – or more than – the locals do.

Similarly, there’s a certain march of cities that everyone seems to follow, and once there, they all flood to the same three or five or ten places. At times, I’ve been as guilty as the next guy, but the other day it occurred to me: It’s not (at all) like this is the only trip I will ever take. It’s not like these places are going anywhere. I should do what I want to do (or not), and see what I care to see (or not) and whatever with the status quo. That’s the clearest upside to traveling alone – you can go to China and not see the Great Wall if that’s your prerogative.

Thus, as I’ve seen both the Accademia and the Uffizi before, and the wait for each was two hours and three hours, respectively, and I had a killer migraine headache…screw it. I went to the Museo di Storia Della Scienza (science museum with Galileo’s tools and telescopes), hiked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo and took in the view, and then found a place to hang out and observe the spectacle of it all.

And that’s why, despite all the old art and old churches and old buildings to see in Venice, and provided I can figure out how to get there in this maze of a city – you will find me this afternoon at the Collezione Peggy Guggenheim looking at the Pollocks and happy as a clam.

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