eliminate most words (and other wise ideas)

So you’re at the grocery and you turn over some of your hard earned international gold reserves and in exchange are provided various food products.  You can then consume those various food products in order to sustain life.

And you stare down at the box containing (an ultimately mediocre) breakfast bars and they have this little nugget on the box:

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“New Look – Same Great Taste”

What exactly is the point of this?  Who on the planet could possibly care about the look of the box?  Even the text of this graphic is all squiggly and happy.  Like I’m supposed to assume the emotional core of a blissful meth elf because they updated the design of this box?

Does this sort of thing actually, really work on people?  It must, because it happens a lot.  Advertising goons do this all the time.  They throw out words in some desperate attempt to engage your brain.  For example, when they change the names of companies for no reason at all.

When The Onion isn’t busy shaming itself by getting in on the already overly tedious and incessant bash Trump wagon they put out some pretty darn hilarious stuff.  Years ago they put out something similar to this nonsense post when they wrote about “Under New Management” with this one.

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The only solution to this problem is to eliminate most words.  In order to put a word on a box of cereal bars, the advertising goons have to submit themselves to a trial by ordeal with a drunk thug from Valhalla.  The price goes up by each word used.

For example, if the ad executive uses the term “Great Taste” it’s 30 seconds in the ring with the thug.  Why is the thug drunk first thing in the morning?  It’s what he does.

Thus, “New Look – Same Great Taste” equals about one minute and 15 seconds of action with the thug.  Given that these folks are all losers (they work in advertising) I’m guessing they’d defer the thug battle.

And the rest of us would have less words to deal with in the daily course of our lives.  It’s win / win!

Please hold your applause at the display of brilliance contained within this post.  [claps hands in an empty room]

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so I guess bread is back in; but juice is now out?

There’s a neat little statement as Edward Gibbon compares the doomed Romans to their future steppe tribe conquerors.  Gibbon makes the point that the tribes are composed of folks who had likely never tasted bread.

Granted, this is a pretty blatant stereotype.  Not every Hun or Vandal spent their lives drinking only goat milk and eating fire roasted meat right off the bone.  Gibbon is only using the idea to make a point about how a hard living martial culture can destroy a weak culture, even one as old as the Romans.

I think this is roughly what the paleo goons are going for.  It’s more a hardcore thing than a nutrition thing.  It’s a fad, a selling point to display generally how folks choose to live their lives.  The concept of living one’s life and food intake in the hard living martial culture category.  Rather than reaching for a box in the cereal aisle.

But I’d always found it weird when the paleo goons adopted the Gibbon model and shut down bread or grains or glucose in their diets.  Now the news reports that bread has been in the human diet for over 10K years and the headlines question whether the paleo folks can now eat bread again?

Well, sure, why not.  I guess?  But really, whatever, who cares?  Because honestly, please keep in mind the key thing the paleo folks should remember is that cars are only about a 100 years old.  So since humans weren’t using cars in 3746 BC, the paleo crowd should probably stop driving cars.

I’ve also begun seeing more and more ‘advice’ from ‘experts’ that humans beings have no business drinking straight juice.  The summary of this wisdom is that take an orange.  You can eat an orange or two and that’s a pretty decent sized snack.  But a glass of orange juice comes from like seven oranges.  The idea is that no human would ever be able to eat the natural sugars of seven oranges in one sitting.  So a person has no business drinking juice, at least in any large quantity whatsoever.

This is all well and good except that like bread, humans have been drinking juice for thousands of years and somehow we all haven’t burst into flames.  Hey I’m all for progress in culture and our diets, after all, life saving surgery is a pretty cool thing.

But I guess all this paleo or anti-juice stuff just kind of rubs me the wrong way.  Our lives and modern culture is pretty cool, but to think that all of a sudden we’ve got all the answers is pretty darn arrogant.  That somehow after say 5K years of food and drink, that we’re the first generation to be wise enough to forgo bread and juice.

If folks want to eat, drink, or not bread and juice then whatever.  That’s a personal choice.  I just can’t stand the self righteousness of it.  Or the need to redefine arbitrary standards when they’re confronted with reality.

Eat what they want.  Drink what they want.  Or not.  It’s all good.  Just don’t wear it on the sleeve, shove it in other folks faces, and think they’re better than others (and all of human history).

having had some time to think on it

I probably first discovered Bourdain in about 2007.  This was during his time at No Reservations back when I still had cable.  It was well before anybody really knew who he was.  At this point he was just another obscure cable television host.

Sure, those in the food scene knew him and he’d written a relatively famous book.  But most average folks had no idea who he was.  I got immediately hooked on No Reservations and ended up watching most episodes.

It was also at this point that Bourdain began to become a wider part of the food / travel scene and also our wider modern culture.  I remember he gave some interview online and I forwarded it to my brothers.  I think they thought this was weird, and were like, who’s this random guy?

But years after that I remember my brother forwarding me a radio interview he’d done.  Bourdain in a few short years had gone from relative obscurity to being well known across a variety of circles.

I kind of kept in touch with what Bourdain was doing over the years but never really got into Parts Unknown.  Whenever I was at the airport or entirely bored in a hotel, if it was on, I’d watch it.  But I never sought it out.

Part of my issue with Parts Unknown is it had a poor food to travel ratio.  This was also the case with later episodes of No Reservations.  I could be entirely mistaken but it seems as time went on, more and more of each episode was just Tony eating.  Whereas in say 2007 most of the episode was travel focused.

Again I could be wrong, that’s just my impression.  I like food too, but the most compelling parts of No Reservations to me was never the food, but always Bourdain traveling and giving his thoughts on life and the local areas.

Ultimately what drew folks to Bourdain was his ability to to put himself into the shoes of anybody on the planet, understand them, capture that, and then explain it to somebody else not there.

This is not an easy skill to master and employ.  And one that if you spend eight seconds on social media and the news, that most folks don’t even care to learn.  Today’s culture seems to be about conquest, not understanding.

And that was never Bourdain.  And that’s why people like me who are just not into celebrities or modern culture sort of worshiped this guy’s message.

One of the most compelling episodes is where Bourdain spends time with Ted Nugent.  A guy who even his most fervent supporters could not deny is a total lunatic.  Bourdain had his politics too, but he always wore it with a light touch, something other entertainers could learn a lot from.

I forget the line, I’m summarizing, but Bourdain essentially says something like: I don’t have to agree with you, to like you.  If I’m remembering this right, then that line should be tattooed onto everybody’s skull cavity today.

I’ve avoided thus far writing about his death, so I could think on it.  In the end, sadly I believe he’ll be known to many as just another celebrity who killed themselves.  I don’t know why he did it.  Nobody ever will I suppose.  It doesn’t matter though.  Life is sacred, but suicide is all too easy.

My coworkers and I found another coworker at a gas station with a whiskey bottle and a loaded pistol in his lap.  I still get the shakes wondering what if we’d been a half-hour late.  Like most people who’ve been to the darkest of places, once or twice I was probably at very serious risk of suicide.  My family, my friends, my dogs, my coworkers helped me back.  But essentially, suicide is no joke, and it’s everywhere.  Even when somebody seems like they’re okay, you should always be there to help, always be there for somebody, because you never know what’s going on inside somebody’s head.  Nobody can do life alone.

I suppose in the end, all I can say is that there are many, many voices in today’s world.  Most of them are simply not worth listening to.  Anthony Bourdain was a voice to absorb, and to pass on.

We need more people like him.

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rocket vinaigrette

This one’s pretty straightforward.  I made this for me Ma off the top of my head, but was not 100% pleased with it.  So when she asked me for the recipe I had to play with it for a few months to get it where I wanted.  Sometimes the simplest of recipes are the hardest to muck with.

The term ‘rocket’ is an inside joke known only to me, and seven other members of an obscure cult funded by a Yugoslavian oil baron who moonlights as a vampire slayer.  But otherwise, it’s not meant to indicate this dressing is somehow special.  It’s not, it’s just a simple salad dressing you can make in 43 seconds.

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Enjoy the journey, bask in the exquisite plate presentation generated by a drunk-jaded-elf, observe only the finest and most complex ingredients, bask in the stupidity of food posts and garbage-level-food-photography provided by the most degenerate of blog authors.  You’ll not regret it!

My last go I used this dressing over a salad with bacon, hard-boiled eggs, peaches, blue cheese, sliced apple, and tomatoes.  I like this salad combo, credit where credit is due, it’s based off an old Emeril recipe that for some reason is now gone from the Food Network website, my printed copy says it’s called “mixed green salad with diced avocado, peaches, crispy bacon, feta cheese, and champagne vinaigrette”.

Let’s begin!

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rocket vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette

1 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp mustard

salt & pepper

dash hot sauce

Pour all the ingredients into an airtight container, seal, and shake vigorously.  Spoon over the tasty salad of your choice.

Store in the fridge for up to one week.  Shake again prior to serving.

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I enjoy how it all looks before shaking, it’s science, chemistry, and pretty colors all rolled into one.

Use whatever version of oil, balsamic, honey, mustard, and hot sauce you prefer.  If you want a sharper taste, double the volume of balsamic, mustard, and hot sauce, though this might be too much for most folks.

I used standard Tabasco in this version, but in other more insane versions I’ve used hot sauces that melt metal and it adds a wonderful adventure to your salad journey.  Salad is more exciting when the dressing tingles your lips with burning.

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Enjoy life!

stupid work potato salad

We had to pick a dish to bring for the work potluck.  I chose potato salad, because it was easier than telling work I don’t like them and refusing to play.  So we decided to spice things up and make a potato salad that nobody on the planet had ever had before.

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stupid work potato salad

8 strips bacon, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 lbs mixed potatoes, cubed

1/8 cup white wine vinegar

6 garlic cloves, mined

1 lemon, juiced

salt & pepper

1 Tbsp paprika

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 eggs

2 Tbsp mustard

1 cup mayo

2 Tbsp sriracha

1/4 cup capers

1/2 cup parmesan

cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a saute pan until it’s nicely done, remove bacon and set aside; discard all but about 1 Tbsp of the bacon fat from the pan; add the onion and cook until browned, add the brown sugar, lower the heat, and slowly caramelize the onions

preheat the oven to 375 degrees; wash the cubed potatoes in a colander, add them to a bowl and toss with the vinegar, garlic, 1/2 of the lemon juice, salt & pepper, paprika, and olive oil; dump the potato mixture on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil and roast, stirring once, for about a half-hour until the potatoes are crispy but not overly brown

meanwhile, hard boil the eggs, cool them in the fridge, then peel and dice them

in a large bowl, add the potatoes, then add the mustard, mayo, sriracha, capers, remaining lemon juice, onion, bacon, eggs, and cheese, mix them all up until it’s a nice salad; serve immediately hot, or later on cold

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Let’s begin!

Cube the potatoes to a size you like and then wash them in a colander to get the starch off.  In a large mixing bowl douse the potatoes with the vinegar, garlic, juice of half the lemon, salt, pepper, paprika, and olive oil.

Cut the garlic to a size you like.  I minced it because you never know how much folks do or do not like garlic.  But, if I’d been cooking for myself I’d probably just leave the garlic cloves whole and roast them as is.

Make sure you mix up the bowl really well.  You want the paprika, vinegar, and olive oil to really coat all the potatoes.  After that, aluminum foil on a baking sheet and bake them.

Do not pre-grease the aluminum foil.  As you stir them yes, they may tend to stick to the foil so don’t make the mistake of not stirring them at all during the roasting.  You want the potatoes to be brown but not overly done, just slightly still firm.  It’s potato salad and not true fully roasted browned potatoes.

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You’ve got regular old bacon and hard boiled eggs which are staples of many potato salads.  I add caramelized onions because I love them and want to share that love with all humanity.

When you’re done making the bacon, eggs, onions, and potatoes, it’s time to mix it all together with the remaining ingredients.

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Use whatever mustard and mayo you prefer.  The sriracha is flexible with another hot sauce if you want.  Go with what you like.  But please put some kind of sauce in there because it’s money and not boring.

The capers add a nice extra touch for my taste.  If you don’t like capers, you can skip this part.

As with before, make sure you really get a good mix in the bowl so all the sauces coat the potatoes all over.

You can serve this immediately while it’s hot, or chill it and serve later cold.

Be advised, this will not really keep in the fridge for more than about two or three days.  After that time, the moisture starts to separate from the potato mixture and the salad becomes dry and tough.

This is easily tackled by reheating the mixture in the microwave for about a minute to loosen it up again.  But, generally speaking, I’d eat it all within two days for max tastiness.

Enjoy life!

cooking in a kitchen that’s not your own

Well, it’s been two months since my employer (dressed as an evil smiling clown) black bagged me in the middle of the night and sent me abroad.  And my precious, precious doggies are doing well with my host family, but I miss them.  I also miss my kitchen.  A lot.

This has ended up being a far bigger issue than I would have expected.  If you cook regularly, we all have our kitchens.  We know them.  It’s downright transparent.  You might make an alteration here and there, but it’s essentially static.  The dynamic factor is the food.

We also have what I guess you can call guest kitchens.  For example I cook at my Ma’s for me Ma all the time.  I know that kitchen like the back of my hand.  It means nothing for me to cook over there as if it was my own.

So I guess I just kind of assumed since work wasn’t sending me to the middle of Vlad’s Siberia wonderland or a tiger filled jungle that I’d have a real kitchen, figure it out, and it would be fine.  Right?  Nope.  But, why?

1) Bare Basics

Because I’m abroad for a limited time I didn’t get to bring my stuff.  Work has a local contract (which wouldn’t pass most Western anti-corruption standards) to provide me the very bare bones basics at my apartment.  This means I’ve got some plates, a few bowls, and six sad water glasses.  I’ve also got some D grade pots and pans manufactured in Yugoslavia Circa 1989.

You can forget the most benign of kitchen items are important to you, until they don’t exist.  Out here I have bowls, but they’re of a shallow nature, and hold only enough liquid for a six year old’s soup  I made curry and the broth was a rather light consistency.  Given the small bowl size I had hardly any food in there.

In frustration, I ended up using a pot as my eating bowl instead.  I’m there eating straight out of the pot and I look over and there’s this Viking ghost sitting next to me doing the same.  He hoists his drinking horn in a toast, I hoist my cheap ass local beer can made of cadmium.  Cheers my Viking brother, I’ve gone back in time.  It burns.  The spicy curry, not the cadmium, not yet anyways.

How about spices?  How about starting from zero, nothing.  At home I might have 50 spices of a variety that would make a 16th Century Portuguese smuggler angry and pull his cutlass.  Out here I had a bare cupboard.  I’ve methodically replenished jar by jar for weeks.

At first I didn’t get new measuring cups because I didn’t want to buy new ones.  I eyed everything.  Then I realized you really can’t write proper recipes without them.  So I had to go buy new measuring cups I didn’t want to purchase.

Remember grating cheese or vegetables?  This is a pretty standard task, right?  But what happens when you don’t have a grater?  You have to make a tactical decision on whether it’s important enough to buy a new grater.  Countless, countless decisions need to be made on how important things and tools are to you.

So you’re probably like, well, whatever man, just go buy all this stuff.  It’ll be fun, right?  But, …

2) Waste

I already have a grater, and spices, and bowls, and whatever back home.  So I’m going to buy new items to satisfy my kitchen needs out here, for what, one year and some change?  I had to buy a new colander because you essentially can’t cook without one.

But I’ve got like five or six different sized colander’s back home.  So this was an unnecessary purchase.  I felt really bad buying it even though I knew I absolutely needed it.  So what do I do with it after I’m done here?  Ship it home?  I need a seventh colander less than a mercenary elf assassin.

So I guess I’ll ship the new one home, and donate one of my older colanders to charity?  I guess?

It’s not that big a deal for these minor tools I suppose.  A colander or a peeler or a wooden spoon are small, relatively cheap, and just not that big of an impact to anything.  But, …

3) Gear

For the first few years of my cooking journey I didn’t really employ gear.  You need good knives, good pans, a large steel mixing bowl, etc.  For a long while I never used things like a food processor, blender, spice grinder, any of that.  But once I did, and learned how to use them well.  They became essential tools.

This is even truer for me because I like to cook and experiment with various cuisines from around the globe.  Now without this gear I feel my powers are reduced.  There’s less magic to be made.  Buying a new colander I don’t need is minor waste.  Buying a new food processor that costs north of three figures?  I haven’t done that.  I won’t do that.

And so in the meantime: I’m in a dark cave, behind me are a bunch of kidnapped urchin children I’m rescuing.  The cursed bear is up on his hind legs, roaring, foaming with delight, urchins are screaming in terror.  “I’ll deal with him,” I firmly state.  I reach for my sorcerer wand, and nothing is there.  Then the urchins are running and screaming as the bear rips me in half.  But, …

4) The Past

I don’t know how my Grandparents did it.  It’s weird to think about.  The number one thing I typically wonder is how they cooked all that delicious food with so little counter space.  The answer is I think they did a ton of prep actually at the kitchen table.  In those days the table was actually right in the kitchen.

My Grandmother had a double stack oven, the kind where you have two whole elements you could set to different temperatures.  So that capability was awesome, and actually in excess of what most kitchens have today.  But they didn’t have fancy tools like food processors or spice grinders.  They probably didn’t let a of lack spice jars bother them as much as it does me.

So it’s tough to know how much of my current kitchen is real legitimate frustration on my part, and how much of it is I’m an amateur cook who’s a spoiled brat.  I’m still cooking and cooking well out here, it’s just a slog at times with these various limitations.  It sucks when you plan a meal, you’re in the zone, and you reach for (x) and you’ve entirely forgotten you don’t have it.

So you flex, and get it done, and the food tastes great.  But it was much harder to do, and so there’s a commensurate lapse in enjoyment.

Not sure how I feel about all this.  But that’s about it.  I miss my dogs.  I really miss my family and friends.  I’ll get the kitchen back too, and that’ll be nice.

In the meantime, it’s been a good long while since I put a recipe up here.  More on that, and soon.  After all, work made me.

enforcing the customs of a land not your own

Learning how other people live is one of the great joys of travel.  It enriches your life and generally makes you understand humanity and appreciate home more.  But it can also get weird, the kind of experience that makes you think deeply.  Or write about it on a garbage blog penned by a closet lunatic.

In America when you get fruits or vegetables at the grocery, the checkout cashier is the one who enters the appropriate code, weighs / counts the produce, and determines the price you pay.  Where I currently live, there is a separate and distinct produce counter that performs this function.

I learned this the hard way when I first showed up at the till and they got mad at me.  I actually kind of like this process a lot better.  Though America will never change to it because we prefer the brute force method.

In America, depending on what caliber of cashier you get, you can spend a long time just sitting there while they confusingly look up the appropriate four digit produce code.  I buy a heroic amount of fruits and vegetables so this is a big deal for me.  When you have a tailored produce cashier, it’s all they do, and so they fly.  They know the codes cold, and it’s nice and quick.

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Anyways, yesterday I get in line at the produce checkout.  I’ve got fifteen or so items.  I’m behind a middle-aged housewife who has more than me.  The checkout lady is doing her thing.  I lay out my items behind the housewife and wait my turn.  Then a guy steps up next to me and puts his one bag on the counter in front of mine.

So essentially this guy has cut in line without saying a word to me.  A foreigner like me, he looks like a bald Jeremy Corbyn (which probably explains his behavior).  Without saying a word, I give this guy the death eyes.  This causes him to mumble something and pick up his bag.  Then a series of thoughts occurred in my simpleton brain in quick succession:

– Why are you making an issue of this?  It really doesn’t matter.  We humans are all just shadows and dust.  Your bleached skeleton status awaits.

– Is there some local custom where since I have like fifteen things, and he has just one, that he can cut in line and it’s just cool, he doesn’t have to say anything?

– Or, even if he’s just a jerk, who cares?  Be the better man.

So after I got two of my produce scanned, I stopped the checkout lady, and motioned to Jeremy to get his one item scanned.  He nodded thank you and moved on.  And I’m left to ponder my thoughts about culture and morality and whatever.

BUT, then I turn around and see there are six people in line behind me.  Some of them have only one or two items too.  And, some of them are elderly.  So it’s not culture, it’s just this guy was a jerk.  He was just probably a guy who takes candy from street urchins on the 1835 Paris streets.

Dude should have gotten in line like everyone else.

That’s it! My Guests and I shall summon our good old friend Enforcement Drone Version 2.09 (ED209) as our assistant in resolving this matter.  We’ll enforce the customs of this foreign land on our own!

1) Guilt

Jeremy wrongly cuts in produce checkout line.  ED209 saunters up and wryly comments to the individual in his stale robot voice.

ED209: ATTENTION SIR, THERE IS A LINE.  CAN YOU NOT SEE THE ELDERLY INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE PATIENTLY WAITING WHILE YOU ARE NOT?  WHY DO YOU HATE THE ELDERLY?  HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT?

2) Shame

ED209 walks up, observes Jeremy has cut in line.  ED209 then activates his video streaming device.

ED209: ATTENTION SIR, THIS INCIDENT HAS BEEN RECORDED ON VIDEO, WITH SPECIAL ATTENTION PAID TO THE FACES OF THE ELDERLY THAT YOU CUT AHEAD OF.  COPIES OF THIS INCIDENT WILL BE PROVIDED TO ALL RELEVANT MEMBERS OF YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY.  REPEAT COPIES WILL BE MAILED TO THEM ON ALL YOUR FUTURE BIRTHDAYS.

3) Fear

ED209 walks up and shoots the individual in the kneecap.

ED209: YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF OUR ESTABLISHMENT’S PRODUCE SANITARY STANDARDS.  WE WILL INSIST YOU PAY FULL PRICE FOR YOUR BLOOD SPATTERED FRUIT.  WE WILL DENY ENTRY TO YOUR PERSON IN THE FUTURE TO AVOID FURTHER COMPLICATIONS.

4) Punishment

Jeremy cuts in line.  When he gets back to his car he finds ED209 has combusted it in an orgy of fire and flames.

ED209: YOU WILL NOW BE ASSESSED THE VARIOUS FEES ASSOCIATED WITH THE FORTHCOMING FIRE DEPARTMENT RESPONSE, THE SCRAP STEEL REMOVAL FEES, AND VARIOUS GENERAL ENVIRONMENTAL FINES.

5) Morality

ED209 forces him to sit down for a five hour chat on the various moral considerations involved with cutting in line, making a clear case for the values of a balanced ethical society.

6) Apathy

ED209 observes Jeremy, offers no comment or correction, hoping over time the individual in question establishes some type of internal corrective action guided by conscience.

Which ones of these will work? I’ll let you decide.

ed209

“Great work at the produce checkout today.  Fist bump, my brother!”  [ED209 shatters every bone in my hand; my screams are heard in the grocery parking lot]