Sunday, February 28, 2010

A-Z Munchin' Monday - Brought to you by the letter F

OK, I'm not trying to maintain some reputation for bad eating habits, but I surveyed all the foods I could find starting with the letter F, and nothing really leapt out at me. I mean, I like a lot of fish, for instance, such as the first spring run salmon I had in Portland a few years back. That was great. And I really like a lot of fruit, so I was thinking about, for example, the Fuji apples we pick each fall at a nearby orchard. Fujis are my faves, apple-wise.

But ultimately, I have to go with FAST FOOD. Not because I frequent the places, given the fifty-somethings' fascination with cholesterol and blood pressure and sodium and all that. But ah, the memories! Forget the arteries!

Growing up in Baltimore, the first big fast food chain we patronized was Gino's, named for and owned by Gino Marchetti, a pro football player who helped the Baltimore Colts win the NFL championship in pre-Superbowl 1958 and '59.
When Gino's opened uptown, me 'n' the boys would take out pocket change of a summer evening, and walk the mile or so, over the relatively new Baltimore Beltway bridge, where we would pump our fists in the air to get the trucks to give us those thrilling diesel honks, and hang out at Gino's, buying a burger, fries, and in my case, orange soda, for less than a dollar.
Over the years, Gino's, like most local chains, gave in and sold out to a bigger chain; in our case, Roy Rogers. More recently, Roy Rogers has sold out to the Ubiquitous Golden Arches. I was in that very establishment a month ago while visiting "the homeland", and I must say the interior appointments and accoutrements of these fast food joints have improved, with HDTVs spewing news content, some wireless availability, and (in our home town) a cozy gas burning fireplace.
I did a hitch at the Ubiquitous Golden arches, way back when, before all those amenities, spending a summer as a french fry man (as if one has to specialize). What I remember most is coming home pretty much coated with grease. You had to occasionally take a big block of shortening and smoosh it into the fry vat, then drop and raise baskets of sizzling hot fries, dumping salt on them, and laying them out to dry and await the scooper. It was simply impossible to rid oneself of the grease and salt permeating the pores and soaking the skin.
I use fast food joints mainly for coffee when on the road. The drive-up windows are pretty convenient, if you do not have a squabbling family of seven in a van in front of you trying to make their way through some ridiculous order involving virtually every item on the menu and three order changes per kid.

Once in a while, I give in and savor a Whopper or a single. I can also make a pretty respectable meal out of the Wendy's value menu - salad, potato, chili, etc..., although the total packaging it takes to serve it all up is criminal. I also would give a shout out to some of the offerings at Arby's (a decent Reuben, for example), and the occasional KFC or Arthur Treacher's ok if you follow up with some raw carrots and celery to just sort of offset the whole healthy/unhealthy food balance.

So, anyhow, that's my salute to Fast Food, Our American Necessary Evil. Ok, not even necessary. More like a guilty (occasional) pleasure.

A fond farewell to the 2010 Winter Olympics. I put in quite a few hours over the past couple of weeks catching whatever event was on, and I will now be going through the inevitable Olympics withdrawal. But the Summer Games are only a couple years away, and I suppose that if these Olympics went on for a couple more weeks, I would eventually tire of watching
people skidding on the ice and snow in various ways.
But it's ben a fun run, with quite a few memorable highlights.
'til next time!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A-Z Munchin' Mondays: E E

OK, in this week's Healthy Gourmet blog (ha ha, big joke there) we are going for two points with the delectable, delightful...


No, we are not referring to those giant flappy things on either side of an elephant's head.
Nor are we referring to the plant that bears this name.
We refer, of course, to that carny food sensation concocted from dough, sugar, lots of grease, probably some butter, and maybe some other bad stuff.
We hit the County Fair every year, and it is pretty much required of us to order up a plate with this thing on it, then spend some time walking the midway while stuffing gobs of this cholesterol-on-a-plate into our mouths. Not only is it filling, but it will also lube up your hands with enough grease that you won't have to shake hands with any of the politicians working the place: "Sorry, Commissioner, elephant ear, you know". Of course, your consumption of an E.E. will be obvious anyway, based on the powdered sugar or cinnamon lodged on various parts of your face.

There is an F-word closely associated with the E.E. I refer, of course, to the elephant ear's cousin, the funnel cake.
It is just as good, based on my culinary experience. I don't even know the difference, except I think that whereas the Ear is a pretty solid hunk of doughy mess, the Funnel's dough comes dripping out of some narrow device (probably a funnel, and hence its name), and you get this uneven, patchy thing on your plate, with a load of powdered sugar on top of it. We really don't discriminate much, and we usually end up with one or the other at the Fair. I believe it is easier for several people to grab hunks of funnel cake than ripping apart an elephant ear.

Anyhow, the smell and touch and greasiness on one's fingers is all part of the sensory wonderment of the Fair. As I listen to the drip, drip, drip of melting snow, that will probably freeze back up later tonight as the temps drop, making morning travel a challenge once again, I've got to say that I am pretty psyched for summer with its County Fairs and Street Fairs and elephant ears and funnel cakes.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A-Z Munchin' Monday: What to Do with "D"?

Well, here we are only four weeks in, and I'm drawing a bit of a blank. No big food or beverage starting with a D has leapt out as being instrumental in my life. So I guess I will just have to mention a few at least semi-savory selections that have passed past the lips, over the gums, look out stomach, here it comes...

DOUBLE STUFF COOKIES: I love it when they double down on the icing on those cookies like Oreos. We just went through a package of double iced Keebler elf cookies. The cookies themselves are inane: as if I want to really feast on little elfin creatures with ridiculous puns and slogans written on them. But if you do not gaze upon your prey, they are pretty good, basic junk food. Especially with the double icing. I find myself savoring them, taking small bites, making it last. I don't always do that.

DOG FOOD: (No, this item has not passed past MY lips. It has been sucked down with incredible force and fury into the innards of a large canine). When you get a big dog, we have learned, the dog does everything big. This one we have now, for example, can eat like nobody's business, so we find ourselves returning to the dog food shelves of our local grocery purveyors. We find that when choosing a dog food, it is not easy to strike that balance between affordability and actual nutritious quality. We try to accommodate the latter, but our wallets also lead us toward the former. We have recently brought home Rachel Ray dog food. Seems like a weird product for Rachel to be putting her name all over, but Ollie is a big fan. Of course, so far, I'd say Ollie is a big fan of just about anything edible, and he applies a pretty liberal interpretation of the term, "edible".

DONUTS: I was served a donut just this morning as a Valentine present at church. I have a deep respect for the donut, and its amazing ability to perfectly complement a cup of coffee. However, I am also at the age where donuts are applied straight to your body mass, with some multiplier effect, whereby a four ounce donut adds four POUNDS to your body weight. (I exaggerate, slightly, but I am pretty sure about the multiplier effect. Just don't understand the science behind it).

DIM SUM: Had the real deal once in Chinatown in San Francisco. We were, at the time, possibly the only Caucasians in the place. It was a really fun experience. There was this weird (to our culture, where we basically know how to order at drive-throughs) system where people come up with unidentifiable food objects, ask if you would like one, and if you take one, they stamp your bill with a symbol for that specific item. I was up for the totality of the experience; interpretations were scant, so I am not sure what all we ate that morning, but I tried a lot of things and it was all pretty good (some great) stuff.

DEVILED EGGS: These are good if you get one early in the picnic. If you are at a family reunion or some other "pot luck" event being held outside, and Aunt Molly plunks down the Tupperware container with her famous deviled eggs, you will want to get one of those bad boys early in the feast, before the yellow jackets start their maneuvers and the eggs start spoiling in the sultry 95 degree weather. If they are still cool from Aunt Molly's refrigerator, they can be wonderful. (older people have the wherewithal to prepare their food the night before and refrigerate it; in our generation, we take the food prep right down to the deadline, or in my case, hit up the supermarket on the way to the event for some pre-made, nondescript items, hoping that no relative or fellow employee or whomever calls me out, asking, "So, Ben, what fine entree did you provide us this year?" Ok, ok, the Doritos and Cheez Whiz are mine...)

and finally....
DESSERT. Music to the ears. Multiplier to the belly region.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

fun activity on a snowy night

One camera
One tennis ball, slobbery
One dog, also slobbery

Combine dog and tennis ball by bouncing ball hard on floor. Wait for dog to leap after ball. Engage camera's shutter at critical point where dog and ball intersect. Repeat until results are satisfactory (or you get bored, or dog gets bored).

Results may vary:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A-Z Munchin' Monday: Chef Boy Ar Dee

By now you are realizing that this A-Z survey of food ain't gonna be no gourmet column. This week's choice is Chef Boy Ar Dee Pizza. Why, you ask?

This was another important culinary icon from my youth. There were four of us homies: Gerald, Tom, Schletzer, and myself, who on a number of summer evenings would, for some reason, run around the neighborhood block four times (well, most of us would complete the course). This approximated a one mile run. Following the run, we would head over to Schletzer's kitchen, where we would proceed to make, bake, and devour one of these Chef Boy Ar Dee 'zas.

From what I can remember, the crust, when stretched out over a decent sized pizza pan, got so thin you could see the pan through the paper-thin dough. But it would cook up and taste pretty good to a bunch of guys still panting from their mile run. Ah, the memories. (Although I am not nostalgic enough to attempt to repeat this tradition).

More "C-food" at Jen's blog. Check it out.