2 October 2002
Chow down

How you or I might fix a TV dinner:

  1. Select TV dinner from freezer, remove from box.
  2. Set microwave oven to appropriate time.
  3. Wait.
  4. Remove TV dinner from microwave oven; bon appetit.

How 42nd and Treadmill fixes a TV dinner:

  1. Select as many TV dinners from freezer as possible, arrange on tabletop.
  2. Invert containers to make cooking instructions visible.
  3. Add up the number of minutes specified for each dinner; call this number X.
  4. Place as many dinners in the microwave oven as possible and set the timer for X/2 minutes.
  5. Remove dinners and inspect.
  6. Announce that there will be mandatory overtime until the dinners are properly cooked.
  7. Place as many dinners in the microwave oven as possible and set the timer for X/2 minutes.
  8. Remove dinners and inspect.
  9. Call a staff meeting to discuss the condition of the dinners.
  10. Take any still-frozen dinners to a conventional oven and heat.
  11. Circulate memo regarding microwave management.
  12. Point out to malcontents that everything is being done exactly as it should be.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
6 October 2002
Vegetable Monitors at work for you

The following Incredibly Specific instruction is printed on the back of the one-pound bag of Albertson's Cut Corn I just took out of the freezer:

SELL BY 11 27 2003 11:07 pm

What happens after that? At midnight, does it turn into pumpkin-pie filling?

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:37 PM)
16 December 2002
Gustatory inevitability

Absolute certainty, they say, comes with two things only: death and taxes.

And in December, Nova brings out the fruitcake, which, unlike your standard store-bought versions of same, can be eaten, even enjoyed. And what's more, there's no tax on it, nor any risk of death — unless it's eaten at a speed far exceeding anything I can manage, and I can put it away pretty darn quick.

There are, I am told, other fruitcakes out there which qualify as foodstuffs rather than as insulation, but in the absence of Actual Samples, this is the primo stuff, and I'm damned lucky to be getting it, so to speak.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:25 AM)
24 December 2002
Saucy observation

The Professor happens upon a Great Truth:

I'd feel sorry for myself if I weren't about to go out to an all-you-can-eat barbecue joint. There's just no room for self-pity when you're contemplating vast quantities of seasoned pork.

BBQ is quintessentially American: it's yummy, it's served up in, well, "vast quantities", and its nutritional qualities cause the minions of the Nanny State to break out in hives. I can think of no better recommendation for the stuff.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:11 AM)
23 January 2003
On the ziti beat

Have you heard this before?

"Listen, guys, they've got a new chef and they say it'll be much, much better. They promise ..."

Page has definitely heard it before. What's worse, she's hearing it again.

Fried chicken is really hard on a keyboard, though. Trust me on this one.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:52 AM)
2 February 2003
Lunchtime alert

I live only a few miles from the industrial compound that is the world headquarters of the Sonic drive-in chain, but it has never actually occurred to me to scale the walls and find out the true nature of their culinary secrets.

Kevin Parrott, by contrast, is a hell of a lot farther away — but for some reason, he was willing to do the dirty work. Regrets? He has a few.

(Muchas gracias: Marc at Quit That!)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:37 AM)
10 March 2003
Always honoring the protocols

My boss is seeking an answer to this:

"What wine goes best with watching the destruction of France?"

I'm inclined to think "anything bubbly," but I am no expert on such matters.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:14 PM)
11 March 2003
Huevos to go

West Hartford, Connecticut has spoken, and restaurant co-owner Bob Potter will comply: his new Mexican eatery there will not bear the name "C. O. Jones".

Customers of Potter's restaurant in New Haven don't seem to object to the name, or to the ballsy Mexican cuisine served, and so far there has been no uproar about a third location, to open in Storrs this spring, but West Hartford is evidently more testy than tickled.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:14 PM)
2 April 2003
The Food Police get into position

A bill being considered by the Connecticut legislature would outlaw, among other things, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in school cafeterias.

Section 1(b) is the crux of this particular biscuit:

No local or regional board of education shall allow the sale on school premises of the following items:

(1) Chewing gum, soda water, or water ice;

(2) Candy;

(3) Any juice product that contains less than ten per cent full-strength juice by volume;

(4) Any item containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil; or

(5) Any other item that contains more than eight grams of fat per one ounce serving.

What does the Law of Unintended Consequences say? The head of the Connecticut Food Service Association has an idea:

"Students would be left with no food choices. I predict students will either run to a local fast-food restaurant or go without lunch. Then what would we have accomplished?"

Why, we've shown them that when the government does something laughably absurd, it will be justified by telling you it's for your own good. This, of course, will help to develop the proper level of respect for law.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:36 PM)
8 April 2003
Meals Rejected by Ethiopians

Susanna Cornett's evocative piece about Army C-rations (which she at first misidentified as MREs, but no matter, and anyway almost all of her pieces are evocative) reminded me of my days in fatigues, so long ago that one's MOS was expressed in Roman numerals, and my first experience away from the mess hall, out on some practice bivouac.

Fortunately, I can't remember the song I wrote about one particular package — I do know that it was hard as hell to get reasonable scansion out of any verse that contained "Ham, Water Added, and Eggs, Chopped, Canned" — but two things I have learned over the years since then:

1. When you're hungry enough, minor aesthetic considerations fade into the background;

2. On most airlines, getting C-rations could be legitimately considered an upgrade.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 AM)
12 April 2003
Lunch is on him

Many of us, from Bart Simpson on down (or on up), have suggested to individuals: "Eat my shorts." And we say this, knowing full well that shorts are never actually eaten.

Well, almost never.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:39 AM)
12 May 2003
Twits ahoy!

Stephen Joseph, identified in this piece as a public interest lawyer — not even a hint of scare quotes — has filed suit in Marin County Superior Court against Kraft Foods' Nabisco unit, claiming that its use of trans fats in Oreo makes them dangerous. The suit asks that Nabisco be barred from selling Oreos to California children.

Suggestion for tort reform: Should Mr Joseph lose this suit, he should be force-fed Crisco. Intravenously.

(Via Tongue Tied)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:12 PM)
13 May 2003
Quik thinking

The lovely Weetabix probably won't be satisfied with half a Kit Kat:

I have this intense urge for chocolate that I cannot even begin to describe. Itís all about the chocolate. Chocolate chocolate chocolate. Suddenly, the Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs bird doesn't seem so over the top. He was merely motivated and thinking outside the box. You've got to admire that, really. He wasn't channeling Bing Crosby like Honey Bear. He wasn't on speed like Dig Em Smacks. He wasn't epaulet-wearing alternative lifestyle poster boys like Snap, Crackle and Pop. He wasn't a freak like Count Chocula or Frankenberry. He wasn't all sly and full of artifice, like the Trix rabbit. He was just jonesing on some chocolate. You've gotta give a brotha his chocolate, baby. To hold out ain't righteous. Or something.

(Mental note: What possessed me to buy these damned inside-out Oreos?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:00 PM)
15 May 2003
Viva Oreo!

Stephen Joseph, last seen suing Kraft Foods over the hazards of Nabisco's Oreo cookies, has announced that he's dropping the suit: "At the time the lawsuit was filed nobody knew about trans fat," he said. "Now everybody knows about trans fat."

Were I a legal beagle at Kraft, I think I'd like to make sure that everybody knows about frivolous lawsuits, too.

(Muchas gracias: Cam Edwards.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:11 AM)
16 May 2003
The other side of the cookie

In previous episodes, I've made fun of a California lawyer's war on Oreos. I still think he's a twit, and I still think legal action is ill-advised if not actually insane, but I'm not about to argue that trans fats are actually good for you.

Diane L. goes a little farther. She characterizes them as a "health menace", and expounds:

The problem is not so much that these unhealthy fats are legal and shouldn't be (wrong and impractical liberal point of view) but that there are so few alternatives, unless one is a totally dedicated foodie/health nut. Why do I have to work so hard to keep this crap out of my body? Sometimes I want to pop some prepared food into the oven instead of cooking everything from scratch. But I can't, because most processed food has that poison in it.

And why is that, you ask?

Because it's cheap and doesn't go bad. So, people are getting diabetes, heart disease and getting seriously overweight, because food processors want to save money.

Well, not just because. I'd scorn the Oreo (although frankly, I prefer the late, lamented Hydrox, but that's another religious battle entirely) if it tasted like the hockey pucks it vaguely resembles; if I really wanted a mouthful of such, I'd stock up on rice cakes, which in civilized societies are used to hold up the wobbly fourth leg of the coffee table.

Diane does have a solution of sorts:

Business people must be increasingly aware that there is money to be made from offering an alternative. Even McDonald's is trying to change the formula for the toxic oil it fries its "food" in. As the effects of trans fats become more known to the public, there will be more of a market for healthy fast food and processed food.

Sounds reasonable enough to me. (If, as usual, Blogspot archives are harder to trace than Iraqi artifacts, dial up 12 May and take the 12:01 am posting.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:06 AM)
25 May 2003
No Whoppers please, we're British

Julie Burchill, in this Guardian piece, reports that Britain's warring factions can agree on one thing, and it's not Tony Blair:

Rightwing tabloids and leftwing broadsheets alike are forever scaremongering, and not just about genetic modification and pesticide residues, which may be proven to be unreservedly Bad Things; they also display anti-modernist, illogical hysteria to each new survey that shows — shock, horror! — that British people are eating what they like, when they want! rather than being forced around a table three times a day by some stand-in for Mr Barrett of Wimpole Street, eager for a regular opportunity to impose his anal retentive bossiness on his long-suffering family.

Not to mention having to feed that pesky Mr Browning who keeps popping in at all hours, no doubt.

[R]ightwing worrywarts hate fast/convenience food because it frees women from the kitchen and deprives the sort of man who thinks his home is his castle of another opportunity to flex his control-freak tendencies. Liberals hate it for two reasons: they don't like America, the spiritual home of fast food (tell that to the Earl of Sandwich and German Mr Hamburger), and, being self-loathing, they don't like England. In bemoaning our soulless grazing, they get a chance to compare us for the worse once more with France and Italy where, myth has it, family mealtimes and "good" food add to the quality of life. In some unexplained way, this is supposed to breed better people and a healthier society, mentally and physically — which makes me wonder why so many citizens of oh-so-civilised France and Italy have such a weakness for voting fascist.

"Cooking fresh food for a husband's just a drag," observed Mick Jagger many years ago, but you'd think by now instant cake and frozen steak would be staples, especially in a land given to foodstuffs called "stodge" and "spotted dick".

On this side of the pond, at least, the right wing doesn't seem particularly upset about convenience foods. Our leftists, of course, fume at the very existence of KFC and Mickey D and that sexist, plutocratic Burger King. Then there's Taco Bell, which has been criticized for worker exploitation, and I'm sure there's some anthropological critic somewhere who objects to the place because of its failure to reflect true Mexican culture or some comparable codswallop.

The real reason to abhor Taco Bell, of course, is because Michael Jackson likes it. And even the French have figured out the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, except for the name.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:02 AM)
6 September 2003
Rare and well-done

Rod Dreher at NRO's The Corner picked up on this letter to the editors of Crisis magazine by George W. Rutler, a clergyman from New York City. It's a gem from start to finish, and it provides, um, food for thought:

Taste is one thing; it is another thing to condemn meat eating as "evil" and permissible only "in rare and unfortunate circumstances." [Danel] Paden disagrees with no less an authority than God, Who forbids us to call any edible unworthy (Mark 7: 18-19), and Who enjoins St Peter to eat pork chops and lobster in one of my favorite revelations (Acts 10: 9-16). Does the Catholic Vegetarian Society [of which Paden is the director] think that our Lord was wrong to have served up fish to the 5,000, or should He have refrained from eating the Passover Lamb? When He rose from the dead and appeared in the Upper Room, He did not ask for a bowl of Cheerios, nor did He whip up a meatless omelette on the shore of Galilee.

Man was made to eat flesh (Genesis 1:26-31; 9:1-6), with the exception of human flesh. I stand on record against cannibalism, whether it be inflicted upon the Mbuti Pygmies by the Congolese Army or on larger people by a maniac in Milwaukee. But I am also grateful that the benevolent father in the parable did not welcome his prodigal son home with a bowl of radishes.

For the moment, I am enjoying a visual of PETA's sainted Ingrid Newkirk slow-roasting at 300 degrees for eternity, her own sanctimony for marinade — with just a dash of Lea & Perrins.

(Muchas gracias: The American Way!?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:24 AM)
16 September 2003
Want some seafood, mama?

Not anymore. And it's all Natalie's fault.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:42 AM)
18 October 2003
Hey, Tony, supersize this

American chef Anthony Bourdain apparently can eat almost anything, up to and including snake hearts and iguana, but he draws the line at Mickey D's.

Yep. The very thought of a McNugget strikes fear into the man. And it's not some Pamela Anderson-esque concern about what horrible things must happen to those poor birds to become McNuggets — it's hard to imagine that any chicken at all goes into those weird little discs — or anything like that. Bourdain's objections are rooted in ubiquity: American fast food is all over the globe, and therefore worthy of his contempt.

Tropiary (Friday, 7:57 pm) spins this attitude to its logical conclusion: What if some enterpreneurial types decided to make Bourdain's reptilian delights available to mass audiences?

"Hold the mayo, hold the venom, every sandwich wrapped in denim...."

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:11 AM)
19 October 2003
General Orders don't upset us

The small cohort of Everything American Sucks malingerers will of course groan, but I find considerable delight in discovering that tucked away in a corner of what used to be Saddam International Airport, there's now a Burger King.

Iraqis generally have yet to grasp the concept of using both hands to handle a Whopper, but for members of the Coalition of the Hungry who comprise the occupation force, the Baghdad BK is a veritable oasis: despite a menu more limited than what's offered in Peoria, catering to the troops has brought this location, in a mere six months, to the worldwide top ten in sales. You gotta love it. I can hardly wait to see what happens when fast food moves into the Fertile Crescent at high speed.

(Muchas gracias: Phillip Coons.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:04 PM)
30 October 2003
Beef: it's what's for Christmas

A pound of 85/15 ground beef has been running $2.99 lately, and while occasionally steaks go on sale, most of the time you might as well put them on layaway.

Beef producers, on the other hand, are probably happy with the situation: the price they're getting, which had been hovering in the $90 (per 100 lb) range for some time, reached $102.92 this month, putting upward pressure on prices at the retail (and, yes, at the restaurant) level. Production levels are high, which means smaller herds — more cattle are coming to market — which means that unless there's a slackening of demand as the supply shrinks, prices will go even higher.

PETA and their friends will undoubtedly scoff while they chow down on their mesquite-grilled drywall, but I believe that the God of Texas Chili has very strict commandments about soybeans and such, so I will grit my teeth and write the check, however big it gets.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:47 PM)
3 December 2003
Bitter aftertaste in advance

Lynn S. was opening up a packet of tea when she noticed, down among the ingredients, a "dietary supplement" called stevia. Formally, it's Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni; it's apparently called a "dietary supplement" because the Food and Drug Administration considers it an unsafe food additive, and has apparently taken extreme measures to make sure that people avoid it.

And just what's so bad about stevia? It's a natural sweetener, generally lacking in the nasty side effects of the artificial varieties; it's tempting to conclude that the FDA bars its use as a sweetener in an effort to protect the manufacturers of the fake stuff and the politically-potent sugar lobby. Maybe. The FDA's general stance on stuff like this has been, generally, if one person in South Succotash comes down with a case of the green-apple quick-step, there ought to be an investigation. On the other hand, prescription drugs are routinely advertised on television with a list of side effects that would worry a rhinoceros, so the FDA's concern would seem to be something less than all-consuming.

The FDA, you'll remember, was quick to chime in when the Justice Department clamped down on the reimportation of drugs from Canada and other exotic lands, claiming they couldn't guarantee the safety of a pill that had been shipped from San Francisco to Saskatoon and back again. Inasmuch as technically they can't guarantee the safety of a pill I pick up from the drive-through window at Osco, I'm inclined to believe they're just repeating what they're told to repeat.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:02 AM)
23 December 2003
Terror level raised to "ketchup"

Kelly Jane Torrance of the Center for Consumer Freedom, attending the American Public Health Association conclave in (of course) San Francisco, picked up this quote from Robert Ross, chief executive officer of the California Endowment:

[T]he most prolific weapons of mass destruction in this country are a cheeseburger and a soda.

Guess which finger I'm holding up.

Now supersize it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:42 PM)
9 January 2004
Let us all now veg out

Baldilocks reads the terms of the Official Salads Act:

Anyone who uses iceberg lettuce in a salad should be shot.

Croutons and bacon bits are masks for a salad prepared by a lazy salad-maker. If your ingredients are good, fresh and varied, you don't need that caca.

No yellow, orange or white dressings should be used. Hey, if you want to hide the taste of your salad, just tear up some iceberg, chop up a big, fat tomato and pour Thousand Island all over it. Blech.

Thousand Island has always struck me as overwrought, though it's difficult to find variations in the range of, say, 350 to 600 Island.

Other than that, I think I'd be fortunate to score higher than a D-plus on this admittedly strict set of requirements. And that's a shame, because:

If you think salads are boring, you're missing out on one of the great pleasures of eating. Time, attention and varied ingredients are all that are required. Donít forget to make it beautiful as well. Eating is almost as much about the eye as it is about the tongue.

Mental note: This is probably not the ideal day to hit the drive-thru at Whataburger.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:23 AM)
2 February 2004
And they all look just the same

Fortunately, the food's good, and the service is measured in seconds, not in years — and that's what matters.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:46 AM)
10 March 2004
Eat [blank] and die

The case for Big Arm Woman as dinner date:

Of all the snobs in the world, food snobs are the absolute worst. I'm not interested in your super special imported brie and paté on cracked pepper rounds, and I could give a rat's ass that you refuse to pollute your body with non-soy milk. It's food. Eat what you want, freak out about pesticides and GM crap and whether that rhubarb root is really super fresh all you want — you're all still going to end up in the same place: DEAD.

Sure, I'll buy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:54 AM)
17 March 2004
Bound to be the very next phase

Saffron, of course, is incredibly expensive, and everyone knows it. Part of the reason is that it doesn't grow just any old place; demand is high, which keeps the price stratospheric.

What everyone doesn't know is that lowly, oft-mocked vanilla, the taste that conjures up ultrabland memories of the 1950s (a time "deeply suspicious of flavor," said James Lileks), has been for many years now the second most expensive spice; we've gotten ourselves used to imitations, which are affordable by mere mortals, so we don't realize how much the stuff really costs.

Demand is high for the real McCoy, though, which explains why India is stepping up vanilla production in the hopes of realizing some big bucks — er, rupees.

And, says Oklahoma Gazette food writer Carol Smaglinski, saffron has actually dropped to #2; she quotes Leslie Pendleton of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, which runs a forum not open to us civilians, to the effect that vanilla prices have increased fifteenfold in the past five years, to about $150 a pound of unprocessed beans at the source, a buck and a quarter per bean. Much of this increase is due to conditions in Madagascar, which produces about two-thirds of the world's vanilla crop: back in 2000, a storm destroyed much of the country's production capacity, and Madagascar, by agreement with the International Monetary Fund, no longer imposes price controls. Once India is up to speed, prices for vanilla should drop somewhat; in the meantime, you can tell your skeptical Significant Other that saffron is actually a bargain these days.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:31 PM)
10 May 2004
A buck a burger

By convention, the Good Stuff goes on the top shelf, and that's where my supermarket of choice has been stocking Laura's Lean Beef, a product which immediately spawned two questions: "Do they really think they can get that kind of money for this?