Category Archives: cooking

What the hell is wrong with these people?

Okay. So maybe I’m feeling a little bent out of shape because I made cranberry sauce today and every time I turned my back on the burner, the sauce boiled over, creating a gooey, black, scorched mess which I’d clean up only to have it happen again. And again.

But, despite that, I really don’t think I’m overreacting to a story in which some anonymous, self-identified “experts” at “U.S. News Travel” name America’s Best Fries.

The question that always pops into my little head whenever I see a “best of” list is this: How can they know? Did they go to every single restaurant in every single state (and to be fair every territory as well because if you’re canvassing the nation then it really should be the whole empanada)?

I don’t think so.

So exactly HOW do they come up with the list?

I don’t even know who “they” are – or what makes them the deciders but I’m pretty sure it’s not anyone who has eaten his/her/their way from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters or from sea to shining sea. Unless, of course, they skipped almost everything in between. Because we’re talking fries here and by the time they traveled from Maine to New York they’d have gained 451 pounds and never made it further than New Jersey.

I’m also pretty sure they believe in the power of google. Or yelp. Or both.

But the strongest possibility is: they just make it up. A couple of drunk food elitists choosing random words out of a paper bag, putting together phrases like “Vietnamese pineapple mayo.”

That’s right. I’m betting they not only haven’t eaten at every single restaurant in every single state – I’m also betting they probably haven’t even eaten at every restaurant on their list. After all – what red-blooded American would order onion-flavored fries with chive crème fraîche? That’s right – they wouldn’t! Probably because they couldn’t pronounce it.

Let’s review. Fries are spuds, traditionally cut into long, thin, four-sided strips, deep fried until golden brown in some kind of fat that’s not good for you so you don’t ask too many questions about it (unless you’re allergic to peanuts in which case you definitely want to know if it’s peanut oil), sprinkled with salt then (if you’re a purist) shoved into your mouth while still too hot giving you that awful pizza burn feeling.

Or you may prefer a healthy dose of ketchup, not catsup, which should always be Heinz  which really is better even though I don’t know why. And which should always be served in a glass bottle, never in those wussy little paper cups that collapse when you empty them, splashing the contents all over your lap.

The only permissible ketchup options are 1) dumping half the bottle directly on top of the fries or 2) dumping half the bottle in a huge blob next to the fries. (Which, if it’s really Heinz and not catsup poured into a Heinz bottle you will not be able to dump anyway. But it could explode.)

I suspect a Canadian plot. After all, poutine made the list, the Canadian national comfort food involving fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds, which, when not being eaten, makes an excellent wallpaper paste.

But whatever you do, even if you are Canadian you are not going to “dip a homestyle purple fry in zesty chipotle aioli.” Or order “fries covered in cheese curd, house-made duck gravy, chives and a duck egg.” Or eat “boats of fries … smothered with onions, peanut satay, mayonnaise and honey sambaal.”

And no sober person would ever add “goat cheese fries coupled with a raspberry sauce” to the “best of” list.

Ever.

So it must have been some drunk Canadians, eh?

Do you want fries with that?

That defender of free enterprise, that bastion of corporate capitalism, the esteemed  Wall Street Journal, just published an article detailing a longtime challenge facing McDonald’s: getting its workforce to provide service with a smile.

You read it first at the WSJ: breaking news none of the customers had ever suspected. No one who patronizes the restaurant chain could have known the dark truth that the employees might be “rude or unprofessional.”

The riveting exposé blows the lid off what’s happening behind the counter at McDonald’s: “service is broken.”

In a comprehensive industry comparison of customer service at fast-food chains, McDonald’s consistently tanked.

And of course it has nothing to do with keeping workers part-time, paying minimum wage and offering no benefits. People love jobs like that – especially when it means their skin is permanently saturated with the aroma of eau de fries and they get to wear greasy uniforms.

And of course management understands the problem is completely unrelated to lousy pay.

Nope, highly-paid upper management knows everyone is born with the passionate career goal of “Order Taker” under the bright yellow arches at the home of the revered “Big Mac.”

“The fast-food giant, whose restaurant sales in the U.S. began to slip last year, is pushing franchisees to improve staffing and service amid mounting complaints about rude employees.” Corporate HQ was shocked – shocked! – to learn that “customers find service ‘chaotic.’ “

“But achieving speed and friendliness of service across the chain has been a particularly elusive goal, at least in part because about 90% of McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. are owned by independent operators.”

That’s right, folks, in a stunning tour de force of insightful analysis, the blame lies not with the company, but with the franchisees!

If only the corporation owned all the restaurants! Then lousy service would never be a problem!

McDonald’s declined to make executives available for interviews, and won’t publicly say what it will do to “address complaints,” other than giving top management more big increases in their compensation packages.

When learning that the reason behind the rise in customer complaints could be because customers now have ways to complain, including the email address on food packaging, the CEO immediately demanded who was the meathead who came up with that bright idea.

According to a memo sent to franchisees, the company is doing several things to improve service, such as providing electric shocks for employees who fail to smile and releasing flying monkeys to attack workers who forget to include ketchup packets in orders.

Under a new “dual point” ordering system that is being rolled out nationwide, the customer places an order at one end of the counter. When the order is ready, a “runner” will dash across a bed of hot coals to deliver it, thanking customers and begging them to come again because otherwise workers get an extra beating at the end of their shift.

“Dual point provides personalized one-on-one service. To the customer, we appear friendlier and better organized.”

Live long and prosper.

Wait, that’s not right. That’s Vulcan. What’s written on the (“Made in China”) box of tea that I just bought is: Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.

Wait a minute.  Live long = Long life. Prosper = Riches and honor.

Dear sweet Jesus – it’s the same thing! Spock was Chinese! China won the space race!

Or maybe not. That’s the English version. I can’t read the Chinese characters, which may just say this isn’t really tea it’s a bunch of random roadside weeds and you stupid Americans will never know the difference.

In fact, it’s supposed to be a box of premium oolong tea (at least that’s what the English letters say – I can’t read the Chinese characters) that I bought because I read that oolong tea is better for you than black or green tea.  And because oolong tea is also known as “Wu Long” which is a great name for a male porn star.

According to the slip of paper inside, it was inspected by “Hu shanjian.” Or maybe not. The Chinese characters may be mocking me, telling me that no one in China is stupid enough to waste their time inspecting random roadside weeds.

That’s why I love buying random odd boxes covered with foreign words. You never know what you’re going to get. This time it was the ad for “Tiger Balm” hidden inside with the tea bags, with “a tiger in every box!”*

Tiger Balm aims to deliver health and well being through proven oriental wisdom. Our belief is that that no one should be constrained from leading a full and active life because of aches, pains and everyday discomforts.

In other words, you will become very active despite your pain when the tiger starts chasing you.

Or maybe not. I can’t see how it would be legal to sell real tigers. Or real tiger balm.  Even if I don’t know what part of the tiger makes balm. I’ll never know, not just because that thought really grosses me out, but because I can’t read the Chinese characters which may just say this isn’t really a tiger  – what’s wrong with you people? You really think tigers make balm? … Sheesh! Spock should have been Chinese. How in the world did America ever win the space race?

*Before anyone gets their BVD’s in a wad and tells me no way could a tiger ever fit into a small box, please recall this is satire. Of course no tiger, or any part thereof, is in the box. A house cat, maybe. But definitely no tiger.

More Fun With Lists

So here I am. Writing my blog again. Why am I writing a blog instead of earning real money writing real articles like “15 super-frugal saving tips“?

Because I’d rather rip off my own fingers, one at a time, than write something that 1) people already know or 2) is really, really stupid. Or both.

Doubt me? Here’s the caption after the title: “Big-time penny-pinchers will go all out to cut back on spending. These strategies can help them save more than the average consumer.”

Here are the actual tips (the comments are mine):

1. Take cold showers: this bright idea will save money by lowering power and water bills through shorter showers (reducing energy and water use).  Until you consider the medical expenses for men after their testicles retreat into their bodies seeking warmth or the real risk that people will skip showers altogether, increasing usage (and adding the cost) of air fresheners and colognes.

2. Get rid of your car: Great, just great. The .001% of the population who has access to affordable public transportation gets to save a whole lot of money. The rest of us (you know – 99.999%) can commute on foot or bicycle. All year long. Including winter. When, during that long, dark, bitterly cold bike ride home, you get frost bite and hypothermia. Requiring the amputation of two toes, an ear, and your left pinky. While recovering in the hospital, brighten your day thinking about how not having the expense of a car will let you pay .001% of your hospital bill.

3. Stop using a fridge: We know how much money the Amish save with this tactic. Or do they? Can’t they use gasoline-powered generators? So maybe they don’t save any money at all. Or is it the Mennonites? They both look the same to me. Does that make me a bigot?

4. Replace your house with an RV: what could be cheaper – or easier – than traditional housing? So much less to keep clean! So much less space to call home! Or seek privacy! Which you remember a split second too late after you have a fight with your roommate and stalk out, slamming the door as you exit the RV while it rolls down the highway at 60 miles per hour.

5. Bake cookies in your car: really? What whack job thought this up? Oh. That’s right. The same whack job who thinks that parking your car in the sun on a 95+ degree day and waiting 2.5 hours for the cookies to bake is okay. Nobody waits that long for cookies. Just eat the damn cookie dough. Same amount of energy saved, no waiting.

6. Reuse plastic sandwich bags: the only tip so far that makes any sense. Except when the bag is used to transport body parts, anthrax, or arsenic.

7. Turn car off while it’s still moving: Best idea yet! What could possibly go wrong? Let’s just turn off the engine while we’re coasting even though the car isn’t burning any measurable gasoline. Just be careful not to turn the key to the — wait a minute! Ack! I accidentally turned the key to the “locked” position! Look out for that truc–

8. Make your own cleaning supplies: like Tip #6, not a bad idea. Better idea: don’t clean, save even more!

9. Stop drinking soda (or other beverages): Sooo smart. Stop drinking beverages of all kinds. Save money for the funeral which will happen shortly after you die of dehydration.

10. Move in with your parents: I’m betting it wasn’t a parent who thought this up. Better yet – don’t give them the chance to say no. Just say you’re coming home for a visit and then never leave.

11. Buy in bulk: because everyone needs a closet full of gallon jars of olives. Which segues nicely to …

12. Stockpile supplies: won’t necessarily save you money, but in the event of a zombie attack, you won’t have to risk a trip to the grocery store.

13. Compare prices: First, make sure you convert to the same unit of measurement. For example, when buying steak, note that filet mignon, at $19 a pound, looks more expensive than the caviar at $18 an ounce, making the caviar look like a better deal. Until you realize that caviar is raw fish eggs and THAT could mean you’d eventually cough up a sturgeon and you don’t even like fish.

14. Cook big: nothing saves money like eating leftovers for a week because by the third night you’ll decide not to eat anything at all, saving even more!

15. Plan ahead: be a “Surprise! Just thought I’d drop by, my that smells good” uninvited guest who coincidentally happens to arrive as people are sitting down to dinner. Change destination nightly.

World’s Scariest Headline

(If you eat pork): “Global Bacon Shortage.”

Warning: Do NOT Try This At Home

People debate the worst job in the world (castoreum collector, or perhaps deer urine distiller) but nobody has ever mentioned what I seriously believe must be the worst possible career choice ever: Expiration Date Tester.

Haven’t you ever picked up a can of chili, read the “best by” date, and wondered, “How do they know?”

How do they pick that date instead of the day before or the day after?

And why not just have a “Whatever you do, do NOT use after January 10, 2018” or better yet: “Fatal after …”

Which still doesn’t answer my question: how do they know? Unless somebody, somewhere, has the job of Expiration Date Tester, taste-testing jar after jar and can after can and bottle after bottle of consumables, day after day, until the plateau of taste becomes a cliff drop to death and they wake up in a hospital recovering from food poisoning. And then have to start all over again.

And what about the “sell by” date (the last day the grocery store clerk can safely bag the item without wearing a hazmat suit).

“Sell by” is meaningless to the consumer.  Great, just great: “sell by.” How am I supposed to know what’s the last possible cutoff date for actually ingesting it? Granted, some things come with their own indicators: lumpy milk, green sour cream, glow in the dark lunch meats, a bulging, leaky can oozing black goo.

But what about the rest of it? What if you find something really, really old in your fridge that looks okay and smells okay? What then?

I’ll tell you what – you eat it.

I found a box of tofu in the back of my freezer. It had a “use by” date on it. In 2001. But then I realized it had been frozen since well before that date, so couldn’t have spoiled before being frozen. And it was sealed in its original light-proof protective wrapping, locked away from bacteria and air.

How could it possibly have spoiled?

So I went to the frozen tofu experts at google. And learned that the number one rule for tofu is to never, ever freeze it. Followed by the number two rule, which is freeze it and it keeps forever.

So I decided to try the number two rule and become an Expiration Date Tester.

I thawed the box. Opened it. Smelled the contents. Didn’t die. Took a taste. Didn’t die. Cut it up and put it into a stir fry.

Still didn’t die.

It did, however, taste like tofu. I remembered I don’t like tofu. Which is why it was still in my freezer after a decade.

Next test: that old can of tuna. At least I like tuna.

Word of the Day

Castoreum.

Is it:

a. a building which houses old casts;

b. the main ingredient in Castor Oil;

c. an ancient city overlooking the Mediterranean Sea which was the summer residence of  Roman emperors from 350 to 108 B.C.;

d. a food additive made from beavers’ anal scent glands;

e. none of the above?

Yes, I know you are desperately hoping the answer is anything but d. I won’t keep you in suspense.

It’s d.

Or, as the NIH likes to call it, “a natural product prepared by direct hot-alcohol extraction of castoreum, the dried and macerated castor sac scent glands (and their secretions) from the male or female beaver. It has been used extensively in perfumery and has been added to food as a flavor ingredient for at least 80 years.”

Think about that the next time you see the words “natural ingredients.”

Tomorrow’s word: “cochineal” also called “carmine.”

Is it:

a. a small bone in the inner ear;

b. an extinct species related to trilobites;

c. the lead female role in The Barber of Seville;

d. a dye made from ground beetles used by the food and cosmetic industries;

e. none of the above?

Don’t bother hoping.

Thought for the Day

When sour cream goes bad, how do you know?

Clean Living Kills

I try to live a healthy life, making good choices.

And then I find out it’s going to kill me.

First it was my sunscreen. The stuff that I faithfully apply every morning fifteen minutes before sun exposure and every two hours after that or sooner if I’ve been swimming or perspiring profusely. Because that way I wouldn’t get cancer and die.

Then I read a helpful article and learned all about the chemicals in sunscreen which will, in fact, kill me.

And that was only the beginning. I’m a woman. Which greatly increases the chance that I wear makeup. Being a woman who doesn’t want to frighten small children with her natural appearance increases the odds to 100%. So I wear makeup – the healthy kind that’s good for me.

Then I read a helpful article and learned all about the chemicals in cosmetics which will, in fact, kill me.

But real beauty comes from the inside, which means eating the right foods and making healthy choices. Like eating tomatoes every day because tomatoes are one of the superfoods protecting against diseases such as cancer and helping to assure a long life. So I keep my pantry stocked with a supply of nutritious canned goods, which are so convenient for making fast but healthful meals.

Then I read a helpful article and learned all about the chemicals in cans which will leach into the food and will, in fact, kill me.

Especially acidic foods like tomatoes. Giving you your choice of a variety of health conditions including a heart attack or cancer.

And the helpful article also helpfully points out that the same chemical is in almost all plastics and also in receipts which means that just about everything your food and hands touch is full of the chemical which can kill you.

And it’s not just canned foods. It’s worse than that. I just learned that condiments can be just as deadly.

That’s right, the most essential items in any kitchen, the ones that can save any meal no matter how disgusting, are thriving science experiments. And that ten gallon jar of olives that’s been sitting in your fridge since the Clinton administration? Yup – it’s actually a space colony of bacteria. Maybe dozens of colonies.

According to so-called “experts”, catsup (no matter how you spell it) is only good for six months after opening. But think about it – if that was true why would restaurants keep it around for decades?   After all, these are the same loonies who insist that you have to toss that jumbo-size bottle of pickles after only two weeks. Two weeks? Are these people crazy? I paid good money for those pickles. And pickles are packed in vinegar – which is an antiseptic and disinfectant that kills bacteria.

How in the world could the pickles ever go bad? The only preservative that lasts longer is alcohol.

Wait a minute. I think I just had a really great idea.

What’s Cooking?

Brian Williams stands on a set featuring a gourmet kitchen on the right, complete with center kitchen island, and a dining room on the left.

“Good evening. I’m Brian Williams and this is Cooking with the Candidates, an informal gathering of the remaining candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency.

Tonight you’ll have an opportunity to see the candidates as you’ve never seen them before, in a casual and intimate atmosphere as they share their favorite family recipes. Viewers will be able to observe them not as distant, out-of-touch, rich, white politicians, but as ordinary people working together to prepare a three course meal as they share candid, unscripted moments.

Now let’s meet the candidates.”

(Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney enter stage right. All are dressed in dark suits with matching shirts, ties, shoes, and flag pins).

“Greetings,  gentlemen, and welcome to the NBC test kitchen. Does anyone know what happened to Ron Paul?”

Rick, Newt, and Mitt: “Who?”

Brian: “Maybe he’ll be able to join us later.”

Mitt glances around, looking puzzled: “What is this place called again?”

Brian: “A kitchen.”

Mitt: “Oh yes, that’s right. I believe I have one in each of my homes. It’s where the cook lives, isn’t it?”

Rick: “Mitt wants every home to have a kitchen. What a snob!”

Newt: “When I’m elected, every American home will have a cook by the end of my second term.”

Brian: “Gentlemen, I’m sure the viewers are excited to watch you get to work, so if you can put your aprons on we can get started.” (He picks up aprons from a chair and hands them out.)

As Newt and Rick awkwardly tie on their aprons, several people in white coats and chef hats enter stage left, pushing a cart loaded with cooking ingredients.

Brian: “Excuse me, but who are you?”

Mitt (still holding apron): “That’s my personal chef de Cuisine, sous chef, and their assistants, found them at the Cordon Bleu School in Paris when I was living there.”

Brian: “I’m sorry Mitt, but they aren’t allowed to help.”

Mitt: “Day-zoh-lay, my friends.” (They exit stage left, taking the cart with them.)

Newt: “This is exactly the problem. Mitt is an elitist who doesn’t understand what Americans are going through.”

Brian: “Gentlemen, if we can get things moving along. The supplies are in the fridge and the recipes are on the counter. Let’s start with the main course. Rick, you brought a soufflé recipe, I believe you described it as a frothy mixture of egg whites, spinach, and–”

Newt: “I know what real patriots want and that’s real American food like hot dogs and cookies. I wake up in the morning and I know that somewhere there’s a cookie. I don’t know where it is but I know it’s mine and I have to go find it.”

Brian: “Gentlemen, please, if you could step over to the kitchen–”

Rick: “You know Brian, I have to disagree. This is a serious dish, a presidential dish offering the ingredients that real Americans – God-loving Christians – want and need. Newt has become a hindrance to a conservative alternative.”

Newt (crossing to a knife rack on the kitchen island and grabbing a knife): A hindrance, froth boy? If I can dump a wife while she has cancer, you think I can’t do worse to you?”

Mitt: “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.”

Rick (circling around the other side of the island to grab a knife): “Listen you whoring Tiffany’s addict, suffering is a part of life. And it’s not a bad thing, it is an essential thing in life. There are all different ways to suffer. One way to suffer is through lack of food and shelter and there’s another way to suffer and that’s one I’m going to show you.”

Brian: “Security!”

Mitt (standing between Rick and Newt, seemingly blinded by the studio lights, raises a hand to shield his eyes): “I love this kitchen. The counters are all the right height.”

Newt: “Stop the pious baloney, you pandering Papist.”

Newt lunges toward Rick. Rick lunges toward Newt. Mitt, trapped between them, remains immobilized by the lights, smiling brightly at the studio audience.

All three fall to the floor.

Ron Paul enters stage right wearing Elmer Fudd hunting gear, with a rifle over one shoulder and a trio of dead squirrels hanging by their tails from his left fist. “Did I miss anything?”