Deceptive Geography Insults My Intelligence

I was at the grocery store last week because I needed some lime juice for the “nonalcoholic beverage that can be mentioned online.”

This was on sale, so I bought it:

Let us drink, let us drink.  (Limeade, of course!)

Let us drink, let us drink. (Limeade, of course!)

I love Italy and I love Italian food.  Most people seem to love Italian food and the Mafia. We can talk about the Mafia now because this is obviously Sicilian lime juice and we all know that the Mafia runs all the businesses over there.

And as you can see, the Mafia even imports its lime juice from Peru.  Don’t get me wrong, now.  The juice was excellent and I’ve heard good things about Peru.  I just doubt that the Mafia is unethical enough to deceive consumers with a geographically inaccurate brand name.

Children’s Vegetables Insult My Intelligence

Sorry.  You came to the wrong place if you were expecting a post about Spongebob brand baby carrots.  Like Spongebob, those carrots are supposed to be presumably harmless to the at-least-semi-average human of youthful age.

Instead, I’d like to chat about other foods that children don’t usually like.  For example, chilies.  Here in the non-southwestern US, folks have a tendency to use fewer ingredients that impart a noticeably strong flavor and/or punishment to their tongues.  Needless to say, chilies are a tougher sell in this climate than in others, especially to kids who don’t want to eat anything that doesn’t contain chocolate or breast milk.

And so some brilliant nomenclaturist discovered the world’s hottest chili.  It is around 250 times hotter than a jalapeno, which puts it a lot closer to pepper spray than to anything you normally put in your mouth on purpose.

Seriously, I’m not joking.

Red means stop.  (Photo credit: Thaumaturgist)

Red means stop. (Photo credit: Thaumaturgist)

Food heat is measured in scoville units.  Jalapenos range from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units.  Pepper spray is two million Scoville units.  This chili weighs in at one million.

And they decided to call it a “ghost chili.”  Does that sound like something your child would pick up in the store and bite into because it sounds cool?

I thought so.  On the other hand, maybe that will teach them a very important lesson.  For example, they can learn to avoid vegetables.

With apologies for the bad pun, the resulting tongue damage is why the younger generation has such bad taste.  It’s not Bieber’s fault for once.

Doormats Insult My Intelligence

In my pantry rests a barely used container of furikake.

Furikake on rice.  (Photo credit: Jason Lam at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mesohungry/3042065459/ )

Furikake on rice. (Photo credit: Jason Lam at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mesohungry/3042065459/ )

The uninitiated among you might like to know what the heck furikake is.  Lots of varieties exist, but it’s basically Japanese rice seasoning.  It can include a wide array of dehydrated ingredients, including (but not limited to) fish flakes, seaweed, sesame seeds, egg yolk, mustard powder, celery, and carrot.  This may sound less than exotic to many of you, but then again Ragu is beyond some people’s sense of adventure.

What?  You mean you’ve never heard of people eating ketchup on spaghetti?  I’m jealous.  The thought makes me vomit in a projectile manner.

Anyway, an old friend recently accompanied me to one of my favorite international markets where they sell a broad assortment of furikake.  We reached the display and I mentioned that I really like the stuff, quickly grabbing a couple of packages.  And then the discussion began…

What kind should I get?

What looks good to you?  This one has fish and this one has no seaweed and that one has a lot of vegetables in it.

Which one do you like?

I like them all.

So what should I get?

What will your family eat?

What’s your favorite?

This one…

(The conversation was a lot longer.)

And so that’s what he grabbed.  He wouldn’t let me remind him that I had already seen him, his wife, and his kids spit out food that contained seaweed.  I tried to warn him but he wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise.

Obviously, he was trying to impress me and he did succeed in making an impression of sorts…

And that’s how the shopping trip went, except he gradually got angrier and angrier when I wouldn’t just up and tell him which variety of something he should buy.  I mean, furikake is one thing because it’s so unfamiliar but it shouldn’t be too difficult to decide between a turkey- or beef-filled pasta.

And even if the choice challenges you too much, there’s no need to yell about it in public.  Instead, look up a good psychiatrist.

I also noticed that he only bought one small bag of the pasta to feed his family of four.  So… if you’re going to try and ingratiate yourself, at least be convincing about it.  I’m not asking you to waste your money on stuff you won’t eat and it makes no difference to me whether you buy the same groceries I do.

Nevertheless, I did not start this post to write about a shopping trip.  Last week, I visited his place and, after reaching into his pantry, he handed me the mostly unused package of furikake.  He mumbled something to the effect of “I guess it only tastes good if you’re used to stuff like this.”

Uh… yeah.  You wouldn’t let me warn you before you bought it.

And so it goes.  One cannot keep old friendships going (or new ones for that matter) by pretending to love what the other person loves.  It leaves a bad taste in your mouth and you can’t keep up the charade forever.

Then you look like an idiot when the veneer falls… especially because the veneer was already transparent to begin with.  While I also suspect that the idiot might have been symbolically getting rid of the friendship by handing over the furikake, at least I got some free food out of it.  It tastes pretty sweet.

Seriously.  The fish has a sweet flavor.  Add some buttercream and you could slather it on a cake.

Okay, maybe not that sweet…

The American Food Companies Insult My Intelligence

Vegetables

Food should radiate beauty, not subatomic particles.   (Photo credit: neonbubble)

Unbeknownst to many people, cooking requires as much artistry as poetry.  And like most artists, I enjoy visiting the holy temples of art supplies, also known as grocery stores.  The beauty they contain rivals the world’s greatest museums.

On this blog, I occasionally write about visits to farmer’s markets, international grocers, and other unnecessary specialty retailers.  Today I’d rather mesmerize you with the magic of your typical everyday supermarket. Unfortunately, most people overlook the wonders that await them under the glare of fluorescent lights and screaming toddlers.  Forget about those distractions and let the food shine.  If you want your culinary creations to sing, you need melodically enhanced ingredients.  So pick up any product and you’re sure to find poetry where you thought none had existed.  Let’s start with a soft drink label:

Phosphoric acid,
Brominated vegetable
oil, and Benzene

Acid rocks!  Although you could go all hippie and call this the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, soft drinks taste better during the summer.   So let’s say that the Age of Cancer will arrive soon at an unsuspecting body near you.  It will be more magnificent than liquor!  And it will be smooth like butter!  Nice, healthy, natural butter with no added chemicals that melts on your tongue and leaves a warm milky feeling.  So maybe a stick of butter will add to our culinary symphony:

Sodium chloride’s
reduced!  Healthy!  Safer than
our regular stuff.

And where there’s butter, you’ll find toast.  Nice warm hearty toast.  And basic too: grains, water, yeast, and a little salt.  However, we need artistically enhanced toast, one that crisps up with convenient speed to a beautiful dark color.  I wonder what sort of prestidigitation makes that possible…

Sugar.  More sugar.
This bread is not safe for you.
Diabetes, right?

Having lived in Europe, my wonderment never ends over the riches of salt and sugar that the American food companies add to everything.  Witness the pageantry of low-sodium canned corn and tomatoes, both of which Mother Nature got wrong by not enhancing their flavor like in the original canned product.  And let’s not forget the sugar-free desserts that abound with spectacular chemical sweeteners while maintaining a gloriously elevated calorie count that reveals the aesthetic shortcomings of a basic Italian biscotti.  Speaking of all this wonderful processed food, let’s look at a can or two:

Canned bisphenol A:
More cancers, Obesity,
Disrupts dopamine

See?  You can always improve the classics.  Nature’s radiance finds its completion in the laboratory, much like Haiku ascends to unimaginable heights once we eliminate our reliance on a culturally constructed notion of “natural beauty.”  And on the topic of natural things, we ought to conclude our supermarket tour by visiting the produce section.  There, we can observe a helpful sign above the merchandise, one that kindly transports our minds from dark thoughts of pesticides:

We coat fruit in wax.
It looks shiny, crisp, healthy.
You’ll pay more for it.

But what are a few extra cents for produce compared to the bills for a lifetime of health ailments?

Beauty.  Poetry.  Groceries. 

Big Juicy Bones Insult My Intelligence

turkey leg

(Photo credit: briface)

Visiting the farmer’s market is always fun.  Today, I bought turkey legs and I am very happy with my purchase.  In the United States, chickens and turkeys are bred for their breast meat and the remaining parts end up being a lot less expensive.  In other parts of the world, the breast is considered the least tasty part of a bird other than the feathers.  Having lived outside of the U.S., I had the opportunity to gain an appreciation for dark meat.

However…

I learned something from my visit today.  I asked for three turkey legs and they gave me the ones that looked like they came from a pterodactyl.  So they sold me as much product as possible while still following my instructions.  And I’m sure the next person, if he asked for 3 pounds of turkey legs, would have received the smallest of the bunch.  That means more bone and less meat for the same price… and the store wins again.  (There is proportionally more bone per pound in a small turkey leg than in a large one.)

So, if you would rather gnaw on a nice meaty leg instead of a big juicy bone, order your meat by number of pieces, not weight.

American Bread Insults My Intelligence

Russian black bread

(Photo credit: BryanAlexander)

I’m one of those types who rarely eats in chain restaurants and can cook for myself instead of eating a lot of prepackaged meals.  On a typical day, you might find my food snobbery obnoxious.

Today, I’m going to change course and recommend a thoroughly unfresh packaged food to my American readers: bread.  Although one can occasionally find good fresh bread in this country, the offerings are few and far between.  You may not know this, but the flour used in much of our bread is heavily processed and, as a result, the product turns out insubstantial and probably a lot less healthy.

Bread should be like a brick or thereabouts.  Think of bagels, naan, and pita bread.  These pack a lot more density than the standard loaves we normally find.  So when I have the opportunity, I like to buy a packaged eastern European bread that’s heavier than overcooked meatloaf and it’s shipped in from over 1000 miles away.  And I take it home and put it in the refrigerator where it lasts a while… even without all the preservatives in the standard grocery store fare.

I’m sure a refrigerated brick must sound really tasty to you.  Thing is, the toaster revives it.  It doesn’t come out tough either.  (My teeth are all still in place.)

This must be why so few Americans can tolerate whole wheat bread and other healthy options.  The substance (especially the flavor) has all been processed away.  And it’s not just dark bread that’s damaged over here; I get a great loaf of French bread from my local farmer’s market that in no way resembles what you would recognize as “French bread.”  It’s also less expensive than what the grocery store sells.

So do yourself a favor and expand your bread horizons.  Your tongue and colon will be glad you did.  And if you don’t want to be too health conscious, try some fatty cold cuts on it.   The toasted bread melts a lot of the fat and the result is unbelievable.  I’m not adventurous (or brazen) enough to try lardo (which is almost entirely fat), but a good pancetta, Polish bacon, or Russian ham works great.

Disclaimer: the blogger is not responsible for any heart attacks resulting from following this culinary advice.  However, he will take credit for your improved digestive health.  You’re welcome.

Curves Insult My Intelligence

IMAG0122

Curvy dove, ray of hope

Imprint’s on my bar of soap.

That dove there, it ain’t free

Two percent less soap for me.

(And more profit for the soap company. How convenient!)

IMAG0121

Curves are sweet.  They’re the dope.

See them on this bar of soap.

That’s bar’s sleek, that bar rocks.

Small bar fills a great big box!

(Ever wonder why your bath soap doesn’t last as long even though the packaging hasn’t shrunk?)