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Friday, December 30, 2005

I Suffer For The New Year

I just walked home with 100 pounds of groceries on my back and 3 large boxes in my arms.

Although Safeway and the Post Office aren't far from where I live, I just found out they are far enough to understand a world of pain and suffering in just one city block.

I was doing alright managing the groceries, but when I left the Post Office, the packages were so tall I had to look to the side of them to see where I was walking. At that point I had a fleeting thought that I might not make it home. Or if I did, it may have been without the packages.

As I turned the corner onto my street and began walking up the hill, half-way up I had one of those "will-to-live" moments where I knew I could fall down and die on that very spot, where the hordes of homeless people would swoop down on me like pigeons on a slice of white bread, or I could press on until I reached the front door of my home, where I could then fall down and die unmolested. From down the street I could see the faint outline of my door and, like one of those weird zooming camera tricks you see in a movie, it seemed to move further the closer I moved towards it.

It became my focus. My reason for living. As my heart felt ready to explode, I was reminded of how many people die so close to home by that nagging internal voice that seems to be switched on at the precise moment you need it to be switched off. You know, reminded of those stories your hear, such as "he had travelled to Iraq and back and was awarded the Purple Heart, but was tragically shot two doors down from where he lived...by his own 8-year old daughter".

Oh, and did I happen to mention the chance of rain and how I brought along an umbrella that I couldn't carry opened and carry the packages, and that if it had began to rain, as it has all week, I would be carrying an umbrella with no way of using it? Or that it was just one more goddamn thing to carry?

Anyway, I'm back home feeling somewhat victorious that I managed to grab the last bag of black-eyed peas off of the bottom of Safeway's shelf. Not yet humiliated enough by life's kicks to the shins, I had to get on my hands and knees in front all of the yuppie stay-at-home dads who were calling after their baby-child named "Weston" to "come back or you can't have your animal crackers" and reach way back into the Safeway netherworld where God knows what or who (Chuck Mangione) could grab hold and not let go.

But I got em! Geez! Who would've thunk getting a bag of black-eyed peas 3 days from New Year's in the bluest city of the bluest state could be so damn hard?

Well, if you are planning on keeping up the luck-filled tradition of greens and black-eyed peas on New Year's day, RUN, don't walk to your nearest supermarket/corner store right now!

Better yet, DRIVE!


Oh Geez...2005 Top Ten Lists

Alas, it is that time of year when Me and You and Everyone We Know, without any provocation, assumes you need to read their top ten list, which matters most to no one but themselves, and which is really just a passive aggressive attempt at gaining acceptance, and half of the stuff they list they probably didn't hear, read, see, or do in the first place.

So, why the hell should Bruce and I be any different?

Well, we actually did read, see, or taste the stuff listed in our three categories; three categories that pretty much rounds out the daily routine in our lives: food, movies (almost always rentals), and books (Bruce's territory, not mine).

So now, I present to you (stagelights please!):


Top Ten Food Favorites or Finds
(In no particular order)

1. Vicolo's cornmeal pizza shells (link)
2. Fiscalini Farmstead San Joaquin Gold Cheddar Cheese (link)
3. Pimm's No. 1 (link)
4. Locally-made Chinese-Style Sausage (link)
5. In N Out Burger Secret Menu (link)
6. Aebelskivers (link)
7. Thomas Keller's Gougeres recipe (link)
8. Homemade Linguica (link)
9. Opening of Whole Foods Market 2 blocks From Where We Live
10. Memphis Minnies BBQ (link)

Top Ten Movies Seen This Year
(Not necessarily released in 2005, and in no particular order)

1. Brokeback Mountain
2. Crash (2005)
3. Me and You and Everyone We Know (link)
4. Kung Fu Hustle (link)
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
6. Rock School (link)
7. The Gleaners and I (link)
8. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
9. Sideways
10. Born Into Brothels (link)

Top Ten Books Read This Year
(In no particular order)

1. "The Line of Beauty" by Alan Hollinghurst
2. "Oscar and Lucinda" by Peter Carey (link)
3. "The Algebraist" by Iain M. Banks (link)
4. "Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town" by Cory Doctorow (link)
5. "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss
6. "The Stones of Summer" by Dow Mossman (link)
7. "London Orbital" by Iain Sinclair (link)
8. "The Man Who Ate Everything" by Jeffrey Steingarten
9. "Thud" by Terry Pratchett (link)
10. "The Cacahuatl Eater – Ruminations of an Unabashed Chocolate Addict" by Jonathan Ott (link)

OK, now we can sleep better at night. Glad to be of service.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sometimes I Cook

The one danger of shopping for food in Chinatown is that you can inadvertantly buy way too much stuff.

And seeing as though I'm not cooking as much as I should be lately, that's kinda stupid, not to mention wasteful. It reminds me of those people in the Central Valley who plant fruit trees in their yard and who, every year, let the fruit rot on the tree because they're too lazy to pick it. I'm starting to believe that I should be more brazen about walking onto someone's property to pick the tons of persimmons, pomegranates, olives, and oranges I see going to waste.

Actually, we did pilfer quite a bit of oranges and tangerines a few days ago, but these were off of trees leaning into Aunt Paula's yard. Now we have an excess of fruit that I'm not sure what to do with. Doh!

Back to Chinatown – I went there 2 days ago to buy a rabbit, or at least that was the premise. In my head, I was thinking to myself "oh, and if there are fresh ducks, maybe I'll pick one up. And what about going to King and King Sausage Co. for some bacon, sausage, and dry-cured duck legs? And, am I getting a freshly killed chicken today? Let's see."

Such are the dangers. Instead, I held back quite a bit and walked into some of the markets just to see what looked interesting. I first walked into a shop on Grant, close to Broadway. Ah, here are some wonton wrappers. I need some of these. Plus, why not buy some of these thick rice noodles. They're great for a quick beef chow fun dinner.

Next, I headed up Broadway, and since I was starving, walked into You's for some sticky rice buns and pork/chives filled dumplings.

Afterwards I stepped into another shop to look at veggies. Forgoing the turnips, I bought some water chestnuts, some limes (6 for $1) and some green onions. Ah ha! I know what I'm going to make for dinner now! How about Rabbit filled wontons with water chestnuts, ginger, and green onions? Yeah!

Finding the rabbit proved to be a little harder and costlier than I remember. Hing Lung didn't have any, so I went on a search to find a butcher that does. On the advice of shopkeeper in whose store I bought some chestnuts ($3 per pound), I headed up Clay to Powell Street.

Wow! For some reason I've always assumed Chinatown stopped around Stockton Street, but there's like a whole other world above Stockton. Anyway, I found a few new seafood and butcher shops that I didn't know about before.

After negotiating the language dilemma by making the rabbit ears sign above my head (see below), I found a good 2½ pound rabbit.

It wasn't cheap. It was $14.25, whereas I remember them being around $8 at Hing Lung. Still, I had my stomach settled on rabbit, so I bought the damn thing, and in the process learned the Chinese word for rabbit.

"Toe-Jai", heavy on the toe.

Those pink plastic bags were starting to get heavy now, so I grudgingly made the decision to walk back home; a good thing since the wind was picking up and the rain started coming down heavier.

However, I still needed to make one more stop on Grant street to find a tea house that I could sit and drink Chrysanthemum tea at. What I found instead was the Red Blossom Tea Company, who doesn't serve tea but will let you sample it.

The guy serving the tea samples was smart, because as soon as he passed me a cup, I was hooked. There was no way I was leaving that store without buying some of what he was serving, which in this case was the Dragon Pearl Jasmine tea. The Dragon Pearl tea is a white tea with the most amazing perfume aroma and flavor. It practically knocked me out! The tea itself comes wrapped in tiny balls that open up during the steeping process. A little hot water, and bam!

Alright, so back at home, I've decided the dinner menu will be:

Chestnut Garlic Sage Soup with Cream and Nutmeg

Poached Wontons filled with Braised Rabbit, Water Chestnuts, Green Onion and Ginger in a Braising Juice Reduction Sauce

Orange, Tangerine, and Lagrima Granita

I started first with the rabbit since I knew it could take an hour or longer to cook. Actually, to back up for just a minute – the rabbit was frozen, so I had to wait a day for it to thaw. OK, now once it was thawed, I cut it into pieces, starting with the saddles (or rear legs).

Cutting up the rabbit, it finally dawned on me why you see saddle of rabbit on so many menus. It's because there isn't a whole lot of meat on a rabbit to begin with, and the largest muscle on the rabbit, obviously, is it's hind legs. Thus, saddle of rabbit. Yeah, OK, I can be a little slow at times.

After the legs, I cut off the back and chopped it into 2 large pieces, and then proceeded to cut off the front legs. The rib cage and other parts I didn't use, I placed in a ziploc bag and put in the freezer for future use.

In my new dutch oven, I heated up some olive oil and then fried the rabbit pieces on medium high for roughly 5 minutes per side. While they were frying, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. I also heated up 4 cups of lightly salted water in the microwave, juiced 1 lime and 1 tangerine, ground some pepper, cut up a piece of ginger into 4 2-inch batons, chopped two small shallots, and opened a bottle of cheap Zinfindel I had laying around.

Before the pieces had finished frying, I threw in the ginger and shallots to brown a little. After a minute or so, I deglazed the pan using about ¾ of a cup of wine. Next I threw in the citrus mixture and then added the hot water just enough to barely cover the rabbit pieces. Afterwards, on went the lid and into the oven, setting the timer for 1 hour.

While the rabbit was cooking, I scored the chestnuts with a sharp paring knife, making a small "X" on the flat side of the nut. When doing this, make sure you have a sharp knife, otherwise you'll have to put some elbow grease into it. Whatever you do, make sure you don't cut yourself.

After an hour at 400 degrees, the rabbit was sufficienty cooked and I removed the pieces from the braising liquid to cool. As you see, some of the "love" stuck to the sides of the pot, so using my silicon spatula, I took some of the hot liquid and "washed" the sides in order to save all of that flavor.

After the rabbit came out, I put the chestnuts (spread out on a baking sheet) into the oven and set the timer for 45 minutes. While they were cooking, I juiced approximately 4 oranges and 4 tangerines for the Granita. If you've never heard of a granita, don't worry. All it is is frozen fruit juice that is shaved. I don't really have a juicer, so what I do is place the pulp in the food processor and pulse for a few minutes. After that, I strain the juice through a wire mesh screen, using a silicone spatula to force as much liquid through as I can. And Bob's your uncle.

Next, I mix in about ½ a cup (or more, I can't remember, but then it's alcohol so who cares) of Lagrima to the juice. Lagrima is a super-sweet white Port that you can find at fine, discriminating wine shops in your city, town, or village. This one came from a discriminating BevMo.

After I infused the Port with the citrus juice, I poured it into a long and flat tupperware container and placed it into the freezer. Note: In hindsight, I should've done this way, way before the time I did because it takes at least 8 hours in my freezer to become solid.

When the chestnuts are ready, they also have to cool down a bit. While they were cooling, I proceeded to make the rabbit stuffing for the wontons. First comes removing the rabbit from the bones, and then roughly chopping the meat. Then I began peeling the water chestnuts with a paring knife. Fresh water chestnuts, once peeled, have to be kept in cold water until they are ready to use to prevent browning.

For this recipe, I used about 4, diced. I also used a thick 2-inch piece of ginger, diced. I briefly sauteed these 2 things, finished with the juice of 1 lime, before adding to the rabbit. I also chopped up about 1 cup of the green parts of the green onions and also added them to the rabbit mixture.

Before I go any further, can I just say that the Chinese are geniuses! Well, at least when it comes to certain things. For instance, these wonton wrappers are brilliant! Easy to use, inexpensive, and works like a charm when making "raviolis" or wontons or dumplings of any kind.

To make the wonton, take a wrapper and lay it on the cutting board. With a small bowl of water handy, dip your finger in the water and wet the outside edge of one half of the wrapper. Now, take about a tablespoon of the mixture and place it in the middle of the wrapper. Bring up the sides and press together, making sure the wonton is completely sealed. And that's it! Place on a baking sheet or somewhere out of the way.

Back to the chestnut soup:

Peel the chestnuts. This could take some time, making sure to remove all of the hull of the shell from the "meat". Take about 4 cups of chicken stock or broth (I used broth) and bring to a boil. Then add the chestnuts, 3 large cloves of chopped garlic, about 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 8 sage leaves. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes.

At the end of this period, using your food processor or blender, puree the soup a little at a time. Be careful, since, as you know, hot liquid has a tendency to expand, causing molten hot magma to shoot out of your blender and onto your soft and tenders. And if you don't believe me, ask to see my scars.

Speaking of scars, I was so relieved the other day to see Debbie with a big old ugly burn horizontally across her forearm as the result of reaching into the oven. I am so glad I'm not the only one!! Of course, both of us realize that you are suppose to pull out the oven rack before you reach in, but something in our lizard brains tends to overlook this logical point from time to time.

Anyway, once you've pureed the soup, return to the stovetop and simmer for a few more minutes. Correct the seasoning or add a little more water if the soup is too thick. When ready to serve, spoon into warm bowls, sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg, and add a dollop or drizzle of heavy cream, along with a sage leaf or two for décor.

It should (or maybe might) look something like this:

Some self-criticism: The plating (or bowling?) is a little sloppy and for some reason I can't get the cream on top of the soup thing down yet. I also should've chopped the sage and lightly sprinkled it on top. Also, I know it's just a picture and pictures don't always do the subject justice, but is it just me or does that soup look a little "nutty", and yes you do know what I mean?


For this recipe, a pound and three quarters of chestnuts made enough soup for three to four people.

To make the entrée, heat a large pot of boiling, lightly salted water. While waiting for the water to come to a boil, turn up the heat on your braising liquid from the rabbit. Reduced to a cup or so, then off heat, add cold butter to thicken. In my case, this didn't work, so instead I took about 2 tablespoons of flour and shook it in a jar with a little bit of water. I then added this flour slurry to the pan sauce and it thickened it to the point I needed.

Now, boil the wontons in the rapidly boiling water in small batches. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the water and fill each plate. Make sure you shake off the water from the wontons before you place them on the plates. Now, spoon on your pan sauce and take your brand new microplane, rasp a lime, and sprinkle the lime shavings on top of your wontons.

Serve it, baby!

OK, again my plating is a little sloppy and Gordon Ramsay would have a shit-fit, but you get the gist of what I'm going for, right? Actually, I plated this in a hurry (several hours of cooking can, unfortunately, do that to you) and you can see where there is still water from the transferring of the wontons from the pot still on the plate. You can see where it has not mixed with the sauce. Shit!

Perhaps a good rule of thumb for the home cook is right before serving, take a moment, relax, and take several deep breaths. As I'm starting to learn, rushing through the plating/presentation, the most important stage of cooking, can take hours of cooking and turn it on it's head in a matter of minutes.

Oh well, live and learn. Although these 2 recipes were a first for me, you'll just have to take my word for it - they were good! And while I'm not completely happy with the plating, the end result was tasty and I'll probably attempt it again.

If you end up making extra wontons, they can be kept in a ziploc bag in the fridge for a day or two at the most, and probably frozen for a month or two.

Moving on to dessert:

Because I put the granita mixture in the freezer too late, we ended up having dessert for breakfast the next day. Ayyy!

However, this dessert is easy to prepare, whether after dinner or for breakfast. Simply take a fork and scrape it along the surface of the frozen fruit juice. Take the ice shavings and serve it in a glass, preferably one that you can fit a spoon into.

Top with some lime shavings and there you have it.

Well folks, it was fun showing you my special pre-New Year's dinner, such as it was. The next time I check in, hopefully I'll be talking about the traditional collard greens and black-eyed peas every decent ex-Southerner makes for New Year's Day (in fact, I better run out to the stores now before everyone sells out of black-eyed peas).

Until then, who's going to clean up?


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Not Lost: December Photos

Neighbor and Friend, Tom

And the Irrigation Canal


Desperately Seeking Alice

I'll Raise You One

Photos by b.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Having a Toity Christmas!

There are people starving in India.

There are people dying in the Holy Land.

And there are old people shivering in the cold with barely enough money to buy themselves a cup of soup.

But God! Was this a great Christmas or what?!

Man, oh man! You should see the loot I got! Things I've been wanting forever, like a cast-iron, enameled 7-quart dutch oven.


And a Microplane!

Bling bling!

Plus all sorts of other foodie gifts like a cool pepper shaped salsa dish and a new Crock Pot and so much more; way too many to list here!

Yee-ah! But when Christmas isn't all about me (those long, grey, cold 5 minutes), it's all about the, yes, cheeseballs! Karen always makes her delicious cheeseballs, with backups in the fridge in case we run out!

It just aint the holidays without the cheeseballs. In fact, whip out a cheeseball in March and we are partying like it's Christmas 1999.

On top of that and the cookies and the ungodly amount of white meat, dark meat, and mystery meat, who can forget about the Christmas Eve pork tamales from La Perla?

Come on! Christmas just wouldn't be the same without a little Feliz Navidad! And Karen calls in her order way in advance.

You have to.

This is California and if you don't have your Christmas tamales order in on time, come Christmas Eve day, you may just end up begging, crying, or breaking all sorts of local, state, or federal laws in order to get your mitts on those Mexican hot pockets.

In fact, our young Karen almost got stiffed when another "Karen" had placed an order for a dozen and the gals at La Perla couldn't figure out which Karen was our Karen. Of course, our Karen placed an order for two dozen, not one, (duh!) and lemme tell you: it's a good thing that the other Karen didn't show up first, otherwise we'd go hungry (or I refer you to the above)!


Because when we're not busy eatin' green beans, mashed potatoes, and pork loin, we are living, breathing, and shitting tamales. Trust me, we are FULL of holiday cheer!

Being as deprived of sugar and fat as we are at every Christmas, Karen decided to get all Southern Fried, and her and Bruce baked a 30-pound Paula Deen apple bundt cake, made from about every un-Weight Watchers thing you can imagine with the exception of deep-fried pork rinds and duck fat. They tell me (I had already passed out in a sugar coma by then) that it was quite the event, especially the frosting episode (this is the part where I proclaim "Too Much Information"!).

I know this is the "season of sharing" and all, but can I just say, don't if you don't have to!

I love spending Christmas at Karen's BB&B (Bed, Breakfast, and Beyond), if only because she goes all out on the decorations. True, a lot of people in her neighborhood do the lights and all, but hers just looks so good, and I'm not just brown-nosing, though I'm also not not just brown-nosing either.

See for yourself!

Bruce's Aunt Carol also does a great job with the decorations this time of year, so much so she use to rent a storage unit just for the Christmas decorations alone. Because of time constraints, we weren't able to make it over there this year, but trust me, you have to go to Aunt Carol's for Christmas. Only, if you are mildly sensitive to blinking lights, have fragile nerves, have phobias about talking Christmas trees, are pregnant, have a weak heart, have periods of light-headedness, occasionally experience vertigo, or tend to go into seizures easily, I suggest you obtain a doctor's permission before you do. Otherwise, you've gotta go!

As you and I know, the holidays are really the season for high drama.

Luckily, the only drama this Christmas, other than Bruce's dad surviving a triple by-pass heart operation, was a broken toilet (or "toity") seat, and seeing as I've heard or seen worse from other families, that's pretty harmless. On the contrary, my Mom's boyfriend's family...well, I wouldn't wish that lot on the Great Horned One himself! And seeing as they don't know about this blog, I can pretty much tell you every ugly and shameful situation in detail, you know, just between you and me, heh heh.

However, I'm still waiting on the phone call from Mom to fill me in. Remind me to remind you to ask me about it later.

I can't finish this post without thanking Debbie for watching Speedball and Argenta while we were gone. The kitties seem happy, which means they are their usual, hellraising, psycho selves. This year we had a new kittie that Debbie also tended to. She was born a month ago and needs constant watering.

I bought this "pet" for Bruce two years ago and she's been incubating in her box this whole time. Generally, I don't suggest you buy pets for friends and relatives at this time or any time of the year, but with this pet, I wasn't subjected to the hundreds of questions, background checks, and psychological examinations the SPCA usually gives one when adopting a pet. Plus, this pet is ok to abuse and if, God forbid, you enjoy abusing pets, please abuse this one and keep your sick, warped, and evil claws off of the others.

So anyway, I have the rest of this week off, not by choice, but happy to take it anyway and I plan on getting some important, end-of-the-year things done as well as testing out my newly acquired materialistic thingy-ma-bobs.

I'll keep you posted as the week wears on, but in case I don't, hope you had a good Christmas and are having a great Chanuka, a great Kwanzaa, or whatever religion, sect, belief, or made up crap you ascribe to.

Love, most sincerely,


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Holiday Rant #2

Personally, I think the holidays are just a lame excuse for people to behave rudely, drink themselves stupid, and gorge themselves like geese migrating north, all with the weak-ass excuse of (in a whiney voice) "the stores are crowded" and "I get so depressed at this time" and "I'll do better after the New Year".

I'm not hatin'. I'm just sayin'.

Frankly, I'm pissed off, drunk, and gluttonous three hundred sixty five days of the year, bitch, so I don't need no stinking paganistic-cum-monotheistic-cum-consumeristic reason to be absolutely churlish, embarrassing, and disgusting.

But two things really got my X-mas goose while enjoying an otherwise suitable plate of Ma Po Tofu at Chung King today. As I sat there reading that sorry excuse for a newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, I noticed in the "Eats" section there was an interview with Craig Stoll, the chef/co-owner of Delfina, an upscale Italian joint in the Gourmet Ghetto area of the Mission.

Although I haven't been to Delfina, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt that it's good. Besides, can you really fuck up what is essentially peasant food?

Again, not hatin'. Just sayin'.

Delfina doesn’t bug me. What does is Craig Stoll pimping his ass out for All-Clad cookware.

OK, maybe I'm naïve and just assume that most home cooks, and even chefs who cook at home, have a variety of cookware. Some cookware in their stockpile, they are like "ho hum". Others, they are like "wowee!" I know I have a chef's knife I can't live without.

But if you asked most cooks/chefs what items in their kitchen they "couldn't live without", as Elisabeth Laurence asked Stoll, I would reasonably assume they would say, "Oh, you know, my Le Crueset dutch oven, and my Silpat, and definitely that salad spinner I got at the flea market 3 years ago".

I wouldn't expect an across-the-board, full brand endorsement!

But according to Stoll, he loves his All-Clad cookware, "like the ones with the rounded bottoms and the saucepans and the skillets. Great for scallopini."

And if you call now, we'll throw in a goddamn egg slicer!! But wait! There's more!

Maybe you think I'm just getting all bent out of shape. Well, what about this?

Photo by Juan Carlos Pometta Betancourt/San Francisco Examiner

Hello? Product placement, MUCH?

I have news for you, Craig. You wanna pimp yourself? Get in line! You see that schmuck in front of you with the greasy salt and pepper hair? His name is Michael Chiarello and he's sold his butt longer and wider than you, fresh meat.

He even has a restaurant at SFMOMA. You can't even sell your wares on Shotwell!

Ahead of him is the whole Food TV line-up, and very few of them will ever reach Emeril's ho status.

Moving on...

Next, let's move on across the page to what was, at first, an OK review of a Chinatown Dim Sum place by Patricia Unterman, "Examiner Restaurant Critic". While Dol Ho may be nice, it's pretty well known that you can walk across the street to Y Ben House to have just the same, if not better. Also, while I have several Chinatown dim sum haunts that I frequent, including Y Ben House, Gold Mountain, and even You's, dim sum in Chinatown is, in effect, Chinatown Dim Sum, ie., good, but nothing to write Hong Kong about.

Please. Sometimes Ha Gow is just Ha Gow.

That Pat Unterman is writing about a dive like Dol Ho for the Examiner makes me wonder if they are making her flip her own tab or if she's pocketing the expenses that should be going to Parc Hong Kong.

My beef doesn't lie with the review of Dol Ho. Oh no. My beef consists of Pat's closing lines, which are as follows:

"Recently, after a tour of Chinatown, I took a visiting Turkish food journalist there , apologizing for the basic service and surroundings. But she liked it and matched me dumpling for dumpling.

'What is it about this place?' I asked her. 'Why does everything taste so good?'

'Because it's run by women', she said.

Then it dawned on me. The modest, unembellished food at Dol Ho owes its savor, it's completeness, to the instincts of home cooks."

What malign, ignorant, sexist drivel is this? Besides being patronizing, it is utterly, or Unterman, repulsive. So, you and your guest, from, uh, Turkey?, that upstanding egalitarian land (!?), have decided that "completeness" can be assumed from who's genitals are whisking around in the kitchen, have you??

Excuse me folks, but I think I know where Patty's expenses are going. Stop by Li Po's beforehand, have we? I sure hope so. I sure hope you're lit!

What crap! Let me tell you, I know women who could burn water! My own mother, God love her, hasn't gone two decades without combining instant this with instant that. You call that completeness? You call microwaved hot dogs savory?

You wanna tell me that the "love", your own mythical standard of completeness and savor, of a home cooked meal can only come from a woman, lest it be tainted by the stench of a hated man?

Yeah, probably so! Which duly promotes you to the Old Guard, the Paleo-Critics, the Geriatric Gourmands, and all whose opinion is irrelevant, outdated, trite, boring, and as downright retarded as the saying "the South shall rise again".

You should retire to Colma!

Scandalous...if it was in anything other than an illegitimate, disgraceful rag.

I hope some Chinese dude peed on your Siu Mai!


Sunday, December 18, 2005

When It Rains It...Whatever.

I woke up this morning saying to myself there's no chance in hell I'm stepping foot outside in weather like this today.

I appreciate that it rained so heavy and the wind tore loose last night giving the city what is Mother Nature's equivalent of the drive-thru car wash (or in the case of my neighborhood, Mother Nature's Enema) and my somnial equivalent of a white-noise deep sleep machine. Trust me, the pound of wind and rain is a welcome change to the rumble of motorcycles, horns, and sirens at 4 in the morning. Just turn the dial to All-Night Storm, and can you throw in a few flowerpots being knocked over for good measure? I just knew that I didn't want to step out into it today, if I didn't have to.

That was until I realized The Leak. This, of course, is the annual leak, generally followed or preceded by the annual Ant Invasion. It would be cool if these two things were just references to has-been 80s Rock groups but, unfortunately, in real life they don't rock quite so much.

The leak this year took a turn for the dramatic and instead of just ruining a book or two, decided to creep down a portion of the wall between the drywall and the paint creating a nasty blister that slowly inched down until we decided to pop it with a push pin; it's pus squirting into a pot, when not on us, and then eventually a towel.

That was only a highlight of things to come.

We called our landlord, who is new since our building was sold, and only got an answering machine. For all we knew, he could've been in Saudi Arabia. Like our previous landlords, he's an absentee landlord, which we generally prefer, except when there's an emergency. Yeah, I know. In a perfect world and all.

Word to new landlords: If the tenants say their roof generally leaks once a year during the heavy rains, perhaps it might pay off to have the drains cleaned BEFORE the rains hit, rather than replacing costly drywalls or whatever afterwards?

Of course, now we'll have to have the building owner's repair crew come in and gawk at the Pop Culture museum we call home while they replace the damaged part of the wall, which means one of us will have to take time off work to let them in since we hate strangers in our home when we're not here. I mean, what kinda freak doesn't?

So, to prevent any further water damage to the walls, Bruce donned his rainjacket and headed upstairs to see if he could fix the drains himself, and like a well-meaning sap, I followed – sans raingear. Not long after, both him and I are on our hands and knees cleaning out the drains that lead down into the drainage pipes that eventually run into the bay. Using a toothbrush, we scrub dirt, oily soot, and God knows what else from around the entrance of the drains, freeing the water that had been backed up and seeping into our otherwise dry abode. In one case, I had to pull up a few boards to get to one drain and, despite an obscene case of plumber's butt, I managed to clean it out and put it back together.

Calgone, Take Me Away!

After getting cleaned up, I sat down at the computer and started browsing the web to get my mind off of the crap we just cleaned up, only to have the sensation of small things crawling on my feet and legs. I looked down around my chair and focused hard on the floor.

Yup. It's the ants. Oh, so glad you could make it. No, please be my guest! Please come in from the rain. Would you like a Hot Pocket?

Warning: The next scene depicts cruelty and death towards other living beings.

At the first sign of ants, I get out the Windex. This killing tip was given to us by a sweet old Russian man who use to come around and exterminate the ants and other vermin when our building had them really bad. I considered asking the old man how he came upon his killing technique and whether it was ever utilized on enemies of the KGB, but I didn't want him sweetening up on me. Still, it works, at least on small invasions. On chronic cases, it still pays to get out the extremely gross, extremely toxic Raid. But I figure with the peace of mind a zero population of ants gives me compared to a year or so of my life potentially cut short, I'd rather just reach for that terrifyingly efficient killing poison and say my prayers later.

It sure beats trying everything under the kitchen sink first and then finding out that none of it works. This happened to me when, at the age of 8, I was left home alone during a particularly nasty raining spell that caused ants to invade our kitchen like the Mongols over Asia (note: this is not a reference to an 80s Rock group – but there was a group called Youth In Asia). In a panic, and barely literate, I grabbed anything I could from underneath the kitchen sink and started bombing the place – double-fisted like Chow Yun Fat in Hard Boiled. Easy-Off, Pledge, Lysol, Formula 409 – this was my first chemical romance of necessity in the Ant War of 1981 which I fought like a pipsqueak Spanish Republican with a live-fast-die-young chip on his future Go-Go's listening shoulder. Ya Basta! I say! No Pasaran! To the Max!

I learned early on what the smell of victory was really like, and it smelled nothing like napalm in the morning. It smelled strangely minty with an undertone of degreaser and a lingering of wood polish. However, judging from the look of absolute horror on my mother's face when she arrived home from work, that was a battle won, but a war horribly, horribly lost. Who. Knew?

To this day, I credit my juvenile self with creating the seminal poison-resistant gene that has mutated ants into lifeforms that will survive humanity long after we are dead and buried. Yes, I was the butterfly wings that created that hurricane, baby. No need to thank me.

It is after the annihilation of hundreds of living things that I suddenly feel the need to eat vegetarian. Without delving too deeply into bad taste or necessarily offending the dozens of people who read this blog I mean no offense to, I also wonder if this is why Hitler, allegedly, was vegetarian. What? Is this like instant self-imposed karma or some need to cleanse myself of the killing or is it just overkill boredom that I don't really, particularly, want a big slab of bloody meat tonight? Is it guilt or boredom that drives culinary ethics? Is the craving for local, organic, natural, thus pure and good, foods just the superficial allevement of ugly, horrible, wretched crimes and personal faults the consumers of such things have? Hum.

Deep thoughts aside, I was happy when Bruce said he was cooking and it would be a vegetarian meal.

I love Bruce's portobello mushroom burgers. What he does is take portobello mushroom caps and marinates them in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, paprika, and other spices for about 30 minutes.

Then he broils them on each side for a couple of minutes. After that, he assembles the sandwich according to how you want. He usually uses Brother Junipers Wild Rice and Onion rolls and goat cheese, but tonight we had to settle for Safeway sesame seed hamburger buns and Manouri (Greek sheep milk cheese). I know. Ol' darn!

Added to that are sliced red onions and roasted red peppers, accompanied by creamy horseradish sauce or Dijon mustard. Ah!!!

In addition, he made corn fritters using the recipe from an America's Test Kitchen cookbook, and they serve as a swell sidedish.

I guess there was a silver lining to this cloud.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Holiday Rant #1

If I hear that stupid-ass Outback Steakhouse commercial on the radio one more time I swear to God I'm going to go on a hate-filled rampage throughout the neighborhood the likes of which no one has seen before!

It was bad enough when it was just the non-holiday version, but now it's got some stupid Christmas theme to it!


When I hear that sappy, over-exaggerated, fake-sounding "Australian Dewwwd" accent coming through the speakers for about the sixth time in my otherwise pleasant day I want to don Aboriginal war paint and start killing me some white sneaker, pastel golf shirt, khaki shorts wearin', sunburnt HONKIES!

First of all, there isn't even an Outback Steakhouse in Australia! Wait. No, I stand corrected. There are two. Surely, both of them cater to international saps and mouth-breathing yobs.

Second, what the F@!K is so Australian about the menu? They don't even have Vegemite sandwiches!

And you can be damn sure the beef and lamb you're eating in your local OS isn't from Australia.

"'Ello, Mate! Your steaks from Juarez just arrived."

And have you even seen the menu? It's nothing but an Australian Stepin Fetchit! With damn stupid stereotypes that make no sense, like Brisbane Caesar Salad!

What makes it "Brisbane"? Other than the fact it might be served in Brisbane, California? Oh, it has "shrimp from the barbie" or "Aussie-sized chicken breasts".


Their cultural appropriation, bastardization, and commodification is almost as bad as Madonna's! Oy Vey with your Kabbalah already!

Kookaburra Wings, Walkabout Soup, Aussie Chips. Aaahhh!!

I'm about to throw up in RAGE!

Some fool from Tampa, Florida thought this crap up!

I lived in Tampa. You know how many Australians I met the whole time I lived there? None. Zero. Zed. Zilch.

You know how many Cubans I met while I lived there? More than you could shake a goddamn diggery-doo at!

Thank God no one's come up with a TGI Fidels, yet!

As for the creator and singer of that stupid commerical: I only hope a crocodile escapes from the zoo and feasts on their asses for dinner!

Yeah, I'd say that's pretty "fair dinkum, mate".