Anger Burger

Pet Peeves, Vol. III

Posted by on Dec 30, 2009 at 11:39 pm

You know what time it is… That’s right, it’s time for Ye Olde Anger Burger Pet Peeves!  Sacré bleu!

  • Here is where I rag on some poor unsuspecting, probably kind and generous foodblogger(s) who shall remain unnamed, but are nevertheless morons: those who use the word bakies instead of cookies.  Oh yes.  I wish I were fucking with you.  The term is almost always followed by a sort of down-homey, misspelled tirade ala “if their baked, how come we call then cookies? I call bakies because that what they are!”  First of all (oh my god, there goes my blood pressure), a COOKIE is not named for being COOKED.  It is a derivative from the Dutch word koekie, which means “little cake.”  Secondly (now the heartburn is starting), is the logic flaw: the belief that cookies are baked, not ‘cooked’.  But see, all baked items are cooked, but not all cooked items are baked.  Oh sweet baby FSM, I’m going to have an aneurysm.
  • If you claim anything is “the new bacon” I am giving you fair warning: I will deep fat fry your hand.
  • The degradation of the term “soup.”  Okay, lemme explain myself.  I have long ago lost count of how many times I’d be on Tastespotting or something similar and link to a recipe for “something soup” only to discover it is one of two things: a pile of chunks lightly dressed with broth¹, or a tub of something so thick I’m uncertain if it is served with a knife.²  Who knew I was such a prude when it came to soup?
  • This isn’t really a pet peeve as much as a disgusting anecdote, but it’s ironic so I’m telling it.  So, I was telling my mom about the above pet peeves while we were having lovely cappuccinos at Olympia Coffee cafe in downtown Olympia, and a couple old enough to know better started, well, publicly making out.  I mean it.  The man appeared to be in his late 30′s or early 40′s, very normal, unremarkable, friendly-looking.  And in walks this woman, appears to be around the same age, and she walks over to the man in a kind of weird daze and sits in his lap.  Surprised, my mom and I tried to avert our eyes.  I mean, look: we’re not opposed to a little public affection.  Smooches, hand-holding, it’s all fine.  But this was… lurid.  And they started to just go totally E all over each other, holding each other’s faces, pressing their faces together, stroking shoulders, chests, arms, legs — basically, in alarm my mother and I looked at the barista working but found him instead averting his eyes.  Not that I expected him to do anything, the poor bastard.  Anyway, it was seriously uncomfortable and was stopped only by the completion of the woman’s soy latte.  Thank fucking god.  Lesson: continue to get excellent cappuccinos from Oly Coffee, but bring a loaded water pistol.

¹ Apologies to Miss Swanson for using her as an example, since 99% of the time her soups are of the totally traditional variety, but this one particular recipe and photograph had me laughing pretty hard.
² Of course I’ve lost the example I had for this, but it’s pretty much any lentil or pureed soup anyone has these days – I assure you that most of them can be eaten with a fork.

10 Posted in Pet Peeves

Do Not Go Gentle, Friend

Posted by on Dec 29, 2009 at 5:18 pm

One of my great heroes, Dan O’Bannon, died earlier this month and I only just now found out.  It’s grim news, and for several reasons.  The first is that at 63, I consider him to be a young man.  The second is that he died of Crohn’s disease.

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I don’t mean to get all dramatic or anything, but I think sometimes I’m doing a disservice to myself and to others by behaving so flip about Crohn’s.  People live in terrible pain and die from this affliction, but I tend to focus on the day-to-day aspects of it, which might be not seeing the forest for the trees.  Or maybe this is how to stay sane… ish.

But enough of that garbage.  I was hugely influenced by O’Bannon, first as a conceptual writer and then later as a screenwriter.  Dark Star… now there’s a movie I would watch back-to-back with Dr. Strangelove and think, those guys knew how to make movies.  O’Bannon had a wicked sense of humor but was also a profound observer of human nature; part of the reason he wrote the aliens the way he did in Alien was from asking himself “What are men afraid of more than anything else in the whole universe?”  Two things that they believe they are essentially safe from: oral rape and impregnation.  Ha!

He would go on to lend his creative skills to Total Recall, The Return of the Living Dead, Heavy Metal, and a handful of other films.  He even did special effects work on Star Wars.  It breaks my heart to read over at the L.A. Times that he was writing a sci-fi/horror screenplay based on his experiences with Crohn’s disease, both because of  how close it makes me feel to him (“I’m in terrible agony all the time… how can I make this entertaining?”) and because we may now never see it.  I wish his wife and son peace.

Keep on keepin’ on, Dan.

Much love,

Sunday

3 Posted in Crohn's disease

Olympic Fudge

Posted by on Dec 27, 2009 at 1:32 pm

The Anger Burger household doesn’t make fudge.  Fudge has broken our cold, diamond-hard hearts too many times.  If you don’t already know (welcome to Earth!), fudge is essentially just sugar, milk, butter and chocolate cooked until it reaches a certain temperature, after which its whipped into a light, soft texture, then allowed to set until it can be cut into pieces.  In a way, it is just chocolate frosting.  Which is not a bad thing.

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Things are inevitably more complicated.  Fudge is an old-fashioned confection that traditionally wasn’t even made with chocolate.  It is sweet sweet sweet and made sweeter by the option of many a cringe-inducing additive like maraschino cherries.  Many recipes don’t use unsweetened chocolate, but semi-sweet, a move that dilutes the already tenuous chocolate flavor further into Candyland.   In Angerburgerlandia, fudge should be very chocolaty, and include nuts.  That’s it.  But lets cover some more ground before I start testifyin’.

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Sometime in the last few decades, Kraft decided to plow into the room, half-sloshed on Appletinis, and declared that fudge was now called Fantasy Fudge, which required their Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Cream and no longer included heavy cream, but evaporated milk.  This is interesting on a few levels.  The marshmallow is there to simplify, relying on thickeners like xanthan gum and egg white rather than sugar reaching soft ball stage.  The evaporated milk cuts around the issue of lowering the water content of the candy, making it thicker and richer.  In a way, Kraft ain’t all crazytalk here.  But in another way, I don’t know that a big tub of artificial flavor and Blue #1 is how I want to tell my family I love them.

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Everyone that is surprised my boiling fudge made a weird buttcrack, raise their hand.

So what’s the big deal, why not make fudge from scratch?  Because there can only be one fickle bitch in the kitchen, and she is me.  There’s a fair amount of food science involved, but the point is this: fudge has such a high sugar content that it easily crystallizes, making the end result grainy rather than frosting-smooth.  Keeping it from crystallizing is a game for people who don’t burst into tears when they waste a big saucepan full of expensive ingredients.

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Which then brings me to Bonnie Jean Gorder-Hinchey’s  fudge recipe in the October 2009 issue of Fine Cooking magazine.  We’re a sucker for anything that claims to be foolproof, and well, here we are.  Gorder-Hinchey may not have used the word “foolproof” in the article, but it was certainly implied, which led to us calling it “The Titanic Fudge.”  Either way, we decided to go for it, in large part because it’s just a holiday tradition for us to make a ruined batch of fudge.

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You can imagine how shocked we were to discover that it wasn’t ruined, and not for lack of effort.  Every step took longer than her guidelines and looked weirder.   The recipe is a tedious one, taking over four hours of nearly constant attention and ended with 20 minutes of using a hand-mixer.  Like most candy-making, it takes a kind of vigilant OCD that is as tiring as it is exhilarating – assuming it works.  But lo, it did work.  To our great shock.  And of course by “works” I mean we are already planning to alter the recipe, because that’s how we roll.  My mother and I both felt the final product was even more overly sweet than we were prepared for and are too tempted by the lure of adding another ounce of chocolate to keep from fiddling with it.  Also: the family is begging for more.

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The reviews over at Fine Cooking are evenly split between loving it and having total Titanic-level wipeout failure, which is pretty typical of fudge recipes and goes even further towards us renaming the fudge “Olympic Fudge.”  Did you know the Titanic has a sister ship that never sank?  It even crashed into stuff.  No one gets remembered for doing their job well.

Olympic Fudge
by Bonnie Jean Gorder-Hinchey
copied from Fine Cooking verbatim, see original print here
some notes: the times in this recipe are mere advisories – pay more attention to the temperatures than the times.  for example, in Gorder-Hinchey’s instructions she notes the fudge will take 1 1/2 hours to cool down to 110° but ours took nearly 3 hours — this can be easily explained by us having a deeper, narrower pot.  All of the effort of her recipe is to minimize the possibility of forming crystals, but these are merely techniques for minimizing, not for defeating unequivocally.  You must still take great care not to disturb the crystals from the sides of the pot.  adding 1 tsp. more salt, 1 C. chopped, toasted nuts and 1 more ounce of chocolate makes for a more adult flavor.

3 Tbs. cold unsalted butter; more at room temperature for buttering the thermometer and pan
3-3/4 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 tsp. table salt

  • Lightly butter the face of a candy thermometer and set aside.
  • Put the sugar, cream, chocolate, corn syrup, and salt in a large (4-quart) heavy-duty saucepan and stir with a spoon or heatproof spatula until the ingredients are moistened and combined. Stirring gently and constantly, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, 7 to 12 minutes. Cover the saucepan and let the steam clean the sides of the pan for 2 minutes.
  • Clip the candy thermometer to the pot, being careful not to let the tip of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pot, or you might get a false reading. Let the mixture boil without stirring until it reaches 236°F to 238°F, 2 to 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter, but do not stir it into the mixture. Set the pan on a rack in a cool part of the kitchen. Don’t disturb the pan in any way until the mixture has cooled to 110°F, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
  • Meanwhile, line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two opposite sides of the pan. Butter the foil. Set the pan aside.
  • Remove the thermometer from the fudge mixture. Using a hand mixer, beat the mixture on high speed until it is a few shades lighter in color and thickens enough that the beaters form trails that briefly expose the bottom of the pan as they pass through, 10 to 20 minutes. Pour the thickened fudge into the prepared pan, using a rubber spatula to help nudge it out of the pot. You can scrape the bottom of the pot but not the sides; any crystals that stick to the pot stay in the pot. Smooth the top of the fudge with the spatula. Set the pan on a rack and let the fudge cool completely, about 2 hours. The fudge will be slightly soft the day it’s made but will firm up overnight.
  • Turn the fudge out onto a clean cutting board and peel off the foil. Turn the slab of fudge right side up and cut it into 25 equal pieces.  The fudge will keep for a week to 10 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
5 Posted in Make It So

Starr’s Best Christmas Jello Ever

Posted by on Dec 26, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Long ago my mom, Starr, made the mistake of making a Jello recipe she came across called “Raspberry Dream.”  I’ve searched online for a source for the recipe, but the words “raspberry dream” pull up about 4,000,000 old lady recipes including everything from whole Oreos to crushed pretzels.  Urgh.  That was the sound of my dinner coming back up.

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When I say she made a mistake, I mean this: this salad is now the epitome of Christmas.  We quite literally cannot have a Christmas without it, and partially because she refuses to make it any other time of the year.  Why?  Because it wouldn’t be special, otherwise.

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Normally we don’t use pureed fruit, but see the recipe for details.

I’m 100% on the Christmas-Only Christmas Jello bandwagon, here.  You can’t just go making it willy-nilly.  It’s special.  It’s once-yearly.  I’d be like making candycane cookies in July.  Cats would lie down with dogs.  Rain would fall up.  I just can’t risk the stability of the universe so that someone can have Christmas Jello in March, you know what I mean?

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We’re making two batches here, one strawberry and the other raspberry.

The salad itself is a throwback, but that’s a great deal of the charm.  It’s not classy, but I guarantee that it will be gone if you put it out at a dinner party.

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It doesn’t hurt that it involves a pint of ice cream.

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The above photo is from this year, where we just served it in the bowl it set in and topped it with pureed fruit.  No one noticed that it isn’t what we usually bust our lady nuts doing:

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This one was from last year.  Or maybe the year before, I don’t remember.  Also note:  whole frozen raspberries in this version.

Which is to make it in a fancy mold.  So the lesson here is: no one cares what shape it’s in, as long as it’s still mom’s Raspberry Dream.

Starr’s Raspberry Dream
this year my grandpa is still healing from having his teeth pulled, so we decided to make the Dream without whole fruit (seeds!) and instead included the equivalent amount of pureed, strained fruit into the mix.  After it set, we topped it with more puree – you could also wait until it was nearly set and swirl it into the top.  But unless someone just can’t eat the seeds, I’d go with the original recipe.  It’s much easier.

1 (6oz) large packet of raspberry Jello
2 C. boiling water
1 heaping C. frozen raspberries, still frozen
1 pint premium vanilla ice cream (we always use Haagen Dazs), still frozen

  • In a large bowl, measure 2 cups of boiling water.  Stirring steadily and vigorously (but without sloshing or getting crazy), slowly pour in the powdered raspberry gelatin.  Keep stirring for about 3 minutes, or until the gelatin has visibly totally dissolved.  If there are still small grains visible, keep stirring.  Don’t worry about it getting cold, worry about it dissolving all the way.
  • Cut the ice cream into big chunks.  This is easiest with a large knife, just cut the pint in half, paper and all, and then pull out the halves and quickly hack them up.  Add them to the gelatin and stir carefully and continuously.
  • Stir in the frozen raspberries.  Don’t just dump them in, you want to make sure they circulate, both to thaw and to drop the temperature of the gelatin quickly.  You actually are trying to rapidly cool the mix at this stage so that it starts to take on a nearly pudding-like consistency before you put it in the fridge.  If it is too warm when it goes in the fridge, the raspberries will all settle and the Jello might separate a little — this is fine, as far as taste is concerned, and isn’t even too much of a deal visually.  It’s kind of neat, actually.  But it’s better if it’s all consistently incorporated, I think.  Anyway, it should be perfect by this stage, what with the frozen raspberries and the ice cream and all.  Just go slow, you’ll be fine.
  • Cover and place into fridge overnight.  If you are using a mold, you can help unmold by gently resting the bottom of the mold in a sink with a shallow layer of hot water, or by placing onto a towel soaked in hot water.  Not too long!  Just a brief dip will do.  Then place a plate over the top like a lid and invert.  However, you may discover that no one is impressed with this business and opt for serving it in the bowl you mixed it in.  I’m just saying.
4 Posted in Make It So

(My Glass Raised to You)

Posted by on Dec 24, 2009 at 11:28 pm

I wish a great deal of self-medication (this includes chocolate cream pie) for all during this time of the year — a time I must admit I enjoy, despite my penchant of actually and literally saying “Humbug!”  After all: feasting holiday!

In the next week I will provide you the following:

  • A review of a reusable coffee cup that sounds like a reusable feminine device
  • Rude commentary (see above point)
  • How to make my mother’s Top Secret Christmas Jello Salad¹
  • An experimental fudge recipe my mother and I dubbed “The Titanic” (since the recipe’s author claimed it “never failed”) but which we later renamed “The Olympic” (after the Titanic’s sister ship that turned out to actually be unsinkable but which no one made a dramatic movie about)
  • Photographs
  • Links (maybe)

Aren’t you excited?  I am.  It might be the schnapps talking, but let’s be honest: it usually is.

¹Never actually a secret.

4 Posted in Food Rant

And Now For Something Completely Different

Posted by on Dec 20, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Well, that was interesting.  After my best friend and my dad expressed a kind of “Oh, Sunday,” disappointment – dost thou not knowest me? – and my mom pointedly said nothing, I guess talking openly about human body parts is officially Too Far.  I hereby apologize for the Vagina Chicken post.

So instead, today I’m going to talk about oysters.

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I have a spiritual connection with oysters.  According to my mom, she craved oysters while pregnant with me (she also frequently watched Julia Childs on PBS, for what its worth), and in a favorite family anecdote, once when I was about 3 I was left on the beach to sit next to the oyster bucket while my family harvested their limit from the shore, only to come back and discover I had smashed open all the already-collected bivalves with rocks and eaten their mangled insides.   Little Neanderthal baby.

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A common misconception about oysters is that the shucked ones in jars are no good – this is certainly can be true, but provided they are harvested during a good time of year (right now is perfect) and are fresh, they are just as good as the ones still in their shells.  Granted, we’re very lucky in that we can drive straight out to Taylor farms, home of the best oysters in the world, but the basic idea is still there: as long as you’re not eating them raw¹, the ones in the jar are probably just fine.

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A little egg wash and crushed saltines is all these kids need.  Keep the heat high, and as quickly as they brown they will be cooked through, after which you can eat straight from the pan or make a quick homemade po’ boy sammich with a nice soft roll, some shredded lettuce and whatever condiments you like.

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My preference is to eat them straight from the pan with a little bit of cocktail sauce.  It’s been icy cold here, so these oysters are heartbreakingly delicious – sweet, clean and firm.  We made a little homemade Caesar salad and nothing else, and I haven’t had more satisfying meal in recent memory.

Here’s an older but nearly identical seafood meal from the last time I visited my mom about three months ago.

¹ And the only reason I recommend cooking them is for texture – nothing beats a fresh, raw shucked oyster, but if you’re going to cook them, don’t bother with both the price and the tremendous pain-in-the-ass of shucking.

2 Posted in Obsessed

It Smells Like Vagina in Here

Posted by on Dec 13, 2009 at 6:48 pm

It’s a rough way to get off to dinner.  The pungent, lingering odor of what can only be described as, well, ladymeat.  It’s fish sauce, so there is definitely a fishy quality to it, but if we’re being honest here I’ve got to say that it doesn’t smell like fish as much as the already overmentioned bagina — and I’m not even a full paragraph into this recipe yet.  Fish sauce possesses a salty, musky odor that fish alone doesn’t have, and while not unpleasant, it is unnerving at best.  So, maybe not every-day Cupie odor, but certainly post-gym sans-shower.

So anyway, hungry?  This is one of my all-time favorite recipes that I have until now entirely forgotten to share with you.  It was originally a New York Times article in early 2008, and some very cursory and half-hearted searches for “iron pot chicken” on Vietnamese cooking sites has turned up firstly that it is probably actually ga kho to, or “clay pot chicken,” and secondly that there are as many versions of it as there are versions of chocolate chip cookies.  And I don’t want to turn into one of those people who gets all choked up on whatever traditional method there might be for a recipe – in all honesty, I don’t care.  I love this version and will likely never stray from it.

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Anyway, it’s stupidly easy.  You start by cooking onions down in fish sauce and sugar until it starts to caramelize.  You don’t need an iron or clay pot for this, and while it might be nice if you happen to have one, it’s one of those circumstances where I’m all, dude, just get out the frying pan.  It’ll be okay.  Of course, this is where is starts to smell.  I never experimented with my own gender, but take of this what you will: I find the smell of onions and fish sauce cooking to be painfully intoxicating.

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By far the trickiest part of the recipe is being brave enough to caramelize the sugar.  I took the above photo just before I added the chicken, and it was maybe two or three minutes too soon.  It could have been darker.

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Anyway, the chicken immediately starts to weep juices and the caramel is reduced to a sauce in no time.  I find that there are two important factors with this dish: the first is that using white meat is a total mistake.  The longer the chicken can simmer in the sauce, the more delicious it gets, but white meat just can’t take more than a few minutes of cook time.  The second issue is that the pieces should be fairly small, smaller than bite size but not too small.  About the size of sugar cubes.  This provides the best ratio of surface-to-interior on the chicken pieces, allowing for more of the chewy, salty-sweet ambrosia that is in store for you.

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The result is incredible, far more than the sum of its parts and certainly one of the easiest one-dish meals I make.  Besides, the allure of announcing “Vagina Chicken” for dinner is too compelling to pass up.

Vagina Chicken
serves two or three – recipe is easily doubled and the leftovers are just as good if not better.  My recipe is altered somewhat from the original, found here.  A note on fish sauce (‘nuac mam’ in Vietnamese): get a decent brand like 3 Crabs (it has three crabs on the label) or my second-favorite, Squid.  For christ’s sake, don’t get the Thai Kitchen garbage.  Also: the chicken can be replaced with just about anything – shrimp, pork, tofu, whatever.

4 Tbsp. fish sauce
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 T. vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, cut into eighths
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into sugar-cube sized pieces
1-inch knob of ginger, chopped fine
lots of fresh ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 C. chopped fresh cilantro

optional – fresh Thai bird’s eye chilis

  • In a medium-hot pan, saute the onions in the vegetable oil just until warmed through, about a minute.
  • WAIT, I ALMOST FORGOT!  Start cooking your rice now, if you’re going to have rice.  Phew!  I was almost too late.
  • To the onions, add the fish sauce and the sugar,  stirring  to dissolve the sugar.  Again, over medium-high to high heat, continue cooking, stirring occasionally to distribute everything, until the sauce starts to caramelize.  Depending on how hot your pan is, this can take as little as 5 and as much as 10 minutes.  If this step makes you nervous, just go slow and it’ll be alright.
  • Add chicken to the caramel and continuously stir for a few minutes, making sure to really saturate each piece with caramel and gently scraping and dark bits off the side of the pan.  Add the chopped ginger and the fresh pepper.  Rather than cook with hot chilis, I prefer using lots of really good quality fresh ground black pepper.  In fact, I often call this “Vietnamese pepper chicken” at home because calling it “iron pot chicken” doesn’t help Mike remember what it is.  Turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking until the juices and sauce have reduced by about half, another 10 minutes or so.  In fact, in the past I’ve forgotten to cook the rice and have turned the heat down to low while the rice cooks for 25 minutes, and the chicken turned out as good if not better.
  • When chicken is done, add the chopped cilantro.  It can take a lot, so really load it up.
11 Posted in Make It So

One Of My Favorite Authors Needs Your Help

Posted by on Dec 11, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Something awful happened to one of the writers I respect most in the world, Peter Watts, and it has led to a great deal of sad discussion around my household this morning.  First, the facts.

Peter Watts, a Canadian citizen, was crossing the border into the US returning to Canada from the US (from what I can gather he was helping a friend move), when for whatever reason he was punched in the face, pepper sprayed, kicked, left in a cell and then charged with felony assault on a federal officer.  If Watts did anything to provoke this attack, it wasn’t physical, and the assault charge is typical for when border guards want to hold someone overnight in a cell and make the rest of their border-crossing lives hard — in other words, it was petty.  There is a high likelihood that the spurious assault charge will be dismissed without Watts even having to be present, but there will unquestionably be complications.

So.  Watts is a writer, which means that he can’t afford the kind of legal defense that will come of this (another aspect of the guards’ pettiness that was likely intentional).  He was also physically attacked, remember, and he’ll get no recompense for this.

I think we can all imagine this scenario – it’s the kind of thing I think about each time I go through Security Theater at the airport.  A guard takes a special dislike to you.  You say something, maybe smart-assed, maybe just rational – things escalate.   And suddenly, this guard, this pent-up imbecile who has entirely bought into the bullshit his superiors have fed him about how important and powerful he is, he punches you in the face.  He physically attacks you.  You automatically defend yourself, an animal response, you lash back while moving away, call out for help.  Except you’re surrounded by more of these douchebags, and all they can think is fight! fight! And they’ve trained and trained for this and they have no idea what’s happening, but the pepperspray is out and you don’t have a chance.

Anyway, in the end, Watts has a felony charge against him.

So I tell Mike about this and he says, “Sounds like something that would happen to me,” and I realize that is why I feel so intensely upset over this.  It does sound like something that would happen to him.  Or me.  Or my dad.  Or anyone who is intelligent enough to question what people in arbitrary positions of authority do.

The discussion inevitably led into what we could do to help.  The problem for us is that we are broke, the poorest we’ve been in our adult lives.  Living without a savings for the first time since we started making money as teenagers.   Instead, all I can offer¹ Watts is my earnest attempt to get someone else to help him, so here I am: will you help him?

If you go to his website and donate to the PayPal account called “The Niblet Memorial Kibble Fund” (which was originally for Watts’ predilection for taking in stray cats) and send an email to donate (at) rifters (dot) com specifying that it is for his legal defense, it will get to him..  You can also help by supporting his normal route of income, his books.  I recommend Blindsight very highly.

¹ Well, I can offer a soft bosom to weep upon, but I don’t think his ladyfriend would like that. Or my gentleman friend.

1 Posted in Totally Unrelated

Get Thee to a Netflixery

Posted by on Dec 11, 2009 at 12:56 am

Sometimes the stars align and the universe conspires to drop a bombshell in your lap — hopefully not literally — and you’re left wondering what just happened to you.  Take for example that I had never before heard of Suzie Templeton’s interpretation¹ of Peter and the Wolf, which she made into a 30-minute stop motion animation.  And which then blew my fucking mind.

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Replace the cat with an Atmo and you have my dad.

The film is, in brief, a revelation.  Having come from a generation that solely associated Peter and the Wolf with Disney’s roly-poly version, I found myself overwhelmed with the complexities and layers of morality that surround the tale.

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Don’t get me wrong – Templeton’s Peter and the Wolf is rich with nuance and warmth.  She eliminated dialogue in favor or saturating every character with spirit and grace, where Peter’s minor shoulder hunches convey an instantly identifiable mix of sullen wistfulness and where Grandpa’s every endearing wobble reveals his gruff mannerisms as not cruel, but protective.

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But there’s an adult level to the story that is so often missing in contemporary retellings (see: aforementioned Disney version), an unwelcome invitation for reality and all its ugliness to come in.  Templeton handles the reminder with real skill: Peter and the Wolf is about the relationship between predators and their prey, and while much of the film is charming, the meat of the story is one of menace and power.  Perhaps the most surprising is Templeton’s final gesture at finding our own boundaries for hate, an unexpectedly moving twist.

Anyway!  Get on it, for reals!  It might not be appropriate for very young children, but the story is true to the original and I’d hate to see someone avoid it just because they didn’t want to explain to their kid that indeed, wolves eat other animals to stay alive.  If you have a Netflix account, the film is currently available to stream online (or Xbox, or Playstation3, or whatever else they’ve invented since I started writing this post).

¹ Did I mention it won an Oscar? It won a 2008 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

1 Posted in Totally Unrelated

Late On the Draw – Kitchen Gift Ideas

Posted by on Dec 8, 2009 at 9:53 pm

I feel kind of dirty for doing this, but it’s nevertheless something I can’t get off my mind: a list of kitchen gift ideas.  To make myself feel better, I am proud to say that most of this stuff will be almost too late too order for Christmas and certainly too late to order for Hanukkah.  Take that!

1. Sur La Table Melamine Mixing Bowls

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For some reason these give me a massive kitchen boner, the red set in particular.  Is it the stacking?  The clean rims?  The Goldilocks not-too-shallow and not-too-steep profile?  I dunno, but I’d sure love to replace my heap of mismatched steel bowls with these.  Did I mention they’re only $30?  They are.  Sigh.

2. Wood’s Boiled Cider

boiled-ciderJesus, will I ever stop talking about this shit?  Nope.  It’s gone into my pies, tomato sauces, Malt-o-Meal, salad dressing, onto pancakes, et cetera et cetera.  It’s not cheap and I certainly don’t recommend using it as a base concentrate for apple cider as their website suggests (though as a cocktail addition it would be incredible) but as an ingredient kept floating around in the fridge, I find myself adding it to — and improving — more recipes than I ever thought possible.  In fact it just occurred to me: mixed with powdered sugar, it’d make the perfect glaze for my sherry spice cake.  VICTORY!  In all seriousness – this is just literally boiled cider, a reduction of apple juice.  You can probably make it yourself provided you have a stock pot, some cider, and some way to make a flame.  On the other hand, Wood’s is a family-run artisanal business that has been doing the exact same thing the exact same way for over 120 years, and I have a kind of awe for that, as well as a well-documented predilection for extreme laziness.

3. Aunty Lilikoi Passion Fruit Products

aunty-lilikoi

This, like the boiled cider, is one of those luxury goods that I sort of cringe at just because shipping makes it unsatisfying to order just one item, thus making the endeavor into question of monetary flexibility, but as a bona fide passionfruit addict I have to say: this is the best you can get in the United States.  The bottles of pure passionfruit juice make amazing cheesecakes and ice cream (true: I pour it straight over vanilla ice cream and let it sort of freeze on it and then dig in, nomnomnom!), cocktails (use instead of lemon juice and whatever you’re making is now the tropical version) and salad dressing.  Once, my mom and I made a dressing for apple and shredded carrot salad that was just a little unflavored yogurt, passionfruit juice, mustard, poppyseeds, salt and sugar and it was absolutely incredible.  People gobbled it up.  And by people I mean me.

4. Now Designs Floursack Towels

floursack

These have been around for ages and with good reason: they are useful beyond compare but Now Design took it a step further and made them in a range of bright colors.  Normally flour sack towels are either natural cotton or bleached white, both of which I’ve had and both of which turned a decomposed-looking shade of zombie skin after just a few weeks of regular use and no amount of bleaching could get them presentable.  Of course these are three times the cost ($9 – $11 for three) of plain ones, but I’ve thrown away two sets of skanky plain ones and still have my old Now Design ones.

5.  Vintage Kitchen Timer

timers

I bought one of these kitchen timers on sale from Anthropologie a while back, and it has turned into one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.  I bought it mostly because the blue was nearly a match for my Tiffany-blue kitchen at the time, but it turns out to be the handiest damn thing.  It’s magnetic, too, but really I like it because of the analog component; the ratcheting around of the timer makes me feel like I’m gettin’ down to business.

2 Posted in Food Rant, Obsessed