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Obligatory Post About Dietary Restrictions

2 Aug

xanax for dinnerFor reasons I’ll not go into here, I’ve been gluten free for a month. My doctor asked me to try it, and she’s a smart cookie whom I like a lot. Plus? I’m a little scared of her. I think it’s good to have a doctor and a good friend you’re a little scared of. Because I feel that there aren’t enough people on the internet talking about their dietary restrictions, let me tell you about it.

I’m back on the wheat.

Sweet, sweet gluten. Protein of the gods. Gliadin and Glutenin are the demigods. Gliadin, just a protein. Glutenin, magic. Glutenin gives stretch, bounce, chewy mouthfeel (EEEW!), and is the love of my life. I thought that going gluten free was going to be good. The first couple of weeks, I was down with it. Especially after I ate Quorn.

In the grocery store, there is what I like to call the Aisle of Tears. It’s all the -free stuff. It’s amazing that food that is supposedly so free of ingredients can cost so much, but there you go. Soy-free, milk-free, wheat-free, meat-free, cruelty-free, taste-free, nutrition-free. You can get anything removed from food on the Aisle of Tears. Now, look, I know that many people are allergic to many ingredients. I know that for some people eating wheat makes them puff up like the Stay Puft man. I’m not making fun of those people. I’m making fun of the food. The food is ridiculous. 

Let’s talk about sandwich bread for a second. I’m fine with making a sandwich from a corn tortilla, but sometimes you just need bread. Those frozen loafs are many things, but good is not one of them. Yes, some brands are better than others, but they are all bitter processed loafs of rice flour and regret. At one point I found myself craving thick crust pizza. I don’t even LIKE thick crust pizza.

One of the things that we eat when I’m too lazy to cook (i.e. every other day) is salad with frozen chicken thrown on it. Quorn is a fake chicken product and it comes in nuggets. I thought, yeah. Throw that on my salad and pretend it’s good. Actually, it IS pretty good. But I think I got caught up with all the stuff my nuggets of sadness didn’t have in them and forgot to look at what they are actually made of. Wheat. The first ingredient on the list is wheat. My bad. It got ugly later. We shall speak of it no more.

This is where I thought, EUREKA! There’s something to this other than deprivation! I decided that going back on the wheat was going to be too ugly to contemplate so I’d just stay gluten free. Then the other day, I got a hamburger. At this place the cheese is on the bottom which makes the bun stick. No problem. I was starving. I dutifully removed the top bun trying not to look at it’s golden crispy edges perfectly toasted and full of Maillard reaction yumminess and kept its wheaty butt intact. Later? Nothing. No bloat, no other things we don’t talk about in polite company, no nothing. I graduated to a piece of pizza. Nope. All good.

Going gluten free did not make the symptoms I was trying to get rid of any better. I have arthritis and it might have made joint pain better, but not enough to forgo fresh bread from La Baguette. Many people say their skin looks and feels better. Mine doesn’t. In fact, all I know this did for me was cause me to crave candy and pan pizza. I have been fixated on the things I couldn’t have. I think for a lot of people, cutting out gluten does wonders. I think for me, a person who likes just about everything but okra, expanding my diet rather than restricting is the way to go. I like the good stuff so I’ll eat more of it. In the long run, I think that will be more beneficial to me.

I have, however, become very conscious, especially after The Great Quorn Incident, of what I’m eating. For example, swapping wheat pasta for rice and corn pasta really doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s still full of processed starch and carbs. Because I’ve had to take the time to either read a label or run through ingredients in my head before eating, I’m not mindlessly eating as much. The level of processing and fillers in so many gluten free food is a little scary. Triscuits have three ingredients. Glutino crackers have fourteen. I know not all products are like this. What I’ve found is that being gluten free means so many of your options are processed and pre-made. Not that we never pop a frozen lasagna into the oven, but that’s a rare occurrence in our house. I’m going back to real food.

Plus Chuck is really tired of hearing me complain about not having bread. And also sniffing his breath for focaccia.

The Year As I Saw It

21 Dec

Posting will be even lighter than normal for a while. I’m heavily medicated to make it through until the second week of January or so. Here are some of the most-read posts from 2012 and a couple I threw in just because it’s my blog and I get to do that.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

Sucking The Life Out Of The Holidays

Sucking The Life Out Of The Holidays

Things You Never Hear People Say About Movies

Things You Never Hear People Say About Movies

Why I Stand Up But Stay Quiet

Why I Stand Up But Stay Quiet

Pandora And The GPS Lady Walk Into A Bar

Pandora And The GPS Lady Walk Into A Bar

My Impression Of The Internet

My Impression Of The Internet

Bless Her Heart, She Just Doesn’t Know Any Better

More Like Fashion Backward

More Like Fashion Backward

Culinary Westerns

Culinary Westerns

Sex Gets A Brand Guru

Sex Gets A Brand Guru


Every Pizza Product Development Meeting Ever

7 Dec

greasypizzaEd: Okay, let’s get started. From our focus groups we know a few things. One, people have totally not noticed we don’t use the Pizza Table–or as some folks call it, the Pizza Saver–in the center of our pies anymore. Apparently we have been doing a first-rate job of keeping the extra cheese off the lids these days. Two, we need more products that use “zilla” somehow in the name. Three, dang it all. These people are crazy about the bread, I tell ya.

Bill: Now, when you say zilla, I guess you mean something like Meatzilla, Porkzilla, or last year’s blockbuster PEPPERONI DOUBLE CHEESE STUFFED FRIED CRUST PIZZILLA?

Ed: Yes, exactly. We had a great synergy going with that campaign. So let’s just get crazy. Let’s push the envelope, do a little blue sky thinking, throw some ideas on the wall and see what sticks, okay?

Reese: You know, my wife and I went to this Oriental place and they had these little boxes that were compartmentalized like, you know, like a Whitman’s Sampler almost. Each one had a different item. Of course, I’m not like Liz. I fish with bait, I don’t eat it! (Pauses to enjoy hearty chuckles) But I’m wondering if we can’t use something like that?

Bill: Now, that’s not a bad idea. You know, at my house no one ever wants the same thing. And Angie, bless her, always wants something healthy like pasta. I say the horse is out of the barn on that one, if you know what I mean! (Pauses to enjoy hearty chuckles) Anyway, we could let our customers choose maybe four items to go in a box like at that Oriental place.

Ed: I like it! We could give them a choice of our Three-Cheese Vegetarian Kream Sauce Side Pasta or our Meatzapalooza Kream Sauce Monster Lite Side Stuffed Shells for those ladies who like the pasta. Then they can choose one from our Thick Thick Thick Monster SaltedButterGarlicPowder Crust Pizza Collection

Don: And let’s not forget our Phresh Phrom The Oven Breaded Bread Stixx Collection.They can choose Plain Ol’ Breaded Bread Stixx, Sweet Polynesian Glazed Breaded Bread Stixx, Honey Mustard BBQ Memphis Style Smoked Breaded Bread Stixx, or Flavor Blasted Ranch Giddyup Breaded Bread Stixx.

Bill: Good one! Then add our new Cinnamon Sugar Chocolate Honey Slathered Dipping Apple Dessert Stixx, and if they want to make it a Winning Family Dinner Nite Combination, add two two-liter bottles of our new private brand Suk-It-Down-Yer-Gullet Soda. And that way Mom can get her diet soda to watch that figure…get bigger and bigger!! (Pauses for hearty chuckles)

Ed: Maybe we should give them a choice of two Stixx? Oh, I know. We can add that as an upsale to the WFDN Combo. I’m telling you, our customers love the carbs. So we’ll keep punching out–and bringing in–the dough! (Hearty chuckles ensue without pause)

Reese: And I think this is a good time to do the promotion with that kids’ diabetes group that’s been nagging us. Our customers can add a dollar on to the price of our…wait, what are we calling this?

Bill: Family Exxxtravaganza Combo Box Pizzilla Flavorpocolypse!

Ed: And a great value at only $19.99! And that charity tie-in is publicity gold. Man, sick kids. Makes you wonder if their parents ever pay attention to what the little guys are sticking down their gullets. Next item of business is our new home video game station/internet order station.



Note: This is the post I had ready to go before I had to do battle with Batrodent and his grappling gun who’s up in my rafters eating insulation and fighting crime. Also, do not take this as total disdain of the chain pizza restaurant industry. Sometimes you just gotta have that salty greasy goodness.


Road Trip

23 May

My husband’s family has this cabin in the woods near Land Between The Lakes called Sunset Lodge. It’s less the horror movie set it sounds like and more of a magical nirvana where there is no internet or cellphone reception except at like two in the morning when the moon is full. I mean, yes, there was that one time the lake haints and woods zombies carried off a friend’s pomeranian, but we considered that more a stroke of good fortune than an actual haunting. It’s kind of a fancy place. The man who built it had high hopes his family would spend a lot of time out there. The wife went once, said she’d never go back, and the husband put it on the market. When my husband’s grandfather bought it there were still monogrammed linens in it. There’s also a bedroom with a private bath off the kitchen. We assumed since it had its own bath it was the master until we noticed the lock was on the outside of the door. Come to find out it was the maid’s quarters. Rich people! They’re just like us! Of course the question remains as to why he didn’t keep it and tell her she never had to go again, but BY GOD he was going to get out of that house for some goddamned quiet, and shoot animals, and drink cheap bourbon, and I don’t care one iota what fabric you want to use for dining room curtains, COULD YOU PLEASE SHUT UP, WOMAN?! But, you know, everyone’s family is different.

My family’s cabin in the woods is more like a tin can on stilts. With rats. There is indoor plumbing, and I don’t even mean the hose reaches into the house. So it’s got that working for it. The Men (and I really mean men because historically The Ladies have gone up there only when they ran out of things to harass The Men about, and the decor of the place–Early American Brothel Slash Mossy Oak Camo– is good for about a week of HOW CAN YOU STAND IT UP THERE??!! The answer, of course, is that no one asks that question at The Camp) use it in between freezing their butts off in a shooting house or a marsh. I believe the little store up the road accounts for approximately 70% of U.S. Vienna sausage sales because that’s the only thing I’ve ever known anyone to eat up there. It’s in the Mississippi Delta and I’m told there’s a serious wild hog problem this spring. I haven’t been in a long time and would like to go, but in summer the bugs up there ride their own four-wheelers and the snakes are Winnebago sized. I’ll wait until November, thanks. Also, WILD HOGS.

Despite the fact I was raised in the city and have always considered roughing it to mean no valet parking, I rather like Sunset Lodge. I like fishing and building giant fires. I also enjoy a game we’ve come to call How Old Is This Shit? Apparently the cabin is built on a vortex which ages pantry staples overnight. For example, you might clean out the pantry one weekend and throw away all items which expired before Colin Powell changed his mind about Iraq. But next weekend? BOOM. You reach for a can of soup only to find out that it is old enough to drive. My best find was a box of Jell-O last year with an expiration date of 1998. We recently found unopened bottles of salad dressing with use-by dates of 2009. This is AFTER we pulled everything out of the kitchen to remodel it. How it happens is a mystery. We’ve narrowed it down to an aunt who likes to shop bulk discount stores or aliens are just screwing with us.

Besides the fact that being there makes me feel like I’m in a cocoon which no one can penetrate mainly because they don’t have the phone number, I like reading trashy novels. At the cabin, you can read crap with impunity. Haven’t started the Porn Lite series Fifty Shades of Grey? Secretly wanting to gobble up a Nora Roberts trilogy? Don’t want your BFF to know you’re a Hunger Games fanatic? Soft spot for vampire romances? The cabin is the place. The same is true for trash TV. New Year’s weekend we got lucky with a Walking Dead marathon. How can a year be bad if it starts off sitting in a recliner for twelve straight hours stuffing your face with various cheese-based delicacies and Prosecco?

Growing up we had a place in Pensacola Beach. When we went down in the summer it was the only time my brother and I could get pre-sweetened cereals. He always got Fruit Loops and I got Sugar Pops, which I’m disappointed to know is now called Corn Pops. I now enjoy the adult version of vacation cereal. This is a chance for Twizzlers and Peach Nehi–the finest of the Nehi flavors. You know how you’ve been eyeing the cheese-stuffed-cheese in the deli? You know what I’m talking about: a layer of cheddar, a layer of Stilton, and up to three other layers of miscellaneous cheese goodness. Now’s the time. Take it to the cabin. Bagel Bites? It’s a bagel AND a pizza! A breakfast you and your mom can agree on! Were Planters Cheez Balls (the undisputed KING of ALL cheeze ball products) still in existence, I’d eat three cans on a short trip. Cream soda, PBR, potted meat, whatever your guilty food pleasure is, it should be indulged at Sunset Lodge. Especially if cheese is involved.

Not that you shouldn’t eat something real. At some point you’ll need a salad or an apple just to push the sludge through your system. Trust me. And you’ll also realize you’ve had so much beer that you are your own personal floatation device. When that realization comes, it’s time to go home and detox until the next trip. Or until you have an unholy craving for Hot Fries.

The Hypocrisy of Polenta

23 Mar

My friend Des is a Southerner stuck in Chicago for twenty years now. It happens. He pines for, well, pines. Specifically the Piney Woods of Mississippi where we grew up. I periodically remind him about humidity, the fact that the bugs are going to be big enough this summer to saddle and ride to work, and that I am actually acquainted with people who still believe central air is sent from Satan to tempt us into a life of wickedness and not sending thank you notes. I’m not trying to talk him out of it; I’m being realistic. After twenty years the memories of home are more of the misty water-colored variety. CRAWFISH! SPIDER LILIES! SCREEN DOORS! But I would love for him to move to Memphis or Nashville so I’d have an opportunity to make him some shrimp and grits.

There is a chicken recipe which has been printed and reprinted and shared a million times. It’s called Engagement Chicken and it first appeared in Glamour magazine about 30 years ago. Supposedly your boyfriend will propose to you after eating this chicken. I’ve not made this particular chicken, but I’ve made roast chicken with lemon. That’s what this is. Now, I don’t want to say bad things about this chicken. A perfectly roasted chicken is a thing of beauty and a joy for about ten minutes. Which is approximately how long it takes my family to stand at the counter and tear the crispy skin off. I’m okay with that because I have notoriously sharp elbows and can usually take out a rogue teenager or two to get to the little crispy bits at the end of the wings. And I generally eschew any item of food, clothing, or scent that purports to be a marriage trap. It is my foolish belief that marriage is a sacred institution into which both parties should be scared witless to commit themselves. I’m not so much for the HA! GOTCHA! theory of engagement. Having said that, I’m aware my husband and I are married because of my shrimp and grits.

Chuck and I courted each other by fixing dinner. I had put together dinner before, but not really cooked dinner. You know? Like you throw a steak on the grill, a pork roast in the oven. Blanch some green beans or something. But Chuck’s birthday was approaching and I told him I’d fix him anything he wanted. He wanted shrimp and grits. I did not have my own recipe, but I knew there was only one place to go. To Oxford, Mississippi. I used John Currence’s recipe as my base. I changed it up a little, leaving out the mushrooms (I have since become a convert to the use of mushrooms in this dish) and trading the bacon for sausage. Then, as now, my deepest held conviction about shrimp and grits is that the closest a tomato should get to it is in the salad you serve on the side. To cut to the chase, we were married four months later.

I do not tell that story so that desperate young women will sear millions of pounds of shrimp in an attempt to walk down the aisle via an unsuspecting stomach. No, I tell this story because I like to take every opportunity I can to brag about my shrimp and grits and because just this morning Des sent me a recipe for a dish which uses–siddown, this is big–instant grits. I KNOW! I clutched my pearls, too.

Listen, I’m not going to lie. I’m down with the quick-cooking grits even though, honestly, no kind of grits takes that long to make. But instant? ARE WE ANIMALS? All in all, the dish was sound. Lemon-garlic shrimp over parmesan cheese grits. Shrimp AND grits, yes. Shrimpngrits, no. I looked at the comments about this dish expecting to hear a chorus of disdain for instant grits, and there was some of that. But the singers hitting the back of the house were doing so with an old-fashioned grit bashing.

Gross! Grits are disgusting! Shrimp with grit?!  To you grits-bashers out there I say, shuddup. Do you eat polenta? Of course you do. Polenta is faincy. A fancy name for grits. THEY ARE THE SAME THING! It’s all cornmeal! Okay, yes, hominy grits, the house grits of the South, are different. They’re corn treated with an alkali so the stuff puffs up until it looks like droppings from the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. These are then dried and, as my nephew says, WALL-AH! Hominy grits. Everything else is just cornmeal in varying degrees of roughness.

So those–ugh–tubes of polenta you get in the produce section and take home to be all International Gluten-Free Paleo Chef Of Faincy Ingredients? Why? You wouldn’t buy a pre-made tube of oatmeal would you?  It’s just corn mush. Just like every working farmer has eaten for centuries in this country as well as Italy. This is humble food we’re talking about. The great thing about it is that you can dress it up with cheese, lots of cheese, or cheese and lots of garlic. And you can, I suppose, eat it with cream and sugar. I don’t know why you’d want to. I’m looking at you, Indianapolis. You can, if you are so inclined as I was a couple of years ago, to make braised short ribs and vegetables on a bed of Stilton polenta and garnished with gremolata. But it’s just pot roast with grits and garnished with lemon zest and parsley.

Maybe the problem isn’t the grits themselves, it’s food with such working class ties. Those hand-cut buttermilk scones toasted with house-made Vermont cheddar pimento spread and thinly sliced Benton’s country ham are social climbers. What self respecting Brighton charm-collecting, suburban starter castle-building woman would serve cathead biscuts with mama’s pimento cheese and ham at her ladies’ luncheon? Her membership in Junior Auxillary would be revoked before it was ever ratified. Except that it wouldn’t.

Good food is good food. You may be more comfortable eating catfish gujons with capered aoli and black eyed pea caviar, but it’s still fried catfish with tartar sauce and black eyed pea salad. Anyone who thinks the name makes the food needs to have a giant debris po boy from Mother’s shoved in her mouth. Do you really want to associate with people who are so filled with first world ennui they can’t enjoy a damn bowl of grits? Such people should be thumped soundly and percussively upon the gourd.

Besides, as Des reminded me, “Telling someone to ‘kiss my polenta’ just doesn’t have the same effect.”

Life Coaching In The Kitchen

30 Nov

Dear Standard Life Coach,

I get that Rachel Ray is trying to be Ms. Efficiency and prepare a 7 course gourmet meal for 16 people in 11 minutes. But can she really believe that the time saved by uttering absurdities like “E.V.O.O.” and “Sammies” is worth the special place in hell she will receive for torturing innocent people with their incessant use?

Worried About Her Immortal Soul

Dear Worried,

Yes, let’s talk about this.

Your favorite Life Coach detests the term “sammies” as much as I love saying “sammich”. I think people of breeding and refinement get the difference. A sammich is something that is generally made on pasty white bread, is packed inside a brown paper lunch bag, and holds meat redolent of snouts, knees, and ears. A sammich is never purchased, it is always made. I have heard of people putting Duke’s on a sammich instead of the proper Miracle Whip or Hellman’s, but I don’t actually know any of these people. A sammie, on the other hand, generally contains ingredients that should not be sitting near each other, let alone stacked on top of each other. Red grapes and hominy with arugula and tripe between two pieces of toasted marble rye would be a sammie.

I also have trouble with EVOO. First, it is a total waste of money to use extra-virgin olive oil if it is to be heated. It turns rancid and makes your food taste like it’s been prepared in the butt of a gassy goat.  Just get the plain, cheap olive oil and save the virgins for your salad dressing. Also, using such a term is fine until it becomes your thing. It has become a problem when you are your catchphrase and people just come up to you at the Dallas airport and yell, “HEY! SAY EEVEEOHOH!! SAMMIES, AMIRITE?!”

I have never tried a recipe of Ms. Ray’s that did not come out tasting like the south end of a north-bound mule, and I don’t mean that in a good way. However! I am in a giving mood. Here are three no-fail plans for Dinner Innahurry:

  1. Call your mother and beg her for that casserole recipe that uses the Ritz crackers and pimentos. Obviously, this is a fancy dish, so you want to serve this on the good china.
  2. Run by The Colonel’s and throw your eight-piece special on a serving tray with–now, pay attention here–some curly parsley for garnish.
  3. Peanut butter sammiches. DUH.

Now, as for her soul? The woman has a recipe for cooking bacon. Obviously her soul’s the least of her issues.

Reality Vs. Fantasy: Grocery List Edition

4 Nov

What happens to me when I go to the grocery? Here’s what I think: Pressurization. Work with me. I walk into that vestibule area where the carts are kept, right? The doors close behind me. The doors into the grocery proper are also closed. This causes some kind of pressurization force that sucks out my ability to get what’s on my grocery list.

And it happens on purpose.

It’s a plot by the grocery. Truly it is. When you go off the reservation with your grocery list, and you DO, you don’t go all crazy in the produce section. No way. It happens in the cheese shop. (Or at my grocery, The Cheese Shoppe.  Yes, their Muenster IS JUST THAT FANCY) Yes, blue cheese is on your list. You were going to make dressing. But why have blue when you could have bleu? Suddenly, that $35 a pound Fiorin Blue Pecorino is EXACTLY what you need to put a little zip in your salad. Why? Because the $28 per pound Swiss Raw Milk Raclette is horrible in dressing, silly! But! It would be excellent with beer and cornichons! TO THE OLIVE AND PICKLE BAR! (They do not, regrettably, call it The Olive Barre)

And those artisan loaves are beautiful, but you could make them yourself and they would be so much better. And you know what they’re good with? The $26 per pound Vermont cultured butter, DUH. And you better get the good flour. Bread has so few ingredients that they’d better be quality, right?

Then you need basics: Chicken breasts, pasta, vinegar, and OOH! THERE’S A SEASONAL OREO SELECTION! Let’s see, we’ve got mint, something orange, a Golden Uh-Oh. Wait, Oreo Golden Uh-Oh? That doesn’t sound very good. In fact, that sounds like something you’d accuse a toilet-training toddler of.  I mean, I get it. It’s vanilla cookie with chocol…CHOCOLATE DOUBLE STUFFED! Y’ALL, SHUT UP! There is an Oreo that doesn’t just have double the Stuf. It has double the CHOCOLATE Stuf.

So… milk, sandwich meat, do not look at the seafood, OMG, organic wild-caught mahi mahi is on sale super cheap, laundry detergent. Is it just me or are grocery store candles starting to smell a lot better? Cranberry Currant Basil Wooden Wick Tender Moments Flameless Soy Candle? Why not.