Thursday, April 30, 2009

An apple a day keeps the Iron Chef away

How do I get myself into these things?

I love cooking. I enjoy messing around in the kitchen, dabbling with ingredients, experimenting with flavors and dumping an ass-load of salt on everything. None of that stuff means that I’m a good cook, yet people keep making that mistake. Jeffery Dahmer was a bit of a culinary enthusiast himself, but he had a hard time filling seats during his dinner parties.

Anyway, other than a few years of short order cook experience, I was never really trained in the culinary arts. I just watch hella Food Network. Man, you can pick up a lot of kitchen science just watching Alton Brown do his thing. It seems watching tv is all it takes. I guess that means if I watch enough kung fu movies I’ll learn Cantonese and the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.

Watching television also introduced me to the wonderful Japanese program “Iron Chef,” which I’ve talked about in an earlier entry. This show inspired me and my friends to try our own Iron Chef competition, two years ago, which has been chronicled in an older Eighty-Four Glyde, (don’t expect to get a link to that. Find it your damn self! It’s got pictures!) wherein I completely trounced my opponent in “Battle Potato.”

The downside of this is that after my victory, the myth of my being a good cook became more concrete. Plus, people felt the need to challenge me (half-heartedly, full of bravado, but lacking any real substance) to cooking competitions all the time.

Fools jump up to get beat down. Sigh.

A few weekends ago, my compadres and I were finally able to coordinate our ever-expanding circle of influence to make another Iron Chef battle happen again. This time, my friend Diddi decided to challenge me in the kitchen. He wrote his own death warrant!*

For those too lazy to read about my previous battle, are who aren’t familiar with the rules, let me give a quick rundown of how our Iron Chef works:

1. There are two competitors and three judges.

2. Each competitor is allowed to cook in their own kitchen. They have two hours in which to prepare at least three dishes utilizing a secret ingredient.
3. One judge will show up at each contestant’s kitchen at an arranged time and reveal the secret ingredient. The judge will spend the two hours making sure the competitors follow cooking rules.

4. The competitors are not allowed to leave the kitchen to purchase ingredients. They have to make due with what they already own. However, they are allowed to look up recipes online, (because really, none of us are really chefs. We don’t have rolodexes of recipes in our brains).

5. At the end of the two-hour cooking time. Both contestants and both judges have an hour to get to the third judge’s kitchen, (which is our designated “Kitchen Stadium”) with their dishes ready for presentation.

6. All dishes are judged based on three criteria: taste, presentation and use of the ingredient. Each judge can award up to 100 points for all three categories.

Once the tasting is over, the judges retire to another room to…judge. Meanwhile, the nervous-as-shit competitors and whomever else came to see the show, get to hang out and enjoy food and good drink.
***
The knock on my door came a few minutes before 4 p.m., the official starting time. I let the judge in and began to gather all the cook books in my kitchen, in anticipation of the secret ingredient. At 4:02, the judge revealed a big, heavy bag which contained the ingredient. I figured I was ready for most things. I had themes and dishes in my mind based on if it was an herb, a veggie, a starch, a meat, a liquid or whatever else it could be. Turns out I wasn’t as prepared as I thought.

Imagine my surprise when the judge (my boy Big Frizzle, as he likes to call himself) tipped over the bag and dumped many pounds of apples on my floor. Apples! Red apples! Green apples! And hybrid, interracial apples whose parents had jungle fever! My mind reeled. I had no idea what the eff to do with apples. It’s an autumn ingredient during the burgeoning days of spring. The judges were crazy!

I quickly looked through my cookbooks and online, I wrote a hasty menu and proceeded to get to work in the kitchen. Drenched in sweat and paprika, the two hours sped by in a blur. The time was only marked by my occasional break with a glass of apple brandy, (generously donated by the judge, who had a drink and immediately spent the two hours sleeping it off on my couch).

You know what the hardest part of cooking is? It’s not the taste, it’s not how well you follow the ingredient, it’s making sure everything is done in time and that everything is as hot or as cold as it’s supposed to be. In a restaurant, this isn’t a problem because there’s a whole mess of (maybe legal) Mexicans in the kitchen working as a team. One guy working alone has a lot more pots to stir. Literally.

At the end of the allotted time I had created a simple apple and spinach salad, sliders on sourdough with apple and onion topping and an apple and cinnamon pork roast with a sweet apple syrup and garlic and apple mashed potatoes on the side. Thus prepared, I wrapped everything up and made my way to the third judge’s apartment for the tasting.

My opponent was a little late, but still managed to show up without getting points taken away. He walked in with dishes and crock pots and food and my heart sank a little with the realization that I had underestimated Diddi and his culinary skills. He brought his A game, (well, maybe his B, B+ game. But it was still good!)

We heated our dishes and presented them for tasting. Then, we sat and waited, while our fates were decided. Nerves were wracked! Knuckles were white! Nails were bitten! Sweat was flopped! Edges of seats were…sat on.

Somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shinning bright.
The band is playing somewhere. And somewhere hearts are light.
Somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children aren’t deaf.
But there is no joy for Diddi – Josh is still the Iron Chef!**



*not exactly sure what it means, but they use that line in movies all the time and I decided to try it out.

**with apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fighting Boredom, one day at a time

As a member of the Great Unemployed, life can get boring from time to time. If I don’t add zest to the humdrum of everyday life, I’ll end up sitting on the couch, my appendages atrophied from lack of use (except for my left hand, of course*). So I try to be as active as a lazy, good-for-nothing can be. You won’t see me going on power walks around the neighborhood or anything, but if you’re lucky, you might catch me hoofing it over to the KFC across the street, (because it’s a well-known fact that a 75-yard walk cancels out calorie-laden, grease-soaked fast “food”).

On Thursdays I head to downtown D.C. to spend a few hours taking in the historic culture of one of our fine local museums. Unfortunately, if I spend too much time at the museums I tend to run into yapping American tourists, screeching school field trips and for some reason, Mennonites. Sadly, the myriad museum-goers spark a conflagration in my soul which causes me to rush home to watch Falling Down, lest I wig out in public and am brought down my a phalanx of police officers.
Sometimes I come up with fun activities for me to do around the apartment, like napping up to three times a day, doing the dishes, or napping on the dishes, (it’s great for the lower lumbar region).

Considering how many other pathetic, jobless wretches are out there these days, I thought that it’d be a good idea to share a list of ideas of things people can do during the workday when everybody is busy being productive and bringing home paychecks, (the suckers!). This list has all types of fun and time-wasting activities to get you through the drudgery of the day-to-day. Try some out, or make up your own!

1. Rearrange the furniture in your abode so that everything is against one wall. If you live with one or more people who work, then subtlety shift everything 25 degrees to the right instead.

2. Spend the whole day without using the letter E.

3. Go to grocery stores and do all of your shopping from other people’s carts when they’re not paying attention. Abandon your shopping cart anywhere and walk out.

4. Whenever anybody asks you a question smile and just nod, or shake your head. Even if it isn’t a yes/no question.

5. Write the script for the perfect 80s music video. Be sure to include bad hairstyles, hideous clothes and fog machines.

6. Pick a random person from the internet and stalk them. But only for 25 minutes. Pick a new person each hour.

7. Go on Craigslist and put up an ad for a DeLorian that only goes 87 mph.

8. Walk backwards the entire day.

9. Splice together the genes of a squirrel, a roach and a pigeon, creating an unholy fusion of the most annoying urban pest the world has ever seen!

10. Perform your own radio show through the vents of your apartment building. Use sound effects.

11. Call the Butterball Turkey Hotline and tell them that you’re lonely. (Or, call them and tell them that you either got an appendage stuck in the turkey, or the turkey stuck in an orifice, whichever is more funny.)

12. Make a Youtube video showing the world your Sasha Fierce lip-syncing/dance moves.

13. Go to MacDonalds and stand in line. Whenever they ask for your order, tell them you’ve never heard of this restaurant and you’re still studying the menu. Make a big deal of calling somebody to tell them of the wonderful discovery you’ve made.

14. Create a treasure map to a hidden stash of Lucky Charms, (or, Count Chocula, if you’re so inclined.)

15. Make up your own language, speak only in that language for a whole day. Be sure to go out in public.

16. Go fishing in your bathtub.

17. Write an unfunny blog.



*And not for the reason you’re thinking either! It’s my remote hand!)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Objectification

Thursday night is a great night for television. In fact, there were so many good shows on last night that I couldn’t decide what to watch. So, I set up my DVR to record just about everything on the Cartoon Network while I laid back and flicked through the channels, looking for something interesting.

What I found was a fascinating show on BBC America (which I feel is a wasted channel because Americans aren’t really into British shows. Except for The Eastenders, which people like my mom love, for some reason,) about a certain sexual fetish that I’ve heard about before, but never really encountered. Human sexuality is an interesting and confusing thing. As a species, we pretty much run the gamut of possible fetishes.

On one hand you’ve got people (and you know who you are) who enjoy Plain Jane love-making. You know, people who consider a wild night to be five-to-ten minutes of the missionary position followed by a lovely conversation about the day’s weather. I call these the “Vanilla People” because they’re about as basic and as boring as they come. Don’t get me wrong, Vanilla People are fine, they just wouldn’t know what to do with an imagination if it sat on their faces, which is apparent when you get them between the sheets.

Then you’ve got the perverted freaks who like to dress like clowns and enjoy hammering nails into their genitals while having sex with fish. I don’t like to pass judgment on people’s fetishes, (“Hello Pot? Hi, this is Kettle”) but I do enjoy the stories about fetishists. The oddities and weirdness is very entertaining. Plus they have the best parties! If you had the choice of hanging out with a Vanilla Person, enjoying a pleasant evening of cutting coupons (or whatever it is boring people do on Friday nights) or going to a freaky sex party over at the petting zoo with Glen Quagmire, which would you choose? I think the answer’s obvious.

Anyway, the show was about women who were having relationships with inanimate objects. There are many levels of weirdness going on there. I’ve heard of people who have sex with cars and washing machines, hell I’ve seen the videos (god bless the interweb!) So while I might not understand it, I’ve at least heard of people being sexually attracted to things, (there’s a certain glory hole in the men’s room at the interstate rest stop that I have fond memories of*). But people who have relationships with objects? How does that work? What are the dates like? Who asks whom out?

Susan: I don’t feel like going out tonight. How about we make a nice dinner and just stay in and watch a movie?

Coffee Table:

At least the dates are probably cheap.

What’s weird is that the main focus of the show seemed like a pretty normal lady in other regards. She was an Olympian archer with all types of trophies and medals and shit, (which, if the Phelps Model is correct, would make her an American Hero). Of course, she felt that the reason she was winning the trophies was because she was dating her bow, whose name is Lance, (if she was a javelin thrower, would her javelin be named Bo? Wait, if she was dating her javelin, she would have died of blood loss years ago!)

I’m not entirely sure how one has sex with a bow, but that’s actually the least strange thing about the story. She and Lance had been dating for six years before she broke up with him. I’m not sure of the reason for the break up, possibly he was an alcoholic, maybe he didn’t care about her feelings. But she moved on to another, bigger object: the Eiffel Tower.

It seems that this, otherwise normal, lady loved the Eiffel Tower so much that she actually married it in a ceremony with friends and family in attendance. I shit you not. They even showed the ceremony with that crazy bitch saying vows and everything! Did the tower even have a choice in this marriage? How’d they fill out the marriage license?

But wait, it gets even stranger…The Eiffel Tower is a chick.

Look, here in America, our objects are things. And things are objects. Which means that the word “it” gets used quite often. Go to France or Italy if you want to assign genders to inanimate objects, I say! Isn’t it bad, or weird, enough to be in love with a thing? Why does gender even come into play? And can you even be gay when you’re having sex with a big ass piece of metal?

The world is a big and crazy place. Just about everybody has a story. True, some of the stories are really boring, but they’re stories none-the-less. My advice is to go out there and find somebody interesting to hang out with. Who knows, maybe that person will turn out to be a freak who gets off on licking walls with wet paint.

Embrace the strange.




*That’s a lie. It was more of a jagged tear than a hole

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Drivers vs Walkers: Give me a car accident any day!

So I’ve been hanging out at a lot of airports recently, you know, spreading the Hare Krishna philosophy* and keeping an eye out for people on airline jihads, and I’ve noticed something: people are inconsiderate jerks.

It was while I was walking, (with a sense of purpose and speed, I might add) that I realized that people get away with all types of stuff that if they tried to do while driving, they’d cause horrendous multi-car pile ups.

For example, in a car people are supposed to keep their eyes on the road in front of them. I say “supposed to” because, as we all know, people love to not pay attention to what’s going on in front of them, which results in bodies being launched through windshields and being decapitated by steering wheels. Terrible to experience, fun to watch, (at least I can only assume its fun to watch, the way cars always slow down to ghoulishly study the scene of car accidents, no matter how gruesome.)

But when walking, people seem to take a perverted pride in purposely not looking in front of them as they amble about. They’ll go so far as to turn their heads 230 degrees to study some random ass thing while walking straight into a wall, column or other jerkhole who isn’t paying attention to where he’s walking. Honestly, I’m always surprised at how often I see people bumping into stationary objects or other brain-dead people simply because they couldn’t be bothered to stop walking (and move to the side) while checking out something that caught their interest.

And the thing that always leaves me flabbergasted in these situations is that when somebody who isn’t paying attention while walking bumps into me, they then have the gall to give me a look like I’m the tard! Their eyes narrow and focus on my face, like they’re saying: “I’m just a random American dumbass not watching where I’m watching. You were paying attention, so what’s your excuse for letting me bump into you, jerk?!” I can only shake my head, walk away and make plans to give their names to Jigsaw so he can teach them some manners.

Another thing that people do while walking that they wouldn’t dream of doing while driving, is wandering around. In a car people have to stay inside the lines of their lane. It helps the flow of traffic and makes everything nice and organized. When people walk they mosey and weave around like they’re stinking drunk and one of their legs is shorter than the other and they can’t help but cut you off while not even acknowledging your existence. Then I end up stepping on my own feet trying to avoid these dick weeds.

It gets even worse when you factor in the fact that there’s no speed limits on sidewalks and in airports. I’m not talking about limiting how fast people walk, I’m talking about limits on how ssssllllooowwwwlllyyy they walk. It seems like the slowest people always love to walk in the middle of everything. They saunter down hallways and corridors without a care in the world, taking time to stop and smell the nonexistent flowers and annoy the living shit out of me!

Then, (and this is the best part) the ultimate is people who literally just stop walking. Could you imagine driving on a major highway when all of a sudden the car in front of you hits the breaks for no good reason? It’d be mayhem! And yet, people have no trouble with walking somewhere, then instantly stopping the minute they get a phone call or want to readjust their scarves in the 100-degree heat. I wouldn’t mind it if they moved out of the way and let people carry on about their business, but they don’t! They stay rooted to the spot as if they just stepped on a landmine. Meanwhile everybody else with the temerity to be in the same vicinity trying to get from point A to point B has to navigate around these living statues.

In this country we’re so used to people being inconsiderate bastards that people rarely even notice this kind of stuff anymore. Which is kind of a shame. We’re a land full of inconsiderate people who have nary a thought in their fad-obsessed minds for their fellow human beings.

Maybe people are nicer at train stations…

*Are those wack-a-doos still around anymore or is that joke really dated?