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Thursday, 11 August
Whiskey Mango Fox Trot

Last night the wife and I went with a couple friends to a new-ish restaurant on Capitol Hill called Chez Gaudy. (Yeah--lousy name.) Opened by the same people who do the Bleu Bistro up on Broadway, it hews to similar themes: both took tiny little cramped spaces and turned them into charming little labyrinthine warrens with tables littered everywhere in bizarre nooks and occasionally limb-stretching niches. These restaurants basically look like shaped detonations of gypsy caravans, but in a good way.

Why were we going there? Well, we like Bleu well enough, despite the fact that it is vegetarian--we are certainly not, but hey, if it's good food, well, so what?--and were interested to see what their new venture was like, but honestly? Here's the deal. On Tuesdays, they serve "small plates:" many of them you grab yourself from a buffet, which lists prices for all the little cold plates of cheese, tapenade, whatever. And then they also have the waitstaff circulate periodically with large trays of hot dishes, like gorgonzola pasta with "meat"balls, scallops, shit like that. And you pick what you like. AND they had chicken or veggie fajitas made to order. It's all very loose. But the BIG thing about Tuesdays, apart from the grab-'n-eat atmosphere? (Other days of the week are normal, in that you get a menu, table service, etc.)

Well, that would be the wine. You see, on Tuesdays, along with the letcher-hair-down anarchic atmosphere, if you are eating there, you can also pick your own wines out from a selection of six. They're right there on a shelf for you! Pick one! There's a corkscrew right on the table, son, so go ahead and open your own fucking bottle! Pour it yourself! Why this weird heresy? Because on Tuesdays, when dining there, each of those bottles of pretty good wine is only six bucks apiece.

Holy crap. And this, my friends, is why we went in the first place. We had to check that out. And it did not disappoint. Happily, neither did the food.

We had made reservations for 7:30, and showed up right on time. The greeter gave us a choice: we could take a cramped-looking table over by a window, or we could wait a little bit for another table that was soon to be cleared--the party was just waiting for the check. It looked much better, so we decided to wait and get some wine.

The wife and our friends K. and S. sat on a sofa by the bar while I went to smoke. When I came back, they hadn't yet secured any wine. Which seemed odd. We're waiting here! Give us drinks! (See, we had not yet cottoned on to the loose-limbed nature of the evening yet.)

Presently, a waiter came bounding over. "How you guys doing?" he exclaimed. S. replied, "We're a little distressed!" A look of vast concern came over his face, and in one fluid motion, he whipped out a tiny stool from somewhere right within reach, and sat down. "Oh no!" he cried. "What the hell is going on?" This was really hilarious. It was like having an on-call therapist. With his own stool! I privately noted that he looked a lot like Dermot Mulroney.

We laughed at this magical display of instant solicitousness. S. said, "Well, we're waiting for a table, and we'd like some wine!" "Ohhhh," he said. "Nobody explained how we work on Tuesdays?" We did not. And he laid it all out: Tuesdays they just open everything up and if the customer wants something or other, they just go up to someone and ask for it. Or grab it off the buffet, or the wine shelf. "Tuesdays are my favorites for this, because we just get to chat with everyone." And then he apologized profusely that that hadn't been made clear, and immediately ran to get us a bottle of wine, which he opened and said, "Sorry again. This bottle is on me."

What a guy. In my mind, his tip just got a lot fatter. He set the bottle down on the table with a grin. "Now that you guys know how we work on Tuesdays--" I cut him off, knowing where he was going. "--I'll just go ahead and pour this wine my damn self." He beamed and then split.

Ten minutes later, he reappeared. "Sorry about the table, you guys." He sat down again on the magical manifestation of the invisible stool. "We're trying to get those people the hell out of here." Heh. We asked about himself, as he clearly felt like shooting the shit, but not in an imposing way. He was just so affable. We asked him a little about himself, and he said that prior to bartending and waiting tables, he was a dance instructor for seven years. This caught the ear of some other people sharing our couch. "Do a Fox Trot!" one gal yelled. He immediately obliged, and then proceeded to give everyone a short history on the origin of that particular dance. It was, again, great. Emboldened, the gal yelled again. "Do the Charleston!" His reaction here was priceless. "Nah," he said, flapping his arms a little before strolling off to talk to other tables. Somehow, he was even charming when he was being dismissive. I want this guy to always wait on me.

Anyway. We got our table eventually, and began eating. Like I said, the food did not disappoint at all: the always alarmingly-named "pub cheese" was a dreadful Jack-O-Lantern orange color, but spectacular when spread on the complimentary bread--just the right amount of horseradish in there. We gnawed on silky, creamy gouda accompanied by figs. We dug into--tentatively--a vegetarian "meatball," and found it, improbably, to be really excellent. (As a dedicated carnivore, I am always wary of these impostors dressed up in meat clothes, but golly, it was delicious.)

And polished off two bottles of nice (not great, but COME ON) wine for--did I mention?--six dollars apiece. We would have had more, but S. is not so much a wine drinker. She finished off her dinner with some chocolate cake and a gin fizz while I enjoyed a shot of Bushmills, and ladies and gentlemen: this was a pour and then some. You have to respect a place where a whiskey pour is something like a five-count. The wife enjoyed a tremendous glass of coffee, and we sat around gurgling like whales in a krill garden.

Before we left, Der-Not Mulroney once again burst over to us. "Is my favorite table leaving?" he said. Yet again, that he managed to make this sound not creepy or lame or anything spoke volumes. We looked around.

"Oh, yeah," we said.

Thursday, 19 May
Let's Go. (They Do Not Move.)

One night in SF we went out for sushi at a tiny little joint out in the Mission called Blobonko (I may have that a bit wrong). Our dissolute junkie friend J.Z. took us there, as she was pals with the owner/chef and her daughter, who was practically the entire waitstaff. We were also accompanied by some other friends, K., an amateur sword swallower (he's actually much funnier as a sword vomiter, but he doesn't like it when I say that), and his lovely wife A., a nonperformance artist--who is, I have to say, dynamite. She treated us to a bit of her act, and stood impassively silent for ten solid minutes while we watched and gently sobbed . . . it's hard to explain how moving it was. Anyway, you can check her out if she's touring near you; the show is called I Ate Grover (the Muppet), Now You Eat Grover (the President): Akinetic Liberty Variation IV.

Anyway. I should take a moment to point out that I do not, in fact, really enjoy sushi. In truth, I am a giant pain-in-the-ass picky eater, and well, cold fish just really isn't my cup of . . . cold fish. However, I usually am able to get by at these places, because they almost always have some hot teriyaki dishes or some such that will please me. And this place was no different--sure enough, they had teriyaki shrimp, which sounded great. They also had all kinds of interesting stuff that I'd never seen before, like a pickled bean sushi roll, and the usual baffling array of other things that I generally have no interest in, but the others chattered excitedly about all the weird crap they were going to order.

When the waitress got to me, I happily placed my order for the shrimp. "You want that as a dinner?" she asked. Well, I didn't want it for breakfast, but I thought I knew what she meant. "Sure," I replied. "Okay. You know that's about six or seven dollars more." Whoops. For rice and miso? "Oh, really? Well, then no thanks." But we weren't done. "You sure? You get rice and soup and salad and wizzle wozzle Batman anchor moustache wrenches!" I really had no idea what the hell she was saying, but the gist seemed to be it's totally worth the six bucks, stupid! I caved. "All right then! Dinner it is!" Unpredictably, now she seemed wary. "You suuuuure?" she crooned. Oh, Jesus, I don't even know any more. "Yes! Yes!" I hooted, mad with panic and desperation. "I demand the dinner!"

J.Z. laughed at my contorted state of mind and correctly decided that the immediate remedy would be sake. Quick as a wink it was brought out to the table and poured into our little glasses. "This is unfiltered sake," J.Z. said opaquely. And, appropriately, the sake itself was opaque, and sat in our glasses looking like lotion. I cautiously took a taste, and fortunately, it was delicious. K. and I had also armed ourselves with a giant bottle of Asahi beer, just in case.

The first appetizer dishes arrived with similar rapidity, and everyone set to. There was (I was informed) lotus root, which tasted exactly like something I desperately hoped lotus root would not taste like, which is to say that it was horrible. I was alone in this opinion, however, and so while the others munched away, I drank more lotion. Soon, another bowl of sinister-looking brown Platonic solids appeared. A. said, "Did we order that?" "Compliments of the chef," said the waiter (some other guy), and J.Z. beamed. Seems she was used to this treatment, and I'm not surprised, given her myriad Mob ties. "It's glomple tofu," clarified the waiter. (I may be paraphrasing.)

I stared at it apprehensively. As you may have guessed, I am no fan of tofu either, and this didn't even look like tofu anyway. It looked like a bowl full of makeup sponges impregnated with Medium Bronze base tone. "There's one piece for everyone!" crowed J.Z. fatefully. I resignedly stabbed at a piece with my chopstick, and popped it into my mouth; it was chewy and astonishingly supersaturated with some unidentifiable liquid. (Later our primary waitress, learning that we had gotten the stuff, helpfully offered, "Oh. I don't like that at all.")

There then came a bit of a lull in the service, and J.Z. explained that it was pretty normal for the place: flurry of food followed by a refractory period, then another flurry. We chatted for a while, drank some more lotion (second bottle, now). After about fifteen minutes, K. and I decided that it was time for a smoke, so we retired outside, exchanging tired smokers' jokes about how leaving the table would guarantee that our food would arrive.

And naturally we were right. Upon returning, I discovered a plate at my seat. My shrimp teriyaki! Sure enough, there were two shrimp on the plate . . . wait, two? They rested atop an alarming pile of cold fish chunks: some white fish, some salmon, and most terrifying, tuna. (Yes . . . I also hate tuna.) Around the plate was a nice-looking sauce. I resigned myself to the fact that this very unusual and inventive place had come up with the world's most perverse shrimp teriyaki offering ever. I dabbed the shrimp into the sauce and ate it--it really was delicious! It tasted NOTHING like any teriyaki I had ever eaten, and there were ONLY TWO SHRIMP, but ah, fuck it. It's a vacation. I even soldiered on through the rest of the cold fish on the plate except for the tuna, which I informed my tablemates in steely tones that I had no intention of eating, so dig the fuck in already. They did, and soon the plate was clean. Whew!

Then my shrimp teriyaki arrived. "What?" I quavered. "Then . . . what did I just eat?" The waitress sighed. "I love training new guys. I told him to put that in the center of the table." It was another complimentary dish from the chef, and except for the tuna, I had eaten the whole fucking thing.

Oh, well. It's not like the cold fish chunks had really blasted away at my appetite all that much, so I unskewered the shrimps and started eating: they were delicious, perfect really, and happily conformed to my notion of teriyaki. Wonderful!

Then the waitress returned again. "And the rest of your dinner!" she chirped, and began laying down an ominous array of bowls in front of me. "Seaweed!" she said. Then she laid down a basket full of vegetables. "Pickled crap!" she said. (Not really, but it was.) "Purple rice!" she excaimed. (Again, but it was.)

I slumped. "I already ate a whole fucking appetizer, you guys!" I whined, not mentioning that I was less than anxious to eat three bowls of seaweed. They, being troopers, helped me out. I did indeed try some of the weed, and hey, it wasn't bad! I tried some of the pickled carrots. Hey, not bad at all! Getting into it, I tried some of the pickled daikon. Hey, it was fucking awful! It tasted like vellum soaked in demon's bile. "Try the daikon!" I encouraged everyone.

Well, we eventually got through all the stuff, and despite all the mean things I've been saying, it really was on the whole good stuff. I know I'm a freak about food; just because I don't happen to like something doesn't mean I can't recognize quality cooking. And this was it. We settled back in our seats, sipping lotion, and waited for dessert.

And waited. And waited. K. and I had a couple cigarettes. We waited for half an hour. Then the whispers started. "This is getting kind of silly. And it's getting late." Ah well. I flagged our waitress. "Hi! Can we get the bill?"

She snorted a little and said sarcastically, "Oh, you've only been sitting here waiting for half an hour, so I guess so." We laughed appreciatively. She remained standing at our table for a few seconds, apparently thinking of something. We waited.

Then she launched into a four-minute speculation on how she was making plans to travel to London, whereupon she would find a way to make the British actor Jonathan Rhys-Myers her boyfriend. (No, seriously. SERIOUSLY.) I grinned fixedly throughout the speech, thinking, "Is this really happening to us?" I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was going on. J.Z. laughed politely and said all the right things shortly in such a manner as to indicate, No, really, we'd like to leave now. Finally, having exhausted her plans to bed a semi-obscure British thespian, she left the table. There was silence for a moment.

K. tentatively said, "I don't know if she's really going to get our check or not." We nodded gloomily. There was a palling sense that we were simply never going to be allowed to leave, and that we might remain there forever in the little sushi oubliette, wasting away our lives, relieved only by occasional visits by the waitress to tell us fresh tales of unrequited Anglophilic lust. K. and I smoked another cigarette, and when we returned, lo and behold . . . !

Well, it wasn't the bill. It was dessert, forty-five minutes after our last bit of supper. But our resistance at this point was broken, so we shrugged emptily and dug in to what appeared to be some sort of gelatinized substance--beets, I think? That doesn't sound so good, yeah, but of course it was, and anyway, by this time we had been so thoroughly beaten by this strange little place that we would have eaten whole horse hooves had we thought that it would mean we could get the tab.

And so we paid. And so we left. And so we went home. And for me, as someone who doesn't really dig sushi? That might have been the best time I've ever had not really eating it.

Friday, 25 February
Meat; The Parents

A few weeks ago--as my tens of readers may remember, and they'll have to, since I am too lazy to link to it--I wrote about how we organized a large anniversary get-together for the wife's parents. (I say "organized" because we, being substandard children, did not actually pay for the whole dinner. In fact, we cleverly skipped the check entirely by spiking everyone's dishes with a violent emetic; the attendees all stand to come into a good deal of money thanks to several pending lawsuits against the soon-to-be-bankrupt establishment.)

Anyway, the in-laws were wholly surprised and delighted by the entire event (well, up until the mass vomiting and subsequent ambulance rides), and we learned last week that they were sending us a gift of thanks in the form of Omaha steaks. (They are not apparently themselves believers in surprise. Unless they spiked the steaks with botulism as revenge.) So the wife and I waited in gleeful anticipation for the mailman to drop off some . . . meat.

(It is a testament to the wonders of our age that we think nothing about trusting strangers in Nebraska to throw a quantity of beef into a box and give it to the United States Postal Service for it desultory journey across half a continent, where it will then be consumed without much thought or worry. Someday soon we can look forward to having Byelorussian whore-borgs teleported directly into our geodesic yurts for those lonely Antarctic nights at McMurdo station to relax us after a long day of making Shoggoths in the intellisnow with our grafted multi-limbs. [Hey, I'm Neal Stephenson! Or, more troublingly, Cory Doctorow.])

Yesterday, the meat arrived! I don't know what I was expecting . . . some little insulated box, I guess, like a puffy pizza box with the steaks huddled inside, hiding from warmth. What I was NOT expecting was a middle-sized styrofoam tub of approximately beach-going size. It contained mini-bergs of dry ice and several sub-boxlets containing: Six top sirloin steaks, a bunch of preprepared and flash-frozen twice-baked potatoes (soon to be thrice-baked), and a quantity of cheesecake. This embarrassment of riches was less "Hey, have a nice meal on us!" and more like, "Hey, you guys should pretend to be the Roman senate!"

There is a lot of food in our freezer now, where it is probably bummed, after all its travels, to be confined with some homebody blackberries and old hamburger. I can hear it sighing: "Man, I really liked traveling. Idaho was beautiful, and I liked the plane rides. Now we're just stuck here in loser city with these lousy peas."

Naturally, we cooked some of it up right that evening. The steaks were fucking marvelous--nicely marbled, juicy, and flavorful, which I think are qualities that we all as a society associate with anything that comes from Omaha. (It's a little-known fact that Marlin Perkins was enthusiastically eaten by his family after his death.) The potatoes were . . . probably an experiment that should be abandoned: they had a slightly chemical taste to them that gave me once again sinister suspicions of gastrointestinal revenge on the part of the in-laws; perhaps they had laced them with molybdenum? And once you got to the actual potato skins themselves, they proved leathery and inedible, like Marlin Perkins.

I did not touch the cheesecake, since cheesecake in all its forms is utterly horrendous, and should only be fed to recalcitrant sociopaths in prison.

"That's it, Simmons! You shoved that guard's face into a belt sander! Your choice: Thirty days in the Hole? Or eat this cheesecake! What'll it be?"

(Sneering) "I'll take the thirty days, you rotten screw."

"You bums are all alike. Sure, take the easy way out."

It eventually dawned on me that this very generous and very extravagant gift of thanks probably cost the in-laws more than we actually spent on their anniversary party. I felt guilty about this for a little bit, but it was gradually eclipsed by the memory of getting meat. In the mail. I get kind of misty just thinking about it.

And we haven't vomited at all. These guys are all class.

Tuesday, 15 February
Play On

Hello hello and happy late Valentine's Day! Do you hate this day? Do you sit and gloomily watch dirty movies on Cinemax? (No penetration. Bummer, huh?) Do you viciously excoriate your lousy friends with their lousy wives/girlfriends/mistresses for buying into such a lousy manufactured holiday? (Can you name me a non-manufactured holiday?) If so, you might be one of my friends!

Well, fuck that. I'll take any opportunity to go out with my girl and live it up. Sure, I had to cough up for some gifts. On the other hand . . . I got gifts! Hey, no biggie: I used to badmouth Valentine's Day too . . . when I was single. It's just what you do. But then again, I took time out to hate my coupled-up friends on a daily basis, out of sheer jealousy; I hardly needed a vacation day to do it. But whatever gets you through.

The wife and I, after exchanging GLORIOUS BAUBLES OF LUV, went out with a friend for some drinks at the Virginia Inn; we figured it was either entertain him or he'd stay home doing horrible things to his penis, and we didn't need that on our minds. After a couple hours, we figured it was safe to go meet our reservations at our restaurant and not have to worry about him slow-braising his dick.

We wandered over to Cafe Campagne, a relatively non-ludicrous place to chow, and settled in with a nice plate of unpronouncable cheeses. As accompaniment, we also had unpronouncable wine. "Try the Green-Veined Blaarpel with the Banded Snatch!" Okay. She looked at me funny when I threw my cheese into the wine glass; I was trying to make some sort of European shake, but I must have done it wrong. I tried to reason with her: "I'm letting the flavors meld." She looked unconvinced.

Then came the salad course: I had some straight-up greens in a sherry vinaigrette (which had the unfortunate side effect of giving me a Steve Perry earworm), and the wife had something involving goat cheese on toast. She ignored my entreaties to plunge these delicacies into her wine, which, if memory serves, was a nice Galoop.

Presently our entrees arrived, mine a nice steak frites, and the wife's some chicken corpse jauntily tossed onto noodles with a pan sauce. My steak was, unfortunately, undercooked ("Medium rare, sir?" It was blood raw); and when I showed it to our server, she was more than gracious about taking it back for further triage. (She could hardly have reacted otherwise: the thing was clearly barely out of surgery.) Meanwhile, the wife stabbed joyously at her lovely, inert chicken cadaver and its bier of noodles.

(I am happy to report that the steak, when returned, was perfectly cooked. These things happen. Stupid is the person who makes a huge issue out of these situations, for they are those who will surely taste a stranger's saliva.)

After our repast, we treated ourselves to dessert: a creme brulee for my girl (with a little help from me) and a cognac for myself (with a little help from her).

Then we came home. A glass of champagne. And a good night to you.

(Note: This was to have been published the night of the 14th, but Movable Type kept vomiting in my lap. Also, I was kind of drunk.)

Friday, 08 October
More Rules About Food

The seeds in cucumbers can tend to be rather bitter. It's best to remove them during preparation; a grapefruit spoon is quite useful for this. That way, your next salad might perhaps not be disposed to throw all of your shit out on the street after it finds out you have recently enjoyed other salads.

Delicious hot dogs are an important necessity for good living. Endeavor not to live in cities with a pronounced dearth of reputable hot dog vendors, such as, say, Seattle. This wicked city is likely to laugh at the average hot dog seeker, and might even suggest seared ahi as an alternative. Nothing is to be done about such a nightmarish locale except to flee it immediately.

Leeks. What to do about leeks. The word rhymes with "beaks," "cheeks," "Laliques," and, if one accepts the Many Worlds theory associated with quantum physics, "Mozambiques." Apart from these and many other lexical nubbins, leeks have very little utility. When waved vigorously, one may pretend that they are comical penis-like things, but this is usually regarded as crude.

Saffron is famously expensive, and, as such, is not-so-famously overrated. Which is not to say that it should be shunned, unlike children of wealthy families who happen to also be named Saffron, who are intolerable. This is unacceptable. When found, these children should be kidnapped and boiled. I understand that these boiled children are delicious, particularly, and ironically, when boiled with saffron. Look, I don't make the rules, I just report them.

Dill pickles are undeniably one of creation's finest foods, particularly for males. Females are encouraged to enjoy dill pickles, but they will always remain a particularly male staple. For a man, there can be no finer event than receiving an enthusiastic blow job while holding a dill pickle, which he may (at his leisure) wave around happily during the experience. We shall not speak of sweet pickles here, except to note that they are only enjoyed by Communists, and as everyone knows, Commies don't get blow jobs.

When in doubt, make stew. Nobody on earth has ever found a reasonable basis to question stew.

"Hey, there's earthworms in this."

"Uh . . . yeah. You've never had earthworm stew?"

(Pause.)

"It's really good!"

Nobody can say anything about stew, since by definition, it's just a bunch of crap dumped into a pot. Feel free to urinate in your stew if you hate your guests. They will call it "piquant."

And finally, don't forget to smoke incessantly during meals when you have guests. It will cut the smell of those saffron-boiled children you served. If a particularly intractable guest continues to comment--"I swear I smell little Tommy!"--don't panic. Light another cigarette. Offer them dill pickles.

You might get lucky!

Friday, 05 March
God's Boring Menu

As I still have not been able to set up the home computer, I have to pilfer work-time to create new posts. Hence today's short, deficient, crappy entry.

Earlier this morning, someone mentioned this familiaresque biblical quote:

They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination.

Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales—that shall be an abomination to you.

To which I had to reply: Where did this sort of arbitrariness come from? Did some old lost forgotten scribe just have a hard-on against shrimp? What's up with biblical dietary restrictions? It seems like back in the horrible pre-Chee-tos day, you'd happily eat whatever you could get.

It's not even like it's subtle. It's one thing to say, "God would prefer if you didn't eat scallops, because He thinks they are gross." Instead you get over-the-top pronouncements with words like "abomination." I don't get it. (Big surprise there.)

I imagine God: "Well, now I've created man in My own frankly fucking awesome image. What next? I guess I should craft some delicous abominations that he shouldn't eat, for some reason."

I received many intelligent responses to this query, all of which I kind of ignored, because I'm not very bright, and hey, shrimp taste good.


Postscript: Only later did it occur to me that according to Genesis, God created seafood creatures before man, but it's still weird and arbitrary.

Besides, basic Dominion Theory says I can do anything I want to all of those stupid fucking animals. God wants me to kill nature! Thy will be done.

Thursday, 30 October
106 Beets That Weren't

I did not, in fact, get any damn beets. They had beet greens on the menu, but no actual fucking beets. What a burn. I mean, beet greens are fine and all, but it was like shopping for Mozart and finding only Lothar and the Hand People CDs.

So we had to content ourselves with a bottle of '98 rioja; some creamy sheep's milk cheese (spiked with a bit of pimenton); aged serrano ham; grilled Dublin prawns (prawns are a member of the Routinely Maltreated food group; they arrived longitudinally split from head to tail--imagine serving veal like that); and hot Spanish sausage dumped attractively over some achingly crisped-up potatolet slices. Oh, and finished up with some totally pornographic flan concoction made with coffee, chocolate and orange liqueur.

In retrospect, the Tragedy of the No-Beets wasn't that big of a deal.

Friday, 10 October
Food, Or Something Like It

Wednesday, I was not required to go to rehearsal, but the wife was, leaving me to take care of myself for the evening . . . never a good thing. I'm hardly the first person to realize that cooking for oneself basically sucks, but more to the point, when I am left alone to deal with food, chances are that I'm going to succumb to (1) my horrific laziness and (2) my shocking lack of will towards resisting my shameful, embarrassing urges.

To get right to the nitty, this is why I found myself at Taco Bell.

Oh, Taco Bell! Thou giver of eighty-nine cent food cylinders! How thy quasi-beef tastes of newspaper! May your bathrooms continue to overflow with quivering junkies!

Jesus, Taco Bell. Why I feel the urge to eat their terrible food is a total fucking mystery to me; food-wise, a Taco Bell is basically just a soup kitchen with moxie. And yet I eat their dire food.

Anyway, the other night while I was waiting for my dinner to be extruded, my eyes wandered to behind the counter, where I beheld the dreaded Employee Bulletin Board. I noticed that the poor fuckers who work for Taco Bell evidently have to participate in something called "CHAMPS!" There it was in big bright letters for all to see, in violation of all human decency or shame: the corporate sadists at Taco Bell and Human Cheerlessness Inc. not only makes their doomed, miserable employees participate in something so horrendously lame that it is actually called "CHAMPS!", they also make sure to post it in such a way as to make everyone else aware of it too. The "CHAMPS!" sign was easily the most depressing thing I've seen in months, and remember that I have seen the new season episodes of "The Practice."

A little Googling reveals that "CHAMPS!"--can you imagine what kind of wretched videos the employees have to endure?--is an acronym. It stands for Cleanliness, Hospitality, Accuracy, Maintenance, Product Quality, and Speed of Service.

My Taco Bell gets the highest possible marks in not achieving any of the listed "CHAMPS!" goals, making my Taco Bell employees CHAMPS! indeed in my book, as I feel that insulting, childish corporate motivational projects are designed solely to be subverted at every turn. I mean, honestly. What adult (or even teenager) wants to be addressed on a Special Olympics level, for Christ's sake? "Can our widdle empwoyees be CHAMPS? Can they? I think they can! Who's a CHAMP? Who's a CHAMP? I think it's yo-ouu!"

Horrible. Which is why I applaud my Taco Bell employees wholeheartedly. They are so not CHAMPS. Right on, Lucille! You shouldn't wash your uniform! Ever! And Terry--who so indifferently dumped my food into that damp bag--don't lose your surliness! And to whoever the manager is--maybe that guy sitting sullenly in the El Camino, chainsmoking and staring fixedly at the dashboard--KUDOS on closing down the drive-up window! I really like the sign that says "GO AROUND"! Oh, fuck it, here's to the whole staff: You have the worst Taco Bell ever! Your grime is insistent and implacable; your employees are visions out of Solzhenitsyn; you never, ever fail to ignore my frenzied pleas for hot sauce; and it is fucking rad in the extreme when I stand at the counter, waiting to order, and you brazenly stand in the back doorway, in full view, unhurriedly finishing your cigarettes. For all these reasons, I love you all, and this is why I come back, time and again.

You are truly CHAMPS!

Thursday, 10 July
Cryptic Instructions About Food

Corn should be eaten by rolling the cob vertically and eating in neat strips. "Typewriter" style eating methods are unacceptable, unless one is a socialist.

Avoid weirdo foods. These include: Gravlax. Quinoa. Spaetzle. Substitute juniper berries when in doubt.

Herring! Say it a few times, and it will sound like a brand of bubble gum. It is not.

Peas are to be worshipped. Unjacket them and admire their green vulnerable nudity. Get nude yourself if you wish. Place one in your bellybutton. Listen to it. It speaks volumes. Learn. Then eat that tasty fucker.

Figs? Figs? Figs.

Jerky should be eaten often. Do it for Jeremy Piven. Do it for the forgotten Thessalians. Do it.

Eggs are of course a staple. This common household item is associated with the feminine, and as such, should be routinely maltreated. Pay them less than you do your celery. Exclude them from opportunity. Encourage them to flounce.

It is inadvisable to serve juice without bursting through a brick wall and screaming "OH YEAH!" Inform the EMTs that the little Hawaiian Punch dude is a total pussy. Wear your scalp wounds like a badge, a badge that says, "Damn, I serve good juice."

Eggplant requires very little. A bit of salt, a touch of pepper, and then grill delicate slices, drizzling them with olive oil. Grill marks are a plus. When they have browned perfectly, remove them from the grill onto a platter. Then take the platter out into the street and throw it at passing cars. That way, you don't have to eat any disgusting fucking eggplant.

Thursday, 24 April
Chewing Many Things, Including The Fat

Tonight a very generous friend treated us to a meal at a tapas joint called "The Harvest Vine." Being the worldly fellow I am, my first comment was, "So . . . what are tapas?" Of course, until recently, I thought "Hugo Boss" referred to one of the enemies to be defeated in Sonic the Hedgehog, so this is not very surprising. Delightfully, it turned out to mean "tiny plates of stuff," so that if you hated something, you just had to wait a couple minutes for it to be whisked away and replaced with something else. Which I did when we were presented with some sort of whitefish gruel cruelly jammed into roasted red peppers, all sitting ghoulishly on some sort of blood-paste. No thanks.

Everything else was, happily, fucking great, seriously great. We also charged through two bottles of excellent 1994 rioja, which didn't hurt our mood either, not even when an extremely pregnant woman at the next table got the vapors and had to be rushed out of there in an alarming hurry after a quick hot-cloth rubdown by the staff. She probably had the whitefish and peppers.

We started out with some paper-thin slices of cured pork loin, which was wonderful, despite the haunting awfulness of the word "loin." I think it's been spoiled by too many romance novels; whenever I encounter the word now, I inevitably imagine that I am eating hunks of Fabio's crotch. Then we dug into some otherworldly cheeses, two courtesy of sheep's milk and one of cow; I comforted myself with the idea that while we ate ritzy, mold-shot delicacies, somewhere baby farm animals went hungry. It's a wonder I can get out of bed in the morning.

Then came the deluge. Golden beets--again, surgically sliced--coated in a garlic vinaigrette and sprinkled with kosher salt. Lucifer's manicured toenails! They were incredibly good; knee-buckling in that mouthgasmic way where you sort of shit your mental pants. Green beans in some tomatoey hummina blummina sauce were almost as good, and then we scratched ourselves like luxuriating apes as more DELICIOUS DEAD PIG was served up to our maws--garlic pork sausage in some sort of fuck-you sauce. Ridiculous.

Because my imposing 150-lb. frame needed a rest, I skipped out on the aforementioned whitefish goo, and waited all of five minutes for the impossibly good scallops to come out. Perfectly prepared, they tasted like Artemis' nipples, provided you ignored the sort of rough-fucked caramelized onions they came served on. Up yours, onions! And finally, gorgeous duck breast slices (replete with bits of fat, of course) made an appearance, wearing a fetching reduction made from port, meat juices (read: blood), and possibly centaur musk. Jesus God.

Finally, the ladies opted for desserts, while I continued to swill the toe-curling wine and moaned softly into my collar. The ladies butchered the chocolate torte with wine-soaked cherries as well as the assortment of cookies with chocolate ganache, and our waitress, apparently either mistaking us for the Japanese Shogunate or simply appreciative of our culinary ranginess, poured us each a complimentary glass of really good port.

Tomorrow we'll probably have frozen pizza. I could just cry.

Tuesday, 11 March
Flow My Tears, The 12-Ounce Can Said

I know it's generally a lame joke pertinent to pregnant women, but everyone now and then gets food cravings. The thing is, many of mine are recurrent; worse, some of them are totally perverse and shameful. This is fine for kids; kids are supposed to act in perverse ways (though not shameful--that's for the parents). For a while when I was about three, for instance, I craved nothing more than raw butter. My parents would find me in the kitchen gnawing happily on a stick of butter, and then of course they would hurl me into the dark basement as punishment, which was fantastic for me, because that's where they stored the potatoes, my other weird, awful craving: raw potatoes. I'm not kidding (except about the basement-punishment, of course); I loved me some raw potatoes. Fortunately, none of these had any lasting power, of course, and I grew out of them in due course. Also fortunately, I also grew out of most of my unfortunate dietary obsessions, such as, for example, my preteen penchant for peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwiches. (For years I ate these noxious things, until one day I hit upon the brilliant idea of peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwiches. Further proof that children are horrible, freakish little goblins who should be bound in shrink-wrap and kept immobile until the age of eighteen.)

There is one thing I didn't quite grow out of, at least not totally; almost but not quite, and it fills me with horror to even confess this, but: Spaghetti-Os. I don't know what to say about this, except that there is evidently some tiny, unkillable node somewhere in my brain that every now and then raises itself from its torpor and barfs up some synaptic whatsis that generates a bunch of electrochemical holy-fuck all over the goddamn place until finally my brain gets it and throws up its cerebrospinal hands and yells, "Jesus, fuck and Liberace, we have to buy Spaghetti-Os again." I don't know why, and it's horrible. Maybe some reptilian olfactory voodoo that's sitting in my cortex gets all sentimental over this shit, but it drives me crazy; every now and then (maybe every year or two), I get this violent, deep urge to eat some Spaghetti-Os, and I battle with it, knowing that I'm doomed, I'm going to cave in, but maybe this time . . .

No, fuck it, of course I'm not going to win, and I have to go buy Spaghetti-Os. I do this even knowing what a cruel, vicious letdown the experience is going to be in the end; it doesn't matter. It's nearly publishable fucking proof of determinism, quite a feat in today's world of quantum sleight of hand, but there you go: Spaghetti-Os are particles more fundamental than quarks. Fuck you, Murray Gell-Mann.

So inevitably I find myself, a grown man, trudging desolately to the supermarket to buy my stinking can of Spaghetti-Os. You have no idea how embarrassing this is for me, and I don't make it any easier on myself either, because I'm so psychically shattered by the whole debacle, I don't even possess the wherewithal to conceal or even mitigate my terrible purchase. I could hide the can inobtrusively amongst a bunch of other groceries, or perhaps kidnap an errant child off the street and force him at knifepoint to pretend to be my offspring, and isn't it cute how the little scamp loves his Spaghetti-Os? (Smile for the nice checkout lady, or it's curtains for you and Mr. Boo-Bear.) No, not me: dazed with sad horror over my state and filled with foreboding at my upcoming culinary Waterloo, I generally just shuffle over to the ghoulishly merry wall o' canned goods, select one solitary can of Spaghetti-Os (with Meatballs! It's IMPORTANT!), and wander unsteadily to the checkout line and plunk my sad, lonely freight down onto the conveyor belt. What a picture: a beaten, flutter-eyed guy, obviously single and given to gloomy bouts of cheerless masturbation, purchasing his one measly can of Spaghetti-Os, probably bought with the last couple bucks left from his long day of giving plasma down at the blood bank. At least, that's how I feel. Then I scuttle home with my awful booty, and the real fun begins.

Of course, it's all free-fall from here on out. I break out the can opener and skreek off the top of the can, and that smell fills the room; I am instantly at war with myself. My kidhood nostalgia (what a great smell!) wages a pitched battle with my adult rational mind (what an unholy reek! please don't eat anything that smells like that!), but events that have been set in motion are now unstoppable, no matter their violence to reason and judgment. I dump the radioactive wobbly cylinder of jack-o-lantern colored sludge into a pan, where it slumps morosely. A mushy orb of near-meat detaches itself from the mass and makes a break for it, only to bump sadly up against the side of the pan, where it stares up at me helplessly, beaten and afraid. "I'm sorry too," I whisper, and turn the heat up. Presently, the mass has settled into a dire puddle of sauce and broken pasta rings and meat-lumps, and it bubbles wanly.

I dump it into a bowl and eat it. That's all, I just eat it, like an automaton, blank-eyed and efficient. It tastes, I hardly have to point out, like it came from some joyless, gray kitchen manned by Strindbergian vampire chefs who evilly suck all the nutrients and decent flavor out of their dishes and then serve them to their doomed, emaciated guests. It's over. I feel vague relief, coupled with a sense of disappointment that yet again, I've lost another battle. The eerie taste-not-a-taste coats my mouth, and will for days. But the important thing is, it's over.

For now. Reset the clock.

Monday, 06 January
I Throw A Bunch of Crap in a Pot and Consequently Suffer Mental Imbalances

I made a pot roast last night, and boy was it edible! It was consumable from front to back. It had an adequate crust and a passable texture, because, if I may say so, I cooked it competently, and if anyone tells you different, you stab them right in the groin and scream, "I'm no fool, motherfucker! Skot has competence coming right out of his ass!" Then, you know, plea bargain, I guess, because hey, you stabbed someone, dummy. Man, what's wrong with you?

Anyway, the pot roast was fine, but as usual, I overcooked the fucking thing. I have some odd culinary blind spot that relates only to pot roasts; I'm thinking of seeing a specialist. Perhaps Dr. Phil. "Dr. Phil," I'll say, "I always overcook my fucking pot roasts. What the hell?" And he'll bare his great blockish teeth at me, and the studio lights will glint icily off his pate, and he'll give me some warmed-over bootstrapping bowl of bullshit about self-empowerment and relate a humorous, folksy anecdote involving a small-town car mechanic and a rooster, and the audience will roar at the dumb boob who can't muster up the fucking gumption to lay off the heat on his damn pot roasts, for God's sake. And I'll just be sitting there going, "Rooster? Who is this pervert?" But no, they'll cut to commercial, and the director will crabscuttle over to me and plead with me not to say "fucking" so much on national television.

So that's no help.

Well, the next step is obvious. I need Peggy Noonan. Why didn't I think of this before? So, yeah! I'll stroll up to her on the street, where she's out stuffing beggars into Hefty bags, and I'll breezily say, "So, Peggy, I cooked the fucking shit out of another pot roast last night. It looked like a goddamn meteorite. Christ!" I'll kind of shriek that last bit, so she knows I'm serious about this. She'll fix me with a wise, sad look, and let the mumbling Hefty bag slither to the ground. "When we cook, we nourish. You nourish yourself, and so you nourish society; you float up and out into the neighborhood in this way; a mournful waltz heard through rippling muslin. Take up your pot roast, and in so doing, you take up society's pot roast. Skot, take up all of our pot roasts, take them up and sing." She'll lay a gentle hand on my shoulder, and say farewell. "I must go," she'll coo, "there are so many beggars." I'll stand there, touched and mesmerized.

"Tomorrow," I'll whisper, tears of confusion sparkling on my cheeks, "I'm cooking chicken."

Friday, 27 December
I Wish You Could Experience My Exotic Meat

Tonight the fiancee (<--uh huh) and I are going to friends' to sample some "exotic meat"--that is, something that isn't beef, pork or chicken, basically. Our friends live near a store that somehow sells this stuff. So we're going to end up tucking into some damn punchline-meat, whether it be Emu, Elk or . . . I don't know. Emily Watson? Anything's possible.

Now of course I know that meat is basically meat, so why discriminate? But I do. I have a powerful urge, for example, to flee any room purporting to be serving turtle meat, and I can't say that I've got any kind of serious jones for rattlesnake, either. I know it's silly, but there you are.

(A brief aside to vegetarians, vegans, and PETA members: I really do respect your point of view. I just don't share it. Don't piss in my ear about it, okay? Thanks.)

And then there's stuff on there that I don't really think of as exotic at all. Lamb? Please. Rabbit? Eh . . . maybe. Venison? Well, I grew up in Idaho eating this stuff. Hey, kangaroo! That's pretty exotic. Some people might feel queasy about eating these cute little hoppers, but they just haven't seen the trailers for Kangaroo Jack yet. I predict a big run on this soon.

You know, that's how they could really market this stuff. Celebrity tie-ins!

Dennis Franz' American Buffalo: Cook and Eat This Fucking Meat, You Fuck!
Jerry Bruckheimer's Kangaroo Jack: Buy Some Meat And Receive 1 Free "Get Out of Theater" Pass
Kevin Spacey's Albino Alligator: It Bites!
Danny Bonaduce's Partridge Family: Please, Please Just Buy Some

I think this could work.

Wednesday, 18 December
There is an Eldritch Presence in My Refrigerator

My fiancee (if I were cooler than shit, I'd [a] know which e to put the accent on and [b] know how to put the accent on whichever e, but I don't, and I don't, and fuck it anyway) and I received a box o' Christmas swag today via UPS, who courteously only ran it over twice with their van rather than the customary nine or ten times. I guess the holidays have them rushing. Amongst the wrapped gifts was a nice holiday basket full of luxurious, yummy shit that doesn't seem to exist anywhere outside of holiday baskets.

You know what I'm talking about: Vaclav Havel's Pepper-Smoked Aged Hard Salami! Snooty-Ass Farms' Crumblier-Than-Thou Cheese! Umlaut Brand Honey-Dill Mustard! You don't find this stuff at the AM/PM. In fact, you don't usually find them in this dimension. It's only the time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas that the pan-spatial rift opens between our normal spacetime and the mysterious, inaccessible otherworld known as "Vermont."
Here there be Boutickue Farmes.

Anyway, it looks like good, uppity stuff; stuff that you'll enjoy the hell out of right until you're exactly 3/4 done with it, and then for ill-explained reasons, you'll shove it into the back of the fridge to grow furry along with the poorly-thought-out batch of homemade barbecue sauce. Go ahead, take a look: you've got some cornichons back there from last year. See? There they are. You like cornichons, but there they are, looking wan and neglected. Pity the cornichons, sure, we all do, but you just can't eat them, can you? Nobody knows why.

But in this year's basket was something new. It's so strange I don't even know where to begin. I feel like a physicist who has discovered a brand new particle, except in his case, nobody is going to want to taste his particle or dip something into a jar of his particles. This stuff is . . . it's a . . . it's . . . oh, well, it's from Vermont.

The label says, menacingly enough, "Sweet Heat Pretzel Dip." First of all, this sounds like the header to an infrequently visited porn page. And second, pretzel dip? Nobody dips pretzels, and I'm certain of this, because I just said so. Nobody dips pretzels.

But moving on to the ingredients, the terrible mystery deepens. I like to read these ingredients out loud, as if from some Culinary Necronomicon, and pretend I am summoning Elder Kitchen Gods: RED RASPBERRY VINEGAR! SUGAR! MUSTARD FLOUR! (what? no time! keep reading!) CLOVER HONEY! MUSTARD SEEDS! SALT! APRICOTS! AND GINGER!

This is what I'm supposed to dip pretzels in? Why? Why would I do this? What possible aberrance of nature or character could impel me into such inexplicable behavior? Nothing makes sense any more; the world spins crazily on a tilted axis, and all I can do is totter along as best I can, clutching a bag of unsullied pretzels to my chest. It is my charge, and I must keep it safe. I must keep myself safe. I must keep us all safe.

And in moments of clarity, I can still see the jar. It sits on the counter, unopened, inviolate, an entity horrible in its Vermont-y perfection. This jar . . . this jar has a Cthonic power that cannot be released, and even yet, cannot be denied, it can only be . . . stilled. In. That. Jar.

I will do what I can. I know my task. I will take you up, Sweet Heat Pretzel Dip. I will take you up and place you in the back of the fridge.

Rest. Rest may we all.











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