Sunday, January 29, 2006

Regrettable Foods

From BigPhil, we bring to you today for your browsing pleasure: Lilek's Gallery of Regrettable Food. Relive the good old days when dutiful 1950's housewives aspired to impress their Leave it to Beaver families with delicious meals of pimiento olives, seasoned hamburger meat in aspic jelly and Mashed Potato Surprise!

In the spirit of these festivities, I present to you today:

Dave's Top 5 List of Regrettable Foods

#5 – Costco Bananas, LA/SF, CA
There are 3 things wrong with the bananas from Costco: they’re green, they stay green, and they come in 6-lb bags. When my parents came up to visit SF last year, they decided to bring some of their Southern California Costco bounty for my fiber-deprived soul. And so it came to pass that three pounds of lime green bananas came to reside on my kitchen counter. Three months later, they were still green. Two months after that, they were green and wrinkly. A month later, they were brown and wrinkly. Apparently, they drew the “Proceed directly to brown, do not pass yellow” card. Bleah.

End result: I threw them out. I never ate any.

#4 – Carnitas Brambory, Frankie’s Bohemian Café, San Francisco, CA
“We should go to Frankie’s,” Trevor said. “They’ve got this carnitas plate there for about nine bucks? It’s pretty sweeet.” So we did. However, I ordered the wrong carnitas plate – while everyone else got the regular carnitas plate with tortillas and traditional fixings, I ordered the carnitas brambory. It was a semi-crispy potato and zucchini julienne pancake loaded with sour cream and cheddar cheese. The meager portion of carnitas underneath said pile of lactose was merely an afterthought for the orgy of dairy products that awaited me.

I’m lactose-intolerant.

End result: the runs. I have, however, returned to Frankie’s multiple times for the real thing which is, in fact, pretty sweeet. Great burgers, too. Haven’t tried the other brambories, though; a bit scared.

#3 – Cajun-Grilled Catfish, North Carolina
I forgot the name of the restaurant we went to. But it was late at night, and it was the only one open. As I bit into a large chunk of my Cajun-grilled catfish, my molars encountered a tough, sort of squishy thing within the meat itself. It felt like a balloon of sorts that stretched upon mastication, then burst open with an audible pop, releasing a gush of fluid into my very shocked mouth. My thoughts:

  1. That felt like a cyst.

  2. I just took parasitology.

  3. Don’t tapeworms have a cystic stage in most animals?

  4. … shiiiiiiiiiit.

End result: spat out the mouthful of fish in question. Later found out that fish tapeworms don’t have a cystic stage, so it couldn’t have been D. Latum. Still, I don’t really care to find out what it was. And besides, the food on the rest of the trip made up for that one misstep in spades. Mmmmmm… ribs…

#2 – Pan Fried Razor Clams, Ivar’s, Seattle, WA
For some reason, the Ivar’s I remembered from my childhood did not age well into the new millennium. I ordered the pan-fried razor clams, which were gummy, chewy, smelled of rubber, and tasted like soap. The half-hearted breading drowning in a pool of its own oil didn’t help matters either. I was treating my cousin Clarence to dinner that night, and I felt terrible that I had picked such a shitty restaurant. Even the clam chowder, which had blown me away as a child, didn’t really do it for me. Maybe it was an off day for the kitchen…

End result: declined the doggy bag, left a good tip for the waiter, and suffered indigestion. Two days later, I went to Ray’s Boathouse and had some truly awesome seafood. Wow. Wowie wow wow wow!

And last but not least…

#1 – Hamachi Nigiri, Seattle, WA
Previously frozen, then thawed, then frozen, then thawed, massaged by warm hands twice, and then sliced and served to me as part of a bento box lunch special. Biting into this elegant morsel felt like sinking my teeth into a sponge that had been soaking all day in the seafood section at a Chinese market. WRONG. I sent it back to the kitchen and was given something else – slightly better, but still retaining a bit of the fishy sponge action. At this point, I was so hungry that I didn't care anymore. I ate it.

End result: my GI tract slammed shut like a book. For 2 days I couldn’t keep any food or liquid down, and I was inflicted with the worst case of food poisoning I have ever had to date. I ended up cancelling my flight back to SF and stayed an extra day just to recover. Lost 3-4 pounds in the span of 2 days. That’s one hell of a diet.


So there you have it, my own shortlist of 5 regrettable foods from the past few years. Happy Chinese New Year, everybody!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Alcoholic Alchemy: Break out the Two Buck Chuck!

Those wacky Japanese. They've invented a mechanical mini-Jesus. Technically, it doesn't turn water into wine; it just turns young wine into aged wine, in seconds

And it's only the size of a stereo boombox.

It's like a tiny god.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Rice Cycle

Every so often, I'll go grocery shopping and return with 4 dozen eggs. This usually happens whenever eggs go on sale and/or I'm trying to be healthy by eating egg-white scrambles for breakfast every morning. Still, burning through 48 eggs before the expiration date is quite an ordeal. So how do I -- a single twenty-something male with a busy school schedule and little time to spare for cooking -- accomplish this feat?

Easy. I present to you now:

The 12-Step Rice Cycle for Massive Egg Consumption
  1. Cook 6 cups of rice.
  2. Consume 1 to 3 cups of rice with leftover stir fry.
  3. Place leftover rice in giant Tupperware. Allow rice to languish in the refrigerator for a while.
  4. Complain that you have nothing left to eat.
  5. Open refrigerator. Find old rice.
  6. Crack a dozen eggs, separating 2/3 of the yolks. Make fried rice.
  7. For the next few days, consume fried rice for lunch.
  8. Are lunches boring now? Why not make some stir fry?
  9. Create four pounds of stir fry.
  10. Finish fried rice with fresh stir fry. You should still have a lot of stir fry left.
  11. Son-of-a-bitch, I can't eat stir fry without rice...
  12. Cook 6 cups of rice.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Seamas Navarro, Beat Poet

A couple months ago, I was with several friends at Toronado, enjoying a sausage and a beer for dinner. At around 6pm, I stepped outside to take a phone call. Just as I finished, a man in a blue jacket and worn sneakers approached me.

"Hey man," he said. "Do you like poetry?"

I looked at him and hesitantly said, "Sure."

To my surprise, he said, "Well, don't let the backpack fool you, but I'm an internationally known poet." He pulled out a stack of paper and pressed it into my hands. "Here, why don't you read some of this and tell me what you think."

Internationally known poet? Yeah right.

I didn't want to be rude, so I read a couple poems off the first page. They were pretty good.

After a minute or so, he said, "So what did you think? Did you like them?"

"Yeah, they're pretty good," I replied.

"Here's the deal, I just got back from Burning Man and I need to get to my next gig in Redding, but I'm out of money." I looked at him skeptically as he continued. "But I don't want your money. How does this sound: if you come with me to Kinko's and help me run off a few copies, I'll give you two signed copies of my book. I want to sell off these books and get enough money to buy a Greyhound ticket... I'm supposed to leave tonight, but I don't know if I can make it. What do you think?"

I thought about it for a few seconds. I had initially thought he was going to recite poetry and then bug me for a buck or two. But this seemed different. technically, he wasn't begging for a free ride; he just needed some seed money to get himself started. I actually admired him for it.

I said, "Sure. Where's the Kinko's?"

"Right down there on Church and Market. It's not too far."

"Sounds good. Let's get going."

We walked for about 15 minutes, talking about anything and everything.

- Bush's war on terror ("It's all messed up there. I can't believe this is happening right now")

- Santa Barbara, where he was from ("beautiful place... but it's changed man... it used to be a great place with Santa Barbara character, but now it's just another outgrowth of LA.")

- Burning Man - ("I was nominated for poet laureate for Burning Man. It was great. There was this really hot girl who gave me this handmade leather journal. She said, 'Wow, your poetry was really great and it really spoke to me. I made this and I want you to have it." Here, check it out. I've already started writing poems in them.")

- Women and relationships ("This girl I met, I said, 'Tell me two things about yourself. I want to hear darkness and I want to hear light.' She said, 'Well, I'm engaged to marry this guy, but I don't think I love him and I'm thinking about calling it off.' Once I heard that, I thought to myself, 'I'm not fooling around with this girl. That's just a disaster waiting to happen.'")

- How he submitted some of his poetry to an international poetry society in France and got published.

- Life on the road ("I was in Aspen about six weeks ago. I've traveled through 14 states already. I basically left Santa Barbara to do what I loved. I left with basically nothing and made my way around the country, doing readings at coffee shops here and there, and just seeing if I could live off my poetry.")

- How he's able to tell who would be receptive to hearing his poetry ("I can tell by their shoes... and their general look. If they've got the full-on business suit, I generally avoid them. Birkenstocks? Yeah, they're usually more chill about things and they'll usually hear me out and throw a few bucks my way. Normally guys with nice black shoes like loafers aren't too receptive, but I could tell you were a decent guy, so that's why I asked you.")

- On the Beat movement - "I think the beat movement is a philosophy, not a movement. I'm trying to live that philosophy. A few years ago, I decided to see if I could live off my art. I'm still doing it."

When we finally got to Kinko's, I talked him out of running photocopies on standard 20-lb bond paper. "It's a business decision," I said. "You'll probably sell more books and people would probably be more interested and take you more seriously if it was on nicer paper." So, we ended up running off about 15 copies of his book (more like a booklet actually) on some light stone 24-lb bond.

On the way back to the bar, he kept thanking me profusely. "You just saved my life man. I would've been stranded here in SF. From now on, anytime you want to come to any of my readings, you're in, no cover charge or anything. You and one other person, just let me know. Just tell me that you're Dave from SF who helped me run copies of my book and I'll know who you are."

And with that, we shook hands and parted ways.

Later that night, I googled him out of curiosity, and sure enough Seamas Navarro was the real deal. His story checked out; he had been travelling across the country, he was a beat poet living off his art, and he was indeed in Aspen just six weeks prior.

I still have his books on my shelf, signed in an artsy scrawl, "Thanks Dave! Good luck! Seamas Navarro, Beat Poet! 9-9-05, Fillmore, San Francisco."

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Over Christmas, my family received a giant holiday chocolate chip cookie, with the words “Happy Holidays!” written in red, green, and white frosting.  I took said cookie and served it to my guests at my New Year's party, but one guest in particular refused to eat it.  "It's actually not very good,” she confided to me.  I had never eaten a Mrs. Fields Giant Cookie, so I decided to try it.  She was right on the money.

I realized two things:

  1. No one ate the cookie until I finally brought in a giant meat cleaver and chopped it up

  2. The cookie tasted as good as it looked, and it looked terrible after cutting it up.

I’ve got a suggestion.  Why not make a Mrs. Fields Giant Animal Cookie?  When I was a kid and the no-brainer Sunday school snack was a bag of Mrs. Fields assorted miniature cookies, which cookies were always the first to go?  The white and pink animal cookies.   Now, think a little harder: which cookies were always the rejects left in the bag? The chocolate chips, of course.  Somewhere between Mount Olympus and Shit Valley were the other cookies of middling quality – the chocolate chocolate chip cookies and I forget what else – that’s not important.

A Mrs. Fields Giant Animal Cookie has all the functionality and holiday versatility of the ‘other’ giant cookie, with one key difference: people would actually WANT to eat it.  (Plus, there’s absolutely no way for the cookie to go stale, once you’ve shellacked it in pink, sweet, buttery goodness.)  It would sell out like crazy!

Think about it:   Would you eat an ice cream cake?  Yes.  

How about eat one of those newfangled birthday cakes with a photo of the birthday boy painted in sugary food dye?  … Eh, creepy, but still yes.

Gingerbread houses?  Hell yes!

Giant Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookie with semi-crystallized frosting?

If you hesitated just now, I don’t blame you.  Eating a supersized version of the worst cookie in the entire Mrs. Fields lineup is like scaling a mountain of dung: you’d only do it because it was there; the trip to the top is not that pleasant; and once you’ve finished, you wonder just what the hell were you thinking.

You’d be better off downing five pounds of black jellybeans in one sitting.