Sunday, August 21, 2011

State Fair Food - Or Why Wear Seatbelts on a Rain-Slick Mountain Road?

As we ease out of August and enter the fall season many of us will be drawn to the cool outdoors. Some of us will long to go hiking in the woods, some of us will fill the stands of our favorite football team, and some of us will make plans to revel in that great American institution: the State (or County) Fair.

At one time, State Fairs focused on livestock, produce, and the joyful simplicities of rural life. Sure there was a midway where gaudy portable rides offered a few cheap thrills, but the highlight was usually the competitions, where friends and neighbors vied for the fattest pig or the best apple pie.

I'm sure many State Fairs still include the tradition of competitions, but these events are not as well attended as they were in days past. Even the Midway has undergone a metamorphosis: classic rides like the merry-go-round or tilt-a-whirl have been replaced by contraptions constructed by itinerant workers whose skills would make them more usefully employed as dirt sifters, furniture testers, or US Senators. Mind-numbing rides like The Mutant, The Bone Crusher, or The Kiddie Coaster with Six Missing Critical Bolts.

But by far, one of the most popular draws is the food. Whereas fair-going families of yore relished normally forbidden treats like crisp and juicy corn dogs, pillows of cotton candy, or caramel apples the size of softballs, today's modern fair goer is introduced to food that would've baffled even the most adventurous diner of days gone by. I'm sure you've seen, and perhaps tasted, some of these artery clogging creations. I offer here just a few along with improved variations that I feel would be "more tempting to the masses while fattening their asses." Or what I've formally dubbed, "Warren's Mass of Ass State Fair Snacks."

I mean why careen down a rain-slick mountain road without seat belts when you can cut the brake lines before doing so to ensure a more entertaining and satisfying trip? Enjoy!

State Fair Standard Midway Food:

Deep Fried Snickers Bars. These candy bars (one of my favorites when I was a kid) already boasts 29 grams of sugar and tops out at 266 calories, so why deep fry it and coat it with sugar? Because we can. Now this little treat boasts 700 calories. That's more than three slices of pepperoni cheese pizza.

Warren's Mass of Ass Improvement:

Glazed Deep Fried Oreo-Stuffed Twinkies with Sprinkles. Deep Fried Oreos and its cousin, Deep Fried Twinkies have become State Fair staples, so why not combine them and coat them with a sugary glaze and a fistful of colorful sprinkles? Boo-yeah. Now we're batting 1,000 (calories, that is.)

State Fair Standard:

Krispy Kreme Burgers. Created in the Deep South and popularized by Paula Dean (sorry PD, but I already trademarked "Mass of Ass"), this concoction features a quarter pound beef pattie topped with cheese and bacon then sandwiched between a buttered Krispy Kreme Donut. Some calorie counters peg it at 500 calories and some at over 1,000. Of course one must ask, how do you dunk that sucker?

Warren's Improvement:

Double Fried Krispy Kreme Meatball Subs. Face it, many fair goers still feel hungry after eating the Krispy Kreme Burger. For those whose cravings exceed the calorie count of one of these standards, we offer the ultimate state fair sub where ground beef and a beef-like product are molded into globes the size of tennis balls, wrapped in bacon, then deep fried. These are topped with tomato sauce, fried onions, fried green peppers, and 11 different cheeses (fried lettuce is available on request) and sandwiched between four halved Krispy Kreme Donuts before the whole sandwich is deep fried again. The best part? No need to dunk. Problem solved.

State Fair Standard:

Deep Fried Butter. This is one of the latest fads on the State Fair circuit. Balls of butter are coated in batter and deep-fried until the outside is crisp. Fans liken it to a croissant with a more buttery taste. Croissant? Um, right. I think I hear the French surrendering. Again.

Warren's Improvement:

Lard on a Stick. Why go through the hassle of preparing a batch of coating and firing up the deep fat fryer? Cut down on time without cutting calories with a big hunk of Lard-on-a-Stick.

Y'know, now that I think about it, it appears that people in general will eat anything if it is deep fried, so why don't vendors skip the food wholesaler altogether and deep fry items that they don't even have to pay for? Items that are readily available in any community? Talk about pure profit! I've already invented several. Enjoy, but please don't drool on your laptop.

Warren's New Ultra-Profitable Mass of Ass State Fair Snacks:

- Deep Fried Dog Shit. Raw materials available at any park.

- Deep Fried Already-Chewed Gum. Available under school desks and subway seats.

- Deep Fried Lint. Available in most pockets and a host of belly buttons.

- Deep Fried Shards of Glass. Available in most vacant lots.

and, lest we forget the vegan and vegetarian crowd,

- Deep Fried Grass Clippings and Twigs. Available in most gated communities.

Now we're talking! Look for my booth at your local fair. I'll have the one with the really long lines. And with all the big-ass people around, there should be more than enough shade...


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Don't Try This at Home and Other Stupid Advice.

In my last blog post I offered some time-tested and truly useful culinary advice from the ancients.

Pearls of wisdom gleaned from mist-enshrouded fields of Stonehenge, mysterious ancient Chinese dynasties, dank medieval monasteries, and the steamy, bustling kitchens of five-star restaurants...not to mention the twisted mind of the bonehead that puts pen to paper and writes this blog in the discomfort of his overheated office. (That would be me.)

Together with the all the additional nuggets of wisdom I received from the wonderfully winsome "Table for Twosies" who either emailed me or posted their comments here (including the many, er, creative ones that I couldn't post, lest I violate several statutes of the International Blogger Decency Code. Think Lenny Bruce in an apron) I knew that this corpus of food wisdom resonated with many.

And yet, a lot of dubious advice still finds its way onto the internet. Some I was able to tweak and make work (yes, one can cook eggs in a microwave oven, but you must take them out of the shells first.)

But much of it I tried and found wanting (you cannot place minute rice in the microwave and expect it to be done in 10 seconds.)

And some of the advice was so innately jive-ass (you cannot cram yourself in a microwave oven and expect to go into the future) that I had to file it away in that part of my brain that the French gourmands gleefully refer to as "Le Grande Shitter."

Perhaps you've seen some of these and filed them away as well. But if not, let me save you the trouble. Here are but a few:

"If you can dream it, you can do it." ~  Walt Disney

Okay. Last week I dreamt that I met Mila Kunis at one of my cooking demos and she invited me up to her suite to, um, butter her crepes. Needless to say, I haven't done that yet. (And if my dear wife has anything to say about it, I probably never will.) Now, Walt, let's talk about Mickey Mouse dreams...

"Do what you love and the money will follow." ~ Marsha Sinetar, award-winning author (as well as many motivational speakers)

Do what you love? Hey, my friend Summer absolutely loves to post every ten seconds of her life on Facebook. (Did you read the recent updates about her struggle over whether to buy the Sperry Top-Sider Silverside shoes or the Sperry Top-Sider Fairwinds? No? Count yourself as one of the blessed.) Anyway, she hasn't quit her job at Wendy's yet and it's been a couple of years now. If the money's still following her it must've stopped to ask directions along the way. And don't get me started on my friend Bo who loves to play Black Ops on XBox all friggin' night and day long. The money's still looking for him, too.

"Don't try this at home." ~ Super Dave Osborne and various other daredevils

Listen. As far as I'm concerned, if you can't try it in the privacy of your own home where else are you gonna try it? The ballet? The corner market? The boss' house?  Geez, the last time I actually heard this lamebrain exhortation was from a street performer who was about to eat a flaming sword. I mean, if you're going to try something like that are you going to aim for a day care center? Traffic court? Nursing home? Your child custody trial? No way. You better damn well try it at home.

And here's one of my favorites:  

"Drink red wine with meat and white wine with fish or fowl." ~ Numerous imbecilic gastronomes

Oh puh-lease. Who invented this stuff? Probably the same group of folk who came up with some of the other bewildering rules like: "Don't mix your metaphors" as if saying that one shouldn't put all  their chickens in one basket before they hatch a plan to look before they leap for one giant step for mankind, or whatever.

Listen. Food is all about taste and what pleases you and your friends.

Do you or any of your guests like a Pinot grigio with beef? Merlot with snapper? Go for it!

Do you have a hankering for pasta, potatoes and rice? Then screw the starch witches and whip up a frittata!

Saute onions and garlic together like so many cookbooks say? Don't! Saute your onions for 5 to 8 minutes first, then add your garlic and saute a minute or two more. Your taste buds will love you for it!

I'm getting carried away here. Sorry.

But when it comes to great advice, internet or otherwise, you gotta love this piece of eternal wisdom:

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. " ~ Dr. Seuss

Now, how 'bout pouring me a glass of that Cab with my grilled mahi-mahi...


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Food Wisdom from the Ancients. And Then Some.

As I flit about the Foodie Cybersphere I can't help but love all the pithy food quotes that people are wont to post. Including me.

They bring a smile to my face and a warm feeling to my tummy. I love the classics like:

"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity."  ~ Voltaire


“Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." ~  Julia Child

And I love the new ones like:  "I could piss off your happy meal." (Thanks, Felisha.)              

But as an avid food blogger, sometimes I yearn for something deeper. Something beyond the norm.

In the world of Big Mac blog quotes I sometimes pine for a taste of Kobe Beef (with a smidgen of sauteed onions and just a touch of Irish Butter.)

I want to hear the voices of the ancients who have trod the path before me. To glean from their wisdom. Learn from their experience. Or maybe even get their great German knives and copper cookware I could never afford when they pass on to that great kitchen in the sky.

But how?!

I knew it wouldn't be easy. I had to gather together those steeped in the ancient disciplines. Like:

Linguistics. My good friend Charisse loves linguini. No joke. And she can kick butt on any one of a dozen linguini dishes. (Her puttenesca? To die for!) So I guess I have a linguist in my corner.

Archaeology. I went to college with a guy who now plays a pirate on Captain Nemo's Pirate Ship down at the pier. Sure, he's getting a bit on in years, but he can growl "Argh" with the best of them. Man, that dude can put the ''Argh" in Archaeologist. So I guess I have that covered.

A great Epicurean. I don't go to the movies very often any more (ever since they put that padlock on the alley door) but I really do try to see the epics. Films like the X-men franchise, Iron Man, Captain America, the final Harry Potter film... But my friend Ron sees all the epics. He even buys tickets to romantic comedies. Heck, he even sees the jive-ass slapstick crap that wouldn't even rate as sitcoms. But he goes nuts over the blockbuster epics. So I guess I have an Epicurean on board.

Next, I needed a wine expert. That would be an oenologist. But since I can't spell it or even say it on a consistent basis (especially after a glass or two of wine) I knew I'd have to pass on an actual wine expert and settle on a really good whiner. That would be my friend, Bart. His wife ran off with a juggler from the circus and his son just converted to Scientology so he can jump up and down on a late night TV show couch just like Tom Cruise. And last Saturday his daughter booked a room at the Plaza for a mad night of passion with a newly-paroled purse snatcher she met on Facebook. Oh, and Bart just bought a Yugo with low miles on Craig's List. Yes, I do believe Bart can whine with the best of them. He's in.

So the five of us committed ourselves to bringing you the crème de la crème of the ancients.

I hope the wisdom of these elders inspires you like it did us.

And if not, you can always go back to reading Bon Appetit. I loved the latest issue with the lead article: "The Glamorous Movie Star, the Food Her Dad Made Her, and the Cookbook She had Someone Ghostwrite for Her."



Wisdom from the Ancients

"Berries picked at dawn will nourish those who dine at noon. Berries picked at eve won't. Sorry." ~ Etched on the Sixth Obelisk at Stonehenge.

"I despaired that I had no eating utensils. Then I met a man that had no arms. So I said, "Since you probably won't be using that fork…"  From the Fourth Writings of the Upurarse, 174 BC

"I climbed the Big Rock Candy Mountain seeking knowledge. I met a wise lollipop on a lonesome road and asked, "What must I do to find enlightenment?" The lollipop smiled and with a twinkling eye replied, "Suck me." ~  From the writings of Diu Mi, Fourth Dynasty, 27 BC 

"An olive and a bit of cheese on the tongue of a poor man is better than a cup of Venti Starbucks left on the roof of a Porsche as the owner darted out of the lot late for yet another stupid meeting. Verily, amen." ~ Corporitus Interruptus, 99 AD

"On a chill as winter's evening there's nothing quite like a hot bowl of soup. No wait. A steaming bowl of water with some bits of vegetables in it is a lot like a bowl of soup. Nevermind." ~ St. Gastronome the Obvious, 515 AD

"Preparing a meal for your loved ones reflects the mighty miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000. Except there are probably 4,995 fewer of you. More or less." ~  Pope Flavorius, 949 AD

"A fine, fatted, fowl fit for the fourth Friday of February is much easier said once than three times fast." ~ St. Stu the ~  1349 AD

"Canadian bacon is neither Canadian, nor bacon. But it sure makes a one hell of an Egg McMuffin." ~ Sir Ronald McDonald, 1982 AD

"If it weren't for Evander Holyfield's ears, I'd be a vegetarian tomorrow."  ~ Mike Tyson, 1997

"God created whiskey to keep the Irish from taking over the world. And God created haggis to keep the Scots from going into the restaurant business." ~ St. Warren the Wiseass, 2011 AD

Now...what ancient wisdom have you gleaned lately?