Post #629 Road Rage

February 23, 2019 at 2:30 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #629 Road Rage

My dad was an equitable, quiet voiced, even tempered kind of guy.  He would live and let live and not say much unless he got pushed too far.  Once he lost his patience, all bets were off.  He had a stony face that could radiate anger from half a mile away.  Trust me, I know that one.

One time, he decided to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work and it did not go well.  First, he never liked stopping anywhere on the way home.  He was usually tired, and tired of people by that time.  Second, he dislike shopping for groceries because he thought it was too expensive and an exercise in futility.  He knew he could spend every dollar he had in his pocket, and in three days, he’d be right back there buying more.  Third, it was that time of the year when tourists took over our little town, which was a very trying time in general.

He was pushing his cart around, trying to get the things he wanted and on a whim decided to treat the family to grilled steak that night.  He was at the meat counter looking over the selection when he felt a bump on the back of his leg.  He looked around and noticed a retired tourist glaring at him but didn’t really think too much of it.  He turned back to the meats still trying to decide what to get.  He felt the bump on his leg again, a little more forcefully than the first time and glanced over his shoulder.

“I’ll be through in a minute,” he said, but knowing my dad, I’m sure his face was stony and getting red.

He turned back to the display and was just reaching to get what he wanted when the older man bumped into him hard enough to cause one leg to buckle slightly and his knee to whack the counter.

Dad turned around, grabbed the old man’s cart and shoved it back.  In a gravelly voice, he said, “If that thing touches me one more time, it’s going straight up your ass!”

Needless to say, it didn’t touch him again.

So when did common decency and manners disappear at the grocery store?  You see it all the time.  People are oblivious to whatever mayhem they may be causing, from backed up lines to blocking entire aisles.   Partner/Spouse and I were recently at our closest store and I was pushing the cart along at a moderate pace as we quickly tried to get from one place to another.  He was ahead of me and suddenly reached out to stop our cart and move out of the way.  A lady came barreling out of an aisle like she was on fire and there was no one around but her.  No decorum whatever.  No pause to see who was coming along the main aisle she was getting into.  I made a comment like, “I hope she doesn’t drive like that.”  I heard her distinctly call me a four letter word so I laughed and moved on.

It seems to be a real problem.  People just don’t care what they act like or look like when they’re in the grocery store.  It’s about getting in and out as quickly as possible and who cares who’s in the way?  Run ’em over!  I try to get people to laughing.  I try to reach things on high shelves for people who need it.  When I worked the grocery story a few years ago, I had one lady make me tag along with her as she did her shopping despite whatever else I had to do.  Even the bookstore I’m at now, people will get downright testy (rude) is things are going too slow for their liking.

We recently were looking for a place to park and chose a specific lane.  Someone pulled up in the middle of the lane making our left turn problematic.  We made it, however, and pulled into our chosen spot.  Only to hear the other driver still cussing us out as though we had done something wrong.  I was looking puzzled at him, wondering why he was so angry which seemed to make him angrier.  He vented his anger by racing out of the parking lot potentially putting himself and others in danger.

I wish people were nicer.

It even shows up on blogs like this one.  I read a meme on FB recently where a woman was moaning:  I don’t want to read 40 paragraphs of how you went on a walk with your husband and kids and dogs and how you love the changing colors of fall and the crisp air and the slight chill in the air making it sweater weather and how you look forward to hot chocolate in front of the fire on a cool night.  I just want the recipe so get to it, bitch!

I was horrified.

So road rage has moved to the grocery store, the general shopping stores, even the blogosphere.

So sorry, no recipe today and I’m sorry you had to get all the way to the bottom of the post to find that out.  Take a deep breath and glory in the realization that you just spent a few minutes listening to “road rage” in my head instead of fearing for you life on the road.

And share some of your favorite rage stories.  Feel free to share this widely if you like.

Post #628 Of the Self Rising Kind

February 17, 2019 at 12:58 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

We’re very into the British cooking shows in our house.  Well, actually, we’re very into almost any cooking show that is broadcast in English in our house.  We love seeing the flavor combos other chefs come up with, and we really love the competitions other countries come up with.

Lots of times, we take the recipes that intrigue us the most and make them for ourselves, adapting them to our tastes and means.  So recently, Partner/Spouse to make a cake he’d seen Mary Berry make on Great British Bake Off Master Class called a Tunis Cake.  It had been one of their technical challenges, and she was showing viewers how to make a foolproof version.

It’s basically a light sponge cake tasting of orange with a thick layer of chocolate ganache on top.  The chocolate sets into a fudgy topping while the cake has a wonderful, citrusy orange punch.  I don’t have to tell you about chocolate and orange, do I?

So he picked a weekend to try it and ran into a roadblock.

“We don’t have any self rising flour, do we?”

“Nope,” I said, “But it’s easy to make.  One cup of flour, a half teaspoon of salt, and one and a half teaspoons of baking powder mixed really well, and that’s it.”

“Cool!”  And off  goes.

It didn’t turn out well.  For some reason, the cake was as dense and fudgy as the chocolate (which turned out great!)  But the flavors were intense and delicious.

Several hours later, he looked up and said, “Oh!  I forgot the baking powder!”

So, a week later, we’re in the grocery store to make sure we have all the ingredients needed to remake the cake.  We want a small bag of self-rising flour.  The store we were in didn’t have any.  It had every other kind of flour imaginable, but the one we needed.

The same happened at the next store we went to.

And the next.

In fact, every store we went to that day in search of the elusive self-rising flour ended in dismal failure.  Yeah, I know, first world problem.

But that got me thinking.  I remember from my childhood in Arizona seeing bags of this stuff in every store, and in my mom’s pantry.  So much so, that it wasn’t even thought about except the caution, don’t use that when it calls for AP flour.  So where was it now?

So, I turned to the internet to help puzzle out this mystery.  Where the heck was the self-rising flour?

Turns out, it was in the South.  I don’t live in the South anymore, so it’s not on my grocery shelves.  It’s almost entirely a regional thing.  I guess Arizona is considered the South, but I always thought of it as more the West.  Go figure.  But, self-rising flour is facing a decline, which may be the real reason it’s not as easily accessible as I seem to remember it.

Of course, ferreting out where to find the stuff led me to consider what to use the stuff for, except for British baking.  The Brits seem to use the stuff like salt.  And that makes sense since many of the things they bake are similar to or exactly the same as what is cooked in the South.

The shining product for self-rising flour is biscuits (in America) or scones (in Great Britain.)  I remember when I was still in Arizona as a kid and working at the gas station, and a younger kid used to come in and talk because he was bored.  He lived in the apartments right behind the gas station so he could stay for quite a while with no trouble.  One day, he brought in some biscuits his mom had made that she called 2 Ingredient Biscuits.  It was a cup and a half of self-rising flour mixed with a half cup of mayonnaise.  The dough was very tender so needed to be gently patted out to about a half inch thick.  She used a two inch round cutter to form the biscuits, then baked them at 425 until they rose and turned golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.  When they came out, she brushed them with melted butter.

They were so good.  And I don’t like mayonnaise.

When he was telling me about them, he said it was important to use self-rising flour.  That makes sense, because otherwise, there would be no lifting agent at all.

Another popular use for it is in fruit cobblers, and I remember my mom using it that way.  She would pour frozen berries into the bottom of an 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle about a half cup of sugar over them.  Then she would mix SRF (got tired of typing it out each time) and buttermilk together with a little sugar and dollop that over the fruit and bake it.  Just as an aside, when she didn’t have SRF, she would mix sugar and flour and sprinkle thickly over the top, then pour a half cup of melted butter over it and bake it.  THAT was delicious!

Who’s heard of Bisquick?  Remember the famous Bisquick coffee cake?  That’s just coffee cake using SRF because Bisquick is essentially SRF with chemical stabilizers.  So coffee cake is another success story for SRF.

Quick breads like muffins, banana bread, and Irish soda bread can all be made with SRF.  But if you do, remember to omit the extra baking powder called for in the recipe.  Quick breads are so called because they don’t need to sit and rise from the yeast in regular bread.  It rises from the addition of baking powder and baking soda.  But SRF already has baking powder in it.  I’ve even seen recipes for waffles and pancakes using SRF that looked every bit as delectable as those not using it.

So, back to the Tunis Cake.  Partner/Spouse made up the SRF he needed, and made the cake again.  He got a great rise out of the sponge, and it was a wonderful cake.  But oh! so rich.

Here’s the recipe but I didn’t do the conversions.  Sorry.

  • 8 oz softened butter
  • 8 oz sugar
  • 8 oz self rising flour
  • 2 1/2 oz ground almonds
  • 4 large eggs
  • Zest from one large lemon and one large orange
  • 10 floz heavy cream
  • 14 oz plain chocolate broken into pieces

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and line an 8 inch round cake pan with parchment paper.  Add butter, sugar, flour, ground almonds, eggs, and zest to bowl.  Beat on high speed for one minute until batter is smooth.  Spoon the batter into the cake pan and level the surface with an offset spatula.  Bake for 45 minutes then cover with foil to prevent over browning and bake another 15 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  This will take a couple of hours at least.  When the cake is completely cooled, pour the cream into a small ban and bring to a simmer.  Do not allow it to boil.  Removed from heat and add the chocolate pieces.  Stir until chocolate is completely combined.  Allow to cool, but do not allow it to set.  While still in a liquid state, pour the chocolate over the cake in the tin.  Allow to cool completely.  Decorate in any manner you like.  On the GBBS, they used marzipan to form holly leaves and berries since this is traditionally served at Christmas, but since that’s not usually readily available here in the States, I left it out.

So!  Anyone got any insights on self-rising flour?  I’d love to hear it!

As always,

Post #627 Tacos Tacos Everywhere!

February 10, 2019 at 1:57 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I was walking down the street in Tijuana, Mexico many years ago with my team members.  It was a Sunday afternoon, we had not yet reported to the office, but I wanted everyone to be sure where it was so I was showing them the way to walk it.  I told them since it was nearby, I wouldn’t be calling for a cab, but they were free to.  I showed them the fastest, safest route then cut them free.  I was going to a nearby mall to wander around and find something to eat.  Some of them came with me, and some did not.  It was Sunday; we weren’t working; they were adults.  They could do as they pleased.  It was November.  It was sunny.  I had grown up less than 200 miles from where I was standing.  So the sight of a tall gentleman in an overcoat, scarf, and gloves did not surprise me.  But I did have to say out loud, although in a soft voice, “It just isn’t that cold.”  I wandered the outdoor market, ate tacos, drank soda, and went back to the hotel to relax.

For me, relaxing means either cooking or reading.  Since I was living in a hotel room for the next several weeks, I was reading.  But I was reading a cookbook I’d picked up that afternoon, and it featured all the wonderful ways to prepare tacos.  Cuz, as most people who’ve read this blog know, I love tacos.  A lot.

Dad was a Marine when we were growing up so we traveled around a lot.  I don’t know when mom learned to make tacos, but I assume it was when they lived in southern California.  It was where all of kids were born, although we left just after my little brother was born, so I don’t remember anything about it.  I was first aware of eating tacos when we lived in upstate New York.  Mom made them the same way every time and it’s the way I love to eat them now.  Corn tortillas fried flat and supple but with a tiny bit of crunch to them.  Hamburger cooked and drained.  Shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese.  Chopped onion once in a while, and tabasco sauce when you were feeling adventurous.  A tortilla on your plate with a small mound of hamburger on it.  Top the burger with cheese, then tomatoes, then lettuce.  Fold up the sides of the tortilla, hold it in your hand so the filling doesn’t drop out, tilt your head, and chow down.  It was inevitable that filling dropped out, but that was half the fun.  When the tacos were eaten, you cleaned your plate of everything that fell.  It was so good.

Mom and dad would share stories of eating mounds of tacos, and my sister and dad having taco eating contests where mom just stood at the stove frying tortillas while they shoved them in.  My brother would try to engage my dad in one of these epic contests, but by then dad was older, not losing weight as fast as he used to, and usually declined.

When I was a teenager, I took over the taco making chore and added a little style and substance to the mix.  I introduced salsa to the mix, and sometimes substituted chicken or pork for the burger.  In my late teens, I went through a long bout with depression, and one time sat down and ate two tacos instead of my usual number.  My dad, teasing me and not recognizing the signs of what I was going through, said, “Damn!  Are you in love or something?”  There was no way I could tell him what was really wrong.

As I grew older, and the sun started shining on my soul again, I learned other ways to make tacos.   And as with some many young and stupid people, I assumed that I was discovering new ways that no one else had thought about.  Crispy fried fish went into my tacos.  Sour cream replaced the cheese.  Vegetarian styles involving beans and lentils showed up with regularity.  Flour tortillas replaced corn once in a while.

I love tacos.  Once, I had a conversation with my dad while I was still living at home and said, “You know, when you think about it, tacos would make a great salad.  It’s all in there.”

He said, “I don’t imagine too many people would like that.”

Forty years later, and taco salad is a mainstay in many restaurants, and we have it at home to use up the left over taco fixings.  Go Figure.

So there I was sitting in my room reading about tacos, still full from eating tacos, and my phone rings.  One of my team was getting people together to go for dinner at the restaurant across the street in a few hours.  Did I want to come along?  After about six seconds of thinking about it, I agreed.

The place was nice.  It was about six o’clock and we were the only people there.  For the area, it was an upscale place.  We were the only people there because on Sunday evenings, people there ate later in the evening.  We had an enjoyable time with the staff and the chef came out to introduce himself.

He have us a free appetizer of mini tacos, one per person.  It was one he wanted to try out on Americans before serving them to American tourists and we agreed to give him our opinion.

The tortilla was about two inches across and was grilled so it was soft and pliable and had char marks on it.  Very tasty.  The filling was a meat with queso fresca and salsa.  There were small diced jalapenos scattered on top.  We each took one and folded it up and at them in three quick bites.  They were very good, but none of us recognized the meat.

We tried to ask the question, but he kept putting us off for some reason.  We persisted while giving him our opinion about how good it was.  He finally relented and told us it was tongue.  I’d never eaten tongue before and found that I like it.  Or at least, I liked it in that taco.  But I kept hearing in the back of my brain, one of my favorite comediennes saying, “I don’t like the idea of tasting something that might be tasting me back.”

Still like tacos, and I want to try tongue again sometime.

As always,

Post #626 A Baker’s Dozen of Hacks

February 6, 2019 at 7:24 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Just to remind everyone what a “hack” is, it’s a commonly known short cut that on the surface shouldn’t work, but does.  I have no idea where the phrase comes from, but there it is.  A quick search on the ‘net can provide dozens of Life Hacks, Food Hacks, Computer Hacks, etc.  But since this is a blog about food and cooking, I’m going to share some of my favorite Kitchen Hacks.  Ready?

Hack #1 – Toast for a Million.  Ever had the need to make large quantities of toast at once?  Maybe you’re making breakfast for a large number, or having a brunch or something?  Try this one:  Place an oven rack on it’s lowest level.  Place another one or two level higher.  Preheat your oven to 450.  Place a large baking sheet on the lower rack and arrange bread to go between the bars on the upper rack so they stand upright on the baking sheet.  Watch carefully and when the upper parts of the bread have reached the desired level of brown, using tongs to flip the bread slices and continue browning.  Lots of toast at once.

Hack #2 – Chilled Salad Outside.  If you want to keep a pasta salad or garden salad or else a slaw cool during a picnic or barbecue that’s outside try this.  Put some ice cubes in a zip lock bag with a couple of tablespoons of salt to keep the ice cooler for a longer time.  Place the bags in a bowl and cover with lettuce leaves.  Arrange the lettuce leave to look attractive and spoon the salad onto the lettuce.  It will stayed chilled for quite a long time this way.

Hack #3 – DIY Wine Chiller.  This one is easy peasy and so obvious it blows my mind that I didn’t know it sooner.  Take an empty two liter plastic bottle and cut the top off.  Fill it 1/3 with ice cubes, add a quarter cup of salt to keep the ice cooler for longer, and add enough water to cover ice by about an inch.  Remember ice floats so check the bottom of the bottle.  Place the wine bottle inside the plastic bottle watching for spillage.  The wine will chill in just a few minutes.  Enjoy!

Hack #4 – Edible Skewers.  If you’re serving nibbles for dinner or a get-together, don’t forget to place several small bowls around to place the used toothpicks in.  OR you could skewer everything from chilled shrimp to cheese cubes with small pretzel sticks that can be eaten along with the nibbles.  It’s good!

Hack #5 – Quick Compound Butter.  Compound butter is typically made by bringing butter to room temperature, adding flavorings to it (herbs, spices, zests, etc.), and mixing thoroughly.  The butter is then shaped, wrapped, and chilled again.  If you don’t have time for this, here’s a quicker way.  Mix your flavors on a plate.  Unwrap a stick of chilled butter and slice in half lengthways.  Roll the halved sticks in the flavorings and press to make certain they adhere.  Slice the butter and use per normal.

Hack #6 – Quicker Baked or Roasted Potatoes.  This is something my dad taught me when I was a teenager.  Our family was very fond of grilling and one of the staples was roasted potatoes.  We’d either wrap them in foil and roast in the coals, or leave them unwrapped and roast on the grill rack.  Sometimes, the potatoes were so large, the skins would be burnt while the middle was nearly raw.  When we had these huge potatoes, dad would shove a clean metal nail, a large one, into the middle running down the length of the potato.  The nail would heat up and cook from the center while the outer parts were cooking and they’d turn out perfectly.

Hack #7 – Fixing the Seasonings.  Sometimes we can get overzealous when seasoning our foods.  Fixing that isn’t as simple as adding sugar when you’ve added too much salt.  However, if your food is too salty, add an acid.  Citrus, either juice or zest, will help temper the saltiness.  Vinegar can also do this.  Canned tomatoes will also help.  Just don’t add a sweetener.

Hack #8 – Deviled Eggs To Go.  If you don’t have one of those wonderful little plastic carriers for deviled eggs, here are a couple of ideas to try.  First, you can use the egg carton they came in.  Or, you can use whatever lidded container you have at hand, but put the eggs in cupcake liners and fold up to protect the eggs.  If there’s space left over in the container, crumple up some more liners or other tissue paper to keep the eggs steady.

Hack #9 – Anti Spotting in the Dishwasher.  How many people use the anti-spotting stuff in the dishwasher?  We are spotty on this (see what I did there?  Ha!), we use it sometimes, when we think to get it.  However, another all-natural agent you can use is plain old white vinegar.  I’ve always got this in the pantry, so I just fill the container every few loads and the dishes sparkle.

Hack #10 –  Single Cup o’ Coffee.  We don’t drink coffee in our house.  Neither of like it.  However, many people who come over do.  At one point, we had a Keurig to make single cups, but that stayed in Tucson with my sister.  We thought about getting a coffee maker but no one wants to drink a full pot of coffee.  And many people don’t like a French press because it makes coffee a little stronger.  So here’s a plan.  Place a coffee filter in a medium sized funnel.  Spoon two tablespoons ground coffee into it, and place over a tall cup.  Slowly pour 6-8 oz very hot water into the grounds and allow the water to filter completely into the cup.  One good cup of coffee, I guess.

Hack #11 – Cleaning Cast Iron.  Cast iron is the cooking surface of choice, but cleaning that monster can be rough.  First, never ever put anything sugary into a cast iron pot.  If that sugar burns onto the pot, that mole hill will become a mountain.  That being said, normal cooking can be easily cleaned.  While the pan is still very warm, pour a tablespoon of kosher salt into it.  Using a pair of tongs, grab a folded paper towel and start wiping the cast iron.  The salt will absorb all the leftover grease and drippings and scrub any stuck bits off.  Then let the pan cool completely, pour off the salt, rinse, dry, and forget about it.

Hack #12 – Extra Counter Space.  How is that even possible?  It’s easy.  Open a drawer, place a cutting board that fits over that drawer, close the drawer to secure the board in place, and Eureka!  Extra counter space.  Just be aware that the drawer doesn’t have quite the same leverage as the counter does.

Hack #13 – Quick and Easy Kale.  Finally, always remember that a quick toss of olive oil in the pan helps that kale slide into the garbage much quicker and cleaner!

As always,

Post #625 The Rule Again

February 3, 2019 at 2:15 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Every couple of years, I revisit my first post about The Rule.  If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you’re likely familiar with The Rule.  Simply put, The Rule says that if 4000 people are eating something and they’re enjoying it and not dying from it, it’s probably something I should try.  I might not ever try it again, but at least I’ll know for the future.  The Rule is based on something my mom said, and on common sense, and on what I experienced in my travels around the world.

That being said, The Rule has led me to eat some things that I’ve absolutely loved despite their first appearances and my personal prejudices.  Several cheeses, many vegetables, and a slimy sea creature come immediately to mind.  There were many that I swear will never pass my lips again.  Fried crickets for one.  But more on that later.

So, for this post, I thought I’d make a list of less fun things that I’ve experienced, either personally or by conversation.  To keep people from getting too grossed out, there are no pictures in this post.

When I was in Laos, I was walking through the marketplace one afternoon, and saw a lady crouched over a smaller burner heating a large pan.  There were small, round, brown things in the pan.  Periodically, she’d give the pan a shake to keep whatever it was from burning.  People would stop by and give her a coin and she’d scoop up some of the things into a paper cup and give it to the purchaser.  They’d leave with a smile, happily crunching whatever it was.  I thought it was something like popcorn, but when I asked the person I was with, they told me it was a local delicacy, very popular, very nutritious.  Bugs.  I don’t know what kind, but it was bugs.  I didn’t try them.

When I was in Madagascar, I went to a local restaurant with a coworker while everyone else went to some sporting event.  I let him take the lead on ordering and we got a huge bowl of soup, a salad (which wasn’t safe to eat), and roasted vegetables and a slab of meat.  I two liter bottle of Coke per person accompanied the meal, and dessert was two oranges.  The meat tasted a little gamey but was pleasant and beef-like.  I asked the chef what it was and she motioned me to follow her.  I didn’t really want to, expecting to see some carcass hanging in the back room, but she showed me out the back door and pointed at a large beast nearby that looked a lot like a yak with dreadlocks.  It was zebu, one of the local beasts of burden, and currently on our plates.  It was good stuff.

One time in China, I noted that a lot of young girls in their very early teens were gnawing on a small brown ball of indeterminate origin.  I was trying to figure it out but didn’t recognize it all.  I wondered if it was some sort of boiled sugar treat, like a jaw breaker in the U.S.  Turned out, after I asked, I was completely off the mark.  It was a deep-fried rabbit head.  The girls gnawed on these things for days working everything off them until they cracked them open and sucked the brains.  It was a fad at the time, only pre-teen and young teen girls were eating them.

Also in China, but this is one I’ve heard of in nearly every country, is fried chicken feet.  Apparently, this is a real thing.  People will stew and then fry them, and nibble off whatever bits of meat and skin there are.  All I can say is, I’m not gonna.

Haggis is totally a Scottish treat, of sorts.  Today, it’s pretty innocuous, but in it’s original state it’s oats mixed with seasonings, vegetables, and all the innards of a sheep stuffed into the sheep’s stomach then steamed or boiled until set firm.  I’ve had the opportunity to try it, but knowing what it was, I declined.  There are things I just won’t eat.

In Australia and parts of Africa, they hunt large spiders.  There is a way to cook them so they won’t hurt you.  Pound for pound, they offer more nutrition and protein than most four legged animals.  There are two to three good bites per spider.  I gotta say, if given the chance, and know they were prepared properly, I’d try these, if only to get my chance to bite one of the critters that have bitten me so many times.

One slimy critter enjoyed in France is one I’ve eaten for decades.  Escargot, or as we call ’em, snails.  I was in a restaurant with my in-laws one time and my niece was about five and sitting next to me.  I’d ordered snails in garlic butter for an appetizer and when they arrived, she asked what they were.  I told her and she scoffed in disbelief.  I tried to convince her but she wasn’t having any of it.  I even offered her one to try, but nuh-uh.  Finally she turned to her mom and said, “Uncle Joe says he’s eating snails!”  Her mom grinned and said, “He is.  It’s called escargot.  He’ll give you one if you want.”  She turned back to me with the most horrified look on her face as she looked at me, then at the plate.  She didn’t speak to me again during the whole dinner.  In South Korea, the hotel offered us the free happy hour so I went every weekday evening.  During the first week, they served snails in a brown sauce and I commented how much I enjoyed it.  They made certain it was there at least three times each week.  I was so tired of snails by the end of those 7 weeks.  Really tired.

Another slimy bug dish I like is fried grubs.  Grubs are the larva stage of flies and each type of fly has a different grub.  The one we’re most used to seeing is the maggot from the common house fly.  However, there are some out in the woods that are large and tasty.  I was taking survival training many years ago, and we found some rotten logs.  We dug through until we found the grubs and took them back to camp.  That night, during the campfire, once the rocks forming the fire ring were heated through, we set the grubs on the hot rocks.  They sizzled and jumped a little but quickly formed a brown skin all around.  Once they reached that stage, they are good to eat.  Just pop in your mouth, and it’s like eating popcorn.  Very good stuff.

I never ate this one, but legend has it that one of our more adventurous travelers ate Balut.  It’s a duck egg with a live embryo in it.  It’s cooked then pickled.  You break it open and swallow the whole thing in one gulp.  In many cases, it has feathers, beak, etc.  It’s mostly found in Indonesia.  I’m not ever going to do that.  My traveler friend, it’s said, couldn’t handle it and hurled all over the crowd.

Another Asian delicacy is 100 year old egg.  It’s not actually a hundred years old, but it smells like it.  It’s a raw egg that’s been pickled in the most obnoxious stuff around for several weeks until the brine has cooked it.  It’s black, stinky, and foul tasting.  People love it.  A friend of mine had a roommate once who had one.  My friend was looking in the fridge for the source of the rank smell and found this black egg.  She tossed it down the disposal with lots of dish soap to remove the aroma.  She got into a LOT of trouble when her roommate got home and wanted to eat that egg.

Most of the time, the reason there are these “bad” foods is through need.  When people are poor and hungry, nothing can to waste.  Even the genitalia of large animals will be eaten.  The Two Fat Ladies, those famous cooks from Great Britain, have a recipe in one of their cookbooks for Penis Stew.  It’s exactly what it sounds like and uses the penis of a large bull.  I’ve read the recipe, but have blocked details from my mind.  Another one of those “I’m not gonna do it” things.

Finally, I love cheese, and have learned that the smell doesn’t correlate to the flavor.  I don’t let myself be deterred by the aroma.  That being said, though, what goes into the cheese will go a long way to helping me make up my mind.  If there’s an ingredient in it that I don’t like, I’m not likely to eat it.  So cheese spread with anchovies isn’t likely to be on my menu.  There’s a cheese in Sicily where, as it’s aged, it becomes infested with maggots.  At the right time, the cheese is served, with the maggots intact.  I’m just going to leave that one right here with no more comment.  Except one.  Nope.

So, going back to the beginning and the deep-fried crickets.  This is one of my favorite stories because it involves a little kid.  I was on a boat having a picnic semi-sorta in my honor in a different country.  They were treating me and making several local delicacies available to me.  There were around a dozen of us on this boat.  They brought out the first dish and I could see the delight in everyone’s eyes.  It was a platter of deep-fried crickets piled high.  I put one on my plate and waited for everyone to dig in.  Of course, they were all waiting for me out of politeness.  So I popped this thing in my mouth and bit down.  It crunched and squirted and tasted a lot like beef liver.  It was hot and salty, and I swallowed as quickly as I dared.  There were a lot of legs involved.  I smiled and everyone tucked in and pretty quickly they were mostly gone.  I was talking to someone when I felt a tap at my right elbow.  The small grandson of one of the local workers was standing there with a big grin and the platter of crickets with two lonely little crickets left, offering them to me.  Well, even the biggest badass says “Hello?” when a little kid holds out the toy telephone, so I smiled and took one and give the other one to him.  You’da thought I just gave him Christmas.  We sat there and enjoyed our crickets together, and spent the next five minutes picking legs out of my teeth.  They don’t get better when they cool down.

So, share some of your worst foods ever!

As always,

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