Sometimes They Write Themselves

Images1From one of my food e-newsletters this week.

The headline: Wingstop Serves its billionth chicken wing

The quote from the CEO in the article: “We know that both customers and critics have responded well to our product, but a milestone of this magnitude is still a dream come true.”

My reaction: Not for the chick…

Oh, I can’t do it.

It’s just too obvious and easy. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Except I’d never shoot fish in a barrel; that would be cruel. Speaking of fish in unnatural confinement, have you read about the pollution that intensive fish farming causes? And how they get sea lice? And how they have to use antibiotics, just like in other types of factory farming?

Editor’s Note: This joke is just as much at my expense for being a strident humorless self-righteous vegetarian as at the expense of the organization celebrating having dispensed with half a billion chickens (assuming both wings of all chickens were used, and with the machinery in slaughterhouses, you know…)

Oh, there I go again.

Anyhow, this article reminded me – do you remember the Cluckin’ Chicken commercial parody on SNL? The celebratory tone of the article made the bit seem appropos for this post somehow. Ah, Phil Hartman, I still miss you.

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Trans America (the other kind, the evil fat kind)

CriscoimageThere was an op-ed piece in the NYT about trans fats this weekend. Nothing big or new in terms of facts, but a great title: Nuggets of Death.

That would be a good name for a band.

Dammit, the name seems to be taken…sort of, I think.

Well, seeing as there’s at least some loose confederation of individuals calling themselves Nuggets of Death, it seems I’m too late to found a all-vegetarian cholesterol-lowering activist band by the same name. (Nuggets of Death, in case you’d forgotten. See? It’s just fun to say. Nuggets of Death, Nuggets of Death Death Death.) I’ll just have to go with my longstanding plan to start an all-woman feminist heavy metal band called Damn Beavers.

Hotel Time Travel

Tc3500dblrm_1 I have been suddenly plunged back into the very late 1980’s or possibly the very early 1990s.

I wasn’t expecting it; I showed up at this hotel for a conference with one other member of my organization, and when I stepped into the lobby last night, the swirling, scrolling jewel-toned oriental-floral wallpaper – a very large pattern (and an entire hotel lobby – wallpapered!) took my breath away, because I swear, I had a Jessica McClintock dress that I wore for District Choir in high school that was the very same pattern except in navy blue. 

The bedspread and wallpaper in the guest room are the same design.  I keep having this strange urge to curl my bangs, and I half expect to turn on the t.v. and see the Berlin Wall coming down.

Unfortunately, the onsite restaurants seem to have ceased to change with the times at about the same point the last redecoration took place.  Due to the length of my day, I was compelled to order room service for dinner at about 8:30 tonight.  I ordered a side salad.  It was slightly tired squares of iceberg lettuce, cucumber slices, and cherry tomatoes with an overly acidic and suspiciously well-emulsified Italian dressing, exactly the salad I used to dread the arrival of when I first became a vegetarian, as it and a baked potato were often my only menu options.

So I had my anemic salad, my vegetable soup that had clearly been sitting in the kettle a long time (it takes hours to get celery that limp) that included a grand total of one kidney bean, a very well-executed if entirely unseasoned side of carrots and zucchini (the one thing I ordered that had not been on the menu), and a piece of cheesecake for which I had not requested fruit topping (it was extra and I didn’t want it) but it came with it anyway; it was a color of red that does not appear in nature, and besides, with the first bite I took from the crust I could tell that the cheesecake had been defrosted rather than made in-house, and that it had been sitting next to something stronger-smelling in the fridge at that.

This all made me sort of miserable, having had to eat a wan white bread and vegetable sandwich for lunch from another of the restaurants and having not really properly had breakfast besides an apple I’d brought as a travel snack, and usually being totally spoiled on most trips because my organization’s group, when assembled, operates in such a way that meals are very important, restaurants are carefully chosen, and I never have to worry about whether there will be something for me to eat, because there will be, and it will be really good. 

How bad was today?  I ordered the cheesecake specifically because I figured it would at least have a shred of protein, unlike everything else I ate since I got up this morning.

I need to go drive someplace in the morning and get some decent fruit, at least.  And some soymilk.

And pick up a curling iron.  Holy cow, did you hear about the Berlin Wall?

Barbecubes

I’ve just finished two very productive days of a photoshoot for work. On my way out yesterday morning I grabbed, on impulse, a pile of 1960s-era food-company sponsored recipe pamphlets and booklets that I had out because they had been with something else I pulled down to refer to the other day. These would be fun for us to flip through during the shoot, I thought.

Well. Chalk one up for The Joys of Jell-O, Fourth Edition.

A batch of food professionals can actually talk about food nine hours a day for two days in a row without much trouble, so it’s not as if we needed fodder for conversation. However, one of our number pounced on this book and took a good steady browse through it. We were amused by a number of the photographs of the Jell-O concoctions, but I can hardly do justice to the hysterics on our examination of this recipe for Barbecue Cubes, which was unanimously selected as the winner of Worst Recipe.

Now remember, we were taking food shots during this session, which are style-dependent, and it is entirely possible that someone might look at the work we did this week and laugh at it forty years hence, but this photograph has a spatula with a brownie-sized Barbecue Cube (Barbecube to its friends) descending into a salad of ingredients unidentifiable except for the picture’s caption, and do any of you want to eat that, knowing that it’s described as a Barbecue Cube, not knowing yet what its constituent parts are?

It turns out that it’s basically very stiff tomato aspic – for those of you who aren’t old enough to remember or are not collectors of old cookbooks, think of tomato-sauce based Jell-O Jigglers with vinegar and perhaps onion juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, or prepared horseradish.

Then try to put that thought out of your head as quickly as possible, before you accidentally taste it in your mind’s eye.

The barbecue cubes are made with Jell-O Salad Gelatin (any flavor). We were able to discover, through close reading of the salad section, that Jell-O Salad Gelatin was available in celery, mixed vegetable, and Italian flavors. For some reason, none of us could recall seeing that product on store shelves.

Click through for the big version, with the recipe for Barbecue Cubes, as well as Barbecue Cheese Cracker Pie (Serve as an appetizer with sea food, if desired) and Chicken Salad Surprise. (What’s the surprise? I’m not sure, but it must be one of these listed ingredients: lemon Jell-O, garlic salt, onion, mayo, pecans, chicken, celery, olives, pineapple…should I stop? I should probably stop.)

A tip of the hat to James Lileks, of course.

Kinds of Vegetarians

I was reading The Vegan Lunch Box the other day and feeling grouchier and grouchier the more I read. I suppose I was thinking if I didn’t work outside the home I could make time for that level of lunch-involvement for my offspring, if I had any, but then I realized that it wasn’t just the fussiness of the food and the fact that she calls her kid “Little Schmoo” that was getting to me. It was that she was showing behavior that I think of as typical of a Compensating Vegetarian – actually a Compensating Vegan – and I’m not that type.

There are a lot of different kinds of vegetarians. Sure, there are those who eat eggs and those who think eggs are somehow not really vegetarian but have never been able to say exactly why. Beyond the what-do-you-put-in delineations of ovo-lacto, lacto, and vegan and the why-do-you-do-it categories of health, ecology, animal rights and plain old distaste for flesh, there are further distinctions.

Before we go any further, please note that the following type descriptions are intended in a spirit of humor and fun, and that I have immense respect for other vegetarians, no matter how they go at their diets. We can all get A Bit Serious about it sometimes – so if you recognize yourself below (I am here in several guises) please don’t get too bent out of shape. We’re all doing something good for the planet and the animals, folks, and we have to laugh among ourselves at our perceived neuroticisms a little bit because goodness knows the rest of the world thinks we’re nuts.

Compensating Vegetarians are the ones who feel compelled to make food that is as similar to meat-containing food as possible. These people keep the food scientists that work on meat and cheese analogues in business, and have no fear of the sodium level in packaged foods and no discomfort with putting an enormous amount of their food budget and caloric consumption toward plastic-wrapped substances that have TVP as the primary ingredient. They love technology…food technology.

A Compensating Vegan might make a ham and cheese croissant (note homemade croissant made with trans-fat free margarine, ye gods, if I had the time and energy…) with fake cheese and fake ham and maybe even fake mayonnaise (at least the pickle you might have on the side can be real).

It’s just like the real stuff! they’ll insist. They feel they can’t have it look as if they’re missing out on the meat-eating experience because if so, meat-eaters will mock their food. They have a need to conform that battles mightily with their dietary preference. A fake-everything sandwich helps them avoid sticking out and having their food or themselves labeled as different or – heaven forbid – weird.

Is it weird to want to eat a sandwich in which all of the ingredients are ersatz? I sort of think so. Why not enjoy the natural vegetable foods available for what they are and close to the forms they take? Why do they need to be like something else?

There are other vegetarian subtypes.

Continue reading “Kinds of Vegetarians”