First ripe tomatoes of the summer. About time.
Eating plain Fritos chased with sips of salsa.
It has come to this.
All my neighbors who have been shoveling their driveways and side/streetwalks the past week now are surrounded by large, monolithic mounds of snow that will probably take days or months to dissipate. I, on the other hand, am now entirely without snow on my property.
Who’s the asshole now?
Holy shit, I think a baby wasp just flew up my nose.
This is going to be a long night.
The lovely and talented holybasil at Hot.Sour.Salty.Sweet. And Umami has tagged me for the Five Things meme. I have been tagged before, but I’m a good sport so I’ll take my marching orders in stride. However, I am going to respectfully decline to disseminate the meme—for now—as I feel I’ve already spread the love once.
Here we go, Five Things, redux:
1. There was an occasion, in the nineties, whereupon I woke up one morning and decided to wear jean shorts—aka “jorts”—that day. For this I am very, very ashamed, and would like to use this opportunity to apologize as profusely as possible.
2. I graduated from the University of Arizona, yet I don’t call myself an “alumni” as I never received my degree. The bursar’s office demanded that I pay $60+ for a book that I know for certain I returned to the library. They withheld my diploma, and soon began to send me menacing collection notices for a period of time, which I dutifully waited out. Now that I’ve completely paid off the thousands of dollars in outstanding student loans + interest, I feel I’ve completely stuck it to them and have emerged victorious from this scrum. Advantage: me.
3. Some of my earliest food memories are from the first and second grade, living up in Westminster, Orange County (Southern California). I remember eating smashed bird chilies and salt with mango, chicken soup made from a freshly killed pet, and, strangely enough, still-born duck fetuses. I kid you not. I remember distinctly that we kept duck eggs in our garage, and I would tap to break off the top portion of the egg. This severed portion of the shell would be lifted to reveal a half-developed duck—head, beak, body and all. I would pour an insane amount of salt into the egg and dig into the muck with a spoon. Jesus fucking christ that’s depraved.
4. I once worked at a purportedly “fine-dining” continental restaurant during my college years. We wore tuxes, and my job ostensibly was to wheel around a cart stocked with various spirits, ingredients, and assorted tools. We’d construct table-side caesar salads, steak tartares, as well as flambé entrees and desserts such as steak diane, ouzo prawns, cherries jubilee and bananas foster.
It was probably the worst-run restaurant in America. The owner was in his eighties and also owned all KFC’s in the area, and kept the restaurant as some weird vanity money pit. The maître d/general manager dealt cocaine AND steroids out of the office, and hired all his friends from high school on which he had man crushes on (many of whom were jocko roid-heads who allowed him to inject steroids in their butts). The rest of the staff were stoners and ex-cons. In the wine room, where the lone bottle of Château Margaux used to be (one drunken night, after shift, we drank it) was ready-to-serve pot paraphernalia. The head chef brought on his buddy as grill cook. One day the first week he was on shift, I walked back into the kitchen, and this 6’8″ guy—tatted to the gills, looking like a Motörhead roadie, trimming the silverskin off an entire beef tenderloin and slicing of little pieces of raw chunks and popping them in his mouth like they were M&Ms—asked me if I wanted to buy methamphetamine.
After a long run, the owner decided he had had enough and was going to close the place once and for all, and the entire staff used the last week of existence as a trial run towards depravity. Everybody left closing night with a bittersweet, empty feeling in the pit of their stomachs. What would we do with our lives, unemployed, over the course of a hot, listless Arizona summer? Then three weeks later we got a call informing us the owner ran into some snag with his lease, and they would be opening for dinner that night and we could all have our jobs back—an offer some of us accepted. When we arrived at work we realized half of our glassware, dishware, serving and kitchen equipment had been carted off in the dead of night by the former staff on closing night, three weeks earlier.
5. I love MSG. I think it is God’s cocaine.
EatDrink&BeMerry has tagged me in the Five Things About Me meme that has been going around the Interwebs. So here’s my barf.
1. The very first live rock concert I went to was Ratt, in 1985, who were touring in support of their “Invasion of Your Privacy” release. Opening was a heretofore unknown band by the name of Bon Jovi. It was after witnessing this horror that I began an exodus from my newly-pubic, testosterone-stunted heavy metal fascination. Next stop: Thompson Twins.
2. I spent many of my formidable, younger years overseas, including 7 years in Northwestern Saudi Arabia on the Persian/Arabian Gulf. Suffice to say, these were (sadly) mostly pork-free years. We watched highly censored, non sequiturs disguised as television programs that would segue from Alex P. Keaton’s imminent kiss to denouement all in the matter of 5 seconds, thus leaving 12 minutes of air time which was often filled with some bearded guy on a rug chanting “Allahu Akbar” in rapturous song. We played a lot of kickball.
3. I am a lover of instant ramen. Not Americanized crap like Maruchan or Top Ramen — these brands are a scourge and blight upon humanity. But, rather, imported brands from all the countries than comprise the Asian continent. I have particular respect for the Koreans, who IMHO are the current world instant ramen kings, having wrested the mantle from the Japanese. This occurred some time in the early-to-mid nineties. Whereas most food dilettantes use their discernible faculties of taste detection to refine an appreciation of fine wine varietal and vintages, or train a palette to distinguish between olive oil appellations or artisanal cheeses, I have honed my tongue to recognize the noodle styles and MSG-laden broth characteristics of various instant ramen brands and their regions. Without seeing the package, I can correctly identify the distinct Korean brands (in their prepared states) of Jin Ramen, Nong Shim Shin Ramyun, and Samyang Ramen. Among the Nong Shim varietals, it is very likely I would be able to tell you which was Shin Ramyun, which was Kimchi flavor, and which was Neoguri seafood flavor. Likewise, I could differentiate between Nissin’s miso, tonkotsu, shoyu, pork, or prawn flavors rather easily. I would be able to inform you that I was about to slurp a bowl of Tung-I Chinese Onion Flavor simply by the nose.
4. I have a young daughter who will be three in July. She is cute and funny and I’m a horrible role model because I can’t stop cussing. Profusely. In fact, I’m quite enamored with the F-bomb, as all 1.7 regular readers of this blog can attest. Due to a perfunctory corporate climate at my job, I am a language eunuch during the day. So when I get home, I have difficulty containing my excitement for a chance to use salty language. It is a problem that I have acknowledged.
However, I do not have any similar reservations about using colorful language on my blog, as my daughter is too young to read. I find the F-word, especially in gerund form, to be a fine rhetorical tool, a veritable colloquial Swiss army knife when employed by a skilled wordsmith. Why would any writer, especially a plebeian hack such as myself, deny the existence or refrain from the use of such an elocutionary flourish? Here is such an example writ large. Compare:
“It was good burrito.”
“It was a fucking good burrito.”
5. I am half-Vietnamese. As some people mistake me for being Latin or another indeterminately equatorial ethnicity of some sort, I’m often asked what my other half is, to which I reply “Cracker!”. I can make fun of both white people and Asians. It’s my right for being forced to check “Asian/Pacific Islander” on all my standardized tests in high school. First of all, how come America is so binary? You are either black or white, or something else altogether. When Tiger Woods splashed upon the scene, the media narrative dictated that he was the finest black golfer of all time, the first to win the Masters, etc. Which he certainly was…but with a father who was African AND Native American, but a mother who was FULL Thai, wouldn’t simple ratios qualify Tiger Woods as the best Thai golfer ever and first to win the Masters? The Sultan of Siam? Fuzzy Zoeller SHOULD have said, “You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve Khao Soi next year. Got it? Or Pad Kee Mow or Pad See Ew or whatever the hell they serve.”
And second, there’s only, what, 3 billion Asians? Maybe a few hundred thousand Pacific Islanders? Lumping both groups together under one umbrella gives short shrift to the Asian experience. How come there is no correlative option for “White/Caucasian/Icelandic” or “White/Caucasian/Baffin Islander?”
There you have it. Five things you now know about me, time that could have been better spent watching Growing Pains reruns or cleaning the sock lint and jam from the inner nail nook of your big toe. For my part, I will pass the torch to the following:
- Hungry T at Tarte aux Poires
- Mary at Eat, Drink and Be Mary(Sue)
- Markovitch at gastronautical gastronomicon
- Sorcha at The Food N00bs
- Jared at The Carnivore Project
Consider yourselves tagged.
I remember for a four or five week span, during my second grade year, we had a chicken in our back yard in Orange County, CA. I was very perplexed as to why a chicken all of sudden would appear in our back yard, as we never had any pets before.
This was largely because my father, who was a true-blooded American who would drive only Cadillacs because every other car was the spawn of Communists, had finally sobered off enough to take another overseas offshore gig in the Middle East, working for the type of companies that provide what can largely be considered large-scale logistical services for foreign governments, including (and most lucratively) our own. There are a lot of these companies, but you may be only familiar with the more sinister and pervasive examples such as Halliburton, DynCorp and KBR. Talk about a coarse ground of socialism seeped through a brittle coffee filter of corporatism.
In any regard, at the time this lack of the patriarchal American Daddy figurehead in our household meant my Mom turned our house into an entrepot, a confluence of members from the Vietnamese refugee community that were already well into the process of turning Westminster, CA into a sanitized, strip mall version of Saigon full of nail shops, video stores, real estate offices and jewelers. American dream and all that.
Anyhow, I sort of grew attached to this chicken over the course of the next few days. It tried to attack me every time I went outside, and I found that endearing. It got outside and onto the sidewalk in front of our house on time, forcing one of my mom’s friends to chase it down, and we were scolded for being so careless.
I can’t remember if I or my brothers attempted to give the animal a name or not. If we did, I’m sure we would have named it Ron Cey, at the time a popular third-basemen for the local Los Angeles Dodgers baseball franchise who was given the nickname “The Penguin,” which, incidentally, is also a type of bird.
One day a bunch of my mom’s Vietnamese friends showed up with a bunch of foodstuffs, as if they were planning some sort of function. One enterprising man—he was probably a badass from the Old Country, maybe he was VC but more likely he actually fought for the South or even most likely he was just some guy who grew up in the countryside and this was socially obligatory for him — he went out into our makeshift chicken coop and chased down the fowl, and proceeded to cut its head right off. As a mortified 7-year old, entirely lacking the sort of euphemistic coping methods that allow me to exist as a semi-functioning adult, this really blew the lid off my worldview.
After witnessing the bird being bled and drained over a bucket for some time, I eventually lost interest and went inside to watch Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The bird was undoubtedly disemboweled and defeathered, as the next time I saw it, the chicken was being cooked in a big pot on the stove, where it would simmer for hours and hours.
I remember that it was delicious.