Thursday, June 29, 2006

Piling Food Questionnaires Onto The Fire As Though On A Drowning Ship

Hello, friends. I've been requested to answer the Food Questionnaire. Honestly, I'm flattered for the attention. I will deploy every effort to be brief.


When was the last time you ate an entire, full-size candy bar? What kind of candy bar was it?

Whatever the last one I mentioned here was, I think a Hershey's classic. I like candy bars.

What is a food you ate all the time as a kid, but which now disgusts you?

Jelly omelette. My mother made them for me and I ate them. I was like three or some shit. If you are interested in the recipe, (1) beat as many eggs as you would like in your omelette in a bowl, (2) fry them, folding the nascent omelette over itself gently until it has a firm outer crust, and (3) plate the omelette, placing a bunch of jelly on it. I also hope never again to need to drink powdered milk, but I probably could if I had to, whereas I bet I would psychologically force myself to vomit if a jelly omelette touched my lips.

What is a recent food impulse buy which you regretted? Which you were delighted by?

I eat a bunch of junk, pretty irredeemable food, you may have noticed, but I was pretty sad about some buffet style shit I bought from the steam trays at the Smiler Gourmet Deli a little while ago.

What was the most satisfying meal you ever prepared for yourself and ate while totally drunk?

When I'm pretty tanked, I usually deal with hunger by drinking more and more until I fall, either over or asleep. So I have not cooked anything more ambitious than cheese quesadillas or a pot of ramen with some canned mixed vegetables and maybe some tomato soup thrown in. Drunkards tip: cook ramen normally, then put a can of tomato soup and a can of mixed vegetables in for four or five more minutes. You now have an enormous meal of some kind.

If you had to have one of the FoodFriends design your diet for a week, whom would you select?

SC? There are enough good choices that I kind of don't care. In fact, if someone wants to design a diet for me for next week that will require me spending minimal amounts of cash and expending labor on not too many days of the week, I will try it. Warning: I will fail to follow your plan on several occasions.

What are the shows you watch the most on Food Network? What are your thoughts on: Rachael Ray, Alton Brown, Nigella Lawson?

I don't watch too much FN, but I like Good Eats and Unwrapped when I see them, and I obvs used to watch a lot of Iron Chef. I had actually never seen Rachael Ray until very recently, when her show was on our office TV. She is awful.

The volume was pretty low and I had my headphones on, so at first, all I could tell was that some moron was wildly swinging her arms around on a kitchen set - a real grade-A chump, someone who should not have been allowed on TV. A sucker. I really couldn't believe that someone would find it necessary to point into a bowl at all, let alone so spastically, and so many times in a brief span of time. Do you, Ms. Ray, think that I do not know where the cookie dough goes when you tell me to put it into the bowl? At this point, I still did not realize that this was Rachael Ray, since I had understood her to have dark hair, whereas this woman had a vaguely passable dye job. I started listening at this point to see if it reduced the disorienting effect of her palpable physicial discomfort before the camera. I found her articulation to be choppy and forced, and generally bad. I cannot speak to her qualifications as a cook of entry-level food, but as a television personality, she is absolutely artless. A notch above, say, a Google-Current VJ or the people who do Internet video reviews on Gamespot, but that's still pretty awful. Who let her on television? She's just insulting.

What food staple would it be most difficult for you to remove from your diet?

Pasta, OJ? Wait, start over. I want to give a "clever" answer.

What food staple would it be most difficult for you to remove from your diet?

The eight essential amino acids!!!

If I told you that you could only eat one of the following for the rest of your life, but you could always get whatever you chose as fresh and as good as possible, which would you choose? Also, assume that whichever you chose would be seedless: (1) Oranges (2) Clementines (3) Tangerines

Oranges. What do people think of honorably retiring this question from the FQ and leaving it to respondents to care so much about the issue that they accidentally answer it over the course of one of the other questions?

Also, do you prefer plastic wrap or aluminum foil?

No strong feelings. I like sandwich baggies for fridge storage, and I got some of the GladWare and ZipLoc cheap "tupperware" style things. Also, when you get Max delivery, a clever move is to save the container it came in as a not quite airtight food storage unit, or as a surrogate plate or bowl when you're too tired to do dishes. People hereabouts like to hate on the plastic wrap, but when I'm handling meats, breading, etc, I find laying down a layer a plastic wrap to be the ideal means to create a hygienic environment.

When and how did you learn to cook?

Kind of didn't. Assumed it was basically impossible until like a year ago and have taken to it with the deliberate slowness of a man who likes things but is often tired.

A quirk of fate leaves you in each of the following cities for long enough to have only one meal. What/where do you eat? Boston, Cambridge, New York, LA.

I'm going to take a cue from mPod and consider options where I am actually doing this for real with my money.

Boston: I guess I took it into my head at some point that Olive's was worth going to, and I would still kind of like to try it at least once. When this situation occurs in real life, it often sees me getting a hummus sandwich on a vegetable oriented bagel at Finagle-a-Bagel. In either case, I wouldn't mind a nice coffee Heath bar crunch from Emack & Bolio's.

Cambridge: It's kind of hard to make my mind up on this. I never ate at Atasca or Harvest, Craigie Street Bistrot or The Blue Room, all of which and more I would like to at some point. Is Elephant Walk still open? That diner around the corner from my place in Union Square? The Greek place on Mass Ave on the second floor? In real life, I'd be quite happy with a slice of spinach, a slice of tomato and basil, and a gratis cup of water from Pinocchio's, or Charlie's calamari, or a dozen other things. Side note: every year on my birthday, since I was about 9 or 10, I insist on eating at Pizzeria Uno, and will refuse to eat dinner elsewhere, to the repeated embarassment and disappointment of my dining companions. To hell with the haters, I love that damn pizza.

New York: I'm really bad at answering this question! Of the few "nice" restaurants I have eaten at, I think that Freeman hands-down takes One If By Land..., Balthazar, Sushi Samba, Ruth's Chris, Peasant, Spice Market, Ludo, or whatever else. But what do I know. Practically speaking, I'm probably going to eat a bunch of wine and a Balance bar for dinner tonight. I could probably stand to eat at Casimir more often than I do.

Los Angeles: I don't have an informed answer on LA, but I think this is a good point at which to mention that approximately 50% of the stories I hear about LA mention Roscoe's at some point, even though the majority of them do not take place at or near Roscoe's. I ate at Roscoe's once, it seemed nice. I was vegetarian at the time and found the waffles quite fine. In real life, I'll let one of you guys figure it out.

Name a fruit, meat, soda, and candy you despise.

Fruit: That screeching Carson Kressley! Haw haw haw.
Meat: Nothing. An ex-girlfriend declined to eat pork, because she was once travelling in India, and detected a quite pleasant and sweet smell of barbecued pork filling the air. Turning a corner, she found that it was a massive stack of human corpses being burned. Stopped eating pork as a rule after that.
Soda: I do not cotton to most diet sodas or most chocolate flavored sodas - this does not include, eg, a chocolate egg cream. The worst soda I ever had was without question Polar brand Diet Double Fudge soda. Fucking vile, pardon the language. On an unrelated tangent, it just struck me for not the first time that I have never remembered to pick up some Polar Bitter Lemon as a mixer now that I am a drunk, although I enjoyed drinking it as a kid for the cringe-inducing and really quite well named bitter aftertaste.
Candy: I received a gift set of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans (it has now graced my living room for over a year with no perceptible change to the awful taste or texture of the beans). The gift set included only those flavors that are really bad and none of the regular fruit flavors. Some were weird and "gross" but were basically edible, like grass. The spaghetti flavor, however, feels like you're letting a Tylenol Gel-Cap melt on your tongue, and inside it turns out to be someone's vomit, and a surprisingly large volume of it, in fact.

I have a teleporter, and can send you anywhere in the world for dinner. Where will you go, what will you have?

Tokyo. Anything except a still-living animal or something potentially lethal. I like to maintain a spirit of solidarity with the customs of other lands, but I will not eat a living vertebrate animal. I find the idea a bit distasteful.

Do you have any well-loved or detested cookbooks?

I have a Better Homes & Gardens Step By Step Kids' Cookbook that I've had since I was a child that I still find very entertaining, and a 1950's Betty Crocker Kids' Cookbook that is pretty great. If anyone wants to subsidize the raising of Chris Onstad's daughter, I have found Recipes for a Man or a Lady to be well worth its cost, although extremely short and at times wrong about how things work.

Name a food that evokes a strong memory of a particular time and place in your life.

The smell of several pounds of supermarket brand fruit cereal crushed underfoot will always remind me of being a college prose humorist.

The notion of a jelly omelette madeleines me immediately to the South portion of the living room of our Arlington Street apartment when my mother tried to feed me one jelly omelette too many after my tolerance for the same had passed.

In high school, I ate quite a lot of Tina's brand frozen beef & bean burritos.

What is your relationship to caffeine?

My consumption goes up and down. At my heaviest, I'll tend to drink two or three big cups of coffee a day. At my lightest, occasional tea or soda. Drinking a lot of coffee too quickly makes me sweaty, paniced and nervous, and gives me pains in my stomach and later my head. Regardless, God bless the stuff.

I have a food replicator from Star Trek Next Generation, what do you order and how do you order it?

Because of the wholly synthesized nature of food produced by the replicators, some moral issues involved in human cannibalism are somewhat lightened. So I would order as sort of a "wink, wink" joke a glass of water at a specific temperature in Celsius (this is very droll if you watched enough Star Trek: The Next Generation) and then get down to the human parts.

I would definitely want some barbecued human ribs, and if I could only get one meal from the replicator, it would be some ribs and some barbecue sides.

If I could keep going back for a few days, a pulled pork style pulled human sandwich would also be great. Now that I'm thinking about humans as pigs, I gotta have some bacon. (Is this pig thing just because I like pork a lot, or because of the whole "long pig" thing? I like fried chicken a lot, too, and I'm not thinking along those lines at all.) I would also like to eat a human brain. Is it beyond the reach of the replicator to get me, say, Albert Einstein's brain, or Vladimir Nabokov's brain? I'll settle for a regular brain. I guess I'd sort of like a human heart? Which is weird, because I don't really want to eat a cow heart. I'd also like just some roast human cold cuts.

Anyways, I would totally not be down with this shit if it were not coming out of a replicator, but if we did have a replicator I am not kidding for a second that I would be sucking on some human ribs in like five seconds. If we had a replicator. If you are some federal anti-cannibalism dude, I swear to God I do not eat actual people. That's my personal rule, and I never break it.

Which comic book character would you most like to cook a meal for you? For which comic book character would you most like to cook a meal?

I guess "for" would probably be Shadowcat, assuming her to be of the age of majority. If current Whedon era Shadowcat were single, I would definitely like to make her a nice meal. Some lady like Psylocke wouldn't even look twice at a plate of food I cooked up, shit.

As to "by," I would love to have the chance to sit down with Professor X, and he is a travelled man of refined tastes.

Are there any foods that would receive an f- grade from you?

The despised foods mentioned above... I'm having trouble right now remembering the last time I was moved to spit food out of my mouth while chewing. Although in the worst moments it's never really spitting, it's more like you become numbed by how awful whatever-it-is is and you lean forward and your mouth just falls open like rusty trap door and your tongue sort of arches and it just falls out for the first second until you collect yourself enough to start spitting.

One time I was staying at my grandparents' house in Durham, New Hampshire, and I woke up early, and I wanted to play my harmonica. So I went down to the living room so I wouldn't wake anybody, and I pulled out one of my music books, and I had been playing for about fifteen minutes, when, during The Marine Hymn, a spider which had been sleeping inside the harmonica crawled onto my tongue. I spat it out without biting it, but I found the occasion to be a very striking experience. Spider, an F- to you!

Describe a work of art that inspired or affected your eating.

You may feel as you like about this fact, but when I was in my life very moved to become a vegetarian, I happened to review the liner notes to Moby's classic albums Everything Is Wrong and Animal Rights, and the (thoroughly sourced) data therein clinched it.

This question deserves nerdy answers, and I find the dinner in "The Dead" very touchingly rendered. Peter Pan has a quite ripping description of a banquet. Daniel Manus Pinkwater has an incredible gift for writing about food, and there dozens of his books that have too many really excellent descriptions of food to enumerate. If I had to shortlist just one, the description of the chili restaurant in Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy From Mars is absolutely beautiful.

Finally, the description in Boy of the candy shop and the narration of the Cadbury's chocolate taste testing are classics.

Based on what you've read of the diets of each food reporter, which food reporter would you eat?

Junior? Similar line of reasoning to diet prep, except I will not eat anyone next week, even if they offer, not even Junior.

Along the lines of "Salt," "Cod," and "History of the World In Six Glasses," what foodstuff would you most like to read a book about?

I actually had a pretty good time reading about potatoes on Wikipedia a little while ago, I learned some cool stuff. Potatoes are an extremely efficient food for tenant farmers and other relatively poor people with some but very little land, since you get a huge "ROI" in terms of meals per square foot of garden. Thence their popularity in Ireland. I also like them since they're a New World crop, and that's cool. But it's not all sunny news in Potatoville! Apparently, the proliferation of the potato in Sweden helped lead to a big expansion of the poorer population, and from there to some unpleasantness with unemployment and alcoholism. I don't know if I read that in Wikipedia's article on potatoes or on Sweden. Also, we all know the thing about how Americans eat this crazy amount of potatoes every year, most in the form of fast food French Fries. Potatoes are delicious and fascinating! Having thought about it now, I actually really would like to read a book about potatoes, and if one exists, please let me know.

Is there any food you are embarrassed about how much you like it?

Not right now that I can think of, although there are probably some that I "should" be embarassed about. I've had some weirdnesses, though, for a little while I would buy uncut pepperonis and eat the whole tube. Every now and then, over the course of one afternoon. Before that, there was a really weird year where I would sometimes drink straight condensed milk. And not a little bit, like I would go on a big long walk and just eat half or more of a can of Borden's. My mom gave me this giant food service #10 can of condensed milk that got pretty daunting and may have helped stop me from this craziness (Thanks, Mommy!). I've also historically eaten spoonful after spoonful of confectioner's sugar, and before that, dark brown sugar. I have no idea how I haven't gotten diabetes. There might be some(another)thing wrong with my body. Anyways, I should note that I still like and would gladly eat any of these things, I just don't do it all the time. I also used to eat just massive amounts of after dinner mints when I was a kid. I'd sit down with a book and bowl of after dinner mints and just pound the things. Man, they're good. Shit.

What was your favorite meal in the dining halls of our fair college? How much would you pay to eat this meal tonight? To eat this meal, would you be willing to travel to Staten Island/Encino/a smelly cave in a swamp?

I've gone into some detail on this topic earlier. I think I may have neglected to mention that I was quite grateful for the availability of muenster to keep my cheese sandwiches complex.

I am content to travel to Staten Island, but would need more incentive than to eat some spaghetti and a banan cream pie. No I wouldn't. I guess I'd pay ten to fifteen bones for this, but not as a habit.

Describe what you would consider, for you, in the college dining halls, a typical breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.

Breakfast was pretty generic when I got it, OJ and milk (skim or 1%), cup of tea for most of sophomore and junior years, banana, and raisin bran or granola with triettes and/or bagel if available.

Lunch, in the absence of anything good as an entree, was a cheese sandwich, American and Muenster and whatever else on wheat with lettuce and tomato and barbecue sauce. Probably some fruit, some orange juice, maybe tea. Chickwich before I went vegetarian. Side of hummus if I was in a dining hall with good hummus. Milk, OJ, maybe tea or ginger ale. Often another banana.

Dinner, possibly a cheese heavy salad, pasta if in want of good entrees, a buttered roll. A third banana would tend to be included. Large side of hummus. Milk, OJ, ginger ale.

Sophomore and junior years I was surprised daily with how healthfully I ate.

Brunch, cf. breakfast, just longer and slower.

There was more variety than I have implied, but these were the norms.

What are your favorite beers? What are your favorite wines? What are your favorite liquors? What are your favorite cocktails? Do you feel that you have a signature drink? If a FoodFriend ever had to order a drink for you while you were in the restroom, what drink should they order?

I've mentioned beer before, but, briefly, Guinness, Budweiser, Bud Light, PBR, the occasional doppelbock.

Wine, I have no real loyalties to any vineyards, and despite a sincere current mania for viognier, I am not too picky about grapes. I like whites more than reds in general, but have enjoyed plenty of reds. Too much white sometimes gives me vague but slow-to-fade heartburn. Like a good American, I like chardonnay just fine when there's no viognier on hand/until I get enthusiastic about something else.

I like gin, vodka is always handy to have around, and I also have a slight weakness for White Russians, ideally very cold and not too syrupy.

I'm going to appropriate Junior's correct answer that you should buy me several, possibly a trayful of, glasses of top shelf vodkas and soda and a nice pitcher of water to side.

If you are a smoker, how does smoking affect your meals? Do you eat less? If you finish what you consider a very good dinner, how important is a post-prandial cigarette to you?

Alternating between smoking and not every few days in the recent past caused me to binge eat badly both to distract myself and because I was sad and grumpy. I like very very much a cigarette after a big dinner.

Last question: What is your favorite food?

Spaghetti! Or bacon. Or orange juice. Or French fries.


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