|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
Aug. 24, 2013 - 5:45 p.m.
Before we get started: sorry for the absence. Elbow problem returned, as did the doctor's advice not to type for a few weeks if I could help it. Trying hard to stave off surgery, so future posts may be sporadic for a little while. Biology sucks.
Have you ever had Polish meat-in-a-can?
I never even knew such a thing existed. I suppose if pressed I would have hazarded a guess that, yes, there probably was meat in Poland. And yes, they've no doubt developed can technology by now. But combining them? Well, that seemed about as likely as me being crowned Miss America. Again.
But there it was, on my grocer's shelf. Polish meat-in-a-can.
I didn't have any idea that it was Polish meat-in-a-can though, since the all the label said was "WEIPRZOWINA w sosie wlasnym". At first I thought I was having a stroke since that combination of letters wasn't making sense, but then I saw on the bottom in tiny print "PRODUKT POLSKI". 'Aha!" I thought. "This must be a produkt from Polski!" Further inspection of even tinier font confirmed it: "Produced by Animex Foods Sp. z.o.o. S.K.A. plant in Szczecin, Poland." Wow! Factory extruded Polish food! Then, in the slapped-on America-mandated "Nutrition Facts" sticker: "Ingredients: pork, spices."
This wasn't just any Polish meat. It was Polish pork in a can.
Guess where I found it?
On the clearance rack! $1.49 for a 10.5 oz. can! It was three months past its expiration date, and slightly dented, but it was Polish pork in a can!
I had to have it. I mean, how often does one find out of date canned pork products manufactured in Soviet-era factories from an Eastern European country on a clearance shelf in Vernon, New Jersey? Not often, I can tell you that. I picked up two.
When I got home NewWifey(tm) had left a note saying she was at a friend's, so I put the cans in the fridge til she got back. I figured chilling them would kill any...uh, what infects expired Polish pork? I wasn't sure, but I was hoping a stay in the fridge would kill it.
Four hours later NewWifey(tm) walked in the door. "Hi baby, I'm just making lunch" I yelled. "Go change and we can eat over a game of Chutes-and-Ladders." (We play for money.)
So off she went to throw on some shapeless married-lady-who-doesn't-give-a-fuck-anymore housedress, and I prepped some veggies and stuff to surround a cylinder of Polish pork product so it wouldn't look so much like a cylinder of Polish pork product.
There was one hitch, though. I got the pull-tab lid off ok, but after retching ever so slightly at the sight of a lumpy pink wad surrounded by jiggling pink jelly and little clots of snow-white congealed fat, I couldn't get the meat out of the can. Seriously, I could not get that meat out of the can.
First I did the obvious. I ran a knife around the edge. Nuthin'. I couldn't wedge the tip down more than a millimeter or so. Then I sat the can in hot water for a while, which only made the pink jelly liquefy and trickle onto the counter where it immediately re-jelled. I even got a manual can opener out - the one you never used on your Swiss Army Knife - and sliced off the bottom of the can so it was now open on both ends. It still wouldn't budge. It must've been welded in there with pork solder or something.
Finally I went down to the garage and dragged our portable service-grade hydraulic jack up to the kitchen, along with a clamp-on vice. I screwed the vice onto a low shelf and tightened the jaws around the meat. Then I rolled the jack underneath and put a cloth covered wooden dowel just less than the diameter of the can on top of the the lifting arm. When I raised the arm it pushed up against the meat, but not the can. Brilliant!
That jack has a lift capacity of 7 tons. It had to work.
I started slowly pumping the long crank arm. When the dowel first touched the meat there was an ever-so-slight squishy sound, but no visible movement. I pumped once, slowly, but all that happened was the top of the meat began to bulge. I started a second pump, slower still, but just as soon as I began pushing down NewWifey(tm) walked into the kitchen.
"What the hell are you doing?" NewWifey(tm) became jaded to my occasionally "creative" cooking techniques years ago, but the sight of an automotive jack lifting a 10 ounce can of meat on her kitchen floor was apparently odd enough that she found herself surprised once again.
"I'm making lunch."
"Making lunch? With a floor jack??"
"It's expired Polish meat. I think the rendered skin turned to glue and I can't get it out of the can. C'mere and give a pump while I try to loosen the outside with a knife again, willya? I think that should do it."
She didn't move. "If you think for one instant that I'm going to eat -"
There was a quick screech of stressed metal, the dome on the meat bulged a fraction more, and then it let go. The pink wad of pork shot out like it had been fired from a mortar.
It clipped the edge of a cabinet above and caroomed off at a sharp angle.
Right into NewWifey(tm's) glasses.
The force knocked NewWifey(tm) back a full step, and shattered the left lens. When she pulled her hands away from her face they were smeared with blood.
I didn't see that though, because I was at the far end of the adjacent room already.
"It's ok" I called. "I found the meat. Let me just wipe it clean and we can eat."
"Are you CRAZY?" she said. "My eye is bleeding and my favorite glasses are ruined!" She was practically sobbing. NewWifey(tm) never sobs.
"Oh, baby! I'm sorry! Lemme get a Band Aid or some iodine or a leech or something. Don't worry, we can have the pork later. I'm sure it'll keep."
"Fuck YOU! And fuck your stupid Polish meat!" She staggered off to the medicine cabinet.
Women. Am I right, guys?
I didn't think the gash looked that bad when I checked at it later. It ran under the brow almost end to end, but it wasn't very deep. It just made NewWifey(tm) look like she had two eyebrows on one side; one red, one auburn. It didn't look like it was infected or anything.
The fact that it didn't look infected meant nothing to NewWifey(tm) of course. After chewing me out for a good hour she finally exhausted herself and sank back into the recliner, a magazine in one hand and an ice pack in the other. She sat dully flipping through the fashion pages when suddenly she stopped and let out a gasp. Dropping the ice pack she jumped off the recliner and ran down the hall.
"Honey, where...?" But before I could finish she'd reached her workroom and closed the door. I knew better than to press for an answer.
NewWifey(tm) was still in there with the door closed when I went to bed. A "Good night, baby!" yelled into the door only got a muffled grunt back. When I woke for work at 3am she was still in there, doing whatever infuriated OCD wives do at 3am.
This went on for 3 days. I'd come home from work, make dinner, knock on the door of her workshop, she'd come out, we'd eat, and she'd go back in. No word what she was doing. I went to sleep alone. I heard a bunch of whirring and grinding sounds at various times, but nothing that gave me an inkling what she was up to.
Finally, on the fourth day she came out and triumphantly extended a pair of sunglasses with some kind of pattern on them towards me.
"Well? What do you think?"
"Um...I'm not sure. You spent three days gluing some threads onto the lenses of your sunglasses? Why would you do that?"
"Dummy, look again. They're not glued - they're stitched. I drilled tiny holes in the glass and figured out how to stitch them with a custom needle I machined. They're cross-stitched glasses! I put the pattern just under my eyebrow so it covers my scar from your STUPID MEAT. Cool, huh?"
I had to admit, it was pretty cool. As usual, her handiwork was impeccable. I know I've mentioned before that NewWifey(tm) is a master embroiderer, to the point where even though I'm not particularly fond of needlework (ie: I'm a guy) her pieces sometimes astound me with their technical prowess. I mean, last year she began doing needlework on eggs. Eggs! A friend who raises chickens gave her ones of various colors (I had no idea there were green eggs) and she carefully blew them out and drilled tiny holes all around and stitched flowers and geometric patterns and whatnot into them with silk threads, using a curved surgeon's needle. I've gotta give it up for that kind of skill, even if I never actually wanted an embroidered chicken egg in my house.
And yes, the glasses hid her scar. Which I was very, very thankful for since it took some of the heat off me. NewWifey(tm) was so proud of what she'd done that she almost forgot why she had to make them in the first place.
That Friday night she went to her stitching club meeting as usual, and wore the glasses. When she came home she was unusually happy. "Guess what?" she said. "All my stitching friends were amazed by my glasses, and they all want to buy a pair if I'll make more!"
"Hey, that's great" I said. "But why don't they make their own? These are Embroiderer's Guild of America ladies we're talking about. Stitching their own stuff is what they do, right?"
"Yeah, but this is different. It's not like stitching on cloth. I had to come up with whole new equipment, and a completely novel stitching technique. Not to mention they'd need a drill press, which I don't think any of them own."
Her phone rang.
She went onto the other room and talked for a few minutes. When she came back she said, "Christine told one of her friends about it, and she wants one too. Holy crap, I think I've created a monster! Now I've gotta make, like, 9 pairs of sunglasses before next Friday's meeting."
So the next day she went to Walmart and bought 9 pairs of cheapo sunglasses and went to work. At Friday's meeting she passed them out and gathered up 90 dollars. When she came home she wiped her brow and said "I'm glad that's done. That was a lot of fucking work for 10 dollars a pair."
Her phone rang.
She went to the other room and talked for a few minutes. When she came back her face was ash grey and her jaw was open. "One of my stitching buddies took a picture of the glasses and sent it to a friend who has a embroidery design company, and the friend wants me to get in touch with her about going to a national trade show and maybe marketing the things!"
I could only stare at her. "What? You're kidding. A trade show? As in, like...a trade show?"
"Yeah. It's some big get-together they have in St. Louis every August where retail chains, shops and catalogue companies meet with designers and manufacturers to see what lines they want to carry that season. Vendor booths cost thousands, but this lady says I can share hers. She won't even charge me for taking up some of her space. She loves my glasses so much she just thinks they would be a hit, and she wants them to be out there!"
Then it began to dawn on her how much work it would take assembling enough glasses for trade show volume sales, and in just two week's time. She'd barely gotten 9 pair done in one week for her friends. She'd need at least 50, the woman providing table space told her.
That's when she had a great idea, born of desperation. "I'll sell them as kits!" she said. "I'll do the work of drilling out the glasses and making the needles, which goes fast, and just pack them with thread and instructions. They can make them themselves!"
And that's what she did for the next two weeks. She went to Manhattan and got several dozen moderately priced sunglasses at a wholesale outlet, a ton of thread, and bunch of clear plastic bag-thingies to package them in. Then she worked like mad around the clock for the next two weeks drilling, machining, and assembling kits.
She even came up with a catchy name: "Cross Eyes". Pretty good, huh?
So that's where NewWifey(tm) is right now. At a 2-day national embroidery trade show just outside St. Louis, Missouri. Selling those glasses pictured up top.
And it's all thanks to expired Polish meat-in-a-can. I hope she appreciates its contribution.
(BTW, it was awful, awful tasting meat. I tried it while NewWifey(tm) was bandaging herself. It didn't help that it was flecked with hydraulic fluid from the jack, but even still it was pretty rough. And the texture of a superball. I ate half and gave the rest to the corgi.)
Hey, I got a call from NewWifey(tm) a few minutes ago. Guess what? She says her glasses are the hit of the show! On the first day of the event she's already sold every kit she brought down, and took orders for dozens more. My guess is that by the end of tomorrow they'll have erected a statue of her in the lobby and people will begin placing offerings at the base of it.
Gee, thanks, Polish pork. I'm never going to see NewWifey(tm) again now that she has to fill so many new orders. But hey, at least...well, I guess I'll just never see NewWifey(tm) again. Oh well.
By the way, if you're on Facebook she's set up a public page for the glasses. Just search "Noteworthy Needle" and see what all the little old ladies are staining their bloomies over.
I tasted it, alright.