Dangerspouse Rides Again

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Garage - Track

Mar. 08, 2004 - 7:00 a.m.

This is primarily gonna be an entry about foodstuffs, so I thought I'd start with a quiz I took over at Food Reference this morning. I like to think I'm hot shit when it comes to food facts, but I only got 4 of the 6 questions right. I'll post the answers at the end:


1) Superstition about this herb held that it its leaves had the power to turn into scorpions, and even smelling it might bring a scorpion into the brain! What is this curious herb?

2) This cheese has been made since the 15th century, is made in giant wheels that can weigh well over 200 pounds, and is Switzerland's oldest cheese. What is the name of this cheese (other than 'Swiss cheese')?

3) When and where is the "Night of the Radishes"?

4) What is the difference between the liquid in a can of salmon and the liquid in a can of tuna?

5) Portobello mushrooms are actually the mature, fully opened form of what mushroom?

6) What aromatic herb is a member of the parsley or carrot family, indigenous to the regions around the Black and Caspian Seas, and is an essential ingredient of 'fines herbes'?


So as you may or may not know, I used to be a hoity toity French chef. Didn't work out though - I'm not French, and I couldn't stand all the idiots who would come into our restaurant to order escargots and think they were being witty by reenacting that scene from "The Jerk": "Waiter! There are SNAILS on her plate!!" Well, that plus constant heat stroke from standing in front of a 12-burner, 75 billion BTU cast iron stove 15 hours a day. I got out of the kitchen after a few years.

I did learn how to cook pretty good though, and that came in handy this weekend. My mouth was still smarting from all the excavation work on Friday, making eating anything denser than heavy cream a perilous undertaking. Actually, I did try just having heavy cream for all my meals, but after the second cup at lunch on Saturday I began vomitting too much to stick with it. And NewWifey(tm) was not exactly thrilled when I poured a thick stream of pure butterfat straight from the carton into her bowl, served with a straw at breakfast. "I think you have me confused with the other pussy here" she said. I needed some alternates, if only for my marriage's sake.

I settled on Middle Eastern dips. Not Middle Eastern Dipshits - they're too tough to chew. I'm talking about their famous eggplant and chick pea dips (Babba Ghanoush and Hummus respectively), as well as a Tabuleh salad (at NewWifey(tm)'s request). That worked out pretty well. I couldn't indulge in the Pita bread dippers, but just spooning it was suprisingly satisfying. Even NewWifey(tm) was happy.

Well, she was happy for a little while. Sunday night when I set the same platter of mashed baby food on the table AGAIN, she revolted.

"That's it. I'm sick of this shit! Now I know why they're so eager to strap on bombs and meet their 76 virgins at age 15 - it's to get away from eggplant dip. I'm ordering a pizza. You continue to help yourself here, Mohammed."

And she did. A half hour later a sullen redheaded kid with stereotypic acne dropped off an Extra Large with Pepperoni, and NewWifey(tm) dug in. Even the dog got a slice.

I was livid. I'm half Sicilian, half Napolitan, and I'm eating goddam cold mashed chick peas while my wife and dog are huffing pizza! Stronza! Porcoddio!! This couldn't stand.

But what was I gonna do? Yeah, I could scrape the crust and pepperoni off and just slurp the remaining sauce and gooey cheese. But that's not pizza - I wanted the whole enchilada...pizza. If only I could...

Wait a minute. I can!

If working in restaurants for years has taught me anything, it's that ANYTHING can be pureed into a sauce. As long as it doesn't break the blades of your blender, you can fool people into thinking you're a master of Haute Cuisine. Creamy smoked trout sauce over free range elk mousse? No problem!

I broke out the heavy equipment.

I have one of those industrial blenders that is solid steel, even the container, and just has an "On" button on the front. That's it. Just "On". You're supposed to wear machine shop goggles when you fire this baby up, since the blades spin so fast there's a real danger the entire thing will explode if there are any invisible stress fractures. You could puree a bicycle if you could get it in there. Mmmmm, Cream of Schwinn!

So into the jug went two slices of pie and a shot of olive oil (a little liquid helps the process). Glasses on, lean back a bit just in case, and stab the On button.


After about 10 seconds pinkish froth was starting to seap from under the cap, so I turned it off. Sure enough, the contents looked like a strawberry shake! It was gonna work!

There were still some stringy strands of cheese that didn't emulsify, however, and a few larger nodules of pepperoni that also remained unscathed. So I poured the whole mess into a pot and got out my stick blender. This is a serious stick blender, not one of those plastic shafted Brauns. In restaurants, we would use this model to liquify crab shells for bisque. I figured pepperoni and cheese should be a snap. And it was! In less than 5 minutes, start to finish, I had a piping hot bowl of pizza. I was a happy Wop. NewWifey(tm) just rolled her eyes and gave another slice to the Corgi.

Funny side story: there were several slices left over, so I made another batch to bring for my lunch today. When I got there one of the other announcers asked what I had in the thermos.


"No, really. What'd you bring?"

I unscrewed the cap and let him take a whiff.

"Holy Shit! Who the hell makes Pizza Milkshakes? That's sick, dude."

But actually, it was pretty good. Beat the hell out of Gerber's Eggplant.


Oh, before I give you the answers to the quiz, I wanna pass on a plug or two....

As far as I'm concerned, the best pure writer on the web - and just about every other medium - is dancingbrave. And...she recently did the PERFECT entry PERFECTLY describing how people feel when they acquire their first KitchenAid Stand Mixer. Go read this. Now. Even if you don't cook, just to see how entertaining the written word can be. I'll never figure out why television shows are such tripe when brilliant minds like her's are behind them. Editors, I guess....

Then go check out the always adorable, witty and also unfairly talented poolagirl. Her past several entries all revolve around the disgusting things (um, food things) people put in their mouths willingly. And after you're done reading those, check out her non-food related items also. You can thank me later.


Ok, here's the answers:

1) Basil.

2) Emmentaler, Emmenthaler, Emmental, or Emmenthal.

3) In Oaxaca, Mexico, Christmas Eve is also the Night of the Radishes, when large radishes are cut into animal shapes.

4) The 'juice' in canned salmon comes from the fish itself, whereas tuna has oil or water added in the canning process.

5) A Portobello is a mature, fully opened crimini mushroom. It has a lower moisture content, which gives it more flavor and a dense, meaty texture.

6) Chervil (Anthriscus cereifolium).


How'd ya do?

I must admit, my knowledge of Oaxacan Yuletide traditions is a little sketchy and I muffed that one.

But I'm very disappointed for not knowing that Basil was associated with scorpions. ME, Mr. Italiano! I'm not suprised though - us Wops are a superstitious lot. My grandmother used to carry a broccoli spear with her everywhere. In the mountain village of Ragusa, Sicily, where she grew up, the locals thought it looked like a cross (it kind of does, which is why it belongs to the cruciferous class of veggies, believe it or not). People's pants would have bright green stains around their pockets, everywhere you looked. And what was it supposed to ward off? The Mafia. When some goon levelled a sawed off shotgun at your chest, on orders from Don Ciccio who was miffed when he heard you used the wrong brand of olive oil, you were supposed to pull out this crisp branch of crudite and frighten him off. I can't vouch for it's efficacy in this regard personally, but if I ever visit Ye Olde Country, I'm taking no chances.

Wow, all this typing has worked up an apatite. Soup's on!


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