Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Movie & Lunch, Bifurcated Edition

I KNOW that this blog tends to be photo-heavy, and especially so about things you couldn't possibly care about. This is largely because I insist on taking pictures of food, and, while they are not bad pictures of food, they are pictures nonetheless. And, in the words of Our Hero, William H. Joel Jr., you can't get the sound from a story in a magazine.

But this really is kind of special. I had to take this picture in res, in order to show that this sausage sandwich contains two different mustards, a gag that frequent readers will find not uncommon at all. But better than that:

Due to the recent purchase of a 12 pack of Saranac Trail Mix, I consumed said sandwich with a Black Forest followed by a Pale Ale, which combination proved to be downright magical. Especially in combination with the sandwich, which has so far given me waves of nostalgia, in a very odd way.

The sausage in this sandwich was the result of some vaguely ill-advised bargain shopping. An off-brand of kielbasa which we did not recognize, on sale for basically a dollar, the first application-- baked with sauerkraut and served alongside mashed potatoes with a little mustard for dipping-- proved distinctly odd, in a way I could not quite pinpoint.

After a courtesy nibble, the Wifey managed to approximate the oddness: "It tastes like bologna."

Which it does. It tastes distinctly like bologna. Not baloney, but bologna. In fact, a species of ring bologna that registers a tad low on the garlic scale, which is not necessarily a bad thing, so long as there is garlic present. And that approximation led to the supposition-- again, the Wifey's, all crediot where credit is due-- that the best application for this might be fried, in sandwich form, which is what we have here. On the lower laye* of the Kaiser roll is Grey Poupon, on top of which the sausage, on top of which a slice of white cheese, mainly as a binder, on top of which warmed kraut, and on top of that, my beloved Plochman's mustard. The nostalgia factor is that it reminded me, as I was eating it, of the supposedly kosher hot dog I used to get from the Cambodian guy who ran the lunch stand in the half-defunct mall where I used to work. Minus the beer and the cheese and half the mustard. It was uncanny in a way that I am loathe to even attempt to describe.


The movies of the day were not quite October Sky and The Hi-Lo Country, neither of which I can actually, creditably watch. October Sky because the sourcework is veritable, but the execution is specious. Homer Hickam, the subject of the flick, says that his Dad supported him alot more than the film suggests, and that the film plays up the union-anti-union folderol a fair amount, and on and on, but the film has a definite atmosphere which caputures post-war Appalachia is a very faithful and loving way, and all the performances are solid, especially from Chris Cooper, on of my favorite actors, and Jake Gyllenhall, who, for all I care, can rot in hell.

(Because he is a fine actor, but he tends to take fish-in-a-barrel roles. Donnie Darko? Fuggedaboudit. Who can't play an emotionally tortured adolescent? Besides Christopher Walken, I mean.)

The Hi-Lo Country I keep trying to watch, but it's just so mean spirited. The whole film seems predicated on the notion that betrayal is not only inevitable, but somehow honorable. I mean, I have respect for films that have a gray moral tone, but when Woody Harrelson is your choice to play your moral chorus, well, I think it's clear that you have serious issues with your choice of ethos.

(On the other hand, it has one of the few truly authentic Harrelson performances, so for that reason, it's nearly hypnotic, Harrelson being one of those actors whose performances I equally enjoy whether authentic or in. Alongside Christopher Walken.)

*Laye is a term I recently coined to mean "the slices of bread in the sandwich," so your standard sandwich would have a lower laye and an upper laye, where your club sandwich would have a lower, middle, and upper laye. Big whoop.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

If You Knew Sushi . . .

TODAY's lunch is the end result of a long, rambling ride around ther edge of town to end up at my local grocery store, where I found that the sushi chef had left behind a lovely tray of tuna spicy roll, which I had with a 24 ounce Beck's while watching the last third of The Sand Pebbles, which I love despite the fact that the source work is bullshit.*

*The fact of the matter remains that most of my favorite movies are based on crap. Geeze, what is it with me and these damned useless asterisks? This is, what, the second one in a month? I'm so ashamed. I ought not to be allowed anywhere near this series of tubes.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Embgellishments & Grace Notes

A coupla months back, in one of my perenial Ramen noodle experiments, I added leftover barbecued rib meat, oven baked, to the soup, with delightful results. This inspired today's concoction, which you see here: Ramen noodles with snow peas and . . . Canadian bacon.

I know what you're thinking, or at least you should be: That's wrong. Just . . . wrong. But wait! Let me explain.

Canadian bacon is essentially a low-impact ham. So this is a preserved pork, which is not at all uncommon to Asian cuisine. Also, I woked the ham and snow peas with sliced garlic and peanut oil while the noodles boiled, and let the mix rest while I fixed the soup and added the requisite soy and chili-garlic sauce. Then I slung the stuff together and VOILA! It reminded me a bit of something I picked up in New York's Chinatown once many years ago, but only in a vague way. Still, it did make for quite a satisfying lunch.

Still didn't really go well with the beer, which once again was the Kona Longboard Lager. I still can't quite say why, but Ramen noodles, as far as I am concerned, just don't go with beer. Can't say why.

The film of the day was going to be A Night To Remember, but, eh. I know why I like it, but I don't feel like defending it. And it also begs a larger question, that of whether James Cameron's Titanic was a masterwork or a travesty. I mean, the reason I think it might be the latter-- the special effects, the scope, the depiction of the rising disaster-- are wholly at odd with the reasons that it became the biggest box office grosser in history, which is the bullshit romance Cameron tacked on and the treacly framing device and those cockememe Riverdance scenes down in steerage where all the Noble Poor are getting justifiably out of their skulls on Guinness. I'm the king of the wooooooorld!

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Things I'm Fine With

Tony Bourdain has taken to using Krispy Kreme Doughnuts as a symbol of Things That Are Corporate And Wrong.

And I'm fine with that.

I ought not to be. Perhaps. It is, after all, my home brand. And I have had the giddy experience of driving by the old original Charlotte store, long since defunct, story to follow, and seeing the Hot Now sign ablaze, going in and ordering the dozen glazed and a pint of milk, gorging until I was in physical pain, then scrapin' up enough change to bet a hot black coffee to help mitigate the situation. Delish. Loved it. This is a memory I cherish.

But they're everywhere now, and nowhere. The original store, as far as I am concerned anyways, was a run-down, dingy, grease-stained hurdy-gurdy over in an area of town that was busy going from tony to seedy, on Independence Boulevard, which was itself in those days a symbol of commercial excess, a place where everyone sold everything and most of what they sold was crap, and the traffic always sucked. The old ladies that worked there were happy enough, but you knew that was the best they could ever expect out of life, and they knew it, and they resented the young rich kids treading on their territory. (They liked me, I guess because they could sense I was not from a well-off family, not that we were poor by any stretch of the imagination. I could have found it endearing, but it kinda creeped me out.) Now they're all in strip malls. (The stores, not the old ladies. God knows where they went.) Not that there's anything really wrong with that. Just not the same.

For a while there was one near the contractor's desk at the Lowe's Home Impovement store in Huntersville. Genius, right? Contractors coming in the early morning for their supplies can surrender to the siren song of pastry and hot coffee, right? Lasted about a year. How you screw up that deal, I do not know. Makes me suspicious though.

And then there was the whole thing where they over-reported earnings to boost their stock price. Which is not an uncommon business practice really. Unethical as hell, but not uncommon. But the thing is, they screwed up and got caught. The fallout was remarkably light. I mean, after all, how much capital could have been caught up in the doughnut market? But still, lying liars couldn't even lie well enough not to get caught. Just disheartening.

I used to like the idea that I could now (then) get a Krispy Kreme in New York City, but, realistically, if in'm in Manhattan, I'm more likely having knish. Or a Yankee breakfast. Corned beef hash and eggs. Bagel with a schmear. Or if I want a doughnut, I can think of a half a dozen better places to get one. (And a couple of worse ones, come to think of it.)

Not too long ago, Dunkin' Doughnuts moved back in down here. We used to have them here, back in the day, I swear it. Or at least I remember it that way. Anyways, for a coupla years, not just here but plenty of places, the debate raged long and hard about which was better. The Dunkin Doughnut fans claimed that the Krispies weren't REAL doughnuts. Which, given that the history of the doughnut is deeply veiled in mythology, fuck you. But my argument, really, was this: You got doughnuts. What are you complaining about? Yeah, they're different things, but a. you can get cake doughnuts at the Krispy Kreme, and 2. they're all good.

And Dunkin is an evil empire too. I mean, look at their commercials. Thye are not simply implying that Dunkin' Doughnuts is bent on world domination, they out and out say it. And I am tempted to call this a fascist corporate culture, but, since many, maybe even most, of the ads suggest that Dunkin' Doughnuts will force all Americans, no matter how ill suited, back into an agrarian economy, I think it's really more Maoist.

Not that I am condemning the doughnut corporations, not that the sky is falling. Doughnut culture, no matter how pervasive it is, cannot provide, in my opinion, so high a position as is needed to wield power. And there is also probably no other industry where the grass-roots, mom-and-pop shops are actually, physically so pervasive as to be immune from corporate domination. I could be wrong about that, but it's the feeling that I get.

So what I am saying is basically this: I am not ready to boycott the doughnut kings. Not that I buy alot of doughnuts these days, but nor am I beyond the impulse. Oh look: doughnuts! Why not? I could use a snack. Cuppa Joe wouldn't be entirely remiss at the mo. Krispy? Cool! Dunkin? Awesome! I have no loyalties, fealties, nor vows to bond me. But too, if Tony and his ilk want to hold Krispy or Dunkin' up as examples of All That Is Corporate And Wrong, I guess I can kind of see it.

And that's fine with me.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

We Now Return You To Your Regularly Scheduled Balderdash

SO THE HOLIDAYS have now concluded with no major casualties. What we have here, for those of you unfamiliar with the extended Bobo family rituals, is meat pie with white cheese, two fried eggs, salt, pepper, mustard and ketchup. The meat pie is my mother-in-law's creation, spiced ground beef and turkey baked in a pie crust. Almost everyone in the family has their own particular way of topping their portion, and we all eat WAAAAAAAAAAAAY too much of it from Christmas morning all the way through New Year's day. This year I had the genius breakthrough that I could, in fact, have this for lunch with beer, and thus the addition of Sam Adams' Boston Lager. Sheer genius.

The same can be said-- could be said, with reservations-- about the season's movie. The first truly free evening we had together, we put this in, with the result that we spent the first two thirds of it, say the first hour and change, wondering why in the hell anybody would want us to watch this.

This is a phenomenon know as The Shield Effect. Very early in the first season of this critically acclaimed series, Doc Nagel and I found ourselves discussing it, as we had both taken a slant at watching the pilot episode, and both had failed. We agreed that the acting was superlative, the plot thick, the characters rich, even the camera work was nicely done, but we just failed to stick it out. (I had, in fact, failed twice, once on the pilot's premier night and a second time during an encore presentation some days later.) We found it hard to take, not because of the ethical questions involved, not wholly because some of the characters were slimy or unpleasant-- Michael Chiklis' character, in particular, came off as someone you just wouldn't want to be around, although we both understood he was supposed to become redeemable somehow somewhere in the future. We were trying, and failing, to put our collective finger on why the thing had us so cheesed off, and then the Doc nailed it.

"Why would someone want me to watch this?"

Yeah, we understand that the morality play requires the construction of it's moral plane, but seriously: how dirty do require me to feel in the process? And what kind of creeps are these people for making me want to feel creepy and crappy on the path to wisdom?

The same kind of logic applies here. Excellent acting, beautifully assembled story, high satire, yeah yeah yeah. But there were many elements that were just . . . Why do these people want me to sit through this? In the lower third, during the resolution, a great number of those elements got cancelled out, and in the end it was a pretty satisfying film, but it was a long, hard slog getting there. Slog we did though. After the credits rolled, as I popped the thing out of the DVD player, the Wifey summed up her veiwing experience thusly: "Burn After Viewing." I reconciled my opinion later that night, on further contemplation, but the Wifey was just not willing to be any more forgiving. She was glad to say she watched it, but she figures those bastards now owe her another No Country for Old Men.*

*By those bastards I suppose I mean the Coen brothers. Tommy Lee Jones wasn't anywhere near this thing. Nor was Cormac McCarthy, so far as I know. This has to be the most useless asterisked notation ever. I mean, it's right there. What, do I think you're blind?