All I Have, I Owe to Pork Skin

I was feeling utterly miserable yesterday morning.  I had woken up with a fierce stomachache that felt like a thousand tiny knives in my gut.  I couldn’t figure out what would have caused it.  I hadn’t eaten anything strange (well, strange for me) or out-of-date or off-temp lately.  I swigged some Pepto and went about my day, trying to ignore the stabbing pains in my belly.

As the day dragged on, so did the pain.  It didn’t get any worse, just more irritating.  I kept waiting for it to go away or even just subside a bit.  The Pepto wasn’t doing anything and I didn’t have anything else at work to fall back on (ginger, for example, works miracles).  I drank bottle after bottle of water, trying to flush my system out, but without any luck.

Stomachaches — unrelenting ones, at least — are a rarity for me.  My family all has the stomachs of billy goats, cast-iron guts that can withstand food that would make a vulture sick.  True story:  I once drank the tap water in Mexico for a week straight before one of my friends caught me one day and bawled me out for being so stupid.  We weren’t in an “industrialized” area, either, all the more for her to fear that I was going to catch some deadly parasite and die from a horrific form of diarrhea.  Never happened; I was perfectly fine.

As lunchtime rolled around, our temp asked if I’d like to go grab some tacos at Guadalajara Bakery.  As miserable as I was, tacos were the last thing I wanted.  That’s when you know I’m really sick…  I politely declined and instead force-fed myself a simple salad that I hoped would clean me out.  …nope.

When he returned some time later, the temp had brought me some tacos despite my earlier protests.  Bless him.  They looked so good, with their homemade tortillas and neon green salsa verde.  “Your favorite!” he said.  “Chicharrónes!”  The soft, spongy chicharrónes stared up at me from their tortillas.  They looked like inviting little pillows.  Despite the horrible pain in my stomach, I couldn’t help myself.  I tore into them with abandon.

After quickly inhaling the tacos, I realized that within about five minutes my stomachache was completely gone.  I felt like a new person; like my stomach had been reborn.  It was a divinely-inspired, chicharrón-manifested miracle.

So here’s my new marketing strategy…  Forget about Pepto-Bismol, forget about milk of magnesia, forget about Tums, forget about ginger, even!  There’s only one guaranteed cure:

When your stomach hurts and you don’t know what’s wrong, try a bite of chicharrón!

See?  It even rhymes.  I’m going to make a fortune, people…

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The Zythophile

I think I have a new favorite foodie blog (well, more like ale and lager blog, but let’s not split hairs):

The Zythophile

Read, for instance, this fascinating post on the spurious history behind the “traditional” ploughman’s lunch served in pubs the world over.  I feel seriously vindicated now, as I never liked the pissant little bits of lettuce and cheese and pickle that comprised a ploughman’s lunch anyway, and always wondered how that rabbit food could be considered substantial or hearty enough for a field laborer to eat for lunch.

Also awesome: Fraudulent Ale Questions, where the author debunks various myths about beer, including some myths that I’ve never even heard of, such as:

Medieval ale-conners wore leather breeches and tested ale by pouring some on a wooden bench and then sitting in it and seeing if they stuck to the bench.

Apparently quite false.  Who knew?

And, of course, there’s a short but sweet section on the underappreciated art of beer and food pairing.

The beer snob in me has found a new home, folks!

Squeamish About Squirrel?

Courtesy of loyal reader, intrepid eater and world traveler Callie, comes today’s article from The Guardian.

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I’m not squeamish about much when it comes to food: raw chicken, deep-fried insects, honeycomb, other things that look like honeycomb (I have serious visual texture issues with things that look like pores or a series of tiny holes; I have no idea why).  But I think that if presented with a plate of squirrel, I’d have to add that to my list.

Sure, there are lots of people that eat squirrel — probably people in my own family at some point or another — but I would no more eat squirrel than I’d eat a fancy rat.  But apparently, I’d be the odd man out in England:

It tastes sweet, like a cross between lamb and duck. And it’s selling as fast as butchers can get it.

And my husband claims that WE eat strange things over here…

The Guardian, a UK-based newspaper, recently ran a story on squirrel meat, which is apparently the ethical meat du jour across the pond.  It’s worth noting that the squirrel that’s in such high demand is not the tradtional red squirrel, the Squirrel Nutkin-style squirrel that we all grew up with and which is native to the UK.  No!  To eat such a beloved animal would be unforgiveable.  Instead, it’s Nutkin’s far mousier and much more invasive cousin: the North American grey squirrel.

The grey squirrel — that familiar and loveable rodent here in America — was introduced to England and Scotland in the early part of the 20th century.  It has few natural predators and is hardier and more disease resistant than the native red squirrels.  The gray squirrel also has the advantages of being able to eat many more foods than the red squirrel can digest, and can reproduce faster and even under difficult circumstances (which Squirrel Nutkin cannot; he apparently has performance anxiety…).  What all of this means is that the red squirrels are slowly being eradicated by natural selection as the gray squirrels take over.

The UK has offered many responses to this situation, ranging from flat out shooting the grey squirrels on site to introducing Pine Martens (a type of weasel, and one of the only known predators that kills grey squirrels) into the grey squirrels’ habitats.  However, the latest solution is by far the most interesting.

At Ridley’s Fish and Game shop in Corbridge, Northumberland, the owner David Ridley says he has sold 1,000 – at £3.50 a squirrel – since he tested the market at the beginning of the year. ‘I wasn’t sure at first, and wondered would people really eat it. Now I take every squirrel I can get my hands on. I’ve had days when I have managed to get 60 and they’ve all sold straight away.’

Both believe its new-found popularity is partly due to its green credentials. ‘People like the fact it is wild meat, low in fat and local – so no food miles,’ says Simpson. Ridley reckons that patriotism also plays a part: ‘Eat a grey and save a red. That’s the message.’

You can’t disagree that grey squirrel is an environmentally-friendly choice for meat: it’s locally-acquired, free-range (although this isn’t always a valid argument), there is no grazing or ranching required, there is little-to-no carbon impact in transporting it and you’re ridding the environment of a pest at the same time!

But the important question is:  Would YOU eat it?

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UPDATED:  Amusing takes on the squirrel-eating story from SuperVegan and Diet Blog.

Dolce & Freddo

Welcome back from your extended holiday weekend, my little wood mushrooms!  Hope everyone had a great time eating barbeque and enjoying the sunshine.

Today’s busy for everyone, I’m sure, but make sure to catch my latest article on the demise of beloved coffeehouse/gelateria Dolce & Freddo and subsequent demolition in today’s Houstonist.

In case you can’t tell, I love me some condos.

Not.

A Few Pet Peeves…

I recently remarked to Plinio that the following blog post’s comment section was by far the most entertaining thing I’ve read all year.  To quote myself: “People are weird, weird, weird.”

God knows I have pet peeves (such as people who assume that since my first name can be shortened into any number of nicknames, they are free to call me one of those nicknames at their leisure — YOU CALL ME BY THE NAME THAT I INTRODUCE MYSELF AS OR YOU WILL GET STABBED IN THE TEMPLE WITH A LETTER OPENER!), but I like to think that my pet peeves are mild compared to some of litany of complaints here:

Why don’t you entertain me by telling me your pet service peeves?

Oh, Alison.  You opened a can of worms with that simple query, didn’t you?

Equally entertaining, however, is the follow-up question:

Calling all waitstaff!

Go on.  You know you want to impart some of your own pet peeves below…  🙂

 

Fried Green Tomatoes (and other such nonsense)

Richard spent the evening at the driving range yesterday, so I took the opportunity to cook a little dinner for one and had a few of my favorite things:

Cream peas (also called crowder peas or cowpeas) with salt pork,

…a hot, fresh pan of cornbread (I love Anson Mills, but this recipe is a complete joke; I’m putting a link to it here SOLELY as a CAUTIONARY TALE),

Cornbread

…and my beloved fried green tomatoes (oy vey, I know: the movie! enough already with the movie!).

Okay, that’s obviously not my photo.  But I recently broke my camera, so you’ll just have to bear with me until it’s fixed.  Besides, that’s a pretty good representation of how they came out.  Just…not with quite such an elegant presentation, jar of Tabasco and what-have-you.

Richard doesn’t care for the tart green tomatoes or their cornmeal and buttermilk batter, but that’s okay — more for me!  The recipe is simple enough and is oh-so-satisfying after a long day.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Serves: 2 (or 1, if you’re a piglet like me)

1 green tomato
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. buttermilk
salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes
vegetable oil

Slice your tomato into at least four thick slices.  If you can get more slices out of it, more power to you.  Just make sure they’re about 1/4 of an inch thick.

In a bowl, mix together your buttermilk with salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.  I use about three good pinches of kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper and about 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes.  But I like my tomatoes spicy and peppery.  If you don’t, just omit the red pepper flakes.  If you like them really spicy, make sure to mash on those flakes (put them in your palm and rub them with your thumb) before you throw them in, to release even more flavor.

In a pie pan (it’s just easier this way, okay?), spread an even layer of cornmeal.  Begin battering your tomato slices with buttermilk first, then cornbread.  Make sure they’re well coated on both sides and on the rind.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add about a half-inch of vegetable oil when the pan has gotten hot.  Gently put your tomato slices into the hot oil and let cook for four to five minutes per side.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels before serving.  Add a little pinch of salt and a lot of freshly-ground black pepper to the fried tomatoes and dig in!

Your tomatoes will be crunchy and crispy on the outside, warm and melty and succulent on the inside.  It’s the perfect pairing of textures, and the tartness of the tomato is absolutely wonderful on a hot day.  Especially when it’s served with a soft, buttery slice of cornbread!

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See?  This is what happens to me when summer rolls around each year and I can get all the quality foods of my youthful summer months spent in East Texas:  I turn into freaking Paula Deen.  Oh, well.  At least I’m enjoying the hell out of the summer produce while I experience my mid-year transformation into half-crazy, middle-aged, drawling, David-Yurman’d-within-an-inch-of-her-life, owns-stock-in-Aqua-Net, Southern lady.  The regular me should return sometime around September…

Fried green tomatoes picture courtesy of www.liketocook.com.

If Initech Had A Kitchen

Breakroom 1

The administrative assistants at my office have a strongly-developed sense of responsibility in ensuring that the breakroom on our floor remains spotless at all costs.

Witness the level of commitment required to not only write such a heartfelt missive, but also to construct a sturdy cardboard plaquard on which to mount it:

Breakroom 2

It has even been thoughtfully laminated so as to avoid falling victim to the spills or explosions against which it warns.

The signs are also helpfully hyperinstructive:

Breakroom 3

Just in case you are unclear on the concept of running the disposal or the mechanics behind the sink itself, remember that even one minute particle counts towards keeping our breakroom clean and sanitary.

What’s more comforting?  We are not alone.