Tuesday Trivia, Part McGee

I have several books on my desk at work.  Most of them are HR-related, since that’s what I do all day, and have fascinating titles like The Quick Reference Guide to ERISA Compliance and Consumer-Driven Healthcare Benefits: A Continuing Evolution.  Some days I feel like building a giant pyre out of those books and the stacks of reports and invoices I have around my office and sacrificing a lamb to God in hopes that He will pull me out of this dank pit of seething desperation and monotony.  But then I remember that He probably has better things to do, and I busy myself with other things (like making song lists on Seeqpod).

I have two non-HR-related books on my desk, which assist me in preserving my sanity on days like this.  One is a book on Houston.  It’s the only book in which I’ve ever been published.  That’s not saying anything, really; it’s not as if I’ve ever written a manuscript or an article and submitted it somewhere in hopes of being published.  This was a total fluke.

The other book is On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, by Harold McGee.  I like to think that these two books are instrumental in the daily maintenance of my sanity, stalwartly reminding me of what I do love and what I aspire to do someday.

Coincidentally, I also publish these little quizzes from the relative comfort of my office, hence my turning to Mr. McGee with some frequency when looking for trivia questions.  He’s wonderful like that.  You can read On Food and Cooking on two different levels: looking for little bits and bobs of information that you never knew, or diving in and coming out from the entire experience changed.  Changed in the way you view food, cooking, ingredients, horticulture, agriculture, history, science — it’s that great of a read.

With that in mind, here are today’s trivia questions — all courtesy of Mr. McGee:

  1. What liquid was used to preserve meats and other foods in classical Rome and Greece?
  2. Wine bottles are tinted green to screen out what harmful substance, which can excite the molecules in the wine and spoil its flavor?
  3. What are the three most common cultured dairy products in the Western world?
  4. True or false: the higher the grade, the fresher the egg.
  5. Which of these three nuts has the highest water content?  Chestnut, Cashew or Acorn?
  6. BONUS:  Which of those nuts has a “false fruit” called an “apple”?

Good luck and happy eating!

The Weekend In Food


6:00 pm:  Heading over to the Volcano for preliminary crawfish strategizing.

7:00 pm:  They have Divine No. 6 on draft!  MJ rocks for cluing me into this.

7:10 pm:  And it is truly divine.  Sweet but with dark underpinnings, hoppy but slightly fruity, tangy but grounded.  So many descriptions, so little time.

8:00 pm:  Time to head home and get some rest for tomorrow’s activities.


6:00 am:  Richard wakes me up, already dressed in his running clothes for this morning’s race.  He’s like a very excited puppy.

6:02 am:  As soon as he leaves the room, I fall back to sleep.

6:30 am:  Richard wakes me up again.  Excitement has turned into annoyance, as we are now running late.

6:35 am:  Leave the house with no makeup on, without brushing my hair and wearing the shirt I slept in with some ratty old jeans.  No coffee either.  I am looking HOT.

6:50 am:  We’re at the trailhead for the race…  Where is everyone?

6:55 am:  Ah, yes.  The race actually starts at 8:00 am, not 7:00 am.  Now I’m annoyed, too.

7:00 am – 7:45 am:  Sit in parking lot, mock early-morning cyclists with their clackety shoes and uber-tight shorts.  NO ONE wants to see your junk through Spandex, especially this early in the morning!  Get some decent clothes!

8:00 am:  Race starts.  I wave goodbye to Richard and read the NY Times on his Blackberry while he’s gone.

8:27 am:  Richard returns, super sweaty and upset about coming in 12th place.  I think 12th place is fantastic, if only because I couldn’t even finish a race, much less come in 12th.  Once again: wildly divergent opinions abound.

8:30 am:  Richard horks down two bananas and a bag of plantain chips, douses himself with cold water and declares that he’s ready to leave.

9:00 am:  Home again.  Just enough time for a shower and a little breakfast before heading out again.

9:30 am:  Why is it so damn hot in this house?

9:35 am:  Richard has turned off the air conditioning AGAIN.  I stomp off to grumble at him.

9:36 am:  Richard defends himself by saying that he’s freezing.  I counter by informing him that it’s because he’s sitting naked, directly underneath the air vent, while reading the sports section.  He defends his right to sit naked; we compromise by relocating him to a position that’s NOT directly in the path of the air conditioning.  I ask if he’s considering taking a shower today, or just letting the sweat dry into one of our upholstered chairs.  No answer.

10:30 am:  Fed, showered and dressed.  Checking email.

11:00 am:  Leave house to pick up BBQ from super-secret location for Chowhound’s BBQ Smackdown at 12:30.  Richard is still naked, reading the sports section, as I leave.

11:30 am:  Get to super-secret location, where order for brisket and ribs has already been placed and confirmed.  They are CLOSED.

11:31 am:  Super-secret location no longer a secret.  VIRGIE’S BBQ ON GESSNER, YOU SUCK.  Thanks for closing with no notice and not calling to let anyone know you wouldn’t be able to provide the order which had been placed well in advance, and which had been confirmed just 12 hours prior.  Ass clowns.

11:35 am:  Call Jenny, panicking.

11:40 am:  Jenny calls in a rush order to alternate BBQ restaurant.  I drive from Gessner and Tanner (NWish Houston) to Kirby and 59 in fifteen minutes flat, without using I-10 at all.  I have never been so proud of myself.

12:00 pm:  At Goode Co. BBQ, picking up order of ribs, brisket and jambalaya.  They have packed everything as requested in unmarked containers with no Goode Co. packaging, and the order is perfect.  They are so awesome.  Begin mad rush over to Washington Avenue for BBQ Smackdown.

12:30 pm:  At Pearl Bar on Washington, nowhere to park.  Eventually park by homeless guy who gets excited when he sees me carrying two giant boxes of food.  When he realizes they aren’t for him, he spits at me (AT me, not ON me — so no big deal, really).

12:30 pm – 3:00 pm:  BBQ Smackdown underway.  Excellent turnout of Chowhounds — about 30 people here to judge the contest.  Hanging out with I’ve Got The Munchies, Eating Our Words, I’m Never Full and Food In Houston as we chow down.  Pearl Bar is very cool, with great jukebox and assortment of board games and hula hoops.  Like a bar for six-year-olds.  Nothing in the Smackdown is blowing us away yet, but the sides that people brought (like the coleslaw that was specially made for us by Houston’s, and the summery couscous) are very good.  An awesome afternoon, all in all.

3:15 pm:  Winners are announced.  Of the six participants in the blind taste test (in two different categories, ribs and brisket), Pierson’s won the brisket by a long shot and Luling City Market won the ribs by a slim margin over Pierson’s.  We are all surprised at how low we ranked Goode Co. BBQ (fifth and sixth).  Other contestants included Kozy Kitchen, Burns BBQ and The Swinging Door.

3:30 pm:  Cleaning up BBQ mess.  What to do with all this extra sauce?

3:45 pm:  Heading right back to Kirby and 59 to the Volcano for the Houstonist Crawfish Boil.

4:00 pm:  Crawfish boil prep is in full swing with other Houstonist staffers.  Much chopping of veggies, sorting of spices, separating wristbands and purging of live crawfish is underway.

5:00 pm:  Monica and I have the easy job, sitting in the A/C and putting $5.00 all-you-can-eat wristbands on people.  Feeling bad about other Houstonist staffers in the heat, boiling crawfish and handing out beer flats to hungry, demanding people (especially Groovehouse, who has the nasty, back-breaking job of purging the crawfish).  Richard is here, though, “supervising” my wristband activities to make sure I don’t put them on too tight, too loose, catch arm hair in the sticky part, etc.

6:00 pm:  This place is a MADHOUSE.  I’m glad we have 500 pounds of crawdads, cause there are a LOT of people here.  Caroline Collective peeps come and go, as do a few Dynamo staffers.

7:00 pm:  Passed out the last of the wristbands.  We are officially not selling any more wristbands, so as to conserve precious few crawfish resources we have left.  Start collecting trash and used beer flats, taking to dumpster, rinse and repeat.  Yay!  Jenny is here!

8:00 pm:  Taking a break to eat a batch of mudbugs with Richard.  They are SO GOOD.  Bargas is the boiling badass.

8:30 pm:  Richard goes home, as I prepare to get back to work.

9:00 pm:  Help with the last few batches.  Spill boiling water on my foot while removing crawfish from pot.  Ouch.

9:30 pm:  Last batches of crawsfish are served.  People seem to be satiated.

10:00 pm:  Houstonist staffers sit down and eat last few flats of super-spicy crawfish, drink frozen screwdrivers and veg out.

10:30 pm:  Residual cleaning of boiling area and help to load the propane and propane accessories into Bargas’ car.  Glad it’s a rental, cause this crap is dir-tee.

11:00 pm:  Foot still on fire, but holding a frozen screwdriver against it seems to help.

11:30 pm:  Talking into the night.  Very tired, but very happy with crawfish boil and turnout.  Houston and Houstonist both rock.


Day spent in bed, miserable from back cramps, aside from a few waking periods to do grocery shopping and watch a double-feature starring the brutally-hot Ryan Gosling.  Lars and the Real Girl and Stay — both highly recommended.

How was your weekend?

Thursday Answers

The weeks keep passing so quickly these days! I can’t believe it’s already Thursday and already time for the answers to Tuesday Trivia. With no further adieu…

  1. El Pollo Loco — the crazy chicken! — was founded in the seaside town of Guasave back in the 1970s.  It is true that Denny’s purchased the chain in 1983, but most people don’t realize that Denny’s turned right around and sold it (along with all their other holdings) four years later.  Today, El Pollo Loco is a privately-owned company headquartered in Irvine, California, and operating in Mexico and the United States.
  2. Wendy’s introduced the drive-through window in 1971 at their second store in Columbus, Ohio.  McDonald’s didn’t incorporate this concept until 1975.  Of course, the folks at In-n-Out Burger had the first modern “drive up” service, created in 1948, but Wendy’s created the modern drive-through as we know it.
  3. Ancient Romans were the first to sell food from stalls in the street.  One of the most popular “fast food” items of the day was botulus, a blood sausage made from salted pork.  In fact, botulism takes its name from botulus, as the first diagnoses of botulism were in response to people eating bad botulus sausage (botulus meaning “sausage” in Latin).
  4. One out of every eight Americans has received a paycheck from McDonald’s.  That means at least a few of you out there have worked for Mickey D’s.  Own up, folks!
  5. Americans spend an average of $134 million on fast food each year, more than they spend on education, car payments or computers.  Amazing, if frighteningly unhealthy.
  6. BONUS:  Catching up to us in almost every facet of modern life, including consumption of natural resources and automobile ownership, China is the second-largest consumer of fast food in the world.  Throw their huge smoking habit into the mix, and we aren’t exactly creating very healthy world superpowers these days.

So…who won?  Once again, we congratulate the mighty Pooh!  Congratulations, Pooh!

Although she and The Grumpy Chef were tied for first place, the tie-breaker was their answer to queston number three.  The Grumpy Chef ventured “Persian,” while Pooh! couldn’t make up her mind and offered both Greece and Rome.  These two are neck and neck each week, I tell ya.  One day we’ll just have to play Final Jeopardy to see who reigns supreme.

Until next week…happy eating!

Tuesday Trivia

Don’t you ever just feel like a little snack sometimes?  Something that you know is bad for you, that sends you on a shameful guilt trip after you’ve eaten it, that holds no nutritional value, and that is probably made of “parts” or some form of partially-hydrogenated substances?  Then today’s Tuesday Trivia is for you.

This Tuesday’s round of questions is brought to you by this super-creepy original-recipe McDonald’s commercial:

I wouldn’t have bought a burger from that clown.


  1. What popular fast food chain, with locations throughout Houston, was founded in a small coastal town in Sinaloa, Mexico in 1975?
  2. Which fast food restaurant introduced the drive-through window in 1970, allowing you to gorge yourself on burgers without ever leaving the comfort of your wood-paneled station wagon?
  3. Which ancient civilization literally invented fast food, selling ready-to-eat meals from stalls in streets and markets?
  4. One out of every eight American workers has received a paycheck from which fast food restaurant?
  5. How much money do Americans spend on fast food every year?
  6. BONUS:  Which nation is the second-largest consumer of fast food after America?

Good luck, Fry Kids!  And watch out for the Hamburgler…  Answers on Thursday.

Eating Good in the Neighborhood

Listening to NPR on the way home last night, when this dreck came on:

Tell us how the recession is affecting the way you live.

But like a train wreck, I couldn’t change the station.  I listened as whiny hipsters called in bemoaning the fact that they have to “buy day-old bread” and that they’re considering “taking up fishing” to supplement the fact that they can “no longer afford fresh fish.”  The distaste in their voices for both of these activities was truly stunning.

It went further downhill when another caller spoke plaintively of the fact that she can no longer afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, and is instead living solely off frozen dinners.  Give me a MF’ing break.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a MILLION times: fresh produce — especially at local farmers markets — is always cheaper (and better for you!) than anything frozen, boxed or processed.  Clearly, frozen-foods caller never actually purchased fresh produce to begin with or she would know better.

And then the segment reached its nadir: A caller on the verge of tears explained that for her 21st birthday, she wanted to go somewhere nice for her birthday, but instead her family took her to Applebee’s.  Her voice cracked as she spoke of this humbling and sorrowful experience.

…what?  Excuse me?  My friend, did you ever stop to consider that your family took you to Applebee’s for dinner because you’re a whiny, spoiled bitch and they hate you?  I mean, you have the nerve to come on national radio and COMPLAIN that your family took you out to dinner for your birthday?  And because it didn’t live up to your exacting expectations, you’re going to ball them out in a public forum and act like fucking Scarlett O’Hara having to make dresses out of Tara’s ruined curtains?

Dude, I don’t like Applebee’s either.  But you’ve got a lot of nerve to bitch about being taken out to eat — especially during this terrible “recession” that everyone is buying into — when there are people literally starving to death throughout the world, people living with war and famine and unimaginable poverty, people living on the fringes of societies who have NOTHING, while you eat your Three Course Classic and the waitstaff brings you a free piece of cake.

You know what?  Shut the hell up.  All of you whiny people, just shut the hell up.


Thursday Answers, Part Deuxsie

Answers to Tuesday Trivia, Part Deuxsie are here!

Well, well, well.  Someone swooped in late this time and got Every.  Single.  Answer.  Correct.  Who, you ask?  The answer, after the answers:

  1. The egg came first, of course!  The egg as a form of sexual reproduction is at least one billion years old, much older than the first birds, which arrived on the scene about 100 million years ago (the chicken as we know it, for example, has only been around for four to five thousand years).  Reptiles, on the other hand, have been laying eggs for over 250 million years.  Ridiculous, age-old question solved!
  2. Champagne was invented by a Benedictine monk named Dom Pierre Pérignon.  Because champagne doesn’t sound all that fancy when you simply call it “Pierre” (let’s open a bottle of Pierre to celebrate!), the famous champagne-maker Moët et Chandon adopted the monk’s title and last name when they began selling this brand as Dom Pérignon in 1936.
  3. They traditionally belong to the lily family, Liliaceae.  A bone of contention over the years in scientific circls, most botanists have now moved the onion and the leek into the Alliaceae family, while moving the asparagus into the Asparagaceae family.  However you slice them, though, they’re all still in the Liliopsida (lily) class and still one big, happy, delicious family.
  4. Castor beans don’t belong in that equation.  While useful for a good number of other things, they are not a legume, as were the others.
  5. The sauces are hollandaise, béarnaise and mayonnaise.  The complex science behind emulsified sauces makes it hard to imagine that anyone ever managed to make a hollandaise in the first place, and involves such Scrabulous words as “flocculation” and “colloidal system.”  It will certainly make you appreciate Hellman’s in a whole new light.
  6. BONUS:  Speaking of Hellman’s, mayonnaise is the only emulsified sauce that must be made at room temperature.  Hollandaise and béarnaise must be cooked, since they are both made with butter (which is, of course, solid at room temp.  Mayonnaise, on the other hand, is made with oil and egg yolks.

Deciding the winner this time was extremely difficult, and let’s discuss why.

The Grumpy Chef came in fast and strong, beating everyone else to the punch with his answers.  However, his answers to numbers 5 and 6 used “aioli” in place of “mayonnaise.”  Now, knowing that The Grumpy Chef is European (although he, like my husband, would probably argue that he is “English” and not “European”), I understand his tendency to use “aioli” instead of “mayonnaise.”  It’s very common across the pond to use those two words interchangably.

However…  Aioli and mayonnaise aren’t quite the same thing.  Traditional aioli is made without egg yolks, and uses garlic as the emulsifying agent instead.  I know, I know — I’m nitpicking, especially for a contest where the prize is NOTHING.

That said, I have awarded the prize for this week’s contest to Pooh! and her late, but correct, answers.  And a very honorable mention goes to my adored Grumpy Chef (seriously, if chefs could have groupies, I’d be one of his).

Pooh! runs a blog with all manner of humorous observations about life, Houston and life in Houston.  Go pay her a visit!

The Grumpy Chef runs a blog called “Who Dares Cook” about being a chef in the UK.  It’s a great behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in the kitchen and what the chef really thinks of you:  “I am a Chef. A good Chef living on the edge of insanity within an Industry full of morons and aristocrats! Everyday, customers rain down on my establishment to cause chaos, mayhem and anarchy with their ill-conceived ideals of what is right in an environment like mine. Believe me, the customer ain’t always right. I also have blue eyes and a temper Satan would be proud of.”  He does not mince words.  And he is hilarious.  Go pay him a visit!

Stay tuned for the next round of Tuesday Trivia next week.  Til then, happy eating!