Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tricking our tastebuds

Food altering

    Nowadays people are messing with food too much. Have you noticed that? Take breakfast cereal. I don’t know what brand you prefer, but whatever it is you can now buy it with chocolate in it. Special K even has chocolate in it. What is happening to us?

    I hesitate to tell the crazies on this planet what they should be targeting in the Western World, but it’s sure not airplanes or buildings or chemical plants. If you want to bring us to our knees, you need to attack our supply of sugar, chocolate and coffee.

Without coffee and ice cream, I just don’t know if life would be worth living. Coffee is the most revolutionized drink around. When I was growing up, everyone drank instant. Nobody liked it. I don’t think you were supposed to like it. Just drink it and shut-up. 

    Today’s brewed coffee actually tastes good, and it’s about as easy to prepare as instant coffee. The only drawback being the fact that it cost as much as a round of golf. Some movie theatres even offer coffee. They have yet to determine how much the market will bear.

    Coffee is a good example of improving the flavor of stuff. A stupid example is apple pie. Do you remember when someone invented the Saltine apple pie? It was apple pie with crackers instead of apples. It was one of those ideas in search of a “good” in front of it.

    If you put enough sugar and cinnamon on rotted wood you can make it taste like apple pie. The texture will be horrible, but the flavor quite pleasing. My point is, there some things we just need to leave alone. Let crackers stay crackers, and let pie be pie. You can quote me.

    I don’t know if you’re aware, but one thing my brother Dennis brought back from Vietnam was a taste for grits. He didn’t care that much for the Agent Orange, but he liked the grits. I thought I knew my brother. Before the war, we hated grits. An indescribable flavor, horrible texture and the attractiveness of a slippery mound of crème of wheat.

    I do not blame the inventor of grits. What else can you do with inedible, dried, hard corn? You turn it into bad-tasting, but edible hominy. How can you get people to eat hominy? Grind it up and call it grits.

    Today, you can order gravy and grits, syrup and grits, shrimp and grits and blueberries and grits. If you put enough gravy on one of those items, I’ll eat it. But, I’ll eat it in spite of the fact it’s got grits in it.

    Same thing with carrot cake. How fascinating is that? Wow, a cake made with carrots. I gotta tell you, carrots are not the selling factor of the cake. Same with zucchini cake. You don’t buy zucchini cake because you long for a dessert that tastes like a green squash. The taste of zucchini must be extracted from the cake. Considering all the technological advances, I’m fairly certain that okra pie is somewhere in our future.

    Last week, Kay yelled for me to come see a segment of one of her cooking shows. Three people were vying for Best, Toughest, and Meanest Chef. Something like that. Everything’s a contest on the cooking channel. Can’t we all just learn to get along? Anyway, the contestants were given three or so foods to use in a meal. One was steak, one was chocolate and another was anchovies. Let that thought sit there for a minute.

    Kay called me in so I could see a steak that one person had spread an anchovy glaze over before grilling. The thing was charred and looked delish. The judges loved it.
They said it gave the steak a hint of salt and fish. If it hadn’t had a burnt crust, it would’ve tasted like a messed up smelly steak. You could burn the daylights out of a cow’s udder and I’d tell you it tasted somewhat like okra. 

    What I’ve mentioned here does nothing to explain carrot and raisin salad. My mom used to get it every time we went to Wyatt’s or Luby’s. (Remember Wyatt’s? They had the best egg plant casserole. -- By the way, I liked eggplant casserole not because it tasted like eggplant, but because they camouflaged it to taste like Mom’s Thanksgiving dressing, only with cheese.)

    Where was I? Oh, carrots and raisins. I like carrots, raisins and mayonnaise. I like carrots cooked or eaten raw. I like raisins mixed with bran flakes. Mayonnaise is necessary for most sandwiches. However, if you put those three together and call it a salad, you’ve created a fracture in one of our parallel universes. There’s a bunch of people living in a weird dimension who are suffering because of what we’re doing over here.

Einstein was so close to proving the parallel universe thing right before he gagged on a popcorn jellybean. Oh, the wicked web we weave when first we practice on food we eat. You can quote me on that.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Far out facts

“Answers for Jeopardy”

    Do you have any idea how many interesting facts I’ve squirreled away over the past few months? I don’t either, but it’s a bunch.

    When I find out about weird stuff, I like a to make a note. I like to, but too often I don’t. By the time I find some paper and a pen that writes, I generally lose my train of thought; start wondering why I needed the pen. It’s happening more and more that, uh… whatever I was talking about.

It is scary the number of fascinating facts that go unrecorded. We’re so much dumber for it, too. But, for this limited time only, I’m going to share a few of the weird things I DID record. I don’t want to write an entire article about any one of ‘em, so I’m just gonna lay ‘em all out there for you. Are you ready?

Reindeer eyes change color during the seasons. During the winter they’re blue, ‘cause there is little to no daylight near the Arctic Circle during winter. You can apparently see better in the dark, if your eyes are blue. That’s my explanation, ‘cause the narrator on PBS didn’t give me his.)

In the summer, reindeer eyes turn amber. Not brown. Amber. Amber eyes apparently cut the glare. By the way, that explains why so many reindeer get hit by cars during the summer. It’s ‘cause at night, their eyes are amber and it shields them from the approaching light. The deer-in-the-headlights metaphor applies strictly to reindeer. I can’t speak for squirrels. Who can?

Did you get the word about eating before bedtime? It used to make you fat, but it doesn’t anymore. Whoever came up with the late-night eating hoax was simply applying common sense. If you go to bed with a full stomach, your body isn’t doing enough exercise to burn off all the fuel, so it all just turns to fat. So, we thought.

    Apparently that’s not true. I don’t know why it’s not true, because, like the blue-eyed reindeer info, I didn’t catch the explanation of why eating at night doesn’t make you any fatter than eating during the daytime. No worry. I don’t need any proof. If I want to believe something bad enough, I will. And, that’s why so many political talk show hosts are so popular.

    Until recently all hurricanes were named after women, because the names were less threatening. For some reason the hurricane-naming people didn’t want to alarm anyone. Now all of that has changed. Men are now in the picture. --  “When Hurricane Hannibal finishes with the West Coast, forecasters say it will likely cross over the Rockies and head for Appalachacola, Florida , which is currently wrestling with Hurricane Rambo.” -- What’s in a name? A bunch.

    Ham is saltier when you eat it cold and beer tastes more bitter when warm. I may be the only one who didn’t know that. What I do know is that scientists have proven that people think water tastes better when they drink it out of a clear, blue glass. So, if you’re having friends over and need to get rid of a bunch of bad water, you know what to do.

    In 1300 A.D. scribes invented lowercase letters. Before that, they had no clue. It wasn’t long after that that they developed the notion of leaving gaps between words. That cut reading time in half for all six of the world’s readers. A few years later a monk came up with the idea of punctuation. I believe his name was Father Colon. All of this is supposedly fact, except for the monk’s name. It might’ve been Friar Hyphen. 

     A group of zebras is called a “zeal.” Three or more foxes is a “skulk” of fox. A mob of Kangaroos is a “mob.” If you’re swimming in the Nile and a bunch of crocodiles approach, you’d best flea the whole “bask” of ‘em. You’d be wise to do the same when approached by a “sloth” of bears.

    Fortunately, you can stay put when a “raft” of ducks approaches. But, I’d recommend you flee when threatened by a “hairnest” of bats or a “guano-load” of pigeons. I may have made up those last two.

    A person recently invented a cell phone charger that works by plugging your phone in one end and dropping the other end of the wire into a pot of boiling water. That way, when you’re camping, you can use your coffeepot to charge your phone. Can life get any better?

    Texas longhorns were brought over from Europe to the island of Hispaniola by Columbus. They’re horns were nearly as long. However, as soon as some of ‘em were shipped over to Texas, their horns sprung out ‘cause they were needed to fight off the “bloat” of hippopotami.”  Which answers the question of why there are so few hippos in Texas today.

    I’ve only got a few thousand other weird “facts,” but I’ll leave you with one that I’ve managed to debunk. -- Vodka is an excellent deodorant. Add a little lilac oil to it, and it will make your underarms smell like, uh… lilacs. -- Truth is, Vodka will not keep your underarms dry, but it will make ‘em smell like rotten potatoes. Perhaps it’s my body chemistry. You’ll have much better results. I’d give you my leftover vodka, but I’ve found it’s good for ear wax removal.

    So, you can now consider yourself so much smarter than you were just a few minutes ago. You should now apply for a slot on Jeopardy. – “’Names of things’ for 500, Alex.” – “The answer is ‘A guano-load.’”

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Friday, September 5, 2014

" A strange thing happened on the first day of school"

The guy this happened to. Such a dunce... to this day.
   One of two things is true today that wasn’t true when I was a kid: Either teachers are so much kinder than they used to be, or summers are so torturous for kids that they are actually glad when school starts.

    I don’t know if you’re aware, but seven out of eight kids in this area are actually happy to go back to school. I know, because I asked all eight of them.

    The research for this back-to-school finding was carried out by Cindy and I  during our back-to-school week on our morning show. We inerviewed kids on our morning show and asked ‘em about teachers, homework, cafeteria food,Back to School favorite subjects… everything. 

    The kids who loved going to school acted surprised that I didn’t. That’s ‘cause they had never heard my back-to-school story. Some of you have, and those who haven’t are getting ready to.

    It was a warm September morning, my friend. The year ’56, back when nobody made you go to kindergarten. Unfortunately, you did have to go to first grade. I had gone to school the day before for first grade orientation. Mom had walked me to school and we found my classroom. I met my teacher who assigned me one half of a desk so I could unload my school supplies. Not a bad day. Unfortunately, the next day was the real thing.

    Dennis and I walked to Garden’s Elementary both of us carrying sack lunches containing tuna fish, half a pickle bleeding through wax paper, and a few shoestring potatoes. At Gardens we had to enter the building through one of three doors. Dennis was to enter the middle door, because he was in the fourth grade. Fifth and sixth entered the first door to the left, while first and second graders were to use the first door on the right. I know that now, but back then, I had no idea, ‘cause I wasn’t paying attention when Mom was leading me around during orientation.

If only Mom had stressed that I remember all that stuff. When the bell rang, Dennis told me that if I went in with him, I’d get in trouble. I had to go through Door #1. I was the only kid in school who had not picked up on the puzzle of the doors. I was near the last person to enter Door #1. I had no idea where my classroom was, so I followed the last couple of stragglers into a room.

I stayed in the room for a good chunk of the morning. I don’t remember ever answering the roll, but I apparently didn’t stand out. To this day I still have the ability to turn invisible in front of certain people.

Miss Wrongteacher, eventually found me out. She escorted me to the principal’s office, lecturing me all the way there. “Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you let someone help you? Are you even in the second grade? What’s your real name?”

It was the worst day of my life. I was the only kid at Garden’s Elementary who had to go to the principal’s office on the first day of school. (I believe my record stands.) The principal’s secretary was not the nicest of clericals. “Sit right there and behave until the principal has time to see you.”

Behave? Behave! “Don’t cry!” would’ve been more appropriate I used my invisible posture and became one with the chair. You have to really scrunch down to do that. Eventually I noticed an approaching shadow on the floor. It was the principal. And get this -- he knew my name.

“Hello, Mark. I’m Mr. Bozart. It’s been a pretty tough morning for you, hasn’t it?” A bubble formed on my lips as I tried to say the words, “Mostly, sir.”

It wasn’t two minutes before I realized that Mr. Bozart was the kindest person I had ever met. And, he was a principal! That man showed me all around the school. He took me to where the big kids classrooms were, where the restrooms were and even took me to the playground. He eventually looked down at my lunch sack, which by now had a small hole in the bottom where the leaking pickle juice had settled. “I’m hungry. Let’s eat lunch,” he said.

Mr. Bozart came out of the serving line with a tray that had an extra milk on it for me. We sat at our own table and he explained the story about the murals on the cafeteria wall. Garden’s Elementary had a huge mural of Disney characters. Mickey and Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Daffy… it was beautiful. Almost inviting. I had no idea what all Mr. Bozart was saying, ‘cause I was still pretty much shell-shocked.

After lunch, he took me to Mrs. Smith’s room, whispered something to her and then shook my hand and thanked me for spending time with him. If I could go back, I would hug that man’s leg and thank him for saving my life.

I would like to say that the rest of the school year was shear joy, but I’d be lying. The first grade was the worst year of my life. I cried every morning for weeks. Not a loud, screaming cry. just a silent sob. I hated school. I started out dumb and the feeling stayed with me all year… several years.

The only good thing about that “first day of school was Mr. Bozart. I’ll always believe that God whispered for him to be especially kind to the invisible kid slumped in the big wooden chair. I think God whispers stuff like that to some teachers all the time.

All of that whispering is apparently paying off, too, ‘cause seven out of eight kids today are actually glad to start back to school. Hey, the research is in.

End  &