Monday, February 27, 2006

Matenos, mingos, chowder, and grilled Matt Dillon

The little man's vocabulary keeps expanding but his pronunciation is atrocious and shows no sign of improving. Tomatoes are "matenos," spatula is a "spatulala," humidifier is a "doofayah," igloo is "ikalulu," flamingos are "flingo-mingos," or more often just "mingos." He can say restaurant but it is pretty much untranscribable. We sometimes wonder if the daycare staff who look after him a couple of days a week have any clue what he's trying to tell them.

His table manners are basically what you would expect of a two year-old and we try to be amused rather than annoyed by his shenanigans. The other night at a restaurant he insisted on dipping his--well, E's-- French fries in ketchup and then in water. We tried to stop this at first but he clearly prefers his ketchup wet so we left it alone. After he was done eating the wet fries, he drank the ketchup water. "Is that good?" He nodded in the affirmative.

He has become an avid cook's helper. On Saturday he requested that we bake a cake for a birthday party (for whose birthday he didn't say). He went to the pantry and lurched up at the shelves chanting, "powder, powder," for baking powder. He likes to dump the ingredients I give him into the mixing bowl when I'm throwing together pancakes or corn bread and he insists on stirring. The second the batter hits the griddle he demands that I flip the pancakes and keeps demanding it until it's time. If he's in the kitchen when I'm cooking, he demands, "see it," and I lift him up so that he can take in what's on the stove. He likes to add pinches of salt to pasta water, after which I encourage him to lick his fingers and make a face.

One day last week after his nap, he went over to the pans hanging on the wall and said, "cooking." So I heated a pan up and had him help me wash and dry some mushrooms. While I sliced them, he moved them from a cutting board to a bowl. Then after he dumped them in the pan with some butter, he stirred and stirred until they were done. They cooled down for a minute, he put three slices in his mouth, chewed, waited a moment, and spit them out into my hands. He wanted to cook, not eat.


This is a sort of Thai shrimp chowder that I made for lunch the other day and garnished with diced avocado and bacon bits. It's not too different from something I saw last week at Toast, which is a steady source of good ideas. Most basically, chowder is made with pork fat, fish or seafood, and dairy. I substituted coconut milk for regular milk or cream and added a finely minced Thai bird chile along with the onions and garlic. Coconut milk is an excellent substitute for dairy in many recipes. It has several virtues aside from its tropical flavor. It keeps a long time in the pantry and is easier than milk or cream on many people's digestion. I use it in rice pudding (with vanilla sugar, a big winner that I will write about one of these days) and it's on my long list of things to put in ice cream.

To make this soup I made a shrimp stock out of shrimp shells and threw in a leftover boiled potato and some frozen corn. Some chowder recipes call for flour to thicken but if you add cooked potatoes or let your raw potatoes cook a long time, the starch will thicken the chowder a bit.

two strips of bacon, cut into small strips
one onion, chopped
two cloves of garlic, minced
one green Thai bird chile, seeded and minced
shrimp stock made from about the shells of about a pound of shrimp and a few cups of water
one can coconut milk, Chaokoh brand is the one I like
a handful of frozen corn
one large Russet potato, boiled ahead of time
about three quarters of a pound of medium shrimp, brined in salt and sugar for about fifteen minutes
an avocado
salt and white pepper

Cook the bacon over medium heat until it has rendered its drippings and gotten crisp. Reserve the bits as garnish and leave the fat in the pan. Add the onions, garlic, and chile and stir over medium-low heat to soften. Add the potatoes, corn, and shrimp stock and bring to a boil. Then add the coconut milk, stir well to mix it all together, and add salt and white pepper to taste. Add the shrimp, bring to a boil, and then turn the heat off and cover the pan. After five or ten minutes, it should be ready. Garnish with diced avocado and bacon.

We ate this with saltines but oyster crackers would be good too. E thought that the avocados were the better garnish. I would prefer not to have to choose one or the other.


Spell with flickr:



Read blogs!

Slaves of Academe is bitchy, clever, and inside-scoopy. I can't stop reading it.

And Fesser has tips for how to prepare the Oscar nominees, beginning with the supporting actors. On cooking Matt Dillon: "He'll never be Timberlake-tender, but grilled and served Tucscan-style with plenty of garlic, he offers a hearty treat." Dee Lish. I am eager to see how the other noms will be served. Do you fancy Judi Dench in a cassoulet? Rachel Weisz tartare? Paul Haggis haggis? Keep your eyes on the Cod.

Friday, February 24, 2006


In Madison last evening Harold McGee (author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen), gave a talk to a packed house on the UW-Madison campus. The topic was three centuries of kitchen science. He began with a survey: Justus Liebig on searing meat to seal in the juices (wrong), 18th century French cooks insisting on copper bowls for whipping egg whites (right), twentieth century home economics (silly). As for more recent applications, McGee discussed using a computer model to simulate the cooking of a hamburger. He and his colleagues wanted to know how the frequency of flipping would affect the cooking time and the degree of doneness throughout the meat. They found that flipping every fifteen seconds cooked the burger almost 50% faster than flipping only once. And the frequently flipped patty was more evenly cooked (less of the exterior was overcooked) than the one flipped only once. No mention, unfortunately, about the flavor of a burger prepared with such frequent flipping. My hypothesis is that leaving the meat alone for at least two minutes per side would still be worthwhile to get the exterior nicely browned and to prevent it from sticking to the pan, even if this entails a small sacrifice in the evenness and duration of cooking. Of course, one wouldn't trust a computer to determine whether this is so.

McGee's final points were devoted to the recent trend in experimental high-end cooking, with an obligatory sous-vide explainer and many vividly illustrated examples of dishes from the kitchens of Adrià , Blumenthal, Dufresne, and others like them. There was meringue frozen in liquid nitrogen, ravioli noodles made of consommé, vinegar served in powdered form, an olive oil bonbon sealed in maltodextrin (hope I remember that right), melon balls that are mostly liquid, paella rice krispies, that sort of thing. The audience ate this up like a big kiss of foam from El Bulli. McGee's point was that these chefs are using science to innovate new ideas in cooking. (This may or may not be the same thing as molecular gastronomy, a term whose full meaning I won't pretend to understand.) I found rather annoying the suggestion that the avant-garde has more science than the rest of us but at the same time I share the general WOW reaction that we all have to seeing some of these kitcheneers's outré inventions. And it was admirable of McGee to promote other people's ideas instead of just rehashing his own, which seemed to be well known to many in the audience already (few in attendance seemed still to believe that searing meat seals in the juices and I was waiting for McGee to debunk this myth much like Bon Jovi fans anticipating that ecstatic modulation up to the chorus in "Living on a Prayer").

My favorite part of the presentation was seeing food photos which I assume McGee himself must have taken of things like a seared steak with its juices having run out onto a plate. It's little things like that, things you don't get from reading a book, that make seeing someone in person worthwhile.


What I had for dinner: after the talk some friends and I had roast pork sandwiches at Natt Spil, a bar that is much hipper than I am. The place bakes pizzas in a wood-burning oven that they must also use for roasting the pork in the sandwich (served on crusty French bread with cilantro, jalapeños, and some mayonnaisey condiment about which I don't remember more). The pork, shoulder I'm guessing, is smokey but not like barbecue. I would like to go back there a few dozen times to properly reverse-engineer. It's only about 75 miles from where I live, so that shouldn't be too much trouble.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


This failed effort in my first go at one of Henderson's offal recipes might not deter me from continuing on to kidneys, hearts, and sweetbreads, but it certainly will put me off of cooking tripe for the rest of my life. H says to simmer in a mixture of milk and onions for about an hour and he cautions against overcooking. Tripe will just melt away, he warns. But other sources caution the opposite: it might take twelve hours to transform these strips of the lining of the ox's second stomach into something easier on the teeth than bungees. After about twenty minutes of simmering the kitchen already smelled as Waverly Root warned it might, like boiling laundry. (Strange that it should have such an objectionable odor while at the same time having no discernible flavor.) My queasy disgust was a flashback to how I felt when I watched The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover, which I saw very soon before becoming a strict vegetarian. After two hours and twenty minutes, the little piece I cut off to taste was perfectly inedible. Rather than continue to simmer for nine more hours--I was too nauseous from the smell to contemplate nine more minutes--I tossed the whole mess in the trash.

On the upside, tripe is undoubtedly the most photogenic item in the meat section of the supermercado.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Steak frites

My nearest fancy grocery (Sendik's on Oakland) has finally made it to the hanger steak party. The onglet (sounds a lot like Anglais, which caused me some confusion in France, as in, there's no way the French would call a steak this good an "English") comes from the same general cow region as flank and skirt steak and like those cuts is less tender than the rib or loin. But if sliced thinly against the grain, the hanger is no more work to chew than any other cut and in terms of flavor is on par with a strip or sirloin and not far behind a ribeye. I was cooking tonight for one and I even opened up a bottle of wine just for me and my meat.

To make French fries, you peel spuds and slice them into French fry shapes and fry them twice, first at around 325 until they begin to brown (5-10 minutes depending on how big they have been cut), and then, just before eating, at 375 for a minute or two to crisp them up. In between the first and second fryings they can just sit around waiting for you. Frites are a perfect potato dish to make to serve one, because making them for a crowd requires a lot of peeling and slicing and possibly batch frying, which you might just as soon avoid. Frying also smells up your kitchen, especially in winter when you don't want to open the windows. If you're alone, no one can complain that you stank the place up. You can cut potatoes with a mandoline or some other specialized tool but if you do it by hand, as I prefer, you get charmingly irregular shapes and sizes to remind you that you made them yourself.

To cook the steak I used a cast iron skillet. I salted a couple of hours ahead of time and before cooking pressed lots of green peppercorns, cracked under a heavy pan, into the beef. I got the iron smoking hot and seared the steak on all sides for a total of about eight minutes. It was rare. If it starts out cold rather than room temp it might take a bit longer because hanger steak (at least the one I was cooking) is pretty thick.

While the steak was resting I made a sauce by adding shallots, salt, and red wine to the hot pan and cooking over medium heat until very little liquid was left. Then I stirred in a knob of butter and killed the heat. Just before slicing the steak, I dumped the juices that had accumulated under it into the sauce. Much of the pepper ended up in the sauce instead of on the steak, which was a nice surprise.

Much as I love the little man, I was glad he was in bed when I sat down to eat. He's been known to scarf down more than his fair share of fries without hardly trying.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Among the many benefits of being married to E is that her mom lives in close proximity to bialys. This weekend she was visiting and without even asking, we got a dozen of these treats from New York Bagel and Bialy in Niles, Illinois. They come with various toppings (poppy seeds are popular) but I prefer the kind with onions. The origin of the bialy is in Bialystok, Poland, where apparently, sadly, they are no longer made.

One of the mysteries of the bialy is that, unlike the bagel, it is hard to find. One rarely sees them today outside of New York City and even in New York City they're not exactly ubiquitous. While I was growing up the only time we ever had bialys was when visiting my grandparents in Brooklyn and Queens. I missed them during the years between the time when my family stopped making regular trips to New York and when I started spending time around Niles, Illinois. In the interim, a delicatessen opened on State Street in Madison called Bialy Brown's, eager to cash in on the large population of Jewish students at the nearby University of Wisconsin. I once tasted a bialy from Bialy Brown's and it was basically a dinner roll with some onions on top. In other words, an atrocity.

There are several differences between bagels and bialys. Bagels are boiled before being baked and bialys are not. This means that bialys don't have that shiny, chewy bagel crust. In contrast to bagels, bialys are crisp on the outside. While bagels have holes, which maximizes their surface area and thus their chewy crustiness, bialys have indentations which, ideally, are filled with onions. Bagels should ideally be eaten fresh, not toasted, but bialys are just as good toasted as fresh. (Anyone who toasts a good fresh bagel just doesn't understand.) When you slice a bialy you get one half with a hole and one half without. I always eat the half with the hole first because I save the best--the oniony part--for last.


History of Bialys, with a recipe.

Review of Mimi Sheraton's The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World.

Friday, February 17, 2006


The chocolate lady inspired me to try a dish that might have been a staple, had I known about it, in the vegetarian/grad school 1990s. It's legumbres en pipian, a squash stew with chiles, spices, and ground nuts from Deborah Madison and Edward Espe Brown's The Greens Cook Book and it's fantastic. I won't go bit by bit through the recipe because you can get that from the CL, but I will mention a few things that I liked about preparing it.

-It calls for pasilla chiles that you roast briefly in the oven, then tear into strips, then grind in a spice mill. These are the very definition of earthy. They start out long and leathery, then they puff up and soften in the oven, then they are reduced to a fine powder. Their taste is slightly bitter and not particularly hot.

-The CL recommended kabocha squash, which I had never cooked. Although a bitch to peel, kabocha squash is a pleasure to eat.

-The stew is thickened with a mixture of toasted and ground whole almonds and sesame seeds (which, combined with the pasilla chiles, puts the dish somewhere in the far outlying areas of mole country). If I were improvising a veggie stew sans recipe, it would never occur to me to toast and grind seeds and nuts to use as a thickener. My horizons have widened.

-It calls for a can of hominy but I did it one better, cooking dried Iroquois white corn a day ahead of time. (I did eat quite a bit of this the moment it was ready, with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt.) A-Maize-Ing.

-I followed the Greens advice to serve it with sauvignon blanc and the acidic bite of the white wine works nicely against the sweet and spicy flavors of the stew.

Although my enthusiasm for eating meat is perhaps even too great, I do miss hearty veggie dishes like this and I should really cook more of them.

(When I took the picture above I was about to gratinize the leftovers with breadcrumbs and cheese, but I got lazy and just ate it as is, with a dollop of yogurt and a splash of hot sauce. Now I must make it again to see how well it goes with a crusty crust.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Will the real mayonnaise please...

Hellmann's on the left, Haverchuk's on the right. Or I should say Henderson's, though I don't think mayonnaise really belongs to anyone in particular. The homemade mayo was inspired by Henderson; I wanted not only to see if I could get it to go boing (nope), but to try out his direction to mix with a wooden spoon. Every mayonnaise I had ever made was mixed by whisk and now I can report that a wooden spoon does the trick just as well. And I wanted to put to the test something I read a while back about mayonnaises made with extra virgin olive oil not coming together right. I wish I remember where I read this; could be McGee. Do I need to get up and check? So I was skeptical about this claim and H recommends all extra virgin. Usually I use vegetable oil because extra virgin olive oil has a distinct flavor that I don't associate with mayonnaise. Could be I don't associate it with mayonnaise because all my life I've eaten Hellmann's mayonnaise, which of course is not made with olive oil.

The procedure: combine an egg yolk, a spoonful of dijon, "a gesture of salt," and the juice of half a lemon in a bowl. (My amounts are different from H's, and he calls for half lemon juice and half vinegar.) Mix vigorously with your wooden spoon. Then drizzle in the oil while stirring. He cautions strongly, as do all cookbook authors, against adding the oil too quickly. When I was mostly done, I switched to vegetable oil because the mayo was taking on a greenish cast.

Indeed, I was astounded by the color and the olive-oiliness of the Henderson condiment. It doesn't make sense that this should be called by the same name as the stuff in the jars. It's not that one is better than the other. Hellmann's is sweeter as it contains sugar and it has much more body, as you can see, because it's produced industrially. They both make an excellent tuna salad sandwich, but I don't think I'd be as likely to collect big dollops of the Hellmann's au naturel on carrot and celery sticks and crunch away as I was doing just now between phrases of this post.

Ok, here's McGee:
-p. 634: all ingredients for making mayo should be room temp. All of mine are always cold except the oil, doesn't make a difference that I can tell.
-.p. 635: "Olive Oil Can Made Crazy Mayonnaise." This is interesting: made with olive oil, mayonnaise often "forms properly, but then separates just an hour or two later." Scientific explanations, blah blah blah, molecules, emulsifiers, droplets, blah blah blah, in Italy "the sauce is said to 'go crazy' (impazzire)." It's been about 45 minutes and the mayonnaise is ok. I'll be sure to let you know if it loses its mind.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Whole Beast

Among my non-edible birthday gifts was Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. I have only begun perusing it but already I am full of wonder. Consider:

-Henderson has a recipe (for green sauce, which I think is more commonly called salsa verde) that calls for both flat and curly parsley. Who'da thunk?

-One recipe calls for a "gesture of salt." Others calls for dollops, knobs, splashes, and the like. Note my approval.

-The aïoli on page 162 calls for twenty cloves of garlic. "Eating it," H writes, "should be an emotional experience." The emotion I feel reading this is fear. The recipe for Rabbit and Garlic on page 118 calls for 60 to 80 cloves of garlic, but since that serves ten and the garlic gets braised it's not nearly as frightening.

-One recipe calls for "a big bundle of hay." Where on earth? (The recipe is "Ham in Hay," p. 65.)

-Jugged hare, page 123, begins with this direction: "The hare's blood is vital for this dish, so if you are not gutting the beast yourself..."

-The recipe on page 133 explains, "Soft roes are in fact herring semen." I love the "in fact" in that sentence with an intense passion. H adds, "it needs to be handled gently, otherwise it can end up as a creamy mess."

-Instructions for making mayonnaise:
After a while you will learn the various noises mayonnaise makes in the making that tell you when you have enough oil. These are hard to describe in words so I'm afraid you just have to listen to it. You want a consistency that has a body to it, but a body with give, not one that goes boing when you put a spoon in it."
I think H is full of it here, but I like to imagine mayonnaise going boing.

Of course, what's most intriguing about the book is its recipes for such things as blood cake, lamb's brain, haggis, spleen, heart, and tripe. I don't know that I'm actually going to prepare any of these things, but it pleases me to know that if eight long pig's tails or a leg of kid should arrive on our doorstep I'll have someplace to look to see about turning them into dinner.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Freezer update

Once I spent a summer weekend in Stowe, Vermont, at the country house of a friend of a friend. It was so long ago that I don't remember our hosts' faces or names but I do remember two details of the weekend:
1. We watched someone's wedding video and it seemed to go on much longer than any actual wedding; and
2. Our hosts had a book on the shelf called "Vermont on $5,000 a day," I shit you not, the first line of which read, "To do Vermont on $5,000 a day takes moxie."

Well, to eat nine pints of premium ice cream takes perhaps less moxie than stick-to-it-iveness, but it never hurts to have a bit of both. Here's a report on the progress so far:

-Gravel road is salty caramel with bits of smoked almonds mixed in. The flavor of smoke and of almond are both almost as strong as the flavors of caramel and salt. Outstanding in every way: balanced flavors, smooth texture. If you could eat only one ice cream for the rest of your life, you wouldn't be suffering to be stuck with Jeni's gravel road.

-Wild blueberry lavender was a big hit with everyone else who tried it. They oohed and aahed over its intensity of floral and fruity notes. E took a bite, paused, said, "This is SO good." Took a bite, paused, "This is SO good." On and on it went. I though it tasted like soap.

-Dark cocoa gelato is a scandal. Intensely flavored, smoother and a bit thinner in texture than the ice creams, quicker to melt. I ate way too much of it last night and felt a bit disgusting. It's the kind of food that demands to be eaten to excess. (It is pictured, in a filthy porny pose, here.)

-Thai chili is confusing. It tastes like peanut butter ice cream with notes of coconut and it leaves a medium, earthy hot pepper kick in the back of your mouth, with the heat in the finish rather than in whatever you call a first flavor sensation. It has bits of coconut and peanut mixed in, which gives it a less luxurious texture than the other flavors. It's both sweet and salty like the salty caramel/gravel road. None of us could stop eating it.

-Raspberry frozen yogurt is the antithesis of the typical frozen yogurt, low in fat, flavor, and real ingredients. Like all of Jeni's ice creams, this one has a principal ingredient that just sings. It is a clear, full, ripe raspberry taste. But it also tastes like good whole milk yogurt, sour and rich. The sweet-and-sourness of the yogurt base underscores and echoes the raspberry flavor. It doesn't taste any lower-fat than Jeni's ice creams, which is a huge revelation to me. More than any of the other flavors, this one makes me want to keep experimenting with making frozen concoctions. Apparently Jeni's fro-yos contain cream, so they're not for your diet or your lactose intolerant friends. Ha ha!

(You might think ice cream for breakfast is beyond the pale, but I had a nice big scoop of raspberry frozen yogurt around 8 this morning and I don't care who knows it.)

Still to come: Pistachio-honey, lemon frozen yogurt, and raspberry sorbet. I know, my life is hard.

Friday, February 10, 2006

How much are those bagels in the window?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Little bundles

I have been meaning to try doing something with chicken livers other than make chopped liver, so tonight I wrapped some walnut-size chunks with a sage leaf and a slice of sautéd mushroom in half a slice of Usinger's hickory bacon and cooked them in the oven at 500 for about ten minutes. Too bad we weren't having a cocktail party.

These little bundles go kaplooey in your mouth. Sage is just so, so sagey.

"Porn" watch 2

Months have passed since my last post on "porn" but God knows the "porn" never stops, people. You might want to get yourself something to drink before proceeding.

Geek porn has several distinct meanings. (This term has been around at least since 1999, which makes me think it might be older than "food porn.") Geek porn can refer to pornographic material in which geeks appear or in which the performers use computers or other techie items as props. But better yet, it can refer to pictures of computers that have been "undressed" of their casings to expose their guts. And even better yet, to cultural products such as Star Wars movies that get geeks all excited. But as we shall see, usage of "porn" tends to move from the edgy to the anodyne pretty quickly. Like food porn, geek porn now also refers to pretty pictures, in this case pretty pictures of geekery like computers and phones. Porn in this case signifies little more than "arousing desire." Thus geek porn arouses desire in geeks, while food porn arouses desire for food. "Porn" works either way, though my sense is that "for" is more common than "in."

As zp pointed out in the comments to my last "porn" post, there's also something called "war porn," which would seem to refer to fetishized, phallic or otherwise sexualized representations of missiles, guns, ammo, and other martial paraphernalia. Here's a juicy, context-deprived quotation from the linked article: "my husband, though an early modernist, has an anal obsession over first-world-war aircraft." An early modernist, just think! Unlike geek porn and food porn, war porn is an unambiguously negative term. It's not cool to get off on death and destruction (which isn't to deny that some people do).

My most recent discovery is "continuity porn," and this one is going to take a moment or two to explain. On fan sites like TV Without Pity, some forum discussants praise shows that include references to earlier episodes for having "continuity." Shows do this all the time--for instance, soap operas have continuing storylines that span weeks, months, even years. But the fans have something more specific in mind: small details that demand that the viewer be attentive enough to remember related details from earlier episodes. This can be as little as an article of clothing that a character re-wears or as significant as a major piece of the character's motivation, as in last night's Veronica Mars in which Veronica gets a classmate to confess to stealing an exam by threatening to reveal his participation in a secret society a whole season earlier. It's like the show is reminding us, hey, remember that episode a long time ago? We do too! This rewards fans for paying attention, for being fans.

"Continuity porn" began, apparently, as a term Star Trek fans used to describe contradictions or inconsistencies between details in the various instances of the Trekiverse. I am so little acquainted with the Trekiverse as not to know even such basic things as who Scottie is and why anyone would want to be beamed up by him. But I think I get enough to understand that when the Trekkies say "continuity porn" they are referring not only to the object under discussion, the textual inconsistency, but also to the activity of pointing out the object under discussion. Continuity porn can mean bad continuity, as when different Star Trek texts are in mutual contradiction. But it can also mean obsessive curiosity about inconsistency with the hope that it will be rectified. This passage (from the linked site) refers to inconsistencies in the ridges or lack of them on the foreheads of Klingons:
The ridged foreheads are just enough of a turn-on to keep us lusting, but a full-on resolution of the issue within STAR TREK's canon would absolutely send us through the roof, and cleaning up the mess of proper time-period characterizations might go a long way toward satisfaction.
These kids really would cream their pants, wouldn't they?

I have reason to believe that fans of other shows use "continuity porn" differently from the Trekkies. The Veronica forums contain various usages but I'll try to explicate two that seem most prevalent. Some fans use continuity porn to distinguish a bad kind of continuity from a good kind. Bad continuity occurs when a show makes extensive reference to events of past episodes in ways that are gratuitous, confusing, unnecessary, or otherwise unsatisfying to the viewer. The show used in one discussion of this is Lost:
On Lost, Jack found out Kate killed somebody and was angry. In the very next episode - the VERY next - they were back on friendly terms. Why? Who cares. Their plot is boring.

On VM, Veronica found out Duncan was taking meds and two episodes later found out what they were. And not only that, when she was finding the file, she also found Abel Koontz's file - the mysteries are interconnected, so continuity is interconnected as well.

On Lost, with every mystery they solve (which is not many), new ones are added. The monster, the frenchwoman, the Others, Ethan, the Black Rock, Walt's powers, Claire's baby, why Locke isn't paralyzed anymore - none of them have been answered.

On VM, mysteries have been answered: we now know why Lianne left, we have a maybe reason why Duncan broke up with her and what Lilly's secret was. Comments made in the very first episode have come back around. Now that is good continuity.
So in this usage, continuity porn is not inconsistency between past and present representations. Rather, it is a term of aesthetic judgment. If you like the way the show integrates old and new, that's good continuity. If you don't, that's continuity porn. (The fans, ever the neologists, coined the term "ConYay," short for "continuity yay" as a synonym for "good continuity.")

That was last year's continuity porn. This year, the term has done a full turnabout and become an autoantonym, or word that means one thing and its opposite. Now, like geek porn and food porn, continuity porn just makes you happy. Last night's VM ep occasioned this praise from one forum writer: "That was like total continuity porn." In other words, I liked the way the show integrated the details from past episodes into the present one. (I should note that fan lingo tends to change and adapt a fair bit and that I could be missing some important details of usage.)

Just as the culture gets pornificationed, so does the language. I could now launch into a discussion of the contrast between "porn" as good (geek porn) and bad (war porn) and about the implications of "porn" shifting between good and bad (continuity porn, food porn) but I think this has gone on long enough. That's enough "porn" porn for one day.

UPDATE: Car crash porn anyone?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Salty caramel + link

Well, we couldn't wait. Salty caramel is a bit jarring at first because it's ice cream and it's salty. E said, "It's strange, and yet I am compelled to keep eating it." It's not as sweet as I was expecting, which actually pleased me, and the texture scores eleven out of ten. There's something audacious in making an ice cream that tastes equally salty and sweet and I admire that. I would have finished the whole pint off but I wasn't feeling that hungry, I wanted to save some for tomorrow, and anyway, like the little man's book says, "Ice cream is yummy/too much ice cream is yucky." I realize that might sound strange coming from someone with eight and a half pints of ice cream in his freezer...


I wish I had all kinds of links for you but I don't, I have just one. My favorite interweb discovery of late is the blog of Jane Espenson, a television writer and producer (most notably a writer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Mostly it's about writing for the tube in a tips-from-the-top vein, but she also tells us what she had for lunch every day, e.g., "a fairly nasty egg-salad sandwich from a gas station and a Kinder Bueno candy bar. Transcendent!" Transcendent!

9 pints

A shipment of jeni's ice cream arrived at our door a little while ago, packed in dry ice. Whoa!

L to R, starting at the top: lavender and wild blueberry, pistachio and Ashland County honey, raspberry yogurt, Thai chili, gravel road (salty caramel with smoked almonds), dark cocoa gelato, salty caramel, raspberry (sorbet, I think), and lemon yogurt.

This is a birthday present but my birthday is still a few days away so we're going to wait before digging in. This may require an extraordinary force of will. I'll keep you posted.

UPDATE: Jeni's advises how to care for their ice creams:
After receiving your shipment, place your ice creams in your freezer for at least two hours before they come up to scooping temperature. The flavor and texture is ideal when the ice cream is pliable.

These ice creams will stay fresh for several weeks if left unopened. Once opened, it is best to finish your pint as soon as possible--within a day or two. To prevent ice crystal formation, always keep the ice cream frozen and cover any exposed product with plastic wrap.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The chickens and the eggs

Last week's mail brought this dish for devilled eggs with hen salt-and-pepper shakers, an early birthday gift from a very dear friend from my undergrad days. She knew that I needed just this sort of thing. No--not this sort of thing, this exact thing. Thank you!

We took some of these to a Superbowl bash this evening and people seemed to like them. (The chickens stayed home.)

Devilled eggs with pimentón

Cook yourself some eggs. I do it by putting eggs in a saucepan, covering them with cold water, and bringing it to a boil. When it bubbles vigorously, I kill the heat and leave the pan, covered, for seven minutes. Then I move the eggs immeidately into an ice bath and peel them when they're cool.

Scoop out the yolks and mash with lots of mayonnaise, salt, and pimentón, which Penzey's sells as Spanish smoked paprika. Fill the whites with the yolky stuff. Shake on a little more red stuff for show. Try not to eat them all at once.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


So I took the foodie quiz and scored at the expert level, 33 out of 38. Here is how it describes me, the Expert Foodie:
The Expert Foodie makes culinary pursuits an important part of everyday life. You probably get all the major food magazines, plan your vacations around locations with great food, and are first of your friends to dine in the new hot restaurants. You are likely to have taken more than your fair share of cooking classes, consider Larousse Gastronomique a must-have, and it's more than likely that your job involves dining or wine. You aren't afraid to admit you spend more money on food than fashionistas do on the latest designer trends and you know the experience is well worth the cost. The Expert Foodie is ever in search of new flavor and probably has a few scars-considered badges of honor-garnered in the kitchen.
Wrong on all counts except the first. I subscribe to no food magazines, plan my "vacations" around friends' and family members' weddings, and eat in hot restaurants very seldom, perhaps three or four times a year. I have never taken a single cooking class, consult my Larousse practically never, and don't work in the culinary trade. If I spent as much as the fashionistas I might not be afraid to admit it, but I don't. I'm no longer in search of new flavors--though I wouldn't say no to a fresh truffle, which I've never tried--and (turn away, evil eye) I have no kitchen scars.

I lost my points on question 4, about removing stains from pots and pans, and question 12, how many times a week do you dine out. I knew that the more times the higher the points, but I decided to see what would happen if I chose an honest answer, "0-1." I got one point for that. A couple of other answers were educated guesses.

Groucho-Marxism aside, I really do not care to be called a foodie. Is foodie anything other than the new word for gourmet? The fact that people no longer describe themselves as gourmets should tell us something. To my ear, foodie sounds all wrong. I hear it and think of yuppies slavering outside of the Time Warner Center. Chowhound is a good alternative when it comes to eating out--I am proud to say, "I'm not a foodie, I'm a chowhound"--but I don't know if there's a word that basically means "chowhound of home cooking." Let me know if you think of one.

Image source.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Tribe

The Tribe, a short film shown at Sundance, is a cutesy documentary with a faux-pompous voice-over by Peter Coyote and lots of visual flash. It's about the history of the Jews and the history of the Barbie doll! Further evidence of the Jewish hipster moment that the NYT says we're enjoying. (Via Grow-a-Brain.)

The film makes the case that Jews in America have assimilated but also retained many aspects of their identity. Nothing you didn't already know about Jews in America. It also reveals that Barbie's inventor, Ruth Handler, was Jewish, which was new to me, and that Barbie was based on a sexy German doll that was made for men, not girls. Like Hollywood, argues The Tribe, Barbie is a Jewish invention that sells an unattainable ideal of beauty devoid of identifiably Jewish features. Barbie and Ken were named after the inventor's kids, whose names were typically "American" in the 1950s. And after designing Barbie, Handler survived breast cancer and then went on to design prosthetic breasts. (Here's more.)

As for the bagel and bacon (a slide from the film): I'm all for fusion food when it makes sense and I eat both bagels and bacon with considerable enthusiasm. But if you're going to put bacon on your bagel I really don't want to know about it.

(Notice that the bacon and bagel spell "lol"?)