Wednesday, February 25, 2009

For the Love of Lentils

So, I don't follow Lent, but I do follow Lentils, which happens roughly at the same time.

(It's not a coincidence. The Church ripped off Lentils to form Lent, the same way various Christmas and Easter traditions were once assimilated.)

In previous years I have given up ice cream, potato chips, beef jerky, Swearing and last year I even gave up mockery.

I KNOW!!!!

This year I decided to "up the ante," as those who say that might say. I am giving up not one, not two, but 7 things for Lentils. Will I keep the faith? Will it kill me? Only time will tell.

Here are my 7 things, so that I may stay accountable.

1. Chips - I should not be eating them, but they are so good! Lately I have been obsessed with baked chips and especially Kettle chips. What makes it even harder is that there happen to be many chips in the house right now- and three bags of them are mine! However, the open bags will be eaten by others (I hope I hope), and my bags will be put away somewhere; they will keep.

2. Sugar Soda - This one will be especially tough, because I love grape soda and Peach Ne-hi and Ginger Ale and Cranberry anything, and I think this means I can't haveslushes. (Will have to consult a Lentils Fryer to be sure.) Even more horrific - THIS MEANS NO GRAITCH. Until Easter. Hmmmm.

3. Fast Food - This one might be dang near impossible, but I'm nothing if not the bravest person who ever lived. What sucks is that we have a newArby's close by, and I have these amazing Burger Kings coupons that are buy one get one free. (BOGOF makes any fast food place taste better.) And Sonic just came out with a new value meal.....ARGH!! I had to get a ruling on Chick-Fil-A. My brother Achmed said it would only be non-fast food if I went to one of their Dwarf Houses (sit-down restaurant) and was served instead of using the counter. BUT THERE ARE NOT ANY DWARF HOUSES NEARBY!

Why do I make these stupid decisions?

4. Beef Jerky - When I gave up beef jerky in a previous year it was slightly disingenuous, since I had none at the time and not much prospect for that changing. (Although: had a truckload of beef jerky shown up, I would have have eaten it.) This time it will be much harder, as I have some of the best beef jerky in the world just a few feet from me! What are the odds I don't crack? Only the power of Lentils can save me!

5. Re-Runs on TV. Lately I have been finding comfort in some old favorites, like The Simpsons, Family Guy, Law & Order, The West Wing, Monk, House, MASH, Seinfeld, Scrubs, and even 30 Minute Meals. I'm a fan of TV, but I should allot my precious viewing habits to new stuff, not old. (One exception. I am going to watch several Easter movies this year and provide a running diary for your amusement.)

6. Computer Games, including (gulp) Jigsaw Puzzles. Giving up the Cheesy Double Beef Burrito at Taco Bell (only 89 cents!) is awful. Giving up my daily jigsaw puzzle might actually kill me. It's not that I'm wasting time; I do the puzzles while I'm listening topodcasts , which are partly research for my own upcoming show, and partly because I enjoy some of them. You can't really write while listening to a podcast, but I will just have to find SOMETHING to do instead.

7. Pain Medicine - This one may actually get superseded, if I ever get into a Pain Management Clinic. (Currently what happens is that I get accepted, and then they cancel me right before my first appointment, thus crushing my hopes and dreams of living a pain free reduced-pain existence.) What I'm talking about is mostly over the counter stuff, like Ibuprofen, which I have been taking every four hours since 1995 or so. Well, it seems that way. I'm not even sure if it's helping, but I would rather have the true picture of what's going on with my body, and attempt to come at it another direction. (Ditto on theVicodin . I cannot figure out why House takes that. It was prescribed to me for the first time in my life a few weeks ago, and it does NOTHING for my ankles. It will help my back a bit, but I would have to take 5 of them to get that effect, and I'm sure there is a downside to that, so no thank you.) (And no, I will not send you the rest of the bottle. My body has always fought medicine like a cornered badger, but from all accounts it will mess up you regular folk.

Those 7 things are my Pledge for Lentils. Why don't you join me? I don't expect you to give up 7 things, but Lentils can be a very positive experience. Leave a comment with what you are giving up, or send me an email, and I will help keep you encouraged!


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Come now, Darkest Angel

Come now, Darkest Angel;
Return through the smoke, and the haze, on
Wings tipped crimson, now carmine, in the fading light.
Come now, Darkest Angel;
Return their slings, and arrows dipped in embers with
Moulten Fury from Eyes of Ice, and Breath of Obsidian Fire.

Yours is the magic of Kings, and Queens, and
Lions of the Desert, who never forgot where they came from, and
Never forgot they were Lions.
Yours is the magic of Avalon, and Mag Mell, and
Moura Encantada, who guarded the Secret, and the Treasure, and
Never broke the Spell.

Come now, Darkest Angel;
Yours is the magic of the Void--
Return to us cloaked in Glory, and Honor, and
Never again leave your Home.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Third Sign of the Apocalypse: Ice Cream

It's been years since I bought ice cream. When I did, I always liked to mix it up. I love the classics, but then the second one would be a risk, something new to try. Sometimes I'd get lucky, and discover something like Moose Tracks, while other times the ice cream was so dull (or salty, or sharp, or just off) that it would sit in the freezer until six months later, when super hot water in the sink washed the remaining two thirds of the carton down the drain.

The other night, for the first time in nearly a decade, I was once again in a position to buy some ice cream. I was excited but nervous; I no longer had any idea what I was doing. Usually there is one good brand on sale, if you are patient, and I was going to go pure classic--like Rocky Road--to avoid disappointment. But what's the fun in that?

I found some sort of new chocolate concoction (Edy's), until I noticed it was Lite. C'mon, people. If you're going to get ice cream, you have to go for full flavor. If you're that worried about fat, DON'T EAT ICE CREAM. I would much rather have half as often, as long as the ice cream I did have was actually good.

I actually had the Edy's in the brown paper bag (which is either to help keep the ice cream cold, or help you fit in with winos), when I came toBreyers. My recollection--and this may be hazy--is that Breyers was as good as you can get, and far fewer preservatives. In particular, Breyers Strawberry and Breyers Cookies and Cream are simply sublime.

That's when I saw it. Breyers CHOCOLATE Cookies and Cream. Could one of the greatest flavors of all time just gotten even better?

I was so enamored with the idea of adding chocolate to one of my favorite flavors, that I failed to notice the problem. It wasn't Lite. Oh, no.



Kill me. Just kill me now.

Sadly, I did not notice this until just a few minutes ago, when I finally opened the ice cream. However, what are you going to do? Might as well give it a shot, right?

To you Cookies and Cream lovers, you know how some Cookies and Cream ice creams (like Breyers) are perfection itself, while others look like someone simply jammed generic hydrox cookies into vanilla? True cookies and cream is a bit grey, and has all those flecks.

My Breyers may have been fat free, but it was still Breyers Cookies and Cream, right?

In a word: no.

Big moist chunks of cookie? Nope. Little flecks spread all throughout? Nope. I don't know how to describe what the texture is actually like, but let's just say that I would rather try "Yeast Infection" flavor next time than this piece of garbage again.

Greater Love Hath No Man Than This

Two nights before Valentine's Day my dad took my mom out for a quick bite to eat and a movie. No big deal, right? A little pre-holiday treat. Many men have done the same.

And what movie did my my father, a conservative pastor, who's been married longer than I've been alive ('cause that's how they rolled back in the day: Old School), and who likes John Wayne films and political thrillers and any movie with Gene Hackman or Robert Duvall....what movie did my mother choose to see?


I am not kidding; when I found out this news I gave him a hug that lasted over a minute. I was so shocked (and felt so much concern for his well being), that at the time I neglected to think of the next obvious question: why on earth would my mother want to see that?

She likes chick-flicks, but for her it's Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock or (lately) Katherine Heigl. True, she does like Jennifer Aniston, but could this movie have been any less designed for her?

Well, yes. It was less designed for him.

Monday, February 09, 2009

New Food at Pizza Hut and Domino's

Recently I had the chance to check out new products from Pizza Hut and Domino's. I thought I would give little mini-reviews

Pizza Hut - Tuscani Oven-Baked Pasta

Everyone has seen the commercials. Fancy hip New Yorkers in some swanky restaurant for an exclusive "tasting" party, only to discover that--Surprise!--the pasta came from Pizza Hut. It's a great commercial because we get to laugh at New Yorkers, and it makes the pasta seem special and therefore desirable.

(Although: PH has now had three separate launches of pasta varieties. At some point you'd think people in Manhattan would quit being taken in by the same gimmick we all saw on TV! It's getting so bad that any day now a posse of Minnesotans are going to show up to bilk the New Yorkers out of all their cash.)

When Pizza Hut first introduced their new pasta, they had two choices: Creamy Chicken Alfredo, and Meaty Mariana. Later they brought out Premium Bacon Mac 'N Cheese, and just recently you could get Lasagna.

My first foray was the Alfredo, which I tried on January 20th, which happened to be the Inauguration. (Read the possibly racist comment the driver said, and what I think about it .)

My first thought was that it didn't appear to be nearly as much food as on TV. They claim 3 pounds, but the silver tray wasn't full, that is for sure. That said, it was delicious. the sauce was tangy, thick, and just a tiny bit sour, which I like in an Alfredo, to cut the richness. The pasta didn't feel overcooked, and I like PH chicken topping, which this was. Dipping breadsticks was even better, as they soaked up the creamy sauce and tasted even better than normal. And bear in mind, I had my pasta AFTER wolfing down half a Stuffed Crust pizza; extra points in my book.

The second time was a few days ago, when we got Lasagna. Now, like all people with a soul, I love lasagna. It's one of nature's perfect foods. I love a lot of different lasagnas, too. It's not like meatloaf, where you love your mom's but out in the world you can't predict when a meatloaf will be passable, and when you will light yourself on fire.

One of the best parts about lasagna is that it tastes just as good (and sometimes better) when you reheat it. This was my situation. I was asleep when the rest of the crowd ate, so I had to nuke my portion.

It was not a good experience. Again, the "look" of the product bothered me. I'm not questioning the three pounds advertised (I didn't weigh it, but I have no reason to believe they are making that up), but the lasagna did not even come up halfway on the aluminum tray. When you get lasagna at the store, it comes up all the way to the top.

More importantly, the taste was rubbery. The sauce was decent (how could it not be?), but the middle layer of lasagna pasta was stretchy and the ricotta tasted dehydrated. Also, there were very few layers. Maybe that's a personal thing, but I like my lasagna nice and thick.

It's only fair to point out that I talked to Carlos, who tried the lasagna as well, and he loved it. This could mean that it simply doesn't reheat well, or possibly that I just got a bad batch. (Jerrica was totally unimpressed as well, but maybe she's spoiled like I am.)

But here is the kicker: unlike the other pastas, which we got for $10.99, the Lasagna is $15. That's a lot of money, and when you consider that Stouffer's makes a GIANT version for around $10-12 that is AWESOME and very filling, I can't see very paying for this. True, you have to buy the Stouffer's yourself, and it takes two hours to cook. Still: you want lasagna, you make some sacrifices.

DOMINO'S - Oven-Baked Sandwiches

Any time we ever order delivery it's always Pizza Hut or Papa John's. Maybe things have changed, but my memory of Domino's pizza is such that I was in no hurry to see if they figured out how to cook anything.

Once again, enter Carlos. The Wolf-cat used to work with me at Pizza Hut, and currently runs a Papa John's. He knows pizza, and he eats it all the time. But Carlos started raving about the Domino's oven-baked sandwiches a month ago, and he has not shut up about it since.

Every time I would talk to him Carlos would ask if I had tried the oven-baked sandwiches, and sometimes he'd call with a new coupon deal he'd found that I could use. (Domino's has a deal for two oven baked sandwiches and a large one-topping pizza for $20. They also have a deal for one sandwich and a small pizza for $9, so Carlos figured he would order two of those and save $2. This led to a conversation about comparing diameter to area in circles, which is fascinating in its own right, but off-topic, so remind me and we can go over it another time.)

"It's the bread," Carlos raved. It's so good. It's better than Arby's or Subway."

Them's serious words. Carlos knows how I feel about sandwiches, and Arby's and Subway have been producing some great ones. It was his passion that finally convinced me. My sister ordered two different sandwiches for me to try (there are four total.)

Actually, I'd like to point out that in all of these tasting adventures, Jerrica paid. She is an incredibly generous person, and deserves a big shout-out.

Also-not for nothing--but the non-sandwich portion was messed up, including Jerrica's food. I have emailed Domino's, and am giving them one more day to contact her, else I'll be back here soon raising hell (and I saved my letter to them, for your enjoyment).

Domino's offers a Chicken Bacon Ranch, a Chicken Parm, a Philly Cheese-steak, and an Italian. (For what it's worth, Carlos says the Chicken Bacon Ranch is a dud.) I went with the Chicken Parm and the Philly--minus the awful onions, peppers and mushroom, and plus black olives. (I'd have added green olives too if they'd had any. It totally baffles me why anyone would want vomit-inducing onions, evil mushrooms and slimy peppers on a cheesesteak when you can have two kinds of olives! Some people....)


Dude, it was the bread. I guess having that giant pizza oven really helps. If they are using a similar formula, maybe I need to try the pizza again, because these sandwiches were so good! The bread was soft and thick and yet not overpowering at all. There was a yeasty sweetness I could not get over. [JOKE REMOVED BY CENSOR BOARD]

The ingredients were good, too. My dad had half the Parm, and he was a big fan, and my mom had a third of the Philly, and was a convert. I would much rather have two of these sandwiches than a medium pizza any day.

Of course, what if Domino's refuses to make their transgressions right? Who wins then, my principles, or my raging hunger-lust? Tune in next time on "As the Food Burns."

(And if you have a food product you want me to review, send me the money and I will eat this food and write about it. What, you think I'm just made of money?)

Racist or Not? (You make the Call)

On January 20th, Inauguration, we ordered from Pizza Hut for lunch. The food arrived around 2:00, a couple of hours after President Obama had been sworn in.

It also happened to be bitterly cold here in Georgia, and my sister mentioned this at the open door as she was checking the order and paying the driver.

The driver said, "Well, they have come out and said why we are having this weather here."

(I was sitting a few feet away, only half paying attention, but I remember it seemed a bit out of the ordinary for a pizza delivery man to go into meteorology.)

The driver continued, "The reason we're having this freezing weather is because they always said it would be a cold day in Hell before we had a black president."

I was so stunned I just sat there, and in another 10 seconds the transaction was over, door shut. Then I started to get upset.

Why had he said that? I asked my sister if that was racist, and she thought he was just trying to make a joke, to get better tips. (In fairness, she might have been worried I would launch out and hobble down the steps and chase the guy. She is terrified I will make a scene.)

I didn't see the man, Jerrica said he was white, and that's what you would think she was if you looked at her. I couldn't get over what he said. He didn't exactly criticize Obama, or make any overt generalization. In a manner of speaking he was criticizing a country (or at least the South), which had always been presumed to be too racist to consider someone like Obama.

Yet I couldn't shake the feeling that his comment was racist, or at least prejudiced. I feel very strongly that if Jerrica were to look African-American that driver would have kept his thoughts to himself, and it seems to me that if you wouldn't tell a black family, it's probably racist.

Then again, I sometimes get accused of finding white sheets in every closet. (Well, there are white sheets in most closets, but you know what I mean. Looking for racism where it might not really be.) I didn't want to just judge someone on a snap impression; that's what prejudice is in the first place!

But I have never gotten over it. Perhaps it comes from the fact that since I got to Georgia, occasionally I have run into situations where it a group of people happened to not include any African-Americans, and a few times (more than a couple, but not a ton; I don't want to overstate the case) someone has felt free to tell a racist joke or make some comment.

This pisses me off to no end. How dare they assume I am going to be cool with that? I have gotten into more than one scrape over the matter.

So maybe my past experience has colored me. (no pun intended.) Maybe I'm tilting at windmills. Maybe the guy was just making a comment--something he'd heard--in an attempt to be funny and get a good tip. Maybe it's not worth getting upset.

But I'm not convinced.

What do you think?