I rant you risten

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

topics on my menu

A little bit of random information for you on a very popular fish: Chilean Seabass is actually called Patagonian Toothfish. Some 30 years ago, Augusto “I’ll show you Junta” Pinochet opened up Chile’s waters to foreign fisheries, and it didn’t take long for the competition to heat up and fishing grounds to dry up. Local fishermen were forced to venture out into deeper more dangerous unchartered waters in which they pulled out an ugly looking, but very meaty whitefish (an anomaly of evolution). The meat was oily, meaning that it was very difficult to overcook and it worked with just about any way you’d prepare it, plus more meat meant more money. In order to market the fish, a snazzier name than the Patagonian toothfish was needed, so they went with the exotic yet sophisticated choice - Chilean Seabass. The popularity of this fish went through the roof and was in such high demand around tables all over the world that fishermen started to overfish those waters. Piracy and illegal fishing of the Chilean Seabass became a serious problem; prompting Government imposed restrictions to calm the frenzy, harboring worries that our craving for this delicious fish would lead to its extinction. With all the negative media involved around the illegal fishing of Chilean Seabass, restaurants have moved on to the next big whitefish… and it be called, barramundi, or Australian Seabass. Although the barramundi is quite popular in Australia, it’s only now starting to cause waves in North America and Europe. Now you know.

Another bit of food related talk: stemming from a conversation with my girl, which got us discussing a product I’m not too crazy about but popular in the Middle East, camel milk. The benefits from camel milk are supposed to outweigh regular cow milk with a much higher fat content and more proteins, but I just can’t seem to get myself to drink it. I read recently that a UAE camel farm in Al-Ain has teamed up with an Australian Company and they’ve developed ultra fine Camel Milk Chocolates. Now I’m not that into camel flavored chocolates, but I think it’s one of those gourmet weird foods that I could understand. I do like the direction that’s been taken with the camel milk chocolates and I’m thinking we should push more of the products from our region out there to different palettes. Camel milk could be the beginning: Chocolate flavored camel milk, Vanilla Camel Milk Shakes, cookies n camel cream ice cream.. the thought does merit further research doesn’t it? Are you listening ben & jerry’s? the end is near..

Since I can’t seem to get off the food subject.. After reading and thoroughly enjoying Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, I learned something very interesting about people in restaurants that order their steaks well done. In my previous life, I used to cringe at my fellow diners when we’d go to a good steakhouse and they’d order their meat well done. I had visions of the chef flipping out over the customers' demands for overly cooked meat, sucked of all juices and flavor. I secretly hoped the chef would come bursting out of the kitchen, brandishing a cleaver , ready to give whomever a verbal lashing about the quality of the meat and how they were tainting the reputation of the dish by wanting it cooked well done. The truth is, chefs love people that order their steaks well done. A well done steak gives the chef the opportunity to get rid of his/her most horrible cut of meat, or the one that doesn’t look too good.. since you, the diner, don’t give a damn about the flavor of the meat and how well it’s been aged, the chef doesn’t have to worry about grilling it perfectly. Instead the chef can afford to give you whatever’s at the bottom of the meat bin, the stuff that’s going to expire soon.. Next time you order your steak well done, think about that.

And Finally, there’s a huge Vodka debate going on.. On one side of the argument, you’ve got Poland, Finland and Sweden arguing that if you’re going to call it Vodka, then you should distill the hooch from potatoes or certain grains. While France, Italy, Netherlands and other non-baltic states claim that you can use grapes or maple syrup to make vodka. The potato/grain-vodka is made a certain way argument is citing examples of how unless the cheese is made in Greece then you can’t call it feta (much to the disappointment of Danish and French white cheese producers). Another example is that unless it comes from the northeast region of France, it’s called sparkling wine, not Champagne. So the countries that produce Vodka the way it’s traditionally been produced should have the right to call their spirit Vodka right? The counter argument is that Vodka can be distilled a number of different ways, and that there are recipes to produce vodka that go back hundreds of years, that use a number of different ingredients: potato, certain grains, apples, plums, molasses, etc. The copout counter argument is that vodka is mainly consumed to be mixed with something else and that it has no distinct flavor, so who cares what it’s made with… It’s all very interesting, for you drinkers, how do you feel about this issue? Should Vodka, distilled from potatoes or grain be called Vodka and everyone else need to find another name? I’m a little torn..

Hope that’s some food for thought, or maybe thought for food..

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

juicebox lovebox

I grew up in a very autocratic household when it came to what you were allowed to drink at lunch or during snack time. Smuggling soda into the house was always a dangerous game involving sliding the can into your backpack and transporting it into the house, you’d think we were transporting plutonium. If my mother, or anyone else on the snitch payroll found us with a can of soda/pop/cola, trouble would soon ensue with lectures about the rotting of teeth, exploding stomachs, and sugar-high driven crime sprees. The Draconian laws of my household weren’t just extended to carbonated beverages, minimum real juice in your juice box was regulated at 30%, anything below that, or any juice that began with sugar on the ingredients list was immediately deemed unacceptable.

One of the illegal and banned substances in my house was Sun Top, a regionally produced (with the help of the Danes) juicebox that came in a multitude of flavors containing: sugar, water, a dash of vitamins and about 10% actual juice or juice concentrate. Since the juice didn’t meet the minimum juice requirement, it was immediately placed on the embargoed super market shopping list. Now here’s the juicy bit: Sun Top’s marketing team came up with peelable stickers on the sides of every single juicebox involving a zany polar bear on all sorts of adventures (skiing, extreme sports, driving a sports car, roaming the desert, etc). They even took it a step further by releasing sticker albums for you to collect all the little stickers involving the Sun Top bear and his corresponding adventures. All the kids in school were drinking Sun Top and were able to fill up their sticker books and cover their folders on a daily basis. Flaunting their multicolored little albums, the stickers and their books became a widely accepted form of legal tender in the schoolyard. My protests to get Sun Top on the “safe list” in my house were met with a firm “no” and retorted with suggestions to take freshly squeezed orange juice instead. When I explained the nature of the stickers and how I needed them, I was directed to the death stare from depths of hades. To flirt with the illegality of it all, I took my Sun Top substance abuse to frightening levels – nothing was going to get in the way of little elementary school me filling up those sticker books. Whenever away from the prying eyes of any adult, I would guzzle juicebox after juicebox – filling my body up with all that bad sugar water, but also filling up my sticker book with the highly coveted polar bear walking the tightrope, him competing in the karate competition, and the hard to find Olympics series. Under the covers, in the bathroom, in supermarket aisles, the car, and any chance I got, I forced myself to drink Sun Top. In hindsight, the house rules were justified, I should’ve stuck with the healthy stuff; and the stickers, I don’t even remember what happened to them, probably trashed’em.

Thankfully, KDD (Kuwait Danish Dairy) juice was on the safe list at home, and we freely dabbled in the luscious nectar of mango and passion fruit. I don’t know how to put it without stroking anyone’s already over inflated ego, but KDD mango just might be the best mango juicebox on this planet. If you think I’m joking, then go out and buy yourself one, and see for yourself.. it’s not called mango nectar for nothing.. Some of my closest kiwi friends in Boston would get cases and cases of the stuff, that we carefully rationed out till the next shipment. The “vip kdd mango” status I enjoyed was greatly appreciated because of a number of things #1 nostalgia factor #2 cure for homesickness (being in boston in the winter, a little bit of home went a long way) #3 deliciousness #4 I could bend the ration ruling and drink as many as I wanted. Paal paaal paaal. It was called Mango Nectar, cause it was so thick and just tasted so nourishing... My ultimate KDD flavors in order: Mango, Passion Fruit, Fruit cocktail, Guava, Apple, Grape, and Grapefruit.. (not a big fan of the orange)..

Since returning to Bahrain, I’ve remained loyal to the KDD juices and work doesn’t feel right without a juicebox or two. Nothing says aaaaaah, like a nice cold slurp of passion fruit.. drinking this stuff really takes me back..

A big thank you goes out to Chan'ad for letting me swipe the suntop sticker picture off his blog.. cheers mate..

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Our Man Davis Part 2

if you didn't read part 1 here it is

With his vision shifting tricks on him, Davis woke up tussled in a strange bed of a strange room in a strange apartment. To add more confusion to his aching head, blurry vision and parched mouth, he was stripped down to his boxers. Fearing the worst, Davis wondered how many drinks he had? Did he do something stupid? What was the outcome of the evening with viv? He wondered if this was her Egon Scheile print staring back at him. Noticing his pants, Davis struggles out of bed and almost knocks over the wastebasket smelling of dried vomit and things not too ticklish to tell. This was bad, he thought, going home with viv and then just when the mood for animal sex is set, he ends up throwing up in her apartment in front of her.. What an impression, what grief, what a horrible smell. The events of last night flashed in front of his eyes, bringing a sharp stabbing pain gushing fake blood all over the floor. He ate meat.. he ate a fellow living animal.. he propagated the idea that cannibalism was ok.. The cold air above the covers sends shivers through his guilt-riddled body, and then he smells something all too familiar infiltrating his nostrils, something that reminds him of home. Fresh pumpernickel bread..

Exiting the room, Davis encounters his two best friends and resident couple of their group of pals, Jake and Rain. It was sometime during senior year in college that Jake and Rain hooked up and they haven’t looked back since. It was a beautiful summer day in which the constitution of the vegan icing held up, the experimental indie band “broken taillights lead to love” folked it up on the dance floor, and their wedding cake was consumed by all. Although Davis sometimes feels like a third wheel hanging out with them, they see things completely different.. Handing over the fresh bread and some softened almond butter to help settle his stomach, Rain begins with the grilling.

Well it looks like our upchucking troubled romeo is up, care to explain yourself nicknolte? You look like a train wreck, what the hell happened to you? Mustering an embarrassed smile, Davis approaches his friends and begins to mouth an apology for his antics, whatever they were.. Secretly, he was thankful he wasn’t doing this walk of shame in front of Viv.. His shrugged shoulders invited his friends to relate to him the events of their evening. After a scrumptious dinner of Jake’s famous vegetarian spinach and mushroom lasagna followed by a movie, the duo is awakened by the drunken cheers and jeers of someone out their window. Lo and behold, the drunken sot just so happens to be their dear friend Davis, who is looking like he desperately needs to sober up.. once helped inside their until just recently quiet abode, Davis regales to his friends the marvelous encounter with viv and how this is the happiest he’s been in years. He tells them of the wonderful laughs they shared, the interests in common, the connection, and most importantly the way her hand fit in his.. it all felt so natural.. and then, in an emotional train wreck his mannerisms take a 180 degree turn from his very drunk and happy self, to the manic depressive they never knew him to be.. Squawking on about not being able to live with himself, the hypocrisy, his wicked soul, the despicable despicability of his evening.. It was soon after announcing how disgusted he was with himself that his awareness began to flee his body. Feeling the slump, Davis ends up passed out in Jake’s lap.. the gurgles and burbles jake felt in his lap prompted a swift response leading to the disposal of their inebriated friend in their newly redecorated second bedroom.. Davis kept the peace disturbed for the rest of the night alternating between concert acoustical projectile vomiting and loud snoring.. Rain did mention that the only thing that kept her from throwing her friend out on the street was the hilarious early morning drunken rendition of “we built this city” by starship, in which Davis awoke, threw up, belted out a couple of lines hanging on the “rock and rollll” bit and then fell back asleep.. Davis, embarrassed, but slightly pleased that it wasn’t viv he was explaining himself to, apologized to his friends and chalked up the evening up to the foolproof defense of lots and lots of alcohol, and probably some unwashed vegetables.

*Cell phone ringing*
Davis fumbles through his pockets and produces his cellular phone which has “viv” blinking all over it.. the screen is showing off a picture of viv, taken last night with her lips puckered up.. good sign, at least she’s puckered up. Answering the call, the air suddenly feels cleaner.. the sound of her hello launches our man Davis back into a lull of serenity.. the pounding headache is soon a distant memory as the laughs and connections from the previous night are quickly brought back into the forefront.

Dropping the rules and dating standards of the late 90s and early naughties, Viv abandons the 2-3 day callback rule or whatever that silly movie pop culture inference was. She felt like talking to him and wanted to see if he felt the same, so she called. On this day, this very particular day, she wasn’t prepared to sit there and wonder what if. After all, it felt very right with Davis, in fact, it felt more right with him than anyone else in a longtime.. the idea of everything all happening too suddenly did strike her like a blunt object upside her head, or was that her own hangover? It didn’t matter because whether it was too early or too sudden, it wasn’t really registering in her head, she will do what she wants.. Viv composed herself and was just calling to see if he was suffering from a hangover like her, and if he’d like to continue their date aided by the perfect hangover cure…

Stepping into a puddle of sunshine, Davis couldn’t believe his luck - another date with the dame - this time lunch… viv asks for a little time to look somewhat presentable, a request happily agreed upon by the crusty looking dried vomit breath granola.. a quick trip back home, shower change and then meet up outside her building - very promising..

Staying in radio, they reconvene from their previous evening outside her delightful rennovated brownstone. Strolling down the neighborhood, a hodgepodge of identities.. Colombian flags hanging out the bodegas, the Pakistani curry palace and butcher shop, the bike messenger gangs, artists lugging their supplies, junkies passed out on the sidewalk, yuppies and their puppies, a lot of hodging and quite a bit of podging too. Taking a turn down summers they arrive at their destination… little defe.. The clientele and staff in the main room are all glued to the TV bolted to the ceiling, the number one Hispanic soap opera in terms of viewer-ship, Esmeralda.

Pedro greets his regular Saturday lunch crowd with much love, because they are like family, and that’s how the burly man does business, on a familial level. On Saturdays, they come for one thing and that’s his Menudo fin de semana. People drag themselves from all over both sides of the river for his famous hangover special. Today was turning into a soso day he thought, guess it was a tame weekend for many, an opinion soon altered once he spotted one of his regulars, who smiles back as she drags a companion in tow. Borracha, Cómo estás? I’m fine thanks, can we get a table for two? Jaayys of course, la casa de pedro es tu casa. Y tu novio? Yeah we just had a little to much to drink last night.. need a little recovery.. vamos, take that table there and I send someone. Gracias Gordo. borracha..

Viv’s two finger raise sends the waiter off with the mental order – he knows what to bring and soon scurries back with two orange sodas, and then scampers off again as the straws begin to bob up the bottles … back to their date, the two fall back into that easygoing conversation that just seems to work wonders for them. On the right foot, they have enough in common and enough not in common to make the whole polar opposite and parallel concepts seem more than just promising. She finds out about his parents and their organic tendencies, while he pictures her descriptions of spending her summers growing up at the beach. Prompted by his inquisitive looks around the restaurant, Viv does a little introduction to la casa de pedro, your own slice of little defe, Mexico city.. Pedro, originally from Guadalajara, came here and spent many years as a dishwasher, working his way up as a line cook at a fancy restaurant until he managed to save up some cash and open up a little piece of home here on foreign soil.. Incorporating the recipes of his mother and grandmothers, they make a mean mole (pronounced mohlay) and real Mexican food, none of that texmex mexas mumbo gumbo.. briefly touching on last night, they both admit to not remembering much other than that it was a great night, one to be relived again. Their level of comfort with each other, a clear indication that they’re more than just clicking together has them thinking all sorts of interesting thoughts lacing their conversations in the sexiest of talk. Davis mentioned the alcohol and how he really couldn’t stomach the idea of meat this midmorning, truth be told, he couldn’t stomach the guilt again and wanted to forget the carnivorous events of the previous night.. Viv told him to sit back and relax, she’s already ordered the dish with the magical hangover healing properties.. meat or no meat, this was the only thing on this planet that will cure their pain..

Strolling over in his checks and chef whites, pedro carries two steaming bowls over to their table. Although he now spent more time at the counter watching the Mexican soaps, Pedro still liked to dress up in his chef getup - just incase he had to teach those incompetent cousins of his a thing or two about real Mexican cuisine. Pedro noticed table six were suffering from a bad presentation of Guillermo and his shabby tamales, pendejo. The Menudo was all him though, aided by his wife Begoña, Pedro picks the choicest cuts of unwanted meat for this traditional soup and starts up from early Saturday morning to prepare for the breakfast/brunch/lunch/afternoon Menudo rush. Placing the two bowls of reddish soup in front of his customers he plants a crafty aluminium foil basket containing some warm tortillas, chopped onion, dried oregano, freshly chopped cilantro, and a couple of lime wedges on their crowded table.. bon provencho borracha. Gracias gordo.

The aroma wafting from the bowl up Davis’ nose was definitely foreign – yet alluring at the same time. There was a sun kissed touch of funk, a chilli citrus scent which excited his nostrils – but it all seemed to calm the throbbing pain in his head. His admittance of never having tried Menudo, prompted a Try it first and let me know what you think. Dutifully listening to his siren, Davis sprinkles some oregano, cilantro and chopped white onion into his soup.. a squeeze of lime followed by a stir of his spoon and prepares himself for his first bite.. his spoon reveals a number of little tidbits: some onion, chillies, hominy, but one thing’s for sure there’s meat in there..

A lifetime spent without ever having meat grace his lips and he’s forced into a situation twice in less than 24 hours.. Davis shudders looking at his date tuck into her soup and immediately notices a change in the demeanour in her face.. nothing kills a hangover like Menudo.. he nods off and stares at his spoon.. Although her company was enough to put his mind off the dehydrating effects of the alcohol consumed last night, the slice of pumpernickel and almond butter did very little for soaking up the pains in his stomach and his head.. The smell was starting to invade and convince him that a spoon would be worth it.. maybe he didn’t have to try the meat.. just a quick slurp of broth, little taste for curiosity’s sake. another little taste later, and the spicy chilliness of the broth with a crunchy sliced white onion and zesty lime juice combined for an incredibly tangy and nourishing taste in his mouth.. it didn’t just go down well, it went down great.. another spoonful of the broth tasted even better, wow, pedro really knows his Menudo.. Maybe it was time to try the meat he thought.. his body was telling him something, that whatever he was feeding it was working and he was actually feeling better.. quickly closing his eyes, Davis shoved a spoonful of soup into his mouth, this time with a little bit of meat. The wavy texture of the meat releasing tangy bits of soup onto his tongue carried a multitude of flavours.. the chilli, lime, onion, tang and a little bit of funk worked great. Feeling foreign in his mouth, the meat rubbed against his tastebuds and pushed a little bit of funk into his mouth.. the chew was slightly easy and slightly rubbery.. Going down his throat the wavy texture went down easier than he thought..

You like it? A question Davis replied with a serious nod and another spoonful.. I don’t like telling people what Menudo is until people have tried it. Keeping information from people isn’t the best way to have a meal of something you don’t know. Pedro probably has the best one in town and I just wanted you to have a taste see if you can handle the soup and then see if you’re man enough to handle the truth. Of course he is man enough, Davis and his sundried tomato and grilled zucchini panini sandwiches are definitely man enough, the fact that he’s shoved his principles to the back of his throat is proof he’s man enough, but she doesn’t know that.. Perturbed at how his wonderful date has been constantly surprising his morality, Davis remembers the caveat to this quandary: he never mentioned his vegetarian ways, no fault of hers – how can he fault her, she’s just acting on the information he’s given her.. I just thought it was latin america’s homage to Puerto Rican boy bands.. to remain polite, viv employs recycled laughter track 23..

Really enjoying her soup, she gets underway in her explanation of the time-honoured tradition of global peasant food. In the days long gone, the Patrons of the haciendas used to get the choicest cuts of meat from the animals, leaving the offals and waste parts to the peasants. It was through slow cooking and experimentation, that led some cook to the discovery of the edible and deliciousness of this unwanted bit of animal meat. I mean who would’ve though that the honeycomb pocket texture of a slow cooked cow’s stomach would be the best method to deliver the tangy spicy broth onto the diners palette. She explained that beef tripe soup was almost a national dish in Mexico and is known to have magical healing effects on alcohol beaten bodies - a replenishing quality Davis was feeling throughout his body.. Menudo normally takes a long time to prepare, with the meat being so tough and all, and is normally served after a wedding or new-years eve to help with people’s hangovers. Halfway through her explanation, Davis comes to an impasse, his hangover is calling for more of this funky cow stomach soup, while his head is telling him he might as well go out and try freebasing cocaine while he’s at it. The evil bastard that he is has just disappointed everyone close to him, from his parents to his friends to his ideals and to the animals, the poor little animals... Luckily or unluckily for his conscience, the irresistible charms of viv have helped ease his guilt and push his principles at the bottom of his worry pile.

I know I should’ve told you earlier on about Menudo, but I just wanted you to try it, and if you were as hung-over as I was then maybe this helped. Some people can’t handle the fact that they’re eating the stomach, but then they turn around and eat different cuts of meat off the animal.. to me, I say, if they’re going to butcher the animal to begin with, then we might as well eat everything we can. And with that, Davis finds a rope of logic in her words leading him to another spoonful of the soup and wavy honeycombed meat once known as a buttercup’s belly..

Thursday, November 16, 2006

thoughts of the day

Something that I never really thought about up until recently, but have decided that I do not care for too much is the surf and turf concept at many restaurants. I just don’t understand the idea of meat and fish on the same plate. I can understand one course being a meat and the other seafood, but together on the same plate? Why would you want to mix two types of meat right there and then? This one of those things where mixing and matching just doesn’t seem to work, but people still seem to find grilled shrimp layered on top of your sirloin real classy. I bet these are the same people that order their steaks well done. Dumb Advert inviting me for “Reef and Beef” night at one of the upscale hotels in Dubai got me thinking about this.. Typical stupidity by a dumber than they seem marketing team.. but I’m sure people will go and eat, cause it’s a special.. Don’t get me started on specials..

We have discovered a new game based on keepie uppie, at the men’s restroom on my floor, and we’re calling it peepee uppie (if you have a better suggestion, I’m all ears..). We’ve got these little disinfectant cakes in the urinals at work; in fact they’re so little that they’re small enough to move around with a constant stream of pee. With careful aim and precision, you can move the little cake around the urinal with your pee and even float it up. The trick is to restrict yourself from a trip to the loo until you’re about to burst, then time yourself as you try to keep the little urinal cake floating up. It’s actually a lot more difficult than it sounds. It’s become a big secret tournament for those who pee at the Urinal (some weird arab thing, but some men just can’t seem to use a urinal). You female readers may think this is just absolutely asinine, but for the men reading this, my record is 7 seconds..

Over the past 6 months or so, I have been working on a secret camera phone project entitled, “pictures in elevators” (you were expecting something grand and elaborate weren’t you?). Anytime I’d have to take a trip up or down the elevator, I’d tow my cell phone with it’s magnificent 2-mega-pixel camera and then, using the mirror or some weird angle, try to take an interesting picture. I had my timing down perfectly: the elevator door opens up, no one’s inside, I slide my camera phone on and immediately start scouring for an angle.. I basically had enough time to snap a photo before I got to my floor or someone else walked into the elevator. I’ve got some blurry pictures, but even some of them turned out really cool. I even tried taking a shot with someone else in the elevator with me, but that got a little awkward when they noticed me trying to take the shot through the mirror. I’m telling you this because, one of my main studios, the office elevator, is being remodeled and they’ve removed the mirror. I’m a little disappointed that my project is coming to an end. The new elevator does look like a subzero fridge though, which is kinda cool and there is a little reflective space that I’m going to try out.. I’ll keep you posted..

With the weather changing for the better, getting your flu shot is the latest most talked about topic on the island. You think you might be coming down with something.. you should go to a clinic and get your flu shot for the year. I’m not saying the Flu shot doesn’t work when you’re coming down with something, but whatever happened to Echinacea and other natural remedies? People here on the island are so quick to get jabbed or take the advice of a doctor or pharmacist, before reading up about what they can do. A couple of weeks ago I came down with the flu, the result of a couple of inoculations. I decided to head over to the pharmacy and see what I can pick to make me feel better. The pharmacist hands me my flu medicine, which contains Pseudoephedrine (PSE), and I make a quick joke about “isn’t this now considered very dangerous?” She looked at me funny, so I tried to explain that medication with PSE is now highly monitored in the US because people cook up Methamphetamine (crystal meth) from it, forcing pharmacists to ask you all sorts of questions and limiting you to 3 packages for every 24-hour period. Her “deer caught in my headlights” look really put my mind to ease about trusting your pharmacist cause they know something about the medication they give you. I’m just thrilled that my pharmacist is keeping up with what’s happening in their field.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Our Man Davis Part 1

Just a little introduction: a idea hatched that has quickly manifested into a multi-part short story. If you like it, there's a part 2, and if you like that, well lets not get too carried away. Anyways, without any further delay...

Amidst the laughing and loud exchanges of the restaurant's main dining room, the server comes around with his powerfully bleached white shirt carrying two oversized extremely heavy plates, weaving in and out of earshot conversations, pirouetting around table 7 with great ease. It was the type of eatery that tried to loudly insinuate its class and fine dining experience by weighing down their tables with those huge oversized extremely heavy plates.. Rudolpho was enjoying serving the diners at table 7, his sixth sense felt a first date, and from what he could tell, things were going well. Muy Bien Rudolpho thought, Muy Bien indeed..

So far, dinner with Vivienne had gone off magnificently, Davis still couldn't believe his luck at how well he was connecting with this girl.. From their chance encounter at the coffee shop, where he fell victim to her smoke scarred voice box and oversized black sunglasses ordering her black coffee, to this dinner in which her cigarette smoke made her look even more mysterious and alluring like in a old black and white film.. What she saw in his Birkenstock shuffling self, he'll never know, but as they say, fortune favors the brave, and on that specific morning, our man Davis took his chances.. in all honestly, it wasn't Davis who took his chances, Viv noticed the neat little granola bar trying to check her out and she decided he was a pretty nice on the eyes.. After a quick quip, they were soon chuckling about the extravagant drawn out orders at these overpriced coffeehouses, a joke Davis snorted at while he hid his grande decaf saffron chai tea latte with no fat skimmed soymilk and refugee free raw cane brown sugar from her inquisitive eyes. The persistent ticking on their wristwatches ushered them both to rush off to their respective places of employment, leaving a short pause in the air soon followed by plans for dinner. Davis suggested the time and Viv suggested the place.

Throughout the time at the bar waiting for their table, Viv, found out more about her mysterious granola bar over a number of quickly drunk martinis.. She could sense his uneasy relaxed manner as he shuddered at her thing for athletes and retorted with his accuracy at bocce, a joke or not, she still wasn't sure.. He did have some funny stories with his travels around the world and his animal stories, like the snake slithering incident while relieving himself out on an ancient burial ground in the dense jungle during his time in South America with the Peace Corps. Round after round of drinks, they laughed away the nervousness one would experience from a first date with someone they were attracted to.. swill after sip they invited the comfort bubble to encompass them both..

The server made his way to the table and kerplunked the plates with a smile in front of the two hitting it off.. Davis really paid no attention to what he was ordering, a quick I'll have whatever you're having, resulted in an incomprehensible order with a wink from the server.. Since pre-dinner drinks had gone so well, he thought this would be the perfect mantra to carry him through the evening, a little bit of blind faith and trust in his companion's order. With an instructed air of pomposity, Rudolpho, calls on the attention of the diners at table 7 for something resembling a pre-meal shuffle, in which he presents a sliver of his incredible knowledge of the Bolero. The onus is on him to dazzle the diners with his dance moves and foot shuffling – this could make or break the date, he thinks, best give them the big finale making it all so memorable. He finishes off his moves with a suppressed but definitely personalized stamp and then directs their eyes to the two plates of sirloin steak in front of them..

In a spell resembling a touch of vertigo, Davis sat there frozen and shocked. He remained traumatized staring at the plate of chopped up meat of a fellow living being grilled to the point of visible markings.. Aghast at what he got himself into, somewhere in the middle of having drinks with the woman who has occupied his dreams of recent, our man here forgot to mention he is a strict vegetarian. Actually not just a strict vegetarian, an austere vegetarian. Davis founded the Vegan movement in college, in which he petitioned to get organic vegetarian food served at all the food outlets on campus. He led the line at the "great meat massacre" in '04, a very nicely staged protest against the illegal slaughtering of the pink spotted calves of western Greenland. He participated in the farmer’s market sit in, demanding minimum wage for the cheap labor lettuce pickers. How could he have forgotten to mention to his date that he does not eat meat? Damning the martinis under his breath, his eyes drifted to a place where the poor little steak was un-cooked, un-hacked, re-fused, re-skinned, and re-animated. Not exactly sure on what he should be doing, the fork rests difficultly in his hands.

Meanwhile, Viv turns to her date and proceeds to explain her love of meat and how being a carnivore is all she's ever known, a chord that struck a cringe in Davis.. in fact she wouldn't know what to do with vegetables if they didn't come with a side order of meat, a gag that drew out a panicky laugh from our man. She proceeded to tell him that this Sirloin presented for his epicurean pleasure was actual Kobe beef.. You can only call it Kobe beef if the cow was slaughtered in Kobe, Japan – otherwise it's Kobe Style (not the real thing). The special thing about this meal is that the meat has been specially flown in from Japan, giving them the "real deal", making this experience even more exclusive than he thought. Viv knows the head chef, and thought it would be a fitting surprise for what's turning into a great first date. She went on for a bit about the diet of beer and sake makes a world of difference with the marbling and how you can really tell the difference between Kobe and Kobe style.. the fat melts just perfectly helping the meat sear from the outside..

Little beads of sweat began dotting Davis' forehead as his level of comfort crashes through the floor.. Since the backdrop of this meal was a special occasion, he found it difficult to admit his abhorrence of cooked meat to his date. He thought about the situation.. Him being a strict vegetarian, meeting someone who could potentially be the woman of his dreams, and having her invite him to an exquisite meal. What was he to do? He thought about his parents, the former radicals and now organic farmers that vandalize local farms that use pesticides and unnatural growing processes on weekends with spray paint. He thought about how he spent his entire life having never tasted any kind of meat thanks to his mom's homemade veggie burgers and tofurkey. He considered their disappointment at their proud vegelete actually indulging in the one thing they tried so hard to teach him was wrong. The plate stared back at him as he pondered his options.. This poor defenseless animal was fed alcohol, massaged and then slaughtered and flown across the globe to be hacked into pieces by a mad machete wielding butcher, cooked, sizzled, eaten and digested by Viv and himself.. Then again, he had never tried steak before, and if he was going to indulge in the ultimate of sins, he might as well consider Prized Kobe Wagyu Beef a good place to start..

Slicing through her cut of dead cow, Viv shows off the undercooked cooked raw meat pink center surrounded by the expertly marked grilled crust. Making contact with the succulent morsel, her taste buds are awash in a sensation best described as the best perfectly cooked piece of meat she has ever had. There was the slightest inkling of displeasure knowing that the animal was raised with such care for the sole purpose of being killed - cooked - eaten - and passed. However, said displeasure was placated by the incredible softness of the meat, melting on her tongue sending her ideals off for a night of dancing. Amidst the orgasmic sounds reflecting her opinion and possible events to come, she notices a strange air about her companion - who although is really pushing her “no sex on a first date” rule, has gone a little quiet. Her date was sitting across inspecting his plate... Just as he begins to look slightly like melting into his seat, he shakes his head and begins to tackle his meal. She then watches him and his little oddities around the steak, which inadvertently reveal him to be the connoisseur as he carefully slices into his steak and inspect the doneness of the meat with a certain smidgen of skepticism.

After beating logic at his own game, Davis decided that it’s best to know what meat tastes like in order to appreciate his vegetarian ways further. His mind was made up.. just this once and only this once he was going to bend the rules a little, and shelve his ethics for a slice of love pie. After all, this was the best date he’d been on in years; there was no way he was going to make the whole situation uncomfortable now. No one has to know about this, he was just going to sample this exquisite fare and then he’ll know.. he stabbed the chunk of meat he just sliced through and began to raise the fork to his mouth.. His lips trembled with the idea of committing the definitive of sins in his leftwing doctrine of life, but a smile from Viv seemed to remind him of why he was doing this, why he was going to eat this banned meat and why he was going to prevail. With a revived drive, Davis sunk his fork into his mouth and began his dance with the devil, the meat devil that is.. At first, the texture of the meat fooled him, there was no crunch, it was soft, yet there was a certain resistance from the crust of the steak, the bite carried the same consistency that Davis envisioned meat would. The flavor released on his taste buds carried the salt and pepper used to rub the meat, a twinge of smokiness due to the grilling process. The meat in itself rolled around his tongue and with each bite, the juices were freed into his mouth releasing a certain melt away quality. The chewing continued, the meat gave away with every bite releasing more and more flavor into his mouth. And then with the first swallow, Davis decided that once you put the thought of eating a once living being, Kobe Beef actually tasted pretty good.. A smile eased its way back onto Davis’ face, another bite was eaten, and the conversation came flowing back.. he soon thought less and less of the defenseless cow that was slaughtered and more about the deliciousness of the cooked meat and the wonderful evening he was having with Viv.

Thinking about his actions, about his big secret, Davis thought it would be best if he kept his mouth shut about his evening, after all no one knew he was a vegetarian…

Monday, November 06, 2006

Movie Trivia for the Trivial

1. What’s the name of the sword in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon?

2. What was the recipe Clemenza taught Michael in the Godfather?

3. Why did George Lazenby only do one James Bond flick?

4. What was the name of the falcon in the Royal Tenenbaums?

5. How many people did Rambo kill in Rambo 2?

6. Who was the cab driver in the MTV movie 200 cigarettes?

7. If you had to have sex with milla jovovich, would it be fifth element milla? resident evil milla? or return to the blue lagoon milla?

8. In the Transformers movie, who did the voice for hotrod? The original Transformers animated movie..

9. How long does Johnny Depp live in his premiere for Nightmare on Elm Street?

10. Name three movies Delroy Lindo has done..

11. In what 80s movie did the main character wear an iconic t-shirt saying “I heart toxic waste”?

12. What was the official title of Lando Calrissian on cloud city?

13. In Y tu mama tambien, what did they call themselves (diego luna and gael garcia bernal)?

14. What was the powder in the Princess Bride?

15. Where did this line come from “Emmmillliiooo , Emmmillliiooo!!”

16. Who was dom deluise’s alter ego in the Cannonball Run?

17. In the final scene of Boyz n the Hood, what is ricky baker holding when he gets shot?

18. What was the name of Turkish’s first boxer in Snatch?

19. In what movie did Tony Hawk first hit the silver screen?

20. Who did the lead villain in Commando remind you of?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

It began in Africa

While sipping on a Ramadany after futoor pick me up, a mutual thought stemming from a brainstorming conversation, leading to a communal conclusion on our destination: Zanzibar it shall be.. We needed some adventure, we needed some spice, and I needed to get jabbed a couple of times in the arm to fight off yellow fever, meningitis, and the flu… the following excerpts of wisdom are what I brought back with me..

Touching down in Dar es Salaam airport, our goal was to get our visas, get though passport control, pull our luggage, pay for and catch our connecting flight all within a somewhat reasonable time frame. I was a little hesitant we’d be able to pull all this off, and in hindsight, my anxiety was warranted. After an exhaustive and confusing muddle getting our visas, we arrive at the transfer desk only to find out that we have been barred from making our flight. Thinking I’ll use some of my college education and airline email confirmation logic, I am soon standing outside the window talking to an apathetic airline sales rep who’d rather tear off the appendages of her dot matrix printout than listen to me. My pleading and attempts to push my normally well-received US dollars through the window slot was of no use. The combination of flashing US dollars and disheartening situation was drawing attention from some very unwanted tick-like conmen. One of these enterprising peddling gentlemen interrupts my negotiations to inform me that we will not make this flight, but,, he knows of another flight at another airport which is taking off very soon,, but,, we don’t have much time and that me and my very beautiful companion needed to follow and leave with him.. Angrily brushing the papasi off, I find out that we can take a flight in 3 hours and resign myself to waiting it out in the Flamingo Café at the airport. 3 Kilimanjaro beers later, I accept my defeat and wait for my flight, cursing my luck. Arriving in Zanzibar, we are exhausted and just looking to get to our hotel, flirting with rain once more, our car barely makes it to our destination. She tells me that after keeping her cool the entire time, if the car broke down on that dusty road in the middle of the night on the way to the hotel, she would’ve completely lost it. I finally learn to chill the fuck out and just enjoy my time - hakuna matata, it really means no worries..

Public figures and taking coffee.. Although Zanzibar is much better off than other parts of Africa, they still take coffee there (gifts, bribes, bakhsheesh).. people need to survive, and anyplace you can find it you take it.. a lesson quickly learned is that you will hemorrhage cash for the stupidest of reasons, and sometimes you’ll hate the way it’s sucked out of you (not the fact that it’s sucked out, the way).. Qassim, our guide, and local public figure brings a flask of coffee with him on his drives for when he gets stopped by the police – when they ask to sit down for some coffee he can always offer them a cup..

I never thought I was a Safari kinda guy, turns out I am.. Being in an environment in which there are so many incredible animals moving around really picks at your curiosity.. whether it was carefully trying not to make eye contact with the primates jumping about on my walk to get some breakfast, the lizards and salamanders on my stroll down to the beach, incredible white crabs on the beach, barracudas freaking the schools of fish out, or the bountiful urchins and lovely starfish, I was fascinated by all the creatures that came across my way.. There was something very strange about being right next to a bunch of monkeys and realizing that there is no cage, there is no one to help you out, and that I am the one invading their space. Coming from an arid climate, that’s somewhat of a concrete jungle, you don’t really see much for animals except alley cats, stray dogs, and some desert geckos. Dreamt about elephants duking it out, she discussed the weirdness of giraffes as animals. Need to satisfy this new felt hunger for a Safari.. it could happen to you too..

In a place where so much pain has been felt, people still find the time to smile.. Zanzibar was the trade port of East Africa, with traffic in, spices, ivory and humans. The Europeans may have pillaged the western coast of Africa for slaves, but it was the Arabs that did East Africa in. Recounting the horror stories would truly shake you to your core, with the air about the cells and chains hanging heavy on your conscience… The atrocities were shameful with painful scars as reminders of a painful past, yet amidst all this traumatizing history, the people have moved on and have chosen to educate rather than castigate about their past. Another eye opener was the devastating effect AIDS has had on people’s lives and touching acts of humanity.. A six year old girl orphaned because of the disease and her adoption by a family that could afford to give her a loving household but not much else.. Really makes our life of lattes and internet connections seem like a meaningless sack of horseshit..

Although we had to eventually return to our lives, it was on Zanzibar that we purposefully left our hearts. With a promise to return, Africa remains where it all began..