Attention Wikipedia

It was an experience of exquisite narcissism to be able to take myself out to lunch the other day with a book. Written by me.

Yes, so it finally arrived, which means that it will be coming to a bookshop near you very soon (it is, ahem, of course available through the usual online channels. You know where to look).

Funny, I was once “ridiculed” in an online spat by someone I have never met who claimed that my PhD on “food media” must be bogus because there is no such thing (because, like, it doesn’t exist on Wikipedia). Well, to borrow a line from Courtney Cox in Scream (I forget which one): “uhm, you know the saying, ‘I wrote the book on that?'”

I will add no spoilers. But just for the record, it was not me who called Jamie Oliver ‘a self-righteous, elitist git.

Pop Tarts 101

Ever had a breakfast that looks like this?

Me neither, until just now. It was my first taste of this thing I’ve been hearing about for years, and which comes out of a box which looks like this:

Pop Tarts are rather popular in the US, I believe – so much so that they were apparently the first thing that Walmart sold out of in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (they keep for a long time). Some experts say that they are also indispensable for hiking – but do beware, because bears like them too. Though if a bear should eat some of you along with its Pop Tart, the shiny foil could just save your life by helping rescue workers to spot you, incapacitated (hopefully not decapitated), in a ravine. When enjoying them at home, don’t leave them in the toaster for too long, as they are also rather flammable (that’s due to all the weird chemicals the “government” puts in there to make you stupid, and which indeed turn this humble pastry into a government conspiracy).

So how do they taste? They taste of the USA, I’d say. Way too much sugar in there, but not too bad (in a small dose). And the pastry – long-life but curiously “fresh” tasting – is, as the Philosophe pointed out, a marvel of science. I did get briefly excited by the fact that there are 27 different flavours, and thus the possibility of discovering a flavour more suited to my palate (because I really don’t want a pastry that tastes like a blueberry muffin), but then I realised that they don’t do anything with peanut butter. WTF? How un-American is that?

Of course if they were made in South Africa, we’d be all over the savoury fillings: cheese and onion, boerewors and chutney… how about Simba’s whacky 2010 flavours: Walkie Talkie chicken (don’t ask: I have no idea), vetkoek and polony, snoek and atchar, masala steak gatsby…though let’s not given anyone more ideas about perfecting the science of long-life meat products.

And finally, I must now confess that it’s not true that I’ve never eaten something that looks like a Pop Tart. There is indeed a variant of (real) Danish pastry called hindbærsnitter (raspberry “slice”) which looks very much like it:

I didn’t make these (pic shamelessly swiped from someone else’s Danish Kitchen, where you can also find the recipe), but I did once make my nephew a birthday cake based on the same principle (they were his favourite pastries), except that little boys have no time for little “slices”. He wanted his to be a green bat, naturally:

Very realistic, isn’t it. Just like a Pop Tart (which incidentally took its name from Andy Warhol’s Pop Art… gittit?).

2011: The (pizza) wheels go grinding on

Well I’ve more than once intended to post pictures of groaning festive season tables over the last few weeks, but technical problems have gotten in the way of that venture (probably for the best, since no one really needed to see a picture of me wearing a paper hat that came out of a Christmas cracker). So this will instead by my customary grumpy “new year” post in which I express relief that all the silliness is over and we can get back to work/life/normal silliness.

So, back to work, which for me means continuing to read too much food media, and which at this time of year gets particularly annoying as most people are on the predictable “detox” curve. (Fortunately these are as predictably countered by detox-debunking stories like this one, though unfortunately stupidity is as stubborn as people who continue to buy and wear PowerBalance bracelets, or refuse to vaccinate their children (%^$#%$#%!!!!), even though it’s clearly bullshit – to paraphrase Penn & Teller once more).

Yes, January is predictably an echo of this remarkable cover from Time in 1972 – back in the days when such a magazine cost 50c! Perhaps there’s a correlation between stupidity and inflation (hmm, behavioral economists?).

OK fine, so I admit that I once again ordered a wagon for the first days of this year, and this time I remembered to specify that it should NOT be stocked with whisky. So I did glide into this new year feeling rather virtuous (and slightly more grumpy than usual). But I’ll be the first to reiterate the fact that the idea of modifying your behaviour based on the time of the year is just plain stupid. Anyone notice how the gyms were suddenly packed in the first weeks of December? Then they were blissfully quiet between Christmas and New Year when everyone was off stuffing their faces. Now they’re full of guilty people again. I had a good chuckle at the story related by someone who I meet there quite regularly, let’s call her X (because I don’t know her actual name) – X told me she had been working out next to some new and eager gym bunny getting “in shape” for Christmas, and when bunny asked her when she had started training, X replied “40 years ago”.

So, wha’ever – the time of sanctified excess is over, and yes, it’s time to get back to work. Now if people could just remember that salads do not mean punishment. Sometimes salads are the very nicest thing to eat, especially when it’s too hot to slave over home-made pizza. But sometimes that’s what you have to do, just like sometimes you have to cook on an open fire on the hottest day of the year. And when that happens, you better make sure you have some premium ice cream (preferably home-made, with lots of cream) to cool you down and send you into sweet dreams.

Sometimes on a working weekday when the sun is shining you also have to give it up and go have lunch somewhere nice by the sea. Just because you can, and because you better be grateful for the fact that you aren’t in Brisbane right now.

On that note, and with my best grumpy cheer, happy 2011. Let’s hope we make it past 21 May. Oh wait, that’s bullshit too. Bon appetit.

“If it’s green, it’s trouble. If it’s fried, get double.”

I do like that quote, which comes from a TV series called Wings – which I’ve never seen. But as it is so often, we learn by osmosis, and imagine that we know about things that we actually have no experience with. Just the other night, for instance, I had my first taste of Key Lime pie from a new joint called Knife (sister to the existing, and ever delicious, Fork). It was delicious, but I was disappointed, because it wasn’t as limey as I had expected – and I even said as much in a little online “review“. But who am I to know – maybe it was totally authentic. Then again, that probably doesn’t matter, because we are all critics now, so I apparently have the right to say whatever I goddamn choose (aah, the controversy: read all about it here, or here, or here – or right here in about a year’s time when I’ve finished writing a book about it).

Well, so the pie was good, but the smoky ribs were better, and the onion rings perhaps even better than that.

(Crunch and no-grease factor: 9/10)

I do love crunch. So imagine my pleasure when I was shopping this afternoon and stumbled on something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in this country:

No, those are not Granny Smith apples. They are the kind of thing that you see a recipe for, decide to make it, and then go into 15 different shops looking for the impossible: green tomatoes.

You can probably tell where I’m going with this (hint). And this time I even have experience. I once ate fried green tomatoes at the famous Mama Dips in North Carolina.

So if it’s green and fried, double trouble? That’s exactly how I like to roll.