Monday, September 24, 2007

On a state of confusion; and also, show tomorrow. Or rather: SHOW TOMORROW!!!!

Growing up, I was one of those people who thought Paul Newman just made salad dressing. He wasn't the strangely charming, banjo-strumming loner of Cool Hand Luke; he was the avuncular gentleman with the jaunty hat donating the proceeds from Newman's Own Italian Dressing to charity. Later in my youth he became a purveyor of popcorn, quality lemonade, and imitation Oreo's that make Hydrox their bitch.

Some years later, college probably, I finally saw him in a movie. He was Butch Cassidy and he was grinning and shooting at folks at not selling pasta sauce. It was disturbing.

Now, my parents find all this strange and vaguely hilarious. After all, Paul Newman was Captain Kick Ass for quite some time. It'd be like someone knowing Marlon Brando only because of his private island or by scare-tactic ads warning of morbid obesity. It'd be like knowing Tom Cruise for his pious Scientology.

Of course, now, I've gone the other way completely. Now, instead of not being properly informed on the achievements of bygone celebrities, I'm now clueless on the names of the new ones. I thought Shia Lebeauf was a pirate. I thought Pink was dead. I wish Nickelback would die.

In other words, I'm out of sorts. I don't know enough about the artistic heroes of my parents or nearly anything about their modern day counterparts. I can, however, give you the track listing for Number of the Beast off the top of my head and quote most of Princess Bride from memory.

Where am I going with this? Beats me. I just get sad when I'm doing the crossword and it mentions a movie from 2006 I've never heard of or an Oscar winner from the '50s that I couldn't pick out of a line-up. I'm shrouded in ignorance, I tells ya. How will I ever make it on Jeopardy! like this?

There are things, however, that I do know. For example: we've got a show...tomorrow. It sort of came out of nowhere and I admit this is very short notice, but why not stop by? It's at Slim's and we're opening for a gentleman named Jamie T who we saw in Austin six months ago, and who is fantastic with a four string guitar. I'd never heard his music before but its instantly lovable and, if you're an Anglophile, he's English, so there's that. (And if you're an Anglophobe, then he's German. Or French. He's a Creole. Just come to the show for God's sake). Details are: early show, we're on at 9. It's all ages, so those familiar Shia Lebeauf can mingle with those who voted for Eisenhower and we can enjoy rock and roll together, which predates us all. Please come on down. New songs abound.

For now, I'm going to drink a cup of Newman's dark roast, with him and his daughter there on the bag, vogueing a la American Gothic, and continue working my straight job, pretending I know what I'm doing. It's fun. Remind me to never become a lawyer. Not that that happens on accident or anything.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The long and bombastic saga of the Spaghetti Milkshake

You know what they say about assumptions, right? Something like them making an “ass” of “u” and “mptions.” Can’t quite put my finger on it. I do, however, understand the point: assumptions are so often proven wrong. You might assume that the Republican Party can’t possibly have more closeted homosexuals than we already knew about, but you’d be wrong. You might assume that popcorn is a harmless, nutrition-free snack-‘em, incapable of causing asbestosis-style lung agony, but you’d be wrong there too. And you might assume that a plate of spaghetti cannot be pulverized into a pour-able slurry and drank out of a mildly comical coffee mug. You’d be wrong on that one as well.

To begin at the beginning: I have a long-time roommate with whom I’ve had a series of ongoing, seemingly endless debates. The topics of contention have ranged from philosophical to downright ludicrous and the arguments always remain civil, save the occasional Momma’s joke or quick screwdriver stab to the kidney. Most of the time I think we both realize that we view the world in vastly different ways and our chats are more a way of illuminating these differences, defending them, and explaining them rather than trying to alter the other person’s beliefs. He’s not one of those infuriating arguers who are determined to win the conversation rather than winning the argument. Fox News has most of them on staff anyhow.

Now: one of our episodic debates concerns food, specifically what food’s good for. He believes, essentially, that food is fuel and that all that epicurean hullabaloo is a waste of energy, resources, and time, not to mention being part of an inherently unfair system that penalizes the impoverished with Slim Jims and dirty water. In his perfect world, all of humanity eats nourishment pellets and vitamin gruel and nobody’s the wiser. We’re all healthy, nobody starves, and all it takes is taste bud genocide. I, on the other hand, argue for the importance of flavor, texture, and variety in food. Also: I am pro-chewing. Sure, I admit, food is fuel. But that doesn’t mean it needs to taste like cement and anus.*

Eventually, this debate wended its way towards reality. You can debate the merits of universal Matrix-style slop-food all day long, but if you’re working three days a week for peanuts, you’re probably not going to get it done. Eventually, the debate worked its way to the following quandary: if food is just fuel, why eat spaghetti instead of, say, a spaghetti milkshake? What’s with all that pointless masticating and variety? Why cook when you can blend? It became a kind of running joke. “Where’s my spaghetti milkshake?” he would ask. “Up your ass,” I would answer and that’d be that. Until last night. Last night, we made the spaghetti milkshake.

Now you may ask yourself,* “how does one go about making a spaghetti milkshake?” There is a surprising scarcity of literature on the subject, so the enterprising chef is left to his own devices. I figured a good place to start was with your basic pasta with marinara sauce and deal with the various issues that would certainly (and did eventually) arise. I did so and it smelled good. Just some farfalle and a simple sauce of plum tomatoes, onions, some fresh basil, a few sauteed carrots, and a few run of the mill seasonings. Not five-star Italian eating, mind you, but no Olive Garden $6.99 special either. Then, predictably, I tossed it in a blender. Then, also predictably, that blender didn’t work. It did do a fantastic job pushing my ingredients against the side of the jar and emitting that peculiar overheating motor aroma, however.

So we make the executive decision and switch to the food processor. It has many advantages, not the least of which was that it was made at some point in my life time. At this point, we transfered the still-mostly-looks-like-a-spaghetti-dinner mixture into the food processor and, suddenly, it's looking good. And by "good" I mean "hideous." The red in the sauce and the starchy bland yellow of the pasta blended into a sickly bright-orange mash that looked, well, kind of like vomit. And by "kind of," I mean "a hell of a lot."

Yet, it still smelled good. The problem was the consistency. We weren't yet at "drinkable" or even "milkshake with a spoon" consistency. It was more the texture and density of a thick hummus. So I added a little tomato juice and a little veggie stock. Then a little more. Then a little more. And then: success! By which I mean: viscous spaghetti! Naturally.

So we tipped the Cuisinart and poured ourselves a cup. And, you know what? It completely exceeded my expectations.** In fact, I had two sips. My roomie, to his unending credit, went back for seconds, if not thirds, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he brought a Thermos of liquefied pasta with him to work today. God, I hope he did. It would really make my day.

Anyway, it’s my custom to look for morals in episodes like this. In other words, what, if anything, did we learn from our little experiment? Well, we learned that solid foods can be made liquid. Cynics might hand me an ice cube and laugh, so I’ll amend that: we learned that a spaghetti dinner can be eaten with only a straw. We learned that there is a whole cuisine of food left unexplored by the Wolfgang Pucks of the world, namely Designer Gruel. And, while I started the whole experiment to prove a point---that point being that spaghetti should be served on a plate---I came around rather quickly. If you want your food smushed into a textureless paste, you have my full and complete support. It’s a Libertarian sort of lesson, but it’s always good to remember: “Live and let live.” Or is it “Live and let die”? Either way, we should totally write a song about it.

* Is that my beautiful wife? Is that my large automobile?

** Honestly, it did kind of taste like spaghetti. But there was about it. Maybe it was a texture thing or the veggie broth or the fact that it looked like food that came up rather than food that goes down, but there was a sickly kind of aftertaste. Like food that's going bad but hasn't quite turned. Like some leftovers that didn't quite make it to the refrigerator. I can't explain it much better than that.