Thursday, July 21, 2005

Cold Hands, Worm Heart

I don't recommend Tesco's *Finest Perfectly Ripe Peaches. They will seduce you with their shiny wrappers and their lush bottom-shaped goodness, but the people who pack them are tricksy. They put the peaches into the little molded styrofoam containers stem down, you see. This is unacceptable, as everyone knows that when buying fruit you really need to examine the area around the stem, as this is the bit that rots first, and it will show you whether or not the fruit's interior is intact.

As usual, this past week I failed to stick to my own rules, and bought the peaches, even though I couldn't see their stems. And then on Tuesday when I was packing lunch I picked up a peach. It was all nasty underneath. And then another one. It was even nastier. A third-- still nasty. The fourth peach was acceptable, so I gave that one to Jeff ('What a nice girlfriend!' you say), and took the first peach myself, as it was the least bad of the bunch. I tried to eat it, but I got bored negotiating around all the bruised bits, so it mostly went in the bin.

Yesterday I thought I would salvage the not-gross parts of the other two peaches, as I was at home and therefore had access to that great peach-saving device: a knife. So I sliced the top off the peach (see, it was the area around the stem that had gone all gross-- the hidden stem!!), only to find that all one side of the pit was decrepit. I pondered the peach, wondering whether laziness or cheapness (relative, they did cost like 75 p per peach) would win out, and if I should carve out the side that was still in good shape. And then a green worm crawled out, squiggly and horrible and many-legged. Of course, not only did that peach get tossed, but so did the other peach. And then I called Jeff to tell him my gross-out story (because I am like 4), and he had not yet eaten the one perfect peach of the supossedly Perfectly Ripe quartet. And so that one got binned, too. So, out of the four peaches only about half of one was ever eaten. A total waste, and if I had the cajones to have kept that horribly wormy peach I would have stomped into Tesco and told them where they could put their *Finest. But I was afraid it might have babies and infest my house.

But, it has inspired me! And so now I will tell you my other worm/food experiences (yes, plural). The most recent was a few years ago when I was in Italy. (Note: you may observe that almost all gross-out stories involve my family-- I don't know if as a group we attract these sorts of incidents, or if we find hilarious the sorts of things that other people find traumatic and therefore block out, or what, but so it is) We went out to dinner at a restaurant my Mom remembered as being excellent the last time she had been in Rome. It was excellent. We had a lot of wine, and a lot of deliciousness, including these massive wonderful portobello mushrooms that were lightly grilled and doused in garlic oil (the excitement to come is illustrated by the fact that I don't remember what else we ate-- very strange, as I usually have a rather wasted ability to recall the exact food eaten and when) .

[And then unfortunately the owner forced the horrific Limoncello on us. This is tangential, actually, but I must say how absolutely vile I find this liquer to be. I also despise grappa. So when you buy me booze as a present on your next trip to Rome, please just get me a really exceptional bottle of red wine, because the goodness of Italian drinks is entirely lost on me, and I will probably use them to polish the silver.]

Getting to the point, we had such a fab meal that we decided to come back the next night, and I again ordered the portobello mushrooms, and gobbled greedily. During my gobbling, I did observe that my 'shrooms were peppered with tiny holes on their underside. Odd, I thought, as I had not every seen such a thing on mushrooms. So I gave one of the holes a poke in a bit of a rude science-experimenty way, and sliced it open. Out came a wee brown worm, about as long as my pinky fingernail, and obviously not very well for wear after the garlic oil and grilling. For some reason (read: loads of wine, quite drunk), I was not repelled, and so I christened the worm Nigel, wrapped him up in a tissue, and finished my mushrooms. When the Limoncello came I gave Nigel a little bath, wrapped him up again, and took him back to the hotel room, where we all had a nice photo-session with him. It never occurred that this was gross. I don't know what's wrong with me.

My first worm-related dining extravaganza was about ten years ago, when I was still in high school, and was much more fun. It has since reached almost mythical status among those who eat regularly at my parents' house. My mother (who is a really excellent cook, please don't be put off) had prepared us dinner-- chicken, broccoli, and rice, I think. Not being a particular fan of plain rice until very recently I took a lot of broccoli, a moderate amount of chicken, and a very tiny amount of rice, which I planned to drown in soy sauce and then artfully arrange around my plate. Being fiends for the carbs, both my father and sister took loads of rice.

We began, which in my household usually consists of mocking either ourselves or (preferably) someone else, a bit of toilet humour, and then a decent into giggles. Dad gobbled up his rice, and went back for seconds.
'What kind of rice is this, Deanna?'
'Mmm, wild rice medley, I think? The box is on the counter...'
'Is it supossed to have eyes?'
'...Not that I know of. No. What?'
The cooked rice was examined. The uncooked rice was examined. The rice was found to be only about 70% rice-- the rest was maggots, spawn of the charming moth-type creatures that like to inhabit boxes and bags of grains in Southern California. Being sixteen, I am sure I made some sort of 'Oh my GOD, that is dis-gust-ing' comment, but was quite content, as I hadn't had much. My parents were both feeling a bit uncomfortable; Brenna was positively green. Of course, in our household the only way to allieviate your own discomfort is through a combination of puns and making someone else feel worse. Bren was the obvious target, so we talked in great detail about the worms, and how horrible they were, and how it really was very worm it in the kitchen until she cried. And then everyone felt better.

Except Bren.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I have been wildly uninspired the last couple weeks, mostly because while they have been enjoyable, they have also been rather mundane-- lots of time reading at the library, some time in the pub, etc. Of note are a few things, though, notably The Wedding Crashers, which was very funny, and the new Harry Potter, which was tragic and wonderful. In relation to Harry Potter I will just be lazy and post this link to The Guardian, which is very funny and all about re-writing Harry Potter in the style of other authors. However, if you plan to read the book but have not finished I suggest you wait, as it contains a bit of a spoiler... And that is all.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Because I am a REAL Academic

Or at least so I can now tell myself. For they at Bath Spa University College would be 'delighted' (yes, delighted) to have me give a paper at their conference this November. Which means a) I can justify buying a suit, b) I get to go to Bath, one of my favourite places, and eat tasty buns at Sally Lunn's (after I give my paper, clearly, as otherwise the hypo-style sugar-shock will knock me on my ass when I am pretending to be a grown up), and c) I feel like an actual proper person, not just some lazy debutante who didn't really like her interior decorating job and so went to grad school instead. Yay, me. Yay, ME!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Veloute of Spoiled Hypocrisy

From today's Guardian:

'Mr Bush became a devotee of cycling a couple of years ago after a knee injury forced him to give up running. But his leisure pursuits are not without their perils. In May last year he fell off his mountain bike, grazing his chin, top lip, nose, knees and his right hand while riding on his ranch. He also came to grief on a motorised scooter in June 2003. On that occasion, however, neither vehicle nor rider was damaged. In January 2002, he survived a potentially fatal encounter with a pretzel.'

This is in reference to an incident last night when our fearless leader took out a cop with his bike while speeding through the resort. I like the way The Guardian manages to make Dubya look like a the biggest tool in the box every time they mention him.

But don't worry, friends: he was well enough after his little slip to have dinner with the Queen and Prince Phillip at the Michelin-starred restaurant at Gleneagles (the cop went to the hospital, where I bet he had an equally nice dinner). No little injury will keep the the President from fulfilling his duty-- to dine on a Ballotine of Foie Gras with a palate-cleansing Peach Jelly, Smoked Lobster, Roast Anjou Squab with Black Truffle Gnocchi, and Farmhouse Cheeses ripened by Maitre Fromager Jacques Vernier. And because he cares about our futures, to finish off the evening with a Slow Roasted Peach and Lemon Thyme Soufflé , a glass of vintage Port (Taylors, 1970, at £400 a bottle, of course), and a few malt whisky truffles. Want to read more? Head over to the Gleneagles website, where you can discover for yourself that the suites the Pres and co. are staying in start at a measly £800 per night.

Is anyone else mildly disturbed by the fact that they are discussing poverty in Africa whilst sipping a glass of wine that costs more than a Rwandan family will see a lifetime? Okay, and because it is stupid to lie, I am also jealous. We had chicken for dinner last night. I did a good job, and it means I get to have a chicken sandwich for lunch today, too, but Tesco's was fresh out of foie gras, so it really lacked something...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Militant Vegetarianism

Apparently it wasn't only the clowns who were acting up yesterday. A group of what I can only assume were militant vegetarians targetted our local butcher, Crombies. This makes me very, very sad for the world, because Crombies is one of the best shops I have ever been to. Now, I understand what vegetarians are all about-- I am not someone who rabidly eats steak to prove a point, or tries to convert anyone I find who isn't into the meat. I toyed with vegetarianism myself for a little while, and still feel a bit defensive about my meat consumption from time-to-time, as I would actually like to be a vegetarian, but I crave the flesh. So, when I do buy meat I almost always choose to go to places like Crombie's, because they sell products from carefully-bred animals that are treated to a decent quality of life and humanely slaughtered by farmers who are aware of the implications of mass-production to both taste and the environment.

The protesters who chose to target Crombie's yesterday seem to have a less well-developed world awareness than these farmers and the independent butchers they supply. I don't think it is possible to create a wholly vegetarian world, nor do I think eating habits are a choice that should be made by anyone but the eater. What I do think is more feasible is to begin to create a world where meat-eaters take the necessary responsibility for their choices and try to direct their consumption in a way that both promotes a greater quality in animal development and greater rights for the animals who do end up on our plates. Shops like Crombies, where customers can buy high-quality meat of known provenance from friendly and educated staff promotes this sort of responsibility. Smashing windows promotes nothing but inconvinience and destruction.

However, there is a chance that this was just an odd coincidence, and the Crombies was targetted because they have big windows that look nice for smashing. In this case, Smashers, I apologise. I have wrongly perceived actual constructive interests as the root of your behaviour. You are not mistakenly aggressive in your quest for righteousness-- you are dick-smacks.

Monday, July 04, 2005

My cheesecake was more inspirational.

What I wanted to write about today was all the wonder and awe that was instilled in me over the weekend by Saturday's Make Poverty History march. Something along the lines of 'Hundreds of thousands... marching together... uniting in a common goal... the importance of helping others... thanks, Bob Geldof... feeling the great love of the marchers for all of humanity... blah, blah.' What actually happened was that we stood around for 4 hours in the Meadows, being aurally assaulted by whistles and idiots with mega-phones. We stood, we got cranky. We stood, we made weak jokes about 'making [insert various vaguely humourous things, including mullets, Daniel Beddingfield, and children] history.' We stood, we started to lose our peaceful intentions, and Jeff decided that he wanted to peg the church group leader with the mega-phone in the head with our new Teacher's Union stress balls. Eventually we got to march, but only after we were all so tired and foot-sore that we only got as far as the Castle car-park before heading off for beer and pizza. A death-match between idealism and pepperoni? We already know who wins.

There was a brief moment when we reached the Mound, and I could see thousands of people stretched all along Princes Street, that I felt what I had hoped to get out of the day. But mostly I was disappointed at the way people semed to have a million different mixed messages for the march. Make Poverty History really did become Make Capitalism History, Make the CCP History, Make George Bush History, Make War History, Make the G8 History... It went on forever. No wonder we can't seem to get anything done, if even this one particular day, meant to be dedicated solely to focusing attention on one enormous problem, gets co-opted by so many other groups that it becomes hard to remember what the point was in the first place.

But, it goes on. I still have on my white chav-band today, although after hearing this morning that Dubya is refusing to do Tony the Tiger 'any favours' in terms of reaching a Kyoto-style agreement on global warming, my concern has switched a bit. The 'if you scratch my back, I'll scratch your's' element of the US-UK Special Relationship doesn't seem to have worked this time. What a shock. Also of note was a sight at the car-park near George Square today, where about three dozen police were encircling a similar number of protestors dressed as clowns. I have no idea.