Today’s blog challenge comes to you from Eilley, aka Trixie. Her suggested topic was “Food Police.” Holy crap, I thought. Where do I start? I natter at the Blog Nazi when he pressures me to write on demand; I was about to extend the same ire to my dear friend. “What the hell do you mean by that topic?” I sent up a silent prayer to the naughty, elusive blog deities. And, yet, no inspiration arrived.
Until today. Huzzah and hoozay! Today, I had the distinct pleasure of BEING the food police. Or beverage police. I stopped at Starbucks™ for coffee on my way to work. Starbucks™, in case you do not know, prides itself on being “green.” I applaud them for this. I am, in fact, borderline irate when I visit a Starbucks™ that does not offer a recycling container in addition to a regular trash bin. I enthusiastically buy into the reusable cup philosophy (“Reusable cups are also an important component of our overall waste reduction strategy”) and cart my own drinking vessel around with me, prepared at any moment to dart into a coffee shop.
I have been too rushed to make my own latte or café Americano at home lately. Plus, I’m out of espresso beans, and I keep forgetting to ask Alexa to add them to my shopping list. I bet I have excuses I haven’t even thought of yet, but it really boils down to being lazy. I started to make my own espresso-based beverages at home when Caribou closed. Then Peet’s opened in its place, but it was very disappointing. Clearly, I was not the only one disappointed, as Peet’s closed soon after opening in spite spending a few months and a fair amount of capital to rebrand the location. I was, therefore, stuck with Starbucks™, Dunkin’ Donuts (awful lattes) or DIY. I have begun to crawl back into Starbucks™; the one near my office is convenient and has some very nice baristas. Justin even remembers my name. In I wandered this morning, to order my new favorite beverage – Iced Cold-Brewed Coffee. As I am wont to do, I produced my reusable cup.
Unfortunately, Justin was manning the register today, and was not performing his usual barista duties. The barista was a newbie. When she got to my cup, she looked at it quizzically, and scratched her head. Then, she pulled out a BIG PLASTIC CUP from the stack and used that to prepare my iced coffee. Which, she then poured into my reusable container. Just as she was about to wantonly toss the plastic cup into the trash, I channeled my inner Food Police.
FP: “Ack and gack. What are you doing?” (I kindly did not add “you anencephalic twit! You hater of the environment and despoiler of landfills!”).
Oblivious Barista (OB): “Hunh?”
FP: “You are missing the point of me bringing in a REUSABLE container. Why on earth did you use a plastic cup, only to pour it into my receptacle?”
OB: “What’s a receptacle?”
FP: “Oh My Aching Ass. Go back to school.” (Okay, this was only my inner dialogue, but my head nearly exploded).
FP: “Oh, fer crying out loud. Please hand me the cup and I will put it into the recycling bin myself. But, really…you do know how to pour directly into a reusable cup, don’t you?”
OB: “No. I need to measure.”
FP: “No, you do not. Or, you can learn to measure into MY DAMN REUSABLE CUP! It’s even a Starbucks™ container, so this should not cause any confusion on your part.”
OB: “What does it matter?”[FP’s head exploded at this very moment in time]
FP: “Look, sister. <cue Euell Gibbons and the crying Native American> My generation is leaving our only planet to you and your generation. We haven’t taken as good care of it as we should, so it’s up to you to be aware, and do whatever you can to not kill Earth. Even the most seemingly insignificant actions make a big impact.”
OB: “Huh?” (It was at this point that OB looked at me as if I had antennae growing out my forehead).
Sadly, this is the second time in as many weeks that I have had to reach over the counter and snatch the plastic cup to keep it from being hucked into the garbage at this Starbucks™. I have had to do the same at other locations. Seriously, Starbucks™, you need to beef up your training. You talk the talk, now put it into practice everywhere. You can save the environment, one stinking plastic cup at a time.
Moving right along to the original subject – the Food Police. If I were to focus my efforts on food, not just beverages and the proper ways to dispose of rubbish, where would I start?
I do not have an abundance of understanding (nor patience) for adults who are über-picky eaters. Usually, those who are avowed picky eaters are, for some strange reason, very proud of themselves. As if this were a medal-winning competition and they just won the Heisman Trophy of Gustatory Ignorance. I worked for a Commanding Officer who ate meat, potatoes and bread. Maybe the occasional noodle. She did not want to so much as see any green on her plate. No salad, no vegetables, very little fruit. When she had to go to banquets or lunch meetings, she would order her minions to make it absolutely clear to the organizer that HER plate was to be devoid of green.
It didn’t matter if there were 500 other attendees…if her plate was plonked down in front of her with anything other than meat and potatoes (or the occasional noodle), she would pitch an imperious fit. Rice was out, too. I offered to make her a “go bag” once, so that she could have what she wanted and not inconvenience the host or kitchen. She did not believe that was necessary, because the event organizer should have been happy to accommodate the demands of a COMMANDING OFFICER. I gave up trying after that. I just always ensured that someone else made that humiliating RSVP call to explain what would be an acceptable repast.
This was not the first time I encountered a full-grown adult with sui generis (translation: bat-crap-crazy) food preferences. When I was stationed overseas, there was a young Naval Academy graduate who ate bread and cheese. She was a lovely young woman, but her skin was sallow and her eyes sunken. No wonder – she got little to no nutrition from her meals. Occasionally, a group of us would go to dinner at a local restaurant. Sometimes Effie (that’s not her real name) would go with us; when she did, we had to go to one of two places in town. We couldn’t go to a taverna where the only menu options were scrumptious regional cuisine offerings. Nope, we had to go to tourist-oriented restaurants that had pizza or pasta. At the town pizza place (this was not Italy, so there were not many pizza parlors), the owner was aghast the first time Effie ordered a meal.
Effie: “I would like cheese pizza. No tomato sauce.”
Confused Restauranteur (CR): “Say, what?” [Not a direct quote, but imagine a Mediterranean accent, from someone too polite to call the customer a wackadoodle.]
Effie: “You heard me. I want cheese pizza without the tomato sauce.”
CR: “But, Miss, it isn’t pizza without the sauce.”
Effie: “The place down the street makes me spaghetti with cheese and no sauce. I’m sure you can prepare something that I will deign to be edible. Or, would you rather I go somewhere else.”
CR: “No, Miss. I will prepare cheese pizza without tomato sauce.” [What he really wanted to say was “Yes, Miss…hightail it out of here and go to the other place. You’re crazy.” But, this town was not full of tourists in the winter, and business is business, after all.]
Effie: “Thank you, my good man.”
She had the temerity to return. I only went back to that establishment one more time with Effie (with a group). I wanted to see if they barred the door when they saw her wandering down the street in their general direction. One thing was for sure – I’m sure the Confused Restauranteur still remembers Effie to this day. He probably handed down the tale of the culinarily-challenged American to generations of family members.
I have, since then, made the acquaintance of several adults who have a limited menu repertoire. I understand dietary restrictions that are based on religious tenets or that have been adopted for health reasons. I still scratch my head at those who wear their limited-ingredient preferences like a badge of honor: “I only eat five things.” (“You may pat me on the back now.”); “I need to find American-style restaurants when I travel…can you imagine that there are countries without a McDonalds?” (Just kill me now – why bother spending the money and time to leave this country?); and “I only go to restaurants that I have properly trained to make me food the way I want it.” (Er…is spit one of your favorite foods?).
Look – there are things I will not eat. I love sushi, but natto is not necessary. I have tried it. It makes me gag. Tripe is something that should stay in a cow’s tummy. It does not need to enter mine. You could marinate it in garlic, wrap it in bacon, grill it, and smother in sausage gravy and I would still revolt. Balut? A vile mixture of crunchy and sulfurous.
I cannot eat cow tongue. Who would want to, you might ask. My lovely mother and her evil-horrible consort, Fulldemerde, thought cow tongue was a delicacy when I was growing up. They usually bought two at a time (maybe the stores paid THEM to take the items), and prepared the muscle in a specific cooking vessel. When I saw that pot come out of the cupboard, I knew I was in trouble. Had there been any doubt in my mind, it would have been dashed quickly by the unforgettable odor of cooking tongue. They added some spices to it that permeated the entire house. It was spew-alicious. I tried to eat the swill. I was a dutiful and curious child. I liked sweetbreads, pâté, sushi, caviar, escargot, even liver and onions. You see, I fancied myself to be quite the adventurous sort. Cow tongue was out of the frickin’ question. They forced me to eat the offending matter. I doused it in ketchup. I covered it in Worcestershire sauce…mustard…gravy…mud. Anything. They thought I was being contrary, but they finally got the clue when I refused to have dinner on Tongue Nights. To this day, the thought of it sends quivers of disgust up my spine.
Speaking of disgusting and unnecessary, check out this offering: http://http://www.germandeli.com/Stiglmeier-Zungenblutwurst-Blood-Tongue-Sausage-1lb-MSG-Free.html?gclid=Cj0KEQjw2v2sBRCazKGu3tSFz64BEiQAKIE1hn4_kKpvSY2CNm3ZFYbgD0kI7sb4ao7awz69IoXhTqEaAoZj8P8HAQ
The Germans eat some über nasty stuff.
Maybe the entire country needs a battalion of Food Police. Yes, I know I’m biased because Germany is Fulldemerde’s favorite destination. Blood sausage? Who was the first person who thought THAT was a good idea? Headcheese? Nope. Pigs knuckles? Why, for the love of all that is holy, would you pickle these things, suspend them in gelatin and consume them? Fulldemerde salivates in quivering anticipation of traveling to Germany to eat these offerings. There is not enough beer in Munich for me to partake of some of the regional delicacies.
There are foods that are unappealing to some people. I get that. I do not consider you a pain in the arse if you turn up your nose at particularly odd local offerings. My own beloved Hunky Hubby will not even try the Greek delicacy called Kokoretsi. Kokoretsi consists mainly of lamb or goat intestines, often wrapping seasoned offal, including sweetbreads, hearts, lungs, or kidneys, then the whole mass is jammed onto a skewer and roasted for hours over a wood fire. The outer layer, seasoned with lemon, olive oil, oregano, garlic and sea salt, has a marvelous crunch. Usually served at Easter, it was not something often available, so it was a real treat. As much as I loved Greek cuisine, I never ordered a whole lamb’s head. Yes, I saw people ordering this at tavernas and they seemed to really savor the brains, eyes, soft tissue and muscle. I think the prevailing thought here is that roasting anything over a wood fire improves the taste. I’ll take their word for it. I have had the good fortune to travel extensively. I have tried some foodstuffs, so as not to offend my hosts, that I will not go out of my way to eat again. Some I will travel far and wide to find:
- Mystery meat wrapped in nan, purchased from a street vendor in Peshawar. Sure, it was roasted over a wood fire, how bad could it be?
- Deep fried frogs (whole, un-eviscerated). Nope, but my brother scarfed down my portion with noisy relish on a trip to Thailand.
- Sauteed snake in Malaysia. Bring it (and a side of anti-venom, please).
- Pâté – en croute, in a terrine, de foie gras. Yes, please, served with a hearty red wine, stinky cheese and crusty bread. While you’re at it, bring me Hunky Hubby’s share, as he’s looking for a barf bag. No, I cannot explain why I love pâté and despise headcheese. It’s a mystery.
- Thousand-year old eggs. Tried it in Hong Kong when I went there in college. One bite and I was done. I scooped all the rest onto my boyfriend’s plate.
- Springbok biltong. Yep…when in Africa…
- Pheasant, ostrich, bison, venison. Tasty game meats, with the added bonus of being leaner than beef. Even better grilled over a wood fire.
- Ama-ebi. The sweet shrimp is one of my favorite sushi bits, particularly when the chef deep fries the heads. Crunchy and fishy…what’s not to love?
- Spam. Only if it’s fried until crispy and part of musubi.
- Raw oysters and clams. Enthusiastically, and with gusto. Not so much for sea urchins. They fall into the natto (rhymes, for a reason, with “snotto”) category.
If I were the Commissioner of the Food Police, I’d offer one morsel of advice. Travel, explore, try new things. If you want bread, hamburgers and vanilla ice cream, do the rest of the world a favor and stay home.
*** Note: this topic for “The July Blog Challenge” – Food Police – was provided by Eilley Brandlin***
10 July 2015