Heeeey, I'm back!* This blog is about how to eat good on bitch money.

*This is a lie.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dark meat

That's the whole premise of this blog in two words. Dark meat is better eating and dark meat is better for you. Dark meat is also more expensive to produce. Which explains why it’s widely advertised to be fattening and nasty-tasting. Ads for McNuggets that tout their “all white meat” constitution as if it were an advantage are a lovely example of the big lie. Bigbreasted turkeys, too, are easy to make, and if you can convince the buying public that the breast is best, you can sell a ball of cheap dry fluff as a ball of butter. Agribusiness would like us all to adopt a trough mentality; they would like to feed us the same way they feed the animals they breed to feed us–biggest bang for littlest buck. That's your butterball: trough slurry. Chow.

Take a trip to Walmart and you can check out the success of the “feed people like livestock” plan so far. (There must be someplace other than WalMart to see people so fat they can’t walk, but WalMart is probably the closest.)

This must not stand. It may be looking a lot like Animal Farm around the ol’ homeland of late, but even so, we are not livestock. People do not eat chow.

We should all eat as well as we possibly can tomorrow, so that our thanks will be genuine.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Conventional eating, part V: what to do when they're not total skinflints

This'll be a short one, since the answer is blindingly obvious.

In the case that they're actually feeding you and the food is not wretched and you aren't having to pay for it, you'll tuck away all you possibly can. Eat as if you were at a friend's house, except inasmuch as you needn't worry you're insulting the hotelier if you don't eat your mashed potatoes or your rice or your rolls, and further inasmuchas you don't know these people and won't see them again, so there's no reason to pretend to be civilized and restrained and keep your fork out of the roast beef platter. Stock up now for a leaner later! You'll digest the massive fat and protein bolus eventually, but if you make the experience spectacular enough, your stomach acids will never burn away its memory...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Let's break from convention-talk for a moment

to discuss an idea from treasured commenter, Robin P, who, I'm sorry to have to report, has taken to calling himself "Uncle Robbie."

He's right: this thing


is great. My co-worker has one, so I know. It's small and light, so you can pack it, and it makes perfectly acceptable coffee.

Sadly, though, Robin is incorrect that you can rely on a hotel-room coffee maker to heat water sufficiently for this or any other coffee-making method. Sometimes this might work, sortof, but sometimes those things are made out of petrified bullshit whipped into a froth and they won't even sortof heat water--by the time it dribbles into the miniature mug, it's tepid. The ground beans recoil from it and refuse to release their intoxicating oils. That's no hill for a stepper, though, because our Robin has come to the rescue again. His idea about the risk-addicted-college-student in-cup electrical coil has real legs. I mean to thrift one asap and try it out.

I am happy to report that Robin is also right about French presses. How hard do those things suck?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Conventional eating, part IV: "lunch on your own."

In the highly likely event that the people who purchased this week in wonderland for you are seeking to save a pile of money by evicting you from the hotel for all the major meals other than "continental breakfast," you will need to find food that does not suck in the tourist wastelands surrounding your particular tower of PowerPoint. To do this, you need to find the people in the hotel who eat food that does not suck and ask them to tell you where that food is.

Steps to Lunch:

Ignore the concierge.

Remember the kindly old bellhop in the elevator who asked you were you coming for the convention and you squealed and threw money at him/her? Throw more money and ask where's good and cheap and nearby to eat.

If you can't get past "Checkers" and "Olive Garden" with the bellhop, try the chambermaid, the bartender, the guy schlepping towels and beverages poolside. Keep trying 'til you get something good. Mostly it's a matter of waiting out the wall-of-schlock concierge talk they've all been trained to deliver because the distant dwellers on Park Avenue who own this place believe you are the lumpen and Olive Garden breadsticks is what the lumpen eat. Try telling the people in the hotel where you eat when you're at home, which, if you have any sense, is where the Mexican migrant workers in your area eat because that stuff is currently the best cheap food available in the U.S.A., unless there's something even better and cheaper I don't know about in which case please bust off and comment because I need to know immediately.

Basically? Where are the recent immigrants eating? That is what you need to know, and since the hotel is staffed by recent immigrants, that is what you are uniquely positioned to discover. Your luxury hotel looks like simulacraland, but in fact underneath its plasticky skin it is a real place with real people in it. It is little Haiti or little Havana or Chinatown under a veneer of American corporate spackle. Bust through and partake.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Conventional eating, part III: maintenance coffee

Obviously it's inconvenient to have to keep returning to your room at intervals throughout the day to do surgery on the crappy little coffee packets for your in-room set-up; you need to be down there on the floor learning, growing, networking! Presenting and being presented to! Who knows what life-changing PowerPoint slide might flit by while you're waiting for the elevator, what hottie you've been following with your eyes all weekend might duck into what breakout session on what subtopic of what plenary theme.

Usually as long as you jump start with one solid, strong cup of your own stuff in the morning you can make do with the convention coffee in the big urns they stick out in the mill-around areas outside the dimly lit, freezing cold little minitheaters where the PowerPoint lurks. But sometimes you can't because the convention coffee is spectacularly bad or because they're stingy with it.

In that situation, you need to know how to pass*.

First, understand that it is not possible that there is NO good coffee anywhere in the tower. Somewhere, somebody, guest or host, is enjoying something hot and strong and black and delicious. It's only the conventioneers that are being served the tepid brownwater. So you shake off your conventioneer skin and you go and get some of the good stuff, and you don't pay for it.

This takes some pre-planning.

Soon after you arrived at the hotel, as you were riding up to your floor with your luggage, did the kindly porter say, "Are you here for the convention?" Of course. And what did you say? Water under the bridge now, of course, but what you ought to have said is, "Oooo, what convention? How exciting!" And then you ought to have tipped the porter as lavishly as possible.

When you unpacked those bags. What did you find inside? Not drab conventionwear, please. The look you want to aim for is upscale and relaxed. Your clothes need to say "on my honeymoon!" or "ready to shop!" or "please direct me to the humidor!" Bring along one convention blazer to put on over your resortwear and render it network-appropriate.

When you descended and registered for this sojourn in corporate limbo, they handed you a pile of badswag. A name tag, an ugly shoulder bag, a stack of literature, possibly a logo-slathered beer coozey or potmetal lapel pin. Most of this stuff should be shoved somewhere out of sight and left there forever, but you are usually required to carry the name tag around. The name tag marks you as Someone Undeserving. Put it on your convention blazer. Carry--do not wear--your convention blazer down to the convention floor and find a place to stash it when you wish to leave the convention floor. Behind a potted palm. In the drop ceiling in one of the restrooms. You will wear it ONLY when you are at play in the fields of the lord of PowerPoint. It will not leave that area until you are ready to pack to go home. Jettison the shoulder bag they give you immediately. Throw it into the hotel pool. You must not carry it, not now, not ever. You will have brought something appropriate to put your various printed-out PowerPoint shows and other essential convention claptrap in. Something that says, "Could you get me a taxi to the theater district?" rather than screaming, "I'm the kind of Willy Loman who will wear any godawful thing, as long as it's free!"

When you go down in the morning, take along a mug from your hotel room (because the room mugs are branded separately from the public area mugs; the public area mugs make you look like a conventioneer) and stash it where you stash your blazer. When you're ready to go for coffee, ditch the blazer, grab the mug and stroll, don't stride, to the restaurant or bar area--wherever they have the good stuff. If you can't find the urn and serve yourself, feel free to ask a hotel lackey--look affable and slightly drowsy and explain that you can't drink the stuff in the room, or better yet, your new spouse can't, so you're down here on a mission. Grin ruefully during the explanation phase and both thank and tip effusively upon receiving satisfaction. (Don't get in a swivet about all the tipping I'm recommending because no matter what, you're spending less than you'd spend if you had to pay Starbucks every day.) Do this regularly and they will allow you to fill your own cup or thermos from home, if you had the foresight to bring one.

*From the OED: pass, v. 43. intr. d. To be accepted as or believed to be, or to represent oneself successfully as, a member of an ethnic or religious group other than one's own, esp. one having higher social status; spec. (of a person of black ancestry in a racially segregated society) to be accepted as white. Later also: (of a transsexual) to be accepted as a member of a different sex.
1929 N. LARSEN Passing II. ii. 38 ‘I see. They were “passing” too.’ ‘No. They weren't. They were white.’ 1953 E. H. BROOKES S. Afr. in Changing World vii. 147 Because of the permutations of nature, a coloured man white enough to ‘pass’ can have children or grandchildren who look ‘Coloured’. 1963 M. MCCARTHY Group xiv. 319 ‘Freddy's parents were trying to pass,’ she went on sombrely. ‘Like so many rich German Jews.’ 1994 City Life 24 Aug. 61 The author documents hundreds of cases of individual women who lived most of their adult lives as menwomen who managed to ‘pass’ in all kinds of situations.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Conventional eating, part II: breakfast


You may be tempted because what the hotel serves in the morning and insults the French by declaring continental is usually free. But let's take a moment to examine the fare.

-boiled orange juice
-picked-green napthalene-ripened juiceless fruit
-a selection of Otis Spunkmeyer factory baked goods made out of oses and vapidity
-hard boiled eggs from out of a bucket. It's too much trouble to boil eggs and peel them. So the hotel has Sysco truck in five-gallon plastic barrels full of hundreds of pre-peeled eggs submerged in preservative brine. When and where and by whom were these eggs laid? Boiled and peeled? Sealed in their bucket? You will not be able to find anyone at the hotel who knows. They are "fresh" only inasmuch as the subaltern who ladeled them out of their bucket grave did so this morning. They taste like depression.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Conventional eating, part I: coffee

How do you keep body and soul together in a convention center if you're there for days on end? It's scary even to think about it. They feed you at these things sometimes, but not always--you can't count on it when you sign up, and anyway, you don't want to eat what they feed you in the first place! You're hardly better off when it's "lunch on your own," since your Radissons and your Doubletrees are always located in the fajitaMojito districts in their host cities--rank nests of tourism where nutritive food that can be purchased for less than the cost of a used car is all but impossible to find.

The first thing to do is take care of coffee. In a pinch you could live on that alone, but not if you're stuck with nothing but the stuff in the hotel.

Grind a ziploc full of your own the morning of your flight. Roll it up and stuff it in a shoe or something. Sometime in the last ten or fifteen years a federal law must have been passed requiring hotels and motels to put a little crappy coffee maker in all the guest rooms, because now they're always there. They're not normal coffee makers, though, since it came out on TV that those things are universally put to use to make methamphetamine and burn down the building. Fox usually shows footage of some flaming fleabag on a back street, but it has to be going on at the DoubleTree, too, because normal coffeemakers have fallen out of favor in the big towers and have been replaced by these truly awful tiny carafe things that take little pre-sealed sacks of Juan Valdez's floor sweepings.

Convention-savvy coffee-lovers know the workaround. Find a sharp--if Homeland Security took your nail scissors, fashion a shiv from a piece of the desk chair. Use this to slit the packet open. Dump out the mummified stuff in it and pour your own in. You'll need to doctor at least two of these packets because the Biscayne Bay Hilton wants the guests on weak coffee so they have to race out of the hotel to find a coffee shop before the grueling morning breakout sessions instead of using that precious free time to get in the manager's face over the fact that a gin and tonic costs $11.43, the elevator call buttons don't work, the construction noise keeps everyone awake all night and the pool they advertised on the website is closed for repairs. Well, not you! Pour yourself a cup of ambition like Dolly Parton says, and head on down to the front desk for a little chat.

NOTE: It is wrong to take out conventional rage on rank and file hotel staff: they are suffering, too. Tip freely and generously, and offer them a decent cup of coffee when they come to clean the room.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

another mayo triumph

Oh, I wander and stray and have wild adventures with other condiments, but I always come back to mayonnaise. What better way to use the eggs you're getting from the backyard flock in your life?

I finally quit messing around and used the Cuisinart like Julia Child CLEARLY SAID I SHOULD about A THOUSAND YEARS AGO. And I used almond oil, not olive oil. The problem with olive oil I examined in an earlier post: it has too strong an olive tang: it overwhelms your mayonnaise.

Since I was planning to use this stuff as salad dressing, I quit mixing in oil when it got the right consistency. My plan is to use the resultant "salad cream" as a base for a variety of delicious dressings. As is, it tastes exactly like the store mayonnaise that has the royal blue lid and used to have lemons on the label before they changed the label and now it's all white space with like a red onion and some other mess on it. (Mistake! Contact the Obama campaign, you mayo morons: maybe now that he's won they can loan out the outerspace genius agitprop savant who came up with the sun sign. That's the only way you can bail your mayonnaise out now that you've wrecked it on the NewCoke rocks.) My mayo is maybe a tiny bit better than that stuff, but I haven't tasted the two of them right together, and my slight preference for mine may be psychological, because I know it's made with almond oil not soybean oil.

Because it's willing to taste like traditional store mayo, my almond-oil mayo base is perfect just as it is for when I make a bacon lettuce and tomato salad; obviously a garlic-ey aioli would be Wrong For America in that situation. When I want aioli, though, I just throw whatever I haven't used on the BLT salad back in the cuisinart with a pressed clove of garlic. When I want thousand island (which is never), I whizz it up with some ketchup. When I want "ranch" (also never), I throw in whatever they put in "ranch." Ramen noodle flavor pacs?

Woooooo! I am so golden right now!

Unless I'm not.

Because maybe it's at the accessorizing stage when trouble enters paradise because maybe it curdles?

But all that trauma is in the future, though: for now, the potential mayo problems that had me crippled with fear (curdling, tasting like olive diesel, being an off-putting green color, being a pain in the ass to try to make) are vanquished. And that makes this? Another mayo triumph.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Get hooked up, part III

I get eggs from a individual at my workplace whose family keeps chickens. This keeps me out of the grocery store. Know what else? If I didn't get eggs there, I got two, three other places I could get local eggs, aw yeah. I just use this source 'cause it's the most convenient, mmmhmm. And plus two of the chickens from whose cloacas (cloacae?) my eggs issue (I hope you'll pardon the appallingly graphic sentence we're immersed in right now) come from a friend's former backyard flock. Well, they comprised her backyard flock. She couldn't maintain her backyard flock anymore, so I told her about another, larger flock they could join and still keep their street cred, you know, still be backyard flock birds from around the way, noamsain? So since I'm so dang hooked up I was able to hook up my friend and that increases my own hookedupness by two chickens, a'ight, two chickens, noamsain?

Sometimes it helps to talk like that guy in Slingblade who says "mmmmmhmmmm," and sometimes it helps to talk like the guy on Trailer Park Boys who says "noamsain?" These kinds of little tricks can really help loosen you up when you're blogging. Never say I didn't have good tips in this blog. Okay, never say that.

Yours respectfully,

Nom, nom, nom!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Get hooked up! Part two.

Sure, it's great to be an American these days what with all the modern conveniences and all. But! What about...

after the lights go out?

Neener neener, neener neener, Bwaaaaaaaaaaaammp! Bwaaaaaaaaaaaammp! ... Plink plink plinka plink plong!

(Hello, duh? It's the theme from The Twilight Zone? Like, of course? You poor kids. It's got to feel bad when you find out you postdate your own country's cultural apex.)

What will you do for food after all the grocery stores go dark and the shelves are picked bare of food but for a couple of half-eaten granola bars being guarded by the wall-eyed homeless dude who, in somehow getting his hands on a howlitzer, has proven he has the right skillset for today's jobmarket after all?

How will you get those granola bars from that cranky ol' Tommy Crazy Eyes?

Well, take heart, loyal reader! Because you don't have to. You don't eat granola bars because you've been following the advice of this blog for so long that you've forgotten they--and the grocery store istelf--even exist. You'll be happily unaware that the grocery store has gone dark in the first place. You'll be going about your eating life just as you did before, though with fewer forays into the wild and wonderful side alleys of the WWW for Valomilks and the like, since portals to the WWW will long since have disappeared from the lives of regular people.

But enough dystopian scene setting! To the topic!

Right, okay, so the first way to get hooked up was... oh yeah, oyster tasting. Well guess what! next week we're trying raw clams. Evidently people eat them! Clams are even more mineral rich than oysters, or so I've read. So that's even more nutrition I don't have to pay for. And I have a few more up my sleeve to tell you about in the months ahead. Don't worry! We're all going to be fine.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My stomach hurts

I ate all the rest of the pistachios in a vain effort to stay awake so I could watch Charlie Rose. Charlie Rose is the worst host in the history of the world. Why does he invite seventyfive people on his show and then let each of them talk for .07 seconds before waving his hand in the camera and starting to grunt and bark offscreen to interrupt them? Why not have a reasonable number of guests on so that they could all get a chance to talk? Huh, Charlie? Also, why is the background deep, infinite black and the light screamingly bright so that all the people look like they're sitting with Charlie at a table that is zooming through outer space and is on fire? This effect is dopey and obvious and it causes more eye strain than it creates gravitas. Take note, "Inside the Actor's Studio," or whatever that crap is called: no more black backgrounds comboed with blazing bright lights on PBS shows! Nobody is fooled!

Also: America, do not stay up late to watch Charlie Rose. Staying up late makes you fat, and the fatter you are, the more food it takes to lull you into a state of sleepiness: you can see how this could become a vicious cycle and lead to bad, depression-unready eating and spending habits. Take note, everyone! Our Leader needs our help to stave off the coming economocalypse (boy, does that coinage ever stink. It's no "simulacra-p," that's for sure): He cannot do it alone.