Monthly Archives: February 2016

Pulp Friction

Pulp Friction: Softcore Erotica for the Looseleaf in Everyone

I began my life as a sapling in southwest Washington state in 1978. I was planted by one of those tree planting tractors. Nobody does things by hand anymore. Oh well. People drove by me in their cars, looking at a sign that said “Planted: 1978, Harvest Date: 2015.” I like to imagine that many people were impressed by how long it took me to grow. Then again, what do I know, I’m a fucking tree.

I was cut down by one of those tree cutter downer tractors. It would have hurt, but at that point I was just a tree. I was loaded onto a truck with some of my tree friends, and we went on a road trip. It was actually quite nice. We drove to the Nipponese Paper Packaging plant in Port Angeles, north of Tacoma, and were cut up into little nice sized planks to be fed through the mill. We all went through the mechanical pulper. It was something of an experience, because the lines where my fellow trees stopped and I began got blurry in a hurry. Not that it was at all erotic; this was simply the process by which we all achieved existence as one in a ream.

It’s the only thing that any tree ever dreams of. As a tree, you don’t see much action, save for the occasional hug. But hugs are for squares, and number two pencils. The reams, they get action. They’re all any adolescent tree dreams of. Of course there is the chance that you’ll end up as a disposable coffee cup, or one of those tri-fold cardboard things gradeschool children use to explain how their vinegar and baking soda volcanos work. Which is useful, I guess, but I’m no pervert.

Any how, there I was. A sheet of printer paper. A brand new white sheet, young, hot, sexy, ready to go out and face the world. I turned heads. All those big black permanent markers could think about at night was my clean, white surface. Ballpoints would click their clickers in vein to pictures of me, printed on more white paper. It was too much for them to handle. They would just explode all over, probably staining some guys shirt in the process.

I thought I was ready for the world, but the world is a harsh mistress. I lost my virginity to a laser printer. An HP LaserJet Pro Multi-Function MFP M277. The sheet that went in before I did jammed, and came out all wrinkled. I only caught a glimpse of the mangled corpse. Needless to say, I was terrified. I had been told stories, you know, about my friends first times. I was excited. I was full of anticipation. I was nervous. I was ready. The fucking asshole printer never even called me afterwards. It was a terrible experience.

There were fans whirring, little cervos driving small wheely things that were supposed to be massaging, but just pounded my fibers with no regard for my wellbeing or comfort. The ink barely entered my fibers before it was over. There I was, dumped out in the tray, adorned with “Mark’s Schedule Toyota Saturday February 20.docx” I would have started crying, but I was just a fucking sheet of printer paper. We don’t cry. It’s just not what we do.

I was whisked out of the printer tray by Mark, who, I guess, wanted to look at his itinerary. He was going to Daytona Beach, which is in Florida, to work on a promotional photo shoot that Toyota was doing the day before the Daytona 500. He surveyed my now deflowered surface, made a “harumf” sound, shoved my in a leather folder, and put the folder in his bag.

It was dark for a long time. When I next saw the light I was lying in a table. The smells of a hotel continental breakfast found their way to my…oh yeah, I don’t have a nose. But it was one of those good continental breakfasts with powdered eggs and pancakes. Mark was munching on some of the eggs, which he had doused in catsup because, you know. There were other people around the table. They were talking about some photographer, who they were supposed to meet later that morning. They all got up to go, and as Mark was beginning to close his folder, one of the other people at the table said, “Oh wait, we need a sign for the car.”

There was a moment of confusion, I could tell everyone was really thinking hard. Then Mark said, “I’ve got a sheet of paper.” He pulled me out from the folder. “Here,” said the first person. That’s when I saw it. She was holding out a king-size black Sharpie. I had goosebumps on my smooth surface as the morning sunlight fell through the sliding glass door, making its way through the lobby and landing on the table on which I had been laid. Mark said, “Thanks.” He took the Sharpie and uncapped the magnificent specimen.

He flipped me over so that I was lying face down on the surface of the table. I was glad, because then Sharpie wouldn’t see the schedule that had been inked onto my front. I breathed in anticipation. I felt Mark’s hand steady me as he brought the wet black tip down. I closed my eyes, and the ink started to penetrate my white fibers. Sharpie moved over my surface with a powerful confidence. The slow, long strokes, forming the letters, and short bursts of energy doubling back to cross t’s and arch h’s were everything I had fantasized they would be. It only took a couple of seconds to write the words, but it seemed to last forever. The intensity was almost more than I could bear. As Sharpie’s tip was brought down to begin a new word, I let out a screech of ecstasy and quivered. (The quiver was because Mark was one of those people who misinterprets the screech as simply a weird noise that sometimes happens when you write on paper with a permanent marker, and his hand just shook.) He finished the last word, and I lay there exhausted, heaving air into my chest, with my back now adorned, “TOYOTA PHOTO SHOOT”.

It was the most intense couple of seconds that I had ever experienced. Everything I ever dreamed it would be. Afterwards, I was put back into the folder and then into a backpack. Once we were underneath the stands, I was took out again and stuck face down against the back windscreen of the SUV, held in place by the windshield wiper. The markings on by back were there for the world to see, and I wasn’t ashamed. If more papers could have such an intimate, emotional, analog experience, I think the world would be a better place. Swiping through pages left and right spewed out by an ink jet is no way to go about intimacy. But what do I know, I’m just a sheet of paper.

They forgot about me when they left. I held on for a little while before someone hit the button to clean the back window. The window washer fluid destroyed my structural integrity, and the wiper blade tore me to shreds. But it was all worth it, for those brief couple seconds with the Sharpie.

Our sheet of paper, as seen on the back of the SUV underneath the speedway.

Sheet of Paper, 2015-2016

The Hunter – Part I

He wakes up early. All the hunters do this. He knows from off handed references in news clippings about hunting accidents and from watching episodes in sitcoms from the ’70s. He hits the switch on his coffee machine, because he has a slight caffein addiction, and doesn’t want to be handling a shotgun with a migrane. As the scalding hot liquid hits his bare toes, he realizes the coffee pot is still in the dishwasher. He’ll be handling firearms later, but that will be after the coffee. This is good.

After successfully brewing a pot, he stumbles up the stairs and prepares himself for the hunt. He has been prepared for this. Nobody told him that hunters get up early, but everything else he has been taught. In a classroom. Hunting school was a huge ordeal. There were classes on firearm training, how to conceal yourself from a beast so as to lure it in to your sights, how to go after the really big ones, how to use the smaller ones for practice. There were classes on structures to make in the wilderness, what kinds of nuts and berries to eat if you were stuck out overnight, how to navigate by a compass. There were classes on the different types of beasts, where they lived, how to prepare yourself specifically for each beast, how do research the beast and what it liked and didn’t like in the hunter. It was a long, grueling affair. The hunter had thought about leaving, or switching his major to english studies, but something kept him there. Now, standing in front of his mirror pulling on his camouflage, he has no idea what that was.

He has all the camouflage. This was one of the first classes he ever had to take at hunting school, so he had to search how to camouflage yourself for hunting on the internet. He has camo boots, camo baseball caps, camo winter caps, camo fishing caps, camo gloves, camo pants, camo shirts, camo sweaters, camo jackets, camo rain coats, camo long johns, camo short johns, camo baklavas, camo socks, camo bags, camo scarfs, camo belts, camo water bottles, camo folding chairs, camo coffee cups, camo backpacks, camo binoculars, camo sunglasses, camo turkey calls, camo deer calls, camo bison calls, and even a camo hunting rifle. And a camo hunting rifle bag, camo bullets, and a camo rifle strap. And, for good measure, a camo crossbow, camo crossbow case, camo bow, and a camo bow quiver. I can’t not catch one, he thinks. He dons all of his camo. He steps in front of the mirror. He looks cool.

He steps into the forest. He looks stupid. For one thing, he bought all the camo (which, by the way, cost a fortune) in orange. The website he found on the internet said something about the beasts being colorblind, so all that mattered was the pattern of the camo. What the hunter failed to notice was that this was a websight for art history majors. The beasts that he is seeking are not colorblind, and could see him coming from about three miles away. Also, he has his coat on backwards, and somehow one of his boots ended up on his hand. He only realized this when he was having a hard time opening up his camo rifle case, which incidentally had blended in amongst his camo crossbow case, camo folding chairs and camo backpacks.

The hunter doesn’t realize that he has the wrong type of camo. He realized the thing about the boot, because he’s not incompetent. Laden with all his bags, his rifle, and his chairs, he sets off. Walking through the woods, he takes out the turkey call. He uses it, and the sound he hears is identical to a large, juicy bird ready to be impaled with an arrow shot from a crossbow. The sound that is emitted from the call in his mouth is actually the sound of a hoarse duck attempting to yodel. All the beasts flee.

The hunter gets tired. He stops using the camo bird call. The beasts start emerging. Most of them, however, require 3 to 5 years of experience. This is bad, because this is the hunter’s first hunt. They said he would be able to bag someting easily. They said, at hunting school, that he would be prepared for this. He’s not. He hasn’t brought a camouflage cooler with camouflage sandwiches and drinks. He is hungry. After walking over a couple of hills, he sees down into a valley. There, are some smaller jobs. They are grazing peacefully in some tall grass. He sneaks down the valley, and approaches one from behind. He was taught about the small ones. They can be good, his teachers had told him. If you catch one, and stick with it as it grows, you can have a nice career. Which, they said, was good.

The hunter goes through the motions. He sneaks up, shining like a supernova in his bright orange camo everything. The problem is, instead of thinking about what he’s doing, he’s thinking about how he doesn’t really want a “nice career”. So he doesn’t see the quicksand. One of his orange camo boots is engulfed and he falters. In the scuffle, his orange camo hunting rifle discharges an orange camo bullet into his other orange camo boot. The small jobs flee at the crack of the rifle. The hunter is stuck in the quicksand, red blood spurting out of his orange camo boot. He has been hunting all day, and now the sun is setting. The temperature begins to fall, and the hunter wonders if he will make it through the night.

…to be continued.

Ice Cream and Fruit: A Culinary Tale

Today I’ve decided to talk about something that is very important to me. It is something that I have devoted probably about 45 minutes a month to, but only in my free time. I don’t really know what that means. The something is this: ice cream. I love ice cream. If I could eat nothing but ice cream, and not die of ice cream poisoning, I would. Sometimes I still do that, but that’s just because I eat when I’m stressed. Don’t judge me. Today, I’m going to categorically and unequivocally prove that fruit deserves a place amongst ice and cream and sugar and those churns that you make ice cream with.

Since I’m such an ice cream fanatic, here are some ice cream facts, which I definitely knew off the top of my head. If you absolutely need some sort of “proof” (it’s the internet guys, I could have written that page and posted it under that URL and you’d never know)…(but you could know if you know how Unix works…so)…(also the author writes her name at the bottom of the page) you could go to this website. China was probably the inventor of ice cream, around 3000 BC. Marco Polo may or may not have brought ice cream to Italy, where it was refined into the delicious goodness we enjoy today. The first ice cream recipe to be published in America was a recipe for a fruit ice cream published in 1792. This recipe included apricots, 12 of them, which as we know, are fruit. In fact, according to a survey of 18th and 19th English and American century cook books, fruit ice creams were the most popular ice creams enjoyed by the people who bought those cook books and then made the recipes in them as well as, of course, the people to whom those people served the fruit ice cream. In 1928, a man named Howard Johnson built the original Baskin Robins – but not the actual Baskin Robins – with 28 flavors of ice cream. Among his 28 flavors, which were varied based on season and ingredient availability, were strawberry, banana, burgundy cherry, orange pineapple, lemon, grape nut, and apple. As my more astute readers will note, all of those flavors have fruits in them.

This volume published by the National Association of Retail Druggists (yes, druggists is the word) says that fresh strawberries should absolutely be served with ice cream in season, and advised the operators of soda fountains that the only reason they haven’t been selling well in the early spring, is that they haven’t been offering it to their patrons. Which, I’ll admit, is a little presumptuous.

A website hosted by the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, explains some of the chemistry involved in ice cream making. Which, is interesting. The website informs it’s readers that the sugars in ice cream help bring out the sweetness and palpability, and it enhances the perception of various fruit flavors. Another website hail solids in ice cream, saying they are important to the ice cream’s boby, texture, and smoothness.

At this point, I had basically run out of steam. I was looking forward to writing this long, pedantic (but brilliant) post about fruit and ice cream, and I just couldn’t find any more material to draw from. I was befuddled. Then, something happened. I was reading something on the internet which referenced a part of the vanilla plant as a fruit. This then lead down a harrowing rabbit hole involving botany, culinary art, and vegetables. As it turns out, the resulting discussion is actually much more interesting than what I was originally going to talk about, and amazingly still kind of related.

I like definitions. I like the subtleties between different words. Whom versus who. That versus which. I also like science. I think that looking at the world through the lense of science is a very good way to see things as accurately as possible. These truths being self evident (to me anyway), the first thing I did after stumbling upon this starteling and potentially ground breaking bit of information was search for the definition of fruit.

I searched for the definition of fruit, and I googled whether vanilla was in fact a fruit. Which, it is, but we’ll get to that later. It turns out that fruit is a botanical, scientific definition. It is the seed-bearing structure in angiosperms (flowering plants) formed from the ovary of the plant after flowering. At this point a bunch of voices in my head screamed things about vegetables. If that was the definition of a fruit, what is the definition of a vegetable? Here’s where the juicy part starts. Scientifically speaking, vegetable is gibberish. In fact, the term vegetable has no meaning in botany. Most of what you think of as “vegetables” are actually fruits. Tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, chili peppers, string beans, snow peas, and nuts, are all fruits.

Most of the other things that we think of as vegetables are either classified as fruits and seeds, or they are classified by the part of the plant that is being eaten. There are four main classifications for this, including fruits. These classifications, as described in the linked article, are: leaves and stems, seeds, starchy roots and other subterranean structures, and fruits. With these four classifications we cover the “hard core vegetables” like kale and spinach (category one); peas, corn, wheat, oats, and barley (category two); carrots, sweet potatoes, beets (all true roots), and tubers like white potatoes (category three); and peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, squash, and green beans (category four).

So now that we’re all reeling from the news that we’ve been lied to all of our lives, and vegetables don’t actually exist, we can get back to defining what a vanilla really is. Vanilla plants are a group of species in the genus Vanilla, which is a member of the family Orchidaceae (Orchids). There are three main types of vanilla that make up the things you consume labeled “vanilla”. These are Vanilla planifolia, a flat-leaved Mexican species, as well as V. tahitensis found in the South Pacific, and V. pompona found in the West Indies. Most vanilla is produced in Mexico and Madagascar (V. planifolia), and is commonly known as Bourbon vanilla or Madagascar vanilla. A list of all the vanilla species can be found here.

The fruit that the vanilla plant produces, which is commonly referred to as the vanilla bean, is a simple dry fruit. It consists of pods, which are the bits that we would commonly refer to as the ‘bean’. It gets slightly confusing here, but only if you’re a huge nerd and actually are still interested. I was ready to proclaim the vanilla bean a legume fruit, because it is a simple dry fruit with a pod that dehisces (splits along two seams) to reveal the actual vanilla seeds. Which, is the botanical definition of a legume fruit. However, according to many threads on the internet, and a couple different websites, vanilla beans are not legumes. They are however (I’m pretty sure) a type of simple dry fruit, regardless of whether they are legumes or not. (Because at least a few of you are going to be wondering, while the cacao fruit from which we get chocolate is a fruit, a cocoa bean, which is the part that is actually used in making chocolate, is the seed of the fruit, not the fruit itself.)

Okay. You, an ordinary person, would think of this as the end of the discussion. You would be wrong. Because vanilla isn’t one of those fruits you just eat, like apples or blueberries. It is most commonly used to flavor other things, or simply for its aroma. This is done by making vanilla extract. This can be done one of two ways: either with real vanilla fruits, or by manufacturing the chemicals that create the vanilla flavor artificially. The main chemical in vanilla fruits that gives it the flavor that we all know and love, is vanillin (4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde). Real vanilla extract also has acetaldehyde, acetic acid, furfural, hexanoic acid, methyl cinnamate, and hundreds of other chemicals that add to the flavor.

Vanillin2

The chemical structure of vanillin. (Source: Wikipedia)

 

Making real vanilla extract is a simple process of having some vanilla and getting hammered with vodka. Whoa. Nope. That’s just how I’d do it. Beanilla.com (it should be called fruitnilla.com) helpfully explains, the way to make vanilla extract is to immerse vanilla beans in vodka (or bourbon or brandy or rum) and just let it soak, shaking occasionally. While that article attempts to speak ill of artificial (chemical) vanilla extracts, it is important to remember that all foods are chemicals, and not all chemicals are bad. In fact, chemistry is everywhere, and most of it doesn’t give you cancer. The vanillin in artificial extracts is the same chemically as the vanillin in real vanilla extracts, otherwise it would be something else. Like an asparagus, or a lobster. Real vanilla extract tastes different (better) because of all the extra chemicals contained in real vanilla fruits. (If you actually read that whole article, here is another link about castoreum, which you will probably have questions about.)

Some vanilla ice cream has actual bits of vanilla fruit in it. (Those are the little black spots you’ve always wondered about.) Others are just flavored with vanilla extracts, either real or artificial. Vanilla ice cream is undoubtedly one of the most popular flavors of ice cream. Whether it’s in third, according to that meaningless statistics website, or first, according to that infogram (which is probably created from census data or something), vanilla ice cream is at or near the top of the most lists of favorite ice cream flavors. Since the vanilla bean is, scientifically speaking, a fruit, the notion that fruit has no place in ice cream is, scientifically speaking, simply incorrect.

However, scientifically speaking can be a lousy way of looking at things. Don’t get me wrong, it is a GREAT way of looking at a lot of things. Just remember though, botanically and scientifically speaking, the word vegetable is meaningless. Culinarily speaking, it’s not. This is why tomatoes are usually called vegetables, as are green beans, peas, carrots, beats, and the most things you put in a salad. In no way of speaking is pizza a vegetable, or a fruit. If you eat a lot of pizza, you’ll probably gain weight, no matter how you define your words. Why am I not going to keep writing about this apparent impasse? Why do I not feel a need to keep going with this until we have clearly defined everything?

Well, dear readers, even I can understand that a world full of science and logic but lacking art (which is what makes the difference between culinary art and chemistry), would be a pretty boring place to live. While scientifically speaking fruit absolutely does belong in ice cream, speaking as a normal person, put whatever you want in your ice cream. Just don’t tell me what belongs in mine.

Thoughts of a Food Runner

So this past weekend I worked as a food runner for a catering company who was catering the Rolex 24 hour race. And after walking up and down stairs carrying food and dirty dishes for some 16 hours after doing the same thing for 12 hours the previous day, and looking forward to another 12 hours the next day, I thought it would be funny to capture my thoughts and post them here.

There was only one problem with my thinking that. When I sat there wondering when I was going to regain feeling in my feet I focused on my thoughts, and realized that they were basically the same as my normal thoughts.

“People watching is very interesting.”

“That’s a cool school bus turned RV. I wonder how hard it would be to do that?”

“Man, these drunk idiots on golf carts should really learn how to drive.”

“Is that Mark Wahlberg?”

“How many laps do you think this race will be?”

“Oh, no, it’s just some other guy.”

“People do weird things to their cars when they need to prove to other people how well they’ve done for themselves, or when they actually have a small penis but can’t get over it.”

“I wonder if they wash these shirts they give us to wear, or if they have enough for all three days…”

“It’s so funny how people pay thousands of dollars to sit in this tent and eat food all day and watch the race on television while it happens right outside.”

“If people spent even half as much time noticing things around them as they did taking crappy videos of things with their cell phones…I dunno I guess they would notice more things?”

“Where did I park my car?”

Since these thoughts were somewhat anticlimactic, here is a video of Penn & Teller doing magic: