Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Black Metal Thanksgiving

Skornicopia (aka Tania) serving up some salad to the evil convent. Fingerbang The Goosikus (aka Ray, center, end of table) is already eating because he's totally evil.

Thanksgiving was last week and we went and had dinner with my parents up north in Cupertino, and then visited with friends in Petaluma. It was a delightful holiday. But there was something missing? It wasn't until I got home and received a video from Chris Reed that I realized what it was: BLACK METAL! HAIL SATAN!

I mean, Thanksgiving is cool and all, but Black Metal Thanksgiving is pure evil. It's just awesome, but unfortunately we haven't had one in awhile. After our fourth BMTG, everyone started having babies. Which you would think would be fine, we could just sacrifice them to Satan, but apparently our friends actually want to keep their babies and watch them grow up so they can see if they look like themselves, or something. And I've been given to understand that Satan and babies don't really go together? Why do babies have to ruin everything that's fun?

Anyway, based on the response to the video that Chris sent (a montage of the second BMTG), it looks like we might be resurrecting the event next year. As Ray said after watching the video, "What made us so weird? I'm totally not that weird anymore. How do I be weird again?" By putting on makeup, listening to crappy Satanic music, and getting wasted at Thanksgiving dinner, that's how.

Second Annual Black Metal Thanksgiving
[This article originally appeared in Big Brother issue #82, March 2002]

Okay, so my plane, on the way home from this second annual Black Metal Thanksgiving in Portland, got grounded in Oakland. My plane landed in L.A. five hours later than scheduled because of a fucking security breach in fucking Seattle because some fucker forgot to turn on a fucking metal detector. So they decided to evacuate a few airports across the nation. I had to sit in that damn airplane on the ground, with no beer and a severe hangover, for three hours while some ham yabbered into his cell phone to the delight of the rest of the plane. I think they’re taking this security shit a little too far. Then, when I finally got home, near death, and I got out of the cab and walked through the rain to my front door, never lifting my head even as I unlocked the door and walked into my house—I was still looking at where a doorknob would be—I heard the unmistakably bruising pitter patter of water falling on a silent floor. “Uh oh,” I thought. I flicked on the lights. It was raining in my house. Flooded. I said, “Oh no!” out loud and ran to my new bed, that which I had been dreaming of all day, only to find it covered with great pools of water, each rising and falling as great droplets fell from the ceiling landing in them. My bed was a bog. I half expected to see frogs hopping around. Needless to say, I was a little upset when I got home.

Dark Meatiis (aka Kali) prepares her Szechuantanic green beans.

The next day, because I couldn’t turn on the heater and I had to sleep on the couch with a thin little blanket in a wet house, I awoke sick. Add that to five days of beer, cigarettes, and coke in rainy Portland and you got a sick li’l baby on your hands.

Wolfin and Dark Meatiis being evil in the kitchen. If my mom had looked like that when I was a kid, I probably wouldn't have bugged her so much while she was making dinner.

I’ve had some bad luck lately, this whole year in fact, and I think it’s because Satan is mad at me. I don’t think I’m worshipping him properly, or something. Like, I wrote this Satanic grace for the Thanksgiving dinner we had (which was vegan by the way, since our hosts are vegan… because you’re traditionally supposed to gorge yourself on meats of all sorts, it kind of adds to the evilness of the whole affair, don’t you think?) and I think his infernal majesty might have been unsatisfied with it. I mean, it was intended to be light and funny. Evil, but evil lite. We were at the table, it’s a time of mirth. But I guess he didn’t like it. Here it is. (Oh and by the way, we all had evil black metal names with Thanksgiving themes embedded in them. Mine was Pilgrimokon):

"This is the year Fran [Tiptaphantom] took a hit a E and left the party," Ray wrote. "I found her at home talking to the fireplace."

PILGRIMOKON, a dead pilgrim with a ghostly face, an ashen death mask.

A Convent of corpses, ghouls, demons and other unsavories:
TURK LORD (Chris Reed)
DARK MEATIIS (Kali Blomstrom)
STUFFIKUS (Dominic Orlando)
POKEANDHAUNTUS (Jennifer Brandon)
WISHBONARGGUS (Whitey McConnaughy)

Black Metal Thanksgiving II
Scene First
[A long Thanksgiving table covered with vegan fare in a castle dining room. Candlelight.]

Pilgrimokon stands ominously at the head of the table preparing to say grace. The convent sits round, some already eating (so evil that they are without manners.)

Pilgrimokon. HAIL! Dear Father Satan, black-winged Fallen Angel, Lord of Hell, Master of Evil. We gather here today, this Congregation of Damned Souls, to Praise You and your Wickedness, pray for Eternal Winter, embrace the Darkness, and stuff our Fucking Faces with this Vegan Fare which was prepared by the Hounds of Hell (who did not wash their claws) and broiled in Demon’s Assholes. [Fire springs from his hands and hair and the spectres of Hell circle his head.]

Convent. [cheers and cackles.]

Pil. Make note that some Vegetables fell on the floor and were unwashed before being returned to the serving Plates. [Evil Laugh.]

Con. [Evil Laughter, hooting, orgies].

Pil. Anyhooo…After this sumptuous Food passes through our Bodies we will aim our Brown Anuses toward Heaven and rain stinking Black Shit upon His Kingdom and blot out the Sun so that we may forever fornicate with Wolves upon the black velvet carpet of the Graveyard. [Points fiery finger at the earth and screams]. This congress of Devil Spawn gather here to give you Lucifer, you fucking Asshole, Asshole of Assholes, Praise, and to ask you to spit your fiery Venom upon our plates [spits on own plate] and to ignite the flames of Evil in our Gullets and receive us as we FALL HORRIBLY FROM GRACE! HAIL SATAN! [Raises fists to heaven and, like a wolf, howls at the Heavens above, almost as if he is threatening to go up there and kick somebody’s ass].

Con. [Raises their glasses, toasts Satan, saturnalia].

The Convent.

I really don’t see what the problem is. I mean, I gave him praise, I threw the devil horns, I painted him in an evil light, etc.. The only thing I can think is that he didn’t like the cutesy shit like the “unwashed claws” and the part about the veggies falling on the floor and that little “Anyhoo.” I mean, that’s just mocking the whole concept of Satan and his whole evil image and stuff. Anyhoo? I still think it’s funny. I wonder if those guys over at South Park have this problem because their Satan is gay? My worship of Lord Satan was just a little too light for his taste, but the Satan they created is a little light in the loafers and that seems like a way heavier offense to me. I wonder if he turns their beds into bogs every night?

I have to admit, though, it was kind of funny how Satan flooded my house. I mean a flood? That’s such a total God thing to do. What did he think I was going to do, build an ark? He’s so evil, man. Like, he knew I was coming home from Black Metal Thanksgiving, totally hungover and tired, and what does he do? He floods my bed. That’s so evil, like, I’m so sure.

He must have liked some of the shit Chris and Kali set up for the whole Black Metal Thanksgiving extra’ganza, though. We all wore corpse paint, and had black metal names, and only talked in creepy, sneaky-monster voices, for instance. And he must have loved our game of “Pin The Upside Down Cross On The Burning Church.” That was hot, but next year we got to make some rules ‘cause everyone would put the blindfold on and just walk up to the wall and feel around until they found the burning church. There they would pin their upside-down cross to all the other upside crosses that were right smack dab in the middle of the burning church where they were supposed to be. It was hard to pick a winner out of a contest that looked like a 15-way tie for first. On the bright side, everyone cheated! Which is very evil. We also had a corpse painting contest on… DEAD BABY FACES! Boo-ha-ha-ha! And then Chris and Kali’s band, Gobble, played a black metal rendition of The Smith’s “Half a Person.” You know, “Sixteen clumsy and shy, that’s the story of my life.” More like, “Sixteen clumsy and fall down the fuckin’ stairs and die, bitch!” It was tight.

So, I mean, we were hella evil. So all I can figure is it was my grace. Not evil enough. Sorry about that Satan. My bad.

Feast (aka Kevin) sums it up. (Tania and I's BMTG portrait, shot by Fingerbang The Goosikus, can be seen in the "about us" in the right margin.)

At the fourth Black Metal Thanksgiving one of the many after dinner games was "Evil Twister." "Left hand: Swastika. Right foot: Upside Down Cross."

Skornicopia and Feast twistin' up some evil.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Skater Turns Winemaker, Ryan Zepaltas

This article originally appeared in the first issue of King Shit Magazine in a recurring (hopefully) column entitled, "When I Grow Up." Photos by the illustrious Brian Gaberman.

FOD has a small following and I’ve had the fortune of meeting some new people, most notably skater and winemaker, Ryan Zepaltas. Ryan wrote me shortly after he read a post about our visit to the French Laundry in Napa. “Just writing to say I like your food blog,” he wrote. “The [French] Laundry shit is hilarious. I have been lucky enough to eat there before. It is cool to see it from your perspectives. It is refreshing to see someone from the skateboard world be into food and shit.”

Ryan, it turns out, is a washed up skater who got into the winemaking business. He owns a small winery in Santa Rosa, Ca (Tony Trujillo’s home town) called Zepalta Wines. A couple emails later, and I had a box of four bottles of Zepalta wine on my porch. “The food blog has finally paid off,” I told Tania.

Ryan sent me two bottles of his chardonnay and two bottles of his pinot noir. They had cool labels. I admitted before I even tasted them that I probably wasn’t going to like the chardonnay, but I’d like the pinot. And I was right. Tania liked the chardonnay, but to me it had a little too much of that characteristic oaky, buttery flavor. I almost exclusively drink white wines, but I like white wines that don’t taste like anything. Funny, I was able to kill the taste of Ryan’s chardonnay with a couple of cigarettes and it was fine. I was rather embarrassed to admit, “Yeah, your wine is great… after a couple of smokes!”

“You have a very European palate,” he said. “Lots of French people smoke cigs. So maybe that’s how the French intended it to be: good after a couple smokes. Your more sophisticated than you thought.”

On the subject of palates, Ryan and I began talking about why skateboarders have such shitty palates. As I wrote in my article “Ron vs. The Oyster" “Skateboarders don’t eat shit. The skateboarder’s palate is retarded. Literally. They eat like little kids.”

Ryan agreed. “My skate friends are a pain in the ass to go eat with since to them a taqueria is getting fancy compared to the Taco Bell that they usually eat.”

I confronted Tony Hawk years ago because I took exception to his sponsor, McDonalds. I argued that McDonalds was evil and regardless of his opinion of the franchise, he’s a role model to a lot of kids and should be more keenly aware of what he’s endorsing. And, as an athlete, endorsing McDonalds is like endorsing Marlboro. It’s just trash. But Tony stands behind his McDonalds sponsorship. “I like McDonalds,” he said to me. “I eat there and I take my kids there. In fact, when I’m in Europe, my favorite food is McDonalds.” GASP! I was shocked. WHAT? Maybe in England, but what about in France, Italy, or Spain? You’d take a Big Mac over the greatest cuisine on the planet? Unfortunately, this is true of a lot of skaters.

Whoa, dude actually has some skills, too? When we were discussing doing this interview and talking about getting skate photos, I wasn't expecting anything more than a kickturn at the Santa Rosa park, or something. But a f/s noseslide? Very impressive. And the vineyard in the background is a nice touch.

“When I went on a skate trip to Spain a couple years back,” Ryan said, “all the dudes were eating Subway, and shit like that. I’m like, ‘There are all these cool-ass bistros, markets, and tapas bars everywhere, and you want fucking Subway?’ The good food wasn’t even that expensive. Mike Rusczyk was down, though. After skating all day, we would go feast like kings at these tapas bars eating fresh shrimps, foie gras, Jamon, good cheese, etc. while the others ate crap. The everyday wines there are cheap, too, so we would get multiple bottles at every meal.”

Ryan, like myself, is a relative newcomer to the foodie scene. He’s from Wisconsin. “Wisconsin was all about beer and hard liquor,” he said. “Fancy food in my hometown was Olive Garden.” After he finished school in Wisconsin in 1999, he moved into a room in his aunt and uncle’s house in Santa Rosa. Ryan spent the summer skating, filming, “trying to come up,” and being a general scumbag, but he was also introduced to some of the finer things in life. “They were the type of aunt and uncle that were total partiers, and they introduced me to lots of things,” he said. “They also were really into food, wine, and entertaining folks. They always took me along when they went to dinner parties and fancy wine events. I quickly got used to fancy food and wine. I mean you got to be a total tool if you can’t appreciate the local food and restaurants in Northern California. Jack in the Box vs. foie gras? The transition to being a food and wine snob wasn’t hard.”

Towards the end of that first summer, as his money was running out, Ryan met a guy who ran a cellar at a winery. He was hiring. “I ended up working for this winery named La Crema for a couple harvests,” he said, “and totally became stoked on the whole process. I decided to take it to the next level and go do an internship in New Zealand for winemaking. I went down to New Zealand to skate for a couple months and work for three. That was sort of the turning point where I decided that I wanted to take winemaking seriously.”

It became very serious when he started Zepaltas Wines in 2005. He’s gotten into making chardonnay, syrah, and also some Rose wines, but Zepalta focuses primarily on the excellent pinot noir grape that is grown in the cool climate of the Sonoma Coast. Which, I failed to mention earlier, is excellent. Even the wine snobs like it. “There’s brightness to this wine’s color and spicy aroma, more vinous than directly fruity,” said Wine & Spirits Magazine. “Its acidity captures the wind off the Pacific and infuses the wine with cool tones of red berries and forest floor along with earthy minerality.” Forest floor? What the hell? I didn’t taste no dead leaves or squirrel shit. It just tasted like good wine.

I asked Ryan how he did it? Making wine seems like something reserved for the Francis Ford Coppola’s of the world, not exactly something you’d expect from some dirty skater.

“Since I am not a trust fund kid, and I didn’t get rich off software, or something like that, I didn’t have a lot of money to build a winery,” he said. “I rent space at the winery [Siduri Wines] where I work by day. It’s an easier way to get into the business without spending millions on equipment and land. We have use of the facility, and equipment, and store our barrels there for aging.”

The grapes come from different sections of other vineyards that he leases/contracts. They’re custom farmed for him and he buys the fruit from the farmer. The grapes are then brought to the winery and processed. “The fall is the annual harvest time when the wines are made,” he said. “It is a grueling time of the year. I usually put in 18-hour days managing my wines, my consulting clients, and of course my main job at Siduri Wines.”

And he still manages to find time to skate. I wondered if he’d ever drank wine during a session? He didn’t think so, but he did say, “Wine at the session would be an interesting contrast at the Santa Rosa skatepark to the tweakers drinking 40s in the bushes and all the homies drinking Natural Ice and PBR.”

Which reminded me about the time I wanted to get sponsored by Coors. I never understood why everyone wanted to be sponsored by skateboard companies and shoe companies. I mean, sure, you need those things, but I wanted to be sponsored by something I really needed: beer. I’ve since transitioned to wine and I’m currently making a sponsor-me tape that I’m going to be sending around. I’m definitely sending a copy to Zepaltas Wines because Ryan totally gets it. “It’s funny that Tony Hawk has Bagel Bites as a sponsor,” he said. “If I were he, I would be hitting up a charcuterie, or a cheese company for a sponsor.”


To learn more about Ryan’s wines, click on this word here… wait, hold on, not that one, this one: zepaltas.

Tony Hawk Poops in Mid-Air

Mike Jacki, who’s on the board of USA skateboarding and all that Olympic business, was recently at some sports conference in Switzerland and he sent me a photo of Tony Hawk (above). Apparently it was “on the wall outside the offices.”

I told him to get out a Sharpie and make some adjustments. I sent him my suggestion:

I sent it to Tony and Miki Vukovich. I figured they like pooping, and probably would enjoy seeing Tony pooping in midair. Miki responded first.

“It's from the lobby of Sport Accord in Lausanne, Switzerland,” Miki said. “Some big international sports governing body. He made the point that all the other athletes shown on the walls there are Olympians. But I don't think pooping is a medal event yet. I think it's just an exhibition sport at this point.”

Tony wrote next. “I'm good at it,” he said, “but not an Olympian pooper by any stretch.”

Coincidentally, during this email exchange, I had to run to the toilet to take my third shit of the morning. Tania makes the best shrimp scampi, but last night’s offering must have a bad shrimp in it, thus turning my dish into shrimp sketchy. What followed can only be described as Olympic shitting. I'll keep you posted on my petition to the IOC. It's more of a sport than fucking golf.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Buh-Bye-eeee Skateboard Journalism

The skateboard world is kind of quiet at the moment, and it made me realize that I miss Jereme Rogers. Which made me think of this article I wrote for the second issue of King Shit Magazine. Because King Shit is a Canadian magazine, I imagine a lot of people might not have seen this? (Click on the image above for a better look at Tania's amazing tattoo and photo skills.) And for those reading this outside of skateboarding and unfamiliar with Jereme Rogers and his retirement, go here.

When I was a kid, I played hockey. I was on the California All Star Team. I was totally awesome. I learned French in about a week because I felt it would help me communicate better with the French Canadian teammates I would surely be sharing the ice with when I made it to the NHL. I’m still fluent in French, but I retired from hockey when I was in my early teens to pursue a career in ballet. I was even better at ballet than I was at hockey. I was probably the best ballet boy in the world at the time. I could spin and dance and do flips and jump really high in the air. I was a marvel to behold. I won every ballet contest I entered. But at the peak of my career I discovered the art of writing about skateboarding, and I retired from ballet. My ballet coach thought I was crazy. I pray for him.

But look what happened: I became the best skateboard writer in the world, ever. Everyone knew from the first word I wrote in a skateboard magazine that I was the God of skateboard journalism. I was awarded a plaque by the Academy of Skateboard Journalists for the first sentence I wrote. I’d print that golden sentence again, here, but it’s been reprinted so many times, and I’m sure you know it by heart—oh what the heck, everyone loves it so much, why not, right?

“I am so awesome.”

I stand back and just stare at it for hours sometimes. It’s so eloquent. And so true. That’s the beauty of my skateboard writing. I tell it how it is and I do it with style and grace. From the moment I penned that remarkable sentence, I continued to amaze the skateboard community around the world with every word I wrote. I’ve written about skateboarding in so many places around the world, I don’t even remember where I’ve been. All I remember is that people were flying me all over the place just to read the words that I wrote about skateboarding. Every article I wrote was better than the last. “This is the best article that Carnie has ever written,” people would say. But then I’d write another article, and people would be forced to say, “Well, I thought that last article Carnie wrote was his best work, but this is certainly the best article about skateboarding ever written, yes sir.” And so on. I was, to quote myself, “so awesome.”

Then a year and a half ago, cooking hit me like a ton of bricks. I was penning, once again, the most amazing skateboard article ever written when I was suddenly overcome with hunger. So I made myself lunch. And OH MY GOD, the food I made that afternoon was the most amazing meal I had ever eaten. Manna from Heaven! That night I decided to try my hand at dinner and, guess what? it was the best dinner I had ever eaten. It was so good I didn’t poop for three days. I wanted to hold onto it. I finally pooped into a plastic bag and I had the turd bronzed. I had to move some trophies around in my enormous trophy room to make space for the bronze turd, but now it sits front and center. It’s a constant reminder of what a remarkable chef I am.

All the while, I continued to churn out my award winning skateboard journalism, but secretly food had taken over my heart and mind. And stomach! (HAHA! I still got it. Damn I’m good at everything.)

At first, I just cooked for myself and a few friends. Mostly just snacks. I knew that the skateboard industry wouldn’t be happy losing the only person who could write about it, so I kept cooking on the DL. But I had discovered a new passion and I’ve never been one to deny my heart. I know the skateboard journalism industry is going to be very sad to see me leave, but I can’t do both. Who on earth could possibly find the time to write about skateboarding, AND cook food? That’s like standing in the middle of a road with cars going in both directions. And that’s dangerous. If the cars don’t hit you, a herd of sheep might run you over. And if the sheep run you over, they’ll poop on your face. I do not like sheep poop on my face. If a sheep pooped on my face, I would catch that sheep and I would make the best rack of lamb you’ve ever tasted. You will pray to God for the recipe. Which is where I got it. If God gives it to you, I suggest you tattoo the recipe onto your neck so that you never forget it. God likes a good dead lamb. And my dead lamb is so succulent, you might just want to go up on a rooftop in your underwear and yell about it. Seriously, it’s really good.

I trust that God will guide me and protect me on my new adventure. It’s a weird adventure because it’s just like the time I quit hockey to play ballet. And then right after that, I quit ballet to become a skateboard journalist. It’s trippy to me because it’s, like, totally the same thing, but it’s different, you know what I mean? I just want to make sure everyone has got it straight. Because even I get confused by all the dreams and journeys and careers and retirement parties that are going on in my life all the time. It’s hard to keep track! (The amount of pot God makes me smoke doesn’t help either.) So I just wanted to make sure that we’re all on the same page here, and that’s why I’m shooting out this memo to let everybody know that I’m retiring from yet another successful career, skateboard journalism, to become the world’s best chef.

Skateboard journalism: no.

World’s best chef: BAM!

These are the last words I will ever write in a skateboard magazine. I hope you cherish them forever. Because I totally loved skateboard journalism for, like, the couple of years I did it, so I’m asking you to totally love me back. I will pray for you even if you don’t pray for me, but it would really help me out a lot if you prayed for me. And, frankly, you’d be a total dick for not praying for me after I just got done praying for you. I’ll always remember you skateboard journalism. Goodbye.

God bless skateboarding, and God bless Jereme Rogers.

PS. I don't usually add any kind of reality to my writing, or bother explaining anything, but there was a lot of hate directed at Jereme when he retired—most of which was completely retarded—and I don't want my silly little satire on the situation to be construed as mean-spirited or similarly hateful. I sincerely wish the best for Jereme, and I hope he succeeds at rapping. And who knows, maybe I really will retire from writing to cook? MAYBE I'll become Jereme's road chef when he tours? HA!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

BEIJING: Noodle Alley

The noodle rainbow.

Food TV has been a successful fad for a number of years now, yet it still feels very much in its infancy based on the amount of overlap and redundancies across the spectrum of shows. They all seem to be going to the same places and saying the same shit over and over again. The audience is still a big unknown, apparently, because it’s obvious they’re not sure what skill level the viewers are yet. There’s an inordinate amount of time wasted, for instance, on some of the simplest kitchen tasks and most obvious food related information. I have yet to make the list that I’ve been wanting to for all of these “islands of knowledge,” but an example that would be near the top of the list would be The Avocado. Any time anyone on any show is making a recipe that calls for an avocado, they all have to pause and talk to me like I’m a child and reveal the secret to disassembling the fruit. “OH! So THAT’S how you get that pesky pit out?”

Food TV gold: a peasant sleeping in a rickshaw in an alley strewn with trash!

Another one of my favorite recurring themes in food television is the, “eat where the locals eat/street food is the best” mantra which is always delivered in this nauseatingly condescending tone that has a peculiar way of destroying the intended message. “Look at how cool I am slummin’ it with the locals!”

He'll make a delightful meal someday, but when we were there he was the cutest resident of Noodle Alley. (Oh, Gary wanted to say something, "asssssqXXXXXXXXXXXXXXD." Not sure what that is, "Ass Quixote?" He's a strange cat.)

Despite the influence of nearly every TV food celebrity’s insistence on seeking out “bizarre foods,” Tania and I have always kind of been like that anyway. We don’t like the tourist shit, and we tend to avoid anything “popular.” When we were in Beijing, for instance, we avoided any kind of tour or group activity, preferring to explore on our own. I think the only time we participated in a tour was to get to the Forbidden City. We had planned on visiting it on our own, but when we found out we could get a free ride there plus admission, we decided to plug our noses and board the tour bus. As soon as we were in, ZOOM! We ditched the group. I hate groups. I don’t even like going out to eat with more than four or five people. Aside from the Forbidden City visit, we had no itinerary in China and our only agenda was to get lost. In so doing, we found this fucked up market and street food alley less than a mile from our hotel. It was food TV heaven.

We probably should have chosen this noodle guy because he's clean, and handsome, and, most importantly, not drunk.

The market is an entire post in itself, but across the street from it was this weird food alley. And then off the food alley was another smaller alley which we named, “Noodle Alley.” And I don’t doubt that’s what the Chinese call it as well. One side is a cinder block wall lined with tables and other junk. The other side is a row of stalls and small shop fronts that all seemed to be selling the same thing: noodles. Each one had a cook in front throwing dough and making noodles, all with great fanfare. The cook would take a ball of dough, throw it around in the air, beat it on the bench, yell at us through the rainbows of flour, and next thing you’d know, he’d have a beautiful pile of silky noodles on the table in front of them.

Instead, we chose this guy, Ole Wi Can Chugalot.

We finally settled on the shop that seemed to have the craziest noodle technician out front. We couldn’t understand a word he was saying, but he just seemed funnier than any of the others. Turns out he was drunk. After we sat down to eat, we noticed that he was sucking on a 40 ouncer of Chinese beer that he had hidden beneath his noodle bench. I liked him even more. We nodded, Yes, we would like some noodles. They ushered us into dingy little room where we took a seat at a tiny table with mismatching chairs. We pointed at a beer on another table and raised two fingers, “Two?”

Here's the youngest Chugalot. He gave us cigarettes when we were done eating.

After he made the dough make shapes in the air, he’d toss together a pile of noodles and hand them off to, presumably, another family member, who would then throw the noodles into what was essentially a garbage can with boiling liquid in it. After just a couple minutes, noodles and broth were tossed into a bowl, garnished with pork flakes (I think?) and cilantro, and served with a beer and chili sauce.

Tania slurping on a bowl of awesome.

If I was a douchey food writer, I’d get all romantic about how exquisite a simple bowl of noodles served in a back alley in the middle of Beijing was, but I won’t. Nor will I reserve an effluent description of the dish for any upcoming interviews I may be doing where I might possibly be asked something like, “What was the best meal you ever had while traveling?” “Well, there was this one time when I was traveling through China…” Suffice it to say that it was a really good bowl of noodles. And while I’ve grown mind numbingly tired of hearing the traveling TV food personalities praising peasant food, I have to admit that sometimes they’re sort of right. Especially if a noodle show is involved.

Frankly, you don't have much choice in China but to eat what the locals eat because even the American fast food imports are completely unrecognizable. Not sure what this offering from KFC is, but I'm pretty sure the stateside franchise doesn't offer a Poop Taco Falafel?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ISLA MUJERES: Whale Sharks

"Hello, and welcome to our underwater paradise... " That's what I imagine dolphins say when you jump in the ocean.

“Do you want to do it again?” our guide asked us. We had already been in the water twice. I was kind of tired, but I wanted to do it again. I looked at Tania. Tania shook her head, no. She was seasick. I’ve never had the pleasure of being seasick. And neither had Tania before this. But she was definitely sick. I had watched her puking overboard earlier. I wanted to take pictures of her puking, but I didn’t. One reason was because Tania is very vain and I wasn’t sure how she’d feel about being photographed in that position, but mostly because I was worried what I might look like to the other passengers. “What kind of a man takes pictures of his wife getting sick off the side of a boat? Disgusting!” And now both Tania and I are bummed I didn’t.

“No,” I said to the guide, “we’ll pass.”

Our guide looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and offered it to the next couple. They looked at me and asked, “Really?” I explained that Tania was sick and that I was going to stay with her.

Ole Pukedelic Patty. Blehhhhh...

A few minutes later while I was consoling Tania, I had a great big, “What the fuck is wrong with me?” We were on a little boat out in the middle of the ocean surrounded by whale sharks, the largest fish in the world. When the hell am I going to get the opportunity to swim with these giant motherfuckers ever again? We’d be crazy not to.

“No, no, no, we’ll go,” I told our guide, “we’ll go, we’ll go.”

We convinced Tania that she’d feel better OFF the boat and in the water, and she agreed. I don’t think that was actually the case, but it’s probably better to be sick and doing something cool, like swimming with whale sharks, than it is to be sick and sitting on a stupid little boat.

We wanted to swim with the sharks while we were in Belize. They were migrating at that time as well. But it sounded sketchy to me, for instance you might not see them, which would mean a big waste of time and money, and I was having a fine time without the whale sharks. “Fuck a whale shark,” I said. But Tania insisted that we do it on this trip. I’m glad she did because while it was a total tourist experience, it’s an experience I won’t forget for the rest of my life. Absolutely amazing.

We were going to buy our whale shark tour online, but thankfully we waited ‘til we got to the island and ended up booking a cheaper one at our hotel. At first we didn’t want to make a mistake and choose The Crappy One, but in hindsight, they’re all more or less exactly the same. Well, they all go to the same place anyway. Because when they all take off from the docks in the morning, they’re all using the same GPS to find the schools of feeding sharks. And all the boats are on the radio to each other. Once one boat finds the sharks, that’s where all the boats go. After sailing about an hour due east into the Gulf of Mexico, sure enough, we came upon a small armada of whale shark tour boats exactly like ours all filled with the sleepy eyed tourists we’d seen scattered about the deserted city at dawn.

Aircraft carrier? Oh, no, it's a whale shark.

We pulled in alongside all the boats and everyone’s jaws dropped. The whale sharks were everywhere. There were dozens of the giant creatures, some as long as the boat, slowly swimming just below the surface, with their tail and dorsal fins sticking out of the water, and their giant mouths open wide, trying to capture as much plankton as they could. It was bizarre and slightly eerie, and it was one of those instances where I ask myself, “I wonder, who was the first person that thought this was a good idea?” I think that when I eat raw oysters, too.

"Cage goes in the water. You go in the water. Shark's in the water… our shark."

By law, only two people (plus a guide) per boat are allowed in the water at a time. So that everyone can enjoy it, you only get about five or ten minutes in the water with the sharks. Unfortunately, our first dive with the sharks was just retarded. You could say I “biffed it.” I know how to snorkel, but I only get to do it like twice a year at best. So this wasn’t the most ideal time to reacquaint myself with the sport. It was kind of like not skating for six months, and then the first time back on the board I have to roll in on the mega ramp. “Okay, GO!”

“Okay. Shit. Flippers—flippers don’t fit, oh well fuck it—mask, snorkel, don’t forget to breathe, oh and you have to swim too, kick your feet, why can’t I see out of my mask? Oh it’s filled with water? Why is it filled with water? Don’t forget to breathe—NO! Not through your nose you idiot, through your mouth, through the snorkel! Watch out for the sharks. Wait, where is everybody? Where’s the boat?” Etc.

Yeah, I guess that could be a good screen saver, but that's what my first dive looked like.

On top of all that, I hit the wrong fucking button on the stupid camera. While I’ve been using the Canon Elph for years, and I know it inside and out, it was on the inside of a waterproof camera bag/case thing (these things are kind of ghetto and janky, but they work, and for $30, why not?) that makes operation a little clumsy. So while Tania and our guide were having a fine time swimming around dodging sharks, I was not only trying to stay afloat, but also trying to get out of “stitch assistant mode.” First run = no bueno.

Back on the boat, I fixed the camera and got ready for dive number two. Dive number two, as it turned out, was a complete success. Confident that the camera was working, I was able to take pictures without aiming and instead enjoy my time with Tania and the sharks. On that second dive we really were swimming with the whale sharks. They don’t move very fast when they’re feeding. They just kind of cruise along, so you can swim right alongside of them. Close enough to touch them. Which is illegal, but I did it anyway. It was hard to get close enough because, while you’re right next to the beasts, they seem to have this weird sixth sense and they know exactly where you are and my hand was always inches away from their skin. I finally reached out really hard and grabbed one. Upon feeling my hand upon him, the beast gave a flutter and he was off in a flash, not before whacking me in the knee with his tail.

Woooo! Got some tail in Mexico! Spring breeeeeeak!

Tania's fixin' to get some. I was trying to get her to puke on a shark, but she said, "I can't." "You say you can't," I said, "but you really mean you won't."

They were all over the place and visibility wasn’t that great, so we shouldn’t really have been surprised when we found ourselves right in the path of a shark with its mouth wide open and coming straight for us. Tania screamed into her snorkel under water. I pointed the camera in the direction of the monster and feverishly pressed the shutter button like I was playing a video game while kicking as hard as I could to get out of its way. At the time, we felt we were lucky to have not ended up in the belly of the whale like Jonas, but in hindsight, I wish I had played chicken with the leviathan.

"AAAGGHHHH!" Shooting whale sharks is a lot like shooting skate photos. Some tricks deserve sequences. Like this drive-by by… actually I don't remember who this is? I think this is either PANCHO BUBBLES, or PETER PANCAKES. Some of our other underwater friends were RUSTY (he had a rusty tag in his fin), PICKLES, PINTO BEANS, and TORRALBA. The last of which is a sheperdess in Don Quixote that Sancho describes as, "A buxom, rollicking wench, a bit mannish, for she had a slight mustache."

I haven’t felt that thrilled in a long time. And that’s why I convinced ole Pukey to get back in the water for a third outing. Plus I had forgotten to get some video of us swimming with the animals. This task I left to Tania, and as you can see below, she got a fine shot.

When it was all over and we were heading back to shore, they handed out some ham sandwiches. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was until they busted out that lunch. It was basically a prison baloney sandwich, but it was one of the finest sandwiches I have ever eaten.

I don't really remember the sandwich thing from the Dagwood cartoons. I just remember he always left the house without his pants on. I'm not sure why that was so funny... over and over again? Anyway, this is what that baloney sandwich looked like to me. Nom, nom, nom.

After the whale shark swim, they took us back to the island where we were given the opportunity to swim around this janky old reef with a bunch of stupid little fish. Pfft. I just swam with a 20 fucking foot long shark!

But the reef expedition was more of a stalling tactic so that the captain could whip up a proper ceviche lunch. Like the baloney sandwich before it, this was probably nothing more than a styrofoam cup filled with some fish and pico de gallo, but at the time, it was the best ceviche EVER.

At one point I wondered, "Does anybody eat whale shark?" After a quick internet search for "whale shark recipes," nothing really came up. The only evidence I found came from—where else?—the Chinese. I would love to see what Rachel Ray could do with that in 30 minutes. Yummo!

That fat white thing swimming next to the shark is not a Beluga. Although the "Carnluga" is a related species.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

ISLA MUJERES: The Ballyhoo

The beach on the west side of the island is protected from the rough Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean seas. The water is calm, clear, and warm as bathwater. Because it's so calm, the beach extends out into the shallow water for almost a mile. This is a pretty apt depiction of what we did every day.

At the risk of ruining one of our favorite vacation destinations, I’d like to say, “Isla Mujeres, Mexico, is one of our favorite places on earth.” (Although I’m pretty sure even if the entire FOD audience were to all visit at once, no one would notice the difference?) We’ve been there twice now, and plan on returning again and again. The first time we went was a couple years ago in December for my birthday. This time we went in the summer for Tania’s 30th birthday. Both trips are a couple of the best vacations we’ve ever taken. The best way to describe it is it looks like those Corona commercials: paradise. And the best thing is, it doesn’t cost shit. We’re broke, but we were able to scrape together $1500 that paid for our flights, a room on the beach, food, drinks, everything, and even a whale shark expedition (more on that later). I don’t often use the word “hella,” but that’s hella cheap for a six day vay-kay. And, yes, I said “vay-kay.” I just said “hella.” If you’re gonna say stupid shit, you might as well go all the way, you know?

Food on Isla Mujeres worth writing about is sadly lacking. Because it’s a tourist destination, nearly every restaurant offers tourist food. The island is in Mexico, granted the furthest eastern tip of the country, but you may as well be in Ireland as far as Mexican food is concerned. Instead, the hype men on the street try to lure you in with pizzas, pastas, steaks, and hamburguesas. I kind of regret not trying a Mexican hamburger, but I did make a bunch of them on this last visit. “Hamburguesa” is my new word for “poop.” “Tania? Honey? You’re going to have to excuse me for a moment,” I’d say, “I have to go make some HAMBURGUESAS!” And then I’d go make little Mexican hamburger patties in the toilet. Plop! Plop! Yes, we cooked them “sous vide.” There is, however, as we discovered on this trip, good Mexican food all over the island. We found a bunch of new places we didn’t know about last time. But one of our favorites is still a place we found our first time there, The Ballyhoo.

The Ballyhoo is a little hut, with no walls, sitting over the ocean, in the middle of a dock, behind a gas station. It’s not a hundred feet from the main tourist street, but there’s hardly anyone ever there. I’m sure the gas station has something to do with that, and there’s always a bunch of dirty old fisherman milling about—the dock actually goes through the restaurant—and I think everyone knows what dirty old fisherman are like, right? Drunks. Not the type of people “Bill and Kathy” from Wisconsin want to mingle with on their vay-kay, right? But, if they just took a couple steps inside, they’d realize that The Ballyhoo is the place they want to go on their vay-kay because there couldn’t be a more beautiful location for a restaurant. They make the best margaritas (nothing special, they’re just normal and strong), and you can see the clear blue ocean undulating between the floorboards beneath your feet while you watch the fishing boats tied to the docks gently bumping into each other and the fishermen’s children frolic in the shallows with their tshirts on occasionally squealing at the site of a shark shaped piece of seaweed, and, best of all, you have a front row seat for one of the best sunsets on the planet.

Fish tacos at The Ballyhoo.

And the fish. I made the mistake of once mentioning to my mom that, “Tania doesn’t like fish.” And so now when we visit, or dine with family and friends, we hear, “So we heard Tania doesn’t like fish, so we made…” Tania does like fish, it’s just not her first choice on the menu. But you wouldn’t know it at The Ballyhoo: Tania eats the shit out of their fish tacos. They’re so good. And they’re simple. It’s just fresh grouper, deep fried, and covered with slaw in a tortilla. It’s yet another instance in which simple, fresh ingredients are all you need to make an amazing dish.

This is their hot sauce. The lady let me know immediately, "It's very hot. I tell everybody now." Apparently she gave it to some big dumb white dude who was too tough for any hot sauce and it knocked him on his ass. Pussy. This stuff is very hot, but it's really good. I immediately tasted the habaneros. "And olive oil," she said. Which is a weird one to me because, as you can see, it kind of separates. Still, it was really good.

We’ve watched fisherman come in from sea, tie up, and gut their fish on the dock. They bring the fish into The Ballyhoo and the little Mexican lady behind the bar cooks it up right there. One time, one of the old fisherman saw us sitting at the bar and offered us some of his fish. “Try some!” he said. We did and it was awesome. There’s just a really cool vibe there as well. Although it was at The Ballyhoo that we met one of the island’s shittiest residents.

Tania enjoying the view. Or scheming how she can steal a boat.

She wasn’t that bad, but she was Canadian and she thought of herself as a local. She had been living on the island for a couple years and had shacked up with a snorkel tour guide. I remember her as a white, pasty, ugly little blonde gal, but for some reason the image I have of her boyfriend is that of a handsome, bronze, Mayan warrior, ala Fabio. Huh? I don’t think we even met the dude? Anyway, she sucked. She was one of those annoying people that like to consider themselves “travelers” as opposed to the softer, less experienced, and uglier, “tourists.” In short, she was a braggart. For one, she was constantly letting us know how much better the island was when she first “discovered” it. Apparently it was a jungle paradise, completely absent of white people, just two years before? Because now, according to her, it was all crowded, and built up, and everything was going to shit. It’s been two years since then, even, and I can assure you it’s still a quiet little Corona commercial.

"She lived in the Colonias [the poor part of the island]," Tania said, "and tried to make it sound like she lived in a god damn tree in the jungle studying the habitats of primates. The reality is she was trying to romanticize the shack she lived in with her loser bf. She also kept talking about how she would mix up her own, weird, organic potions. Like organic face creams and cleansers, and perfumes. I kind of went in and out of her conversations because, like most Canadians, she was incredibly boring and one-dimensional."

She also made a point of speaking to us in English, but whenever she spoke to the bartender or the help, she did so in Mexican. In shitty Canadian Mexican. And I suppose that’s the way you practice learning a language, and it’s a nice gesture to the local people, but the bartender spoke perfectly fine English, and she was doing it just to show off. And not very well. She was making a mess of the language. Which is what Canadians do with everything Mexican: food, language, they just need to put their pudgy little hands in their pockets and ne touchez pas. But I’ll never forget that stupid little lady because she was one of the first people to provide me with an example of the snobby world Traveler. She was something else. I mean, I'm bad, but I’m just a snobby world Tourist.

More Isla Mujeres adventures coming up.

Some people don’t know this, but Tania is an International Underwater Handstand Champion. She’s good. And most people don’t know that I’m the Tiger Woods of "Sunset Golf." In "Sunset Golf" you use a camera instead of a fucked up li'l club. But the object of the game is the same: get the ball in the hole.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Salsa Verde

One of the questions on the Newlywed Game was, “What habit do you have that your spouse hates the most?” I’m not sure which one I’d choose, because I’ve got a lot of them, but one near the top of the list would surely be, “Making salsa.” I’m a salsa tinker. Tania hates it. I’m always messing with salsa and hot sauce recipes. The operative word being “mess.” I’m a messy cook. To imitate me cooking, Tania waves her arms around. “You cook like this!” Waves arms around. Which isn’t so bad when something good comes out of it, but in the case of salsa, she’s indifferent to the results. She’s not a salsa head. So it’s a big mess with no payoff. And everything is covered in hot peppers. It's not cool. Still, I continue to tinker.

We just got back from mexico and learned our old friend heather roach was in town, so we arranged a last minute bbq. Just some steaks and my “famous” white beans. Robin and Brandi are fans of the beans, thus they’re famous. In fact, the promise of white beans is the only way to get Robin to visit. While at the grocery store picking up supplies, I felt the menu needed a little something else, so I decided to whip up a little salsa verde for the steaks. It’s cheap, it’s easy, I’ve done it before, and the results have always been good. Even if Tania doesn’t like it. “Tastes like pennies,” she always says.

That night there were some compliments on the salsa verde, and apparently Corbett has been asking for this recipe for some time now, so I thought I should put the latest version of this recipe down on paper.

Salsa Verde II

2 medium-large tomatillos, halved
½ white onion
a few garlic cloves
1 jalapeno
3 serranos
½ of a lime’s juice
¼-½ cup of white vinegar

Set oven to 350. Lightly oil a baking sheet and place the first five ingredients on it. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until lightly charred. Place the roasted peppers, onion, and garlic in a blender. Pour in the lime, salt, and the vinegar and coarsely blend. Add the tomatillos and the cilantro to the mix and blend until just mixed. Add more vinegar or water depending on the consistency and taste you like.

Of course the recipe is up for interpretation. The amounts vary depending on the ingredients. Eyeball it and use your cooking sense. For instance, some members of our party found the above a little too hot for their tastes. I consider it in the “medium” department and would even add a habanero next time for more heat. I’ve also learned it takes very little to make a lot. A couple of tomatillos never seemed like enough, so I’d get half a dozen, and then I’d end up with a giant tub of salsa that would last over a month. And the salsa tinker can’t tinker with new recipes until the old one is finished. That’s one of our rules: I can’t buy or make any new hot sauces until I finish what’s in the fridge. The other rule is: clean up.

I can’t believe that I considered the first salsa verde recipe a competition salsa. I was going to have a salsa verde throwdown with our friend Josh in Colorado. It’s much better now. But I was apparently already considering naming and bottling that first batch because I just found a list of possible salsa verde names we created. This batch might be deserving of one of these fine names? Nah, probably the next one. I gots to tinker with the recipe some more.

Swamp Fire
The Algae Business
Goat Piss
Thomas Jefferson’s Bile Collection
The Eighth Ocean
Ancient Pond Scum
Thunder Snot
Yeti Urine
Swamp Wax
Monster Polish
Mexican Rain
Mean Green Wet Dream
Liquid Pollution
Verde Venom
Verde Vomit
Green Darkness
Cthulhu Blood
LA River Sludge
Camel Spit
Wharf Water
The Dreaded
It Came From The Cave
Spawn Juice
Death Drool
Monster Piss
Cobra Tears
Cobra Juice
Space Scum
Very Viscous Verde (VVV = 15)
Veni Vidi Verde
Poison Pepper Piss
Snake Piss
Chunky Green Poison
Super Scum
Filthy Hot Sludge
Hot Green Snot
Lagoon Gone Bad

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Boston: Durgin Park

This is a giant floor to ceiling picture of the staff back during the Civil War. "You know the big picture in the lobby?" my father asked me on this trip. "Well I think the blonde gal was still a waitress when we went there when you were kids." The blonde gal?

We went to Boston recently for a Dew Tour contest and some top secret International Skateboard Federation nonsense. Those stories will appear in the various skateboard publications I write for. The part that concerns us here, however, is the rest of the trip.

My father is from Boston, so we used to visit almost ever summer when I was a kid. Specifically we’d go to Martha’s Vineyard where my grandfather built a couple of houses in the 1930s. But since I turned into a punk rock, “I’m not going to clean my room,” snot nosed skateboarder, I haven’t been back there in almost 30 years. So this was kind of an exciting trip down memory lane.

One of my earliest memories, and a recurring story that tends to come up during Thanksgiving dinner, is the first time we ate at Durgin Park. Durgin Park is an old restaurant next to Quincy Market that specializes in Yankee cuisine. “Established before you were born,” it says outside of it. My brother and I were probably around ten years old so we don’t really remember this, but my parents remember the day vividly. They each remember it completely differently, of course. I think my mother’s version is closer to the truth.

Me at table. Me eat food.

It was a very hot and muggy day in Boston and the family was shopping in Quincy market. I have always hated shopping, so I can only imagine that my brother and I were miserable, horrible little shitheads. While my mother was trying to shop, my father raced ahead through the crowded market, heedless of what his wife was doing. (I have inherited the “walk as fast as you can without regard to the rest of your party” gene from my old man.) My brother and I kept up with dad, but my mom got stuck somewhere looking at a purse or something and ultimately was separated from the family. I’m not sure why we didn’t turn around and go look for her, but I wasn’t at an age to be making executive decisions, so I remain something of an innocent bystander in this case. My father, on the other hand, made the rather baffling decision to go get lunch. “Come on! Let’s go to Durgin Park!” I’m sure he said. Again, I’m not sure what was going through the man’s head because we were obviously missing a very important part of the family, his wife. Apparently it didn’t matter, or it never occurred to him that she would probably enjoy joining us for lunch, because we went upstairs and got a table in the communal dining room and enjoyed a nice, long meal. I remember the Boston baked beans and the Indian pudding, probably because my dad made such a big deal about them, but I remember it was a fine meal. We really enjoyed it.

Tania likes to make plates of the weirdest combinations of food she can. At a buffet she's not afraid to pile some Jello on spaghetti with a side of shrimp cocktail and a blueberry muffin. But our order at Durgin Park was even a little too weird for her. We started with a pitcher of beer and a plate of raw clams. I guess you can order them steamed, but I didn't know that. This is our first meal of the day, incidentally. I thought they were delicious, but Tania wasn't feeling it so early in the day. Note how she can barely keep her hands off the clams.

Meanwhile, my mother realized she had been ditched. My mother is a very sensible lady. She does everything very neatly and in order. So her logic told her, “Well, I don’t know where they are. So I should probably remain in the last place we were together.” She was hoping, of course, that her husband would retrace his steps. (This is before cell phones.) I don’t really remember the exact place she posted up, but basically it was a spot in the hot sun in the middle of the crowded market. There were some street performers near by and she said she saw them do their entire act at least three times.

Next up, we had a bowl of clam chowder. It was good chowder, but again, Tania wasn't feeling it. Something about Durgin Park makes the Carnie men insensitive to the needs of their women.

After what must have seemed like an eternity to her, my father, with my brother and I in tow, finally returned to the scene. My mother was furious. She hadn’t eaten, she couldn’t go get any water, and she was practically having a heat stroke. My dad, on the other hand, was oblivious to her suffering. I think he even bragged about how good the meal at Durgin Park was. “You should have come,” he said. Just then the street performers were starting up again. “Oh!” my dad said surprised, “let’s watch these guys!”

GRRRRRR! My mom pretty much lost it.

Somehow my father saw the glimmer of the problem and he dimly realized that he may be the source of what was upsetting our mother. So he did what any sensible man would do and offered her an olive branch in the form of a blank check to shop with. To spite him, my mother took the offer and bought the most expensive fur coat she could find. In the middle of the summer.

And we ended the meal with a bowl of Boston baked beans. Mmmm, a pitcher of beer with raw clams, chowder, and beans. Breakfast of champions. Below is Durgin Park's recipe for Boston Baked Beans. I don't plan on making them any time soon, but the story below is kind of funny.

Boston Baked Beans
2-quart bean pot
2/3cup molasses
2 pounds beans- California pea beans preferred of York State beans
4 teaspoons salt
1 pound salt pork
½ teaspoon pepper
8 tablespoons sugar
1 medium-sized onion

Soak beans overnight. In the morning parboil them for ten minutes with a teaspoon of baking soda. Then run cold water through the beans in a colander or strainer. Dice rind of salt pork in inch squares, cut in half. Put half on bottom of bean pot with whole onion. Put beans in pot. Put the rest of the pork on top. Mix other ingredients with hot water. Pour over beans. Put in 300-degree oven for six hours. This will make ten full portions. You can’t let the pot just set in the oven” explains Edward. “You’ve got to add water as necessary to keep the beans moist. And you can’t be impatient and add too much water at a time and flood the beans.” Edward produces his Boston baked beans under the watchful eye of Albert Savage who has been the head chef at Durgin-Park for the past 35 years. Albert is probably the world’s leading specialist in Yankee cookery. He himself is an old Yankee who was born in Lithuania. He has one assistant who is a Bulgarian Yankee and another who is a Polish Yankee. “The chief difference between Yankee cooking and most other kinds of cooking is that we make our food taste like what it’s supposed to be,” says Albert. In other kinds of cooking chefs seem determined to make the food taste like something else.” Albert prepares vast quantities of the traditional baked Indian pudding. In the course of a year, if you’re found of statistics, he makes enough to float the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth and one small rowboat. The following recipe is sufficient to make one-half gallon.