Sunday, October 19, 2014

METHED UP APPETITES



There was a great story by Victor Lodato in the New Yorker a couple of weeks back, titled “Jack, July.”  It was about a meth addict in Arizona (yes, William Shawn might have disapproved) who wanders around in the heat, “tweaking” as they say, looking for, in every sense of the word, comfort - not least in the form of food.

The story’s protagonist, Jack, has been more or less unwillingly seduced by Jamie, a middle-aged Mexican he met in a restroom, who cooks for him silver dollar pancakes with whipped cream and chocolate chips, “Could the man stoop any lower?”


Jack goes to visit his mother and thinks he should have brought flowers “or a burrito” and although his mother isn’t home he manages to make off with a stash of granola bars.

He recalls visits with his meth friend Flaco to a Mexican restaurant named Birrieria Guadalajara, where they ate everything, “even tongue.”  There is in fact a Birrieria Guadalajara in Tucson, and they do have tongue on the menu: I’ll bet they’re really stoked to find themselves in the New Yorker.





And finally, at the end of the story, Jack returns more or less unwillingly to Jamie and says, “I’m sort of hungry” and although the reader imagines Jamie might well cook him more pancakes with whipped cream and chocolate chips, the man doesn’t actually stoop that low immediately – he simply gives Jack some meth.


I know nothing about Victor Lodato or his life, how much autobiography or research went into the piece, but as a piece of fiction it all seems thoroughly plausible.

And now I see a news items about 23-year-old George Jacobson who went on a week-long drug binge at the end of September, beginning of October this year, in the town of Roy, in Washington State, which seems a nice enough place from the photos.


Jacobson walked around being crazy and wandering into various people’s barns and houses.  He turned up in one home where the female owner found him looking agitated and repeating the words ‘bad neighbor.’  The woman, trying to calm him down, asked if there was anything she could do for him, and he told her to make him a sandwich, which she did, though police reports don’t say what was in it.  Anyway it did do the job of calming him to some extent, and when the woman’s husband came home they put Jacobson in their car, and drove him out to the edge of town and dumped him there.

Low level mayhem still ensued including Jacobson going into another house, pulling a gun on the inhabitants, demanding that he be driven to the neighboring town of Rainier, 13 miles away, and on the way forcing the driver to stop at McDonalds so he could buy himself a drink.


When Jacobson was finally arrested, he told the police he couldn’t remember much of what had happened to him in the last week – except stealing a car and that a “nice man” had taken him to McDonalds.  And he told them that all this bad behavior was because he’d taken LSD which had sent him on a bad trip.  He said that meth was his usual drug of choice.

When it comes to meth I pretty much only know what I read, and what I've occasionally seen in Breaking Bad.  So to educate myself on the eating habits of meth users I went to tweaker.org and found something called “tom’s tweaker tips” – if there’s any irony in this, it's far too subtle for me.


Tom says, “EAT!  Preferably stuff that’s good for you. … Remember, food is FUEL. Soft/Creamy/Mushy textures that won’t be too hard on your stomach are best: Yogurt, for the good bacteria you flush out every time that you douche. Bananas, for potassium ??? which helps prevent/soothe muscle cramps. Refried beans & cheese, with a little Taco Bell mild hot sauce. Hey, it’s free! (Try Beano to prevent gas … nothin’ less sexy than a giant TexMex lube fart!) Mashed potatoes & gravy. Or just with some butter & a little garlic salt. Mmmm. Cottage cheese & fruit. Oatmeal & raisins. Peanut butter. Avocado. Hummus. Even just a couple of spoonfuls is better than starving your digestive tract. Comfort food. The point is to get something nourishing into your system. And don’t worry: Carbs don’t count when you haven’t eaten in three days.”

Well, tweakers in my strictly limited experience, certainly do look trim, if not usually very attractive.  It think it often has something to do with the teeth.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

BIG GLASSES FOR BIG LASSES



I see that Kate Moss and her breasts were in the news this weekend.  Apparently “British artist” Jane McAdam Freud (yep, one of those Freuds) came up with the idea of manufacturing champagne coupes based on the shape, and I suppose size, of Kate Moss’s left breast.  It could be that her left breast is much superior to her right but I’ve found no evidence of this, and a pair of perfectly, or even imperfectly, matched Kate Moss coupes would surely have had double the appeal. 


But of course Moss and Freud tell us that the design was “inspired” by Marie Antoinette who also had champagne coupes modeled on her own left breast.  If you wanted to argue that wasn’t an inspiration but exactly the same idea, well I think you might have a point.


They had a launch party apparently where the likes of Rita Ora and Jade Jagger supped from Kate Moss coupes. I’d definitely have gone if they’d asked me.  However, even the most casual observer will note that neither Kate nor Marie Antoinette are (or were) every big lasses.  Couldn’t Ms. Freud the have found a more voluminous model, thereby offering the drinker a bigger pour?  Sounds like the kind of thing Helen Mirren would have been up for.


Also spare a thought for the late Rita “The Champagne Girl” Alexander, no longer able to model “live” as it were, but if she had been, blimey you could have got your fair share of bubbly.


Stashed away in the back of a kitchen cupboard somewhere I do have a penis-shaped glass flask that looks very much like this:


        I can’t quite remember where it came from – Czechoslovakia would be a good guess – and I think it contained some pretty rough old brandy.  I can’t say that pouring (as opposed to drinking from) a penis-shape bottle added much to the experience.  You would in any case have had to drink from the "wrong" end. 
           I’m pretty sure nobody modeled for it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

FOOD FIT FOR SUPER KINGS



Not so far from where I live there’s a Super King Supermarket, part of a local chain, one branch of which which famously, a couple of years back, paid over half a million dollars in a settlement with the Orange County Superior Court for selling halal meat that wasn’t.  I sure don’t want to get involved with that whole halal ball of dripping, but I suppose whether you’re for or against halal slaughter you’re equally entitled to accurate labeling.  In any case the branch that paid up isn’t the branch I go to.


As far I’m concerned Super King is the place to go to buy octopus, lamb, goat, really good feta, and the like.  And there’s always something unexpected there: goat butter for instance.


Turns out that goat butter isn’t nearly as rare as I’d thought (and why should it be given the ubiquity of goat milk and cheese?) but this one was English, all the way from Yorkshire, so you know it must be good.  


I’d imagined it would be gamey and tangy (I suppose you might say goatish) but in fact it was actually quite mild, and some might find it a little under salted, but the best thing about it was the look: pale, edging into translucency.  And very fine on a piece of toast.  Has the great American toast novel been written yet?


The other thing to be had at Super King, which was not pale, though certainly translucent, was this amazing stuff: Zwack. 


Again it isn’t as obscure as I thought – 7 million bottles are sold in Hungary every year, though rather fewer in non-Hungarian parts.  It’s a herbal liqueur (and evidently some kin of J├Ągermeister) with claims to be both an aperitif and a digestive, though its sweetness makes it the latter in my book.  It’s supposedly made using over 40 herbs and spices, and I would tell you what they were if I could.  The recipe is secret, dating from 1790, handed down from generation to generation, hidden from the Nazis and the Russians and now divided into 3 sections and kept in 3 separate bank vaults. 

My guess is that Zwack contains some citrus, maybe liquorice, something from the cinnamon/mace/nutmeg end of things, maybe juniper, maybe ginger, but I wouldn’t want to but money on it, and I know that leaves me short of 30 plus ingredients.  Maybe bar syrup?


But it seems I’ve been serving it wrong – clearly it should be served by three rather sour-looking east-European models wearing all black, including cheap plastic aprons.  What doesn’t taste better when served by three rather sour-looking east-European models wearing all black, including cheap plastic aprons?

Friday, September 26, 2014

BITCHES BREW, INDEED



Until recently I’d never given much thought to the origins of the word “hipster,” though I’ve certainly had my eye on the way the word has changed from once being essentially a compliment, to now being a casual and sometimes filthy insult. 


Certainly the term “hipster restaurant” has become a catch-all term for establishments that are trying way too hard.  And that’s definitely part of the problem.  Striving to be hip is no good: it’s got to come naturally.  Think about Miles Davis.  In the beginning it all looked so effortless:


But as the years went by, though he never stopped being hip, it looked like he was really having to work at it.



But one thing about Miles takes us back to the origins of the word “hipster” – he was a junky.  And this, according to some sources, is how the word came about. When you went to an old school Chinese opium den you propped yourself up on one elbow and one hip (and I suppose calling yourself an elbow-ster would have been just stupid).


And now I see a headline in the South China Morning Post: Chinese restaurant owner laced noodles with poppy to get customers addicted.”

The story runs in part, “A noodle shop owner was detained after he was discovered to have been adding parts of a poppy plant – from which opium is made – to food so that customers would keep coming back.
The noodle shop’s owner was held for questioning and confessed that he purchased 2kg of poppy shells (the bud of the plant in which poppy seeds are found) for 600 yuan in August.  (That’s about a hundred dollars)
He secretly added it to the food to lure in more customers.
The owner was detained for 10 days. Poppy shells used to be an ingredient in a popular hot pot sauce until the product was banned, according to previous reports.”
*

The restaurant customers were becoming hipsters unknowingl, and against their will!!

Now, this story sounds a lot like bull to me.  Why don't they name the restaurant? It also sounds a lot like that Seinfeld episode, you know, he one where Elaine tests positive for opiates because she’s been eating poppy seeds muffins.  I was never really convinced by that plotline either.


And I think the real credibility problem with the Chinese restaurant story is that however keen you are to get repeat business, possessing opium in Chinese is a pretty high-risk activity these days.  I mean they even arrested Jackie Chan’s son, and he could be executed if he’s convicted (though something tells me he won’t be). 


You know what else is addictive that you could give away free to your customers that would keep them coming back for more (and it's legal):  alcohol!! 



Incidentally, I like to think that Miles Davis, however much he had to work at it, was far, far too hip ever to drink from a mason jar.