Posts Tagged With: apocalyptic thriller

Thai Fish Cakes (Tod Mun Pla)

Thai Entree

THAI FISH CAKES
(Tod Mun Pla)

INGREDIENTS

10 Chinese long beans or 10 green beans
6 kaffir lime leaves (Fresh is best, then frozen, then dried)
¾ pound boneless fish fillets*
1 egg
2½ tablespoons red curry paste
1 teaspoon sugar
⅓ cup vegetable oil

* = First choice is clown knifefish which is popular in Thailand. Should you not live there, your favorite fish will do nicely.

Makes 20 2″-fish cakes. Takes 40 minutes.

PREPARATION

Thinly slice Chinese long beans. Finely slice kaffir lime leaves. Add fish to blender. Blend at medium setting until fish becomes a paste. Add fish paste, egg, red curry paste, and sugar to mixing bowl. Mix by hand until thoroughly blended. Add Chinese long beans and kaffir lime leaves. Mix again by hand until fish mix is completely blended.

Form fish into 1″ balls. Flatten them until they become 2″ pancakes. Add oil to pan. Heat oil with medium heat until a tiny bit of paste will dance in the oil. Carefully add pancakes, perhaps with spatula, to hot oil. Sauté at medium heat for 2 minutes or until the bottoms of the fish pancakes turn golden brown. Flip pancakes over and sauté for another 2 minutes or until the pancakes are golden brown all over. You might need to cook in batches. Goes well with cucumber relish or sweet Thai chili sauce and sliced cucumbers.

TIDBITS

1) Thai fish cakes look a lot like bean bags. This is no accident. The shape of the modern beanbag is based on Thai fish cakes.

2) During the Vietnam War, Todd Pla, a pilot, was based in Thailand. Between bombing raids, he’d relax by watching locals play Toss Fish Cakes Into Holes In The Ground. Unfortunately, tossing perfectly good food away like that meant the Thais wouldn’t eat. The Thais grew ever thinner. What to do? A light bulb went on in Todd “The Man” Pla’s head. Why not put dry beans in a cloth sack and sow it up? The beanbag could be reused game after game. The beans in the bags would never go bad and the fish that would have gone in it could now be eaten. The grateful Thais renamed their fish cakes, Tod Mun Pla, which is close to Todd “The Man” Pla. Todd feels quite honored.

Chef Paul

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Bacon Wrapped Shrimp

American Appetizer

BACON WRAPPED SHRIMP

INGREDIENTS

24 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
12 slices bacon
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
no-stick spray

SPECIAL UTENSILS

24 toothpicks
baking rack
cookie sheet.

Serves 6. Takes 30 minutes.

PREPARATION

Set oven to broil and preheat to 400 degrees. Soak toothpicks in water. Slice each bacon strip into two halves crosswise.. Add shrimp, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce to mixing bowl. Toss shrimp until they are well coated. Wrap each shrimp with bacon. Secure with soaked toothpick. Repeat for each shrimp.

Spray baking rack with no-stick spray. Place shrimp on baking rack. Place baking rack 3″ from heat. Place cookie sheet under rack to catch drippings from bacon. Broil at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until bacon becomes crispy. Watch carefully, bacon can go burned quickly.

TIDBITS

1) Sir Francis Bacon was a mainstay in the Elizabethan era because he was brilliant as all get out, being an author, statesman (Lord High Chancellor England), scientist, blah, blah, blah. . . and a budding culinary saint! Francis was researching the effect of freezing on meat when he contracted pneumonia and died. This selfless act, was no doubt, the inspiration for the safe modern freezer/refrigerator. It is tantalizing to further speculate that Sir Bacon invented the cut of pig known as bacon. Many culinary historians assert this hypothesis most vigorously, particularly so after they’ve been drinking heavily.

2) At any rate, bacon was a staple of the American culinary scene by the early 18th century. America’s settlers wouldn’t have even considered crossing the land’s great expanses without an adequate supply of bacon. Tasty bacon would go onto grow and stabilize the great American Republic.

3) Unfortunately, by 2017, demand for bacon began to outstrip its supply. The Republic is in danger. Civil unrest will surely follow. Indeed, political discourse is already getting ever more heated and frenzied.

Chef Paul

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Chicken Fried Steak

American Entree

CHICKEN FRIED STEAK

INGREDIENTS

2¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
8 4-ounce cube steaks
1¾ cups buttermilk
1 egg
1 cup vegetable oil
4 cups whole milk

Serves 8. Takes 50 minutes.

PREPARATION

Add flour, garlic powder, pepper, and salt to large mixing bowl. Mix with fork until well blended. Add buttermilk and egg to medium mixing bowl. Mix with fork until well blended. Dredge steak through flour mix. Dredge steak through buttermilk mix. Dredge steak once more through flour mix. Repeat for each steak. SAVE flour and buttermilk mixes remaining in mixing bowls.

Add vegetable oil to large skillet. Heat oil using medium-high heat. It will be hot enough when tiny pinch of buttermilk starts to dance in the oil. Add as many steaks as will fit in the skillet without touching. (You might need to cook in batches.) Fry for 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Place steaks on plates covered with paper towels.

Reduce heat to low-medium. Discard all but ⅓ cup liquid from the pan. Leave as much solid bits as possible in the pan. Add remaining flower mix from the large mixing bowl. Mix with wooden spoon until well blended while scrapping bottom of skillet with spoon to ensure even distribution of bits. Add milk. Stir with spoon until you have a well-blended gravy. Raise heat to medium and simmer for 7 minutes or until gravy thickens. Stir enough to keep gravy from burning. Place steaks on plates. Ladle gravy over steaks.

TIDBITS

1) Chicken Fried Steak is an anagram for Chicken Fired Keats. Keats was a romantic poet during the early nineteenth century, also known as the nine teeth century due to poor dental hygiene. His publisher was a chicken who took ill one day. Keat’s brought his boss chicken-noodle soup. Couldn’t hurt, he thought. But strange to say, the chicken took offense and fired the poet just after publishing his worst poems, Ode To A Doorknob. People stopped reading Keats. He became depressed, so much so that he up and died. Then suddenly in the 1920s, the American South experienced Romantic Poet Mania, none more than Chef Scalding of the famed Bella Bellum Hotel. Indeed the Chef named his newly created chicken fried steak after the poet’s dramatic incident. But Scalding was dyslexic and that is why the dish is now known as Chicken Fried Steak.

Leave a message. I’d like to hear from you.

Chef Paul

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Machanka

Belarusian Entree

MACHANKA

INGREDIENTS

1 pound pork shoulder or loin
1 pound Polish or pork sausages
1 medium onion
2½ tablespoons lard or butter
1¼ cups pork stock or beef stock
5 tablespoons flour
2 bay leaves
1 cup sour cream
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt

Serves 4. Takes 2 hours.

PREPARATION

Cut pork into 1″ cubes. Cut Polish sausages into 1″ slices. Dice onion. Add pork cubes and lard to pan. Sauté at medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until pork cubes start to brown. Stir occasionally. Remove pork cubes and drain on paper towel. Keep lard in pan.

Add pork stock and flour to small mixing bowl. Mix with whisk until well blended. Add onion and Polish sausage to pan. Sauté for 5 minutes at medium-high heat or until onion softens. Stir frequently. Add pork stock/flour mix, pork shoulder cubes, and bay leaves. Cover and simmer at warm-low heat for 1 hour or until pork cubes are tender. Stir enough to keep sauce from burning. Add sour cream, pepper, and salt. Cover and simmer at warm-low heat for 20 minutes. Stir enough to keep sauce from burning. Remove bay leaves.

TIDBITS

1) This dish is made with pork shoulder. It is called Machanka. The speed of sound, 767 miles per hour was, at first, also called Machanka. How was this speed measured? By having someone yell “Machanka” and then measuring the speed of an air molecule issuing from the yeller’s mouth. This technique did not work well. Air molecules are transparent, making them impossible to track.

2) Thank goodness for the scientists at the Pork Shoulder Catapulting Institute (PSCI) in Minsk. The PSCI dates back to the liberation of Belarus from the Mongols in 1373 when Sergey Daškievic, realized that frozen pork shoulders catapulted at Mongol armies completely disrupted their cavalry.

3) In 1962 the United States Air Force needed to know Machanka so it could build wings strong enough to withstand that speed. Naturally, it turned to the PSCI. The Institute’s scientist yelled “Machanka” at a starving artist at the same time a pork shoulder was catapulted. After many trials, the word “Machanka” arrived at the same time as the pork shoulder. The speed of sound was then calculated as (pork shoulder distance/ air time.) Over time Machanka was shortened to Mach 1.

Leave a message. I’d like to hear from you.

Chef Paul

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with 180 wonderful recipes is available on amazon.com. My newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, is also available on amazon.com

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Paul’s K-IT-CHEN

Gentle Readers,

Today’s blog is short and sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chef Paul De Lancey

 

 

(Please click on my name and submit scruff questions to my Facebook page and simply make a comment to this post. I look
forward to hearing from you.)

 

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with 180 wonderful recipes is available on amazon.com. My newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, is also available on amazon.com

 

 

 

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Descruffifying a Runway Model – Day Two

Gentle readers,

Horrors. My magnificent scruff is slowing disappearing. The natives have spoken against. Millions of adoring fan are in shock. My modeling agency loved the scruffy look. They pleaded with me. They threatened to fire me. But I am a supermodel. I am invulnerable to such threats. Who else is as handsome? Who else can walk down the runway with such style?

However, I feel your pain; I am descruffifying with admirable slowness. Today, I removed only the bottom half of the hair remaining under my lip from yesterday. And so it go one for future days. I will hang on the my scruff with the tenacity of a man fighting a bear for his life.

Do not worry, my friends, facial hair or no facial hair, I will still be a supermodel.

 

Full scruff                                       Descruffification – Day One                          Descruffification – Day Two

 

Supermodel Paul De Lancey

 

(Please click on my name and submit scruff questions to my Facebook page and simply make a comment to this post. I look
forward to hearing from you.)

 

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with 180 wonderful recipes is available on amazon.com. My newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, is also available on amazon.com

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Descruffifying a Runway Model – Day One

Gentle readers,

The razor is dead! Long live the razor! I ordered a new razor. In the meantime, I had let my face get scruffy. One of the homesteaders tolerated my scruffiness as long as I didn’t have a razor. The razor, it arrived. The homesteader pooh poohed the idea of any current razor working. Alas, I chose my razor too well. It works. The homesteader, then wanted me to shave off all my scruff.

But I had in the meantime published the photo of me in my full, glorious scruffiness. Adoring fans pleaded for me to keep the scruff. My modeling agency liked the new look. They loved the new contracts it would bring in. However, all these people are far, the homesteader is near. I had a problem. What to do?

I shall descruffify in steps. Today, I shaved the cheeks and the chin. I now sport a rather snappy fu Manchu. Tomorrow, a little bit more will disappear. It’s a bit like inoculating oneself against the plague, a horrible future surely. However, if your body is prepared for such an event, you can proceed with you life. In the same way, we will be able to go on when you have to live our lives without my scruff.

Courage, my friends, we will get through this trying time together. I will still be a supermodel.

 

 

Right: Day 1 of descruffication.
(Taken by me. This is why the agency has a photographer.)

 

 

Left: Full scruff
(Taken by agency’s photographer)

 

Supermodel Paul De Lancey

 

(Please click on my name and submit Bad Advice questions to my Facebook page and simply make a comment to this post. I look
forward to hearing from you.)

 

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with 180 wonderful recipes is available on amazon.com. My newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, is also available on amazon.com

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The Wonder Dog

This story was based on two sources. First, my dad who served his country in World War II  did his basic training in Louisiana, He said soldiers would throw snowballs at the platoon ahead of them as they marched off to the mess hall. He must have told me this story when I was quite young as snowballs during a Louisianan summer didn’t bother me. Or perhaps I misremembered  the story. Second, someone, decades ago, told me how a resourceful officer came across some abandoned hot dogs in a shed food and in a moment of admirable economy served the dodgy franks to the men on the base. The rest of the story is my imagination.

* * * * * * * * * *

We won the war. We brought the Nazis to their knees, not some namby-pamby foot soldier who probably counted dodging Spam thrown in the mess halls as combat experience. Yes sir, it was me and the airmen of Okeechobee. Young man, I’m gonna tell you our story.

Okeechobee, Florida then was only known for its millions of bugs; huge bugs the size of baseballs. But it was there, in 1944, that the Army set up the 800th Bomber Group, captained by Henry Pizarro.

Well, we were out in the middle of nowhere in a state often forgotten by the rest of the Union. Supplies never did get to us in a regular manner. Sometimes we’d go weeks without any supplies. Sometimes, we got a lot of stuff we didn’t really need. One week they sent us one million scarves, and 22,187 bird feeders stamped “U.S. Army bird feeder, Red-Headed Woodpecker Only.” Antonio Cedeno, Army Head Scratcher First Class, scratched his head and said, “That’s army for you.” Oh, we also received eight hundred tons of papayas. It seemed that although our nation’s scientists were still failing with the general concept of refrigeration, they had miraculously found a way to refrigerate papayas several months ago.

Well, around August, we had run out of all food but papayas for two months, and no one wanted to eat bugs. Hell, the bugs had been biting us so much that some of us figured we’d be cannibals if we’d eat them. So, we approached Lieutenant Kelso, who was in charge of food supplies. Kelso said that he was mighty sick of papaya soup and papaya burgers. He said he’d raise heaven and earth to find some new food.

The next day we heard a terrible ruckus all around us. Every flea-bitten mutt in the flea-bitten state of Florida was barking, yelping, yipping, and scratching his balls. Sergeant Niekro went out to investigate. Apparently, Kelso planned to use these dogs to sniff up some food for us.

Well, I decided to follow the dogs. They headed away from the mess hall as even dogs get tired of papaya biscuits. Those mutts made a bee line toward the swamp where bugs felt particularly secure and ornery. Way in the distance I could make out that huge ominous, gray, metallic building so forbidding that even the chaplain called it “the Hut of Hell.” The Hut of Hell housed our chemical supplies, used oil drums, and various pleasant poisons.

Those dogs just ran to the Hut and barked something fierce. Kelso, opened the door and immediately the dogs keeled over in agony. Kelso doubled over and proceeded to vomit big yellow chunks of papaya loaf. Sure, it was up to me, Robert Carbo, the man with the big sniffer. I dodged a stream of papaya spew from Kelso and went inside.

As God is my witness, I have never seen so many hot dogs in my life. These hot dogs were arranged in huge columns. Each column was twelve feet long by ten feet wide and stretched at least fifty feet up to the ceiling. There were thousands of these majestic columns.

Well, perhaps not majestic, more like tons of decaying, larva infested, grayish-green beef shapes. How long had they been sitting in that metal building in Florida’s fine, humid, 120-degree weather? However, stench worse than Private Aparicio’s pits after a twenty-mile hike, prompted to me continue this thought outside. I wrenched my boots free from some hot-dog ooze and bolted outside.

I carried Kelso all the way back to the infirmary. Unfortunately, our doctor was away in Miami picking up popsicle sticks off the sidewalks as we had run through our last shipments of tongue depressors. Corporal Johnny Conigliaro, a quack in civilian life, prescribed a dose of deadly nightshade, a rather poisonous, purplish flower. Kelso nearly died from this treatment but did not complain, saying, “It’s worth risking death to eat something that’s not yellowish orange.”

A week later Captain Pizarro, arose from his desk and put on his papaya-woven flak jacket and walked to the mess tent. The cook had outdone himself with a gourmet feast. We started off with a snappy papaya fondue and a Waldorf salad where the apples, celery, walnuts, and mayonnaise were substituted with papaya, papaya, papaya, and papaya sauce. For the main course he regaled us with a choice of: barbecued papaya sandwiches on papaya bread with a papaya sauce or chicken cordon bleu, where instead of chicken, ham, gruyere cheese, breading, and butter, he substituted papaya, papaya, curdled papaya juice, papaya crumbs, and melted papaya. For dessert we could choose either the papaya balls or the papaya flavored ice cream made with creamed papaya instead of cream. We washed down this feast with good ol’ papaya juice.

Captain Pizarro surveyed the yellow-orange expanse and announced that we were going to eat those hot dogs or die. Pale-faced Lieutenant Kelso staggered to his feet to voice his support before pitching forward into a huge bowl of papaya-bisque soup. Corporal Conigliaro timidly suggested that eating rotting hot dogs might kill us, or worse, give us diarrhea. Sergeant Gagliano put both of his powerful hands on Conigliaro and volunteered the Corporal for the honor of tasting the hot dogs.

Conigliaro said that although he was aware of the immense honor, he was reasonably sure that army regs stated that a certified medical doctor had to test all suspect foods. He was only an unregistered quack and so, respectfully declined.

It appeared that some stupid health regulation written by some desk-bound, pencil pusher in the Pentagon was going to deny us this wondrous, alternate source of food. However, our Sarge immediately volunteered Private Romero, a veterinarian, to taste the frankfurters.

Bilko accepted the assignment but said that he was such a good vet that he could determine the quality of the franks just by looking at them. He headed straight to the Hut of Hell, stopping only at the infirmary to put on a gas mask. Moments later he returned, ashen and trembling, stating that they were safe to eat. Though I did hear him mumble as he headed back to his tent hot dogs should not display internal movement. The other airmen just heard our cook announce hot dogs for tomorrow’s lunch.

Around eleven o’clock cookie started boiling the franks. Fortunately, a strong wind from the south blew the fumes away from the camp toward the town of Lake Harbor. About that time in an unrelated incident, Bert Taylor, a tea tester from that town, suddenly pulled his own head off and died.

We all lined up at the mess tent to eat our hot dogs in shifts of one hundred which was also the number of gas masks on hand. Well, the first shift manfully ate their hot dogs and immediately fell to the floor suffering from violent convulsions. Then Private Owchinko’s stomach burst open flinging his guts all over the mess hall. Soon, everyone’s guts erupted just like cooking popcorn. Owchinko turned his hideously contorted face toward me and said, “Dang, at least it wasn’t papaya.” He then died with a look of complete serenity on his face; well, at least as serene as one could get with an exploded stomach.

We carried the men outside and buried them properly. We put on all their tombstones, “He wouldn’t eat papaya.” Since bullets were scarce at our base, we gave our departed comrades ten hot-dog salutes. Most of these franks exploded in air giving off the same noise as rifle shots. However, some didn’t explode until they hit the ground. One hot dog, in particular, landed on a latrine and exploded, scattering its contents for hundreds of yards. Private Franco noted that the smells of the latrine improved the smell of the hot dog. However, Captain Pizarro displayed true genius when he stated these franks could be terrible weapons of war.

We drifted along in papaya hell until we received orders to fly over to Europe. The Germans had just broken through our lines in a massive offensive now known as the Battle of the Bulge. Disaster loomed and every airman was needed. We armed our bombers with our hot dogs, which now had been rotting for an additional four months in the hot, humid Hut of Hell.

Our 800th Bomber Group arrived just as the Germans seemed poised to overrun the heroic defenders of Bastogne. None of our infantry or armored divisions could get to them in time. None of the other bomber groups could get off the ground due to bad weather. However, we could and we did.

We bombed the hell out of those Nazis. A Tiger tank can take a direct hit from a Sherman tank just twenty yards away and drive away only mildly annoyed, but just one hit from our franks just ripped those tanks to bits. Down they fell, ton after ton of freedom franks. The foul, poisonous vapors from the exploding dogs suffocated the supporting German infantry. Our hot dogs created a huge hole in the German lines into which poured General Patton’s troops. Patton, that glory hog, claimed full credit for the American victory at Bastogne.

However, we knew better and so did many others. In fact, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain praised us saying, “This was their finest meat product.”

Doctor Paul De Lancey

(Please click on my name and submit Bad Advice questions to my Facebook page and simply make a comment to this post. I look
forward to hearing from you.)

 

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with 180 wonderful recipes is available on amazon.com. My newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, is also available on amazon.com

Categories: history | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Looking for Toilets, My Travels Through Europe: Venice

VENICE

Doge’s Palace has a public toilet.

See Venice while you can for many parts of it are sinking into the sea. It’s kinda like California slipping into the ocean at the rate of a half inch a year. But there are differences as well.

California has earthquakes, fires, has water shortages, is a hot bed of information technology, has a huge agricultural sector, gives free water at restaurants (if you ask for it) and lets you use restrooms at all sorts of places such as restaurants, supermarkets, and just about any sort of business where the public comes in.

Venice has no shortage of water. It’s everywhere sometimes it floods the main square that tourists infest, which is exciting if you’re wearing designer shoes.

Venice was founded in the fifth century when Attila the Hun was rampaging through Italy, sacking cities, slaughtering the populace, destroying the Roman Empire, and otherwise being rather unpleasant. Anyway, the citizens of Aquileia, a thriving city, saw no future in being massacred and high tailed to the nearby swamp. They reckoned the Huns, a tribe that grew up in east-central Europe, wouldn’t want to slog through the swamp just to extinguish a bunch a people whom they had no real quarrel with. The Aquileians were right and before you knew it, they were sinking pillars in the marsh to provide support for the buildings they were going to put up.

These swamp people called their new city, Venice after Venn diagrams, they were astoundingly into the theory of logic, and ice, a rare commodity in a Mediterranean* seaport in the Dark Ages. Anyway, the Venetians minded their own business for centuries. In disgraceful contrast, the other nations and city states, generally went around for centuries impaling each other with lances and other weapons.

All of a sudden a Venetian woke up and decide to make galleys. These were ships powered by men using oars. Think of fishing in a tiny lake. You used a rowboat. Only the Venetians galley were huge multi-decked rowboats requiring hundreds of oarsmen. Just as you want to protect your fishing spot and perhaps wanted the lake to yourself, the Venetians wanted the Mediterranean to themselves and used their galleys to sink the other nations ships.

However, instead of catching fish, the Venetians transported spices from the Middle East to the rest of Europe. The Europe of the Middle Ages and Renaissance had really no refrigerators to speak of. Thus, their food other rotted and stank, more than lutefisk even. So, the Middle Age diners really appreciated a good spice to cover up the bad food. And so the Venetians thrived.

Until suddenly, the Ottoman Empire conquered the Near East and shut off access to the spices. Moreover, Western Europe developed large sailing vessels that could whoop the pants off the Venetian galleys in combat and could travel long distances across the open sea. Venice went into a centuries long decline. You would have thought they could have used that declining time to come up with anything, like reclining chairs and public restrooms, but no.

Venice lost its independence to Austria in 1806. However, the conquered city still had lots and lots of pasta and fish. This made going to restaurants lots of fun. About this time, Signor Scampi added chairs to his pizzeria. What a great idea. People loved being able to seat down for supper. More and more chefs provided chairs for their customers. The trend toward chairs in Venetian restaurants continues to this very day.

Venice was a republic of sorts, although if you didn’t like the current governor–doges they called them–you were denounced, tried, convicted, and imprisoned or executed in one day. Movers and shakers you bet. People were so afraid of appearing unhappy, that they sported smiles all day long. Hence, the expression, “As smiley as a Venetian.”

My family and I as we got off the water taxi that took us from the port to St. Mark’s square. We headed to our first event, a gondola ride. We took our time, enjoying the architecture. Inevitably with a family of four, some of us had to pee. Where were the public toilets? Where was Waldo? Where was Ameila Earhardt? Actually, we found Ms. Amelia, but the need for the toilets remained unabated. Indeed the pressure mounted. We did find a fancy hotel near the gondola ride. After making our donations, we went outside to find the place where we would show our vouchers. According to the maps, the gondola extravaganza was supposed to be only ten yards away.

As the crow flies. As the drunken crow flies. We crossed a bridge and went to the gondola kiosk. The sphinxes periodically manning the booth ignored us. We recrossed the bridge in search of a caring employee. Nothing. We crossed back to the booth. Nothing. We ended up going over that bridge six times before we found an employee who put a round orange sticker on our shirts. We were good to go.

We got in line. We had a good position even though the gondola guys had sold hundreds of tickets for our time slot. Actually this wasn’t true due to a cultural misunderstanding. In America, people generally stand behind the last person in line. In Venice and in the airport coming back, standing in line meant standing to the side of people in line, generally near the front. Soon a vast semi-circle sea of people stood around the gondolas pressing ever forward as if  trying to get into a Who concert.

Eventually we got on a gondola and began our bumper-to-bumper (prow-to-bow on a gondola?) tour of the back canals of Venice. Many power boats made deliveries on alcohol to the back entrances of various bars. Cool, actually.

After the ride, I had the clever idea of finding where our evening Vivaldi concert would be. Although the venue had St. Mark’s as part of its address, our consensus was to use GPS. GPS resolutely marched us to and around tiny alleys away from St. Marks. We came to an epiphany; GPS sucks in narrow alleys.

We did find a small pizzeria where authentic Chinese waitresses provided efficient and cheerful service. This restaurant might have had a restroom. We’ll never know. None of us felt brave enough to pass a shrieking toddler to look. Oh how, weak and naive we were.

But we were smart and experienced enough now to head back to St. Mark’s Square to find Saint Mark’s Cathedral. (By the way, twenty-four years earlier I had the good fortune to visit this square during the Carnival season. I saw many wonderful acts, many in Italian and some in English. I also did the Hokey Pokey with a bunch of Americans. My contribution was, “You put your left ear in. You put your left ear out…)

Anyway the biggest tourist attraction in Venice is St. Mark’s Cathedral, named after St. Mark. My family went there for a full mass on Saturday evening. Mass was in Italian, but the choir was from Britain and sang in English, which was cool. But no restroom. During mass, touring around the cathedral is forbidden. So is flash photography, at least in theory. Sitting is forbidden during the tourist hours. So, you can’t sit in a pew and look at spectacular mosaic in the ceiling. And there’s no public restroom inside.

After mass, we went outside to find our concert. My gosh, it was literally twenty yards away. There was a big sign saying, “Vivaldi Concert tonight.” Fuck you, GPS.

The concert was fantastic. We were in the second row, only fifteen feet away from the musicians. The concert hall had seats for only about forty people. The energy and the skill of the musicians, well oh my gosh they were great. And they played Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons, one of my favorites. (I had listened to Vivaldi’s Two Seasons a couple decades earlier from a slow-arriving herd of Parisian violinists. No comparison, these Venetian folks were the real McCoys.)

And the concert venue had a public toilet. Sure I had to clamber up a two-foot high step, but I had been toughened, and so it proved no obstacle at all.)

A great concert, two public toilet, and mass at one of the most famous cathedrals in the world, the day had been good.

Next day we stampeded the doge’s palace in St. Mark’s square. The doges had  lived there. It’s also where the nobility conducted the affairs of state. Venice was by the standards of its times, a rabid democracy. At first, nearly all the men could vote. Then sometime during the Middle Ages, the nobility in an admirable display of voter suppression struck all but a few thousand men from the voting rolls. The criminal justice system occurred in this building as well. With a strong Protestant work ethic, this Catholic government (the Reformation wouldn’t occur for centuries) heard, convicted, and sentenced people with assembly line efficiency.

Which they needed to do as they apparently had and still have, thank goodness, one public restroom. Would you want to spend hours uncovering quilt when you needed to pee. How did I know of this restroom? Twenty-four years earlier, I had toured the doge’s palace with a reasonably empty bladder. Only after leaving the palace did I look at my tour guide. It said, “Don’t forget to visit the public restroom at the palace. People restrooms are scarcer than hens’ teeth in St. Mark’s Square.” The tour book was right. A few hours later, I found myself wandering the Square saying, “A toilet! My American ExpressTM travellers checks for a toilet.” So this time I was able to comfortably whiz away while surrounded by centuries of history.

We then took our self-guided tour of St. Mark’s Cathedral. For love of God, Montressor, book your tickets in advance. Plate tectonics moves faster than lines at the Cathedral’s kiosks. The cathedral was as beautiful as it had been the previous day.

Our ticket to the doge palace gave our free entry to the city’s art museum. Let me tell you the energy spent railroading enemies of the state to their death did not diminish in the slightest the output of the land’s magnificent artists. Lots of busts of Napoleon, which was exciting for me as I am a direct descendant of his and it was nice to speculate how all this art and city could have been mine if only he had won the Battle of Waterloo.

Then tragedy struck. The men’s bathroom in the museum was, was . . . oh the humanity, was blocked of for cleaning. Well fuck. So we went outside to look for a public bathroom. We saw a sign for one. We did! We did!

We didn’t find it. We looked for hours. In desperation, we went into a restaurant. Number Two Son approached the proprietor*. The conversation remains burned in my brain.

“Do you have a restroom?” asked Number Two Son.

“Yes,” said the evil proprietor.

“May we use it?”

“No.”

“How about if we eat dinner here?”

“No.”

So we head back to the water-taxis with my bladder full as Boulder Dam after a rainy season. And there it was, Harry’s Bar! My gosh, the famous Harry’s Bar. Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Orson Welles, Aristotle Onassis, and other luminaries used to get drunk here and it was quite all right. And carpaccio was invented here. Contessa Amalia Nania Mocenigo was told that for her health she had to give up cooked meat. The clever bar owner sliced sirloin steak as thin as possible drizzled a sauce made of mayonnaise, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, and a soupçon of milk. A place fit for an exclamation point!

I went in to whizz. I asked to use the restroom. They answered politely and pointed the way. I expressed my gratitude after I came out. I said how excited I was to be at Harry’s Bar. They smiled and thanked me. We went back to our ship. A palace, an art museum, culinary history, and two public restrooms. Life was good.

* = Mediterranean is hard to spell. So is proprietor.

Paul De Lancey, Intrepid Explorer

 

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with 180 wonderful recipes is available on amazon.com. My newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, is also available on amazon.com

Categories: history, international | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bad Advice Friday, 5-12-17

Oh my gosh. It’s Friday already. Did you know there’s one every week? So, I shall once more be dispensing bad advice As usual, the advice will stupendously bad.
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JW asks: Should I really call my mom, or get her a gift or card, or visit her, or any of those other mother’s day things?

Dear JW: I think you should give the Mothers’ Day of Benedict Cummerbund. He’s handsome as anything, he’s rich, he has a career, what more could mother want? Ask Benadryl Cuminpatch if he’d like to spend the rest of his life with Mom. You’ll have to ask Benpicked Cucumber nicely as he is, as indeed all celebrities, used to people gushing up to him. If a lifetime commitment is too much, would he be willing to do whatever Mom wanted for one day. Should he complain of lost income from his movies, you’ll just have to rob banks until you’ve accumulated $100 million. Oh, and a grilled cheese sandwich. Make sure the cheese is gruyère. Celebrities have expenses tastes. This will be a Mothers’ Day Mom will never forget.

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SL Red, purple, or green?

Dear SL: The White House has been that uninspired white ever since its construction. I applaud your desire to spiff up the world’s most recognized building, to give it some character, to have some fun. Since, the color of the Republican party is often thought to be red, it would good to paint the White House red. I strongly suggest using spray paint for the job as the Secret Service is not going to give you much time to do a professional job with a roller and a paint brush. Indeed, they apt to be rather cross with you while hauling you away to ask such questions such as, “How did you get over the fence and so close to the White House without being spotted?” You’ll be able to answer with, “Why I went to the nearest circus and bought a cannon from the Human Cannonball. I then shot myself and my paint.” Maybe that will impress them. It’s worth a shot. (See what I did there?)

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JCA asks: Mayo, or Miracle Whip? Not for food, but for bedroom fun. (Asking for a friend).

Dear JCA: My natural inclination as a chef is to suggest mayonnaise as it is a purer food and less likely to be a chemical sh*tstorm. Indeed, try to get mayonnaise with all natural ingredients. Let’s keep our planet green. However in this case, spreadability and lubrication will be prized more than it would be in making a tuna sandwich, I suggest the scientific method. Have two bedroom romps with each volunter. Ask them if they preferred the mayonnaise experience or the one with Miracle WhipTM. You might need hundreds of volunteer partners before you become quite confident in your results. Should you have a spouse who balks at your scientific zeal, you might need to present your sweetheart with a nice box of chocolates and some lovely flowers when asking their permission. Oh, and make sure you always use fresh mayonnaise and Cool Whip. You don’t want to get false responses from your volunteers because you used something rancid. Check those expiration dates.

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KGV states: Thanks for the reminder. Being retired, I easily forget which day of the week we are celebrating.

Dear KGV: It is easy to forget the day of the week, isn’t it? Buy yourself a $600 cell phone, one that shows the day of the week. You don’t have to use the phone for anything. If opening the cell phone just to find the day of the week seems a bit weird, hire a butler. The butler will follow you around and will be pleased to tell what day it is no how many times you ask.

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LF asks: Why do ticks tick?

Dear LF: Not all ticks tick, only the explosive ones. Explosiveness was a defensive trait evolved by ticks during the Cretaceous period. Ticks of that time were forever getting trampled underfoot by tyrannosaurus rexes hot on the pursuit of a brontosaurus burger. A tick scout would raise the alarm whenever a T-rex approached. The explosive ticks would rush the killer dinosaur and explode themselves. The explosion would kill the tyrannosaurus, but the rest of the tick colony would be saved. Sure it would take a lot of ticks to fell a mighty Rex, but holy moly, there are a boatload of ticks. There’s a practical use to this as well. North Korea has not acting at all neighborly lately. To help the world, get on the plane to North Korea with a carry-on bag full of explosive ticks. Don’t worry about TSA, the ticks aren’t metallic and aren’t even on any list of prohibited items. The North Koreans, being a wary sort, might ask you what’s in your bag. They might even open your bag and ask, “What are those ticks doing?” You should say, “I don’t know. Do ticks talk?” (See what I did there?) Then head to the nearest military installation, the one where you can do the most damage. Tell the ticks that those North Korean missiles or fighter planes are T-Rexes. The ticks will blow up the entire installation or base. Oh I forgot, the North Korea security is a distrustful lot. Try to blend in as you make your way through the countryside.

Doctor Paul De Lancey

(Please click on my name and submit Bad Advice questions to my Facebook page and simply make a comment to this post. I look
forward to hearing from you.)

 

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with 180 wonderful recipes is available on amazon.com. My newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, is also available on amazon.com

Categories: bad advice Friday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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