Posts Tagged With: art

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

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CandylandTM to be Theme of Poway’s New Modern Art Museum

Candyland

All Poway, California is buzzing with excitement. In just three month’s the town’s new in its tiara, the $188.2 million CowboyMetrics Museum will open. No one is prouder than museum curator, “Tex” Roland.

“I’m just fit to bust,” said the beaming Tex. “For decades now, folks just plain associated cowpokes with roping, herding, and advanced statistical skills.” Tex stops to spit expertly on a fire ant. “That ain’t true no more. We have our sensitive, avant-garde side, too.”

Indeed. Yesterday, Tex, the famed rodeo king and speedy inverter of matrices, favored me with a private tour of his cutting edge museum.  We started with “Grub,” the museum’s restaurant and homage to cattle drive food. The eatery’s jumbo Gulf shrimp cocktails and sumptuous Swedish meatball bar, presided over by internationally acclaimed chef Pierre “Windy” LeBouef are to die for. When questioned, Tex assured me that cattle-drive food was much more international and gourmet than portrayed in Western movies and dime novels.

On to the museum’s breath-taking canvasses. I gazed intently at two giant green squares, one atop the other, on a bold in-your-face white canvas.

“Tex, that looks like a double-green square from CandylandTM, you know that game we played as kids.”

“Sure is,” said the worthy curator. “Candyland is plum near the alpha and omega of modern art. Milton BradleyTM might have made that game to entertain the youngin’s of this great land, but they also said the final word in modern art. There ain’t been no more artists of any note since Candyland came on the scene.”

“What about Jackson Pollock?” I said.

“Pre Candyland,” said Tex.

You know, he was right. I walked subdued down the long hallways overhung with massive Bohemian chandeliers, on floors made with the finest Tuscan marble. On the walls, hung huge paintings of all the Candyland playing cards done up in fine style on vibrant white canvases from “Bronco” Henri of Paris. I saw red squares, blue ones, double greens, and there, there, in a room all by itself, Queen Frostine on a forty-five foot canvas.

Humanity has truly reached the pinnacle of artistic brilliance, but I don’t know whether to swell with pride or cry.

– Paul De Lancey, art critic

4novels

Check out my latest novel, the Christmas thriller, Beneficial Murders. My books are available in paperpack or Kindle on amazon.com, 

or on my website-where you can get a signed copy at: www.lordsoffun.com

 

 

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Tex Mex T Rex

Cretaceous Entree

TEX MEX T REX

INGREDIENTSTRex-

1 medium tyrannosaurus rex
300 garlic cloves
1,500 medium yellow onions
2,999 jars (18 ounces) barbecue sauce
1 15 ounce bottle organic ketchup
200 pounds chili powder
100 pounds cumin
25 pounds thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
40 gallons lemon juice
120 gallons Worcestershire sauce
12,000 hamburger buns

Note: Getting the amounts exact is critical. If your sums are off you just have to recount.

SPECIAL UTENSILS

1 time machine
1 sonic obliterator (not sold in Oregon as of publication)
1 culinary chainsaw (I recommend the Bushnell 303TM model)
1,500 crock pots
1 multi-story mixing bowl
1 24,000-hole toaster
1 deluxe surge protector

PREPARATION

Set time machine to Wednesday, June 3rd, 3 p.m., 65,403,002 B.C.. (For goodness sake, don’t push things and try to get yourself a T-Rex minutes before that giant meteorite slams into the Earth killing nearly everything. If you die in this cataclysm and don’t come back, your guests will never talk to you. You don’t need this social awkwardness.)

But it does remind me, to make Tex Mex T Rex you really need to kill a T Rex. For this job, you’ll want to get a premium sonic obliterator. One with a T-Rex rating. Don’t expect to waltz into a WalMartTM and buy the first sonic obliterator you see. You’ll be sorry. Indeed, you’ll be dead when the feeble sonic vibration from your off-the-shelves obliterator merely angers the T Rex into charging you. Always, always buy quality kitchen utensils.

Do not forget to kill the T-Rex. Be sure to slice up the T Rex into the various cuts of meat at the site and the time of the killing. This takes a long time and culinary chainsaws are noisy. You don’t want to annoy your current time, human neighbors. But in the Cretaceous period the chainsaw noise will scare off all those pesky predators who’d want to eat you. Take all your T-Rex cuts back with you. Don’t drop any. No one likes a litterbug.

Mince garlic cloves and onions. This should take no time at all as you have a time machine. Put T-Rex bits in crock pots. Add garlic, onion, barbecue sauce, organic ketchup, chili powder, cumin, salt, thyme, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce.

Set crock pots to high and cover them. Cook for 6 hours or until meat is tender. Remove T-Rex meat. Shred meat and return meat to crock pots for 30 minutes. Toast buns. Serve meat on buns. Note, this is a big meal. May I suggest serving it picnic style with plastic utensils and cardboard plates?

TIDBITS

1) Until the invention of the time machine, Cretaceous cuisine was impossible,

2) We have, of course, always had Cretan cuisine. However, food from the island of Crete is usually considered to be indistinguishable from the rest of Greek cuisine.

3) However, things would change dramatically if a Cretan restaurateur were to successfully transport T-Rex meat back to the current time. Crowds would certainly flock to Kronos’ Cretan Cretaceous Crudités.

4) This development would certainly provide a challenge to the Tex Mex T Rex cuisine of southwest Texas.

5) As of press time, 43% of all Tex Mex T Rex sandwiches are served in El Paso, Texas.

6) There are lots of non-culinary things to do in El Paso, Texas.

7) Be sure to take in the town’s T-Rex processing plant. Tours cost $20 person if you book now. However, the cost conscious can always go back in time, deposit a dollar in the bank, and gather enough interest to pay for the tour.

8) For an alternative experience, go to Hueco Tanks State Park and scale its huge boulders.

9) Those in your group who survive this experience will want to take in the Museum of Art and see American and Mexican colonial art.

10) Stargazing is quite popular here, especially at night.

11) So is sleeping.

12) Pleasant dreams.

– Chef Paul

4novels

My cookbook, Eat Me: 169 Fun Recipes From All Over the World,  and novels are available in paperpack or Kindle on amazon.com

As an e-book on Nook

or on my website-where you can get a signed copy at: www.lordsoffun.com

Categories: cuisine, food, humor, international, recipes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pico de Gallo

Mexican Appetizer

PICO DE GALLO

INGREDIENTSPicoDeGallo-

4 Roma tomatoes
1 medium white onion
1 jalapeno pepper (1/2 or even 1/4 if you like it milder)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
4 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

PREPARATION

Dice tomatoes, onion, and cilantro. De-seed and dice jalapeno. (Wash hands afterward. If you touch your face before washing, it will burn.) Put tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, and salt in bowl. Mix with spoon.

TIDBITS

1) You really should listen to the song “Pico de Gallo” by Trout Fishing in America. The link to the song is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kL5f0np7EU. Visit Trout Fishing in America’s website at: http://www.troutmusic.com/.

2) Pico de gallo goes well with tortilla chips.

3) Guatemala has suffered through many years of civil wars. Peasants would often take to the hills to avoid the guerrillas and the government forces. The villagers’ main source of sustenance was the humble tortilla. However, old tortillas dry out and become hard to eat. So the peasants would fry their tortillas in oil to make tortilla chips which lasted longer.

4) Humanity began its ascent in the Americas with the development of the first tortillas in 10,000 B.C.. Beer provided the upward impetus across the Atlantic Ocean. Civilizations such as the Aztecs and the Mayans flourished because of the tortillas and indeed they developed advanced art, architecture, math, astronomy, and pico de gallo. America has the world’s largest economy because of its great tortilla chip and beer industries.

5) The Spanish royalty dispatched Christopher Columbus in 1492 to find these fabled tortilla lands. In 1519 Hernando Cortez conquered the Aztecs on Central Mexico securing a Spanish tortilla monopoly. Mexican tortillas would provide the sustenance for the many and mighty armies that held together the vast and numerous of the Spanish empire..

6) In 1993 China began producing flour tortillas. China will soon have the world’s largest economy.

– Chef Paul

cover

My cookbook, Eat Me: 169 Fun Recipes From All Over the World, is available in paperpack or Kindle on amazon.com

As an e-book on Nook

or on my website-where you can get a signed copy at: www.lordsoffun.com

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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