Posts Tagged With: Chef Paul

Afghan Burgers

Afghan Entree

AFGHAN BURGERS

INGREDIENTS

1 cup fresh cilantro
3 garlic cloves
1 red onion
4 eggs
3 cups crinkle-cut fries or enough to cover cookie sheet
3 sausages, beef or chicken
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
⅓ cup water
2 Roma tomatoes
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vinegar
5 lavash or roti loaves

SPECIAL UTENSILS

11″ x 17″ cookie sheet
newspaper or paper*
tin foil*

* = This really is a street food. It is meant to be held. If you don’t have paper, and perhaps, foil on the bottom, your hands will get greasy and food will go all over everything.

Makes 6 wraps. Takes 45 minutes.

PREPARATION

Dice cilantro, garlic cloves and red onion. Slice each sausage into 8 round pieces. Boil eggs, for 6 minutes for soft boiled to 12 minutes for hard boiled. While eggs boil, cook French fries according to instruction on package. While fries cook, add sausage pieces and vegetable oil to pan. Sauté sausage pieces at medium-high for 5 minutes or until they are brown on all sides. Turn sausages enough to prevent burning. Add water. Reduce heat to medium. Cook at medium heat for 3 minutes or until pieces are no longer pink inside.

Cut each egg into 6 slices. Cut tomatoes into ½” slices. Cut lavash loaves into 4″-wide strips. Evenly add ingredients to the lavash strips following order: eggs, tomato, red onion, fries, pepper, salt, sausage, cilantro, garlic, and vinegar. Roll up food-laden naan strips. Wrap naan roll-ups with paper, being careful to fold paper under the bottom of the roll-ups. Then do the same with the tin foil.

TIDBITS

1) As noted above in the recipe, the Afghan burger is a street food.

2) It is less well known, however, is that it is the world’s first street food. And even less known than that is that the Afghan burger was invented in Poway, California, two million years ago*, 100,000 years before Lucy, homo habilis, the supposed first human roamed the Earth.

* = Also written as 2.0 mya. These tidbits are nothing, if not scientific.

3) Patty, homo streetfoodus and chef extra ordinaire, invented the Afghan burger, while pondering the infinite* and keeping an eye out for vicious mountain lions.

* = Homo streetfoodus‘ counting system was one, two, infinite. So, her dreaming of infinity was not as grandiose as it might have seemed. But then she had a smaller brain than we do, so it all worked out.

4) Anyway, while Patty contemplated a herd of infinitely-legged gazelles, the sky began to thunder. Zap! Zap! a lightning bolt struck one of the gazelles. The force and heat of the bolt was so intense that the gazelle exploded into dozens of fully cooked sausages. It is by fortuitous events that humanity advances.

5) Pow! Zap! The storm raged. A lightning bolt hit an elm tree turning into paper. Then the storm stopped, enabling tin traders from Cornwall, homo satnavus, to arrive.

6) Then food traders from Boston*, homo marathonus, showed up at Poway; even then Poway was the place to be. They gave Patty fresh cilantro, garlic, red onions, potatoes, vegetable oil, pepper, salt, and vinegar.

* = The Boston of two million years ago was much smaller than the current city. You wouldn’t have recognized it.

7) “All we need is some eggs.” said Patty. Fortunately, and this was one of those rare days when things really came together for humanity*, a herd of chickens migrated by, leaving an infinite number of eggs.

* = Indeed, Patty won a million dollars in the lottery that very day. However, as she and the others had no notion of money, the winning ticket went uncashed.

8) And so, Patty made Afghan burgers for the happy band of traders. And the burgers said that they were good. And Patty was well pleased. But they were quite hot. Truly and forsooth, through the millennia. as people lost the enormous finger calluses they had 2.0 mya, this version of the hot, juicy Afghan burgers caused more and more pain. Eventually, the Afghan burger disappeared into the sands of time. Fortunately, an unknown chef hero resurrected the entree, this time using flatbread to soak up the hot juices. Afghan burgers are now taking the culinary world by storm.

9) Culinary paleoanthropologists, however, don’t know why this dish is called the Afghan burger when there is no patty in it but was created by Patty, and was first made in Poway, California, not Afghanistan. We may never know. Further research is indicated.

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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Italian Panini

Italian Entree

ITALIAN PANINI

INGREDIENTS

1 ciabatta roll, Italian roll, or French roll
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 deli-thin slice Provolone cheese (2 more slices later)
¼ cup roasted red bell pepper strips
4 deli-thin slices capocollo
4 del-thin slices Genoa salami
3 deli-thin slices ham
3 deli-thin slices pepperoni
2 ounces pepperoncini peppers
⅛ teaspoon basil
2 deli-thin slices Provolone cheese

SPECIAL UTENSIL

panini press

Serves 4. Takes 20 minutes.

PREPARATION

Open ciabatta roll. Brush outside of roll with olive oil. Brush inside of roll with mayonnaise. Add 2 slices Provolone to bottom half of roll. Then add in the following order: roasted red pepper strips, capocollo, salami, ham, pepperoni, basil, pepperoncini rings, basil. 2 slices Provolone. and top half of roll. Place completed sandwich in panini press. Toast according to panini press’ instructions or until cheese melts or until bread turns golden brown.. Cut panini sandwich into four smaller ones.

TIDBITS

1) Italian panini is best made with a ciabatta roll. The cia batta roll was originally called the CIA batta roll. Because it was invented by the CIA. Specifically, by Guido Panini, the inventor of the Italian shirt press.

2) Guido was recruited by accident, in 1949, by the CIA. Nevertheless, he continually rose in position because all other employees had made enemies, while everyone loved him for his panini sandwiches. Indeed, in 1961 became director.

3) Later that year, Mr. Panini, suffering from an upset stomach, tried to overthrow Cuba’s Fidel Castro by invading the Bay of Pigs. The whole operation was a fiasco. Guido was given his pink slip, while the CIA was discredited to the extent that the CIA batta roll was quietly renamed, the ciabatta. Chastened, the Agency picks it head nowadays by proficiency in intelligence gathering.

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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Garlic Bread

Italian Appetizer

GARLIC BREAD

INGREDIENTS

1 loaf Italian bread or French Bread or French rolls
3 garlic cloves
½ cup butter, completely softened
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

SPECIAL UTENSILS

food processor (optional)
tin foil

Serves 4. Takes 30 minutes.

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice bread diagonally every 1″. DO NOT slice bread all the way to the bottom; keep the loaf together. Mince garlic quite finely, use a food processor if desired. Add finely minced garlic, softened butter, olive oil, and Italian seasoning to mixing bowl. Blend thoroughly with whisk or fork. Use spatula to spread garlic butter between bread slices.

Wrap loaf in foil and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until bread is slightly browned.

TIDBITS

1) Garlic bread is an anagram for Grab Da Rice. Grab Da Rice was a slogan for the hungry French rioters of 1781. It was not a particularly good slogan as incendiary slogans go. I mean, some firebrand would whip up the Parisian sans culottes to a fever pitch and then he’d say, “Grab da rice.”

2) But not many stores in the Paris of 1781 even carried rice. So many rioters dissipated their energy tramping all over looking for riceries. They developed blisters and leg cramps and never ever again heeded the call for revolution.

3) The happy few, well as happy as you can be when you’re in full riot mode, found rice stores had trouble grabbing much rice with their hands. The rice kept slipping between their fingers as they scurried all the way home. A more informative slogan would have been, “Scoop the da rice with a large spoon and but it in a sack.” But that’s too long for exciting people to riot.

4) The French revolution only really took off when its leaders targeted bread rioters with, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.” Proper word choice matters, even in a revolution.

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 Camembert Burger – Blog 999

American Entree

PAUL’S CAMEMBERT BURGER

INGREDIENTS

1½ pounds ground beef
½ teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine
½ cup heavy whipping cream or crême fraiche
1 tablespoon fresh* herbs (thyme, marjoram, or sage)
4 ounces Camembert cheese, no rind
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 French rolls

* = Try to use fresh ingredients for this dish. However, if that is not possible, use 1 teaspoon dried herbs instead.                A still-life painting by Vincent van Gogh.

Serves 4. Takes 30 minutes.

PREPARATION

Add ground beef and herbes de Provence to mixing bowl. Mix with hands. Shape beef into 4 oblong patties that match the shape of the French rolls. Add butter and olive oil to pan. Warm butter using medium heat until butter melts and browns. Tilt pan occasionally to ensure even melting. Add beef patties. Sauté at medium-high heat for 5 minutes per side or until meat is done to your liking. Remove beef patties to dish and cover to keep warm. Keep liquid in pan.

Toast French rolls. Add wine to pan. Bring to boil using high heat. Stir frequently. Add whipping cream and herbs. Stir. Bring to boil again using high heat. Stir frequently. Reduce heat to medium high. Add Camembert cheese and Dijon mustard. Stir constantly until cheese dissolves and blends into the rest of the sauce. Add beef patty to each French roll bottom. Pour sauce over beef patties. Place French roll tops on sauce-covered patties.

TIDBITS

1) Vincent van Gogh painted food for cookbooks. It kept him going during his lean years which were many as he sold only one non-food pictures in his lifetime. Van Gogh also had to work at carnivals as an egg catcher. He and his pals wowed crowds by tossing raw eggs for longer and longer distances without dropping them or letting them break. Van Gogh’s supple hands that helped him catch eggs also allowed him to wield his paint brush with a deft touch. Today, we honor his memory with Poway’s annual Impressionist Egg Toss Festival.

2) All his food paintings but for the incredibly valuable one here perished in s freak fire. Odd.

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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Homemade Butter

American Appetizer

HOMEMADE BUTTER

INGREDIENTS

3 cups heavy whipping cream
½ cup ice water
¼ teaspoon salt (optional, to taste)

SPECIAL UTENSILS

food processor (best), immersion blender or electric whisk
fine-mesh colander or colander with cheesecloth
butter molds (optional)

Makes 1 cup or 2 sticks butter. Takes 15 minutes.

PREPARATION

Add whipping cream to food processor. Whip cream until it cream fully separates into thickish butter and buttermilk. This can take up to 10 minutes. Place large bowl under colander. Pour contents of food processor into colander. Most of the buttermilk will go through the colander and into the bowl.

Put butter into 2nd bowl. Use your hands to press down on the butter until all of the buttermilk is out of the butter. Pour some cold water onto the butter. Knead butter. Carefully drain water from bowl. Repeat until poured-off water is clear. This process removes the last of the buttermilk from the butter. Add salt, to taste, and mix into butter with fork. Save the buttermilk for drinking or for recipes.

This butter is soft but will harden in the refrigerator. You can make sticks of butter with butter molds. Butter will store in the fridge for 2-to-6 weeks.

TIDBITS

1) There’s always the hope that prison time will rehabilitate criminals.

2) This is why most American prisons have ParcheesiTM leagues. This game teaches people to deal with the ups and downs of life and to take a longer view of things. Plus the long Parcheesi season keeps the inmates busy. More than one avid prisoner has had to be dragged from a post-season tournament game simply because his sentence was up.

3) Freshly made butter hardens in refrigerators. So do freshly made convicts. This is why the higher-security prisons never let jailbirds ever get inside a fridge or even own one. Butter also makes it much easier for people get out of handcuffs. This is why arresting officers won’t give their suspect a stick of butter. One phone call yes, but butter never.

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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Newfoundland Pork Buns

Canadian Appetizer

NEWFOUNDLAND PORK BUNS

INGREDIENTS

½ pound salt pork
¼ cup shortening or butter
3 cups flour (2 tablespoons more later)
2 tablespoons baking powder
¼ cup sugar
1 cup water

SPECIAL UTENSIL

cookie sheet

Makes 7 buns. Takes 1 hour.

PREPARATION

Dice salt pork. Add salt pork and shortening to pan. Sauté at medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until salt pork browns. Add 3 cups flour, baking powder, and sugar to large mixing bowl. Mix with whisk until well blended. Use first to make well in flour. Add salt pork and fat from pan to well in flour. Add water. Mix with fork until well blended.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dust flat surface with 2 tablespoons flour. Roll out flour until it is ½” thick. Cut out 4″-wide circles or any other shape or size you desire. Arrange dough circles on cookie sheet. Allow at least 1″ between dough circles. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick stuck in the center of a bun comes out clean.

TIDBITS

1) Ancient Japanese samurai got into so many sword fights that they had to have swords in both hands at all times. If you were a pork-bun-holding samurai, you’d die if a ninja armed with knives, axes, swords, and death stars jumped out of the shadows to attack you. Sure, you might in the first blow, but the best you could hope is crumbs all over the murderous assailant’s face. Then you’d die.

2) Which would be a bummer. So, samurai learned to cook pork buns. They’d poke a hole in the pork bun just wide enough to fit around the warrior’s pony tail. The fierce samurai would then tie the pony into a knot. The knot kept the pork bun from falling off. This freed the samurai’s hands to hold swords. Sword wielding samurai no longer got assassinated by ninjas. The now long-living samurai of 1178 were free to pick flowers and inhale their fragrance.

3) Which didn’t happen, of course. The fierce samurai sought out danger. Since there was none at home, they traveled to Newfound in search of it. They took their pork bun recipe with them, which is why Newfoundland has the recipe. Indeed, culinary archaeologists expect to find  evidence of  samurai habitation in Newfoundland just as they did with the Vikings at L’anse aux Meadows.

Chef Paulcookbookhunks

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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Bananas With Split Peas

Rwandan Entree

BANANAS WITH SPLIT PEAS

INGREDIENTS

1¾ cups dried split peas
4 cups water or enough to cover split peas
4 ripe bananas¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons palm oil or peanut oil
1 medium onion

SPECIAL UTENSIL

mandoline

Makes 4 bowls. Takes 1 hour 30 minutes.

PREPARATION

Add split peas and water to large pot. Bring to boil using high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour or until peas soften. Stir occasionally.
Peel bananas. Place entire bananas on top of mushy peas. Cover and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep peas from burning. (Stir gently so that bananas don’t break into pieces.)

While bananas and peas simmer, use mandoline to cut onion into slices ⅛” thick. Add onion, palm oil, and onion to pan. Sauté at medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until onion softens and browns. Add cayenne pepper and salt. Ladle onion and oil over bananas. Stir gently until oil blends in with the peas.

TIDBITS

1) This recipe calls for a medium onion. Onion mediums help us, the living, communicate with those who have gone to the Great Beyond.

2) This differs from musicians communicating to the great Beyoncé. They do that by cell phone.

3) Anyway, the most commonly question asked of the dearly departed was, “Our are missing socks over there with you?” The answer was always, “Yes. you’ll soon see them again.”

4) Unfortunately, people asked that question so often that the onion mediums became unable to channel any other questions between our world and the next. So, frustrated truth seekers took to eating the mediums. The onions proved to be tasty. This is why they are in so many recipes. But do try to cook with medium onions, they’ll leave you more than enlightened than will the other sizes.

Chef Paulcookbookhunks

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 apocaly

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Picadillo

Cuban Entree

PICADILLO

INGREDIENTS

1 green bell pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 large onion
3 Roma tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ pounds ground beef
3 tablespoons dry white wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
12 pimiento (aka pimento) stuffed olives
¼ cup raisins
2 tablespoons fresh parsley

Serves 6. Takes 45 minutes.

PREPARATION

Seed and mince bell pepper. Mince garlic cloves. Dice onion and tomato. Add bell pepper, garlic, onion, olive oil, cumin, oregano, pepper, and salt to pan. Sauté at medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until onion softens. Stir frequently. Add ground beef, wine, tomatoes and tomato paste. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add olives and raisins. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or until raisins plump. Stir occasionally. Garnish with parsley.

TIDBITS

1) The first soup bowls didn’t have a bottom. Scalding-hot soup ladled into them went straight through to the would-be diner’s lap. This is why birth rates were so low until the Renaissance. Then in 1466 a young busboy, Leonardo Da Vinci, weary of cleaning up soup spills, invented soup bowls with bottoms. Suddenly, he had free time to invent and paint. Other busboys such as Michelangelo used this expanded off hours to paint and sculpt. The Renaissance was born.

2) Unfortunately, with creative energies diverted to the arts, bowl design stagnated. Soup-eating armies found little time for campaigning as they took forever to be served. Indeed, General Lee’s peanut-eating army consistently stole a march on their soup-slurping Northern counterparts. Then in 1863, busboy, George Meade discovered he could toss the soup bowls like a FrisbeeTM, if he made the bowls round. (Yes, it does take practice to this without spilling the soup.) President Lincoln, realized an army that could serve soup suddenly could keep up with the Rebels. He made Meade general. Three days, the round-bowl eating bluecoats defeated the gray coats at Gettysburg. The Union would be preserved, slavery would be abolished, and we are eating out of round bowls.

Chef Paulcookbookhunks

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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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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