Like: That I Finally Had A Great B.L.T. (and the fallout of tomatoes)

January 29, 2009

It took me awhile, but I got there.

Tomatoes are an interesting thing. There is no food that is perhaps more loved in certain forms: ketchup, tomato sauce, pizza,etc. And more reviled in others: salads, sandwiches, etc. Usually, it’s the same people too. They will put ketchup on their ketchup, but they HAAAAATE tomatoes. Meanwhile, some people (often gardener types) can eat them like a piece of fruit.

I was in the middle.

As a young kid I didn’t like tomatoes in any form, but eventually came around on pizza, ketchup, and tomato sauce in that order. But to this day, I am vehemently against the use of tomatoes in sandwiches and salads… sort of.

Nothing is more inexplicably popular and overused than tomatoes on sandwiches. It’s automatic for some reason “lettuce and tomato” is instant inclusion. Lettuce makes sense. It has great texture. It builds layers and volume. It has nice color. Tomatoes though? Most of the time, it’s just a horrible, horrible idea.  It’s like “Hey! Know what would make this wonderful, crisp, delicous sandwich more interesting? A slimy cold thing stuck in the middle!” Plus tomatoes have a very distinct taste and texture that clashes with just about everything. Seriously, there are a handful of things in which an uncooked tomato can match and contrast flavor with. Otherwise, it can utterly dominate your taste buds. And thusly, I’ve been ordering so many kinds of sandwiches with no tomato my entire life. Salads too.

This isn’t some basic objection. I’ll fucking eat anything (and often do). But the key is that said ingredient has to be used “correctly” (which is subjective), but in other words, used to its best potential. It’s not a hodgepodge. Mustard and horseradish goes great with roastbeef. Pesto goes with chicken. Tuna and celery and cheddar cheese (a holy trinity). This is not rocket science. It’s basic food pretp.

So why the hell do we put non-agreeable tomatoes in everything? Why don’t we use them right? I’ll order a caprese sandwich or salad in a second. Why? Because it’s a perfect flavor combination.

It’s simple really, the tomato HAS to be the star of the sandwhich. It’s just too strong a taste to have it otherwise. Make the tomato the star and have things that compliment it. I’ll find a few restaurant shops that get this right here and there and it’s wonderful. There’s one place that won’t even put them on their club sandwhiches! A godsend I say.

So what if you don’t like tomotoes at all? (aside from obvious sauce and ketchup of course). Well, try to use them a bit better. Rule number 1. tomatoes have to be at least room temperature. The relative coldness of many served tomatoes throws people. They are often cool due to the need for preservation, but still. If that’s too much slice them up and take out the gooey part, so you’re left with the harder cavity. Chop. put in a pan and cook it in butter. You can put it right on pasta, fish, beef, or anything you want. It’s delicious. Just build up your tomato tolerance if you will.

Sandwiches however, are another issue.

Which brings us to the BLT. They are astoundingly popular, but don’t QUITE work with the tomato in post scenarios. Prosciutto and tomatoes are a common combination, but still. It’s just not right.

I’ve been trying to reconcile this problem for a long, long time.

Given: Bacon is the most delicious thing ever (there is no argument. Don’t even try).

Thus, why not a bacon sandwich? I did that for a long time. Bacon, lettuce, and avocado. But still it just felt like something was missing. I used other ingredients but nothing and I mean nothing worked right.

So I forced myself to try BLTs to see if I could come around. After a few false starts, I finally got it.

1) Ditch the avocado. I love avocado, but it’s just slightly distracting enough to actually disrupt the balance you’re trying to create. Mayo and only mayo just works better.

2) Medium amount of lettuce. Skimping takes out the crispness, but too much and sandwich stinks. (never overlettuce your sandwich).

3) this is the big one. The tomatoes MUST be dry. A soggy tomato will ruin the crispness of the bacon and wilt the lettuce. Even remove the gelatin if necessary.

4) Always use sourdough bitches. toasted is perfection. if not avail, a nice ciabatta will do. No rye. no wheat. no white.

My sandwhich guy even on the same page now through some kind of ESP mind meld. This is the one who looks like a latino josh beckett.

Happy BLTing.

Enjoy, bitches.

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Don’t Like: The Reoccurring Dream Where I Travel Back In Time To My 7th Grade Self

January 26, 2009

People wish they could go back in time, well… all the time.

It’s a neat concept right? You could go back to the dinosaurs! Or, um, go back and beat up that kid who tormented you. Or do… stuff. Well, it’s totally neat right?

Yeah, except that it totally sucks.

I’ve been having a reoccurring dream where I travel back in time to 7th grade. Not so bad one would assume, but instead of “physically” doing so, it’s just my 26 year old mind going back into my 14 year old body.

Do you remember 7th grade? Waking up at 6 am, going to school, being with immature 7th graders, having normal self-esteem issues, studying very basic subjects like PRE-alegbra, and a lot of these subjects you understand on a conceptual level WAYYYY better now, but you’re stuck in 7th grade still having them be presented in cookie cutter terms. Also your music sucks, you look awkward, and you’re not able to try out for the basketball team because you have cancer stitches in your back (and probably wouldn’t have made it anyway). Also you have to read way less good books than you did in 6th grade and will in 8th grade for some reason.

Well, imagine doing it all again.

To tell the truth I actually liked 7th grade, but I was generally a sort of agreeable fellow and I was becoming friends with my bff, so that’s nice. Plus at the time you are so completely unaware of the tedium and relative lack of importance of all that you do, but nonetheless it is that important “character building” stuff that helps make us who we are. But I already am who I’d be so I just wouldn’t have the patience… Especially getting up that early.

So began the difficult process of telling my parents I’m from the future. It is a difficult process, but if there is anyone in the world who will believe you, no matter how ridiculous, it’s your parents. The problem comes with everyone else. How do you convince a school to take you out of classes for something radically advanced? I’d write a heckuva a lot better, but would I show all that calculus I can’t remember? Tell them about large super-collider that was built? Start trying to remember little predictions to prove things for people even though I hardly remember anything date specific? Next year the spice girls become popular! What can you do to convince the world? Do you even try to tell people in the first place? Or do you keep it a secret?

This tangentially brings up the BIG issues in the dream. Imagine knowing the future for the next 12 years or so. What would you do? Do you go out with different people? With your confidence of your mid-twenties do you change your entire demeanor? Do you bet on sports? Does that change the outcome? Do you seek out the person you fall in love with later in life? Do you kill that pedophile who creates the backstreet boys and N’Sync? Does doing so sever the precursor to the neo-alt-rock movement that was pretty awesome? Does doing any of this alter the course of history so that you really WOULDN’T know how live goes after a certain point?

Then there’s the big ones. Do you tell people about 9/11? Morally of course, it’s the right thing, but is it really the right thing? We’re talking about but it’s something that shaped EVERYTHING about our modern society. It’s now modern americana, it’s like if the japanese never attacked pearl harbor. For all it’s horror, it’s something that transforms a national consciousness. What are we like without that? Are we better off?

What do you do?

Amazingly fucked up.

I need some water.


Love: David Foster Wallace

January 23, 2009

David Foster Wallace is my favorite writer.

I say this with a number of addendum: I discovered DFW criminally late in the proceedings. Why no one turned me onto him in the annals of my education is inexorably beyond me (1). I had heard his name throw around a bit with the popular, yet celebrated modern authors, but sorely lacked any real exposure or criticism. It was not until his recent, sudden, and moderately unexpected suicide in which the articles  about his talents were everywhere that I took any notice. I made a mental note to look into his work and subsequently put one under my stack of books I’m reading on the bedside table.  It was not until I came across a link in a Bill “Sports Guy” Simmons column (2) that I sat there with real honest to goodness DFW text.

It was called “Roger Federer as Religious Experience” I was immediately blown away. In an age of prose full of sweeping grandeur, broad/declarative strokes, snark, irony, and cheating conclusions, here was an honest to god observer. He went on to characterize Federer from the most basic sense, as if the reader has never heard of tennis before.  He supported every declaratory statement; non-fiction as arguement or logic. He approached Federerer from a purely scientific level, analyzing just how astounding his hand-eye coordination skills were on human level.  I went on to devour his non-fiction in a thoroughly rapturous nature: Host a non-judgemental/let-their-actions-speak-louder-than-your-opinion piece on conservative talk radio (and if opinions are drawn, they are logically presented and supported),  Consider the Lobster a piece for gourmet magazine that surprisingly surveys the ethics/hysteria of animal food consumption, and The Weasel Twelve Monkeys and The Shrub a fascinating piece after this recent election where we can look upon the political non-chalance of the late 90s, and the subsequent fall of Mccain, or the post-obama American resurgence. They’re all amazing pieces, full of cunning insight dry sense of humor. I was witnessing the perfect observer.

His essays, meanwhile,  remove a bit of the objectivity and delve into well-reasoned humor and guile.  He tries to convince you Kafka is funny. He commentary on Sept 11 as it unfolds and does so from what will later be redined “middle america” in the Bush era. I was nearly moved to tears by his complete and total evisceration of John Updike. Why? Because I hated Updike for years. Me being rather inarticulate in comparison had failed to really grasp why I felt as such, but I certianly knew he was terribly uninteresting which is odd for a such a good writer dealing with an interesting subject. With DFW, it was all clarified before me;  I was estatitc.

As for his fiction, I find myself currently immersed in Infinite Jest, his stab at the Great American Novel and I’m just as moved by his fiction as I am his non-fiction.

Of course, people can look at his writing and make immediate assumptions: a) too complicated. If “brevity is the soul of wit” he must be a dunce cause DFW can take his time with the best of them. The vast array of footnotes and endnotes are daunting and anybody who likes them must be pretentious! Nothing could be more innaccurate. His use of “notes” are often pitch perfect in their capacity to add depth of commentary. Perhaps we’re so use to reading parentheticals (3) that we consider having to look somewhere else for the added little bit to be a pain in the ass. DFW is also incredibly wordy… as in he uses big words. Nothing is more daunting to American readership because we don’t like when things go over our heads. I know I don’t. But I certianly respect it. I’ve looked up more words in reading DFW than I have ever in my life. And if once again, this is all just a matter of laziness and we don’t like looking up words, then I simply try my best to reason it out. It’s an incredible exercize and one we should do more. Not liking DFW for these reasons is understandable, but in my estimation, a self-lie. There are plenty of reasons not to like a writer. Diffuculty is not acceptible.

Especailly because he’s so damn logical. His work is like mathamatic proofs. Which brings us to the the second to last thing you should know about David Foster Wallace: he is a genuis. As in he got the famous “genuis grant” and has IQ off the fucking charts. As much as “genius” is thrown around now (4) he is definitely one of them. If there was a single writer I could pick who qualifies, it’s him. What’s more than all of that is that he outright inspires me.  He is so dedicated to the legitimacy of his words it makes me less haphazard. He clearly finds a simlar delight in analysis, only he rarely falls into callousness (5). Plus his work helps me with my very shitty punctuation. I had been using semicolons not just wrongly, but pretentiously for years. But the inspiration is the key. Why? I have haven’t been really inspired by a writer since high school (6). I had basically moved to strictly on-topic docu-non-fiction and massive research projects. Now I’m back… And I feel forever indebted to DFW. It’s what informs the superlative “favorite author” in such a short amount of time. His impact is that profound when compared to what has preceeded (7).

The very last thing you should know about DFW is that he killed himself.  It’s just so dreadfully unimportant in the larger scheme. He battled clincal depression for years and for most of his life was on meds. But it does not really reflect on his capacity/legacy/influence/importance as a writer. Sure there are flashes of relevence here and there (8), to deny it would be folly, but there could not be a less important characteristic on display. One could even make an uninformed assumption that his meds helped maintain his even tone. I worry because an artists death often overhangs the nature of their work, often for worse.

But once again, that shouldn’t matter. What matters are the things I have taken away from DFW in such a short amount of time. One thing more than all the others:

This is water. This is water.

David Foster Wallace, you will me more than missed.

Endnotes:

1. Maybe it’s because no one reads.

2. I know.

3. which I use too much… see

4. my favorite overuse of genius being for NFL offensive coordinators*

5. I’m not so lucky.

6. I went my entire collegiate career NOT being inspired by a writer… I was an English minor mind you… yeah… consider it a drought.

7. Unlike my favorite filmmaker, who seems to change yearly/weekly.

8. Specifically, his various comments on suicide(s) over the years.

*which may sound like I don’t think football coaches can be geniuses and I hate it. I love football and do think some coaches are DEFINITE football geniuses. I’m simply commenting on the eagerness of media types to laude that title upon young coordinators without much support or understanding of qualifiers themselves.


Don’t Like: “Freaxxx” By Brokencyde

January 22, 2009

Just wow.

This monstrosity has been floating around the blogosphere lately and perhaps for good reason. I wasn’t going to say anything at first. Most of the commentary has been along the lines of “sign of the apocolypse” and “fall of western civilization… but over the last 24 hours I’ve become a little bit obsessed.

See this isn’t just your usually stupidity. This is special.

Strangely, the questions begin with the haircuts. How does someone get that haircut who isn’t a Japanese teen five years ago? They aren’t even fallout-boy-at-least-definable-by-physics-bad. What possesses someone to be that incredibly outrageous with their hair? It’s amazing. Who likes that?

Then there is, you know, the actual music. I mean, what? Apparently they have combined screamo and crunk. And appear to have done so by yelling intermittently at periods of their crunk song. For no apparent reason. Also the stunning acne. I imagine this is preventative to stardom, but what the hell do I know. I just know it illicits a gutteral response of “yick”. Then there’s the name “brokencyde” a weird mashup of a bunch of other band names that somehow make more active or relative sense than this one. It’s a kinda desperate name at that. I imagine some bad late 70’s high school band naming themselves “Led Sabbath” and that seems akin to this. But this is all the surface-y stuff. It’s like not liking frida because she has a unibrow. Actually it’s not like that all. You might not be able to judge a book by its cover, but in this case it would have been really, really helpful.

Obviously, the music sucks. Not even enjoyable on some ironic level. It’s harsh and loopy and not in a pleasing way. The lyrics spare no subtext like mongol hordes spared no village. It’s audacious in some ways really. “Let’s fuck on the dance floor! Right now!” is the effective gist. Sure, it’s juvenile to a fault, but the members of this seem so inandated with their own awesomeness and not in a “our subculture actually values this” kind of way that allows me to put a lot of rap video’s excesses off the hook. There’s nothing “awesome” really happening. The range rover, the benz, the pathetic red plastic cups, the tiny party of 7 girls obviously conned into this somehow. It’s all  longing to be something it terribly isn’t.

But the truly amazing part comes at around 1:50 where there is a sudden, dramatic 180 switch and the boys proceed to yell “LIAR!” at the girls and pantomime choking a Jamie-Lynn Spears lookalike. The juvenile behavior at this point reaches absurdity. Little are they aware, but the action profiles the insane, deeply rooted problem of young boys trying to “get chicks”. They espouse their sexual prowess (in reality, obviously lacking) and regard women as nothing more than vacant fuck puppets (that’s the nicest way I could put it), but their fragility is SOOOOOOOO transparent that they scream LIAR! WHORE! at a moments notice. You hurt their feelings you see!

It’s all so wonderfully poetic. They completely emasculate their own amazing bullshit.

And look. I’m not someone who gets up on a soap box and bitches about every little indignation (well. actually that’s exactly do in this blog. but not in real life… or… um LOOK OVER THERE! [runs away]). Most of the time you watch a bad late 90s rap video and kinda laugh it off. There’s kind of an aloof charm, or slickness to that stuff and a lot of other music videos in general that make it all at least OK.

“Freaxxx” is fallout and effect of all that I guess; a couple of lame ass tards’s interpretation of the baser ends of pop-culture, complete with the more transparent evidence of about 14 different aspects of arrested maturation and development.  They are WELL within date-rapist territory. In short, these fuckers have problems… and I’m guessing they’re not alone.

My friend Ken had some nice input too after I sent it to him: “Way to loop and lip-synch to your own emo scream while filming against a backdrop of a McMansion development.  I like how the lead “vocalist” is the only one who appears to be having a good time.  The actively-disinterested blonde dancer is perhaps my favorite element of the video.  The strained novelty of the dancing pig-suit gentleman is another excellent touch. It is really and truly a tragedy that the Midwest has been dragged kicking and screaming into popular culture by the internet.”