Rantopolis

Category — Food, not just for eating

Why being Greek Orthodox is cool.

Today is Greek Orthodox Easter.  (It’s also Easter for the Russians, Serbs and other segments of the Orthodox Church.)

Here’s why this rules.

1.  Our Easter typically does not coincide with Western Christian Easter.  You know what that means?  Half-priced candy.  Yes, that’s right.  While the rest of you pay retail, we swoop in the day after your Easter and get everything for 50% or less off.   This discount is a very good thing because we need every extra penny to pay for the rest of the extravagant feast we serve at our Easter table.

Discount gourmet bunnies, bitches!

2.  Red Easter eggs.  Really bright red Easter eggs.  While the rest of you are dying your eggs wimpy pastel shades, we are busy making ours like like they were dipped in a vat of blood.  This comes in handy if we are trying to spot them from a satellite.

Don't be scared. They don't glow in the dark.

We also play a fun game with them.  We take turns bashing the ends of the eggs with each other.  The last person to have an unbroken egg wins.

Food and aggression all rolled up into one custom.  How can you not love that?

3.  The Easter Feast.  Greeks are always amused when we hear things like, “I’m making a honey-baked ham for Easter.”

Bwahhahha.   Just ham?

People, we have at least three meat-based entrees.  Lamb is always a main character, flanked by other meats like turkey and ham.  Then there are a variety of pastas, salads, olives, feta cheese and anchovies.

Yes, you wimps.  We eat anchovies and we love them.

4. The dessert part of the Easter feast.  This is so decadent that it deserves its own number.  My hosts this year had at least four cakes, three different Greek pastries and another three Greek cookies.

The only thing missing was an insulin syringe.

5.  Wine.  My people have been drinking wine for five millenia.  Probably as far back as 3,000 B.C.  I think I had my first taste of wine when I was about seven.  (Of course, it was mixed in with a lot of water, but we were taught at an early age that a glass of wine is something that adults enjoy with their meals.  My father had a glass of wine or a beer every single night of his life with dinner.)

We are just a party culture.

So here I sit stuffed after this year’s Easter celebration.  I also may or may not be on a serious sugar buzz.   And I also may or not be wearing loose-fitting yoga pants right now because they are the only thing in my closet that won’t cut off my blood supply.

I wouldn’t know how to celebrate any other way.

Christos Anesti to all of my Eastern Orthodox readers.  And to the rest of you who celebrate the other Easter, thank you for leaving some great gourmet chocolate bunnies behind.

April 15, 2012   Comments Off on Why being Greek Orthodox is cool.

I had lost control of the day by 8 a.m.

The day begin like any other day, but within minutes of taking a shower, things started to go south quickly.

Walking into my home office, I sat down to my desk and moved my mouse to wake up the desk top.  And that’s when the drama began.  The screen went black and the only thing that was visible was the mouse cursor.

I checked the batteries in the wireless keyboard and they seemed weak, so I swapped those out.  Still nothing.

That’s when panic started to set in.  Please don’t tell me one of my hard drives crashed.  (I’ve got three on that machine.)

I also swapped out the monitor (still not fixed) and checked the network (which was fine).

Luckily, my nightly backup had taken place and all of my data files were protected.  I figured I would just work off of my laptop until this problem was fixed.

Time to call my computer repair guy.  I was greeted with a cold, “We are no longer accepting repair requests at this time.”

Okay, now I’m officially in the shitter.

I start hitting Yelp for computer repair people.  I read a couple of reviews and make a call.  Two hours later, I’ve got a guy in my office.  Lucky for me, there was some sort of bizarre glitch in the start up that was quickly fixed.

All good, except Mr. Computer Repair Guy decides to tell me his life story.   Dude, listen.  I’ve already blown a couple of hours this morning could you spare me the details of how you met your wife.  Let me validate your parking and send you on your way.

After cramming business things into the afternoon that I didn’t get to in the morning, it was time time run my mom to the grocery store.  I was blazing through the aisles at a pretty fast clip until I got to the deli counter.  I ordered a quarter pound of sliced turkey and that’s when I encountered the deli guy who apparently thought he could take to the end of the millennium to take care of my order.

Barely looking at me, he picked up the turkey and proceeded to hold it while chatting to his coworker.  After some chit chat, he made his way back to the slicer.  Instead of moving the blade back and forth, he continued his conversation for a few more minutes.  Then back to the slicer.  He’d cut a few slices, talk a little more.  Cut a few more; talk a little more.

He weighs it out, bags it and hands it to me.  Then starts chatting with his pal.

Uh.  Excuse me.  I need something else.

He then grabs the next hunk of meat and starts the chit chat again.

About that time is when my brain aneurysm happened.

Do you actually intend on on selling any of these meat chunks or are they just for show?

I hate to break up this little bromance, but I’m in a rush.  Could you please just slice my meat so that I can get the hell out of here before I am eligible for Medicare?  Thanks!

Just so you know.  I watched very carefully to make sure he didn’t spit into the mozzarella slices.

October 13, 2011   Comments Off on I had lost control of the day by 8 a.m.

Anatomically-correct carrot

All I wanted was a quick, healthy snack.  So I thought I would grab a handful of carrots to nibble on.  This is what I pulled out of the bag.

I wonder if the other carrots in the bag felt uncomfortable?

Yeah, I know.  Pretty weird.  A carrot replicating a human female’s pelvic area.  Dare I say it?  Complete with a tampon string.  (Listen, I even crossed my own boundary with that one and that’s saying a lot.)  Can we all scream a collective, grrrrosss?!

But what’s with these food items that take the shape of the human anatomy or even facial features?

The only thing I want to see on my toast is some fresh preserves.  Not a religious figure.

There’s even a website that dedicates itself to weird potato chip shapes.  (I gotta say, the one that looks like Cleopatra is a dead ringer.)

I also found a Museum of Food Anomalies.  (You just gotta love the internet.)

If you ask me, Carrot Girl could kick some of those other shapes to the curb.  If she had joints and a full pair of legs, that is.

So what’s your food anatomy story?  Come on.  I know you are dying to share.

September 18, 2011   Comments Off on Anatomically-correct carrot

Cheese anyone?

Look, I know I promised that I wasn’t going to buy another bulk food item from Costco after this winter’s Kalamata olive fiasco, but over the weekend I caved.

Hear me out.  I think you are going to give me a hall pass on this one.

Having taken my elderly mom to Costco for the monthly excursion, my intent was to buy one of those humongous packages of toilet paper and maybe one or two other non-edible items.  I was just seconds away from heading to the cash registers when the human UPC scanner, also known as my mother, spoke up.

I digress for a second to explain the reference to the human UPC scanner.  You see, my mother knows the price of just about everything she has ever purchased.  In fact, she corrects the cashier when an incorrect price is scanned.  She is always right.  Always.

I, on the other hand, am a serious disappointment.

Before she knew better, she would look into my cart and ask me what the price was of a certain item.  I would just shrug my shoulders indicating my lack of knowledge.  I am sure she was simultaneously saying to herself that this child could not have come out of her loins.

I can run a business, be an award-winning writer and dabble in a ton of other things, but if I do not know how much those green beans are per pound, that pretty much puts me into the “dolt” category.

So she says me, “You know that cheese you always get at Whole Foods.  Well, I noticed they had it here.”

Not only does she know the price of everything she buys, but apparently she has been covertly scanning all of my purchases, too.  She’s a crafty one.

I’m thinking, they sure as hell don’t have the French feta or the triple cream specialty cheese here, so I wonder what she is referring to.  Then it dawned on me. She was talking about the little pack of Mini Babybel Lite cheese I get at Whole Foods.

Hmm.  Costco can’t possibly ruin that because it’s prepacked and it hasn’t been Kirklandized.  (For those of you for whom Costco is a foreign nation, Kirkland is their private label brand.)

Whole Foods vs. Costco. You bring the crackers.

Okay, so I quickly zip over to the refrigerated section and what do I see?   Enough individual Babybel cheese that a guest to my home could easily surmise that I own a dairy.  I look at the price.  It’s $9.99 for 28 pieces.

I pay about $6-ish at Whole Foods for six pieces.   I say $6 ish because we have already stated for the record, your honor, that I don’t exactly know what grocery items cost.  (That’s why it’s handy to have the human UPC scanner close by.)

So how could I possibly pass that up?!  That’s 35 cents piece piece vs. the $1-ish per piece at Whole Foods.  And it doesn’t expire until October.  (I actually saw pride in the eyes of the human UPC scanner.)

If I don’t want to eat the cheese, I bet I can get some enjoyment out of using them as mini frisbees.  Or as instruments of torture for the lactose intolerant.

July 11, 2011   4 Comments

Fried Kool-Aid. Seriously?!

It’s state fair season, which I think should more appropriately called artery-hardening season.

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy a good binge every now and again, but some of the so-called edible stuff that has been debuting at county and state fairs every season is nothing short of a food freak show.

This year’s ingestible insanity is fried Kool-Aid.  Exhibit A:

I didn't think anything could be worse than deep fried Peeps.

How do these things even get conceived?!  Does someone sit back and say to themselves, “hey, what can we  roll into a ball this year and stick in a deep fryer?”

The thought of eating Kool-Aid powder turns my stomach.  The thought of taking Kool-Aid powder, rolling it in batter and deep frying it, makes me want to stick my hand down my throat and rip out my intestines.

And I thought last year’s chocolate-covered bacon was gag-worthy.   While I like both chocolate and swine, together…not so much.  (Listen, I’m the kind of person that never got into funnel cakes, so how did you expect me to react to fried Kool-Aid?)

It’s one thing to have a little binge fest, it’s another thing to stick wads of fried fat down our throats.

My suggestion to the fair organizers?  Sprinkle a few long-term care insurance booths in between the deep fat fryers.  Trust me. Your attendees will thank you later.

June 20, 2011   4 Comments

Mad botanist loose in produce department

So here’s my question.  When did the grocery store produce department turn into a botany experiment?  Seriously.

During today’s weekly trip to Whole Foods, I really paid attention to the signage.  There was this.

Mad scientist on board.

And this.

Vampire cheese? Can't be exposed to sunlight?

I came across donut peaches, tangelos and  pluots.  I even encountered pears that had a full name—Alexander Lucas.  (I should have asked if they also had a social security number and a driver’s license.)

What happened to just plain fruit?  You know.  Stuff you don’t have to break down into multiple root words.

And is it totally necessary to age cheese in a cave? A dark, temperature-controlled storage room isn’t good enough?  (Please don’t tell me bats are involved.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I also don’t get the whole turducken concept.  Do you really need to stuff a chicken into a duck cavity and then stuff both of those into a turkey. Really?!

Maybe I’m just too old school.  I just don’t want my peaches to look like donuts.  I don’t want to call my pears Mr. Lucas.  I don’t want to figure out how many different fruits go into making raspberry plumcots.  And I sure as hell don’t want to eat anything that spent days in a cave.

Note:  Even spellcheck didn’t recognize pluots or plumcots.  But it did know turducken.  Go figure.

June 9, 2011   2 Comments

Eating at the checkout?! Uncool, people!

What’s with people that can’t get through a trip to the grocery store without opening a package of something or another to eat before they get to the checkout?

Did you just return from a multi-day colon cleanse?  Have you been on a desert island for the past month with only bananas and coconuts? The free snacks all over the store don’t do it for you?

Sheesh.

I’ve seen people rip open bags of chips, cookies, candy, bagels and lord knows what else.  (They’ve stopped short of peel and eat shrimp and raw tenderloin.)

In front of me at the checkout line earlier today, was a mom with a toddler.  This should have been a strong sign for me to pick a different line.  But, stupidly I didn’t.

This mom decided to turn the conveyor belt into a serving table.  She popped open the lid of the pizza box and proceeded to snack on it as it slowly moved.  Oh, and she was feeding her kid, too.

The evidence, your honor.

You can’t wait 15 minutes to return home?  How about 10 minutes until you get to your car?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you and the kid won’t drop dead of malnutrition if you postpone your pepperoni buzz until you leave my immediate perimeter.

You might also find the whole dining experience a bit more enjoyable if you are actually sitting down and not chasing your food down a belt.

I know that I would find the whole checkout experience more enjoyable if I don’t have to dodge your grease spots.

Just sayin.’

May 26, 2011   Comments Off on Eating at the checkout?! Uncool, people!

If anything can turn me anorexic…

…it’s Peeps.

Mom, are you sure they aren't made from Styrofoam?

Sorry, but how can anyone enjoy eating these things?!  They look like carved blocks of Styrofoam.  Taste like it, too.  (There was a girl on my floor in college that was a freak for them.  Me?  I liked boys.  And beer.)

I think of them as a chemistry experiment gone bad.  Here’s what’s in them:

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Gelatin, contains less than 0.5% of the following ingredients: Potassium Sorbate (a preservative), Artificial Flavors, Yellow No. 5 (Tartrazine), Carnauba Wax.

I’m sorry.  Did I just read: carnuba wax?!  The stuff that you use to polish the outside of your car?!  Fabulous!

Hey, intestines, you are about to get a buff and polish as a handful of peeps race their way around 20-plus feet of freeway between my stomach and my…umm…toilet.   Unless the sugar absorption through the sidewalls puts me into insulin shock first.

Not in my wildest food binging dreams could I bring myself to chomp down on a box of these.  They could be the last thing in the “I’m wearing sweat pants and nothing can get between me and  a good sugar rush” aisle and I’ll walk right by these suckers.  I would seriously turn into an anorexic if my choice was peeps or starvation.

Alex, I’ll take starvation for $20, please.  The answer is, “What holiday candy makes you want to puke just thinking about it.”

And if Peeps are the parting gift, I’m going to have to take a pass.  (But Alex, I would appreciate the home version of  Jeopardy, please.)

Please don’t even get me started on candy corn.

April 22, 2011   6 Comments

Oh, but it’s such a ‘good’ fat

I’m out the door in two hours to catch my flight to Florida.

Have been handling last minute business things all morning interspersed with packing.  Clothes and electronics all organized.  Final stage is toiletries and jewelry.  But first…a quick lunch break.

Having let the refrigerator empty out during the course of the week, I decide to make lunch from leftovers.  I spy a small piece of poached salmon.  Great!  Normally, I like to put some onions and lettuce on it, but I decide this a lucky day for my seat companion in row 13.  (Hopefully, that’s not the only lucky thing about sitting in that row.)

I'm thinking omega 3 overdose.

Ahh…I see half of an avocado.  Salmon and avocado.  That’ll work.

Then it hit me.  I’m about to eat a fat sandwich.  Salmon is not the “skinniest” fish around.  And avocado is like what?  A bazillion calories per half?

Yet on the other hand, I’m told it’s a good fat.  Is that like a good witch?  The whole thing just screams oxymoron to me.  And I’m thinking I just might be the moron.

On the other hand, just think how much omega 3 I just chipmunked away.  I can just hear my arteries expanding.  Or maybe that’s just the sound of my thighs expanding.

I probably should have stuck with the onions, afterall.

March 30, 2011   1 Comment

Big mistake: olives + olive oil

You know….I try to do the right thing.  Unfortunately, I find myself failing a little more frequently than I would care to admit.

Take my love of olives, for example.  Normally, I belly up to the olive bar at Whole Foods to fill a tub full of my favorites—the pitted Kalamata variety.  If I’m feeling a little crazy, I also sprinkle in a few cracked green types,  just for a tangy variation.

The olives have been bathing in some mystery marinade that gives them just the right firmness and delicate flavor. Absolutely delicious, but definitely a splurge at $9.99 per pound.

My ancestors used to gather them in their skirts; I put them into plastic tubs and pay almost 10 bucks a pound.  (Did you hear that?  The Psychic Friends Hotline just informed me that my ancestors think I’m an idiot.)

So, enter a recent trip to Costco with my mother.  She spies a huge 32-ounce glass jar filled with pitted Kalamata olives.  She brings it to my attention.  It’s around $7 which makes it more than 50% cheaper than my Whole Foods olives.  A quick mental debate commences.

Position A.  There is no way these olives are going to taste as good as the ones I get from Whole Foods.

Position B.  Listen princess, these are waaay cheaper and they probably fell off of the same tree.  You should try them.

Forced by my fiscally-responsible conscience to purchase them, they end up in the cart along with the 24 rolls of toilet paper, four tubs of moisturizer and 8 little containers of dental floss.  One can never be too clean or too moist.

I bring them home and decide to have a little taste.  Not horrible, but not great.  The instructions on the label suggest rinsing the olives and putting them into another container with a little red wine vinegar.  This is when trouble begins.

I’m thinking…well, they are olives, so if I’m going to put them in red wine vinegar, it makes sense to put a little extra virgin olive oil into the container before refrigerating them. After all, olive oil comes from olives, right?!

Big mistake.

Proof: olives + oil do not mix!

Apparently, I forgot that the word refrigerator is synonymous with cold.  And that oil hardens in cold temperatures.  So, what my brain had envisioned as a lovely marinade turned into a lard-encrusted olive graveyard.

The moral of the story?  I need to go back to my irresponsible olive bar addiction and that my fiscally-responsible conscience should shut its stupid face.

BTW, can anyone explain how writing about Kalamata olives has suddenly triggered a craving for chocolate-covered almonds?

February 22, 2011   2 Comments