Thursday, October 31, 2013

She Waits - a Halloween tale of caution

Tonight is Halloween. Never know who you'll run into. Some people might not be who you think they are.

by Eleanor Tylbor

 It was a job. No more – no less and a means to an end, the end being the journey home.

 “Good enough to eat!” she snickered to herself, adjusting the pieces of raw fish on the platter filled to overflowing with a vast assortment of sushi. Opening her mouth slightly, a thick stream of white saliva trickled down her chin landing squarely on top of the two center pieces of sushi.

 “My compliments to the chef,” she said in a whisper, wiping her chin with one of the crisp white linen napkins folded and lined up across the table. Using a small corner to remove the blob of white slime on the fish, she re-folded it and returned it to its place on top of the pile.

 Everything had to be perfect for the hungry theatre crowd that had descended upon the buffet like a swarming of bees. It amused her how they jostled each other to gain entry to the food tables, grabbing the sushi and devouring it immediately with obvious relish, repeating the pattern until the platter was devoid of food. They rested only long enough until the platters were refilled and then moved on to the wine bar to wash down the fish.

 “Eat my friends,” she thought, musing herself with thoughts of their sluggish but appealing fleshy bodies and the red liquid that flowed throughout.

 “Love sushi. Don’t you?” a male voice behind her asked, accompanied by a tap on the shoulder.

 “Adore it,” she responded, smiling and showing a large set of pointed yellow teeth, “but then I love eating all things raw.”

 His gaze fixated on the teeth, the man backed away his face reflecting a look surprise.

 “I meant, of course, that sushi is certainly best eaten raw. Oh my – the platter is empty again. Let me see if I can refill it for you.”

 She quickly made an exit waiting long enough for the man to blend into the crowd.

Moving into the wine bar area, she removed a cork from a wine bottle and inhaled its fruity bouquet triggering images of her former life far away. Memories of home were becoming more difficult to access with each passing day but she willed them away reminding herself that sentimentality could spoil the progress they had made. Control and moderation were the guide words since all was in readiness for the next and hopefully final step.  There was still ground work left to be done here.

 “For heaven’s sake put the champagne in an ice bucket,” a voice behind her ordered. “Haven’t we taught you anything? Honestly – your type…”

 His voice trailed off as he moved down the table, his white linen serviette slapping away invisible crumbs from the tablecloth.  

 “You call this silverware polished?” he demanded, wiping the fork tines with a napkin. Such a lackadaisical effort but what can one expect coming from…your type? Why we agreed to take you on I’ll never know but only a little while longer, though, thank goodness.”

 She felt something building in her chest that slowly moved up to her throat, along with a definite pulsation on the right side of her eye.

 “Ignore him,” one of the waiters whispered. “Their kind think they’re so smart but they’ll find out otherwise, very soon.”

 “Oh he knows exactly what he’s saying and those words are intentional to maximize their effect on me,” she responded, her gaze now focused directly on the source of her growing rage, the pulsation slowly growing and spreading throughout her body.

 “It’s not uncommon for them to address each other in that manner,” the waiter offered, attempting to distract her attention. “I think they call it…sarcasm…”

As his voice droned on she started moving forward slowly at first, picking up speed as she neared her target. The waiter was sampling some of the dishes laid out on the table when she moved directly behind him.

 “Can’t any of you do anything right?” he bellowed, spitting liquid back into the soup tureen. “This does not meet our standards! I’ve had it. Tomorrow I’m going to start proceedings to have you all removed. I try and do a good thing and…”

At the point where she was almost on top of him he whirled around, his face contorted in fear with the sudden realization of what was happening. Her trajectory was slightly off that evening having forgotten to regenerate the night before. The head leader had cautioned them to adhere to a daily routine or rapid decline would ensue. The organizer didn’t see the six foot green-grey mass of glowing orange skin and flesh lunge in his direction until it was too late. In fact there wasn’t even enough time for a scream to escape from his throat.

 “The sushi could be a little off tonight,” she commented as the features on his face turned into a bloody mass, “and the roast beef is a little overcooked for my taste. Of course I prefer mine more on the very rare side…” she opined. “Now let me ask you something important. Do you think a Chablis or rosé would be better?”

The punch fountain was a particular hit and speculation was rife as to the source of the unusual red tint to it.

She removed the white linen serviette from her uniform pocket and folded it neatly, to be added to the rest of her earthly souvenirs.

“Don’t think you’ll be needing this anymore,” she whispered, patting her now bulging stomach.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Celebrating the pop in popcorn plus wine-ing cats get their own vintage

Unbeknownst to me, which is quite surprising given my love for the food, October is "Popcorn Popping Month." According to the EncyclopediaPopcornica (it's a for real site)
people reading this are probably wondering about how it all came about. Here are some corny facts:

- Americans consume 16 billion quarts of popped popcorn annually or 51 quarts per man, woman and child.

- Approximately 70 percent is eaten in the home (home popped and pre-popped) and about 30 percent outside the home (theaters, stadiums, schools, etc.). Un-popped popcorn accounts for approximately 90 percent of sales for home consumption.

- It's believed that the first use of wild and early cultivated corn was popping. Does this mean that ancestors, pioneers and the like actually made popcorn presumably over a fire? More importantly, did they add salt?

- The oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in the Bat Cave of west central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950. Ranging from smaller than a penny to about 2 inches, the oldest Bat Cave ears are about 4,000 years old.

- Popcorn was integral to early 16th century Aztec Indian ceremonies.

- In 1519, Cortes got his first sight of popcorn when he invaded Mexico and came into contact with the Aztecs. Popcorn was an important food for the Aztec Indians, who also used popcorn as decoration for ceremonial headdresses, necklaces and ornaments on statues of their gods, including Tlaloc, the god of rain and fertility.

"So tell us, Eleanor - so what is the science involved in making popcorn pop?"

Again, referring to the EncyclopediaPopcornica:"each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. Popcorn needs between 13.5-14% moisture to pop.  The soft starch is surrounded by the kernel's hard outer surface.
As the kernel heats up, the water begins to expand.  Around 212 degrees the water turns into steam and changes the starch inside each kernel into a superhot gelatinous goop.  The kernel continues to heat to about 347 degrees.  The pressure inside the grain will reach 135 pounds per square inch before finally bursting the hull open.
As it explodes, steam inside the kernel is released.  The soft starch inside the popcorn becomes inflated and spills out, cooling immediately and forming into the odd shape we know and love.  A kernel will swell 40-50 times its original size!"

These are important or at least interesting popcorn trivia facts we popcorn lovers should (or could or might) want to memorize and bring up at cocktail parties to impress strangers.

"Oh look. Those canapés remind me of popcorn," a person could say in the way of creating a means to bring up the subject in conversation. "Reminds me that pressure inside a popcorn grain can reach 135 pounds per square inch. Just can't get enough of the stuff."

At which point, depending on the response and interest, a person could continue and personalize the conversation by asking the preference of adding butter and salt or whether they prefer to pop their corn at home or restrict their eating at movie theatres. Interesting stuff like that.

On a personal note, my love affair with popcorn goes back to the time when kernels were thrown into hot oil in a saucepan with the result being a lot of black popcorn. These days it has progressed to the point where companies have created built-in receptacles containing the raw kernels and all that's necessary for your regular popcorn aficionado is to toss it into a microwave oven. For me, the best popcorn is made in movie theatres when it's served hot. Too often it's allowed to stand resulting in cardboard-like kernels. How many people reading this eat the half-popped kernels?

Statistically, the majority of popcorn eaten across this planet is grown in the U.S. and Americans eat more popcorn than residents of all other countries.

Cheateau du Chat

Most cat owners will attest that cats have it made and although they ask for nothing, they seem to have the ability to get special treatment. Somehow, somebody must have felt the need that they i.e. cats, needed still more and to this end have created - wait for it - wine especially for cats.

The wine created by a Japanese company, offers felines who want only the best (don't they all?), their vintage, Nyan-Nyan Nouveau or for English cats, Meow Nouveau.

It was created in response to requests from people  who were looking for a liquid consumption in which their pussycats could imbibe and join in holiday celebrations. There is no need for concern about drunken felines or the need for establishing a special group to get cats off the bottle, since the wine is none-alcoholic. The wine does contain vitamins, a trace of catnip to give them a "high" and made from Cabernet Franc wine grapes.

Thinking further...wonder if somebody will create special wine vessels specifically geared for wine-consuming kitties. Moreover, could this idea spread with special wines specifically geared for pet hamsters, budgies, lizards and other household pets?

Nyan Nyan Nouveau costs 399 yen (or $4) for per bottle and the company is limiting its run to a 1000 bottles. It's the cat's meow in the true sense of the word.