Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Do You Want to Buy Some Oysters?

"Do you want to buy some oysters?"

When someone approaches you to speak, you can never be totally sure what they are going to say. You might think you have an idea about what they are going to say, but sometimes the words that come out of their mouths are a total surprise.

I was at work the other night when a truck driver approached me. (I work in the truck yard of a large manufacturing/warehouse facility.) Usually when truck drivers approach me like this, they ask me where the office is. (The door to the office is not marked very well.)

So, I was more than a bit taken aback when the first thing he said to me was, "Do you want to buy some oysters?"

My initial reaction was, "Wha?" (Not "What?" but "Wha?" There is a slight difference.)

Seeing my confusion at his question, the truck driver clarified things for me. "I've got twenty pounds of oysters that they wouldn't accept at my last stop, so I'm trying to sell them to get rid of them."

"Oh. So they're rejected oysters! Well, in that case I'd love to buy them!!!" is something I certainly did not say. What I actually did say was, "Umm, no thanks."

Do you want to buy some oysters?
So, I sent the truck driver up to the office to check in. The load he was actually delivering was chicken broth. (I'm not sure why chicken broth and oysters were on the same trailer, but I gave up trying to understand things a long time ago.) Apparently, he asked several other people the same question, "Do you want to buy some oysters?" As far as I could tell, no one actually did, and he left the yard with all twenty pounds of his oysters unsold.

I asked the guard at the truck gate about it, and he said, "If it hadn't been twenty pounds, I probably would have bought them. I like oysters, but I wouldn't want that many."

So let me get this straight, it wasn't the quality of the oysters that kept him from buying them, it was the quantity! Really???

Let's go over what we know about the quality of these oysters:
1. They were rejected at the driver's last stop.
2. There are any number of reasons why the oysters might have been rejected.
C. Most of those reasons are bad.
4. Oysters come from the sea.
5. We are in the middle of Utah!!!
6. Utah is very far from any ocean! (Yes, the Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake are fairly large bodies of water, but neither is known for producing oysters!) (Or anything else edible for that matter.)
7. They were being sold by a truck driver out of the back of his truck.
8. Again, this is a parking lot in the middle of Utah, not Pike's Place Market!

So, really, the thing that kept the guard from buying these scary oysters was that there were too many of them?!?

There are no oceans or seas bordering Utah. It is not known for its seafood.

(Of course, we are in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Maybe they were rocky mountain oysters? That might have made more sense, but it wouldn't have changed my answer. I am not going to buy bull testicles from some guy out of the back of his truck, either.)

That should have been the end of the questionable oysters, but it wasn't. Why not? Because I have a six-year-old daughter. Why would that matter? Well, because I have a six-year-old daughter, I have listened to the soundtrack of the movie Frozen approximately 492 493 times. And, because I have listened to the soundtrack of the movie Frozen approximately 493 494 times, I spent the whole evening singing "Do you want to buy some oysters?" to the tune of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?"

Come on, sing it along with me! "Do you want to buy some oysters?"

In fact, the "Do You Want to Buy-Some-Oysters/Build-a-Snowman" song was so ingrained in my brain that the only way I could get it out was by watching the video for "Baby Monkey Riding On a Pig." (Watch the video twice and you will be singing "Baby Monkey" for the rest of your life.)

Why do I tell you this story? So that if someone comes up to you and asks "Do you want to buy some oysters," you will JUST SAY NO!!! (And if you have "Do You Want To Buy Some Oysters?" or "Baby Monkey Riding On a Pig" stuck in your brain, well, it's better than having to get your stomach pumped.)

[Special thanks to my lovely wife, Amber. My phone call with her about the questionable oysters served as the basis of this post. And to my friend Andy for infecting my brain with the "Baby Monkey" song.]

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Summer of the Slurpee

It's the Summer of the Slurpee!

I'm not exactly sure why it's the Summer of the Slurpee. Someone decided they wanted a Slurpee, other people liked it, and it escalated from there. (It wasn't me. I was not the instigator of the Summer of the Slurpee.) (French Toast Week? That was me. Baconpalooza? Guilty. Summer of the Slurpee? Innocent.)

Just to clarify, a Slurpee is a carbonated frozen ice drink available exclusively at 7-Eleven convenience stores. An Icee is similar to a Slurpee, kind of like an RC Cola is similar to a Coke. (Back when I was a kid Icees were sold at Kmart and other non-7-Eleven establishments.) Other stores now have drinks similar to a Slurpee, but there is only one real Slurpee.

There are a few factors why the Slurpees have been so popular this summer, other than, of course, their goodness. One factor: our air conditioner went out for almost a week. It was very hot outside. It was even hotter inside. A cold Slurpee is a very good thing on a very hot day.

Another factor: tonsils. Our four-year-old, Buzz, had his tonsils taken out. To help ease the pain in his throat, the doctor suggested ice cream, popsicles, and Slurpees. I was a bit surprised to find that, given the choice, Buzz would pick Slurpees over popsicles. My wife says it's because he doesn't like the sticks in the popsicles.

My boy is just like me! I have never been a very big fan of popsicles, either. And for the very same reason, because I don't like the sticks. That's when it occurred to me: popsicle sticks are like the bones of a popsicle! I don't like bones in my food (see my previous post, No Bones About It) and I don't like sticks in my popsicles. If I can't eat it, I don't want it! That's why I've always liked ice cream sammiches more than fudgesicles or popsicles.

Anyway, that's why the Slurpee was Buzz's choice when it came for something cold and wet to ease his scratchy throat. Hence the Summer of the Slurpee!

Beat the Heat with a Slurpee! (I wonder if that's how the San Antonio Spurs won?)

Our local 7-Eleven is featuring a flavor called the "LeBron James Sprite 6 Mix." I tried to get one for my wife the day after Game 1 of the NBA Finals, which is the game where LeBron James sat out much of the 4th quarter of the game because of cramps in his legs. I say I "tried" to get the Slurpee, because when the cup got three-quarters of the way full, the machine stopped working, pretty much just like LeBron. The day after Game 2 (in which LeBron played quite well and his team won) the "LeBron James Sprite 6 Mix" Slurpee machine worked just fine. (I didn't happen to try the machine after Games 3, 4, or 5, all of which were losses by LeBron's team. It's probably just as well.)

But, for all the Slurpees that have been consumed in our house this summer, I haven't had very many. Why? Because when I drink I'm a guzzler, not a sipper. Give me a cool, refreshing carbonated beverage and I will glurgle it down in just a few seconds. My Mom always said, "You don't even taste it, you drink it down so fast!" But she's wrong; I do taste it. And that's the way I enjoy a drink. I like to guzzle.

Unfortunately, you can't guzzle a Slurpee. I tried to guzzle the first Slurpee I had during the Summer of the Slurpee, and I ended up with the dreaded "ice cream headache," also known as the "brain freeze!" "Brain freeze" is that debilitating sharp pain in your forehead from eating or drinking something cold too quick. To call it simply a "headache" is like saying Lindsay Lohan is a "bit rambunctious."

So, since that first "brain freeze" of the summer, I've been very careful to just sip and not guzzle. Mostly I just do my daddy duty as "official food finisher" and finish off the remains of the Slurpees that the kids leave in their cups when they get tired of them and decide to go off and play. (The Slurpees are warmer by then, and less likely to give me the Brain Freeze.)

One of the distinctive features of the Slurpee experience is the spoon-straw. It is a straw with a little spoon scoop at the end.

I wasn't sure what this thing was called, so I was a bit surprised to find that it is officially called a "spoon-straw." Everyone knows that a fork/spoon combination is called a "spork." So why isn't a spoon-straw called a "spraw" or a "stroon?"

Spraw? Stroon?

I think we should decide here and now. Is it a spraw? Or is it a stroon? (Personally, I think I favor "stroon.")

In the long run it probably doesn't matter. Because just like the fork part of the spork isn't very effective (have you ever actually been able to stab something with a spork?), the spoon part of the stroon (spraw?) doesn't do much good, either. It's hard to scoop up much with a stroon.

The Summer of the Slurpee has made me think back to my childhood. I grew up in the small town of Arimo, Idaho (population 300-ish.) When we did any shopping, we would have to take the 30-mile drive to the "big city" of Pocatello. We would usually make this trip two or three times a week.

When we would leave the "city" to head back home, we would usually stop somewhere to get a drink for the ride home. Sometimes we would stop at Tasty-Treet to get an ironport. (A carbonated beverage made in the heavens!) Sometimes we would stop at Del's Thrifty Market and get a bottle of pop.

But sometimes we would stop at the 7-Eleven and get a Slurpee! This was especially desirous in the mid-70s when the Slurpees came in Marvel super-hero cups! Nothing would make me quite as happy as riding down the road with my Iron Man or Fantastic Four cup filled with a root beer flavored Slurpee!

(As long as I didn't drink it too fast. BRAIN FREEZE!)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

No Bones About It

I hate bones. (Except, of course, for Dr. Leonard McCoy and Temperance Brennan.)

I have a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to food: If you don't want me to eat it, don't put it on my plate!

It probably started with the fish.

When I was growing up, my grandparents had a pond with fish in it on their farm. We called it "The Fish Pond." (We were pretty clever back then.) Grandpa stocked The Fish Pond with lots of large trout. We didn't go fishing very often, usually only when cousins would come from out of town to visit.

My cousin Jim (lost in the shadows), me, my sister Lynette, my brother John, and my Uncle Harvey. It's hard to see, but in front of my brother and sister is a line with at least a half dozen large trout on it.

You would think that having access to The Fish Pond would make it so I liked to go fishing and eat fish. The exact opposite was true. It turned me off from fishing in the "wild" because I was used to catching a large trout with every two or three casts into the water. (The success rate of fishing in the real world is not nearly so high.)

And, it turned me away from wanting to eat fish. First of all, we had to gut our own fish, which was not a particularly pleasant experience. And then when the fish were cooked, there were the bones. Lots and lots of bones.

Whenever I would try to eat the fish, some concerned adult would emphasize, "Don't eat the bones! You might choke on them!" Sounds simple enough, but for a young kid it is sometimes hard to differentiate the fish from all those small bones. I was always fearful I was going to end up hacking, coughing, and possibly croaking because a bone got stuck in my throat. I did not like to eat fish. 

And then I discovered the Filet 'O Fish at McDonald's! Fish with NO BONES!!! I could eat it without fear of death! Plus, it came with a slice of cheese, a bun, tartar sauce, and a deep-fried skin coating! Perfection! Why in the world would I ever eat fish with bones in them ever again?

Filet 'O Fish: Tasty without even a hint of death.

Up until that point, the drumstick had always been my favorite piece of chicken. This was because: A) It came with an easy to hold handle; and 2) That's the only piece we were given, because Mom and Dad kept the good pieces (you know, the ones with meat on them) for themselves.

Then I learned that they made boneless chicken, too, as a filet or nuggetized! Why in the world should anyone put chicken with bones in it on my plate when they could be serving me chicken with NO BONES?

Sometimes they would even try to get me to eat a wing. Wings!  Really? Wings? Needless to say, I am not a big fan of the ratio of meat to bone on a chicken wing.

And yet, wings are a very popular American food item. I don't understand. I just don't get it. At least two national restaurant chains, "Buffalo Wild Wings" and "Winger's," have named themselves after these bony little pieces of gristle. (Although a few years ago Winger's tried to distance themselves by changing their name to "Winger's Roadhouse Grill," which I thought was a rather foolish marketing ploy. Most places change their name to shorten it (KFC) not make it longer. Who is going to say "Let's go to Winger's Roadhouse Grill" when they could just say "Let's go to Winger's?" And the abbreviated "WRG" doesn't exactly roll off of the tongue, either.)

(On the flip side, I guess naming your chicken restaurant "Breasts" might not be the best idea, either.)

Recently, I went to the drive-thru at Little Caesar's and saw this:
Now serving 8 tasty varieties of flavored chicken bones!

Why? Does anyone know anybody who has ever gotten chicken wings from Little Caesar's? And if so (which I doubt) has anyone in the world tried all eight flavors? I just don't get it.

I've lived most of my life in Idaho or Utah, neither of which is known as a hotbed for seafood. So, I haven't had lobster or crab very often. But, the few times I have tried them, I've been perplexed by what comes out on my plate.

First, I tried crab legs. I really enjoyed the taste…of what I was supposed to eat. I just wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to eat and what I was not supposed to eat. There was a lot of cracking and scraping and scooping and breaking going on. Just give me the part that is edible! I don't think that's asking for too much!

And then, when we summered at The Cape, I had some lobster. (When I say "we summered at The Cape," what I actually mean is that time we spent four days on vacation at Cape Cod. "Summered at The Cape" sounds more hoity-toity, and I'm all for taking any opportunity I can to make myself seem hoity and/or toity.)

They brought out the lobster and all I could see was shell and claws and a face! (The only foods that should have a face are a gingerbread man and a chocolate chip pancake.)

Face it: eating a lobster can get messy.

I was given special tools to use to open up my lobster. A hammer, a chisel, pliers, wire cutters, a saw, and something that resembled a nutcracker. I'm sorry, but when I'm eating the only tools I should need are a fork, spoon and knife. They're called utensils! If I wanted to play with a tool box I would have become a mechanic!

I eventually cracked and chiseled and pried some meat out of my lobster shell, and it was very tasty. But I could have done without all the shell-cracking rigmarole. 

I even occasionally have a beef with beef! Lots of people like a big t-bone in their steak. Not me. And some steaks come with little pockets of fat attached that I'm never sure if I'm supposed to eat or not.

Rib meat, of course, would be better without the actual rib. (I guess that would just make it "meat.") (I'm okay with that.)

Pork chops? More pork, less chop.

And parsley sprig garnishes are barely worth mentioning. (So I just barely did.)

I also don't have any use for watermelon rinds or seeds, apple cores, or orange peels.

Yes, if I need to I can work my way around these non-edible things that are served with my food. But that's not how I prefer it. If I can't eat it, I don't want it on my plate!

That's why I like hamburgers so much. Not once has anyone ever tried to serve me a hamburger with the cowhide still attached!