Monday, October 20, 2008

Cooking Tips

Ever make lasagna and forget to boil the pasta sheets first?

I may have missed that portion of the recipe since the kids and I were fooling around in the kitchen when Mom was out the other day. So the Moms Delicious Meat Lasagna recipe became something like Delicious Hamburger and Tomato Sauce and Ricotta Cheese Soup/Stew Sort Of.

It was fabulous even though Mom made some faces.

Now preparing Kraft Dinner is a different story. This is something where I can truly shine. I have infinite variations on this simple yet timeless classic, and the skill to really pull it all together.

First you take your pasta ingredient (Macarena) and put it in a pot of boiling water.

Cook this pasta, pronounced ‘pahsta’ if you are snobbish, for ten minutes. I know the package says eight but we don’t read packaging – we are serious, professional chefs remember. I was trained by Chief Chef Al Dente himself, so back off on the eye rolling if you please. Ten minutes.

Once the pasta has boiled (ten minutes) you should check for doneness by hurling a chunk of noodle at your sister or the dog. If it sticks to her (sister) face then it’s done. If it just wings her or chips a tooth then boil for a while longer.

Pasta sticking to the dogs’ fur is not necessarily a good indicator of doneness, although having a dog coated with that evenings entrĂ©e does make greeting dinner guests rather entertaining.

So if it is done, it is time to strain it through a calendar. Collator. Something like that. Coriander maybe.

It’s a strainer thing that we sometimes use as a space helmet when playing with the kids.

Attaching some wires to it can also make it a brain scanning device or laser torture implement if you really get into it.

Using big pots for helmets can also be useful in larger space battles, but remember to drain any boiling water out of a pot before turning it over your head.

While on the subject, smaller children can also make a decent fort by emptying all the pots out of the big cupboard under the counter but big kids and grownups won’t fit. They need couch cushions to properly assemble a kitchen clubhouse.

Just so you know.

Anyway, once strained, you pour your Macarena back into the same pot, dump in a bunch of margarine, and stir until the margarine is melted. The noodles should have a glistening sheen to them so you know the putty-like cholesterol will coat your veins in rapid fashion.

Now comes the controversial part that causes huge debates at chef conventions – add milk before orange stuff or after the orange stuff? I’m not about to wade into that debate just yet – all I can say for sure is I usually add the orange stuff right after the margarine because it adheres nicely to the noodles, then we add the milk.

We have discussed the relative merits of using chocolate milk in our recipe but have not yet attempted this experiment. We will review the available literature on this subject and go from there.

Once the milk is in, you let the assistant chefs stir the completed mixture around and around until done.

‘Done’ is defined as when all the orange stuff is consistently coating all the noodles, or until the ant that fell in is properly drowned (poisoned?), or the wooden spoon breaks from bashing your brother with it, or all the above.

Serve in bowls, or eat directly from the pot using the stirring spoon(s) if you’re really wild, or Mom is not around.

We might try using food colouring sometime soon to see if the horrid orange colour can be softened a little.

It clashes with the chocolate pudding war paint.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Horse Named Blart

We went and watched where meadow muffins come from the other day.

Well, it started out as a Wholesome Family Adventure Trail Riding Day, but naturally it devolved into the lowest common denominator: bodily function discussions. If you have kids, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Children, of course, are fascinated by the whole horse tail-lifting phenomenon. They kind of like how horses don’t have to rush off to the bathroom to go number 2. It (the horse) just hikes up its tail and lets go, which they find very entertaining.

Me? Well, I’m old and cynical and I figure if you’ve seen one politician you’ve seen them all.

I enjoyed writing that last sentence very much.

So we were getting acquainted with the horses and their stuff (I was told my saddle had a horn but I couldn’t make it work), and after being told to “go mount your animal” (“Beg pardon?”), I finally got aboard a type of big horse called a ‘gelding’.

At first I thought the term had something to do with the horse’s colouring like grey, roam, pal’o’mine, spackle, apple loose, etc.

It turns out ‘gelding’ is a verb for what happens to boy horses. They cas…cast…they cut off…

Excuse me, I have to go lie down for a while, and will continue this column in a moment.

…Several lie-downs later…

I’m sorry, but as a man I find it difficult to discuss this procedure. You see, ‘gelding’ takes a boy horse and makes him - not a boy anymore. Understand? Let me uncross my legs again and we’ll continue with our story. Is it hot in here?

So we get on our horses and are about to get under way in what I imagine will be a manly, Hollywood-style flourish.

I would take the reins of my horse firmly in hand, turn him in the desired direction, spur the beast into photogenic acceleration and, pausing briefly for a Remington-like pose, off we’d go in a cloud of dust, into the sunlit brilliance of terrain looking much like the Grand Canyon. Just like in a classic western movie.

Or so I thought.

I think my horse was named Blart. As everyone else’s horse started walking away from the corral, I discovered Blart wouldn’t move.

My riding companions were growing small in the distance, and no amount of encouragement would get him going.

So there I am, alone on the windswept plain, furiously leaning forward and back, cajoling, cursing, rubbing my Nikes into his tummy in a curious imitation of spur usage, and nothing is happening.

My laughter at the situation was getting more shrill and hysterical as I contemplated what I was going to do.

I tried all the known commands – “Giddyup”, “Hi Ho Silver” “Yee Haw” “This way Camilla!”, but nothing worked.

Then an ominous rumbling could be felt inside the beast, and I discovered what Blart’s problem was. Perhaps he had been fed too much wet hay.

Some kind of bowel duress was afflicting the poor fellow, such that he couldn’t or wouldn’t move until he had experienced some relief. This came in an enormous postern blast that eventually erupted from its’ behind, whereupon it burst into a bone jarring trollop (or candor as us horsey types call it), the kids and I weeping tears of laughter at this jet-propelled locomotion.

As the horse slowed and stopped, I knew we were in for another long pause in our trek around the field, until such time as more gas, comprising several cubic meters, would make its way to its inevitable conclusion and off we’d go again. Thus we proceeded.

Growing up, I never saw a horse do that on television or in westerns. You’d never see Clint Eastwood or John Wayne get on their horse and then have to wait several minutes for it to expel its intestinal fortitude would you? Is that what (film) editors are really for?

Another myth shattered. Another family legend created.

Worse, I guess I have no alternative now, but to start writing country and western songs.

Giddy up.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Driving Diversions

Now that the toll on the Coquihalla highway is gone, I’m sure you’ll agree there isn’t much thrill in driving it naked anymore is there?

I did experience one last bit of fun at the toll booths the other day. I drove forward and backward through one of the toll stations several times, not just to relive the naughty joy of it all, but to revel in the fact I could do so now without paying.

To a skinflint such as myself this is high living let me assure you.

Anyway, it lead me to think of other entertaining activities undertaken while driving.

When I was growing up we usually drove in a Volkswagen bus with the middle seat removed. We’d lay on foam mattresses and amuse ourselves endlessly – ‘steering’ Dad’s ears, holding up ‘I’m being kidnapped!’ signs to passing motorists, bashing our heads on the sharp corners of the overhead air conditioner – you know, the usual stuff.

We didn’t even consider wearing seatbelts – even if they were available. Parents then were either oblivious to the danger or simply didn’t care. Our bus was so slow it would get bug splats on the rear windshield so it didn’t really matter anyway.

Our drives were also unbearably lengthy, sometimes as long as 3 hours if you can imagine the torture. Desperate parents would resort to idiotic things like pointing out interesting mileage numbers approaching, with a live play by play commentary and some family photographs of the great event for good measure.

It was on one of these long, boring journeys that a family legend was born. Why yes, it did involve me and how thoughtful of you to guess!

We refer to it simply as the “Help Me! Help Me!” episode.

You’ll be pleased to know that what follows is extremely gross and may be unsuitable for more mature readers. Kids will love it though.

We were having a “Who can make their face the reddest” contest. You’ll recall these events – hold your breath, grunt like you’re giving birth, and see how red/purple you can make your face. Simple really. Good training for fighter pilots. Or future hemorrhoid sufferers. Something like that.

So it came to my turn, and until the Great Blast, I was doing pretty well. My face was hot with the red iridescence pluming up my cheeks, my form was good, and the judges were nodding in approval.

I was on my way to another championship I thought.

Then it happened. Someone made me laugh, and instead of exhaling out my mouth like a normal person, I let fly with enormous pressure entirely through my nose for some disgusting reason.

The collective mucus of my pre-pubescent body, from my ankles on up, came exploding out of each nostril in massive snakes of grayish green uh, material.

Head bowed and not knowing what to do, but knowing I was probably in trouble, I started yelling “Help me! Help me!”

Of course this came out something like “Hep knee! Hep knee!” since I had enormous tubes of snot dangling from my face down to the floor of the bus.

I’m not kidding about enormous. These things were about an inch in diameter and over two feet long. Kleenex alone was not going to work here – I needed a bucket.

Of course my siblings did nothing to assist me in my plight – they were too busy pointing at me in a mixture of revulsion and awe and crying with laughter.

Here I had the entire contents of both lungs and most of my head hanging out of my proboscis and no one lifted a finger to help. In hindsight I must have looked like some sort of freckled walrus with hideous green tusks quivering in the air in front of my bowed head.

My charming family always sees fit to remind me of this episode anytime we get together. Heads bowed they chant “Hep knee! Hep knee!”, and my wife learns still more about her charming, mature husband and his upbringing.

I just smile quietly at their collective mirth and then sneak off and maturely piddle in their suitcases.

“Hep knee” indeed.

Enjoy your breakfast!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Political Analysis

Humour writers don’t often tackle politics, but I’m afraid I have to wade into several issues with a burning fire of passion. I think the medication is taking effect.

One vital topic that has yet to be debated in any election is, of course, the recent, shocking removal of sugar dispensers from Starbucks outlets.

If you can imagine, they have gotten rid of all the glass sugar containers in favour of individually wrapped little paper packets, the manufacture of which is increasing the company’s carbon footprint, which will in turn plunge the world into a new ice age, thus ending life as we know it.

People – we have to get organized.

Admittedly, the old dispensers didn’t pour all that well, being plugged up with moistened sugar lumps, bacteria and bits of sneeze debris. But if you were clever like me, you would know where they kept the new, dry, unclogged, germ-free sugar dispenser thingy’s under the counter and voila! You could impress your coffee date with your insight and power and not be concerned about toxic mutant sugar germs invading your beverage.

Now, though, one has to make crinkly, loud flapping noises as you force the sugar down into the bottom of the paper, then tear off the tops of several packets at a time, which is embarrassing since you are now revealing to the assembled multitude of coffee snobs just how much sugar you use to taint the purity of your coffee, you disgusting fat unworthy slob.

On the positive side, the sound of flapping sugar packets is usually annoying to the slender, fit, insufferably smug runners in attendance drinking their decaf, non-fat lattes – a beverage known amongst us fatties as a ‘Why Bother’.

Believe me when I tell you I am canvassing all candidates about this one, at least until security guards gently lead me away again.

On other, even more important political fronts, is it just me or did everyone else, upon hearing the name Dion, automatically add ‘and The Belmonts’ afterwards?

I realize that anyone under the age of about 70 will probably not understand this reference. I can get away with that witty remark since I once worked at an ‘oldies’ radio station in my youth, and we had to play that group over and over.

I suspect that is why Mr Dion (and The Belmonts) didn’t win the election and is now being shown the door thanks very much have a nice day sincerely The Liberal Party.

Of course now that I’ve mentioned Dion and The Belmonts, my head naturally jumps to their music, specifically ‘Runaround Sue’, their huge number one smash hit from about 1935, which will remain in my head all day on permanent replay, hopefully loud enough to drown out some of the voices.

Quite frankly, it’s enough to drive me nuts.

Somebody once said that when you have a song stuck in Cranial Repeat Mode, if you sing it out loud it will go away.

This technique works well but the urge usually strikes me at inopportune moments, like at company board meetings or Chamber of Commerce functions. There, the torment of the song meets with my disgust at listening to it all day, and I burst into song quite out of the blue in an effort to get rid of the infuriating thing once and for all.

The minutes of more than one meeting have included sentences like “…and then Mr. Crawford started singing ‘Waterloo’ by Abba for some reason, until security came and shot him with a tranquilizer gun”.

I was secretly hoping Stephen Harper would burst into a rousing rendition of ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ at a tense press conference. It would have made him one with the people and led to a landslide victory no doubt.

Perhaps someday we will have the ability to permanently download the songs from ones head with a small MP3-type recorder.

Watch out Celine Dion.

And The Belmonts. Aaarrrgh!

I’m telling you, these political columns really take it out of a guy.

Nocturnal Transmissions

For the longest time I’ve been curious as to why, when I wake up, the bedroom has been re-arranged. I go to bed with my glasses and other small objects on the nightstand, and in the morning they are all on the floor.

More than once I’ve awakened to find a pillow over my face.

I’ve also been having these really vivid dreams where I feel cold steel pressed against my head.

It turns out I snore, at least according to my wonderful, tired wife.

I’ve done some research into this and the problem is apparently with my soft pilots. Pilates? Something like that. Software pirates maybe. Anyway, I guess it relaxes when I fall asleep, and my punching bag, or ‘ovulate’, starts flapping around back there, causing snoring.

I happen to know how frustrating snoring can be from personal experience.

It was on a fishing trip up the coast in a friend’s cabin cruiser. We would fish all day and after the dinner and serious drinking was taken care of, we would sleep on board our anchored accommodation. Did I mention it was a fairly small boat?

One of our companions was a fellow named George, who drank heavily, and had teeth that slept in a jar at night.

Now when George fell asleep, pretty much everything north of his nipples relaxed, fell down his throat and vibrated…Loudly!. Our entire evening sounded something like this:

“George…hey George”


“You’re snoring – shut up”


30 seconds later…

“George hey George”


“You’re snoring”


And so on. All night. We didn’t get much sleep. I don’t think they recovered the body, and I know my fishing friend still misses that spare outboard motor. I know I miss my sock.

So knowing how loud a guy can snore, I feel genuine compassion for my long-suffering wife. She’s in the basement right now cleaning the guns. That’s twice this week, bless her.

Here’s another thing. I offered to let her use my sound canceling headphones (the ones I use when mowing the lawn) and my idea was rejected! They work great, and I can’t understand why anyone would get so upset with such a generous offer. I know she wouldn’t be able to turn her head when wearing them, but isn’t that a small price to pay for relief from this supposed noise I create?

Oh, now that’s funny. What is that radio doing so near the bathtub? Darn kids…

I’m not even entirely convinced it is me doing the snoring. Our dog Lucy is getting to an age where she gurgles a lot too. When she starts dreaming of chasing rabbits or badgers or whatever, she really gets into it. Barking, yipping, thrashing her legs around. She has a real party at times, and if my dear wife can sleep through that then what’s the problem?

My wife is sharpening the knives again – it must be dinner so I have to go. See you around.

“Say Honey, do these pork chops taste funny to you?"