Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Got Gas?

It’s time once again to fret about gas prices. This is a long-standing American tradition, right up there with reality shows and obesity.

Every few years when gas prices spike, people like to blame whoever happens to be president at the time. For example, in 2008, Democrats blamed Dubya. Now Republicans are blaming Obama. Forget the rising demand in India and China and the ever-increasing difficulty of squeezing the last remaining drops out of oil wells; the president is always to blame! That is, if he happens to represent a political party other than your own. This is a normal part of being an average ignorant adult who needs a scapegoat. For example, parents of overweight children like to blame McDonalds or the School Lunch Program, instead of perhaps maybe -- just maybe -- packing their kids a nutritious lunch and not feeding them mac-n-cheese while they sit around watching Nickelodeon.

Let me guess: you’re not gonna do anything to curb your gas consumption. You will continue to take trips to the beach and pick your kids up from school (because God forbid they should ride the bus) and go on weekend getaways and commute long distances to work, all the while complaining about having to pay so much at the pump. Hey, while you’re at it, why don’t you complain the next time you order a nine-dollar martini?

Anyway, I came up with a solution to the gas price problem: sell your car and take public transportation. Yeah, I know, you’re not gonna do that, because this is America, and one thing that defines us as Americans is that we are selfish, impatient, wasteful consumers who drive the biggest gas-guzzlers we can afford so we can drive our kids to soccer practice and ride to work alone. Even “environmentalists” burn gas and pollute the air as they drive to rallies, and frankly the rest of us are sick and tired of their hypocrisy. If you really want to do your part, go live in the woods and eat berries. But you know what?  It won’t make a bit of difference because the rest of us will continue to air condition our homes and run our lawnmowers, and we’ll honk and laugh as we drive by you on our way to the mall.

So, what am I doing about the gas situation?  Nothing. Not a damn thing. I can easily afford to pay $50 each time I fill my gas tank because I save money in other areas by not buying wasteful items such as new clothing, texting plans, HBO, gym memberships, lawn fertilizer, booze, movie tickets, fancy dinners, deodorant or soap. I’m kidding! I buy lots of booze!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Cooking the Winter Blues Away

I don’t like to cook, but this time of year, when the weather sucks and life is more depressing than a Facts of Life reunion, I find myself in the kitchen, chopping and heating and mixing in order to distract myself from the pointlessness of my existence.

Despite a few food poisoning incidents, I consider myself to be a pretty good cook. I just have a unique cooking style. For example, I use the garbage disposer as a food processor.

I consider any kind of food preparation to be “cooking”. If I pour cereal into a bowl, I feel that I have cooked breakfast. It’s not as brain-dead as you think, though: I have to decide which cereal to use. I’ve learned from experience to avoid any cereal sold in health stores. Health store cereals usually have mutant names like Amaranth Flakes or Kamut Krisp, and they taste as bad as they sound. Actually worse. Every cereal I ever tried from a health store tasted like cardboard, except not quite as good. They adhere to the First Law of Health Foods, which is that anything that’s good for you has to suck. I suspect that the reason health store cereals are good for you is not that they contain any healthful ingredients, but that they are so unappetizing that you would rather starve than eat them. Then you lose 20 pounds and everyone comments on how great you look, and they have no idea how miserable you are until you all go out to dinner and someone suggests that everyone split the check even though you only had a nine-dollar vegetarian plate while he had a twenty-dollar steak, so you stab him with a fork. Then everyone looks at you like it’s your fault and the judge throws the book at you. At least that’s what happened to me.

One of my favorite things to cook is pasta. It takes on the flavor of whatever is mixed in with it. Pasta can be molded at the factory into any shape – and it is. Have you seen how many kinds of pasta festoon supermarket shelves?  First there’s plain old spaghetti. Then there’s thin spaghetti, also called spaghettini or vermicelli. There’s even thinner spaghetti, called capellini or angel hair. Then there's linguini, which is like spaghetti but it’s flat instead of round. Fettuccini is even flatter. Elbow macaroni is that short, curved, hollow pasta you see in macaroni & cheese. Pipetti looks like wrinkled macaroni. Ziti is pasta shaped like tubes. Ditalini is tiny ziti. Rigati is ziti with pleats. Rigatoni is like rigati but wider. No wonder I have an aneurysm every time I shop for pasta. But wait, there’s more. Farfalle is shaped like bowties. Gemelli is twisted noodles. Rotini is spiral noodles that look like DNA. Rotelli is like rotini but longer. Whenever I see all these pasta names on supermarket shelves, I feel like I’m reading the guest list at a mob family wedding.

There are many kinds of pasta sauce to accompany your pasta: marinara, bolognaise, pesto, carbonara, von gole, romanoff, alfredo. I’m not going to tell you how to make them because I think they take too long. People spend hours adding ingredients and boiling on the stove as though it’s a friggin’ science experiment. I suggest making it easier on yourself by following my recipe:

1. Open jar of Prego or Ragu.
2. Pour over pasta.
3. Eat.

There. Isn’t that much easier than standing over a pot full of molten lava?  You don’t even have to heat the sauce: the freshly boiled pasta will combine with the cold sauce to make a meal that’s just the right temperature. Even Baby Bear would eat it.

Some foods are horrible. For example, why do people buy artichokes? Just one costs $3. Then I have to boil the hell out of it – that’s another dollar. And what is my reward for all this work and expense?  I get to scrape a little bit of white mealy matter off the leaves. Yum. Often I encounter prickly parts that stick in my tongue and throat, and I have to spit them out, which is sometimes impossible without making barnyard-type noises. It’s like eating a cactus.

There are lots of cookbooks. Each one has more recipes than you will ever use, unless you’re fortunate enough to not have to work so you’ve got plenty of time to cook for an hour or two every day and spend the rest of your time shopping and having affairs. But enough about Congress. Recipes can come from other sources too: friends, relatives, the Internet, or food packages. I never use the recipes provided on food packages because I know that they’re just ploys devised by the manufacturers to make me buy large quantities of their product. For example:

Green Giant® Pea Soup

six cups water
½ cup minced onion
¾ cup chopped carrots
five metric tons Green Giant® peas
one bouillon cube

Some recipes are impossible to follow because they list ingredients I’ve never heard of. For example:

Hoggerel Casserole

3 cups calipash
9 ozs sliced alborak (with baculum removed)
4 plooters
2 large barbots
5 lunkers
8 small crunnicks
½ cup dashiki sauce
2 tbsp blanched adderwort
1 tsp flannel

Beat ingredients with a snooder. Pour into a 6-by-9-inch balzarine pan and bake at 350° for 2 hours. Remove from oven and garnish with fleem.

My favorite way to obtain a home-cooked meal is to get invited to a friend’s house. Why cook when you can have someone else do it?  It’s easy to freeload under the guise of just wanting to visit people because you consider them such close friends (then why haven’t you seen them in the last eleven months?). Let’s say you come home at 5:45 PM and you just don’t feel like cooking. You and your family are starving. Call someone and weasel your way to his or her dinner table like this:

You:     “Hello, [friend’s name]?”
Friend: “Yes.”
You:     “This is [your name].”
Friend: “Hello, [your name]! It’s been a while since we’ve spoken.”
You:     “Yes it has. We should get together for dinner sometime.”
Friend: “Yes, we should.”
You:     “Great! We’ll see you at 6:00.”
Friend: “But...”
You:     <Click>