Saturday, April 28, 2012

Asian Markets...Baby Steps

I have been under the weather for a few days so I haven't felt much like writing. I'll be back with something new this week. In the meantime, here are some pics of an Asian market I went to in Nashua NH. Feel free to comment on the pics, or let me know what some of the things you see are good for. I'm really curious about the dried pork that looks like ancient beef jerky that has nearly turned to the consistency of rockwool insulation. Enjoy the pics, and have a super weekend!

Thought of Roddy Gibbs when I saw this as we both like them, anyone else?

Truly Agar Agar or is this just the Asian version of Jell-O?

Various Fruits in heavy syrup.

Need this...but for what? Ramen or Pho additive?

No idea...

I'm sorry, call me prudish...I'm just not eating quail eggs or chickens from a can.

The Land O' Ramen

One of dozens of brands of fish sauce..Anyone have a favorite?

anyone? anyone?

difference between regular basil?

Yup, I'd dig this the same way I dig maple sugar....


Fish oils and canned fish...

I really want to use this, but as a pinch between my cheek n gum...or as a food additive?

I should know what this is for, but I'd rather ask you people than ask Google...

anyone tste this? Thoughts?

Do Asian folks actually use a lot of these types of sauces, or are they just of the ketchup and mayo convenience variety?

Tons of snacks, not sure where to begin really...any that I must try?!

More Snacks!
Hello Kate!

I'm pretty sure this one says I dare you to try this.... just not sure if it's Mandarin or Cantonese?

Now I didn't take a pic of the produce area as it was fairly small and not a lot of odd things I didn't recognize.  I did notice we are getting screwed on the size of Daikon Radish we get at my local grocery store as they also come in horse leg large! The thing I noticed, is the herbs and spices were of a great variety and very inexpensive. Can anyone vouch for how good or bad they are?

The frozen foods are also not represented much, but from everything I looked at, it was a lot of processed stuff I could get at most stores. They did have some things like noodles that were fresh and then frozen that I'd like to try... but not much aside from that. Keep in mind this is a small market and there are others in the Boston area to match the largest supermarkets, that I will be checking out.... but for now.... baby steps.

Thanks for reading...Pav

Monday, April 23, 2012


It’s a cold winter morning and I’m six, watching my breath fade into a background of freshly fallen snow blanketing the ground. The winter has an eerie stillness, the silence only broken by the sound of my breathing and footsteps crunching in the new snow.

*THUD* Came the sound from my grandfather’s hatchet that woke me from my trance like state, the now bright red flecks of snow seemed omnipresent. The sound of the old rooster kicking and half running while flapping its wings became a new distraction as my mind raced to process what was happening.

This was my first experience in understanding where meat comes from. I’ll admit I wasn’t enthusiastic about the coq au vin that night and all I could think about were the times I would chase Henry, (that was the rooster’s name) or vice versa through the dusty driveway leading to my grandparents’ house.

When I cried at the dinner table that evening I remember my grandmother running her fingers through my hair and saying… “That was Henry’s job dear; if you don’t eat... it means he did his job for nothing…and I think that would make Henry very sad.” Of course it wasn't Henry's "only" job, but it was enough to make me start eating again. 

With the upcoming ban on foie gras in California, I have been talked at, by several people opposed to foie gras. They cited many video’s shot by so called “animal rights” groups, showing animals being tortured, abused and otherwise mistreated. Yet when I show them video’s, news articles, government reports and various other forms of documentation to support the opposite... this is what happens.

The champions of animal rights revert back to the spouting off of unsupported nonsense, and outright lies. Did they not see what I showed them? Did they even look? What is the underlying issue as to why no amount of evidence is good enough to satisfy their outrage?

I have a theory so follow with me if you will. I truly believe the vast majority of people who wave the banner of animal rights don’t do so because they want to improve the living conditions of animals raised for consumption.

I believe it’s because they don’t want animals to die in the name of human consumption period. Regardless of how happy and wonderful a life the animals may have led up to the time of slaughter.

Let’s look at a few lightning rods in the world of animal rights, Foie gras, milk fed veal, spring lamb and chicken. Why are people not concerned so much with beef? Yes its true people are concerned with feedlot beef, but I don’t see many people looking to outright ban beef…I kept asking myself why?

Consider the animals themselves, young, cute and fluffy for the most part. It’s the reason Rabbit isn’t as popular here in the U.S. as it is in the rest of the meat eating world. Guess who else sees this?

Wrong-headed politicians who allow themselves to be forced into picking a side...they see saving cute little animals as a vote grabber. After all who wants to see little bunnies or ducklings killed for any reason...It's a win win! Besides, they can go ahead and have foie when they go to Vail for that really important...uh.... meeting...

I think most people in my age group (I just turned 39…four years ago) have a “Henry” story or know of someone who has. So when they go to the grocery store, they understand where meat actually comes from.

Younger people perhaps have a harder time grasping meat not magically appearing inside a Styrofoam and plastic package. As a result, the first video they see from (insert animal rights group here) of (insert cute animal here) being abused, tortured …VOILA, instant animal rights activist and/or vegan.

For all I know, they may even see video of an animal being raised or slaughtered in a responsible manner and reach the same conclusion because they are so revolted. Either way, they're somewhat disconnected.

I am positive I will hear how this is all a bunch of hooey and I couldn’t be more wrong (at best). Let me put it to you naysayers another way. If you saw video of happy ducks living like ducks do in green grassy wide open fields, frolicking and eating bugs. Then you see them getting only the finest spring water and eating only the best food.

You see them getting daily checkups from world renowned veterinarians to make sure their every need was met, and nutritionists to see that their diet was 100% proper. Now after twelve to fourteen weeks of all this magnificent attention and care were led to a room, and with no pain were magically killed. Would that be OK? If you’re being honest with yourselves, I suspect it wouldn't.

I think anybody who eats meat should at some time either bear witness to, or take part in an animal being slaughtered. It will give insight into what you eat and why. It will also give you a new respect for what you cook and how you cook it. It will teach you to not be wasteful as well as to understand total utilization for every portion of the animal. Beef for example is not just filet mignon and prime rib, it is also tripe and beef cheeks.

Chef Thomas Keller described to Author Michael Ruhlman how once when he was a young chef, thought it would be a good idea to have rabbit on the menu. When 11 live rabbits were delivered before dinner service and he had to kill and butcher them himself, he learned not only to respect the animal and the bounty it offered, but also not to ever disrespect that animal by overcooking it, or just tossing it because of an error in judgment or being careless.

So I believe the battle on foie gras isn’t based on better living conditions, or animals being mistreated, abused or injured. It is much more basic than that and we have only the politically correct society we live in to blame. We have desensitized people to the end purpose of raising such animals. The final destination for the animals we raise in such a manner is ultimately...our dinner table.
It is because we rarely see a slaughterhouse or a true butcher shop anymore. It is because most grocery stores have the butchering area almost invisible to outside eyes. What comes out of it are nice, clean, sterile, perfectly portioned plastic packs of something few people even stop to consider the origin of.

Instead it is reduced to knowing what cut of a particular type of meat you want, and does it say natural, grass fed or free range. It is because we use words like meat fabrication, or animal harvesting instead of what they actually are which is butchering and slaughtering.

I am for animals being treated well and with dignity while they are in our care. I don’t know of a single chef, cook or farmer who wants the opposite.

I’m all for oversight by people who want the best care for animals before they are ultimately...slaughtered. Not oversight by people who want the end result to be packs of wild chickens shopping on fifth avenue or begging for money so they can get a fun pass.  

The problem is no matter how high you set that bar for animal welfare, it will never be enough for some people…I know it, and so do they. I sincerely hope anybody who abuses, mistreats, or disrespects animals of any kind and in any way, are met in hell with a two by four to the head and are impaled by a six foot roll of flaming shag rug for eternity.

Should we strive to do a better job in the animal husbandry department...most definitely. But the solution isn't to just stop all farming and release the animals into the wild to eat granola, sing cumbayah and live fairly and harmoniously in nature. Just ask any baby wildebeest that has met with a pack of hyenas how fair and harmonious life is.

I find something I recently noticed to be very chilling, and yet telling of human behaviour. Most people will be visibly shaken or audibly gasp if an animal in a movie is shot or killed. The sad thing is, people barely make a sound when it is a human  in the same movie who gets shot or killed. I guess the human just doesn't meet the cuteness criteria some are looking for.
It is entirely possible and probable that the objection by some is strictly based on moral precepts. They choose not to eat meat because they'd prefer not to kill animals for the sake of themselves or their diet, and I most definitely respect that.

But to force that morality on the masses because is doesn't suit your views or lifestyle is just least in this country. Otherwise, lets all pick just one religion...that should be easy right?  Do what most people do and agree to disagree, then go hunt down a tofurkey.

A vast majority of people eat animals and animal products. This has been going on since man learned how to sharpen sticks. They didn't sharpen sticks to keep the woolly mammoth out of the soy bean patch, it's because our ancestors wanted meat. Thank your lucky stars for that.

Without meat, our brains wouldn't have developed to where they are today. In fact we'd probably still be acting out Clan of the Cave Bear, instead of reading the awful book and turning it into a movie...come to think of it...damn you meat!

Let the individual decide for themselves what is right, and let them be held accountable for their actions in whatever afterlife you believe in. Think about this before taking matters into your collective self-righteous hands.

I believe the law regarding the banning of  foie gras in California is wrong because it is not an argument based on the welfare and treatment of animals. That is the thin veil it is draped in, because no reasonable person wants to see animals abused.

There is enough documentation to show that producers such as Hudson Valley Foie Gras couldn’t be treating their animals any better, if they were living in people’s homes, being fed Science Diet Duck Chow, and getting the good recliner in front of the big screen TV. You would think that would make these people happy as it achieved their goal of better animal husbandry right? Wrong... 

Lets call this what it really is...this is a law for people against the killing of any cute fuzzy animals. Especially if that cute fuzzy animal might be used in a made for tv family movie or insurance commercial. Regardless of how well or responsibly they are raised…It'll just never be good enough. Sorry didn't quite make the cut...don't call us, we'll call you!

Friday, April 20, 2012

THE CLAM BOX (Review A and B)

In my snit fit from earlier in the week regarding "trimming the fat." I said I could do it and this review will be proof I am capable. Review A is a typical Pav styled review with all the fixins. Review B is pretty much the bare bones version at less one third the size of A. I'd be interested to hear know what you think...for those in a hurry, skip to B and maybe come back and let me know what you thought of A.

P.S~ Pictures at the bottom

THE CLAM BOX  (Review A)

Growing up in New Hampshire and spending weekends and vacations on the Maine coast, I think it’s safe to say I’ve had my fair share of clams. I’ve eaten them just about every way you possibly can, from raw to stuffed and everything in between.
My favorite way to have them is sautéed with a bit of white wine, shallots and butter, then finished with some freshly chopped parsley and cream. A close second that brings back memories of everything from the beach with my family to being kicked off nearly every ride at Old Orchard Beach, is fried clams.

I was at the Todd Farm antique show and flea market last weekend in Rowley, Massachusetts. I went there because it’s supposed to be a pretty big deal with antique dealers and seekers of fine garbage.
I myself am not an antique dealer. I’m guessing the oldest thing I probably possess is a can of Spam I pilfered from my mother’s pantry when I moved away from home. Not sure why I purloined it as I don’t like Spam, it seemed like a good idea at the time as protein rarely gets top billing on the typical eighteen year olds shopping list.

I guess the reason I went to the antique show was because it was going to be sunny and in the low eighties, and I needed to get my first sunburn of the season out of the way so I could settle into my natural mid-summer color of something between dark freckled and pink. Besides, I couldn't come up with an excuse not to go.
I met a friend of mine there who told me I would see or find just about anything an antique person could ever want. He said this as we started to walk down a dirt pathway between the vendors when I noticed he was sporting a pair of Gucci driving mocs.

As I don’t own a pair of Gucci anything and was dressed somewhere between professional Frisbee golfer and “Dude” Lebowski, I was in for a fun couple of hours. The next two hours were Felliniesque to say the least. I never actually saw anything I wanted and even if I had the vendors skeeve me out.
They have this look of, oh my sweet biscuits n gravy, you’re not really gonna pay what I was asking for that are you?! I enjoy haggling with these people the same way I’d probably enjoy being circumcised with a chainsaw which is to say, not at all.
The other thing about flea markets and antique shops that give me pause are half of the things are only as old as me and I or my parents had a set of at one time or another, and the other half are things I had to help bring to the dump when my grandparents passed I hardly see value in such things aside from nostalgia or a deep appreciation for the smell of mothballs.

But my friend seemed happy enough as he got to try on a buckskin coat a la Daniel Boone which looked positively comical with his Gucci mocs, and he was able to purchase a Native American blanket for thirty bucks that had a hole in it. He theorized the blanket would make excellent seat covers for a couple of chairs he was "redoing". I’ll have to take his word for it…

It was getting on towards noon and aside from becoming covered in dust and sunburn, I was also getting hungry. I suggested a hot dog at the snack bar and after his blank stare and dissertation as to what he thought about hot dogs, he suggested I go to The Clam Box just down the street.
"The fried clams are fabulous, and the onion rings are to die for!" His words, not mine, but as my friend is a worldly man and a man of finer things I took his suggestion to heart and we parted ways…
Apparently he had a date with a couple of Queen Anne style ladder backs. Not sure what breed of dog that is, but I’ll make a date with fried clams and onion rings over a dog any day. (Yes people, I know they’re chairs…self-deprecating dolt seemed funnier)

So I arrived at the restaurant not long after noon, and this not being tourist season yet I expected it to be slow. I arrived to see a line of ten or so people standing outside the door. This is always the sign of a good seafood joint, and I just wished I was born with the gift of patience. After standing in line for some thirty minutes I finally got to just inside the door where the menu board was visible.
It wasn’t a very large menu which is good because too big a menu makes for a roulette wheel styled game of …"what fish isn’t selling fast enough?" The grand prize for winning this game is a two day supply of Imodium and hallucinations of your Cat holding keggers and driving your car...I could have sworn I had a full tank! 

The menu didn’t matter because I was getting clams. Any new seafood shack in New England, the benchmark for all their fried food is set by how well they do their clams. Since this place was called The Clam Box (there since 1935) and everyone from The New York Times to USA Today had given this place accolades, I knew the clams should be amazing.
The price was daunting $24.95 for a large Clam Box (That’s whole bellied clams, not the bastardized little pieces of rubber bands known as clam strips) and $6.95 for a large Onion Ring, but any place given this much praise is bound to be a bit “proud” of their food.
It only took ten minutes until they called my number. The staff was friendly and handed me my food, extra condiments, and napkins. It was crowded inside so I went outside to an empty picnic area to get my feed on. The first thing I had to try was the onion rings, which were done in a typical fish fry manner meaning coating rather than batter. This makes for a crisp light onion ring with no discernible oiliness.

They were good but at $6.95 I guess I was expecting something to set them apart. I dug into the clams and they were as good as the place I normally go to get clams. Aside from being ever so slightly less coated, there was little difference.  

I barely managed to finish my clams. The onion rings, well the onion rings I only ate a third before I hit the wall. The thing about fried seafood is, no matter how hungry you think you are the half cup of coating is going to kick your ass every time.
I could have easily had the small clam box and small onion ring and would have only felt partially humiliated and used. The latter option would have resulted in the loss of twenty four bucks and change without a drink, and that’s just too much to swallow.

I’m not sure what got all the reviewers so jazzed up about this place, but I sure wasn’t seeing it. Could it be they had never had a fried clam before? Maybe they were slightly confused while writing their notes all strung out on fish fry and carbs, too sleepy to write clearly.
Or was it just a pile on of others wanting to say, “oh me too…yeah, I loved this place just like the others did…isn’t it fun to stand in line forever for ok fried seafood?...Oh gosh and it’s soooooo pricey, that's how ya know it's good….weeeeeeee”…. I suspect this was probably the case.
The place is quirky (the building is in the shape of a clam box, or I guess what a clam box used to look like before companies like Sysco started selling disposable paper goods) and it’s quaint, and if you have money to burn and there aren’t more than two or three people standing outside waiting to get in…go ahead and stop there.

Otherwise keep driving until you see a place with a sizeable dining area and a reasonably priced menu and save yourself some time, money and sanity. The downside is you won’t be able to be an uppity little snit of a human being to your friends in a Thurston Howell III voice, “Oh sure…Lovey and I always go to The Clam Box.”

The upside…. You’ll save enough time and money to go home and play with those adorable little Queen Anne ladder backs…if you still want to feel good and pretentious…name them Beau and Buffy.

The Clam Box

246 High Street Ipswich, Massachusetts 01938

 (978) 356-9707


Growing up in New Hampshire and having vacationed on the Maine coast, I think it’s safe to say I’ve had my fair share of clams. I’ve eaten them raw to stuffed and everything in between. My favorite way is sautéed with a bit of white wine, shallots, butter, cream and parsley. A close second, is fried.
So when a friend suggested I go for fried clams and onion rings at a place I hadn't been to, I went for it. I arrived at the restaurant about noon, and expected it to be slow. I arrived to see a line of ten or so people in line. This is the sign of good seafood joint. After some thirty minutes I got to see the menu.
Anytime I step foot into a new seafood shack in New England, the benchmark for all their fried food is set by how they do their clams. Since this place was called The Clam Box (here since 1935) and everyone from The New York Times to USA Today had given this place accolades, the clams should be amazing. The price was a daunting $24.95 for a large clam box and $6.95 for a large onion ring.
I ordered at the counter then waited ten minutes. Noticing how packed it was inside. I picked up my food from the friendly counter staff and proceeded outside. The onion rings were done in a typical fish fry coating. They were crisp and light with no oiliness. They were good but for $6.95 was expecting better. The clams were as good as the place I normally go. Aside from being ever so slightly less coated there was little difference. 
I barely managed to finish my clams. The onion rings, well the onion rings I only ate a third of those. The thing about fried seafood, no matter how hungry you think you are the coating is going to win. I could have easily had the small clam box and small onion ring which would have cost twenty four bucks without a drink, for me that’s just too much.
So if you have to be part of the, “yeah I’ve eaten there too” crowd, and don’t mind paying a lot for good fried seafood The Clam Box is fine. If you don’t mind driving another fifteen minutes across the New Hampshire border to Seabrook, you’ll find reasonable prices with lots of seating and the same seafood.
The Clam Box
246 High Street Ipswich, Massachusetts 01938
(978) 356-9707

Thursday, April 19, 2012


My refrigerator is often times a dark and scary place. From the science experiments that started off as delicious leftovers, and somehow migrated to the back and bottom shelves to morph into something from a Sci-Fi movie. As the refrigerator is far too large a space to cover in one of my A.D.D. riddled stories, I’d like to break it down into more easily handled pieces. I think we will start with the door, with its odd collection of things from butter to Maalox.  Let’s explore what’s in mine and then I’ll ask you…”What’s in your Door?!”

The door sure has changed over the years since I first remember it. I’m pretty sure the most exotic thing in the door when I was a kid was maybe some French dressing (yeah, the neon orange kind) or a jar of my mom’s bread n butter pickles. There was of course ketchup, maybe some yellow or brown mustard. I know there was always Miracle Whip and also a Jar of regular Mayo as dad was a mayo man.  There was no butter but rather the “healthier” trans-fat loaded margarine du jour, and the top that used to have the little cups made for eggs was where the egg carton went. This was mainly because of the frequency and the velocity with which my father, brother and I would open the fridge door. It was a safer to keep the eggs in a stable container than leave them outside only to become airborne missiles later, when one of us would open the refrigerator the way a gorilla handles American Tourister luggage. (People younger than 30 here)

The only spicy (meaning more flavor and tang than ketchup) things I can remember in mom’s door would be horseradish and chow chow. I thought chow chow was a French Canadian thing, but I have seen many variations from Maine to Alabama and every place in between.  No matter, they were a frequent contributor to the hot dogs and hamburgers that were torched regularly at my house growing up. I don’t recall anything ever being out of place in the door but once in a while mom would try cooking something new. The new recipe at times would call for something out of the norm, and that partially used container would end up doing a short stint on the door.

I recall one such item being a bottle labeled “cooking wine”… this was of course in the days before people knew to cook with wines they might actually want to drink. I believe I was in my junior or senior year of high school when the drinking age was eighteen and when this bottle appeared. When it hadn’t moved in several months, I figured it was fair game for a teenager with a healthy curiosity for adult beverages. After a few hearty gulps I found that wine was perhaps not my drink of choice and I moved on.

Aside from the odd bottle of cooking wine the only other oddball things to show up for a little door time were ice cream toppings. While I come from a long and distinguished line of maple syrup swilling people, the occasional wrong-headed friend would come for a sleepover. Rather than having a taste for maple syrup on their ice cream the odd friend wanted caramel or butterscotch topping or maybe even Hershey syrup.

My mother wasn’t about to buy Hershey syrup with a perfectly good canister of Nestle Quick in the cupboard, so she relented on either the caramel or butterscotch. My brother and I never ate these things because we had maple syrup for the love of Pete. If we wanted a little change of pace, there was always the little pint canning jars of blueberries my mom had picked the previous summer.

After moving away from home I decided the door didn’t have to be so much of a unitasker. It was perfect for holding batteries where the butter went. I’m not sure where I picked this little bit of battery magic where refrigerated batteries stay fresher longer, but that’s where batteries went. I laugh every now and again when I go to someone’s house and see batteries in the fridge. Everyone should know they go in the junk drawer by now whether old or new…that’s half the fun when you’re trying to get your remote to work when it’s five minutes to the kickoff of the super bowl.

There was always ketchup on the door and probably Tabasco, because both my staples of minute rice and ten for a dollar ramen noodles were the better for it.  I’m sure I remember a bottle or three of Polar tonic water, as the Gin that was kept in the freezer was always in need of company…and the limes that brought vitamin C to the party were always kept where the eggs were meant to be. Because bending to reach the Limes in a crisper drawer after six or seven gin and tonics could result in a face full of week-old spaghetti and spam surprise.

The eggs I kept on one of the bottom shelf for some odd reason, probably because I had taken up the first two shelves with other foods. For example a half-gallon of spoiled milk, week old Chinese food, something in a blue container that frankly I’m scared to open at this point and the ever stackable food of choice…pizza!  

Today my door is much much different than the door of my youth. There are no more batteries in the butter cubby but rather, honest to goodness butter…unsalted of course. I have a bottle of six dollar white wine in there that may very well be vinegar at this point. I suppose just in case somebody drops by craving year old spoiled wine I guess. It’s odd, but I also have balsamic and champagne vinegar in there even though I keep most of my other vinegars in the cupboards.

A jar of, well a jar of embarrassment some people might call pesto sauce, which has been there for maybe two years and has never been opened. I’m sure I bought it as a convenience item as a result of being on the go, but maybe guilt or taste buds brought me to my senses and kept me from using it.  I have a bottle of Maalox that I like to keep cold because the thought of drinking it warm gives me the heebs. The Maalox is not indicative of my cooking but rather my occasional fondness of a meatball sub from a place up the street. The meatballs are great but the sauce is of the Sysco variety that gives me heartburn every time.

Let’s see, oh yes…The Asian contingent nearly has its own shelf with rice wine vinegar, black vinegar, soy sauce, Sriracha, Sambal Oelek and a few other special guests including sesame oil. It shares its space with a couple of store bought BBQ sauces that don’t contain corn syrup. These are Olde Cape Cod and Dinosaur BBQ sensuous slathering who help me when I’m in the mood for BBQ and don’t actually feel like BBQ’ing. I have Dijon mustard even though a good many friends think this to be odd, because they are mustard whores. No I’m kidding they’re not mustard at all.

I think I’ve covered just about all the major items, sure there’s the Cholula or the odd dressing when I’m even too lazy for preparing simple vinaigrette. Pepto Bismol as an emergency backup for the Maalox but tastes like Canada mints when warm, and makes me think of the time I threw them up on a hockey trip to Montreal when I was six. Then there’s…well remember how I told you I’m from a long line of maple syrup swillers? And remember how I said I never understood why someone would want redi-whip in a can, butterscotch or caramel topping? Well I have those on the door as well… apparently they can be used for more than just ice cream!

What’s the weirdest thing in your door? What’s the best thing in your door?

Thanks for reading,


I had taken Maalox and Pepto out for the shot, but for the interest of full disclosure I talked about them. And yes, there is a jar of crushed garlic....not fresh?! yeah well...baise mon cul!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Yesterday I got some notes on some of my work from a website I was hoping to contribute to. I asked for notes as I think it’s important to get a perspective on your work from somebody who isn’t afraid to kick your ego’s ass and crush your spirit. I’ll be honest, I was fire breathing pissed when I first read the notes, but today I understand the true value of them. I’d like to share those notes with you kind folks as writing isn’t always about good times and noodle salad. I’ll break it down into easily digestible pieces, and then give my own thoughts as we go along this journey of truth and higher learning.

Pav, “so I've read the piece and a few of your blog entries, and I think the main issue is that I have a hard time following because of all the extraneous stuff going on in y our pieces. I get the impression that they're more stream-of-conscience than tightly structured, orderly pieces.”

Well, first of all, they’re not pieces…they’re stories. Second of all they were written for my blog not a food website, there is no size limit and the ink is free. It’s more of an exercise in writing to explore the world of food, and to ask myself a few questions. How does this relate to me? What part did this food play in my life? How did it change me or my understanding of food? I’ve always enjoyed reading narratives where the subject isn’t necessarily about what the author is talking about but rather, what role the subject plays in his or her life. But that’s just me and I understand everybody has different tastes.

I was probably out that day in poetry 101 when “Stream of Consciousness” was discussed, so I went and looked it up. Stream of consciousness is a style of writing where the author’s thought processes are more often depicted as overheard in the mind. Wow, how empty is it in there people? I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to you kind folks for bringing you to such a dark and lonely place.

This style of writing happened to work for Authors James Joyce and William Faulkner so although I’ll never gain their level of success,  at least I know I’m doing something right. These were great men of literature, men of substance and critical thinkers. Now I never finished reading Ulysses, ok who am I kidding…I never started reading Ulysses, but this is a piece of literature that is still being talked about in literary circles nearly a hundred years after being written. I doubt very much anybody will be pointing to “The Pioneer Woman’s” post about campfire biscuits even one year from now.

“I mean, some extraneous stuff is ok, but you need to have a bit more organization if you want readers to be able to follow along closely. Before I start writing anything, I always ask myself a few questions:”

Make it easy to follow and stay on point so the reader doesn’t get lost or confused. Are we sheep? It’s ok people, go ahead and think…if you get lost or feel light headed just raise your hand and I’ll try and get around to you as quickly as possible. People everywhere are talking about how the internet is flooded with food blogs that are copycats of each other. Food bloggers should dare to be different and think outside the box, but as soon as they do they are told “get back in the damned box!”

“- Do I have a point? And if so, exactly what is that point? If it takes me more than one sentence to explain my point to myself, then I need to refine it or trim the fat.”

The problem I see with that line of reasoning is this, if you have to ask yourself if you have a point to begin with, you probably don’t. Besides that... sometimes a point, is pointy. There is more than one point to some points and maybe that’s the point that needs to be pointed out. Sorry, that was all for me and in a way…pointless. Trimming the fat, are we at a butcher shop? This isn’t Readers Digest and the last time I checked, we weren’t shelling out big bucks for ink or paper, so why not indulge the reader a bit. Let’s meander around a while and see what we can find together while you stretch your medulla oblongata.  

“- What is the arc to the story? Every piece of good writing, whether it's a short story, a journalistic piece, or an explanation of the development of a recipe should have a beginning, middle, and end, with tension and relief set up. You can give people information in a dry way, or you can give it to them in a way that makes them want to read more. People come for the info. They come back for the stories.”

I’ll be honest this one confused the hell out of me. Ok so I write stories and they have a definite beginning, otherwise they wouldn’t have a title. My stories are musings and can tend to jump a bit. I’m pretty sure musings aren’t something you have to spend a lot of time concentrating on, but ok maybe I need to focus on that whole arc thing a bit more. But I’d say tension is what people have while reading other bloggers posts who are simply sticking to “the point”, and the relief comes when they reach “the end.”

My writing I’d say is more in the ilk of attempted humor so yeah, not really dry at all…in fact I’ll go out on a limb and say it was somewhat moist. Oh wait, what?! So now we want to give them information and a story that they’ll come back for? Whatever happened to the whole “just the facts, ma’am” vibe we were looking to achieve. Also, I don’t necessarily buy into the premise that people are coming for info. I read lots of stories just because of who wrote it, and not because of the info that it may contain. If I want information I’ll pick up a dictionary or a phone book.

I don’t read Will Gordon’s pieces in Serious Eats because I want to know all about the wonders of McDonald’s breaded bits of this or that, I read it because I care about the writer and what he has to say no matter how long it takes to get to the breaded bits of whatever. That’s how you get such things as “favorites.” You don’t buy a record based on the info it contains, you buy it because you like the artist…Although you could make a different argument with Frank Zappa’s song Dynamo Hum.

“…when I'm done writing, I'll go back a few times and ask myself whether everything was explained in the way that makes the most sense, whether every sentence in the story was necessary, and where I can cut back. I usually end up deleting about 50% of what I write (and even then it's still too much most of the time). I think your stories would come across as much tighter and more focused if you were more judicious in your post-writing editing.”

Oh right, I knew that whole “people come back to the stories thing was just bullshit…HAHA… good, one… you nearly had me believing it! You have a gift my friend. So after I’ve trimmed the entire story out of the story then I’ve really got a really good story… is that about right? Yeah, so based on everything I’ve just learned I am prepared to write my review on:

“The Clam Box”  246 High Street  Ipswich, Massachusetts 01938: The Clams are about the same as every other Clam joints. The Onion rings are fine. They pour had  a good Diet Coke with ice. The place gets really crowded but you can eat outdoors. They are a bit pricey. Two thumbs up! Enjoy!

I think I trimmed most of the fat but I’m sure it was still too long as I was probably only at about what, maybe 30% cut….I’m gonna have to work on it.

How does someone write a food article and not bring themselves into it? I understand people at times need to see a brief summation of a dish or a restaurant review and honestly, that’s what places like yelp and urbanspoon are for. If you’re writing a food blog and you stick to describing the mouth feel of the steak tartare, or the somewhat raucous atmosphere that is conducive to eating lambs might as well be writing the instructions for the back of a shampoo bottle...then repeat.  

If I were writing about that restaurant, you’d hear about that food and atmosphere eventually, but you’d get a story first…like maybe how when I was there I heard a song that was playing the night I turned 18 at a pizza joint where I got a great slice of  cheese pizza and ended up dry humping on my date’s princess bed and oh yeah, get the lamb testicles as they’re very tasty, but remember to speak up…it’s freakin loud in there.(Full disclosure, my date did have a princess bed, but all I got was pizza)

“I hope that helps, and good luck with the writing!”

I truly believe it did help. It helped me understand that what I am doing is different. It helped me understand what not to do, and what not to become as a writer. It helped me understand what it would take to make me a complete and utter bore. It helped me realize what the grim reaper of creativity looks for in writing. In the end it has only solidified my conviction to be the food writer "I am"…and as a result, it has made me a better person, and an all-around swell guy…but you already knew that didn’t you…. No not you, I was talking to myself.

Do you go to a food blog for the info it contains, or do you go to a food blog because of the personality writing it….which is first? I hope that you’ll indulge me with a response. <<< The Point, notice how I put it at the very bottom. What a little bastard I am.

As Always, Thanks for Reading…


Monday, April 16, 2012


What do you know about food? I thought I knew quite a bit about food having attended culinary school, worked in several restaurants, contribute to a couple different food blogs, read several other food blogs and hell…there was that time when I spent two months in Europe when I was 18! Ok so the only thing I learned about food in Europe then was how to say beer in five different languages and currywurst doesn’t wash out of sneakers so well… or maybe it would have if it wasn’t mixed with the beer and power hurled onto them the night before by yours truly.

I’m sorry for the technicolor-yawn reference to all my happy and gentle readers, I guess what Pav is trying to say is damn…how strong does Doppelbock really need to be?! Ok, so suffice it to say I have got a lot of different styles of beer covered. I even thought I knew a thing or two about ethnic foods of various cultures. After yesterday it has caused me to go back and reconsider how much I really do and don’t know about food. I now reasonably believe that I know exactly Jack-Squat about a lot of things food related.

OK, so I grew up in a town about as culturally diverse as Barrow, Alaska…I get it. That being said I have since moved on and have been to almost every state in the US, several Islands in the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, All over Europe and have had my share of Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Indian food. Heck, we even had one whole week of Asian cuisine studies at culinary school, so even if I missed a lecture… I couldn’t have missed much?! I mean after all there can’t be but what, fifteen or so cultures and several billion people that make up Asia…right?

Well, just when you get to feeling good and smug about your culinary knowledge I’ve got something fun planned for you!  Might I suggest you get your fanny perpendicular and haul it into your nearest Asian market, as this will cure any delusions of grandeur  you’ve been having about knowing  S**T  about shine-ola!

It started off easy enough; I was bored and decided I wanted to check out this Asian market. Because like an idiot I get up at 4 am every morning and as a consequence my weekend days take forever. (Thanks to baking shifts from 3 years ago 4am is like sleeping in!) So to make it to a point in the day where others would find it socially acceptable to be chug a lugging Jameson and Ginger with the ferociousness of an Irish dock worker, I have to find things to do to make it to that slowly approaching hour.

I went with a friend of mine who is a bit of an amateur wanna be cook, who does his fair share of good dishes and the occasional abomination, but all things being equal he’s actually getting to be a pretty good home cook. So being bored, and he being my part time weekend drinking buddy (when we can secure him a kitchen pass) I thought I’d broaden his horizons with a trip to the Asian market. This was in an attempt to introduce him to the mysterious cuisine of my Asian friends as being something that wasn’t always served on sticks dripping with teriyaki.  There should be no overcooked pieces of deep fried dough with cream cheese something surprise in the middle on a pu-pu platter with a scorpion bowl for two just $19.95, at the local happy family Chinese restaurant.

I wanted to show him Asian ingredients were diverse and could, if used right, elevate his own modest attempts at cooking to another level. I have several Asian Ingredients I use every week including fish sauce, black vinegar, soy sauce, miso paste, and various noodles, vegetables and spices….that I would be lost without. So we enter the store and the first things we come across are the different rice which I am able to explain some of the differences and uses. Next are the noodles, and he is surprised with sheer variety with regards to shapes, sizes, thicknesses and colors from clear to black.

Some of these I can’t help him with but offer a couple of starter noodles to wet his whistle with and some tips I learned the hard way on the use of each.  Soba noodles for instance if not drained well enough, will retain just enough of that mealy doughy quality to roughly mimic the delicacy and flavor of mop water. So then we move onto Ramen noodles….this was a no brainer as guru J.Kenji Lopez-Alt is somewhat of a ramen Jedi warrior. I’m gonna have to assume that’s a good thing as I’ve never seen star wars.

Anyway, in the winter time Kenji comes up with some killer cheats (additional things to put into your basic packaged ramens) and the best kinds of ramen to buy (yes people there are more to these than the 12 for a dollar kind) to make this one a grand slam. So feeling particularly good about my Asian food knowledge, we turned the corner and hello…What in the name of Cheese-n-Rice do we have here?!

No seriously, what the hell is that?! For that matter, what the hell is that, that n that there?! I was suddenly over my head so far all the arm flailing and kicking in the world weren’t gonna get my head back above water on this one. I could tell some of this stuff was the Asian equivalent of ring dings and ho-ho’s combining fruits, beans and vegetables in cane syrup. But seriously, what in thee holy hell was I gonna do with fermented squid paste?

Yes I know people, and my Asian brethren, I know it’s a flavor component …but a westerner like me trying to wrap his head around fermented squid paste as a flavor is akin to good and kind German folks wrapping their heads around a sense of humor. Easy Gunter, you know what I’m saying…group hug later.

Aisle after Aisle of just staring and wonderment was what we were in for. I would occasionally come across something I recognized and found a nugget of info I could offer on said product, but for a vast….and I mean vaaaaaaaaaast number of these products, I was gob smacked!

How could this be I thought to myself? I’ve literally spent years around food and I surround myself with websites, books, friends, and people who know a great deal about food. This just made me angry, how could I be missing out on foods that two thirds of the planet is eating?! Tiny little round eggplants that looked to be more like a pearl onion than an eggplant are apparently being consumed by… everyone, as there were several varieties of these from several regions of the Asian world represented here. I myself had never seen them and until today, never knew existed…HOW?!

I was so happy to get to the end of the market and have my friend say…. “Hey look, Submarine rolls!” Except he’s from Maine so they call them Italian rolls.( I wanted you to understand what I was talking about and since only the people from about 10 towns in Maine even know what an “Italian” is, we will call them by their most popular name Submarine rolls.) Anyway, I was able to finally with confidence say…no actually those are Bahn Mi rolls…. But they are for sandwiches.

I’m scared; there… ok I said it. I’m scared to delve into a cuisine I know precious little about. I kid myself by saying I’m making faux-Pho… but in reality it isn’t even close to being as good as someone’s who only has a rudimentary understanding of Vietnamese food. Cold noodle salads, dim sum, gyoza, Curries, Hot Pots, Etc…you name it.

I’ve been scared of them all. The sad thing is, a vast majority of these wonderful foods are foods of the people, made by peasants with simple tools and simple ingredients but somehow through a few flavorings and technique… they have really big beautiful flavors…there’s a big double serving of humility, knowing an 80 year old shoeless woman from Guangdong China can out cook me with a what amounts to one pot and a knife that’s older than probably both of us combined.

So I’m making myself a promise right here and now. At least every other week I am going to start using different ingredients, and different recipes to do the kinds of food I love to eat, but have been either too proud to ask for help with, too scared to try and even dumber for not starting sooner. I’m gonna get off my keister, get to the Asian market, stop being a baby, and start asking my Asian friends for the help I so desperately need. So the next time I bring someone to that market, I’ll be able to put them at ease and not pass my phobias on to them with regards to Asian food.

How about you, are there things you’re scared to cook, or maybe haven’t cooked because you weren’t comfortable with the technique, cuisine or ingredients? Go ahead and tell me, I’d love to hear…. Or are you just a scared little GIRLY MAN! Sorry…OR Girly woman. Perhaps you have a great starter recipe of any Asian cuisine that would help to build my confidence? Of course this will be just before you bring the hammer down with some three day long juggernaut of a recipe designed to break my will. Either way, I welcome your suggestions!

Sincerely, thanks for reading.