Monday, March 30, 2009

Gentle Giants

Lore has it that when cats used by sailors in the 18th century for rat eradication on board sailing vessels, jumped ship, they mated with either a raccoon or a lynx to create the first indigenous cat breed in the US, the Maine Coon cat. Many people unfamiliar with the bred say, oh yes, I know about them. They're those Man Coon cats. The reason the lore about the Maine Coon has to do with either the raccoon or lynx is because the Maine Coon exhibits the color pattern of the raccoon and the tuft of hair on the ears, like the lynx. The first cat show in the US was held in Madison Square Garden in 1895 and was won by, yes, the Maine Cat (as they were called then). The breed does originate in the state of Maine. And if it weren't for the fine people of Maine, the Maine Coon cat might have become extinct. After the MC (I'll abbreviate from now on) won the 1st cat show, they were the cat's meow. But then came the exotic Siamese and the Persian. The MC soon fell out of favor and breeding for show stopped. But the people of Maine, who knew and loved these cats for their stellar stealthing for rodents, kept breeding them. And then in the 1950's, the MC made a comeback and is now the second most popular purebred in the US (behind that skinny, feral faced, loud mouthed Siamese. I fart in your general direction). I have had the good fortune to have had a MC rescue, Frisky, who lived to be 20 years old. I now am owned by two 4 year old MC brothers, Kokopelli and Botticelli, or better known as Koko and Bocce. (Update...1/28/ boys are now 9 years old.) Read more...

Their. Wear? Common Spelling Mistakes

Yawn, eyes wander and glaze over. Skip to the next post or see what's cooking at the bitchy gourmet. All brought about by the tedium of... SPELLING! I signed up to submit articles to an online article distribution center. You submit articles and if someone wants to use your article, they have the right as long as they give you your due. Every so often they send out tips about writing. The following is one of them. Why is this important? Spell check won't do you one bit of good with these. They're all spelled correctly but they are so easy to misuse. Which one's bother you? For me, it is always #7 and #9. Although it is so easy to be thinking of something else and just automatically spell there as they're or their or thier :)). Students, heads up and if you don't pay attention, a rap across the knuckles! Bring in the police. Child abuse! (When I was in elementary school during the 60's, the superintendent's means of punishment was a wooden paddle with holes in it. It was called "Sputnik"!)

1. There vs. Their vs. They’re
* There is an indication of location. Example: I want to see that book over there.
* Their is a possessive version of they. Example: They took their dog to the groomer.
* They’re is a contraction, short for they are. Example: They’re going to the theatre tonight. Read more...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Would It Be So Awful If I Offaled You Ofal? (Oh, No, Puns!)

If you've ever watched the bad boy of cooking, Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations, then you know he'll eat anything. It's hard for me to believe he actually likes most of what he eats. I was recently watching the one episode where he eats a goat's rectum that has been cooked in ashes. Hey, Anthony, do you carry a portable "throne" with you? Now, wow, that was one piece of good ass. We could go off on some good one liners with that. But Anthony, was the offal really not so awful? If you note, oh great foodies, that offal is showing up on many restaurant menus as a way to keep things interesting. For those of you who aren't in the know, like me, offal is the entrails and internal organs of butchered animals. No Peta and vegetarians allowed with this post! According to Wikepedia, the origin of the word "offal" is probably Germanic , "abfall", and means "garbage". Germans really have a way with words, don't they. Let me just share a little bit of the the bitchy gourmet's personal history. I was raised on a working ranch in South Texas. When my Dad butchered a calf for our consumption, everything that came from that steer was for our consumption. Sweetbeards, tongue, liver, heart, brains, and tripe. I grew up eating that stuff. So for me, these big city chefs aren't cooking anything new. But my mother never would have made brined pork belly or cold lamb's brain on toast. She'd never put that with toast! Anyway, I've had the pleasure of eating at Mario Batali's fine NYC eatery, Babbo, and Mario offers nothing so tempting as goat rectum, but sweetbeards, tongue, and calf's liver. He has "offered "Testa", which is a sausage made by boiling the head of a pig, skimming off the bits of brain, gristle, and other effluvia that bubble to the surface, and turning it into salami."* Thomas Keller of the French Laundry offers an explanation to all of this offal stuff: "It's easy to cook a filet mignon, or to saute a piece of trout, serve it with browned butter a la meuniere, and call yourself a chef. But that's not real cooking. That's heating. Preparing tripe, however, is a transcendental act."*

Here is a fun list of offals that are offaled around the world. Enjoy them as you travel the great globe:

Scotland: Haggis, sheep stomach stuffed with a boiled mix of liver, heart, lungs, rolled oats and other ingredients (that scares me if they won't list them) Scotland Haggis.jpg

Greece: Kokoretsi, pieces of lamb offal (liver, heart, spleen, kidney, fat) are pierced on a spit and covered by washed intestine wound around in a tube like fashion

Italy: Trippa, boiled intestines, often served with tomato sauce or "pani ca meusa", bread with spleen and caciocavallo cheese

Spain: Criadillas, bull testicles, reminds of a very old joke about the guy who goes to a restaurant and sees a parade of waiters bringing in a big tray, placing it in front of a guy, and with a huge flourish, unveils two huge grilled bull testicles. The guy watching wants in on the act. Asks the waiters to put him on the list to possibly eat the testicles of the bull who lost that day in the bull ring. Finally, his big day comes and they unveil the tray with a flourish and there are these two small grilled testicles. What happened, he cries? Oh, senior, sometimes, the bull, he wins. Drum roll please.

And finally Asia: Wu Gen Chang Wang, a spicy stew with preserved mustard, tofu, pork intestine slices and congealed pork blood cubes

I think I'll have a bowl of cornflakes, thank you very much.

*Taken from a Slate article by Patrick Keefe, Offal Good, 4/22/04

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Real Spam and Yes, It's Edible

Monty Python sings:

Lovely Spaaam! Wonderful Spaaam!Lovely Spaaam! Wonderful Spam.Spa-a-a-a-a-a-a-am.Spa-a-a-a-a-a-a-am.Spa-a-a-a-a-a-a-am.Spa-a-a-a-a-a-a-am.Lovely Spaaam! (Lovely Spam!)Lovely Spaaam! (Lovely Spam!)Lovely Spaaam!Spaaam, Spaaam, Spaaam, Spaaaaaam! 

What in the world made me think about Spam? Well, I was reading a review of the touring "Spamalot" and that's what brought on silly thoughts. "I fart in your general direction", "I'm not dead yet" and "Bring me a shrubbery!" And that segued into remembering that Austin, Texas (Keep Austin Weird) used to and still does have a Spam cooking competition. Now the Bitchy Gourmet is always intrigued by anything that goes on in her favorite town in Texas (Maybe in the whole US of A!). If you have not been to Austin, you are missing out man. The live music capital of the world, the South by Southwest Music Festival, hiking trails, biking trails, wild flowers, 6th street, Barton Creek, Barton Creek Resort and golf. Now, that's MY kind of town. But let's get back to Spam spam spam spam. Here's how the Spam cooking contest began:

Excerpts From The Official SPAMARAMA™ Cookbook by David Arnsberger:

It was the early spring of 1976. Dick Terry and I were fraternizing one afternoon and Dick was bellyaching about how chili cook-offs had become so common-place." I mean, anybody can cook chili." Dick observed, "All you need is some kinda meat, some water, chili powder, comino, and maybe some cayenne, garlic, and/or onion, and you got yer basic chili. If you're from north of the Red River, you might throw in some kinda beans, but basically, that's about all it takes to make 'chili.'" " Yeah, not much of a challenge there, is it?" I responded.
" Now if someone could make SPAM® edible," Dick continued, "That would be a challenge. We ought to have a a 'SPAM®-Off.'"" Yeah, a 'SPAMARAMA™!'" I blurted out. "We could ask George Majewski over at Soap Creek Saloon if he'd like to host it, and we could have it on April Fool's Day." " Let's do it!" Dick agreed.
And that, in a nutshell, is the beginning of the very first, longest running and funnest SPAM® event in the history of the entire universe. I never thought that it would last more than a year or two. I never thought it would attract more than a handful of Spamophiles who had been cooking and eating the infamous potted pork product since World War II. I never thought there were so many things you could make out of SPAM®!But I was wrong! .......David Arnsberger

The Potentate of Potted Pork Parties

And here is a description of the Spamness itself:

Excerpt from the Daily Texan
SPAM® Takes the City by Storm!By Dan Kleiner On April 1, a torch left New York City headed for Austin with a can of SPAM sitting atop it where the fire should have been. When a girl ran with the torch through the gates of Waterloo Park on Saturday, it began the 26th year of a festival inspired by the meat product that fed England during World War II.
SPAMARAMA™ drew thousands - an estimated 8,000 to 9,000 people - to the park for music, food, rides and the SPAMALYMPICS. " SPAMARAMA™ has gone through a lot of changes, and this year is no different," said Norman Kieke, the executive director of Disability Assistance of Central Texas, SPAMARAMA™'s main sponsor. "It grew out of a small neighborhood function and gets better every year. We are always very excited."
The SPAM®-related festival started out small as an alternative event to April Fools' Day barbecues at the original Soap Creek Saloon. It has since moved to Waterloo Park and picked up the support of Kieke's organization, which receives 50 percent of the proceeds and uses them to provide employment support, technology training and general assistance to disabled Central Texans.
Local rock band Uranium Savages opened the festival and the second event, a SPAM® toss, began the SPAMALYMPICS. The youngest competitor, 11-year-old Alex Hager, opened the SPAM® calling contest, which is just like hog calling but with the word "SPAM®." His unique call, a series of armpit noises followed by a call of "Here SPAM®, here SPAM®!" took the gold medal.
Returning to defend their title in the SPAM® toss were Mark and Cody Mikeska, a father-son team with four previous SPAM® tosses under its belt. SPAM® tossers throw a chunk of SPAM® to each other at increasing distances until someone drops it. After three rounds of flying SPAM®, which sometimes christened spectators with SPAM® juice, the defending champions were pitted against two other teams. The Mikeskas won the 2004 championship. "The key is getting enough elevation under the SPAM®," Mark Mikeska said after their victory.
Many groups occupied tents, including 10-year SPAMARAMA™ veterans the Squealage People. The men dressed up as the Village People with pig-like modifications. Nathan Hinds, who drove from San Marcos for the festival, said he was particularly proud of their accomplishments this year. "Today we have a concoction called 'Queer Pork on a Straight Fork'," Hinds said. "We have won the 'Worst Taste' award eight of the last nine years, and we're darned proud of that."
After sampling the creations of various culinary artists, spectators saw the most heated and controversial SPAMARAMA™ event - the Collegiate SPAM® Relay. The race pitted UT students against contestants from Texas A&M University in a relay. It started out dead even, but by the final SPAM® handoff, the Aggies had gained a slight lead. UT's Randy Gonzalez, a 23-year-old chemical engineering senior, narrowed the lead but lost control of the SPAM® in the last few seconds. Victory went to Texas A&M, inciting booing and calls for a rematch from the crowd
After a short break, people began surging forward, pushing and leaning to get as close to the stage as possible for the final event. For years, the SPAM®-eating contest was known as the SPAM® cram. This year, the International Federation of Competitive Eating sponsored the event, bringing with it Rich and Carlene LeFevre, two of the world's most renowned eaters. The couple whizzed through SPAM® burgers, and Carlene performed her trademark "Carlene bounce," jumping up and down to settle food in her stomach. After the final bell, Rich came out on top, having eaten just more than six 12-ounce SPAM® burgers. Carlene won second place with just under five. When asked about the level of competition, Rich LeFevre said, "I was only worried about Carlene."
With the conclusion of the Spamalympics came the awards presentation for the cook-off winners. The Squealage People successfully defended their Worst Taste title with "Queer Pork on a Straight Fork," and the Lone Star Cafe-sponsored Spalamo team won the Best in Show prize for its Alamo-shaped SPAM® appetizers.

And if the above makes your mouth water, here's a delectable recipe for your enjoyment. Bon Appetito Your Weirdness!

CRICKET'S SPAM QUICHE Meats, Eggs Yield: 4 servings

1 c Coarsely chopped mushrooms

5 T Butter/margarine

1 c Finely crushed stone wheat -crackers

1/4 c Green onions, sliced

1/4 c Brown onions, chopped

3/4 c Monterey Jack cheese

3/4 c Medium Sharp Cheddar cheese, -grated

3/4 c Mozzarella cheese, grated

1 c Ricotta cheese

4 ea Eggs

1/4 t Cayenne pepper

1/4 t Paprika

1/4 c Milk

1 ea Cooked artichoke

1/4 c Green bell pepper, chopped

1/4 c Red bell pepper, chopped

1 cn Spam, shredded

Saute mushrooms in 3 Tbs butter until limp. Stir in the crushed crackers, then turn into well greased 10-inch round quiche pan. Press mushroom mixture evenly over bottom of dish and up the sides. Melt remaining butter, add onions, saute and add shredded Spam. Layer shredded cheeses and Spam in dish. In blender, whirl the eggs, ricotta, milk and cayenne until smooth. Pour into crust and sprinkle with paprika. Place sauteed red and green bell peppers on top. Bake in oven at 375 for 40 to 45 mins. Garnished with cooked artichoke.

Now if that isn't weird enough for you, then you're weird......